Ahad, 21 Oktober 2012

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Back on TV

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 01:39 AM PDT

South Korean singer and actor Kim Jeong-hoon last week performed on a local TV show for the first time in nearly seven years. The Hallyu star put on the first televised performance of his new ballad Heart For Only One Person on Mnet's live music show Music Triangle, which aired last Wednesday.

The remake tune is the title track of his new mini-album My Story, which was released on Oct 12, and lists five sentimental and nostalgic tunes.

"It's been seven years since I last performed on local music shows. I'm so nervous that I'm not sure if I can do well when singing live. But I'll do my best on my longed-for stage," Kim said in a statement before the show. The Present singer will be busy with the new album's promotional activities in South Korea, while his new film Mr. Jeong-hoon!!! My Star Is A Chickenman?!" is set to open in Japan on Oct 31. – Reuters

Be entertained

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 02:02 AM PDT

Peals of laughter is set to ensue on 988 this week; you'll be happily entertained by the DJs. To make it sweeter, heaps of giveaways are up for grabs, too.

The Feature

Mon-Tues, 9am-10am

Badminton is one of our country's strongest sports in the international arena. Meanwhile, football's popularity in Malaysia is second to none. But what about basketball? How does it feature in Malaysia's sport scene? Basketball fans out there, this topic is definitely for you.

Street VIP

Wed-Fri, 9am-10am

Lee Lik-Chi is one of Hong Kong's highly acclaimed comedy film directors, screenplay writers and actors. He is perhaps best known for his successful partnership with comedy maestro Stephen Chow. According to Lee, Chow, Kuk Tak Chiu and he were once the "iron triangle" of Hong Kong comedy films.

K-Pop Chuego

Mon-Fri, 3.30pm

Let's K-Pop

Saturday, 3pm-4pm

One of K-Pop's hottest groups, Big Bang (pic), is coming to Malaysia this weekend for a one-night only, sold-out concert. If you couldn't get tickets, you now stand a chance to be one of the lucky few to win exclusive passes to the group's private rehearsal on the day of the show. Don't miss this golden opportunity, K-Pop fans, as 988 is the only station that will be giving this out!

The Good Show

Mon-Fri, 5pm-8pm

Have your colleagues been pestering you for a treat? Do you want to bring your family or friends out for a good meal but cannot really afford to? Well then, good news! "HEA HEA HEA HEA HEA!" lets you treat four of your favourite people to an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ buffet feast. Also, Datin Ong's searching squad for Ah Huat will be at the Cheras Leisure Mall in Kuala Lumpur, at 2pm on Oct 28. Expect heaps of laughter and giveaways from the team.

Morning Laughter

Sunday, 7am-10am

Some of us may speak Cantonese on a daily basis, but do you know the difference between "mm gai" and "tor jie"? Learn the correct pronunciations and the art of speaking Cantonese like a pro.

For more information, log on to 988.com.my. The Star operates 988.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China leftists urge parliament not to expel Bo Xilai

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 08:41 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - A group of Chinese leftists has issued a public letter calling on the country's largely rubber stamp parliament not to expel disgraced former top leader Bo Xilai from its ranks, saying the move is legally questionable and politically motivated.

China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (L) and Deputy Mayor of Chongqing Wang Lijun (R) sing the national anthem during a session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of the Chongqing Municipal Committee, in Chongqing municipality in this January 7, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (L) and Deputy Mayor of Chongqing Wang Lijun (R) sing the national anthem during a session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of the Chongqing Municipal Committee, in Chongqing municipality in this January 7, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

Stripping membership from Bo - the one-time Communist Party chief of Chongqing who is accused of abusing power, taking huge bribes and other crimes - also removes his immunity from prosecution, and paves the way for formal charges against him.

Bo's ouster has exposed deep rifts in the party between his leftist backers, who are nostalgic for the revolutionary era of Mao Zedong, and reformers, who advocate for faster political and economic reforms.

The letter, carried on the far-left Chinese-language website "Red China" and addressed to the parliament's standing committee, says the party is fuelling doubts about the accusations against Bo by refusing to discuss them publicly.

"What is the reason provided for expelling Bo Xilai? Please investigate the facts and the evidence," says the letter. "Please announce to the people evidence that Bo Xilai will be able to defend himself in accordance with the law."

Parliament and its members are there to provide oversight and make laws, not to "act as a rubber stamp" for attacks on people for personal reasons by political factions, it added.

Since Bo was ousted in March, he has not been seen in public and has not been allowed to answer the accusations against him. At a news conference days before his removal, Bo rejected as "filth" and "nonsense" the then unspecified allegations against him and his family.

The once high-flying Bo now faces a criminal investigation that stems from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing last year. Bo will almost certainly be jailed, following the imprisonment of Bo's wife Gu Kailai and his former police chief Wang Lijun.

The letter said there were still many doubts over the Heywood case, including how the defendants were allowed to defend themselves and the shortness of the two court cases.

"Is this not a big joke we are playing on the world when we have been telling people left, right and centre that we are a country with rule of law?"

"Red China", which has issued a torrent of commentary defending Bo, is blocked to the many Chinese users who do not know how to evade censorship barriers, and the letter is likely to fall on deaf ears in any case.

Parliament's standing committee, its top decision making body, meets for three days from Wednesday and is expected to throw Bo out of parliament, removing another hurdle for the smooth handling of a generational leadership transfer kicking off at a key party congress next month.

Bo, 63, was widely seen as pursuing a powerful spot in the new political line-up before his career unravelled after his former police chief fled to a U.S. consulate for more than 24 hours in February and alleged that Bo's wife Gu had poisoned Heywood to death.

After his appointment as party chief of Chongqing in 2007, Bo, a former commerce minister, turned it into a showcase of revolution-inspired "red" culture and his policies for egalitarian, state-led growth. He also won national attention with a crackdown on organised crime.

His brash self-promotion irked some leaders. But his populist ways and crime clean-up were welcomed by many of Chongqing's 30 million residents, as well as others who hoped that Bo could take his leftist-shaded policies nationwide.

His likely trial could still stir that ideological contention. China's party-run courts rarely find in favour of defendants, especially in politically-sensitive cases.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

With 16 days to go, Obama and Romney neck and neck

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 08:36 PM PDT

DELRAY BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were tied in a dead heat on Sunday with 16 days to go until the election, increasing the stakes for their third and final debate.

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama answer a question at the same time during the second U.S. presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama answer a question at the same time during the second U.S. presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had both Romney and Obama at 47 percent among likely voters, marking a comeback for the Republican since a series of missteps including the release of a secretly recorded video in which he suggested almost half of the electorate lives off government handouts.

The squeaky tight nature of the race brings an air of unpredictability to the last, intense round of campaigning and raises the importance of the face-to-face encounter between the pair on Monday night in Boca Raton, Florida.

Romney has been on a roll since soundly thrashing Obama at their first debate in Denver on October 3. The Democrat rebounded with a solid performance two weeks later in Hempstead, New York, but it wasn't enough to vault him back into a sizeable poll lead.

Improving economic conditions, like a drop in the jobless number and signs of recovery in the housing market, have also failed to give the incumbent a safe cushion in the polls ahead of the November 6 election.

Trying to putting a positive spin on the poll numbers, Obama aides said they felt good about their position in some of the battleground states where the election will be decided. Obama has been clinging to a small lead in all-important Ohio, for example, and early voting looks to be favouring the Democrats.

"We feel we're even or ahead in these battleground states. If you look at the early voting that's going on around the country, it's very robust and it's very favourable to us. And we think that's a better indicator than these public polls, which are frankly all over the map," said Obama senior adviser David Axelrod on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The final debate would seem to play more to Obama's strengths since it is focused on foreign policy. Obama gets credit for the U.S. mission that led to the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and for pulling troops out of Iraq.

Romney's campaign has made the weak U.S. economy the central issue and he is not a foreign policy expert although he is now getting regular U.S. intelligence briefings.


The Romney side brought up a New York Times story on Saturday about possible one-on-one talks between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, accusing the Obama administration of engaging in national security leaks to the news media.

"I don't know if it will be a big story. Both the White house and the Iranians have said it's not true. It sounds to me that it's another example of a national security leak from the White House, they've done a lot of that," said Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who plays Obama in mock debates to help Romney prepare.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a long-time Obama confidant, said the Obama policy toward Iran has paid off. "Iran is isolated from the rest of the world. Now that was steady, determined, dogged leadership, setting out a course," he told ABC's "This Week."

Both Obama and Romney were locked in weekend debate preparations sessions - Romney in Delray Beach, and Obama at his Camp David, Maryland, presidential retreat.

Romney emerged briefly to perform the coin toss for a beach football game between senior members of his staff and several reporters who cover his campaign.

Huddling with his staff, Romney joked to them: "Figure out which of their players are the best and take them out early... Don't worry about injuries, guys. This counts. Win!"

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll said Obama still led Romney 49 percent to 44 percent among registered voters, but that this was down from a seven-point edge the president had among registered voters in late September.

"I like what I see because the trend is in our direction ... that's where you want to be at this point in the campaign," said Portman.

It was the latest poll showing Americans divided between giving Obama more time to fix the economy, or choosing a former business executive who argues he knows best how to create jobs.

A Reuters/Ipsos online poll on Saturday showed Obama with a razor-thin lead, 46 percent to 45 percent. The margin had narrowed from Friday when he had a three-point lead.

After Monday night's debate, Obama travels later in the week to battleground states of Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Ohio in a two-day campaigning blitz.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Deborah Zabarenko in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Sandra Maler)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. due back at Mayo Clinic for more tests

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 08:14 PM PDT

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Embattled U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., who is being treated for bipolar disorder, will return to the Mayo Clinic this week for a re-evaluation by his doctors, his father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, said on Sunday.

U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Il) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Mitch Dumke

U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Il) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Mitch Dumke

The civil rights leader and former presidential candidate did not give a specific day when his son, a nine-term Illinois Democrat, would return to the clinic, or say whether he would be re-admitted to the facility.

"That has not yet been determined. It's a re-evaluation of his status and that will then determine what should happen," the elder Jackson told Reuters.

Congressman Jackson, 47, was treated for at least six weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, this summer for bipolar disorder, a psychological condition marked by extreme mood swings, and has been on medical leave from the House of Representatives since June.

Since leaving the hospital last month to continue his recovery at home in Washington, the lawmaker has been seeing two doctors a day and "struggling with his own desire to get back to his work, which ... seems to be premature if he does not have strength to handle that challenge," his father said.

The younger Jackson made his first public statement about his absence in an automated "robocall" to constituents on Saturday, saying he was anxious to return to work.

"But at this time, it's against medical advice. And while I will always give my all to my constituents, I ask you to continue with your patience as I work to get my health back," he said.

Jackson's congressional office confirmed on Wednesday that he remains on the ballot for the November 6 election, which he is favoured to win. He has not been campaigning for the heavily Democratic Chicago-area seat he has held since 1995.

In addition to his health issues, Jackson has been the subject of a congressional ethics committee probe over an alleged bribe offered by a Jackson supporter in 2008 to then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The bribe was said to be intended to entice Blagojevich into appointing Jackson to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Jackson has admitted to lobbying for the seat, but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who has since been convicted on corruption charges and imprisoned.

According to news reports citing unnamed sources, Jackson is also under investigation by the FBI over possible misuse of campaign money. The FBI has not confirmed this.

Jackson's Republican challenger, Brian Woodworth, urged voters to pray for Jackson's recovery but said the district needs to elect someone who can be a voice for constituents.

His possible return to the Mayo Clinic shows "he is not getting better and it's another indication that says he's not going to be ready to serve, even when January comes around," Woodworth told Reuters.

Repeated calls to Jackson's congressional and campaign representatives went unanswered. His father said he could not give a timeline on when Jackson would recover and get back to work.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Esthetics jumps on takeover offer

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 06:14 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of Esthetics International Group Bhd (EIG) jumped in early trade on Monday after it received an unconditional mandatory take-over offer from Providence Capital Sdn Bhd.

At 9.02am, it was up seven sen to 50 sen. There were 344,700 shares done.

The FBM KLCI inched up 0.44 of a point to1,666.79. Turnover was 24.16 million shares valued at RM15.17mil. There were 55 gainers, 53 losers and 103 counters unchanged.

Last Friday, Providence Capital offered to acquire the EIG shares at 50 sen each and the warrants at 12 sen each.

It is time for M'sia to fish in global waters

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 06:11 PM PDT

I LOVE to fish you could say I am mad about fishing. I forget everything, I am relaxed, I am focused on what I am doing and the time just flies. And when I get a catch on the line that's something else altogether. You have to try it for yourself.

Well, I was fishing with my nephew once in Australia. We were not having much luck but the Aussie guy not far from us was. So we moved closer and closer to him until our lines tangled. We had to cut them free.

He had this to say: "There's a big beach out there mate."

I suppose that's a bit like life too. There's a whole big space out there and plenty of opportunity but we keep crowding around the same little area and forget about all the potential elsewhere that could be tapped if we just do things the right way.

If you are wondering whether I am taking you on a fishing expedition, no I am not. I am getting to my point already. Our transformation programme focuses on increasing income and the quality of life.

But to increase our incomes we must look beyond our own shores. We must explore other markets, find out what they need, market the right products/services, sell it to them and, yes, make money in the process.

By this process, we increase our net trade, the excess of exports of goods and services over imports. Net trade is a direct contributor to our income.

Our gross national income (GNI) is the income that accrues to our country. If you use today's prices, that will be our current income. Divide this figure by our population and we get our GNI per capita the average income earned per person.

The sum of goods and services produced in a country in a year is its gross domestic product or GDP. GDP is the total consumption in the country plus investment plus net trade plus an adjustment for inventory changes. The value of this in today's prices plus the net income we earn from abroad is the total income that accrues to us, our GNI.

The equation is this: GNI = domestic consumption + investment + net trade + net income from abroad + inventory adjustment. In this formula, domestic consumption includes both government and private consumption and likewise for investment too.

Increasing our net trade increases our income as a nation directly and hence our per capita income too. It is a crucial part of becoming a developed country, especially for a small country with limited market. But to do that, there is something crucial and critical that we must do: Be competitive - equal to or better than others at what we do.

Although the world economy is going through a slowdown, Malaysia is arguably not as vulnerable as 69% of our GDP is actually domestic consumption and 22% is investment. Net trade is only about 7% and the rest is inventory. Going forward we must grow our net trade so that exports are much bigger than imports.

A prerequisite for our exports to grow is that Malaysian companies must be competitive. This means they must produce products and services which can compete internationally and win market shares in other countries. This is what South Korean companies such as Samsung and Hyundai have successfully done.

It is about time that Malaysian companies step up their efforts and innovate. We should not be vortexed into internal quarrel over limited Government contracts. We shouldn't just seek Government incentives to succeed in business. The best companies are those that succeed without needing direct Government assistance. They win because they are simply good!

They produce products and services that customers crave for. The right question for our companies: How can we produce Malaysian products that are superior in terms of quality and value for money. And how can we fish and succeed in big markets such as the US, Germany, China, India and UK? These markets are large and the winners are those who are innovators in their field.


Our target is to increase the income per person to US$15,000, by 2020. At the rate we are going, it is likely that we may achieve this ahead of 2020 but we'll need the initiatives of the economic transformation programme to spur this on.

I will not be far wrong if I said that becoming competitive is one of the most crucial things we need to do to become a developed country and as with all things strategic, it will without doubt be the most difficult. I have discussed some of the changes undertaken in one of my previous columns (see Competition begins at home, June 14).

To recap, there are six areas where we are making major changes:

1. Competition, standards and liberalisation;

2. Improving public finance;

3. Better public service delivery;

4. Defining and reducing the Government's role in business;

5. Human capital development; and

6. Reducing disparities

All these six areas are interdependent. The Competition Act fosters competitiveness locally. Imposition of international standards and liberalisation of various sectors helps to foster competitiveness amongst our own industries and enterprises by bringing them up to international standards.

Improving the government's financial position enables human capital development and better public service delivery. Defining and reducing the government's role in business allows private enterprise to flourish while the government's role is focused on some key areas.

Reflecting this, we have been steadily bringing our budget deficit down from 6.6% of GDP in 2009 to 5.6% in 2010 and 4.8% in 2011. This year, it is targeted to go down further to 4.5% and next year 4%, as announced by the Prime Minister.

The success in all the first five areas will help reduce income and other disparities between the people and help enable a higher quality of life for all, as envisaged in the sixth area. We have also other programmes to reduce disparities.

But if our net trade is small, we will have problems. We need to be focused in the economic areas that we believe we can be highly competitive in and fix the six areas to get the net trade up.

We are at a crossroads. Right now, domestic demand is driving the economy. Yes, that's good but we must diversify the base, we need to find new markets, new sources of growth, new industries where growth is high. We need to know and improve our competencies so that we understand where we can best compete.

We simply can't rely on domestic demand forever we have it now but we must use this interlude to build up our competitiveness.

There is so much more out there if only we take the trouble to look, explore, discover and penetrate. Make a product or provide a service which fits the need of the market at a competitive price and you are in business.

Better still, further down the line, differentiate your products through innovation and invention while staying in touch with the market and you can really begin to start reaping big rewards. Why do people pay so much more for Apple iPhones?

At the end of the day, it's a people game but you need systems, processes, plans and programmes to produce and attract the best. That is the most difficult thing about transformation, and if you become better at what you do no matter what you do - you help it along.

But one thing is crystal clear: It's time to fish in international waters if we want to increase our catch. We are untiringly finding the ways and means of doing exactly that. Help us achieve that!

  • Datuk Seri Idris Jala is the CEO of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department. All fair and reasonable comments are most welcome at idrisjala@pemandu.gov.my

Malaysia tax rate second lowest in South-East Asia

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 06:09 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia maintained its top rate of personal income tax at 26% in 2010, which was the second lowest rate compared with five other countries in South-East Asia, according to KPMG's annual Individual Income Tax and Social Security Rate survey.

"The rate was reduced from 28% to 27% in 2009 and further reduced to 26% in 2010," said the audit firm in a recent statement.

"Although it was recently announced that the tax rates affecting three chargeable income bands ranging from RM2,501 to RM50,000 will be reduced by 1%, this will have minimal impact on an eligible individual taxpayer as the tax reduction only amounts to RM475," KPMG said.

Singapore maintained the lowest rate in the region (see table), followed by Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

In the same statement, KPMG international executive services head Datin Pauline Tam said there could be a possibility that the 26% top tax rate in Malaysia would be reduced when the Government introduced the goods and services tax.

"It will be good if the Government could give a firm commitment to its reduction as this will be very welcome to businesses and entrepreneurs. Being open for business' is not just about the corporate tax regime.

"Personal tax is a major issue for entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and senior executives, many of whom can and do exercise considerable discretion over where they choose to locate."

Tam however added that "headline top rates of tax don't tell the whole story."

"For example, here in Malaysia, while the top rate of personal income tax is 26%, on earnings of US$100,000, a single individual's effective tax rate is 21%. When comparing rates in different countries, it's important to consider the threshold at which the rate kicks in and the effect of social security taxes which may be levied.

"Indeed, the survey shows that when considering the combined effective social security and income tax rate levied on a salary of US$100,000 and US$300,000 respectively in a range of six countries in South-East Asia, Malaysia is lower than countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines."

The survey of personal tax and social security rates with historical data from 2003-2012, covers 114 countries and concentrates on the highest level of personal tax payable to the central government.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

UCI set to make ruling on Armstrong

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 07:01 PM PDT

GENEVA - International Cycling Union (UCI) officials were set to announce their decision about the fate of Lance Armstrong on Monday, with their own credibility and that of the sport under fire.

The UCI is to reveal whether or not it will impose a life ban on Armstrong and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles on the basis of a US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report - or reject the findings.

USADA went public earlier this month with 1,000 pages of evidence and testimony, including statements from 11 former Armstrong teammates, that were used to issue punishments in August when Armstrong refused to contest charges.

"The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said.

"Lance Armstrong did not merely use performance-enhancing drugs. He supplied them to his teammates. He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team. He enforced and re-enforced it."

On the eve of a decision that could spell doom for his tattered legacy, Armstrong spoke for about 90 seconds to a record 4,300 bikers at the Livestrong Challenge charity benefit, a 100-mile (160-kilometer) race in his hometown of Austin, Texas.

"I've been better, but I've also been worse," Armstrong told the riders. "Obviously it has been an interesting and difficult couple of weeks."

If UCI decides to reject USADA's findings and punishments, USADA would be able to appeal that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since the evidence was revealed, sponsors have fled Armstrong and he was forced to resign as chairman of the Livestrong cancer-fighting charity he founded in 1997 over concerns his tarnished reputation could hurt the cause.

"To spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship," he said.

Cycling is also feeling the fallout.

Rabobank, a Dutch bank and a pro cycling team sponsor for 17 years, has backed out following the Armstrong scandal.

"We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport," Rabobank board member Bert Bruggink said.

"We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future. What the USADA showed us is that international cycle racing is not only sick but (it is) also at the highest level within cycling."

That could be seen as taking aim at UCI president Pat McQuaid, who has been criticised for failing to see the extent of doping within the sport.

Dutchman Hein Verbruggen, McQuaid's predecessor who departed in 2006, was running the UCI during Armstrong's golden era - a time when USADA's report says Armstrong and teammates evaded doping tests simply by hiding at times.

Armstrong's Tour triumphs from 1999 through 2005 helped lead cycling beyond the Festina doping scandal of 1998, which featured revelations of rampant abuse of banned drugs such as erythropoietin (EPO).

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has said he does not want to award titles to other riders for 1999-2005 if Armstrong is stripped of the victories.

Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs to achieve cycling stardom, inspired more than $500 million in donations to Livestrong and pushed other cancer survivors to battle the condition.

"When we started this organization 15 years ago, if you told me that little organization, that little idea, would raise half a billion dollars, would have touched two and a half million lives around the world, I would have said you are crazy," Armstrong said. "But those are all true. That's what happened."

No charges were filed against Armstrong from an 18-month US federal probe that ended earlier this year. Evidence from that case was not given to USADA.

But Armstrong could face court cases from former sponsors who accepted his assurances his legacy was not aided by banned substances.

USADA's probe found all but one podium finisher during Armstrong's Tour reign has been directly linked to doping, helping to spark a mix of opinions even from Sunday's Livestrong Challenge riders.

"I think he's probably guilty," said Jenni Stephenson, 32, of Houston.

"Regardless of whether he cheated or not, if they were all cheating, he still won," said Catherine Young, a 50-year-old bike shop owner. - AFP

Serena seeks to cap remarkable comeback year

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 05:37 PM PDT

ISTANBUL - Serena Williams may silence some of her remaining critics if she caps a tremendous comeback year by regaining the title at the WTA Championships which start at the Sinan Erdem arena on Tuesday.

Having won Wimbledon and the US Open, and an Olympic singles gold medal for the first time in the last few months, Williams is unofficial favourite to deny top-seeded Victoria Azarenka and second-seeded Maria Sharapova at the women's tour's season-end event.

The 31-year-old Williams has achieved all this despite the blood clots in her lungs which endangered her life and contributed to a 12-month absence during 2010 and 2011.

Nevertheless dissent has been articulated, notably at the influential magazine Sports Illustrated, at suggestions that the American legend should win the WTA Player of the Year award for a third time in five years.

Williams' commitment to the tour is being questioned again after she missed two of this year's four premier mandatory tournaments - Indian Wells in March and Beijing last month.

Inevitably these absences have brought reminders of withdrawals which caused criticism in previous seasons.

As the WTA's four-year roadmap campaign places special emphasis on player commitment - to avoid upsetting spectators and sponsors - Williams' non-appearances may be regarded as relevant.

The roadmap has helped the tour's prize money to rise 51 percent, its player participation to improve 34 percent, and the achieving of record attendances and television coverage at some tournaments.

It may therefore also be a significant statistic that Azarenka, the world number one, the Australian Open champion, and the WTA Championships' top seed, has a superior record of matches played (75) and victories totalled (67) this year.

However, Williams, who has won 43 of her last 46 matches, struck a humble note after her startling recovery, claiming she now has "a whole new perspective on her life and career."

Certainly Williams has made a huge difference to the profile of women's tennis, but she does not have enough time left to climb back to become the year-end world number one.

Who gets that accolade will be decided over the next few days by Azarenka, who has been the ranking-topper for most of the year, and Sharapova, the former number one who achieved a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in June.

Azarenka only needs to win two group matches to finish top, but if the Belarusian were unaccountably to win only one of these three round-robin encounters, Sharapova could snatch it away from her by taking the title.

Although the Russian celebrity remains the world's highest paid woman athlete, with an estimated annual income of $28 million, she has only won the WTA Championships once before, eight years ago during her breakthrough season aged 17.

Williams has won it twice, but the 23-year-old Azarenka's best so far is last year's runners-up position after losing a three-set final to Petra Kvitova.

Azarenka has also lost 10 of her 11 meetings with Williams, including at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open this year, though she may take encouragement from having led 5-3 in the final set during the New York final.

In Sunday's draw, Azarenka gained an early chance to make up for her heartbreaker in the US Open final when Williams was drawn into her round-robin four, the Red Group, along with Li Na and Angelique Kerber.

This left Sharapova with a slightly less difficult looking quartet, even though the White Group includes Kvitova, as well as Agnieszka Radwanska and Sara Errani.

For the first time in the WTA Championships' 40-year history, the players come from eight different countries.

Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion, is Czech, Radwanska, the Wimbledon runner-up, is Polish, and Li, the former French Open champion, is Chinese.

The two debutants, Kerber, a Wimbledon semi-finalist, and Errani, the French Open runner-up, are German and Italian respectively. - AFP

Gainey's sparkling 60 wins McGladrey Classic

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 05:36 PM PDT

SEA ISLAND, Georgia - Tommy Gainey couldn't quite reach golf's magic number of 59 - but a sparkling 60 was good enough to give him a first US PGA Tour victory at the McGladrey Classic on Sunday.

Gainey nabbed eight birdies and holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle on the par-five 15th en route to a 10-under 60 that gave him a 16-under total of 264 and a one-shot victory over David Toms.

A birdie at the last would have made Gainey the sixth player in PGA Tour history to record a 59. He hit his approach inside 20 feet but his birdie attempt came up short.

Nevertheless Gainey trailed by seven shots entering the final round and his comeback matched the second-biggest for a victory on the tour this season.

Gainey's round included seven successive threes from the 11th - four of them birdies and one of them his eagle. He had to wait more than two hours to see if his lead would stand up.

"Got a long way to go," Gainey said as he walked off the 18th green, with the overnight leaders yet to make the turn.

When it was all over, Gainey was a little emotional.

"It's been a hard year for me and finally, we got it right," said the 37-year-old with an unconventional swing and the nickname "Two Gloves" for his habit of wearing gloves on both hands.

"I get bashed all the time about my swing," Gainey acknowledged, but added: "The only thing that matters is right before impact on the downswing."

Toms and Jim Furyk both made late runs, Toms finishing with a 63 for 265.

Furyk, still trying to erase the taste of America's Ryder Cup defeat to a storming European team at Medinah last month, birdied the 15th and made a great par save at 17.

He could have forced a playoff with a birdie at the last but instead hit his approach right and ended up with a three-putt bogey for a 69 that left him third on 266.

Furyk made just two bogeys all week, but he still couldn't break through for a first win of a season that has included seven top-10 finishes, a near-miss at the US Open and a tough loss to Sergio Garcia at the Ryder Cup.

"I think what I'm most disappointed about is when it came down the stretch, hitting the ball pretty much as good as I can, I made really, really poor swings at 17 and 18 with a seven-iron and eight-iron," Furyk said.

"So to play those two holes and not get one good look at it for birdie was disappointing."

Toms also needed a birdie at 18 to match Gainey but drove into a bunker.

"I was thinking about what kind of putt I was going to have before I ever hit the fairway," Toms said. "You get ahead of yourself and that's what happens."

Davis Love, who captained the losing US Ryder Cup team, had found a measure of solace in a strong performance this week in the tournament he hosts, but his dwindling hopes ended for good when he drove into the water on 16 en route to a double-bogey.

His one-over 71 left him tied for fourth on 268 with Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge (65) and D.J. Trahan (69). - AFP

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BAT Malaysia announces cigarette price increase of 20sen from Monday

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 06:33 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: British American Tobacco Malaysia (BAT Malaysia) has announced a 20sen increase on the prices of all its cigarette packs effective Monday.

"We were officially informed by the Royal Malaysian Customs on Thursday, Oct 18, 2012, of a mandated uplift in the ex-factory pricing of our cigarettes of between 26% to 58% effective Friday, Oct 19, 2012.

"The consequence is that excise and sales tax payable has increased," said William Toh, managing director, BAT Malaysia, in a statement. - Bernama

In a flutter over BigBang show

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 03:23 AM PDT

Oct 27 may be just another Saturday for the average Malaysian, but for more than 16,000 VIPs', it is the biggest day of the year.

HEY BigBang, welcome to Malaysia!!!" You might have read this on the side of a bus while stuck in the jam along Jalan Ampang and Jalan Hang Lekiu.

Advertisements on buses are ubiquitous in the crowded streets of Kuala Lumpur so what is the big deal, you say?

This ad was not bought by some music management or concert organiser company but by more than 16,000 young fans of the Korean pop supergroup BigBang who will be in town this Saturday for the Malaysian leg of their BigBang Alive Galaxy Tour 2012.

Yes, mums and dads, pop fandom has changed from our days. While fanaticism for sports, movie and music heroes is nothing new we can still make fun of our parents with their teary hysteria for the Beatles, Elvis Presley and P. Ramlee, or hide our MJ white glove and lacy Madonna bustier from our children we have to admit that the changing lifestyle and the social media explosion have transformed idol worshipping beyond our imaginations.

Take this bus ad as an example. The fans behind it or BigBang VIPs as they call themselves would not say how much their BigBang bus project cost them, but it is part of the RM10,000 budget allocated for their BigBang Cheering project in conjunction with the upcoming concert.

Says BigBang Malaysia Fan Club (BB1st) founder and president Migo Ho, 21, the money was raised through contributions from members nationwide and the sale of fan clubs' merchandise. (The Internet means anyone can start a fan club this cheering project brings together other local BigBang fansites and groups such as My-vip, Yg-Hype, @BigBang Malaysia and MYVIPs.)

The idea, meanwhile, came from the VIPs of South Korea.

"The Korean VIPs started the bus project in the second year of BigBang's debut in 2006. Since then, whenever BigBang came out with a new album, the fans would fund a bus ad and you could see it roaming the roads in Seoul.

"This is the first time overseas fans are doing this," shares another ardent fan, Zaty Aziz, 25.

As Migo reveals, they even got the seal of approval from BigBang's management company YG Entertainment for the design of the ad!

The BigBang bus (No. 79 SJ BUS) began running on Oct 13 and will continue to grace the Ampang-Masjid Jamek route for a month.

The route was specifically selected because it passes the Korean Village in Ampang and for its direct access to the KLCC Twin Towers.

"The bus is not only to greet BigBang to KL, but it is also for all their fans in Malaysia. We hope they will try and catch the bus and take lots of photos for their personal memento," adds the Taylor's University third year student.

If you think the bus idea is over the top, the Malaysian fans originally were also raring for another greeting for their favourite K-pop idols a banner running all the way from KLIA to the KL city centre.

"Unfortunately, we could not get the permit from the authorities because it is dangerous, so we decided to do one that we can hang inside Stadium Merdeka during the concert," says Migo, adding that the giant banner carrying the message: "We Malaysia VIPs (heart) You BigBang Until Whenever" was made as one of the activities at the Hallyu Festival at Taylor's University Lakeside Campus, Selangor, last month.

This is not all that has been planned for the BigBang bash.

At the concert, the VIPs are going to give out 10,000 free hand banners bearing the name of each member of the group as well as 4,000 blue and red LED glow sticks for concertgoers to flash during the performances of BigBang's latest hits Blue (blue light) and Fantastic Baby (red light).


The latecomers will have to buy their own at RM1 each, but the proceeds from the sale will go to charity homes in the name of BigBang.

And as nothing is more fun than singing along, the fan club has prepared a BigBang songbook with the romanised Korean lyrics of 34 of their hit songs for downloading from their site.

The most important song that Migo hopes concertgoers can learn is Until Whenever.

"That is the song BigBang wrote especially for their fans. So instead of just shouting Encore', we plan to sing the chorus of Until Whenever to get them to come out for their encore performance, she says.

The non-fans might feel that this is all too much work for a concert but for the VIPs, this is a crucial part of the event.

This is because they have to show BigBang how much they love the group, so that they will come back for another concert in Malaysia, says Migo.

"We all want to stand out and be recognised as the best fans," BigBang devotee A. Shareem, 16, quips in agreement.

It is indeed a phenomenon: while the social media has brought K-pop fans worldwide together it is no exaggeration as BigBang, like many other K-pop acts, have fans in all corners of the world from Siberia, Russia to Lima, Peru it has also bred intense rivalry among the fans as they vie for their idols' "affections".

Take the global VIP fansites since the BigBang Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 launched, fans have been arguing about the number of songs the K-pop stars performed for their encore in the different countries. Some fans take this as an indication of how much the group love the fans of that particular country.

Then there are the messages that the well-connected stars tweet or post on their Facebook themselves when they are in different locations. A praise of their country will whip up a frenzy while a bad comment will invite ridicule.

"We really want Malaysia to be their favourite destination," says another VIP, Mae Tan, 17.

But parents need not worry if all the fans are like J-pop-fan-turned-K-pop fan Nadiah Azli, 24.

"Fans in Jakarta were so rowdy last week that Taeyang (a BigBang member) had to plead to the crowd to get back. We hope Malaysian VIPs will behave during the concert. We need to show how good we are," she urges.

Show of the year?

This is not the first time the BigBang members are performing in Malaysia. Last year, three members group leader G-Dragon, TOP and Seungri performed as a duo and solo respectively at the Korean Music Wave Malaysia 2011 at Stadium Merdeka. The other members, Daesung and Taeyang, were unable to participate due to other "commitments".

Their concert this week, however, will be their first performance in the country as a group. It is of course the first ever-global tour for the K-pop group.

The tickets for their BigBang Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 in Malaysia, which are sponsored by Korea's electronic giant Samsung electronics, sold out in a matter for hours.

True to its billing, the show has involved an array of creative production talents to the stars, including creative designer Laurieann Gibson (who has worked with Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Katy Perry) and lighting and stage designer Leroy Bennett (Madonna).

It is definitely huge, says Liz, co-founder of Malaysia's seminal site on the Korean Wave, K-popped.com.

"That is because BigBang has a wide spectrum of fans both guys and girls."

Although she is not a die-hard fan, Liz says she appreciates their music.

"I've been following them before their debut, thanks to the group's reality series on MTV. Their growth from their trainee days to what they are now one of the most notable K-pop acts around is amazing."

Unfortunately, Liz was unable to get a ticket and might have to miss out on the concert.

"I really wanted to see Seungri because I like his solo work. I would also have loved to watch them perform my favourite song from their current album, Blue, and of course their breakout hit Lies. Do you have extra tickets?"

Someone with a ticket and who is all hyped up for the show is Shakila Rajendra, 29, one of the main movers behind KNUKEeast, a local K-pop extravaganza event organiser.

"The BigBang Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 in Malaysia is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest ever, K-pop concerts to be held in Malaysia. The only other concert that I see on the same level would probably have been the Super Junior's Super Show 3 Super Junior The 3rd Asia Tour Live In Malaysia 2011," Shakila raves.

She says that BigBang was the reason she started liking K-pop.

"My favourite member is TOP, followed closely by G-Dragon. TOP because of his voice, good looks and infectious personality, G-Dragon because of his endless talent, fashion style and basically because he's the whole package as an idol."

KNUKEast organises K-pop club nights called Kandypop at the MILK Club, Bangsar, once a month but they have not held a BigBang specific event to welcome the group.

Shakila who has seen BigBang live before hopes to be surprised at the upcoming concert.

"But I'm pretty sure the boys will give it their all. The other thing I'm looking forward to are the solo performances especially by G-Dragon and Taeyang. Basically, I just want to see them have fun with it."

By now, the Malaysian VIPs would have read all about BigBang's grand entrance in the show the super stars are to arrive in a "space capsule" and probably memorised the whole set list of their concert repertoire.

What is special about the Malaysian leg is that it is the only show that BigBang will perform outdoors.

"My biggest worry is rain and how they are going to do the special effects. In the other concerts, Daesung flies off the stage when he performs his solo song Wings. How is he going to do that here?" wonders Zaty, before quickly adding that she is resolved to enjoy the show no matter what.

Migo agrees, as at first they did not expect BigBang to come to Malaysia at all.

"Everyone was ecstatic when Malaysia was one of the first few countries announced for the tour," says Migo who actually attended the first BigBang Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 concert in Seoul early this year.

Ultimately, says Zaty who also went to Seoul for the BigBang opening concert, it is all about enjoying the music and sharing the love for the group with the other fans.

Good news for fans who could not get tickets for the BigBang Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 in Malaysia earlier. Limited tickets are still available via Redtix and Ticketcharge: Premier Rockpit (RM588), Rockpit (RM488) and Free Standing (RM188).

Related Story:
Meet the real big bang of K-pop

PM announces RM30mil grant for Chinese schools

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 03:14 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced an allocation of RM30mil for the development of Chinese national-type secondary schools (SMJK) in the country.

During his address at the MCA annual general assembly here Sunday, Najib said he had discussed the matter with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, and they had agreed to grant RM30mil for the schools.

Earlier in his presidential address, MCA chief Datuk Seri Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek had appealed to the Prime Minister for assistance for these schools, saying there was currently no allocation for them.

"There are 78 conforming schools with more than 125,000 students. They should be given an allocation of RM50mil next year," he said.

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Actor-director Farid joins PVR to fight crime

Posted: 20 Oct 2012 03:53 PM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The next time you get stopped by the police at a roadblock, you might be surprised to come face-to-face with popular actor and director Farid Kamil Zahari.

The 31-year-old former model has enlisted himself in the police volunteer reserve (PVR) and will be doing his bit to help in crime prevention.

"I joined the PVR not because I feel that our country is not safe.

"However, I understand that there are only about 110,000 policemen in our country of 28 million people.

"This is a big ratio," he said after submitting his application form at the Shah Alam police headquarters here at about 2.30pm yesterday.

"I think crime prevention is not only the duty of the police.

"The public must also be involved," he said, urging youths and students to join the PVR to help maintain peace in the country.

Farid also wants the public to act immediately when witnessing any crime by calling the police or using the MyDistress national crime alert mobile application to get police help.

Head of the National Key Results Area for Selangor Deputy Supt Mohamed Mokhsein Moha­med Zon said that with Farid joining the PVR, it would be good publicity for the police and could influence more people to join the PVR as volunteer policemen.

He said that with the current recruitment drive from Oct 19 to Oct 23, they hoped to enrol 10,000 people into the PVR.

"PVR members will assist police officers in their duties, for example, to control traffic and man roadblocks.

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Happy half century, wolves

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 02:05 AM PDT

THIS week, I learnt that The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken turns 50 this month. Fifty! And still in print – but for how long more?

I fear that its days are numbered unless Peter Jackson makes a movie of it, or better yet, the whole series, which comprises 11 books – after all, isn't Jackson turning J.R.R. Tolkien's (75-year-old!) The Hobbit into a three-part movie? With The Wolves Chronicles he won't even need to make it up or steal bits from unreadable prequels. Aiken's rambunctious, outrageous fantasy series is eminently readable and entertaining, full of absurd, colourful and totally unforgettable characters, and plots that will make your eyes pop and your head spin.

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase (the first book) is probably the most "ordinary" of the bunch, but it still has the ravenous, rampaging wolves of the title, an evil governess named Slighcarp, child abuse in a workhouse straight out of Charles Dickens, and a trio of plucky children whom you want to stand on your chair and cheer for til you're hoarse.

If only Emma Watson or Daniel Radcliffe, or better yet, J.K. Rowling herself would endorse the books, order all Harry Potter fans to rush out and buy the series, or else! I would like to believe that Aiken's series will survive on its own merits, but so many excellent books have gone out of print that I can't help but worry. In fact, two of the books in the series, Dido And Pa and Is Underground are already out of print in the United States; and the prequel, The Whispering Mountain, is not in print at all.

Well, for now, there is a 50th anniversary special edition version of The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase. However, I'm sorry to see that the cover looks virtually identical to the version that was released in 2001. True, it's a variation of the cover of the first edition, published by Jonathan Cape in 1962, but I do think that publishers Yearling could have done more than just slap a gold medal on it.

Never mind, at least it has a lovely introduction by Joan Aiken's daughter, Lizza, which tells how the book came to be written, and also includes a particularly endearing anecdote about Torquemada (whom, along with Lizza and her brother John, The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase is dedicated to) – cat lovers will love the little tale. Oh, by the way, a new audiobook for the Listening Library is now out, read by Lizza.

Now, if you like Dickens, and Jane Eyre, and Philip Pullman's Lyra from his His Dark Materials series and – according to Michael Dirda writing in The Washington Post – steampunk, you should read Wolves and the other books. If that seems like a lot of reference points, well, the Wolves series is a sprawling, many-layered story, set against the backdrop of an alternate historical England; one in which James II never escaped to France, James III is on the throne, and fiendish Hanoverian plots to overthrow him are constantly planned and launched. (Interestingly, the US and South America also feature, as Nantucket and New Cumbria, respectively.)

There are deliciously diabolical villains, brave and bonny heroes, and strange, sinister and supernatural goings-on. Most of the books feature some very dark elements – including murder, child abuse and human sacrifice.

And then there is Dido Twite, one of several recurring characters, and in my opinion, the most significant and beguiling of the lot. Dido does not appear in The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase (as a matter of fact, the book's two main characters, Bonnie and Sylvia Green, take on supporting roles in the rest of the series, not appearing at all in some books) but is introduced in the second book, Black Hearts In Battersea.

She is a streetwise, Cockney waif – a brave, rather obnoxious but thoroughly good-hearted soul who seems to be the template for all the most plain-spoken and tenacious young women in recent fantasy fiction, from Lyra Silvertongue to Potter's Hermione Granger to Seraphina Dombegh in Rachel Hartman's young adult novel of the same name. I want to be Dido when I grow up!

This isn't the first time I've sung Dido's praises in this column. I'm certain I've written about Aiken's series before, but I don't think enough can be said about it, and I don't think I shall ever be done urging readers to buy the books. Go on! Now! This minute!

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

Keeping books alive

Posted: 21 Oct 2012 02:03 AM PDT

Let's make a pact to ensure the longevity of the printed word, urges this bookworm who took a book along when she said her wedding vows.

RECENTLY at lunch in Kuala Lumpur, a book-loving friend whose fingers have been smoothed by years of page-thumbing, showed off the little e-library he had built on his iPad. It's not a new thing, having a virtual library on an electronic device ... but his beaming face has never been so radiant.

I squeaked, though I wished to squawk, "I thought we had a pact to love printed books forever!" He still does, he says, but to him, reading from an iPad is as enjoyable as turning printed pages.

"See how the screen flips just like the pages of a book?" he zealously went on, demonstrating with page after page the miraculous sight of a screen with a page-turning effect. As he leaned closer, I tried in vain to sniff out the bookish aroma that once so naturally emanated from him. Sniff. Nothing. Sniff, sniff. There was nothing but the smell of something metallic, Styrofoam, and aluminium.

The steaming prawn dumplings on the table were left to grow cold while he read out David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and I obstinately went on secretly sniffing.

But really, I shouldn't lament my friend's enthusiasm. He is, after all, a geek working in the ultra-advanced field of telecommunications. But the fact that he is a technocrat who loves reading printed books makes it hard to accept the impending switch. He is a rarity.

Sigh. The truth is hard to take, but sometimes we suffer for the things we hold dear. Anyhow, I mustn't mourn my failure to bottle my dear friend's bookish smell or worry about the threats traditional books are facing. It is only logical for e-books to thrive in the present age of technology. But lest we have to pay a devil in the future to bring back an invention that has so profoundly and profusely changed our lives, let's get into a feverish groove to keep traditional books alive so they can coexist with their digital counterparts.

But before the practical tips, here's the sentimental quote: "There isn't anything distinctive in the smell, size, shape or feel of the e-book you're buying. Soon, when all books exist in electronic media, there will be no nostalgia in seeing a book any longer."

Indeed, the scent of physical books and the sight of book covers can conjure up memories of a Sunday morning spent reading in bed, an exotic vacation with plenty of reading by a swimming pool, or lonely moments when all one has is a book and rain pattering away on the windowsill and refusing to grant companionship. And those trips to the bookstore on lazy Saturdays will always remain in our minds, and each of those is a moment of ease that is so hard to come by in this increasingly stressful world.

Hence, the soothing musty smell of printed books must continue to soothe, and those little corners in the bookstores must remain like little pit stops of momentary relief and sanity.

Here's what we need to do.

Let books come out of their skin. And with this I mean for bookstores to unwrap all books so as to allow readers to feel, smell, browse through and, potentially, buy them. Don't make your store as solemn as a museum and your store assistants as neurotic as the curators, for by doing so you are pushing books into antiquity. Instead, be intentionally bustling. Make a little bit of noise, jazz up the environment, permit your store assistants to giggle over books.

If a click of the mouse allows people to buy books online, then bookstores must match technology by arranging books in a manner familiar to Netizens, by having book-loving and well-read staff quick to assist and make heartfelt book recommendations.

We owe it to each other to keep books alive, but I believe bookstores hold the key because they store books, not gadgets. Bookstores must be more human-like if gadgets can only be robotic. Booksellers have to be fervent in telling people what to read, rapturous when talking about books, passionate while providing a service to people who want to read, unyielding in retaining those who are still reading books and, most of all, genuinely convinced of the value of books. Only then can they unlock and show others the mysterious joy of reading felt only by bookworms.

And bookstores are the opposite of all this, that's when they are at their worst. Sadly, an Australian friend recently visited a Malaysian bookstore and called it "the cemetery of forgotten books". Books were tightly wrapped, and store assistants, if spotted at all, were busy displaying books as if they were preparing for burials. That comment hurt but was, nonetheless, fitting.

I am constantly reminded of the impracticality of physical books. But at the sight of books scattered all over my home, I am also constantly reminded of those times I spent reading them. My friend's copy of Cloud Atlas is by my bed. It reminds me of the good times we had when talking about Maroon 5, Superman, Adele, Prometheus, sashimi, marriage, childhood, Ipoh, and Taiwanese desserts.

That's what books are for: pleasures as well as memories.

Some of Abby Wong's books remind her of people, but Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains Of The Days bears witness to her marriage – she had it with her when making her vows.


Posted: 21 Oct 2012 01:59 AM PDT

FOR the week ending Oct 14, 2012:


1. Guinness World Records 2013 by Guinness World Records Ltd

2. 1D: The One Direction Story by Danny White

3. A World Without Islam by Graham E. Fuller

4. The Lady And The Peacock: The Life Of Aung San Suu Kyi Of Burma by Peter Popham

5. I Declare: 31 Promises To Speak Over Your Life by Joel Osteen

6. The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

7. The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams And The Making Of China by Julia Lovell

8. Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger

9. Unstoppable: The Incredible Power Of Faith In Action by Nick Vujicic

10. Another Forgotten Child by Cathy Glass


1. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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

3. The Sins Of The Father by Jeffrey Archer

4. The Hobbit (movie tie-in) by J.R.R. Tolkien

5. The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach

6. Sidney Sheldon's Angel Of The Dark by Tilly Bagshawe

7. Eighty Days Yellow by Vina Jackson

8. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

9. The Innocent by David Baldacci

10. The Twelve by Justin Cronin

n Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

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