Sabtu, 15 September 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

NATO says four troops killed in "insider" attack in Afghan south

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 09:13 PM PDT

KABUL (Reuters) - Four foreign troops fighting with the NATO-led alliance were killed in an "insider" attack suspected to involve members of the Afghan police in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, NATO said.

The NATO statement gave no other details. At least 51 foreign military personnel have been killed in insider attacks in Afghanistan this year.

(Reporting by Kabul bureau; Editing by Paul Tait)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Roadside bomb kills 14 people in Pakistan near Afghan border

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 09:03 PM PDT

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed 14 people in northern Pakistan on Sunday, police officials said, after it hit a truck carrying villagers to a market place near the border with Afghanistan.

Villagers in the Lower Dir area have been supporting government forces in the fight against Taliban insurgents.

Among the dead were three women and three children, the police said. Seven more people were wounded.

Support for the Taliban has fallen in some areas in the north, analysts say, in part because their bloody bombing campaigns have claimed so many civilian lives.

Since 2009, the army has increased its control in much of Pakistan's tribal areas but insurgent attacks remain common.

(Reporting By Jibran Ahmad; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Paul Tait)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Fury over Mohammad video simmers on in Muslim world

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 08:41 PM PDT

DUBAI (Reuters) - A wave of furious anti-Western protests against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad abated on Saturday, but U.S. policy in the Muslim world remained overshadowed by 13 minutes of amateurish video on the Internet.

Washington ordered family members and non-essential staff to leave the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, which was attacked on Friday, after Sudan turned down its request to send Marines to bolster security.

People watch as they stand on Qaser El Niel bridge while riot police clash with protesters along a road at Kornish El Nile which leads to the U.S. embassy, near Tahrir Square in Cairo September 15, 2012. Clashes near the U.S. Embassy in central Cairo between police and Egyptians incensed over a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammad entered their fourth day early on Saturday, leaving one protester dead and dozens more injured. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

People watch as they stand on Qaser El Niel bridge while riot police clash with protesters along a road at Kornish El Nile which leads to the U.S. embassy, near Tahrir Square in Cairo September 15, 2012. Clashes near the U.S. Embassy in central Cairo between police and Egyptians incensed over a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammad entered their fourth day early on Saturday, leaving one protester dead and dozens more injured. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

In addition, it pulled non-essential personnel out of its embassy in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, also attacked on Friday, and urged American citizens to leave the city.

Marine platoons have been sent to U.S. missions in Yemen and Libya since the unrest erupted.

Elsewhere, riot police stormed into Cairo's Tahrir Square and rounded up hundreds of people after four days of clashes and demands from protesters for the U.S. ambassador to be expelled.

Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority denounced the attacks on diplomats and embassies across the Middle East as un-Islamic.

But the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda applauded the killings of U.S. diplomats in Libya and urged Muslims to kill more, calling the video posted on the Internet another chapter in the "crusader wars" against Islam.

A California man convicted of bank fraud, who has denied reports that he was involved in the film's production, was taken in for questioning by officers investigating possible probation violations stemming from the making of the film.

Afghanistan's Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a base that killed two American Marines, saying it was a response to the insults to the founder of Islam.


Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of Australia's largest city, some throwing rocks and bottles in clashes with police. Some carried placards reading "Behead all those who insult the Prophet".

About 80 Islamist militants were arrested in Paris while trying to demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy near the Champs Elysees, French police sources said.

Saturday was, however, relatively calm after at least nine deaths in the Muslim world on Friday during protests and attacks on American and other Western embassies.

President Barack Obama, leading a ceremony on Friday to honour the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans who died in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, vowed to "stand fast" against the violence.

"The United States will never retreat from the world," he said. The Pentagon rushed to bolster security at missions abroad.

The U.S. State Department on Saturday also urged American citizens to avoid Sudan's restive Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan regions.

Libyan authorities said they had identified 50 people who were involved in the attack in which ambassador Christopher Stevens died.

In an interview aired on Saturday on NBC's "Nightly News," Libyan President Mohammed Magarief was quoted as saying that foreigners along with Libyans were involved in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. He added there were 10 suspects in custody.

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, denounced the attacks while urging governments and international bodies to criminalise insults against prophets.

He described the short film as "miserable" and "criminal," but said attacks on the innocent and on diplomats were "a distortion of the Islamic religion and are not accepted by God".


The video, circulating on the Internet under several titles including "Innocence of Muslims," portrays Mohammad as a womaniser and a fool.

"We were attacked by Obama, and his government, and the Coptic Christians living abroad!" shouted one long-bearded Muslim protester outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Friday.

In the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who has denied involvement in the film in a phone call to a Coptic Christian bishop, was ushered out of his home and into a waiting car by sheriff's deputies, his face shielded by a scarf, hat and sunglasses.

He was voluntarily interviewed by federal probation officers and left about 30 minutes later, a police spokesman said.

U.S. officials have said authorities are not investigating the film project itself, and that even if it was inflammatory or led to violence, simply producing it cannot be considered a crime in the United States, which has strong free speech laws.

A statement posted on a website used by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called on Muslims to "follow the example of Omar al-Mukhtar's descendants (Libyans), who killed the American ambassador".

"Let the step of kicking out the embassies be a step towards liberating Muslim countries from the American hegemony," the group said.

Hundreds of mourners in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, attended the funeral on Saturday of a young protester shot to death when riot police battled a crowd attacking the U.S. Embassy on Thursday.

(Writing by Andrew Roche; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Peter Cooney)

Related Stories:
U.S. orders embassy staff to leave Tunis, Khartoum

California man linked to anti-Islam film taken in for questioning
Egyptian police clear protesters near U.S. mission

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Kwon impresses guests with fusion cuisine

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 03:47 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: "Refreshing" – that's how Maybank deputy president and Community Financial Service head Lim Hong Tat summed up the gala dinner feast hosted by South Korean celebrity chef Edward Kwon here yesterday.

The specially-designed menu was inspired by EdVentures in Asia, the 13-episode regional food travelogue presented by Maybank and aired on Life Inspired TV.

"We find Kwon to be a very refre­shing personality. It's something that our brand transformation can identify with.

"The food was refreshing, modern and light. I really like the beef," said Lim, who said he was glad to finally experience delightful fusion cuisine.

Maybank Head of Retail Brand and Marcom Ng T'ze-Mae said: "What is important is that while he served fusion (food), he didn't let the local flavours overpower the Korean (flavours)."

Kwon, described as Asia's Jamie Oliver and South Korea's Gordon Ramsay, hosted a second dinner for another 200 selected guests from Maybank, Star Publications (M) Bhd and Life Inspired TV.

The six-course dinner comprised Korean staple dishes with a hint of Malaysian flavours.

All ingredients used were sourced locally by Kwon, who was formerly head chef at the world's only seven-star hotel Burj al-Arab in Dubai.

Tomorrow, Kwon will launch his own range of kitchenware at all Kitchen Shop and House of Presen­tation outlets, with special offers for Maybank and Maybank American Express Card members.

Malaysia is the first country outside South Korea where EK Cook­ware will be made available.

Exclusive updates on the dinner event can be found in The Star and on To catch more of Chef Edward Kwon in action, watch Yes Chef! Season 2 on Life Inspired (Astro B.yond Ch 706) at 9pm on Oct 9.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Northern Irish rugby star killed in farming accident

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 07:08 PM PDT

LONDON - Promising rugby union player Nevin Spence died alongside his father and brother late Saturday after they fell into a slurry tank at their farm in Northern Ireland.

Spence, 22, rose to prominence playing for Ulster Rugby and was a rising star on the cusp of Ireland's international team.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said his sister was taken to hospital after she inhaled fumes during the accident at the family farm in Hillsborough, County Down, to the east of the British province.

"Three were unconscious and NIAS paramedics commenced resuscitation efforts immediately assisted by other ambulance personnel," the service said in a statement.

"One of the four showed initial signs of responding to the efforts of the crews and was transported immediately to the nearby Lagan Valley Hospital, where unfortunately he died a short time later.

"Despite the best efforts of all involved the other two men died at the scene.

"A female was treated at the scene and taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where she is recovering from the effects of fume inhalation."

Rugby players and fans paid tribute to Spence, who was part of the Ulster Rugby squad that reached the European Heineken cup final last season, and was predicted to have a bright international career ahead of him.

"Deeply saddened to hear of the tragedy in Hillsborough this evening," Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said in a message posted on his Twitter page.

"My thoughts and prayers are with family at this time of devastation."

Slurry, a combination of manure and water, is stored in tanks at many farms until it is ready to be applied to the land as fertiliser. - AFP

Flipkens books final against Hradecka

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 05:58 PM PDT

QUEBEC CITY - Unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens surprised third-seeded German Mona Barthel 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) Saturday to set up a clash with Lucie Hradecka in the WTA Bell Challenge final.

Both finalists will be chasing a first career WTA title. Flipkens, who toppled top-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round for her third career win over a top-20 player, is in her first WTA final at the age of 26.

"I can't believe I'm in the finals," she said. "I'm excited. I'm going to give 100 percent and we'll see what happens. This week is already perfect - I'm going to enjoy every moment of the final tomorrow."

Germany's Barthel, who won the title in Hobart in January as a qualifier, had ousted defending champion Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the quarter-finals, but had no luck against Flipkens in the two tiebreaks.

Eighth-seeded Czech Hradecka beat French teenager Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) on the indoor carpet at PEPS Laval University.

She'll be trying to break through for a WTA crown after coming up empty in four previous finals appearances.

"I was quite young in my first one in Bad Gastein, and I lost a close match, but I told myself not to worry, that I could win my second one," Hradecka said. "But then I lost that one and two more since, so I hope I can win one finally!"

The winner of this $220,000 (US) tournament will collect $37,000. - AFP

US stay alive in Spain, Czechs stun Argentina

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 04:39 PM PDT

PARIS - The United States stayed alive in their Davis Cup semi-final against champions Spain Saturday while four-time runners-up Argentina lost their doubles clash as well as Juan Martin Del Potro against the Czech Republic.

Bob and Mike Bryan beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 on the clay courts of Gijon as the US cut the deficit to 2-1 against Spain.

The Olympic and US Open champions secured the crucial point which will mean the tie will be decided on Sunday with a place in November's final at stake.

Saturday's win took the Bryans' Davis Cup record to 20-2.

"They're pretty good in the clutch and they get us to Sunday when we're in this position all the time. We've got a chance," said US captain Jim Courier.

Five-time champions Spain are defending a run of 23 consecutive home victories in the tournament, a streak stretching back to 1999.

They had edged closer to a sixth final in 10 years on Friday when world number five David Ferrer beat Sam Querrey 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 before Nicolas Almagro won a four-hour slog against John Isner, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. On Sunday, Ferrer will face Isner in the first reverse singles with Almagro scheduled to meet Querrey.

"Ferrer is such a warrior and John's going to have to play better than he did yesterday to stand a chance. He's a little bit more physically taxed than David is for sure," added Courier.

Argentina's hopes of making the final suffered a double blow when they slipped 2-1 down to the Czechs and then lost Del Potro through injury.

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek eased past Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 at a shell-shocked Parque Roca to take their Davis Cup record to 11-1.

World number eight Del Potro withdrew from Sunday's reverse singles with a wrist injury.

He will be replaced by world number 45 Berlocq in the clash against US Open semi-finalist Berdych, the sixth-ranked player, before Juan Monaco is scheduled to tackle Stepanek.

"Del Potro won't play so now we have to prepare with Berlocq. This is not what we expected, but we have two matches left. Del Potro is a significant loss but we will fight," said Argentina captain Martin Jaite.

Del Potro had defeated Stepanek 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the first singles rubber on Friday before Berdych levelled the semi-final, beating Monaco 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.

In the play-offs, where victory assures a place in the World Group for 2013, the Netherlands stayed in contention against Switzerland in Amsterdam when Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer stunned Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

Federer and Wawrinka, who were doubles gold medallists at the 2008 Olympic Games, had both won their singles on Friday to give the Swiss a 2-0 lead. The tie will be decided on Sunday when world number one Federer tackles Haase, the world 41, in the opening reverse singles, before Wawrinka takes on Thiemo de Bakker.

"It won't be an easy job but I will give it everything against Roger," said Haase.

"It's cold, the clay is heavy. I know he won't like that." Belgium were promoted to the World Group after Olivier Rochus and Ruben Bemelmans beat Sweden's Michael Ryderstedt and Johan Brunstrom 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 for an unassailable 3-0 lead in Brussels.

The result means Sweden will not feature in the World Group for the first time since 2000.

In Hamburg, Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione enjoyed a 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Benjamin Becker and Philipp Petzschner to give Australia a 2-1 lead over Germany.

Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram claimed a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 win over Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita to give Israel a 2-1 lead over Japan in Tokyo.

Elsewhere, Italy lead Chile 2-1 in Naples and Kazakhstan are 2-1 up on Uzbekistan in Almaty.

Canada lead South Africa 2-1 in Montreal while Brazil wrapped up a 3-0 win over two-time champions Russia in Sao Jose do Rio Preto. - AFP


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

A comedown may be waiting after Fed high

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 06:04 AM PDT

NEW YORK: Comparing the Federal Reserve to a rehab clinic offering addicted investors a synthetic high has been a favorite of Wall Street wags ever since the first round of Fed stimulus nearly four years ago. The punch line is that you always need more and more to get the same high and each bout of euphoria is followed by a crashing comedown.

After the frenetic reaction brought about by the announcement of the Fed's latest stimulus program - $40 billion pumped into the U.S. economy each month - the coming week is likely to bring a more sober period for markets as investors digest what it means in the longer run and turn their attention to the remainder of the year.

That will include rancorous U.S. elections in November, wrangling over taxes and spending cuts and a slowdown in corporate earnings.

"Right now we have this short-term euphoria. But then the question is where do we go from here," said Frank Fantozzi, chief executive of Planned Financial Services, an independent wealth manager in Cleveland. "I think after a week or so, if the underlying economic data doesn't change, you're going to see the market drop a bit and we'll continue to plod along until the election."

The effect on markets of the European Central Bank's plan to buy government bonds of struggling euro zone countries, then the Fed's opened-ended commitment to spur growth have been breathtaking. The Dow and the S&P 500 reached the highest closing level in nearly five years while the Nasdaq marched to new 12-year highs.


But in Friday's stock market action strong gains in the morning steadily eroded throughout the day, perhaps the first signs of fatigue creeping into the market.

"We are starting to get into that heady territory where you need to be on the defensive," said Richard Ross, global technical strategist at Aubach Grayson in New York. "Trying to squeak out the last 5 percent of a move when there is potentially a 15 to 20 percent downside in my opinion is pretty dangerous stuff."

Ross believes that equities, commodities and currencies are now approaching extreme levels of both price and momentum while geopolitical tensions in the Middle East are rising.

Even though all the major stock market rallies since the financial crisis have coincided with new central bank efforts to stimulate the economy, not everyone is buying it.

The latest data shows a moderate increase in short interest - bets that stocks will fall - across S&P 500 stocks during the last two weeks of August, a period when stocks were rallying on expectations of the Fed's announcement. Typically short interest inversely tracks the market. If investors were getting out of bets that stocks will fall, that would mean buying back those stocks and forcing the market higher.

Data provided by Schaeffer's Investment Research, a Cincinnati-based research firm, shows that bets against the biggest 500 U.S. companies edged back to about 7.3 billion shares after falling from about 7.6 billion to 7.2 billion from the start of July through the end of August - a period when the market gained more than 3 percent.


That uptick in short interest could be significant. From the middle of September 2011 through the end of May this year, short interest on S&P 500 stocks fell like a stone to about 6 billion shares. During that period the S&P hit a four-year high, rising more than 20 percent from trough to peak.

One side effect of the Fed's bond-buying should be to reduce volatility in markets. That means the CBOE VIX volatility index <.VIX> should remain close to the five-year lows it hit this summer. In August it fell as low as 13.30.

Yet activity in the options market shows some very bold bets that volatility could sky rocket in the months ahead. Call option buying on the VIX - bets the index will rise - is close to a record high at 5.182 million contracts, according to Schaeffer's data. The record is 5.249 million set in August.

The most actively traded VIX calls on the Chicago Board Options Exchange were October calls with a strike price of 60. Those also had the highest open interest. The VIX would need to rocket more than 300 percent by mid-October, hitting its highest level in about four years, for that trade to break even.

On the face of it a bet like that may seem little better than betting your 401(k) on a single number on the roulette table, but it does reveal more bearishness creeping into the market as stock indexes march to new highs.

Open interest, or outstanding contracts, on the October VIX calls with a strike price of 60 was 37,000 while traded volume was around 40,000. Many of those were bought in blocks of 2000 to 5000 for 5 cents each, suggesting a single buyer, according to Todd Salamone, vice president of research at Schaeffer's.

"Somebody's really playing a disaster by October," said Salamone. "If they're looking for something that big, that is not a portfolio hedge because that would be a lot of downside in the market before that hedge would actually kick in."

A lot of the market action over the coming months will depend on whether the Fed's stimulus program succeeds in boosting the economy.

Data on the housing market in the coming week is expected to show a continuing improvement. Economists in a Reuters poll expect the National Association of Home Builders Index to tick up in September when the data is released on Tuesday. On Wednesday both housing starts and existing-home sales are expected to increase.

Early manufacturing data for September, however, is not expected to be so robust. Both the Empire State index and the Philadelphia Fed index are tipped to show contraction. That would follow the sharpest drop in U.S. manufacturing in more than three years in August, which was also the third consecutive month of contraction.

"Let's face it - we are in truly unchartered waters here," said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at the ConvergEx Group in New York. - Reuters

Fed's QE3 program seen totaling $600 billion

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 06:02 AM PDT

NEW YORK: The Federal Reserve will buy a total of $600 billion of bonds under its new stimulus program announced Thursday, known as QE3, and will look for a U.S. unemployment rate of 7 percent before it halts the program, according to the median of forecasts from a Reuters poll on Friday.

Forecasts from 52 economists for the ultimate size of the program ranged from $250 billion to $2 trillion, the poll found.

The Fed said on Thursday it was launching a new program of buying $40 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities bonds that would be open ended as it sought to "improve substantially" the outlook for the labor market.

The move, leaving the program open-ended until the jobs market improves, was a "revolutionary shift in the Fed's policy reaction function," said Michael Gregory, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. He added that there is "much more (quantitative) easing to come."

Within the poll, the median of forecasts from 13 primary dealers -- the large Wall Street institutions that do business directly with the Fed -- was for a total QE3 size of $750 billion.

In two prior rounds of quantitative easing, the Fed bought $2.3 trillion in mortgage and government debt in a bid to push down borrowing costs.

The median of forecasts from 47 economists who answered a question on an unemployment target was for the jobless rate to dip to 7 percent before the Fed considers shutting down QE3.

Some economists were reluctant to peg an exact unemployment level, saying Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Fed would consider several aspects of the labor market, including the rate of jobs growth, when considering ending QE3.

"Bernanke made it clear in his press conference that the unemployment rate is not the only job market indicator that will influence their reaction function," said Jacob Oubina, senior U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

"In other words, we will likely have to see material improvement in labor force participation, employment-to-population, and net job gains in order for the Fed to pare back purchases," he said.

The unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent in August and has remained above 8 percent since February 2009.

Of 58 economists polled on Friday, 49 said the Fed would buy more Treasuries once its "Operation Twist" stimulus program finishes in December.

Under Twist, the Fed is selling shorter-dated Treasuries and using the proceeds to buy longer-dated U.S. government debt in an effort to reduce longer-term borrowing costs like those on mortgages.

"Until the labor market outlook improves 'substantially', both MBS and Treasury purchases are likely once Operation Twist is completed. We expect to see the Fed buy a combination of the two next year," said Dana Saporta, economist at Credit Suisse in New York.

Fifty-two of 58 economists said they have not revised their expectations for the unemployment level at the end of 2013 and 2014 in the wake of the QE3 announcement, while six did revise their outlooks for the unemployment rate.

"We continue to believe that monetary policy is ineffective in influencing the fundamental economic backdrop," RBC's Oubina said.

One of the six that did change their unemployment projections following the QE3 announcement, BMO Capital Markets, reduced its outlook for the jobless rate to 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 from its original estimate of 8.2 percent. - Reuters

Tens of thousands of Spaniards rally against spending cuts

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 05:59 AM PDT

MADRID: Tens of thousands of Spaniards rallied in Madrid on Saturday to protest against spending cuts and tax rises in a country reeling from high unemployment and a grueling recession.

Teachers, nurses and social services workers thronged the capital's central Plaza Colon a day after Spain said it would present new economic reforms at the end of September likely to contain more austerity measures.

The cuts are seen as a precursor to an economic program which Spain will have to implement in return for receiving support from euro zone rescue funds and the European Central Bank to help lower its borrowing costs.

The demonstrators, from all over Spain, chanted, sang and listened to speeches from union leaders.

Some blew whistles and waved banners reading 'Enough!' and 'They're sinking the country' to protest against the spending cuts in health, education and social services.

"There is no area of my work which has not been affected by the cuts," said Jorge, a 52-year-old doctor from Valencia who declined to give his surname.

He said his salary had shrunk around 30 percent because of measures.

"It's a drastic reduction in the quality of service for patients, it's terrible," he added.

Others said they feared for the future of their children in a country where one in four is out of work and mired in a second recession in three years.

"Spain has gone back to the 1950s, when the Spanish had to go to Germany in search of work," said 50-year-old teacher Adelaida Liviano, who said half of her pupils had started the year without school books because of the scrapping of subsidies.

Spain announced a package of spending cuts and tax hikes worth 56 billion euros in July but many economists still expect the euro zone's fourth largest economy to miss its 2012 deficit target.

It has accepted a European credit line of up to 100 billion euros to prop up its ailing banks as it seeks to avoid a full-blown bail-out which the euro zone would struggle to afford.

However, most analysts and policymakers believe it is only a matter of time before Spain will require more international help to lower its punishing borrowing costs.

Everyday living costs like heating, phone bills, clothes and haircuts all became more expensive at the start of the month after a hike in value-added tax.

"The government is aware that is it asking for sacrifices from Spaniards, but these sacrifices are absolutely unavoidable," Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said at a European finance minister meeting in Cyprus on Saturday.

Police and city officials have a policy of not giving crowd counts for demonstrations. A Reuters witness estimated the crowds in tens of thousands. - Reuters


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Will and Kate take in the beauty of Danum Valley

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 08:53 AM PDT

LAHAD DATU: Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton chose to walk through the well-preserved rainforest here to mark the end of their visit to Malaysia.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent about three hours touring the 43,800 hectare Danum Valley Conservation Area and talking to researchers and Oxford University undergraduates.

On their arrival, they were briefed by Yayasan Sabah Conservation and Environmental Management Division group manager Dr Waidi Sinun; Royal Society's South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme director Dr Glen Reynolds; Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Tengku D Z Adlin, and Sabah Forestry Department director, Datuk Sam Mannan.

William became a Royal Fellow of the Royal Society during its 350th anniversary in 2010.

The royal couple showed a strong interest in the progress of conservation works in the Valley and its wildlife including the Orang Utan and Proboscis monkeys.

After the briefing, they trekked into the rainforest to experience the area's remarkable biodiversity.

Waidi described the royal couple's visit as "successful and beneficial".

"The Duke of Cambridge did say that his father (Prince Charles) has a soft spot for the rainforest. I feel the visit was both successful and beneficial, as it will now lift the Danum Valley Conservation Area to a higher level. It's truly a recognition of the joint effort by Yayasan Sabah and the Royal Society," he said.

William and Kate did the Borneo Rainforest Lodge's 300-metre canopy walk before adjourning to a private lunch at the lodge.

Malaysia was the royal couple's second destination after Singapore on their nine-day tour of the Far East as representatives of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in conjunction with the Diamond Jubilee celebration to mark her 60-year reign as Queen of England.

They are scheduled to leave Sunday to visit the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu next. - Bernama

Hisham: Several nabbed for urinating on photos of Nik Aziz, Guan Eng

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 07:57 AM PDT

KUALA LIPIS: Police have arrested several individuals who allegedly stomped and urinated on photographs of PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein on Saturday.

"Let the police conduct the investigation. No one will escape the law, whoever that may be," he told reporters after opening the Lipis Umno Division delegates meeting, here.

After the police investigation, it would be left to the Attorney-General's Chambers whether to prosecute them or not, he said.

He also said that several people detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) had been released before Aidilfitri last month.

"The release of the remaining detainees is under consideration. That will be after it has been determined that they are no longer a threat to the security of the country," he said.

The release of the detainees follows the proposed introduction of a new law to replace the repealed ISA. - Bernama

PM reminds people to uphold racial, religious, cultural unity

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 07:33 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has reminded all Malaysians to continue to strongly protect the country's success in uniting the people of various races, religions and cultures in the country.

The Prime Minister said this was to ensure that harmony and prosperity in Malaysia continued to be preserved for the benefit of the future generation.

"This diversity in the country's socio-culture is the country's main asset and must be preserved and expanded under the 1Malaysia concept," he said in his message in the Malaysia Day souvenir programme to be celebrated in Sarawak on Sunday.

In addition, he also called on all Malaysians to look back at the intention and aspirations of past leaders who had acted maturely and with far-sightedness.

He said the success of the past leaders had enabled the people today to enjoy all the progress achieved.

In SIBU, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the Sarawak government wanted to see Najib leading the country after the 13th general election.

He said the Sarawak Barisan Nasional would deliver the mandate so that the Prime Minister could further develop the state and bring continued prosperity to the people.

He said this at a dinner attended by Najib, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and over 500 longhouse chiefs and community leaders from the Sibu, Lanang and Sarikei parliamentary constituencies and Barisan elected representatives here Saturday.

Najib, accompanied by Rosmah, are here for a two-day visit and will also visit Bintulu Sunday to officiate at the national-level Hari Malaysia hosted by the state and held in Bintulu at its old airport site in the evening.

Taib, who is also the state Barisan chairman, said the state was very confident of winning the coming parliamentary election.

"In the last two to three years, the opposition had talked about capturing the state and the federal governments because they were going to bring changes which the people wanted," he said.

By now, he said the people had realised that the opposition could not deliver what was promised.

"The end result is they will prefer to believe Najib more than the opposition who have been speaking less than the full truth about him and the Barisan.

"I have great hope the people of Sibu will come back and appreciate what the Barisan government is like," he said. - Bernama


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Jolie checks on Syrian refugees in Iraq

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 06:22 AM PDT

BAGHDAD: Hollywood star Angelina Jolie met Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday to discuss measures to care for Syrian refugees in Iraq, the foreign ministry said.

They discussed "the situation of Syrian refugees in Iraq and steps taken by the Iraqi government to ensure a decent life for them," the ministry said.

Zebari said Iraq was hosting more than 20,000 Syrians who fled the bloodshed in their country.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries have exceeded 250,000.

Jolie, a special UN envoy, will head Sunday to Arbil, the capital of northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan, to meet Syrian refugees housed in camps at Dohuk, 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Baghdad.

Before travelling to Iraq, Jolie already visited Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. -AFP

Chinese superstar visits Malaysia as part of tour

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 04:08 PM PDT

TGV CINEMAS and Sony Pictures Releasing Interna-tional (Malaysia) hosted the exclusive red carpet premiere of Resident Evil: Retribution at TGV Sunway Pyramid.

The premiere of the fifth edition of the blockbuster hit was also graced by Chinese actress Li Bingbing who plays the role of Ada Wong in the movie.

Resident Evil: Retribution is Li's first Hollywood film and her appearance at Sunway Pyramid was part of a promotional tour of Asia.

The premiere kicked off with a meet-and-greet session with Li at the entrance hall of Sunway Pyramid.

Avid fans had been crowding the area since 6pm in hopes of catching a glimpse of Li.

The fans also stood a chance of winning 200 movie tickets and limited edition merchandise

Invited guests then proceeded to TGV Sunway Pyramid to watch the premiere of Resident Evil: Retribution in Imax 3D.

The premiere was hosted and sponsored by TGV Cinemas as part of its ongoing initiative to provide the best cinema experience for Malaysians.

Li also joined TGV Cinemas CEO Kenny Wong and COO Gerald Dibbayawan to sign the official movie poster to mark the premiere.

"We are extremely excited to bring this movie to Malaysia and also to play host to Li.

"The movie will also be screened on Imax and fans of the Resident Evil series can enjoy an immersive experience," Wong said.

TGV Cinemas recently extended its partnership with Imax Corporation, which will see more Imax theatres opening in other locations in Malaysia.

TGV operates its first Imax theatre in Sunway Pyramid and will open its second such theatre in Bandar Utama by the year-end. A third Imax theatre will also be opening in December in an existing multiplex in Johor Baru.

The fourth and fifth Imax theatre systems will be located in new construction projects in Penang and Kuala Lumpur and these are scheduled to open in December 2013 and December 2015, respectively.

Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth installment of the successful film franchise adaptation of the popular video game series, Resident Evil.

More bloody business

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 06:18 AM PDT

Story file not found.


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Vandals strike at night in Klang

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 05:58 AM PDT

VANDALS used beer bottles to smash the windscreens of two cars parked in the car porch and splashed red paint on the main gate of a bungalow house in a night time vandalism spree in Jalan Emas in Taman Melawis, Klang.

According to a newspaper vendor, the incident occurred in the wee hours of the morning. The vandals had driven some 800m up Jalan Emas and pushed a mobile burger stall opposite a row of shops to the middle of the road before wreaking havoc at the house.

Residents living in that area told StarMetro that they heard "loud thuds" but could not make out what was happening.

South Klang OCPD Asst Comm Mohamad Mat Yusop confirmed that the house owner had lodged a police report that beer bottles were thrown into the car porch, damaging a Honda Civic and a Volvo.

It is learnt that the owners were not at home for a week. On their return, they found broken beer bottles at the entrance of the car porch and red paint splashed on their main gate.

"Our initial investigations do give us a clue but we are trying to determine the motive of the vandalism spree.

"We urge neighbours or those who had passed by the area during the incident to contact the South Klang Police," said ACP Mohamad.

In an unrelated case, an ink factory in Lorong Sri Gambut 1 in Jalan Kebun KLang was broken into after midnight where the intruders had carted off 12 drums of printing ink, one printing machine, one gas tank, one air compressor, an air-condition unit and other printing tools for processing ink.

ACP Mohamad added that a report was lodged and the co-partner of the factory claimed that an estimated RM50,000 was lost to the thieves.

Motor carnival offers four days of fun and bargains

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 05:49 AM PDT

THE inaugural Star Motor Carnival opened its doors yesterday at the Bukit Jalil Stadium carpark in Kuala Lumpur.

Launched by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha together with Star Publications (M) Bhd executive deputy chairman Datuk Vincent Lee and Star Publications group managing director and CEO Ho Kay Tat, the carnival promises four days of fun and entertainment, with bargains on all things auto, from vehicles to autoaccessories.

Also present at the launch were The Star executive director and group chief editor Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai, Cityneon Contractors Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Roland Wee and Petronas Dagangan retail sales and operations general manager Faris Mustaffa.

The Star Motor Carnival has brought together some 40 established players and exhibitors from various motor-related industries in about 50 marquees and tents to showcase their latest ad their best.

Prospective car buyers will find this an ideal platform to explore before deciding on a purchase.

Besides a variety of cars, visitors can also look forward to an enjoyable outing with family and friends as there will be loads of activities such as inflatable games, celebrity appearances, classic car display, remote control car circuit, precision driving and drifting demonstrations as well as other entertainment and performances.

With more than 40 classic cars on display, the classic car display promises to be an enjoyable visit for motor fans as many rare vehicles will be on display such as the 1962 Corvette C1.

Classic car owner, Douglas Joseph, whose 1957 Triumph TR3 and 1969 Open GT are some of the cars on display at the carnival said the display was not to be missed as the Corvette was one of the rarest classic cars.

"There were only six models of the Corvette C1 manufactured in the world. There is only probably one now in this part of the world," said Joseph, who runs the workshop responsible for restoring the Corvette for its owner.

"There are also many other models that classic car enthusiasts can look forward to such as Triumphs and MGs," he added.

Another owner, Johnson Mathew, whose 1966 MG-B is being showcased at the classic car display, said many of the classic MGs on display were rare these days.

"Many of these cars were only driven by the British people living here back in the old days. Many of them had also taken home by the Royal Australian Air Force members who were posted here back in the day," he said.

Another interesting car on display is the 1958 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

The owner, T. Kannan said it was one of the first cars with power steering and automatic transmission when it was launched in the 1950s.

"It is not easy to maintain these cars as some parts can be quite rare, but nowadays there are more classic car enthusiasts," he said.

During the carnival, companies running and offering businesses and services related to motoring, from new and pre-owned cars to automobile accessories, car electronics, gadgets and after-market enhancements and services will be present to showcase their products.

The PDRM, JPJ and JKJR will have booths at the carnival where motorists can check their summonses and settle their fines at the OPS Sikap Booth.

There will also be loads of games and contests to participate in, from tyre-changing contests to Pimp Your Car Competition and Carnival Queen Beauty Pageant.

The Star Motor Carnival is also presenting Auto Salon Night 2012, am activity that provides a rave party atmosphere during the four-day carnival. There will also be gifts worth RM200,000 to be won in the Spend and Win promotion.

Visitors will receive a Petronas Mesra Card valued at RM50 when they spend a minimum of RM500 at the carnival, and they also stand a chance to win an additional gift when they complete a feedback form.

Today and tomorrow (Sept 15 and 16), visitors can redeem Wrigley's Double Mint Chewing Gum and Extra Professional Mints by presenting the cut-out coupons in The Star.

Prior to the carnival, a Classic Car Rally Photo Contest was also held on Sept 2 giving participants a chance to snap away with celebrities such as Daphne Iking, Chermaine Poo, Megan Tan, Jojo Struys, Linora Low and Mynn Lee posing for photos.

The winners, had a chance to win prizes worth RM12,000.

A modified Car Rally was also held on Sept 8 where five modified cars travelled around locations in Klang Valley for public viewing, with 15-minute pit sops at shopping centres.

The Star Motor Carnival is jointly organised by The Star and Cityneon Malaysia and will be revving up the Klang Valley from Sept 14 to 17.

The carnival is open daily from 11am to 10pm. Admission is free.

Petronas Dagangan Bhd is the main sponsor for the carnival and the event is supported by The Star's motoring pullout, StarRev and its online companion, which comes under the Star Media Group.

Cityneon is a subsidiary of Star Publications (M) Berhad. Official radio stations for the event are RedFM, 988, SuriaFM and CapitalFM.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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Italian pedigree

Posted: 15 Sep 2012 01:19 AM PDT

Vocal powerhouse Cecilia Yap is set to entertain Malaysian audiences with her beautiful singing.

THE term "opera singer" or "classical singer" conjures images of stately men or women, dressed in tuxedos or elaborate gowns, standing in front of an accompanist or a small ensemble, illuminated by a single spotlight and belting out impressive notes from a timeless repertoire of songs.

More often than not, such people are stereotypically of Western origins; European, most likely, and inaccessible. This is where Cecilia Yap steps in to buck the trend. Hailing from Ipoh, Perak, Yap is as Malaysian as they come, and currently teaches and promotes classical singing, with a particular interest in sacred works. However, next week, Yap will perform a solo show, accompanied by Italian maestro Maurizio Colaccichi at the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur.

Yap's interest in singing began when she was 15, after watching her friends perform on stage. She said that back then, she would "scream at home, even though I couldn't reach the high notes – I just screamed!

"I had very good teachers, though, who were very serious and brought out sound quality," says Yap in an interview.

Her pedigree in singing is as pure as it comes, having been trained at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy, by luminaries of the opera world such as K.S. Ann Saldarelli, Lorraine Nawa Jones and Marcello Ferroni. "I arrived in Italy with no (knowledge of the) Italian language at all, and felt I had nothing to lose," Yap recalls. "It was important to get back to the root, where the idea of vocal training began, and this was in Italy."

Her father questioned her decision to venture into singing, preferring that she studied something more conventional and secure such as hotel management in Switzerland. She replied that if she failed the audition in Rome, Switzerland was just "next door"! Fortunately, she passed her audition and was accepted into the Conservatorio. What followed was years of rigorous training in technique and theory, with exams and tests held at various intervals where no second chances were given. To progress, one had to pass each benchmark; otherwise, it would have been time to go home. Yap felt very confident, partly because of her teachers. "My teachers were very helpful and inspiring," she reveals.

Her fifth year was the most difficult due to the oral exam as it was in Italian, but she had garnered enough proficiency of the language to see her through it.

After she was done with her formal training in 1991, Yap decided to stay on in Italy. Six months after graduating, she gave birth to her first child. In spite of the challenges she faced in a foreign country, Yap pushed on with her singing and even won a singing competition.

A few years later, she was offered to sing in a show called Hansel And Gretel in Penang. The part was written for a mezzo soprano singer, but that did not stop Yap from returning to Malaysia and taking the job. It led to several more operas with the Penang Arts Council, and her career grew further with stints in Singapore, singing with The Singapore Lyric Opera and the Singapore Hallelujah Oratorio Society. She also performed with the Jakarta Festival Chorus in Indonesia.

Today, Yap focuses more on working with students in classical vocal training. However, she feels it still important to keep on performing in order to maintain that critical edge in ability. The very name of her upcoming show evokes the two prime concepts that drive her as a singer.

Sole E Amore literally means "sun and love", which brings to mind ideas of "life and passion, and life itself is centred around love and passion," Yap shares.

Yap feels that there are music students in Malaysia who are still quite close-minded. She explains that some local music students tend to only see or hear music that is relevant to their studies. She thinks, however, that an appreciation for a wider range of music is important.

She hopes that a lot more people will attend her upcoming show, simply to broaden their musical horizons and, in particular, to experience how a simple instrument like the human voice (plus a solo accompanist) can be dramatic and dynamic.

The Sole E Amore concert represents a rare chance for Malaysian music fans to experience the artistry of two world-class musicians who are recognised leaders in their field, one of whom happens to be a homegrown talent. In addition to the concert, Yap will also be serving as Maestro Colaccichi's translator during a series of workshops scheduled to be held after the concert in the Klang Valley.

Sole E Amore is on Sept 22, and will be held at the KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly in Kuala Lumpur. For enquiries and ticket details, contact Samuel Lim (016-219 9328), Ashley Tan (019-278 8497) or Bee Lian (03-227 46645). Meanwhile, the Vocal Masterclass with Maurizio Colaccichi is on Sept 24. For details, e-mail

Lady Gaga launches 'very slutty' first perfume, 'Fame'

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 10:04 PM PDT

Lady Gaga launched what she called her "very slutty" first perfume with a performance art event in which she slept for party-goers in an egg-shaped capsule in New York's Guggenheim Museum.

Called Lady Gaga Fame, the perfume is the first from the flamboyant pop superstar and comes in a black liquid that turns clear once it is sprayed. "I wanted it to be a very slutty perfume. Because that is sort of the addictive nature of fame that it is, it is seductive," Gaga told "Good Morning America" in an interview broadcast on Friday.

The "Born This Way" singer told the breakfast TV show she wanted a fragrance "that was desirable, and which is quite nice for not only just, you know, a young girl like me, but for any woman that wants to go home to their husband and lay down and feel like a queen." The New York-born singer, 26, officially launched the fragrance with a "Sleeping with Gaga" event in which she lay inside a huge black egg-like capsule at New York's Guggenheim museum on Thursday while invited celebrities and media looked on.

She later had a tattoo artist ink a cherub onto the back of a freshly-shaved portion of her neck. Gaga also released a five-minute promotional film in which she appeared clad head to toe, including hair and face, in black, and that ended with tiny figures of men in bondage wear crawling over her naked body.

Gaga, whose stunts have included wearing a raw meat dress and setting her piano on fire, made headlines last year for saying she wanted her perfume to have notes of blood and semen and that it would be suited to "a expensive hooker." As it turns out, the ingredients on the bottle are listed as "tears of belladonna, crushed heart of tiger orchidea with a black veil of incense, pulverized apricot and the combinative essences of saffron and honey drops."

On Friday, the Grammy-winning musician told "Good Morning America" that it was "a sexy fragrance." "It's for someone that wants to seduce someone. You shouldn't wear it if you're not likely to look for a lover, because it's going to attract them," the singer said. Lady Gaga Fame is made by Coty Inc and was released worldwide last week.- AFP


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