Isnin, 1 Oktober 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


At least 36 dead after Hong Kong ferry sinks following collision

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 08:13 PM PDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - At least 36 people died and dozens were injured when a ferry carrying more than 120 people on a company outing collided with another ferry and sank near an island south of Hong Kong on Monday night in one of the city's worst maritime accidents.

A sunken ferry is lifted out of the water after an accident off Hong Kong October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

A sunken ferry is lifted out of the water after an accident off Hong Kong October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The ferry belonging to the Hong Kong Electric Company was taking staff and family members to watch a fireworks display to celebrate China's National Day and mid-autumn festival when it hit the other ship and quickly began sinking near Lamma island.

Survivors said they had little time to put on life jackets before the ferry flooded, trapping passengers.

"Within 10 minutes, the ship had sunk. We had to wait at least 20 minutes before we were rescued," said one male survivor, wrapped in a blanket on the shore.

Some survivors said people had to break windows to swim to the surface. "We thought we were going to die. Everyone was trapped inside," said another middle-aged woman.

The other ship, owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings, made it safely to the pier on Lamma, an island popular with tourists and expatriates. It had a damaged bow and several of its passengers and crew were taken to hospital with injuries.

The tragedy was the worst to hit Hong Kong since 1996 when more than 40 people died in a fire in a commercial building.

SEARCH FOR SURVIVORS CONTINUES

Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest shipping channels, although serious marine accidents are rare. It is unclear why the two ferries collided.

"Our ferry left Lamma island at 8.15 pm to watch the fireworks display out at sea, but within a few minutes, a tugboat (ferry) smashed into our vessel," Yuen Sui-see, a director for Hong Kong Electric.

A spokeswoman for Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry said they were assessing what had happened.

"Our captain is not well and we have not been able to talk to him so far," the spokeswoman told local television.

The nighttime collision sparked a major rescue operation involving dive teams, helicopters and boats that saw scores of people plucked from the sea.

Television pictures showed the red and blue bow of the Hong Kong Electric Company ferry pointing skywards, surrounded by rescue vessels.

"We will continue our search. We also don't rule out that some may have swam to shore themselves and haven't contacted their families and so may not be accounted for," Ng Kuen-chi, acting deputy director of fire services told local television.

The search was hampered by the vessel being partly sunken, poor visibility and too much clutter inside the vessel, Ng said.

Teams of men in white coats, green rubber gloves and yellow helmets carried corpses off a police launch in body bags on Tuesday. Local media reported that children were among the dead.

More than 100 people were sent to five hospitals and nine people suffered serious injuries or remain in critical condition, the government said in a statement.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying visited survivors of the collision and pledged a thorough investigation into the crash.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents live on outlying islands such as Lamma, which lies about three km (two miles) southwest of Hong Kong island.

(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok, Stefanie McIntyre, James Pomfret, Farah Master and Venus Wu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Michael Perry)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

At least 36 dead after Hong Kong ferry sinks following collision

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 07:59 PM PDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - At least 36 people died and dozens were injured when a ferry carrying more than 120 people on a company outing collided with another ferry and sank near an island south of Hong Kong on Monday night in one of the city's worst maritime accidents.

A sunken ferry is lifted out of the water after an accident off Hong Kong October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

A sunken ferry is lifted out of the water after an accident off Hong Kong October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The ferry belonging to the Hong Kong Electric Company was taking staff and family members to watch a fireworks display to celebrate China's National Day and mid-autumn festival when it hit the other ship and quickly began sinking near Lama island.

Survivors said they had little time to put on life jackets before the ferry flooded, trapping passengers.

"Within 10 minutes, the ship had sunk. We had to wait at least 20 minutes before we were rescued," said one male survivor, wrapped in a blanket on the shore.

Some survivors said people had to break windows to swim to the surface. "We thought we were going to die. Everyone was trapped inside," said another middle-aged woman.

The other ship, owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings, made it safely to the pier on Lamma, an island popular with tourists and expatriates. It had a damaged bow and several of its passengers and crew were taken to hospital with injuries.

The tragedy was the worst to hit Hong Kong since 1996 when more than 40 people died in a fire in a commercial building.

SEARCH FOR SURVIVORS CONTINUES

Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest shipping channels, although serious marine accidents are rare. It is unclear why the two ferries collided.

"Our ferry left Lamma island at 8.15 pm to watch the fireworks display out at sea, but within a few minutes, a tugboat (ferry) smashed into our vessel," Yuen Sui-see, a director for Hong Kong Electric.

A spokeswoman for Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry said they were assessing what had happened.

"Our captain is not well and we have not been able to talk to him so far," the spokeswoman told local television.

The night-time collision sparked a major rescue operation involving dive teams, helicopters and boats that saw scores of people plucked from the sea.

Television pictures showed the red and blue bow of the Hong Kong Electric Company ferry pointing skywards, surrounded by rescue vessels.

"We will continue our search. We also don't rule out that some may have swam to shore themselves and haven't contacted their families and so may not be accounted for," Ng Kuen-chi, acting deputy director of fire services told local television.

The search was hampered by the vessel being partly sunken, poor visibility and too much clutter inside the vessel, Ng said.

Teams of men in white coats, green rubber gloves and yellow helmets carried corpses off a police launch in body bags on Tuesday. Local media reported that children were among the dead.

More than 100 people were sent to five hospitals and nine people suffered serious injuries or remain in critical condition, the government said in a statement.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying visited survivors of the collision and pledged a thorough investigation into the crash.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents live on outlying islands such as Lamma, which lies about three km (two miles) southwest of Hong Kong island.

(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok, Stefanie McIntyre, James Pomfret, Farah Master and Venus Wu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Michael Perry)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Colombian president to have surgery for prostate cancer

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 07:58 PM PDT

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday he would undergo surgery for a non-aggressive prostate cancer in a health scare that seemed unlikely to derail his government's imminent talks with Marxist rebels to end decades of war.

President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Santos, 61, said the tumour was discovered as part of a routine checkup and will be removed on Wednesday.

"It's a small tumour located on the prostate gland and it's a good prognosis. It's not aggressive," he said at the presidential palace in Bogota, flanked by his doctor and his wife. "There's a 97 percent chance of being totally cured."

The Harvard-educated economist, who took office two years ago, is about to embark on negotiations in coming weeks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose insurgency has led to the deaths of tens of thousands in half a century.

A successful end to the peace negotiations would help secure Santos a place in history and allow him to further build on the economic and security advances that began under President Alvaro Uribe a decade ago.

Colombia, a nation of about 46 million, has attracted record foreign direct investment over the last few years as a U.S.-backed military offensive against drug traffickers and FARC rebels improved business confidence.

Santos, who as Uribe's defence minister dealt some of the harshest blows against the FARC, said he would not be handing over presidential duties.

The cancer was detected "very much in time" and his doctor expected the president to be able to make a quick recovery, Santos said. The surgery will be conducted with a local anaesthetic at a hospital in Bogota.

"I am going to stay in the clinic a few days. I will be subject to a few physical limitations, but I will continue exercising my functions as president of the Republic," he said.

LATEST LATIN AMERICAN LEADER AFFLICTED

Santos, who has three children, joins several other Latin American leaders who have fought cancer in recent years.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who seeks re-election on Sunday, has had three operations for tumours since mid-2011.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was successfully treated for a throat tumour earlier this year and his successor, President Vilma Rousseff, was treated for lymphoma cancer in 2009 but has been given a clean bill of health by her doctors.

Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo also beat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011 after four months of chemotherapy treatment.

A flood of messages appeared on Twitter offering support for Santos, including best wishes from ally-turned-foe Uribe, opposition lawmakers and government officials.

"My solidarity and support to the President and his family," said Vice President Angelino Garzon, who also was hospitalized recently. "The country, now more than ever, needs him."

The peace talks helped lift Santos' approval ratings at a time when he was being slammed by critics, like former boss Uribe, who said security had deteriorated considerably, raising the possibility he would be unable to seek a second term.

Negotiations with the FARC, which will take place in Norway and Cuba, have raised Colombians' hopes of an end to the war.

Santos, who appeared alongside his soldier son earlier on Monday at a military event, seemed in good spirits and said that he had sought medical advice last week during a meeting of the United Nations in New York.

He left for Peru after the cancer announcement to attend a meeting of Latin American and Arab heads of state and will return to Bogota on Tuesday, a presidential spokesman said.

(Additional reporting by Eduardo Garcia and Monica Garcia in Bogota, Helen Murphy in Caracas; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Kieran Murray and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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Kiwis win battle for Kasiano

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 07:21 PM PDT

WELLINGTON: New Zealand claimed an early victory over Australia Tuesday in the build-up to their rugby league Test this month when Canterbury Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano finally opted to play for the Kiwis.

The New Zealand-born and Australian National Rugby League (NRL) prop of the year Kasiano was eligible for both sides and had been at the centre of a tug-of-war between the Kiwis and Kangaroos for the past year.

However, the 22-year-old confirmed shortly before the New Zealand squad was named Tuesday that his allegiance lay with New Zealand.

"The selectors are very happy that Sam wants to be in the Kiwi team," New Zealand Rugby League's high performance manager Tony Kemp said.

Kasiano joins Manly's Dean Whare as the new faces in the squad for the Test in Townsville on October 13. Melbourne Storm second-rower Kevin Proctor is also uncapped, though he toured with the Kiwis to the United Kingdom last year.

Kasiano and Proctor are among seven players who appeared in last weekend's NRL grand final when the Storm beat the Bulldogs 14-4.

Jesse Bromwich also played for the Storm while Greg Eastwood, Frank Pritchard, Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett were with Kasiano in the Bulldogs side.

Benji Marshall from the Wests Tigers will again captain the team while Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters) Jason Nightingale (Dragons) and Kevin Locke (Warriors) were not considered because of injury.

New Zealand squad: Gerard Beale (Brisbane Broncos), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Josh Hoffman (Brisbane Broncos), Krisnan Inu (Canterbury Bulldogs), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Sam Kasiano (Canterbury Bulldogs), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (Warriors) Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers), Ben Matulino (Warriors), Sam McKendry (Penrith Panthers), Sam Perrett (Canterbury Bulldogs), Frank Pritchard (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm), Jeremy Smith (Cronulla Sharks), Elijah Taylor (Warriors), Dean Whare (Manly Sea Eagles). - AFP

Khan names Hunter new trainer, to face Molina next

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 06:42 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Britain's Amir Khan seeking to end a two bout losing streak has named Virgil Hunter to replace Freddie Roach as his new trainer and plans to meet unbeaten American fighter Carlos Molina in his next bout.

The 25-year-old English boxer announced on his website that he had made the switch in trainers and that his next fight would be against Molina at a US venue with the date yet to be determined.

"I'm really pleased that Virgil Hunter is to become my new trainer," Khan said. "Everyone in boxing knows about his skills and the success he has enjoyed over the last few years.

"I'm looking forward to the start of my training camp and working on some new things with him. With Virgil in my corner, I know that I can get back to the very top of the light-welterweight division."

Khan will train for the fight at Hunter's gymnasium in suburban Oakland, California. Among the fighters Hunter has guided are undefeated world super middleweight champion Andre Ward.

"Amir is an extremely talented fighter and I'm very happy to become his new trainer," Hunter said. "I have seen a lot of him and he has many attributes such as his speed and heart.

"There are certain small aspects of his game that I'm intending to work on in order to help him fulfil his enormous potential."

Khan is 26-3 with 18 knockouts but has lost his past two fights, to unbeaten American pugilist Danny Garcia in a fourth-round knockout last July after coming off worse in a controversial split decision to American Lamont Peterson last December.

Khan lost 10 months ago in Peterson's hometown of Washington and Peterson would later test positive for high levels of testosterone to scuttle a rematch and make his victory even more dubious, though it has yet to be stripped.

Molina, 17-0 with one drawn and seven knockouts, will move up from the lightweight ranks to face Khan.

"Molina is a good fighter who has yet to taste defeat, so I know that he will be very dangerous," Khan said. "He is a tricky fighter who possess a lot of natural speed. I always want to face hungry young fighters and in Molina I'm up against a guy who has ambitions of world title success." - AFP

England out as Sri Lanka, Windies reach semis

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 04:31 PM PDT

PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka sent defending champions England packing at the World Twenty20 as they reached the semi-finals along with the West Indies after a dramatic night of action on Monday.

Sri Lanka's 19-run win over England, thanks in large part to Lasith Malinga's career-best 5-31, put the hosts into their third successive World Twenty20 semi-finals as they hunt their first major title in 16 years.

Earlier the West Indies snatched victory from New Zealand in a thrilling Super Over finish after they were tied on 139. Despite New Zealand's 17 off their extra over, West Indies smashed 19 with a ball to spare.

England's reshuffled team may regret sending Sri Lanka in to bat after the hosts posted a challenging 169-6. In reply, at a packed Pallekele stadium, England managed 150-9 and only briefly threatened to pull off an unlikely win.

The chase was in trouble from the start as England were rocked by Malinga, who took the first three wickets in his first over.

It needed a fourth-wicket stand of 55 between Samit Patel (67) and Eoin Morgan (10) to repair the early damage, but England lost wickets at regular intervals.

Patel added 51 with Graeme Swann (34) for the eighth wicket as hope fluttered. But Malinga bowled Patel in the penultimate over to snuff out the danger and improve on his previous best of 3-12 against New Zealand in 2010.

"The guys played really well. Lasith is unbelievable, both with the new ball and with the old ball. It would be fantastic if we can win it (the title) but the focus is to keep our feet on the ground," said captain Kumar Sangakkara.

In the earlier match, New Zealand started with a bang as they bowled out the West Indies for just 139 in 19.3 overs, with Tim Southee (3-21) and Doug Bracewell (3-31) doing the damage. Chris Gayle's 30 was the innings' top score.

Ross Taylor was the mainstay of New Zealand's reply with an unbeaten 62. But with New Zealand needing 14 off the last over, bowled by Marlon Samuels, Taylor hit a six off the fourth delivery but managed just a single on the penultimate ball.

Bracewell hit the final delivery but was run out while taking a second run, tying the match as New Zealand closed on 139-7.

Taylor scored an impressive 17 for New Zealand in their Super Over off the bowling of Samuels. But the all-rounder then stepped up for West Indies to hoist the winning six off Southee.

"Samuels is my go-to man in pressure situations, he's suffering from a bad shoulder so that's why he doesn't bowl more," said captain Darren Sammy. "It was a great fight-back and I am very happy at that."

A disappointed Taylor rued New Zealand's missed opportunity - but admitted that the West Indies' Super Over was "pretty awesome".

"We probably should have won it in normal time. Credit to West Indies, to score 18 off five balls is pretty awesome. When the first ball is a no-ball that goes for six, it ruins the over," said Taylor. "That's cricket and we're going home now."

On Tuesday, Pakistan play Australia and India face South Africa in Colombo to decide the semi-finalists from group two. The semi-finals will be played on Thursday and Friday, and the final is on Sunday. - AFP

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RBS CEO says banks need culture change to regain trust

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 06:30 PM PDT

LONDON: Banks must undergo a wholesale change in their culture and refocus their behavior on meeting the needs of customers to restore trust in the industry, Stephen Hester, chief executive of part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland , said on Monday

Speaking at the London School of Economics, Hester said he believed the finance industry's problems had arisen as a result of banks losing sight of their role in serving customers.

Britain's banks have been rocked by a series of scandals including interest rate rigging, breaches of anti-money laundering requirements and the mis-selling of loan insurance and complicated interest rate hedging products.

"It is possible to look at the many scandals that have hit banking in recent years and see them as individual episodes of bad judgment or wrong behaviors," Hester said.

"In fact, I think it's more accurate to say that most of them are related to one big scandal: banks have simply not been good enough servants of their customers in the recent past."

Addressing questions after his speech, Hester welcomed plans to reform the process of setting Libor, but said the industry and regulator could have been quicker to respond.

"The sadness on adapting to a new way of setting Libor is that it could have been done a while ago, but neither the regulator nor the industry were focused on that particular index in the way that, with hindsight, they should have been."

"The other enormous sadness is that the misconduct of individuals is bad because it is used to reinforce people's feelings of what banks are like. All industries can have individuals that are bad apples. All of us need to be clear that this behavior can't be tolerated," he said.

The Financial Services Authority on Friday announced a 10-point plan to overhaul Libor, but stopped short of scrapping the benchmark interest rate.

RBS is expected to agree a settlement this year with U.S. and UK authorities investigating its role in to Libor rigging.

"We cannot afford to just fix Libor, to just fix money laundering controls, or to just fix the way we market our products. We have to address the root cause of the industry's failings," he said.

RBS is 82 percent owned by the UK government following a 45 billion pound bailout during the financial crisis in 2008. It is under investigation for its role in a scandal over Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) and faces punishment over possible breaches of sanctions against Iran.

The bank has also set aside 1.3 billion pounds ($2.10 billion) to compensate customers mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and faces claims over interest rate swap mis-selling.

"The bank is a British poster child for what went wrong in banking and to fix it we are engaged in probably the largest and most far-reaching company restructuring ever," he said.

Hester said RBS should have largely completed its restructuring by the end of 2013 but had "about 15 months of heavy lifting still to do."

Since joining RBS as chief executive following the bailout, Hester has overseen a 700 billion pound reduction in the bank's balance sheet to bolster its financial strength and cut back on risk.

Hester said the bank was "out of the mire but not yet out of the woods."

RBS shares closed up 3.7 percent at 266.47 pence on Monday, meaning UK taxpayers are currently sitting on a paper loss of 21 billion pounds. - Reuters

Wal-Mart workers tell Street about hard work, low pay

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 06:26 PM PDT

NEW YORK/CHICAGO: Wal-Mart Stores Inc employees who say the world's largest retailer's labor practices are unfair voiced their concerns to Wall Street analysts on Monday, claiming that problems like long lines and empty shelves are systemic.

Five employees, two of whom have worked for the chain for more than 20 years, outlined problems they see, including unsafe conditions and low wages.

A handful of sell-side analysts turned out to hear from Walmart workers nearly a year after a similar meeting was held near Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The meeting, organized by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, brought the employees' complaints to an audience that is typically more concerned with Walmart's bottom line. They tried to convince analysts that issues such as low levels of staffing can lead to poor customer service, and therefore can impact sales and profits.

Jefferies analyst Scott Mushkin said he was not sure this was a big issue for Wall Street. He said his research showed that store execution, on balance, has improved over the last year or so.

One employee, who said she has worked at Walmart for 13 years, including as a salaried manager, said her store threw out 2,000 pounds of leftover Halloween candy this summer after it had been too short-staffed to stock it on time.

Management tried to sell the expired candy in discount bins in the electronics department, and threw it out after it did not sell, she said.

"Wal-Mart has cut employees' hours and cut the labor costs to a point where it actually is harming not the just the workers, but it affects the operations day to day of the store and it also affects the customers," said the employee, Lori Amos, who helps move goods from delivery trucks to storage shelves.

One 24-year employee from a Walmart store in Kenosha, Wisconsin said workers' hours are being cut at her store, with positions either going unfilled or being filled by managers.

"There's simply not enough manpower in the stores to fulfill these tasks," she said, adding that some workers are being asked to run power equipment without proper training or certification.

The union is urging Walmart workers to speak out more about concerns over labor issues through a group of current and former Walmart employees called OUR Walmart. UFCW members work at grocery stores that compete with Walmart.

A Walmart spokesman said that labor unions have been trying to organize the company's workers for years.

"OUR Walmart is a union-funded, union-backed group using a small fraction of the 1.4 million total people that work for us to further their own political and financial agenda," said Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman.

Suggesting that some workers' stories represent the experiences of all Walmart employees "would be completely inaccurate," he said.

MANY ANALYSTS RATE WAL-MART A BUY

The gathering comes ahead of Wal-Mart's annual investor meeting on October 10.

Wal-Mart's labor practices have garnered criticism among consumers and in the press, but so far have not impacted investors. Roughly half of Wal-Mart's stock is controlled by descendents of company founder Sam Walton.

More than 30 analysts follow Wal-Mart shares. Of 28 analysts whose recommendations on Wal-Mart are tracked by Thomson One, seven have "Strong Buy" ratings, four rate it a "Buy", 16 rate it a "Hold" and one has an "Underperform" rating on the stock.

Wal-Mart shares are up roughly 23.5 percent this year through Friday's close, nearly in line with the 23.9 percent rise in competitor Target Corp and outperforming a roughly 15 percent gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 index <.SPX> over the same period.

Wal-Mart has annual sales of about $444 billion, and 2.2 million associates worldwide.

In the United States, Wal-Mart has about 1.4 million employees in more than 4,480 stores including large supercenters, discount stores, grocery stores, small format stores and Sam's Club warehouse club stores.

Separately on Monday, some 650 people gathered in Elwood, Illinois, to support employees of an outside contractor on strike at a distribution center outside Chicago that supplies Walmart stores.

The workers have been on strike since September 15 to protest what Warehouse Workers for Justice called "management's illegal retaliation against workers attempting to present the company their concerns about wage theft, unsafe conditions and discrimination".

Workers at a Southern California warehouse that supplies Wal-Mart also went on strike last month, for 15 days. - Reuters

WTO chief says Doha rescue in U.S., China's hands

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 06:24 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy on Monday acknowledged the Geneva-based grouping has been a "disappointing" forum for trade liberalization but placed the blame for moribund world trade talks on both China and the United States.

Lamy, in a speech to the Brookings Institution, said it was clear a comprehensive agreement in the Doha round of world trade talks launched in 2001 "is out of reach in the short term."

But it may still be possible for WTO members to make advances in some areas, such as expanding the 1996 Information Technology Agreement to eliminate duties on more high-tech trade and negotiating a new international services agreement among an interested set of WTO members, he said.

Lamy also said he has assembled a panel of 12 experts, including U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, to recommend by early next year a future course for the WTO.

Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke told Washington lawmakers the WTO was "at a crossroads" because of its failure to reach a Doha agreement as well as the resistance of China, Brazil and India to the proposed services talks.

"Our view is the WTO can't fix its problems without first acknowledging them," Punke said.

The United States puts much of the blame for the impasse in the Doha round on major developing countries, which it says failed to offer sufficient new market openings in exchange for proposed cuts in U.S. farm subsidies and tariffs.

Developing countries say Washington demanded too rich a price for its reforms and the Doha negotiations were launched primarily to help poor countries increase trade.

Lamy said the main obstacle to a Doha round agreement was a dispute between the United States and China over how much to cut industrial tariffs for rich and developing countries.

"If the U.S. and China would agree on a compromise on industrial tariff problems, I would tell you the whole picture would change," he said.

Lamy conceded the WTO has fallen short of expectations in opening new markets, but defended its other operations.

"If the WTO's negotiating function has been disappointing, our organization has become more effective in other areas," such as the monitoring and reporting of trade restrictive measures imposed since the crisis began, he said.

He also lauded the WTO's role in defusing trade tensions.

"In an atmosphere of escalating trade tensions, the Dispute Settlement Mechanism has taken the heat out of disputes through a process, which is rules-based, predictable and respected. It is no accident that we have already had three times as many cases filed this year as in all of 2011," he said.

Lamy, who steps down as WTO head next year, said a new global consensus was needed to tackle a proliferation of regulatory trade barriers, while recent tariff increases by "certain WTO members" show why it would be valuable to reach a new global deal cutting tariff ceilings.

He did not mention countries by name, but Brazil has increased tariffs on a number of goods this year.

The geopolitical landscape is increasingly complex, but tough challenges did not deter the United States 50 years ago when President John F. Kennedy signed legislation creating what became the U.S. Trade Representative's office, Lamy said.

"The world was gripped by the Cuban missile crisis. The U.S. was looking with some perplexity at the consolidation of the European Common Market. Yet, President Kennedy noted it was no time to stagnate behind tariff walls, but to promote increased economic activity through increased trade," Lamy noted.

The WTO will hold its next ministerial meeting in Indonesia in late 2013. Lamy resisted setting that as a deadline for scaled-down Doha package, but added it was possible to achieve for negotiators to achieve several agreements by then, including China's accession to the WTO government procurement pact. - Reuters

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'I'm not perfect': Arnie admits to multiple affairs

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 12:41 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES - Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted he had multiple affairs during his doomed 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver, but said fathering a child with their housekeeper was the "stupidest" thing he did.

In a TV interview aired before his memoirs were published Monday, the former bodybuilder and Hollywood star told how Shriver confronted him about the child the day after he left office as California governor in January 2011.

He also admitted he had a habit of living "in denial" and keeping secrets, including not telling Shriver that he was going to run for governor until days before he announced it, and trying to conceal having heart surgery from her.

"That's the way I handle things. And it always has worked. But, I mean it does not - it's not the best thing for people around me because I sometimes - some information I just keep to myself," he told the CBS show "60 Minutes."

"So I became an expert in living in denial," he said.

Shriver filed for divorce in July last year citing "irreconcilable differences" with her husband, whom she met in 1977 and married in 1986, following him into the California governor's mansion in 2003.

Schwarzenegger had admitted in May 2011 that he had fathered a child, called Joseph and born in 1997, with the family's long-time housekeeper, Mildred Baena, and announced the couple's separation.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, he said he realized when Joseph was about seven or eight that the boy resembled him physically, and while not discussing it open, began giving her mother financial support for them.

The housekeeper remained in their employment, and Joseph even played with the couple's children. But her suspicions grew and she finally confronted him the day after he left office, when they saw a marriage counselor.

Shriver asked him point blank: "Hey, I think that Joseph is your kid," to which he replied: "You're absolutely correct." She filed for divorced a few weeks later.

Baena was not the first time he had been unfaithful to Shriver, he acknowledged - in the book he writes about a "hot affair" with actress Brigitte Nielsen while filming the 1985 film Red Sonja.

Pressed in the CBS interview about other infidelities, he admitted: "I had others. But that's something that's between Maria and me," adding that Shriver knew about his behavior.

"I'm not perfect," he said. - AFP

Busan festival puts Asian film in spotlight

Posted: 30 Sep 2012 08:45 PM PDT

HONG KONG: Asia's largest film festival rolls out the red carpet in South Korea on Thursday, offering a window into the region's cinema landscape and a rare screening of a North Korean film.

Organisers of the 17th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) have stressed the importance of the event in terms of promoting Asia's film industry, within which South Korea's booming domestic market is a current bright spot.

Much attention is expected to be focused on North Korea's romantic comedy "Comrade Kim Goes Flying", with its filmmakers having been invited to the screening.

It is the first time such an invitation has been extended to the North and Busan organisers say they are awaiting a reply.

"We are proud to say that we have played our part in the cultural exchange between North and South Korea," festival director Lee Yong-kwan told AFP.

Lee said one of the main aims of the event was to support and introduce to a wider audience lesser-known works and those of smaller production companies from across Asia.

"The likeliness of these films being presented at other internationally prestigious film festivals is low," he said, highlighting the importance of the Busan festival.

To that end, the 10-day event will close with the world premiere of Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki's humour-laced drama "Television".

Farooki said the attention his film would attract after being screened at this year's festival would draw global attention to his country's nascent film industry. Last year's event welcomed more than 182,000 film fans.

"I believe it will inspire a whole generation of younger filmmakers to believe in themselves and dream even bigger," the director told AFP.

This year Busan will showcase a special sidebar devoted to Afghani films saved from the Taliban by the Afghanistan National Film Archive, while the Window on Asian Cinema section features 49 films from 11 countries across the region, including 13 world premieres.

The festival, which has previously featured international stars and Academy Award winners including director Oliver Stone and French actress Juliette Binoche, will this year put Asian talent in the spotlight, with Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Tang Wei making appearances.

Forming the backdrop to a festival screening 304 movies from 75 countries is a domestic industry enjoying unprecedented box office returns in what has so far been a stellar year for Korean productions.

The Korean Film Council recently announced around 120 million cinema tickets had been sold across the country by the end of August, a year-on-year rise of around 20 percent.

Art-house maverick Kim Ki-duk became the first Korean to win the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice film festival with his tale of revenge "Pieta" earlier this month, and local films have topped box office charts.

Among them is casino caper "The Thieves", the second most successful Korean film in history, with admissions of more than 12.5 million.

A joint Korean and Chinese production directed by Choi Dong-Hun, it boasts Korean stars Lee Jung-jae and Jun Ji-hyun and will screen as part of the Open Cinema programme at BIFF.

Festival organiser Lee said one of the main roles of the festival was to support and promote such collaborations within the Asian film industry through its market and film fund programmes.

"This is where BIFF distinguishes itself from American film festivals or film markets where the focus is on worldwide cinema," he said.

The main competition of the event - the New Currents Award for debut or second-time Asian filmmakers - offers two prizes of $30,000 and has this year attracted a field of 10 productions from eight countries, including Lebanon and Iraq.

The winner will be announced on October 14, the last day of the event.

This year's Asian Filmmaker of the Year award will go to the Japanese veteran Koji Wakamatsu, 72, who produced the controversial "In The Realm of the Senses" (1976) and has directed three films in the past 12 months.

BIFF begins Thursday with the world premiere of the Hong Kong thriller "Cold War" starring Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Ka-fai. - AFP

'Hotel Transylvania' checks in with top box office spot

Posted: 30 Sep 2012 05:12 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: The animated monsters who become Dracula's guests in "Hotel Transylvania" scared up $43 million in their first weekend out, industry estimates showed Sunday.

Another film in its premiere weekend, "Looper," a mob movie starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, trailed in second place with a $21.2 million debut.

Cop drama "End of Watch" with Jake Gyllenhaal, was in the number three spot with $8 million for its second week in theaters. It was followed by Clint Eastwood's "Trouble with the Curve," about a baseball recruiter losing his sight, with $7.5 million.

Fright flick "House at the End of the Street" brought in $7.2 million in the number five spot, while teen comedy-musical "Pitch Perfect" was sixth with $5.2 million.

The 3D version of pioneering 2003 animated movie "Finding Nemo" was in the seventh spot with $4.1 million. In eighth was "Resident Evil: Retribution," cashing in $3 million.

"The Master," about the rise of a religious leader in the United States in the 1950s, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, earned $2.75 million. Rounding out the top 10 was "Won't Back Down," about two mothers trying to improve a school, raking in $2.7 million.- AFP

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UN body suggests countries use M'sia's approach in tackling drug abuse

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 08:34 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has acknowledged Malaysia's successful approach in tackling drug abuse, with good response from the addicts who come voluntarily for treatment and rehabilitation.

UNODC representative Gary Lewis, at the first day meeting of the 2nd Regional Consultation on Compulsory Centres For Drug Users (CCDUs) here, suggested that the member countries introduce the same approach.

The Malaysia National Anti-Drugs Agency, in a statement, said the delegates to the meeting would also visit the 1Malaysia Cure and Care Clinic in Sungai Besi to have a closer look at the transformed treatment and rehabilitation programme there.

The 1Malaysia Cure and Care Clinic is a day activity centre introduced by the agency on July 17, 2010 for those seeking services to overcome their drug problem.

The 2nd Regional Consultation on CCDUs was also attended by NADA director-general Puan Sri Zuraidah Mohamed and delegates from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, besides Malaysia. - Bernama

PM’s Dept enters Malaysia Book Of Records

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 06:39 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: The Prime Minister's Department has made it into The Malaysia Book of Records under the 'Human Achievements' category for organising the 'Largest Contingent of Secretaries-General in a Merdeka Parade'.

The record saw a total of 23 secretaries-general from 25 ministries and government departments joining forces to participate in the parade, which was held in conjunction with the country's 55th Independence Day celebration at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur on Aug 31.

Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa received the certificate, on behalf of the Prime Minister's Department, at his office here Monday.

The certificate was presented by The Malaysia Book of Records founder and managing director Datuk Danny Ooi.

The Malaysia Book of Records, a non-profit organisation launched in July 1995, documents and records performance, endurance, speed and uniqueness among others achieved by Malaysians.

The records are compiled every two years for publication. - Bernama

AirAsia wins Business Traveller's inaugural best low-cost airline award

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 06:38 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia has been awarded the inaugural "Best Low-Cost Airline," a new category introduced by Business Traveller Asia-Pacific at the ceremony in Hong Kong.

The category was introduced in recognition of the growing force of budget carriers and AirAsia.

AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said in a statement that it was an honour for AirAsia to be the first recipient of the prestigious award.

"As usual, an award win will not make us complacent. We will continue with our efforts to maintain our leadership spot by being cost effective and uphold our pledge in presenting our guests with unbeatable low fares and exceptional products and services,'' the statement said.

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific had sent out poll forms to subscribers who are regarded as some of the region's most experienced frequent travellers between April and June.

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Red Giants turn tables on Lions in a pulsating match

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 07:10 AM PDT

IT WAS celebration time for the Selangor fans when the Red Giants wrested the Sultan of Selangor's Cup after a 3-1 win over the S-League Selection at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.

Almost 65,000 fans had flocked the stadium and provided an exciting atmosphere for the teams. Selangor coach Irfan Bakti was quick to acknowledge the fans' cheers for their come-from-behind win against the Lions.

"The fans were fantastic. The players, particularly the foreign ones in the team, were motivated and inspired with the atmosphere. To be frank, it was the first time, we were playing in front of such a big supportive crowd this season,'' said Irfan.

Singapore, looking for their fourth straight win in the competition, were rewarded in the 23rd minute when skipper Aleksander Duric scored from close range. However, Selangor, with the fans' vociferous cheers, were on level terms in the 31st minute.

Referee Parathan Nasawang awarded a penalty after a foul on Mohd Amri Yahyah. Captain Safiq Rahim made no mistake from the spot kick.

After the breather, Selangor had the upper hand and their efforts resulted in Bosko Balaban scoring in the 54th minute. Rozaimi Abdul Rahman made it a memorable night for the Selangor fans when he scored in the 88th minute.

Irfan said the win was for the Selangor fans as well as Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

"The Sultan wanted us to regain the Cup. He made it clear when we visited him early this month. Our players were determined to end Singapore winning streak in the competition. The players rose to the occasion with an impressive display. Now we are looking forward to the Malaysia Cup.

"We hope the Selangor fans will come in full force to support us in the return leg against Johor FC on Tuesday,'' added Irfan.

As the champions, Selangor received RM50,000 as well as the prestigious Sultan of Selangor's Cup while Singapore settled for RM10,000.

However in an earlier match, the Singapore veterans defeated their Selangor counterparts 2-1. The match was also an exciting affair where the veterans displayed their individual skills.

Singapore took a 1-0 lead in the minute when Steven Tan scored past Rashid Hassan. But Zainal Abdin Hassan scored for Selangor in the 14th minute through a well taken freekick.

However Fandi Ahmad, who was a constant menace to the Selangor defence, fired a curling shot beyond the reach of Yap Kam Choon to earn Singapore the win.

Local artistes Ziana Zain and Awie entertained the crowd with their latest songs. There were also fireworks display as well as peformance by about 500 students.

Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin had initiated the competition in 2001 to foster better relations between Selangor and Singapore. It was then known as the Regent of Selangor Cup.

With the coronation of the Sultan in 2003, the competition was renamed as the Sultan of Selangor's Cup. Organising chairman Datuk Abdul Karim Munisar said this year's competition, 11th in the series, was well appreciated by the football fans from Malaysia and Singapore.

"The fans had a good time. We hope to continue the tradition as we want the younger generation to remember the strong rivalry as well as friendship between Selangor and Singapore,'' said Abdul Karim.

Energy-saving and eco-friendly LEDs range launched

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 07:10 AM PDT

HOMEGROWN electronic brand Pensonic recently launched its first light-emitting diode (LED) lighting range called Carinae LEDs.

The range consists of a wide variety of durable and environmental-friendly lighting products that have no mercury or filaments which can harm the earth in the long run.

Products namely Carinae Leds Bulb, Carinae LEDs Spot Light, Carinae LEDs Table Lamp and Carinae LEDs Solar Cube are at the top of the range.

Its lighting division general manager Leon Tan said the brand was inspired to come out with a range of household consumer lighting products that are efficient and energy-saving yet affordable.

"We hope to be a leading provider of affordable and reliable lighting solutions to consumers all across the country.

"Carinae LED bulbs use minimum electricity but are able to generate tremendous amounts of light energy," said Tan.

He added that the name of the range was inspired by one of the most luminous stars in the universe— Eta Carinae — which symbolises eternal brightness and life.

At the launch of the range, the bulbs were unveiled through futuristic fashion brand, Hideaki Fashion which designed a costume to showcase the bulbs.

The range is now available in major department stores, lighting shops and dealers nationwide.

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Ismail: Incentives announced by Govt in 2013 Budget will spur IM’s growth

Posted: 30 Sep 2012 07:37 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: The mammoth Iskandar Malaysia growth corridor here will benefit from the various initiatives, plans, and incentives announced by the government in the 2013 Budget.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim thanked the Government for its continuous commitment to induce investment growth whilst balancing the needs and aspirations of the people.

"This budget reflects how the Government is sensitive to the current landscape with increasing prices and true to the people's needs.

"We are pleased that many of the key growth announcements are in line with the initiatives already in plan and mapped out in Iskandar Malaysia's (Iskandar) development plan," Ismail added.

He welcomed the Government's commitment to build more affordable and comfortable housing units in main cities including Johor Baru, adding this would definitely attract more Malaysians to call Iskandar their home.

He also applauded the announcement which outlined specific incentives for various sectors which were being promoted and developed in Iskandar. For example, he said, qualified Oil and Gas companies in Tanjung Langsat and Tanjung Bin could enjoy 100% exemption from statutory income tax for the first three years of their operations under the Global Incentive for Trading (GIFT).

"We also appreciate the introduction of various incentives – both tax and non-tax - to provide a conducive investment environment to support the development of the Oil and Gas industry, which is one of the promoted sectors in Iskandar," Ismail added.

In the area of Tourism, he added that many are expected to visit the state especially with the opening of Legoland Malaysia in Nusajaya and Johor Premium Outlets in Kulaijaya.

"We expect tour operators in Iskandar to be definitely pleased with this announcement made in the budget for the tourism sector.

"I would like to advise the tour operators to take up this challenge and grab the opportunity to provide tourists quality service and an experience that they will remember." Ismail added.

On Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Finance Minister, said in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2013/2014, the Government has allocated RM358 million under development expenditure to target 26.8million tourist arrivals.

Tour operators who bring in at least 750 foreign tourists or handle 1,500 local tourists a year are also eligible for income tax exemption to be extended for three years.

On the development of small and medium scale exterprise (SME) Ismail said IRDA would work closely with SME-related Government agencies to ensure the fast-track of SME development in Iskandar to meet the demand of catalytic projects which were already here and coming on-stream.

He added that the investment marketplace would be further boosted with the focus on building and promoting of the Halal Industry and continued building capacity of Bumiputera entrepreneur development.

Ismail added that the continued focus on Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga (Tekun), allocation of RM350million including RM50mil to the Malaysian-Indian community, would provide a boost for entrepreneurs to be part of the growth in Iskandar Malaysia.

Ismail added that Iskandar shared positively the Budget's approach in prioritizing human capital development to ensure talents are equipped with the right skills to meet the industry's demand and looked forward to the launch of the Nation's Graduate Employability Blueprint by year end.

"The focus to create a professional and talented workforce in selected industries of Oil and Gas, Information Communication and Technology (ICT), Creative and Bio-technology will ensure a ready pool of high-skilled knowledge workers in Iskandar," he said.

He added that the move to provide incentives for Intellectual Property Rights development was on the right track and would create new sustainable companies from the innovative and creative industry.

Clinic providing efficent services

Posted: 30 Sep 2012 07:39 PM PDT

LABIS: The Labis health clinic has received over 4,000 patients since its opening end of last year.

Labis MP Datuk Chua Tee Yong said it was important to enhance local folks to good health care services.

The RM20mil health clinic opened its door on Nov 11 last year and is manned by a team of doctors and nurses.

The range of facilities include 24-hour emergency service, X-Ray, pharmacy and family health care.

It was mooted a few years ago when MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek was Health Minister then, said Chua before officiating a Youth Carnival organised by Labis health clinic advisory panel.

The event held at Dataran Labis recently was attended by more than 300 youths from eight schools in the constituency.

Various activities such as netball and futsal competition, talk on diet plans for youth, religious seminar, first-aid demonstration and exhibition by various government agencies, government link companies and non-governmental organisations were carried out during the one-day programme.

Labis health clinic advisory panel representative R. Ramakrishnan said the event was aimed at fostering closer ties with local communities especially among young people.

It was also held to increase involvement of youth in government agencies, government link companies and non-governmental organisations, he said.

"We hope to promote healthy activities among the youth and introduce them to the various agencies available around them," he added.

Maulizan: Headmasters the forefront of Govt’s Education Blueprint

Posted: 30 Sep 2012 04:36 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: Principals should play a vital role to ensure that the Government's Education Blueprint 2013-2025 would become a success.

Johor Education and Higher Learning executive councillor Datuk Maulizan Bujang said principals would be the forefront of the new education plan in the hope of getting the students to become human capital.

He added that to ensure that the Education Blueprint become a success, principals must transform themselves to encourage the students as well as the teachers in their respective schools.

Maulizan also said that academic qualification and high education background were needed to support the country's development programmes.

"An international study in 2007 showed that there was a decrease among Malaysian students compared with other countries where less than 20% of our students failed to achieve minimum level in Mathematic and Science.

"Besides that, 77% of the country's workforce only have SPM-level background and 28% of those are the highly skilled workers," he said in his speech when he officiated the opening of the state level Malaysia Principals Council here.

Maulizan added that the main focus of the Education Blueprint is to develop each student individually to allow them to become a success and contributing to the nation's growth.

"At the same time, the country's education system would stress on absorbing important ethics and value into the students and help Malaysia to achieve Vision 2020.

"To encourage the students creativity and innovation the usage of computers would be increased in schools just like highly income nations," he said.

Maulizan added that schools and its principals would be responsible for their students' achievement and the quality of the teachers would be further developed and strengthened.

He pointed out that to ensure the programme achieved its target, the Government hopes that education officers in school administration mainly secondary schools would support it.

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Girl still going wild

Posted: 01 Oct 2012 12:32 AM PDT

There's just no stopping Madonna, the reigning Queen Of Pop.

There's late and there's fashionably late. And then, there's Madonna late.

On the first night of her sold-out MDNA concert at Verizon Centre in Washington D.C. recently, it took Madonna two-and-a-half hours to get on stage and start the party. The show, which was supposed to kick off at 8pm, only got into full swing at 10.30pm, a time when most concerts usually end. Then again, Madonna is unlike most artistes and she sure is not targeting the same audience as Justin Bieber (his concert ends before 10.30pm to ensure kids don't miss their bedtime).

The set for Madonna's latest tour was made to resemble a cathedral; dancers were outfitted in monk costumes, backup singers were doing Gregorian chants and there was incense burning in a giant thurible. But when Madonna appeared – kicking through the cathedral window, she was anything but religious. Wearing an all-black slinky outfit, a generous portion of her d├ęcolletage visible thanks to a push-up bra, with a machine gun in hand, she launched into Girl Gone Wild.

The show started off in a violent fashion compared to the campy stuff Madonna had done in her past tours. After Girl Gone Wild, she performed Revolver and Gang Bang and continued her shooting spree. While most of the 20,000 audience were not familiar with these two songs, the choreography were excellent and enough to keep everyone in attendance engaged. Locked in a seedy motel room, Madonna is attacked by assailants whom she then shoots to death. This film noir scene almost made her look like the heroine (or perhaps, villain?) in a Quentin Tarantino flick.

But it was not all dark and gloomy in the MDNA tour. For her next set, Madonna, dressed as a majorette with baton in hand, led a group of marching band members (10 of whom were suspended in the air!) through Express Yourself. In that number, she playfully inserted a few lines of Lady Gaga's Born This Way into the bridge – a dig at the latter for the similarity in her song. This segment, in which she sang the aforementioned track, as well as Give Me All Your Luvin' and Open Your Heart, is one of the highlights of the show with its colourful set and energetic tone.

Another highlight was when Madonna and her dancers strutted around the diamond-shaped stage for Vogue. While the performance was mediocre (there's just so much catwalk you can do), it was the outfit she wore that is worth talking about. Designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, the skeletal-shaped corset with cone bra is the updated version of the iconic JPG design she wore in 1990 for her Blonde Ambition Tour. Talk about reinvention!

Reinvention has always been vital for Madonna throughout her 29-year career, and more so now than ever with a bevy of female ingenues eyeing her coveted position. Madonna is not one to be coy – she gets Nicki Minaj, via video, to remind us (and those ingenues) at the end of I Don't Give A... that, "There's only one queen, and it's Madonna". Message received loud and clear.

One of the grouses about this particular concert is that the selection of tracks could have been better – most of the songs featured are from her recent MDNA album. Granted that this is titled the MDNA tour, in support of her 12th studio album, fans present were still hoping for a walk down memory lane. Which was why songs such as Papa Don't Preach, Express Yourself, Open Your Heart, Vogue and Like A Prayer received rousing response. Madonna must have been privy to this complaint because she has since included the all-time favourite Holiday in the set list for her North American leg of the tour.

And for the price you pay, Madonna ensures you are entertained from start to finish; she walked on tightrope, did the kungfu, played the guitar and frolicked on the floor, not unlike her infamous debut performance of Like A Virgin at the MTV Video Music Awards some 28 years ago!

Heck, at one point, the 54-year-old entertainer even did the striptease and by the end of the song Human Nature, she took off her pants to reveal her toned bum, much to the crowd's delight (or disappointment; in Turkey, Madonna flashed her breast at the end of this song).

When it comes to putting on a bang of a show, no one comes close to Madonna.

She seems to be better at it, employing the best in the industry – dancers, choreographer, set designers, you name it.

All the theatrics might have helped make Madonna one of the most formidable performers of this generation, but as she proved in the second last performance of the night, Like A Prayer, sometimes all you need is a good song to get the crowd going. Devoid of flashy set, twirling of baton, wielding of firearm or exposing of body parts, Madonna got the crowd into the groove with one of the best songs of her career.

If anything, the MDNA Tour has proven that even after close to three decades in the business, Madonna is still able to command a crowd and keep them dazzled. The Queen Of Pop crown is still safe in Madonna's hand ... for now.

Quick look at the MDNA tour

> MDNA is Madonna's ninth tour in her illustrious career. Her first concert was The Virgin Tour in 1985, which made US$5mil (RM15mil). Madonna's 2008's Sticky & Sweet Tour grossed US$408mil (RM1.2bil).

> Madonna is supported by 22 dancers in the MDNA Tour. Some of the male dancers have to learn to dance and strut in five-inch Prada heels for Vogue and Girl Gone Wild.

> Tour outfits are designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, J. Brand, Jeremy Scott, Alexander Wang, Agent Provocateur and Madonna herself.

> In total, MDNA Tour will see Madonna performing 89 shows, her largest tour yet. It has been reported that the MDNA tour cost US$1mil (RM3mil) to produce a night. This is probably why tickets for MDNA are expensive. When asked to comment about the high pricing for her shows, Madonna told Newsweek: "People spend US$300 (RM900) on crazy things all the time, things like handbags. So work all year, scrape the money together and come to my show. I'm worth it."

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