Ahad, 28 Oktober 2012

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio


Growing stronger

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 11:54 PM PDT

Red FM proves to be a hit with radio listeners.

IT has been proven that Red FM is your best friend who keeps you entertained when you are on your way to work and driving home. This is because the time spent listening to Red FM is the highest among the Top 3 English radio stations targeted at those aged 35 and below.

Survey results released by Nielsen recently showed that Red FM's new programme line-up has managed to amass a loyal base of listeners, who tune in for the exciting content delivered by the announcers.

The Red Breakfast show is the only breakfast segment to have grown among the Top 5 English radio stations. Both the numbers of listeners tuning in and the amount of time listeners stay tuned to the show have gone up. The new Breakfast line-up also marked the return of Lil' Kev to radio.

Listener Preetha Kumar says: "I love listening to the witty comments by Lil' Kev and Sarimah. I'm glad to have Lil' Kev back on air."

Eng Shu Fen comments that "the guests on their show are usually very interesting people, my favourite was Pandelela Rinong, our national hero. "

The amount of time spent listening to The Red Fix has increased as well, and in general, listeners say it's because they enjoy the smart yet funny debates which hosts Terry and Azura have during their show. Julian Timothy says: "The Red Fix offers a good distraction. When I tune in, it's as if I'm transported to a realm of adventure and fun away from the jam I'm stuck in."

Red FM would like to thank its loyal listeners for their feedback and support.

The station will keep on entertaining listeners all day with a combination of music, from the latest to all time favourites and relevant content. Red FM is operated by The Star.

Tune in to 988 for tips and freebies

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 11:53 PM PDT

WITHOUT a doubt, modern day living is filled with pressure. Some may have it more than others while some simply know how to deal with it better. Tune in to 988 for some candid interviews and honest sharing that might offer a few pointers on how to de-stress. There are a lot of goodies to be given out to listeners as well.

The Feature (Monday and Tuesday, 9am-10am)

Do you think graduates from both Cambridge and local universities stand an equal chance when applying for jobs? This week, let's find out more about these elite graduates and the pressure they face.

The programme will also highlight what every jobseeker should know about the Malaysian workplace.

Street VIP (Wednesday to Friday, 9am-10am)

Taiwan-based Malaysian songbird Fish Leong is famous for her heartfelt ballads and her latest Mandarin album – Love In Heart – has many such tunes. Know as the Queen Of Love Songs, Leong, who is married to Taiwanese wine merchant Tony Chiu, reveals that her biggest wish now is to have a baby.

Music VIP (Monday to Friday, 2pm)

What could one do when he or she is lonely?

Well, talking to someone is definitely a good start. What about celebrities?

Popular Taiwanese singer-songwriter Kenji Wu Ke Qun talks about his loneliness and how he deals with it. Everyone could use a listener, so let us lend an ear to Wu.

Music Gets Crazy (Monday to Friday, 1pm-4pm)

In Stars Guide this week, Deserts Zhang Xuan reveals why Sodagreen's Wu Qing Feng is her BFF, Malaysian singer Victor Wong Pin Guan tells us how to create and maintain a "white knight" image and Taiwanese indie folk singer-songwriter Crowd Lu Guang Zhong looks back on the car accident that almost killed him some years ago.

The Good Show (Monday to Friday, 5pm-8pm)

Freebies time! Once you hear Datin Ong's cue that the contest is on, send in your reply via SMS to win authentic low fat white coffee.

Also, more all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ buffet feasts offers are up for grabs. Oh, don't we all love freebies!

For more information, log on to 988.com.my. 988 is owned and operated by The Star.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


Evacuations, shutdowns on U.S. East Coast before storm

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:50 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hurricane Sandy, which could become the largest storm ever to hit the United States, is set to bring much of the East Coast, including New York and Washington, to a virtual standstill in the next few days with battering winds, flooding and the risk of widespread power outages.

Hurricane Sandy is seen on the east coast of the United States in this NASA handout satellite image taken at 1600 GMT on October 28, 2012. REUTERS/NASA Earth Observatory/LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team/Handout

Hurricane Sandy is seen on the east coast of the United States in this NASA handout satellite image taken at 1600 GMT on October 28, 2012. REUTERS/NASA Earth Observatory/LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team/Handout

About 50 million people are in the path of the massive storm, which has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean and is expected to hit the U.S. Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday morning.

While the storm does not pack the punch of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, forecasters said it could be the largest in size when it strikes land. At the moment, Sandy's winds stretched some 520 miles (835 km) and churned up 12-foot (3.6-meter) seas spanning more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km), meteorologists said.

New York and other cities and towns closed their transit systems and schools and ordered residents of low-lying areas to evacuate before a storm surge that could reach as high as 11 feet (3.4 meters).

The New York Stock Exchange said it will close its trading floor on Monday for the first time since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, though stocks will still trade electronically. In addition, the United Nations, Broadway theatres, New Jersey casinos, schools up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and a myriad corporate events are all being shut by the storm.

Sandy also blew the presidential race off course, forcing President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to cancel some campaign stops. It fuelled fears that the storm could disrupt early voting before the November 6 election.

Officials ordered people in coastal towns and low-lying areas to evacuate, often telling them they were putting emergency workers' lives at risk if they stay.

"Don't be stupid, get out, and go to higher, safer ground," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a news conference.

Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, possibly causing up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain in some areas, as well as up to 3 feet (90 cm) of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky.

Worried residents in the hurricane's path packed stores, searching for generators, flashlights, batteries, food and other supplies in anticipation of power outages. Nearly 284,000 residential properties valued at $88 billion (54.7 billion pounds) are at risk for damage, risk analysts at CoreLogic said.

Transportation is set to grind to a halt on Monday, with airlines cancelling flights, bridges and tunnels likely to be closed, and the Amtrak passenger rail service scrapping nearly all service on the East Coast. The federal government told non-emergency workers in Washington D.C. to stay home.

"This is a serious and big storm," Obama said after a briefing at the federal government's storm response centre in Washington. "We don't yet know where it's going to hit, where we're going to see the biggest impacts." [ID:nL1E8LS151]

The second-largest refinery on the East Coast, Phillips 66's 238,000 barrel per day (bpd) Bayway plant in Linden, New Jersey, was shutting down and three other plants cut output as the storm affected operations at two-thirds of the region's plants. Benchmark gasoline prices rose 1 percent in early futures trading.

EVACUATION ORDERS

At 8 p.m. Sunday (00:00 a.m. British time Monday), Sandy was centred about 485 miles (780 km) south of New York City, the National Hurricane Centre said. The storm was moving northeast over the Atlantic, parallel to the U.S. coast, at 15 mph (24 kph).

"We're expecting the worst, hoping for the best. We're getting everything off the basement floor. We've got two sump pumps. But during Hurricane Floyd, we were down there for 17 hours straight sweeping water into the sump pumps," said Maria Ogorek, a Maplewood, New Jersey, lawyer and mother of three.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of some 375,000 people from low-lying areas of the city, from upscale parts of lower Manhattan to waterfront housing projects in the outer boroughs.

Not everyone heeded the warning. Mike Cain, a construction manager who lives in a high-rise building in Manhattan's Battery Park City, said he was staying put. "We have stocked up on water, food and taped up our windows. If the track or size of the storm changes we may leave after all, but for now we are staying here, we'll be OK," he said.

Big banks in the world's financial capital put key personnel in hotels overnight so that they could make it to work on Monday morning. Like the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq planned to open for electronic trading on Monday.

While Sandy's 75 mph (120 kph) winds were not overwhelming for a hurricane, its exceptional size means the winds will last as long as two days, bringing down trees and damaging buildings. The slow-moving storm is expected to bring lashing rains in coastal areas and snow farther inland.

"This is not a typical storm," said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. "It could very well be historic in nature and in scope, and in magnitude because of the widespread anticipated power outages, and the potential major wind damage."

As of 2:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. British time on Sunday, there were fewer than 5,000 customers without power in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a statement.

Even with all the warnings, some people tried to carry on with their plans.

"I just don't buy into the hype," said Kate Sullivan, a 40-year-old computer specialist from Alexandria, Virginia, who was headed to Baltimore-Washington International airport for a planned flight to Los Angeles. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up in LA by the end of the night."

(Additional reporting by Edith Honan, Caroline Humer, Paul Thomasch, John McCrank and Janet McGurty in New York, Gene Cherry in North Carolina, Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Mary Ellen Clark and Ebong Udoma in Connecticut, Will Dunham, David Morgan and Matt Spetalnick in Washington. Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Will Dunham, Christopher Wilson and Philip Barbara)


Related Stories:
Hurricane forces Obama to balance governing, campaigning

Wall Street to open Monday as storm hobbles New York
Four U.S. East Coast refiners shut, cut rates as Sandy nears
U.S. companies delay earnings reports due to hurricane
Factbox - U.S. Northeast service suspensions due to Hurricane Sandy

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Hurricane Sandy blows U.S. election off course

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:27 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Sandy blew the U.S. presidential race off course on Sunday even before it came ashore, forcing Republican Mitt Romney to shift his campaign inland and fuelling fears that the massive storm bearing down on the East Coast could disrupt an election that is already under way.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is greeted by vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan (L) at the airport in Vandalia, Ohio October 28, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is greeted by vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan (L) at the airport in Vandalia, Ohio October 28, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

As he juggled his governing duties with his re-election effort, President Barack Obama said the heavily populated East Coast could face power failures and other disruptions for several days.

"Don't anticipate that just because the immediate storm has passed that we're not going to have some potential problems in a lot of these communities going forward through the week," Obama said after a visit to the federal government's storm-response centre.

Romney rerouted his campaign from Virginia to join his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan in Ohio, one of the handful of battleground states that will decide the outcome of the November 6 election.

"You are the battleground of battlegrounds. You get to decide," Ryan told a crowd of 1,000 people who were not able to join 2,000 others in a high school gymnasium in Celina, Ohio.

Obama later flew to Florida for a campaign stop. Like Romney, he cancelled events in Virginia, a battleground state that could bear the brunt of the storm's impact. Obama cancelled plans to campaign in Ohio after Monday's event in Florida, opting to return to the White House instead.

"I'm not going to be able to campaign quite as much over the next couple of days," Obama told volunteers at a local campaign office in Orlando late on Sunday. "So you guys gotta carry the ball!" he said to cheers.

Both campaigns also cancelled events in New Hampshire, which could face high winds and heavy rain.

"The last thing the president and I want to do is get in the way of anything. The most important thing is people's safety and people's health," Vice President Joe Biden told campaign volunteers in Manchester, New Hampshire, before leaving for Ohio.

Officials in the path of the storm scrambled to ensure that extended power outages would not disrupt the early voting that appears to be critical for both candidates this year.

Obama said he did not think the storm would impact voting, but some on his campaign staff were not so certain.

"Obviously we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe that the more people that come out, the better we'll do," top Obama adviser David Axelrod said on CNN.

Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said his state plans to extend early voting hours and restore power quickly to election facilities in the event of outages.

Officials in neighbouring Maryland said early voting stations would close on Monday.

WINDS OF UNCERTAINTY

The looming storm threw another note of uncertainty into a race that remains a statistical dead heat.

The vast majority of voters have made up their minds at this point, and more than one in five have already cast their ballots. But the storm could throw a wrench in the campaigns' efforts to drive voters to the polls in the final days before the election and will require them to ensure that their armies of door-knocking volunteers stay safe.

An extended power outage could sideline millions of dollars worth of television advertising that is set to saturate the airwaves in the final days of the race.

It also scrambles their efforts to schedule rallies in the handful of states that are likely to decide the outcome.

"The poll numbers aren't changing that much and I don't think the storm is going to change that dynamic. It's just going to present logistical challenges for the campaign," Hunter College political science professor Jamie Chandler said.

A severe disruption could hurt Obama more than Romney because his campaign has counted on early voting to lock up the support of those who may be less likely to vote on Election Day, Chandler said.

Officials from both campaigns said they were confident they would be able to get their message out and drive voters to the polls over the coming days. But they recognized that, after years of obsessive planning and nearly $2 billion in campaign expenditures, the storm had introduced a last-minute element of chaos.

"There's certain things we can't control and nature is one of them. We try to focus on the things that we can control," Romney adviser Kevin Madden told reporters.

There is some evidence that natural disasters can hurt an incumbent's re-election chances as voters often blame whoever is in office for adversity.

Research by Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University and Christopher Achen of Princeton University found that Vice President Al Gore may have lost the election in 2000 because of severe drought and excessive rainfall in seven states.

Bush's approval ratings plummeted after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, and voters could similarly blame Obama if the government fumbles its response to this storm.

But there are also dangers for Romney, who will have to be careful to avoid being seen as politicizing the disaster. His campaign's hasty response to the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East in September was widely criticized.

The Obama campaign said it would suspend fundraising e-mails in the mid-Atlantic region on Monday and encouraged supporters to donate to the Red Cross.

Opinion polls show the race to be essentially tied at the national level.

A Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Sunday found Obama leading Romney among likely voters by 49 percent to 46 percent, within the online survey's credibility interval. Among all registered voters, Obama held a wider lead of 51 percent to 39 percent.

However, Obama retains a slim advantage in many of the battleground states that will decide the election.

A Washington Post poll released on Sunday found Obama leading Romney by 51 percent to 47 percent in Virginia, just outside the poll's margin of error.

In Ohio, a poll by a group of newspapers found the two tied at 49 percent each. Other polls have shown Obama ahead there.

Romney received the endorsement of Iowa's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, which has not backed a Republican since 1972. He also won the endorsement of newspapers in Richmond and Cincinnati.

Obama won the endorsement of newspapers in Miami, Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, as well as The New York Times.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Florida, Lisa Lambert in New Hampshire and Steve Holland and Samuel P. Jacobs in Ohio; Editing by Alistair Bell and Stacey Joyce)


Related Stories:
Obama sees no hurricane impact on voting "at this point"

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Insight - China grassroots democracy challenge awaits new leaders

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 05:57 PM PDT

XIAOSHAN/WUKAN, China (Reuters) - Hua Youjuan is an unlikely Chinese official.

China's Vice President Xi Jinping attends a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, in this file photo taken August 29, 2012. REUTERS/How Hwee Young/Pool/Files

China's Vice President Xi Jinping attends a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, in this file photo taken August 29, 2012. REUTERS/How Hwee Young/Pool/Files

Free-spirited but driven, she left her village at age 17, got a degree in marketing, and opened a string of businesses in nearby cities in eastern China before settling in the coastal boomtown of Ningbo, 160 km (100 miles) from home.

She never looked back - until she got a phone call two years ago that set off a chain of events that would turn her into an anti-corruption campaigner, then the elected head of her village and, finally, into a disillusioned witness to the ruling Communist Party's attempts at limited grassroots democracy.

Her story, as she tells it, ends with a party unwilling to yield power and with her campaign losing momentum - a tale that reveals one of the most challenging riddles facing China's incoming new leadership team: how can the party shore up its waning legitimacy without loosening its grip on power?

So far, an answer has been elusive.

Critics say political reform stalled as the current leadership focused on delivering economic growth. Rumours have circulated ahead of the once-in-a-decade transition that leader-to-be Xi Jinping and his colleagues may be willing to push through much needed reforms - but it is far from clear.

Large-scale protests have increased in China, reflecting anger over corruption and the lack of government accountability and transparency - the kind of unrest that experiments in grassroots democracy, like the one Hua Youjuan participated in, were meant to help short-circuit.

Instead, Hua said democracy in her home village of Huangshan, in eastern Zhejiang province, was never allowed to fully succeed, thwarted by senior party officials who she accused of resisting her campaign to root out corruption.

"If real reform comes, then I don't mind staying where I came from, but if things continue like this I just don't see hope," she told Reuters.

Hua's frustrations are shared in other villages that have been to the ballot box, including China's most famous testing ground for greater democracy, the southern fishing village of Wukan where a violent standoff over government land seizures led last year to the sacking of local leaders and elections.

On the first anniversary of the Wukan uprising in September, more than 100 villagers rallied outside Wukan's party offices to protest against what they saw as slow progress by their newly elected village committee to return seized land. Some critics say the committee was outmanoeuvred by higher party officials.

China has experimented with limited democracy since the 1980s, holding nationwide village chief elections and giving people a voice in low-level government budgeting in some locales.

But China experts say most of these efforts have fizzled because of opposition from within the Communist Party, and that mass protests are still frequent. Some experts such as Sun Liping of Tsinghua University estimate there could have been 180,000 mass protests and riots in China in 2010.

"Most people I know and meet know change is going to happen, but I don't think anybody knows what kind of change and I don't think anybody really knows how to initiate change," said Tony Saich, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

"You can only push a ball down the road so long before it runs out of control."

IMPEACH THE LEADER

In October 2010, the ball ran out of control in Huangshan village, a suburban warren of houses and small factories on the south side of the city of Hangzhou.

Convinced their local party boss was getting rich through corrupt means, residents launched a sit-in to block a construction project he was involved in.

Hua, living in Ningbo, did not even know it was happening, but her father joined the movement, collecting donations from the village's 6,000 residents to keep the protest going.

A friend of Hua's with close ties to the local government called her and asked her to return to Huangshan to plead with her dad to quit. She did so in early November, but her father refused and the movement gained momentum.

"He said, 'Telling me to stop is worse than telling me to go and die at this point'," she recounted.

Police increased the pressure, summoning Hua and warning that her father could get into trouble if he did not stop.

That turned out to be the wrong tack with the 36-year-old who has a soft smile but a hard head.

She demanded to know what law his actions violated, and then left uncowed. She then became part of the villagers' movement, suggesting they step up their protest by trying to impeach the party chief from his role as head of the village economic cooperative. They began collecting signatures.

On November 10 officials from the district that oversees Huangshan village came to negotiate, but the villagers blocked their exit for several hours. Police were called to get them out, Hua said.

The next day, villagers, officials and police scuffled over the village financial books, which were to be collected by investigators for a probe into the party chief. Hua was summoned by police for questioning. Thousands of villagers gathered outside the police station to demand her release, Hua said.

She was finally freed around midday the next day and given a hero's welcome replete with flowers. "From that day the villagers started to know who I was," she said.

By the end of November, the tension seemed to have peaked. The party chief stepped down and was subsequently put under house arrest, according to Hua.

OPEN NOMINATION, CLOSED SELECTION

With the new year came hope as the wheels of village democracy began to turn.

First, the party selected leaders for the village party branch, a body that technically parallels the village committee but in reality holds more power, through a new and relatively open mechanism. Villagers were allowed to nominate candidates, and the party would then pick a leader from among the top five.

The process, called "open nomination, direct election", was part of the party's latest nationwide attempt to infuse public affairs with a degree of accountability.

Party leaders have directly dismissed the possibility of China adopting "Western-style", multi-party democracy, but the concept of "intra-party democracy" - more openness and competition behind the red wall of the 80 million-strong party - has gained traction and there appears to be consensus behind it.

Li Yuanchao, who is expected to join China's top leaders in the Politburo Standing Committee at the 18th Party Congress in November, championed "open nomination, direct election" when he ran Jiangsu province from 2002-2007.

China watchers say the concept of intra-party democracy is likely to get a boost at next month's congress - where China's new leadership team will be unveiled - but critics say this misses the point.

While village elections are enshrined legally in China, fair votes free of behind-the-scenes meddling are relatively rare.

In Huangshan, Hua was elected village chief in April 2011 despite eligibility rules she said were an attempt to prevent rebellious villagers from standing.

The old party and village bosses were out, but Hua soon found she could not work with the new party chief, who outranked her in China's hierarchy of officials, and who she said was favoured by party officials at higher levels.

In July, the villagers started to organise again to petition the Hangzhou government and party officials called Hua to step in. Instead, she turned off her phone and ignored them.

The response was swift. Thirteen people were arrested, 10 of whom, including Hua's father and brother, were brought up on criminal charges for previous actions, she said.

Multiple phone calls to the party office of Wenyan township, one level above Huangshan, to seek comment for this article went unanswered. The Xiaoshan district party office, above Wenyan, had no immediate comment on the situation in Huangshan when contacted by phone.

COMPLETELY OPEN

A day after Lunar New Year this year, Hua went to the village of Wukan in southern Guangdong province where an uprising against illegal land sales had resulted in concessions being granted by the province's high-flying leader, Wang Yang.

She said she went on a whim, feeling lonely with her brother and father still in detention with no court date yet set, and hoped to learn something from the Wukan experience.

For Hua and others, Wukan symbolised the possibility of rural activism in China and opened a path toward more democratic, equitable and transparent village governance.

In Wukan, decades of strong-arm rule by its former village party secretary, Xue Chang, had resulted in widespread abuses of power. Villagers felt powerless, unable to choose their own village chief or village committee representatives.

In September last year, these tensions boiled over into a protest movement which led to village elections in March.

Villagers flocked to vote. The poll also drew plaudits for using secret ballot boxes and open nominations and it resulted in the new village committee being largely comprised of former protest leaders.

But even in Wukan the new officials have had a tough time achieving their goals - partly, some say, for the same reason Hua is frustrated: higher-ranking party officials are opposed.

Zhuang Liehong, a core village committee member and advocate of improved grassroots democracy and governance, quit recently in frustration at the limited progress in negotiating the return of seized land from uncooperative higher authorities.

"If after the 18th party congress there isn't further progress in getting back our land, more will quit," said Zhang Jiancheng, another democratically elected member of the new Wukan village administration.

Pressure is building around China, said Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College in California.

"That's a political reality we cannot ignore," he said, adding China's new leaders must push through reforms or pay a high price.

"If they don't push, where they end up is lots and lots of Wukans, lots and lots of Shifangs and Qidongs," he said, citing other places where large violent protests have erupted recently.

Hua, who Reuters first met in Wukan, said she was worried things in her village could back-slide if she did not run again when her term ends in 2014.

"If I can do this and feel like there are results then it's something I want to do," she said. "But if, for instance, another term is going to be like this, without being able to change anything, then I don't want to do it."

(Corrects dateline to XIAOSHAN, not XIANGSHAN)

(Editing by Mark Bendeich and Dean Yates)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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We need three perfect races, say Red Bull

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:18 PM PDT

NEW DELHI: Red Bull need three "perfect" race weekends to ensure a third straight drivers' and constructors' world championship double after Sebastian Vettel's victory in India, says team chief Christian Horner.

Germany's Vettel, winner of the title in 2010 and 2011, cruised to his fourth consecutive victory on Sunday, leading the Indian Grand Prix from start to finish in a dominant display.

The 26th win of his career gives Vettel a 13-point lead over his nearest challenger, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who finished second at the Buddh International Circuit after starting fifth on the grid.

Red Bull enjoy a healthy 91-point lead in the constructors' championship over Ferrari.

But speaking after Vettel's consummate triumph in the heat and dust of New Delhi, Horner warned against complacency as he looked forward to the final three races of the season in Abu Dhabi, the United States and Brazil.

"We certainly cannot afford to be complacent because Fernando Alonso keeps turning up," said Horner, after Vettel and his Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber sandwiched the Spanish driver in second place.

"He (Alonso) drove a strong race today and it was a shame we couldn't keep Mark (Webber) ahead of him, as he had a KERS issue from lap 20.

"We have got a great lead now in the constructors' championship, but it is only 13 points in the drivers'.... We have managed to eke out a gap and, considering where we came from four races ago, it is impressive.

"But we have to keep that momentum going. It is the first time Seb has won four races in succession and it was an incredible performance from him this weekend.

"With 75 points available from three races, it is going to be crucial for us to have perfect weekends now."

Horner was unfazed by Alonso's bullish talk that he will win at Interlagos in Sao Paulo on November 25 to take his third world championship crown.

"Talk is cheap at the end of the day," he said, when reminded that Alonso has said he is "100 per cent convinced" he will win the championship again this year.

"I think it is down to what you do on the track," said Horner. "We can all prophesy but it is a question of our focus now being on Abu Dhabi to extract the most out of the car, the drivers, the strategy, and the reliability that we can.

"It is going to be a question of having three perfect weekends." Horner said Red Bull would have to be at their best to deny Alonso and his Ferrari team.

"Fernando is a quality driver and Ferrari are a quality team and they are doing a strong job," he said.

"He is remarkably consistent and we are going to have to perform at our very, very best if we are going to maintain our lead ahead of him.

"We have worked hard to get into this position and there is a real determination within the team to carry this momentum into the remaining three races."

"We need more from the car, more performance," Horner said. "We have had good speed here, now we need more handling with the car. There are three races to go and I believe we will do it." - AFP

Woods' coach has Noh eyeing top 30

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:27 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: An instant improvement under Tiger Woods' coach Sean Foley has South Korean sensation Noh Seung-Yul eyeing the top 30 and his first PGA Tour win after an encouraging rookie season in America.

The lean 21-year-old made an indifferent start to PGA life with a clutch of missed cuts, but since pairing with Foley in March he's had three top-10 finishes and has been among the best 20 in half of his tournaments.

Noh, who has spent time with Asian Major-winner Y.E. Yang as he adapts to life in the States, said he felt ready to make an impression on the PGA Tour next year and improve his ranking of 86.

"(Next year) I want to do better than this year, and try to win a tournament, and make the Tour Championship, and try also to get top 30 in the world rankings," he said in an interview at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

Noh won the Malaysian Open in 2010 on his way to being crowned the Asian Tour's youngest merit champion. He earned his PGA Tour card at qualifying school last year.

Now he said "little changes" made by Foley to his swing had had a big effect on his game, giving him more variety and control.

"I used to have a little right to left draw, but always just one way. Now I can hit both way, hit the fade and the draw more, control the iron shots so I get a lot of good birdie chances," said Noh.

Noh, who had rounds of 71, 66, 67 and 66 at the CIMB Classic to finish tied 14th, spoke glowingly about conditions in the United States.

"In the US, everything is perfect. In the golf course, outside the golf course, I always like it. In the US they clean your shoes and the laundry and everything is free, and they give us courtesy cars. I like that," he said.

Fellow South Korean stars Yang, K.J. Choi and Bae Sang-Moon have helped Noh adapt to life in the United States, by giving him tips about his game - and where to find Korean food.

"Y.E.'s helping me all the time with my game and also outside the course, showing me Korean restaurants. I'm there for the first time so I don't know where the Korean restaurants are," he said.

And Noh added that he was already making plans for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will return to the Games - partly because a medal would exempt him from military service.

"For Korean people it's important because of the military service," he said. "Every young player is trying to get into the Olympic Games. If I win an Olympic bronze medal, I'll be exempted, so maybe I'll try for that.

"Maybe I'll delay it (military service) until I'm 30, 31, so I'll try two times at the Olympics." - AFP

Lorenzo 'liberated' by world MotoGP title win

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:16 PM PDT

PHILLIP ISLAND (Australia): New world MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo says he feels liberated after winning a season-long battle with the powerful Repsol Honda team to claim his second premier class title.

Lorenzo clinched the world championship after rival Dani Pedrosa crashed on the second lap of Sunday's Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island, ending a chance to catch his fellow Spaniard in the final two races of the season.

Casey Stoner powered away to win his sixth straight Australian MotoGP, with Lorenzo coming home in second place to claim the main title.

The Spanish Yamaha rider only had to avoid a mistake to carry off the victory after Stoner's Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa crashed out.

Lorenzo led Pedrosa by 23 points going into the penultimate Phillip Island round and just needed to finish three points more than his compatriot to seal the world title ahead of the final race in Valencia on November 11.

He said this season's title had been more of a challenge than his first MotoGP championship two years ago because of the two-pronged Repsol Honda threat of Pedrosa and Stoner.

"It's been a big emotion because this year has been tougher than my first world title (2010) because I knew my competitors were stronger and more constant this year, and I knew I had to be more constant than them," he said.

Lorenzo, who will now return home for the final race of the season with no extra pressure, said he had learned the hard way how to succeed in the class.

"When I first came into MotoGP I needed to learn from my mistakes, know my limits and try not to go over the limit, so for this reason I am very proud of my evolution and so very grateful to my team," he said.

"I feel emotional for the toughness and the hard competition. I needed to be strong and really focused. For this reason I now feel liberated of the weight off my shoulders."

Phillip Island was bitter-sweet for Lorenzo - he did not start in 2011 after coming off his bike in the race warm-up, severing the top of the ring finger on his left hand.

"Last year here was one of my worst moments in my career, the most scary one when I had this injured finger, but one year later I can celebrate my second world MotoGP title," he said.

"This season was not easy, that was why I had be very focused, constant and very quick and I had to take a lot of risks, and my Yamaha is a much better bike than last year.

"For this reason we are the best in 2012 and we will celebrate very well."

Stoner meanwhile maintained he would not be changing his mind about retirement at the end of this season, at the age of 27.

"There's definitely some aspects of my racing that I'm going to miss for sure and I have so much respect for Jorge and Dani and we've been challenging and fighting each other for so many years," he said.

"When I announced my retirement I said that the sport would have to make dramatic changes for me to even consider coming back.

"I can never say never but honestly I have no thoughts whatsoever at this time of even thinking of coming back, so nope, sorry."

The race Sunday was a remarkable victory for Stoner, who is not long back from surgery on torn ligaments and fractures to his ankle, tibia and fibula he suffered in a crash during qualifying for the Indianapolis MotoGP in mid-August. - AFP

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Crucial US pre-election payroll report looks weak

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 06:20 PM PDT

NEW YORK: The last employment report before the U.S. presidential election is likely to have something for everyone - for those bullish and bearish on the economy and for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Non-farm payrolls in October are forecast to have risen 124,000, barely more than September's 114,000 gain, according to 78 economists polled by Reuters. The unemployment rate probably edged back up to 7.9 percent after falling to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent last month. The figures are due on Friday.

On the face of it, that would reinforce the charge leveled by Romney, a Republican, that the policies of his Democratic opponent are to blame for the slowest post-recession recovery since the war.

The proportion of America's working-age population that is employed has fallen to 58.7 percent from 60.6 percent when the Democrat took office in January 2009.

But Obama can counter that nearly 800,000 more Americans are in work today than when he became president and that five million jobs have been created since the December 2009 trough, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.

In many respects, the job statistics are likely to paint the same blurred picture as Friday's report showing the economy expanded at a 2.0 percent rate in the third quarter: things are improving, but at a frustratingly slow pace.

"For this reason the labor market is currently neither weak enough to do serious damage to Obama's re-election chances nor strong enough to give him a boost," said Bernd Weidensteiner, an economist with Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Opinion polls show the November 6 election is too close to call.

FISCAL CLIFF

Douglas Roberts, an economist with Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh, said a weaker-than-expected jobs report would not make him too concerned about the U.S. economy. Housing in particular was rebounding smartly, albeit from a low base.

But any softness would underline the urgency of eliminating policy uncertainty that is causing businessmen to sit on their hands, not least the prospect of tax increases and spending cuts that will kick in next year in the absence of a long-term agreement to cut America's budget deficit.

"Investment and recruitment are being held back until companies have a much better idea of the economic environment they're going to be looking at after the election and the fiscal cliff' negotiations are through," Roberts said. "So I don't think the payroll numbers will tell you an awful lot."

The other data highlight of the week is the monthly survey by the Institute for Supply Management, which is closely watched in Asia as a pointer to export and production trends.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the ISM index to be unchanged at 51.5.

David Lubin at Citigroup said there was a "decent relationship" between the ISM survey and the export orders component of China's official purchasing managers' index, which is expected to creep higher. Both reports are due on Thursday.

Signs of stabilization in recent Chinese data, including credit growth and rising imports, were a cause for qualified optimism about the prospects in some other Asian economies, Lubin said in a report.

"But there is no systematic evidence that the revival in Chinese import demand is generating positive spillovers in a large number of countries," he added.

BANK OF JAPAN TO STEP UP

That is definitely the case in Japan, whose firms have scaled back sales, output and investment in China after the recent flare-up of a territorial dispute over islets in the East China sea led to violent protests across China and a partial boycott of Japanese goods.

With the economy also on the ropes because of the strong yen, the Bank of Japan is widely expected to deliver more monetary stimulus when it meets on Tuesday to prevent the world's third-largest economy from relapsing into recession.

Recession already has a firm grip on swathes of the euro zone, hit by a debt and banking crisis that is being exacerbated by austerity measures to reduce yawning budget deficits.

Data on Wednesday will probably show that the unemployment rate for the 17 countries using the single currency rose to a record high of 11.5 percent in September from 11.4 percent in August.

In Spain, which on Friday reported a jobless rate of 25 percent, the economy is likely to have shrunk by 0.4 percent in the third quarter, just as it did in the second quarter. Madrid releases the report on Tuesday. - Reuters

BoE's Dale says UK growth to falter after Olympic boost

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 06:17 PM PDT

LONDON: Economic growth in Britain will be "materially" lower in the fourth quarter, after an unexpectedly strong boost from the Olympic Games, and it will remain weak for the next couple of years, Bank of England chief economist Spencer Dale told the Times newspaper.

Dale welcomed last week's news that Britain's economy grew by a "strong" 1 percent in the second quarter, but warned that the next set of data would look much worse by comparison.

"In terms of the headline numbers I expect to see a very sharp fall back," he said, explaining that the one-off boost from the Olympic Games was "even greater than we had expected".

A reduction in the cost of funding for banks, positive inflation figures and the Bank's new "Funding for Lending" programme of cheap loans for banks are all good news for the economy, but several negative factors will weigh on growth for some time, Dale said.

Recent rises in energy prices, for example, are expected to force inflation back up 2.5 percent in the next few months.

"We have had a series of utility price increases and that will feed into households' real incomes, he said."

Dale, who opposed the British central bank's most recent expansion of its government bond-buying programme last July, pointed to inflation figures as he repeated his call for caution around quantitative easing.

"Inflation with a 'two' in front of it is encouraging, but normally we would have expected in an economy this weak for inflation to be quite a bit below target, and we are not seeing that," he said.

"This stickiness in inflation is something we need to take into account when we are thinking about exactly how much more stimulus we need to apply."

However, there are circumstances in which Dale said he could imagine voting for further asset purchases.

Recent strengthening in the pound is "not good for us in terms of keeping this sort of rebalancing of the economy" towards exports, he said.

"I think it is something we are keeping a close eye on. If the exchange rate shifted up very dramatically, other things being equal you would have to take that into account in terms of policy." - Reuters

China mulls lower tax levels to boost long-term investment

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 06:15 PM PDT

SHANGHAI: China may apply a sliding scale to taxing stock dividends in a bid to encourage long-term investment, the China Securities Journal reported on Monday, citing unidentified government officials.

Under the proposal, investors holding a stock for more than a month would gain preferential tax treatment, while holding a stock for more than a year would win deeper tax cuts, the newspaper said.

The government was also studying tax policies in relation to Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (QFII) and the trading of crude oil futures, it said.

China's government has rolled out a series of measures recently in an effort to stabilize the stock market, which has fallen 6 percent so far this year following a 22 percent slump in 2011. - Reuters

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Quarrelling couple suffocate to death in burning flat

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 04:05 AM PDT

JOHOR BARU: Minutes after getting embroiled in an argument, a couple found themselves trapped in their apartment which caught fire and they eventually suffocated to death.

The victims, Sabahan, Angielee Ambrose, 29 and her friend, Ang Lye Hock, 52, a Singaporean, were heard shouting at each other before the fire started at around 11.15am at a townhouse in Taman Iskandar here on Sunday.

Neighbours managed to pry open the door but the flames drove them back.

Minutes later there was a small explosion, said a neighbor, Bahruddin Saffri Ahsan, 46.

Fire and Rescue Department officials arrived at the scene about 10 minutes later.

Operation head Raja Saiful Iswardi Raja Hassan said that three fire engines and 18 officials were tasked to put out the flames.

"We managed to control the flames about one minute later but the fire was completely put out at around 11.50am," he said when met at the scene.

He added that the body of Angielee was discovered at the hall area while the body of Ang was found in the bathroom.

"Initial findings reveal that both may have died from suffocation due to the thick smoke from the fire," he said adding that authorities were still investigating the source of the incident.

Four men nabbed attempting to break into Lee Lam Thye’s house

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 04:04 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Police arrested four men attempting to break into the house of Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye in Taman Maluri, Cheras here on Sunday.

Cheras police chief ACP Mohan Singh Tara Singh said in the incident at about 5am, police on patrol stumbled upon two men trying to climb over the wall into Lee's house.

"When they were aware of the presence of police, the two suspects dashed into a Mercedes Benz and fled.

Police pursued the suspects who later crashed their car into the Pertiwi Condominium security post barrier about one kilometer from Lee's house," Mohan told reporters here Sunday.

He said police fired seven shots to avoid being hit by the suspects' car and arrested four men aged between 30 and 40 years.

Mohan said one of the suspects was injured on the head by glass splinters and police found several burglary and car theft tools in their car.

Also found were stolen items such as a watch, five car keys and several mobile phones.

All suspects were held under remand for four days, he said.

Meanwhile Lee when contacted by Bernama said he was grateful to police for their quick action in apprehending the suspects.

"I understand from the patrol unit that there were criminals trying to break into my house. At that time I was at home with my wife and domestic helper," he said. - Bernama

Jordan University of Science and Technology campus in Besut next year

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 04:03 AM PDT

BESUT: The Jordan University of Science and Technology, Jordan's top research university with more than 22,000 students, will open a branch campus at Bukit Keluang in Besut next September.

The University had confirmed the matter with the state government and the branch would have medical and engineering faculties, said Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said.

"The state government has approved the Kolej Imtiiaz building in Bukit Keluang for the use of the campus," he told reporters after an Aidiladha sacrificial offering of 21 cows organised by the Besut UMNO Youth movement and opening of the Pointray Malaysia Sdn Bhd factory in Gong Medang, here Sunday.

Meanwhile, he said that Taman Ilmu (Knowledge Park) in Kampung Tembila which was meant as a site for institutions of higher learning was being upgraded by the Korean Hyundai Group.

On a separate development, he said Tenaga Nasional Berhad had agreed to develop a 100-hectare hotel project in Pulau Perhentian Besar.

He added that it was among the state government's long term projects to turn Pulau Perhentian Besar into an international tourism destination. - Bernama

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Book Review: 'State Of Wonder' is a pleasure to read

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:19 AM PDT

This is a mature and thoughtful novel that creates an atmosphere that stays with the reader even after the book has been put down.

State Of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 391 pages

MARINA Singh is from Minnesota in America, but she carries the legacy of her Indian father's name and skin colour which makes her stand out from the rest of her translucent extended family with their Scandinavian blood. This has very little to do with the story, but is just an example of how this wonderful novel shows right from the outset that one of its predominant techniques is contrast. Author Ann Patchett shows that by setting things as opposites, they stand out all the more.

The story follows Marina, a former surgeon who now works as a pharmacologist for a large pharmaceutical firm, from the snowy featureless plains of Minnesota to the heart of the Amazonian rainforest.

The new environment is nothing like the urban landscape she is used to. We compare the northern and southern hemispheres through her eyes – one where nature is tamed and picked apart at microscopic level in her laboratory and the other where nature is very much "red in tooth and claw" and puts all sorts of dangerous and potentially lethal obstacles in her path as she tries to find Dr Swenson, an old college lecturer of hers who made a strong impression on her formative years.

As Marina navigates her way up increasingly remote tributaries of the Amazon River, it is difficult not to be reminded of The Heart Of Darkness, Jospeph Conrad's classic tale, with Marina standing in as Marlow and Dr Swenson as a female Kurtz. We follow Marina through the transition from the clinical brightness of the pharmaceutical laboratory where everything is mastered, to the dark depths of the tropical rainforest where almost everything is beyond her control, or so it seems at first.

Initially, Marina is drawn into this adventure more or less against her will but complies with what is expected of her because that is how she has always led her life.

But Marina is shaped and changed by her journey, whittled down by her experiences. Any excess is stripped away. Not once, but twice, she loses her luggage, including her phone, and she has to let go of everything that might link her to her former self in the modern world.

For lack of other clothes she is forced to dress like the natives. In the tropics, her skin becomes as dark as the inhabitants of the rainforest and at one stage she is even mistaken for a member of the tribe. And during her time with the matriarchal Dr Swenson she faces the things she fears the most and emerges stronger and transformed.

But State Of Wonder is much more than just a simple quest novel. It successfully weaves important social issues into its enthralling plot, addressing themes such as medical ethics, the role of women in medicine, and the impact that a teacher can make on our lives.

Perhaps the book's most important theme, however, is women's fertility. The author herself is in her late 40s and has no children of her own, a deliberate choice on her part and a choice being made by an increasing number of women who choose a career over the traditional role of child-rearing. She creates a scenario that allows her to explore what might happen if women could choose to have children much later in life than nature usually allows and tackles the moral and physical implications that go with that.

We see all this through the eyes of a 42-year-old childless Marina who comes to the understanding that not making a choice is a choice in itself, while at the same time learning that we have to be careful what we wish for. Essentially, this book looks at the arrogance of rational, analytical science pitted against the supremacy of dark, unknowable nature. Ultimately, nature will win.

State Of Wonder is quite a long book and will keep the reader happily engrossed for many enjoyable hours, though there is a sense that, though sown, and even watered, some seeds for sub-plots never germinate and certain avenues and possibilities of this story are left unexplored, somewhat like the dark unknowable tributaries of the Amazon that Marina navigates.

The most developed characters in the book are all women, while the men seem to be lacking in substance, to the extent that some of them are hardly there at all and, indeed, for much of the book it seems that all the men in Marina Singh's life are absent, including her father, her colleague, her lover and her ex-husband. When they do appear it is just fleetingly as a device to show us other aspects of the heroine's character. But while this is a book about women and women's issues, it isn't necessarily just a women's book. It is an adventure story too, and keeps the reader turning pages right up until the satisfying resolution.

The writing is beautiful and deceptively simple, the hallmark of a good writer. Each sentence flows perfectly, making this book is a real pleasure to read. It is a mature and thoughtful novel that creates an atmosphere that stays with the reader even after the book has been put down.

State Of Wonder was one of the six novels shortlisted for this year's Orange Prize for Fiction (eventually won by Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles); one of Ann Patchett's previous five novels, Bel Canto, also set in South America, won the Orange Prize in 2002.

Martin Jacques' latest views on China

Posted: 28 Oct 2012 07:17 AM PDT

An author shares his views on the growing clout of the world's second largest economy.

AUTHOR and academic Dr Martin Jacques released an updated and expanded second edition of his widely acclaimed book, When China Rules The World: The End Of The Western World And The Birth Of A New Global Order, earlier this year.

During a recent visit to Kuala Lumpur when he attended an Asian Centre for Media Studies event, Jacques (pic) spoke to The Star about his book and its approach to the subject. Some excerpts:

How is the second edition different from the first?

Time. Because China is growing so quickly, China time is fast. There's been a lot of updating throughout the second edition.

When I wrote the first edition, the 2008 (US-centred) financial crisis had just happened. The last chapter is about the crisis, which was little commented on before.

The second edition looks at the beginnings of a Chinese economic world order.

How far is the second edition a response to critics of the first?

I don't think what I've done is a response to the critics. The inaccuracies in the first edition were very few, and I've certainly responded to those.

There was a bit of a jump in the argument between the rise of China and its relations with other countries.

Here I look at not just China-US relations, but the rise of developing countries generally, of which China is a part.

I use the phrase "rule the world" as a metaphor. I've learned a lot from meetings and discussions.

There was never much in the first edition I wanted to change. The structure of the book is basically the same.

Do you see China's rise as continuing into the future?

Yes, definitely. Along the lines of the book, without any doubt whatsoever.

How might a new China-centred tributary system emerge in East Asia?

There are echoes of a tributary system. The most obvious return to that is the rise of China.

East Asian economies today are much more China-centric. There's the fact we're now moving to a new China-centric system.

China is probably the most important market for countries in the region, for trade and investment, with its high-speed rail links, and so on. Getting on with China will be absolutely crucial for countries in this region.

Can economic dominance translate into clout in other spheres?

If China is economically dominant, that gives it a great deal of influence over other countries.

The draw of China will be that much greater. China will be a huge cultural presence in the region.

Lots of people in this region will study in Chinese universities. Beijing will be a tremendous draw.

You can see that in the flight patterns of Malaysia Airlines, for example. Previously, Malaysians travelled to Britain, not so much to other East Asian countries; it would be interesting to see the changes.

The attraction of Shanghai will be that of a big city like New York. People are attracted to power.

We'll be much more familiar with Chinese governance and institutions. From being a mystery, they'll be familiar; we were used to the United States before, but much more with China (in future).

What of Greater China, the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan?

All the ties will get stronger.

Hong Kong will remain very much as now, I don't expect it to change. It will become increasingly integrated (with the mainland) and Sinicised, and (still) in many senses not very Chinese.

I would expect Taiwan to move ever closer to China. Taipei feels it has nowhere to go except closer to China.

There are already a large number of Taiwanese working in China. There has been growing economic integration.

Over the next 20 years, Taiwan will probably accept Chinese sovereignty. It will come because it is absolutely the logical step.

What of the prospects of China's collapse, as some predict?

There are gradations on the scale. China isn't going to sail into the sunset without problems. But what I'm extremely sceptical about are predictions about the problems leading to economic meltdown and Armageddon.

Some day China may see a multi-party system, although unlikely. China may be more open, but it will still be very much Chinese.

A collapse is not impossible, but extremely unlikely.

Can China's economic power translate into cultural influence?

It will take a long time. China is still a poor country.

Rich countries don't aspire to be like a poor country; economic power is the basis (of cultural influence).

The Beijing Olympics is an example: China was unable to stage it 10 years before.

Since the rest of the world is not familiar with Chinese culture, the process of feeling comfortable with China culturally and politically will take a long time.

Because Chinese culture is so different from Western culture, it will take a century for the West to be familiar with it. I'm sceptical that it won't happen.

How is China's rise regarded by India?

India has a big problem with China, as it has a very strong view of China. India is a long, long way behind (in growth).

Indians are traumatised by China; their relationship with China is erratic, fickle and fearful. Because of the border wars, China looms very large in the Indian imagination.

The issue doesn't disturb the Chinese, but for Indians it's an issue. India is so far behind that the thought of overtaking China (economically) is the talk of fantasists in dreamland.

India needs to learn as much as possible from China and pursue a strong relationship with it. It needs a clear strategy in dealing with China.

India should stop this petty rivalry. At the moment there's not much of that happening.

What of China's relations with South-East Asia?

In historical terms for this region, 100 years (since the end of China's dynastic rule in 1912) is not such a long time.

There is a familiarity with China in this region that is not found in other parts of the world.

This marks out relations with China as different here. Countries in this region relate with China in a multifarious process.

Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar are dealing (economically) with China mostly through Chinese provinces closest to them.

It's a situation most nation states don't allow in their regions. But Chinese provinces close to these countries will deal more with them in future.

As for relations with the United States?

It will take the US at least 10, maybe 20 years from now to treat China as an equal.

It will happen in a series of baby steps here and there, for example by treating China as a partner in the region, rather than as a problem like now.

But it won't happen within 10 years. In certain circumstances it may happen quicker, such as a (Western) financial crisis, or it would take longer.

And Europe?

There's been poor coverage of China in the rest of the world, mainly from ignorance. Coverage tends to be Eurocentric.

Soviet reforms under Gorbachev with glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) were well received in Western Europe. But the Soviet system could not be reformed.

China's communist revolution had better historical roots than the Soviet's.

What remains of the 'Washington Consensus' (ie, US-style economic doctrine)?

It's dead. In the developing world, China is the main show. Why look at America?

China is actively doing (the alternative): there are general lessons in its emphasis on infrastructure, the importance of the state, of political stability, and so on.

Will there be a third edition?

I probably won't do a third edition. It was hard work with the (second edition), being governed by the framework of the existing book.

I'd probably work on something fresh. More on the lines of "understanding China," so that people can understand the conceptual thinking.

Cake to gobble up ... and savour

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 04:34 PM PDT

Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House Books for Young
Readers, 480pages

THE world is the kingdom of Goredd where, 40 years earlier, a treaty had been signed between man and dragonkind. Since then the communities have coexisted in relative harmony. The dragons are obliged to take human form within the city walls and are forbidden to hoard gold. For younger dragons, knowledge is stored instead, literally, in the form of stacks of books.

Orma is one such dragon. He is a scholar and Seraphina's music teacher. There is a more complex relationship between the dragon and the book's main character, but I am going to try to keep this review spoiler-free. I fear this means not saying much about Seraphina herself. She is, naturally, at the centre of much of the action and to reveal too much about her would practically give the plot away. Suffice to say she is the only daughter of a widowed lawyer, the assistant to the court composer, and tutor to the Crown Princess Glisselda.

Seraphina is quiet, reserved, described by the princess as "cranky". In the course of the novel she proves herself to be inventive, intelligent, brave and compassionate. And of course the music she produces on her flute is "sublime" and transcendental.

The book begins at the funeral of the Crown Prince Rufus. He is murdered – decapitated, which raises the question that dragons were involved. Seraphina finds herself drawn into the investigation, first in response to something revealed by Orma, and then, at the behest of Prince Lucian Kiggs, Glisselda's cousin and fiancĂ©.

It's an exciting, absorbing story, with enough action to keep you turning the pages, and full of rich and surprising detail – the characters so sharply drawn, the world made real through words that allow you to smell and taste and feel it. Just enough is revealed about events and characters to keep the reader guessing, and wondering, and, most deliciously, longing. The suspense is incredible, and the chemistry between Seraphina and the other characters is remarkable, and, in one instance, heart-breaking.

This is one of those rare books that I wanted to re-read the moment I finished it. It is so delicious that I admit to rushing through it – the way you might gobble a wonderful slice of cake – and then regret not savouring every mouthful. I think it just might be my favourite book published this year.

And as for Seraphina, she has joined that company of fictional heroes whom I want to be like when I grow up. They are all young women – Dido Twite, Sophie Hatter, Lyra Silvertongue, Hua Mulan (no, NOT the Disney version) – apart from Ged, from Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard Of Earthsea. It's wonderful to know that admirable, flawed, lovable characters are still being created.

The second book in Hartman's planned trilogy is scheduled for release in the middle of next year. I look forward to meeting Seraphina again then.

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.

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