Selasa, 20 November 2012

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Sesame puppeteer resigns, sex claims 'distraction'

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 04:49 PM PST

NEW YORK: The puppeteer behind the beloved "Sesame Street" character Elmo has resigned following allegations that he had sexual relationships with underage teens.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Kevin Clash said he was leaving the popular US children's television show after nearly three decades with a "heavy heart," but needed to settle the allegations against him "privately."

Sesame Workshop, which produces the show, said the controversy swirling around the 52-year-old Clash had become a "distraction" that could not be overcome, calling it "a sad day for Sesame Street."

Last week, Clash - who is openly gay - took a leave of absence from the show after a man said the pair had had sex several years ago, when the accuser was only 16 - a claim Clash firmly denied. The man later dropped the claim.

But on Tuesday, celebrity website reported that a second man, identified as Cecil Singleton, had filed a lawsuit claiming the pair had a relationship when he was under the age of consent.

"Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants," Sesame Workshop said, adding that Clash "has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned."

"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential," it said.

"Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization."

In a separate statement, Clash said: "I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart."

"Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer," he added in the statement sent by his publicist Risa Heller.

"I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."

Last week, Clash admitted he had had a relationship with the first accuser, but insisted it occurred after the man had turned 17. Later, the accuser's lawyers issued a statement saying it was an "adult consensual relationship."

Clash was the subject of last year's "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," a documentary narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. He has won multiple Emmy awards.

"Sesame Street," which first appeared on public television in November 1969, teaches children the basics of reading, writing and counting.

Sesame Workshop said last week that the controversy surrounding Clash would not have an impact on the show, or its furry red star.

"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world," it said. - AFP

Argentina scores double at International Emmys

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 04:47 PM PST

NEW YORK: The International Emmy Awards went to TV shows from half a dozen countries, although South America had the most success with Argentina and Brazil snaring two each.

Alan Alda, the star of "M*A*S*H," a long-running comedy series about Korean War combat doctors, and Norman Lear, the pioneering creator of the edgy 1970s comedy "All in the Family," were also honored with the special International Arts & Sciences' Founders Award at Monday night's ceremony in New York.

Britain, often the dominant player at the annual awards, which recognize excellence in television outside of the United States, took the documentary category with "Choosing to Die," about assisted suicide, and the TV movie/mini series category with "Black Mirror."

But the stand-out victor was "Television por la Inclusion," an Argentine drama about gritty social issues that won Cristina Banegas the best actress prize for her role as a struggling mother, and Dario Grandinetti the best actor award for his portrayal of a xenophobic taxi driver. It was the first time a single show won in both categories.

Brazil also snagged two prizes, one for comedy with "The Invisible Woman" and another for the best telenovela, "The Illusionist."

The ceremony also saw Australia get the reality TV prize for "The Amazing Race Australia," France win best drama prize for "Braquo season 2," and Germany the outstanding arts programming with "Songs of War." - AFP

Power play

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:35 AM PST

Homeland gets even more intriguing in its second season.

DID anyone remember to breathe when watching Homeland's First Season finale? (Spoiler alert ahead ...) In that episode, everything comes to a head as Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) – who has strapped himself to a suicide vest bomb – enters a safe room and is ready to detonate the bomb.

In this scene, Lewis gives a splendid performance, definitely deserving of the Emmy he won recently, as he conveys the character's doubt and determination all at the same time.

With the season ending on such a high note, two questions now arise: can it continue at the same pace in the Second Season, and what exactly can the writers do to up the ante?

The answer to the first question is, the new season picks up right from the get-go, practically sprinting with every new episode as it throws twists, drama, political intrigue and fleshed-out characters all wrapped up in amazing scriptwriting and performances.

Homeland is now halfway through the second season, and it has yet to let up on the intensity.

In the First Season's finale, Brody comes out of the suicide plan alive but pays a steep price for his last-minute decision. Meanwhile, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) – a CIA agent with bipolar disorder – makes the decision to get medical treatment for her condition after everyone turns their back on her and her theories.

In the Second Season opener, Mathison's condition has improved, thanks to her treatment, and she is doing more normal stuff (Mathison gardening? Really?). Only a shade of the old Mathison is present and she gets her groove back when she is presented with undeniable evidence that Brody is actually working for the terrorists.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you up the ante in a series that is already taking all sorts of risks. What is more, before you can say "let's surveil this guy", Mathison is already putting handcuffs on Brody in a hotel room.

This is also when the series turns up the thrills a notch higher by introducing an equally dedicated (and kind of crazed) CIA agent, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). His interrogation methods are even more intense than Jack Bauer of 24.

The violent exchanges between Quinn and Brody set up the scene nicely when Mathison takes over the questioning. Mathison – who has never had much control in the past when it comes to Brody – manages to bring down the walls the latter has built with just words and simple gestures. The moment she gets through to him is also when the audience realises the truth.

One would think that the truth would set Brody free. Well, in a world where terrorism and the CIA are involved, the truth only seems to bind him even more. With a threat hanging over his head, Brody has no choice but to become a double agent. Now, through much lying and deceit, he has become a human time bomb. To make matters worse, he has to contend with a political career, something he obviously does not care for.

At the core of Homeland are these two flawed characters who hold on to high principles at great personal cost and yet are still highly fallible. With Danes and Lewis in these roles, you always end up questioning the characters' intentions and actions. Is she manipulating him, or it it the other way around ... the cat-and-mouse game is just so delicious.

It is a good thing too that the focus has shifted from Mrs Brody (Morena Baccarin), who is perhaps the weakest character in the series, to her daughter Dana. The young actress Morgan Saylor makes this teenager a likeable one. What makes her interesting is that her reaction is not always what you would expect from a teen – be it when she discovers her father's secret or realises he may not be the man she thought he was. Seeing things from her point of view magnifies the kind of trouble Brody has gotten himself into.

These tantalising developments have made us even more curious to see what is going to happen next. Whatever it is, the solution is not going to be anywhere near easy for anyone.

>Homeland is shown on Fox Movies Premium (Astro Ch 413) and Fox Movies Premium HD (Astro Ch 433) at 11pm on Sundays.


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Large blast hits diplomatic area of Afghan capital

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 08:27 PM PST

KABUL (Reuters) - A large blast that was most likely a suicide bomb attack ripped through the heavily barricaded diplomatic area of the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, a police official said, and there were an unknown number of casualties.

"Around 8 o'clock today there appeared to be a suicide bomb attack ... We cannot say what the target was at this point in time," said Hashmatullah Stanikzai, a spokesman for Kabul Police.

Stanikzai said it was not immediately clear how many people had been killed or wounded, but there were casualties.

Embassy sirens sounded and ambulances could be heard after the blast, which happened in the area where the U.S. and British embassies and the headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are located.

A spokesman for ISAF said the coalition was aware of an explosion.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Paul Tait)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Euro zone, IMF fail to strike Greek debt deal

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 08:12 PM PST

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Greece's international lenders failed for the second week running to agree how to get the country's debt down to a sustainable level and will have a third go at resolving their most intractable problem in six days' time.

Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras delivers his speech during a business presentation organised by the youths of his conservative New Democracy party in Athens November 20, 2012. Since the start of the Greek debt debacle, Athens and its European allies have battled to make the numbers add up and after three years of striving and two bailouts, it is still unclear whether they will get there. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras delivers his speech during a business presentation organised by the youths of his conservative New Democracy party in Athens November 20, 2012. Since the start of the Greek debt debacle, Athens and its European allies have battled to make the numbers add up and after three years of striving and two bailouts, it is still unclear whether they will get there. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

After nearly 12 hours of talks through the night during which myriad options were discussed, euro zone finance ministers, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank failed to reach a consensus, without which emergency aid cannot be disbursed to Athens.

"We are close to an agreement but technical verifications have to be undertaken, financial calculations have to be made and it's really for technical reasons that at this hour of the day it was not possible to do it in a proper way and so we are interrupting the meeting and reconvening next Monday," Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters.

"There are no major political disagreements," he said.

Nonetheless, the euro extended its fall against the dollar in response.

A document prepared for the meeting and seen by Reuters declared that Greece's debt cannot be cut to 120 percent of GDP by 2020, the level deemed sustainable by the IMF, unless euro zone member states write off a portion of their loans to Greece.

The 15-page document, circulated among ministers, set out in black-and-white how far off-track Greece is in reducing its debt to the IMF-imposed target, from a level of around 170 percent of GDP now.

The document set out various ways Greece's debt could be reduced between now and 2020, but concluded they would not be enough without euro zone creditors taking a hit on their own holdings -- something Germany and others have said would be illegal.

The document did say Greek debt could fall to 120 percent of GDP two years later -- in 2022 -- without having to impose any losses on euro zone member states or forcing through a buy-back of Greek debt from private-sector bondholders.

But International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde rejected such an extension at similar talks last week.

Without any corrective measures the document said Greek debt would be 144 percent in 2020 and 133 percent in 2022, figures first reported exclusively by Reuters last week.

"To bring the debt ratio down further, one needs to take recourse to measures that would entail capital losses or budgetary implications for euro area member states," the document says.

"Capital losses do not appear to be politically feasible and would jeopardise, at least in a number of member states, the political and public support for providing financial assistance."

Juncker said at a meeting a week ago that he wanted to extend the target date to reduce Greek debt by two years to 2022, but Lagarde insists the 2020 goal should stand.

The view of the IMF, which has played a role in both Greek bailouts so far, is critical since it provides international legitimacy and credibility for the efforts the euro zone is making. If the IMF were to withdraw its support for the bailout programmes, it could have a deeply damaging market impact.

The document appeared designed in part to convince the IMF that Greek debt could be made sustainable just two years behind schedule if only it would soften its stance.

It remains possible that Lagarde could provide further wiggle room, but she is believed to favour the idea of euro zone member states taking a writedown on some of the loans extended to Greece in order to stick to the 120 percent in 2020 goal.


Among the main measures under consideration to bring Greece's debt burden down as rapidly as possible is a debt buy-back under which Greece would offer to purchase bonds from private investors at a discount to their nominal value.

Several options are under consideration, officials have said and the document makes clear, including using about 10 billion euros to buy back bonds at between 30 and 35 cents in the euro.

There are also proposals to reduce the interest rate on loans already extended by euro zone countries to Greece, to impose a moratorium on interest payments and lengthen the maturities on loans, all of which would cut the debt burden.

Pressure for the euro zone to come up with a solution is high not just because Greece is running out of money and financial markets want a dependable solution, but because Athens has initiated virtually all the steps demanded of it to cut spending, raise taxes and overhaul its economy.

"Greece has delivered. Now it's up to us to deliver," Juncker said.

Because of the latest delay, the ministers were unable to give a go-ahead for the next tranche of up to 44 billion euros of emergency funds to be paid to Athens.

The payment would provide short-term relief to Athens, but it is long-term debt that is the core issue.

The European commissioner for economic affairs, Olli Rehn, said as he arrived for the meeting that the euro zone should be ready to do more for Greece in the coming years, an apparent nod to the idea of government-sector debt writedowns.

"It's essential now that we take a decision on a set of credible measures on debt sustainability and, at the same time, we need to be ready to take further decisions in the light of future developments," Rehn said.

He did not elaborate, but the idea of a haircut on official loans is off the table for now because many countries, including Germany, see it as politically and legally impossible.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Martin and Madeline Chambers in Berlin, Jussi Rosendahl in Helsinki, Leigh Thomas in Paris. Writing by Luke Baker/Mike Peacock)

Related Stories:
Euro zone ministers make progress on Greek debt deal, to continue November 26

Greek debt can only become sustainable by 2022 if all steps taken - document
Euro zone aims at 120 percent/GDP Greek debt in 2020, ponders buyback
Germany's Schaeuble: no agreement among Eurogroup on Greece
Comments from euro zone finance ministers, officials

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.S. soldier accused of Iraq shooting "psychotic" -doctor

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 08:10 PM PST

TACOMA (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier accused of killing five fellow servicemen at a military combat stress centre in Baghdad in 2009 was psychotic and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder during the shooting frenzy, a top U.S. forensic psychiatrist testified on Tuesday.

Sergeant John Russell, 48, is accused of going on a shooting spree at Camp Liberty, near the Baghdad airport, in an assault the military said at the time could have been triggered by combat stress.

Russell, of the 54th Engineer Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany, faces five charges of premeditated murder, one charge of aggravated assault and one charge of attempted murder in connection with the May 2009 shootings.

Six months ago, he was ordered to stand trial in a military court that has the power to sentence him to death, if he is convicted.

Russell's civilian attorney, James Culp, entered no plea at an arraignment on Monday at a military base in Washington state. Russell's court martial is tentatively set for mid-March and could last four to five weeks, attorneys told Reuters on Tuesday.

In a second day of hearings to discuss Russell's state of mind at the time of the shooting and establish what evidence or testimony to admit at the court martial, Robert Sadoff, a University of Pennsylvania forensic psychiatry expert, gave the opinion that Russell was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Russell has "dissociative disorder," or a lack of memory about the shootings, said Sadoff, who examined Russell for a total of 20 hours after the shootings. "He cannot remember. It's a legitimate disorder. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder."

Sadoff, a veteran of 10,000 criminal cases added: "It's a matter of what's going on in this man's mind. He was psychotic. He was not dealing with reality. That's what psychosis is."

If the defence can persuade a jury that Russell was not in control of his actions, it may be able to argue that he is not legally responsible and could spare him from the death penalty, if convicted.

During Tuesday's hearing, Culp sought authority from Judge Colonel David Conn to hire a forensic hypnotist to unlock Russell's buried memories and conduct a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to measure Russell's "mild diffused brain atrophy", which Culp argues played a part in his behaviour.

This would help diagnose "the extent of brain damage as it relates to criminal responsibility," Culp said.

Army prosecutors urged the judge to decline. Major Dan Mazzone, one of four Army attorneys prosecuting the case, told the judge that an Army medical review already indicated that Russell's brain atrophy was typical of a man his age and further testing is an unnecessary expense to the Army.

"The bottom line, this is just not necessary. It's something the government should not be entitled to fund," Mazzone said.

The judge is set to rule on the matter over the next few days.

The proceedings, held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, come at a sensitive time for the Army, which is in the process of deciding how to prosecute Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a soldier accused of killing Afghan villagers in cold blood earlier this year.

A two-week hearing at Lewis-McChord to establish if there is sufficient evidence to send Bales to a court martial wrapped up last week after harrowing testimony from Afghan adults and children wounded in the attack.

Bales' civilian defence lawyers have also suggested he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

On Monday, Russell's attorney outlined a defence based on his declining mental state.

Russell suffered from depression, thoughts of suicide, anxiety and stress from multiple deployments, and suffered "at least one traumatic experience involving civilian casualties" and "mass grave sites" while serving in Bosnia and Kosovo during 1998 and 1999, Culp said in presenting arguments to the judge after the arraignment.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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RHB Research maintains CIMB fair value at RM8.70

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:33 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Equities Research has maintained CIMB Group Holdings Bhd's fair value of RM8.70 based on a CY 13 price-to-earnings ratio (PER) of 13 times.

It said on Wednesday CIMB's Q3, FY 2012 results were within its and consensus expectations, with nine-month net profit of RM3.26bil (up 13% on-year) accounting for 76% of its and consensus full-year net profit estimates.

"Annualised pre-impairment operating profit was 3% below estimate, mitigated by annualised credit cost of 20 basis points (bps) versus our 40bps assumption," it said.

RHB Research said the net profit of RM1.14bil, up 3% on-quarter and 13% on-year was led by stronger operating income (+7% on-quarter; +17% on-year).

The group's net interest income rose 1% on-quarter (+15% on-year) on the back of continued loan growth, albeit by a slower pace. Group net interest margin was well managed, down just 2bps on-quarter (+10bps on-year) despite CIMB Niaga reporting an estimated 29bps on-quarter net interest margins (NIM) compression.

"Non-interest income rose 19% on-quarter (+22% on-year) mainly due to: 1) higher gains from sale of AFS securities; 2) higher forex income from healthy customer flows and wider spreads due to volatile market conditions; and 3) share of gains from recovery of impaired loans (CIMB Thai).

"Quarterly credit cost stayed low at 4bps (2Q12: 3bps; 3Q11: 6bps) thanks to a writeback in individual allowance as asset quality stayed intact. Overheads (+9% on-quarter; +18% on-year), however, faced upward pressure from higher personnel cost as the ex-RBS team started coming onboard. Thus, CIR deteriorated to 56.6% (2Q12: 55.5%; 3Q11: 56.1%)," it said.

RHB Research said CIMB Group's gross loan growth moderated (3Q12: +8.6% on-year; +0.4% on-quarter versus 2Q12: +13.1% on-year; +5% on-quarter) with annualised loan growth of 6.5% below the 16% target.

The slowdown was partly due to adverse foreign translation impact, which impacted on-year and on-quarter growth by an estimated 200-220bps.

The overall impact, however, was shielded by NIM management and better non-interest income. Management also appeared optimistic that a strong deal pipeline in 4Q12 would help improve growth.

Meanwhile, group customer deposits rose 2.3% on-quarter (+6.1% on-year) with CASA deposit growth of 1.3% on-quarter (+11.1% on-year). CASA ratio was broadly stable on-quarter at 34.6% (2Q12: 34.9%).

"No change to our earnings forecasts. Fair value of RM8.70 (target CY13 PER of 13 times) and Trading Buy call are unchanged," it said.

Corporate results in brief

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:25 PM PST

Wednesday November 21, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Results from KMN, QE Resources, Syarikat Takaful, Dailog, Alliance Financial Group, MPI, MRC and Kian Joo.


UK banks should face threat of being broken up

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:16 PM PST

LONDON: Britain's banks should be forced to fully separate their retail arms from investment banking operations if they try to circumvent new rules designed to protect the taxpayer, a top regulator warned.

Andrew Bailey, head of banking supervision at the Financial Services Authority (FSA), said banks should face the threat of being broken up if they fail properly to omply with proposals to ring-fence retail deposits from riskier activities.

Bailey said there was a risk that banks would try to "tunnel under" any ring-fence set for them.

"This is an industry which is tremendously innovative at thinking of ways to dress things up to look slightly differently," Bailey told the Parliament Commission on Banking Standards.

"It's not just the banks, they are supported by a very large army of advisers, lawyers, accountants who make very good money out of this business of being creative," he added.

MPs are debating what should be allowed inside the ring-fence and Adair Turner, the FSA's chairman, said there was a case for retail banks to be allowed to sell simple derivative products to small companies, in an easing of initial proposals.

The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards was set up to scrutinise the industry and examine proposals for reform following a raft of scandals including the rigging of interest rates. Reuters


The Star Online: Sports

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Australia to ban shoulder charge in rugby

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 06:15 PM PST

SYDNEY: Australian rugby league authorities said they are outlawing the shoulder charge because of the "unacceptable risk of injury", with work under way to extend the move internationally.

The decision, due to take effect from next year, came after the Australian Rugby League Commission (ALRC) assessed a report by Sydney Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan following a spate of incidents.

The ALRC accepted that the increased size of players was creating a situation where the shoulder charge could lead to an unacceptable risk of injury.

The review found that shoulder charges made up just 0.05 percent of the 142,355 tackles made in 2012.

Less than four percent of these resulted in injury to the attacking player and less than one percent to the defensive player but 17 percent involved contact with the head of the attacking player.

"This is about reducing a potential risk of serious injury to our players," said National Rugby League interim chief executive Shane Mattiske.

"The commission has gone through a thorough review process and been public in warning players about the risks of illegal play.

"The report shows that the shoulder charge is not a significant part of the game and its removal is not likely to impact on the way the game is played.

"With the increase in size and strength of the players, we believe this is the time to eliminate a potential risk."

Work has started with authorities in England and other members of the Rugby League International Federation to extend the move to all levels of the game on a global basis, the commission added on its website.

New Zealand already has a domestic ban in place. - AFP

Azarenka to join Sharapova, Williams in Brisbane

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 06:11 PM PST

BRISBANE, Australia: The Brisbane International starting next month will feature the world's top three women players with confirmation on Wednesday that top-ranked Victoria Azarenka will take part.

Azarenka, of Belarus, joins Russian world number two Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams of the United States in the main lead-up tournament to January's Australian Open in Melbourne, the season's first Grand Slam.

Tournament organisers said the field would feature eight of the top 10 women.

Other players confirmed include Germany's Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani of Italy, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and Australia's Samantha Stosur.

"I am really looking forward to returning to Brisbane where I won the inaugural title in 2009," Azarenka said.

"I am very proud to have ended the year as world number one and I am excited to start my 2013 campaign in Brisbane where I know I will get some tough matches against the world's best there."

Azarenka, 23, said it was the perfect preparation leading into the Australian Open, where she will defend the title she won this year.

The Brisbane International, which also features US Open champion Andy Murray in the men's draw, takes place from December 30 to January 6. - AFP

Kevin is richer for the experience after competing with Sun Yang

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 03:59 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: How many swimmers can say they have competed against an Olympic champion and world record holder? Not many, right?

That is why Kevin Yeap was glowing with pride when he returned home from the Asian Swimming Championships in Dubai yesterday.

Kevin had the chance to swim not once, but three times, in the same pool with London Olympic double gold medallist Sun Yang of China.

Sun Yang, who trains in Gold Coast, Australia, is currently the most marketable athlete in his home country after winning two Olympic gold medals in world record times.

And he lived up to his billing at the Asian meet by winning three gold medals – in the 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle – in new meet record times.

Sun Yang never flaunted his star status in Dubai, leaving Kevin humbled by the experienced.

"He was humble despite his giant status. He was not arrogant and easily approachable. I managed to chat with him in Dubai. I took part in the same events as him (200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle) and managed to make the finals in all three.

"I've raced with him at the Guangzhou Asian Games two years ago. But it was different this time as he wasn't the world and Olympic champion then," said Kevin, the Indonesia SEA Games gold medallist in the 1,500m freestyle.

Asked what he can take from his meeting with Sun Yang, Kevin said "it's his rapid rise to greatness.

"It gives me great inspiration to become like him. His positive and humble attitude makes people respect him even more," said Kevin, who narrowly missed out on the bronze for the 1,500m freestyle by 0.15sec to Takumi Komatsu of Japan.

Kevin can certainly do with a little inspiration as he has Jeffrey Ong's long-standing record of 15:23.61 in the 1,500m freestyle since 1991 in his sights.

Kevin has a personal best of 15:32.51, which he did at the Malaysian Open in Bukit Jalil this year, and is without doubt the best candidate to erase the longest existing swimming record in the country.

The 23-year-old could do just that at the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona next July, having booked his ticket for the 400m and 1,500m freestyle events.

Besides Kevin, Khoo Cai Lin has also qualified for two quota spots in the women's 400m and 800m freestyle for the world meet.

Tomorrow will be the divers' turn to see action in the Asian meet, which is held every four years.

Malaysia have two men (Ooi Tze Liang and Chew Yiwei) and three women (Wendy Ng Yan Yee, Cheong Jun Hoong and Loh Zhiayi) in the fray.


The Star Online: Nation

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Man gets 12-years jail for consensual sex with underage daughter who gives birth

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 05:53 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: A 54-year-old man pleaded guilty to having sex with his underage daughter but claimed that both of them did not know they were father and daughter until it came to light when the girl got pregnant.

He was sentenced to 12 years prison and seven strokes of the whip by Sessions Court judge Emelia Kaswati Mohamad Khalid who scolded him when he claimed naivety and a lack of religious education as reasons for his crime.

"How can you still be naive at this age? Even without religious education, do you think it is acceptable to rape a teenager," she asked.

"You are old, at an age where people are going for their Haji, you will now go to prison," she told the unemployed man, who started weeping when he heard his sentence.

The man, who was unrepresented, admitted he raped the then 13-year-old girl in her bedroom at the PPR Kampung Muhibbah flat on Jalan Puchong, Cheras at 1am in July 2010.

It is learnt that the man and the girl's mother had lived together many years ago and he had left her without realising she was pregnant.

He then went on to marry and divorce another woman after having two children with her.

Two years ago, he came back into the girl's mother's life and they resumed living together but the woman did not reveal that girl was his daughter.

The girl was then 13-years-old and according to the facts of the case, the girl asked her mother and the man to sleep in her room on the same mattress one night.

After some time, the man took off his pants and had sex with her.

In her victim impact statement (VIS) the teen told the court that the sex was consensual and she did not know then that he was her biological father.

A medical check in Aug 2010 confirmed she was pregnant, and she gave birth in April the next year.

When she found out she was pregnant, she told her mother, who instructed her to keep the child and also revealed that the man was her biological father.

When asked by the judge if she was upset when she found out she was pregnant, the teenager said she didn't mind as she felt it was the outcome of a consensual relationship with the man.

The teenager, who wore a red blouse and matching red ribbon appeared unfazed when giving her statement and was even seen smiling.

She told the court that she was moved around different children's homes while she was pregnant and had her daughter sent to a different home after she gave birth.

She added that the taunting she received for being pregnant in a children's home did embarrass and traumatise her.

During sentencing, Judge Emelia said it was the role of parents to protect their children from such predators and told the teenager not to let her daughter make the same mistake she and her mother had made.

Earlier, DPP Ooi Chean Ling revealed that the man had previously been charged with breaking and entering and rape, though he was not convicted of rape in the earlier case.

Foray murder: Accused appears to have wiped his walls, cop tells court

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 03:47 AM PST

KUANTAN: The walls in murder accused Asni Omar's home had been wiped clean, a police forensics investigation officer told the High Court here.

Insp Shuhada Salim said Tuesday that clear traces of recent wiping on the walls were found in the petty trader's home in Kampung Tekek, Pulau Tioman when the police investigated the crime scene of the murder of French tourist Stephanie Foray last year.

"It was clearly wiped because the surface was dusty. If it was touched or wiped, it would leave a very significant difference on the wall," he said when questioned by deputy public prosecutor Salim Soib @ Hamid Tuesday.

Insp Shuhada, however, said he did not estimate the extent of the wiping traces.

He was testifying in the trial of Asni, 37, who is charged with murdering Foray, 30, at an unnumbered house in Kampung Tekek, Pulau Tioman, between 8pm on May 10 and noon on May 12 last year.

Insp Shuhada also told the court that he took several seized items from Asni's house and then moved towards the nearby cave where the accused had pointed out the location of Foray's body.

"Me and my team's duty at that time was to pick up any evidence dug up by forensic medical specialist Dr Sri Marni Zainal Abidin and her team," said Insp Shuhada.

When asked whether he saw other things being dug up in the cave, Insp Shuhada said Dr Sri Marni and her team found a body.

"I cannot describe exactly how the body looked like but it was kind of mummified," he said.

During Tuesday's proceedings, Insp Shuhada identified three silver necklaces, two yellow bracelets and a brown ring, which were found in Asni's house.

The items were then tendered as exhibits.

The trial before judge Justice Mariana Yahya continues Wednesday.

Malaysia launches Gaza emergency fund

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 03:05 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday called on Malaysians to continue to provide aid in various forms to the people of Gaza, Palestine who are being oppressed by Israel.

Dr Mahathir, who is also president of Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF), said whatever aid including food, clothing, construction materials or cash could assist the Palestinians to continue to live and receive better protection.

"Malaysia has several bodies that are providing aid to Gaza. Today we launch a fund. The proceeds will be distributed to several NGOs (non-governmental organisations) which have distribution networks in Gaza, that we (PGPF) don't.

"So, we are willing to give to anyone that are aligned with us whether within the country or in Europe," he told reporters after launching the Gaza Emergency Fund at the Putra World Trade Centre, here.

Also present were his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali and PGPF Chairman, Tan Sri Norian Mai.

Israeli attacks on Palestine since Nov 15 had killed more than 100 people in Gaza including children and the elderly, as well as injuring hundreds of others.

Although Israel continues to impose blockades on any aid entering Gaza, Dr Mahathir said Malaysians could contribute without any limitation as the proceeds would directly be distributed to the relevant parties endlessly.

While he regretted the blockade imposed, he was still thankful because the change in government in Egypt had to a certain extent made it easier to send aid to the people of Gaza.

Earlier in his speech, Dr Mahathir labeled Israel as the 'most lawless country ever seen in world history' as it had broken every international law and carried out assassinations.

"For every ship bringing supplies to Gaza, Israel mounted military attack on the ship. Israel said it is only looking after its security but its security is based on the insecurity of everybody else," he said.

Dr Mahathir pointed out that Israel believed it had the right to carry out pre-emptive attacks on any country at any time, as what it did to Sudan recently.

He said the people in Gaza also had the right to be secure, especially when they were put under blockade and were denied food and medicine.

"What are they going to do when the world just looks on and does nothing. So, they try to fight back in their own way. They fire some harmless rockets which are not invented by the great power in the world," he said while demanding for Israel to show evidence that the action had killed three of their people and caused damage to Tel Aviv.

"The evidence overwhelmingly showed that Israel is the terrorist. Israel is a terrorist state. It terrifies everybody around it.

He later presented PGPF's contribution of RM100,000 to Prof Paola Manduca on behalf of Medical Aid of Palestine. - Bernama


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Living, rediscovered

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 07:56 PM PST

Two men, two bicycles, a (very) little money and a large streak of adventure add up to an intriguing book.

IT sounded like a good plan at first: they would don sarongs, walk around Peninsular Malaysia on foot, mingle with the locals, and return to Singapore enlightened men. The motivation was to get down to the ground and find out what Malaysians think about themselves, about Singapore, and the wider world around them.

But this exercise in walking would take too long, so it was eventually replaced with cycling.

It still managed to raise a few eyebrows when best friends Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh and Sumana Rajarethnam declared that they would be leaving Singapore for Malaysia with only two bicycles, two sets of clothes, a tent and a daily budget of RM10 each.

"Most people said we were crazy! But a few egged us on. Our classmates were all going off and doing internships and we thought we should do something 'different' that might ultimately help to 'better relations' between Malaysia and Singapore.

"It was a bit naïve and idealistic, but that's what we were thinking back then," says Sudhir in an e-mail interview.

This was in 2004, when he was completing his Masters in Public Policy at Harvard. Sumana was doing the same degree at the University of Michigan.

The initial idea was relatively straightforward: to write a simple chronological travelogue of a bicycle trip in one country – Malaysia – but the tale eventually morphed into a socio-economic examination of both Malaysia and Singapore told, unusually, through a travelogue.

Achieving this meant that a whole lot of extra research was required, and the entire project ended up taking eight years.

Floating On A Malayan Breeze: Travels In Malaysia And Singapore was launched on Nov 10 and Sudhir hopes it will appeal to everyone who has an interest in social, political and economic issues in Malaysia and Singapore. Hoping to make the book accessible to as broad a group as possible, he has purposefully wrapped serious issues around a light-hearted travelogue.

"We had to trash a lot of our initial writing from 2004 to 2008, because it was way too academic. The main writing took about four years, from 2008 to 2012. In this final product, you will find writing that is much more accessible," the Singapore-born son of a Malaysia-born father says.

The one month Sudhir and Sumana roughed it out in Malaysia was no easy feat, as they survived on bare essentials.

"Most days, we would eat roti prata or nasi. Lots of carbohydrates, some vegetables and not much meat, as meat is expensive. We rarely had to buy water, as people would often gladly fill up our water bottles for us," says Sudhir, who is now senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Singapore. (Sumana is a senior analyst at the same place.)

There were times when, in the blistering tropical heat, the two men would long for an iced drink, but they had to forgo this luxury as it would cost them an extra 20 sen, a significant dent in their meagre RM10 daily budget.

Taking a shower was also tricky, but they realised very quickly that the most reliable method was to head to the nearest petrol station, squat by knee-high water faucets in the toilets, and sprinkle water on themselves!

The tent was utilised perhaps half the time, and Sudhir fondly recalls the beautiful sandy beaches on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

"The rest of the time we stayed in people's houses/shacks/outhouses or in religious institutions – mosques, churches and Sikh temples. We even stayed in the Bandar Permaisuri (in Terengganu) and Alor Setar police stations," he relates.

One would assume that cycling into a kampung would automatically endear them to village folk a lot more than if they were to drive a car in.

"When you cycle into a kampung, everybody wants to say hello, everyone wants to talk to you. It gives you a lot of access. That was crucial for our trip and our efforts to get to know ordinary Malaysians," says Sudhir.

But getting around on a bicycle came with its own set of challenges.

"First, it takes too long sometimes when you're trying to get somewhere fast. Second, it is not as easy to lock up as a motorbike or car. We were occasionally worried that somebody would steal the bikes, so we kept them very close at all times," he says.

When asked what he would have done differently on the trip in retrospect, Sudhir offers that he would be more open and friendly with the young guys in the kampungs who asked us about their bikes.

"They were just interested in us and our journey, and some might never have seen a 24-speed Giant bike before. But we acted like the anxious richer neighbour scared of getting robbed. So we didn't chat as openly with them and I regret that," he says.

The two men also occasionally faced some challenges in approaching women to talk to them.

"Ideally, we could have also travelled with one girl. Because it was just us two guys, it was always a bit difficult approaching and chatting with women. But if we had a girl with us, that would have been easier," he says.

Before embarking on their trip across Peninsular Malaysia, Sudhir says that he and Sumana had felt that Malaysia's system of positive discrimination (or affirmative action) for one group over other groups of people was unfair.

However, they were caught by surprise when they found out that Malaysians have similar sentiments about the system in Singapore.

"Many Malaysians believe that our exacting meritocracy is unfair because it allows the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. We think Malaysia's system is unfair; and Malaysians think our system is unfair.

"We even felt Malaysians were wrong at that time, but in a sense they were very perceptive – income equality is now a big problem in Singapore," he says.

The most challenging chapter to write, he says, was the one on race and ethnicity, given the sensitivities in both countries.

"It is a taboo subject in both our countries. I still wanted to talk about important issues but in a direct and sensitive way, and I think I just about managed. A couple of people have told me it's their favourite chapter in the book," he says.

By the end of the trip, Sudhir and Sumana had cycled approximately 2,000km – and Sudhir is convinced that there are more similarities as well as more differences between Malaysia and Singapore than people realise.

"It's just that we don't have the chance to think about these things too much because discussion and dialogue in our countries have always been mediated by our governments. It's changing, of course, especially since the Internet, but it's still broadly true," he says.

On a more personal level, Sudhir is pleased that they managed to have such an "exciting, invigorating and stimulating experience" costing relatively little money on this journey.

"In today's modern, consumption-driven world, we sometimes assume that we need a million and one things just to survive. But you don't – all you need is basic food, water and your best friend!"

Related Story:
A Malayan state of mind

A Malayan state of mind

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 07:56 PM PST

This is a must read book for those interested in a view of Malaysia and Singapore in transition.

Floating On A Malayan Breeze: Travels In Malaysia & Singapore
Author: Sudhir Thomas Vadeketh
Publisher: NUS Press & HK University Press, 312 pages

THERE is a time-honoured practice among a group of Singaporean poets that involves travelling up-country into Peninsular Malaysia to reconnect with the hinterland. This involves leaving behind that psychic break of nation states and getting into a Malayan state of mind. Here, among people of different citizenship yet culturally so familiar, the poets find inspiration and the meaning of being Singaporean.

For the poets, the journey is sacred, for it allows them to rise above the "reality" of political divisions and to connect with cultural and human traditions built in the period of sultans and feathery colonial plumes.

Being a student of public policy and political science, Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh's observations are inevitably more about politics and less fanciful. Yet, Floating On A Malayan Breeze belongs to that special category of books that uses travel as a lens to examine the "nation".

Predecessors include Henri Fouconnier's Soul Of Malaya (1931) and, more recently, Rehman Rashid's Malaysian Journey (1993). Fouconnier's book traces the beauty and madness that characterised the colonial project that was Malaya. Rehman's work entrenched the urban middle-class view about modern Malaysia, full of ambivalence and angst.

What Rehman did for 1990s Malaysia, Sudhir does for Singaporeans now, using the travel motif to describe the "nation" in a distinctively personal fashion that defines his generation.

Malayan Breeze is a young man's perspective on how 50 years of the nation state experience has transformed ancient ties, giving rise to two distinct groups of people living in an age of political transformation.

Readers may be expecting a travelogue and, indeed, there are very fascinating impressions of peninsular B-roads (the old trunk roads) and towns gleaned from the vantage point of a RM10 daily budget. This 2004 cycling experience, undertaken with best buddy Sumana Rajarethnam, forms the bedrock of the book, to which later impressions are added that lifts it out of the strictly travelogue genre.

The narrative moves easily between adrenaline-fuelled youthful, almost naïve, enquiry to more mature eyes trying to make sense of the contradictions that make up modern life in Malaysia and Singapore. This is a book that spares no one and, refreshingly for a work of its kind, takes no prisoners no matter what the sensitive issue may be. Race, religion, the sacred and the profane are all dissected and discussed with little self-censorship.

There are three interesting insights that make this book a must-read and why it will be a generational classic.

For one, Sudhir is a Singaporean who continues to have familial ties in Malaysia, and this gives him a rare advantage. Apart from practical knowledge – knowing the old trunk roads in Peninsular Malaysia very well, thus making navigation easier, for instance – he maintains a deep understanding of Malaysia and Singapore on the cultural level. Using this shared history and cultural understanding to frame fundamental questions makes Sudhir's observations invaluable.

He is also able to debunk stereotypes by asking probing questions about issues involving Singapore's "meritocratic" system and Malaysia's "affirmative action" policy.

More importantly, the book reveals how these policies have translated into shaping people's lives on the ground. At the level of the RM 10 daily budget, a lot of the rhetoric surrounding this one contentious issue quickly melt away leaving behind the bare bones. The final verdict: governments are fallible even if led by Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad.

Secondly, Sudhir is singularly lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. While earlier books of its ilk were written in the pre-digital information age, Malayan Breeze was composed at a time when digital technology was rapidly transforming both countries. Within its pages, the book captures the governing mindset still caught up in a top-down approach to governance with obsessive developmental targets and a youth bulge in cities and rural areas with aspirations for greater equality finding an outlet in the Internet.

In the case of Malaysia, the "ground" moved ahead of the ruling elite with the resultant political tsunami in 2008. In Singapore, the book similarly captures the quiet revolution that reverberated from across the Causeway in the form of greater demand for participatory politics. This was translated into the 2011 People's Action Party electoral setback. And once again, from his new position at Singapore's Economist' Intelligence Unit, Sudhir had a rare perch from which to dive down to the ground as political transformation swept across Malaysia and Singapore.

Finally, the book tells us just as much about the author's generation as it reveals about both countries. Malayan Breeze describes the restless souls who would design and carry out a project involving cycling up-country on a self-imposed budget. If in the colonial era such wonderlust only afflicted the middle-class white outsider, and if a generation ago it was the car that symbolised forward movement, for this generation, it is the eco-friendly bicycle associated with healthy living and environmental stewardship that propels the narrative forward.

But there are drawbacks to travel on a self-imposed budget. It seems less real and less committed, almost like highly paid executives going on a road-trip to reconnect with the ground. Perhaps we of this new generation should be aware that our obsession with self can sometimes lead to views that are laced with large doses of self-imposed liberalism. Switching between the core 2004 travelogue and more contemporary experiences (in terms of form) betray this mental state. It is a reflection of ambivalence, very much of minds in the process of development but not quite made up.

Nonetheless, Floating On A Malayan Breeze is on its way to joining the ranks of "must reads" for those interested in both these nations in transition – it is, perhaps, the last word about the Malayan experiment as a new generation clumsily leaves history behind.

> Neil Khor is a Social Historian and Senior Fellow at Think City, which manages the George Town Grants Programme.

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Living, rediscovered

The Twilight legacy

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 03:51 PM PST

Get your fill of the final instalment of The Twilight Saga and more.

HAVING enjoyed phenomenal success, The Twilight Saga takes a bow with its final instalment Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which will hit Malaysian cinemas on Thursday, but it is not going out quietly.

The first film may have been a sleeper hit, but Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is set to be the biggest of the lot yet! The all-consuming finale, with its climactic action-filled battle scenes, vampire love child, new characters and plot twists will be unforgettable.

At the film's premiere at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California, hundreds of shrieking fans greeted the stars, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, as they made their way to the 7,000-seat venue to bid farewell to the end of a supernatural era. According to reports, fans were still cheering as the credits rolled.

To commemorate the magnitude of the film, the Nov 16 issue of Galaxie has devoted six picture-filled pages on the movie that has compelled millions to the silver screen.

Breaking Dawn – Part 1, which was released last November, grossed an estimated US$701mil (RM2.1bil) worldwide, making it the highest grossing film amongst all four movies from The Twilight Saga franchise. But the final film might just surpass that mark as it was reported that advance tickets to the show raked in a total of US$1.17mil (RM3.51mil) on its first day on sale!

With all the hype surrounding Breaking Dawn – Part 2 and the excitement that has been building up, it is no wonder that Fandango named it the "most anticipated film". For once, the accolades are well deserved and the numbers support it.

In its current issue, Galaxie explores why cinemagoers are flocking to watch the conclusion to the series. Besides the highly anticipated battle scene that brings action to the romance element of the film, there is also the introduction of 12-year-old Mackenzie Foy who plays Renesmee, the hybrid child of Edward Cullen (Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Stewart), that has heightened the audience's anticipation.

Galaxie also features interviews with Booboo Stewart and some of the cast members who share their experience of being part of The Twilight Saga legacy.

To top off the fanfare of Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Galaxie, which has in the past produced keepsake covers like the double cover for New Moon featuring Pattinson and Lautner, is sticking to its tradition of releasing special cover features. This time, however, Galaxie goes "Augmented Reality" with its iSnap capabilities.

This enhanced feature, which is Android smartphone and iPhone compatible, allows users to gain access to additional content. In this case, it reveals the second cover which features Lautner. Other pages too have been made iSnap-able, so do check out the iSnap me icon and have fun with this spiffy new feature.

Galaxie, which is owned by Star Publications (M) Bhd and voted Entertainment Magazine Of The Year for two consecutive years, also has a presence online at For updates on the magazine and the entertainment world, follow Galaxie on Twitter (@galaxiemag) and visit its Facebook page (


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Jackie Chan: Upcoming film will be last big action movie

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 09:39 PM PST

BEIJING - Kung Fu superstar Jackie Chan said that while the upcoming film "Chinese Zodiac 2012" will be his last major action movie, citing his increasing age, he will still be packing punches in the world of philanthropy.

Chan wrote, directed and produced his latest film, set to premiere in cinemas in China next month. He also plays the lead role and said that he regarded it the "best film for myself" in the last ten years.

"I'm the director, I'm the writer, I'm the producer, I'm the action director, almost everything," the 58-year-old Hong Kong actor told Reuters while in Beijing to film a documentary.

"This really, really is my baby. You know, I've been writing the script for seven years," and the film took a year and half to make, he added.

In the film, Chan is a treasure hunter seeking to repatriate sculpture heads of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, which were taken from Beijing's Summer Palace by French and British forces during the Opium Wars.

He said it was an important movie for him because it will be his last major action feature, although he insisted it is not the end of his action career.

"I'm not young any more, honestly," he said, noting that with special effects technology and doubles a lot can be done without physical risk.

"Why (do) I have to use my own life to still do these kind of things?" he said. "I will still do as much as I can. But I just don't want to risk my life to sit in a wheelchair, that's all."

Chan was recently awarded the Social Philanthropist of the Year award by Harpers Bazaar magazine. He said he wanted to increase time devoted to charitable work and hoped China's leagues of newly wealthy will follow his example - which he underlined by auctioning a Bentley 666 for around 6 million yuan.

China now has more billionaires than any other Asian country, but very few philanthropic organizations, and giving to charity remains a relatively new phenomenon in the world's most populous country.

Chan said while Chinese philanthropists have made some encouraging strides, much more still needs to be done - a task made harder by the Internet, with netizens willing to leap on every perceived wrong move.

"Right now people (must) very, very be careful, but that doesn't stop them to want to do the charity. I think it's a good sign," Chan said. - Reuters

Hobbit producers deny animal deaths on set

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 09:13 PM PST

WELLINGTON - The producers of "The Hobbit" movies on Tuesday rejected allegations that animals died on set during the making of director Peter Jackson's highly anticipated Tolkien trilogy in New Zealand.

Animal rights group PETA said up to 27 animals, including horses, sheep, goats and chickens, died during filming, prompting it to plan protests against the movies, the first of which has its world premiere in Wellington next week.

Jackson and the producers said in a statement that the American Humane Association monitored all use of animals during the shoot and "no animals died or were harmed on set during filming".

"The producers completely reject the accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films," the statement said.

"Extraordinary measures were taken to make sure that animals were not used during action sequences or any other sequence that might create undue stress for the animals involved."

It added that 55 percent of shots featuring animals in the trilogy, which has a budget estimated at US$500 million, were computer-generated.

PETA said former wranglers who worked on the production reported two horses died from broken necks after being run off embankments and another was illegally "hobbled" with its legs tied together.

PETA US senior vice president Lisa Lange said sheep and goats died from worms and after falling into sinkholes in rugged terrain, and a dozen chickens were mauled to death by dogs.

"This production's decision to use numerous live animals and allow them to suffer needlessly takes the entertainment industry a giant and disgraceful step backwards," she said in a statement.

The first of the three movies, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", premieres in Wellington on November 28 and will be released worldwide in December.

PETA said it will protest at the event and at premieres in the United States and Britain. - AFP

'Twilight' tops US box office, as Bollywood sneaks in

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 06:05 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: The final chapter of the blockbuster "Twilight" vampire franchise took the biggest bite out of North America's weekend box office - while a Bollywood film made a rare showing in the top 10.

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2," the fifth and final installment of the wildly popular series based on novels by Stephenie Meyer, took $141.1 million, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.

But almost more eye-catching was "Jab Tak Hai Jaan (Till My Last Breath)," a three-hour extravaganza which was the last film made by legendary Indian filmmaker Yash Chopra, the "king of romance," before he died last month.

The movie entered the top 10 at number 8, taking $1.3 million at the box office, a rare appearance for a Bollywood film in box office rankings usually dominated by Hollywood productions.

The Hindi cinema legend, hailed for directing, producing and screen-writing some of India's most-loved movies over several decades, died last month aged 80 after being admitted to hospital with dengue fever.

The box office top spot was, as expected, taken by the last "Twilight" movie. The previous four films, starting with the 2008 series opener "Twilight," earned a colossal $2.4 billion altogether.

In second place was the new James Bond movie "Skyfall," last week's top earner, which earned an estimated $41.1 million, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Third place went to the debut of the Steven Spielberg film "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day Lewis in the role of America's assassinated 16th president, which had $21 million in ticket sales.

"Wreck-It Ralph," the animated Disney film about a video game villain with dreams of becoming a hero, earned $18.6 million for fourth place.

Fifth went to the movie "Flight," a star vehicle for Denzel Washington, who plays a crash-landing pilot with substance abuse problems. It pulled in $8.8 million.

In sixth place was "Argo," based on the true story of six Americans spirited out of Iran during the 1979-80 hostage crisis. The film directed by and starring Ben Affleck earned $4 million.

"Taken 2," Liam Neeson's return as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills, racked up $2.1 million for seventh place.

After the Bollywood new entry in eighth spot came "Pitch Perfect," a musical-comedy about a cappella singing group, which earned just under $1.3 million for ninth place.

Rounding out the top 10 was "Here Comes the Boom," a comedy starring Kevin James as a high school teacher on a quest to become a mixed martial arts fighter, with $1.2 million in tickets sold. - AFP


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