Isnin, 27 Ogos 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Congo's new airlines brave riskiest African skies

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 02:09 AM PDT

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Its tarmac littered with dozens of dilapidated planes, the airport in Congo's capital Kinshasa makes clear the dire state of aviation even by Africa's generally low standards.

The planes have been abandoned either as mechanical failures or by companies that went bust in a sector where a lack of proper infrastructure means pilots sometimes navigate with the help of Google Maps and sat-nav devices like those found in cars.

"Crazy things happen here. We have to stop those crazy things happening," says Frenchman Jean-Marc Pajot, who with his new FlyCongo airline is setting out to prove there is a market for those determined to make it work.

On the face of things, it looks like a good business.

An airline can charge $700 for a seat on the 1,600 km (1,000 mile) flight from Kinshasa to Congo's copper mining centre of Lubumbashi. To fly a similar distance between London and Lisbon - and back - a ticket can be had for less than $100.

With economic growth forecasts of around 7 percent until 2015 thanks to its mines, Democratic Republic of Congo's business prospects look healthy alongside regional peers. Air passenger numbers more than tripled in the decade to 2010, growing nearly twice as fast as they did globally.

But as in much of Africa, a spurt in growth after decades of decline has not translated into an improvement in infrastructure for airlines or anyone else.

A lack of equipment that would be standard elsewhere, haphazard safety measures and challenging weather conditions make Congo one of the world's riskiest places to fly.

Last year Congo was behind only Russia with 111 flying fatalities according to the Aviation Safety Network, but Russia had some 30 times more passenger journeys. Only the much smaller African countries of Gabon, Sierra Leone and Djibouti scored lower in terms of overall safety in a survey by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The background to Pajot's FlyCongo could appear less than auspicious: it took over the assets of Hewa Bora, Congo's largest airline until it lost its licence last year when one of its planes crashed in a thunderstorm, killing 70 people.

Pajot has already broken up six planes for scrap to streamline the company and as a gesture of its commitment to safety. He has five planes left.

Pajot complains that airports don't even have proper control towers: his staff go out to runways with walkie-talkie radios to give the pilots a picture of landing conditions.

Another new airline, Korongo, in which Lufthansa subsidiary SN Brussels is a partner, has put some $3 million of its $12 million investment into infrastructure - going as far as to pay for airport firefighters.

The need for a functioning aviation network is clear in Africa's second largest country. It has hardly any roads.


Pilot Hugues Gendre recalls taking one priest to his parish deep in the equatorial forest in little over an hour, a journey which previously took 10 days and 10 nights of non-stop travel by canoe.

But Gendre, who flies aid workers around, is sceptical a safe and viable airline can run in Congo.

"Firstly there's a lack of competence, then there's also the phenomenon of generalised corruption, and there's no strong central government," said Gendre, president of Aviation Without Borders, a non governmental organisation.

"Little by little, training erodes, standards go down, and it ends in an accident."

President Joseph Kabila lost his closest adviser in February when the plane carrying him overshot a runway.

To support peacekeepers in the far reaches of a country the size of Western Europe, the United Nations operates its own air service. Many diplomats are barred by their embassies from using Congolese airlines.

The government has resolved to reverse decades of mismanagement, said Emile Bongeli, who heads the state organisation which runs Congo's airports. Runways are being redone and a national communications system is being set up.

Longer term, Congolese airlines seek their removal from U.S. and European safety blacklists so they can fly the foreign routes that mining companies use to bring in staff and equipment.

But there is no sign of that happening soon.

"It's not going to stop us working to improve security," said Bongeli.

Foreign airlines currently link Kinshasa with Europe and also fly from Lubumbashi to the African hubs of Nairobi and Johannesburg. Air France, which has four flights a week to Paris, said it was looking at Congo as a long term growth market.

For decades, Congolese aviation has been tarnished by short-lived airlines that were sometimes founded more for laundering the proceeds of corruption than as profitable enterprises.

The new operators are setting out to be different.

For most of his career, Pajot, 52, was a manager in the information technology sector, although he spent the past three years as a commercial pilot and flight instructor. His airline flies to five Congolese cities from Kinshasa.

"We have to go by the book," he said. "I love big challenges, and this is certainly a big challenge."

The other start-up - the Korongo joint venture of SN Brussels and Congolese company Malta Forrest - has put its planes under the oversight of Belgian authorities to try to tackle the foreign safety concerns.

Korongo chief executive Christophe Allard believes operating to international standards will encourage local companies to follow suit. Korongo flies between Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Johannesburg.

Despite the difficulties of navigating Congo's politics - Korongo's launch was blocked for more than a year because of internal wranglings - Allard believes the government is catching on to the need to improve the sector.

"We told the Congolese that the game is over, that they have to accept modernity," he said. "Now they can prove they've chosen to move in the right direction."

(Editing by Bate Felix and Matthew Tostevin)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Mexico launches WTO dispute against Argentina

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 01:45 AM PDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - Mexico has launched its first dispute against Argentina at the World Trade Organization, following similar complaints against Argentina by the European Union, United States and Japan, the WTO said on Monday.

The four complaints centre on Argentina's import licensing rules, which its critics say amount to a blanket restriction on imports and are one of several protectionist policies adopted by the government of President Cristina Fernandez.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Alison Williams)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Muppet urges Israelis to prepare for possible emergency

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 01:43 AM PDT

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli muppet on the cover of a new, emergency pamphlet being distributed nationwide puts a happy face on some grim warnings in a country preparing for possible war with Iran.

Israelis, the military-issued booklet says, would have only between 30 seconds and three minutes to find cover and hunker down between the time air raid sirens sound and rockets slam into their area.

The 15-page pamphlet has started to appear in mailboxes across the country, and instructs Israelis how to prepare a safe room or shelter for emergency situations.

On the cover a smiling Moishe Oofnik, the Israeli muppet version of Oscar the Grouch - the resident pessimist of the U.S. children's show Sesame Street - sticks out of the trash can he calls home.

He strikes a more pensive pose inside the booklet, resting his head on his hand under instructions on what to do when sirens wail.

Stepped-up rhetoric by Israeli officials in recent weeks has suggested Israel might soon attack an Iranian nuclear programme its sees as an existential threat, raising international concern about regional conflict.

Israeli ministers have said up to 500 civilians could die in any war following a strike on Iran.

An Israeli military source said on Monday the emergency pamphlet was part of a regular, public awareness campaign and noted it also included advice on how to act in the event of an earthquake.

"There are always innovations the public needs to know about, it doesn't mean anything is going to happen today, tomorrow or the next day," the source said.

Iran denies it is seeking atomic weapons and has promised to retaliate strongly if it is attacked. Israel fears that Iran's Hezbollah guerrilla allies in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip could also launch rocket strikes.

Israel stepped up the distribution of gas masks and other protective gear to the public some weeks ago, but the mailing of what-to-do information suggested an escalation in preparation for possible conflict.

The pamphlet urges Israelis to have a "family talk" about getting ready for any national emergency.

"You should find the proper time to have the conversation -- not during mealtime or when you are watching television. It should not be held after a family argument or when you are agitated about some other pressing matter," it advises.

(Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Your staff is your greatest asset, unfortunately many not maximising usage of their talent

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 06:26 PM PDT

IN human resource and some corporate circles, talent often refers to employees and in most cases, key staff.

One of the statements many organisations and business leaders have professed is that their staff, their people, are their greatest asset.

Unfortunately, a majority of these organisations are probably not making the best use of their talent. More often than not, this usually stems from a lack of planning or having a long term view, and in some cases, both. Most organisations hire talent to satisfy an immediate need but consideration for their future requirements is often overshadowed by the need to fill a vacancy with an individual who can deliver immediate results, as quickly as possible.

A client, a forward looking one at that, when formulating the requirements for a key hire, once asked me to take into consideration that the company aspired to be public-listed within a 12 to 24 -month horizon. Clearly, any candidate for the role needed to be able to operate in the current as well as the future state of the company.

Another reason to take a longer term view in the talent acquisition process is the buy vs build' dilemma.

Those of us who have been in the workforce for the last decade or so, will know that it is almost a certainty that when a company needs to reassess its staffing cost during an economic downturn, the more expensive employees are usually the first on the chopping-block. However, these are often the people with the most experience and knowledge in the organisation. As such, optimising talent in such as situation would require further due diligence to determine which high-cost talent the organization can and cannot afford to lose.

This often boils down to how important talent management is to the organization and what other areas an organization can be managed' in times of crisis, rather than taking a broad stroke approach to immediately minimize operating cost by retrenching the most highly paid executives. One needs to consider the potential secondary costs involved, for example; if the initial hire needs to be compensated should a redundancy take place and the knock-on cost of rehiring.

The impact on staff morale due to the departure and the loss of productivity are also issues that need to be dealt with. All things considered, it is not only prudent but essential to take a long term and deliberate view when acquiring talent. Whilst talent development and retention may be considered costly exercises, the cost of having to bring in another executive to meet the needs of the next phase of the business further down the road may actually end up costing the company even more than keeping the initial hire.

One of the key questions I would ask potential candidates during an interview is, are you making the best use of your talent? Academic qualifications and experience do not necessarily relate to the innate ability we also call talent. It has more to do with what an individual enjoys doing and how this skill can add value to an organisation.

Most executives who are climbing the corporate ladder often strive and put a great deal of effort into reaching the next step. Although, once they achieve some level of success they sometimes feel that they have "been there, done that" and they begin to lose focus on developing their core skill set. I had a recent conversation with a human resource director whom I tried to headhunt for a multinational company that was starting its operations in Malaysia.

The individual was not keen to move even though it was a bigger role and the compensation was almost 40% more than her current salary. Her reason was that she was comfortable in her current role and she did not want to start over in a new organisation where she would have to lay the foundation for systems and build her team again. In other instances I have encountered candidates who have given other reasons for not taking on bigger, more challenging roles to enhance their skills and hone their abilities further.

The most common ones include wanting a country role after being in a regional role so that they are not required to travel as frequently and preferring to remain a single contributor rather than managing a team.

As such, these executives tend to stop growing and may eventually stagnate in their careers.

On the other hand, I have met managing directors and CEOs who are in their fifties and are still making the most of their talent. One such individual is currently the CEO of a large manufacturing plant in China.

He had just returned to Malaysia after a posting in North Asia when I presented him with the opportunity to turn around a manufacturing plant in China. Upon hearing the details of the role and giving the opportunity sufficient deliberation, he gave me the "green light" to share his profile with my client. After their first meeting, we were already talking about making arrangements for him to see the plant in China.

This individual was very much aware of what he wanted and he decided that he was going to gain even more exposure and further his career even more by taking on this next challenge. Hence, he was able to maximise his talent and push himself even higher up the corporate ladder.

Therefore, when dealing with talent issues let us consider the primary objective or the end-game.

If we are ultimately trying to build a talent rich organisation, it is essential to have the right talent at the right time. This would probably involve a great deal of planning and discipline to prioritise this objective especially if the company's revenue is declining and there is pressure to cut costs. From an individuals' perspective it is important to keep oneself current and that includes taking on roles that will help enhance your skills or take you to the next level.

At the very least we may run the risk of not maximizing our talent or in some cases become a dinosaur.' So, let's make the best use of our talent, shall we?

  • Pauline Ng is the consulting firector and head of BTI Consultants. She believes that everyone should maximise their talent as this will result in raising the bar as individuals, organisations and as a nation.

Malaysia's Q1 retail sales below forecast

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 06:24 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's retail industry recorded sales growth of 6.9% in the first quarter of this year, which was lower than retailers' initial forecast of 12.1%, according to Retail Group Malaysia.

"The retail result of the first three months of this year was positive because of several incentives introduced by the Government since late last year," Retail Group Malaysia managing director Tan Hai Hsin said in the latest Malaysia Retail Industry Report.

He noted that about 1.2 million Government servants enjoyed higher salaries this year.

"The RM100 and RM200 book vouchers that were given to school students by the Government had boosted sales in bookstores nationwide for the first quarter of this year.

"The Government had also released a one-off RM500 aid under the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) to close to four million households with income less than RM3,000 per month from the month of March. All these had increased retail spending from the masses during the early part of this year," Tan said.

An analyst from a bank-backed brokerage concurred that the various initiatives by the Government helped boost consumer spending in the first quarter.

"The various Government measures such as the BR1M scheme, the Skim Amanah Rakyat 1Malaysia (SARA 1Malaysia) scheme and the salary hike for civil servants all helped to boost the disposable income and purchasing power of Malaysians in the first quarter," he said. Tan noted that despite the encouraging first quarter result, retailers still needed to absorb the rising cost of goods and offer attractive discounts to attract shoppers to buy at the same time.

"Profit margin growth during this period was poor," he said.

As for the second quarter, Tan said members of the retailers' association remained optimistic of their businesses during the period.

"They expect their sales to rise by 11.7% compared with the same period in 2011.

"However, Retail Group Malaysia is expecting a lower growth rate of 5.5% only.

"This is due to poor economic prospects during the second quarter as well as higher base achieved in 2011 at 9.1%."

Another analyst said he expected flat growth in the second quarter of this year.

"This is mainly because there was a lack of major festive holidays in the second quarter which would have driven consumer spending.

"We expect better growth in the third quarter, due to the Hari Raya holidays," she said.

For the second quarter, Retail Group Malaysia said it is lowering its estimate to 5.5% instead of 11.7%.

"During this period, the European crisis did not turn positive, the US economy was also not recovering at a sustainable pace and China experienced slowing export and declining domestic demand.

"All these led to Malaysian consumers remaining cautious in their spending. Retail sales had slowed down slightly."

For the third quarter, Tan said the growth rate is estimated at 6% due to Hari Raya celebration.

"Furthermore, 1.25 million civil servants received half-month bonus with a minimum payment of RM500 recently (while) 657,000 Government pensioners have also benefited with RM500 special payment."

Retail Group Malaysia is forecasting the retail industry to expand by 5.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012.

"Malaysian consumers will still remain cautious in their retail spending. They are uncertain of their prospects due to the impending general election. Their confidence level may improve after the Budget 2013 announcement in end-September," said Tan.

KLCI slips in early trade

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 06:17 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI slipped in early trade on Tuesday, weighed down by mild losses in MMHE and BAT but the broader market was firmer.

At 9.02am, the FBM KLCI was down 0.03 of a point to 1,648.10. Turnover was 41.07 million shares valued at RM13.93mil. There were 95 gainers, 62 losers and 113 counters unchanged.

Reuters reported markets from stocks to currencies were caught in ranges on Tuesday as investors waited for a gathering of central bankers and economists at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later in the week for clues over the Federal Reserve's potential easing options.

At Bursa Malaysia, Tradewinds Plantations fell six sen to RM4.40, Oriental Holdings and MMHE fell five sen each to RM7.85 and RM4.68 while Carlsberg and BAT shed four sen to RM12.36 and RM62.56.

Amway was the top gainer, up 40 sen to RM11.30, Aeon Credit added 16 sen to RM13.46 while Favelle Favco gained nine sen to RM1.84 and MISC six sen to RM4.42.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Chong Wei tips five singles shuttlers to be top stars

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 04:38 PM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: Lee Chong Wei has named five singles shuttlers who have the potential to be top players. They are Chan Kwong Beng, Liew Daren, Chong Wei Feng, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif and Misbun Ramdan.

The world No. 2 singles star, however, conceded that the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) face a tough task in finding his successor.

"Even China have difficulty trying to find a 'second' Lin Dan despite having a population of more than one billion while Malaysia only have a population of 28 million," Chong Wei told a press conference before a meet-the-fans session at KDU College in Penang yesterday.

"Indonesia and Denmark also find it hard to replace Taufik Hidayat and Peter-Gade Chris­tensen."

Chong Wei was asked to comment on a report in a Malay daily on Sunday which stated that a replacement for him has yet to be found. He said more junior players would be sent to overseas tournaments to acquire experience.

Chong Wei also said he hoped to attend Lin Dan's wedding in China next month but was not sure if he would be able to make it as he will be competing in the Japan Open in Tokyo from Sept 18-23.

"I'm hoping for an early final so I can fly from Tokyo to Beijing," he said.

Lee expected to end his bachelor days next year

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 04:40 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei is expected to end his bachelor days next year.

The world No. 2 shuttler is expected to wed former national top women's singles player Wong Mew Choo after dating for more than a decade.

Chong Wei, 30, who claimed he was ready to take the plunge, did not give any tentative date or place for the wedding.

"Maybe I'll retire next year because there are no big competitions and start planning for the wedding. I'm not young anymore," he said.

Mew Choo, 29, is now a coach at the Bukit Jalil Sports School after she quit as a player last year.

"We have known each other for a long time," he said.

"Sometimes I hardly have time to dwell on the relationship as I want to focus on my career and during such times, it's normal to have misunderstandings."

Chong Wei said he broke up with Mew Choo in 2009 when he was training in South Korea but they made up a year later and their bond has since grown stronger.

"It's normal for a relationship to go through difficult times but I don't want such issues to affect my career or our relationship," he said. — Bernama

Ee Yi sees early exit in Vietnam as a good learning curve

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 04:38 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Reigning world junior doubles champion Teo Ee Yi believes he and Nelson Heg Wei Keat are on the right track in their transition year to the senior ranks despite crashing out in the opening round of the Vietnam Open in Ho Chi Minh City last week.

Ee Yi-Wei Keat went down fighting 21-18, 15-21, 18-21 to Taiwan's Ching Yao-lu and Min Hao-tseng. Although disappointed, the 19-year-old Ee Yi said it was a good learning curve.

"We face higher ranked pairs in every tournament and it's a challenge just to give them a good fight. They are more experienced and adjust quickly to the court conditions. We need more time but we have shown improvement over the last eight months," said Ee Yi.

In April, the duo showed their potential when they put higher ranked pairs in the shade by winning the Dutch International in only their second senior tournament. They also won the Thailand International Series in May last year.

Ee Yi said they were grateful to their coaches for giving them the opportunity to compete abroad.

"We know where we stand and what needs to be done to match the big boys. Nelson and I currently lack power in our smashing. This is one area we will have to focus on to improve further," he said.

"For now, we want to build our confidence and our standing in the national team. We are still the rookies and there are so many good pairs ahead of us. In time, we will surely climb up the ladder," he said.

Ee Yi-Wei Keat are determined to become the country's first world junior champions to metamorphose into the national number one pair.

There have been six other world junior doubles champions but none survived the test of time beyond their junior years although they have done well with other partners in the national team.

They are Gan Wye Teck-Chan Chong Ming (winners in 1996), Chan Chong Ming-Teo Kok Seng (1998), Hoon Thien How-Tan Boon Heong (2004), Mak Hee Chun-Teo Kok Siang (2008), Chooi Kah Ming-Ow Yao Han (2009) and Ow Yao Han-Yew Hong Kheng (2010).

Based on the determination shown by Ee Yi-Wei Keat, they may just be the ones to buck the trend.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Sing the World Songs

Posted: 26 Aug 2012 12:39 AM PDT

SOONCHILD is a baby who's a little leery about being born. She is the daughter of Sixteen-Face John, a shaman, and No Problem, a big, strong woman with a face that makes you "not want to make her angry".

Soonchild tells John that she doesn't want to be born because she doesn't believe that there's a world for her to be born into. She doesn't believe there's a world because she can't hear any World Songs. "The world is made up of ideas that live in the Mind of Things but before the idea comes the song," John tells his wife and he decides that there is no alternative but to go find the World Songs so his daughter can be born.

So far so strange? Well, it gets stranger ... a lot stranger. Reading Soonchild by Russell Hoban, I felt like I was drifting in and out of a wild and wonderful, totally weird, extremely vivid dream that made perfect sense to the dream-me, but made absolutely none to the awake-me.

Occasionally, the edges around the dream would melt inwards and turn horrifying. Yet, no matter how nightmarish and disturbing and violent things got, there was always an underlying sense of calm. Perhaps, as Soonchild is marketed as a children's book, I knew it couldn't possibly end all that badly. Perhaps that reassured me and helped me take the horrors in my stride.

Also, Hoban's tone throughout the story is very calm and matter of fact. No matter how strange or spooky or unreal things get, there's Hoban, writing like he's describing an ordinary day in the ordinary life of an ordinary person. It works because this is no song and dance, this is life and it's serious. You just want to get on with it, you want John to get on with it, deal and move on. No reason to get all melodramatic. No need to get into a flap.

So ... there are trances, and magic brews, and animal spirit guides. There are demons, and death, and the dead (who are alive and well, playing poker and swilling vodka). There is the past and a shameful memory. There is the present and the chance to make amends. And there is the future – or there will be if John manages to save the World Songs.

Some will wonder if this is a suitable book for children. The illustrations by Alexis Deacon are not what many adults would think of as belonging in a children's book. They are as fine and exciting and powerful as the art by Jim Kay in A Monster Calls and by Bagram Ibatoulline in The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane – books whose contents provoke much debate about what is deemed appropriate, in terms of both story and visuals, for children.

Deacon's pictures move and swell, like smoke, like dreams and thoughts, like magic incantations released into and carried by the wind. They are shadowy and tender, mysteriously shapeless and terrifyingly shaped.

The pictures and the story will frighten some kids. The pictures and the story will frighten some adults. I think it would be easy (and such a shame) to get distracted by the strangeness of this book and miss its wisdom. Read slowly, savour the magic, understand the truth it speaks. The world – this earth – is our home. All living things are connected. All living things matter. All living things should be respected. If we forget this, there will be no future for our children and their children. Keep on singing the World Songs.

Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at


Posted: 26 Aug 2012 12:35 AM PDT

FOR the month of August, 2012:


1.       The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

2.       Talk Language: How To Use Conversation For Profit And Pleasure by Allan Pease & Alan Garner

3.       A World Without Islam by Graham Fuller

4.       To Heaven And Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account Of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, And Life Again: A True Story by Mary C. Neal

5.       The Magic Of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins

6.       Madeleine: Our Daughter's Disappearance And The Continuing Search For Her by Kate McCann

7.       It Worked For Me: In Life And Leadership: Lessons In Leadership And Life by Colin L. Powell & Tony Koltz

8.        Chicken Soup For The Soul: Boost Your Brain Power! You Can Improve And Energize Your Brain At Any Age by Marie Pasinski & Liz Neporent

9.        Hospital Babylon: True Confessions From The Front Line Of Accident And Emergency by Imogen Edwards-Jones

10. Secrets About Men Every Woman Should Know by Barbara De Angelis


1.        Fifty Shades Of Grey by E.L. James

2.        Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

3.        The Lucky One (movie tie-in) by Nicholas Sparks

4.        Don't You Forget About Me by Alexandra Potter

5.        The Best Of Me by Nicholas Sparks

6.        The Time Of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

7.        Conqueror by Conn Iggulden

8.        1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

9.        11/22/63 by Stephen King

10.        Zero Day by David Baldacci

This month's list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur;

An open mind

Posted: 26 Aug 2012 12:34 AM PDT

'Judge not without knowledge' is the message our reviewer gets from this powerful, moving story.

In One Person
Author: John Irving
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 427 pages

LET'S start with William Shakespeare, who kindly but unwittingly lent the title for this book: "Thus play I in one person many people, And none contented" – Richard II. And move on swiftly to more Shakespeare, As You Like It, for instance, a comedy in which a woman dresses up as a man to woo the hand of a man who can then fall in love with her when it turns out that she is a woman after all.

Shakespeare is important in the life of In One Person's protagonist, William Francis Dean Jr, because his mother is the prompter for the local amateur dramatic society and his uncle frequently assumes the society's leading female roles. In Shakespeare's comedies, the gender confusion is resolved so that a harmonious ending can be achieved. In real life, gender confusion rarely has as neat an ending and for William Francis Dean Jr, the roles, or "many people", it leads him to play certainly add up to his being "none contented".

John Irving's 13th novel is set in the town of First Sister, Vermont in the America, and much of its early action centres on Favorite River Academy, an almost-but-not-quite good school. Billy Abbott, as William Francis Dean Jr is known after his mother's re-marriage, has "inappropriate crushes": on Miss Frost, the town librarian and on Kittredge, the hero of the wrestling team. He confides these to his best friend, Elaine, an androgynous creature whom he remains close to throughout his adult life as a successful novelist in perhaps the book's most touching relationship.

He also confides them to his stepfather, whose constructive sympathy stands in marked contrast to the school's laughable attempts to deal with what it believes is a passing phase, like teenage pimples.

In due course, after an enlightening (and in many ways rather unlikely) encounter with Miss Frost, Billy enters the feral world of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. While his uncle's desire to play female roles is confined to the safety of the theatre and his home, times have changed from the inhibited 1950s and Billy is free to explore his options in the more liberal 1960s and 1970s. Potential readers should be warned that Irving spares very few blushes here. Billy's explorations are charted in graphic and sometimes sordid detail.

And then come the 1980s, which means the onset of HIV/AIDS. For Billy, this provides something of a turning point and he returns to Favorite River Academy where he eventually secures a teaching position and directs the drama club, in the process becoming the mentor and public guardian of Gee, (or George or Georgia, as you will).

So is this the comedy ending, in the sense that it is an ending that ties everything up so that harmony prevails? For Shakespearean comedy, remember, is about structure not humour.

Well, yes and no. Certainly, loose ends are tied, not the least important of which is Billy's meeting with his biological father and also with Kittredge, both of which events contain surprises and, to some extent, reconciliations.

In One Person is a challenging and provocative book; it is also a very powerful one in places. Scenes involving the death of Billy's childhood friend Tom are particularly moving, and most readers will also emerge from them far better informed than they might wish to be about the process of dying from AIDS-related diseases.

Irving leaves us in no doubt about his intentions with In One Person. "My dear boy, please don't put a label on me – don't make me a category before you even get to know me," says Miss Frost to the young Billy, and they are words that have stayed with him throughout his life. They might as well be addressed to the reader. For most of us, Billy's world is one that is on the fringes of our consciousness and towards which we may have strong moral reactions. Irving demands that we get to know it before we make our judgements.

Readers of Irving's other work will not need telling by me that he is a powerful and gripping writer. I might argue a little over the length of In One Person (dare one edit one of America's greatest living novelists?!) but there is no denying its artistry or the vividness of its writing.

Irving is famed for his humour but I found little evidence of it here. What I did find was compassion, sympathy and a deeply humanitarian approach to the subject matter. This book, given its contentious content, may not be for everyone but approached with an open mind, it is one that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Irving, by the way, is the only living novelist to have been inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – and In One Person certainly smacks the reader down on the canvas with a bang.


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Be wary of individuals posing as TNB staff

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 07:36 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has advised the public to be wary of individuals posing as TNB staff.

This follows a robbery committed by two men who posed as TNB personnel to gain entry to a victim's home in Johor Baru recently.

According to a TNB statement, its staff would only enter the compound of a house after obtaining the owner's permission and upon showing a TNB personal identification card.

"All TNB personnel carrying out duties at the premises of consumers are required to wear the company's red t-shirt with TNB logo, and a blue jacket with a red embroidered TNB logo, bearing the name of the personnel," it said.

Consumers are requested to contact the nearest TNB office if approached by suspicious individuals claiming to be TNB personnel. - Bernama

PM: Support paralympic athletes

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 06:29 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday called on all Malaysians to get together and support the Malaysian paralympic athletes competing at the London Paralympics.

"Let's fully support our Malaysian paralympic athletes and cheer for these brave sportsmen and women. All the best!" he said in his twitter posting.

Malaysia is represented by 23 athletes competing in eight sports, namely archery, athletics, cycling, ping pong, powerlifting, swimming, wheelchair fencing and sailing.

On July 11, Najib had announced that the gold medal winner in the Paralympics will receive incentives of RM300,000, silver (RM200,000) and bronze (RM100,000).

Najib also said that the government would also give recognition to the national athletes by conferring them with national and state awards. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Elite paralympic athletes check into camp for physical, mental training

Businessman loses RM925,000 in ‘slimy’ diesel deal with 5 foreigners

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 06:24 AM PDT

IPOH: A businessman realised it too late that five potential 'customers' had turned out to be as slimy as the diesel he had sold them.

Earlier, the 53-year-old parted with 100,000 metric tonnes of diesel after receiving a RM925,000 bank draft from the five who had arrived from Indonesia for the transaction.

Just when he thought he had secured a good deal, the businessman discovered to his dismay that the bank draft was a fake.

Perak police chief Datuk Shukri Dahlan said the victim lodged a police report on Aug 23, after a bank here confirmed that the RM925,000 bank draft was a fake.

He said, acting on the report, a police team raided a hotel here early Monday morning, and detained five Indonesians to facilitate investigations into the scam.

He said initial investigations revealed the suspects, aged between 25 and 45, entered the country, using social visit pass. Meanwhile, the police have detained two Pakistanis and a Lebanese for their alleged involvement in dealing with fake Indian Rupees

The suspects, aged 22, 31 and 42, were picked up by a team of Commercial Crime Investigation Department personnel between Aug 23 and 25.

Shukri said two of the suspects were nabbed when they went to a money-changer here to change fake Rupees into Malaysian Ringgit.

The other was picked up in Kuala Lumpur, in a follow-up operation.

The police seized 402 fake pieces of 1,000 Rupee notes, three cell phones, two Pakistan passports and a black bag from the suspects. - Bernama


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Owners of heavily tinted vehicles often claim ignorance

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 04:11 AM PDT

ONE of the many things on a new car owner's to-do list is to tint the vehicle's windscreen and windows, even before it hits the road.

Most car salesmen are offering free window tint as incentive to customers and many find this an attractive gift.

It is no wonder that many car accessory shops, especially in the Klang Valley, are packed with customers waiting to tint their vehicles.

The shops had claimed that their services were approved by the Road Transport Department (JPJ) and some gave out 'certificates' after the vehicle was tinted.

Not realising these are gimmicks to boost business, customers are happily paying more for the services.

The prices range from hundreds to thousands of ringgit, depending on the make of the vehicle.

StarMetro conducted a check and found that a large number of vehicles such as sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, MPVs and mini pick-ups are tinted.

Interestingly, some of these heavily tinted vehicles were flouting traffic rules.

Some of these vehicles had tints of between 50% and 70%, ignoring JPJ's regulation which only permits a tint of up to 30% for any type of vehicle.

However, many heavily tinted vehicles were seen on roads, escaping notice of the authorities.

When asked, some owners said they were unaware of JPJ's regulation.

Most said they were under the impression that it was all right to tint their vehicles' windows as long as the windscreens remained clear.

Some even said their vehicles, mostly imported, were delivered with heavily tinted windows.

An owner of a heavily tinted car said he has been driving the vehicle for several years and had never been fined or stopped by the authorities.

He said the owner of the car accessory shop he patronised had assured him that he would not be caught. He added that he paid RM2,000 for the tint work.

Another motorist Anne said her white Proton Wira looked ordinary without the tint.

"My friend advised me to tint the windows to give my car a sporty look,'' she said.

Another young driver who only wished to be known as Mat, said it felt better driving a tinted car due to the hot weather.

"The tint also ensures some privacy,'' he said.

Related Stories:
Among those allowed to have heavily tinted cars include those with medical conditions
JPJ: More vehicles are fined for heavy tint

Kabaddi championship to be held indoors for the first time

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 04:09 AM PDT

THE Selangor Schools Sports Council (MSSS) have decided to go indoors for this year's Milo-MSSS-Kabaddi Association of Selangor (KAS) inter-district kabaddi championships starting at the Kuala Selangor Indoor Stadium tomorrow.

MSSS kabaddi technical chairman V. Muralee said for the first time the championships would be held indoors.

"In the past, the matches were played outdoors and there were a lot of disruptions due to weather conditions. We are grateful to the MSSS, KAS and Selangor State Sports Council (MSNS) for their support this year,'' said Muralee.

The three day-championships cater for Under-12, Under-15 and Under-18 for both boys and girls.

Ten districts — Petaling Perdana, Sepang, Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam, Hulu Selangor, Gombak, Klang, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Petaling Utama — have confirmed participation.

Muralee said six districts — Gombak, Kuala Langat, Kuala Selangor, Petaling Perdana, Petaling Utama and Sepang — would be represented in all six categories.

"The other districts were unable to assemble players for certain age groups.

"But we are confident the championships will be an exciting affair,'' said Muralee.

Selangor Education Department Sports Unit head Noor Azli Abdul Rahman said they were committed towards promoting kabaddi in schools.

"We have been organising the championships since 2003. We are proud several players from Selangor had represented the state as well as the country. All the players were products of this championships,'' said Noor Azli.

Last year, Kuala Langat became the overall champions, winning both the girls' Under-12 and Under-18 age groups and emerged joint third in the boys' Under-12 and Under-18 categories.

Kuala Langat representatives K. Rangitha and R. Vimalatharsini were voted as the Best Players in the girls' Under-12 and Under-18 categories.

Kuala Langat are considered as one of the most consistent districts in the championships since its inception in 2003. Kuala Langat district kabaddi technical chairman P. Mathivanan said they were well prepared for this year's competition.

"We had organised a competition to identify players for the MSSS championships. We had also initiated a centralised training programme and we hope to do well again,'' said Mathivanan.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Double treat

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 03:24 AM PDT

K-POP boy band B1A4 and girl group A Pink are teaming up next month to stage a joint concert in Malaysia, according to the promoter Jazzy Group's website.

They will be performing at their concert dubbed The One at The Butter Factory in Kuala Lumpur, on Sept 29.

The K-Pop acts will be meeting their fans at a high-five session, scheduled to be held in the same venue the following day.

Comprising Jinyoung, Baro, Sandeul, CNU and Gongchan, B1A4 (Be the One, All for One) is currently starring in the sixth season of KBS Joy TV's reality show Hello Baby.

Having gained much love and attention through Baby Good Night, the boys are awaiting the release of their second Japanese single as well.

In the meantime, A Pink broke into the K-Pop music scene with the debut record Seven Springs Of A Pink in April last year. The girls followed it up with the first studio album titled Une Annee in May and recently released their new single Bubibu. – Reuters

Overseas success

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 03:23 AM PDT

SINGER Kim Jang-hoon plans to spend more time performing abroad.

Kim, well-known for his donations to various charities and causes totalling over US$20bil (RM60bil), will participate in a special concert commemorating the 20th anniversary of Korea-China diplomatic relations. The concert, which will also feature Super Junior M and Exo-K, will be held on Oct 2 and aired throughout China. In February, Kim held his first concert at the Shanghai International Gymnastics Centre in China.

Kim is scheduled to perform in Chicago, New York and Australia next month. He also plans on touring eight US states in the spring of 2013.

The rock-ballad singer performed at the Nokia Theatre L .A. Live in Los Angeles, California, on July 22 to a sold-out audience.

Recently, Kim received the US President's Volunteer Award from President Barack Obama.

"My focus is on publicising Korea and myself. I am not interested in fame or making money," said Kim. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

FTIsland’s a hit

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 01:14 AM PDT

ROCK band FTIsland will once again perform in front of a sold-out crowd at its upcoming concert in South Korea.

The group's agency FNC Entertainment said that tickets for all 3,000 seats for the concert dubbed Take FTIsland, which is set to take place at Seoul's Olympic Hall on Sept 1 and 2, have been sold out within minutes of going on sale.

Take FTIsland will be the group's sixth concert in its home coun try, following the success of its Play FTIsland concert last August.

The five- member band will also be releasing its fourth full-length album in the country next month.

The boys have been focus ing on their activities in Japan and their eighth Japanese single Top Secret was at No.5 on Oricon's daily singles chart upon its release on Aug 8. – Reuters


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