Sabtu, 17 Disember 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Capturing women’s hearts

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:20 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: In just two weeks, Capital FM 88.9 has managed to capture the hearts of women, ranging from professionals to local celebrities.

Women said they loved the female-focused content, diverse range of deejays and its talk-show format.

Actress and producer Nancie Foo said it was a must-listen station whenever she was on the road.

The former Miss Malaysia runner-up described the station as refreshing.

"Well done to Capital FM for highlighting women's issues that all of us can relate to," she said.

Foo added that her male friends also wanted to tune in to the radio station.

"They secretly want to know what is of concern to women," she added.

Empower executive director Maria Chin Abdullah said Capital FM had given a great platform to women. She, however, hoped that it would not only cater to career women.

"It should also aim to enlighten homemakers," she said.

Former deejay Priscilla Ann said she loved the song selections.

"Capital FM is my choice as it plays good music from the 80s and 90s," she said.

Priscilla hoped that the station would someday go nationwide.

Singer Qalisha Ray said Capital FM's great mix of talk and music had also attracted many young listeners.

She said she was introduced to it by her friend, who kept switching to the station whenever they were on the road.

"They don't repeat the same songs," she added.

For marketing executive L. Shobana, 24, the station's choice of music was what she would put on her own playlist.

"Listening to Capital FM has made being stuck in a traffic jam more bearable," she said.

The revamped Capital FM 88.9, which went on air on Dec 1, aims to be a "real radio station for real women" with the tagline, Women – The New Capital.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Nearly nine years on, U.S. withdraws from Iraq

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 08:55 PM PST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq Sunday, ending their withdrawal after nearly nine years of war and military intervention that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.

U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Joesph Cook smiles as he waits to board the last Air Force flight out of Ali Air Base near Nasiriyah, en route to Kuwait December 17, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The war launched in March 2003 with missiles striking Baghdad to oust dictator Saddam Hussein is leaving behind a fragile democracy still facing insurgents, sectarian tensions and a struggle to define its place in the Arab region.

The final column of around 100 mostly U.S. military MRAP armoured vehicles carrying 500 U.S. troops trundled across the southern Iraq desert through the night along an empty highway to the Kuwaiti border.

"It's good to see this thing coming to a close. I was here when it started," Staff Sgt. Christian Schultz said just before leaving Contingency Operating Base Adder, 300 km (185 miles) south of Baghdad, for the border. "I saw a lot of good changes, a lot of progress, and a lot of bad things too."

For President Barack Obama, the military pullout is the fulfilment of an election promise to bring troops home from a conflict inherited from his predecessor that tainted America's standing worldwide.

For Iraqis, it brings a sense of sovereignty but fuels worries their country may slide once again into the kind of sectarian violence that killed thousands of people at its peak in 2006-2007.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government still struggles with a delicate power-sharing arrangement between Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni parties, leaving Iraq vulnerable to meddling by Sunni Arab nations and Shi'ite Iran.

The intensity of violence and suicide bombings has subsided for now. But a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency and rival Shi'ite militias remain a threat, carrying out almost daily attacks.

Iraq says its forces can contain the violence but they lack capabilities in areas such as air defense and intelligence gathering. A deal for several thousand U.S. troops to stay on as trainers fell apart over the sensitive issue of legal immunity.

For many Iraqis security remains a worry - but no more than jobs and getting access to power in a country whose national grid provides only a few hours of electricity a day.

"We don't think about America... We think about electricity, jobs, our oil, our daily problems," said Abbas Jaber, a government employee in Baghdad. "They left chaos."


After Obama announced in October that troops would come home by the end of the year as scheduled, the number of U.S. military bases was whittled down quickly as hundreds of troops and trucks carrying equipment headed south to the Kuwaiti border.

U.S. forces, which had ended combat missions in 2010, paid $100,000 a month to tribal sheikhs to secure different parts of highways leading south to reduce the risk of roadside bombings and attacks.

At the height of the war, more than 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq at more than 500 bases. By Saturday, there were fewer than 3,000 troops, and one base.

At COB Adder, as dusk fell before the departure of the last convoy, one group of soldiers slapped barbecue sauce on slabs of ribs brought in from Kuwait and laid them on grills alongside hotdogs and sausages.

The last troops flicked on the lights studding their MRAP vehicles and stacked flak jackets and helmets in neat piles, ready for the final departure for Kuwait and then home.

"A good chunk of me is happy to leave. I spent 31 months in this country," said Sgt. Steven Schirmer, 25, after three tours of Iraq since 2007. "It almost seems I can have a life now, though I know I am probably going to Afghanistan in 2013. Once these wars end I wonder what I will end up doing."


U.S. and foreign companies are already helping OPEC member Iraq develop the vast potential of the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, but Iraq's economy needs investment in all sectors, from hospitals to infrastructure.

Iran and Turkey, major investors in Iraq, will be watching with Gulf nations to see how it handles its sectarian and ethnic tensions, as the crisis in neighbouring Syria threatens Iran and Turkey, major investors in Iraq, will be watching with Gulf nations to see how it handles its sectarian and ethnic tensions, as the crisis in neighbouring Syria threatens The fall of Saddam allowed the long-suppressed Shi'ite majority to rise to power. The Shi'ite-led government has drawn the country closer to neighbouring Iran and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who is struggling to put down a nine-month uprising.

Iraq's Sunni minority are chafing under what they see as the

increasingly authoritarian control of Maliki's Shi'ite coalition. Some local leaders are already pushing mainly Sunni provinces to demand more autonomy from Baghdad.

A dispute between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Maliki's central government over oil and territory rights is also brewing, and is a potential flashpoint after the buffer of the American military presence is gone.

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Tim Pearce)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Philippines searches for missing after typhoon kills hundreds

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 08:52 PM PST

By Erik De Castro CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (Reuters) - Rescuers searched for more than 100 people still missing in the southern Philippines Sunday after flash floods and landslides swept houses into rivers and out to sea, killing almost 500 people in areas ill-prepared to cope with deadly storms.

The cities of Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan on Mindanao island were worst hit when Typhoon Wasi slammed ashore while people slept late Friday and early Saturday, sending torrents of water and mud through villages and stripping mountainsides bare.

Damaged vehicles swept away by flashfloods caused by typhoon Washi lie in a ditch in Balulang village in Cagayan de Oro, southern Philippines, December 17, 2011. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

"This is the first time this has happened in our city," Vicente Emano, mayor of Cagayan de Oro, said in a radio interview. He said officials in the area did not receive adequate warning before the typhoon struck.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) estimated 497 were killed in eight provinces in the southern Mindanao region, with more than 100 still missing.

"It's difficult to be certain on those missing," Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the PNRC, told Reuters. "The floods washed out whole houses and families inside. It's possible entire families are dead and no one is reporting them missing."

The latest report by the state disaster agency said 327 people had been killed and 274 were missing.

Disaster and health officials were struggling to deal with the scores of bodies that have been recovered. Some have been stacked one on top of another in local mortuaries.

Mindanao island, the southernmost in the Philippines, is a mineral-rich region that also produces rice and corn but is not normally on the path of an average 20 typhoons that hit the Southeast Asian country each year.

"This pose challenges to us ... We need to educate people with this kind of change in climate," Pang said. "The volume of rainfall for one month fell for just one day."


Typhoons normally strike the central Visayas region and the southern tip or the eastern part of Luzon, the main island in the north.

Carmelita Pulosan, 42, said she and eight family members and neighbours survived by sitting on top of the tin roof of their house as it drifted miles into the open sea after floodwaters swept through their village.

They were rescued by a passing cargo ship.

"There was a deafening sound followed by a rush of water. We found ourselves in the river and the current took us out to the sea," Pulosan, from Cagayan de Oro, told Reuters.

"The current was very strong. God is really good to us. He saved my family," she said. Only one 3-storey building was left standing in their village, Pulosan said.

Pang said many residents returned to their villages after floodwaters receded, but many found their homes destroyed.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States, a major ally of the Philippines, was ready to assist Philippine authorities.

Wasi, downgraded to a tropical storm with gusts of up to 80 km per hour (50 miles per hour), is now hovering 60 km (40 miles) west of the southwestern city of Puerto Princesa and is expected to move out of Philippine waters later Sunday.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Manny Mogato in MANILA; Editing by Paul Tait)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Troops, protesters clash in Cairo for third day

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 08:30 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Military police battled demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square Sunday, the third day of clashes that have killed 10 people and injured hundreds, casting a shadow over the first free election most Egyptians can remember.

Protesters throw stones at army soldiers at a building next to cabinet offices near Tahrir Square in Cairo December 17, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Soldiers advanced from barriers around the square shortly before dawn, scuffling with protesters, activists said. A Reuters witness heard gunfire and saw protesters, brandishing big sticks, running from the scene of the latest flare-up.

"It's cat-and-mouse. The army raid and retreat," a protester in the square, Mostafa Fahmy, said by telephone.

Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir in the early morning, some huddled round fires to keep warm in the chill air after troops burned down tents that had been erected by activists camped there since a protest against army rule on November 18.

The latest flare-up in violence has exposed divisions among Egyptians about the role of the army, which took over after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Activists have stayed out on the streets for weeks, angered by the army's seeming reluctance to give up power. But other Egyptians back the military as a force for badly needed stability during a difficult transition to democracy.


For a graphic:


Army vehicles and soldiers were deployed on several roads leading into the square. Protesters and troops have clashed repeatedly, throwing rocks at each other, and some protesters have lobbed petrol bombs at army lines.

In earlier clashes, troops in riot gear chased protesters into side streets, grabbed them, beat them to the ground and battered them, a Reuters journalist said. Shots were fired in the air.

Soldiers pulled down protester tents and set them on fire, local TV footage showed. Reuters footage showed one soldier in a line of charging troops firing a shot at fleeing protesters, though whether he was using blanks or live rounds was not known.

State media gave conflicting accounts of what sparked the violence. They quoted some people as saying a man went into the parliament compound to retrieve a mis-kicked football, but was harassed and beaten by police and guards. Others said the man had prompted scuffles by trying to set up camp in the compound.

The latest bloodshed follows unrest in which 42 people were killed in the week before November 28, the start of a phased parliamentary poll in which Islamist parties repressed during the 30-year Mubarak era have emerged as strong front-runners.

Voting in the second round of the election process, part of a promised transition from army to civilian rule by July, passed peacefully Wednesday and Thursday. The last run-off vote for the lower house takes place on January 11.


Health Minister Fouad el-Nawawy told local television 10 people had been killed, most of them Friday or early on Saturday, and 441 injured. State media said at least 200 people were taken to hospital.

Among the dead was Emad Effat, a senior official of Egypt's Dar al-Ifta, a religious authority that issues Islamic fatwas (edicts). His wife told Reuters Effat died from a gunshot wound. At his funeral Saturday, hundreds of mourners chanted "Down with military rule."

Army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, 78, said 30 security guards outside parliament had been hurt, and blamed the violence on youths among the protesters. "What is happening in the streets today is not a revolution, rather it is an attack on the revolution," he said.

The army assault Saturday followed skirmishes between protesters and troops during which a fire destroyed archives, some more than 200 years old, in a building next to Tahrir.

An army official said troops had tackled thugs, not protesters, after shots were fired at soldiers and petrol bombs set the building ablaze, the state news agency MENA reported.

Tahrir protesters and some other Egyptians are infuriated by the perceived reluctance to quit power of the army, whose ruling council is headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defense minister for two decades.

Other Egyptians, desperate for order, voiced frustration about the unrest that has battered the economy.

"We can't work, we can't live, and because of what? Because of some thugs who have taken control of the square and destroyed our lives. Those are no revolutionaries," said Mohamed Abdel Halim, a 21-year-old who runs a store near Tahrir.

A new civilian advisory council to the generals said it would suspend its meetings until the violence stopped. It called for prosecution of those responsible and the release of all those detained in the unrest.

Islamist and liberal politicians decried the army's tactics.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party list is leading the election, said in a statement the military must make "a clear and quick apology for the crime that has been committed."

The army council is in charge until a presidential election in June, but parliament will have a popular mandate that the military will find hard to ignore as it oversees the transition.

(Additional reporting by Ashraf Fahim, Marwa Awad and Dina Zayed; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Tim Pearce)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Asyraf goes the distance to overcome Ivan and book a final ticket

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:22 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: National number four Mohd Asyraf Azan needed five gruelling sets to end the fine run of team-mate Ivan Yuen and enter the final of the Crocodile Challenge Cup squash championships in Hong Kong yesterday.

World No. 70 Asyraf took 101 minutes to prevail 12-10, 7-11, 9-11, 11-4, 10-6 after Ivan retired with cramps while facing a match point in the fifth set.

The third-seeded Asyraf had earlier defeated Ravi Dixit of India 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9 in the first round and Kuwait's Bader Al Hussaini 5-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 in the quarter-finals.

Asyraf will face defending champion and top seed Max Lee in the final. Max needed just 28 minutes to down fourth seed Dick Lau 11-0, 11-3, 11-7 in the semi-finals.

The 20-year-old Ivan, however, can take consolation from scoring his second biggest career win when he stunned world No. 63 and second seed Matthew Karwalski of Australia 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-5 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Ivan had, however, slogged for 80 minutes before ousting local player Leo Au 11-6, 12-10, 6-11, 14-12 in the first round.

The strain of being on the court for more than 240 minutes over three days took its toll on Ivan, who was unable to complete the five-set marathon against Asyraf.

Ivan, who scored his biggest win by stunning world No. 59 Campbell Grayson of New Zealand to qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open in August, was clearly disappointed at failing to beat Asyraf yesterday.

"I did well to upset Karwalski in the quarter-final but I did not play well against Asyraf in the fourth and fifth sets. The two tough matches in the first two days took their toll on me," said Ivan.

Asyraf was clearly relieved to have defeated Ivan to reach the final.

"Our matches have always been very close and it's always tough to beat Ivan, who is fit and goes for every ball. I hope to win my first tournament this year," said Asyraf.

Malaysia's Elvinn Keo was also bundled out in the quarter-finals after losing 11-9, 11-6, 11-7 to Dick Lau in 37 minutes.

Malaysia's challenge in the women's competition also came to an end when Siti Munirah Jusoh was outplayed 5-11, 6-11, 11-11 in just 21 minutes by third seed Dipika Pallikal of India in the quarter-finals. Dipika then upset second seed Sarah Kippax of England 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 to set up a final date with fourth seed Joey Chan.

Joey stunned top seed Donna Urquhart of Australia 11-6, 12-10, 11-9 in the other semi-final.

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Arfy ends drought

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:56 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Reigning Asian junior champion Mohd Arfy Qhairant Amran delivered Malaysia's first gold medal in the Track Asia Cup cycling championships at the Cheras Velodrome yesterday.

Arfy was in dominant form, defeating Hong Kong's Lok Chun Wu 2-0 in the sprint final.

"It was tough as the Hong Kong rider has a lot of power and I'm not really at my peak yet," said Arfy.

"But I felt better compared to when I won the 1km time trial bronze on Friday. I'm glad I nailed the gold medal."

Aboulfazi Zarezadehmehrizi of Iran beat Thailand's Worayut Kapunya for the bronze.

Malaysia's Sofian Nabil Omar Bakri grabbed the silver medal in the men's junior point race despite having a fever. The race was won by Hong Kong's Chun Wing Leung while Ruslan Feddrovof Uzbekistan settled for the bronze.

Hamdan Hamidun delivered Malaysia's third bronze medal clocking 3:48.194 in the junior 3km individual pursuit. Chun Wing Leung of Hong Kong won the gold medal in 3:40.182 while Ruslan Feddrov of Uzbekistan took the silver in 3:42.490.

Malaysian senior sprinters were outclassed yesterday with Mohd Fattah Amri Zaid the best finisher in fifth place and Ju Pha Somnet seventh. Junior sprinter Lauretta Eva Adrian finished fourth in her race.

The men's sprint team still have a chance to nick the gold medal today in their match against hot favourites Iran.

Fattah, his brother Mohd Farhan and Mohd Fakhruddin Daud were second fastest in 1:06.012. The Iranian trio of Mahmoud Parash, Mahmoud Rasouli and Ali Askari stopped the clock in 1:03.929 while Hong Kong were third fastest in 1:06.193.

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Tired Lee crumbles

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:57 PM PST

THE mind was willing but the body wasn't. World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei's tired and weary limbs failed him when he needed them most yesterday.

The exhausted Chong Wei surrendered his Super Series Masters Finals crown, going down 16-21, 21-16, 18-21 to China's Chen Long in a nerve-wracking one hour and 16-minute semi-final clash.

The defeat by the youngster at the Li Ning Gymnasium ended 29-year-old Chong Wei's dream of ending the season on a high with his fourth Masters Finals title.

It was also his third loss this year to the 22-year-old Chen Long, who is fast developing into a real threat to compatriot Lin Dan whom he will meet in today's final. Lin Dan had a much easier time in his semi-final, coasting past Denmark's Peter-Gade Christensen 21-12, 21-15.

Chen Long was a fireball of energy yesterday, lunging at every shot to break Chong Wei's resolve. By the time the score stood at 14-14 in the opening game, Chong Wei was already panting.

Chen Long took the opener 21-16 and continued with his relentless assault in the second but Chong Wei dug deep into his reserves to force the decider.

The China No. 2 came back stronger and looked unstoppable as he raced to a 10-5 lead. Chong Wei, however, fought back to stay in the game and drew level at 18-18.

For one fleeting moment it looked like Chong Wei could pull it off, but Chen Long stayed rock solid to score three successive points to take the match.

"I tried to push myself in my last tournament of the year but I found it hard to focus against Chen Long," said a dejected Chong Wei, who was competing in his 15th tournament of the season.

"I tried to mix it up with different strokes and even reduced my attacking game to break the momentum, but Chen Long was ready for all my shots. He made fewer mistakes today.

"Chen Long is young and has become a powerful and confident player. He is the future of the game.

"It has been quite a stressful end to the season. I competed in too many tournaments to secure my rankings for the Olympic Games and that has taken its toll on me.

"Overall, though, it has been a great year. I have won seven titles, made 11 finals and three semi-finals.

"I have never lost in the early rounds. I'm happy with my consistency. This has been the best season of my career."

Chong Wei, the Badminton World Federation's (BWF) Male Player of the Year, has vowed to come back fresh for next year's challenge – with the London Olympics being his main target.

"I need a good rest now ... then it's back to business. I will go to the Korean Open (Jan 3-8) as the runner-up and the Malaysian Open (Jan 11-15) as the defending champion. I must maintain these positions," he said.

Chen Long, who threw his racquet in sheer joy after beating Chong Wei, was modest in victory.

"Chong Wei has been the world No. 1 since 2008 and this is only my third big win against him. I don't consider myself a strong threat to him yet," said Chen Long.

"He's not in the best of shape, but I honestly thought he would win after he levelled the rubber at 18-18.

"I figured he had more experience to deal with the situation but he made some bad mistakes and I'm lucky I won."

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Insight into the energy sector

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 03:35 PM PST

Title: The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

Author: Daniel Yergin

Publisher: Penguin Press

THE elements shaping the future of the world are many, but none is more pressing than energy. Hence, The Quest, a book that is more than timely, is more than a must-read for us all.

The Quest (to energy future) concerns not only oil, but other forms of energy resources ranging from natural gas, nuclear, non-carbon renewables, coal, biofuel, electricity and even a so-called fifth fuel. That being said, Yergin, a globally respected sage of the oil industry, is at his best when delving into oil. He unravels the history of oil interestingly, traverses across the globe and brings to light the compelling challenges unleashed by oil.

Russia and some of its former oil-rich states such as Kazakhstan take the first limelight in the book, starkly revealing to the filth of oil politics between nations and among oil firms. If the Russian story is awesome, then the impact of oil from Venezuela and Nigeria are eye opening. And the Middle East, as ever, is worrying, for it is a region where economic as well as political policies are often determined solely by oil and where disruption in oil production can send the world to a standstill.

Then come China and its relentless oil demand and Al Qaeda's evil contemplation to disrupt energy supply in the region. Nearly everyone connected to the oil industry is here in the book, from rulers of oil states to executives of oil firms, politicians to terrorists, ministers to scientists.

What about laymen on the street? Despite their absence, their wails screech between the lines as each impact brought about by oil prices pierces them the hardest inevitably, interminably and incessantly. The 2008 financial crisis was the result of a hike in oil prices, an economist deadpans.

Twenty years ago, Yergin completed The Prize: The Epic Quest for oil, Money and Power. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and became the standard guide for laymen to learn about the oil industry. Though The Quest does not have the novelistic feel that contributed so greatly to the success of The Prize, it is undoubtedly a tour de force for its girth and depth.

The rich details may overwhelm but they're there to better serve our understanding and hone our knowledge of the world and its tumultuous future defined by the energy. It also clarifies some of the counter arguments such as the question why oil-rich nations, save a few exceptions, are often economic casualties.

It is due to the so-called Dutch disease, put simply by Yerginas a trap that breeds social and economic ills. These include complacency, income instability, mismanagement of oil revenues and corruption.

By now, it is clear that Yergin deals not only in energy, but also in geology, economics, history, science and politics. He leads you to stock markets where oil is traded in the way financial instruments are, to everywhere around the world where shale gas – another form of unconventional gas – is produced and to Europe where major countries are building nuclear plants and counting on nuclear power to provide electricity.

Covering across a vast spectrum of specialisation, and quoting from a colossal body of experts, this book can and must only be devoured slowly – a chapter or at most two a day. Yet, read you must, for to read it is to understand the world and how energy plays a major role in it.

The most startling is the revelation that without energy there will be no electricity on which the operation of everything else depended. Another stark fact is derived from the possibility of global cooling, rather than the much-spoken about global warming. Still, both lead to "mass starvation, fuel shortages, megadeaths, and social upheavals."

Besides biographic inclusion of prominent individuals in the field of energy, there are also wonderful anecdotes such as the time when Barack Obama searched for Premier Wen of China during the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change conference only to find him huddling with the heads of Brazil, India and South Africa in a private meeting to find a common position on climax change. The United States seemed to have been marginalised, if not ignored, in reaching global consensus.

Despite the teething troubles impelled by energy security and the problems facing alternative energy, Yergin remains hopeful. "Oil is found in the minds of men," proclaims Yergin.

In plain words, it means human creativity is the most important resource in finding energy solutions for what remains of the 21st Century. In the meantime, we will settle in the Japanese way of mottainai, a term which means conserving and saving up our resources like the way the Japanese carefully save wrapping papers to be used over for they are "too precious to waste".

That is the so-called fifth fuel – energy conservation. That optimism notwithstanding, we still need an energy miracle, and we need it fast.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

3 Indian-based NGOs demand Rayer, Tanasekharan apologise to Ramasamy

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:35 AM PST

Published: Saturday December 17, 2011 MYT 7:25:00 PM
Updated: Saturday December 17, 2011 MYT 7:35:40 PM

KLANG: Three Indian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) demanded for Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer and Bagan Dalam assemblyman A. Tanasekharan to apologise for offending the Indian community.

Some 15 participants from the NGOs, who held a protest against the duo, were chanting while holding banners along Jalan Mohet here, demanding they apologise to Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P. Ramasamy and the community immediately for implying that Indians were beggars.

"The community is hurt by Rayer's comments that Dr Ramasamy begged for the deputy chief minister post. He is a professor with credentials. He did not have to beg for his post to serve the people.

"We urge Rayer to retract his statement and apologise as this affects the integrity of the Tamil ethnicity too," said

Pertubuhan Naam Tamilar Malaysia chairman G. Ramesh.

The other NGOs involved were Klang Tamil Welfare Association and Malaysia Tamil Students Progressive Association (MATSAP).

He said more protest would be held in other states until an apology is issued.

Ramesh stressed that they have no intention of attacking DAP or against any political party.

The participants later burnt a picture of Rayer before leaving.

It was reported that during the recent DAP chairman Karpal Singh and Dr Ramasamy "godfather-warlord" squabble, Rayer reminded Dr Ramasamy that he would not have been given the deputy chief minister's post if not for Karpal who had put his foot down on the matter.

He said Dr Ramasamy practically begged Karpal for the post when Karpal was warded in 2008 just after the general election

A news portal quoted Dr Ramasamy, who is also Penang DAP deputy chairman, denying the allegation and said Rayer had had "stooped so low" as to condemn him over a remark about godfathers just to curry favour with Karpal.

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Palm Oil Board officers interview Ratna Devi over gutter oil

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:33 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Officers from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) recorded a statement from the Malaysian Association of Standards Users CEO Ratna Devi Nadarajan in connection with its tests that revealed that cheap cooking oil unfit for human consumption was being sold to the public.

The officers came to the association office in Sungai Way here on Saturday and made copies of proof that samples were sent for laboratory tests.

"They took down the list of companies involved and also proof of purchase of the samples," she said, adding that MPOB also obtained the certificate of analysis of the test from the lab under Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

The Star reported that 19 brands of cooking oil sold nationwide in 1kg packets were found to be unfit for consumption due to repeated exposure to high temperatures.

The association, which pursued the study of the commodity with UKM, believed that the repackaged oil was meant to be recycled into biodiesel for use in diesel engines.

Ratna Devi stood firm over the association's decision to send samples of cooking oil for the "polar compound testing", saying it was a matter of food safety.

She said the association had no intention of attacking the palm oil industry but had the good intention of wanting to see improvements to the regulations pertaining to the standards of cooking oil.

"We only hope that the test brings this serious matter to the attention of the authorities. The Health Ministry must act to ensure that cooking oil that is not fit for human consumption are not sold to consumers," she said.

When contacted, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) chairman Datuk Seri Shahrir Samad confirmed that the list of the 19 brands involved have been obtained from the Malaysian Association of Standard Users.

He gave the assurance that MPOB was collecting the samples for its own tests.

"It is not wrong for them to conduct their own tests. We are taking the situation seriously as we want to verify the presence of recycled oil," he said, adding that MPOB was not being defensive about the issue.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president Datuk N. Marimuthu defended the tests, saying it was done by a lab that is accredited by the Department of Standards Malaysia under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

He said Fomca was only concerned about the safety of Malaysians who consume these items.

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Dr Subra: Cuepacs should explain its concerns about new remuneration scheme

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:17 AM PST

Published: Saturday December 17, 2011 MYT 7:17:00 PM

SERI KEMBANGAN: Cuepacs should explain to the government its dissatisfaction against the New Remuneration Scheme in the Public Service (SBPA) so that they can be addressed as soon as possible, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said.

He said a discussion with the Public Service Department (PSD) was the best way to help the government come up steps acceptable by all.

"The government's aim is to make improvement and provide more opportunities for members of the public service, but if this creates an issue, then Cuepacs should explain to the government so that this can be addressed and everyone will be satisfied," he said.

Speaking to reporters after declaring open the "Dr Ambedkar International Conference" here, Saturday, Subramaniam said the new scheme was not something that was forced upon the civil servants because they would be allowed options whether to accept or to remain in their old scheme.

Cuepacs rejected the SPBA this week saying there were a lot of things unclear about it.

Cuepacs was also reported to be seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday to discuss the issue.

The convention was attended by participants from 20 countries where issues concerning the fundamental rights for marginalised groups and the principles of equality based on the philosophy and teachings of Dr B.R. Ambedkar were discussed.

Dr Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, anthropologist and economist and was among the founding fathers of independent India. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Drift stars to storm KL

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:39 AM PST

FAST cars, amazing skills and great precision will greet motorsports fans at the Achilles Formula Drift Series that will be held at Dataran Merdeka this weekend.

Some 45 international drivers will be burning the tracks this year at the third edition of the event and Malaysia will be sending the largest contingent with 14 drivers.

In a press conference held recently, the organisers, Achilles and ESPN Star Sports Event Management group introduced some of the stellar drivers this season.

PT Multistrada (Achilles) head of global marketing and business development, Edward Mamahit said they were pleased to have the opportunity to hold the event at Dataran Merdeka for the final leg of the series.

"Kuala Lumpur City Hall has been very supportive and it has had a great impact on our brands to be able to participate in a world-class event," he said.

ESPN Star Sports vice-president of Event Management Group Harvey Davis added it was a pleasure to see drifting in the mainstream motor sports line up.

"We will be airing the event across our networks, covering 24 countries to a cumulative reach of more than 300 million viewers in Asia," he added.

City Hall deputy director-general (planning) Zulkifli Ibrahim said the event received tremendous response last year and he hoped to garner the same response this year.

According to him, the event is being held for the third time in KL and the sport can do much to improve the profile of the city.

As for the drivers, the competition will be stiff with reigning champion Daigo Saito from Japan who swept the first two legs in Singapore and Indonesia. Daigo is also the defending champion of the Formula Drift Kuala Lumpur defending champion.

Race legend Orido Manubu from Japan will also be competing this time and fans can expect much on the track if these two racers are paired together. Also joining them is Robbie Nishida who hails from Japan.

All three are not daunted by the stormy weather KL is expecting this weekend although Orido admitted that the race would look better in dry conditions.

"It is the same perspective and the same stuff just a little different. We just have to control everything carefully," said Nishida.

Malaysia's hopefuls include Tan Tat Wei and Ivan Lau who will be leading the contingent. Despite the immense pressure on Tan, he said he was enjoying himself immensely.

Asked what he thought of the Japanese competition, he said they were a force to be reckoned with especially with their experience and their fast cars.

"However my car may have advantage in this wet weather since it is light and the response is fast. I will do my best to impress the crowd," he added.

For details, log on to the official Formula DRIFT web site

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Sales in mom-and-pop stores soar after help from hypermart

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:29 AM PST

FOUR aspiring entrepreneurs – Shaari Abu Hassan, Rahmat Sulaiman, Michael Lim and Mohd Shawal Omar operating mom-and-pop shops in far flung corners of Malaysia found themselves in the same boat late last year.

Sales were slowing, qualities of stocks were deteriorating and fewer and fewer customers came-a-calling.

They had started optimistically, believing they could carve their own niche in the smaller towns.

However, after nurturing their business for about three to five years, in one case, it was 10 years, they found themselves starring at potential "closure" and unrealised dreams.

Then in January this year, the Government threw them a life-jacket. This came in the form of Tukar — the small retailer transformation programme (or Program Transformasi Kedai Runcit).

It focused on assisting small retailers to modernise and remain competitive. In addition the programme came with a coach; in the form of a big brother, Giant, the largest retailer in Malaysia.

These four entrepreneurs — Shaari in Permatang Pasir Penang, Rahmat in Sibu, Lim in Penampang, Sabah and Shawal in Segamat Johor are just some of the many given a fresh start with the assistance of Giant.

Launched in January this year by the Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry, Tukar is outlined in the Economic Transformation Programme as one entry point project (EPPs) aimed at modernising traditional retail or convenience stores to enhance their competitiveness in an increasingly competitive environment.

The programme, requires the involvement of the large-format retailers, such as Giant, to support small retailers by

*Improving the quality of the overall business processes

*Modernising and upgrading the existing premises of retailers

*Promoting cost-effective supply chain management

*Encouraging the sales of quality products through diversification

The entrepreneurs told Star Metro in recent interviews that the impact of the transformation is almost immediate.

Sales have risen sharply since the makeover. Between the four of them, sales increased between 30% and 75%; and they believe the number will continue to grow.

For Shaari, the owner and operator of Kedai Runcit Shaari, the decision was easy; as he strongly believes that there are many advantages to the makeover initiative by the Government.

"The makeover is like a promotion in itself. When my customers see the changes made to the store, they like it! The shop looks brighter, neater and more systematic. The change is good for me as well as for my customers.

"And my customers hear so much about the makeover initiative in the news and it is good publicity for my shop as well. The feedback from my customers are very positive and encouraging," said Shaari.

"My shop was completely transformed in August and since then, I am happy and so are my customers. Now I get my all my stocks, everything, from Giant, and they are cheaper than my previous suppliers,'' he said.

Another deciding factor for Shaari was the access to loans at concessionary rates to help participating store owners keep costs low, stay competitive and remain in the business.

To qualify for this programme, sundry shops have to apply and be approved by the Ministry of Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism.

Successful candidates can apply for a loan between RM30,000 to RM60,000 at 3% interest from Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia through the Ministry.

"If I wanted to renovate my shop I may not be able to get a loan and if I do the interest rate will not be as low as this," said Shaari.

The 49-year-old said that he has learnt a lot about making his shop more competitive and to stay in the business.

A father of three, he hopes that one of his sons will take over the business one day.

Shaari, worked with Pernama for seven years before venturing into the retail business 14 years ago, when he started a little convenience store near his home in Seberang Jaya.

He opened his second store in Permatang Pasir seven years ago.

For the team at Giant, the makeover of mom-and-pop stores is a win-win programme for all.

"Tukar is more than a physical transformation, it also involves the transfer of knowledge that will help them stand on their feet after we leave," said GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd marketing director Ho Mun Hao.

"We share our expertise with them, give them advice on how to compete with their competitors, and counsel them on how to manage their stocks and supplies.

"We believe competition challenges all players big and small to better themselves and ultimately, benefit the consumers with better pricing and products," he added.

He said the physical makeover was fast – usually taking between one to two weeks to complete but the transformation process takes more time.

"They must first apply to indicate their interest to participate, and after their application is approved, we step in. We set up meetings with them, visit their stores and understand their problems. After we have evaluated their situation we come up with recommendations."

One of the core elements of the Tukar programme is computerisation which helps owners to be more efficient in managing their inventory and stock movement.

After completion, the store owners operate on their own but they can always call on Giant for post-transformation advice.

Ultimately, the goal is to modernise these convenience stores, help them operate profitability to enable them to play an effective complementary role to the larger retail players.

Ho said the stores "tukar-ed" by Giant have shown an increase of at least 40% in sales to date.

Rahmat, the owner of Kedai Runcit Faris in Sibu, felt he needed help badly as he felt he was losing out to his competitors and one of his main problem was difficulty in getting regular supplies.

"I might not have been able to keep my sundry store if I did not apply for the programme as business was also slow. The Tukar programme is very good especially in Sarawak where it can be quite difficult to get certain products and stocks due to the remote location," said the 41-year-old.

With Giant stepping in, Rahmat is now assured of supplies for his store.

"Since the transformation my sales have increased by 30% , I have no problems with my stock. Needless to say my customers are happy that the shop looks good, my goods are neatly and systematically placed,'' he said.

Moreover, Rahmat said his profit margin has also improved as well.

"From August, after the makeover, I see a constant increase in sales and if it stays that way, I will need to get more staff to help me out during peak hours," he said.

Rahmat said his peak time was between 7pm and 12am. Currently he has one permanent staff and three part-timers.

However, he said he had not mastered the bar coding system and it was challenging to use especially during peak time.

"If I am used to the machine I can serve my customers faster and my inventory will be more accurate.

The owners of Hing Guan Mini Market, Catherine and Michael Lim are over the top as the sales have soared 75% since their shop became brighter, cleaner and more systematic.

"We are very happy and so are our customers. They love our bright, modern and neat layout. Before the makeover, my mini market had very narrow aisles, it was dark and we could not display all our merchandise," said Catherine.

One of the main reasons they applied for the programme was because there are 52 mom- and-pop stores and 10 mini markets in the same neighbourhood in Penampang, Sabah.

"The competition is very tough here and I had read a lot about the programme. So we wanted to give it a try to improve our profit. Moreover, we were not satisfied with our sales and our situation.

"In addition, we were still young and we had nothing to lose," said the 38-year-old who started the mini market five years ago.

"My customers have told me that they like the way my mini market looks now and I too like the new look.

"Some have even said the feng shui is good as my sales have gone up. I think so too," joked Catherine, who prefers to use the bar code system as it makes inventory easier and making it a breeze to serve customers quickly.

For Mohd Shawal Omar, his Pasar Mini Ekshana is the talk of the town in Segamat. More importantly for him, sales have risen 30%. He strongly believes that it is due to the changes been made to his shop.

"My customers like my new layout as they can reach for what they want easily," said the 36-year-old shop owner.

Shawal started the Pasar Mini in 2009 because he wanted to develop his business.

"I wanted a change and to progress not only in terms of my business but also personally," he added.

He has no workers except for his wife and relatives. He has not fully utilised the POS System as he has not mastered it yet.

However, he intends to fully utilise it soon and is looking forward to even better sales after this.

IF you have a business-related event such as product launches, new appointments and store openings to highlight, e-mail us at

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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Beach Boys reuniting for new album, tour in 2012

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 09:51 PM PST

(Reuters) - Iconic California surf band The Beach Boys will reunite in 2012 to release a new album and embark on a 50-date worldwide tour celebrating their 50th anniversary, the band said Friday.

Members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks, who were all involved in early versions of The Beach Boys band in the 1960s, when their fame rose due to the popularity of songs such as ''Surfin' USA,'' ''California Girls'' and ''Good Vibrations,'' are producing a new record after a 15-year studio album hiatus.

''This anniversary is special to me because I miss the boys, and it will be a thrill for me to make a new record and be on stage with them again,'' Wilson, 69, said in a statement.

Singer Love, 70, added ''It was a thrill to be around a piano again with Brian, Alan and Bruce and experience firsthand the brilliance of Cousin Brian's gift for vocal arrangements.''

The still untitled new album will be released in April, and be tied to a 50-date tour starting at Jazz Fest in New Orleans that is part of their 50th anniversary campaign spotlighting the band's career, music catalog with commemorative releases.

The Beach Boys struck their first chords in Hawthorne, California in 1961, with brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Love and school friend Al Jardin. Johnston and Marks joined later versions of the Beach Boys to fill in for departing members.

The band became known for their upbeat songs about California's carefree beach lifestyle, pioneering the sound for surf-rock. Their albums included ''Pet Sounds'' and ''Smile.''

The Beach Boys hold the title for America's top-selling band according to Nielsen SoundScan figures, and also hold the record for the most Billboard Top 40 chart hits with 36 songs.

Despite the deaths of Dennis and Carl Wilson in 1983 and 1998, respectively, the band have continued to tour successfully over the years. They have received numerous accolades including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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Housing developments in Johor are now required to have community police post

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 06:40 PM PST

PASIR GUDANG: New housing projects in Johor are required to have a community police post (CPP) within their development to create better awareness on crime prevention among residents.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) senior vice president (integrated planning) Datuk Benjamin Hasbie said only projects with residential properties between 500 and 1,500 units were involved in the ruling.

He said the State Planning Committee (SPC) already looking into the matter and it was just a matter of time before the state government gazettes it as a law.

"We want active participation from residents in crime prevention as they can become the police's ears and eyes in reducing crime rate,'' said Benjamin.

He said one way of doing that was to have a better interaction between residents and through their Residents Committee Associations and police personnel at the CCP.

Benjamin was speaking in a press conference at the "Safe City" seminar organised by the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council opened by the Johor deputy police chief Datuk Ismail Yatim.

He said presently, there were 15 CCP in existing housing schemes within Iskandar Malaysia and the setting up of the CCP was done on a voluntarily basis by the respective developers.

Benjamin said hoped developers planning to launch new projects which have the gated and guarded concept within their development to consider having the CCP in their projects as well.

Meanwhile, Johor Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) chairman Simon Heng said the association welcomed the proposal as it was good for developers too.

"Rehda and SPC met several months ago to discuss on the matter and hopefully, we can meet again as there are other issues that we need to look into,'' he told The Star.

Heng said among others Rehda members wanted to know whether the inclusion of the CCP in their projects would involve the 10% area that developers have to allocate as green lung area for residents.

He said another issue that the state government and the Royal Malaysian Police need to look into whether there were enough manpower – residents, volunteers and police personnel to man the CCP.

Heng said developers did not mind building the CCP as part of their corporate social responsibility but the facility must be fully utilised or else it could become another white elephant.

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Moneylenders arrested for charging high interests

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 06:38 PM PST

KOTA KINABALU: Three licensed moneylenders have found themselves in trouble with the law for charging customers with high interest rates.

Ministry of Housing and Local Governments moneylenders and pawnbrokers division enforcement chief Supt M. Chandra said his unit raided their premises here last Sept and Oct following complaints from the public.

His team established the moneylenders charged an interest rate that is higher than it should be on their borrowers, he said, adding one of the moneylenders also breached regulations on stamp agreement.

According to Section 17 A of the Moneylenders Act 1951, Chandra said moneylenders should not charge an interest rate exceeding 12% for collateral and 18% for non-collateral per year to borrowers.

"Once our investigations are complete on the trio, we will bring the cases to the court," he said during a briefing to operators offering moneylending services.

Meanwhile, more than 80% of advertisements displayed or distributed by moneylending companies do not comply with regulations under the Moneylenders Act 1951.

"Some of the advertisements do not have the company's name, telephone number and address, license and permit numbers as well as benefits being offered," Chandra said.

He said these advertisements were displayed either through newspapersor posters pasted in public places.

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200 people collected 577kg rubbish off two islands

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 06:37 PM PST

KOTA KINABALU: Almost 200 people from various countries participated in Project Aware, an ocean conservation programme with worldwide recognition, to collect rubbish at two islands off the city here recently.

The participants which included 73 divers who collected underwater garbage mostly plastic debris, cleaned up the shores and seas off the Mamutik and Sulug islands, which are part of the tourist-packed Tunku Abdul Rahman park, about 15 minutes' boat ride from the city.

Organised by local dive operator Borneo Divers and partnered by Project Aware Foundation, Environmental Action Centre, Sabah Tourisn Board and Sabah Environmental Protection Association, the programme has been running for 11 years now.

Borneo Divers managing director Clement Lee said rubbish thrown by city dwellers especially coastal residents end up mainly in the waters off this park and becomes an eyesore for recreational guests particularly foreign ones.

The programme is one of the efforts to alleviate the situation, he said.

"In fact we do four to five clean-ups each year with other dive centres and partners to help rid the islands off the state capital of discarded debris," he said.

He said the debris collected has been increasing each year from 309kg in 2008 to 701kg in 2009 and 808kg last year.

"Hopefully this time we will collect less than last year, meaning our efforts are helping keep the environment a bit cleaner," Lee said,

pointing out they also need to raise awareness to nip the problem in the bud.

At the end of the day, the participants collected rubbish weighing about 577kg.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Bolkiah Ismail launched the programme.

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