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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Lawyers for China premier's family deny "hidden riches" claim

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 07:43 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - Lawyers representing the family of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have rejected claims made by the New York Times on Friday that they have accumulated at least $2.7 billion in "hidden riches", Hong Kong media reported on Sunday.

The New York Times, citing corporate and regulatory records, reported on Friday that Wen's mother, siblings and children had amassed the majority of their wealth since Wen was named Vice Premier in 1998.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao waves during the European Union-China summit at the Egmont Palace in Brussels September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

China's Premier Wen Jiabao waves during the European Union-China summit at the Egmont Palace in Brussels September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

In a statement issued late on Saturday and carried by Hong Kong television as well as the South China Morning Post and Sing Tao Daily newspapers, Bai Tao of the Junhe Law Office and Wang Weidong of the Grandall Law Firm said the wealth "does not exist".

They also denied that Wen had acted improperly or engaged in business activities himself, and said his relatives had not profited in any way from his tenure as premier and had no influence on Wen's "formulation and execution of policies".

The statement said Wen's mother had never received any income or property apart from her salary and pension.

Telephone calls made to the law firms by Reuters were not answered.

The Times' report said the names of family members "have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners".

It said his family's holdings include a Beijing villa development project, a tyre factory in northern China, a company involved in building some of the venues for Beijing's 2008 Olympics including the "Bird's Nest" main stadium, and Ping An Insurance, one of the world's largest financial services companies.

The New York Times report came at a sensitive time for Beijing, with China about to undergo a once-in-a-decade change of leadership in which Wen will step down as premier.

The newspaper's websites in English and Chinese were immediately blocked in China, and searches for the New York Times as well as the names of Wen's children and wife were blocked on China's main Twitter-like microblog service.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily briefing on Friday that the report "smears China's name and has ulterior motives".

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Threat of Hurricane Sandy grows as it targets U.S. East Coast

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 07:14 PM PDT

HATTERAS ISLAND, North Carolina (Reuters) - Hurricane Sandy closed in on the United States on Saturday as coastal communities along the East Coast scrambled to prepare for torrential rains, high winds, major flooding and power outages a week before the presidential election.

Clouds gather over New York October 27, 2012. Hurricane Sandy is churning out in the Atlantic as the entire north eastern USA prepares for its arrival. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Clouds gather over New York October 27, 2012. Hurricane Sandy is churning out in the Atlantic as the entire north eastern USA prepares for its arrival. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Governors in states in the hurricane's path declared emergencies, announcing mandatory evacuations of vulnerable areas. New York City officials discussed whether to shut the subway system on Sunday in advance of the storm.

On its current projected track, Sandy could make U.S. landfall on Monday night or Tuesday morning anywhere between Maryland and southern New England, forecasters said. Some computer models show a likely landfall between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area.

The hurricane was headed toward densely populated areas with tens of millions of people. Officials urged residents to stock up on food, water and batteries. Worried residents packed stores, buying generators, candles, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages. Some local governments announced schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

"They're freaking out," said Joe Dautel, a clerk at a hardware store in Glenside, Pennsylvania. "I'm selling people four, five, six packs of batteries - when I had them."

Sandy also threatened to disrupt air travel in the region.

Rain accumulations of up to 12 inches (30 cm) and heavy snowfall inland are considered likely in some areas. As it merges with an Arctic jet stream, forecasters said Sandy has all the ingredients to transform into a "super storm" unlike anything seen over the eastern United States in decades.

"There's no avoiding a significant storm-surge event over a large area. We just can't pinpoint who's going to get the worst of it," National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said.

The White House said President Barack Obama took part in a call with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate to discuss preparations for Sandy.

Coastal flooding posed a major threat, particularly in low-lying areas like New York City, the global financial nerve center, and Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

"This is not a coastal threat alone," Fugate told reporters, warning of the potential for flooding in Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as more than 2 feet (0.6 meters) of snow in West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania. "This is going to go well inland," he added.


Delaware Governor Jack Markell ordered a mandatory evacuation of an estimated 50,000 people in coastal communities on Saturday. New Jersey's Cape May County ordered an evacuation of its barrier islands, home to some popular beach resorts, by Sunday afternoon.

In New York, authorities were considering closing down the city's buses, subways, commuter railroads, bridges and tunnels as early as 7 p.m. on Sunday, when the last commuter trains would depart, with the entire system to be closed down by 3 a.m. Monday, officials said.

Sandy was located about 330 miles (530 km) south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and packing top sustained winds of 75 miles (120 km) per hour on Saturday evening, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said. The storm was still moving slowly over the Atlantic at 13 miles per hour (20 kph).

Forecasters said flooding could span multiple tides with a storm surge of 4 to 8 feet (1.2-2.4 meters) in Long Island Sound, the southern portion of Lower New York Bay and Delaware Bay.

Sandy's storm surge has the potential to flood New York City's subway system if the storm arrives at or near Monday evening's high tide around 9 p.m., according to Jeff Masters, a hurricane specialist who also writes a Weather Underground blog.

Monday is also a full moon, which creates an extra-high tide. "These storm surge heights will be among the highest ever recorded along the affected coasts, and will have the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage," Masters wrote.

Officials said 50 to 60 million people could be affected by Sandy, which many forecasters warn could be more destructive than Irene, which caused billions of dollars in damage across the U.S. Northeast in August 2011.


Coming in the hectic run-up to the November 6 election, the storm presented a challenge to the campaigns of Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

As Sandy approached, Romney was rescheduling all of his campaign events planned for Virginia on Sunday and flying to Ohio instead.

Sandy continued to grow in size with tropical storm-force winds extending across 700 miles (1,125 km). More powerful hurricane force winds extended 105 miles (165 km) from its center, increasing the risk of downed trees and power lines, forecasters said.

"The winds... expected to be at or near hurricane strength at landfall... will spread inland for hundreds of miles either side of the storm center," according to a blog posted on Weather Underground ( by veteran weather forecaster Bryan Norcross.

"It's hard to imagine how millions of people are not going to be without power for an extended period of time," he added.

As the threat of a monster storm began to sink in, shoppers crowded hardware stores and supermarkets looking to stock up on emergency supplies. At a Trader Joe's store in Millburn, New Jersey, shelves were stripped bare of bread, bottled water and milk.

Customers at a Home Depot in Willow Grove, a suburb of Philadelphia, were greeted by big hand-written signs saying, "No generators." The store received a shipment of 50 generators on Friday evening and sold them all within minutes of opening on Saturday, said January Introcaso, one of the store managers.

The store also sold out of flashlights and batteries. It was a similar story at other hardware stores in the area, with candles, tarps and rope also in demand.

Sandy claimed at least 59 lives as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 44 people in southern Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities. Another 11 people died in Cuba, largely due to from collapsed buildings, officials said.

Tropical storm-force winds were being felt near the North Carolina coast. There were tropical storm warnings for all of the coastal portion of the state, along with about half of South Carolina.

Along North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands, which jut out into the Atlantic, the winds and rains increased on Saturday, and ferry service between Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands on the Outer banks was suspended.

"Right now it's blowing pretty hard," said Ray Waller, manager of the Ocracoke office of North Carolina Ferry Division.

(This version of the story corrects the location of Cape Hatteras to North Carolina in paragraph 14.)

(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, Mary Ellen Clark in Connecticut and Sam Youngman in Washington; Writing by David Adams and Tom Brown; Editing by Will Dunham)

Related Stories:
Factbox - Rare factors could make Hurricane Sandy highly destructive

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Saudi authorities disperse anti-Assad protest in Mecca

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 06:09 PM PDT

MECCA (Reuters) - Saudi authorities quickly dispersed a protest by hundreds of Syrian pilgrims calling for the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and denouncing what they said was international failure to stop bloodshed in Syria, a Reuters witness said.

Protesters held up rebel flags and marched toward the Jamarat Bridge in Mina, east of the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, where more than 3 million Muslim pilgrims congregated for the annual haj.

A Syrian Muslim pilgrim shouts slogans against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after casting seven stones at a pillar that symbolises Satan during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

A Syrian Muslim pilgrim shouts slogans against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after casting seven stones at a pillar that symbolises Satan during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

No one was hurt when two police vehicles drove slowly in the direction of the protesters with the sirens on as the officers asked the crowd through loudspeakers to leave the area. The protesters swiftly dispersed and merged with thousands of other pilgrims in the area, the witness said.

Saudi officials made it clear in recent days that they want a politics-free pilgrimage and urged pilgrims to focus on performing the rituals.

The haj pilgrimage is one of the Muslim faith's so-called five pillars and a religious duty for all Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime if they are capable. It started on Wednesday and ends on Tuesday.

This year's haj took place against a backdrop of divisions among Muslims, with Shi'ite Iran and U.S.-allied Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar backing opposing sides in Syria's civil war.

Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad's government and has supported the rebels with money and logistics.

At the protest, dozens of security guards already deployed in the area stood by without interfering.

"Syria lives forever despite of you Assad," the protesters shouted as the streamed by a giant wall at Jamarat Bridge used for the ritual stoning of the devil, one of the main rites of the haj.

Another slogan went: "We don't want Bashar, all Syrians raise your arms up!"

The Syrian crisis also was evident at Mount Arafat, scene for the haj's main rites, on Thursday when some Syrians held up rebel flags despite a call by Saudi Arabia's grand mufti to avoid raising national and factional slogans.

"We want to make our voices heard because no one seems to listen to us," a man identified as Sabri, 27, a Syrian who lives in Saudi Arabia, said as he held up the rebels' black, white and green flag.

"This is not a political protest. It's more of a humanitarian demonstration because the Syrian question has become a humanitarian one."

The imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims on Friday to take "practical and urgent" steps to stop bloodshed in Syria, which has killed some 30,000 people, and urged world states to assume their moral responsibility toward the conflict.

Saudi Arabia has instructed its embassies to issue haj permits for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, but most of the Syrians who made it to Mecca were those who live in the Gulf Arab region.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Bill Trott)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Movie quest

Posted: 26 Oct 2012 08:21 PM PDT

A very, very dated dinosaur flick was playing on TV.

This was the 1970s in Bahrain, where viewers relied on satellite rotors to receive signals from channels across other nations in the Middle East.

When the winds blew, the screen would flicker and fuzz up.

Across the living room, eight-year-old bespectacled Girish Menon, the only child of expatriates, watched in fascination and suspense, slurping up the unfolding fantasy in spite of the poor screening.

Today, you can ask the 44-year-old CEO of Mindshare Malaysia anything about movies even box office figures he'll know the answer.

He has made it through some four-fifths of Time magazine's top 100 movies which their editors consider most estimable but that's not the impressive bit made known during this interview, nor the fact that he averages 200 movies a year.

The man is so immersed in it that he has drawn up his own compilations, which he has stringently updated over the last three decades.

They are meticulously listed by numerous categories such as genre, period, director, actor, box office facts and figures to reflect what's been watched and what he intends to watch.

While other businessmen monitor share prices on Bursa Malaysia in the morning, Girish pores over entertainment websites for news and updates.

His habit may border on kooky but as with all deep-seated passions, the hobby gives the knowledge-hungry Girish a sense of satisfaction.

"I love the emotional journey of watching a movie and knowing about the production and cast," he says. "People watch movies to unwind after a long day, and they usually opt for light-hearted ones. I can handle a heavy one. They stir me up, but that's the beauty of a well-told tale they cause you to experience an emotional reaction."

A typical evening would find Giresh and his K-pop loving wife of 17 years sitting together with their headsets on, plugged into different movies.

That way, they watch whatever they please, together.

She knows her stuff too, but isn't nearly as immersed as her husband.

It's worth noting, however, that she knows enough conversant Korean to have helped them get around more easily during a recent trip there.

As a family, they watch anime and animation with their 8 and 10-year old girls.

Asked for his favourite movie, he produces several lists sorted by genre, each containing over a dozen titles.

Jaws is on one of them.

There are no absolute favourites.

"There are far too many that I like," he says, frowning slightly.

He isn't keen on Bollywood movies, though. "Those, and musicals. I don't see the point in all that singing and prancing," he says.

He doesn't watch trailers, for he finds them too much of a giveaway, nor does he watch the same picture twice.

"Unless it is really good, like The Lord of the Rings," says Girish, who also relishes science fiction and fantasy. "I've watched the miniseries a couple of times but they take up too much time. And I don't want to spoil its magic by repeating it."

When Scott Ridley's Prometheus premiered earlier this year, Girish took in the opening scene with a lump in his throat.

"It happens quite a lot when the scenes are powerful," he admits. "I found the effects in Prometheus amazing, although I'm aware that many Ridley fans were disappointed. Good cinematography moves me, as do compelling storylines," he says.

His database tracks movies firstly by franchise, like the James Bond series, then, cinematography.

He cites names like Akira Kurosawa, a Japanese cinematographer whose work was more celebrated by the world than his countrymen.

"His work portrayed a sense of pace. These craftsmen have the power to shape your theatrical experience," he says.

He quotes many other obscure names and facts about the film industry, knowledge harvested over years of interest.

Several years ago, his fixation compelled him to consider life as a film student in the US, just to feed his intrigue.

"Mid-life crisis," he smiles "but if not for my family ".

On a quiet Sunday morning, he can usually be found sitting in the balcony, where he commits his thought to text on his laptop.

There, he blogs his movie reviews and occasionally, shares his lists for the season.

"I don't suppose anyone reads my blog ( It's a personal thing, so I'm perfectly good without the traffic," he says.

Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep are among his favourite actors.

Eye on Stock

Posted: 26 Oct 2012 06:19 PM PDT

AFTER peaking out at a seven-month high of 47.5 sen on Feb 14, Maxwell International Bhd succumbed to fresh profit-taking pressure only to flip once again to resume its correction process, which saw its shares dropping to an 11-month low of 31.5 sen on Sept 12.

Thereafter, prices turned range-bound, but with a mild upward bias with renewed bargain hunting interest offsetting light selling.

This counter was listed on Jan 6 last year on the Main Market under the consumer products sector. Based on the daily chart, slightly more than a month into listing, Maxwell shares slip below the 54 sen line and since then have never recovered to its IPO level.

With prices trading at a discount and appearing to make an effort in building a base for recovery, it is perhaps time to consider accumulating.

Elsewhere, the daily moving average convergence/divergence (MACD) histogram expanded upward against the daily signal line to stay positive. It had issued a buy a month ago.

Meanwhile, the 14-day relative strength index improved slightly from the mid-range to end at 63 points.

However, the oscillator per cent K tripped below the oscillator per cent D of the daily slow-stochastoc momentum index to trigger a sell near the overbought area yesterday.

Technically, indicators, especially the daily MACD are on the mend, suggesting prices may firm, albeit on a slow pace in the short term.

Current resistance is envisaged at the 37 sen mark. A decisive push above the next upper hurdle of 40 sen is likely to see the fate of this counter turning brighter.

Important support is set at the 31.5 sen line.

The comments above do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell.

A slow ride towards 1,700 points

Posted: 26 Oct 2012 06:18 PM PDT

REVIEW: After setting a new record the previous session, Bursa Malaysia started out the week almost unchanged, with the FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) up 0.08 point to 1,666.43 amid a dearth of fresh market-stimulating leads.

The overall sentiment was pretty cautious, as most investors adopted the "wait-and-see" attitude and stayed on the sidelines following a steep fall in US markets the previous Friday.

A frail showing in Asia-Pacific equities in early business added to the downbeat note. Although a couple of major indices later managed to recoup losses and closed steadier, they did not help.

In sluggish trade, the local bourse drifted from an intra-day high of 1,667.23 to a low of 1,660.04 in the afternoon before trimming losses to settle at 1,661.95, losing 4.4 points on Monday. Overnight Wall Street stopped bleeding the next day, up 2.38 points to 13,345.89, as a rally in Caterpillar Inc and Apple Inc shares on better-than-expected bottom line offset worries about slower global growth.

On the opposite, crude oil prices sank US$1.32 to US$88.73 on extended selling pressure. Given the unclear condition in the United States, equities in the region turned mixed in subdued trading, awaiting a clearer picture to emerge while Asia's corporate reporting season was under way.

Mirroring the offshore trend, the local bourse was trapped between an intra-day high and low of 1,666.26 and 1,658.03 respectively before ending up 2.95 points at 1,664.90. The higher settlement was largely due to advances in select blue chips and it was clearly reflected on the scoreboard, with winners trailing losers by 299 to 372 on Tuesday.

After a short pause, the Dow resumed its downward spiral, slumping a hefty 243.36 points to 13,102.53, the biggest drop since June 21, as poor results from DuPont and United Technologies revived worries about slowing global economic growth, exacerbated by renewed concerns over the euro zone's debt crisis after Moody's Investors Service downgraded five of Spain's regions.

Apparently, many people had expected stocks in the region to suffer a beating, but in an unprecedented move, Asian markets traded mixed, as a timely report out from China, suggesting manufacturing slump in the world's second largest economy may be bottoming out, helped draw some buying, cushioning the downside.

Likewise, Bursa Malaysia reversed early declines, with the key index chalking up 3.09 points to 1,667.99 in mid-week.

Thereafter, bargain hunting dominated the floor, tracking the regional trend. Although there was a bit of nibbling, sentiment remained fragile, with the FBM KLCI adding only 3.9 points to 1,671.89 on Thursday.

Bursa Malaysia was shut for a public holiday yesterday.

Statistics: Week-on-week, the principal index climbed 5.54 points, or 0.3% to 1,671.89 on Thursday, against 1,666.35 on Oct 19.

Turnover for the four-day week stood at 4.86 billion units worth RM5.563bil, versus 5.956 billion shares worth RM7.977bil done the previous week.

Technical indicators: After a mild pullback from the top, the daily slow-stochastoc momentum index triggered a buy at the 68% level on Thursday. Similarly, the 14-day relative strength index retraced back to a reading of 60 earlier of the week before ticking up to end at 70 points on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the daily moving average convergence/divergence (MACD) histogram retained the buy signal, rising gradually in tandem with the daily trigger line.

Weekly indicators strengthened further, with the weekly slow-stochastic momentum index surging deeper into the bullish area and the weekly MACD calling for a buy.

Outlook: The FBM KLCI set a new record high of 1,671.89 on Thursday but the overall market was generally in consolidation mode the past week, depressed by a steep reversal in the Dow and crude oil prices. In spite of that, the underlying tone of the local bourse was firm, as institutional players were more focused on signs of recovery in China and the recent positive economic data in the United States rather than fretting about weak corporate earnings.

On the back of better economic condition, share prices are likely to sustain the upward thrust in the short term, but the journey is likely to be bumpy in the wake of profit warnings from big corporations in the United States.

Initial resistance is maintained at the 1,680 points and strong overhead barrier is resting at the 1,700 points psychological barrier.

Current support is envisaged at the 14-day simple moving average (SMA) of 1,661, followed by the 21-day SMA of 1,656. The lower floor is resting at the 50-day SMA of 1,645.

In the case the crucial 100-day SMA of 1,628 is violated, then the 200-day SMA of 1,597 would be vulnerable. Technically, indicators on our radar screen are painting a promising landscape, implying the bulls are likely to climb but at a slow pace.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Van Pelt soars to the top despite a double bogey on last hole

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 05:34 PM PDT

DEFENDING champion Bo Van Pelt roared to the top of the CIMB Classic leaderboard with a stunning nine-under 62 that would have been lower if not for a double bogey on the last hole at the Mines Resort and Golf Club yesterday.

Van Pelt rattled off four consecutive birdies in the first six holes, then stormed to another five-in-a-row from the eighth and was 17-under before heading for the last hole.

But he hit his approach into the greenside bunker and needed to three-putt to eventually end up sharing the 54-hole lead with overnight leader Robert Garrigus.

The American manage to close his third round with three birdies to match the in-form Van Pelt at 16-under 197 after 54 holes.

One stroke behind the co-leaders is American Chris Kirk, who shot a flawless eight-under 63.

South Africans Brendon de Jonge and Jbe Kruger checked in for the final round another shot further behind at 14-under.

This sets the stage for a sizzling finale to the CIMB Classic, with at least six golfers vying for the winner's cheque of US$1.3mil.

But the star performer of the day was undoubtedly Van Pelt, who must have rued the chance to hit the magical 59.

Only five players have shot 59 in official PGA Tour events and those following Van Pelt would have sensed something big was coming until his double bogey at the closing hole.

"I was like seven back going into the day, so I dug a pretty big hole.

"Felt like you need at least one really special round to try to give yourself a chance," said Van Pelt, who won the Perth International last weekend.

"I don't think I missed a fairway on the front nine. My irons were pretty sharp. I just try to keep going. I told myself that everybody else was out there making birdies. I cannot be complacent.

"I was obviously disappointed. I had good looks on 13, 14 and 15 and I did not make any of them.

"I just wanted to finish strong. Obviously, going into 18, I had a chance to shoot a 59. I played the 18th well and had a tap in for birdie yesterday (Friday).

"I was just trying to focus on my tee ball but, unfortunately, it went a little too far and the ball just jumped to the right.

"Obviously disappointing to finish with a double bogey but I look back on the 17-and-a-half holes I played, and you know, hopefully, that will carry over into tomorrow."

A back-to-back title beckons if Van Pelt continues to rule with his hot putter but he is not getting carried away.

"Last week has nothing to do with this week. This is the thing you have to remind yourself. Tomorrow's a new day. It's my job to go out there and do the right stuff," he said.

Garrigus was just glad to hang on to a share of the lead. "Did not really have my golf swing that much today. I hit some bad shots, hit some bad putts but sucked it up coming down there in the last.

"But other than that, I am confident for tomorrow and ready to go. It's going to be a lot of fun," said the CIMB Classic debutant.

Third round scores

197: Bo Van Pelt (US) 70-65-62, Robert Garrigus (US) 64-64-69; 198: Chris Kirk (US) 69-66-63; 199: Jbe Kruger (Rsa) 66-64-69, Brendon de Jonge (Rsa) 68-65-66; 200: Brian Harman (US) 64-70-66; 201: Nick Watney (US) 71-65-65, Tom Gillis (US) 65-70-66, Greg Chalmers (Aus) 66-66-69; 202: Ben Crane (US) 68-66-68, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) 65-72-65, Tiger Woods (US) 66-67-69, Kevin Na (US) 67-66-69, Jeff Overton (US) 64-70-68; 203: Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 72-63-68, Ricky Barnes (US) 66-71-66, Bill Haas (US) 70-65-68, Pat Perez (US) 67-68-68; 204: J.B. Holmes (US) 66-70-68, Carl Pettersson (Swe) 69-67-68, Martin Laird (Sco) 68-67-69, John Senden (Aus) 72-66-66, Noh Seung-yul (Kor) 71-66-67, Jason Dufner (US) 68-72-64; 205: Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) 72-65-68, Anirban Lahiri (Ind) 71-66-68, Troy Matteson (US) 63-69-73, Marcus Fraser (US) 70-70-65; 206: Johnson Wagner (US) 70-69-67, Charlie Wi (Kor) 69-66-71, Sean O'Hair (US) 69-72-65, Masanori Kobayashi (Jpn) 69-71-66, John Huh (US) 70-68-68; 207: Ryan Palmer (US) 69-68-70, Bob Estes (US) 69-68-70, Scott Piercy (US) 75-68-64, Prom Meesawat (Tha) 70-69-68; 208: Jimmy Walker (US) 69-68-71, Marc Leishman (Aus) 75-67-66; 210: Cameron Tringale (US) 71-69-70; 211: Kevin Stadler (US) 67-68-76; 212: David Lipsky (US) 68-73-71; 213: William McGirt (US) 70-70-73, Kyle Stanley (US) 69-70-74; 214: Danny Chia (Mas) 66-75-73; 216: Siddikur Rahman (Ban) 73-74-69; 217: Shaaban Hussin (Mas) 74-73-70, Scott Hend (Aus) 70-77-70.

Tee-off times


7.00am: Scott Hend, Shaaban Hussin;

7.10am: Danny Chia, Siddikur Rahman;

7.20am: Kyle Stanley, William McGirt;

7.30am: Kevin Stadler, David Lipsky;

7.40am: Marc Leishman, Cameron Tringale;

7.50am: Scott Piercy, Jimmy Walker;

8.00am: Bob Estes, Prom Meesawat;

8.10am: Sean O'Hair, Ryan Palmer;

8.20am: Johnson Wagner, Masanori Kobayashi;

8.30am: Charlie Wi, John Huh;

8.40am: Thaworn Wiratchant, Marcus Fraser;

8.50am: Troy Matteson, Anirban Lahiri;

9.00am: John Senden, Jason Dufner;

9.10am: Carl Pettersson, Noh Seung-yul;

9.20am: Martin Laird, J.B. Holmes;

9.30am: Pat Perez, Ricky Barnes;

9.40am: Trevor Immelman, Bill Haas;

9.50am: Jeff Overton, Gaganjeet Bhullar;

10.00am: Ben Crane, Tiger Woods;

10.10am: Tom Gillis, Kevin Na;

10.20am: Greg Chalmers, Nick Watney;

10.30am: Brendon de Jonge, Brian Harman;

10.40am: Chris Kirk, Jbe Kruger;

10.50am: Robert Garrigus, Bo Van Pelt.

Top draw cards Sharapova and Williams ease into Championships final

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 05:36 PM PDT

ISTANBUL: Maria Sharapova set up a blockbuster WTA Championships final against Serena Williams yesterday with a crushing 6-4, 6-2 win over world number one Victoria Azarenka.

Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open champion Williams had earlier eased into today's title match with a 6-2, 6-1 success against an exhausted Agnieszka Radwanska in a repeat of this summer's All England Club final.

"I have lost to Victoria a few times so I was happy to get the chance to play against her," said Sharapova.

"Against the world No. 1, you have to run down every ball. She's number one for a reason so I had to be ready for every shot.

"It will be a difficult against Serena. She's on fire, she's the one to beat."

Not many people expected Sharapova to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open on her least favoured clay court surface in June.

And after losing four times out of five to Azarenka this year, a semi-final win indoors in Istanbul did not seem likely either.

But the Russian designed sensibly bold tactics to frustrate the heavy-hitting Belarusian, stuck to them bravely, and executed them excellently.

Sharapova took the ball early as much as possible, denied Azarenka time and room to dominate, took risks with fierce drives to force openings, and resolutely punished most of the short returns. Altogther she clobbered 30 clean winners.

Azarenka, who had secured the year-end top ranking the day before with her win over Li Na, was unexpectedly subdued - perhaps hindered by a strained right thigh which she grasped several times.

Even Sharapova's sometimes variable serve was mostly functioning well, producing a high 72 percent first service statistic and seven aces.

The only notable exception to this came during the important sixth game of the second set, which lasted 15 minutes. Azarenka was making her last stand during this desperate phase, and Sharapova was unable to push until she was annoyed by a line judge who called fault to a pounding delivery down the centre line.

Her appeal to Hawkeye showed the ball as having touched the line, causing her serve to be reinstated as an ace. A newly fired-up Sharapova then produced an excellent sliding first serve/raking cross court drive combination to reach 5-1.

At the end she looked more than usually excited, shrieking loudly and pumping her arms very hard - perhaps because it avenged important Grand Slam defeats in Melbourne and New York.

Perhaps also she now fancies her chances of regaining a WTA Championships title she last won in her breakthrough year back in 2004.

While Radwanska had a record-breaking three-and-a-half hour match against Sara Errani the night before, Williams had a rest day and the statistics showed that the underdog had already run three times as far as the former champion to get to the semi-finals.

Not surprisingly Radwanska had admitted that it would be an achievement "just to get to the court in one piece."

Serena's side-to-side ground strokes soon made it clear that she would have to cover large areas of court again and that was something which could not be repeated for long.

"I really wanted to run, but my legs didn't," Radwanska admitted.

Williams was certainly sympathetic to the Pole's predicament.

"I just told her it was awesome that she played so well and played through another match after playing a good eight hours. It was really inspiring for me."

Despite the mundane encounter, Williams was almost as thrilled as Sharapova. Waving ecstatically and fluffing up her already voluminous hair she announced that all she wanted to do now was finish 2012 with a win. — AFP

Unheralded Wee Wern storms into the final

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 05:27 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Shanghai is fast becoming national No. 2 Low Wee Wern's favourite hunting ground indeed.

The defending champion and sixth seed put up a dominant performance to beat fourth seed Kasey Brown of Australia 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 in the semi-finals of the US$5,000 China Open squash championship yesterday.

The 22-year-old Wee Wern can consider qualifying for the final of the WSA Gold event as her best-ever result since turning pro in 2008.

And it was certainly not a fluke result as Wee Wern has beaten Rachael Grinham and Omneya Abdel Kawy in Shanghai thus far – and she has never beaten them before.

Wee Wern has never beaten Brown before either but she started on a strong note and, despite a fierce challenge by the Aussie, managed to hold out to win the first set 12-10.

Wee Wern continued to show just why she's ranked ninth in the world by taking the second set 11-7 before wrapping up the third with ease.

The Penangite, who will seek her biggest-ever career title today, faces another tough challenge in the form of New Zealand's Joelle King.

"I really played well against Kasey. The first set though was crucial for me to win since I was 10-8 down," said Wee Wern.

"I have not played Joelle in a very long time and she must be playing very well to make the final. Even at the US Open she managed to push Nicol (David) to three sets, so I've got a fight on my hands."

Wee Wern's coach Aaron Soyza was delighted with the way she has handled herself and believes that her performance justified her ranking.

"This is definitely a very good performance by Wee Wern because it proves that she is not a one-hit wonder," said Aaron.

"Since breaking into the top 10, her performances have really picked up ... she is playing like she belongs in the elite group.

"But China certainly seems to be lucky for her as she also won there last season ... as well as the Asian Games team gold two years ago."

King, the seventh seed and fresh from winning the Macau Open last week, was in inspired mood as she outclassed comeback queen Alison Waters of England 12-10, 11-4, 11-6.

"On paper, Wee Wern should have the advantage as she has beaten Joelle before," said Aaron.

"But Joelle has been playing fantastic squash too since the US Open and winning the Macau tournament recently would have boosted her confidence.

"It will be an interesting match-up."


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James Lee's latest flick

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 06:15 AM PDT

Filmmaker James Lee goes back to what he knows best in his latest independent feature, If It's Not Now, Then When?

THE title of a film is usually a good indication of what you can expect from it. And when the title is If It's Not Now, Then When?, well you know it's not going to be about vampires in love!

Where James Lee is concerned, he'll be sure to let you know what you're in for ... like his aptly titled 2011 comedy horror Tolong! Awek Aku Pontianak (Help! My Girlfriend Is A Vampire). Now that's about vampires in love (or at least, one vampire in love).

Lee's latest effort harks back to his roots as an indie filmmaker making ... indie films. You may think I'm being redundant but not all indie filmmakers make indie films. It's just like how not all mainstream filmmakers make commercial films exclusively.

Lee is one of the few Malaysian filmmakers who has gone from being an indie filmmaker to "filmmaker-at-large". Lee, 39, made the leap to mainstream when he directed the horror film Histeria in 2007, and continues to make mainstream movies. He has an established reputation as a filmmaker, so much so that now, he either gets hired to direct a film or goes out and gets the money to make his own film.

By the way, he also directs TV dramas, stage productions and short films. Prolific? You bet. Since he made his first feature film Snipers in 2001, Lee has, to date, directed 17 films altogether. In the last couple of years, he has made two commercial action-oriented films – The Collector (which is due for release in December) and Petaling Street Warriors (2011). So how is that different from making a movie like If It's Not Now?

"Well, the film is smaller in scale and it's less epic," said Lee in an interview, laughing. If It's Not Now centres on a family unit of three living in an apartment: A mother (played by Pearlly Chua) who is hardly at home and spends her days in the park with her lover; her daughter (Tan Bee Hung) who spies on her mum, has a deskjob and is having an affair with her boss; and the son (Kenny Gan) who breaks into cars and modifies the electronics he steals.

"There was a lot of experimentation during the shoot," the Ipoh, Perak-born director explained. "I had written the script and we had spent about one to two months in rehearsal before we started shooting. We did a lot of preparation for the characters but I still kept it 'semi-improvised' when we were shooting.

"I let the actors do their thing on set. But I didn't push them as hard as I would on a mainstream film, for example."

Lee is also known as a meticulous director who would do one take after another until he is satisfied with the results. While this may sound like Lee is one of those perfectionist directors who swoops down on set and puts the fear of God into cast and crew, there is actually a good reason why he does that.

"When I'm working on a mainstream film, especially when I've been hired to direct a film, then I will do as many takes (as needed) until I get the best results. It's about being professional and obtaining professional results for the producers who hired me," said Lee.

Action on the horizon

One of the shortcomings of talking to Lee about his latest release is that it's usually not his latest movie project or projects. He shot If It's Not Now in a two-week period between July and August in 2011. He had written the story a year before in 2010 and had finished editing the film by early 2012.

Incidentally, Lee describes the film quite succinctly as a "family drama".

It will be screened at three different venues in the Klang Valley next week, in true indie style. If It's Not Now already made its international debut at the 17th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea early this month.

Lee had attended the fest and also served as a jury member for the NETPAC Award. That meant he spent four days watching 12 Korean movies, among other things.

"I don't know if you know this, but Korean films tend to follow a certain trend and the trend right now is to make brutal and violent films. So the majority of films I watched were just brutal and violent," noted Lee.

And did that have any affect on Lee?

"Yeah, I'm in the middle of getting my English sci-fi action thriller off the ground. It's called Atlantis Conspiracy and I plan to use a real mat salleh (Caucasian) cast (laughs). It's my mat salleh film (laughs). I mean, I'm still looking for investors but I'm trying to come up with my own approach to action.

"Previously, with The Collector and Petaling Street Warriors, I've done classic Hong Kong-style action and with this film I want to do a combination of Korean and Hong Kong-style action. Hong Kong action is always over the top while Korean action is steeped in realism. I want to combine the two and make it my own," said Lee.

Lee notes that film producers usually shy away from making an action film because it's either too costly or too complex to shoot. He points out, though, that action films can be made on a low budget, like the recent Indonesian film The Raid and the soon-to-be-classic El Mariachi by Robert Rodriguez.

He hopes to change their minds with a short film he's made to show all the potential investors that he can do action by being original and cost-effective. While that project is underway, Lee will be preparing to shoot a mainstream film in Bahasa Malaysia next month. Funnily enough, Lee was saying just how "over-saturated" the local market was with the influx of horror/comedy films.

"There are just too many hantu (ghost) movies ... I think the title for the film I'll be shooting next month is going to be called Hantu Facebook (laughs). This is how I survive, by making mainstream movies."

If It's Not Now, Then When? will be screened Nov 1-3 with three new short films by James Lee. They will be shown at Tocatta Studios (19B, Jalan SS2/55, Petaling Jaya, Selangor) on Nov 1; Help Institute (Auditorium, Help University, Pusat Bandar Damansara, Kuala Lumpur) on Nov 2; and Five Arts Centre Studio (27 & 27 A Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL) on Nov 3. Showtime for all shows is at 8pm, with an extra 4pm screening on Nov 3 at Five Arts Centre Studio. Admission to all venues is RM5.

This story originally appeared in the Oct 22, 2012 issue of The Star Editor's Choice.

Hollywood icon gets biggest makeover for 35 years

Posted: 26 Oct 2012 06:27 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: The iconic Hollywood sign overlooking Tinseltown is getting its biggest renovation for 35 years, ahead of its 90th birthday next year.

Workers are using window-cleaner style platforms as they strip down the 50-foot (15-meter) tall letters, powerwash the corrugated iron and apply nearly 400 gallons of fresh paint, organizers said.

The operation, which started earlier this month, will take eight to 10 weeks to restore the sign to its bright white glory atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills north of Los Angeles, said the Hollywood Sign Trust.

The original sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a property development called Hollywoodland, but the last four letters were removed in the 1940s.

One of the City of Angels' most beloved attractions, the sign had fallen into disrepair until it was restored in the 1970s after a campaign that saw nine donors pay $27,777 to "adopt" one letter each.

It was threatened again more recently when investors who own land surrounding the giant white letters indicated plans to sell the plot to developers.

But Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner helped secure the sign in 2010, along with then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Hollywood luminaries including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

Although members of the public are forbidden from accessing the area around the landmark - a sophisticated alarm system including motion sensors has been set up to deter trespassers - the sign has a grisly history.

In 1932, British actress Peg Entwistle infamously committed suicide by throwing herself off the top of the letter H. - AFP

'Goodbye Emmanuelle': Sylvia Kristel buried in Netherlands

Posted: 26 Oct 2012 06:22 PM PDT

THE HAGUE: Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, who starred in the cult erotic "Emmanuelle" films, was laid to rest after a "stylish and beautiful" ceremony in her birthplace Utrecht on Friday, her agency said.

The actress, whose iconic role symbolised the sexual revolution of the 1970s, died on October 18 aged 60 after a battle with cancer.

"The service took place this afternoon," Nina Ziegler told AFP

Just Jaeckin, the French director of "Emmanuelle", attended the intimate ceremony at a funeral home during which her agent and others paid tribute.

Clips from her films were played after which Kristel's body was taken for burial in Utrecht's cemetery, Ziegler said.

Kristel was catapulted to fame in 1974 aged just 22 by her first movie, "Emmanuelle" which recounted the erotic adventures of a young woman in Asia. - AFP


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Lebanon arrests 2 M’sians suspected of being linked to Al-Qaeda

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 08:04 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Lebanon authorities have arrested two Malaysians, believed to be suicide bombers and suspected to be linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.

The suspects, aged 21 and 28, were nabbed at the Beirut International Airport.

Malaysian Ambassador to Lebanon Ilango Karuppannan, when contacted by Bernama, confirmed the duo were picked up several days ago but could not confirm the arrest date.

He said the embassy knew about the arrests on Friday.

"They (the suspects) were detained for suspected links to Al-Qaeda. They will be brought to court on Monday, and we will enquire from them whether they require counsel," he said.

Karuppannan said his office had informed Wisma Putra on the case so that the foreign ministry could inform the families of the detained.

According to Lebanon's Al-Joumhouria newspaper on Thursday, quoting security sources, the Malaysians were detained by Lebanon's army intelligence on charges of being members of the terrorist organisation.

Investigations revealed they were recruited into Al-Qaeda by another Malaysian before being taken to Yemen where they met other members of the terror organisation.

Al-Joumhouria said, about two months ago, the two Malaysian suspects had tried to enter Syria, via Turkey, on a jihadist mission to carry out suicide attacks.

Their planned attacks were coordinated by a man, who was said to be responsible for the entry of all jihadists into Syria, said the daily.

When the two Malaysians failed to enter Syria, they decided to head to Lebanon to carry out terrorist attacks but their activities caught the eye of the army intelligence.

The Malaysians were soon arrested and investigations revealed they were planning on contacting an individual in Lebanon to coordinate attacks.

Related Story:

Army Arrests Malaysians Plotting to Carry out Terror Attacks in Lebanon

Malacca allocates RM1mil to restart cattle farming

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 07:14 AM PDT

MALACCA: The Malacca state government will allocate RM1mil to re-start cattle farming in the state next January via a profit-sharing system.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the move was taken, following the failure of cattle farming through feedlot system in Pulau Besar, Semujuk and Alor Gajah, which was carried out to replace cattle farming through profit-sharing in the state.

He said the implementation of cattle farming next year was aimed at overcoming the shortage of cattle in Malacca.

"Through the programme, the government will buy the cattle and hand them over to the breeders, especially in villages where grass is available for grazing," he added.

Mohd Ali was speaking to reporters after attending a group sacrificial programme involving 19 cows at the Al-Azim Mosque here Saturday.

He said the calves would later be divided equally between the farmers and the state government, in which the two sides would also share the profits.

Mohd Ali said the programme would be managed by state government subsidiary Melaka Foundation, with the cooperation of the state agriculture department.

The chief minister said cattle farming through profit-sharing kept cattle farming costs to the minimum.

Feedlot farming, on the other hand, required high expenditure for feed, medicine and proper pens. - Bernama

Six remanded over newborn thrown into a canal

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 07:14 AM PDT

KANGAR: The two Form Five students from a religious school, who allegedly threw their newborn baby girl into a canal near Kampung Behor Rotan Pahit here, have been remanded for a week.

The pair, aged 17, were arrested after the young mother suffered complications from the delivery. Also remanded were the girl's parents, in their 40s, her 20-year-old brother and 17-year-old cousin.

It was reported that the girl and her boyfriend decided to throw their baby into the canal, some 3km away from their home, out of shame.

However, after the girl gave birth on Wednesday afternoon at about 2pm at her home, she suffered complications and was sent to Hospital Tunku Fauziah for treatment.

The doctor questioned her after finding signs that she had giving birth. She confessed after being questioned.

The doctor then alerted the police who launched a search at the canal at about 9.20pm the same day and found the body of the infant at 1.15am on Thursday.

Related Stories:
Police detain parents of teen girl suspected of dumping newborn baby into canal


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Posted: 26 Oct 2012 05:15 PM PDT

The Lost Bank: Washington Mutual - The biggest bank failure
Author: Kirsten Grind
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

An account of the bank run on Washington Mutual which resulted in its collapse in 2008 and its controversial sale to JPMorgan Chase. The author traces the cultural shifts, the financial engineering and the desire for wealth and gains among the central players which led to distrust and subsequent fall. Exhaustively researched and well written.

Transformative Scenario Planning
Author: Adam Kahane
Publisher: Berrett Koehler

People who try to solve tough economic, social and environmental problems constantly find themselves frustratingly stuck. The people whose cooperation they need may not understand, agree or trust them. In cases like these, what is needed is a transformation on the part of the person who is trying to solve the problem. It involves changing how we view ourselves and others. A self-help book.

Drucker on Marketing: Lessons from the world's most influential business thinker
Author: William A. Cohen
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Peter Drucker had a great influence on the discipline of marketing as he had on management, although he did not approach marketing with the same systematic rigour he did with management. This is the first comprehensive look at the marketing wisdom of one of modern history's most influential business thinkers. Drucker is of the view that profitability should not be the main focus of a business; the customer and the market should, and the profits will naturally follow.


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Call for maintenance of tunnel to be improved

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 05:02 AM PDT

I refer to the article "SMART assurance", in StarMetro on Oct 24.

I am one of the daily users of the SMART tunnel and have been very thankful for this impressive piece of construction ever since it was opened in 2007.

In fact, I have been fortunate to join the pre-opening tour and briefing of the construction of the tunnel as well as the Kampung Berembang Control Centre last year, which made me even more appreciative of this initiative.

However, I find the quality of the southbound lanes deteriorating due to constant damp conditions.

Just take a drive through the tunnel and you will experience some drops of water on your windshield.

These constant drops make certain parts of the road wet and slippery, thus dangerous. Maintenance should be improved here.

On the occasions when the tunnel needs to be closed in order to divert excessive floodwaters, I do have one piece of advice for the operators: improve the announcements on your website and include the expected time of reopening of the tunnel for road users so that motorists can plan ahead.

After so many years of operations, there should be enough experience to estimate when the tunnel can be reopened after the cleaning works are completed.

Marco Winter
Kuala Lumpur

Saturday Events

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 05:02 AM PDT


Canine welfare project Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB) will be organising an adoption drive this Sunday at Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M. Manoharan's service centre located at 7A, Persiaran Raja Muda Musa, Klang. The service center is located between the Klang traffic police contingent headquarters and Hin Hua High School. More than 20 puppies are available for adoption at the drive from 11am to 4pm. For details, call 019-357 6477.


The Help World Mental Health Day is taking place at Piazza, the Curve on Oct 27 and 28. It is being organised in collaboration with the Malaysian Psychiatric Association and Health Ministry. The opening ceremony is on Saturday at 11am. There will be exhibition and other activitiesduring the event. For details, email


Sign your name on the Ball of Life to pledge your support against pneumococcal disease today and tomorrow from 10am to 10pm at Ground Floor, Lot 10 mall, Bukit Bintang. For details, call 03-2096 2200 (Fay).


A "Berry Berry Scary Culinary" cum art party for five to 12-year-old children will be held on Oct 27 at Livingfood Bistro and Cafe, Menara Tan and Tan, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur from 3pm to 5pm in conjunction with Halloween. For details, call 014-736 6799 or email to


Rumah Hope will be hosting a charity open house at its premises at 45, Jalan 20/2 Paramount Garden today from 10am to 4pm. Coupon booklets are available at RM10 each. For details, call 03-7954 5523, email or visit


Get ready for some eerie, creepy, goosebumps activities at 1 Utama's Halloween 'Room To Let' in a haunted town from today until Oct 31. Be treated to a spooktacular time on Ground Floor Centre Court with lots of Halloween activities such as free scary games for shoppers with any purchase at the haunted town and a special Halloween Costume Parade for children aged 12 years and below at 3pm. Have a great time watching the children all dressed up to strut off their scary costumes. 1 Utama's Halloween will send shivers down your spine.


Bangsar Village will be holding a series of Halloween events this weekend. Today at 3 pm in the Main Concourse, Ground Floor, there will be activities such as Halloween Cookie Decorating, DIY Spooky Sippers, Spooktacular Stage Costume Competition and Trick or Treat. All participation fees collected from the event will go towards the Bangsar Village Kids' for Kids' Charity fund. Open to children aged 12 years and below, Spooktacular Stage Costume Competition participants also stand to win great prizes sponsored by MPH. For details, call 012-339 2433 (Lee).


YMCA KL invites the public to join its weekly Scrabble sessions at the Lounge Hall, Level 1, every Saturday from 1pm to 7pm. For more details, call 03-2274 1439 or email to or visit


A blood donation drive will be held tomorrow at Confucian Private Secondary School, Lorong Hang Jebat, Kuala Lumpur. It is organised by CAC Methodist Church, the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and Confucian Private Secondary School. Free medical consultation and blood screening available. For details, call 03-2078 3206 / 016-289 2470 (Jacob).


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Justin Timberlake sorry for 'silly' wedding video

Posted: 26 Oct 2012 06:26 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Actor-singer Justin Timberlake apologized Friday for a "distasteful" video produced by a friend as a joke that critics blasted for making fun of homeless people.

The heartthrob actor posted an open letter on his website about the video, in which a string of homeless, transgender and other people wished him best wishes for his wedding to actress Jessica Biel, in southern Italy.

"I had no knowledge of its existence. I had absolutely ZERO contribution to it," he said of the video, whose makers according to the TMZ celebrity news website include his friend Justin Huchel.

"I think we can all agree that it was distasteful, even though that was not it's intention," he said.

The video, initially posted on the Gawker website, has a series of Los Angeles vagrants, street musicians and others talk to camera, sending wishes to Timberlake and Biel for their recent Italian nuptials.

"Greetings from your Hollywood friends who just couldn't make it," says a caption at one point, followed by "Love Huch and Rachel."

Timberlake wrote: "I don't live my life making fun of people (unless, of course, I'm making fun of myself on [TV comedy show Saturday Night Live] ... Especially, those who are less fortunate or those in need.

"My friends are good people. This was clearly a lapse in judgment which I'm sure no one who is reading this is exempt from. But, I don't believe it was made to be insensitive.

He added: "On behalf of my friends, family, and associative knuckleheads, I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by the video."

Timberlake, 31 - whose movie credits include 2010's "The Social Network" and 2011's "Friends with Benefits" - and 30-year-old Biel dated for five years before their wedding this month.

At the end of his open letter, Timberlake said: "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts. It really is a blessing to be able to speak directly to my true fans."

He concluding by vowing to get his friend to "do at least 100 hours of community service." - AFP


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