Jumaat, 23 November 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Gas explosion levels building, injures 18 in U.S.

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:38 PM PST

(Reuters) - An explosion triggered by a gas leak destroyed a strip club in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, on Friday, injuring 18 people, although none seriously, authorities said.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the building, a Scores Gentlemen's Club, exploded at about 5:25 p.m. as gas company workers, police officers and firefighters were responding to a leak in the area.

The 18 injured people included nine firefighters, four Columbia Gas of Massachusetts employees and two police officers, Sarno said.

"Through God's mercy, we are not aware of any fatalities," Sarno told reporters, adding none of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.

The club had been evacuated before the explosion due to the gas leak, which may have saved the lives of patrons and employees who had been inside, said Thomas Walsh, a spokesman for the city.

Images on a local CBS affiliate showed buildings with shattered windows, debris scattered in the street, and emergency services entering the area.

Witnesses described to local media a massive explosion that shook the ground and produced a huge cloud of smoke. The explosion was powerful enough to be felt in neighbouring towns, Sarno told reporters.

At least 15 to 20 buildings in Springfield's downtown section sustained extensive damage in the blast, including a six-story residential building where a number of units have been condemned due to damage from the explosion, Walsh said.

The city established an emergency shelter to accommodate residents displaced by the blast, Sarno said.

Officials said state and local investigators were trying to determine the cause of the gas leak and subsequent explosion.

Last year, Springfield was hit with a tornado that cut a path several blocks wide, ripping apart trees and damaging buildings. Springfield has a population of about 150,000 people.

(Reporting By Tim Gaynor, Alex Dobuzinskis and Nick Carey; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Nicaragua's Ortega expects Colombia to respect border ruling

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:37 PM PST

(Reuters) - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega expressed confidence on Friday that Colombia would recognize an international court ruling this week that grants Nicaragua jurisdiction over resources-rich Caribbean waters near a Colombian archipelago.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega speaks to supporters after casting his vote in the municipal elections at a polling station in Managua November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega speaks to supporters after casting his vote in the municipal elections at a polling station in Managua November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Ortega did not mention Bogota's announcement on Wednesday that it would keep navy ships in the disputed waters until the International Court of Justice rules on a possible appeal from the country.

"I am sure that our brothers, the Colombian people, the Colombian government, and the president of Colombia (Juan Manuel Santos) will recognize the International Court of Justice's decision because there is no other way forward," Ortega said at a student event in Managua.

The ICJ ruled on Monday that a cluster of disputed small islands in the western Caribbean belonged to Colombia and not to Nicaragua but drew a demarcation line in favour of Nicaragua in the nearby waters.

The court said the territorial waters extending out from the seven islets, which are nearer Nicaragua's coast than Colombia's, should not cut into Nicaragua's continental shelf. The ruling reduced the expanse of ocean belonging to Colombia.

The decision, which is binding, increases the size of Nicaragua's continental shelf and economic exclusion zone in the Caribbean, which would give it access to rich underwater oil and gas deposits as well as fishing rights.


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos rejected the changes to the border, which effectively put some islands outside of the rest of the archipelago, saying the ruling had "omissions, mistakes, excesses, inconsistencies, that we cannot accept".

A Colombian navy commander also said he received instructions from the government to "maintain the sovereignty of Colombia's maritime jurisdiction, as it has historically been known."

On Thursday, Colombia's foreign minister said her country should consider withdrawing from a 1948 treaty that forces Colombia to abide by any of the court's rulings.

But experts have said that Colombia's withdrawal from the "Bogota Pact" would not have retroactive effect, and that it would still be obliged to comply with the ruling.

In 2007, the court, which is based in The Hague, ruled in a long-running dispute between the two countries that the three larger islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina belonged to Colombia.

The ruling on Monday related to seven other islets and the associated offshore rights surrounding them. The three larger islands have been controlled by Colombia since Nicaragua ceded them in a 1928 treaty.

The cluster of islands is more than 437 miles (700 km) from the Colombian coast and 125 miles (200 km) from Nicaragua.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Middle East nuclear talks will not occur next month - U.S.

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:08 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Talks planned for next month on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East will not take place, the United States said on Friday, a development likely to anger Arab states but please Israel.

The State Department announced that the mid-December conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, would not occur and did not make clear when, or whether, it would take place.

Earlier this month, diplomats told Reuters that the talks were likely to be postponed, rather than cancelled outright.

"As a co-sponsor of the proposed conference ... the United States regrets to announce that the conference cannot be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Nuland said that "a deep conceptual gap persists in the region" on how to handle regional security and arms control, adding that "outside states cannot impose a process on the region any more than they can dictate an outcome."

The plan for a meeting to lay the groundwork for the possible creation of a WMD-free Middle East was agreed to at a May 2010 conference of 189 parties to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT.

The United States, feared the conference, which was to be held in Finland, could be used as a forum to bash Israel, a concern likely to have increased after eight days of fierce Israeli-Palestinian fighting that ended with a ceasefire on Wednesday.

Iran and Arab states often say Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal poses a threat to Middle East peace and security. Israel and Western powers see Iran as the main nuclear proliferation threat. Tehran denies any atom bomb ambitions.

The State Department said it would keep working to try to bring about a meeting, adding such a gathering must take into account the security of all the states in the region and operate on the basis of consensus - effectively guaranteeing Israel, and everyone else, a veto.

"We would not support a conference in which any regional state would be subject to pressure or isolation," Nuland said, in a clear reference to U.S. concerns that other participants might gang up on Israel.

U.S. and Israeli officials have said a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East could not be a reality until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbed its nuclear program.

Like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, Israel has never signed the NPT. It neither confirms nor denies having nuclear arms, although non-proliferation and security analysts believe it has several hundred atomic weapons.

Even if the talks eventually occur, Western diplomats and others expect little progress any time soon due to the deep-rooted animosities in the region, notably the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

The Islamic state is in a stand-off with world powers that suspect it is seeking the means to produce nuclear arms. Israel has not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear sites.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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"Big Bang Theory" actress Mayim Bialik, husband divorcing

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 09:18 PM PST

NEW YORK: "The Big Bang Theory" actress Mayim Bialik and her husband are divorcing after nine years of marriage, she said in a statement on her Facebook page.

Bialik, who starred in the 1990s sitcom "Blossom," and Michael Stone have two sons together.

"Divorce is terribly sad, painful and incomprehensible for children," Bialik, 36, said in the statement. "It is not something we have decided lightly."

Bialik, a proponent of "attachment parenting" who authored a book on the subject that was published in September, said it "played no role" in the couple's divorce.

Attachment parenting advocates the nurturing of strong bonds between parents and children, which can include extended breast-feeding and parents and children sleeping in the same bed until the children are as old as 7. A controversial Time magazine cover on the subject in May drew strong reactions across the United States.

"The main priority for us now is to make the transition to two loving homes as smooth and painless as possible," Bialik wrote in the statement, which was posted to her Facebook page on Wednesday. "Our sons deserve parents committed to their growth and health and that's what we are focusing on."

"We will be OK," the statement concludes.

Bialik is a former child star who appeared in the 1980s television series "Webster" and "The Facts of Life" before landing the title role in the coming-of-age television show "Blossom," which ran from 1991 to 1995. The show was about a smart teenage girl whose parents have divorced and is learning about life.

The actress attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she obtained a doctorate in neuroscience.

She met Michael Stone, a fellow graduate student, in calculus class, according to a description of her wedding she previously posted online.

In her most recent role on CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory," Bialik plays Amy Farrah Fowler, a neuroscientist who dates one of the two main stars of the show, the socially inept but brilliant physicist Sheldon Cooper. - Reuters

Dallas' Larry Hagman dies at 81 (Updated)

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 09:17 PM PST

REUTERS - Larry Hagman, who created one of American television's most supreme villains in the conniving, amoral oilman J.R. Ewing of "Dallas," died on Friday, the Dallas Morning News reported. He was 81.

Hagman died at a Dallas hospital of complications from his battle with throat cancer, the newspaper said, quoting a statement from his family. He had suffered from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s after decades of drinking.

Hagman's mother was stage and movie star Mary Martin and he became a star himself in 1965 on "I Dream of Jeannie," a popular television sitcom in which he played Major Anthony Nelson, an astronaut who discovers a beautiful genie in a bottle.

"Dallas," which made its premiere on the CBS network in 1978, made Hagman a superstar. The show quickly became one of the network's top-rated programs, built an international following and inspired a spin-off, imitators and a revival in 2012.

"Dallas" was the night-time soap-opera story of a Texas family, fabulously wealthy from oil and cattle, and its plot brimmed with back-stabbing, double-dealing, family feuds, violence, adultery and other bad behavior.

In the middle of it all stood Hagman's black-hearted J.R. Ewing - grinning wickedly in a broad cowboy hat and boots, plotting how to cheat his business competitors and cheat on his wife. He was the villain TV viewers loved to despise during the show's 356-episode run from 1978 to 1991.

"I really can't remember half of the people I've slept with, stabbed in the back or driven to suicide," Hagman said of his character in Time magazine.

In his autobiography, "Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life," Hagman wrote that J.R. originally was not to be the focus of "Dallas" but that changed when he began ad-libbing on the set to make his character more outrageous and compelling.


To conclude its second season, the "Dallas" producers put together one of U.S. television's most memorable episodes in which Ewing was shot by an unseen assailant. That gave fans months to fret over whether J.R. would survive and who had pulled the trigger. In the show's opening the following season, it was revealed that J.R.'s sister-in-law, Kristin, with whom he had been having an affair, was behind the gun.

Hagman said an international publisher offered him $250,000 to reveal who had shot J.R. and he considered giving the wrong information and taking the money, but in the end, "I decided not to be so like J.R. in real life."

The popularity of "Dallas" made Hagman one of the best-paid actors in television and earned him a fortune that even a Ewing would have coveted. He lost some of it, however, in bad oil investments before turning to real estate.

"I have an apartment in New York, a ranch in Santa Fe, a castle in Ojai outside of L.A., a beach house in Malibu and thinking of buying a place in Santa Monica," Hagman said in a Chicago Tribune interview.

An updated "Dallas" series began in June 2012 on the TNT network with Hagman reprising his J.R. role with original cast members Linda Gray, who played J.R.'s long-suffering wife, Sue Ellen, and Patrick Duffy, who was his brother Bobby. The show was to focus on the sons of J.R. and Bobby.

Hagman had a wide eccentric streak. When he first met actress Lauren Bacall, he licked her arm because he had been told she did not like to be touched and he was known for leading parades on the Malibu beach and showing up at a grocery store in a gorilla suit. Above his Malibu home flew a flag with the credo "Vita Celebratio Est (Life Is a Celebration)" and he lived hard for many years.

In 1967, rock musician David Crosby turned him on to LSD, which Hagman said took away his fear of death, and Jack Nicholson introduced him to marijuana because Nicholson thought he was drinking too much.

Hagman had started drinking as a teenager and said he did not stop until the moment in 1992 when his doctor told him he had cirrhosis of the liver and could die within six months. Hagman wrote that for the past 15 years he had been drinking about four bottles of champagne a day, including while on the "Dallas" set.


In July 1995, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which led him to quit smoking, and a month later he underwent a liver transplant.

After giving up his vices, Hagman said he did not lose his zest for life.

"It's the same old Larry Hagman," he told a reporter. "He's just a littler sober-er."

Hagman was born on September 21, 1931, in Weatherford, Texas, and his father was a lawyer who dealt with the Texas oil barons Hagman would later come to portray. He was still a boy when his parents divorced and he went to Los Angeles with Martin, who would become a Broadway and Hollywood musical star.

Hagman eventually landed in New York to pursue acting, making his stage debut there in "The Taming of the Shrew." In New York, he married Maj Axelsson in 1954 while they were in a production of "South Pacific. The marriage produced two children, Heidi and Preston.

Hagman served in the Air Force, spending five years in Europe as the director of USO shows, and on his return to New York he took a starring role in the daytime soap "The Edge of Night." His breakthrough came in 1965 when he landed the "I Dream of Jeannie" role opposite Barbara Eden.

In his later years, Hagman became an advocate for organ transplants and an anti-smoking campaigner. He also was devoted to solar energy, telling the New York Times he had a $750,000 solar panel system at his Ojai estate, and made a commercial in which he portrayed a J.R. Ewing who had forsaken oil for solar power. He was a longtime member of the Peace and Freedom Party, a minor leftist organization in California.

Hagman told the Times that after death he wanted his remains to be "spread over a field and have marijuana and wheat planted and harvest it in a couple of years and then have a big marijuana cake, enough for 200 to 300 people. People would eat a little of Larry." - Reuters

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Schumacher faces final curtain call

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:02 PM PST

SAO PAULO: In the expected tumult of the championship celebrations that will follow Sunday's championship-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix, one man will linger, take it all in and make a quiet, dignified exit.

Michael Schumacher, veteran of 305 Grands Prix starts, 91 race wins and seven world championships, will bid farewell to a sport he has graced, upset, laced with controversy and at times turned into a processional march through the record books.

When the 43-year-old parks his Mercedes in the team garage on Sunday he will begin his second retirement, three seasons after his return to the sport and after rarely reproducing the speed and aggression of his years at Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari.

But he will do so knowing he has created moments of drama and delivered hints of the talent that once burned so brilliantly.

"This time round, I will be able to pay more attention to my farewell and hopefully savour it too," said Schumacher, when asked to reflect on his feelings ahead of his final race.

"I have had fantastic years in Formula One and a lot of support from fans around the world, and I wish to particularly thank them for that.

"Of course, I would be happiest if I could say goodbye with a strong race and I am sure we will be doing everything we can to make it happen."

For Schumacher's fans, as in 2006, there is an air of disappointment about his exit because it has come not by choice, but circumstance.

When he retired after the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, it was after Ferrari had made clear they were signing Kimi Raikkonen from McLaren.

This time around, it is another McLaren driver, Lewis Hamilton, who has to be accommodated by the German's departure as Mercedes build for the future.

But unlike 2006, Schumacher is not involved in a title battle with Fernando Alonso. Instead, he will be battling to score his first points since the Italian Grand Prix in September and secure a mid-table finish.

"My departure will probably be less emotional for me this time than in 2006, when we were still fighting for the championship and everything was much more intense," said Schumacher.

"I am hoping to do a decent competitive race and to be able to enjoy it."

For the F1 fraternity, even those absorbed by another potentially-thrilling finale to the season between championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Alonso, Schumacher's last race and retirement is sure to be emotionally charged.

After 306 races, few of the drivers are without the bruises to show as proof of their scraps with the man Mercedes team chief Ross Brawn this week described as "probably the best Formula One driver of all time".

Brawn was with Schumacher at both Benetton and Ferrari and is widely regarded as the architect of his seven championship triumphs - a haul that is unlikely to be challenged in the near future.

"It will be an emotional weekend for everyone in the team," said Brawn.

"We have both greatly enjoyed and benefited from working with Michael over the past three years and I would like to pay tribute to his enduring commitment, passion and team spirit.

"The results that we all hoped for over that period have not come to fruition, however the progress that our team has made has been significant and I am confident that we will see the rewards in seasons to come.

"Having worked with Michael for the majority of the 21 seasons of his career, I feel that he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Formula One driver of all time and we wish him the very best with his future plans."

If statistics tell a story, they tell supreme success for Schumacher: 306 races (including Brazil), 91 wins, seven drivers' world titles, 68 poles and 77 fastest laps.

Schumacher bows out with a fitting message for fans on his race helmet: "Life is about passions - Thank you for sharing mine." - AFP

Buffalo Solider, Olympic star Dillard hailed

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 06:57 PM PST

BARCELONA: Harrison Dillard, who overcame racial prejudice to become the only man to achieve the Olympic double of 100m and 110m hurdles gold, and fought as a Buffalo Solider in the Second World War, was honoured on Friday.

Still in good health at 89 years of age, Dillard won his first gold in 1948 and second in 1952.

Before that he formed part of the 92nd infantry, the segregated "Buffalo Soliders", made up solely of African-American troops, fighting in the Italian campaign from 1943-45.

His life on and off the track was celebrated by the IAAF at their centenary weekend on Friday.

A native and resident of Cleveland, Dillard was inspired by track great Jesse Owens, a quadruple Olympic champion at Berlin in 1936, who received a ticker-tape parade upon his return to the Ohio city.

In 1996, at the time of the Atlanta Olympics, "Long" John, a name derived from his enormous stride, had recalled the "sad conditions" of black athletes in the US, before and after World War II, regardless of their status as Olympic champions.

The four-time Olympic champion - Dillard also triumphed twice in the 4x100m relay - also successfully adapted to life off the track.

"He was in charge of communications for the Cleveland Indians for 10 years. He also had a television and radio show and he was responsible for the city's educational department spending," his daughter Terri, who accompanied her father on his transatlantic voyage, told AFP.

On Friday, Dillard sat amongst three hurdlers, who like him, have etched their mark on the discipline with world-record times.

The 89-year-old was joined by American duo Aries Merritt - the current holder and London champion - and Renaldo Nehemiah, who ended his career at 22 to pursue a more lucrative livelihood in American football, as well as Britain's Colin Jackson.

Happy "to have lived this adventure", a diplomatic Dillard was reluctant to show preference to any of the hurdlers who have punctuated the heyday of the event.

He also likened the hurdles discipline to "an art" or "a ballet", unlike the chaos of the 100m.

At trials for the 1948 Games, Dillard failed to qualify for the 110m hurdles, but finished third to secure a spot in the 100m.

Despite favouring the hurdles, "Bones" - a moniker stemming from his slender stature - won athletics' blue riband event in London in 1948, shading a photo-finish before capturing gold in the 110m hurdles four years later in Helsinki.

The gentlemanly Dillard also spared a thought for his compatriot Mal Whitfield, a double Olympic 800m champion (1948 and 1952), who was unable to travel due to poor health.

In Barcelona, Dillard was able to recount how "Marvelous" Mal, who would later become a US Sports Goodwill Ambassador, served in the country's Air Force during the Korean War. - AFP

Nadal to make Abu Dhabi, Doha return

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 04:37 PM PST

DOHA: Rafael Nadal will end his six-month, injury-enforced absence from tennis by playing back-to-back tournaments in the Gulf before launching his assault on the Australian Open.

The 26-year-old Spaniard hasn't played since his shock second-round defeat against Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June.

He was then diagnosed as suffering with Hoffa syndrome, an inflammation of the fatty tissue in his left knee, a problem that has sidelined him several times over the years.

French Open champion Nadal was unable to defend his Olympic title, missed the US Open, the ATP World Tour Finals and also Spain's defeat to the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final.

Nadal will play alongside Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in a three-day exhibition in Abu Dhabi from Dec 27-29 before taking top seeding at the Qatar Open in Doha which begins on December 31.

"Nadal is returning to competitive tennis since his knee injury at Wimbledon so everyone is looking forward to seeing what he brings," Qatar Open tournament director Karim Alami told The Peninsula newspaper.

Nadal, whose ranking has slipped to fourth in the world returned to training at his Mallorca base this week.

"Today was my first training session after so many weeks out," the Spaniard said on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

"I am making progress and I hope to continue to do so." - AFP

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EU budget summit ends without deal, retry in 2013

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:15 PM PST

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders failed to reach agreement on Friday on a new seven-year budget for their troubled bloc, calling off talks in less than two days after most countries balked at far deeper spending cuts demanded by Britain and its allies.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said they decided to end a special summit on the 2014-2020 EU budget, worth about 1 trillion euros, and would try again early next year rather than continue negotiating into the weekend.

"The bilateral talks yesterday and the constructive discussion within the European Council show a sufficient degree of potential convergence to make an agreement possible in the beginning of next year. We should be able to bridge existing divergences," Van Rompuy told a news conference.

"My feeling is that we can go further (in cuts) but it has to be balanced and well prepared, not in the mood of improvisation, because we are touching on jobs, we are touching upon sensitive issues," he said.

The leaders mandated Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to try to close the gaps between member states in the coming weeks. Officials said the most likely date for resuming the talks was February.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the biggest contributor to EU coffers, said she had not expected a deal at the first attempt and played down the consequences of failure, saying there was a real potential for agreement at the start of 2013.

"I have always said that it wouldn't be dramatic if today were only the first step," she told reporters.

The last time the EU held its marathon budget negotiations in 2005, it took six months and an acrimonious failed summit at which Britain wielded its veto before a deal was finally found.

There was no such drama on Friday. But EU officials warned that failure would divert time and resources away from efforts to shore up the faltering euro zone, and reinforce an impression among the bloc's 500 million citizens and among investors that EU leaders suffer from collective indecision.

Financial markets were unmoved by the breakdown, focusing more on growing prospects of a deal next Monday to release urgently needed aid to ailing euro zone member Greece.

If the budget impasse drags on, it could delay programming of hundreds of billions of euros in investments in transport and energy in poorer ex-communist eastern members of the 27-nation bloc, meant to help them catch up with the richer west.


British Prime Minister David Cameron said a compromise plan tabled by Van Rompuy that scaled back cuts in farm subsidies and regional aid to placate France and Poland was "just not good enough", given the austerity that governments were implementing at home. He said other northern EU countries that contribute more to the budget than they get back felt the same way.

Cameron said a deal was still possible on the EU budget but the European institutions were "living in a parallel universe" and must adjust to the real world of budget cuts.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Germany, Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands, all net contributors, demanded further cuts of at least 30 billion euros on top of the 80 billion already trimmed from the European Commission's original spending blueprint.

Playing to Eurosceptical images of Brussels "fat cats", Cameron targeted the roughly 60 billion euros earmarked for EU salaries and benefits in 2014-20 for deep cuts, insisting that European officials endure similar reductions in numbers and pay as national officials in some countries.

He handed Van Rompuy a paper setting out ways to trim the bloc's administration bill by 10 percent, including raising the retirement age for most officials from 63 to 68, and capping pensions at 60 percent of final salary instead of 70 percent.

Van Rompuy ignored them in his draft compromise plan but appeared to open the door at his news conference to taking on board some of the ideas, saying they required careful preparation because they touched on personnel issues.


Negotiations on the EU's long-term budgets are always rancorous affairs, but the depth of Europe's present debt crisis has made the inevitable arguments over farm subsidies and rebates all the more bitter.

With national budgets being cut across much of the bloc, the EU is contemplating the first real terms decline in spending.

"We can't increase spending in the EU when we are cutting at home," Cameron said.

More than two-thirds of the EU's roughly 130 billion euro annual spending is paid out in subsidies to farmers and investment in motorways, bridges and other public works in poorer southern and eastern European countries.

The current seven-year budget worth 1.034 trillion euros in EU financial commitments for the period 2007-2013 was agreed in 2005, at the height of a credit-fuelled boom in public spending.

The Commission initially demanded a roughly 5 percent increase in spending for 2014-2020, equal to 1.091 trillion euros. But this has already been reduced to 1.01 trillion euros under Van Rompuy's compromise, and many net budget contributors insist the total must dip below the trillion euro mark.

Previous deals have been built around Franco-German pacts to defend generous EU farm subsidies against attack from Britain and other northern states. France receives more from the Common Agricultural Policy than any other country, while Germany is also a major beneficiary.

But the need for overall budget restraint now appears to be a higher priority for Germany than safeguarding farm spending, prompting France to ally itself with Poland and former-communist eastern European states to jointly oppose cuts to the two biggest areas of EU spending.

French President Francois Hollande pressed for proposed cuts in farm subsidies to be restored.

One area where Britain stood alone was in its bid to protect its cherished rebate from any cuts. The annual refund worth 3.5 billion euros last year was first won by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, due to Britain's low lower share of EU farm subsidies.

Paris, Berlin and others want to reform the complex system of rebates that also sees linked payments made to Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Hollande also said Paris would keep pushing for a change in the way rebates are calculated so that all countries contributed to their payment.

But EU officials accept that Cameron cannot win the support of Britain's euro-skeptic parliament for any deal that scraps the rebate. - Reuters

S&P downgrades maverick Hungary on weak growth

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:13 PM PST

BUDAPEST: Standard & Poor's on Friday cut Hungary's long-term credit rating, already in junk territory, by one notch to BB, saying its government's unpredictable policies could hurt medium-term growth.

The move came almost a year after S&P slashed Hungary to below investment grade on similar grounds and could hit the forint currency and Hungarian bonds when markets reopen on Monday, analysts said.

Further downgrades by other agencies are also likely as Hungary's prospects of clinching a financing deal with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have all but vanished after a year of stop-go talks.

Its growth outlook has also been dimmed by a wave of tax hikes and fiscal cuts.

"The downgrade reflects our opinion that the government's unorthodox policies, including exceptional measures applied to the financial sector, could erode the country's medium-term growth potential," S&P said in a statement.

"This could eventually undermine the government's efforts to sustainably reduce general government debt."

Hungary's Economy Ministry reacted to the move with fury, saying S&P should "downgrade itself", arguing that its decision did not properly reflect the economy's fundamentals.

The three leading rating agencies have classified Hungary as "junk" for almost a year and Fitch has already said it plans to review Hungary's rating in the coming weeks.

"We can face a rating downgrade wave. The chance has increased that the forint will weaken to 290-295 ... while the government will continue to float the IMF deal," said David Nemeth, an analyst at ING Bank in Budapest.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has repeatedly clashed with Brussels over his go-it-alone approach to cutting the deficit, which has tried to avoid outright austerity that might hurt public support.

Last month, his government again opted for tax hikes - on banks, foreign energy firms and public utilities - in a move that ran counter to IMF and EU advice.

In the past few weeks, Budapest has also chosen to plug a hole in its budget by extending a windfall tax on banks beyond 2013 and by announcing more new taxes - again, precisely the kind of measures its prospective lenders have opposed.

Orban faces elections in 2014, but analysts say the prospect of an IMF deal, which could restore his tattered policy credibility, is slight. The economy is mired in recession and Orban seem only ready to agree to a deal on his own terms.

S&P said it expected the government's fiscal targets to be met in the short term but said keeping the budget deficit under control could become increasingly difficult if growth remained subdued. Hungary's economy is expected to contract by more than 1 percent this year, and some analysts are predicting a recession next year.

S&P said the extension of taxes on the financial sector - which has been paying Europe's highest bank tax since 2010 - may further reduce banks' willingness to lend.

With its rating at BB and a stable outlook, S&P now has Hungary in the same category as Turkey, even though the fundamentals of the two economies are different in many ways.

But there is one similarity: Just like Turkey a few years ago, Hungary has been trying to buy time from investors by holding out the promise of an IMF deal.

"It seems that S&P was just as bored as the market in waiting a year for an IMF deal and so have downgraded," said Peter Attard Montalto at Nomura.


Hungary has announced three fiscal adjustment packages in the past few weeks to keep the budget deficit under the EU's ceiling of 3 percent of economic output to try to avoid losing millions of euros in EU development funds.

Its current account has been in surplus, but the domestic economy is in bad shape, with investment falling.

The Economy Ministry said the S&P downgrade should not be taken seriously.

"S&P tries to put the Hungarian economy into a category where there is no (other) country that has a budget deficit below 3 percent (of GDP), state debt on a declining course and a current account posting a sustained surplus," it said.

The forint traded at 282.50 against the euro at 1800 GMT, 0.4 percent weaker than it was before the downgrade, but it could fall further on Monday, when yields on longer maturity bonds could also rise 20-30 basis points.

The forint and bonds have been firming in recent months, supported by hopes of an IMF deal and the lure of high yields on global markets. Hungary's benchmark rate is at 6.25 percent, still offering a lucrative premium to investors.

"The forint has traded at the strongest end of its recent ranges in the past days. It's possible that it weakens now close to the weak end, beyond 285 of the euro on Monday," Nemeth said.

He said the central bank, which has been cutting interest rates steadily in the past three months to aid the economy, could cut further on Tuesday when it meets to decide on rates, provided the forint's falls are limited.

"I think the central bank will cut rates (despite the downgrade) if the forint stays firmer than 290, but they may halt (rate easing) if it weakens beyond 290," he said.

Wal-Mart India unit suspends CFO, others pending probe

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:09 PM PST

MUMBAI: The Indian joint venture of Wal-Mart Stores Inc has suspended its chief financial officer and other employees as it investigates alleged violations of U.S. anti-bribery laws, a development that could hamper India's efforts to open its domestic supermarket sector to foreign investment.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said last week it has opened internal inquiries or investigations into bribery allegations in a number of countries including Brazil, China and India, which follows an earlier probe in Mexico.

"The suspension is a routine global practice followed in such investigations," an official at the Indian unit said, declining to be named. "We cannot carry out a fair investigation when the people we are investigating are in office. What we must not forget is they are innocent until proven guilty," the person said.

Separately, a spokeswoman for the joint venture confirmed the suspensions and said the venture was "committed to conducting a complete and thorough investigation." Wal-Mart's partner in the venture is Bharti Enterprises.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, declined to say whether similar suspensions could be carried out elsewhere as its investigation proceeds.

"We are a committed to conducting a complete and thorough investigation," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment further until we have finished the investigation."

If any alleged improper conduct occurred, then the suspensions by Wal-Mart "will serve it well in the eyes of enforcement agencies" such as the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, in deciding how to resolve the broader case, said Mike Koehler, assistant professor of law at Southern Illinois University School of Law, who also runs the FCPA Professor blog, a forum focused on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

"Suspensions are common in situations like this. Companies that are under FCPA scrutiny want to demonstrate to enforcement agencies that upon learning of improper conduct, they took effective remedial measures," said Koehler. "Part of doing that is to isolate current employees from their positions, so that any improper conduct does not continue."

Indian authorities are also investigating claims that Wal-Mart violated foreign exchange rules when it invested $100 million in a domestic unit owned by its wholesale joint-venture partner.

Indian opposition parties and allies within the Congress party-led coalition government in New Delhi are opposed to allowing global giants like Wal-Mart into the retail sector, saying to do so would drive small traders out of business.

After several delays, the government in September finally allowed foreign direct investment in the sector to revive stalled reforms and help halt a slide in economic growth.

On Thursday, when the Indian parliament opened for its winter session, opposition politicians demanded a debate and vote on the policy decision and have threatened to halt parliamentary proceedings. - Reuters

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Najib urges Indian community to re-evaluate BN govt contribution

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:57 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak Friday urged the country's Indian community to re-evaluate the Barisan Nasional (BN) government's contribution and assistance to the community throughout the past four years.

"The Government had resolved many of the community's pending problems, including providing large allocations to upgrade their education and economic status," he said.

"Since becoming Prime Minister, the allocations for Indians increased significantly.

"Assistance for Tamil schools between 2009 and 2012 touched RM300mil, with an additional RM100mil in the 2013 Budget," he said at the launch of Tamil books by local authors, at the Dewan Tunku Chancellor, Universiti Malaya here.

He said the Government had also resolved other problems, such as identity card and birth certificate applications and citizenship status.

"Under the 1Malaysia concept, we want to ensure all government policies benefit every ethnic group, big or small," he added. He cautioned the people not to believe the opposition who seemed to be confused with their separate views.

"They're sleeping on the same pillow but having different dreams. We cannot gamble our future. Our future and that of our children is too valuable for that," he said.

In relation to the Tamil books, Najib requested the Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books to assist more such publications in order to preserve the Indian community's cultural and literary heritage for future generations.

He said although the Indian community was no different from other ethnic groups in wanting to preserve its own identity, they still contributed towards the nation's unity and the Malaysian society.

"I'm here to support Makkal Sakti Party and Universiti Malaya's efforts because I understand it is close to the Tamil community's heart. "I believe this programme can give 'Puthiya Nambikkai' (new hope) for Tamil authors in Malaysia," he said while launching 10 Tamil books by local authors, at the event.

Also present were Sakti Foundation president, Datuk R.S Thananthiran and Cherish & Share Programme director, Prof Dr M.Rajantheran. - Bernama

Fernandez’s remark can strain ties between politicians and civil servants, says alumni

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 07:43 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The Administrative and Diplomatic Officers Alumni Association said the remark by Petaling Jaya City Council member Derek Fernandez can strain the harmonious working relationship between politicians and civil servants.

Its president Tan Sri Sallehudin Mohamad urged Fernandez who likened civil servants as 'monkeys' while commenting on the transfer of the mayor to withdraw his remark in order to protect the harmonious relationship.

"The civil service is the pillar in the administration of any country.

"The responsibility entrusted is indeed noble and heavy a burden.

"The civil service expects sincere cooperation and positive support from all parties in the government, including political leaders appointed by supporters," he said in a statement here Friday.

Fernandez was quoted as saying in an English newspaper: "Let's see who the candidates are. If they are going to nominate some monkeys, we will reject." - Bernama

Floods in Jerantut, 40 people evacuated

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 05:24 AM PST

JERANTUT: Forty people from seven families in Felda Kota Gelanggi near here, were evacuated to a flood relief centre due to floods at 3am Friday morning.

Jerantut Police Chief Superintendent Azid Ismail said until 6pm, all victims were still placed at the Felda Kota Gelanggi Public Hall.

"Flood levels at their residence was between 1 to 1.5 meters due to heavy rain since yesterday," he said Friday.

Azid said there was no unwanted incident as the residents had complied with the direction given by authorities to evacuate.

"The residents will be allowed to return home once the flood waters recede," he said adding that police had warned flood victims to not return home whilst the water level has not dropped.

He said at the same time, police personnel will patrol the areas from time to time to prevent the houses of victims from being looted by burglars while they were away. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Cream of the crop

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 04:15 AM PST

The 49th Golden Horse Awards 2012 honours the best in the Chinese film industry.

THIS is an exciting time for Chinese cinema as the 49th Golden Horse Awards 2012 draws near. Also known as the Chinese language Oscars, the Taiwan-based film award is set to announce its winners tomorrow night.

Leading the fray is controversial mainland Chinese suspense thriller Mystery and Taiwan's coming-of-age flick GF*BF with seven nominations each. Coming in close are Hong Kong's crime thriller Life Without Principle and mainland Chinese noir comedy Design Of Death with six nods a piece.

The best actor category sees lone Taiwanese contender Joseph Chang (GF*BF) up against four acclaimed Hong Kong heavyweights – Chapman To (Vulgaria), Lau Ching Wan (Life Without Principle), Nicholas Tse (The Viral Factor) and Nick Cheung (Nightfall). Comedy actor To has also been nominated in the best supporting actor category for Hong Kong drama Diva.

In the best actress category, Hong Kong singer-actress Denise Ho (Life Without Principle) also faces tough competition from Taiwan's Gwei Lun Mei (GF*BF) and Sandrine Pinna (Touch Of The Light) as well as China's Bai Bai He (Love Is Not Blind) and Hao Lei (Mystery).

This year, the finalists were selected from a total of 122 full-length feature films, 67 short films, 20 documentary films and four animated features.

Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau, winner of last year's Golden Horse award for best actor for his unassuming role in A Simple Life, serves as chairman of the third and final round of the 2012 jury.

The 49th Golden Horse Awards 2012 will be aired live from Luodong Cultural Working House, Yi-Lan County, Taiwan, tomorrow on AEC (Astro Ch 301). The red carpet show begins at 5.30pm while the award presentation ceremony is at 7pm.

Nominees for main categories

BEST Feature Film: Beijing Blues (China); The Bullet Vanishes (Hong Kong/China); GF*BF (Taiwan); Life Without Principle (Hong Kong); Mystery (China/France).

Best Director: Doze Niu Chen Zer (Love); Gao Qunshu (Beijing Blues); Johnnie To (Life Without Principle); Lou Ye (Mystery); Yang Ya Che (Gf*Bf).

Best Actor: Chapman To (Vulgaria); Joseph Chang (GF*BF); Lau Ching Wan (Life Without Principle); Nicholas Tse (The Viral Factor); Nick Cheung (Nightfall).

Best Actress: Bai Bai He (Love Is Not Blind); Denise Ho (Life Without Principle); Gwei Lun Mei (GF*BF); Hao Lei (Mystery); Sandrine Pinna (Touch Of The Light).

Best Supporting Actor: Bryan Chang Shu Hao (GF*BF); Chapman To (Diva); Ronald Cheng (Vulgaria); Wu Gang (White Deer Plain); Zhuang Kai Xun (Stilt).

Best Supporting Actress: Amber Kuo (Love); Dada Chen (Vulgaria); Ivy Chen Yi Han (Love); Liang Jing (Design Of Death); Mavis Fan Hsiao Shuan (The Silent War).

Best New Director: Chang Jung Chi (Touch Of The Light, Taiwan/Hong Kong/China); Fung Kai (Din Tao: Leader Of The Parade, Taiwan); Hero Lin (Silent Code, Taiwan); Tsai Yueh Hsun (Black & White Episode 1: The Dawn Of Assault, Taiwan/China); Yang Yi Chien, Jim Wang (Cha Cha For Twins, Taiwan)

Best New Performer: Chun Mei Guo (Flying Dragon, Dancing Phoenix); Eric Lin Hui Min (Starry Starry Night); Peijia Huang (Cha Cha For Twins); Qi Xi (Mystery); Zhang Zixuan (Love Is Not Blind).

Best Original Screenplay: Au Kin Yee, Wong King Fai, Milkyway Creative Team (Life Without Principle); Dai Yan, Gao Qunshu (Beijing Blues); Ivy Chen Yi Han (Love); Mei Feng, Yu Fan, Lou Ye (Mystery); Yang Ya Che (GF*BF); Yang Yi Chien (Cha Cha For Twins).

Best Adapted Screenplay: Bao Jingjing (Love Is Not Blind); Guan Hu (Design Of Death); Tom Lin Shu Yu (Starry Starry Night); Wang Quan An (White Deer Plain); Xu Haofeng (Arrow Arbitration).

Best Cinematography: Cao Dun (Love Is Not Blind); Jake Pollock (GF*BF); Reitemeier Lutz (White Deer Plain); Song Xiao-Fei (Design Of Death); Wu Di (Beijing Blues).

Best Short Film: 6th March (Hong Kong); My Graduation Travel (Taiwan); The Home Gleaners (China); The Present (Taiwan).

Best Documentary: China Heavyweight (China); Hand In Hand (Taiwan); Money And Honey (Taiwan); Voyage In Time (Taiwan).

Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker Of The Year: Chen Po Wen; Jimmy Huang; Huang Yu Siang; Liao Su Jen.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Shih Chun

Coming soon

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 11:29 PM PST

Life Of Pi

Director Ang Lee adapts Yann Martel's novel that tells the story of a young man who is cast adrift after a disaster at sea. In this disastrous situation, he makes a connection with another survivor – a fierce Bengal tiger. Starring Suraj Sharma.


What do you do when you are a video game villain who wants to be a hero?

Well, you break free and pursue the dream of course. An animated feature with the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch.

Lagenda Budak Setan 2

This tale takes place six months after the end of the 2010 film. Kasyah remains strong for the sake of his baby, despite the loss of his wife. Fortunately, a friend manages to take his mind off what he has lost. Starring Farid Kamil, Maya Karin dan Bront Palarae.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

A Christmas story

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 04:38 AM PST

Nothing beats getting a book to browse and treasure. Take your pick of MPH's varied selections, which come with an exclusive discount.

'TIS the season to be jolly, and there are indeed many reasons to rejoice this Christmas as MPH Bookstores has gifts lined up for readers of all ages.

If you're looking for good reads to indulge in, or simply a present for loved ones, grab a copy of the MPH Tokens Of Love Annual Catalogue 2012 at any of its outlets, and browse through the compilation of interesting titles.

Tokens Of Love ties a variety of unique gifts and offers together so there is bound to be something for everyone.

As if the news couldn't get any better, Star2 readers will get to enjoy an exclusive 25% discount on the 12 books featured here by presenting this page upon payment at any MPH Bookstore in Malaysia (except MPH @ KLIA). The offer is limited to five copies per customer per original page (no photocopies allowed).

The offer is valid, while stocks last, from today till Dec 31, 2012. It is not valid with other promotions and is not exchangeable for cash. Note that cover images published may differ from available stock.

Meanwhile, mark Nov 30 on your calendar as more great titles on discount are coming your way!

1) Total Recall: My Unbelievably True life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger (RM72.50)

Get a glimpse into the life of Arnold Schwarzenegger, renowned body builder turned actor, who then served as governor of California.

Told in his own voice, this is one autobiography that will tug at your heartstrings as he reveals how he dealt with a scandal following his divorce and his struggles as an immigrant.

2) Better Than Fiction by Lonely Planet (RM60.80)

Read about the world's most fascinating adventures as you travel from the cell blocks of San Quentin, California, to exotic India with several international authors, all at one sitting. Threaded with great warmth, these personal encounters will inspire you as they portray travelling in a different light.

3) Great Adventures by Lonely Planet (RM149.90)

Tired of sharing your holiday experiences with 1,000 other tourists? Great Adventures showcases the most interesting places to visit for a whole new perspective.

4) Change Your Words, Change Your Life by Joyce Meyer (RM59.90)

Meyer shows us the significance of words in everyday life and suggests ways in which we can use them constructively, to maximise our potential.

5) Healthiest You Ever by Meera Lester, Murdoc Khaleghi, Susan Reynolds and Brett Aved (RM34.90)

Your dream for a healthy body is just some pages away! This ingenious book highlights ways to get fit and lose all those extra pounds. It is vital for those who want to build muscle strength.

6) Train Your Brain To Find Love by Dr Fran Cohen Praver (RM34.90)

Discover the natural strengths that you never knew you had, and the fact that everything you need to find love is already within you. Dr Praver empowers readers to literally use their brains to turn their love life around, 360°.

7) Basic French by Berlitz (RM99.90)

Fret no more if you're struggling to learn French. This handy book focuses on the basics of the language. It comes with a CD featuring native French speakers and a 136-page course book which will soon have you conversing with the French with confidence and ease.

8) The Art Of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products And Services Easier To Understand by Lee Lefever (RM87.80)

A concrete model for communicating ideas and enlightening audiences. This is the ultimate guide to making sure your words and ideas count.

9) The Book Of Business Awesome/The Book Of Business Unawesome by Scott Stratten (RM 79.80)

Stratten seamlessly ties up case studies of successful businesses as well as those that failed. Those with business in mind should get their hands on this book as it includes tools for taking action and nifty business tricks.

10) The Power Of Self-Confidence: Become Unstoppable, Irresistible And Unafraid In Every Area Of Your Life by Brian Tracy (RM79.80)

Some people say that self-confidence is one of the most attractive traits in a person and in this self-help book, Tracy presents keys to build up and maintain that important attribute in you.

11) I Declare: 31 promises To Speak Over Your Life by Joel Osteen (RM46.90)

Discover God's word and grow more in Him, together with Osteem, who writes about how God's promises can serve as a blessing in our lives.

12) Superfoods: The Everyday Ingredients For A Healthy Life by Parragon Books (RM19.90)

Filled to the brink with nutrient information, tips on choosing the best fresh produce and recipes for a healthy diet, Superfoods is vital for those who are keen on keeping their bodies in tip top shape.

Horror, murder and amnesia

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 04:29 AM PST

Dead Centre
Author: Andy McNab
Publisher: Corgi, 538 pages

THIS new tale under the Nick Stone series offers another fast-paced, action-packed adventure that fans of the genre will appreciate.

Stone, an ex-member of British Army regiment the SAS, travels to Somalia, where he must contend with some drug-fuelled, gun-crazy pirates in order to retrieve the kidnapped son of a Russian oligarch. The boy was snatched from his luxury yacht in Seychelles and his father is stopping at nothing to get him back. Even if it means hiring Stone, a man often considered to be a law unto himself.

The End Of Everything
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books, 246 pages

Young Evie suddenly disappears. Following that, her close friend Lizzie attempts to uncover the dark truth behind her baffling disappearance.

This novel has been described as a sort of psychological thriller and coming-of-age mash-up. Readers will be enthralled by the ruminations of 13-year-old Lizzie, who only has one clue to work on – a maroon sedan that she had spotted driving past her and Evie on the day it all happened.

Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Publisher: Penguin, 501 pages

Detective Carl Morck comes back in this second novel of the Department Q series, to investigate the brutal murder of a brother and sister. The incident happened 20 years ago and the case was closed after the accused was convicted based on an alleged confession. But someone isn't convinced that the murder has really been solved.

So who is digging up the case again, and why now?

These are questions Morck must look into, and the answers seem to lie with homeless Kimmie, who lives on the streets of Copenhagen.

Tigers In Red Weather
Author: Liza Klaussmann
Publisher: Picador, 389 pages

Told from five different viewpoints, this tale focuses on two cousins who are on the verge of having their happy endings.

Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is looking forward to being reunited with her young husband Hughes, who is about to come home from the war.

However, both the women soon realise the bitter truth behind gilded reality. Helena's husband is not the man he seems to be, and Hughes is distant upon his return, as if the light within him has been turned off.

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Imperative
Author: Eric Van Lustbader
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 435 pages

A man who almost drowned and now cannot remember what happened or who he is; a renegade Mossad agent named Rebeka; a secret encampment in southeast Lebanon ... All these are linked to a worldwide conspiracy of monumental proportions that Jason Bourne is embroiled in.

He must trace the amnesiac's identity and mission, failing which he and Rebeka will be killed. From Stockholm to Washington, DC, and from Mexico City to Beijing, the net of deceit and betrayal is cast far and wide in this Bourne novel.

Destined To Play
Author: Indigo Bloome
Publisher: Avon Red, 275 pages

Bloome reckons this book is one that fans of the 50 Shades Of Grey series will enjoy. It revolves around 37-year-old psychologist Alexandra Blake and tells how she leaves her comfortable, suburban routine to explore a new life with Dr Jeremy Quinn.

The man is able to open her eyes and body to the world in ways she never thought possible.

But what could have been an intricate experience of trust, betrayal, desire, love and risk, turns out to be a lesson that will challenge Alexandra's every inhibition.

Author: James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 416 pages

This techno thriller explores the global tussle between man and beast. The central character, biologist Jackson Oz, has noticed an increasing number of wild animal attacks around the world. An extraordinarily widespread occurrence of lions "ambushing" humans in Africa?

It's just one example of events that could spell imminent doom for all. Oz thus enlists the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, and together, they set out to get the world leaders to hear them out, before humans get overrun by nature's due course.

Narnia author Lewis to be honoured at Poets' Corner

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 12:42 AM PST

LONDON: Chronicles of Narnia creator C.S. Lewis will be honoured next year with a memorial stone in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey in central London, the abbey said on Thursday.

The novelist, poet, essayist and literary critic will join the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy who are either buried or commemorated in the famous location.

The memorial will be dedicated at a special service to be held on November 22, 2013, the 50th anniversary of Lewis's death at the age of 64. He was buried in Oxford.

Vernon White, Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, called Lewis "an extraordinarily imaginative and rigorous thinker and writer who was able to convey the Christian faith in a way that made it both credible and attractive to a wide range of people.

"He has had an enduring and growing influence in our national life," White added.

Lewis is best known for his Narnia children's fantasy series about the adventures of a group of children who stumble across a magical world where they encounter the talking lion Aslan and the evil White Witch among others.

The most famous was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe published in 1950, and the seven-book series as a whole has sold over 100 million copies and been adapted for radio, television, stage and film.

Lewis's other works include The Screwtape Letters, and Westminster Abbey described his Mere Christianity as "a classic of Christian apologetics, seeking to explain the fundamental Christian teachings to a general audience."

Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898 and won a scholarship to study at Oxford University in 1916.

In 1917 he was commissioned as an officer and fought on the frontline during World War One where he was wounded in 1918.

Lewis returned to Oxford where he taught English and was a close friend of The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

He married late in life and his relationship with American Joy Gresham was captured in Richard Attenborough's award-winning film Shadowlands. Lewis died on the same day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

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