Isnin, 5 November 2012

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Putting cooks at ease

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 02:57 AM PST

TV chef Rachel Allen takes the stress out of cooking and baking.

WHAT is it like cooking with the famous TV chef Rachel Allen? To say "awesome" would be an understatement!

But more than that, I was really impressed with how easy it actually was. No frills, no cheap thrills, just pure good ol' home-style cooking with fresh wholesome ingredients, and delicious results. It was that simple.

The best-selling cookbook author was in town recently to promote her latest TV series, aptly called Rachel Allen's Easy Meals.

A selection of her favourite recipes from the TV series and its accompanying book, entitled Easy Meals, was featured in a cooking masterclass held at The Food Studio in Amarin Kiara, Mont'Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

If the thought of meeting a celebrity chef was a bit intimidating, that anxiety dissipated upon meeting the charming Irishwoman. Her warmth, friendly demeanour and down-to-earth style would put even the most awkward person in the kitchen at ease in front of a hot stove.

In fact, it did not really feel like a "masterclass" at all but more like cooking and baking with a friend at her home, trading recipes and sharing useful tips.

"My kitchen is the heart of my home," Allen says with a smile. And indeed, this motto truly reflects her philosophy in life. After all, it is often over good food prepared in the kitchen that family and friends gather together.

During the masterclass, Allen taught members of the media how to prepare a traditional apple tart, a refreshing artichoke salad, a flavourful cauliflower soup, and a quick red pepper and pesto focaccia.

Apple Tart

The cooking session started off with dessert, a simple and unpretentious Irish Apple Tart, which is fast and easy to prepare.

This two-crust pie, filled with slices of Granny Smith or green cooking apple, is appropriately – for someone who cooks with heart – finished with little heart-shaped pastry decorations.

According to Allen, there can be many variations to this simple apple tart. It can be made with or without a base, and flavourings, such as cinnamon, can be added to the filling.

Knowing the basics in cooking enables one to improvise and create one's own style or version of a particular dish, she says.

In lieu of apples, other fruit, such as apricots, peaches and berries, can also be used. Allen says those who are adventurous enough may even want to try tropical fruit like mangoes and pineapples.

The apple tart goes well topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

"Stirring a sprinkle of cinnamon into the whipped cream before serving the apple pie gives it that extra special flavour," she shares enthusiastically. It is her attention to such little details that makes the Irish cooking queen's passion in the kitchen obvious.

The nice thing about cooking with Allen is that she provides many expert tips to make the lives of busy lay-chefs easier.

"To help the pastry dough chill faster before rolling it out, just place it on a metal tray before putting it into the refrigerator," she advises.

Another useful tip is to put a layer of aluminium foil in the base of the oven when baking the apple tart because when the sugar and apples get heated, the juices might overflow. This saves a lot of time and energy when cleaning up later.

Quick Red Pepper and Pesto Focaccia

In Allen's own words, this is "just a simple soda bread". The dough is made using olive oil, plain flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, and buttermilk, and it is garnished with roasted red peppers and pesto.

Since it was a hands-on session, those present had the chance to get their hands dirty and bake their own bread. However, as one of the participants mentioned, "it was amazingly easy!" There was no kneading required, no use of a breadmaker, nor even an electric mixer.

In fact, after mixing the wet and dry ingredients, the dough is just mixed by hand, using what Allen calls the "claw method". The dough is then turned out onto a floured surface and gently shaped into a huge round.

"If you can't find buttermilk, you can use normal milk mixed with two tablespoons of either vinegar, yoghurt or lemon juice. You will notice how the mixture curdles because it is acidic. Or you can save all the milk in your refrigerator that has gone sour, because it is excellent for making soda bread," Allen explains.

"We should always handle the soda bread dough with tender loving care ... just as if it were our very own baby!" she says with a laugh, as she demonstrates how to lightly "palm" the dough with floured hands and shape it. The gentle treatment positively affects the texture and density of the soda bread.

The shaped dough is laid on a baking tray and the surface is then gently pressed with floured fingers to make little dimples.

"These little dimples are good for holding the additional olive oil that we drizzle over the dough, as well as other toppings like roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, rosemary, and lemon thyme," she enthuses.

"However, certain ingredients that burn easily can be added to the soda bread mixture instead of used as a topping," she adds.

"The flexibility of this soda bread is that it goes well with a great variety of other toppings, even sweet ones like chocolate, in which case, we should add some sugar to the dough too," she advises.

Not only is this soda bread easy to make, but you can improvise too and concoct your own favourite combination of toppings with wonderful results. Furthermore, even though it is always best to serve bread freshly baked, the focaccia keeps well because of the olive oil.

Artichoke Salad

The Artichoke Salad was an amalgamation of chopped up artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and red onions. It was drizzled with a tasty home-made dressing, made with olive oil, lemon juice and pesto.

Allen's recipes are so simple to follow, and allows for certain ingredients to be easily substituted if they are not readily available.

For this salad, other vegetables such as sweet potatoes, potatoes (boiled, but better roasted) or plantains can be used in place of artichoke hearts. Instead of red wine vinegar in the dressing, use lemon juice.

Cauliflower Soup

This flavourful soup has a velvety texture and goes extremely well with the red pepper and pesto focaccia. It is easy to make and can be prepared in advance.

Onions, leek and cauliflower florets are sauteed in butter, and chicken or vegetable stock is then added. When it boils, the mixture is blended and then returned to the heat and seasoned. How easy is that!

Serve the soup piping hot with a spoonful of creme fraiche, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of chives.

Fuss-free food

Allen's simple practical style of cooking stems from her own life experience. Besides being a successful TV chef, cookbook author, teacher and writer, she is also a busy working wife and mother. The attractive 40-year-old lives with her husband Isaac and three children in County Cork, Ireland. She is also daughter-in-law of the famous Irish celebrity chef Darina Allen under whom she originally trained at the Ballymaloe Cooking School.

The masterclass with Allen proves that great cooking doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. Start with fresh quality ingredients and simple preparations, and this will keep cooking time down so that more time can be spent on the most important element of the meal – eating with family and friends.

Well, this is indeed good news for aspiring home-chefs who are too busy to cook for themselves and their loved ones, or who feel that cooking is too much of a chore to undertake. The wholesome recipes that Allen taught us are simple, fuss-free and can be successfully replicated at home.

Allen says that all the recipes in her book were "road tested" by her family and friends, and if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the verdict of what we cooked at the masterclass is ... absolutely delicious!

> The recipes taught during the masterclass are part of Rachel Allen's Easy Meals, which airs on BBC Lifestyle Channel (Channel 140 on HyppTV) every Monday at 8pm. They also feature in her book Easy Meals.

Proving her mettle

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 01:57 AM PST

Sweet-natured Aimee Chan flexes her acting muscles.

LOOKING especially demure in a coral-coloured peplum dress and dainty fuchsia-and-gold pencil-thin stilettoes, Aimee Chan made a captivating picture at the interview held in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, recently.

The Hong Kong-based actress was accompanied by fellow TVB actors Jason Chan, Florence Kwok and Ku Ming Wah at a press conference to launch the Astro On Demand Awards 2012, which will be held at Sunway Convention Centre in PJ, on Dec 2.

Often in the press for her much-publicised relationship with fellow TVB actor Moses Chan, she is now in the limelight for her nominations in two categories: My Favourite Actress In A Supporting Role and My Favourite Top 15 Drama Characters, both for her portrayal of Tin Oi Tai in The Last Steep Ascent.

"It was the first time I played a tragic character in The Last Steep Ascent, so I'm thankful for the support I've received from viewers. Getting nominated for an award is indeed a huge encouragement.

"I'm very happy and hope that more people will vote for me," said the sweet lass, who joined TVB after winning the Miss Hong Kong title in 2006.

Inspired by the real-life love story of Chinese national Lau Kok Gong, who hand-carved more than 6,000 stone steps for his beloved wife over a period of 50 years, The Last Steep Ascent is filled with family feuds, marital infidelity and tussles for inheritance.

In the series, Chan's character is forced into many unfavourable circumstances, from washing dishes to being almost sold to a brothel as a prostitute.

"She has such a horrible life but doesn't give up on love. I love her strong character and have a lot of sympathy for her," said the 31-year-old actress who was born in Toronto, Canada.

Playing such a sad character required a lot of crying, which Chan admits didn't come easy for her.

"She is like the opposite of me. I like to smile and laugh. Although I may get emotional easily, I don't like to cry. So, I have to psych myself up by not smiling when I drove to the set to film my scenes."

Chan was recently seen on 8TV playing the cheery Perlie Ching in the detective drama Every Move You Make (2010), which co-stars Bowie Lam, Kristal Tin and Bosco Wong. The unique detective drama involves the use of body language to solve criminal cases. Apart from The Last Steep Ascent, she is also featured in three other TVB drama series this year: Master Of Play, Ruse Of Engagement and The Confidant.

With 14 drama series and an appearance in the film 72 Tenants Of Prosperity, Aimee shared that she employed different speech patterns to differentiate her characters.

"For The Last Steep Ascent, I adopted a breathy voice and hesitant speech to show my character's indecisiveness.

"In Every Move You Make, I employed a higher-pitched voice and spoke faster as the young and playful Ching Bui Yee.

"Then for Master Of Play, it was a deeper tone because the character is more mature.

"And in The Confidant, I went high pitch," said the charming actress.

Chan revealed that she would be making her way to Malaysia again to shoot a drama.

"When I first found out about it, I was so excited. I'm not sure yet where we'll be filming, but I'm thrilled at the thought as I already had such an enjoyable time visiting three different cities in Malaysia this time.

"I'm really glad for the opportunity to meet Malaysian viewers," shared Chan, whose promotional tour took her to Cheras Leisure Mall in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh Parade in Perak, and Gurney Plaza in Penang.

Those unable to make it to the Astro On Demand Awards Presentation 2012 at Sunway Convention Centre on Dec 2 can tune in to the live broadcast on Astro On Demand (Astro Ch 934) at 8.30pm.

New platform

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 01:56 AM PST

HBO Asia, the leader in home entertainment, will soon be launching a brand new Internet streaming service known as HBO GO in Asia. The service allows subscribers to enjoy their favourite HBO Original programmes 12 hours after the United States across multiple devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones at anytime, anywhere. Hong Kong's now TV will be the first broadcaster in Asia to launch HBO GO in the first quarter of 2013.

HBO GO draws on a vast library of around 1,000 hours of HBO Original programmes, including series, films and other special programming such as documentaries, entertainment specials, family content and stand-up comedy.

Exciting line-up of programmes include the latest seasons of award-winning and critically acclaimed series, Game Of Thrones, Girls, True Blood and Veep. Popular series such as Band Of Brothers, The Pacific and The Newsroom will also be available. Subscribers will be able to select what they want to watch on the device of their choice, giving more control to the viewer.

"This announcement further demonstrates HBO Asia's commitment to introducing value-added services that provide flexibility, compelling content, and increased customer satisfaction," said HBO Asia chief executive officer Jonathan Spink in a press release.

"HBO GO will meet the demand of changing consumer viewing habits, offering subscribers quick access to a wide variety of award-winning and critically-acclaimed content 12 hours after the US, which will help with the ongoing fight against illegal copying, distribution and piracy."


The Star Online: World Updates

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Prosecutors seek death for U.S. soldier charged in Afghan rampage

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 07:00 PM PST

TACOMA, Washington (Reuters) - Military prosecutors said on Monday they would seek the death penalty for a U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers when he ventured out of his camp on two revenge-fuelled drunken forays earlier this year.

This photograph of a courtroom sketch by artist Lois Silver shows U.S. Army soldier Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (2nd R) and his defense attorneys Emma Scanlan (2nd L) and Maj. Gregory Malson (L) at the start of the military Article-32 Investigation, a U.S. Courts Martial pre-trial proceeding, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington November 5, 2012. A U.S. Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a drunken rampage in March faces the military version of a preliminary hearing starting on Monday to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial. Bales is accused of killing Afghan villagers in a drunken rampage on March 11, 2012 and faces 16 counts of premeditated murder. Also pictured in this courtroom sketch is military prosecuting attorney Maj. Rob Stelle (R) and presiding investigation officer Col. Lee Demecky. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

This photograph of a courtroom sketch by artist Lois Silver shows U.S. Army soldier Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (2nd R) and his defense attorneys Emma Scanlan (2nd L) and Maj. Gregory Malson (L) at the start of the military Article-32 Investigation, a U.S. Courts Martial pre-trial proceeding, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington November 5, 2012. A U.S. Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a drunken rampage in March faces the military version of a preliminary hearing starting on Monday to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial. Bales is accused of killing Afghan villagers in a drunken rampage on March 11, 2012 and faces 16 counts of premeditated murder. Also pictured in this courtroom sketch is military prosecuting attorney Maj. Rob Stelle (R) and presiding investigation officer Col. Lee Demecky. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

The lead prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Morse, told a preliminary hearing he would present evidence proving "chilling premeditation" on the part of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The shootings of mostly women and children in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in March marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on an individual U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and eroded already strained U.S.-Afghan ties after more than a decade of conflict in the country.

Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder as well as charges of assault and wrongfully possessing and using steroids and alcohol while deployed.

Morse said he was submitting a "capital referral" in the case, requesting that Bales be executed if convicted.

The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state was expected to last two weeks and include witness testimony from Afghanistan carried by live video, including testimony from villagers and Afghan soldiers.

At the end, military commanders will decide whether there is sufficient evidence for Bales to stand trial by court-martial.

Bales, dressed in camouflage Army fatigues with his head shaven, embraced his wife in court before the hearing began. He then sat silently watching the proceedings from the defence table as Morse summarized the prosecution's account of the events of March 10-11.

According to Morse, Bales had been drinking with two fellow soldiers before he left his base, Camp Belambay, and went to a village where he committed the first killings.

Morse said Bales then returned to the camp and told a drinking buddy, Sergeant Jason McLaughlin, "I just shot up some people," before leaving for a second village and killing more people. Morse called Bales' actions "deliberate, methodical."

According to McLaughlin, Bales asked him to smell his rifle and said "I'll be back at 5 (a.m.). You got me?" McLaughlin said he did not think Bales was serious, and "didn't think too much about it," going back to sleep for guard duty that started at 3 a.m.


Prosecutors showed a video shot by night-vision camera from a surveillance balloon over the camp, showing a figure they identified as Bales walking back to the post wearing a dark blue bed sheet or throw rug tied around his neck like a cloak.

He is seen being confronted by three soldiers, including the two men prosecutors said he had been drinking with, who ordered him to drop his weapons and took him into custody as he is heard saying, "Are you f***ing kidding me?"

One of the three, Corporal David Godwin, testified that Bales kept repeating the words, "I thought I was doing the right thing," and "It's bad. It's bad. It's really bad." Several witnesses said Bales' trousers were spattered with blood. One said he had a "ghost-like look."

Godwin recounted that he, Bales and McLaughlin had been drinking whiskey together in McLaughlin's room while watching the Hollywood film "Man on Fire," which stars Denzel Washington as a former assassin bent on revenge.

Several witnesses from the camp said Bales had been aggrieved over the lack of action over an improvised explosive device attack on a patrol near the camp several days earlier, in which one U.S. soldier lost the lower part of a leg.

Prosecutors said Bales had been armed with a rifle, a pistol and a grenade launcher on the night in question, and that the killings took place over a five-hour period in two villages. The dead included members of four families, most shot in the head.

When Bales returned to the camp and surrendered his weapons, he was brought to Captain Daniel Fields, team leader, at the camp's command centre. "What the f*** just happened?" Fields said he asked Bales. He said Bales avoided eye contact and just said "I'm sorry, I let you down."

Bales, who was not expected to testify during the so-called Article 32 hearing, had been confined at a military prison in Kansas from March until he was moved in October to Lewis-McChord, where his infantry regiment was based.

John Henry Browne, Bales' civilian lawyer, has suggested Bales may not have acted alone and may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bales' wife, Kari, told a local NBC affiliate, KING5-TV, before Monday's hearing she believed he was innocent, as a massacre of innocent civilians was "not something my husband would have done ... not the Bob that I know."

The shootings highlighted discipline problems among U.S. soldiers from Lewis-McChord, which was also the home base of four enlisted men from the former 5th Stryker Brigade who were convicted or pleaded guilty to murder or manslaughter over three killings of unarmed Afghan civilians in 2010.

(Additional reporting by Laura L. Myers; Writing by Steve Gorman, Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Obama, Romney focus on swing states in late campaigning

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 05:21 PM PST

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney engaged in frantic get-out-the-vote efforts and made final pleas to voters in a sprint through battleground states that will determine who wins their agonizingly close White House race on Tuesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an election campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, November 5, 2012, on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an election campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, November 5, 2012, on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Both candidates sought to generate strong turnout from supporters and to sway independent voters to their side in the last hours of a race that polls showed was deadlocked nationally. Obama had a slight lead in the eight or nine battleground states that will decide the race on Tuesday.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll of likely voters, a daily tracking poll, gave Obama a slight edge, with 48 percent support compared to Romney's 46 percent. The difference was within the 3.4 percentage point credibility interval, which allows for statistical variation in Internet-based polls.

Obama was up 4 percentage points in must-win Ohio, 50 percent to 46 percent, and held slimmer leads in Virginia and Colorado. Romney led in Florida by 1 percentage point, the poll found.

The president, with a final-day itinerary that included stops in Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, urged voters to stick with him and trust that his economic policies are working. He travelled with rocker Bruce Springsteen.

"Ohio, I'm not ready to give up on the fight. I've got a whole lot of fight left in me and I hope you do too," Obama told supporters in Columbus, Ohio.

Romney's final day included stops in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. He pledged that he would handle the economy better than Obama and jabbed his opponent for blaming Republican predecessor George W. Bush for the weak economy.

"When I'm elected, the economy and the American job market will still be stagnant, but I'm not going to waste any time complaining about my predecessor," Romney said in Columbus.

"I'm not just going to take office on January 20. I'm going to take responsibility for that office," he said.

The candidates are seeking to piece together the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory in the state-by-state battle for the presidency. Despite the close national opinion polls, Obama has an easier path to victory: If he wins the three states he was visiting on Monday - Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa - then he would likely carry the day.


All eyes were on the Midwestern state of Ohio, whose 18 electoral votes could be decisive. Romney, looking for any edge possible, planned last-second visits on Tuesday to both Ohio and Pennsylvania, aides said.

The visits to the areas around Cleveland and Pittsburgh would be aimed at driving turnout. And the Pittsburgh stop could be as much about Ohio as Pennsylvania, since many in eastern Ohio watch Pittsburgh television.

Romney's path to the White House becomes much harder should he lose Ohio. The state has been leaning toward Obama - its unemployment rate is lower than the 7.9 percent national average and its heavy dependence on auto-related jobs meant the bailout to auto companies that Obama pursued in 2009 is popular.

Both campaigns expressed confidence that their candidate would win, and there were enough polls to bolster either view.

There were clear signs that Obama held an edge. A CNN/ORC poll, for instance, showed him up in Ohio by 50 percent to 47 percent.

The close margins in state and national polls suggested the possibility of a cliff-hanger that could be decided by which side has the best turnout operation and gets its voters to the polls.

Whoever wins will have a host of challenges to confront. The top priority will be the looming "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases that would begin with the new year.

The balance of power in Congress also will be at stake on Tuesday, with Obama's Democrats now expected to narrowly hold their Senate majority and Romney's Republicans favoured to retain control of the House of Representatives.

In a race where the two candidates and their party allies raised a combined $2 billion, the most in U.S. history, both sides have pounded the heavily contested battleground states with an unprecedented barrage of ads.

(Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

Related Stories:
Obama has slight edge over Romney day before election - Reuters/Ipsos poll

White House race a nail-biter in four pivotal states - Reuters/Ipsos poll
Two cheers for Obama from Europe's press
The keys to winning in swing state Ohio in U.S. presidential race

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Suicide bomber kills 50 Syrian security men - opposition

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:10 PM PST

BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Islamist suicide car bomber killed at least 50 Syrian security men in Hama province on Monday, an opposition group said, in what would be one of the bloodiest single attacks on President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the 20-month-old uprising.

A crowd gathers in front of a building and car damaged after a bomb explosion in the Mezzeh 86 area in Damascus, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA, November 5, 2012. REUTERS/Sana

A crowd gathers in front of a building and car damaged after a bomb explosion in the Mezzeh 86 area in Damascus, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA, November 5, 2012. REUTERS/Sana

Another day of relentless violence in Syria coincided with more unity talks in Qatar among opposition factions.

Syrian state media reported that a "terrorist" suicide bomber had targeted a rural development centre in Sahl al-Ghab in Hama province, putting the death toll at two.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the centre was used by security forces and pro-Assad militia as one of their biggest bases in the area.

"A fighter from the Nusra Front drove his car to the centre and then blew himself up," he said. "A series of explosions followed. At least 50 were killed."

The Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-inspired group of ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslims, has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in Damascus and elsewhere in the past. It operates mostly independently of other rebel factions, some of which have criticised it for indiscriminate tactics.

Syrian officials often blame foreign-backed Islamist militants for the anti-Assad revolt, in which about 32,000 people have been killed since it began in March 2011.

In Damascus, a car bomb exploded in the mostly Alawite western district of Mezzeh 86, killing 11 people and wounding dozens more, including children, state media and the Syrian Observatory reported.

An Islamist group calling itself Seif al-Sham claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said targeted a meeting point for the army, police and pro-Assad militia.

Warplanes, tanks and artillery battered rebel-held parts of southern Damascus in what one Western diplomat said was an escalation in the government campaign to crush the insurgency. Opposition activists said at least 10 people were killed there.


An air strike on Haram, a town in the northwestern province of Idlib near the Turkish border, killed at least 20 rebels of the Idlib Martyrs' Brigade, probably including their commander, Basil Eissa, the Syrian Observatory said.

Much of Idlib province is in the hands of insurgents, but remains vulnerable to air power, used increasingly by Assad's forces to contain his mostly Sunni Muslim opponents.

In Qatar, divided Syrian opposition groups were meeting to try to forge a cohesive leadership that would then make common cause with rebel factions fighting on the ground, in an effort to gain wider international recognition and arms supplies.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest overseas-based opposition group, was expected to expand its membership to 400 from 300 and to elect a new leader and executive committee before talks with other anti-Assad factions in Doha this week.

Discussions focused on a proposal by influential opposition figure Riad Seif for a new structure combining the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other insurgent units with local civilian bodies and prominent individuals.

The Syria conflict has also divided big powers, with Russia and China opposing Western calls for Assad's removal and critical of patchy outside efforts to arm his opponents.

Rebels have few weapons to counter warplanes and artillery, but Western nations have been wary of supplying anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles without a credible opposition leadership.

That has given the Syrian military a free hand, with densely populated Damascus suburbs hit by air and ground bombardments that have killed hundreds of people in the last three weeks.

Witnesses said artillery deployed on Qasioun, a mountain that overlooks Damascus, was pounding southern neighbourhoods and warplanes were firing rockets. Tanks were also in action.


Activist Rami al-Sayyed, speaking from southern Damascus, said rebels had made hit-and-run attacks on pro-Assad militiamen in the city overnight before retreating to nearby farmland.

In one attack, rebels fought pro-Assad militiamen in Nisreen, a southern district mainly populated by members of Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

They also hit positions of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a Syrian-sponsored faction, in the nearby Yarmouk refugee camp, where 20 people were reported killed by army shelling on Sunday. At least seven PFLP-GC members were killed in the latest fighting.

The Syrian conflict has aggravated divisions in the Islamic world, with Shi'ite Iran supporting Assad and U.S.-allied Sunni nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar backing his foes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Egypt's al-Ahram daily that Moscow, Syria's main arms supplier, was sending weapons under Soviet-era commitments for defence against external threats, not to support Assad.

"We do not side with any faction in Syria's internal battle," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members, have vetoed three Western-backed U.N. draft resolutions condemning Assad's government for its handling of an uprising that turned from peaceful protests into a civil war.

(Additional reporting by Rania el Gamal and Regan Doherty in Qatar and Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Related Stories:
Syrian opposition factions jostle ahead of unity talks

Damascus bomb kills at least 11
At home away from home, Syrian Kurd refugees long for statehood

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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China recovery ‘dented’

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 05:46 PM PST

BEIJING: A private survey of China's growing services sector slipped in October, with weaker-than-expected new orders injecting a note of caution after three previous purchasing managers index (PMI) surveys for October showed the world's second largest economy regaining momentum.

The HSBC Purchasing Managers Index for China's services sector released yesterday showed the index slipped to 53.5 in October from September's four-month high of 54.3, as higher costs and greater competition squeezed margins.

In India, a decline the HSBC PMI services sector index for October suggested a slowdown in Asia's third largest economy had not yet run its course, as weakness in the United States and Europe hurt orders and forced firms to hire fewer workers.

In China and India, the index remained above the 50-point level that indicates accelerating growth.

China's services industry, which covers everything from banks, restaurants to Internet firms, has weathered the global slowdown much better than the factory sector. But the services sector is underdeveloped, accounting for just 43% of GDP, compared with over 70% in Western economies.

The HSBC results contrast with an official non-manufacturing PMI released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Saturday, which rebounded to 55.5 in October from a nearly two-year low of 53.7 in September, reflecting strength in the construction sector. The HSBC PMI does not include construction.

Similarly, manufacturing sector PMIs released last Thursday by both the statistics bureau and HSBC showed signs the economy began to perk up in October.

"Despite the moderation of services activity growth, the Chinese economy is gradually bottoming out as the filtering through of earlier easing policy is boosting domestic demand," Hongbin Qu, HSBC's chief economist for China, wrote in a note accompanying the report.

"We expect the continuation of policy easing to sustain the recovery in the manufacturing sector in the coming months, which should lend additional support to growth of services sectors and consumer spending."

China's annual GDP growth is expected to beat the full-year target of 7.5%, but that will be a marked slowdown from last year's 9.2% growth and the average of around 10% for the last three decades.

Beijing has been following a programme of pro-growth fine-tuning of economic policies for a year and analysts broadly expect that to remain in place when a new leadership lineup of the ruling Communist Party is unveiled at a Congress this month.

China's central bank said on Friday that it would prioritise supporting the economy, reflecting its feeble state. The central bank has been steadily easing policy to boost credit, while the government has fast-tracked infrastructure projects to boost investment. The property sector has shown signs of warming up in recent months due to policy easing and support from local governments. The official non-manufacturing PMI showed the sub-index for the construction services sector rose to 60.2 from 58 in September.

Anemic new orders cast a pall over the HSBC services PMI, with that subi-ndex falling to 53 in October from 54 in September, according to the HSBC survey compiled by Markit Economics. Reuters

Indonesia third-quarter growth slows

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 05:43 PM PST

JAKARTA: Indonesia's economy grew 6.2% in the third quarter from a year earlier, in line with forecasts, as the global downturn finally began to drag on a country whose resilience has attracted a flood of foreign investment this year.

A slide in exports saw the annual rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the G-20 economy ease from 6.4% in the second quarter, remaining strong by global standards but at the slackest pace nonetheless since the third quarter of 2010.

"The third-quarter GDP matched the consensus, signalling some moderation in the momentum, though nothing to be alarmed about as Indonesia is still among the fastest growing economies in the region," said Radhika Rao, an economist at Forecast in Singapore. "The subdued exports performance could emerge as the main soft spot, with the slowdown in imports in recent months to stoke concerns over the sustainability of a strong investments cycle."

Statistics bureau official Suhariyanto said the trade situation meant it would be difficult to reach a government forecast for steady full-year growth of 6.5%, and saw 6.2%6.3% as likely in line with economists' views.

Imports also started falling in the third quarter, the first sign of weakness in the buoyant domestic demand that has been protecting the world's fourth most populous nation from a harder downturn.

Over two-thirds of Indonesia's exports are commodities such as palm oil and coal, which have been hurt by weaker Chinese demand.

"Any slowdown in China will affect directly our major export commodities," said Bambang Brodjondegoro, a finance ministry official, speaking on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting in Mexico. "During this turbulence we can maintain our growth by domestic consumption and investment." - Reuters

Europe seeks Asia support

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 05:39 PM PST

VIENTIANE: European leaders said they were finally getting a grip on the eurozone debt crisis and urged Asia to do more to boost global economic growth.

Top European officials at a major summit in impoverished Laos, including French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, led efforts to encourage much-needed trade with Asia's fast-growing economies.

Europe had made a "huge effort" to tackle the euro crisis "by more coordination, by fleshing out the future of a genuine economic and monetary union", Monti said, noting that Asia also faced slowing economic growth.

"Past events showed us that the current crisis does not stop on the edge of town but it is really knocking at all doors," he warned.

Dozens of leaders jetted into the small land-locked nation for the Asia-Europe Meeting, which provides an opportunity to strengthen trade links between two regions that together account for about half of global economic output.

There were calls for Asia to play a greater role in efforts to revive the world economy and to renounce trade barriers, after years of rapid growth in the region on the back of rising exports to Europe and other Western markets.

"Promoting trade is not only fostering domestic demand but also avoiding protectionism," said European Union (EU) president Herman Van Rompuy, who sought to allay fears that the eurozone might break up.

"The financial stability of the eurozone is much stronger than a few months ago. The euro is an irreversible project and on this basis growth can pickup in the course of 2013," he said.

Europe's diplomatic offensive is seen as a sign of the growing importance that it places on Asia's vibrant economies.

"With the EU in the middle of a lost decade and facing protracted recession and fiscal austerity, European political and business leaders are turning to Asia's fast-growing economies for economic salvation," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at consultancy firm IHS Global Insight.

Europe's leaders may lobby Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to deploy some of Beijing's trove of about US$3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves the largest in the world to invest in EU bailout funds.

At the same time Hollande criticised the inflexibility of the Chinese yuan and certain other Asian currencies, calling for "fair exchange rates".

"Asians have gained a lot from our growth. Now it's time for them to boost our growth with their demand," he added.

Wen told the summit that his country had "promoted a balanced growth between imports and exports".

"This shows that China is an important engine for world economic growth and has played a crucial role in driving the global economic recovery," he said. - AFP


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Royal Montreal to host 2014 Canadian Open

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:53 PM PST

MONTREAL: Royal Montreal, North America's oldest golf club, will play host to the 2014 US PGA Tour Canadian Open, Golf Canada executive director Scott Simmons announced on Monday.

Royal Montreal, which hosted the inaugural Canadian Open back in 1904, will play host to the event for the 10th time and for the first time since 2001 when American Scott Verplank claimed the title.

"Royal Montreal shares a long and storied history," Simmons said. "We are thrilled to add to that special legacy again in 2014."

The course also hosted the 2007 Presidents Cup matches, where the United States team defeated an Internationals squad of non-European golfers.

No Canadian has won the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Next year's Canadian Open will be played July 25-28 at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario. - AFP

Record-setting Indy engineer Wardrop dead

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:44 PM PST

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: Tim Wardrop, engineer for the fastest car in Indianapolis 500 history, died aged 62 on October 27 after a long illness, IndyCar officials announced on Monday.

The British racecar veteran served as a Formula One mechanic at Williams and McLaren and was on Jody Scheckter's crew in 1977 when the South African finished second in the driver's championship.

Wardrop was the IndyCar engineer for Arie Luyendyk in 1996 when the Dutchman set the all-time Indianapolis Motor Speedway one-lap record speed of 237.492 mph and the four-lap qualifying record of 236.986 mph.

Luyendyk's car also clocked an unofficial practice lap at 239.260 mph that year.

Wardrop, nicknamed "Doctor Who" after the British television science-fiction hero, also was the engineer for Luyendyk in 1997 when the pole-sitter won his second Indy 500 crown.

In 1991, Wardrop served as engineer for Willy T. Ribbs when the American became the first black driver to qualify for the Indy 500.

Wardrop also worked with such drivers as American Michael Andretti, Italy's Teo Fabi, Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya, Brazil's Bruno Junqueira and last May at Indy with Frenchman Jean Alesi. - AFP

Djokovic downs Tsonga at Tour Finals

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 03:51 PM PST

LONDON: Novak Djokovic celebrated his return to the top of the world rankings with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the ATP Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena on Monday.

Although Djokovic has only one Grand Slam title to his name this year, at the Australian Open back in January, it has still been another fine year for the Serb, who replaced Roger Federer as world number one on Monday after a brief spell playing second fiddle to the Swiss star.

Only David Ferrer has been able to equal Djokovic's impressive total of 71 match wins during the course of 2012 and, for the second year in a row, the Serb will finish the season on top of the rankings thanks to the remarkable consistency which has seen him reach the semi-finals or better in 14 of his 16 tournaments.

One of Djokovic's few failures came at the Paris Masters last week when he lost in the early stages to Sam Querrey - the first time the Serb had been beaten indoors this year - but he was back in the groove against French seventh seed Tsonga in his opening Group A tie at the season-ending event.

After taking his poodle Pierre for a walk around the corridors of the O2 Arena in a slightly bizarre pre-match warm-up, Djokovic initially looked like he could have done with more conventional preparation.

Tsonga, watched by new Australian coach Roger Rasheed, had a break point in the opening game, but a fortunate net cord got Djokovic out of trouble, and the Frenchman couldn't convert his second chance to break when he missed a forehand at 4-3.

With neither man able to get control, a tie-break was the only way to seperate them and it was Djokovic, showing his priceless knack of playing his best on the big points, who took it on his second set point.

Djokovic was more like himself in the second set and went on the attack in the first game as he looked to press home his advantage.

Tsonga produced a spectacular smash on the run to save one break point, but the 2008 Tour Finals champion wouldn't be denied and landed the break when the Frenchman drove a forehand wildly off-target.

Djokovic had beaten Tsonga in their last six meetings, including their most recent encounter in the Beijing final, and there was no way back for the Frenchman this time either as the Serb closed out the win on his first match point.

US Open champion Andy Murray beat Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the day's other Group A match. - AFP


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Masjid Jamek to be closed for upgrading works from Tuesday to March 5

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 06:07 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The Masjid Jamek will be closed from Tuesday for upgrading works which is expected to be completed by March 5, 2013.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) in a statement Monday said, all activities at the mosque would be stopped during the upgrading period.

"The site of the mosque will also be completely closed for safety reasons and to ensure the project is completed on time," the statement added. - Bernama

PM tells Europe to sort out its economy before it affects Asia

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 05:20 AM PST

VIENTIANE: Europe must fix its economy and finances before a meltdown affects the rest of the world, particularly Asia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday that even though Asian economies were relatively free from the problem, with most recording growth of between 5% and 7% compared to only one percent growth recorded by European nations, all countries were interdependent.

"It (the crisis) can also affect growth in Asia. We realise it is important for Europe to be able to get its act together (to tackle the problem)," he told the Malaysian media after attending the first day of the Ninth Asia-Europe Summmit here on Monday.

The Prime Minister said that despite the crisis looming over Europe, there were still many things that Asia could learn, such as green and bio-technologies, and it was still a large market for goods from this part of the world.

"Asia hopes that economies in Europe will recover so that trade can be further enhanced. I also told the leaders during a plenary session that the Free Trade Agreement between Asean and European Union should be expedited," he said.

Najib said Europe was of the opinion that Asia is the engine of growth and there was a need to further deepen co-operation with nations in the region.

The Prime Minister said he told the grouping's 51-member nations that free trade and liberalisation policies must be encouraged and trade protectionism must be rejected to enable economies to prosper.

He said that some of proposals made during Doha Round were achievable even though there were difficulties, adding that Malaysia had carried out two rounds of liberalisation in the services sector. Lao President Choumnaly Sayasone, in his address, said if Asia and Europe enhance cooperation, integration and mutual support, it would be able to explore and maximise potentials each continent could offer.

"At present, some parts of the world have encountered complex political and security challenges. On the other hand, humankind is facing new threats such as food and energy insecurity, climate change and natural disasters.

"It is more critical than ever for the two continents to broaden the dialogue and enhance coordination with a view of adopting new approaches to attain sustainable development," he said.

Former leech breeding scheme manager charged in court

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:44 AM PST

SHAH ALAM: A former manager of Hidayyah Management & Services Sdn Bhd pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court here Monday to two counts of offering shares in a leech breeding scheme without the approval of the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM).

Azman Shah Abd Hamid, 44, allegedly offered the scheme to the public without the approval of a deed by CCM, at the premises of Hidayyah Management & Services, Taman Bendahara, Kuala Selangor between June 1 2008 and Dec 31 2009.

He also allegedly offered the company's shares to the public through the same scheme that was prohibited under the Companies Act 1965.

He faces between five and 10 years in prison, fine of RM100,000 to RM250,000, or both upon conviction under Sections 363(3) and 91(1) of the same Act.

Judge G. Ramesh set bail at RM14,000 with one surety for both counts, ordered Azman Shah's passport to be impounded and fixed Dec 12 for remention.

CCM prosecuting officers, Nik Zunaidi Zakaria and Mohd Zulkhairi Kamaruzaman prosecuted while lawyer T L Chen represented the accused. - Bernama


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"Wreck-It Ralph" crushes box office competitors

Posted: 04 Nov 2012 10:49 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Wreck-It Ralph, Disney's animated film about a video game character who destroys everything in his path, made history on Sunday after grossing US$49.1 million in ticket sales to lead the weekend box office, the highest-grossing opening weekend in Disney animation history.

The tally for Wreck-It-Ralph, which featured the voices of John C. Reilly and Jane Lynch, hammered the Denzel Washington film Flight, which generated ticket sales of US$25 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to studio estimates.

The critically acclaimed Iran hostage thriller Argo, last week's box office leader, was third, generating US$10.2 million in sales. Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, Argo has totaled US$75.9 million in its three weeks in movie theaters.

Walt Disney Co released Wreck-It Ralph. Flight was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Inc, distributed Argo.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2 contest

Posted: 04 Nov 2012 08:42 PM PST

Bella is enjoying her new life and new powers with Edward, after the birth of their daughter, Renesmee. Soon, however, their family bliss is threatened again, by a new menace. Vampire Irina believes a child like Renesmee could challenge the power and existence of the Volturi. As Irina rallies the Volturi to destroy this potential threat, Bella and the Cullens - together with any allies they can assemble - are preparing to fight a crucial, ultimate battle, to protect their family.

Thanks to Nusantara Ederan Filem, we have special screening tickets to give away as well as limited edition The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 premiums. All you have to do is answer the questions below and follow the instructions given. It's that simple. Don't miss out cause this is your very last chance to catch hotties Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner together.

1. The Cullens including Bella and the wolf pack have to fight off this powerful coven of vampires known as the …? Name this group.

2. Name the actress who plays Renesmee.

Email your answers with your details (name, address, IC number and contact number) to by 12 November 2012. Title the subject BREAKING DAWN PT 2. Winnres will be notified by email.

Prizes to win:

6 X Breaking Dawn Pt 2 t-shirts + 1 pair of tickets

4 X Breaking Dawn Pt 2 pillow + 1 pair of tickets

4 X Breaking Dawn recycle cotton bag + 1 pair of tickets

Rules & Regulations

1.The contest is open to all Malaysian residents residing in Malaysia only.

2.To qualify for a prize, contestants must include relevant personal details (full name, address, new IC number , contact number). Email your answers to

3.Contestants may only submit one entry each. Multiple entries will be disqualified.

4.One prize is allowed per contestant only.

5.Prizes are not exchangeable for cash and the organizer reserves the right to exchange the prize with that of a similar value without prior notice.

6.Staff of The Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad, sponsors and their immediate families are not allowed to participate.

7.Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entertained.

8.Judges will be from The Star Online.

9.For enquiries, please e-mail

10.I hereby expressly consent to the collection, collation, use and/or disclosure of all my personal data by Star Publications (M) Berhand for the purposes of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Contest.

11.Special screening for this movie will be on 21 November 2012 at Cathay Cineplex e@Curve at 9pm. This movie is free seating.

12.Winners will have to pick up their prizes as well as the tickets half hour before the movie begins.

13.Winners will be notified by email.


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Metro Watch

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:45 AM PST


A temporary road closure along Jalan Kuching and Jalan Duta will be implemented by DBKL to facilitate construction of three-tier extruded kerbs. Works on Jalan Kuching is ongoing until May 14, from 9.30am to 4pm (first stage) and 9pm to 5am (second stage). Works on Jalan Duta is ongoing until June 19, from 9.30am to 4pm (first stage) and 9pm to 5am (second stage). Motorists are advised to be careful and observe traffic signage at the site.


There will be water disruption to facilitate butterfly valve replacement works by Syabas contractors. The area around Brooklands, Sungai Manggis in Kuala Langat district will be affected from 9pm today till 5am tomorrow. The area around Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya in Petaling district will be affected from 9pm on Sunday till 5am on Monday. For details, call 1-800-88-5252, SMS by typing Puspel and send to 39222, or visit


Amma Sri Karunamayi from India will be visiting Malaysia for darshan and blessings today and tomorrow from 6pm to 9pm at Seven Chakram Resource Centre, 40A, Jalan Awan Hijau, Taman OUG, Kuala Lumpur. For details, call 012-601 7771/ 03-7987 9188.


A free talk entitled Transforming Fears and Worries: A Mindful Approach will be held tomorrow from 8pm to 10pm at Sentul Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple, Kuala Lumpur. The speaker is Dr Lobsang Rapgay, a research psychologist at UCLA-USA and director of the Clinical Training Programme for Mental Health Professionals at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, UCLA. For enquiries, call 012-683 3112 (Ms Ang).


Muar High School Class of 1962 will be holding its Golden Anniversary Reunion Dinner in early December in Kuala Lumpur. For details, contact Divakaran at 019-335 2618 or 012-234 0972.


Golden Horses Health Sanctuary will be hosting a health awareness campaign this Saturday at 2pm at Theatrette Room, Palace of the Golden Horses, Seri Kembangan. Gastroenterologist Dr Loong Yik Yee will speak on Prevention of Stomach and Colon Cancer, while celebrity TV host and health enthusiast Jojo Struys' talk is on De-stress through Yoga. The event is free, on a first come first serve basis. Attendees will also enjoy a free basic health check. Call 03-8941 5833 to RSVP by Nov 7.


Persatuan Kemajuan dan Kebajikan Masyarakat Kawasan Batu, a Kuala Lumpur-based NGO, carries out charity and community activities for the urban poor in the city. Anyone who wishes to help or donate clothes and groceries to needy families, can contact Ramanathan Chinnu at 012-226 5765.

Adnan: Help available but people must become self-reliant

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:36 AM PST

THE latest statistics from the E-Kasih database show that there are 395 hardcore poor families living in Kuala Lumpur. They comprise those who earn less than RM430 a month.

Also eligible for E-Kasih are people with an income of less than RM720 and who come under the poor category, while those earning RM1,500 a month are categorised as easy poor (mudah miskin).

Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry secretary-general Datuk Adnan Md Ikshan said all three groups were eligible to register under E-Kasih, and were entitled to numerous benefits ranging from obtaining microcredit loans to welfare aid under the Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia programme as well as free housing, monthly groceries and hampers.

"The programmes are carried out under the ministry to help reduce the poverty rate in the country.

"They are given aid to undertake viable economic activities to supplement their household income as well as taught skills like cooking, baking and sewing to make them independent,'' said Adnan.

However, Adnan said the real challenge lies in getting the urban poor to be independent and self-reliant.

"While we do hand out aid, we also want them to be self-reliant. Providing them with the opportunity to work and earn a decent living is not easy as we cannot change people's mindset. They must want the change as well,'' he said.

Apart from the ministry, the Federal Territories Foundation established to improve the well-being of the people, also carries out many activities and schemes to help poor folks in the city.

The programmes include giving out interest-free loans, financial aid for disaster victims and Skim Prihatin 1Malaysia.

However, Adnan added that to receive aid, the person must be registered with E-Kasih.

Those interested can do so by visiting the website to register online.

Alternatively, they can visit Kuala Lumpur City Hall in Jalan Raja Laut.

Successful candidates will be vetted and undergo an interview process to ensure they are truly deserving cases.

Related Stories:
Hundreds of urban folk struggle to make ends meet on meagre income


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Roping in civil servants to monitor price of goods

Posted: 04 Nov 2012 06:26 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: The country's strong 1.2 million civil servants are being roped in to be the eyes and ears for the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry to check on the prices of goods nationwide.

Its president Datuk Omar Osman said that members who signed-up with the association would be issued a special card from the ministry.

"This card allows them to question the traders who hike prices and also to lodge complaints with the ministry about unscrupulous traders," he said at an event to launch the card here yesterday.

Omar urged civil servants to play a proactive role in monitoring prices of items together with KPDNKK to keep tabs on the rising prices of goods.

"All Cuepacs members should get this card and we expect more than 100,000 of our members to register before they receive their year end bonuses," he said, adding that the card also provided discounts of up to 60% at selected shops and supermarkets nationwide.

He added that Cuepacs would also be launching the card at other states including Malacca, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and the east coast.

Omar said that the issuance of the card was timely especially when traders usually hiking the prices of their goods whenever bonuses were paid to civil servants.

He also warned members from abusing the case including allowing others to use it as those caught would have their cards confiscated.

The card was launched by state Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Hoo Seong Chang who read out the Johor Mentri Besar's speech.

He said that there were 69,454 registered individuals who had signed up as volunteers to check on price of goods in Johor.

"Previously these volunteers did not receive any benefit but now with the introduction of the card and also the revamping of the volunteer squad, members can enjoy discounts.

"This is one of the steps taken by the Government to create more awareness among the users especially about their rights as well as to promote ethical business practises among traders," he said.

Disabled man to get MyKad after 40 years of waiting

Posted: 04 Nov 2012 06:27 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Finally, there is good news for disabled Ong Ah Seng, 58, who has been waiting to get his MyKad for more than 40 years.

Officials from the National Registration Department will visit his house in Taman Sri Mahkota in Benut, Batu Pahat, soon to process his application.

The good news was passed to Ah Seng's brother Lai Seng, 61, and his half-brother Goh Bah Bee, 67, by the Permas public complaint centre supervisor Syed Othman Syed Ali here yesterday.

"The department assured us that Ah Seng will get his MyKad after his family submits the relevant documents," said Syed Othman.

Lai Seng said that without a MyKad, his brother could not apply for monthly financial assistance from the state welfare department or get treatment at public hospitals.

He said the family applied for financial assistance on behalf of Ah Seng about 20 years ago but was turned down as he has no identity card.

Lai Seng said the financial aid would help ease the burden of taking care of his brother and four other siblings, all of whom are unemployed and staying with him at his low-cost house.

"I only earn about RM600 a month as a carpenter and the amount is not enough to cover the household expenses including buying disposable diapers for my brother," he said.

Residents want SWM to clear their rubbish regularly

Posted: 04 Nov 2012 06:28 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Irregular rubbish collection is a problem which has haunted residents of Taman Bukit Indah 2 here for a long time with many wondering why the authorities are so relaxed even after multiple complaints.

Housewife, Lee Pui Fun, 34, said that the last time the rubbish collection was done in the area was before Hari Raya Aidiladha, which was on Oct 26.

"This is not the first time this has happened and we always suffer with the irregular rubbish collection," said an annoyed Lee.

She added that sometimes, the rubbish would pile for several days causing an unbearable stink.

"I sometimes have no choice but to close my doors and windows to ensure that the odour does not get into my house.

"I also have small children and they always complain to me about the bad smell," she said.

Factory worker Leong Lai Yong, 43, said that uncollected rubbish was a nightmare to the neighbourhood.

"Whenever the rubbish is not collected on time, it attracts flies, crows and dogs who rummage through the pile and tear open the bags leaving a horrible mess," she said.

She added that this only happens when neighbours have no choice but to leave rubbish bags outside of the dustbins, as they were too full.

"We just want this problem to be solved once and for all," she said adding that the issue has been persistent since late last year.

Technician R. Robert, 40, said that he was usually the first one to lodge complaints to Southern Waste Management (SWM) if he noticed that the rubbish was not collected.

"I have complained to them more than four times since the beginning of the year about irregular rubbish collection.

"Only when I complain will they do something about it but this should not be the way," he said adding that he was fed up with the system.

Robert, who has two young children aged five and two said that SWM needed to be prompt as the stink was unbearable.

"Because we have young children, we also have to dispose of their diapers and other household rubbish, so it really leaves a horrible smell.

"The government has previously said that they would fine those who litter but what about SWM who do not do their work? Will they be fined too?," he questioned in anger.

Meanwhile, a representative from SWM said that they had received the report and would look into the matter soon.


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