Jumaat, 16 November 2012

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Israel authorises more reservists after rockets target cities

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 08:30 PM PST

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Cabinet authorised the mobilisation of up to 75,000 reservists late on Friday, preparing the ground for a possible Gaza invasion after Palestinians fired a rocket toward Jerusalem for the first time in decades.

Israeli soldiers prepare armoured personnel carriers (APC) at an area near the border with the Gaza Strip November 16, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli soldiers prepare armoured personnel carriers (APC) at an area near the border with the Gaza Strip November 16, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial centre, also came under rocket attack for the second straight day, in defiance of an Israeli air offensive that began on Wednesday with the declared aim of deterring Hamas from launching cross-border attacks that have plagued southern Israel for years.

Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for firing at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel said the rocket launched toward Jerusalem landed in the occupied West Bank, and the one fired at Tel Aviv did not hit the city. There were no reports of casualties.

The siren that sounded in Jerusalem stunned many Israelis. The city, holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, was last struck by a Palestinian rocket in 1970, and it was not a target when Saddam Hussein's Iraq fired missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a four-hour strategy session with a clutch of senior ministers in Tel Aviv on widening the military campaign, while other Cabinet members were polled by telephone on raising the mobilisation level.

Political sources said they decided to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75,000. The move did not necessarily mean all would be called into service.

Hours earlier, Egypt's prime minister, denouncing what he described as Israeli aggression, visited Gaza and said Cairo was prepared to mediate a truce.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on Friday, the White House said, while Obama's defence secretary, Leon Panetta, talked with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak.

Officials in Gaza said 29 Palestinians - 13 militants and 16 civilians, among them eight children and a pregnant woman - had been killed in the enclave since Israel began its air strikes. Three Israeli civilians were killed by a rocket on Thursday.

The Israeli military said 97 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel on Friday and 99 more were intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system. Dozens of Israeli bombing raids rocked the enclave, and one flattened the Gaza Interior Ministry building.

In a further sign Netanyahu might be clearing the way for a ground operation, Israel's armed forces announced that a highway leading to the territory and two roads bordering the enclave of 1.7 million Palestinians would be off-limits to civilian traffic.

Tanks and self-propelled guns were seen near the border area on Friday, and the military said it had already called 16,000 reservists to active duty.

Netanyahu is favoured to win a January national election, but further rocket strikes against Tel Aviv, a free-wheeling city Israelis equate with New York, and Jerusalem, which Israel regards as its capital, could be political poison for the conservative leader.

"The Israel Defence Forces will continue to hit Hamas hard and are prepared to broaden the action inside Gaza," Netanyahu said before the rocket attacks on the two cities.

Asked about Israel massing forces for a possible Gaza invasion, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, "The Israelis should be aware of the grave results of such a raid, and they should bring their body bags."


A solidarity visit to Gaza by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, whose Islamist government is allied with Hamas but also party to a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, had appeared to open a tiny window to emergency peace diplomacy.

Kandil said, "Egypt will spare no effort ... to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce."

But a three-hour truce that Israel declared for the duration of Kandil's visit never took hold.

Obama commended Egypt's efforts to help calm the Gaza violence in a call to Mursi on Friday, the White House said, and underscored his hope of restoring stability.

In a call with Netanyahu, Obama discussed options for "de-escalating" the situation, the White House said.

Obama "reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself, and expressed regret over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives," a statement on the call said.

Israel Radio's military affairs correspondent said the army's Homefront Command had told municipal officials to make civil defence preparations for the possibility that fighting could drag on for seven weeks. An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

The Gaza conflagration has stoked the flames of a Middle East already ablaze with two years of Arab revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to leap across borders.

It is the biggest test yet for Mursi, a veteran Islamist politician from the Muslim Brotherhood who was elected this year after protests ousted military autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are spiritual mentors of Hamas, yet Mursi has also pledged to respect Cairo's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, seen in the West as the cornerstone of regional security. Egypt and Israel both receive billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to underwrite their treaty.

Mursi has vocally denounced the Israeli military action, while promoting Egypt as a mediator, a mission that his prime minister's visit was intended to further.

A Palestinian official close to Egypt's mediators told Reuters Kandil's visit "was the beginning of a process to explore the possibility of reaching a truce. It is early to speak of any details or of how things will evolve".

Hamas fighters are no match for the Israeli military. The last Gaza war, involving a three-week long Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year period of 2008-2009, killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis died.

Tunisia's foreign minister was due to visit Gaza on Saturday "to provide all political support for Gaza," the spokesman for the Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone on Friday to the Israeli and Egyptian foreign ministers as well as Jordan's King Abdullah and planned to speak on Saturday with Qatar's prime minister, said a senior State Department official travelling with her in Singapore.

Clinton called the officials "in the hopes that they will use their leverage and influence with Hamas to get them to cease their attacks and then to bring about a de-escalation, where we can get to an end to the violence," the official said.

Hamas refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist. By contrast, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules in the nearby West Bank, does recognise Israel, but peace talks between the two sides have been frozen since 2010.

Abbas' supporters say they will push ahead with a plan to have Palestine declared an "observer state" rather than a mere "entity" at the United Nations later this month.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell and Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem and David Brunnstrom in Singapore, and Phil Stewart; Editing by Giles Elgood, Will Waterman and Peter Cooney)

Related Stories:
Obama and Netanyahu discuss ways to calm Gaza situation - White House

Israel cabinet authorises mobilisation of up to 75,000 reservists
Israel's Barak seeks three more Iron Dome rocket interceptors
Israel trying to undermine Palestinian U.N. move - Abbas
Thousands protest in Egypt against Israeli attacks on Gaza

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Argentina to argue debt repayments immune to U.S. law

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 05:06 PM PST

BUENOS AIRES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Argentina's government will tell a U.S. judge on Friday that sovereign debt repayments made outside the United States are immune to U.S. law and seizures by holdout bondholders, the South American country's state news agency reported.

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner responds to a question from a member of the audience at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner responds to a question from a member of the audience at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Argentina is fighting an October ruling by a U.S. federal appeals court that would force the government to pay holdout creditors holding bonds that have been in default since 2002. It is due to present papers by midnight.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York last month ruled that Argentina discriminated against bondholders who refused to take part in two debt restructurings as the nation tried to recover from a $100 billion (63 billion pounds) default a decade ago.

The ruling sparked fears that U.S. courts could ultimately inhibit debt payments to creditors who accepted terms of the restructuring, out of consideration for investors who rejected Argentina's terms at the time.

This would trigger a technical default.

The appeals court, however, referred the case back to the U.S. District Court to address the technical questions of just how debt payments would be calculated and how to treat the involvement of third-party banks such as Bank of New York Mellon, which act as transfer agents for money owed to exchange bondholders.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said recently her country will not pay "one dollar to the vulture funds," her term for the holdout investors who buy distressed or defaulted debt and then sue in international courts to get paid in full. Fernandez has vowed to keep making payments to other creditors.

State news agency Telam said the government would argue that the repayments were "immune to U.S. law" because "the payment of creditors is conducted outside that country."

"When the money arrives in New York, it already belongs to the creditors, not to Argentina," it quoted an unnamed official source as saying.

Argentine bonds closed up 1 percent on average in over-the-counter trading in Buenos Aires on Friday, after accumulating a loss of 4.1 percent in the previous three sessions.

"The move by Argentina put a floor under debt prices, because if it works it could create a buying opportunity," said Ruben Pascuali, a trader at local brokerage Mayoral Bursatil.


Bank of New York Mellon, which transfers funds from the Argentine government to the country's bond holders, argued in a brief filed late on Friday to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa that it is not an agent of the Argentine government and maintains an "at arm's length" relationship.

The bank said its "duty of loyalty runs to the Exchange holders," that is, to enforce the rights of investors who exchanged their bonds in 2005 and 2010.

"Punishing an innocent third party to try to obtain compliance from an enjoined party goes beyond any legitimate purpose for contempt," BNY Mellon said.

The bank said it could be put between a rock and a hard place if Griesa rules they are to make payments to all parties but are prohibited because Argentina doesn't transfer any money through it.

"BNY Mellon will face a potential conflict between its obligations to Exchange Holders under the Indenture and its obligations to the Court," the bank argued.

In that case, the bank said, it needs guidance from the court on what its duties and responsibilities would be.

Ultimately, the bank wants the lower court's order from Griesa, which currently has all payments halted, to remain in place until the full appeals process has run its course.

That means after Griesa addresses the two technical questions set by the appeals court, BNY Mellon wants him to keep the payments frozen until the 2nd Circuit reviews and rules on his logic.

The deadline for parties to present their positions to Griesa is Friday at 11:59 p.m. EST (0459 GMT, Saturday). The judge is expected to make a speedy response given Argentina is due to start making $3.3 billion worth of payments to exchange bondholders starting December 2. Griesa's ruling will automatically return to the appeals court for review.

In a court filing this week, Elliott Management Corp's NML Capital Ltd and two Aurelius Capital Management funds urged Griesa to lift his February 23 stay on payments pending appeal.

October's ruling by the appeals court largely upheld injunctions issued in February by Griesa in favour of the holdouts, which own roughly $1.4 billion of defaulted debt.

The holdouts warned in their argument to Griesa that terms of the swapped Argentine bonds may allow the country to circumvent the United States by using subsidiaries in London and Luxembourg to make debt payments.


Weighing in on the arguments before the deadline were other transfer agents, holdout investors and exchange bond holders.

The Clearing House Association, a banking association and payments company, sent a letter directly to Griesa explaining that any order should not apply to beneficiary's banks, funds-transfer systems or other parties in a funds transfer.

The letter was obtained from a source with direct knowledge of the case. It argued the ruling would cause "disruption of payment systems and delays in processing legitimate payments" made by Argentine entities that have nothing to do with the case.

Law firm Duane Morris, representing roughly 100 mainly Italian holdout investors with approximately $165 million in principal and pre-judgement interest, sided with NML.

"Despite its proclaimed ability to pay, Argentina has steadfastly refused to make payments that are due under the defaulted bonds - even to the individuals who are not "vultures," Anthony Costantini, a lawyer with Duane Morris wrote in a brief to Griesa on Friday.

On the other side are bond holders who participated in the exchanges who urged that NML not be allowed to collect on its judgments.

Fintech Advisory Inc, a New York investment management firm that gave up $698.9 million of the $1.052 billion it was owed by Argentina during the two debt swaps, argued if the judge sided with the holdout bondholders, Argentina would be in breach of contracts with exchange bondholders like itself.

"There is no basis for any order to cause such a result," Fintech's lawyers wrote.

(Additional reporting by Jorge Otaola in Buenos Aires and Nate Raymond in New York; Writing by Helen Popper and Daniel Bases; editing by Theodore d'Afflisio, David Gregorio and Todd Eastham)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

American contractor jailed in Cuba sues U.S., employer for $60 million

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 04:50 PM PST

MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba after being convicted of crimes against the state sued the U.S. government and the company that hired him for $60 million (37.8 million pounds) on Friday, blaming them for his imprisonment and not warning him about the risks he faced in the communist-run island.

Alan Gross, 63, has been jailed in Cuba since December 3, 2009, and is serving a 15-year sentence for providing Internet gear to Cubans under a U.S. program that Cuba views as subversive.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Gross and his wife, Judy Gross, allege that his employer, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc, or DAI, and the U.S. government "failed to disclose adequately to Mr. Gross, both before and after he began travelling to Cuba, the material risks that he faced due to his participation in the project."

Gross, a long-time development worker, went to Cuba five times as a subcontractor for DAI, which had a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The suit also charges that DAI and the government "failed to take adequate measures" to train and protect Gross on his trips to Cuba, and that they "ignored Mr. Gross' repeated security concerns so that DAI could continue to generate significant revenue and the Government could continue to use Mr. Gross as a pawn in its overall Cuba policy initiatives."

The suit said that after his third trip, Gross wrote a memo stating that the Cuba project was "risky business in no uncertain terms. ... Detection usually means confiscation of equipment and arrest of users."

The suit specifically states that his employers failed to warn Gross about the "the techniques used by Cuban government intelligence," and "failed to conduct counterintelligence training for Mr. Gross."

The suit also accuses USAID of failing to follow "mandatory, internal directives" governing foreign travel "in connection with such projects, particularly to hostile countries like Cuba."

In a separate lawsuit against New Jersey-based Federal Insurance Co in Maryland District Court, Gross and his wife said FIS "has wrongfully refused benefits," under what the suit cited as "a wrongful detention" clause.

The Department of Justice did not respond to the lawsuit on Friday. "The case is being reviewed," said spokesman Charles Miller.

A spokesman for DAI said it was preparing a statement to be issued later on Friday. Federal Insurance Co, part of the Chubb insurance group, could not be reached for comment.

The U.S. government has said Gross should not be jailed for providing Internet access to Jews and has repeatedly demanded his release.

The case has put a hold on U.S.-Cuba relations that warmed slightly after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.


Since his detention, Gross' wife said he had lost 100 pounds (45 kg), was battling chronic arthritis pain and had what could be a cancerous tumour beneath his shoulder blade. Gross' daughter and elderly mother both have cancer.

"The tragedy faced by the Gross family is horrific," said Scott Gilbert, lead counsel of Gilbert LLP.

"What is mind-boggling is that this never should have come to pass. The destruction of this family is the direct result of a project approved, overseen and administered by DAI and our government that was flawed from conception and pursued with complete disregard for Mr. Gross' safety and well-being. It is an utter disgrace."

Gross was working in Cuba for a U.S.-funded program to promote political change by increasing Internet access and the flow of communications. Cuba views such programs as part of long-standing U.S. attempts to topple the island's communist government.

USAID has said that Gross' job was "simply facilitating Internet connectivity to the Cuban people so they could communicate with the rest of the world."

Cuba says Gross tried to keep his work undercover and was aware of its political aims, according to a leaked court document.

The court said it found evidence on flash drives and a computer confiscated during his arrest that Gross knew more than he admitted and took action to avoid detection, including using American tourists to bring Internet equipment to Cuba without telling them what it was for.

The gear included three satellite Internet terminals, or BGANs, along with BlackBerry phones, iPods and other electronics.

Information is tightly controlled on the Caribbean island, Internet use is limited and visitors are not allowed to carry satellite technology.

During his trial, Gross said: "I did nothing in Cuba that is not done on a daily basis in millions of homes and offices around the world. ... I am deeply sorry for being a trusting fool. I was duped, I was used."

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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Sachs and Krugman on global crisis

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:48 PM PST

Met up with two old friends during the past month.

Prof Jeffrey Sachs (pic) of Columbia University was back in Kuala Lumpur after a long absence as orator of the Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong Memorial Public Lecture at University of Malaya on Oct 23.

Besides being an old friend he was my freshie during our Ph.D studies at Harvard University in the late 70s Jeff is a fantastic and outstanding economist. Prior to moving to New York, Jeff spent over 20 years at Harvard (where he was appointed full professor of economics at 25, the youngest ever), most recently as director of the Centre for International Development and Galen Stone Professor of International Trade.

At Columbia, Jeff serves as director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy & Management. He is special advisor to United Nation secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals, having first held that position under his predecessor. He is co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, and a director of the Millennium Villages Project.

He authored three New York Times bestsellers. Sachs is widely considered as the world's leading expert on economic development and its fight against poverty. He was twice named among Time Magazine's 100 most influential world leaders and was called by The New York Times, "probably the most important economist in the world," and by Time Magazine, "the world's best known economist".

A recent survey by The Economist ranked Sachs among the world's three most influential economists of the past decade. His syndicated monthly newspaper column appears in more than 80 countries. For the past 25 years, Jeff has advised dozens of heads of state and governments on economic strategy in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Russia, Africa and the Middle East.

Prof Paul Krugman of Princeton University was back in Singapore to deliver the Sim Kee Boon Institute Public Lecture at Singapore Management University on Nov 7.

I last met Krugman formally about 10 years ago when I moderated a dialogue between him and Tun Dr Mahathir in Kuala Lumpur. When I reminded him of it, his immediate response was: "My God!" That was it. I had since met up with him on a few occasions in New York.

Krugman is one of the pre-eminent economists of our time, having won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his ground-breaking work on international trade and economic geography. For his early work, the American Economic Association awarded him its '91 John Bates Clark medal, given to the "economist under 40 who is adjudged to have made significant contribution to economic knowledge."

Today, he is best known worldwide as a regular op-ed columnist for The New York Times where he speaks the truth as he sees it; he calls a "spade a spade" often in the most blunt terms. I enjoy his works a lot.

The author (and editor) of more than 20 books, Krugman's most recent: "End This Depression Now!" is a call for action. In it, Krugman sends a convincing message to all who are affected by the recent Great Recession a quick, strong recovery is just a step away, he says: "if only our leaders can find the intellectual clarity and political will" to end the depression now. He is widely recognised as a pioneer in basic economic studies and founder of a groundbreaking new theory in international trade.

Sachs' public lecture was entitled Macroeconomic Challenges in the US, Europe and China. I had the distinct pleasure to introduce Sachs the man. Here's what I said: "In a nutshell, he is an outstanding economist; as a friend, he is a fantastic human being.

What is not reflected in the write-up, however, is Sachs' character and his colourful career I have always known Sachs to be never afraid of controversy.

Indeed, I think he welcomes it I recall him confronting European unions during the first oil shock in the 70s; facing angry New York bankers over his proposed "hair-cuts" amid the Latin American debt crisis in the 80s, and confronting fighting-fit Russian leftists when the USSR turned to become more capitalist.

That's the character of the man loves sinking his teeth into the heart of crises and sticking to his guns. When Sachs first published his book The End of Poverty in 2005, my friend Jared Diamond (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs And Steel) called Sachs "that rare phenomenon: an academic economist famous for his practical work in helping poor countries become richer ".

Sachs wrote yet another best-seller three years later. Last year, he wrote his most recent bestseller The Price of Civilisation.

By now, Sachs has become a seasoned author and a much sought after speaker, having matured in my view from an "accomplished academic economist" to a "wise problem-solver". Confucius describes wisdom as when you are aware of what you know and to maintain that you know it; and when you do not, to acknowledge your ignorance.

First, according to Confucius, a wise man reads and learns everything he can, and to suspend judgement when in doubt; is cautious in what he says.

In that way, his mistakes will be few. Second, a wise man widens his experience, but is bewarned of hazardous places and always gives heed to where he wanders. In that way, he will seldom have occasion for regret. Third, a wise man lets experience guide his words & actions. In that way, he let actions reinforce his words. That's the Sachs I know.

That's why you will find his latest book to be wise in the ways of the world; it's down to earth and realistic about life.

In it, Sachs warns that the United States is experiencing the greatest degree of inequality among high income democracies, where the top 1% of household takes almost one-quarter of all household income a share not seen since the 1920s.

The media has since picked this up under the caption: "the greedy 1% versus the hard-done-by 99%". This widening gap between the rich and the poor places Sachs once again at the very centre of controversy in the recent US election campaign.

His conclusion: the United States needs highly effective government in the era of globalisation. Put simply, the United States now need more government, not less. But he argues, government governance needs to be modernised and smart in order to be able to meet new challenges in an inter-connected world economy.

This remains hotly debated. But Sachs is a Confucian man of principle, who as one will always have something to say that is worth listening to; but men of words are not necessarily men of principle. He who cares for his fellowmen needs to be bold, but the bold may not necessarily care for their fellowmen. So, you have as your speaker this morning a bold and principled man, one who is not afraid to innovate and expose fresh ideas to back-up what he says.

For his many contributions as a Harvard alumni the Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Alumni Council, on which I was its chairman, awarded the Harvard Centennial Gold Medal to Sachs in 2007 for his many contributions for the betterment of mankind.

In Sachs' latest book, he talks about what Time Magazine now labels the "Screwed Generation," i.e. the young generation aged 35 and below who are screwed, not once, but thrice-over, whether they like it or not: first, their household income is down 68% from a quarter century ago; second their unemployment rate is 12%-14% in the United States (almost double the national average) compared with 50% in Spain and Greece, 35% in Italy and 22% in France and the United Kingdom, but well above 8% in Germany; and third, this "screwed generation" is now loaded with huge debts, handed-down by "senior boomers" to their offspring who will have to pay-it-off through higher taxes, less infrastructure and social spending, and the prospect of painfully slow growth. Let me introduce Prof Jeff Sachs who will tell you more about how "screwed" the world is today; and about the "never-had-it-so-bad" toxic legacy of the "screwed generation".

Sach's focus

At the public lecture and the private lunch thereafter, Sachs made a number of points that are of public interest:

● On Keynesian theory resorting to fiscal deficits to stimulate growth, he said: "I don't think it would work and I don't think it has worked. We should make our economic policies with a 10-year horizon, not a three-month horizon. We should ask ourselves what kind of investment, education and environmental management we want. Then, we will end up closer to where we want to be";

● On quantitative easing, Sachs said: "Short-term financial stimulus is dangerous because "the overhang of bad debts is unpayable";

● Sachs attributes the current crisis to high fiscal debts in the high income nations. "We don't have a global crisis. We have a world that is operating at these two-speeds; slow in the high income world and rather fast in the developing countries." So the gap is narrowing, but the ride towards convergence is bumpy because adjustments in the United States and Europe to this reality have not been smooth: "This is the legacy of tax cuts, social spending cuts, lack of investment in infrastructure, training and regulation."

● US created a housing bubble which went bust in 2007, making unemployment miserable: "The Federal Government has put interest rates to near zero; but none of it works. The only thing we haven't tried is a structural look at our situation. It would require raising taxes, and ready access to quality education is the ticket for the lower and middle income classes to move upwards."

● "The situation in Europe is much more complicated because it has a shared currency But Northern Europe is doing well."

● China will grow financially in the next 20 years its biggest crisis is environmental. The slowdown in China is due to the massive catch-up"; and

● Sachs expressed reservations on Malaysia's Lynas rare-earth processing project (to both Prime Minister and MPs in Parliament) stating its national value added appears marginal amid safety & environmental concerns. Krugman, the liberal

At the public lecture entitled Global Economic Outlook: Preventing the Next Economic Crisis, Krugman spent much time tracing the key causes of the crisis, concluding that although the United States has some of the tools needed to avert another crisis, they are still not ready enough to prevent the next crisis; but would make sense to be better prepared to deal with it when it does come. "A lot more needs to be done." Some of his thoughts bear repeating:

●The crisis had its roots both in banking and the massive household debt. The advent of "shadow" banking involving entities such as hedge funds, private equity, insurance companies, etc, not classified as banks but functioning like banks, had rendered regulation ineffective.

● The 10 Dodd-Frank regulations lack the needed punch to do the job. Krugman says: "The rules lack clarity (and required) more mechanical definitions of what constitutes a regulated financial institution."

● New regulations lacked effective resolution authority; "systematically important institutions" are poorly identified (you only know it when you see it); derivatives need to be better and smarter regulated; and consumer protection has yet to be fully worked out.

● Much of real estate household debt would need to be "forgiven." At the private lunch, Krugman (clearly a President Barack Obama's supporter, couldn't hold back his great delight on an "amazing victory") counselled Obama to use his new mandate to "hang tough" on the looming fiscal cliff (a self-imposed deadline involving US$600bil of spending cuts and higher taxes early in 2013 if there is no deal to fix the budget deficit), which could push the United States back into recession: "No deal is better than a bad deal."

What, then, are we to do?

We heard the views of two big guns they don't come any bigger. Their concern is centred on a possible global double-dip recession. For all practical purposes, the eurozone is already in recession (gross domestic product: -0.1% in the fourth quarter from -0.2% in the second quarter).

Industrial production dropped the most in more than three years in September (-2.5% for 17-nation eurozone), led by a 12.6% fall in Ireland, 12% in Portugal, 2.1% in Germany and 2.7% in France. If there is no deal to resolve the fiscal cliff, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the US economy to contract by 0.5% next year.

As a senior CEO stated at the recent US Business Roundtable: they're playing with nitroglycerin. "It could turn into a conflagration." All this uncertainty continues to hold back the economy. As I see it, it's not a fiscal crisis, it's a political crisis brought on by the United States and European politicians' intransience, taking the world economy "hostage". The consequence: back into recession. When will they ever learn?

Former banker, the writer is a Harvard educated economist and a British Chartered scientist who speaks, writes and consults on economic and financial issues. Feedback is most welcome; email: starbizweek@thestar.com.my.


Fifty shades of green

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:45 PM PST

THE proverbial grass is always greener on the other side.

A friend of mine recently had her visa to the United States rejected. After having studied, worked and lived in California for a couple years, some complications with immigration meant she had to be sent back here on the next flight home.

No need to go into specifics, but a sudden rule change essentially scuppered her long-term arrangements.

Several options were presented to her: bribery (too risky), fake marriage (too lengthy and elaborate) and finally, resignation, for it was easier to stay on the right side of the law than to beat the system.

Meanwhile, which Malaysian hasn't heard of a pal or relative who wanted to or has made the one-way trip Down Under?

Another friend, during her final year of study in south Australia, discovered that her degree no longer qualified her for permanent residence.

What she had to do then, after completing her first degree, was enrol in another course of study, one that would not have been her first choice had the circumstances not demanded it.

Such are the vagaries of being a stranger in a strange land.

It was a fascinating contrast when several Singaporean friends visited Malaysia.

One of them had a fondness for 1Utama that surprised me.

How could it stack up to the steel-and-glass sparkle of Orchard Road or the alfresco, nook-and-cranny charm of Haji Lane?

I asked an acquaintance who lives in Jurong about the new JCube mall there, its key feature being an ice skating rink. He retorted, "No way, Sunway Pyramid's is much better and larger!" and went on to gush about how spacious Pavilion was.

This is the same guy who makes it a habit to pick up the newspapers whenever he is in town because the local press is so "interesting".

I'm very lucky to live across from this hilly green patch, which my parents fondly refer to as "no man's land".

As I write this, dusk is falling and the rain-soaked evening air sends a soft breeze through the trees and leaves, and the grass - well, it was the perfect shade of green.


Canada says needs foreign investment, still discussing policy

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:45 PM PST

Published: Saturday November 17, 2012 MYT 10:45:00 AM

NEW YORK: Canada needs foreign capital to develop its oil sands and is in the "middle" of discussions on how to approach foreign takeover bids such as that by China's CNOOC for oil and gas producer Nexen, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday.

"It's clear that the amount of investment required to develop the oil sands and other resources in Canada exceeds the amount of capital within Canada, so it's inevitable that there will be substantial direct foreign investment in Canada. The question then is what form does that take," Flaherty told reporters after giving a speech in New York.

Flaherty repeated that the government would issue a new foreign investment policy framework in the not-too-distant future. He said he did not know whether that announcement would be simultaneous with decisions on Nexen and on Malaysian state-run Petronas' bid for Progress Energy Resources Corp. - Reuters


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Golf: Stenson takes lead in SA Open second round

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:55 PM PST

EKURHULENI, South Africa: It was a Swedish affair at the SA Open at the 72-par Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Friday with Henrik Stenson leading as lightning interrupted play early.

His countryman Magnus A Carlsson finished second with an unconfirmed nine-under-par 135 and is tied with Thursday's leader Merrick Bremner from South Africa, currently nine under par having played 32 holes.

Former world number four Stenson was pleased after sinking three consecutive birdies from holes 15 to 17, having teed off on the 10th. "I made a little bit of a trembling start. I made five pars - nothing great the first couple of holes," he said.

"That kind of jump started my day, those three birdies," he added.

Still recovering from jet lag after his airplane only arrived in South Africa on Tuesday, he nevertheless birdied two more on the first and third to have five-under par after 12 holes.

"I went to bed at midnight last night, and woke up at 1:40 am (2340 GMT), so I guess the body thought it was a bit of an afternoon kip," he laughed.

"I slept another couple of hours, so I don't know what time of day it is, really."

The Swede has used drivers effectively, a new tactic in his play this year.

"I've hit some really good tee balls, and on this course, if you can fly it 280 or 290 metres, then you can take a lot of bunkers out of play and end up going in with a gap wedge instead of a seven-iron.

It's a huge advantage - there are probably seven or eight holes where it makes a difference."

Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters Champion, meanwhile still contends for the lead at the Jack Niklaus signature course in Ekurhuleni east from Johannesburg.

The South African was six under par after playing 32 holes when heavy thunderstorms typical of the plateau rolled in.

The area lies around 1,750 metres (5,740) feet above sea level.

Norway's Espen Kofstad was also on his heels, with five under par after 33 holes, and German Martin Kaymer, currently fifth in the Race to Dubai, four under par after 32 holes.

Play was suspended and will resume on Saturday 07:30 local time (0930 GMT), while the third round will tee off on two tees at 10:30 (0830 GMT). - AFP

Yachting: Sail around the world on your sofa

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 04:18 PM PST

PARIS: Hundreds of thousands of internet gamers are currently up at all hours as they take part in a virtual version of the ultimate endurance sailing experience, the round-the-world single-handed yacht race the Vendee Globe.

The non-stop race runs from November to February and over 300,000 have signed up for the second version of the virtual version of the four-yearly event at www.virtualregatta.com.

As the real contenders embarked from France's west coast last Saturday racing full speed ahead toward the Cape of Good Hope, the gamers were able to measure themselves against their heroes using options like constant weather reports and sail changes either for free or for a small fee with added options such as a GPS.

"It's fun, you can be grounded, turn back or come to a virtual standstill. But unlike the real skippers you don't run the real risk of colliding with a trawler," explained Louis Andre, product manager at Players, the company that established the game in 2006.

"Our aim was to get people into sailing in big numbers. It seems to have worked," he said.

While on-line racers can count amongst their number two-time winner of the real race, Michel Desjoyeaux, around half the competitors have never set foot onboard a yacht. - AFP

Rugby: Samoa shock Wales in Cardiff

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:59 PM PST

CARDIFF, United Kingdom: Samoa produced another memorable victory in Cardiff as Wales slumped to their fifth successive defeat, losing 26-19 to the south sea islanders in Friday's one-off Test match.

Fa'atoina Autagavaia, George Pisi and Johnny Leota all crossed as the Six Nations champions suffered a similar fate to their predecessors. Memories of famous World Cup shocks from 1991 and 1999 came flooding back as the ferocious tackling and clinical finishing of the visitors rocked hosts Wales.

But unlike those wins of the past, this was far les of a surprise given the mess Welsh rugby suddenly finds itself in following three losses in Australia and defeat last week to Argentina.

Ashley Beck's interception try before half-time handed Wales a 13-7 lead and appeared to have settled home nerves after falling behind to an early try only for second-half scores from Pisi and Leota wrapped up a deserved victory for the Pacific islanders.

Samoa made a dream start with a try little more than a minute into the game that stunned the 44,000 crowd at the Millennium Stadium.

Number 8 Taisasina Tuifu'a made yards after breaking through in midfield. Fly-half Pisi was quick to spread the attack wide where Paul Williams and George Pisi combined to hand full-back Autagavaia a straight-forward finish from close range.

Pisi converted for an early 7-0 lead that was almost stretched further only for the fly-half's penalty to struck the post.

Samoa lived up to their reputation as fearsome tacklers and Wales hooker Richard Hibbard was the first to take the full brunt of the south sea islanders, forced off after just 18 minutes.

It summed up an uncomfortable opening for the hosts who were still reeling from their defeat to Argentina six days earlier.

Wales slowly regained their composure as Halfpenny cut the deficit to a single point with two penalties while Pisi missed a second effort.

Just a minute later and another mistake by Pisi led to Wales taking the lead through Beck.

Samoa were full of ambition as they pressed forward but Pisi's arching pass intended for his brother was easily telegraphed by the Welsh centre who galloped 70 metres up field to score his team's first try of the autumn series.

Samoa ended the half with a Pisi penalty and wasted no time in regaining the lead after half-time with a second try.

Ashley Beck was robbed of possession and Kahn Fotuali'i turned defence into attack, skipping past Jamie Roberts before Pisi finished acrobatically in the corner with a superb piece of individual skill to touch down in mid-air.

Pisi missed the conversion before exchanging a series of kicks with Halfpenny as the lead changed hands five times during the second half.

Leading 21-19, Samoa repelled a rare attack by Wales who, for the second week in a row, failed to show any threat with the ball.

Instead it was Samoa who had the final say when David Lemi kicked ahead, Halfpenny and Autagavaia both missed the bouncing ball to leave replacement Leota to touch down for the match-winning try two minutes from time. - AFP

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Penang Hill funicular service to be fully restored Saturday

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:56 AM PST

Published: Friday November 16, 2012 MYT 10:56:00 PM

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Hill funicular railway service which was disrupted Thursday, is expected to be fully restored Saturday.

Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) general manager Maklen Ali said the disruption was due to a minor technical hitch, forcing the train to move slower than usual.

"The train neither encountered any serious malfunction nor stopped midway," he said, regretting a report in an English language daily which stated that some passengers were trapped inside the coach as the doors failed to open.

"There was no such incident and the train was actually moving to its destination, but at a speed of 20 minutes, as compared to the normal seven minutes," he told reporters here Friday.

Maklen expressed PHC's apologies to affected passengers, adding that more than 1,300 Penang Hill visitors were shuttled down by the train by 11.30 last night. - Bernama

Businessman gunned down in heated argument at restaurant

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 06:14 AM PST

TAPAH: A businessman was gunned down while embroiled in a heated argument with a group of men at a restaurant in Jalan Tapah Thursday night.

S. Manivannan, 37, who was shot by two gunmen, succumbed to wounds in the abdomen at 12.15 Friday morning, several minutes after he was warded at the Tapah Hospital.

The gunmen, armed with automatic pistols, fled the scene in a white Perodua MyVi car.

Tapah police deputy chief DSP Abdullah Arshad said, five men were detained to facilitate investigations into the murder of the victim who dealt in heavy machinery hire-purchase.

He said the suspects, aged between 20 and 35, were remanded for a week.

Abdullah said Manivannan, from Kampung Baru, Ayer Kuning was believed to have met a group of men at the restaurant before a heated quarrel broke out.

Meanwhile, the police have sought K. Vimalan, 33, and S. Visnu, 27, to shed light on the killing.

They were last known to have resided at No: B8, Jalan Temoh, Chenderong and No: 40, Jalan Manggis, Taman Kampar Jaya, respectively.

Describing the duo as armed and dangerous, Abdullah said initial investigations had revealed they were involved in a spate of robberies and drug-related crimes.

He urged those with information on the killing to contact investigating officer ASP Mohd Nasri Fadzir at 05-4015222. Bernama

S’gor govt asked for Selayang council president’s transfer, says Chief Secretary

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 05:51 AM PST

PUTRAJAYA: The termination of the secondment of Datuk Zainal Abidin A'ala as the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) president, which took effect Thursday, was made upon a request from the Selangor government, said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa.

He said he was informed by the Selangor State Secretary, through a letter dated Oct 15, 2012, that Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim had decided that another officer should replace Zainal Abidin.

"Taking into account the decision made by the Selangor Mentri Besar and the local authority, the Public Service Department (PSD) had on Nov 6 issued a letter of approval for the proposed termination of secondment of Zainal Abidin as MPS president effective Nov 15, 2012.

"The transfer letter for Zainal Abidin was issued on Nov 9, stating that he would be transferred to the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) effective Nov 15, 2012 in line with the request from the Selangor government," he told reporters here Friday.

Zainal Abidin's sudden transfer to Intan had sparked controversy as it was said to have been connected to a 29-storey condominium project next to Batu Caves, Selangor.

Dr Ali said in order to fill the vacant top post at the council, the PSD had submitted the names of 14 suitable candidates for the Selangor government's consideration, but it was learnt that the Selangor government already had their preferred candidate.

Related Stories:
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Selayang councillors object to transfer of president
Kamalanathan gives exco member ultimatum to apologise
Stop speculation on condo plans until probe is over, urges Khalid

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We Are Anonymous is probably the scariest book you'll read

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 04:37 AM PST

We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency
Author: Parmy Olson
Publisher: Little, Brown, 498 pages

WE Are Anonymous is probably the scariest book you'll read in 2012. Parmy Olson's book on the faceless, amorphous Internet collective is enough to make you distrust your own passwords – a well-founded fear these days when news of hacking, data theft and destruction of people's digital lives are increasingly creeping into the headlines.

But, as the subtitle says, this book is more about the rise and fall of LulzSec, the hacker group that claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile hackings in the past several years.

LulzSec's leap into notoriety began with the failed attempts to infiltrate Anonymous by cybersecurity firm HBGary Federal's former CEO Aaron Barr. It was only after several members of Anonymous locked him out of his social media accounts and published his e-mails did he realise he either needed a much bigger boat and harpoon ... or easier prey. Barr resigned, and HBGary Federal is now defunct.

We do get a peek into the underbelly of the Internet where groups such as Anonymous lurk. But as the book progresses, the focus shifts to LulzSec. We see this group break away from Anonymous and, through acts of digital theft and vandalism aided by hackers outside LulzSec, help establish the myth of Anonymous as a world-shifting underground movement – until a combination of hubris, dissent and betrayal brought it down. A handy timeline of events is available in the book for reference.

Olson's research is voluminous, as the end notes testify. However, I wasn't quite as awed by Anonymous's role in the "global cyber insurgency" (which, so far, hasn't lived up to the hype) as I was overwhelmed by its potential to cause havoc in our online lives (as well as by the wealth of computer jargon within).

One comes away with a very grim outlook of the future of computer security.

It may not be Olson's intent, but this book makes it hard to see members of Anonymous, LulzSec and other similar groups as anything but selfish, self-aggrandising, amoral and extremely computer-savvy miscreants who amuse themselves by hacking into systems, stealing data, and messing with the lives of others. One example is "William", a hacker who, among other things, duped some Facebook users into giving him nude photos of themselves.

And these people are among those whom former LulzSec member Topiary claims "owns" the Internet: "The Internet belongs to the trolls and the hackers, the extremists and the enthusiasts; it will never cease to be this way," he wrote in a "missive" published near the end of this book. Which includes everything that the rest of us puts on the Web, one presumes, and if these guys want to mess around with all that, there is, apparently, nothing the rest of us can do about it.

My blood runs cold thinking about that.

It's said that one is more likely to die in a road accident than be attacked by a shark. Thousands pass their days online without incident, so one shouldn't be unduly worried. Olson, arguably though, makes it very, very hard to keep calm and go online.

Of zombies, angels and clones

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 04:37 AM PST

Author: Darren Shan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster,
224 pages

THIS new series explores the phenomenon of an impending zombie apocalypse from the first-hand viewpoint of a teen trying to grow up while the undead are slowly, but surely, rising in his world.

This is the first of a planned 12-book series featuring teenager B. Smith.

Author: 50 Cent
Publisher: Razorbill,
314 pages

LOOSELY based on his own experiences during his adolescent years, this story was written by American rapper 50 Cent with his own 14-year-old son in mind.

The plot revolves around bullied 13-year-old Butterball, who – being the subject of incessant teasing regarding his weight – turns into a bully himself.

After an incident puts a boy in hospital, Butterball is sent to detention where he is forced to speak to a therapist about the problems that have made him who he is.

Through dialogue-driven prose as well as photos and drawings, teen readers will be drawn through a very visual telling of Butterball's story and how he got to this troubled point in life. Angel Dust

Angel Dust
Author: Sarah Mussi
Publisher: Hot Key Books,
387 pages

WHAT happens when angels fall in love? Does it mean they fall from grace as well?

Serafina, the angel of death, faces this dilemma when she is smitten by Marcus Montague, a man whose soul she has been sent to retrieve.

Montague is a young "gangsta" but with a true heart that Serafina discerns and strives to protect.

Defying her orders, she requests for an extension on Montague's life to avoid claiming his soul. Which of course leads to unfathomable consequences – breaking the rules set by heaven is one thing, having to deal with the dire repercussions is another matter.

Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young
Readers, 336 pages

TEENAGE romances are complicated enough without waking up in a different body every morning ...

A is neither male not female, white nor black, gay nor straight because every day, A is a different person. It's a difficult way to live, as you can imagine, but A makes do, having learnt not to connect with anyone, not to make friends or an emotional investment in another human being. But then, A wakes up as teenager Justin one morning and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon – and all of A's careful survival strategies go out the window.

How do you get someone to fall in love with you when you're different every day? Scrawl

Author: Mark Shulman
Publisher: Square Fish,
240 pages

THIS book focuses on the story of a bully that is written in the style of journal entries.

Guidance counsellor Mrs Woodrow makes Todd Munn pen down his thoughts during his daily stints in detention and what emerges are the motives, intentions and circumstances that arouses a need in him to bully others.

Mrs Woodrow is convinced that Munn is just playing at being a bully and that his heart is not really in it when he hurts his peers – but is she just being naive?

Even if she's right, can Todd stop his violent tendencies before they become who he really is permanently?

The Raft
Author: S.A. Bodeen
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends,
240 pages

TEENAGER Robie Mitchell is no stranger to travelling across oceans. She pays regular visits to her aunt in Honolulu, taking flights from the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times before.

Nevertheless when the plane Mitchell is on this time round crashes, she finds a new experience in having to survive adrift on a raft with nothing to eat but a bag of Skittles and no one to talk to but a despondent fellow survivor.

The story lets readers into the scared mind of a 15-year-old who just wants to make it home alive, despite the odds.

Author: Rachel Cohn
Publisher: Hyperion Book,
336 pages

ARTIFICIALLY created in a laboratory, Elysia is a 16-year-old human clone. She is an empty vessel devoid of life experiences and her only purpose is to live in servitude to the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on Earth.

Then she begins to sense a stirring conscience within her, something that the clones of Demesne are not supposed to possess.

If anyone finds out that Elysia is no longer an unfeeling clone, she will face an unimaginable fate ...

This YA sci-fi novel is the first in a series by bestselling author Rachel Cohn.

Glee's Chris Colfer can also write

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 04:32 AM PST

The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell
Author: Chris Colfer
Publisher: Little, Brown/Hachette, 438 pages

WE all know that Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel on the television show Glee, can sing, dance and act. With his new young adult book, The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell now out, the question is, can he also write?

Following current trends in YA authorship, Colfer's story embraces those traditional and familiar fairy tales like Snow White, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood, among others, and gives them a twist of his own.

The Land Of Stories is about the adventures of 12-year-old twins Alex and Conner Bailey. Alex is the smart one, who is trying vainly not to be viewed as a teacher's pet by her peers, while Conner is the fun-loving, mischievous one, who doesn't really pay too much attention in class.

Fairy tales have always been a big part of their lives, with their favourite memories consisting of trips to their grandmother's cottage in the mountains, where their grandmother and grandfather would take turns making their grandmother's book of fairy tales come alive through their animated storytelling.

But things change when they lose their father in a car accident; Their mother, a nurse, has to work very hard to keep the family afloat, and they've had to move away from their beloved home.

Then strange things start to happen when their grandmother pays them an unexpected visit on their 12th birthday, and gives them her old book of fairy tales. The book turns out to be some sort of portal, and the twins accidentally fall through it – right into the Land of Stories, where all the fairy tales live.

Wanting to get home, the twins start a quest to find eight rare items that make up the legendary Wishing Spell, which will grant any wish to the person who has all the items.

Their journey takes them through the various fairy-tale kingdoms where they encounter characters like Goldilocks, a fierce outlaw on the run, a crush-obsessed Red Riding Hood, a kind, but troubled Sleeping Beauty, and more than one Prince Charming!

The search is made more difficult as they also have to race against the Huntsman's daughter, who has been commanded by the Evil Queen, Snow White's stepmother, to gather those very same items for the queen's own Wishing Spell.

All in all, the story is a good debut effort. The writing is not perfect, especially the dialogue where the twins seem far older than their age, and speak far more formally than regular people do in casual conversation.

You can also see how Colfer's TV experiences have influenced his writing, as some sections of his book seem more suitable to a larger-than-life screenplay, rather than a prose fiction.

A few of the "original" ideas expanding on familiar fairy-tale characters, like Snow White and the Evil Queen, are not so original any more, considering the number of books and television shows revolving around fairy tales that have come our way of late.

The beginning is also too preachy for my liking, as it practically shoves down the reader's throat the idea that fairy tales are the panacea to the world's ills.

However, as far as books go, The Land Of Stories is a fairly entertaining read, with good reimaginings of popular fairy tale characters and their current kingdoms (or queendoms, as most of them are).

And considering the revelations in the ending, it looks like this might be the first book in a series set in this land.

A decent YA book revolving around fairytales, which I would suggest for the precocious story-loving tween in your life.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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New meters cause electric bills to rocket

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 04:01 AM PST

PUCHONG residents are crying foul after noticing an unwanted increase in utility fees after Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) replaced their old meters.

As a result, TNB recently set up a service counter at the Taman Kinrara Section 3 morning market to listen to residents' problems.

Puchong Prima resident Koo Hian Wah, 37, said she was relieved when the TNB officers finally agreed to check on her meter.

"The monthly estimate electric bill was just around RM200 when I moved in but it later surged to RM500 per month," she said, adding that the problem surfaced after TNB replaced her electricity meter.

"I was frustrated to be pushed around when I made complaints to TNB Subang Jaya branch recently. TNB officers said they would check the meter on Monday and I hope they will resolve this quickly," she added.

Another resident Habibah Baba, 53, said she immediately enquired about the overcharges after she noticed an increase in her electricity bill.

"I was shocked to receive an estimate bill of RM300 the previous month as the average amount is just around RM120," she said.

"The officers have explained to me about the charging system and I understand it better now," she said, adding that she was unaware that the bill was just an estimate. TNB Subang Jaya area manager Zainal Ujang and customer service manager S. Thevarajan were also present to facilitate the session.

Puchong MCA chairman and Kinrara state liaison officer Datuk Wong Hock Aun said the service counter had helped the residents resolve the sudden increase charges.

"We received a lot of complaints from Puchong and Kinrara residents after TNB replaced their meters from January to July this year," he said.

"This is the first time TNB Subang Jaya has this kind of service counter in the area.

"Those who could not make it today can forward their complaints to the TNB Subang Jaya branch. I have also suggested to TNB Subang Jaya to open a special counter just to deal with residents having hefty bills," he said.

Meanwhile, Wong also said that the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) 2.0 mobile service station located nearby had received good response from residents.

"There have been more than 400 applicants who came to the station," he said.

"Those unable to go to the mobile station can register at the Pusat Bandar Puchong morning market on Nov 17," he said, adding that the applicants should bring along the relevant documents to apply.

For enquiries, call Puchong MCA secretary Liew Yew Fook at 016-205 7707.

Metro Watch

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 03:55 AM PST


The Children for Child Protection Forum and Exhibition will be held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Nov 18 from 9am to 5pm. The exhibition theme is 'Be the Change. Speak Up' and will feature informative and interactive demonstrations, storytelling, games, video presentations, talks and other activities. Free admission for exhibition while forum is for participants aged 10 to 17. For more information, visit www.facebook/childline159999 or www.simedarby.com/csr


Prince Court Medical Centre is organising a free BP and glucose check together with free consultation by Consultant Endocrinologist and Internal Medicine, Dr Norshinah Dato' Kamarudin from 2pm to 3pm (Nov 26, 28 and 30) and 10am to 11am (Nov 27 and 29). There will also be cooking and insulin pen demo from Nov 26 to 30, 12.30pm to 1pm. For registration, please call 603-21600000 ext 1102 (Shazana), or 1720 (Customer Relations counter).


A "Internet and Cell Phone safety - It's a Family Matter Talk" will be held at Wisma MCA Auditorium, Jalan Ampang on Nov 18 from 8pm to 9.30pm. Interested parents and children age 12 and above can register at www.internetncellphonesafetyadams.eventzilla.net. Free admission. Call 012-3973304 (Kent) for details.


Shelter Home for Children is having their annual sale of desk top calendars, drawn by the Shelter's residents with the theme "Children — Leaders of tomorrow". Each calendar is going for RM10 a piece. Forfurther informationdetails, call 03-79550663 (Roland/Edwin), e-mail jallehshelter@gmail.com or visit www.shelterhome.org


An art exhibition featuring six Malaysian artists' interpretation of the meaning of "rezeki" will be held at Galeri Chandan Publika, Publika Shopping Gallery starting now until Dec 10. Artists include Aznan Omar, Elias Yamani Ismail, Nuriman Amri, Raduan Man and Yusri Sulaiman. For details, call 03-62015360 (Hasni/Harni).


A "Writing Creatively" workshop conducted by writer and actor Kee Thuan Chye will be held at the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) Centre, Petaling Jaya on Nov 27 and 28 from 9am to 5pm. For details, please call 03-79572818 or 016-2233563 (Sia) or Email: cee@utar.edu.my


A Participatory Design, Responsive Architecture lecture conducted by award winning architect Gregory Burgess will be held at Shalini Ganendra Fine Art @ Gallery Residence on Dec 6 at 6pm. Email to sgfa88@gmail.com by Dec 2 for registration. Call 03-79604740 for details. Free admission.


The 1Malaysia Healthy Foot & Spine Carnival will be held at Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya from Dec 28 to January 1, 2013 and entrance is free. Free foot, spine and diabetes screening as well as foot-type determination sessions is available. For details, call 017-2196329 (Nadia).

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