Ahad, 16 September 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Boy Scouts face release of damaging child sex abuse files

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 04:33 PM PDT

(Reuters) - The Boy Scouts of America could face a wave of bad publicity as decades of records of confirmed or alleged child molesters within the U.S. organisation are expected to be released in coming weeks.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported the organisation failed to report allegations of sex abuse of scouts by adult leaders and volunteers to police in hundreds of cases from 1970 to 1991. In some cases, the Boy Scouts helped the accused "cover their tracks," the paper said.

The story was based on a review of 1,600 internal Boy Scouts case files the newspaper said it obtained that detailed accusations against confirmed or alleged child molesters within the youth organisation.

About 1,200 "ineligible volunteer" files dating from 1965 to 1985 are set to be publicly released under a June order by the Oregon Supreme Court, including some already reviewed by the newspaper.

Those files played a key role in a 2010 civil trial in which an Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts liable in a 1980s paedophile case and ordered the organisation to pay nearly $20 million in damages.

The files will be released within three to four weeks, said Paul Mones, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff in the Oregon case.

In the wake of revelations about systemic child sex abuse within the Catholic Church and the recent Penn State sex abuse scandal, the files threaten to damage the reputation of one of America's most trusted institutions.

Mones said the allegations revealed in the Oregon case are not necessarily comparable to the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.

"In the Catholic Church there were overt cover-ups, and I don't think you see a lot of that here with the Boy Scouts," Mones told Reuters on Sunday.

The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement on Sunday that while it regrets past incidents where scouts were sexually abused, its current policies require even suspicions of abuse to be reported directly to law enforcement.

"The BSA (has) continuously enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures, which now include background checks, comprehensive training programs and safety policies," the statement said.

The organisation said it has maintained an internal "ineligible volunteer" file since at least 1919 to prevent suspected or confirmed child sex abusers from joining or re-entering its ranks.

Boy Scouts of America officials and attorneys have said the files represent only a fraction of the adults who participate as scout leaders each year.

The Boy Scouts have annually counted between 3.5 and 5 million scouts and more than 1 million adult leaders and volunteers among its members since the 1960s, a spokesman for the organisation said.

The organisation is facing more than 50 pending child sexual abuse cases in 18 states, according to Kelly Clark, another plaintiff attorney in the Oregon case.

Mones said he did not expect many new lawsuits to result from the upcoming release of the Scouts' files, predicting that statutes of limitation on sex abuse charges in most U.S. states would prevent victims from successful civil or criminal prosecution of alleged molesters.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.S. and allies to hold Gulf military exercise

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 03:34 PM PDT

DUBAI (Reuters) - Warships from around the world were assembling in the Gulf on Sunday for what the U.S. military described as the most widely attended international naval exercise ever held in the Middle East.

The exercise, which Washington says involves manoeuvres to improve mine detection and clearance, comes at a time of rising regional tensions over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Tehran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports passes, and target U.S. military bases in the region if it was attacked.

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said that the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 12 involved vessels and officials from 30 countries in six continents. It did not name the participating nations.

"This exercise is about mines and the international effort to clear them," said Vice Admiral John W. Miller, Commander of the Central Command, in a statement on its website.

"Represented here are the best of our individual countries' efforts dedicated to securing the global maritime commons and I look forward to seeing how this exceptional team of professionals moves forward."

The West and Israel believe Iran is seeking an atomic weapon, while Tehran says its work is for peaceful purposes.

Israel, concerned international sanctions have not stopped Iran's programme, has been pushing Washington to spell out limits Tehran must not cross if it is to avoid military action - something U.S. President Barack Obama has refused to do.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Iran was just six to seven months away from the brink of being able to build a nuclear bomb, adding urgency to his demand that Obama set a "red line" for Tehran.

Obama has asked Netanyahu to hold off on any Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy time to work.

The official U.S. Navy News Service said last month that Washington was cutting short home leave for the crew of one of its aircraft carriers and sending them back to the Middle East to counter any threat from Iran.

The Central Command said the Gulf exercise was starting on Sunday with a meeting for senior commanders when they would view the latest mine hunting and disposal inventions. In the second phase, sea manoeuvres would be held including mine detection and clearance operations.

The Bahrain-based Central Command is responsible for an area comprising some 2.5 million square miles stretching from the Gulf to parts of the Indian Ocean.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Pravin Char)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

China struggles to cure the violent ills of health system

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 02:07 PM PDT

GUANGZHOU/BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing is struggling to deal with an increasingly violent flashpoint of social unrest in its healthcare system, as its latest bid to cut costs is failing to ease tensions among millions of people who cannot afford basic treatment.

Violent attacks directed at hospital doctors and other healthcare workers in the form of beatings, threats, kidnappings, verbal abuse and even killings soared in recent years to 17,243 cases in 2010, alarming central policymakers who regard China's overhaul of its lumbering public healthcare system a top national priority.

Critics say China's efforts to cut treatment costs in public hospitals and defuse tensions do not go far enough and show little sign of reversing the violence of angry sufferers.

"The government is very worried about violence against doctors, especially when a few doctors and healthcare workers were attacked earlier this year. Some hospitals now have guards guarding them," said a health official in southern Guangdong province, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"It's a top priority to stop these things from happening," said the source, who works in hospital administration.

In July, the ruling Communist Party sought to make treatment more affordable by looking to ban an age-old practice among public hospitals of marking up drugs prices by 15 percent, a practice the government allowed to flourish after it wound back subsidies for public hospitals from the 1950s.

The ban applies to 300 county hospitals under a pilot project. But a patients' group and senior Chinese health officials say the measure, even if implemented nationwide, does not make medicines substantially more affordable.

Instead, they say Beijing must tackle the far fatter markups enjoyed by drug distributors, a web of middlemen who inflate prices by 40 percent and sometimes by several-fold to levels that are beyond the reach of many ordinary Chinese.

This is a "bigger problem", said Liao Xinbo, deputy director general for health in southern Guangdong province.

"Nothing is being done to change this," said Liao, who is about to publish his second book taking a critical look at China's healthcare reforms.


One Chinese struggling to meet medical bills is Xu Shiding, who needs weekly injections that each cost more than 1,300 yuan ($210) to control chronic hepatitis C.

The gold miner in China's north-western region of Xinjiang has to pay out of his own pocket for one or two injections each month. He has state health insurance, but his cover is limited.

With monthly income of 2,600 yuan, he has been forced to borrow money from his family, he said.

"I have even become a boyfriend of a wealthy married woman," said Xu, sobbing at times, as he alluded to how he needs his mistress's financial support to pay for his treatment. Left untreated, such patients may end up with liver cirrhosis and even cancer.

The average cost of a single hospital admission in China is roughly the same as average annual income, a 2008 paper published in The Lancet said. For the lowest fifth of income earners, it is more than twice average annual earnings, the paper said.


China's healthcare spending is set to grow to $1 trillion (616 billion pounds) by 2020 from $357 billion in 2011, consultancy McKinsey & Company said in a report in July.

Embedded in China's healthcare system are strong vested interests: tens of thousands of drug-makers and distributors supporting workers and their families and local governments that depend on tax revenues from these companies.

In China's fragmented healthcare sector, a batch of drugs can go through two, even three layers of distributors before ending up at a hospital. It is not uncommon to have a distributor servicing only one hospital. Each distributor takes a cut and pays doctors and advertisers to promote its sales.

Beijing has a blueprint for reforming distribution but healthcare experts say it is bound to face fierce resistance among provincial authorities already worried about tax revenues as economic growth slows down.

"There are literally thousands of distributors and they tend to be localised ... China wants to consolidate them. But every time a small company disappears, it is the taxes, jobs that go away," said Franck Le Deu, partner and head of Greater China healthcare at McKinsey & Company in Shanghai.

"Therefore, the consolidation process faces resistance."

In addition, some of the companies involved in the distribution chain are state-owned enterprises, which will resist change, said Li Renbing, a lawyer representing the China Patients' Rights League Project Group.

"Can the government cut them out completely? These enterprises have to survive, which is why this middle section (of distributors) is preserved," Li said.

Still, some major distributors are not resistant to changing the current system. Beijing is starting to set floor and ceiling prices for state-subsidised medicines, which they say could help deliver more affordable healthcare.

"When both the floor and ceiling prices are controlled, then whoever has a better and more trusted brand will gain," said Jia Zhongxin, chief operating officer for Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings Group Ltd, the eighth largest drugmaker and distributor in China by market share.

Still, critics say even that idea won't work because hospitals can find other ways to increase costs for patients, such as by encouraging tests that may not be necessary, and sophisticated and costly treatment.

While Beijing wound back subsidies from the 1950s, it allowed hospitals to mark up drug prices to alleviate budget pressure, effectively passing these costs on to patients.

Drug distributors then moved into the picture from the 1980s when China opened up its economy, pushing prices even higher.

Critics say doctors have an incentive to earn commissions on prescribing drugs because by international standards their salaries are low, ranging from 4,000 yuan ($628) to 10,000 yuan ($1,570) a month.

"Within this space, salesmen push for sales, offering commissions to doctors if they prescribe more of certain drugs. Prices go up. Hospitals prescribe more expensive drugs because the cuts and the markups from them are higher," said Liao, the Guangdong province health official.

"Everyone profits from this big mark-up. Who suffers? The common people. Whoever has to consume the drug suffers." ($1 = 6.3264 Chinese yuan)

(Additional Reporting by Donny Kwok in Hong Kong: Editing by Neil Fullick)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban to join 'American Idol' judges

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 05:49 PM PDT

NEW YORK: The Fox television network announced Sunday it has tapped rapper Nicki Minaj and country singer Keith Urban as judges on troubled TV talent show "American Idol."

The pair will join pop star Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson, the only remaining original "Idol" judge. The announcement came just hours before initial auditions for the next season in New York.

"I am thrilled about this year's judges' panel!" said Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at the Fox Broadcasting Company.

"Nicki's an unbelievably captivating international phenomenon who has made an indelible mark on rap and pop. And Keith is another great addition to IDOL - he's one of the biggest stars in country music and I know that our fans and contestants will fall in love with him."

He said the now-complete team was "one of the most exciting judging panels around."

Pop diva Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler announced in July their departure from the show, which is struggling against rival "The Voice" on NBC.

"American Idol" has aired for 11 seasons, but was thrown into disarray by the departure of judges Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi two years ago.

But Marc Graboff, president of the CORE Media Group that owns "Idol" producer 19 Entertainment, insisted that season 12 would be "terrific."

"IDOL has truly never looked better," he added. "We couldn't be more pleased about this new team of judges." -AFP

Meeting the royals

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 04:57 PM PDT

Lil Kev and Sarimah had one great royal experience having lunch with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

KUALA Lumpur has been all abuzz with news coverage of the British royal couple being in the city.

Red FM's Red Breakfast team received an invitation to join the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, for lunch at the KL Convention Centre.

According to the radion station's deejays Lil Kev and Sarimah, security at the venue was very tight, but all security personnel were friendly and helpful and there were no hiccups at all.

Once they cleared security and entered the venue, there was no chance of leaving, so both admitted to being too afraid to indulge in any beverages!

The Red Breakfast team played fashion police at the luncheon while waiting for the royal couple to join them. A live telecast was sent out through soundcloud.com/ilovered fm and Red FM fans enjoyed a review of the fashion observed.

According to Sarimah, everyone was dressed in their best.

Of course, the cheeky Red FM Breakfast team was sneaky and took shots of the royal couple although they were not supposed to because they just did not want to disappoint their fans.

Throughout the luncheon, Red FM Facebook fans were kept in the loop on what was going on, with status updates and phone pictures.

Lil Kev says: "Prince William's speech was done really well, and it was beautiful to see the pride on Kate's face."

All round, the Red FM Breakfast team only had lovely things to say about their luncheon experience. The food was amazing, and the other guests were friendly. It certainly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Lil Kev and Sarimah had also brought with them gifts – specially designed personalised tees from Red FM – to be presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

For more information, log on to www.red.fm/surecanwin.

Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page on www.facebook.com/redfm.my and follow us on Twitter @iloveredfm.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

Red FM's Station Frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1FM; George Town and Seberang Prai: 107.6FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9FM; Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6FM; Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9FM; Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8FM.

Buzzing on TV

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 04:57 PM PDT

Living up to its promise of making more collaborative productions in the Asian region, HBO Asia is working together with Australia's ABC TV on a 10-episode drama series titled Serangoon Road. Filming is happening right now in Singapore; the 14-week shoot began late last month and is scheduled to continue well into the end of the year.

Starring Chinese actress Joan Chen, Australian actor Don Hany and Singapore talents Alaric Tay and Pamelyn Chee, the series is set in Singapore in the 1960s and revolves around the life of a detective.

In a press release, chief executive officer of HBO Asia Jonathan Spink said: "We're very pleased to be in partnership with ABC TV to produce HBO Asia's very first original series. While HBO Asia is still in the business of delivering the biggest and best Hollywood blockbusters and series, this milestone investment marks the beginning of our commitment in producing top quality, relevant and riveting content."

Serangoon Road is tentatively scheduled to air next. HBO Asia is also involved in the production of a film, Dead Mine, featuring talents from Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia (Carmen Soo is among the stars). It is set to be showcased on HBO Asia on Dec 29 at 10am.

Web surfing

GET ready to check out a new project by Anthony E. Zuiker (CSI creator) titled Cybergeddon on Sept 25, premiering globally and exclusively on Yahoo! That's right, you watch the nine-chapter series on your computer. It revolves around the shady underworld of cybercrime and it stars Olivier Martinez, Missy Peregrym, Manny Montana and Kick Gurry.

Besides the episodes, there are going to be extras like additional clips to give a further insight into the characters, on-set photos and behind-the-scene clips and interviews.

Cybergeddon is apparently inspired by real life concerns about this subject. The synopsis given in a press release goes like this: Cybergeddon follows the story of agent Chloe Jocelyn as she investigates a slew of seemingly unrelated cyber attacks with fellow agent Frank Parker and incarcerated master hacker Chase "Rabbit" Rosen. Chloe and her team must crack the worldwide cybercrime ring led by Gustov Dobreff before it is too late.

In the release, too, Zuiker is quoted as saying: "Cybergeddon is a cinematic experience that breaks traditional rules. With the global distribution arm of Yahoo!, we will give viewers a way to have more to do after watching the segments to gain more knowledge and further interact with the storyline and cast. The best part is that all of this can be experienced on any device, anytime and anywhere, day and date with the launch of Cybergeddon."

While waiting for its premiere, why not visit Cybergeddon on Facebook or follow @cybergeddon on Twitter for more information. To view the trailer, go to http://screen.yahoo.com/cybergeddon/.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Golf: Shin Jiyai wins Women's British Open by nine shots

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 05:20 PM PDT

HOYLAKE (United Kingdom): South Korea's Shin Jiyai overcame atrocious weather and survived a marathon 36-hole final day to claim a second Women's British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club by nine shots on Sunday.

With rounds of 71 and 73, the 2008 champion finished on nine under par and won the final major of the season by an outstanding margin from South Korea's Park Inbee.

It was the biggest winning margin since the Championship became a major in 2001.

Park, the 2008 US Women's Open Champion, birdied the last for a closing 76 and second place, with American Paula Creamer, who closed birdie, eagle, par birdie, taking third on one over par after a 72.

Finishing in near darkness, the victory and the 266,000 cheque completed a remarkably impressive week for 24-year-old Shin, who has now won 10 times on the LPGA Tour.

Last Monday, she had needed nine extra holes to beat Creamer in a play-off for the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA Tour.

"That was a long, long day and very tough," said the new champion. "I have never played in such bad weather, but I managed to stay focused and now I'm just so excited.

"Winning at Sunningdale four years ago was my fist big win and changed my life. Now I have even more great British Open memories."

Friday's play had been wiped out due to severe winds and the weather again caused havoc on a day of catch-up.

There was even an eight minute break in the second round when the gusting wind and torrential rain made it impossible to hit shots.

Shin, who shot a course record 64 in Saturday's second round, added a 71 in the third round and her lead was reduced to three by Karrie Webb, the three-time former champion charging into contention with a 68.

But as conditions deteriorated so did the golf and Webb's hopes of an eighth major title began to slip out of her grasp with a double-bogey, bogey, bogey start.

Shin also hit trouble at the start of the final round with a three-putt, triple-bogey seven.

But the 24-year-old bounced back with a 25-foot birdie at the short sixth and another from 18 feet at the seventh. Seven ahead at that stage, she was never troubled by anything other than the weather.

While Webb stumbled to an 82 and fell back into a share of fifth on three over, Creamer finished birdie, eagle, par birdie for a 72.

Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old New Zealander who became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour at last month's Canadian Open, took the amateur prize, the Smyth Salver.

The teenager shot 72 and 78 to finish in the top 20 on nine over par, two ahead of English amateur, Holly Clyburn.

Shin's victory completed an Asian clean-sweep of this year's four women majors.

Koreans Yoo Sun-Young and Choi Na-Yeon won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and US Women's Open respectively, while Feng Shanshan became the first Chinese player to win one of the big four at the LPGA Championship. - AFP

Golf: Ballesteros junior dedicates win to Seve

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 04:15 PM PDT

MADRID: Javier Ballesteros, the son of Spanish golfing legend Seve, won the Madrid Open amateur title on Sunday and dedicated his victory to his father who died from cancer in May, 2011.

The 22-year-old Ballesteros, a law student, finished the three-round tournament on six-under par for a four-stroke win over Manuel Ruiz.

"I thought about him (Seve) over the 18 holes and I dedicate this victory to him and to my mother," Ballesteros told the Madrid Golf Federation website.

"My father always told me that you have to play with what you have, and so I did."

Seve Ballesteros won five majors in his career and played in eight Ryder Cups, captaining Europe to victory in 1997. - AFP

Cycling: Tiernan-Locke delivers home Tour of Britain win

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 04:14 PM PDT

LONDON: British cyclist Jonathan Tiernan-Locke became the first home rider in 19 years to win the Tour of Britain on Sunday.

The 27-year-old started the final stage 18 seconds ahead of Austrian Nathan Haas and 23 in front of Italian Damiano Caruso.

And Tiernan-Locke secured victory after finishing in the main bunch behind compatriot and world champion Mark Cavendish who took his third stage win in Guildford, south of London, on Sunday.

British duo Peter Williams and Kristian House won the sprint and king of the mountains jerseys respectively.

"It's fantastic," Tiernan-Locke told the BBC. "It has not really sunk in yet. It was a tough day, a lot tougher than we thought. So I feel relief more than anything."

Cavendish, roared on by thousands of fans, added: "It was my last day in the (world champion's) rainbow jersey and I wanted to finish it off in style," he said.

"It was absolutely incredible. The amount of people out on the road has been like the Olympic Games.

"I thought I'd been forgotten about and everyone was about sideburns now," he added, in a reference to Team Sky colleague Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France and Olympic champion. - AFP

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Share prices on Bursa Malaysia expected to extend gains this week

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 06:30 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: SHARE prices on Bursa Malaysia is expected to extend gains following the bullish performance of global stocks, after the US' Federal Reserve outlined the third round of quantitative easing.

The local index FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) would stage further upside with the immediate target of 1,650 points, Affin Investment Bank vice president, head of retail research, Dr Nazri Khan told Bernama.

The Fed's decision to keep monetary policy accommodative until mid-2015 and to buy an additional US$40bil in mortgage debt every month will keep borrowing costs low to stimulate the US and global growth higher.

"The victory of eurozone-friendly party following the Dutch election and the German constitutional court's decision not to block the bloc's bailout fund are also adding to the better mood next week," he said.

Meanwhile, risk appetite is back to support FBM KLCI to trend higher as both MSCI All World and S & P 500 rallied to six-month and four-year high, respectively, both the euro and gold hit five-month high while Italian and Spanish bond yield hit five-month low, Nazri said.

On the home front, corporate developments are also fuelling market interest. It was reported that Malayan Banking Bhd has emerged as one of the potential buyers of a stake in Thailand's Bank Ayudhya Pcl while a Dialog-led consortium will invest in a new RM4bil LNG facility in Pengerang, Johor.

Add to that, the latest announcement on seven high-impact Economic Transformation Programme projects worth RM5.6bil to support the local equity market in the near term.For the week just ended, the market was higher since last Thursday after suffering losses for the past few days.

On Friday-to-Friday basis, the FBM KLCI finished up 18.40 points to 1,642.95 against 1,624.55 previous Friday.

The weekly volume fell to 4.73 billion units valued at RM8.52bil from 6.63 billion shares worth RM8.52bil previous Friday. Bernama

Japanese shares will likely see more gains this week

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 06:27 PM PDT

TOKYO: JAPANESE shares will likely see more gains this week amid expectations that the Bank of Japan may follow suit after its US and European counterparts took action to bolster their economies.

Last Friday, Tokyo stocks rose 1.83% after the US central bank announced a US$40bil a month asset buying programme focused on boosting jobs in the United States, where the unemployment rate sits at 8.1%.

The move comes after the European Central Bank launched a new programme to buy unlimited amounts of heavily indebted countries' sovereign bonds in a bid to bring down their borrowing costs and prop up the battered euro.

"The combined actions are giving the markets a much-needed sense of stability and should help keep share prices supported for at least the next several sessions, if not longer," said Hiroyuki Fukunaga, CEO of asset manager Investrust.

Brokers said the decisions made by the European and US monetary authorities will likely pressure the Bank of Japan to implement its own stimulus steps when it meets September 18-19.

The Tokyo market is also paying attention to the re-listing of Japan Airlines (JAL), scheduled for Wednesday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

JAL, which exited bankruptcy last year, has said its offering will raise 663bil (US$8.5bil) by selling 175 million shares at 3,790 each in the world's second-biggest share sale this year after Facebook.

In the week to September 14, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 3.24%, or 287.74 points, to 9,159.39.

The broader Topix Index of all first-section issues gained 2.95%, or 21.71 points, to 756.88.

Tokyo financial markets will be closed today(Monday) for a national holiday. AFP

Malaysian rubber market expected to extend gains this week

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 06:24 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian rubber market is expected to extend its gains this week following positive response to news report that the Federal Reserve's fresh phase of monetary stimulus will support economic growth and boost demand.

Physical rubber prices is also likely to be influenced by the Tokyo Commodity Exchange and Shanghai Futures Exchange.

The market would be closed today due to Malaysia Day public holiday and will resume trading tomorrow.

On a Friday-to-Friday basis, the Malaysian Rubber Board's sellers official physical price for tyre-grade SMR 20 increased 52.5 sen to 842 sen per kg while latex-in-bulk rose 29.5 sen to 593 sen per kg.

The unofficial sellers' closing price for tyre-grade SMR 20 soared 60 sen to 851 sen per kg and latex-in-bulk edged up 36 sen to 599 sen per kg. Bernama

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

PM: Aug 31 and Sept 16 are equally important dates

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 08:59 AM PDT

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BINTULU: Merdeka Day, which falls on Aug 31, and Malaysia Day, which falls on Sept 16, are equally significant dates, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak said, urging an end to squabbles and debates about which of the two dates was more important.

Sarawak's role in the formation of Malaysia was as important as the declaration of Merdeka for Malaya, making the state and the peninsula equal partners in the country, he said on Sunday in Bintulu where he and other federal cabinet ministers have arrived to join state leaders to celebrate Malaysia Day.

(The Federation of Malaya, made up of 11 states, became independent on Aug 31, 1957. North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak joined Malaya on Sept 16, 1963 along with Singapore to form Malaysia. Each of the states came in as an equal partner to Malaya.)

"Sarawak's role in Malaysia is without doubt very significant. There is no need to quarrel or debate whether Aug 31 is more important or Sept 16 more important.

"Both dates are equally important. The most important thing now is that Sarawak is becoming very progressive and that we in the Federal Government have fulfilled our promise of bringing development to Sarawak.

"We have never rejected requests from the Sarawak government for any development projects or development funds. Sarawak has progressed by leaps and bounds.

"It is more than just fulfilling a role laid out in the Constitution.

"This pledge by the Federal Government to develop Sarawak is because the leaders in Sarawak and the leaders in Putrajaya see eye-to-eye and are able to work together.

"This understanding between state and federal leaders is more important that any document. There is no need for any new declaration or new agreement between Sarawak and the peninsula.

"We are equal partners in developing Malaysia," he said during a Hari Raya open house at Kampung Arshikrin in Bintulu.

Najib said he was very happy to hear from Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud that the state government of Sarawak has pledged their full backing to him to continue leading the country and the Federal Government.

"The federal leadership understands the aspiration and needs of Sarawak. That is the most important. From one generation to the next, we have leaders who aspire to work for the needs of the people, including in Sarawak.

Earlier, Taib, in his address, reiterated how crucial it was to have continuous leadership at state and federal levels.

He said that in some countries, the constant changes in government resulted in disruption of development because there was no continuity in policies and leaders.

"The most important is to have leaders who value development more than any thing else," he said.

Also here was Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, several federal cabinet ministers and state leaders.

Najib had earlier said in his blog that Malaysia Day celebration this year was most significant because, for the first time, the meaningful and historic day was being celebrated on a large scale in Sarawak.

The celebration, scheduled to be held at the site of the old Bintulu airport, will be launched by Sarawak Yang Dipertua Negri Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng.

Students protest for fair campus elections

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 06:16 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of students protested peacefully near Dataran Merdeka here Sunday demanding a reform of campus polls, alleging a lack of transparency.

Amidst heavy police presence, the students walked to Sogo on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman while shouting slogans such as "Long live students" and "Reject conspiracy".

They then returned to Dataran Merdeka to outline six demands.

The peaceful demonstration was organised by a coalition of student groups, including Pro Mahasiswa Nasional, Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia and Students Democratic Movement.

Pro-Mahasiswa Nasional chairman Edikoup Lakip Sediyanto claimed that campus polls were "tainted by manipulation from outside political elements".

"We have taken our demands to several university administrations and the Higher Education Ministry. We are not here to cause trouble.

"All we want is for the authorities to ensure that campus elections are run in a transparent manner," he told reporters after outlining the students' six demands.

The six demands are - a fixed date for campus elections on the academic calender, student involvement in the campus elections committee, an independent body to monitor campus polls, a more transparent voting system, freedom to campaign, and equal distribution of funds to all candidates.

Edikoup Lakip added that the students will forward their demands to Suhakam next week.

The group dispersed peacefully after the three-hour protest.

MCMC asks Google to remove anti-Islam YouTube clips

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 05:27 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Leading Internet search engine Google has received an official complaint from Malaysia and a request to remove clips of the controversial anti-Islam film The Innocence of Muslims from its YouTube site.

Google Malaysia communications and public affairs head Zeffri Yusof said they received the official request from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and that both parties were discussing the next course of action.

"We have clear community guidelines, and when videos breach those rules, we remove them. In addition, where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we will restrict access to it after a thorough review," he said.

Zeffri added, however, that the regulatory body had to cite the relevant laws or bylaws which were breached when making its complaint.

MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi confirmed that the commission had lodged an official complaint with Google.

"We have already communicated with Google, asking them to take the clips down," he said.

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim urged YouTube not to be "oblivious" to the tumult in the Islamic world.

"Removing (The Innocence of Muslims) should be the duty of YouTube itself.

"Under the circumstances, MCMC is legally bound to take adaptive and precautionary steps so that accessibility to the relevant YouTube content is barred," he told The Star.

"Given the explosive commotion and repercussions at hand, as is the case in the Middle East, we have to, as an Islamic nation, play a preventive role while urging Muslims in the country to remain calm," he added.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Books to toy with

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 01:47 AM PDT

IF you remember, I was going to write about the illustrators featured in Leonard Marcus' Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations With 21 Of The World's Most Celebrated Illustrators. I've been a little behind in my reading and not made much progress with the book, but today I read the conversation with Eric Carle.

I don't know Carle's work well, not even The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I do like the seeming simplicity of it, and the colours, which are always very strong, very bright and very expressive. They really make a statement – they shout, but not angrily, definitely joyfully, sometimes a little manically, but usually just with a wonderful energy and exuberance.

Carle tells some wonderful stories to Marcus. My favourite is of the time he was a college student in Germany and the teacher who taught, inspired and shaped him as an artist. This teacher was Ernst Schneidler, who is known in the graphic arts world as the designer of a number of famous typefaces.

Carle talks about how Schneidler "discovered each student's talent and nurtured it", how he would "channel" the different talents. Just reading that gives me goose bumps. How rare and precious good teachers are, but a teacher, whether good or bad, leaves her mark.

I still remember all my favourite teachers – their faces, their gestures, the things they said. The thing is, I also remember the ones I disliked – like Mrs Raj, my Standard Five class teacher, who threw my Maths exercise book across the classroom because I couldn't get a sum right.

Carle says of Schneidler: " ... with his guidance a great many of us became strong and capable at one specialty or another." Apparently, the teacher saw that he was bad at calligraphy, but instead of making him work at it, he said, "Don't do that anymore, we don't need more calligraphers." (I wish someone had told me to stop doing sums: "We don't need more mathematicians.")

I know so many people who love The Very Hungry Caterpillar (including my daughter), which Carle talks about at length. He says the holes in the book are there because he approached the book as a designer. "I didn't want just a plain sheet of paper," says Carle, who likes the idea of creating books that are also toys. But of course!

Have you seen the way babies approach books? It's not like, at six months or even 18 months, they sit quietly, turning the pages and paying attention to the words on the page. Books are stacked, knocked down, chewed, thrown, sat on. Carle tries to make them toys "you can read", books "you can touch". Even as an adult, the solid weight of a book is comforting to me.

I love the story of how Bill Martin Jr, whose book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (amongst others) Carle illustrated, thinks of the rhythm of his books first, before he comes up with the words. I also love the stories about his school visits.

And I find interesting what Carle says about Goodnight Moon appealing to children, and how he himself did not "understand (its) appeal". So many adults tell me they can't fathom why that book is so popular. Someone even told me that she found it creepy! (I love it although I do think it has a melancholy feel.)

Carle doesn't know why children are drawn to Goodnight Moon, but he says that when he first started making books, it was children who liked them, not adults.

"That's what Margaret Wise Brown and I have in common ... children have chosen us, not the professionals, not the librarians, or the teachers, or the grandmothers," he says.

Still, if you're an aspiring children's book author/illustrator, I don't think you can rely solely on the opinion of the dozen children of neighbours and relatives who you've been using as your beta readers. After all, Carle and Brown's books were published by big publishing houses with savvy editors, so no, it's not entirely true that it was the children who chose those books.

As some of you know, Carle has a museum in the United States, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, in Amherst, Massachusetts. One day I might make it there. One day, there may be a similar establishment in Malaysia. Well, there is no harm in dreaming, is there?

Silverfish Malaysian Classics

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 01:47 AM PDT

INDEPENDENT Malaysian publisher Silverfish Books has come up with a new series called Silverfish Malaysian Classics. Four titles have been released so far: Marong Mahawangsa, Sejarah Melayu, The Epic Of Bidasari and Malaysian Fables, Folk Tales & Legends.

The books are in English and are targeted at the collector who is also a serious reader, and libraries, colleges and universities. They are priced at an affordable RM30 each.

Silverfish Books is at No.28-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur (03-2284 4837 / info@silverfish books.com / silverfishbooks.com).

Ambitious attempt

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 01:47 AM PDT

The Time Keeper
Author: Mitch Albom
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group, 222 pages

ONCE again, Mitch Albom is out to hit readers with a tonne of bricks, (metaphorically, of course) with The Time Keeper.

Since his first international hit, Tuesdays With Morrie, in 1997, Albom has been inspiring readers around the world with simple yet invaluable lessons on life and the afterlife. Much of his success can be attributed to his ability to use clear and direct prose to deliver answers to some of life's most complex questions.

But in his latest fiction work, Albom ambitiously switches things up by taking on a new topic – time.

The Time Keeper is about Father Time – yes, the old, bearded guy often used to embellish New Year cards and ornaments – and his role as the first man to discover time.

Readers are transported thousands of years back to mankind's earliest days on Earth, when a much younger version of the timekeeper lived.

Father Time is an ordinary boy known only as Dor. But unlike other boys, he does not enjoy roughhousing with his peers nor is he particularly adept at physical activities. Instead, the boy develops a special interest in numbers, and an eye for detail.

One day, while sitting in the afternoon sun, Dor drives a twig into the ground and notices the position where its shadow falls. He places a stone to mark the tip of the shadow but realises moments later that it has moved.

The day after, he returns to the same spot and finds that the shadow of the twig meets the stone at precisely the same moment as the day before.

From then on, Man becomes obsessed with the idea of time and having more of it. As such, the mysterious appearance of an old man (presumably God) sends Dor to a cave – leaving behind the love of his life Alli – where he serves his punishment for discovering time. There, Dor is haunted by the voices of people pleading for more time during his stay.

Thousands of years later, Dor is set free and finds himself caught up in the hustle and bustle of today's world. Here, he is tasked to teach two people the true meaning of time. Dying millionaire Victor wants to prolong his time on Earth to expand his business, whereas high school oddball Sarah is contemplating suicide after being rejected by her love interest.

As an Albom fan, I sincerely wanted to like The Time Keeper the way I did his other books. Don't get me wrong; this novel is a beguiling read, but it isn't the author at his finest.

First, the storyline is far more complicated than what his fans are used to. Albom whisks readers back to ancient times to tell the story of Father Time and simultaneously catches up with Victor and Sarah in the present.

From a writing point of view, for these stories to run parallel, he must be able to masterfully tie them together. In this respect, Albom misses the mark at times.

I also find his decision to include the supernatural and realistically impossible slightly off-putting. Later in the story, readers will find a mysterious apparatus (I won't spoil the book for you) that will help Father Time in his mission.

Of course, one may argue that his books have always revolved around the supernatural but the idea of heaven (The Five People You Meet In Heaven) or visiting souls on Earth (For One More Day) is widely accepted among readers.

Also, he strikes me as one-sided in his viewpoint on time. The writer unequivocally deems Dor's discovery of time as the cause of the downfall of the human race, thus the God-like character's decision to banish Dor to the cave.

Albom fails to explore – or at the very least, recognise – the good the invention of time may have brought, and renders his argument a bit too simplistically.

But ultimately, what's most important is whether he succeeds in what he has always set out to do in all his writing – inspire readers. In this regard, I'm glad to say he does.

If there's anyone who can weave together a story using simple, everyday occurrences and still deliver compelling, life-changing messages, it's Albom. Readers, whether or not they agree with his views, will gain precious insights into the meaning and value of time. I can already imagine the many troubled youths who will see their struggles in Sarah's suffering and draw strength from her.

As to whether The Time Keeper will fly off the shelves like Albom's previous releases or go straight into the bargain bin instead, I suppose only time will tell.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Art for the world

Posted: 16 Sep 2012 01:39 AM PDT

A new gallery aspires to propel the country to the forefront of contemporary art and tourism.

FIERCE eyes peer out from beneath furrowed brows of the Mah Meri aboriginal wood sculpture, and in the quiet art gallery, it almost feels like you are transported back into a primitive past. Inspired by visions from dreams, these statues are believed to have protected the Mah Meri orang asli tribe for centuries and represent a legacy handed down from generations long past.

Many of the sculptures on display have attained recognition via the Unesco Seal of Excellence.

On another wall, dozens of colourful rice plates are arranged on the wall. This is the result of The Malaysian Rice Plates Project, an ambitious endeavour that explores the link between money and food. Organised by Wei-Ling Gallery, this first project of its kind brings together 60 local artists to create works inspired by the Malaysian currency on an unconventional canvas – the humble rice plate.

These are just two of the many exhibits at the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia (Motour) Art Gallery in Putrajaya, launched on Thursday.

"The art gallery aims to complement our Malaysian artists' creative efforts and promote the local contemporary art scene, as well as serve as a platform to create awareness on Malaysian art," says Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen at the launch.

"We feel it is now the right time to set up this gallery to further support the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival that we launched in 2010."

Architect-turned-artist Suhaimi Fadzir feels honoured to have his works displayed at the gallery, particularly as he considers them a departure from the mainstream.

"They are a bit unconventional, a bit different, from what most people expect of an artwork. My art reflects everyday life, the things you see around you all the time, and I make full use of materials, including discarded goods, that other people take for granted," he says.

Suhaimi means it literally, and metaphorically.

His latest works feature metal rat traps painted white, rubber tyres from a motorbike, corrugated zinc sheets, cinnamon sticks, mesh wire and Lori Sewa signs thrown together, arranged in some sort of organised chaos.

The Perak-born artist, who won the Dublin Biennial 2012 Award of Excellence in Ireland this year, has been in the art scene for more than 20 years. He has made it a habit to pick up odds and ends from his travels abroad as well as around his neighbourhood. He now has a room full of discarded and recycled products, patiently waiting to be turned into works of art.

"I started out as an architect, but my architect works are not very different from my installation and mixed media works that you see here today. Unfortunately, my architectural concepts were met with quite a bit of scepticism, and I realised that the time was not right for my work to be out there.

"I then decided to transfer that energy, that inspiration, those ideas, into art. Maybe one day, when the world is prepared, I will return to the world of architecture. But for now, I am happy to express my ideas through art," he says.

In stark contrast to the rugged terrains of Suhaimi's work are Lim Ah Cheng's horses in motion. Galloping across wide open plains, all swishing mane and tail, they are the epitome of energy, beauty, movement and fluidity.

"I have painted horses for around two decades. It's a common subject, many people paint horses too, so the challenge is how to take this common subject and inject new life into it. I put my heart and soul into my works and make these horses mine," says Lim.

An animal lover with more than half a dozen cats and dogs at home, he studies horses in detail at the zoo and at equestrian clubs. He shares that his style has evolved over the years, and his latest works – in a series he calls Metamorphosis – have been four years (and counting) in the making.

"Metamorphosis signifies great change, a departure from my older works. I started this series in 2008 and I'm not yet done with exploring all that I can do with it. I discover new things every day."

Lim's earlier works were very much influenced by calligraphy art and also a lot more colourful. His new paintings, however, show a stronger focus on capturing movement.

"They have mixed elements of east and west. As I mature as an artist, I find myself being more selective with colours in my attempt to capture the kind of vigorous, energetic movement I want to depict," he says.

In its third consecutive year, the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival – and the people involved – are on a roll.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who officiated the launch, sums it up nicely: "On this day, we have achieved a historical milestone in the tourism industry and contemporary art industry with the opening of the Motour Art Gallery. It is my belief that this gallery will play an important role in creating awareness of contemporary art amongst the public, and in promoting the country as an international art and tourism destination."

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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