Jumaat, 2 November 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Anger grows over fuel shortage in storm-hit U.S. Northeast

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 07:18 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tempers frayed in long gas lines and millions were still without electricity across the U.S. Northeast on Friday as the death toll from superstorm Sandy hit 102 and crews searched for more victims in devastated communities in New York and New Jersey.

Commuters board a ferry to go to Manhattan from Paulus Hook Pier at Exchange Place in New Jersey November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Commuters board a ferry to go to Manhattan from Paulus Hook Pier at Exchange Place in New Jersey November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The U.S. government moved to ease the fuel crunch by tapping strategic reserves and buying millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel to be trucked to storm-damaged areas.

With the U.S. presidential election four days away, television and newspaper images of angry storm victims could affect the campaign. President Barack Obama, locked in a tight race with Republican rival Mitt Romney, has so far generally received praise for his handling of the storm.

New York City cancelled its annual marathon in the face of mounting anger as utilities restored power to about a million East Coast homes and businesses but still had about 3.5 million customers in the dark four days after Sandy hit the U.S. coast.

New Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, along with Sting and a host of others, staged a televised benefit concert on Friday to raise money for victims of Sandy.

The massive storm, which combined a Caribbean hurricane with another powerful weather system, brought 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds and a record surge of seawater to Manhattan, Staten Island and coastal towns on Monday, sweeping homes from their foundations, shattering piers and swamping subway tunnels.

Forty-one died in New York City, about half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water.

Acute gasoline shortages led to long lines and short tempers across the region. In a move to ease the shortage, the Obama administration directed the Defense Logistics Agency to buy up to 12 million gallons (45 million litres) of unleaded fuel and 10 million gallons (38 million litres) of diesel for distribution to areas affected by Sandy.

The government also waived rules that barred foreign-flagged ships from taking gas, diesel and other products from the Gulf of Mexico to Northeast ports, and said it would tap strategic reserves for diesel for the Defense Department to distribute to emergency responders.

"There should be a real change in conditions and people should see it quickly," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Starting before dawn on Friday, long lines of cars snaked around gasoline stations in scenes reminiscent of the energy shortage of the 1970s. Some of the lines stretched for miles.

"It's a catastrophe," said Anthony Ennab, a 21-year-old student, as he waited in line at a Staten Island gas station with a container. "If I had an emergency, I would have no gas."

Police were in place at many locations to keep the peace between frustrated drivers. On Thursday, a man who attempted to cut in line was charged with threatening another driver with a gun in the borough of Queens.

Less than half of all gas stations in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey operated on Thursday because of power outages and limited supplies.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered gas rationing in 12 counties to begin on Saturday.


Sandy started as a late-season hurricane in the Caribbean, where it killed 69 people. At its peak, it stretched from the Carolinas to Connecticut and was the largest storm by area to hit the United States in decades.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had spoken to the father of two boys, aged 2 and 4, who were swept from their mother's arms as she tried to escape rising waters on Staten Island. Their father is a sanitation worker and was helping the city respond to the storm when it happened, Bloomberg said.

"It just breaks your heart to even think about it," Bloomberg said on Friday. "While life in much of our city is getting back to normal, for New Yorkers that have lost loved ones, the storm left a wound that I think will never heal."

Search crews scoured beaches and went house-to-house in Staten Island and other neighbourhoods in New York and New Jersey looking for bodies.

In Brooklyn's Coney Island, home to a large Russian immigrant community, Anna Ladd's basement still was swamped and she had no power or gas. Ladd, 62, has applied to the government for help but was wary of what aid, if any, she would receive.

"We have a saying in Russia - when someone promises something, you have to wait three more years until they deliver," she said.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Staten Island on Friday amid angry assertions by some residents that the New York City borough had been ignored.

"A lot of people are hurting and we want to work through the next days and hours to get people on their feet as quickly as possible," Napolitano told reporters.


Bloomberg reversed an earlier decision to go ahead with the marathon, which was expected to draw more than 40,000 runners, after rising criticism from residents who said the city should focus on recovery. He said the race had become a source of "controversy and division."

Runner Arthur Sorenson, 51, expressed disappointment at the news but said he would put his energy into fixing his Long Island home, which was swamped by Sandy's storm surge.

"All the nasty things that were written and tweeted. It's a race, people!" Sorenson said. "I just wonder if all the people who opposed the marathon so much will use that energy for good."

But Michael Cremer, 45, a benefits consultant, said before the cancellation was announced that the marathon had become a "symbol of insensitivity" to Staten Island.

"Staten Islanders feel like the forgotten people," Cremer said. "The thing about the marathon is just mind-boggling and people here are just extremely angry. ... The insensitivity of Mayor Bloomberg is just unbelievable."

Much of lower Manhattan still lacked power and subway service on Friday, while midtown and uptown Manhattan were close to normal. Power was expected to be restored throughout Manhattan by Saturday, but it could be a week or more in suburbs and more distant towns along the coast.

Disaster modelling company Eqecat estimated Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses, double its previous forecast.

At the high end of the range, Sandy would rank as the fourth costliest U.S. catastrophe, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus throughout the U.S. Northeast; Writing by Daniel Trotta, Michelle Nichols and Jim Loney; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Obama, Romney take aim at key Midwestern swing states

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:21 PM PDT

HILLIARD, Ohio (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney made late pitches in the political battlegrounds of the upper Midwest on Friday, a region likely to decide the winner in next week's closely fought election for the White House.

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a campaign rally in Lima, Ohio, November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a campaign rally in Lima, Ohio, November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

In duelling campaign appearances in the swing states of Ohio and Wisconsin, the two contenders battled over the economy on a day when the government reported the jobless rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October but that employers stepped up their hiring.

In Wisconsin, where polls show Romney trailing Obama, the Republican laid out the case for his election and said the jobs report was more evidence of the president's failing leadership.

"The question of this election comes down to this: do you want more of the same or do you want real change?" Romney said in a suburb of Milwaukee after getting the endorsement of former Green Bay Packers star quarterback Bart Starr.

Romney stepped up his attack at two stops in Ohio, including a huge rally in West Chester, a community near Cincinnati, where Kid Rock warmed up the crowd with the Romney signature song, "Born Free," and a host of Republican leaders spoke.

"Your state is the one I'm counting on," Romney told thousands of cheering supporters on a chilly night. "This is the one we have to win."

With four days left until Tuesday's election, Obama and Romney are essentially tied in national polls, but the president holds a slight edge in the battleground states that are crucial to gaining the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

On a stop in Ohio, the most heavily contested swing state and a vital cog in the electoral math for both candidates, Obama said the jobs report was evidence "we have made real progress."

Obama, whose federal rescue of the auto industry has been popular in a state where one in eight jobs is auto industry-related, hammered Romney for a recent statement that Chrysler planned to move Jeep production to China.

Chrysler has refuted that, noting it was adding workers to build more Jeeps in Ohio, and the two campaigns have aired advertisements over the issue. Obama said Romney, who opposed a government auto bailout, was trying to scare workers in a desperate bid to make up ground in Ohio.

"I know we're close to an election, but this isn't a game. These are people's jobs, these are people's lives," Obama said. "You don't scare hard-working Americans just to scare up some votes."

Obama's advisers said the Jeep controversy, which has featured heavily in the state's media, had helped the president solidify his lead in Ohio.

"We all felt prior to this week we were in very solid shape in the state of Ohio, and our expectation is that our position's been strengthened by this," White House senior adviser David Plouffe told reporters.

While campaigning in the Midwestern heartland, Obama's team was casting an eye on the Northeast where New York-area motorists were scrambling for gasoline on a third day of panic buying after the storm Sandy devastated the area.

Obama won plaudits for turning his attention to storm relief earlier this week, but growing frustration among victims could hurt the Democrat if the federal response is deemed unsatisfactory.

A variety of state polls show Obama still has slight leads in four states - Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and Wisconsin - that would give him 277 electoral votes, barring any surprises elsewhere.

Obama plans to visit Ohio each of the next three days, and will close the campaign on Monday with a swing through his Midwestern safety net of Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa.


"We want to make sure we lock it in and that it's definitely in our column," Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs said on "CBS This Morning," when asked why Obama was focusing so much on Wisconsin if he had a solid lead there.

Romney needs a breakthrough in one of those Midwestern states, or an upset in another state where Obama is even more heavily favoured, to have a shot at making his electoral math work.

Romney is within striking distance of Obama in four other states with a combined 55 electoral votes - Florida, Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire.

A series of Reuters/Ipsos online state polls found Obama led Romney among likely voters by a narrow margin of 3 percentage points in Virginia and 2 points in Ohio and Florida. They were tied in Colorado.

The Romney campaign launched ads this week in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota - Democratic-leaning states where Obama's lead has dwindled in recent weeks - in an effort to expand the playing field, and Romney will visit Pennsylvania on Sunday.

Republicans say the move is a sign of momentum, while Democrats call it a sign of desperation.

"By every metric, the Obama campaign is doing far worse than they were four years ago. They will continue playing defence on turf they once took for granted - Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania," Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said.

With the polls so close and the outcome unpredictable, both campaigns made plans for a final weekend of get-out-the-vote efforts, focusing on getting their base supporters to the polls and reaching out to independents and the last undecideds.

Romney headed to Ohio after starting the day in Wisconsin, and told voters in both states that Obama had failed to bridge the partisan divide and would be unable to work with Congress and break the gridlock in Washington.

"He promised he'd have a post-partisan presidency but it's the most partisan I've seen," Romney said during a visit to a machine factory in Etna, Ohio. "I will not represent one party, I will represent one nation."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Romney's conservative agenda had already been rejected by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate and accused him of having a "terrible" relationship with Democrats when he was Massachusetts governor.

"Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable," Reid said in a statement. "Senate Democrats are committed to defending the middle class, and we will do everything in our power to defend them against Mitt Romney's Tea Party agenda."

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in West Chester, Ohio, and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

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Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Uganda says to pull out troops from Somalia over Congo charges

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:09 PM PDT

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda will tell the United Nations it is withdrawing its forces from military operations in Somalia and other regional hotspots after the world body accused it of supporting Congolese rebels, the security minister said on Friday.

Minister Wilson Mukasa said the decision was irreversible and another Cabinet minister would explain Uganda's position at the United Nations in New York. However, it was not immediately clear if an irrevocable decision had been taken.

U.N. diplomats told Reuters the Ugandan delegation, which was led by Ruhakana Rugunda, special envoy and minister of information and communications technology, did not threaten to withdraw troops from international peacekeeping missions during discussions with U.N. officials in New York this week.

A read-out of the Ugandan delegation's meeting on Friday with Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the president of the U.N. Security Council this month, also made no mention of threats to pull out troops. The information was made available to Reuters by India's U.N. mission.

Ugandan troops account for more than a third of the 17,600 U.N.-mandated African peacekeepers battling al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels in Somalia and their withdrawal could hand an advantage to al Shabaab.

Its soldiers, backed by U.S. special forces, are also leading the hunt for fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in Central African Republic, with some stationed in South Sudan.

In a leaked report, a U.N. Group of Experts last month accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the so-called M23 rebel group commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord indicted by the International Criminal Court nicknamed "the Terminator".

India's statement said the Ugandan delegation expressed "grave concern" about the report of the Group of Experts, and added that the Security Council's Congo sanctions committee had yet to formally consider the experts' report.

Puri noted that "views expressed by the independent experts do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations," the statement said. It added that Uganda was an important U.N. troop contributor playing a vital role in Somalia and elsewhere.


Mukasa said Uganda would withdraw troops from Somalia, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo to concentrate on domestic security.

"We are tired of being maligned even after sacrifices have been made to ensure that our friends, our neighbours are okay. The 'thank you' we get is that you are now aiding this, you are this and that, so we are tired," he told reporters in Kampala.

A Ugandan army spokesman, Felix Kulayigye, said the military had received no orders yet but was ready to act when it did.

"We'll not stay an extra day in Somalia when we get that order," he said.

U.N. diplomats said it was not clear whether Uganda meant the threats seriously or was merely trying to pressure Security Council members from taking action on the Group of Experts' recommendations. The experts called for U.N. sanctions against individuals supporting the M23 rebels.

The African force has been vital to propping up a string of interim governments in Somalia and driving al Shabaab militants from all their urban strongholds over the last 15 months, including the capital, Mogadishu, and southern port of Kismayu.

A sudden reduction in its numbers, especially in Mogadishu, would risk unravelling the security gains that allowed the first presidential elections in more than four decades to be held in the capital in September.

Somalia's poorly equipped and ill-disciplined army is more a loose affiliation of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single president.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al Shabaab's military operation, said it was unaware of Uganda's intention to withdraw and it would keep fighting the African peacekeepers.

"After Ugandans leave, what else, it will be easier to fight the remaining invaders. We shall finish them," he told Reuters.

Uganda has earned significant Western support for deploying its soldiers to a war zone few foreign powers outside the region have the stomach for.

It also benefits financially for its AMISOM contribution while at the same time a troop presence in Somalia, Central African Republic and South Sudan gives the Ugandan military a big footprint across the region.

"It's just politics and playing to the gallery. They won't pull out. Things will be quietly settled behind closed doors with perhaps future reports not being so critical," said London-based Somali-analyst Hamza Mohamed.

The confidential 44-page report by the U.N. Security Council's Group of Experts, a body that monitors compliance with the U.N. sanctions and arms embargo in place for Congo, said M23 has expanded territory under its control, stepped up recruitment of child soldiers and summarily executed recruits and prisoners.

The report said Rwandan officials coordinated the setting up of the rebel movement as well as its military operations. Uganda's more subtle support to M23 allowed its political branch to operate from within Kampala.

Uganda and Rwanda have repeatedly denied the accusations.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York, Drazen Jorgic and Yara Bayoumy in Nairobi, Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu; Justin Dralaze in Kampala; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia and David Brunnstrom)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

AirAsia plans to be the first choice for travellers

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:34 PM PDT

TEN years on after taking a chance to start a low cost airline, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes is sitting in a hotel room in the Westin Hotel in Busan, South Korea just after launching the Tokyo-Busan air sector that will be operated by his 49%-owned unit AirAsia Japan.

In a quiet surrounding, in contrast to his public persona and frenetic business empire, he gives an quick secession of interviews like he has done many times before.

For a man who is setting up affiliates across Asia, jet-setting to exotic destinations where the Formula 1 races are held and also appearing virtually every weekend on television while watching his Queens Park Rangers play, he is remarkably full of energy.

It was the same energy he had when he built AirAsia from two planes to 115 aircraft today, all along never wavering on the positiveness of his ebullient character. He is a man whose confidence never seems to fade.

In fact, he is now more energised and determined as he has delegated the rigmarole of day to day operations of the airline that he and his partner Datuk Kamarudin Mernanun built.

But it's never been easy street for Fernandes who has had to battle to get to where he is today, In recent times, he had to contend with issues like the recent selldown of AirAsia shares by the Employees Provident Fund where he and Kamarudin became the net buyers, the criticisms over his decision to move to Jakarta after a decade of building AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur, and the emerging competition that is more intense compared with a decade ago.

But his biggest competitor is himself because he was the one that taught and showed others that the low cost airline model works in Asia. He drew up the blueprint for a low cost carrier in Asia and others are now reverse engineering his methods and are using the formula to compete with AirAsia.

Be it Jetstar, Scoot, Nok Air, or Lion Air, they are after the same market that AirAsia is vying for over the next decade of growth.

Competition is no longer in-country but across all geographies because Fernandes has moved AirAsia across new frontiers after branching out his empire from Malaysia to parts of Asean.

His gameplan now is to make AirAsia a truly Asian airline. Big markets such as India and China offer vast potential but the stakes are high. But true to his nature, Fernandes is dead set on making it work though it may take him a better part of the next decade to realise his vision.

The last decade

For the past ten years he has considered himself a "dreamer", but his dream is now an empire that spans across five countries Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan. Besides the airline business, Fernandes and his team has also ventured into the hotels, insurance, mobile services, sports and education business.

In his early days of being CEO of AirAsia, he was often seen at Subang airport, standing and watching passengers, sometimes helping to carry their luggage to check in travellers. It's not his comfort zone but his presence and visibility of doing the simple things made it clear he wanted to learn everything about the airline business and he was willing to do whatever it took to make it a success. He had his sceptics, as he and his friends were labelled as a bunch of music people dabbling in unchartered territory of the cutthroat and volatile airline business.

But today, AirAsia is the leading low cost airline in the region.

Success was gained through sweat and tears and there wasn't a red carpet treatment for Fernandes and AirAsia. The national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had given them a tough time, using their lobbyist network to shut them off lucrative routes and AirAsia had to start by plying to and from secondary airports.

But that and with its branding of "now everyone can fly" gave people a new perspective in travelling.

His favourite words when he started was "unfair competition" and he always felt AirAsia was being marginalised in the domestic market which was then controlled by incumbent MAS. He fought for landing rights, routes, with airports, airlines, regulators, and governments to get his way.

Had he not, "there is no way, no way at all that we would be where we are today. And it is my nature, I just cannot take what is given. That is the easy option, but easy options will never be the same as the tough ones," he tells StarBizWeek.

From two aircraft, and a decade later, AirAsia has grown to own 115 aircraft. It has ordered 300 more, may lease a dozen more and wants to make a fresh order for 50 more.

After its first year of operations, the airline made a modest profit of RM29mil and carried 1.1 million passengers. As of last year, AirAsia chalked a net profit of RM564mil on the back of RM4.7bil revenue. It flew 30 million passengers and has cash of RM2.02bil, while load averaged 80%. For the third quarter 2012, analysts believe AirAsia will fly in RM1.24bil in revenue and RM225mil net profit.

The future

The original concept of AirAsia was that of an Asean brand but Fernandes is set to make it an Asian brand.

"We are on our final chapter of the dream I had a decade ago. We are truly an Asean brand now and the last bit is to be an Asian brand," he says.

To him, there are loads of opportunities in Asia, be it South Korea, China, India, Myanmar, Cambodia or Indonesia. It is just about finding them and making them work. He is the type of guy who believes in organic growth and prefers to do that, though acquisitions will leap frog the airline.

He tried his luck with Batavia Air in Indonesia, but that deal turned sour. While he feels AirAsia Indonesia can grow organically, CAPA Centre of Aviation felt the Batavia Air deal would have done AirAsia good.

"It leaves AirAsia with a daunting task of having to rely on organic growth to increase its share of Indonesia's booming but crowded domestic market," says CAPA, adding that AirAsia Indonesia is the sixth player there and deal with Batavia would have pushed it to be third largest player.

"AirAsia's position in the market, the group's overall position in Indonesia has been weakened as without the Batavia deal, AirAsia will likely struggle to meet its goal of becoming a significant player in the domestic market," says CAPA.

Indonesia AirAsia carried only about 1.3 million domestic passengers in 2011, giving it only a 2% share of Indonesia's domestic market.

But Fernandes still believes AirAsia can grow organically in that market and the impending IPO of AirAsia Indonesia will bring a lot of goodwill to the airlines. The IPO is slated for early next year.

Still, he says: "I would never say never to acquisitions but it has to be at the right price and at the right time."

He is scouting for opportunities in China, which he thinks is a tough market, and India, which he thinks is more "sexy" than China. In South Korea, AirAsia is in talks with smallish T-Way for a possible acquisition and in Cambodia, some groundwork has began.

He still has not forgotten how the deal in Vietnam went sour and is not keen on that market for now. Mynamar, a flavour among investors in recent times, carries the promise of hope, but again, that is a new market and every other player is trying to jump into it with no clear indication what the growth potential is.

To him, if he can get a footprint across Asia, he would have achieved a lot. Connecting the dots in Asia will complete quite a bit of the puzzle of his airline empire but it will take some time and precise planning is needed as competition across these markets are no longer the same as on the domestic turf.

He knows the Asia market is huge as it has been reported that Asia is the centre for air travel this decade as Europe suffers from is own financial problems and the United States has it own set of lethargy. The rising affluence in Asia is putting money into people's wallets and hence experts have forecast that the Asia-Pacific region will have 2.2 billion passengers by 2030.

And Fernandes wants AirAsia to reap that Asian potential.

Detailed 5-year plan

To tap this growth, he says he needs a very detailed plan. It's more comprehensive than what he's accustomed to.

"It is always on my mind but we are going to have a detailed plan. We have hired a lot of smart people, though we have a balance of some smart, some entrepreneurial and some just with the gut feeling. And all of them have come together."

That plan will be the blue-print to tap Asia, and to chart the markets to tap into he needs more joint ventures, the aircraft requirements, map the actual network and routes, and have a more coordinated marketing plan. All of that will require money and that too is being studied comprehensively. And all this planning is happening in Jakarta, where he has a nerve centre for the group. Because AirAsia has grown in scale from its early days, there is a need to have more coordinated approach to planning.

Earlier this year he moved over 20 personnel to Jakarta and set up a planning office. This move has been criticised and he continues to get knocked for making that decision.

"People still think I have left Malaysia because of the (failed) share swap between MAS and AirAsia," he says.

He handed the reins of the Malaysian operations, something he has been very passionate about because he founded and set up AirAsia Malaysia, to Aireen Omar.

Though he says he has handed the reins, those in the know claim the he is very much in control of the day-to-day operations. But it also leaves him with more time than previously. And his best tool is the iPad and Blackberry. Throughout the interview, he kept looking at the Blackberry to check his messages.

"I have relatively more time on my hands as I am not doing the day-to-day running of the Malaysian operations by being in Jakarta. I can move around and do all the deals I could not do earlier. I can now spend two days in Delhi and understand the market better," he says.

The airline has over 300 aircraft under order and he says "we are never worried about aircraft financing, though there will be credit risk."

He has plans to bring forward some deliveries to cater for future growth.

"We have brought 30-40 aircraft deliveries forward over the next three years and our orders for the 175 aircraft would be finalised. AirAsia X will be a big part of the future growth."

Contrary to market belief that growth has stagnated, he says, there will be growth in Malaysia and it is both inbound and outbound. Those leisure destinations like Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi, Penang will continue to grow," he says.

The competitors

Lion, Tiger, Scoot, Jetstar and soon to be launched Malindo Air are also racing to have a bigger footprint of Asia. Jetstar is tailing AirAsia wherever it goes and Scoot is giving AirAsia X a run for its money. Scoot is in markets where AirAsia X is. Jetstar and Tiger are in markets where AirAsia is.

Lion is the biggest Indonesian rival and has stretched itself to eat into the Malaysian market and beyond via Malindo Air. Malaysia remains the stronghold for AirAsia and since Malindo's birth in September, AirAsia has been offering free seats to discounted fares to lock in passengers after May 1. Now Malindo has changed its strategy to come to market one-and-a-half months earlier than earlier announced.

To Fernandes, competition is nothing new. AirAsia had navigated through that when it had just two aircraft. It fought to gain access into the Singapore market, it penetrated the Thai, Indonesian and Philippine markets and now has a foothold in Japan.

While competition from Jetstar, Scoot, and Tiger is not that intense at the moment, experts believe the one coming from Lion and Malindo is going to be intense, simply because Rusdi Kirana, the low-profile millionaire from Indonesia, is determined to expand his empire the way Fernadnes has.

"Despite its very small presence in South-East Asia's largest domestic market, AirAsia is still Asean's largest low cost carrier group. But Lion is already bigger in Asean than Jetstar or Tiger and has also overtaken AirAsia as the largest airline group in the intra Asean-market based on current capacity figures on routes within South-East Asia," says CAPA.

While Lion is primarily a domestic operator, it is expanding its international network via Malindo, and clearly AirAsia is watching Lion closely to determine where AirAsia would place the 300-plus aircraft it has on order.

The other business

For AirAsia, Asia is the big market but Fernandes and Kamarudin are also into a lot more things than they were 10 years ago. He now has his fingers in football via QPR, has a passion for F1 races because he has a team that he hopes will beat Ferarri and Mercedes.

He has developed Tune Money to provide a form of financing, has Tune Insurance, which is revolutionising the way people need to be protected. It doesn't stop there. Tune Mobile offers mobile phone services and Tune Hotels cheap hotel rates. Fernandes is also involved in education.

Tune Insurance is slated for listing and so is AirAsia Indonesia and AirAsia X, the medium haul airline within the enlarged group which released its draft prospectus yesterday. The three listings Tune Group's insurance arm, AirAsia X and the budget carrier's Indonesian wing are expected to bring in proceeds of more than US$500mil (RM1.52bil).

But what he has in mind is yet another dream.

He wants to get into the medical business and he wants the AirAsia's brand name to be as well-known as Coca-Cola. He will achieve a lot if AirAsia becomes the airline of choice for travellers be it in the deepest regions of Asia to cosmopolitan cities and even developed cities across Asia.

"I want AirAsia to be like Coca-Cola ... that everyone knows AirAsia. We want to be the first airline people think of when they want to fly," he says.

To get there, the airline spends between 2% and 4% of its budget on advertising and branding and Fernandes says that was critical, though he believes that "one thing airlines don't do well is spend wisely.''

Tie-up with Honda set to drive change in Proton

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:29 PM PDT

SHIFTING up a gear is just what the automotive industry seems to be going through right now, with conglomerate DRB-Hicom Bhd playing matchmaker for national carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd and Japanese giant Honda Motor Co Ltd.

While merits of the deal have been speculated relentlessly by analysts and the media, not much have been said about the potential effect that would ripple through the entire local supply chain, driven by changes that would soon take place in Proton.

However, with a confidentiality clause in the way, there's just so much DRB-Hicom can reveal to the public, even if it wanted to in the interest of the company.

An official plan or roadmap is expected to be revealed this month, and the Proton-Honda collaboration might just be a prelude to an extensive plan laid out for Proton.

With more than 80 active companies in its stable, integrated diversification is key for an automotive giant like DRB-Hicom, which is valued at RM4.7bil as at Friday, to ensure it stays on the growth path it has charted for itself.

Having the right to control Proton, DRB-Hicom had also indirectly dictated the plans of some of its subsidiaries that are Tier-1 vendors and suppliers in the local automotive supply chain.

Not only do all these subsidiaries supply to Proton, they also control a huge portion of the supply chain. For example, its 70% owned Oriental Summit Industries Sdn Bhd (OSI).

Besides Proton, OSI is the main chassis component manufacturer of front lower arm, rear axle suspension and lever parking brake for key OEMs like Perodua, Volvo and Toyota.

Its crown jewel of the division is PHN Industry Sdn Bhd, a Tier-1 stamping vendor specialising in metal-based automotive components. PHN's business includes mass production of parts for Proton's key models like Saga, Exora and Preve.

In addition, it participates in localisation programmes with Volkswagen Group Malaysia, Suzuki Malaysia Automobile and Honda Malaysia.

The growth path of Proton will actually send a huge spillover effect to the local automotive supply chain, not only to DRB-Hicom's subsidiaries but also other vendors and suppliers in the market.

Nevertheless, its 51% owned HICOM-Teck Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn Bhd (HTS) is also poised to grow progressively in line with the demand of local automotive industry.

Deemed the country's largest OEM plastics automotive vendor, its core products range from instrument panels, door trims, bumper fascias and door brackets to class-A surface painted to chrome-plated products. Not only does it supplies to local OEMs, it also boasts Toyota Saudi Arabia as a customer.

However, as cliche as it may sound with the saying "Rome was not built in a day", it is the same with Proton. It will be a long and gruelling way ahead for group managing director Datuk Seri Mohd Khamil Jamil and his lieutenants to drive the change in Proton.

Bear in mind, if an extensive collaboration with Honda becomes material, it can encompass a wide range of business areas including technology enhancement, new product line-up, platform and facilities sharing.

Assuming if technology enhancement is the first priority of the collaboration, Proton could be getting its hands on Honda's extremely well-established VTEC engines that go all the way back to 1983.

The technology has since undergone tremendous refinements with the B-series engines, and then replaced by the K-series that has seen usage in some of Honda's high-performance Type-R vehicles.

"The Campro engine that was developed during Tengku Mahaleel's time has past its prime, and Proton is seriously in need for a new engine. What better way to transfer some of Honda's technology to Proton and develop some engine jointly for the local market and go global with Honda," says an industry observer.

He says the hybrid technology in Honda's current line-up looks attractive as well, along with the electric vehicle platform the company is developing, the Honda Fit EV, which is slated for a global launch in 2013.

Hints of the Proton-Honda tie-up might also have been dropped previously in September when International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, in a reply in parliament, said Proton is set to supply and sell its hybrid electric vehicles by 2014.

Currently, Proton is also collaborating with UK-based Frazer-Nash Research to develop electric vehicle models. Couple these developments with Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd's RM1bil pledged investment over the next three years, plans are already coming together for Honda to become a force to be reckoned with in Malaysia, and the region.

Frost & Sullivan partner and head of automotive and transportation practice for Asia-Pacific, Kavan Mukhtyar, lauded the collaboration as a positive development for both companies.

"Proton has excess manufacturing capacity that can be leveraged for doing contract assembling or facilities sharing with Honda. This will lower its fixed cost per vehicle produced, provided there is enough volumes.

"Also, Proton can benefit through any technology, model sharing or licensing arrangement," he says.

He believes Honda will benefit through the collaboration, especially in reducing its manufacturing cost through localisation.

But he is sceptical on the impact on the international front due to the conservative nature of Honda's corporate culture, which prefers to venture into markets alone and not with partners.

Collaborations and joint ventures like the Proton partnership were basically unheard of since Honda's inception in 1948.

"The impact will depend on the extent to which the collaboration is expanded. In general, Honda has been quite conservative on partnerships. Hence, in the short term, the impact could be limited in the international market," he says.

In its annual report, DRB-Hicom also hints that there might be a need to consolidate its assembly units for cost effectiveness once it achieves economies of scale.

If that is true, besides opening the gates to interested foreign strategic partners (FSPs) to utilise Proton's Tanjung Malim plant, DRB-Hicom could also alleviate some capacity pressure that is building up in its plant in Pekan, Pahang.

The Pekan plant has been running on full capacity since it established the completely-knocked-down (CKD) assembly line for Volkswagen, starting with the Passat 1.8 TSI.

According to CIMB Research analyst Lucius Chong, Proton's plant utilisation rate currently stands at 41% and the fastest way to raise this figure is to work with multiple foreign players.

"It was futile for Proton to keep designing its own cars from the ground-up as this requires a significant amount of research and development as well as capital expenditure.

"Using common platforms from the likes of Honda and perhaps, VW, in the future will not only reduce costs but also bump-up the quality and brand perception of Proton cars.

"Overall, we are neutral on this news as DRB-Hicom's decision to work with multiple parties could be hard to do over the long term. It is also too early to calculate the impact on the bottom line as the current deal is at exploratory stage," he says.

Meanwhile, DRB-Hicom also aims to assemble cars for the Asean market by 2014 and perhaps, it is in the midst of partnering more FSPs to utilise Proton's manufacturing capacity.

Aeon bullish on Carrefour buyout

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:27 PM PDT

DESPITE its relatively pricey acquisition of Carrefour Malaysia's operations, Japanese retailer Aeon Co Ltd appears bullish on its buyout, with the move projected to further strengthen the latter's presence in Asean.

"For Aeon Co, the acquisition of Carrefour Malaysia provides us with the opportunity to expand on our existing roots here in Malaysia and further develop our Asean operations.

"We are trying to expand our business in South-East Asia because there is a growth market," Aeon's Asean business vice-president and chief executive officer Nagahisa Oyama says.

The group is targeting to open 100 stores in various formats in Malaysia and aims to achieve 300 billion yen in revenue by 2020. It also plans to open stores in markets like Vietnam and Cambodia.

But questions remain on how fast can Aeon Co turn around its newly acquired loss-making Carrefour Malaysia in a relatively high acquisition price and integrate the latter into its business that could eventually benefit Bursa Malaysia-listed Aeon Co (M) Bhd (Aeon Malaysia).

Tokyo-listed Aeon Co paid an enterprise value including equity and debt of 250 million euros (RM990.19mil) for Magnificient Diagraph Sdn Bhd which operates Carrefour stores, a price which analysts opined are relatively expensive, as it values Carrefour three times its book value.

The price was also higher than the earlier expected US$250mil.

Analyst says the almost RM1bil sale tag "seem rather high" for business with relatively low margins.

However, they say the South-East Asian venture is seen particularly attractive as consumer spending accelerates in this region, a huge contrast to developments in the eurozone.

Maybank Investment Bank Research notes that a selling price of some RM900mil would translate into an enterprise value/sales of 0.53 times, versus the 1.19 times at which Carrefour Thailand was sold (but Carrefour Thailand was profitable).

"The price consideration is based on business performance up to date and business forecast. We decided on a figure we could work with," Nagahisa says.

Carrefour Malaysia currently runs 26 hypermarkets in the country, with annual net revenue of 402 million euros (RM1.7bil) in 2011. However, it is loss making, and its net loss widened to RM81mil in 2011 from RM2.9mil in 2010 due to rising overheads.

Carrefour's existing stores in Malaysia will be rebranded as Aeon BIG while its new corporate name will be Aeon BIG (M) Sdn Bhd.

Aeon Malaysia, on the other hand, has 25 department stores and four supermarkets that generate RM3bil in retail revenue.

The takeover effectively doubles the number of Aeon Co (and subsidiary) stores in Malaysia, giving Aeon a spot as the country's second-largest retail group.

Presently, the country's largest retailer is Giant with over 100 hypermarkets and supermarkets.

"The things we will be doing immediately is to study each store and its performance and we may also, if necessary, pump (money) into them.

"We will craft new business plan for the news stores," Nagahisa says, adding that Aeon would not rule out closing non-performing Carrefour outlets.

He stresses that the business plan for its new stores will be critical before it makes any decision to relocate or close down any existing Carrefour stores.

Additionally, he says, the stores will be created in different formats to attract different target markets so that they will not cannibalise each other.

Currently, there are about eight Carrefour stores within a two-kilometre radius from Aeon Malaysia stores. The stores in Mid Valley mall are the closest, located almost side by side.

It remains to be seen how things will pan out for the group. Carrefour will undergo a rebranding exercise over the next six months.

However, the value for the exercise or further investments into Carrefour stores was not disclosed.

Nagahisa also points out that Aeon BIG (M) will operate independently from Aeon Malaysia and thus will have no effects on the latter.

However, he says there will be integration in terms on information technology and distribution integrations between the two companies to create synergistic value.

"When you conduct a merger and acquisition, it is not about the current business that one needs to look at but the synergies and potential.

"Tremendous synergies can be gained but our ultimate goal is to be able to provide a better life for Malaysians to help them upgrade their lifestyle," he adds.

Aeon Co is unperturbed about Carrefour's massive losses and is committed to turn its operations around.

"I believe it can be turned around. Part of the reason for the poor performance was the fact that they did not invest properly.

"We will establish a growth strategy for the next three years and five years and act quickly when required.

"We have full confidence they will become excellent stores," Nagahisa says confidently.

Analysts concur that Aeon Co will be able to turn around Carrefour, given its profitability in operations.

"We believe they will be able to do it (turning around Carrefour) but we don't know the details of their execution plan.

"Having said that, we believe they will streamline some Aeon Malaysia and Carrefour stores that are located close to each other," an analyst says.

MIDF Research says Aeon Co may turn around Carrefour's loss-making stores and Aeon Malaysia may eventually benefit from its parent's acquisition.

"Aeon Malaysia's revenue has been on a steady uptrend, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6% for the 5-year historical period of financial years ended Dec 31, 2007 to 2011.

"The company operates under two segments retailing and property management, which have been historically making profit with a CAGR of 9.2%.

"With their stellar record, we are sanguine that Aeon Malaysia will be able to turn around Carrefour's loss-making Malaysian operations," MIDF says.

RHB Research says the acquisition will reduce direct competition and there will be significant operational synergies and economies of scale with Aeon's supermarket operations.

Aeon Co is also planning to expand its operations into new emerging markets in Asean such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Aeon Co has been exploring growth opportunities in new geographic and business areas using its China and Asean headquarters to accelerate an integrated approach to Asian business development.

The company estimates to post 15 billion to 17 billion yen in operating profit for its Asean market this year.

Affin Investment Bank sees three positive implications from Aeon Japan's acquisition of Carrefour Malaysia's operations.

First, it says, the massive investment reflects management's confidence in the growth potential of the consumption and retail sector in Malaysia a space in which Aeon Malaysia operates.

It adds that this will provide good operating synergies since Aeon Malaysia is a department store targeting middle-income group while Carrefour, which is a hypermarket operator, caters to low-to-middle-income consumers.

"Third, Aeon Japan's regional ambitions may open up new growth opportunities for Aeon Malaysia," Affin says.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Ferrari boss upbeat despite positions

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:24 PM PDT

ABU DHABI: Ferrari technical boss Pat Fry was upbeat about the team's ambitions and performance on Friday after title-chasing Spaniard Fernando Alonso wound up only seventh after the second free practice session for this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The two-time champion, who is 13 points behind leader and German defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull with three races remaining, was eight-tenths of a second slower.

But Fry said: "There are a few new developments on the car and we worked through our programme this morning and this afternoon.

"It's looking promising, but we need to analyse all the data before we decide what to run tomorrow."

He added that it was imperative that the team improve their qualifying performances.

Alonso has not started a race from better than fourth on the grid in seven outings since he took pole in the rain at the German Grand Prix.

Fry said: "We are trying as hard as we can to improve the qualifying performance.

"Obviously our race pace is quite reasonable, as last weekend at the Indian Grand Prix showed. We need to work on our qualifying, so we will keep on trying, keep on pushing."

Alonso's Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa was eighth fastest. - AFP

Swimming: China's Ye clinches victory in Beijing

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:18 PM PDT

BEIJING: China's teenage swimming sensation Ye Shiwen stormed to victory in the 200m medley despite claiming to be 85 percent fit at Beijing's short-course World Cup meet on Friday.

The 16-year-old who stunned the sporting world with two gold medals in the women's 200m and 400m individual medley at the London Olympics appears to be in top form despite only returning to the pool for less than a month after her spectacular summer.

She finished the race on 2mins 06.10 seconds, within reach of the world record of 2mins 04.6 seconds but short of her personal best, set at last year's world championships. "I feel good," Ye told state media after the race, which followed a third-place finish in her heat earlier in the day.

"Although it was not my best result, which was within 2:05, it was still good."

"I am about 85 percent of my peak form. I didn't feel good in the morning, but the final was OK."

"I hope I can be on my top level at the world championships in Turkey this December," she added.

Ye was the firm favourite for the passionate home crowd at Beijing's National Aquatics Centre, otherwise known as the Water Cube, the main aquatics venue for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Hungary's Zsuzsanna Jakabos finished second on 2mins 08.22 seconds, while compatriot, third placed Katinka Hosszu, remains on course to be in line for a huge pay day with the FINA World Cup.

Hosszu moved up to $48,250 on the first day of the eight-stage competition.

The Beijing World Cup is the sixth stop of the FINA Swimming World Cup 2012 tour.

Ye will also take part in the 400m medley Saturday, the final day of the tournament. - AFP

WADA decide not to appeal Armstrong case

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:10 PM PDT

PARIS: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Friday said that it would not appeal against a decision to strip US cyclist Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France victories and ban him from the sport for life for doping.

The organisation said it would "not exercise its independent right of appeal" after considering the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) dossier that placed the Texan rider at the heart of what it said was the biggest doping programme ever in sport.

WADA said it had made a "full and careful review" of the case, including whether the US body had ignored a statutory time limit on bringing cases alleging doping code violations.

It said that based on an independent assessment "that opinion is clear and confirms that the interpretation given by USADA is proper and supported by case law", the organisation said on its website wada-ama.org.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) last month announced that it would not contest the USADA findings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as the revelations sent shockwaves through the sport.

WADA President John Fahey said in the statement: "WADA has no such concerns as to the complete process and the overwhelming weight of evidence.

"Rather it is of the opinion that the actions of USADA have highlighted the need in all cases for athletes to be able to come forward with evidence that will help rid sport of doping cheats."

Fahey said that WADA were awaiting for an independent inquiry to be established into how a "systemic culture of doping... was allowed to develop in cycling during that time" and said it was willing to contribute to the hearing.

He applauded the work of USADA and said the punishment meted out to Armstrong was "right and proper".

"This is not a situation in which just because the athlete did not return a positive test there was nothing more the governing body of cycling could do," he said.

"It has taken a major effort and undertaking from a national anti-doping organisation to gather the compelling evidence following allegations raised by (Armstrong's former team-mate) Floyd Landis in 2010." - AFP

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Exclusive interview with One Direction

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 05:30 AM PDT

IT seems like most people, including us here at Galaxie, just can't get enough of One Direction. As the release date for its latest album Take Me Home is fast approaching (Nov 12, to be exact), we can't wait to see what the boys have in store for us in the 13-track album, or 17 tracks if you are getting the limited "yearbook" edition.

Also, we are anxious to see if this album could top the success the group already had with its debut album Up All Night, which conquered charts in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, the United States and of course, Britain.

During an exclusive phone interview with One Direction's Harry Styles, he explained why the group chose Take Me Home as the title of its second album. "In one way, it could be quite cheeky and the other, you know, we are always on the road so a lot of times there is that feeling of wanting to go home for a while," he said.

Awww, that's so sweet. However, don't expect the album to sound all sad and gloomy. In fact, like the lead single Live While We're Young, the album is more energetic and vibrant. "After doing the first album and then the tour, we all agree that our songs sound better when we do it live," said Styles.

Guess things would sound much better during its world tour next year, which might include Malaysia on the schedule of stops.

For more on the one-on-one interview with Styles, pick up the Nov 1-15 issue of Galaxie from a newsstand near you.

The issue also has stories about blonde hottie Kaley Cuoco, who talks about the relationship between her character, Penny, and Leonard Hofstadter (played by Johnny Galecki) on The Big Bang Theory.

"I think down the line I'd like to see them together. I think they have a lot to learn, but my heart is definitely with that relationship," confessed Cuoco.

Another hottie, Lana Del Rey, reveals why she loves taking somebody "downtown".

The Ride singer tells us that "it has a couple of meanings. One is 'let's go out, let's go downtown!' and the other is ..." Hmm, interesting!

Poster lovers can get their hands on pictures of the sexy Chris Hemsworth, Andrew Garfield and Kim Kardashian. If that's not enough, there are some awesome prizes to be won too, such as limited edition Skyfall merchandise, cute The Big Bang Theory "Bazinga" T-shirts and special screening passes to catch Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2.

On top of that, for the first time, Galaxie comes to life this issue with iSnap (using the free Star Mobile app, which utilises augmented reality technology, rich media content such as music videos, movie trailers and photos are delivered to your smartphone screen). Do give it a try with the Nov 1-15 issue and see more of your favourite celebrities.

You can get more of Galaxie, which is owned by Star Publications (M) Bhd and voted entertainment magazine of the year two years in a row – 2011 and 2012, online at galaxieblog.com.my.

And for the latest updates, check out Galaxie's Facebook page (facebook.com/GalaxieMagazine) or Twitter (@galaxiemag) for your everyday dose of entertainment! – Vivienne Wong

About trying your best to achieve your dreams

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 05:28 AM PDT

The One Dollar Horse
Author: Lauren St John
Publisher: Orion Children's Books, 309 pages

IF this is the first time you're hearing the name Casey Blue, worry not, for it will not be the last – The One Dollar Horse is the first book in a trilogy featuring the teenage rider, with the second is due out in March 2013.

This young adult fiction novel, by award-winning writer Lauren St John, is all about having a dream and trying your best to achieve it.

Casey Blue is a disadvantaged 15-year-old from "East London's grimmest tower block" whose father has a criminal record and who, it would appear, could only dream of success in top-level riding.

Casey, who lost her mother when she was a toddler, volunteers at a local riding school and dreams of someday taking part in the Badminton Horse Trials, a challenging three-day event.

When the "horse-mad" teenager buys a starving, half-wild horse for just one dollar, she makes it her mission to groom, feed, exercise and even read to him before and after school, happy to have found a friend in "Storm Warning".

After some initial bumps in the road, Storm and Casey train for the big event, all odds against the curious pair. But Casey remains unfazed by the challenges that lie ahead.

With a rival in the form of the pretty (and shallow) star rider Anna Sparks, expect some drama to spring up throughout the book. There is of course, some romance – Casey faces a distraction in the form of the farrier's (a specialist in hoof care) son Peter, the boy with the "melty blue eyes", but won't let herself fall for him.

Horse-lovers will adore this novel, and even those without horse-riding experience will be drawn into the story and fall in love with the characters, especially Storm.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to jump fences and run with the wind blowing through your hair, you'll experience all this through Storm, the courageous beast that eventually wins over the hearts and minds of this riding community.

Don't worry about the horse-y terms – the author weaves riding talk in so skillfully into the story that before long you will feel like an expert.

The One Dollar Horse is a delightful book with likeable characters and a strong plot that makes it hard to put down, and is way more than just a great underdog story.

As a novel for young adults, it teaches the right values – caring for other living beings, having a dream, the importance of friendship and believing in hope.

The strong-willed protagonist is a perfect example of the underdog we all aspire to be. Casey is caring, intelligent and determined, but at the same time will not compromise on certain values to win at all costs.

Her ex-con father's efforts at keeping it together is an interesting and moving sidebar, as well as Casey's relationship with former rider Mrs Smith.

For young adults and older readers, even, The One Dollar Horse is worth the ride.

Caregiver shares pain of dying husband

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 05:26 AM PDT

A courageous widow shares the pain — and guilt — entailed in caring for a dying husband.

Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss
Author: Jai Pausch
Publisher: Two Roads, 228 pages

BEING a caregiver to a loved one who is suffering from a serious illness can be a thankless job. The role and needs of the caregiver are often ignored in the process, as Jai Pausch shares in her memoir Dream New Dreams.

The experience is surely intensified when you are the wife and primary caregiver to Randy Pausch, renowned computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the bestselling book The Last Lecture.

The book opens with a young Randy visiting the University of North Carolina's virtual reality lab, where Jai is working while studying for her PhD.

He asks a million questions and insists on being called Randy, not Dr Pausch. She finds him intelligent and refreshingly down to earth. A beautiful love blossoms in fairytale fashion. Soon they are married, and blessed with three lovely children.

This favourable state of affairs is shattered six years into their marriage, when Randy announces that he is going to die of pancreatic cancer.

Life takes a complete turn, and Jai's dream of a happy family turns into a medical nightmare. Soon, visits to theme parks are replaced by dreaded consultations with oncologists.

Chemotherapy and palliative medicine suddenly become central to their everyday conversations. In addition to being wife and mother, Jai assumes the role of "emotional backstop and sounding board for a sick and potentially dying man".

Thus begins a new chapter in her journey, between taking care of her children and her husband while desperately trying to make sense of, and come to terms with, the effects of this unwelcomed new influence in her husband's life – cancer.

That the author intends for this book to shed light on the experience of a caregiver does not go unnoticed. It is in fact thoroughly, and at times shamelessly, articulated.

Jai's honesty is evident throughout the narrative, from her emotional struggle in coming to terms with her life being stolen by cancer and her occasional guilt in assessing the "impact (Randy's) death would have on me" to her acceptance that she loved him dearly "even though I occasionally failed him throughout his ordeal".

Though this book was written to "care for the caregiver", the author tends to focus primarily on her struggle in managing cancer-stricken Randy and her three children. The reader will not find in here tips or directions for effective care giving, nor are there many insights into handling the emotional and mental stress that entails.

What can be found are innumerable anecdotes of the author's struggle – some of which, unfortunately, corrodes our memory of Randy Pausch that was formed by his memorable The Last Lecture.

In this memoir, we are exposed to the raw and unrehearsed part of Randy, who turns out to be a demanding patient, ruthless in his pragmatism when dealing with his sickness.

Jai writes of Randy calling her "unempathetic" and telling her she's doing a "terrible job".

She writes about feeling a "lack of appreciation" for her efforts. Randy also comes off as a control-freak when, as a dying husband, he shares a list of potential men who would be suitable to fill his position!

Even though the book is subtitled Reimagining My Life After Loss, the story of renewed liveliness in Jai's persona is afforded little space.

Sharing her new experiences after Randy's passing, she couldn't seem to help but litter the pages with her grief.

Regrettably, the last few chapters fail to paint a picture of a wife reimagining her life. Instead, it passes for a brave portrayal as a single mother and pancreatic cancer advocate, while occasionally faltering in guilt to remind the reader that the writer is actually still in mourning.

These chapters are, at best, a reflection of a heavy heart keeping up with a resolute mind.

Jai's style of narrative is effusively informal – and at times disappointingly jarring. Repetitive affirmations and a lack of flow make the reading difficult in some parts.

However, her intimate sharing and openness in revealing her deepest scars endears her to the reader, making the book feel like a conversation over coffee and plenty of tissues between two best friends. Her misery very easily seeks our company, and we go through the narration feeling a big part of Jai's support group.

Understandably, the book is also strewn with doses of self-pity and a subconscious yearning for validation and acceptance. The dedication of the book to caregivers "who struggle to do the best they can without proper training and resources to help them" sums up how Jai felt while she was caring for Randy.

It must have been a difficult task, and her sincerity in sharing her story should be both applauded and cherished.

Dream New Dreams is a work of someone who has found the courage to tell her story, however tragic or pitiful it sometimes can be.

It is an honest account of a wife who did her best in taking over the family reins as her husband suffered and passed away. It shows how cancer can truly affect every detail of an ordinary family.

If the reader expects a manual for caregivers, this book will disappoint. On the other hand, as a product of one person's journey towards self-forgiveness, Dream New Dreams is a success in many ways.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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