Selasa, 27 November 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. judge orders tobacco companies to admit deception

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 05:26 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major tobacco companies that spent decades denying they lied to the U.S. public about the dangers of cigarettes must spend their own money on a public advertising campaign saying they did lie, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

An ashtray with cigarette butts is seen outside a restaurant, in London March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

An ashtray with cigarette butts is seen outside a restaurant, in London March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The ruling sets out what might be the harshest sanction to come out of a historic case that the Justice Department brought in 1999 accusing the tobacco companies of racketeering.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote that the new advertising campaign would be an appropriate counterweight to the companies' "past deception" dating to at least 1964.

The advertisements are to be published in various media for as long as two years.

Details of the campaign - like how much it will cost and which media will be involved - are still to be determined and could lead to another prolonged fight.

Kessler's ruling on Tuesday, which the companies could try to appeal, aims to finalize the wording of five different statements the companies will be required to use.

One of them begins: "A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public by falsely selling and advertising low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes."

Another statement includes the wording: "Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day."

The wording was applauded by health advocates who have waited years for tangible results from the case.

"Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-tobacco group in Washington.

"These statements do exactly what they should do. They're clear, to the point, easy to understand, no legalese, no scientific jargon, just the facts," said Ellen Vargyas, general counsel for the American Legacy Foundation, which is known for its "Truth" advertising campaign that began in 2000 and was credited with curbing smoking by the young.

The largest cigarette companies in the United States spent $8.05 billion (5 billion pounds) in 2010 to advertise and promote their products, down from $12.5 billion in 2006, according to a report issued in September by the Federal Trade Commission.

The major tobacco companies, which fought having to use words like "deceived" in the statements, citing concern for their rights of free speech, had a muted response.

"We are reviewing the judge's ruling and considering next steps," said Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for Reynolds American Inc.

Philip Morris USA, a unit of Altria Group Inc, is studying the decision, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for a third major defendant, Lorillard Inc, had no immediate comment.

The Justice Department, which urged the strong language, was pleased with the ruling, a spokesman said.

Kessler's ruling considered whether the advertising campaign - known as "corrective statements" - would violate the companies' rights, given that the companies never agreed with her 2006 decision that they violated racketeering law.

But she concluded the statements were allowed because the final wording is "purely factual" and not controversial.

She likened the advertising campaign to other statements that U.S. officials have forced wayward companies to make.

The Federal Trade Commission, she wrote, once ordered a seller of supposed "cancer remedies" to send a letter on its own letterhead to customers telling them the commission had found its advertising to be deceptive.

"The government regularly requires wrongdoers to make similar disclosures in a number of different contexts," Kessler wrote.

Early in the long-running case, the Justice Department hoped to extract $280 billion from the companies to pay for a smoking cessation program and other remedies.

It later dropped the demand to $14 billion, and then Kessler ruled she could not force them to pay for such a program at all.

When Kessler first ordered the advertising campaign in 2006 - setting off six years of debate on the wording - the statements were to run on major television networks, on cigarette packaging, as full-page newspaper ads and on corporate websites.

The idea was to "structure a remedy which uses the same vehicles which defendants have themselves historically used to promulgate false smoking and health messages," she wrote then.

But in the years since, "the types of media in which defendants convey commercial messages of this nature have changed dramatically," Kessler wrote on Tuesday.

Perhaps, she added, the ads should also be in the online versions of newspapers.

Analysts who follow tobacco companies declined to comment on Tuesday's ruling, saying it would be hard to estimate the impact of the court-ordered advertising campaign until all of the details are known.

Vargyas, of American Legacy, is expecting a drawn-out fight.

"The tobacco companies will appeal absolutely everything," she said.

The case is USA v. Philip Morris USA, et al, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 99-cv-02496.

Separately, tobacco companies are battling in court with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the warning labels on tobacco products. The FDA has proposed new graphic warning labels - one of which includes a photo of a man with a hole in his throat - that companies consider a free speech violation.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Howard Goller, Gary Hill, Peter Galloway, Jim Marshall and Phil Berlowitz)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Congo rebels say will withdraw from Goma

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 05:23 PM PST

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Tuesday they would pull out of the eastern city of Goma in an apparent stalling of their drive to "liberate" the whole country.

The South Africa contingent of the U.N. peacekeepers in Congo erect a razor wire barrier around Goma airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo November 26, 2012. REUTERS/James Akena

The South Africa contingent of the U.N. peacekeepers in Congo erect a razor wire barrier around Goma airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo November 26, 2012. REUTERS/James Akena

The situation on the ground remained far from clear after the rebels' political and military leaders gave conflicting statements over their intentions, though U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said in New York "there were indications tonight that possibly the M23 elements were starting to withdraw."

"Of course that was already late in the evening, and that will have to be confirmed tomorrow," Ladsous told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors.

The eight-month insurgency has threatened to develop into an all-out war in a region dogged by nearly two decades of conflict that has killed more than 5 million people and is fuelled by competition over mineral resources.

The Ugandan military, which has coordinated talks with the M23 rebels, said earlier that M23 leader Colonel Sultani Makenga had agreed to a plan drawn up by regional heads of state for the rebels to leave Goma within 48 hours, with no conditions.

But the political head of M23, Jean-Marie Runiga, later told journalists in Goma they would withdraw from the city only if President Joseph Kabila agreed to their demands. The Congolese government dismissed the chances of this happening.

"There's no division, General Makenga has said that we'll withdraw, so that's what we're in the process of doing," deputy M23 spokesman Amani Kabasha told Reuters by telephone.

"If we withdraw the force, everyone leaves ... It's not contradictory (to Runiga's statement). He said we were prepared to withdraw from the town but that Kabila must listen to us."

Kabasha said the entire movement would head 20 km (12 miles) toward the town of Kibumba, directly north of the city.

Makenga confirmed the decision to pull out from Goma to Reuters by text message, without giving further details.

U.N. experts say the M23 rebels are backed by Rwanda. The rebels captured Goma last week after Congolese soldiers withdrew and U.N. peacekeepers gave up defending the city. Ladsous said the peacekeepers remained in control of the Goma airport.

Runiga had told reporters in Goma his forces would withdraw only if Kabila held national talks, released political prisoners and dissolved the electoral commission, a body accused by Western powers of delivering Kabila a second term in a flawed 2011 election.

He said Kabila's government was rotten with corruption, lamented the country's dilapidated roads and said Congo's only schools and hospitals had been left by Belgian former colonial rulers. He said any talks would have to tackle such issues.

"We are fighting to find solutions to Congo's problems. Withdrawal from Goma is not a precondition to negotiations but a result of them," Runiga had said.


The conflicting statements indicated a solution to the insurgency in eastern Congo, which has displaced 140,000 civilians according to the United Nations, was not close.

Lambert Mende, Congo's government spokesman, said the pullback was expected to take until Friday but that it was too early to say if it would definitely happen.

"We prefer to wait, these are not people who keep to their word," he told Reuters by telephone from the capital Kinshasa.

Ugandan military chief Aronda Nyakayirima told journalists in Kampala the plan specified M23 would begin its withdrawal on Tuesday. Government troops would enter Goma two days later, followed by a visit by regional defence chiefs "to evaluate the situation and find out whether all these timelines were met".

No rebel soldiers were visible in Goma on Tuesday evening.

"We haven't yet seen any significant troop movements out of the city," Hiroute Guebre Selassie, head of the UN mission in Congo MONUSCO's North Kivu office, told Reuters.

African leaders had at the weekend called on M23 to abandon their aim of toppling the government and to withdraw from Goma.

The Great Lakes heads of state also proposed that U.N. peacekeepers in and around the city should provide security in a neutral zone between Goma and new areas seized by M23.


In a potential further escalation, Rwanda said on Tuesday its troops clashed with Rwandan FDLR rebels who attacked three villages on its border with Congo.

FDLR spokesman La Forge Fils Bazeye said on Tuesday evening that his fighters had attacked Rwandan army positions on the border north of Goma.

"I want to confirm the clashes between our fighters and the Rwandan army, some of our fighters are still there, the fight continues," he told Reuters by telephone.

Rwanda has in the past used the presence of the FDLR as a justification for intervening in neighbouring Congo. But the rebel group, which experts say has dwindled in strength, has not mounted a significant attack on Rwanda in years.

Rwandan government spokeswoman and Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said they would not allow Tuesday's attack to interfere with the regional push to bring peace to eastern Congo.

"This morning's attack by the FDLR forces from their bases in DRC is clearly an attempt to take advantage of the volatile situation in eastern DRC," she said in a statement.

"We will counter any violation of Rwandan territory by the FDLR and continue to protect our borders but will not allow today's fighting to derail the ongoing regional peace process."

Congo and U.N. experts accuse Rwanda of backing the M23 group in eastern Congo, which has big reserves of gold, tin and coltan, an ore of rare metals used in making mobile phones.

That is denied by Rwandan President Paul Kagame who has long complained that Kabila's government and U.N. peacekeepers have not done enough to drive out the FDLR from eastern Congo.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Jenny Clover in Kigali, Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Yara Bayoumy, Richard Valdmanis and Bate Felix; Editing by Robert Woodward and Paul Simao)

Related Stories:
Congo rebels say will leave Goma if Kabila agrees to demands

Rwanda says FDLR rebels attacked villages, rebels deny this

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.S. declines to name China currency manipulator

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 04:36 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration said on Tuesday that China's currency remained "significantly undervalued," but stopped short of labelling the world's second-biggest economy a currency manipulator.

Although Beijing controls the pace at which the yuan can rise, the U.S. Treasury said in a congressionally mandated semi-annual report that China did not meet the legal requirements to be deemed a currency manipulator.

The label is largely symbolic, but would require Washington to open discussions with Beijing on adjusting the yuan's value.

It has been 18 years since the U.S. Treasury has designated any country a manipulator. China was labelled a manipulator between 1992 and 1994.

The latest report reflected both the administration's desire to maintain good relations with its top creditor and an attempt to keep up pressure for changes in China that could benefit the U.S. economy and mollify domestic critics.

The report noted that the yuan, also known as the renminbi, had risen 12.6 percent against the U.S. dollar in inflation-adjusted terms since June 2010. An official said it was up 9.7 percent on a nominal basis through Tuesday, when it closed at a record high.

The Treasury also said China had "substantially" reduced its intervention in foreign exchange markets since the third quarter of 2011 and had loosened capital controls.

"In light of these developments, Treasury has concluded that the standards ... have not been met with respect to China," it said. "Nonetheless, the available evidence suggests the renminbi remains significantly undervalued," the report added, echoing the Treasury's last assessment in May.

Ted Truman, a Treasury official under former President Bill Clinton, said it was important to keep a watchful eye on China's currency policy.

"We have the aftermath of 10 years of misbehaviour," said Truman, who is now with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "It would probably be unwise and too soon to declare victory."

During the U.S. presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney pledged to label China a manipulator on his first day in office to show he would be tougher on the chief U.S. economic competitor than President Barack Obama.

Many U.S. businesses and lawmakers complain that Beijing keeps the value of its currency artificially low to gain an advantage in trade at the expense of American jobs.

But an international consensus is growing that the yuan is closing in on its fair value after about a decade at an artificially weak level. The International Monetary Fund softened its language on the yuan in July.


Signs of a recovery in the Chinese economy and a new round of quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve have led traders to push the yuan higher.

But China's central bank has kept a lid on the move. The central bank allows the yuan to rise or fall by only 1 percent from whatever rate it sets each day.

Charles Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. Senate and a long-time critic of China's yuan policy, said the Treasury passed up an opportunity to level the trade playing field.

"It's time for the Obama administration to rip off the band-aid, and force China to play by the same rules as all other countries," the New York senator said in a statement.

But the U.S.-China Business Council, which represents U.S. companies that do business with China, applauded the decision.

"The exchange rate has little to do with the U.S. trade balance or employment," council President John Frisbie said. "We need to move on to more important issues with China, such as removing market access barriers and improving intellectual property protection."

The Treasury said further appreciation of the yuan would help China balance its economy toward consumption by giving households greater purchasing power.

It called on China to reduce its "exceptionally high" foreign exchange reserves and publish data about its intervention in currency markets.

The Obama administration also used the currency report to keep pressure on South Korea to limit its foreign exchange intervention.

South Korea says it intervenes to smooth the volatility of its won currency, but it has gone into the market throughout 2012, the Treasury report said. In July, the IMF said the won was undervalued by up to 10 percent.

"We will continue to press the Korean authorities to limit their foreign exchange interventions to the exceptional circumstances of disorderly market conditions," the report said.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

'Men' star says no disrespect meant by 'filth' remark

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 08:28 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two And A Half Men teen actor Angus T. Jones, who caused a media furor by calling his own show "filth," apologized on Tuesday for disrespecting the creator, cast and crew of the raunchy TV comedy.

But Jones, 19, whose distaste for the show was prompted by a his new-found Christian beliefs, did not retract his YouTube appeal to fans to stop watching the show, nor his own claims of discomfort at being part of one of the top-rated comedies on U.S. television.

"Without qualification, I am grateful to and have the highest regard and respect for all of the wonderful people on Two And A Half Men with whom I have worked and over the past ten years who have become an extension of my family," Jones (pic), who plays fun-loving teen Jake Harper, said in a statement.

"I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that," he added.

Jones started working on the show at the age of 9, playing the role of nephew to actor Charlie Sheen's womanizing, partying bachelor character.

Sheen was sensationally fired from the CBS comedy in 2011 for bad behavior off screen and replaced by Ashton Kutcher, but Two And A Half Men is still known for its risque humor.

In a YouTube video made for the California-based Forerunner Christian Church, Jones on Monday asked millions of fans to stop watching the show "and filling your head with filth."

"You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that," he added, saying he no longer wanted to be part of it.

The CBS network, and Warner Bros. Television which makes the comedy, have declined to comment. Jones, who has several months left on his more-than-US$350,000-per-episode contract, issued his statement after a rehearsal on Tuesday.

Sheen, whose Two And A Half Men exit was accompanied by a spate of bizarre rantings and Internet monologues, on Tuesday called Jones's verbal assault a "meltdown."

"It is clear to me that the show is cursed," Sheen commented in a statement.

Two And A Half Men, now in its 10th season, is watched by about 14 million Americans and is seen in more than 20 countries around the world.

We built this city

Posted: 28 Nov 2012 03:25 AM PST

The fantastical world of City Of Friends features people and talking animals, which have made their home a source of good values.

A MONKEY as a cop. Now, that's not a combination you see everyday, but in a make-believe land in the 3D sphere, even an elephant can become a firefighter. Welcome to the City Of Friends, a town that brings together a motley crew of talking animals and cars, and of course, we human beings.

The 3D animation series is the brainchild of Norwegian Special Forces police officer Carl Christian Hamre, who came up with the concept as an alternative to the "regular" children's bedtime stories available.

"My eldest son, who was then five (now 10) years old, would ask me to tell him more about my job with the emergency services, instead of the bedtime stories.

"But that would end up keeping him awake rather than helping him to sleep," said Hamre, who works with the Norwegian SWAT, imitating his son's wide-eyed amazement. In the end, City Of Friends became an amalgam of Hamre's daytime job and role as a father, and he's taken it as far as his imagination would allow.

While it might seem contentious for kids aged two to five (the programme's target audience) to be consuming life-threatening situations experienced by the emergency services, Hamre has painstakingly worked his content to make it palatable for his target audience.

His stories are more about what to do in case someone falls and bruises his or her knee, or if someone is stuck up in a tree – trials and tribulations of the everyday child. Naturally, the emergency services numbers are also conveyed.

"I try to retain the childishness in the stories. I combine thinking like a five-year-old and also like an adult teaching a five-year-old," he said during a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.

City Of Friends brings family values to the fore, with its gentle message about friendship, tolerance and the importance of working together, timely topics given the age we live in and how values have eroded as a consequence.

"I wanted to tell my son about the emergency services, but I also wanted to teach him the importance of friendship and being nice to people. It was also important for me to tell kids that they should be outdoors more, instead of sitting at home and playing computer games," said Hamre, who initially sold his stories as books via garage sales at his home in Bergen, Norway.

Also of significance to Hamre was to let his kids understand that we live in an international world today, with people from all around the world mixing with each other, a facet displayed in the characters of the series. The father of three studied in a school which comprised various nationalities, and the world has simply become a smaller place since then.

The protagonist in City Of Friends is Max, the police officer monkey. There is also Elphie, the firefighting elephant, and Ted, the paramedic teddy bear. Animals feature prominently in animation, but how does one decide what animals to include, and do the roles correlate to the animals' personality traits?

"When I created the story, I was the main character, but I wanted my son to hear about someone other than daddy being the hero. So, I created this impressive universe and wanted a bunch of appealing characters in it. Max is funny and clumsy, and the monkey is my favourite animal," he revealed.

Elphie the firefighting elephant was an easy pick, apparently. When Hamre was a kid, he had gone to the circus and watched an elephant spray water with its trunk.

"And given the trunks elephants have, they can also reach up in the trees and bring people down to safety. With Ted, well, teddy bears are always warm and comforting."

City Of Friends, a CreaCon Group Productions, has been sold to 180 countries and translated into 23 languages. The programme has great standing in Singapore (it's the leading kids show), Hong Kong and has even infiltrated Russia and the Middle East, with Europe remaining its stronghold. More than 25 million viewers watched it on YouTube in October.

City Of Friends has also been made into a live show, one that has been impressively staged and taken Europe by storm. "The show will also be coming to Asia, and should play in Singapore in the third quarter of next year," he said.

Hamre's recent visit to Malaysia was to secure TV broadcasting rights for his show, and while details remain forthcoming, he assures that sometime next year, kids here will be able to enjoy Max, Ted and Elphie in their resplendent, three-dimensional glory.

For more info on City Of Friends, visit

Eye on the crown

Posted: 28 Nov 2012 03:25 AM PST

The 10 remaining finalists of Miss Universe Malaysia 2013 have only two weeks to work their charm.

Another two beauty queen hopefuls bit the dust in last Sunday's episode of The Next Miss Universe Malaysia on 8TV.

Unfortunately, this time, it was fan favourites Chammaine Tan and Angely Lew who were sent packing after failing to impress the judges.

The girls were brimming with potential at the start of the competition but during a mock "live talk show", the two cracked under pressure and gave lacklustre performances.

Other strong contenders, such as Marissa Paramaraj and Trisha Kuck, also suffered the same fate when their personalities failed to come through in a photo shoot challenge.

If there's anything the remaining finalists can learn from this, it is that no one is safe.

The remaining contestants have only two short weeks to prove their worth before the grand finale at Setia City Convention Centre in Bandar Setia Alam, Selangor, on Dec 10.

Only six of the 10 remaining finalists will make the cut and compete for the crown.

Thankfully, eliminated contestants can still redeem themselves as two wild card contestants will be chosen – one by the judges and the other by the public – to compete in the finale.

The winner will walk away with the chance to represent the country in the prestigious Miss Universe pageant.

Catch the two remaining episodes of The Next Miss Universe Malaysia on Dec 2 and 9, at 10.30pm, on 8TV (Astro Ch 708). Tickets to watch the grand finale and attend the gala are on sale at


The Star Online: Sports

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Nabil can wrap up JK Racing Asia title in New Delhi this weekend

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 05:36 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian motorsport has had plenty to celebrate this year, with Zulfahmi Khairuddin's two podium achievements in Moto3, Jazeman Jaafar's runner-up finish in the British F3 Championships and Karamjit Singh retaining his FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2WD title.

But wait, there's more to come as Nabil Jeffri is on the verge of making history as only the second Malaysian to win the prestigious single-seater series in Asia this weekend.

Nabil will fly to India today for the season finale of the JK Racing Asia series this weekend where he will bid to keep his championship lead at the end of the four races at Buddh International Circuit in New Delhi.

The 19-year-old Malaysian endured a mixed outing in his last visit there last month, when he only managed one second placing from two races.

Nabil started from pole position for the second race but was given a drive-through penalty for a jump start infringement and finished eighth. He, however, stayed at the top with 188 points – 34 points ahead of his Eurointernational team-mate and fellow rival Aston Hare of South Africa.

Fellow Malaysian Afiq Ikhwan, driving for Meritus GP, will have no chance to fight for the overall crown but will be ready to challenge Nabil and Hare all the way.

Afiq won three of the last four races and is third with 134 points.

Interestingly, all three have four race wins so far this year, with four more rounds to be decided. But Nabil is not waiting for his compatriot to do him any favours and will make a bid to seal the overall title in the first two races.

"This is going to be a big weekend for me. My objective is to qualify on pole and try to win both races.

"If I do that, the title will be mine. Jazeman won the overall title in 2007 and no other Malaysian has managed to win it again.

"I am close now and it means a lot to win the title ... as far as my career progression is concerned. It's important to focus well for the weekend and deliver," said Nabil, who is competing in his third season in the series.

Jazeman won in 2007 when it was known as the BMW Pacific Asia Series and is still the youngest winner.

Qualifying takes place on Friday, followed by Races 13 and 14 on Saturday. The season wraps up with Races 15 and 16 on Sunday.

Yamaha’s Hafiz ready to fend off rival in Penang

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 02:54 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Mohd Hafiz Nor Azman hopes to luck will be on his side when he attempts to secure the Wira crown in the season finale of the Petronas AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship at Stadium Batu Kawan, Penang, on Dec 1-2.

The Mos Track Pro Yamaha Racing rider faces a huge threat from title-contender Fakhrusy Syakirin Rostam, who dominated the points table until Round 9 at the Sepang International Circuit earlier this month.

Fakhrusy, of AAP Mazoil Armstrong Motorsport, was gunning for a hat-trick in Sepang, having won the two previous legs in Johor (Round 7) and Malacca (Round 8), but his good run was abruptly halted due to a crash in the qualifying session and he was excluded from the race.

With Fakhrusy out of the race, a fourth-placed finish gave Hafiz the opportunity to seize control of the standings with a seven-point lead (165 points) over Fakhrusy, who dropped to second with 158 points. Motul Yamaha YY Pang's Tengku Amirul Haffiruddin is third with 123 points.

This has left Hafiz hoping for luck to be on his side again in Penang this weekend.

"Luck was on my side in Sepang ... hopefully, it will continue to work in my favour in the final round in Batu Kawan. I was sure Fakhrusy would open up a bigger gap in Sepang because he was unstoppable in Kluang and Malacca. But to my surprise, he crashed during the qualifying ... this proves that anything can happen during a race," said Hafiz.

National team whip Canada to stay unbeaten

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 02:58 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia continued their impressive run in the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament when they defeated Canada 4-2 to top Group A in Quilmes, Argentina.

They had beaten Poland 4-0 and South Korea 4-2 in the earlier matches and top the group with nine points.

Poland finished second after coming back from a goal down to stun the top-ranked South Korea 5-4 in an earlier match yesterday to claim their first win in the tournament.

It was a remarkable win for world No. 19 Poland over the Koreans, the world No. 7.

Poland finished with four points while the Koreans ended up third with three points from one win and two defeats. Canada finished last with just one point from three matches.

Malaysia will meet the fourth-placed team from Group B in the quarter-finals tomorrow.

In yesterday's match, defender Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim gave Malaysia the lead off a penalty stroke in the seventh minute – it was his fourth goal in three matches.

Four minutes later, they doubled the score through a Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin field goal.

Canada reduced the deficit with a Keegan Pereira goal in the 17th minute but Malaysia made it 3-1 seven minutes later with a Faizal Saari field goal.

Canada scored their second goal through Matt Guest four minutes after the break but Malaysia sealed the match with another field goal by Mohd Fitri Saari in the 56th minute.

Team manager George Koshy (pic) said the national players impressed after dominating the game against Canada.

"It's really nice to top the group with three impressive wins.

The great thing is that the players are improving with each game and are hungry for goals," he said.

"I hope they will continue to improve in the quarter-finals."

George warned the players to stay focused on the quarter-final clash. "We need to win the quarter-final match to finish better than the fifth placing we achieved in South Africa last year.

"We also want to continue winning to improve our world rankings," said George.

Malaysia are ranked 13th in the world and the tournament offers vital points for teams to improve on their rankings.

The winner will also feature in the next edition of the Champions Trophy.


The Star Online: Business

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Asian shares end seven-day winning streak

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 07:30 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares ended a seven-day winning streak on Wednesday and commodities eased as investors fretted that lack of progress in talks on U.S. budget woes risked putting the world's largest economy into recession.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 percent, retreating from Tuesday's nearly three-week highs, with materials and energy sectors leading the declines.

Shares in resource-reliant Australian dropped 0.4 percent, easing from two-week highs, dragged lower by top miners on weaker gold and oil prices.

Australia's Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics said committed investment in major resources and energy projects, the main driver of Australian growth, still rose to A$268.4 billion ($280.5 billion) at October 31 from A$260.8 billion at end-April, but the rise partly reflected higher project costs and masked a fall in the number of projects. A fall in commodity prices due to a drop-off in Chinese demand also weighed on shares.

"Markets don't really provide any sort of compelling investment value here at present because the grey cloud of uncertainty still overhangs the economic climate, in particular across Europe and the U.S., but also filtering into this part of the world as well," Jamie Spiteri, senior dealer at Shaw Stockbroking, said of Australian shares.

U.S. stocks slid overnight after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed disappointment over little progress in dealing with the approaching "fiscal cliff" of deep cuts in government spending and big tax hikes early next year.

The Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.7 percent to its lowest in nearly four years, extending losses after closing below 2,000 points for the first time since January 2009.

The weak Chinese stock market, along with doubts over the U.S. ability to resolve its fiscal crisis, strengthened demand for sovereign debt, helping to push the 10-year Japanese government bond futures price to a 9-1/2-year high of 144.79.

"Although recent Chinese economic data is showing signs of improvement, Shanghai share prices seem to suggest that it is still far from a full-fledged recovery," said Takeo Okuhara, fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments.

Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.8 percent, after closing on Tuesday at a seven-month high.

The Nikkei had risen 8.8 percent over the past two weeks since the government announced a December 16 election. Japan's main opposition party is forecast to win power, and investors expect it will force the Bank of Japan into aggressive easing.


Tuesday's agreement by international lenders to cut Greece's debt offered relief that the country has averted an imminent bankruptcy, but skepticism over the lack of details on how Athens will carry out budget reforms to meet its new debt targets capped a rise in European shares and the euro.

The agreement on Greece is good news but it does not address medium-term financing and debt sustainability issues, Barclays Capital analysts said in a note.

"The uncertainty brought by this approach makes European assets, including the EUR, vulnerable to global growth risks. For that reason, we think the European muddle through amplifies the market's response to the fiscal cliff discussion in the US."

The euro was down 0.1 percent to $1.2932, slipping from a peak of $1.3010 hit on the Greece news on Tuesday, its highest level since October 31.

Worries over the fiscal crisis overshadowed positive U.S. economic data that showed improvement in durable orders, the real estate sector and consumer confidence, which hit a 4-1/2-year high in November.

The dollar dropped 0.3 percent against the yen to 81.88. U.S. crude futures were down 0.1 percent at $87.14 a barrel and Brent held steady at $109.90.

Spot gold inched down 0.1 percent to $1,740.75 an ounce after slipping on Tuesday for a second session.

Investors were sidelined in Asian credit markets, keeping the spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index little changed from Tuesday's levels.


Greece, markets satisfied by EU-IMF Greek debt deal

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 07:23 PM PST

BRUSSELS: The Greek government and financial markets were cheered on Tuesday by an agreement between euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund to reduce Greece's debt, paving the way for the release of urgently needed aid loans.

The deal, clinched at the third attempt after weeks of wrangling, removes the biggest risk of a sovereign default in the euro zone for now, ensuring the near-bankrupt country will stay afloat at least until after a 2013 German general election.

"Tomorrow, a new day starts for all Greeks," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told reporters at 3 a.m. in Athens after staying up to follow the tense Brussels negotiations.

After 12 hours of talks, international lenders agreed on a package of measures to reduce Greek debt by more than 40 billion euros, projected to cut it to 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020.

In an additional new promise, ministers committed to taking further steps to lower Greece's debt to "significantly below 110 percent" in 2022.

That was a veiled acknowledgement that some write-off of loans may be necessary in 2016, the point when Greece is forecast to reach a primary budget surplus, although Germany and its northern allies continue to reject such a step publicly.

Analyst Alex White of JP Morgan called it "another moment of creative ambiguity' to match the June (EU) Summit deal on legacy bank assets; i.e. a statement from which all sides can take a degree of comfort".

The euro strengthened, European shares climbed to near a three-week high and safe haven German bonds fell on Tuesday, after the agreement to reduce Greek debt and release loans to keep the economy afloat.

"The political will to reward the Greek austerity and reform measures has already been there for a while. Now, this political will has finally been supplemented by financial support," economist Carsten Brzeski of ING said.


To reduce the debt pile, ministers agreed to cut the interest rate on official loans, extend the maturity of Greece's loans from the EFSF bailout fund by 15 years to 30 years, and grant a 10-year interest repayment deferral on those loans.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Athens had to come close to achieving a primary surplus, where state income covers its expenditure, excluding the huge debt repayments.

"When Greece has achieved, or is about to achieve, a primary surplus and fulfilled all of its conditions, we will, if need be, consider further measures for the reduction of the total debt," Schaeuble said.

Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said ministers would formally approve the release of a major aid instalment needed to recapitalise Greece's teetering banks and enable the government to pay wages, pensions and suppliers on December 13 - after those national parliaments that need to approve the package do so.

The German and Dutch lower houses of parliament and the Grand Committee of the Finnish parliament have to endorse the deal. Losing no time, Schaeuble said he had asked German lawmakers to vote on the package this week.

Greece will receive 43.7 billion euros in four instalments once it fulfils all conditions. The 34.4 billion euro December payment will comprise 23.8 billion for banks and 10.6 billion in budget assistance.

The IMF's share, less than a third of the total, will be paid out only once a buy-back of Greek debt has occurred in the coming weeks, but IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the Fund had no intention of pulling out of the programme.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann welcomed the deal but said Greece still had a long way to go to get its finances and economy into shape. Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger told reporters the important thing had been keeping the IMF on board.

"It had threatened to go in a direction that the IMF would exit Greek financing. This was averted and this is decisive for us Europeans," he said.

The debt buy-back was the part of the package on which the least detail was disclosed, to try to avoid giving hedge funds an opportunity to push up prices. Officials have previously talked of a 10 billion euro programme to buy debt back from private investors at about 35 cents in the euro.

The ministers promised to hand back 11 billion euros in profits accruing to their national central banks from European Central Bank purchases of discounted Greek government bonds in the secondary market.


The deal substantially reduces the risk of a Greek exit from the single currency area, unless political turmoil were to bring down Samaras's pro-bailout coalition and pass power to radical leftists or rightists.

The biggest opposition party, the hard left SYRIZA, which now leads Samaras's centre-right New Democracy in opinion polls, dismissed the deal and said it fell short of what was needed to make Greece's debt affordable.

Greece, where the euro zone's debt crisis erupted in late 2009, is proportionately the currency area's most heavily indebted country, despite a big cut this year in the value of privately-held debt. Its economy has shrunk by nearly 25 percent in five years.

Negotiations had been stalled over how Greece's debt, forecast to peak at 190-200 percent of GDP in the coming two years, could be cut to a more bearable 120 percent by 2020.

The agreed figure fell slightly short of that goal, and the IMF insisted that euro zone ministers should make a firm commitment to further steps to reduce the debt if Athens faithfully implements its budget and reform programme.

The main question remains whether Greek debt can become affordable without euro zone governments having to write off some of the loans they have made to Athens.

Germany and its northern European allies have hitherto rejected any idea of forgiving official loans to Athens, but European Union officials believe that line may soften after next September's German general election.

Schaeuble told reporters that it was legally impossible for Germany and other countries to forgive debt while simultaneously giving new loan guarantees. That did not explicitly preclude debt relief at a later stage, once Greece completes its adjustment programme and no longer needs new loans.

But senior conservative German lawmaker Gerda Hasselfeldt said there was no legal possibility for a debt "haircut" for Greece in the future either.

At Germany's insistence, earmarked revenue and aid payments will go into a strengthened "segregated account" to ensure that Greece services its debts.

A source familiar with IMF thinking said a loan write-off once Greece has fulfilled its programme would be the simplest way to make its debt viable, but other methods such as forgoing interest payments, or lending at below market rates and extending maturities could all help.

German central bank governor Jens Weidmann has suggested that Greece could "earn" a reduction in debt it owes to euro zone governments in a few years if it diligently implements all the agreed reforms. The European Commission backs that view.

The ministers agreed to reduce interest on already extended bilateral loans in stages from the current 150 basis points above financing costs to 50 bps. - Reuters


Obama promotes tax agenda, Congress in stand-off

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 07:19 PM PST

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Tuesday launched a public relations push for his bid to raise taxes on wealthy Americans, but U.S. lawmakers remained deadlocked over dramatic, year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff."

At the White House, small business leaders emerged from a one-hour meeting with Obama to voice support for his goal of extending low tax rates for the middle class beyond the end of the year, while letting rates rise for wealthier taxpayers.

The business owners urged Obama "to fight to keep the middle-class tax cuts," said Lew Prince, co-founder of Vintage Vinyl, an independent music store in St. Louis, Mo.

"What grows jobs in America is consumers spending money, and the average person needs that two or three thousand dollars a year in his pocket to help drive the economy," Prince told reporters at the White House.

Republicans want to extend low tax rates - enacted a decade ago under the administration of former Republican President George W. Bush - for all taxpayers, including households earning more than $250,000 a year.

Raising tax rates on the wealthy would discourage investment and hiring at a time of high unemployment, Republicans say.

Congressional Democrats allied with the president showed no sign of backing down from his stance on raising taxes for the wealthy. But both sides have softened on some long-held positions: Republicans have been showing a willingness to consider new revenue increases while Democrats have relaxed their hard line against new savings to the costly government-run Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs.

With just a month left before the Bush tax cuts expire and automatic spending cuts begin to take hold, markets were anxious about predictions that falling off the "fiscal cliff" could trigger another recession.

"There remains no clarity on the ultimate status on the Bush tax cuts, which have to be resolved before you can move forward with the remainder of the fiscal cliff," said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities' Washington Research Group.


Stock prices declined modestly despite government reports that planned U.S. business spending rose again in October and that single-family home prices rose again in September.

Despite a mild sell-off in stocks, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at about 12,878, up 14 percent from a year ago.

Brian Gardner, an analyst at financial firm Keefe Bruyette & Woods, said a limited deal would likely be struck to avert the fiscal cliff, with larger fiscal issues pushed into 2013.

"Fiscal cliff headlines could have the biggest impact on the market," he said. "Over the coming weeks, we expect many headlines that will raise and then dash investors' hopes ... The next three weeks could be a bumpy ride."

Fresh from his November 6 re-election, Obama was set to hold another meeting with business executives from larger companies on Wednesday and then to travel to a toy factory in Pennsylvania on Friday to press his case on taxes.

Chief executives from Goldman Sachs, Deloitte LLP, Caterpillar Inc, Yahoo Inc, and Comcast Corp were among the group of leaders set to meet with the president, the White House said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell ripped into Obama for planning to take his agenda on the road. "Rather than sitting down with lawmakers of both parties and working out an agreement, he's back out on the campaign trail," McConnell roared on the Senate floor.

"We already know the president is a very good campaigner. What we don't know is whether he has the leadership qualities necessary to lead his party to a bipartisan agreement."

Obama last met with congressional leaders on November 16. A follow-up session was not expected this week, but could come next week, congressional aides said.

In the interim, little progress was made over the holidays in meetings between the staffs of the White House and Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, aides said.


Ron Bonjean, a former aide to Republican leaders in the House and Senate, said leaders were still checking with their rank-and-file members to gauge what concessions they might be able to stomach. In a week or so, Bonjean said, "the level of intensity will go up" with more meetings.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he was disappointed there has been "little progress" on a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" and warned that "we only have a couple weeks to get something done.

Despite frustration, Reid said he was optimistic lawmakers would avoid plunging off the "cliff," a convergence of an estimated $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts. "I'm extremely hopeful, and I do not believe that the Republicans are going to allow us to go over the cliff," he said.

While Republicans have not shifted from their opposition to tax rate increases, a few have publicly disavowed a no-new-taxes pledge to which most of them have adhered for years, putting tax revenues, if not higher rates, on the negotiating table.

Also on Tuesday, Dick Durbin, a senior Senate Democrat and close Obama ally, urged fellow liberals to consider reforming Medicare and Medicaid, signaling possible compromise in an area where Democrats have steadfastly resisted change.

"Progressives should be willing to talk about ways to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and Medicaid" for the elderly and poor, Durbin said in excerpts from a speech.

But he added that Medicare and Medicaid should not be part of the current negotiations on averting the fiscal cliff. On that front, Durbin stood firmly with Obama, urging extension of middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans. - Reuters



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Graphic designer tries to rob Kota Baru hair salon but surrenders after 3-hr standoff

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 07:38 AM PST

Published: Tuesday November 27, 2012 MYT 11:31:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday November 27, 2012 MYT 11:38:01 PM

KOTA BARU: An unemployed graphic designer, armed with a fake gun and a knife, entered a hair salon in Kuala Kerai and tried to rob the five workers and a customer there at about 2.30pm Tuesday.

However, a male salon worker, who was in the toilet, came out, saw the man holding one of the women salon workers by the neck, quietly backed into the toilet and called the police.

Police came immediately and surrounded the building along Jalan Guchil. The salon was on the first floor.

State CID Chief ACP Lai Yong Heng said the police persuaded the man to surrender after three hours.

All the people in the salon were unharmed.

The 27-year-old graduate from a local university is in police lock-up.

Six senior citizens evacuated from floods in Selayang

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 07:04 AM PST

Published: Tuesday November 27, 2012 MYT 11:05:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Six senior citizens were evacuated Tuesday night after they were trapped at their house in Selayang near here by flash floods, following a heavy downpour in the afternoon.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Mohd Sani Harul said, a group of firemen, two engines and a lifeboat were deployed to carry out the rescue at 7.45pm.

He said the flash floods also affected Kampung Nakhoda, Kampung Laksamana and Ulu Yam Baru.

"The water level was reported to have exceeded 1.5m but it showed signs of receding," he said when contacted by Bernama.

Mohd Sani said the total number of victims involved in the three areas had yet to be ascertained.

Muhyiddin opens Umno wings’ assemblies with fiery attack against Opposition

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 06:49 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched a scorching attack against the Opposition saying it was incapable of forming a federal government when opening the Youth, Wanita and Puteri assemblies simultaneously on Tuesday night.

The Umno deputy president told about 3,000 Wanita, Youth and Puteri delegates that Pakatan Rakyat parties were incompatible, distrusted each other, contradicted each other and disagreed on everything, including who should be their candidate for prime minister.

He said their political ideologies were poles apart and while PAS wanted their president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang as their prime minister, DAP insisted it should be Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"This shows that PAS grassroots does not trust DAP or PKR to lead Pakatan. They do not have faith in Lim Guan Eng and neither do they believe in Lim Kit Siang. They also don't believe in Karpal Singh.

"And they definitely do not believe in Anwar, This is the greatest failure for PAS in their power-sharing arrangement with DAP and PKR," said Muhyiddin who is also Deputy Prime Minister.

Muhyiddin said there was no way the PAS president could ever become the Pakatan prime minister because the DAP had rejected Hadi as the candidate and the number of seats PAS contested were too few for the party to claim the post.

He said that even if PAS won every single seat they contested they still could not form a government to set up an Islamic state.

He said the situation in the three states ruled by Pakatan was proof that PAS was nothing but, "melukut di tepi gantang," a Malay saying which means it did not matter whether one was there or not. In other words it means that PAS was irrelevant in Pakatan and that it was just a vehicle for DAP and PKR to gain power.

"In Penang, DAP does not share its power with PAS. Although PAS won a seat in the state, the exco post for religion was given to PKR. This is strange as PAS tells the whole world that religion is the basis of its struggle. It shows that DAP does not trust PAS," he said.

"On the other hand, DAP which won a state seat in Kedah is not in the state exco. When Kedah PAS comes out with an Islamic policy in Kedah, it is not the Barisan but the DAP representative who makes noise.

"It shows that DAP is not only unwilling to share power with PAS, but DAP also against Islamic policies. In Selangor, PAS and DAP have been known to fight each other over Islamic issues. DAP, which is a secular party, is not only against hudud but also against the implementation of Islamic laws clamping down on vice," he said.

He said, as a result, PAS' exco in charge of religion was sacked from the state government and his party. The religion portfolio, which he was holding was then given to the Mentri Besar who was from PKR.

Muhyiddin accused PAS of using narrow religious sentiment to instigate the Malays to hate Umno while DAP used extreme racial sentiment to turn the people against Barisan parties.

"PAS and DAP are poles apart in their ideology and political stands. After years of fighting each other, they are now pretending to cooperate. But underneath, they are still at loggerheads over issues because of their conflicting ideologies. If PAS has no place in Pakatan, how can it uphold Islam in the opposition pact?

"This is impossible and that is why they are now singing the tune of setting up a welfare state and not an Islamic state," he said.

The Umno general assembly, which began Tuesday with the simultaneous opening of the Youth, Wanita and Puteri Umno movements, will end on Dec 1.


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Bin Laden movie based on first hand account, says director

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 08:17 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The makers of a Hollywood movie about the U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden denied asking for classified material for their film, but say they did conduct interviews with a CIA officer and others at the heart of the decade-long hunt for the al Qaeda leader.

"It was all based on first-hand accounts so it really felt very vivid and very vital and very, very immediate and visceral of course which is very exciting as a filmmaker," Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty, told ABC News in an interview airing on Monday.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal said in a Nightline interview that they were originally working on a film about the failed bid to find bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan during the U.S-led invasion there in 2001.

But their plans changed swiftly after U.S. President Barack Obama announced in May 2011 that a Navy commando unit had killed bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan.

"I picked up the phone and started calling sources and asking them what they knew and taking referrals and knocking on doors and really approached it as comprehensively as I could," Boal told Nightline according to an advance excerpt.

"I certainly did a lot of homework, but I never asked for classified material," he said. "To my knowledge I never received any."

The release of Zero Dark Thirty - seen as a strong contender for Oscar nominations - was pushed back to December after the film got caught up earlier this year in a U.S. election year controversy.

The U.S. admiral who oversaw the secret operation in May denied a claim that the Obama administration arranged for Bigelow and Boal to be given special access to top officials while researching their movie.

The film reconstructs the hunt for bin Laden largely through the eyes of a young female CIA officer, played by Jessica Chastain, who helps find him through a long-forgotten courier. Obama only makes a fleeting appearance in the film.

"It was a couple of months into the research when I heard about a woman, part of the team, and she has played a big role and she had gone to Jalalabad and been deployed with the SEALs on the night of the raid," Boal told ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz in the Nightline interview.

While some of the dialogue is word for word and based on interviews with the young CIA officer and others, some of the dialogue is dramatized, said the Oscar-winning makers of 2008's The Hurt Locker, about a U.S. Army bomb disposal team during the Iraq War.

The assault on bin Laden's Pakistan compound was recreated as accurately as possible, using a full-scale version built in Jordan. The floor, the tile, the carpet, the furniture and the marks on the walls were copied from images seen in ABC News footage that Bigelow said they reviewed frame by frame.

Zero Dark Thirty opens in U.S. movie theaters on 19 December. Nominations for the 2013 Academy Awards are announced on 10 January ahead of the 24 February Oscar ceremony.

New Zealand turns to Middle Earth as Hobbit mania takes hold

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 08:09 PM PST

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's capital city was rushing to complete its transformation into a haven for hairy feet and pointed ears on Tuesday as stars jetted in for the long-awaited world premiere of the first movie of the Hobbit trilogy.

Wellington, where director Peter Jackson and much of the post production is based, has renamed itself "the Middle of Middle Earth", as fans held costume parties and city workers prepared to lay 500 meters of red carpet.

A specially Hobbit-decorated Air New Zealand jet brought in cast, crew and studio officials for the premiere.

Jackson, a one-time printer at a local newspaper and a hometown hero, said he was still editing the final version of the Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey ahead of Wednesday's premiere screening.

The Hobbit movies are based on J.R.R. Tolkien's book and tell the story that leads up to his epic fantasy The Lord Of The Rings, which Jackson made into three Oscar-winning films about 10 years ago.

It is set 60 years before The Lord Of The Rings and was originally planned as only two movies before it was decided that there was enough material to justify a third.

New Zealand fans were getting ready to claim the best spots to see the film's stars, including British actor Martin Freeman, who plays the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Elijah Wood.

"It's been a 10-year wait for these movies, New Zealand is Tolkien's spiritual home, so there's no way we're going to miss out," said office worker Alan Craig, a self-confessed Lord of the Rings "nut".

The production has been at the centre of several controversies, including a dispute with unions in 2010 over labour contracts that resulted in the government stepping in to change employment laws, and giving Warner Brothers increased incentives to keep the production in New Zealand.

"The Hobbit did come very close to not being filmed here," Jackson told Radio New Zealand.

He said Warners had sent scouts to Britain to look at possible locations and also matched parts of the script to shots of the Scottish Highlands and English forests.

"That was to convince us we could easily go over there and shoot the film ... and I would have had to gone over there to do it but I was desperately fighting to have it stay here," Jackson said.

Last week, an animal rights group said more than 20 animals, including horses, pigs and chickens, had been killed during the making of the film. Jackson has said some animals used in the film died on the farm where they were being housed, but that none had been hurt during filming.

The films are also notable for being the first filmed at 48 frames per second (fps), compared with the 24 fps that has been the industry standard since the 1920s.

The second film The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug will be released in December next year, with the third The Hobbit: There And Back Again due in mid-July 2014.

Jackman welcomes 'Les Miserables' Oscar buzz

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 07:33 PM PST

SYDNEY: The screen adaptation of "Les Miserables" is being talked about as Oscar material and its star Hugh Jackman has welcomed the buzz as recognition of how hard it is to transform a musical to the screen.

The star-studded film version of the stage musical debuted to critics at screenings in New York, London, Los Angeles and Sydney last weekend and it won lavish praise, with reports of standing ovations. tipped Jackman as a contender for the best actor Academy Award for his role as Jean Valjean, the ex-prisoner who creates a successful new life for himself.

The Universal Studios movie, directed by Tom Hooper who won an Oscar for "The King's Speech", also features fellow Australian Russell Crowe as Jackman's nemesis Inspector Javert and leading lady Anne Hathaway as Fantine.

Jackman said he had not seen the final cut until the Sydney viewing and he was "pretty blown away by it".

"I think everyone understands that musical movies are probably the Mount Everest of movies," he told ABC television.

"There's so many elements that need to come together. Les Mis has so much pedigree, not only in world literature, but as probably one of the most successful stage musicals of all time.

"So there was a lot at risk, but I loved it, I really loved it."

The stage version has been seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and in 21 languages around the globe, and is still breaking box-office records in its 27th year.

Jackman, who made his name on the stage but is best known for his role as Wolverine in the "X-Men" movie series, said his latest role, set against the backdrop of 19th century France, was the hardest of his career so far.

"There's no doubt that of all the things I feel I can do, this demanded more than anything," he said.

"As a pedigree of work, it's probably higher than anything else I've been in. The director, the ensemble, it was certainly one of those projects that felt like a once in a lifetime event."

It makes the early Oscar buzz all the more satisfying for the Sydney-based star.

"I would love nothing better than for the film to get recognised because I know how hard everyone worked and what was at stake, and we all know how musicals, when they don't come out well, can stink to high heaven," he said.

"So, any kind of positive buzz, of course I'm happy." - AFP


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