Rabu, 14 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Egyptians set to give Islamists biggest bloc in vote

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:32 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptians return to polling stations on Thursday in a phased election likely to give Islamists the biggest bloc in a parliament that will play a key role in drafting a new constitution after decades of autocratic rule.

A man casts his vote at a polling station during the second day of parliamentary elections in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo December 14, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

The vote being staged over six weeks is Egypt's first free polls after a series of rigged elections under Hosni Mubarak, who after almost 30 years in power was driven from office by a popular uprising in February.

The army, which took over after Mubarak was ousted, remains in charge until a presidential election in mid-2012, but parliament will have a popular mandate that the military will find difficult to ignore as it oversees the transition.

The ruling army council fuelled suspicions it wanted to hang on to power, even after a new president was elected, when its cabinet proposed inserting articles in the new constitution that would have shielded it from civilian scrutiny.

Parliament's prime job will be appointing a 100-strong assembly to write a new constitution which will define the president's powers and parliament's clout in the new Egypt.

For ordinary Egyptians, the novelty is voting in an election where the outcome is not a foregone conclusion before even one vote is cast. Under Mubarak, his National Democratic Party (NDP) swept to routine victories in votes littered with abuses.

"It is the first time for me to know what an election is ... I can choose the person that I want to represent me. The NDP used to control the country. Now our views will steer the parliament," said 24-year-old Nesma Medhat, who was voting in a district of Cairo for the liberal Egyptian Bloc alliance.

Independent monitoring groups reported violations to voting rules, just as in the first round, including campaigning outside the polling stations. The army, which has sent troops to guard polling stations, said it would confront such practices.

An election committee has pledged to clamp down on abuses but says irregularities were not widespread enough to discredit the result. Official results are not expected until Saturday or Sunday but parties will give an indication of their performance before that since they have representatives watching the count.


Islamist-led party lists secured about two-thirds of votes in the first round of the election. However, the Islamists are a broad and divided camp, which analysts say gives liberals a chance to make their voices heard in the new assembly.

The biggest single bloc went to the alliance led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party that won about 37 percent of the vote, with the hardline Salafi al-Nour Party listing coming a surprise second with 24 percent.

The liberal Egyptian Bloc and another liberal party, Wafd, together secured about 20 percent of votes for their lists.

The liberal camp has sought to revitalise its campaigning to draw out more support, although analysts do not expect any major changes to the overall trend in voting in the second round when once again turnout appeared to be high.

Long queues extended outside polling stations on Wednesday, the first day of the two days given to voting in each round.

"Voters casting their ballots in the second round will have been influenced by the results of voting in the first round of the election, but the order established in the first round will not change," said Karin Maree, analyst for Egypt at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit.

But she said the Salafi al-Nour could lose a little ground and Egyptian Bloc's "share of seats is likely to grow slightly as voters seek to limit the influence of Islamist parties."

In the Minufiya district north of Cairo in the Nile Delta, one area where voting is taking place in this round, 32-year-old Zeinab Youssef said she was backing the Brotherhood's party.

"I'm voting for an old, established party that will know how to write a constitution. The Brotherhood suffered a lot of injustice," she said, referring to the decades when the Brotherhood was banned under Mubarak.

Voting for each stage is held on two days. This time voting was on Wednesday and Thursday in parts of Cairo not covered last time round, Ismailiya and Suez to the east of the capital, Aswan and Sohag to the south, and Nile Delta regions in the north.

(Additional reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Court to decide on South Africa political mining case

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:07 PM PST

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African court will decide on Thursday whether or not a small but politically connected company with no mining experience can keep a prospecting right it was awarded.

But the stakes are far bigger than one dispute, as the case has rattled investor confidence in Africa's largest economy and could have multi-billion rand consequences for Kumba Iron Ore and Arcelormittal South Africa.

Kumba, a unit of global miner Anglo American, has challenged the state's award of a prospecting right over a 21.4 percent stake in Kumba's Sishen mine to little-known Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).

The granting of that right by South Africa's department of mineral resources raised concerns about political favoritism and cronyism, as one of ICT's owners is a business partner of President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane, and the company has no real mining experience.

Thursday's ruling will be the latest twist in a long and complex saga, ending with a decision whether ICT should keep the right. Few think it will.

"I would be very surprised if the court granted ICT the right, because the circumstances under which the right was granted were so extraordinary," said Peter Leon, a mining expert at Johannesburg law firm Webber Wentzel.

"In this particular case, the regional manager in the department and other officials had recommended against the grant, and the deputy director general at the time approved it."

If the judge says ICT can keep the prospecting right, that will probably allow it to apply for the mining right.

If, as expected, the judge rules that ICT should not have been granted the right in the first place, he may set it aside but say that only Kumba can apply for the mining right.

Thursday's court drama will also have profound implications for steelmaker Arcelormittal's South Africa unit, as it allowed the right in question to lapse in 2009. This was subsequently granted to ICT.

Arcelormittal is welded to the case because a preferential supply agreement with Sishen that enabled it to buy iron ore at below market prices was tied to the right, and Kumba says that has now lapsed.

This is being hashed out in a separate arbitration process, but Thursday's ruling could ultimately have a bearing on this, and the stakes are huge for both companies, as the preferential iron ore supply deal is worth billions of rand a year.

(Editing by Marius Bosch and Will Waterman)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Doubts, fears nag Iraqis as U.S. pulls out

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 03:54 PM PST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Zahora Jasim lost two brothers to bombs and gunmen in the years of turmoil and violence that followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

A man carries dry cleaning past blast walls that protect the dining facility inside the compound of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad December 14, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Now, as the troops leave for home, the Baghdad housewife fears her country's troubles are not over and wonders, like many Iraqis, if their fragile democracy will slide back into sectarian strife.

"The only images I have in my mind from these nine years are the deaths of my brother and his wife, of being forced from our homes, and the death of another brother in a bombing," she said.

"I don't think anything will really change. There will still be bombings, we will still have assassinations, and the government will not be able to do anything."

The U.S. military departure evokes mixed emotions. Some feel gratitude to the Americans for overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein in the 2003 invasion. For others, a sense of sovereignty is tainted by sadness over lost relatives and memories of U.S. violations like the abuse of inmates in Abu Ghraib prison.

The last U.S. troops are rolling out of the country across the Kuwaiti border as President Barack Obama winds up the most unpopular war since Vietnam.

But Iraq remains uncertain in many ways. A power-sharing deal includes Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish parties, but the government struggles with sectarian tensions. Violence is down sharply but bombings and attacks remain part of daily life.

From the Shi'ite-dominated south to western Sunni strongholds, sectarianism bubbles just below the surface, and many are unsure their security forces can contain al Qaeda-linked insurgents and rival militias without U.S. help.

Bombings and attacks have eased since American and Iraqi security forces weakened insurgents. But roadside bombs, car bombs and assassinations still kill and maim almost every day.

A frail economy, constant power shortages, scarce jobs and discontent with political leaders all fuel uncertainty among Iraqis.

"Thanks to the Americans. They took us away from Saddam Hussein, I have to say that. But I think now we are going to be in trouble," Malik Abed, 44, a vendor at a Baghdad fish market. "Maybe the terrorists will start attacking us again."


With the fall of a Sunni dictator, Iraq's Shi'ite majority has risen and a fragile power-sharing government is led by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But for some Sunnis, there is no sharing.

"I think sectarianism will return, the struggle between Sunni and Shi'ite. It is clear from the struggle the government has," said security guard Mohammed Ibrahim. "I feel marginalized as a Sunni, there are no jobs for us in the government."

Falluja, the site of bloody urban fighting during the height of the war, has a distinct view of the American presence, with many questioning the massive U.S. military operations there.

Sitting in the Sunni heartland, Falluja was once the heart of al Qaeda operations in Iraq. U.S. troops used overwhelming troop force, gunships and jets to crush the insurgency there. Many still seek compensation.

A group of Falluja residents burned and stamped on U.S. flags on Wednesday in celebration over the withdrawal. Others waved pictures of dead relatives.

"No one trusted their promises, but they said when they came to Iraq they would bring security, stability and would build our country. Now they are walking out, leaving behind killings, ruin and mess," said Ahmed Aied, a Falluja grocer.

Even as their country shakes off the worst of its violence, memories of war leave old and young alike fretting over peace and stability.

"I was just a young girl when the Americans came. I used to walk with the U.S. soldiers and take pictures with them and they talked with me. They gave me pencils, and school books," said Roua Mansour, a young mother in Baghdad

"Now I am always scared. I prefer to stay inside at home. There was once a big bomb at the Sheraton Hotel and since then I have been frightened. A mortar landed in our garden once. I hope it gets better, but security still worries me."

(Additional reporting by Aref Mohammed and; Fadhel al-Badrani; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

HBO buys Leonardo DiCaprio executive-produced series

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:45 PM PST

LO ANGELES: Leonardo DiCaprio is coming to HBO - in a behind-the-camera capacity, anyway.

HBO is developing a drama series based on the 2009 Josh Bazell novel ''Beat the Reaper,'' with DiCaprio executive-producing.

''Ocean's Thirteen'' screenwriters Brian Koppleman and David Levien are penning the project, as well as co-executive producing.

Also executive-producing are Jennifer Davisson Killoran, of DiCaprio's production company Appian Way, and Julie Yorn, of LBI Entertainment, along with new Regency's Arnon Milchan and New Regency alum Bob Harper and Hutch Parker.

New Regency initially acquired the rights to the book, as a potential starring vehicle for DiCaprio.

The Bazell novel revolves around a medical resident in the Federal Witness Protection Program, who describes his history as a mafia hitman through a series of flashbacks.

In the present time, he must save a mob acquaintance from his past in order to prevent him from revealing the resident's location to the local crime boss.

Deadline first reported the news.

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The Star Online: Business

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Special purpose vehicle set up in RM5.24bil KFC-QSR deal

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:01 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Johor Corp (JCorp) and CVC Capital Partners, a global private equity firm, are offering to privatise KFC Holdings (M) Bhd and parent QSR Brands Bhd at an estimated RM5.24bil or RM4 per KFC share and RM6.80 per QSR share.

The exercise would be conducted through a special purpose vehicle, Massive Equity Sdn Bhd, with CVC eventually holding a 49% stake in both businesses that operate more than 900 KFC and Pizza Hut fast food outlets in South-East Asia and India.

According to Bloomberg calculations, the deal, excluding warrants, would cost more than RM5.24bil (US$1.6bil).

Shares of Kulim, QSR and KFC were suspended yesterday upon their request to Bursa Malaysia,

Massive Equity, in a statement, also proposed that:

KFC and QSR each implement a warrant holders' scheme to buy back all outstanding warrants, based on RM1 per KFC warrant and RM3.79 per QSR warrant respectively. CIMB Investment Bank Bhd has been appointed the financial adviser to Massive Equity.

KFC and QSR carry out capital repayments and/or pay special dividends to return substantially all amounts received from the acquisition of the two companies.

"KFC and QSR businesses will be merged into an enlarged regional food retailing business," JCorp said. "Given the current outlook and volatility of the equity markets, both the KFC and QSR offer prices are considered attractive. The offer price for QSR is higher than previously offered made by other interested parties," it added.

On Tuesday, QSR and KFC's shares last traded at RM6 and RM3.41 respectively; the offer represents a privatisation premium of 13.33% and 17.3% to their last traded price on Tuesday.

Based on KFC's weighted average price of RM3.38 for the last three months up to and including Dec 13, 2011, the offer price represented a premium of 18%; meanwhile, based on its weighted average price of RM5.68 for the last three months up to and including Dec 13, 2011, the QSR offer price represents a premium of 20%, JCorp said.

A JCorp spokesperson said this was part of the bigger restructuring plan that JCorp was undergoing and aimed at streamlining its businesses; the shareholding structure, at the moment, was convoluted and thus hindered effective management of its businesses.

"This will facilitate fundraising and the leveraging of operating assets which is part of JCorp's overall rationalisation programme; at the same time, it will also address the debt issue at JCorp," he said in an interview. JCorp has debt obligations of RM3.6bil that will mature in the middle of next year.

The spokesperson added that CVC, which also has interests in the food and beverage as well as retailing industries will participate actively in the management of both the businesses of KFC and QSR.

"We will work closely with CVC to create value by enhancing the operational and financial perfomance of the businesses," he added.

Analysts said it was an attractive offer for short-term investors who had gained on a good low entry price into the stock. However, some said the deal could be sweetened further, given that KFC was a growth stock with exposure to countries with attractive demographic fundamentals such as India, Singapore and Brunei.

It is also learnt that KFC is expanding further into Cambodia and Vietnam.

"QSR and KFC are the jewels in the crown of JCorp and I am not surprised that this offer had been made. However, investors may want to think of the growth potential of these companies before agreeing to the deal," an analyst with a local bank-backed brokerage said.

"In the interest of minority shareholders, they may want to push for a deal at a higher price. I doubt the deal would go through so easily, given the good brand positioning potential that KFC and Pizza Hut has in the Asian region.

"The future looks bright and the stock's fundamentals are sound, so investors should hold out for a better price," said another analyst.

CIMB said in a note to investors that it was not entirely surprised by this offer, given the present convoluted shareholding structure from JCorp all the way to KFC.

JCorp owns 55.9% of Kulim, which owns 53.9% of QSR, which in turn, has a 50.93% stake in KFC.

CIMB said a buyout of QSR and KFC would increase the dividends and cashflows that JCorp earns from KFC.

"JCorp has RM3.6bil of bonds maturing in July 2012. The buyout of both QSR and KFC and the resultant higher dividends and cashflows will help greatly in refinancing the bonds and servicing future interest payments," CIMB said in its investor alert note.

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London 2012 media centre attracts 10 bids

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:01 PM PST

LONDON (Reuters) - Ten bids have been received from would-be tenants wanting to take over the London Olympic press and broadcast centre after next year's Games, the man in charge of the legacy company said on Wednesday.

"We have received a significant amount of private sector interest in the broadcasting centre," Andrew Altman, chief executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, told a parliamentary committee.

"We went out to the market in October and on December 2 we received 10 bids.

"We are now in the process of shortlisting and in January we will be going to our board and making a recommendation to move forward," he told the Public Accounts Committee.

"We think that those bids have significant potential for anchor tenants for the broadcast and media centre. So we are very encouraged by what we have seen thus far."

Companies were formally invited to bid in October, with organisers hoping the vast, grey building in the northwest of the Park in Stratford would help provide jobs and regeneration in a deprived part of east London.

Some experts have expressed concern that the million square foot facility, which will be used by more than 20,000 journalists during the Games, may prove too large to be fully utilised once the Olympics are over.

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IMF OKs 3.9 billion euro tranche for Ireland

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:01 PM PST

Published: Thursday December 15, 2011 MYT 9:09:00 AM
Updated: Thursday December 15, 2011 MYT 11:01:03 AM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday approved a 3.9 billion euro ($5 billion) disbursement to Ireland under the country's IMF-EU rescue loan agreed in December last year to address the country's financial crisis.

The IMF loan tranche is part of a broader 85 billion euro ($110.08 billion) financing package for Ireland from the IMF and European Union. The IMF said it would issue a full statement on board deliberations later.

The country is half-way through an eight-year cycle of spending cuts and tax hikes as it tries to get its budget deficit under control as part of an IMF/EU-overseen economic adjustment program.

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The Star Online: Sports

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Back-up riders to strut their stuff in Track Asia Cup

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:24 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: The new breed of cyclists vying for places in the 2016 Olympic programme will get a chance to strut their stuff in the Track Asia Cup second leg in Kuala Lumpur this weekend.

In the absence of the Melbourne–based elite track cyclists, riders from the back–up and Pelapis squads have the opportunity to bask in the limelight at the Cheras Velodrome.

Back-up riders Arfy Qhairant Amran and Mohd Fattah Amri Zaid, who returned to train in Melbourne after competing in the SEA Games last month, are expected to lead Malaysia's charge for medals in the sprint disciplines.

Arfy is the reigning Asian junior sprint champion while Fattah did well in his maiden SEA Games to take the individual sprint silver behind senior rider Mohd Edrus Yunus.

There is also hope that women cyclists like Ju Pha Somnet, Lauretta Eva Adrian and Ummi Hamimah will seize the chance to shine on home turf.

Youngster Ju Pha made a golden SEA Games debut when she partnered elite rider Fatehah Mustapa to win the team sprint event.

Ju Pha delivered four gold medals for her home state Perlis when the Malaysia Games (Sukma) track cycling competition took place at the same venue in June and will be looking to cap a memorable year with another winning performance.

Lauretta and Ummi are also potential medallists in the junior ranks and capable of nicking a medal or two if they crank up the power on competition day.

Azrain Mohd Yusof, the National Sports Council's Pelapis programme co–ordinator, is hopeful that the juniors will repeat last year's fine achievement where they bagged three gold medals in Kuala Lumpur.

Fattah and Arfy won gold in the sprint and keirin respectively before combining to deliver victory in the team sprint.

"The top riders like Azizulhasni Awang, Fatehah and Josiah (Ng) are not competing this weekend because they are focused on the London Olympics qualification campaign," said Azrain.

"Instead, Malaysia will be represented by juniors from the back-up squad and another two riders from the Pelapis regional programmes in Ipoh and Penang.

"It will be tougher this year with the Japanese riders in the fray, but this is the chance for the riders to show they can step up to meet the challenges. We intend to identify and nurture the riders from this group in a special programme to help them qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro."

Besides Malaysia and Japan, the other countries competing in the Track Asia Cup second leg are Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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Lin Dan calls for hawk’s eye on line calls in Korea

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 03:02 PM PST


CHINA'S Lin Dan has urged the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to keep a hawk's eye on the standard line calls in South Korea when the 2012 Super Series season begins in Seoul on Jan 3–8.

Lin Dan, 28, says the South Korean linesmen's decisions were the worst compared to the other hosts of the Super Series.

"A new season will start in South Korea but I hope the old issue of dubious calls will not happen again. The line judges were favouring the local players too much at this year's Korea Open.

"There have been disputed calls at other venues but it was very obvious in South Korea."

If there is one positive change that Lin Dan is hoping for in the new season, it is for BWF to introduce the Hawk Eye technology, which has now become an integral part of tennis.

The ball–tracking system, which is proven to be accurate, reliable and practical, has allowed tennis players to challenge the umpire 's calls.

"I am puzzled why BWF are not catching on to this technology.

"They should have implemented it years ago to ensure fair judging," he said.

In Liuzhou, though, all eyes were on Lin Dan as he made his grand start in his first Super Series Masters Finals by beating compatriot Chen Long 21-15, 19-21, 21-17 in the opening Group B match.

On paper, Lin Dan should also beat Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and Japan's Kenichi Tago to reach the semi–finals as the group champion.

Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei had bagged a hat–trick of titles in Lin Dan's absence in the last three Masters Finals.

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Chong Wei turns on the heat to overcome Japan’s Sho

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:26 PM PST


LIUZHOU: Cold winter winds were blowing outside, but inside the Li Ning Gymnasium yesterday, World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei turned on the heat on the opening day of the Super Series Masters Finals to win his Group A match in style.

Top seed Chong Wei overcame Japan's Sho Sasaki, who was blowing hot and cold, 21-11, 18-21, 21-12 to signal a clear warning of his intention to capture the Masters Finals for the fourth time in a row.

He will take on Indonesia's Simon Santoso in his second group match and a win will guarantee him a place in the semi-finals.

Yesterday, the Malaysian got off to a rousing start when he wrapped up the first game in quick fashion with his slicing chops and tantalising net play to break Sho's rhythm.

The clever play immediately won the admiration of the local fans here.

The tempo changed in the second game with Sho tailgating the Malaysian all the way until 8-9 before he took over for an 11-9 lead. Playing with more confidence, Sho managed to steal the second game. But it was all Chong Wei in the rubber as he wrapped up the win.

"I started well but committed quite a number of errors in the second game and paid for it. I got into the groove again and Sho was too tired to strike back," said Chong Wei.

He was also all smiles for another reason yesterday – the overwhelming support of the Chinese crowd.

"I seem to have a large following here and that feels good," said Chong Wei.

On his match against Simon today, the Malaysian said: "It has been a year since I last played him. I am sure it will be a tricky one."

Yesterday, Simon, who only arrived at midnight on the eve of the tournament, could not give his best and went down tamely 13-21, 9-21 to Peter-Gade Christensen of Denmark.

"It is not an excuse but I did not play my best. It was too short a time to get ready for a big match against Peter. I will be in better condition tomorrow," said Simon.

There was one upset in Group B action when Japan's Kenichi Tago managed to pull the rug from under Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia with a 19-21, 21-19, 21-7 win after a one-hour battle.

There were also surprises in the women's singles when Sung Ji-hyun defeated China's Wang Yihan in Group A while India's Saina Nehwal also played one of her best matches to beat South Korea's Bae Youn-joo to keep her semi-final hopes alive.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's top pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong played one of their best matches in recent times but still went down to South Koreans Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung 21-18, 15-21, 18-21 in 61 minutes in their Group B opener.

Said Kien Keat: "It is sad to lose this way but we played a good game. I trust Boon Heong better now and there is much improvement.

"For now, what is more important is to get that feeling and confidence back in our game.

"Our campaign is still not over yet and we will go all out. Winning is a bonus but the ultimate goal is to end the year feeling satisfied about ourselves and our game."

Boon Heong, who almost caused panic when he sought medical treatment for his back problem in the decider, said: "I picked it up during the China Open but it is nothing to be worried about.

"We will be ready for the Danish pair next (Carsten Mogensen-Mathias Boe)."


Men's singles

Group A: Peter-Gade Christensen (Den) bt Simon Santoso (Ina) 21-13, 21-9; Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Sho Sasaki (Jpn) 21-11, 18-21, 21-12.

Group B: Lin Dan (Chn) bt Chen Long (Chn) 21-15, 19-21, 21-17; Kenichi Tago (Jpn) bt Taufik Hidayat (Ina) 19-21, 21-19, 21-7.

Men's doubles

Group A: Chai Biao-Guo Zhengdong (Chn) bt Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn) 21-15, 14-21, 21-19; Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata (Jpn) bt Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong (Kor) 21-19, 18-21, 21-9.

Group B: Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae (Kor) bt Koo Kien Keat- Tan Boon Heong (Mas) 18-21, 21-15, 21-18; Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) bt Mohd Ahsan-Bona Septano (Ina) 21-16, 18-21, 21-19.

Women's singles

Group A: Tine Baun (Den) bt Juliane Schenk (Ger) 21-12, 21-11; Sung Ji-hyun (Kor) bt Wang Yihan (Chn) 13-21, 21-16, 21-19.

Group B: Wang Xin (Chn) bt Sayaka Sato (Jpn) 21-7, 21-9; Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt Bae Youn-joo (Kor) 21-14, 17-21, 21-14.

Women's doubles

Group A: Ha Jung-eun-Kim Min-jung (Kor) bt Cheng Wen-hsing- Chien Yu-chin (Tpe) 21-18, 21-18; Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn) bt Lok Yan Poon-Ying Suet Tse (Hkg) 21-9, 21-11.

Group B: Tian Qing-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Christinna Pedersen- Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Den) 21-10, 20-22, 21-14; Mizuki Fujii-Reika Kakiiwa (Jpn) bt Shizuka Matsuo-Mami Naito (Jpn) 11-21, 21-17, 21-10.

Mixed doubles

Group A: Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Xu Chen-Ma Jin (Chn) 21-18, 19-21, 21-18; Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir (Ina) bt Robert Blair-Gabrielle White (Sco-Eng) 21-10, 21-12.

Group B: Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen (Den) bt Sudket Prapakamol-T. Saralee (Tha) 21-15, 21-17; Chen Hung-ling- Cheng Wen-hsing (Tpe) bt Ikeda Shintaro-Shiota Reiko (Jpn) 19-21, 21-16, 21-17.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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"Dragon Tattoo" film paints Sweden in darkest shades

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:22 AM PST

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Violence, a sexually abused heroine and the forbidding wintry landscape of director David Fincher's new "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" film may alter any pre-conceived notions of Sweden as a socialist paradise.

Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, who plays the corporate executive of a family firm with a terrible secret, said that although the film explores a very fictional dark side of society its portrayal of feminine strength was particularly Swedish.

"Such a strong female hero as we have in this film and such a soft male hero as we have in this film, I think that is typical Swedish," he told reporters when he hit the red carpet for the Stockholm premiere of the Hollywood version of Swedish author Stieg Larsson's best-selling thriller.

Sweden is known for its cradle-to-grave welfare system and Ikea department stores. The film and books paint another picture, more in tune with its bleak and cold winters and a dark side found in a number of Swedish crime novels that have taken the publishing world by storm in the last decade.

Skarsgard said foreigners in general did not know much about the small Scandinavian country and hoped that Sweden would not be too associated with the crime wave genre that has put Swedish Noir at the top of the modern world's literary map.

"I hope they don't think that the way Sweden is portrayed in those books and films is the way Sweden is, because it is still a very peaceful and lovely and very nice country to live in," he said.

"Some people questioned why we came to Sweden to make the film and why we did not just make our American version in America but I don't think you can really tell the story without telling it in Sweden. I think it is a very Swedish story, I think all the characters are very Swedish," she said.


In the story, Salander teams up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist in search of a killer. Blomkvist is played by British actor Daniel Craig, best known for the role of James Bond.

"What it tells about Sweden for me is that there is a huge story-telling tradition here and it is a sort of dark tale, something that we can all relate to in Northern Europe. They have worldwide mass appeal it seems," Craig said.

"Dragon Tattoo" is the first of the late Larsson's best-selling Millennium trilogy of books, which has sold more than 60 million copies in 48 countries worldwide.

Helena Lindblad, a film critic at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, said the huge success of the books and the films had opened the world market for other Scandinavian authors and actors, for example Noomi Rapace who played Salander in the Swedish adaption of the trilogy for the screen.

"This success of Stieg Larsson's is definitely the icebreaker. It is quite unreal and has opened doors for Swedish Crime or Swedish Noir or whatever you want to call it and that it has become a term associated with these films and books," Lindblad, who attended the Swedish premiere late on Tuesday, said.

Lindblad said she really liked the film. And though remakes in general were "not particularly exciting" cinematically, director Fincher, whose credits include "Seven" and "Fight Club", added qualities, not the least visually.

She also said the interaction between the main characters was stronger in the Hollywood adaption than in the Swedish original. She said Fincher captured Sweden in an excellent way.

Salvador Munoz, a fan who was celebrity spotting at the premiere, said that Fincher could add "more of Stieg Larsson-darkness" to the film. He said Evil was Fincher's signature.

"It is man's other side, the dark side of people. He portrays it so well," Munoz said.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" opens in the United States on December 20.

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Angelina Jolie's 'Blood and Honey' gets PGA Award

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 09:26 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, ''In the Land of Blood and Honey,'' picked up its first awards-season mention on Tuesday, as the Producers Guild of America announced that the film will be honored with its Stanley Kramer Award.

The award, named after the producer of ''The Caine Mutiny,'' ''High Noon'' and ''Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,'' was created in 2002. According to the PGA, it honors ''a motion picture, producer or other individual, whose achievement or contribution illuminates provocative social issues in an accessible and elevating fashion.''

''In the Land of Blood and Honey'' is set in Bosnia during the war in that country during the 1990s. Its dialogue is largely in the Serbo-Croatian language, and it depicts the tortured relationship between a couple who find themselves on different sides of the devastating conflict.

Jolie's work ''is an extraordinary film that portrays a complex love story set against the terrors of the Bosnian War, especially towards women,'' said PGA presidents Hawk Koch and Mark Gordon in a statement. ''This film truly embraces the legacy of Stanley Kramer.''

Previous recipients of the Stanley Kramer Award include last year's winner, Sean Penn, as well as the films ''Antwone Fisher,'' ''In America,'' ''Hotel Rwanda'' and ''An Inconvenient Truth.''

The film's producers - Jolie, Tim Headington, Graham King and Tim Moore - will accept the award at the 23rd annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony on January 21 at the Beverly Hilton.

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William, Kate to visit M'sia next year as part of Queen E jubilee tour

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:34 AM PST

LONDON: Britain's royal family will embark on a global tour next year as part of celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth's 60th year on the throne, Buckingham Palace announced Wednesday.

Senior royals will visit every realm where the queen is head of state as well as trips to other major countries in the Commonwealth.

The queen herself will embark on a tour of the United Kingdom, starting in London in March before taking in every region across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the next few months.

Heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will visit Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, while his son Prince William and his new wife Kate will travel to Malaysia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

William's brother Prince Harry will head to Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.

The main festivities to mark the queen's diamond jubilee will take place over four days next June with a flotilla on the River Thames and a concert at Buckingham Palace.

Earlier this year, the 85-year-old, who acceded to the throne on the death of her father George VI in February 1952, became the second-longest reigning monarch in more than 1,000 years of British history. - Reuters

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Special ministry unit to monitor quality of KR1M products

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:43 AM PST

Published: Wednesday December 14, 2011 MYT 10:42:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday December 14, 2011 MYT 10:43:58 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry has set up a special monitoring unit to ensure the quality of products sold at Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) shops, supermarkets and mini markets.

Deputy Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim said the unit was set up last week with the cooperation of the Health Department, Agriculture Department and Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (Jakim).

"The unit has already started its operations in the city and will move on to other states in stages," said Rohani when interviewed in Bernama's Radio24 programme, Kerusi Panas, here Wednesday.

Rohani said the unit would also conduct spot-check to ensure the effectiveness of KR1M operations.

"By setting up the unit, we hope to resolve problems involving quality and problems with labeling on food products and their composition," said Rohani. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Suppliers ordered to send KR1M products for lab tests
KR1M stores ordered to rectify errors
13 food products withdrawn from KR1M stores

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Floods hit KL again (Updated)

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:35 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Heavy rain caused flash floods in various parts of Kuala Lumpur again and in places where floods have not occurred in a long time.

Motorists and city dwellers encountered a repeat of Tuesday's nighmare of flash floods and heavy traffic snarls at major roads in the city.

The areas flooded Wednesday included Jalan Raja Chulan, the Pudu area, Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Sultan Ismail.

Motorists were stuck in massive traffic jams in various areas, while other drivers were affected by faulty traffic lights.

Some drivers tweeted that the basement car park of the Sungei Wang Plaza shopping complex was flooded, while others tweeted about thunderstorms and heavy rain in the afternoon while they were on the road.

On Tuesday, various parts of the capital were also affected by flash floods, trapping thousands of motorists getting home after work.

The floods occurred when a two-hour downpour caused Sungai Bunus to overflow.

City Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman said he had been informed by the Meteorological Department to brace for heavy rain in the evening.

He said firemen were directed to be on standby for floods that might occur at low-lying areas including Jalan Gurney, Jelatik, Wangsa Maju and Jinjang.

"We have boats and personnel to be sent to these areas if needed," he added.

Related Stories:
Flash floods hit KL, thousands stranded
Over 20 nursery children rescued in KL flash floods

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Firm plants 100 fruit trees as part of programme

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 02:51 AM PST

A PRIVATE firm has planted 100 fruit trees as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) project on a hillock off Jalan USJ2/2R.

The project, called People's Orchard, was one of Saint Gobain Construction's efforts to create a park for the public to come and relax.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh said that the top portion of the hillock that once housed radar equipment for the Department of Civil Aviation had been dismantled and the land handed over to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ).

"With fruits trees grown on top of the hillock and a public park built around it, the park is now a good place for recreational activities. Trees like mango, ciku, soursop, honey guava, kedondong, rambutan and pulasan trees have been planted," she said.

MPSJ councillor Rajiv Rishyakaran said people would be able to reap the fruits of this labour, literally, in years to come.

Earlier Yeoh, who met the residents living around the area, said she had come to check on the newly installed floodlights and two sets of park table/benches at the park that residents had requested a few months ago in a dialogue session.

"The RM8,730 for the one pole with two lamps and the RM5,000 for the two park tables and eight benches came from my service centre's allocation. Now, I just want the people to care for the facilities. With the floodlights installed it would help to bring down the crime rate. On the issues of graffiti, vandalism and discarded broken bottles, we need the help of the Subang Jaya district police to conduct patrols in the neighbourhood," she said.

Yeoh added that her approach has helped to build a strong network with the residents.

Resident Y. Sela said the added facilities and the fruit trees in the park made it a better place for walks in the morning and evening.

"We are a close knit community and improved facilities at a park will augur well as this will encourage neighbours to come out in the late evenings and mingle around," he said.

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Road users want authorities to repair the damaged road

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 02:50 AM PST

ROAD users of Jalan Pipit in Puchong Jaya want the authorities to repair the damaged road soon. They also want the authorities to conduct a study on the possibility of building an access road from Kesas Highway to Puchong Jaya.

Puchong resident Tay Ah Wan, a frequent road user along the stretch, hopes the road condition can be improved by retarring and drawing yellow boxes at junctions while upgrading the drainage system.

"In recent years, there has been an increase in population due to the mushrooming of apartments in the area. Moreover, the existence of a primary and secondary school also contribute to the congestion during peak hours," he said.

The road was also narrowed by the existence of hawkers stalls that operate businesses at night.

"Because of this we have to make way for heavy vehicles that pass through. There have been cases of several accidents here," Tay added.

However, Puchong MCA chairman Datuk Wong Hock Aun said there was good news as the state government has allocated RM1mil for road repairs and to improve drainage systems.

"The state government should utilise the funds to repair, resurface and improve the drainage along the stretch of Jalan Pipit.

"I urge Kinrara assemblyman Teresa Kok to make this road (Jalan Pipit) a priority," he said.

He added that the drainage system was poor and it had resulted in water retention on the road and cracks and potholes, posing danger to road users especially motorcyclists.

"I urge the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) to patch up the potholes first.

"For a long-term solution, residents have requested for the MPSJ and state government to study if it was viable to have an ingress and egress (entry and exit points) from Kesas to Puchong Jaya," he said.

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Understanding test results

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:09 AM PST

How to read blood and urine test results.

I RECENTLY had a medical check-up. I had my blood and urine taken and sent for testing. Over the weekend, I went to check if my results came back, and they did. I was given a little booklet with plenty of readings on it. But my regular doctor wasn't around and I had to wait till he came back on Monday. How can I read the tests myself?

Reading tests and understanding what they mean can be tricky without the help of a medical professional. That's why most doctors prefer to be there to explain them to you. If you don't know how to interpret the results, it can cause quite a bit of anxiety, especially if you see that your counts are above or below the normal range.

The commonest blood test taken during medical check-ups is the full blood count or complete blood count.

What do we test for in a full blood count?

During medical check-ups, most clinics, hospitals and labs are quite thorough. These are some of the common components of red blood cell measurements you will find:

1. RBC – this stands for Red Blood Cell or erythrocyte count. This counts the number of red blood cells that you have per litre of your blood plasma.

The normal ranges are 4.3-6.2x106/microL (male), 3.8-5.5x106/microL (female) and 3.8-5.5x106/microL (infant/child).

Women tend to have a lower RBC than males because of menstruation, but this is considered normal.

2. Hb – Haemoglobin. This measures the amount of haemoglobin in your blood. As we well know, haemoglobin is the component that carries oxygen in our red blood cells. It's what gives our blood its red colour. If you have low haemoglobin, this means you have anaemia.

The normal ranges are 13.2-16.2g/dL (male), and 12.0-15.2g/dL (female).

3. Haematocrit (Hct) – this stands for the ratio of the volume of red cells to your whole blood. It is usually 40-52% for males, and 37-46% for females.

4. MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) – this is the average volume of your red blood cell. Yes, this means their size (in a way). If you have a high MCV, this may signify a certain type of disease, such as megaloblastic anaemia, where your red blood cells are huge.

5. MCH (Mean Corpuscular Haemoglobin) – the average amount of haemoglobin you have in your red blood cell. Again, another indice to signify anaemia if it's low.

6. MCHC (Mean Corpuscular Haemoglobin Concentration) – the average concentration of haemoglobin in a volume of red blood cells. It should normally be 32-36%.

What about measuring our white blood cells and platelets?

1. WBC – this stands for White Blood Cell or leukocyte count. This counts the number of white blood cells that you have per litre of your blood plasma.

The normal ranges are 4.1-10.9x103/microL. A significantly high WBC count can signify infection, particularly when you have other symptoms of an infection such as a fever. High WBC counts can also denote certain types of blood diseases.

2. WBC differential count – our white blood cells comprise several different types such as granulocytes (polymorphonuclear cells), lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils.

These are their normal ratios:

> Polymorphonuclear cells: 35-80%

> Immature Polys (Bands): 0-10%

> Lymphocytes: 20-50%

> Monocytes: 2-12%

> Eosinophils: 0-7%

> Basophils: 0-2%

The interpretation of high levels of these is interesting. High polymorphs may signify a bacterial infection. High lymphocytes may signify a viral infection. High eosinophils may denote an allergic reaction, or a parasite infestation.

3. Platelet count – this measures the number of our platelets in a volume of our blood. Platelets look like little plates! They are not complete cells, but rather fragments of a cell called a megakaryocyte. They help in our blood clotting process as the front-liners to repair a wound.

The normal ranges are 140-450x103/microL.

Low platelets may signify certain disease like dengue fever, especially when you have the symptoms. Low RBC, WBC and platelets together may mean a viral illness, or – if severely depressed – something more sinister like acute myeloid leukaemia.

In our next article, we will look at some other tests and what they mean.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health advice, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Safety net for life

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:04 AM PST

The mounting pressure and stress from a poor work-life balance may hit you harder and sooner than you think. It's time you thought of a plan.

ON the surface, Kant Lian, 28, has everything most guys his age could ask for. He owns a thriving IT company, a fancy car, and on top of that, he has a pretty girlfriend.

But like most young working adults, Lian is far more concerned with climbing the corporate ladder than any other aspect of his daily affairs. He has also been clocking in more hours at the office in pursuit of a more comfortable life.

"I make about RM6,000 to RM7,000 every month," Lian reveals. "I live a simple life and I live with my parents, so what I'm making now is sufficient. But I'm trying to make more as I would like to buy a house in the near future and I'm planning to get married in the next five years."

However, in spite of his easy lifestyle, Lian says he is putting his future at stake by not having any form of insurance coverage. He chooses to hold back because he does not want to "burden himself financially".

"I don't think it's worth the investment at my age. I would rather use the money to invest in trust fund units or the stock market to generate a higher profit or a return rate. Now is the perfect time for me and I can make more money that way," he reasons.

"The entire concept of insurance is based on the fear that you won't have enough money to cover yourself when you fall sick, right? Well, I choose to believe that I can make enough money to cover my medical bills if I were to fall sick."

What if ...

So far, he says he has accumulated quite a fair amount from his ventures in the share market. "I should be able to help myself if anything bad happens to me. Unless it's something catastrophic like cancer..."

The odds aside, Lian reckons he is still at an age where he can afford to "gamble". "I lead a healthy lifestyle, I don't drink or smoke, I watch what I eat and I go to the gym regularly, so I don't think I will fall sick anytime soon."

That said, Lian tells us he will consider getting an insurance policy when he turns 30. "Hopefully, I will be more financially stable by then and if I'll have to keep forking out money for insurance premiums, I'll be able to do so. I can probably also afford a better insurance plan at that age."

His conceptions may be ideal, but could prove to be unrealistic as stress could hit you harder and much earlier than you think. A recent study by the American Journal of Public Health discovered a marked correlation between high levels of stress at work and depression.

Dr Emma Robertson Blackmore, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in the United States, says anxiety, headaches, insomnia and general dissatisfaction often ensue as a result of depression.

The scariest aspect of it is, the build-up of depression and stress combined can lead to a number of chronic and non-chronic health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

While the long-term effects of stress and a poor work-life balance may not have reared its ugly head in someone as young as Lian, the impact will slowly but surely cause damage to one's health and productivity over the long run.

Studies have also shown that pressure in the workplace has increased in recent years. Even Lian, who strives to maintain that delicate balance between work and play, could not escape the trappings of modern living. Besides having to navigate through traffic congestions daily, Lian says he is under a tremendous amount of stress from work, especially when his company hit a rough financial spot three years ago.

"We had only just started out and it was such a struggle to keep things going. We had to put in long hours so we could develop quicker and the company could move ahead faster."

Besides having to deal with his company's troubles, Lian also had to keep track of competitors in the same field. "The amount of work was overwhelming as there was so much to handle. Things are slightly better now, though the struggle will never truly end."

A plan that works

Overworking does not only lead to stress and physical exhaustion, it could also turn deadly. According to the Health Ministry, one in six deaths in Government hospitals are caused by heart diseases and the two main contributors of heart attack are hypertension and high blood pressure, which are often caused by stress.

While we may not be able to escape our commitments (or our bosses), we can surely take preventive measures to ease our journey through our lives.

The increasing demands of this urban age calls for a comprehensive healthcare solution to help safeguard our finances, as well as to ensure uninterrupted and continuous access to quality medical care.

The most experienced of insurance agents will tell you that you should start protecting your health at an early age to lessen the financial impact a later health problem could yield. And they would be right.

It is also worth noting that medical insurance is only available to those who are in good health because an insurance company is required to underwrite one's risk. Besides, the younger you are, the less health problems you are likely to have.

Hence, it makes sense to get an insurance plan earlier in life to minimise premium costs as well as to maximise the profits of quality healthcare in the long haul.

Most medical insurance plans impose a lifetime limit on customers, meaning there is a fixed limit on the amount of reimbursement you can claim in a lifetime.

Plans that do not impose a lifetime limit on the other hand, ensure a continuous and undisrupted access to the medical care you need throughout your golden years.

In a sense, an unlimited medical cover is akin to starting a fresh page every year, regardless of the amount of claims you may have made previously. Plans that provide coverage beyond the average lifespan of Malaysians, which is estimated to be 73.8 years, is an added boon as it ensures all the protection you may require well past your retirement years.

Also, take into account the annual limit that is offered by a policy. Obviously, a higher annual limit would help you cope better with escalating medical costs.

Don't forget to go through the fine print on that glossy stack of paper. Make sure your insurance provider does not impose a co-insurance policy on you. Many insurance companies claim to have a comprehensive policy cover on medical insurance. However, most insurance companies will impose a co-sharing of hospitalisation bill, meaning you will have to pay for a certain percentage of the hospital bill on your own.

The result? You end up stressing out even more from having to fork out the extra cash when you should be focusing on recuperating.

By grasping the fundaments of your medical plan, you get to pick one that suits your needs best. Remember, a credible medical insurance provider will always strive for the welfare of its customers.

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