Jumaat, 12 Oktober 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. intelligence set back when Libya base abandoned

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:46 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence efforts in Libya have suffered a significant setback due to the abandonment and exposure of a facility in Benghazi, Libya identified by a newspaper as a "CIA base" following a congressional hearing this week, according to U.S. government sources.

The intelligence post, located 1.2 miles (2 km) from the U.S. mission that was targeted by militants in a September 11 attack, was evacuated of Americans after the assault that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Three other Americans died in the attacks on U.S.-occupied buildings, including two who were hit in a mortar blast at the secret compound.

The publication of satellite photos showing the site's location and layout have made it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence agencies to reoccupy the site, according to government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The post had been a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles, the sources said. Its security features, including some fortifications, sensors and cameras, were more advanced than those at rented villa where Stevens died, they said.

The sources said intelligence agencies will find other ways to collect information in Libya in the aftermath of last year's toppling of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"Benghazi played a critical role in the emergence of the new Libya and will continue to do so. It makes sense that we would return there to continue to build relationships," one U.S. official said.

Public discussion of the top-secret location began with a contentious Wednesday hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which was investigating whether security lapses put Americans at risk.

The State Department displayed a satellite photograph showing two locations - the rented villa that served as a special diplomatic mission and the compound that officials had cryptically described as an "annex" or "safe house" for diplomatic personnel.

Both compounds were attacked by militants believed to be tied to al Qaeda. After the diplomatic complex was overrun, U.S. and Libyan personnel rushed by car to the second site, where they fought off two more waves of assaults, officials said.

Charlene Lamb, a top official in the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, told lawmakers that the secret compound took "as many as three direct hits."

Two U.S. security officials, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed there in what U.S. officials described as an unlucky mortar strike. As many as 37 people eventually escaped to Benghazi's airport.

When the satellite photo was displayed, a senior committee Republican, Representative Jason Chaffetz, complained that the discussion was drifting into "classified issues that deal with sources and methods," and the photo was removed from public display. No one at the hearing used the term "CIA base" to describe the facility.


The next morning, Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, wrote that the committee's "boneheaded questioning" of State Department witnesses left little doubt that the compound in the pictures was a "CIA base."

The Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with ties to the Obama White House, followed up with a blog post accusing Republicans of revealing the "Location Of Secret CIA Base."

On Friday, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused Republicans of mishandling secret information.

Spokespeople for the State Department and White House had no comment. The CIA also had no comment.

Oversight committee spokesman Frederick Hill said committee Democrats made matters worse by asking questions about the satellite photos. "Even after Republicans objected, Democrats continued to ask questions that led State officials to put even more sensitive information about who worked there into the public realm," Hill said.

The dispute over who was responsible for identifying the base is the latest case in which intelligence agencies - particularly the CIA - have been dragged into a political fray over the Benghazi attack.

The Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks has become fodder for criticism from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan ahead of the November 6 election.

Intelligence officials are not happy at being drawn into the political battle. Paul Pillar, one of the CIA's former most senior analysts, said the agency is sure to be dismayed at how its sensitive work has been dragged into the debate.

"They're trying to do the best they can with fragmentary and incomplete information. No doubt they are very unhappy that this issue is now being exploited for political purposes," Pillar said.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Kyrgyzstan says ousted leader's son arrested in London

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 03:17 PM PDT

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Maxim Bakiyev, son of Kyrgyzstan's fugitive former president, was arrested in London on Friday at the request of Kyrgyzstan and the United States, which want him "for grave crimes", the Kyrgyz president's office said.

"Because of the absence of an extradition agreement between the Kyrgyz Republic and Great Britain, the British side is now considering the issue of extraditing Maxim Bakiyev to the United States," the presidency said in a statement.

"Maxim Bakiyev is charged with crimes which under U.S. law are punishable with a long term in jail."

British police said the 34-year-old Bakiyev was arrested by extradition officers on the request of U.S. authorities, who want to question him for alleged involvement in fraud. He had voluntarily visited a police station in central London by appointment.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was given shelter by Belarus after crowds of protesters seized his government headquarters in an April 2010 revolt in which about 90 people were killed when security forces opened fire on opposition supporters.

Belarus, run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, has repeatedly rejected Kyrgyzstan's requests to extradite the former president, who is accused at home of "mass killings" of protesters during the coup.

Maxim Bakiyev, who under his father headed an investment agency, has been accused by the country's new authorities of involvement in large-scale frauds which stripped the impoverished ex-Soviet nation's coffers of millions of dollars.

Shortly after the fall of Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan made a request to the international police organisation Interpol for his son to be detained.

Kyrgyzstan's ties with Belarus have soured in recent months after Minsk also declined to extradite the ex-president's younger brother Zhanybek, who headed his personal security guard and is also accused of committing mass killings.

Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim Central Asian nation of 5.5 million, hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases and lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan.

It remains chronically unstable. Two presidents, including Bakiyev, have been toppled since 2005. Some 500 people were killed in interethnic clashes in the country's south in June 2010.

Three opposition nationalist parliamentarians were arrested last Friday and charged with attempting to stage a coup after they led a crowd which tried to storm government headquarters in a protest over a gold mine run by Canadian firm Centerra Gold.

Last week's clashes between police and opposition supporters were the most violent in Bishkek since April 2010, when Bakiyev fled from the same government building to escape popular anger.

(Additional reporting by Matt Falloon in London, Writing by Dmitry Solovyov, Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.N. Security Council cuts size of Haiti peacekeeping force

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 02:20 PM PDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Friday approved for another year the world body's peacekeeping force in Haiti, but it will be cut in size by about 15 percent as it hands over security responsibility to the Haitian national police.

The 15-nation council unanimously approved a reduction of authorized troops and police by 1,710 to 8,871, as recommended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. There are now about 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti, and Ban recommended a gradual drawdown to be completed by June 2013.

Haiti is still struggling to recover from a strong January 2010 earthquake that killed about 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.

The U.N. force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, was established in 2004 to help Haiti's short-staffed and ill-equipped police maintain security, especially during elections plagued by fraud and unrest. The force's size was increased after the earthquake.

Dozens of countries contribute troops and police to the force.

The U.N. force became highly unpopular in Haiti after peacekeepers were blamed by locals for a cholera outbreak two years ago this month that has sickened almost 600,000 people and killed more than 7,400 in the Caribbean nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere.

An independent panel appointed by Ban to study the epidemic issued a report in May 2011 that the United Nations said did not determine conclusively how cholera was introduced into Haiti.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 2011 found that evidence strongly suggested U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal were the source.

In March, two U.N. peacekeepers from Pakistan were sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy after being convicted in a Pakistani military trial in Haiti.

That rape case triggered renewed protests and demands from Haitian senators that U.N. peacekeepers be stripped of immunity and be tried in a Haitian court.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Will Dunham)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

'Million Muppet March' planned to defend U.S. backing for PBS

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 06:31 PM PDT

Plans to save Big Bird, the fuzzy yellow character on U.S. public television's "Sesame Street," from possible extinction are taking shape in the form of a puppet-based protest next month dubbed the "Million Muppet March."

The demonstration is planned for Nov. 3 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., three days before the general election. Before the presidential debate between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had concluded on Oct. 3, two men who had never met each floated the Million Muppet March idea on social media. They immediately united to defend public broadcasting.

Romney pledged during the debate to end the U.S. federal government's subsidy for the Public Broadcasting Service despite his professed love for Big Bird, one of the characters on PBS's 43-year-old children's educational program "Sesame Street," which features the Muppets. Michael Bellavia, 43, an animation executive from Los Angeles, and Chris Mecham, 46, a university student in Idaho, separately came up with the Million Muppet March idea in response.

Big Bird, played by actor Carroll Spinney in an 8-foot (2.5-metre) bird costume, is strictly speaking not a member of the group of puppet characters known as the Muppets.

Bellavia bought the Internet address www.millionmuppetmarch.com during the debate and discovered Mecham had already started a Facebook page by the same name. Within 30 minutes of the end of the debate they were on the phone with each other, planning the march. "I figured, why just make it a virtual show of support?

Why not take this opportunity because it seemed like there was already a growing interest in it and actually make it an active, participatory event," Bellavia said. "I literally just said, 'It's happening.'" Both men consider themselves fans of "Sesame Street," perhaps the best-known program on PBS, which received $445 million of $3.8 trillion in federal budget outlays in 2012.

Coming from rural Idaho, Mecham said he was aware how important public broadcasting was in sparsely populated areas that receive no other signals over the air. "Romney was using Muppets as a rhetorical device to talk about getting rid of public broadcasting, which is really so much bigger than Sesame Street," Mecham said.

"While he was still talking I was thinking of ways I could express my frustration at that argument. Before the debates were over I had put up the Million Muppet March Facebook page."

The two men said they immediately decided to work together. Mecham is a writer who is studying political science at Boise State University out of his interest in healthcare policy. Bellavia is president of the animation studio Animax Entertainment, founded by former Second City actor Dave Thomas.

They may fall short of attracting a million people, or Muppets, to the event, but they do hope to create what Bellavia called a "lovefest" featuring skits and musical performances with Muppets.

"It does seem like we might get close to the biggest ever assemblage of puppets in one place," he said, "and probably the most ever puppets marching on Washington."

The Million Man March was a gathering held on the National Mall on Oct. 16, 1995 to promote civil rights, with an emphasis on African Americans, and was led by rights advocate Louis Farrakhan. - Reuters

Teen actress Elfira denies love affair with Randy

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 08:24 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Teen actress Elfira Loy denies a resurfacing rumour that claims she is secretly involved with popular Indonesian actor Randy Pangalila.

The 18-year-old actress wondered how she could make her denial any clearer.

"I no longer know how to answer questions on this matter. Even if I say that I am not in a relationship with him (Randy), there are still people who will insist that I am.

"The truth is, we really are just friends," she said when met by mStar Online.

The gossip that linked the young couple started a year ago when they were working together in the telefilm Biar Mimpi Sampai Ke Bintang directed by Michael Ang.

The gossip resulted in Elfira being heavily criticised by the 22-year-old actor's fans who were uneasy with the allegations.

In the latest rumour, the petite actress is once again said to be secretly in a relationship with Randy.

"I have nothing to be afraid of as I am indeed neither in a romantic relationship nor am I trying to hide one.

"Randy is a loyal lover. He loves his girlfriend Michela Putri who is Jakarta, very much and I know her as well," she said.

In a latest development, Elfira said she sustained a bruise on her leg after being stepped on by a horse.

She added that the injury occurred while she was practising horse riding as preparation for a new telefilm to be directed by Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba.

Elfira and Randy will once again be acting as a couple in the 13-episode serial drama Dalam Hati Ada Taman.

The series will be shown starting from Oct 29, every Monday night at 9.30, on Astro Ria (Channel 104).

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Dialight to expand LED ops in Penang

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 06:41 PM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: Dialight Europe Ltd will expand the operational activities of its light-emitting diode (LED) assembly plant in Penang soon to include moulding and surface mounting technology (SMT) operations.

Dialight chief executive Roy Burton said that moulding operations would start before the end of the year for Dialight Penang Sdn Bhd, while SMT activities would begin next year.

"Production activities of the plant will also be expanded to include Dialight's industry-leading LED fixtures for industrial hazardous applications," he said after the launch of Dialight Penang by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Burton said US$1mil (RM3.06mil) had been invested in the 40,000-sq-ft facility in Penang with another US$1mil to be invested in the near future.

He said the Penang plant would supply high brightness LED lighting for use in the oil and gas, mining, and the hazardous industrial sectors in Asia.

"This is our first facility in Asia. Malaysia was chosen because of its low labour cost, ease of doing business and the government support.

"Coming to Penang is in line with our global expansion plans that bring us closer to our customers in Asia.

"Prior to coming to Penang, we were supplying the Asia market from our plant in Mexico.

"We will source about 50% of the raw materials used in our LED lighting products from small and medium enterprises in Penang," he said.

Last year, Dialight sales of LED lighting products increased more than 128%, Burton said. "This year we expect sales in Asia to grow more than double," he added.

Lim said Malaysia had a 10% world market share for LED, with three of the world's five largest LED makers located in Penang.

The maze called Putrajaya

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 06:28 PM PDT

EARLY this week, I was in Putrajaya for an assignment at a government agency building in Precinct 2. Getting to Putrajaya is never a problem. In fact, it was a breeze with all the highways. I've been to the federal administrative centre numerous times for work as well as cycling in those beautiful parks in my free time.

However, this time I had difficulty in locating the particular office building for my assignment. Although the Diamond Building has a very unique design, it pales in comparison to the massive buildings it is surrounded with. Those who have seen the building will be able to recognise it immediately as true to its name it's shaped like a diamond.

I found my way to Precinct 2 easily but I have no idea how to get to where the building is located. I went up and down a road behind the Diamond Building passing by the sprawling Palace of Justice trying to find the venue.

Getting lost is no fun. No one likes to get lost and being stranded on the side of the road trying to figure out one's way. I was trying to look for a signboard to tell the direction but somehow I didn't find any that point towards the Diamond Building. Perhaps, I missed the signs. Some say the signboards in Putrajaya are very confusing and some friends have been complaining about it as well. However, I noticed the authorities had been improving on existing signboards a fair bit. I believe there's still room for improvement in this area by putting up more signages or names of buildings to advise motorists.

Early this year, The Star reported that motorists in Putrajaya find it difficult to rely on signages. Many motorists, especially first-time visitors, complained that the traffic signages in the administrative capital are rather confusing.

I'm not giving excuses that I cannot find the Diamond Building by blaming the signboards or the lack of it. Since I was getting nowhere, I took out my Google maps to search for the location. Found the place within five minutes. Yes, I know I should have used one of those apps to help me get around while staying on track. Upon reaching the building, like most offices in Putrajaya, underground parking are mainly reserved for staff. Visitors will have to park their vehicles on empty land adjacent to these offices. While these empty plots provide some parking lots, the lack of proper visitor parking at some offices is a hassle.

Many cars were also seen parked by the roadside and even double parked thus congesting some roads. I'm not sure though if they parked on the roadside because of the lack of parking or for convenience. I understand that there's Park and Ride facilities in Precinct 7 but it is just not conducive for some of us. Perhaps, more parking bays should be made available to the public near these offices.

Living on a shoestring budget

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 06:28 PM PDT

A COUPLE of weeks back, I wrote an article titled "Can you retire with RM1mil?" whereby the premise was whether it was possible to survive on an average of RM3,333 a month for 25 years.

I threw this suggestion to a number of my colleagues and their unanimous reply was that in today's day and age, it's not possible.

Even the general consensus from the experts I quoted in my story was that "it would be difficult."

As I wrote the story, I couldn't help recall a time in my life when money was tight, and wouldn't hesitate to argue (based on personal experience) that even by today's standards, RM3,333 a month can be a luxury for some.

When I first entered the workforce nearly a decade ago, my starting salary (with an honour's degree in Law) was just RM550 a month.

So, how did I get by with so little money every month, you ask? I didn't, or rather couldn't. That's where my mum, whom I was living with (and still do today), comes in.

Fortunately, because my mum was a retired civil servant drawing a pension, we were able to make do. Our collective monthly income was below RM2,000 a month, but we survived.

It was also a good thing that there was no housing or car loan to service. After four months, I switched jobs (still in the legal line) and my salary was almost doubled.

Life got a little bit better but money, as always, was still tight. Food was mostly home-cooked. My mum (God bless her soul), would wake up everyday in the wee hours of the morning and cook my lunch so that I could take it to work and not have to eat out.

Mondays and Thursdays were my favourite meatball curry and rasam (a kind of soup).

My daily mode of transportation was a trusty 1962 Volkswagen beetle, which, up to that point in time, had been serving me for over 20 years.

Fortunately for me, daily driving cost me between RM30 and RM40 a week. To help reduce my costs further, I also learnt basic maintenance jobs for my car so that I could minimise my trips to the workshop.

But whenever something broke down or needed major repairs, then I'd practically be left "scraping the bottom of the barrel."

I survived this way for nearly three years and can say from personal experience that RM3,333 a month (even by today's standards) is definitely sufficient to live on (provided you live within your means and have no big financial obligations).

Of course, many would say "that was then and this is now." True, but as the cost of living increases over time and though it might not be in tandem so does one's salary and marketability (provided you remain employed and productive).

Life, of course, is a lot better today and I really don't miss my pre-journalism days. However, I do miss mum's meatball curry and rasam from time to time.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Cycling: Armstrong's ex-boss Bruyneel leaves RadioShack

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 05:30 PM PDT

PARIS: Johan Bruyneel, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's former manager during his drug-tainted seven Tour de France wins, has left his current team RadioShack, the Luxembourg outfit announced on Friday.

The decision comes just two days after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) condemned Armstrong for being at the heart of the biggest doping conspiracy in sports history.

"I am surprised and extremely disappointed that USADA released information in the public domain relating to their pending case against me before I had been given any opportunity to review the evidence and provide my defence against it," said Bruyneel.

"I still hope to be able to defend myself in a forum free from bias, although I now fear that USADA's calculated action may have irreversibly prejudiced my case.

"It is a troubling facet of USADA's approach to this case that it appears not to respect basic principles such as the right to be heard and the presumption of innocence."

Earlier, RadioShack said the decision to part ways with Bruyneel was taken to protect the standing of the team.

"From this day on, Johan Bruyneel will no longer act in the position of general manager of cycling team RadioShack Nissan Trek," a statement said on the team's website.

"The decision published by the USADA included a number of testimonies as a result of their investigation.

"In light of these testimonies, both parties feel it is necessary to make this decision since Johan Bruyneel can no longer direct the team in an efficient and comfortable way.

"His departure is desirable to ensure the serenity and cohesiveness within the team.

"RadioShack Nissan Trek wishes to thank Johan Bruyneel for his dedication and devotion since his arrival.

"The USADA investigation does not concern the activities of Mr Bruyneel while managing the RadioShack Nissan Trek team. Johan Bruyneel contests the validity of the procedure as well as the charges against him."

Earlier on Friday, the four-time world time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara said he might have had to consider his position with the RadioShack team if 48-year-old Bruyneel had remained in charge.

RadioShack is also the team of Andy and Frank Schleck. Andy Schleck was declared the winner of the 2010 Tour de France after Spain's Alberto Contador was stripped of the title for doping.

Bruyneel, who quit as a rider in 1998, was the sporting director at Armstrong's US Postal team from 1999 to 2005, as well as at the Astana team in 2009 and at RadioShack in 2010, when the American returned to the saddle.

The Belgian, who is one of six people accused by USADA in the Armstrong affair, protested his innocence in June. On Wednesday, the Belgian Cycling Federation (RLVB) said they would study the USADA report. - AFP

Snooker: Lee suspended in 'betting' probe

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 05:26 PM PDT

LONDON: Sooker's world number seven Stephen Lee was suspended by snooker's governing body on Friday after an investigation was launched into suspicious betting patterns in a Premier League match with John Higgins.

Lee, 38, was already the subject of an investigation by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) who were looking into match-fixing allegations in 2010.

The Englishman, however, has already been told he will not face a criminal prosecution over those claims.

"The WPBSA have concluded that it would not be appropriate for Stephen Lee to continue to compete on the world snooker tour whilst these investigations are undertaken," said a statement.

"Therefore WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has taken the decision to suspend Stephen from competition whilst this enquiry is ongoing.

"Subject to his right to appeal, this suspension will remain in place until either the conclusion of the investigation or any resultant hearings."

Lee's manager Adam Quigley said his client was devastated by the allegations.

"Stephen can't believe it is happening again, just one week after a case that has been outstanding against him for two and half years was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)," Quigley told the Press Association.

"Stephen is absolutely devastated. He has worked incredibly hard this year to get back up to number seven in the world. He is sick of all this stuff getting thrown at him and feels there are doubts about him every time he misses a ball.

"Stephen was supposed to be going out for a meal with his wife tonight to celebrate his 38th birthday. He has booked his flights to a tournament in Antwerp next week. Now they are both cancelled and he is engaging a lawyer to fight his corner." - AFP

Rugby: Ulster, Ospreys clinch bonus-point triumphs

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 05:07 PM PDT

PARIS: Scrum-half Paul Marshall grabbed a brace of tries as last season's runners-up Ulster began their new European Cup campaign with a bonus-point 41-17 victory over French side Castres on Friday.

Winger Andrew Trimble also crossed at Ravenhill in Belfast, as did South African replacement fly-half Ruan Pienaar in the last minute, after a punishing 17 phases following a loss of possession by Castres.

Paddy Jackson converted three of the tries and added five penalties for Ulster, who were soundly beaten 42-14 by fellow Irish side Leinster in last season's final. Ulster, the 1999 European champions, are now unbeaten in six matches this season.

In Friday's other game on the opening night of the 2012-13 tournament, Welsh side Ospreys also secured a bonus point victory with a last-minute try from Ashley Beck.

Eli Walker and Hanno Dirksen, with a brace, scored the other tries, with fly-half Dan Biggar kicking 18 points at Swansea's Liberty Stadium. Treviso scored two tries through Manoa Vosawai and Luke McLean.

"We are pretty pleased with the performance, but there's still a bit to work on. We have got to be able to think a bit quicker and not play so wide too early," said Ospreys captain Alun Wyn Jones.

"We can be pleased with the end result and the most pleasing thing for me was the composure we showed in the last minute, minute and a half.

"In the past you would have seen us tighten up in that situation but we realise that these pool games will come down to the last minute."

The win was sweet revenge for Ospreys, who had lost 12-6 to the same opponents in the Celtic League earlier this season. - AFP

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival kicks off

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 07:18 AM PDT

Get your fill of films and fun activities with a festival and competition this weekend.

The 2012 Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF) kicks off today and continues throughout the weekend at the Experimental Theatre of Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

This is the fifth installation of the three-day event which sees an array of workshops, screenings of award-winning environmental films, exhibitions and a panel discussion with local and international filmmakers.

Over 25 films are showcased this year, many of them highlighting issues regarding global warming, climate change, indigenous people and wildlife.

These short films, animation features, documentaries and full-length feature films are screened to the public for free.

Titles include The Barn Owl: Predator (directed Richard Duckett, Malaysia), Bikpela Bagarap (by David Fedele, Australia), Sacred Stones (Muayad Alayan and Laila Higazi, Palestine), A Pinon (Mattia Trabuccchi, Spain), The Light Bulb Conspiracy (Eva Peris, Spain), Drying For Freedom (Adam J Merrifield, Britain), Traffic In Frenetic HCMC (Rob Whitworth, Vietnam), Up In Smoke (Adam Wakeling, Britain), Balik Pulau: Sustainability Meets Tradition (Govindran Jegatesen, Malaysia), Waking The Green Tiger, A Green Movement Rises In China (Gary Marcuse, Canada), The Seahorsemen (Gillian Marsh, Ireland), Lenyap (Zarina Jan, Malaysia), Beyond Pollution (Harper Robinson, United States), Save The Earth (Calvin Woo Ming Kwan, Malaysia), Little Effort Makes A Change (Nanthini Buballa Singgam, Malaysia) and The Malaysian Culture (Yap Jun Ming, Malaysia).

In a press release, Yasmin Rasyid, the festival director said: "We discovered many more fine environment-themed movies than our three-day weekend could include ... (There's) a varied selection of new works by both established filmmakers, many returning to the festival, and first-time directors."

Other than films, KLEFF will see exciting workshops, fashion shows, exhibtions and "meet-and-greet" sessions with international and local filmmakers attending the festival to discuss their films with the audience.

Some of the international filmmakers making their way here for the event are David Fedele (Big Damage), Olivier Pollet (Canning Paradise), Howard Jackson (Big Dreams, Little Bears) and Rob Whitworth (Traffic In Frenetic).

On Saturday, check out the workshop entitled Hijau, that addresses social and environmental issues in Malaysia. This event takes place at the university's Pusat Asasi Sains at 2pm. At the same time there will be a Making Underwater Documentaries and Q&A session hosted by Lina Teoh.

Other workshops include two fun ones for children entitled DIY Solar Cooker Workshop and DIY Pinhole Camera Workshop (Sunday, 11am and 2pm, respectively, at Kompleks Perdana Siswa). To register, e-mail: ecocentrictransitions@gmail.com.

There will also be an eco-fashion show (Oct 13, 2.30pm) and an exhibition featuring sustainable architecture 3D models by university students.

Visit The Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival website (www.ecofilmfest.my) for the festival's programme which can be downloaded for free.

What else is on

The other film-related event that's also happening this week is the 2012 KL 48-Hour Film Project (KL48) in which many aspiring filmmakers are put into separate teams and asked to conceptualise, create, direct, edit and submit a short film in just 48 hours.

These films are screened at the TGV Cineplex in Suria KLCC on Oct 13, while the awards are presented on Oct 14 at the KL Tower. It is open to the public; you can purchase tickets from www.kl48hourfilm.com.

In a press statement, KL48 producer Shahril Fahazmi Musa urged participants to focus more on the stories rather than emphasise on the technical side of the storytelling.

He said: "The software, the cameras and the production methods are just tools to tell their stories, the most important part is the stories themselves."

Producer Julia Fraser (who has collaborated with U-Wei on his upcoming film, Hanyut), producer/director Ken S. Yap (Nasi Lemak 2.0 and Phua Chu Kang: The Movie) and Shukor Kadir (Anna And The King) who act as judges advise the participants to strategise how they are going to accomplish their task successfully.

The winner of this local round will be awarded a RM30,000 grant from the National Film Development Corporation, as well as a chance to compete against 114 other international winners at Filmapalooza 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The flight tickets to Filmapalooza is also part of the prize.

According to the press release, top films from Filmapalooza will then get the opportunity to go to Cannes Film Festival in France for it to be screened in the Short Film Corner.

For more information, visit www.kl48hourfilm.com/.

Movies coming soon to Malaysian cinemas

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 01:18 AM PDT

Sinister – Ethan Hawke headlines the cast in this "found-footage" horror flick from writer/director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism Of Emily Rose). He plays a true-crime novelist who investigates a murder that took place in the house he is currently occupying.

His curiosity, however, may just end up killing more than the house cat.

Ted – Co-written and directed by Seth MacFarlane (the same guy responsible for the funny TV series, Family Guy), Ted revolves around a man-child (Mark Wahlberg) whose best friend is a talking and walking teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane).

However, his long-suffering girlfriend (Mila Kunis) is not happy about their living arrangement. Also, she wants more in the relationship than their current status.

Affleck film recounts Hollywood role in Iran crisis

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 11:27 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Actor-director Ben Affleck's latest movie tells the incredible story of Hollywood's role in an attempt to get a group of US diplomats out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.

"Argo," Affleck's third film behind the camera, is set against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution and the international standoff in which 52 Americans were held in Tehran for more than a year.

The subject matter has clear topical resonance: the hostage crisis helped eject Jimmy Carter from the White House, and President Barack Obama, battling for re-election, is now facing pressure over attacks on US missions abroad.

But the 40-year-old Hollywood star says it was never his intention for the film - produced by George Clooney and out this weekend in North America, less than four weeks before the November 6 election - to be caught up in politics.

"It was always important to us to let the movie not be politicized. We tried to make it very factual, fact-based, because it was coming up before the election in the US, when a lot of things get politicized," he said.

The real-life story - which was classified for years, and only became public in 1997 - starts with the US embassy in Tehran being seized by revolutionaries, who went on to hold 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

The Democratic Carter's mishandling of the crisis led to his defeat by Republican Ronald Reagan the following year.

As the mission was stormed, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a secret exit and took refuge in the Canadian embassy. They were out of Iranian hands, but the next question was how to get them out of the country.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Tony Mendez proposed a solution, which at first seemed far-fetched, but was eventually accepted.

The idea was to mount a fictitious Hollywood science fiction movie production, ask Tehran for visas to scout for filming locations - and then get the diplomats out of the country disguised as film crew members.

"When I saw the script, I couldn't believe how good it was," Affleck told reporters, presenting the movie in Beverly Hills ahead of its release.

"What struck me almost right away was that we had this thriller, and in equal measure this kind of comic Hollywood satire and this really sort of intricate real-life CIA spy story, all based on truth."

Affleck plays Mendez, a real-life former spy who was heavily involved in the movie's production and even makes a brief appearance on screen.

"It was really inspiring to meet Tony. He was steeped in this movie. It was Tony's story, Tony's point of view," said Affleck.

"He wanted to meet me at this old famous CIA bar in (Washington district) Georgetown, and he was telling me that it was where (CIA double agent) Aldrich Ames passed names of the American agents in Russia to his Russian handlers.

"When he told me that, it kind of sank in all of a sudden - this was real, this was a real story about a real guy who worked in a real world where real lives were at stake."

"Argo" maintains a delicate balance of tone as it depicts the Iranian revolution and the violent embassy scenes while also showing how a Hollywood production is put together.

Affleck stressed the importance of historical accuracy.

"Naturally we wanted to be careful and judicious about presenting the facts and also stand firmly behind that, and say that this is an examination of this part of the world," he said.

"Just because this part of the world is undergoing tumult, doesn't mean you stop examining it or talking about it. I think that would be a bad thing." - AFP

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PM: RM40mil given to Sabah Umno as political donation

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 09:38 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The RM40mil given to Sabah Umno was a political donation, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"Every political party has a right to receive political donations," he said, adding that the political donation was done in a proper and acceptable manner.

Najib declined to reveal the source and added the Opposition also received political donations.

"We are not at liberty to disclose because the Opposition also receives donations and they don't disclose," Najib told a press conference after chairing the Barisan Nasional supreme council meeting.

A businessman was detained in Hong Kong in 2008 with RM40mil reportedly meant for Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

However, the Attorney-General Chambers has cleared Musa and timber trader Michael Chia of corruption allegations.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz had disclosed this in the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday.

On another matter Najib said he had met currency speculator George Soros two years ago.

"I met Soros upon his request after he had met Tun Mahathir. It was merely a courtesy call.

"There was nothing untoward, nothing sinister and nothing to worry about," said Najib.

The Prime Minister said nothing much was discussed and reiterated that it was merely a social call.

More in The Star Saturday.

Rais: RM3.5mil for 'P.Ramlee Seat' to hone artistic talent

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 08:27 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has allocated RM3.5mil for the setting up of a "P. Ramlee Seat" to generate more performance artistes, said Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim (pic).

Saying the matter was decided at the Cabinet meeting Friday, he added that the seat named after Malaysia's renowned actor, singer, director, musician and song-writer would be under the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara).

"The creation of this field of study is aimed at honing talents through the study of acting, music composition and singing which were the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee's gifts," he said.

Speaking to reporters after chairing a post-cabinet meeting here, Rais said the date for the first intake session would be announced later.

P. Ramlee had fans from all walks of life and his contribution to movies and music should be acknowledged through researching his artistic techniques and song writing and movie directing competitions in this field of study, he said. - Bernama

RM1mil worth of lubricants destroyed in warehouse fire

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 08:21 AM PDT

BUTTERWORTH: A warehouse storing lubricants in Lengkok Kapal, Jalan Chain Ferry here went up in smoke Friday causing losses estimated at RM1mil.

Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat said the department received a call at about 4.34pm and three minutes later the first fire engine arrived at the scene.

"By the time the fire engine arrived, the fire had flared causing two loud explosions," he told reporters at the scene.

Azmi said seven fire engines with 47 officers and men together with volunteers took about two hours to bring the blaze under control.

"The cause of the fire and actual losses are still under investigation," Azmi said adding that during the incident several employees who were in the warehouse managed to flee to safety. - Bernama

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Fun Run to raise funds for foundation

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:42 AM PDT

THE response for the inaugural Bukit Damansara Fun Run on Oct 27 has been encouraging.

The fun run, organised by Pro-Tenis has generated a lot of interest among residents in Damansara.

The 5.1km run will start at 6pm at Decanter restaurant in Jalan Setiabakti. Participants will go through Jalan Medan, Jalan Beringin, Jalan Bruas and back to Jalan Setiabakti.

Organising committee member Irene Toi said they had received encouraging support from participants.

"The event is for social runners. It is an opportunity for the participants to get together for a good cause as proceeds from the events will be donated to the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation (KDSF) National Centre.

"After the completion of the run, the participants can look forward to an entertaining evening, with food and drinks served, at the Decanter in Jalan Setia Bakti.

"The route is simple and within the capabilities of a social runner. We are giving the participants about 90 minutes to complete the race," said Irene.

The organisers have limited participation to 1,000 runners and are confident of meeting the target before the closing date.

Those wishing to take part in the run can register at Decanter restaurant in Jalan Setiabakti, Kuala Lumpur or its other outlet in Jalan 17/56 in Section 17, Petaling Jaya.

Forms can also be downloaded at www.decanter.com.my

Sports carnival in Putrajaya

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:42 AM PDT

PERSATUAN Anak-Anak Kelantan Darul Naim Malaysia (Pakatan), with support from the Youth and Sports Ministry, are organising a futsal and netball carnival at the Presint 18 Futsal Complex in Putrajaya on Oct 20 and 21.

Pakatan secretary Roslan Mohamed said the carnival would be a platform for their members to get together with other similar associations.

"We are expecting teams from Selangor, Perak, Johor and Pahang to be part of the programme,'' he added.

There will cash prizes for the top eight teams in futsal and netball. In futsal, the champions will receive RM5,000 followed by RM3,000 and RM1,000. For the netball champions, the cash prize is RM3,000, RM2,000 for the runners-up and RM500 for the third-placed team.

The entry fee per team is RM50. For more information, visit www.pakatan.org or www.kbs.gov.my or call 013-341 4287.

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Drugs, gun found on rapper Nelly's bus at Texas checkpoint

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 08:23 PM PDT

SAN ANTONIO: Authorities discovered marijuana, heroin and a loaded gun on Grammy-winning rapper Nelly's tour bus during a routine stop at a Border Patrol checkpoint in West Texas, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

A member of the singer's entourage took responsibility for the items and was arrested after the search on Wednesday evening, while others on the bus including Nelly were released, officials said.

"It is my understanding a member of my staff made an unfortunate decision to bring unlawful materials onto our tour bus that resulted in his arrest," Nelly said in a statement on Thursday. "Neither I nor anyone else on the tour bus was aware of his decision to bring these on board."

The incident took place at the same checkpoint where singers Willie Nelson and Fiona Apple, rapper Snoop Dogg and actor Armand Hammer have been stopped for possession of controlled substances. The checkpoint, which is not on the border, is used by the Border Patrol to check the citizenship status of motorists on Interstate 10.

A spokesman for the Hudspeth County sheriff said the tour bus had pulled into the Border Patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas, about 90 miles (145 km) east of El Paso, when a dog detected the presence of controlled substances.

"The agent requested all seven occupants out of the bus and conducted an inspection of the vehicle," spokesman Rusty Fleming told Reuters. "A search produced a small plastic container containing marijuana, 36 small bags containing heroin, and a loaded .45 pistol."

Fleming said all of the occupants of the bus were read their Miranda rights, and a passenger on the bus, Brian Keith Jones, admitted that the controlled substances and the weapon belonged to him.

Jones was arrested, Fleming said, adding that he did not know what charges he will face.

Nelly, 37, whose real name is Cornell Iral Haynes, was born in Austin, Texas. He has performed in several movies, and Billboard magazine named him one of the top artists of the decade in 2009. - Reuters

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Shaharis: Rivers in the country treated as dumping ground by irresponsible people

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 06:55 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: Malaysians are treating their rivers as a dumping ground by deliberately throwing rubbish and all sort of waste into the water system.

Waste of all kinds could be found dumped in the rivers nationwide from unused automobiles to furniture to animal carcasses to toxic waste to even human bodies.

"We don't love our rivers and human activities are the main reason that contributes to the dirty rivers," said Malaysian Water Academy (MyWA) executive director Shaharis Saad.

He said Malaysia was among the top countries which has the most polluted rivers and it the situation prolonged, it could cause problems for clean water supply in the future

Shaharis said this in a press conference after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between MyWA and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

Under the MoU, both parties would jointly undertake research activities on water-related issues such as water treatment technology and waste treatment.

He said if no action taken by the relevant authorities to improve on the quality of river in Malaysia, the country would have problems in treating river waters for human consumption.

"We foresee that Malaysia will have problems in treating raw water from our rivers 10 to 15 years down the roads as most of our rivers are polluted,'' said Shaharis.

He said the polluted water river was not only prevalent to Malaysia but a worldwide phenomenon especially in the Third World countries where polluted rivers were common sight. Meanwhile, UTM dean, Faculty of Civil Engineering dean (Institute of Environmental and Water Resource Management) Professor Dr Zulkifli Yusop said Malaysia still has a long way to go before it could see clean rivers in the country.

He singled out Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan as countries which have the best river management system in the region and managed to transformed their dirty rivers into sustainable water system.

"We have to start learning from them on how to revive our river system as clean river reflects the high degree of civic consciousness and the image of our country,'' sadi Dr Zulkifli.

Chua: Labis MCA plans to hold health carnival yearly in Bekok town

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 06:53 PM PDT

LABIS: The district MCA is considering holding an annual health carnival at Bekok town in a bid to promote regular health screening among the folks here.

Its MP Datuk Chua Tee Yong said he hoped the plan could be carried out with involvement from various government agencies and organisations.

He said 61% of the country's population were inactivate, which led to various non communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart problems.

"We hope people know their health conditions and exercise more for their own good," he said after attending health carnival organised by Labis MCA at Bekok multipurpose hall here recently.

Government agencies and non-governmental organisations involved in the carnival including Health Department, National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), Federation of Chinese Physicians and Acupuncturists Associations of Malaysia (FCPAAM).Others were Immigration Department and National Registration Department.

Despite various criticisms made by the Oppositions on the government healthcare policies, Chua said the government had improved the general public health drastically since the country's independence.

"Our life expectancy at age 57 during Merdeka time, for both men and women, rose to 71 years for men and 76 years for women.

"The government is not perfect, but it has helped to change the healthcare standard and improve quality of life of the people," he said.

Chua added that the government spent RM10bil to RM15bil annually on medical bills and services.

"Even the World Health Organisation recognises Malaysia as one of the countries in the world that provide affordable medical to the people," he said, adding that the public health clinic only charged RM1 for medical service.

16 year-old dies in fall at university

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 04:13 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: A 16 year-old worker fell to his death at a university in Skudai here recently.

Johor Baru North deputy OCPD Supt Beh Eng Lai said the victim installing air-conditioners at the university's residential block.

He added that based on eyewitnesses' account, the victim was told to take a break by his co-workers when he complained of a headache.

Supt Beh said the men who were working in the hostel's balcony had realised that the boy had gone missing.

Later, they found him sprawled on the ground floor of the building and rushed to his aid.

The victim, who suffered severe head injuries was rushed to the Sultanah Aminah hospital where he was treated.

Supt Beh said the victim, a resident from Tampoi, had succumbed to his injuries the following day.

The case, he added, was classified as 'sudden death'.

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