Rabu, 21 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Australian boy jailed for 13 yrs for murdering Indian student

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:57 PM PST

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An Australian teenage boy was sentenced to up to 13 years jail on Thursday for murdering an Indian student in 2010, an attack which ignited a diplomatic crisis and damaged the nation's international student sector, the third largest export earner.

The killing came amid a string of attacks in late 2009 and early 2010 against Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney. The violence received widespread publicity in India, with some news outlets there claiming the attacks were racially motivated.

Australian police said race was a factor in some of the assaults, but many were ordinary crimes.

Thousands of Indian students boycotted Australia in response.

The 17-year-old teenager, known as JLE as his identity can not be revealed under court orders, was 15 when he stabbed to death Indian student Nitin Garg in Melbourne in a bungled attempt to rob him of a mobile phone.

In handing down sentence, Victorian Supreme Court Judge Paul Coghlan said the murder was opportunistic, with Garg targeted as he walked home from work at night, and "probably took place in less than a minute," local media reported from the court.

"Although it was a very serious crime, it was committed spontaneously," said Coghlan.

Coghlan said despite the fact JLE did not intend to kill Garg, and did not even know if he had stabbed his victim, he was still guilty of "constructive murder" because the killing occurred in the process of committing a violent offence.

Australia's international student sector is the country's third largest export earner, behind coal and iron ore, totalling some A$18 billion in 2010. Enrolments of international students continue to tumble, dropping 9.4 percent in the last year.

(Reporting by Michael Perry, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Government muddle, Tepco missteps cited by Fukushima panel - paper

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:22 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Poor communication at the top level of government may have delayed the evacuation of residents threatened by radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Thursday, citing a panel investigating the crisis.

It also accuses plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co of misjudgements soon after the plant was wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out reactor cooling systems and triggered meltdowns, the paper said.

The 12-member panel, set up in May on the initiative of then prime minister Naoto Kan, will release an interim report of its findings on December 26, the Yomiuri said without citing sources.

It said the panel found that poor communication between the government's crisis management centre and decision-making top officials, both housed in the same building, delayed the use of a system that predicts the spread of radioactivity, which could have allowed more adequate evacuation orders to be given.

The government ordered the first evacuation of residents near the plant, 240 km northeast of Tokyo, on the evening of March 11, hours after the quake and tsunami.

The quake struck at 2:46 p.m. on that day, and the first tsunami reached the plant about 40 minutes later.

The evacuation was expanded to a 20 km radius of the complex from 10 km next day.

The panel found Tepco staff did not have a full grasp of backup cooling systems, which delayed its response, the paper said.


The government panel, headed by Yotaro Hatamura, an engineering professor at Tokyo University specialising in the study of things going wrong, includes seismologists, former diplomats and judges.

It is not the only body investigating responses to the March disaster.

Dissatisfied with the panel's perceived lack of muscle -- it has not yet summoned Kan or other top officials for questioning -- lawmakers formed a separate panel this month with the authority to summon witnesses to parliamentary sessions.

A third panel financed by private-sector funds is also looking into topics the government panel may have overlooked.

Some have called into question the effectiveness of having a several investigative panels, which include high-profile figures such as Nobel laureates but few nuclear experts.

The Fukushima aftermath is far from over, and it may take many years before engineers have a chance to see what really happened inside the Daiichi plant's damaged reactors.

In a much anticipated move, the government declared last week that reactors at the plant had reached a state of cold shutdown, a milestone in cleanup efforts.

But it said on Wednesday it may take another seven years before the inside of the reactors can be checked due to high levels of radiation and technological constraints.

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Michael Watson)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Protest against power plant in South China escalates - papers

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:20 PM PST

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Protests in a small town in China appear to have escalated with residents smashing cars and hurling bricks even though officials sought to calm tempers by suspending a plan to build a power plant, Hong Kong newspapers reported on Thursday.

Angry crowds smashed and overturned police cars and riot police fired teargas in Haimen town in Shantou city on Wednesday, the second day of the unrest, newspapers reported.

Riot police sit on the main highway on the outskirts of the town of Haimen, Guangdong province December 22, 2011. A Chinese official denied on Wednesday reports of deaths during clashes in Haimen town in southern China between police and residents protesting against a plan to build a coal-fired power plant. Thousands of angry residents in the town, part of Shantou city in Guangdong province, surrounded a government building and blocked an expressway on Tuesday, Chinese media reported. Online accounts of the incident had claimed that two people had died. REUTERS/David Gray

The unrest escalated as a 10-day standoff between villagers and officials over a land dispute in the same province was resolved, and as China's domestic security chief told officials to focus on stability before the ruling Communist Party's leadership transition next year.

Residents of Haimen, furious with plans to build a coal-fired power plant, took to the streets on Tuesday, surrounding a government building and blocking an expressway.

Officials agreed to suspend the project by late Tuesday, but residents refused to back down, demanding the plan be scrapped.

Government officials, including those from the security arm, have been vague and appeared to play down the unrest. A Shantou official told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday that there had been injuries but no deaths.

On Thursday, an official at the Chaoyang Public Security Bureau denied any deaths or injuries although he said there was a "gathering" on Wednesday.

Haimen is under the jurisdiction of Chaoyang district in the booming southern province of Guangdong.

According to the Mingpao newspaper, more than 1,000 residents gathered at a toll gate to confront hundreds of riot police.


Witnesses said police fired four rounds of teargas and beat up protesters, who do not want another power plant when existing power facilities there were already polluting air and seawater and had greatly reduced their catch at sea, Mingpao reported.

At least three protesters were hit and arrested.

Mingpao also quoted Zheng Guifang, 45, who was hit and injured by police when she said she was trying to find her daughter among the crowd of protesters.

"I found my daughter but there were too many people and she could not come out," said Zheng from her hospital bed.

People in China are increasingly unwilling to accept the relentless speed of urbanisation and industrialisation and the impact on the environment and health.

"Look at how many villagers have died of cancer these past few years," a furious mother was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post. "Do you know how many Haimen people are lying in hospital beds?"

Protests are also often held over corruption, wages and land seizures, that officials justify in the name of development.

Residents of Wukan village, also in Guangdong, agreed to end a 10-day standoff with authorities over a land dispute on Wednesday.

Chinese experts put the number of "mass incidents," as such protests are known, at about 90,000 a year in recent years.

On Thursday, China's main official newspapers published an account of a speech by Zhou Yongkang, chief of domestic security, who urged law-and-order cadres to ensure "a harmonious and stable social setting" ahead of the Communist Party's 18th Congress late next year.

At that congress, President Hu Jintao and his cohort will give way to a new generation of central leaders: a sensitive transition for the one-party government.

(Reporting by Sisi Tang, Alison Leung and Tan Ee Lyn, Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Robert Birsel)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Pakistan hosts first international match after seven years

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 03:36 PM PST

KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistan marked the first international hockey match played in the country for seven years with a 3-0 win over China on Wednesday.

Pakistan last staged an international match in 2004 when it hosted the Champions Trophy in Lahore but since than foreign teams have refused to play in the country due to security concerns.

"It is a great feeling to finally to see an international team play in Pakistan. The ice has been broken and once this series ends smoothly we can build on it for Pakistani sports," Pakistan hockey federation Secretary Asif Bajwa said.

The Chinese will play another three matches in Pakistan in what has been dubbed as the 'Friendship Series'.

"We were able to focus completely on our hockey. Pakistan was the better team today. But we have had no problems with the security and other arrangements so far," Chinese captain, Song Yi told reporters following the contest at Hockey Club of Pakistan Stadium.

Pakistan captain Mohammad Imran scored two goals to set up the victory, which went some way towards healing dented pride after the Asian Games gold medallists finished seventh in the eight team Champions Trophy in Auckland.

Bajwa said that the series was important for not only hockey but also other sports in Pakistan.

"We are taking no chances with the security because we know the importance of having a incident free series," he said.

Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, foreign teams have been reluctant to travel to Pakistan in many sports and Asian country was left completely isolated as a sporting venue after militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009.

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Aika has more than her rivals to weather in Sheffield

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 03:34 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: National junior Aika Azman has to battle the freezing weather besides her opponents when she makes her debut in the prestigious British Junior Open squash tournament from Jan 2-6 in Sheffield.

The 14-year-old Aika, who hails from Alor Setar, is one of the brighter junior prospects in the Under-15 age group and had a fairly good year.

Her best result was finishing third in the Asian Juniors at Amman, Jordan, back in June, losing to compatriot Jadeleen Lee in the semi-finals. She also took third spot in the National Junior Championship earlier this month and is all fired up for the meet in Sheffield but is wary of the climate.

"I know that it is winter there at the moment and I'm really worried that I will not be able to adapt since it is my first time there," said the bubbly Aika.

"But I'm still very excited because and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll turn out fine."

"I've had a good year so far and, looking at the draw, I should be able to make it to the quarter-finals without too much difficulty."

"It'll get tougher after that because I'll be facing the top seed but I'm prepared and want to do better than just reach the last eight," said Aika, who is seeded joint fifth-eighth.

She received a first round bye and will open her campaign in the second round against either French lass Julie Rossignol or England's Georgia Webster.

If she clears that hurdle as expected, she should be up against joint nine-16th seed Tinne Gilis of Belgium with a possible clash against Egypt's top seeded Nouran Gohar awaiting.

Besides Aika, two other Malaysian girls will be competing in that category but Andrea Lee and Nazihah Hanis both face tougher first round matches.

A total of 15 Malaysian players will compete in the oldest junior meet in the world. They will depart tomorrow for the warm-up tournament in Pontefract.

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RM50,000 reward for squash queen Nicol

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 05:20 PM PST

GEORGE TOWN: National squash queen Datuk Nicol Ann David (pic) received RM50,000 from the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) yesterday.

The reward, in appreciation of her efforts in excelling in the sport at the global level, was presented by PBAPP chairman Lim Guan Eng, who is the Chief Minister of Penang.

Nicol said she hoped that such an honour would drive more athletes from the state to achieve world standard in sports.

"With the availability of various sports development programmes, it is hoped that new talents can be brought to the fore," she said at a special event held in her honour.

Nicol, who has won the World Open title for a record six times, is scheduled to leave for Amsterdam after Christmas to resume her training. — Bernama

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The Star Online: Business

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Asian markets mostly up in early trade

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 06:03 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Asian markets were mostly up in Thursday's early trade following strong US and German data that dissipated concerns about the health of the global economy.

Signs of a recovery in the US housing market firm German business sentiments saw investor confidence return in the region.

On the local front, the FBM KLCI was up 3.05 points 1,488.03 at 9.04am.

As for regional indices, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.40% to 8,425.88 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 1.86% to 18,416.45.

Shanghai's A index was flat at 2,191.15 while Taiwan's Taiex Index rose 0.11% to 6,974.37.

Seoul's Kospi Index dipped 0.25% to 1,843.84 while Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 0.42% to 2,662.02.

Nymex crude oil gained 34 cents to US$99.01 per barrel. Spot gold fell US$2.53 to US$1,612.70 per ounce. The ringgit was quoted at 3.172 to the US dollar.

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Somali pirates release tanker seized enroute to M'sia

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 05:21 PM PST

MOGADISHU: Somali pirates released an Italian-owned oil tanker and its 22 crew on Wednesday after receiving a multi-million dollar ransom, one of the pirates told Reuters.

The medium-sized tanker was seized by an armed gang firing guns and rocket propelled grenades some 500 miles off the coast of India and 800 miles off Somalia, as the vessel transited from Sudan to Malaysia. It was loaded at the time.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti expressed "great satisfaction" at the release of the Savina Caylyn tanker and its crew of five Italians and 17 Indians.

The tanker had been seized in early February.

The ransom was dropped from an aircraft in two stages, according to a pirate speaking to Reuters by phone.

"We have just received the remaining $3 million (1 million pounds) of the agreed $11.5 million ransom. We have abandoned the ship," a pirate calling himself Abdiwali said from Haradhere, one of the pirates' biggest coastal bases.

The pirates released the tanker's Indian crew members after the first ransom drop was made, Abdiwali said, awaiting the second instalment before releasing the five Italian sailors a few hours later.

There was no comment in Italy over the ransom.

Seaborne gangs are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and despite successful efforts to quell attacks in the Gulf of Aden, international navies have struggled to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean owing to the vast distances involved.

Andrew Mwangura, a former regional maritime official and maritime editor of the online Somalia Report, said it was not yet clear if the tanker had begun sailing away from the Somali coast.

The Aframax-type tanker can carry a maximum of just over 700,000 barrels of oil. The largest crude tankers carry maximum cargoes of between 2 to 3 million barrels of oil. - Reuters

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Chinese man jailed for US trade secrets theft

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 05:11 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday sentenced a Chinese-born scientist to 87 months in prison for stealing millions of dollars worth of trade secrets from two major American agribusiness companies and sending the data to China and Germany.

Kexue Huang, 46, worked at a Dow Chemical Co subsidiary from 2003 to 2008 in Indiana where he led a team of scientists developing organic insecticides and then later for another agribusiness giant, privately held Cargill Inc .

In October, he pleaded guilty in a federal court in Indiana to one count of stealing trade secrets from Cargill and one count of engaging in economic espionage at Dow AgroSciences, one of a handful of cases charged involving the U.S. Economic Espionage Act of 1996.

Theft of valuable trade secrets from American companies has become an increasing concern, U.S. officials have said, as countries like China can bypass spending millions of dollars and years of research and development as they compete for lucrative business.

"The theft of American trade secrets for the benefit of China and other nations poses a continuing threat to our economic and national security," Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department's national security division, said in a statement.

Prosecutors had sought 87 months imprisonment.

In a similar trade secrets theft case involving Ford Motor Co , a former product engineer who stole design documents and took them to China was sentenced to 70 months in prison earlier this year.

Cargill conservatively estimated at $12 million the research and development invested in the information stolen, according to court papers filed earlier this month. Huang admitted giving the information to someone at a Chinese university.

Cargill told the court that Huang worked on a project related to one of its "most significant R&D projects" to develop a new food product that has yet to be commercialized, spending tens of millions of dollars over many years.

The court filing gave no specific estimate for the loss by Dow beyond millions of dollars. The company said in a letter to the court that Huang was working on a family of crop protection products that have taken hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and two decades of research to create.

In his plea agreement, Huang admitted that, despite signing a confidentiality agreement, he passed numerous secrets about Dow's products to others doing research in Germany and China. He also acknowledged that he was trying to develop and produce the pesticides in China to compete against his former employer.

The case is USA v Kexue Huang, No. 10-cr-00102, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

China tells off "Batman" star for "creating news"

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 01:16 AM PST

BEIJING: China slammed Hollywood actor and Batman star Christian Bale on Wednesday for "creating news" after he was roughed up by security guards as he attempted to visit a blind legal activist whose detention has sparked a domestic and international outcry.

Bale and a camera crew from CNN were last week jostled by men in plainclothes in Dongshigu village in eastern Shandong province, where activist Chen Guangcheng has been under house arrest for 15 months.

Bale was in China for the premiere of his latest film, The Flowers of War by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, a lavish and at times graphic tear-jerker about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre which is China's Oscar entry for best foreign language film.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, asked if China had been embarrassed by Bale's actions given the country's hopes for the film to win an Academy award, said it was Bale who should be embarrassed.

"If anyone should be embarrassed it's the relevant actor, not the Chinese side," Liu told a daily news briefing, in the country's first reaction to Bale's actions.

"What I understand is that the actor was invited by the director Zhang Yimou to attend the movie premiere. He was not invited to any village in Shandong to create news or make a film," he added.

"If he wants to create news, I don't think that would be welcomed by China."

He did not answer a question about whether Bale's actions might affect the chances of any of his upcoming movies being screened in China.

The Flowers of War has played to ecstatic audiences in China, and has raked in some 200 million yuan at the box office since being released last week.

It gets a limited release in the United States this week, where it has so far garnered unenthusiastic reviews.

The fate of Chen, a self-schooled advocate, has become a test of wills, pitting the Communist Party's crackdown on dissent against activists championing his cause and that of artist Ai Weiwei.

Chen angered Shandong officials in 2005 by exposing a programme of forced abortions as part of China's one-child policy. He was formally released in September 2010 after four years in jail on a charge of "blocking traffic".

China does not take kindly to foreign criticism of its rights record. In 2008, Icelandic singer Bjork shouted Tibet! Tibet! at a Shanghai concert after performing her song Declare Independence, angering the government and local fans alike.

As a young boy, Bale starred in Empire of the Sun, a film set in World War Two about a British family in Shanghai.

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Sagging box office looks for a Christmas miracle

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 06:25 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After a miserable few weeks at the box office, Hollywood is counting on a flurry of big movies hitting theaters starting Tuesday to reinvigorate its business.

In fact, between Tuesday and Sunday, five films will go wide, while close to half a dozen notable specialty titles will either expand or open, too.

That tally doesn't even include the film picked to finish No. 1 this week, Paramount's PG-13-rated ''Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,'' which will expand wide at 5 p.m. Tuesday into about 3,400 domestic theaters after a successful $12.8 million start at 450 locations last weekend.

Sony's R-rated ''The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'' opens two hours later, starting out in about 2,800 locations. Also on Tuesday, Paramount will open Steven Spielberg's PG-rated ''The Adventures of Tintin'' at about 3,000 theaters.

In limited release Tuesday, Roadside Attractions opens the R-rated Glenn Close drama ''Albert Nobbs.''

Then, on Friday, Fox's PG-rated comedy ''We Bought a Zoo'' opens wide in about 3,000 theaters, while GK Films' R-rated ''In the Land of Blood and Honey'' opens at three arthouses.

On Sunday, Disney opens DreamWorks' Spielberg-directed ''War Horse,'' and Summit tries some counterprogramming with its PG-13 sci-fi thriller ''The Darkest Hour.''

Among specialty fare on Sunday, Warner Bros. opens 9/11 drama ''Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'' at six locations. And the Weinstein Company plans expansions for ''The Artist'' and ''My Week With Marilyn.''

Studios had hoped that the box office would come back to life last weekend, when Warners opened ''Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows'' and Fox debuted ''Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.'' But audiences largely stayed away, and the weekend was down 14 percent compared to last year.

The weekend before that - Dec. 9-11 - was the worst at the box office since September 2008.

And this year's overall North American box office is about $900 million behind last year's at the same point in time.

One problem with this weekend and next: Saturday night generally is the best moviegoing night of the week, but this year, both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve fall on Saturdays, dampening expectations.

The movie with the best tracking, according to the research firm NRG, is Paramount/Skydance's ''Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.''

Paramount opened the fourth installment in its action series at 425 locations - 300 of them IMAX - on Dec. 16 to build a buzz. It seems to have worked: According to NRG, 89 percent of Americans are familiar with the movie.

The numbers are strongest for men - 92 percent of men younger than 25 and 95 percent of men 25 and older report familiarity with the film.

More important, 56 percent of younger men and 54 percent of older ones say they have ''definite interest'' in seeing the film.

The movie, which cost an estimated $145 million to make, has a very nice 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tom Cruise stars in the movie, which Brad Bird directed.

Box-office watchers figure ''M:I4'' will gross around $40 million for its six day holiday period.

Sony's ''The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,'' based on Stieg Larsson's bestseller, is tracking strong across all demographics, and the studio expects it will gross around $35 million at 2,914 locations through Monday.

Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara star as Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander in the movie, which has an 84 percent ranking at Rotten Tomatoes and cost about $90 million to produce.

NRG says that 85 percent of Americans are familiar with the movie.

Tuesday's other wide release, Paramount's ''The Adventures of Tintin,'' already has grossed nearly $240 million overseas.

It is expected to take in somewhere in the high $20 million to low $30 million range over its first six days.

The movie, which has a budget estimated at $130 million, is based on a comic book by Belgian artist Georges Remi, better known as ''Herge.''

In the motion-capture animated movie, which Spielberg directed and Peter Jackson produced, young adventurer Tintin and his friend Capt. Haddock search for a sunken treasure ship that was commanded by one of Haddock's ancestors. The film has an 80 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fox comedy ''We Bought a Zoo,'' meanwhile, has sterling credentials: Cameron Crowe directed the film, which stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church. It is about a father who loses his wife and moves with his children to the country, where they try to renovate a struggling zoo.

The movie cost an estimated $50 million to make, and box-office watchers expect it will gross $15 million-to-$18-million from Friday through Monday.

Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 65 percent.

On Sunday, DreamWorks releases the second Spielberg movie of the weekend, the World War I movie ''War Horse.'' It's currently scheduled for 2,376 locations - a number that is likely to increase slightly by Sunday.

The film, which cost an estimated $70 million to make, is about a young man who enlists in the British Army after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry.

Disney is releasing the DreamWorks movie, and expects it to gross $3 million on Sunday.

The movie has a solid 75 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is tracking strongest among men.

Finally, Summit is releasing ''The Darkest Hour,'' a sci-fi movie starring Emile Hirsch and directed by Chris Gorak.

The 3D movie, set in Moscow, is about five young people who find themselves stranded after a devastating alien attack.

It opens in 2,299 locations, although that number could increase by Sunday.

The co-production between New Regency and Summit cost an estimated $30 million to make, and has not been screened for critics.

The film has fairly weak tracking: NRG says that 49 percent of men younger than 25 and 48 percent of those older than 25 are aware of it.

Summit expects the movie to gross between $2.5 million to $3 million on Christmas Day, and between $4 million and $5 million on Sunday and Monday.

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Chinese box office set to break $2 billion in 2011

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 06:23 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Chinese box office is on track to break the U.S. equivalent of $2 billion by the end of the year, according to a recent report from the country's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Additionally, more than 500 feature films were produced in China in 2011. Chinese releases totaled 526, compared with 456 in 2009. And China added an average of eight new screens per day this year. There are now more than 9,000 screens in China, compared with 6,200 in 2010.

As of Dec. 15, total box-office earnings had totaled more than 12 billion yuan, the reports says. That figure which equates to roughly $1.89 billion U.S. dollars.

The $2 billion mark is expected to be surpassed thanks to the recent openings of the Christian Bale war epic ''The Flowers of War'' and the Jet Li martial-arts film ''Flying Swords of Dragon Gate.'' Zhang Yimou's ''The Flowers of War'' has the biggest production budget ever for a film made in China: $94 million.

Last year, the total box-office gross in China was $1.61 billion - an increase of more than 60 percent over the previous year's figure. That made China the third-largest global box-office market, behind only the U.S. and Japan. The Japanese box office grossed $2.26 billion in 2010.

China's booming box office contrasts sharply with the U.S. results. As of Sunday, total North American ticket sells stood at $9.64 billion, which is short of the $10.58 billion mark that was set in 2010.

China is also the fastest-growing country in the global IMAX business, according to a China Film Industry Report. China was expected to have 48 IMAX theaters by mid-year and 2,500 3D screens by the end of 2011.

China's film-industry trends contradict the country's broader economic woes. According to Reuters, the first quarter is expected to be especially tough because of slow European and U.S. demand.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

AirAsia removes counter check-in fee for international flights

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 04:51 AM PST

Published: Wednesday December 21, 2011 MYT 8:51:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia is abolishing the counter check-in fees for all international flights throughout its route network.

All bookings made on December 22 onwards will be exempted from the RM10 per passenger for counter check-in.

In a statement Wednesday, AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the low cost airline had recently also reduced the processing fee for the usage of charge cards during flight bookings from RM8 per guest sector to only RM5 per guest per sector.

The direct debit transaction remains free of charge with seven of their bank partners in Malaysia.

International guests who have pre-paid the counter check-in fees from September 21 to December 21 may obtain a credit shell by contacting customer care via the e-form at http://www.airasia.com/my/en/faqdetailsform.html.

The check-in fee will remain for domestic flights. - Bernama

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PM denies claims of Shahrizat resignation

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 04:28 AM PST

Published: Wednesday December 21, 2011 MYT 8:29:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Prime Minister has dismissed speculation that Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil has resigned from the Cabinet.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he would "comment on the matter in due course".

Asked to confirm if he had received a resignation letter from the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, he said: "No, I have not.'

He was speaking to reporters after launching the Financial Sector Blueprint and the new currency series here on Wednesday.

Talk that Shahrizat had tendered her resignation to the Prime Minister was fuelled by her comments at a separate function earlier in the day that she would discuss her next action with him. She declined to elaborate.

"I am a veteran politician so I know what needs to be done," she said, according to an online portal.

Shahrizat had been plagued for weeks by the controversy surrounding the National Feedlot Corporation project, headed by her husband Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail.

The Auditor-General in his 2010 report released last month had questioned NFC's performance with the company's production at 3,289 head of cattle or 41.1% of the target set.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating whether Shahrizat had played any part in the award of the RM250mil loan to the NFC.

MACC officers were reportedly checking to ascertain if she had influenced, took part in the project, or had a hand in the loan award.

The commission started its investigations into the matter after the NFC issue was highlighted in the A-G's report.

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Windfall for Felda settlers

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 04:12 AM PST

Published: Wednesday December 21, 2011 MYT 8:13:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The potential listing of Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH) Sdn Bhd on Bursa Malaysia should be seen as a windfall for the settlers who are also the main shareholders of Koperasi Permodalan Felda (KPF), the Dewan Negara was told Wednesday.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan said the restructuring would make KPF the main investor in FGVH where the settlers and their generations and staff of the Felda group make up the membership.

"Besides, the profits to be derived will be enjoyed in the form of dividends and can benefit the 224,000 KPF members, and the (income from the) surge in the KPF investment value will be distributed to the settlers by way of special awards," he said when replying to a question from Senator Datuk Yunus Kurus.

The senator had asked about the government guarantee over the future of the Felda settlers with the listing of FGVH on Bursa Malaysia.

Ahmad said the listing would not undermine the rights of the Felda settlers and staff as a whole because it only involved the leasing of Felda-owned land to FGVH.

"This means that the settlers' crop and housing land will not be affected and will remain in their possession while they and their generations will continue to receive the privileges in the form of special allocations.

"The allocations include productivity bonus, festival aid, schooling aid, tuition, tertiary institution loans, funeral aid, social programmes and Felda generation skills programmes," he said.

He also said that the listing, which was expected to take place next year, would benefit not only the Felda population but also the people and nation as a whole. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Appalling phone and Internet connections

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 03:48 AM PST

I WOULD like to highlight issues regarding my TM fixed line and Streamyx Internet connections which have not been resolved for more than a month.

I have been having telephone problems such as distortion for some time now. So I made a complaint to TM's call centre.

The next day, one of their technicians came and checked on the problem. He told me my internal telephone wiring had to be changed and gave me a quotation.

So I made an appointment with him after a few days to do it. He came and did the wiring and I paid him as promised.

Soon after, my nightmare began.

It is more difficult to make and receive calls and my Streamyx connection started giving problems. I called the technician, but he said he didn't do anything wrong. However, a supervisor who came afterwards told me the technician had used the wrong cable.

So I decided to complain to TM again and they sent another technician but until today the problem has not been fixed.

I'm really fed up and considering changing to another provider. The only thing stopping me is the loss of my existing number.

I am a university student and I need to use the Internet for my assignments, projects and research.


Kuala Lumpur

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Acquisition of land to benefit private developer is puzzling

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 03:48 AM PST

YOUR report yesterday titled "Choked at tunnel exit" confirms the many worries of residents of Kelana Jaya and many others who use the Damansara Puchong Highway (LDP).

Once again, it reflects the lack of foresight on the part of the authorities when approving commercial projects which invariably lead to problems like traffic congestion and reduced access for residents who were there first.

And the saddest part of it all is that when it comes to the surrounding infrastructure like roads and drainage facilities, it is all the ratepayers of Petaling Jaya who have to bear the burden.

I can understand why the residents feel that the land owned by EPF has to be acquired so that road-widening can be carried out.

But as an EPF contributor who also happens to live in Kelana Jaya, I must also ask on what grounds should the land be acquired.

If the need is for a public hospital or a fire station, I would certainly agree. And there are provisions in the law to allow for such acquisitions in the public interest.

Instead, this is to assist a private developer, which will reap all the benefits of the commercial activity carried out, that is in no way paying back for the improved public works that have to be carried out.

I do not know what plans the EPF has for its land, but if it is to build a satellite office so that it is more convenient for us to do our EPF transactions, then it is certainly a worthwhile project since the benefits are of public interest.

To simply allow the land to be acquired for road-widening purposes may not be a wise decision.

I hope the authorities will bear this in mind and not come up with a solution in haste that they will regret later.


Kelana Jaya

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Erykah Badu to jazz up KL

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 02:24 AM PST

ERYKAH Badu is one of the hip hop scene's true visionaries and the 40-year-old is set to bring her soulful live show to the Plenary Hall, KL Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 28.

Badu, who had to cancel her appearance at the Sunburst Festival in KL in 2009, is finally set to meet her fans here with a stand-alone concert. Her show in KL is also set to be an eventful one since it comes only two days after her 41th birthday.

Badu's music has struck a chord in these parts with her hit single 'On & On'.

However, since the Dallas, Texas-raised singer broke into the mainstream with her groundbreaking 1997 debut album, 'Baduizm', she has gone on to an eclectic and colourful career.

Her seamless fusion of electronica-drenched jazz, soulful rock and hip hop have brought her a diverse fanbase while her artistic questing has led her to continually push hip hop from the inside.

Badu's other studio albums include 'Mama's Gun' (2000), 'Worldwide Underground' (2003), 'New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)' (2008) and 'New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)' (2010).

Badu is currently working on new material with LA-based producer Flying Lotus.

Tickets details of Badu's upcoming show in KL will be announced soon.

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Elvis Presley lands posthumous Grammy nomination

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 04:34 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Elvis may have left the building - and the planet, for that matter - but he's not done racking up accolades.

''Young Man With the Big Beat: The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Masters,'' a five-CD box set of Elvis Presley's early recordings, has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Historical Album category by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

The collection, put out to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Presley's 1956 RCA debut, was released this fall by Sony's Legacy Recordings.

Songs in the sprawling collection include studio recordings of such early hits as ''Blue Suede Shoes'' and ''Lawdy, Miss Clawdy,'' plus live tracks, outtakes and interviews.

Legacy will follow up on the ''Young Man'' collection in January with ''Elvis Country,'' a two-disc compilation of Presley's country recordings.

During his lifetime, Presley logged 14 Grammy nominations, and won three awards, for the gospel recordings ''How Great Thou Art,'' ''He Touched Me'' and the live recording of ''How Great Thou Art.'' The singer was also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1971.

Presley died in 1977, at the age of 42.

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Programme aiming for RM1bil in sales

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 06:24 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Kraftangan Malaysia is targeting RM1bil in sales revenue within the next five years, and has an aggressive marketing programme lined up.

Its chairman Datuk Sohaimi Shahadan said under the Craft Transformation programme, Kraftangan Malaysia's sales figures was expected to reach RM1bil by 2016.

He said several measures and steps had been identified under the programme to achieve the target, which would contribute towards the country's economic growth.

Sohaimi said among the measures that would be taken by Kraftangan Malaysia was selling local craft products online.

"Online shopping is a new format which we are looking at and we will be the pioneers as there are no big companies offering craft products online.

"Kraftangan Malaysia is also looking for marketing agents, who can help sell and market craft products to the United States, China, Middle East and Europe," he said.

He said this after launching of the Craft Malaysia Promotion 2011 by Deputy Information, Communications and Culture minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D'Cruz at Plaza Angsana recently. The event ends on Christmas day.

"We are also hoping to work closely with private companies or other agencies to help promote craft products," he said adding that textile products such as batik was a favourite among craft lovers as it had contributed about 50% of sales this year.

He said foreigners especially loved the design and material used to create batik shirts.

Sohaimi however pointed out that to realise the target, craft entrepreneurs needed to have a new approach.

He said entrepreneurs must change their mindset to be more business minded and to create relevant craft products that was appealing to customers.

"They must also be innovative in their designs as this will help attract new customers," he said.

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Youths cycle for a noble cause

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 06:25 PM PST

YONG PENG: Heavy rain last Sunday morning did not stop 300 youths from joining Ayer Hitam MP Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong to cycle around Yong Peng to visit the less fortunate members of society.

The five km bicycle event started from SJK ( C ) Yong Peng 1 to Dewa Chee Tiong Tang Yong Peng temple in Jalan Lee Ee Goh where Dr Wee presented a cash donation for the temple's upgrading works and two lion dance costumes to its lion dance troupe.

The cyclists, then made their way to Taman Selatan where Dr Wee presented a new wheelchair to a 19-year-old disabled boy Tan Ka Lok and visited the newly built SJK ( C ) Yong Peng 2 nearby.

The bicycle convoy also stopped over at a 27-year-old heartpatient Tiong Koon Keng's house and the Kiwanis Yong Peng Special Children Centre in Taman Kota.

The team also visited the St John's Ambulance base in Taman Sembrong before returning to SJK ( C ) Yong Peng 1.

Dr Wee said he hoped to lead the young ones to reach out to the underprivileged people through healthy sports activities.

The youths were later treated to a simple lunch at the primary school after the two-hour exercise.

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Universiti to partner with private sector to help students broaden knowledge

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 06:26 PM PST

BATU PAHAT: Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) has opened its doors to a partnership with small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) to enhance its academic development.

UTHM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Noh Dalimin said collaboration between the university and the private sector could help train students and provide opportunities for graduates to apply their newly acquired academic knowledge to the industry.

"When both work together, it gives students exposure to practical real world problems and employment opportunities for university graduates," he said during his speech before opening the symposium of MTUN (Malaysia Technical Universities Network) - Industry collaboration 2011 last Sunday.

The one-day symposium was co-organised with the Chinese Chambers of Commerce Batu Pahat (CCCBP), in collaboration with MTUN.

The UTHM is a member of MTUN for technical learning.

MTUN's other members - Univeristi Malaysia Perlis (UniMap), Universiti TeknicalMalaysia Melaka (UTeM) and Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) also participated in the symposium.

Dr Mohd Nod said the university-industry collaboration would be instrumental in strengthening the ability of universities to conduct high quality and relevant researches.

CCCBP president Chink Poh Cheng said universities played an important role as input sources for private sector innovation activities.

He said the SMEs needed skills and knowledge to enhance their competitiveness in the fast changing world.

"The University and SMEs can work together for technology transfer, business incubation, collaborative research, internship programmes, mentoring programmes and joint training," he added.

Chink hoped the symposium would help develop more partnerships between the SMEs and UTHM to drive the Batu Pahat district to a higher economic and academicgrowth.

At the event, UTHM also signed letter of intent with CCCBP and several companies.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Life, unexpectedly

Posted: 20 Dec 2011 11:31 PM PST

Most of us look forward to a comfortable retirement after years of hard work. But many Malaysians reach middle age only to realise that things did not turn out as they'd imagined it. It's time to consider a plan that will take you through your golden years.

LIAN Mong King, 64, lives about as healthily as a person his age can. A pastor, he doesn't drink, smoke or indulge in "bad" habits like gambling.

A man of God, he believes that a healthy way of life, coupled with his religious faith, will allow him to lead a peaceful and harmonious life.

So far, Lian has not experienced any major health complications, except for a brief brush with arthritis he has since recovered from.

"I don't really exercise, but I watch what I consume," Lian says, adding that regular doses of home-made noni (a fruit) juice helps maintain his vigour.

Lian says his fuss-free daily schedule entails plenty of reading and watching news channels on satellite TV. "Sometimes, my wife drags me to go shopping with her."

They are very much a happy couple who has shared a long, blissful marriage, but Lian insists: "We are not rich. My wife and I live moderately, but we are happy."

Healthy for life

Neither Lian nor his wife, a homemaker in her 60s, has insurance coverage as he believes that their healthy lifestyles will see them through their golden years.

"I'd rather spend my monthly income of RM3,000 on basic necessities or on our children's education," he says.

Lian has four children – two sons and two daughters from ages 16 to 30. His three elder children are all university graduates who now hold stable positions in respectable organisations. He believes they will take care of him and his wife throughout their twilight years.

"My wife and I have never demanded anything from them, but I believe the combination of good parenting and religious upbringing will lead them to do the right thing. I am sure they will take care of us if we need them," says Lian.

"Besides, I am too old to get an insurance policy now as the premium will be high at our age, so it's not suitable for us."

Lian is convinced that his lifelong savings will take him and his wife through the final stages of their lives. "At this age, we don't need much, just the basic necessities like food and clothes, so we don't need a lot of money. When we get sick, we can go to the general hospital."

In an Utopian universe, many from the baby boomer generation like Lian will be lounging around past retirement with nary a worry in the suburban comfort of their picket-fenced homes.

After a lifetime of hard work and late night coffee-diets, they might even consider spending some of their hard-earned savings on an exclusive getaway.

And why not? Their children should all have jobs by then, saving accounts should be built up and mortgages should all be taken care of, right?

Murphy's law

Think again. Many Malaysians reach middle age only to be hit by the hard truth that not everything has worked out the way they'd imagined it. Some people in their 50s or 60s could be on their way through their second or third house, or (god forbid) their second or third spouse. Not to mention they may still have to put up with their children's ever-increasing college fees.

Unexpected periods of unemployment or illness could also throw a healthy bank balance off-board. While Lian is optimistic about his future, the rising cost of living and inflation rates, as well as the burgeoning pressures of the 21st century, could send his plans crumbling before he even realises it.

To make matters worse, medical costs are getting higher by the year as your health deteriorates with age, making quality medical treatment increasingly burdensome and inaccessible.

According to survey findings, sky-high medical expenses make up one of the sole reasons for default or difficulty in servicing debts. A staggering 24% of Malaysians also reportedly have poor financial planning – that, coupled with our national past time of incessant eating, is almost a sure recipe for a medical disaster.

Though of course, none of us are likely to include major hospitalisation bills or expensive medical treatments in our blissful retirement vision, but an unexpected turn of events such as terminal illness or accidents can easily wipe away all your life savings.

While most Asian traditions value filial piety, as is the case of the Lians, most retirees do not want to burden their family when they get sick.

Health problems do not discriminate between age and gender, and those who have been known to lead the healthiest of lifestyles could also fall prey to unexpected, life-threatening diseases.

Even the rich and famous are not exempt from life's calamities. Take the late Charlie's Angels actress Farrah Fawcett for example. She didn't drink, didn't smoke, she exercised daily and she believed in good health. That didn't stop her from falling sick.

In 2009, the iconic 62-year-old succumbed to anal cancer after a long, hard battle with the killer disease.

In the United States, about 1.3 million new cancer cases are diagnosed every year; every 29 seconds someone suffers a coronary event; and every 45 minutes, someone suffers a stroke.

In Malaysia, medical costs for cancer treatment can go up to RM300,000 while kidney failure could cost you RM150,000 or more. Meanwhile, major organ transplants could amount up to RM100,000.

Smooth sunset ride

While critical illnesses like cancer can be fatal, one's quality of life can certainly be enhanced with adequate medical attention. One of the surest ways to safeguard your finances, as well as address your concerns in the face of a medical catastrophe, is by getting an insurance policy that will see you through your needs.

While people are generally encouraged to start protecting their health at an early age to lessen the financial impact a later health problem could cause, it is never too late to start tending to your wallet and well-being.

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.

The average lifespan of Malaysians is estimated to be 73.8 years, so plans that provide coverage beyond that is definitely a plus as it ensures the protection you may require well into your retirement years.

While shopping for the right insurance plan, take note of the fixed lifetime limit that usually comes along with most medical insurance plans. Plans that impose a lifetime limit on customers set a fixed limit on the amount of reimbursement you can claim in a lifetime.

What you should be looking for are plans that do not impose a lifetime limit to ensure continuous and uninterrupted access to the medical care you may require in your old age. Think of an unlimited medical cover as starting a fresh page every year, regardless of the amount of claims you may have made previously.

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

Lastly, never ignore the fine print that is almost always hovering at some latent edge of your documents. 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. You don't want to be cracking your head from having to cough up the extra cash when you should be focusing on recuperating.

You've spent your whole life building up your future and now is the time to reap what you've painstakingly sowed. A credible medical insurance provider will walk you through adversities and ensure a smooth ride into your sunset years.

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