Isnin, 26 November 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Nicaraguan ships arrive in waters disputed by Colombia - Ortega

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:55 PM PST

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said on Monday his country's ships already were exercising sovereignty over resource-rich Caribbean waters claimed by Colombia but granted to the Central American nation by an international court last week.

Ortega, however, added that he had been in touch with Colombia about implementing the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling, which grants disputed islands to Colombia while offering rights to fishing and oil-rich waters to Nicaragua.

"At midnight on Sunday our ships sailed, they sailed to the recovered area, and by now they have established sovereignty in that whole territory," Ortega said in a message on television and radio.

The court ruled last Monday that 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.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who partially rejected the judge's decision, ordered the Colombian navy to remain in the area granted to Managua until the ICJ has ruled on an appeal that Santos said he would bring before the court.

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 last week 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.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Satellite photo shows increased activity at North Korean launch site

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:35 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new satellite image shows a marked increase in activity at a North Korean missile launch site, pointing to a possible long-range ballistic missile test by Pyongyang in the next three weeks, according to satellite operator DigitalGlobe Inc.

The imagery was released days after a Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, reported that U.S. intelligence analysts had detected moves that were seen as preparation by North Korea for a long-range missile launch as early as this month.

DigitalGlobe, which provides commercial satellite imagery to the U.S. government and foreign governments, on Monday released a new image that it said showed increased activity at North Korea's Sohae (West Sea) Satellite Launch Station.

It said the imagery showed more people, trucks and other equipment at the site, a level of activity that was consistent with preparations seen before North Korea's failed April 13 rocket launch.

"Given the observed level of activity noted of a new tent, trucks, people and numerous portable fuel/oxidizer tanks, should North Korea desire, it could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks," DigitalGlobe said in a statement accompanying the image.

A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment on the reported satellite images, but said the Defense Department's position on North Korea's missile development efforts had not changed.

She urged North Korea to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions that "require Pyongyang to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner, and re-establish its moratorium on missile launching."

North Korea, which carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and is under heavy U.N. sanctions for its atomic weapons program, has tried for years to influence major events in South Korea by waging propaganda or armed attacks. South Korea is gearing up for a presidential election on December 19.

North and South Korea have been technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and regional powers have for years been trying to rein in the North's nuclear program.

North Korea is believed to be developing a long-range ballistic missile with a range of up to 4,200 miles (6,700 km) aimed at hitting the continental United States but the last two rocket test launches failed.

In April, under its new leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea launched a rocket that flew just a few minutes covering a little over 60 miles (100 km) before crashing into the sea between South Korea and China.

(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Rice to discuss Libya with McCain, lawmakers this week - aides

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 06:34 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will meet with lawmakers this week to discuss her controversial remarks about the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that have caused hurdles for her potential promotion to secretary of state.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Susan Rice speaks with the media after Security Council consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Susan Rice speaks with the media after Security Council consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

The move, announced shortly after a top critic said he would be open to speaking to her, could fuel speculation that she is gunning for the nation's top diplomatic job.

Republicans have attacked Rice for appearing on TV talks shows shortly after the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and saying that preliminary information suggested the assault was the result of protests over an anti-Muslim film rather than a premeditated attack.

Senator John McCain, a vocal opponent of Rice's possible nomination as secretary of state, said on Sunday he would be happy to meet with her about the issue.

A Senate aide said that Rice would meet with McCain as well as Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, fellow Republicans who have also criticized Rice.

An Obama administration official said Rice and Michael Morell, CIA's acting director, would meet with officials on Capitol Hill but declined to give details about timing.

"She and Mike Morell are meeting with folks on the Hill about Libya this week," the official said.

Rice said last week that her comments about the attack were based squarely on information provided to her by the intelligence community. The presence of Morell in the meetings is likely meant to give weight to that assertion.

President Barack Obama's nominee for the position must be confirmed by the Senate to take the job. Democrats have a majority in the Senate, but Republicans could block his choice.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in the attack.

Rice will meet another Republican Senator, Susan Collins, later in the week. A Senate aide said the meeting was arranged at Rice's request. Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is one of several committees probing the events in Benghazi.

Rice will also meet Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who chairs the committee, according to a Senate aide.

Rice is considered a top contender to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to step down at the end of Obama's first term.

Obama has not said who he wants to nominate for the post, but he bristled this month over Republican criticism of Rice, saying at a news conference that the senators should "go after" him rather than her. White House officials are fond of Rice and she is close to the president.

Senator John Kerry is also considered to be in the running to take over as the top U.S. diplomat.

(Editing by Eric Walsh and Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Report: 'Dallas' star accepted bag of cash from Ceausescu

Posted: 25 Nov 2012 09:48 PM PST

LONDON: Larry Hagman, the "Dallas" star who died this week, accepted a bag full of cash from Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in return for allowing the regime to use his image, Britain's Sunday Times reported Sunday.

Hagman, who won worldwide fame for his portrayal of villainous Texas oilman J.R. Ewing on the primetime soap opera, visited Bucharest in the 1980s with his wife, where they were feted by Romania's Communist leaders, the newspaper said.

"Dallas" was hugely popular in Romania and Ceausescu apparently sought the actor's permission to put a giant portrait of him on the side of a building.

"Hagman said he had no objection provided a bag filled with hard currency was left in the ladies' lavatory of a government office for his wife to pick up the next day," the newspaper reported, in an article it said Hagman had asked it to hold until his death.

"A brown paper bag stuffed with dollars was duly left to be collected, he (Hagman) recalled recently. 'We spent it quickly like we did all the money in those days,' he added."

The newspaper said it had agreed to Hagman's request to wait until he was dead before publishing the story. The 81-year-old died at a Dallas hospital on Friday from complications of throat cancer. - AFP


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Bank of England appoints foreigner as chief, first time in 300 years

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:14 PM PST

LONDON/OTTAWA: Britain named Canadian central bank chief Mark Carney on Monday to head the Bank of England, springing the surprise choice of a foreigner to push reform of its troubled financial system.

A former Goldman Sachs investment banker who at the Bank of Canada guided the Canadian economy through the global economic crisis, Carney will succeed Mervyn King who retires in July.

Carney, who already plays a leading role in setting global banking rules, defended his departure from Canada and signaled that bigger problems awaited him in London.

"I'm going to where the challenges are greatest," he told an Ottawa news conference, stressing the need to "rebalance" the economy which has relied heavily on a financial services sector hit by huge losses and scandals.

"It's very important for the global economy that the UK does well, that it succeeds in this rebalancing of their economy, that the reform of the British financial system is completed," he said.

Carney will become the first non-British head of the central bank in its 300-year history, beating hot favorite BoE deputy governor Paul Tucker to the post, which will pay a salary of 624,000 pounds ($1 million). The Bank of Canada does not disclose Carney's exact salary but says he is paid in a range equivalent to US$436,200-$513,000.

During the crisis, Carney helped to make Canada's recession one of the shallowest of the world's richest nations. No Canadian bank needed government help, and the country recovered all the jobs it lost in the downturn relatively rapidly.

By contrast, Britain had to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, and the world's sixth-largest economy is still struggling to achieve growth four years after the crisis broke.

Carney, 47, will remain as head of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), a Basel-based body that sets global banking rules, when he moves to London next year, although the Bank of Canada itself does not regulate the country's banks.

"I believe he will bring the strong leadership and external experience that the Bank (of England) itself needs as it takes on its heavy new responsibilities for regulating our banking system," Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, the finance minister, told parliament in announcing the appointment.

Carney will stay at the Bank of Canada through May, and starts at the Bank of England in July. He will serve a five-year term, rather than the eight years that had been expected for the next BoE governor.

From next year the BoE will take charge of British financial regulation, almost doubling its size. This boosted the case for a governor with strong management skills and financial market experience, rather than someone in King's academic mould.

Carney's past as a Goldman Sachs investment banker has been a double-edged sword, as he fought to prove his loyalties lie with ordinary citizens, not his high-flying banker ex-colleagues. He clashed memorably last year with JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon in Washington, when the U.S. banker argued against new regulations for the financial sector.


Carney also courted controversy in August when he accused Canadian firms of sitting on piles of "dead money", rather than investing it. Large British companies also have money to invest, but little appetite to do so at a time of strong economic risks.

How Carney's monetary policy experience will translate to Britain is less clear. Although the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates, unlike the BoE, economists said this reflected Canada's strong economy rather than a bias on Carney's part.

"Pragmatic is how I'd describe him," said Derek Burleton, an economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. "He doesn't come across as an ideologue one way or the other."

Under King, the BoE has poured 375 billion pounds into the economy by buying government bonds. The Bank of Canada has not used this policy of "quantitative easing" largely because its economy never weakened enough to warrant it.

Until now, Carney had strongly played down the possibility of heading the British central bank. "(It's a) surprise, huge surprise," said Peter Dixon, an economist with Commerzbank. "That was the one guy I didn't have in the running.

Carney said he did not apply for his new job as part of the formal process, and discussions intensified only in the last two weeks.

He has already spent a decade in Britain as a postgraduate student at Oxford and at Goldman Sachs - where European Central Bank President Marin Draghi also once worked. Carney, whose wife is British, will apply for citizenship, Osborne said.

Carney pointed to the steady state of Canadian banks, which also contrasts to some of those in Britain that have been sucked into scandals over rigging the Libor interest rate and mis-selling financial products to people who didn't need them.

"We have a system that works very well. It's been tested under the biggest economic shock and financial shock that any of us will ever see in our lifetime, and it has passed that test," he said.

His job has been helped in recent years by booming prices for Canada's commodities exports from oil to gold and grain.

The still-athletic Carney - a sub-four-hour marathon runner - was once described as "un-Canadian" by one Ottawa official because of his sometimes confrontational style.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressed the mixed feelings in Ottawa about Carney's departure. "It's bitter-sweet. It's our loss. His loss will be felt," he said.

The foreign exchange market passed a similar judgment with sterling rising against both the U.S. and Canadian dollars. The pound hit to a 2-1/2 week high against the Canadian dollar to C$1.5950 from C$1.5898 beforehand. - Reuters

Carney's deputy seen as favourite to take over at Bank of Canada

OTTAWA: The Bank of Canada's senior deputy governor, Tiff Macklem, is the early favourite to replace Mark Carney as the head of the central bank, pointing to a steady-as-she-goes policy that points eventually to higher interest rates.

The policy picture would be less clear, however, if an outsider were brought in for the top Bank of Canada job, something that the bank has done on the last two occasions.

"He's been very involved with the governor since the credit crunch began, and we know that the two see eye-to-eye on many of the dynamics that are occurring in Canada right now," Ian Pollick, fixed income strategist at RBC Capital Markets, said of Macklem.

That said, the uncertainty introduced with the surprise appointment of Carney to the Bank of England weakened the Canadian dollar and boosted bond prices as markets bet on a chance, however slight, of a more dovish policy.

The Bank of Canada stands apart from other major central banks in that it avoided large bouts of quantitative easing and now insists the next move in interest rates is likely to be up.

It presided over a relatively quick recovery from the world economic crisis, with no Canadian bank having needed a government bailout. Canada's resource-rich economy has driven growth as other industrialized countries have struggled, and the country's property market avoided the excesses that plagued the United States, allowing Canada's banks to avoid losses.

Arguing in favour of choosing from within the bank for a new chief is the need to maintain morale, after the bank's senior deputy governor was passed over for outside candidates in the last two appointments -- David Dodge in 2001 and Mark Carney in 2008.

"Every so often at least you have to go internal just for long-run morale considerations," said Bill Scarth, economic policy expert at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and at the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto. "Otherwise, when people get senior they start looking for another job."

And given that Macklem became senior deputy governor only in July 2010, it would be "awkward to all of a sudden jump somebody over him unless it's an outside person," Scarth said

Macklem, 51, is currently the bank's chief operating officer and has been actively involved at the global Financial Stability Board, where he chairs a committee on standards implementation. He was previously the associate deputy minister at the Finance Department and was Canada's Group of Seven deputy.

Under Carney, the Bank of Canada was the first in the G7 leading industrialized nations to raise its reference rate from the rock-bottom level in the global financial crisis. It has held the rate at 1 percent since September 2010.

In April it signalled a rate hike might become appropriate, something it now says will happen "over time," making it an outlier in a G7 more focused on continued stimulus.

The median view in an October 24 Reuters survey of primary dealers is that the next rate hike will not be until the fourth quarter of 2013.

Another possible candidate is insider-outsider Jean Boivin, a respected monetary policy researcher who was deputy governor at the bank from 2010 until last month, when he became the Finance Department's representative at G7 and Group of 20 meetings, the job once held by Macklem. As Boivin was part of the Bank of Canada consensus, his appointment would also signal no change.

An outsider floated by Nomura economist Charles St-Arnaud is Don Drummond, a former federal finance official who helped wrestle down Canada's large budget deficit in the 1990s.

Other possibilities are the remaining deputy governors at the Bank of Canada: Agathe Cote, John Murray and Tim Lane -- who of course are under Carney and Macklem in the central bank pecking order.

McMaster economist Scarth noted that Flaherty praised Carney's service in his announcement on Monday morning, and that suggested Carney would not want to appoint somebody who would be likely to cause change.

"We are sort of the envy of the world in financial matters generally. If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Scarth said. - Reuters


Privacy groups ask Facebook to withdraw proposed policy changes

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:11 PM PST

SAN FRANCISCO: Two privacy advocacy groups urged Facebook Inc on Monday to withdraw proposed changes to its terms of service that would allow the company to share user data with recently acquired photo-application Instagram, eliminate a user voting system and loosen email restrictions within the social network.

The changes, which Facebook unveiled on Wednesday, raise privacy risks for users and violate the company's previous commitments to its roughly 1 billion members, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy.

"Facebook's proposed changes implicate the user privacy and terms of a recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission," the groups said in a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg that was published on their websites on Monday.

By sharing information with Instagram, the letter said, Facebook could combine user profiles, ending its practice of keeping user information on the two services separate.

Facebook declined to comment on the letter.

In April, Facebook settled privacy charges with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it had deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. Under the settlement, Facebook is required to get user consent for certain changes to its privacy settings and is subject to 20 years of independent audits.

Facebook, Google and other online companies have faced increasing scrutiny and enforcement from privacy regulators as consumers entrust ever-increasing amounts of information about their personal lives to Web services.

Facebook unveiled a variety of proposed changes to its terms of service and data use polices on Wednesday, including a move to scrap a 4-year old process that can allow the social network's roughly 1 billion users to vote on changes to its policies.

If proposed changes generate more than 7,000 public comments during a seven-day period, Facebook's current terms of service automatically trigger a vote by users to approve the changes. But the vote is only binding if at least 30 percent of users take part, and two prior votes never reached that threshold.

The latest proposed changes had garnered more than 17,000 comments by late Monday.

Facebook also said last week that it wanted to eliminate a setting for users to control who can contact them on the social network's email system. The company said it planned to replace the "Who can send you Facebook messages" setting with new filters for managing incoming messages.

That change is likely to increase the amount of unwanted "spam" messages that users receive, the privacy groups warned on Monday.

Facebook's potential information sharing with Instagram, a photo-sharing service for smartphone users that it bought in October, flows from proposed changes that would allow the company to share information between its own service and other businesses or affiliates it owns.

The change could open the door for Facebook to build unified profiles of its users that include people's personal data from its social network and from Instagram, similar to recent moves by Google Inc.

In January, Google said it would combine users' personal information from its various Web services - such as search, email and the Google+ social network - to provide a more customized experience. The unified data policy raised concerns among some privacy advocates and regulators, who said it was an invasion of people's privacy.

"As our company grows, we acquire businesses that become a legal part of our organization," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an emailed statement on Monday.

"Those companies sometimes operate as affiliates. We wanted to clarify that we will share information with our affiliates and vice versa, both to help improve our services and theirs, and to take advantage of storage efficiencies," Noyes said. - Reuters


CIMB expands investment bank in Hong Kong

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:09 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Group introduced its extended investment banking operations in Hong Kong yesterday at a launch event attended by top clients, fund managers and financiers.

The launch follows the completion of CIMB's acquisition of the Royal Bank of Scotland's investment banking businesses in Hong Kong and their integration into CIMB's existing investment banking franchise.

"We now have the full complement of investment bankers and equities personnel to be competitive in Hong Kong as well as to anchor our entire North Asia operations," said Datuk Sri Nazir Razak, CIMB Group Chief Executive.

"I am optimistic about our prospects because the new combined team has a strong onshore track record in Hong Kong and the differentiating proposition of a huge ASEAN based network. Our model is all about intermediating within Asia for Asia, and we have a unique platform for doing that."

Matthew Kirkby, CEO for Hong Kong and Co-Head of Investment Banking, will lead the 192-strong team in Hong Kong, providing investment banking advisory services, equity and capital market fund raising abilities, broking services and research.

Kirkby has over 15 years of investment banking experience in Europe and Asia, and was the Head of Global Banking Asia Pacific, overseeing the Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) corporate and investment banking business in Asia Pacific, including debt capital market, equities capital market and corporate finance.

"There is significant potential in Hong Kong, as it is one of the world's top financial centres and the gateway to China. CIMB has a unique understanding of Asia and in ASEAN in particular, and we think clients will appreciate the synergies and strengths of the Group's investment and universal banking platform across the region," said Kirkby.

Hong Kong and Australia (which launched operations earlier this month) will be CIMB Group's two largest ex-ASEAN markets. Upon the full completion of the Group's acquisition of RBS' Asia Pacific investment banking business, anticipated in late 2012, the Group will have operations in a total of 18 countries. - BERNAMA



The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Shuttlers have the numbers for Shenzhen challenge

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 03:40 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: With the conclusion of the Hong Kong Open on Sunday, Malaysia are set to send their biggest number of representatives for the BWF World Super Series Finals in Shenzhen, China, from Dec 12-16.

World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei had already qualified for the tournament prior to the Hong Kong meet along with men's doubles duo Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong and mixed pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.

The onus was on Liew Daren and Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong to seal their places in the men's singles and doubles respectively.

Daren, whose form has dropped somewhat since winning the French Open last month, only had to reach the second round to guarantee his ticket to Shenzhen.

This was partially due to the fact that those still in the running – Sho Sasaki (Japan), Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Denmark) and India's Ajay Jayaram – all fared poorly in Hong Kong.

The 25-year-old Daren is fifth in the latest Super Series standings released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and will make his first appearance in the season-ending Finals alongside Chong Wei. Each country is allowed to send two representatives if they are in the top eight.

Thien How-Wee Kiong, who have been impressive of late, did just enough to consolidate their eighth placing in the standings.

Although the world No. 16 failed to progress to the Hong Kong semi-finals – faltering at the crucial moment against China's Liu Xiaolong-Qiu Zihan, reaching the last eight meant that China's Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng will miss out despite winning the tournament.

But while Thien How-Wee Kiong delivered when it mattered most, the same cannot be said of top men's pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, who have now lost in three final appearances since the London Olympics.

The pair, currently No. 2 in the world, are yet to live up to their high ranking as they only played well in patches in Sunday's 16-21, 17-21 loss to Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng.

Still, national doubles coach Tan Kim Her believes they have been performing well and are only one performance shy of breaking their Super Series drought, which has lasted almost three years.

"The Chinese pair stuck to their tactics well and made Boon Heong tired with long rallies," said Kim Her.

"I told them to defend first before attacking but the Chinese pair were relentless and, by the time Kien Keat-Boon Heong tried to mount a comeback, it was too late.

"Still, it was a much improved performance and they will surely regain their winning form soon."

The good news for Kien Keat-Boon Heong is that with Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng out of the equation in Shenzhen, they have one less rival to worry about.

Macau Open: Tago gets top billing in Lee’s absence

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:18 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: The absence of world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei will definitely take the shine off the Macau Open, which starts today, with Japan's Kenichi Tago (pic) the only notable name in the men's singles.

The 30-year-old Chong Wei suffered a demoralising defeat to China's Chen Long in the Hong Kong Open on Sunday as the lack of preparation, due to his busy wedding schedule, took its toll.

Chong Wei, who faced his first real test since the Denmark Open last month, was unable to lift his game and lost 19-21, 17-21.

National singles coach Rashid Sidek said Chong Wei had pulled out of the Macau tournament to focus on the BWF World Super Series Finals in Shenzhen, China, from Dec 12-16.

That means world No. 7 Tago is now the favourite against a field of relative lightweights like Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat, Tommy Sugiarto, Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka and the Hong Kong duo of Hu Yun and Wong Wing Ki.

The Malaysian challenge will be led by Chan Kwong Beng, Goh Soon Huat, Loh Wei Sheng, Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub, and former world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkifli.

None of them are expected to progress far in the tournament.

The newly-formed pairs of Chan Peng Soon-Lim Khim Wah, Ong Jian Guo-Goh V Shem and Mohd Lufti Zaim-Teo Kok Siang will be out to make an impression in the men's doubles.

Peng Soon-Khim Wah are drawn to meet third seeds Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki-Hendra Gunawan of Indonesia while Jian Guo-V Shem will be up against Indonesian second seeds Ricky Karanda Suwardi-Muhammad Ullinuha in the first round.

Lufti-Kok Siang start their campaign from the qualifiers.

Top national pair of Vivian Hoo-Woon Khe Wei, who have struggled this year, will have a chance to prove their worth in the women's doubles.

The world No. 22 pair face India's Aparna Balan-N. Siki Reddy in the first round and should progress to the quarter-finals against top seeds and world No. 7 Jang Ye-na-Eom Hye-won – a pair they have beaten twice in three meetings.

Malaysia just need a draw against Canada to top Group A

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:16 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: National coach Paul Revington could not have asked for better results in the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament in Quilmes, Argentina.

Malaysia, ranked 13th in the world, outplayed Poland 4-0 in the opening Group A match last Saturday and then stunned world No. 7 South Korea 4-2 on Sunday.

Malaysia just need a draw against Canada today to finish top of the group and play the fourth placed team of Group B in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

Defender Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim has not only marshalled the defence well but has also scored three penalty corner goals in two matches.

The 39-year-old Revington said it is always nice to score eight goals in the first two games.

"I'm not too sure who scored all the goals because I focus more on how the team contributed together to the goals. This is so important," said Revington.

The national team have definitely shown vast improvement in the one month they have trained under the South African.

Revington said there were several pleasing aspects in the first two matches.

"However, there are definitely areas they must improve in. The boys are doing everything possible to make these improvements quickly," he said.

Revington has, however, warned the players not to be over confident against Canada, who have only one point from two matches.

Canada lost 2-0 to Korea and drew 3-3 against Poland.

Malaysia lost 3-1 to Canada in the last tournament in South Africa.

Revington, who is assisted by former international S. Arul Selvaraj, was also happy with the penalty corner conversion rate of the team.

"Malaysia have always been strong in the penalty corners and the players are flicking with confidence at the moment.

"We have some fantastic penalty corner flickers, injectors and trappers," said Revington.

Defender Baljit Singh, who suffered an ankle injury in the Poland match and was rested against Korea, could play against Canada.

Hosts Argentina, with wins against Ireland (4-3) and South Africa (2-1), also only need a draw against Japan today to top Group B.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Bachmann's novel - The Peculiar making waves

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 06:39 AM PST

An 18-year-old author's debut novel is making waves with its unique combination of mystery, fantasy and steampunk adventure.

WHAT would you do if you had the services of a powerful faery at your command, capable of catering to your every whim? Some men would ask for power, some for glory, love, or riches. Swiss author Stefan Bachmann, however, is content with having it help him get organised.

"If it wasn't frightening like the one in my book, I would ask it to keep track of things for me," Bachmann quipped in an e-mail interview. "I'm constantly losing pens and glasses and tickets."

While the young author may not actually own a real faery (or so we think), writing about them has certainly brought him acclaim. Bachmann is the author of The Peculiar, a fantasy novel described as part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy and part steampunk adventure.

His novel is making waves in the American publishing scene, receiving rave reviews from both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Named one of the big children's books of BookExpo America 2012, the novel has received praise from luminaries such as Christopher Paolini (author of Eragon) and Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson And The Olympians).

What is even more impressive, however, is that Bachmann starting writing the novel two years ago, when he was16, an age when many people have problems fully reading a novel, let alone writing one!

"I read crazy amounts of books growing up, and I think there just came a point when I wanted things to go differently than the way the authors were writing them," Bachmann said.

"Some big influences were Beatrix Potter, Frances Hodgson Burnett, JRR Tolkien, and Susanna Clarke. I love prose and stories that are a little bit old-fashioned and a little bit magical, even if they have no fantasy at all in them. If they do have magic, it just makes them that much cooler."

The Peculiar takes place in an alternate Victorian London, where faeries have become second-class citizens after losing a war to humanity. Its setting is dark and mesmerising, with wolves pulling taxicabs, church bells chiming every five minutes (it keeps the faeries at bay!) and messages being sent by clockwork birds.

The novel tells the story of two changelings, or Peculiars (the offspring of faeries and humans): young Bartholomew Kettle, and his sister, Hettie, who has twigs growing on her head instead of hair. Shunned by the rest of society, the lives of the two siblings are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of a mysterious lady at the alley they live in.

The two soon end up in a sinister turn of events involving kidnappings and dark rituals as they catch the attention of some very powerful faeries, such as the murderous Jack Box, and the devious politician Mr Lickspittle. Traversing exotic locales such as a goblin market and a steam-powered airship, the only hope for the two comes in the form of the well-meaning but bumbling Arthur Jelliby, a young politician desperate to do the right thing.

Bachmann was born in Colorado in the United States, and later moved to Zurich, where he now lives with his family. He is currently attending the Zurich Conservatory, and dreams of becoming a film composer. The talented 18-year old even composed a few pieces of music for his novel, which he dubbed Peculiar Pieces.

"I wanted to write a few short pieces that encapsulated the mood of three or four scenes from the book: Jelliby chasing a clockwork bird, a sad little waltz for two characters I won't name, and a scene where the faeries come out of a great doorway.

"Obviously, and unfortunately, it's all played by an electronic orchestra, but it was a lot of fun to write, and I'm glad my publisher let me," said Bachmann, who is a fan of the soundtracks for the films The Village and Atonement.

Bachmann said it had taken him six to seven months to write the first draft of The Peculiar, which was then followed by a long process of polishing it up.

The inspiration for the book, he said, came from a Disney movie.

"How sophisticated, I know," Bachmann joked. "It's called The Great Mouse Detective and it's about mice and rats in a gloomy 19th century England, with clockwork and creepy toys."

Much of his storytelling style had come from fairy tales, he added, naming George MacDonald, Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm as influences.

"European fairy tales tend to be very vague about the magical elements and specific characteristics of their goblins and trolls," Bachmann said. "So I had a lot of room to come up with my own details. Most of my research ended up being on Victorian customs and English maps from the 1850s."

The Peculiar also features elements of "steampunk", a science fiction subgenre typically featuring steam-powered machinery, anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions.

"I like how steampunk looks, and I wanted to incorporate it and contrast it with the wild and naturalistic faeries," he said. "I'm very intrigued by the concept of machine versus magic. I love that."

Bachmann said the second and concluding book in the Peculiar duology would be called The Whatnot, due out next year.

He added that he would then stop writing about faeries and steampunk, as he wanted to try his hand at other things.

He did, however, leave us with this tantalising glimpse into the second book:

"Unlike the first book, a large part of the second one takes place in the faery world, and we get to see quite a bit of it. I loved writing that. It's a very sinister place, where literally anything can happen and there are no laws that can't be broken.

"In The Whatnot, there's much wandering under lonely black trees, an expedition on a boat, a prolonged visit to the castle of a faery aristocrat, and the riding of some strange sorts of horses. None of it is quite as pleasant as it sounds."

BookXcess - Easy access to cheap books

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 12:53 AM PST

It has been six years since its inception, and the founders of BookXcess remain dedicated to its mission.

SOMEWHERE in the city, huge printing machines work around the clock, churning out book copies by the millions. These books are then sold at dirt-cheap prices, because ink and paper cost next to nothing.

This is what some people believe is the reason behind the low prices of books sold at BookXcess in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

The company's managing director Andrew Yap shrugs it off as a "good misconception".

"They think we are selling pirated books, that we print these books ourselves. But try printing a novel and see how much it costs. It isn't as cheap as some people seem to think," he says with a chuckle.

No, the folks at BookXcess are not into piracy or secondhand books; they sell new books that are "remaindered" or overprint titles, at prices that are typically 50%-80% off the recommended retail price.

In particular, the founders, Yap and his wife Jacqueline Ng, say they get a smaller profit from sales of children's books because they believe that reading is a habit that should be instilled from a young age. This will make it easier on parents to buy books for their kids.

"We get these books at remaindered prices and we basically give customers access to books for a cheaper price. We also deal with excess books in the book industry. That's why there's an X in BookXcess, so it can go both ways – access and excess," explains Yap.

The first BookXcess store was opened in November 2006, but it really all started before that, with a single shelf stacked high with books in a magazine store run by Ng.

"We didn't know much about books then, so we were cautious about venturing into the book industry. We imported some books, put them on the shelf, and when customers came in to look at magazines, we would tell them to take a look and provide us with feedback," says Ng, who is executive director of BookXcess.

The response was good enough to convince Ng and Yap that it was worth a shot, so they made the leap of faith. And it has paid off.

From the first humble 500sqft (46sqm) store, they have now expanded into a spacious 12,000 sqft (1,115sqm) bookshop. Around 40,000 individuals have signed up as members. The highly anticipated Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, which kicked off with 120,000 books in its first year, promises to be bigger and better this year, with three million books up for grabs in its fifth instalment.

"We are currently the biggest English book importer in Malaysia, and this year's selection of books at the Big Bad Wolf Sale in December will be mind-boggling," shares Yap, who previously ran a car workshop.

By the end of this year, BookXcess would have imported no fewer than four million books from all over the world into the country this year. Not that the duo is going to stop there.

"Our dream is to open the biggest bookstore in the world with 200,000sqft (18,581sqm) of retail space in a few years. It will be beside a busy highway, and it will be the craziest building in KL. I want it to look like a book and it might even have bright lights like buildings in Las Vegas at night!" Yap says with a grin.

His enthusiasm is contagious. Yap and Ng have come a long way from those early days when they didn't even know that remaindered books existed, much less where to get them. Even when the books started coming in, they realised that they didn't have any idea how to categorise the books.

"Which genre did each book belong to? We didn't know. It was indeed a steep learning curve for us, but we had clear goals: To increase the readership in Malaysia and provide a high standard of customer service. So, no matter what we wanted to do, we would always see if it matched these objectives," says Ng.

"After all, the fastest way to increase readership and the standard of English is to have good and affordable books available," Yap adds.

But are bookstores like theirs in a niche of their own, or do they give the regular bookstores a run for their money? Yap says that some in the book industry do not seem to welcome their being a part of it; but he believes that far from being a threat, BookXcess is actually complementing the industry.

This is because a bookstore like theirs has its limitations. Overprints are available for purchase only six to 12 months – sometimes later – after the book launch proper. And the store might not be able to offer customers a book series in its entirety. It is also unable to place orders for specific books a customer might want because it relies on overprint supplies.

"But when you can get a book at a lower price, it just might encourage a non-reader to pick up that first book," says Ng.

"Someone might also be more willing to pay for a book by an author he or she doesn't know, just to give it a try, if the price is lower. If the reader gets hooked on it, he will end up wanting to get the whole range, and he might have to get it from another place since we might not offer it. So we are, in fact, complementing the book industry," says Yap.

Despite all the teething issues and other obstacles that have come their way, Ng and Yap say that the customers and their feedback make it all worthwhile.

They have had people tell them that they have rekindled their love for reading through BookXcess. Or that a visit to the store ended up in a non-reader eventually becoming an avid reader.

"Some people have even told us, 'You have changed my life'. These are strong words, but this is the one reason we are motivated to go on, these stories from our customers. We know we are doing something right; it is not just a business, we feel we are making a little bit of difference in someone's life, and we are proud of that," says Ng.

And they are here to stay, Yap emphasises.

"We intend to do this for a long time to come. As long as Malaysians want to read, we will try our best to cater to them. But when our dream bookstore is built, I definitely plan to also return to the car industry!"

Check out BookXcess at The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale will be held in Malaysia International Exhibition & Convention Centre (MIECC) at The Mines in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, from Dec 7 to 23. For more information, log on to or


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Chor: Special tribunal to manage, hear strata management cases

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 06:22 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: A special tribunal for managing and hearing cases involving strata management will be set up to enable the dissatisfied parties to make claims related to maintenance and management.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said the Strata Management Tribunal would have the power to decide on compensation not exceeding RM250,000.

"It'll be like the Housing Claims Tribunal that has been established under the ministry where buyers face problems while the developer refuses to pay compensation, so they (buyers) can go to the tribunal to seek redress.

"Previously, it was said that many condominium owners refused to pay maintenance fees because they knew that if the management corporations wanted to claim payments, they would have to bring the cases to court.

"As we all know, there'll be delays at the courts. So to avoid this problem, the special tribunal will be set up under this act," he said when winding up the debate on the Strata Management Bill 2012 in the Dewan Rakyat, here, on Monday.

Chor said at the early stage of implementation, the tribunal would be set up at the ministerial level.

However, he added, the ministry planned to set up a branch of the tribunal in every zone in future.

He said the move was to enable housing issues faced by the people to be resolved efficiently and effectively.

The Dewan Rakyat sitting continues Tuesday. - Bernama

Speaker bars French lawyer from entering Parliament to brief MPs on Scorpene case in France

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 05:41 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia has barred French lawyer Apoline Cagnat from entering the Parliament to brief MPs on the Scorpene submarine case in France.

Pandikar rejected an application by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to hold a question and answer session with Cagnat at a briefing room in the Parliament building.

"Even though Datuk Saifuddin Nasution (PKR - Machang) explained that there was new evidence (on the case) which needed to be clarified, in my opinion, it is still accusations and not bipartisan in nature," he said in a letter addressed to Anwar.

He added that he also agreed with the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club that said if such personal agenda needed to be explained, other venues could be used without involving the Parliament.

Pandikar also pointed out that the case was still under investigation and consideration by the relevant authorities.

It was learnt that Cagnat is an associate to French lawyer William Bourdon.

Bourdon was deported from Malaysia on July 22 after he gave a speech in Penang about the Government's purchase of Scorpene submarines.

It was reported that R. Sivarasa (PKR - Subang) and Tian Chua had revealed a letter from Bourdon to Anwar, saying that he would be willing to come to Kuala Lumpur to answer questions on the Scorpene case.

At the Parliament lobby, Chua said Cagnat will be meeting with MPs at the Changi Village Hotel in Singapore to give the briefing on the Scorpene case on Monday.

He said Cagnat did not receive a written assurance from the Malaysian Government that she will not be deported from the country and hence, had to hold the briefing in Singapore.

PSC to decide on Dec 3 action against Health DG who pleaded guilty to ‘khalwat’

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 05:17 AM PST

PUTRAJAYA: The Public Services Commission on Monday has decided to suspend Health Director-General Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, effective Nov 14 pending disciplinary action against him after he pleaded guilty to khalwat'.

Commission chairman Tan Sri Mahmood Adam said in a statement Monday that Dr Hasan was suspended according to the rules of conduct governing civil servants until Dec 3 when the commission would decide on the nature of the disciplinary action to be taken against him.

On Nov 14, the Syariah High Court fined Dr Hasan, 56, and another Health Ministry officer Wan Syarifah Nooraazmanita Wan Hassan, 36, RM3,000 dan RM2,900 respectively after they pleaded guilty to committing khalwat' (close proximity) in a room in Hotel Pullman, Putrajaya, at 2.18am the same day.

Related Stories:
PSC to decide on khalwat duo
Health DG, who pleaded guilty to khalwat, relieved of his duties


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Vampires foil Tooth Fairy, Santa to claim box office win

Posted: 25 Nov 2012 11:31 PM PST

REUTERS - Teen vampire film The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continued to take a bite out of the domestic box office, drawing US$64 million in ticket sales over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend to finish ahead of James Bond film Skyfall.

After opening with a massive US$141.1 million last weekend, the finale of the Twilight franchise brought in a holiday swarm of fans to see teen favorites Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, pushing Breaking Dawn to US$227 million in total domestic ticket sales.

Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig in the 23rd installment of the James Bond franchise, finished second, collecting US$51 million in weekend ticket sales in the United States and Canada, according to studio estimates compiled by the box office division of

Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's historical film on the last days of President Abraham Lincoln, grabbed third with US$34.1 million over the Wednesday-through-Sunday period.

Making its debut in fourth place with US$32.6 million was the animated film Rise Of The Guardians, featuring the voices of Chris Pine and Alec Baldwin as the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and other childhood favorites who save the world.

Life Of Pi, based on Yann Martel's 2001 best-seller about a boy who survives on a raft with a tiger after his ship sinks, collected US$30.15 million for a strong fifth-place finish.

Rise Of The Guardians, produced by Dreamworks Animation for roughly US$145 million, had been projected by distributor Paramount Pictures to gross US$35 million in its first five days, according to Box Office Mojo.

Based on The Guardians Of Childhood book series by children's author William Joyce, the film will be the last Paramount will release for Dreamworks, whose films will be distributed next year by News Corp's Fox studio.

Anne Globe, Dreamworks' chief marketing officer, pointed to "the great parent reactions we've seen" to the film, and noting it was among the few choices for families through the end of year, said the studio was "hoping for very long legs through the holidays."

The Ang Li film Life Of Pi, on the other hand, performed stronger than expected. "We clearly exceeded our pre-release expectations," said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox.

"We're seeing word of mouth in action, and a remarkably balanced demographic," including strong ticket sales among those under 25, he said, adding "Many felt it was impossible to film, but Ang Li pulled it off."

The remake of the 1984 Cold War film Red Dawn, finished seventh with US$22 million in sales, behind animated feature Wreck It Ralph's US$23 million take.

Red Dawn arrived at movie theaters four years after it was shot by MGM, but was delayed when the studio filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Last year, MGM decided to digitally alter the villains in the movie, inserting North Koreans instead of Chinese, after Hollywood began courting Chinese companies to help finance its films.

Propelled by the vampires, secret agents, presidents and nursery school favorites, Hollywood ticket sales totaled US$290 million for the holiday weekend, beating the holiday weekend high mark of US$273 million recorded in 2009. Hollywood studios often release their biggest holiday films on Wednesday to take advantage of school breaks the day before Thanksgiving.

The continued rush of fans to see teen favorites Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner pushed the Twilight installment to US$227 million in total domestic ticket sales, making it the year's sixth-largest, according to figures compiled by Box Office Mojo.

Skyfall with US$221.7 million is just behind at number seven, while the year's box office champ remains Marvel's The Avengers, which has taken in US$623 million to date.


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Onus on landowner to ensure subdivision premium paid

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 03:48 AM PST

With reference to the stories "Apply for land titles or face action" and "Ownership At Last" published in StarMetro on Oct 23 and Nov 6 respectively, we would like to clarify that Fast Crescent Sdn Bhd is a company which is unrelated to Trinity Corporation Bhd (formerly known as Talam Corporation Bhd) nor does Trinity Corporation Bhd have any equitable or legal interest in Fast Crescent Sdn Bhd.

The joint venture between the landowner, SAP Holdings Bhd (a Selangor state-linked company) and Fast Crescent Sdn Bhd, the developer, was inked on Sept 12, 1999 (JVA) wherein, Fast Crescent had developed the land and completed the development which is known as Lestari Perdana.

As per the terms of the JVA, SAP Holdings was responsible to pay the subdivision premium for the said land and to deliver the subdivided titles to the purchasers.

The obligation of Fast Crescent was merely to build and to deliver the houses to the purchasers and to pay SAP Holdings its joint venture entitlements pursuant to the JVA which Fast Crescent did in fact fully comply with the aforesaid obligation since 2004.

As per the JVA, the onus is upon SAP Holdings as the landowner to ensure that the subdivision premium for the land is paid and titles are issued for the best interest of the purchasers. However, SAP Holdings has failed to do so. Hence, Fast Crescent is not responsible for any non-delivery of titles to the purchasers.

Fast Crescent is prepared to work with the state government/SAP Holdings to deliver the titles to the purchasers so long as the legal and economic rights of Fast Crescent are not affected.

The Management of Fast Crescent Sdn Bhd

Uncollected garden waste in Section 17

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 03:48 AM PST

I AM a resident in Section 17, Petaling Jaya.

Lately, garden waste in this area has been left uncollected and it has been an eyesore, health hazard and a potential danger to pedestrians and residents.

This is especially so in Jalan 17/21 and in main junctions of this residential area.

In addition, I would like to suggest the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) also trim the trees along the back lanes of houses so that the surrounding areas are clear and bright to deter crime.

I sincerely hope MBPJ will act on this. In the past, garden waste collection was efficient and prompt. Of late, perhaps with the appointment of new contractors, this has deteriorated and garden waste has been left uncollected for more than a month.

However, I would like to laud MBPJ's action in setting up mini recycling bins towards the end of Jalan Universiti and its free bus service in certain parts of PJ.

As a prompt ratepayer, I hope MBPJ could step up its services to the community by improving its waste collection services further.

SECTION 17 Resident
Petaling Jaya


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