Rabu, 31 Oktober 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Expect feisty defence from China's disgraced Bo Xilai

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 08:48 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - Disgraced former top Chinese politician Bo Xilai can be expected to mount a feisty defence of himself when he finally comes to trial, but a guilty verdict is not in doubt, a lawyer who had a front seat at China's last major show trial said.

Bo Xilai, then Governor of Liaoning Province, gestures as he delivers a speech at the China Entrepreneur Annual Meeting in Beijing, in this December 7, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

Bo Xilai, then Governor of Liaoning Province, gestures as he delivers a speech at the China Entrepreneur Annual Meeting in Beijing, in this December 7, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

Zhang Sizhi was defence lawyer for Mao Zedong's widow, Jiang Qing, leader of the "Gang of Four" that wielded supreme power during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. She was given a suspended death sentence in 1981 for the deaths of tens of thousands during that period of chaos.

As such, Zhang was witness to Jiang's spirited though ultimately fruitless defence, and thinks Bo could do the same.

"Bo Xilai will be given the right to defend himself, but will he be able to use it? I cannot say for certain," the still sprightly Zhang told Reuters in an interview in his spartan apartment in central Beijing late on Wednesday.

"I would expect though that he will defend himself to the fullest extent, according to what I know about the man," said the 85-year-old.

There is little doubt about a guilty verdict.

"It will be another show trial," Zhang said.

Bo, 63, was widely seen as a contender for top leadership before his career unravelled after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate for more than 24 hours in February and accused Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, of murdering a British businessman.

Gu and Wang have both been jailed over the scandal stemming from the murder of Neil Heywood. In September, the government accused Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up the murder.

While formal charges have yet to be filed, China's prosecutors and courts come under party control and are most unlikely to challenge the party's accusations.

The Bo scandal has rocked Beijing, exposing rifts within the party - elements of which are strong supporters of Bo's populist, left-leaning policies - at a time when the country is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.


Zhang said he did not expect Gu, 53, to try and kill herself like Jiang did in 1991.

"Her killing herself was a political act. She did not fear death," he said. "Gu is not like this. She's just a little girl."

Zhang, who was sent to toil on a farm during the Cultural Revolution, has never given up his fight for legal and political reform in China.

Zhang has campaigned against censorship and, more recently, lobbied for Wu Ying, a self-made businesswoman convicted in a multi-million dollar scheme to bilk investors, in a contentious fraud case that sparked sympathy for the peasant's daughter. Her death sentence was overturned this year.

With China approaching the leadership change at a Communist Party Congress which opens in Beijing next week, calls for reform have grown in state media and amongst government-linked academics.

But Zhang said he was pessimistic, especially for legal reform in a country where courts are controlled by the party.

"The most important reform China needs to become a country with rule of law is independence of the judiciary," he said.

"I don't talk about this very often for one reason - it will not happen ... It cannot happen as long as we live in a one-party state."

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

(This story has been refiled to fix a typo in the first paragraph)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Race tight in four states, Obama holds slight edge - Reuters/Ipsos poll

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 08:33 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are neck and neck in four of the most hotly contested states in next week's election, but Obama holds a slight advantage in two of them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama hugs North Point Marina owner Donna Vanzant as he tours damage done by Hurricane Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey, October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama hugs North Point Marina owner Donna Vanzant as he tours damage done by Hurricane Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey, October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The online survey of four battleground states showed Obama leading by 3 percentage points in Ohio and 2 points in Virginia. The two are dead even in Florida, and Romney leads by 1 percentage point in Colorado.

The state-level polls do not show a clear advantage for either candidate in any of those states going into Tuesday's election, as each race falls within the poll's credibility interval, the tool used to account for statistical variation in Internet-based polls.

But taken together, they indicate that Obama holds a slight edge in the state-by-state battle to rack up the 270 electoral votes needed to control the White House.

Since many of the largest states are considered solidly Democratic, Romney needs to win most of the nine or so states that are considered to be truly competitive in the election.

For Romney, winning the White House without winning Ohio will be difficult, and Obama leads there by 48 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. That margin is just within the survey's credibility interval of 3.8 percentage points.

"That's enough of a difference to give him an edge, if not a decisive lead," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said.

In Virginia, Obama leads by a narrower margin of 48 percent to 46 percent among likely voters, within the credibility interval of 4.2 percentage points. Among all registered voters, Obama leads by a much wider margin of 54 percent to 37 percent.

In Florida, the two are tied at 47 percent each.

Colorado is the only state in which Romney holds a lead, by 46 percent to 45 percent, well within the credibility interval of 4.1 percentage points.

"These are swing states because the vote is always very, very close. They all went Democratic in 2008, they all went Republican in 2004 and they're on the knife's edge right now," Clark said.


Nationwide, Obama leads Romney among likely voters by a statistically insignificant margin of 47 percent to 46 percent, the online survey found. The numbers were unchanged from Tuesday and neither candidate has held a clear lead since early October.

Gallup and several other polls have suspended activity since Monday because of Hurricane Sandy, which left millions without power along the East Coast, but Clark said she saw little evidence the disaster had affected the four-day survey's results.

"Our numbers haven't gone strange on us," Clark said. "We're still getting interviews from those areas." Ipsos has monitored response rates and not seen a significant difference due to Sandy, she said.

Some 24 percent of those surveyed nationally said they had already cast their ballots, providing further evidence that early voting will play a larger role than ever in the election. Among those who had not yet voted, a quarter said they planned to cast their ballots before Election Day.

Obama led Romney by 53 percent to 41 percent among the 1,660 respondents who said they had already voted.

Although the race remains tight, 52 percent expected Obama to win. Only 30 percent said they thought Romney would win.

The state polls showed Democratic candidates in Ohio and Florida leading by wider margins than the presidential race.

In Ohio, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown led Republican Josh Mandel by 49 percent to 41 percent.

In Florida, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson led Republican Connie Mack by 52 percent to 42 percent among likely voters.

Only in Virginia did the Senate race mirror the presidential race. Democrat Tim Kaine led Republican George Allen by 2 percentage points, well within the survey's credibility interval.

(The Reuters/Ipsos database is now public and searchable here: tinyurl.com/reuterspoll)

(Additional reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Flood ebbs, U.S. Northeast picks up after epic storm

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 07:41 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City and the sodden U.S. Northeast began an arduous journey back to normal on Wednesday after mammoth storm Sandy killed at least 64 people in a rampage that swamped coastal cities and cut power to millions.

Lower Manhattan is seen from New York Harbor October 31, 2012. Two days after Sandy delivered a record blow, New York Harbor, the delivery point for the world's most actively traded gasoline and heating oil futures contracts, and a vital fuel source for the surrounding urban milieu, remained shut to commercial traffic, with no estimates for reopening. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Lower Manhattan is seen from New York Harbor October 31, 2012. Two days after Sandy delivered a record blow, New York Harbor, the delivery point for the world's most actively traded gasoline and heating oil futures contracts, and a vital fuel source for the surrounding urban milieu, remained shut to commercial traffic, with no estimates for reopening. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Financial markets reopened with the New York Stock Exchange running on generator power after the first weather-related two-day closure since an 1888 blizzard. Packed buses took commuters to work with New York's subway system idle after seawater flooded its tunnels.

President Barack Obama, who has halted campaigning with the election six days away, set aside political differences with New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie for a helicopter tour of the devastated coast, where they saw flooded and sand-swept neighbourhoods and burning homes.

"The entire country's been watching. Everyone knows how hard Jersey has been hit," Obama told residents at an evacuation shelter in the town of Brigantine.

"We're not going to tolerate any red tape. We're not going to tolerate any bureaucracy," he said of the relief effort.

The U.S. Navy said it was moving ships closer to areas affected by the disaster in case they might be needed, including the helicopter carrier USS Wasp.

Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean as a hurricane before crashing ashore with 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds on Monday as a rare hybrid superstorm after merging with another system. It was the largest storm by area to hit the United States in generations.

Sandy was likely to rank as one of the costliest storms in U.S. history. One disaster-modelling firm said Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses.


About 6 million homes and businesses in 15 U.S. states remained without power on Wednesday, down from a high of nearly 8.5 million, which surpassed the record 8.4 million customers who went dark from last year's Hurricane Irene.

As markets reopened, floodwaters receded and residents went back to work by car, bicycle and bus in New York, the country's most populous city suffered some setbacks. Damage forced evacuation of Bellevue Hospital, known for psychiatric and emergency care.

Five hundred patients were being moved, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Evacuations of four other hospitals and 17 chronic-care facilities had already been ordered.

An evacuation order for 375,000 New Yorkers in low-lying areas remained in effect. With subways down, the mayor said cars must have at least three passengers to enter Manhattan.

Across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey, water that reached chest high on Monday was knee high on Wednesday morning.

"I thought it was the end. I kept telling my sons to pray," said Marcelina Rosario, 47, who was trapped in the second floor of her Hoboken apartment. "Everything happened so fast. The water started coming up, the refrigerator was floating."

More than half of the gas stations in the New York City area and New Jersey were closed due to power outages and depleted fuel supplies, frustrating attempts to restore normal life, industry officials said.

Tempers flared and horns blared in a line of some 30 cars at a Getty service station in Gowanus in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. "I don't have any lights and need this gasoline for my generator," said Abdul Rahim Anwar as he put two full jerry cans into his trunk.

Fuel spilled from a northern New Jersey oil facility shut down by Sandy, according to Motiva, the site's operator. NBC, citing the U.S. Coast Guard, said 300,000 gallons (115,000 litres) of diesel had been released and 200 people were working on the cleanup.

The New York area's John F. Kennedy and Newark airports reopened after thousands of flights had been cancelled, leaving travellers stuck for days. LaGuardia, a third major airport, was scheduled to reopen on Thursday.

Limited New York subway service was due to start on Thursday, four days after the system, with daily traffic of about 5.5 million people, shut down.

Brooklynite Matthew Gessler went to Breezy Point, the New York neighbourhood where fire destroyed 111 homes, to inspect damage to his mother's house, and was disturbed by what he saw.

"Where the fire happened, you could honestly take that picture and say it was somewhere in the Middle East, like in Afghanistan, and no one would doubt you at all," Gessler said.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said more than a dozen people had been charged with theft and looting in connection with the storm for targeting businesses in the badly flooded Far Rockaway neighbourhood of the New York City borough.


With six days to go before Tuesday's presidential election, Obama and Christie put aside politics to tour devastated areas together. The two boarded the president's Marine One helicopter and from the air saw wrecked piers, swamped beach homes and streets under water.

"We are here for you and we will not forget," Obama said.

Christie, a vocal backer of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has repeatedly praised Obama and the federal response to Sandy.

"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and his compassion," Christie, known for his aggressive political style, said after the tour.

Obama was scheduled to resume his campaign on Thursday with visits to battleground states Nevada and Colorado. Romney, who had also cancelled political rallies because of Sandy, limited his attacks on Obama while campaigning on Wednesday in Florida.

Christie issued an executive order moving his state's Halloween celebration to Monday, postponing trick-or-treating. Wednesday's Halloween parade through New York's Greenwich Village was postponed as well, but some parents in the suburbs held daytime gatherings for their costumed offspring in parks and parking lots.

The growing U.S. death toll from the storm reached at least 64, with 30 people killed in New York state, nine in Maryland, and six each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Five other states reported fatalities.

Remnants of the storm were over Pennsylvania on Wednesday, forecasters said. Winter storm warnings were in effect along the central Appalachian mountains and flood watches and warnings were issued across New England and northern mid-Atlantic states.

Sunday's New York Marathon will go on as scheduled, but Thursday's National Basketball Association season-opening game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets was postponed.

(Additional reporting by Michael Erman, Anna Louie Sussman, Atossa Abrahamian, Chris Michaud, John McCrank and Scott DiSavino in New York, Susan Heavey in Washington, Ian Simpson in West Virginia, and Mark Felsenthal in Atlantic City, N.J.; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Jim Loney; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Related Stories:
New York state asks Washington to cover all storm costs

New Yorkers in fuel scramble as storm-hit pumps dry up
About 6 million remain without power in US Northeast
Wall Street scrambles to raise cash after Sandy
Factbox - Massive storm Sandy blamed for 64 deaths

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Pandelela doubtful for Asian meet due to left ankle injury

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 07:06 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Diver Pandelela Rinong is a doubtful starter for the Asian Championships in Dubai from Nov 22-25 because of a left ankle injury.

Head coach Yang Zhuliang said the 19-year-old Olympic bronze medallist sustained the injury in training recently and it has prevented her from executing the full somersault routines.

"Pandelela cannot jump without putting stress on her ankles ... she is not doing the full somersault routines.

"She has, however, shown signs of improvement today but I want to see her condition first before making a decision next week.

"It's the end of the year and I do not want to push any diver if they are not in good condition.

"There is still a week left before we have to sumbit the final squad list for the Asian meet," said Zhuliang, who signed a two-year contract extension to handle the national squad last week.

If Pandelela stays back, then her partner Leong Mun Yee will also be ruled out of the women's 10m synchro platform.

Malaysia are not sending a big squad to Dubai as London Olympian Traisy Vivien Tukiet, Jasmine Lai and Lam Ling Kar will be sitting for the SPM examinations this month.

The ones shortlisted are Bryan Nickson Lomas, Ooi Tze Liang, Chew Yiwei, Cheong Jun Hoong and Wendy Ng Yan Yee.

Zhuliang is not putting high hopes on the divers to shine as they did not undergo the kind of intensive preparations in the run-up to the London Olympics.

"The divers are only training here and preparations are not as good as if we had sent them to China," said Zhuliang.

"Our facilities here are adequate for normal routines ... not for high-intensity training, which our divers need if they are to fight for medals.

"China, I understand, are also sending their national divers and will start as favourites."

The Asian meet, held every two years, also includes swimming, synchro swimming and waterpolo.

Ex-national swimmer Chii Lin shows her mettle with four-gold display

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 07:10 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Olympic swimmer Leung Chii Lin does not regret her decision to step away from the national team earlier this year, having achieved everything she set out for.

The 21-year-old stamped her mark as a junior with a clean sweep of 12 gold medals when she made her first appearance at the MSSM (national schools) meet years ago before going on to establish herself as one of the country's top woman swimmers.

Sabah-born Chii Lin said that getting to swim at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was her ultimate goal.

"As a swimmer, you want to be able to say you swam at the Olympics before and I think that was the most I could aim for realistically ... the highlight of my career.

"I've achieved everything else, to swim at the World Championships (Rome in 2009); SEA Games (Korat in 2007, Laos in 2009 and Palembang in 2011); Commonwealth Games (New Delhi in 2010); and Asian Games (in Guangzhou in 2010).

"And I never neglected my studies, not even when I was still swimming ... and that hasn't changed.

"I do not regret quitting the national team at all," said Chii Lin, who finished 48th out of a field of 90 when she swam the 50m freestyle at the Beijing Olympics.

Chii Lin showed that she is still a swimmer to be reckoned when she contributed two gold medals to her alma mater at the National Higher Education and Institution Games (Sukipt) the at National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Chii Lin, who is a second year Sports Science student at Universiti Malaya, won gold in the women's 50m breaststroke and the 4x200m freestyle relay team.

She also claimed a silver in the 50m butterfly final behind fellow Sabahan Chui Lai Kwan.

Chii Lin has collected four gold medals so far, having triumphed in the 100m freestyle and 100m breaststroke on Tuesday.

Former national swimmer Lai Kwan continued to make a big splash by romping to three more gold medals, bringing her tally to six after two days of competition.

Lai Kwan, swimming for Universiti Putra Malaysia, won the 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 50m butterfly.

Thorpe-do fires away

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 04:11 PM PDT

SYDNEY: Swimming legend Ian Thorpe admits he is a nerdy bookworm who hardly fits the stereotype of an Australian sportsman, but says rumours he is gay are simply not true.

Launching his autobiography "This is Me" yesterday, the five-time Olympic gold medallist opened up about his battle with depression and his failure to qualify for the London Games in his much-anticipated comeback.

"This is a very different book than I intended," said Thorpe, now 30, adding that it was supposed to be the story of someone who got back in the pool and achieved "the success he had in the past".

"Unfortunately ... it didn't turn out that way. I didn't qualify for the Olympics and I didn't have the ending that I anticipated and also hoped for."

Thorpe, who won his first world title at the age of 15 and was just 17 when he first won Olympic gold, grew up in the media spotlight, and said from the age of 20 he sometimes felt like leaving the sport.

He held on to sensationally quit swimming at the age of 24, and writes in the book that he knew he was retiring prematurely and could have achieved more but was "bitter with the constant pursuit, accusations and innuendo".

On his sexuality, he writes: "I accept there's nothing else I can say or do.

"There'll always be people who are sceptical; people who want me to be gay, and others who'll try and use it against me.

"It should have been over and done with a long time ago but people have remained obsessed with it and need to find an explanation which suits their perspective."

He said he finds the fact that people question what he is saying hurtful.

"I think it's because I don't fit into the typical stereotype of ... what Australian athletes have been in the past," he told ABC television.

"I guess I behave differently. I'm a nerd; I'm just someone that happened to be good at sport as well."

Thorpe said that he realised "something wasn't quite right" when he was in his mid-teens, but at the time did not know it was depression.

He sought help but admits in the book he occasionally turned to alcohol.

Thorpe says he is happy and healthy now, but is intrigued by the possibility of a link between depression and elite sport.

"I think there may be some reason that athletes actually turn to sport because I think the benefits of exercise in relation to managing depression is a really positive thing," he told AFP.

"Then you can look at the environmental factors that could contribute to it being worse which is that high pressure elite side of sport.

"But when I talk about depression or anxiety, I'm actually at my best when I compete."

Thorpe has not yet achieved his hoped for success in his comeback, made after four years out of the sport, but is still swimming and hopes to qualify for the 2013 world championships in Barcelona. — AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Changing channels; Sony, Sharp in turnaround battle

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 06:25 PM PDT

TOKYO: Sony Corp is likely to say it returned to an operating profit for July-September after it sold a chemicals business, but investors still aren't sure a consumer electronics revamp will deliver the profit growth the group seeks.

Sony shares, valued at less than $12 billion, have dropped 16 percent since end-June and its 5-year credit default swaps - the cost of insuring against debt default - have jumped by almost 60 percent. The benchmark Nikkei average <.N225> is down by less than 1 percent.

The maker of Bravia TVs, Vaio laptops and PlayStation game consoles, battling weak demand and tough competition, is expected to say it earned operating profit of 33.8 billion yen in its second quarter, after losing 1.6 billion yen a year ago, according to an average estimate from five analysts on Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sony has sold a chemicals unit to state-backed Development Bank of Japan for 58 billion yen, and other asset sales may further inflate operating profit this business year. The Japanese group, which blazed a trail in the early 1980s with its Walkman portable music players, is closing the Shinagawa Technology Center, a 31-storey Tokyo office built in 1998 and may even sell the 37-storey Sony Tower, the New York headquarters of its U.S. business, according to media reports.

Sony has said it expects to reduce its global workforce by 10,000 people by end-March, around 6 percent of its total, as it seeks to lop 30 billion yen off its costs.


Kazuo Hirai, who took over as CEO in April, has pledged to rebuild Sony around gaming, digital imaging and mobile devices, and nurture new businesses such as medical devices, as the TV business shrinks - Sony has lost close to $9 billion in TVs over the past 8 years. In late-September, Sony agreed to pay 50 billion yen to become the biggest shareholder in Olympus Corp <7733.T>, a world leader in medical endoscopes.

"The areas in which Sony is continuing to focus are of course high-risk, high-return markets," said JP Morgan analyst Yoshiharu Izumi in a recent report. "Although we expect (full-year) margin improvement in the electronics segment, we think it's too early to appraise a sustained recovery."

While battling weak demand for its products, fierce competition from Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> and others, Sony is also up against a strong yen and a depressed global economy.

Panasonic Corp <6752.T>, a rival Japanese TV maker, said on Wednesday it will lose almost $10 billion this business year as it cleans its house of risky assets - writing down billions of dollars of goodwill and assets in its mobile and energy units and preparing for more restructuring that is likely to see it shift away from money-losing TVs and other consumer electronics.

For Insider video: Sony next? click http://reut.rs/QZxKao


In August, Sony cut its full-year operating profit forecast by more than a quarter to 130 billion yen, still some way above the average forecast by 19 analysts for 107 billion yen. At a net level, Sony sees annual profit of 20 billion yen, while the market prediction is for around a third of that.

"It's unclear if Sony will cut its full-year operating profit guidance, but we see considerable potential for second-half shortfalls, mainly in smartphones and games," Goldman Sachs analyst Takashi Watanabe said in a client note.

Sales of Sony's handsets, including its Xperia smartphones, are expected to have slid by more than a fifth in July-September, to below 8 million devices, a Reuters poll found last month. Next year it is forecast to sell 34.4 million mobiles, about the same as Samsung shifts each month.

The South Korean firm and Apple are also encroaching on Sony's gaming business, and Hirai has cut the forecast for annual sales of the hand-held Vita and PSP consoles to 12 million from 16 million.

After four straight years of net losses, Hirai is also hampered by weakened finances. At end-June, Sony's shareholder equity ratio fell to below 15 percent - a rate of 20 percent is generally considered a healthy minimum.

While selling off non-core assets, Sony has also spent to bolster its business portfolio - laying out $1.8 billion in four months on the Olympus stake, a cloud gaming firm and a website for doctors, but this has prompted both Moody's and Standard & Poor's to lower their long-term debt rating on the company to the second-lowest investment grade.


At rival Japanese TV maker Sharp Corp <6753.T>, which also announces quarterly earnings on Thursday, the need to return to profit is more urgent.

The maker of Aquos TVs has secured a $4.6 billion bank bailout, and has pledged to axe 10,000 jobs, sell assets, and return to profit. At end-June, Sharp's shareholder equity ratio was 18.7 percent.

After adding restructuring charges, valuation losses on stocks of LCD display panels and other costs, Sharp is expected to post a 400 billion yen net loss for April-September, almost double the company's estimate, the Nikkei business daily reported last week. [ID:nL3E8LP01L] Other media put the figure at 380 billion yen on Thursday, which would put Sharp on track to hit a record 450 billion yen net loss for the full year to March, they said.

By frontloading those costs, Sharp may be better placed to return to profit on an operating basis in the current second half of the year, allowing lenders to justify the bailout. The company plans to return to an operating profit of more than 10 billion yen in October-March on stronger sales of home appliances and small displays, the Mainichi daily said on Thursday.

Sharp is said to be increasing production capacity for its high-definition power-saving IGZO screens, which it hopes to sell to makers of ultrabook computers, including Lenovo Group <0992.HK>, Dell Inc and Hewlett-Packard , Japanese media have reported.

For the second quarter, Sharp is expected to have made a 50.4 billion yen operating loss, according to the average of six analysts on Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Both Sharp and Sony may also have felt the impact of a recent dispute with China over ownership of islands in the East China Sea, which triggered sometimes violent protests against Japanese products. Sharp had almost a fifth of its revenues in China, while Sony has around 8 percent of its business there.

Sharp shares have more than halved since end-June, to record lows below 150 yen. Five years ago, the stock traded at above 2,440 yen. Its market value has slumped to below $2.4 billion. - Reuters

Asian buyers, including M'sians, snap up London luxury apartments as China flags

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 06:21 PM PDT

LONDON: London's luxury One Hyde Park development has sold its latest five apartments to Asian buyers, in a sign of the region's growing appetite for the relative stability of London property as China's economy slows.

The sales mean buyers from Asian countries like China and Malaysia have bought more than 30 percent of flats sold at One Hyde Park, where apartments cost from 7 million pounds up to 136 million each, a higher proportion than any other region.

"One of the reasons why Asian buyers are investing so heavily in the London property market is because China's economic growth has slowed down," said Nick Candy, development manager and designer of the scheme close to the Harrods department store.

"The Chinese are specifically looking to diversify away from keeping all of their investments in China, and super prime central London real estate is perceived to be and actually is a very safe investment," he said.

Asian buyers stepped up investment in the UK capital as the global economy wobbled, fuelled with cash from their region's commodities and manufacturing industries and attracted by the weakness of the British pound and London's safe haven qualities.

The rush to invest abroad has accelerated amid political and economic uncertainty in China, which is on course for its slowest annual expansion for 13 years after economic growth slipped for seven consecutive quarters.

The Knightsbridge office of property agent Savills, recently sold a house to a Hong Kong buyer at 23 percent above the guide price after the property received 12 bids, a spokeswoman said.

The Asian buyers of the latest five flats, which include two and three bedroom apartments, paid about 6,000 pounds per square foot, a One Hyde Park spokeswoman said. The scheme is owned by Project Grande, a joint venture between Guernsey-based group CPC Group and the Prime Minister of Qatar.

Ukraine's richest man, mining magnate Rinat Akhmetov, paid 136 million pounds for the penthouse at One Hyde Park, a record price for a UK flat. Seven apartments remain unsold at the development, where other buyers have come from Kazakhstan, Greece and Canada.

A record number of offices in London's upmarket neighbourhoods are being turned into luxury flats this year as property developers look to cash in on international demand, property consultancy DTZ said.

A spokeswoman for Westminister Council, which decides whether developers can change offices to homes in the Knightsbridge and Mayfair districts said the local authority was reviewing its planning policy to protect the area's office stock. - Reuters

Blue chips start November trading on firm note

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 06:20 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Blue chips started the first trading day of November on a firm note, despite the cautious regional and US markets, with BAT, PPB Group and Petronas Gas among the major gainers in razor-thin trade.

At 9.05am, the FBM KLCI was up 3.92 points to 1,676.99. Turnover was 78.16 million shares valued at RM33.14mil. There were 98 gainers, 42 losers and 111 counters unchanged.

Reuters reported that overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 10.75 points, or 0.08%, to 13,096.46 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained just 0.02%, to finish at 1,412.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.36%, to end at 2,977.23. For the month of October, the Dow fell 2.5%, the S&P 500 lost 2% and the Nasdaq dropped 4.5%.

At Bursa Malaysia, BAT rose 22 sen to RM63.46 with 400 shares done after falling about RM1 the previous day. PPB and PetGas added 20 sen each to RM13.66 and RM19.80.

Genting Plantations gained 12 sen to RM9.10 while PetDag and Carlsberg gaines 10 sen each to RM22.18 and RM13.20 with just 100 shares done. MAHB added nine sen to RM5.90.

KL Kepong fell the most, down 14 sen to RM21.28 with 300 shares done while Time dotCom shed seven sen to RM3.43.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

"Gwanghae" reigns supreme at S. Korea film awards

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 11:03 PM PDT

SEOUL: A costume drama about a stand-in monarch has swept South Korea's domestic Oscars, winning 15 of the 23 awards up for grabs, including best film.

"Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King" - distributed internationally under the title "Masquerade" - also won a best actor gong for its star Lee Byung-Hun at the annual Daejong (Grand Bell) Film Awards on Tuesday night.

Lee won for his dual role as King Gwanghae, the 15th ruler of Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and the humble acrobat Hasun, who stands in for the monarch when he faces the threat of being poisoned.

The film, which also picked up best director, best supporting actor and best screenplay awards, was one of two Korean films this year to break through the 10-million ticket barrier at the domestic box office.

The other, "The Thieves", a star-studded casino heist movie shot in Macau, only managed one award - best supporting actress for Kim Hae-Sook.

And there was only a single prize for "Pieta", maverick director Kim Ki-Duk's gritty revenge thriller that won the Golden Lion - a first for a Korean production - at this year's Venice International Film Festival.

The movie garnered a best actress award for Jo Min-Soo, who won for her role as a woman claiming to be the mother of a brutal loan shark.

2012 looks set to be a record-breaking year for South Korean cinema.

The Korean Film Council recently announced around 120 million cinema tickets had been sold across the country by the end of the second quarter of 2012, a year-on-year rise of around 20 percent. - AFP

Disney buys 'Star Wars' studio, plans 2015 new film

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 07:59 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Walt Disney Co announced Tuesday it is buying "Star Wars" director George Lucas's film company for $4 billion, and plans to revive the classic sci-fi series starting with a new movie in 2015.

The entertainment giant plans a new trilogy in the legendary franchise, launched with the original "Star Wars" movie in 1977, while Lucas himself said it was "time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers."

"Star Wars 7" will be released in 2015, "with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future," said Disney, announcing the deal to buy pioneering movie company Lucasfilm.

In a conference call with investors, Disney said it planned a new trilogy with films eight and nine, after which more "Star Wars" movies would be made every two to three years.

The deal "combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity," said Disney chief Robert Iger.

"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Iger, head of global entertainment giant Disney, which is headquartered in Burbank, just outside Los Angeles.

The transaction is valued at $4.05 billion - based on current stock value - with Disney paying about half in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. Lucasfilm is 100 percent owned by Lucas.

Lucas, who runs his company from its San Francisco base, added: "For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next.

"It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."

The first "Star Wars" film came out in 1977, and there have been two trilogies - three films from 1977-1983 and three prequels from 1999-2005 - while the brand has expanded into theme parks and a huge merchandising arm.

The movies have earned some $4.4 billion at the box office globally over the last 35 years, and offer "a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases," said Disney.

"The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms," it added.

The acquisition comes after Disney's takeover of animated film giant Pixar and comic book character-driven Marvel Studios.

Those deals had "demonstrated the company's unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling," said Disney.

Lucas will be succeeded as head of Lucasfilm by his current co-chairman, Kathleen Kennedy, who will report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, said the Disney statement.

"I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come," said Lucas.

"Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products," he added. - AFP

'Star Wars': one of cinema's most lucrative sagas

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 07:51 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: The "Star Wars" saga, set to be revived from 2015 under new owners Disney, is one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history, with more than $4.4 billion in global takings.

Only James Bond and Harry Potter can claim bigger box office success: J.K. Rowling's schoolboy wizard has conjured up nearly $7.7 billion, although that was over eight movies, as opposed to the sci-fi classic's six, so far.

Bursting from the imagination of George Lucas, the original "Star Wars" movie in 1977 marked the birth of a new era of blockbuster cinema, helped along by an equally young Steven Spielberg.

The two were part of the same new generation of filmmakers influenced more by televisual technique than traditional cinema, and went on to collaborate notably on another global hit series: the four "Indiana Jones" films.

After directing the first "Star Wars" movie, which helped launch the career of Harrison Ford, Lucas brought in other filmmakers for the two sequels which completed the first triology.

"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) was helmed by fellow Californian director Irvin Kershner, while Briton Richard Marquand took charge for 1983's "The Return of the Jedi."

It was only in the late 1990s that Lucas decided to add a new trilogy of "prequels," directing himself this time to tell the story leading up to the action of the original movie.

"The Phantom Menace" came out in 1999, followed by "Attack of the Clones" in 2002 and "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005. Actors Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen starred in all three.

Last February Lucas succumbed to the temptation of 3D, releasing "The Phantom Menace" in the new format, having its latest attempt at becoming mainstream in the digital age.

Under the $4 billion dollar deal announced Tuesday for Walt Disney Co to take over Lucasfilm, a new trilogy will be launched with "Star Wars 7" in 2015, followed by two more to complete the trilogy.

After that Disney plans to produce a new "Star Wars" movie every two to three years, hoping to cash in on the franchise for years, and maybe decades, to come. - AFP

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Three villages in Klang affected by flash floods

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 08:28 AM PDT

KLANG: Some 200 houses in villages Sri Nadi, Johan Setia and Kampung SC were inundated by up to one metre of water after they were hit by flash floods following a heavy downpour that lasted more than six hours on Wednesday evening.

Most the victims were unable to save most of their belongings after water started flowing into their homes at around 6pm.

Jamaludin Abdullah, 34, a resident of Kampung Johan Setia, said this was one of the worst cases of flash flooding in the area.

"I urge the Drainage and Irrigation Department to deepen the drainage system here so that we will not be at the mercy of flash floods whenever there is heavy rain for a prolonged period," he told reporters.

On Oct 18, about 300 houses in the same three villages were hit by flash floods after it rained heavily for more than five hours. - Bernama

Govt looking into revising civil servant salaries

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 07:57 AM PDT

MELAKA: The government is looking into revising the salary scheme of civil servants, including raises of up to 5%, said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa.

He said the revision was necessary to help civil servants cope with the rising cost of living.

"We look into this in categories, if the 5% at the higher end is too high we will have to make adjustments," he told reporters after attending a meeting of civil servants and the Public Sector Innovation Awards ceremony at the Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC) here Wednesday.

Ali Hamsa said the review would be comprehensive to ensure all levels of the civil service benefited including those whose salaries had become static because they had reached the maximum level. - Bernama

AES fair to responsible drivers, says Transport Minister

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 07:54 AM PDT

SEPANG: The Automated Enforcement System (AES) is fair to responsible road users, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said.

He urged opinion leaders to not jeopardise the safety of road users by turning the issue into a political one.

The system has been a subject of heavy criticism since its launch on Sept 22 which saw the operation of 14 cameras nationwide.

"I don't think anyone would object to something that will improve roadsafety and reduce deaths due to accidents.

"Every year, over 6,800 people died on the road in our country in over 400,000 accidents. What about the tens of thousands who were injured?" said Kong when asked to comment on the purported objections raised against the implementation of the system.

He said the AES was not a project that was rolled out in haste but wasplanned in detailed, as it was debated and answered in Parliament for several years'.

"When accidents happen, they question why we do not do enough. But when we do something which is proven (to be effective), they also want to play politics, which is very unfair to responsible road users.

"I hope this will not be politicised to risk the life of responsible road users," said Kong.

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Organiser caps participation at 3,200

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 05:08 AM PDT

THE organisers of the Malakoff 12km and 7km Kuala Lumpur Run to be held at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort on Dec 16, have limited the event to a maximum 3,200 participants.

The reason is to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants. Organised, by Malakoff Corporation, for the fifth year, the race has received overwhelming response with almost 50% of entries already taken up within weeks of the registration being opened.

The event themed Run with Family and Friends offers prized vouchers worth RM18,000.

Malakoff Corporation external relations and corporate affairs head Yusop Rashid said the event was part of its corporate social responsibility programme.

"It is part of the company's commitment to encourage community participation in sports to foster a healthy active lifestyle.

"We are pleased with the response from the community as indicated by the large number of registered participants thus far. We are truly humbled by the continued support towards the Malakoff KL Run from the racing community. We are confident the event will be able to meet its targeted number," he added.

The 12km race is open in six categories — men's Open (16 years and above), men's Veteran (40 to 50 years) and men's Senior Veteran (51 and above years), women's Open(16 years and above), women's Veteran (35 to 45 years) and women's Senior Veteran (46 and above years). The 7km race has four categories — men, women, men junior and women junior.

Yusop said they were excited with the steady popularity of the run.

"We are glad that our Run with Family and Friends events is a platform for family and friends to encourage each other to lead a healthy lifestyle whilst spending quality time together.

"We look forward to the community's support as we continue to organise community-focused sporting events not just in Kuala Lumpur but in other regions including in Penang and Johor as well," he added.

Visit www.malakoffrun.com.my for more information.

Subang Jaya school wins Green Kitchen Challenge hands down

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 05:08 AM PDT

THE TEAM from SMK SS17, Subang Jaya, jumped with joy when it was announced that they had swept all three top prizes in the EcoSave Green Kitchen Challenge.

The team, comprising 18-year-old Lower Six students Chua Mun Ying and Aisyah Amira Roslan, pocketed a total of RM6,000 for winning Best School in Composting Stage, Best School in Gourmet Stage and Overall Champion.

Chua attributed their win to their teachers' dedication and support, particularly their teacher-in-charge Magespari S. Veramuthu for putting in the time, effort and money for cooking ingredients throughout the challenge.

The EcoSave Green Kitchen Challenge is aimed at educating students on simple ways to reduce solid waste and promote long-term sustainable benefits to the environment.

The challenge was divided into two stages.

The first featured workshops where students from 41 schools in the Klang Valley were taught to produce compost from food waste in their school canteens, and use the compost to plant vegetables in their school gardens.

The second stage involved culinary workshops for 10 finalists before culminating in a culinary battle where students competed to produce meals using ingredients cultivated during the composting stage.

The judging panel comprised chefs from KDU's School of Hospitality Tourism and Culinary Arts and the Asian Food Channel.

The EcoSave Green Kitchen Challenge is mooted by CIMB Islamic and supported by Pusat Sumber Alam Sekitar Seberang Perai Tengah and KDU University College, who provided the technical knowledge on the composting and culinary aspects of the competition respectively.

Mun Ying and Aisyah prepared two dishes — "17-nian Stuffed Chicken Breast" and "1Malaysia Salad" — using the spinach and lettuce they had grown.

Chua said the colourful salad combination, topped with a citrus dressing made from lemon, lime, vinegar, orange, salt and honey, reflected the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic community in Malaysia.

"One lesson we learnt was the importance of food presentation, which is essential to attract people to the dishes. We experimented with the recipes and worked on four presentations before deciding on the best ones.

"Cooking is not easy, and I definitely have a better appreciation for my mum's cooking as she can whip up a four-course dinner and soup in less than an hour," she said.

Aisyah said she learnt how important time management was, as they underestimated the time it took to cook and prepare their dishes.

"The challenge has taught us on environmental awareness, such as to separate our garbage into those that can be recycled or used for composting," she said.

On the composting element, Chua said it was a group effort with several students volunteering to help collect food waste and staying back after school to do the composting.

Magespari, who teaches English and Living Skills for Special Children, said the school would continue the composting initiative and expand their range to include kailan, red spinach and some local herbs.

"We will either sell the produce to the teachers, or allow the students to reap their own efforts by taking home the produce," she said.

"The bulk of the challenge prizes will be given back to the school to upgrade its infrastructure and landscaping, while a small portion will be used to treat the two girls."

Chef Yahaya Hassan, who was one of the judges, said what made the SMK SS17 team stand out was their preparation and presentation skills.

"They knew what they were doing and were well-prepared when it came to presenting their dishes," he said.

"In comparison, some of the other teams were not ready, nervous, had communication issues or did not listen to instructions."

Yahaya said the teams were judged on elements like taste, skill, technique, hygiene and plating.

CIMB Islamic executive director and CEO Badlisyah Abdul Ghani said the EcoSave Green Kitchen Challenge aims to educate students on the importance of preserving and creating a sustainable environment.

"Through this programme, we hope to instill the importance of environmental awareness early in the minds of youths by encouraging them to go green in their own schools," he said.

"CIMB Islamic has pledged to contribute a percentage of the total EcoSave Savings Account's portfolio balance towards environmental causes, and this challenge is one of the projects funded under the EcoSave pledge.

"The CIMB Islamic EcoSave Savings Account-i is an environmentally-friendly account offering customers paperless operations."

The prize for the Best School in Composting Stage and Best School in Gourmet Stage was RM1,500 each.

The Overall Champion title offered a prize of RM3,000 and two sets of KDU University College sponsored knives.

The top 10 schools who competed at the second stage was also awarded RM500 each.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Bolivia asks Sean Penn to help it get its coast back

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 07:49 PM PDT

LA PAZ: Bolivia asked visiting Oscar-winner Sean Penn Tuesday to help lobby for La Paz to regain a bit of Pacific coast, and escape the ranks of landlocked states.

Evo Morales, the socialist president of the arid nation high in the Andes, asked the US actor to help its campaign to press Chile to overhaul treaties that ended a 19th-century war that cost Bolivia its coast and gave the land to Chile.

Being landlocked makes trade and transport difficult for Bolivia, already South America's poorest nation.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Penn, known for his friendship with Morales ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, was a "militant for noble causes."

The diplomat urged Penn to be an "interlocutor with people involved in international politics to... help bring our demand, our proposal for a return to the sea to different venues."

It was Penn's second visit to Bolivia this year.

The United States and Bolivia have strained ties, and since 2008 have not had ambassadors in their respective capitals after La Paz accused Washington of meddling in its domestic politics. - AFP

Zee Avi still very much a Malaysian

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 06:22 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A successful career in the United States and international fame has not changed Malaysian singer and songwriter Zee Avi.

The 25-year-old from Miri insists that she still keeps her culture, customs and identity as a Malaysian close to her heart.

Zee said claims that she had changed and forgotten her roots were baseless and untrue.

"It is not easy being part of this industry and under the spotlight. Even if people perceive me as being that way, it does not reflect who I truly am," she told mStar Online at the home of drama producer Raja Alawiah Idris recently.

At the age of 20, Zee had posted a video of herself singing on YouTube and the overwhelming response to the video encouraged her to continue posting songs on the website.

She shot to fame when her first self-titled debut album Zee Avi hit No. 2 on the US Bill­board Top Heatseekers Chart in 2010, and sold 6,000 copies in the United States in its first two weeks of release. Her second album Ghost Bird peaked at No. 1 on the same chart last year.

Zee is now working on her next album, which is scheduled to hit the shelves next year.

"I am very happy for other Malaysians, like Yuna, who have also made a name for themselves in the US," she said.

Singer Yuna Zarai, also 25, from Kedah, released her debut EP Decorate, in the US in March last year.

"When I found out that Yuna was gaining fame in the US, I was very proud. The world is beginning to see the ability and talents of Malaysian singers," she said.

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