Ahad, 2 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syrian forces pound Damascus suburbs, flights to resume

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 07:40 PM PST

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian forces pounded rebel-held suburbs around Damascus with fighter jets and rockets on Sunday, opposition activists said, killing and wounding dozens in an offensive to push rebels away from the airport and stop them closing in on the capital.

View of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Akraba suburb of Damascus December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Thair Al-Damashqi/Shaam News Network/Handout

View of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Akraba suburb of Damascus December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Thair Al-Damashqi/Shaam News Network/Handout

The army struck hard after a week of rebel advances, including the capture of two military bases near the capital. Rebels had been planning to push into central Damascus from their strongholds on the outskirts and fighting in the past week has been fierce.

Activists said heavy rocket fire struck towns close to the Damascus airport road, where rebels and the army had been locked in three days of clashes. Some described constant shelling, similar to carpet bombing, in towns like Beit Saham.

"It was frightening because it was the first time we heard continuous shelling. Really powerful explosions, one after the other, were shaking the area. I could see fire coming up from the town," said Samir al-Shami, from the opposition's Syrian Youth Union, speaking by Skype.

"This was the worst day in those people's lives."

In a sign the government had regained some control over the airport, EgyptAir said it was resuming flights to Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo on Monday after a three-day halt in which Damascus airport was effectively closed due to unrest. The airline's head said conditions were stable.

No comment was immediately available from Emirates Airline, which had also suspended its flights indefinitely.

The army's assaults appear to have staved off a rebel advance into central Damascus so far. But neither side has gained ground in recent days, and fighting continued along the outskirts of the city despite heavy shelling by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

But rebels said the area around Damascus airport was not secure, with clashes still erupting along the road. It is difficult to verify opposition reports because the government restricts media access into Syria.

Other activists said the road was in army hands but the area was still unstable due to fighting in nearby towns like Beit Saham, about 1 kilometre away.

"No one controls that road. The army has tanks along the road, but the whole area is exposed to rebel attacks and they could fire on it any time," said one, asking not to be named.


Rocket attacks on Sunday killed at least 10 in the town of Deir al-Asafir, 12 km east of Damascus, activists said. Video published by activists from the town showed at least five bodies, one of them a young boy and one an elderly man. The other bodies were wrapped in blood-spattered white sheets.

Syrian security officials and diplomatic sources say the army's goal is to push rebels back and seal off central Damascus from the surrounding suburbs where the opposition is dominant.

Rebels say they want to control the airport because the army has used it to bring in weapons. Western intelligence reports earlier this year said that Iran, Assad's main backer, had been using civilian aircraft to fly military equipment and personnel through Iraqi airspace into Syria.

U.S. officials say the arms flow into Syria has continued due to Iraqi reluctance to check flights, according to a New York Times article. It said only two inspections had occurred since Iraq agreed to a U.S. request in September and that Iran may have been tipped off about the searches.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad on Sunday there was no such request.

"There is no ability to inspect all planes destined to Syria and there was no U.S. request to inspect all aircrafts because they know that this is not possible," he said.

Lebanese troops clashed with Syrian rebels on the border between the two countries on Sunday in what a security source called the first such incident between Lebanon's army and the rebels.

The clash occurred when a Lebanese border patrol spotted the rebel fighters along the border and the rebels opened fire to prevent the patrol from approaching, said a Lebanese military source. He said there were no casualties.


In Syria's central city of Homs, a car bomb killed at least 15 people and wounded 24 on Sunday, Syria's state news agency SANA said. It said the blast in the city's Hamra district also damaged many nearby residential buildings. The government and the opposition traded blame for the blast.

There has been a rise in the number of car bombs around the country. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across Syria, reported four car bombs on Saturday.

The group gave a preliminary death toll for Sunday's fighting of 140.

Violence has risen in Syria particularly since rebels began to contest Assad's control around the capital and Aleppo, Syria's largest city, but foreign powers remain deadlocked.

Western countries support the opposition but Russia, Syria's main arms supplier, and China have blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad and reject sanctions.

Assad, whose family has ruled Syria autocratically for four decades, says he is fighting off radical Islamist militants funded by the West and Gulf Arab countries.

State television on Sunday said the army was "eliminating al Qaeda terrorists" in the rebel stronghold of Daraya, a suburb on the southern outskirts of Damascus from which mortar shells have been fired into the capital.

Rebel spokesman Abu Nidal said the army had entered one side of the suburb but that the rebels were still in control of the rest of the area.

(The story has been refiled, to add Assad's first name and title in eighth paragraph)

(Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy in Baghdad; Editing by Roger Atwood and Eric Walsh)

Related Stories:
EgyptAir to resume flights to Syria

Lebanese army clashes with Syrian rebels on border

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.S. soldier in WikiLeaks case seemed suicidal at times - sergeants

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 07:20 PM PST

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The U.S. Army private charged with leaking classified U.S. war documents was held in extreme confinement for nine months at a Marine Corps detention centre because of a pattern of behaviour suggesting suicidal thoughts, military officials testified Sunday at a pre-trial hearing.

Despite several recommendations from the psychiatrist at the brig - the military detention centre - that Army private Bradley Manning, 24, did not appear suicidal, two military sergeants who counselled Manning testified Sunday that he was uncommunicative, dismissive and had made suicidal comments before and during his detention at the Quantico, Virginia, Marine base.

Military judge Colonel Denise Lind said at Sunday's hearing that if a trial for Manning is held, it would begin next March, not in February, due to extensive pre-trial motions.

Manning's attorneys are trying to prove in a pre-trial hearing that the extreme confinement at Quantico constitutes illegal punishment, and should prompt the dismissal of 22 charges against him, including aiding the enemy, which is punishable by life in prison.

On Sunday, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Jordan testified that Manning was uncommunicative during his detention at Quantico. Manning "wouldn't open up," Jordan said. "He wouldn't talk to anybody."

In their testimony, Jordan and Marine Master Sergeant Craig Blenis noted several incidents they said supported their concerns about Manning's mental state.

They testified that he crafted a noose out of a bed sheet during confinement in Kuwait soon after his arrest; that he told a Marine brig staffer in March 2011 that he could make a noose out of the elastic in his underwear; and stated upon arriving at Quantico in July 2010 that he was "always planning and never acting" on suicidal thoughts.

When one of Manning's defense attorneys suggested that his client's comment about the elastic band was simply a sarcastic assertion that if he really wanted to kill himself he could find a way, Blenis said it wasn't interpreted that way.

"When we're talking about suicidal statements or actions, sarcasm is out of the picture," Blenis testified. "I don't go to an airport and joke about a bomb."


Defense attorneys on Sunday sought to establish that Manning's reluctance to engage with his counsellors at the brig was simply a lack of common interests.

Manning was confined to a 48-square-foot (4.46-square-metre) cell for up 23 hours a day, his lawyers said, while the Pentagon said he had to sleep naked and was woken repeatedly during the night to check that he was safe.

Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and charged with downloading a trove of intelligence documents, diplomatic cables and combat video while working with the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade intelligence operation in Iraq.

Among the material Manning is suspected of leaking is a classified video of a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.

WikiLeaks, which posted that video in April, 2010, has never confirmed Manning was the source of any documents it released.

The mass disclosure of U.S. secrets by WikiLeaks beginning in 2010 staggered diplomats across the globe and outraged U.S. officials, who said the extraordinary damage to national security from the leaks endangered U.S. lives.

Manning was confined to an eight-foot-square "cage" for a month in Kuwait before being transferred to Virginia in July 2010, he testified earlier this week.

In April 2011 he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he is reportedly being held on medium security status.

The pre-trial hearing is being held at Fort Meade in Maryland.

Manning's lawyers will continue to work with the court on the language of a proposed plea involving less serious charges and a prison term of at least 16 years, one of his attorneys said.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Clinton in Prague to lobby for Westinghouse nuclear bid

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:45 PM PST

PRAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will seek to convince Czech leaders of the advantages of picking U.S. firm Westinghouse over a Russian rival as the contractor for a $10 billion (6 billion pounds) nuclear reactor project in meetings in Prague on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions from the audience at the 2012 Saban Forum on U.S.-Israel relations gala dinner in Washington, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions from the audience at the 2012 Saban Forum on U.S.-Israel relations gala dinner in Washington, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

U.S. officials travelling with Clinton to Prague said the Temelin nuclear power project could bring as many as 9,000 jobs to the United States and would help diversify the Czech Republic's energy supply away from Russia.

Majority state-owned Czech firm CEZ applied on Friday to build two new blocks at its 2,000 megawatt Temelin nuclear power plant, in what would be the European country's biggest energy deal.

Westinghouse, a unit of Japanese firm Toshiba Corp, is competing with Russia's Atomstroyexport, which is bidding in a consortium with a Russian-owned Czech group.

U.S. officials said formal negotiations between the two bidders and the Czech government are expected to start in December, with a decision on the contractor expected in the spring.

Clinton is due to meet Prime Minister Petr Necas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Monday morning.

"There will be the opportunity for the Secretary to support ... Westinghouse," a senior State Department official told reporters.

"It could be great in lots of ways - for American jobs, American companies, for energy security and diversity in the Czech Republic, for jobs in the Czech Republic and for a scientific and innovation partnership with the United States."

Clinton would stress Westinghouse's safety record given concerns about nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, he said.

The U.S. side will also stress the advantage of reducing the Czech Republic's reliance on Russia for energy. According to U.S. officials, the country currently gets 60 percent of its oil, 70 percent of its gas, and 100 percent of its nuclear reactor fuel from Russia.

"We think there's an awful lot to be said for this (choosing Westinghouse) in terms of energy security and diversifying sources."

Clinton will also discuss energy security with EU officials in Brussels on Wednesday.

CEZ, central Europe's biggest energy group, with a market capitalization of $18.2 billion, threw out a bid from French firm Areva in October, because it failed to meet "crucial requirements."

Clinton's visit to Prague follows one by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nicole Lamb-Hale last week. Lamb-Hale said the U.S. Export-Import Bank was interested in financing the deal if Westinghouse were picked.

The Czech Republic's bid to expand its nuclear capacity has run into opposition from neighbours Austria and Germany. Clinton will share a conference table with the foreign ministers of these countries, as well as with Russia, when she attends a meeting of the NATO military alliance in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Many Czech officials fear an over reliance on Russian energy will put their country under too much influence from its former communist master. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Prague became a close ally of the United States.

The Russian bidders have sought to allay Czech fears about Moscow and stressed that there would be a high participation rate by domestic firms if they won the tender.

(Editing by Stacey Joyce)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Life’s lessons

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 11:50 PM PST

Tune in to 988 for inspiring stories.

Street Cases

(Monday to Friday, 8am-9am)

DEC 3 is International Day of Persons with Disability. For 20 years, people worldwide celebrate this United Nations-sanctioned day to promote an understanding of people with disability and to encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being.

On this meaningful day, 988 hopes to inspire you with an interview with Sia Ling Ling, a person with disability and also the proud recipient of 2011 Ten Outstanding Young Malaysians Award.

The Feature

(Monday-Tuesday, 9am-10am)

Despite popular misconception, tarot card reading serves as a counselling tool, not divinatory telling of one's past, present and future. More often than not, divination or fortune-telling is a business, a job, a means to make money. This week, let the secrets of divination, from both the East and West, be unveiled.

Street VIP

(Wednesday to Friday, 9am-10am)

Zhuo Tian Ren and Lin You Shi are both highflyers from Taiwan. These two young entrepreneurs have earned millions before they turned 30. Find out more about their remarkable achievements.

Music VIP

(Monday to Friday, 2pm)

Malaysian singer Gin Lee Xin Ni set off to Hong Kong armed with her melodious voice and courage. For over a year, Lee struggled in the foreign land and faced difficulties learning Mandarin. She did not give up and is determined to showcase her voice and music to the world. Today, she has a Cantonese album under her name. Check out some of Lee's sweet music.

K-Pop Chuego

(Monday to Friday, 3.30pm)

Let's K-pop (Saturday, 3pm-4pm)

K-pop awesomeness back-to-back! Following VIXX's charismatic performance in Malaysia recently, K-pop fans will be thrilled to know that another Korean boy band will be performing here soon.

Nu'est, a five-member boy group, is one of the hottest rising groups in the K-pop scene with its urban electro musical style. Come Dec 15, Malaysians will get to enjoy Nu'est: The Face To Face In Malaysia showcase. For more K-pop goodness, stay tuned to 988.

For more information, log on to 988.com.my. The radio station is owned and operated by The Star.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Malaysia's blue chips start off December on quiet note

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:41 PM PST

Published: Monday December 3, 2012 MYT 9:42:00 AM

KKUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips opened lower on Monday in quiet trade after an especially volatile November with profit taking seen in IHH Healthcare.

At 9.26am, the FBM KLCI was down 1.47 points to 1,609.36. Turnover was 63,52 million shares valued at RM62mil. There were 109 gainers, 119 losers and 133 counters unchanged.

Plantations were the main losers, with United Plantations down RM1.16 to RM24.04 with 1,000 shares done. Batu Kawan fell 16 cen to RM17.64 and Tradewinds Plantations seven sen lower at RM4.01.

IHH lost 18 sen to RM3.30 with 1.44 million shares done. Other decliners were MNRB, which fell 25 sen to RM2.74, F&N 12 sen to RM18.40 and BToto 10 sen to RM4.40.

BAT was the top gainer, up 56 sen to RM53.76. Petronas Sagangan added 28 sen to RM23.40 while UMW added 16 sen to RM10.78 and Kulim 12 sen to RM4.48.

Irda plans halal hub in Iskandar

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:39 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Plans are in the pipeline to develop a dedicated halal industrial park in Iskandar Malaysia focusing on the halal food and agro-processing related activities.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said a feasibility study on the project had been conducted and expected to be completed next month.

He said there was a huge market for the halal food products globally not only from Muslim countries but also from non-Muslim nations.

According to The Halal Journal, the global halal market value for trade in halal foods is estimated at US$547bil a year, and the market has drawn interest from food producer countries worldwide.

In this respect, Malaysia has the edge in being recognised internationally as a Muslim country that has the potential of becoming a major producer of halal food products.

Ismail said Marditech Corp Sdn Bhd, the commercial arm of the Malaysian Agriculture Research Development Institute had been tasked to undertake the study.

He said Irda had commissioned the company to undertake the study including proposing suitable business concept for the food processing activities due to its experience in the halal industry.

"We want to transform and position Johor as one of the leading halal food and agro-processing hubs in the region,'' Ismail said in an interview with StarBiz.

He said by having a dedicated halal hub, Irda hoped to be able to attract domestic and foreign companies planning to relocate their halal food-processing operations to Iskandar.

Ismail said Irda had received enquires from companies in China, Indonesia, India, Middle East and Singapore to invest in Iskandar's halal hub.

"This will further reaffirm Johor's position as the major food producer in the country, which the state had enjoyed in the past,'' he said.

According to him, Sabah and Sarawak have taken over Johor's position as the leading producer of oil palm in terms of planted areas but Johor still enjoys higher yield per hectare.

"Johor might not be a force to be reckoned with in commodity but that does not discount us from developing the food and agro-processing in Iskandar,'' he said.

Ismail said the halal hub plan was in tandem with the key economic areas that are being promoted in Iskandar under the Comprehensive Development Plan, which runs from 2006-2025.

The sectors are electrical and electronics, petrochemical and oleochemical, food and agro-processing, logistics and related services, tourism, health, educational, financial services, and information, communications and telecommunication, and creative industry.

He said the time was right for Johor to venture into halal food and agro-processing downstream activities by sourcing raw materials from other places and not limited to the state only.

"We want Johor to be like Singapore the republic does not produce a single drop of petrol but it is now the third largest petroleum refinery hub in the world,'' added Ismail.

He said three locations within the Eastern Gate Development Zone, the Western Gate Development Zone and Senai-Kulai had been identified as the potential hub.

Ismail said these locations were near to the Senai-Pasir Gudang-Desaru Highway in the Eastern Gate, Pontian in the Western Gate and Sedenak in Senai-Kulai.

He said all three locations were well-connected to airport, seaports and major highways as well as close to districts with strong agriculture-based activities such as Kota Tinggi and Kluang.

Ismail said the Bio Desaru Food Valley project in Kota Tinggi and Kluang well known for their strong agro-based activities were the other perfect locations for the halal hub.

"However, the choice of the hub will depend on the outcome of the feasibility study which will be out next month,'' he said.

Ismail said although Iskandar was going for capital-intensive and high-technology investments, the agro-based manufacturing activities were still important due to its economic spillover effects.

He said Irda needed the involvement of government-linked companies or government-backed entities including Felda, Felcra, UDA Holdings Bhd, Tabung Haji, Agro Bank, Johor Corp, Permodalan Nasional Bhd, Mara, Johor Biotechnology & Biodiversity Corp and Johor State Farmer's Organisation to ensure that the halal hub project could take off.

He hoped that the Iskandar-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would be ready and prepared to participate once the project took off.

"The SMEs could play the supporting role to the bigger investors at the hub by providing related services or as suppliers of raw materials to them,'' said Ismail.

He said Irda had never sidelined the SMEs and it was up to them to seize the opportunities offered by Iskandar Malaysia.

There are 69,000 SMEs in Johor and 49,000 of these are based in Iskandar. Johor has the third highest number of SMEs after the Klang Valley and Penang from the total 700,000 SMEs nationwide.

Global economy affecting sales of branded household appliances

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:33 PM PST

GEORGE TOWN: Manufacturers and retailers of branded household appliances are bracing for tough times ahead due to the sluggish global economy.

Pensonic Holdings Bhd, Daewoo Electronics (M) Sdn Bhd, CT Frank Technology Sdn Bhd, and Star Electronics Sales and Services Sdn Bhd are experiencing the impact of a contracting global economy.

Pensonic managing director Dixon Chew said the group's domestic sales had slowed by a single-digit from September for November compared with the same period a year ago.

"We hope sales will pick up in December, January, and February due to the forthcoming Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays.

"As Pensonic has already established a strong presence in the local market, we believe that even in a weakened market, our brand will still be the top choice," he said.

Star Electronics Sales and Services managing director Joseph Hon said the company was expecting a 10% drop in sales this year, compared with a year ago.

"Although there is demand from new house owners, the purchases are, however, for products with lower specifications.

"Our plan to open three new outlets in the northern region is delayed until next year," he said.

CT Frank Technology Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Roland Beh Cheng Siong said the fourth quarter was expected to be slower compared with the third quarter.

"Sales from the fourth quarter are expected to be around RM8mil this time compared with the about RM15mil usually achieved in a quarter," he said.

For the whole of 2012, CT Frank's revenue is projected to be around RM62mil, up slightly by 3% from RM60mil a year ago, according to Beh.

"To meet the challenges ahead, we are reducing our inventory,tightening our terms of credit, and reviewing our production cost," he said.

Daewoo Electronics director Lim Kai Seng said the company's growth would be 8% this year, slightly slower than the 10% growth experienced in 2011.

"The projected revenue for 2012 is around RM86mil, up by 8% from 2011.

"Last year we grew by 10% over 2010," he said.

Most companies are focusing on emerging overseas market and developing new value-added products to drive growth next year.

Pensonic is counting on emerging markets to drive growth next year.

"The group is targeting overseas contribution to grow to 40% by 2015.

"Four years ago the overseas contribution was 10%.

"For the 2012 fiscal year, the overseas contribution grew to 25%.

"Next fiscal year, we are aiming for contribution to grow to 30%, and 40% by 2015.

"Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Angola, and Nigeria are key emerging markets that have contributed to our revenue growth," Chew said.

The group is also allocating RM49mil for the development of innovative products and for its new research and development centre in Penang Science Park until 2016.

Chew said that some RM20mil was spent this year for the development of light-emitting-diode (LED) products under the brand name Carinae.

"Another RM29mil will be spent between 2013 and 2016 for our new corporate headquarters cum research and development centre in Penang Science Park, which will be ready next year," he said.

Chew said LED products contributed significantly to the group's fiscal year 2013 first quarter ended Aug31, 2012.

Daewoo is working on expanding its sales of washing machines and refrigerators in the Asean region.

"We are appointing distributors in Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, and Myannmar to expand overseas sales, which generate 70% of the company's revenue.

"To drive growth next year, we are also coming out with washing machines that use less water and detergent.

"These new washing machines, developed in South Korea and assembled in our plant in Sungai Petani, will be launched early next year," Lim said.

CT Frank is counting on new technological products such as internet televisions and smart display screen with touched-screen and interactive features for the domestic market to spur growth.

Beh said the company had spent about RM5mil to develop these new products for the domestic market, which contributed about 70% to the company's revenue.

"We will focus on the domestic market next year, as our exports comprised only cathode-ray and LCD televisions, which are facing tremendous price pressure from competitors," he said.

Beh added that the company had recently widened the range of home appliance products such as jug kettle, thermo pot, water heater, rice cooker, and gas stove under the in-house brand ISONIC for the domestic market.

Meanwhile, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd emerging business head Wong Chee Seng said for the last three quarters of 2012, OCBC Bank had granted more than RM5bil in loans to SMEs, representing a high single-digit growth against the same period in 2011.

"For 2012, we expect a similar growth progression for revenue and loans approvals for the SME sector.

"This will be driven mainly by the domestic businesses of the wholesale and retail sectors," Wong said.

According to the latest Business Monitor International report released in November 2012, spending for consumer electronics in Malaysia will grow by about 7% in 2012 to US$8.4bil, backed by strong sales of smartphones and LED televisions.

"The growth in outstanding credit card balances has also remained on a steady downtrend since January 2011.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

McDowell holds off Bradley to win World Challenge

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:35 PM PST

THOUSAND OAKS, California: Graeme McDowell continued his love affair with California by winning for the first time in two years when he held off playing partner Keegan Bradley to clinch the World Challenge by three shots on Sunday.

The Northern Irishman, who had endured a title drought since his playoff victory here over tournament host Tiger Woods in 2010, ended his 2012 campaign on a triumphant note as he closed with a four-under-par 68 to post a 17-under total of 271.

Though McDowell survived a few anxious moments over the closing stretch at a rain-soaked Sherwood Country Club, he rebounded from a bogey at the 13th with birdies at the 16th and the last to keep Bradley at bay.

Bradley finished second after signing off with a 69. American Bo Van Pelt (70) was alone in third at 10 under, a stroke better than compatriots Rickie Fowler (69), Jim Furyk (70) and five-times champion Woods 71.

Allen faces ban as Fu 'cheat' row goes on

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 04:41 PM PST

YORK, United Kingdom: Northern Irishman Mark Allen could be banned from snooker for three months after his "cheating" row with Hong Kong star Marco Fu overshadowed the UK Championships on Sunday.

Both men were due to face each other in the first round later in the day, but the 26-year-old Allen, the world number eight, is in trouble after repeating allegations he first made during the world championships in Sheffield in April.

Following his first-round defeat to China's Cao Yupeng at the world event, Allen accused his conqueror of playing a banned push shot.

He also named Fu as a player he believed to have broken the rules in the past.

Fu, 34, has denied all allegations of cheating. A World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association spokesman said of Allen's comments made on November 28: "His comments have been looked at and he has been asked to explain what he said."

Allen was handed a six-month suspended sentence for his remarks about Cao.

"It was unfair of me to label all Chinese players as cheats but dishonesty in snooker is something that needs to be stamped out," Allen told the BBC last week.

"I'd never said anything about Marco as a person. Marco as a person is one of the nicest people you'd ever meet.

"Obviously people make mistakes on the table. But aside from that, Marco is a great snooker player." Cao on Sunday became the third Chinese player to make a first-round exit from the UK Championship.

Cao lost 6-1 to Mark Davis and joins Liang Wenbo and former UK champion Ding Junhui as first-round losers from China.

World number one Judd Trump saw his hopes of defending the title shattered by a first-round exit at the hands of Mark Joyce, losing 6-5. - AFP

Nabil’s title hopes up in smoke after crash with Afiq

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:39 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Nabil Jeffri (pic) lost the chance to win the JK Racing Asia Series title in the most unfortunate circumstances in the last race of the season at the Buddh International Circuit in India yesterday.

The 19-year-old, driving for Eurointernational team, was just two laps away from savouring a glorious moment for Malaysian motorsports when his car was taken out of the race by fellow countryman and Meritus GP driver Afiq Ikhwan.

Nabil was lying in second place and would have become only the second Malaysian after Jazeman Jaafar to win the prestigious series title if not for incident on lap eight of Race 16.

Both Malaysians could not continue the race and South African rookie Aston Hare was left unchallenged to cruise home for the chequered flag and the overall title.

It was a highly successful weekend for Hare, who is Nabil's team-mate, as he won three out of the four races to finish on top with a tally of 236 points.

Nabil had to settle for second spot with 223 points. Afiq was third with a 174 total.

It was a big disappointment for Nabil after fighting hard in yesterday's last two races.

He battled his way from 10th on the starting grid to finish third in Race 15 but was awarded the second placing points.

India's Akhil Khushlani, who finished second, was a guest driver and not entitled to championship points.

For Race 16, Nabil fought superbly from seventh on the starting grid to second to keep his title hopes alive until he was bumped out.

Nabil's father, Jeffri Al-Jan, who was in New Delhi, was livid over the incident that ruined his son's chances of following in the footsteps of Jazeman, who emerged overall champion in 2007.

"This is not what Nabil wanted. He was just two laps away from taking the title. He was in second place and the points earned would be more than enough to remain on top in the overall standings.

"Afiq came and hit Nabil on the last corner and it's not the first time this happened.

"I believe the stewards may take action against Afiq and the team," said Jeffri.

Nabil was frustrated with the end result.

"I gave my best and it was my best drive. I can't tolerate such an act happening to me," said Nabil.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Tang Wei’s romance

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 11:49 PM PST

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Rise and fall

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 11:49 PM PST

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New deal

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 11:49 PM PST

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Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

One-stop recreational centre for senior citizens

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 05:33 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Working people who are concerned and worried about leaving their parents alone at home can now check out the one-stop recreational centre where senior citizens can enjoy quality time.

The Age Unite To Organise Rest and Recreation or AUTORR Foundation Centre in Ampang, an elders-friendly facility, is equipped with many facilities and activities for senior citizens to socialise, adopt a hobby and learn new skills.

AUTORR Foundation chairman Yap Swee Lin or fondly known as Lin Chua, 68, said the centre that can accommodate up to 100 senior citizens was open to pensioners, regardless of age.

"Working people can send their elderly parents here from Monday to Friday from 9am to 4.30pm.

"We don't allow senior citizens to stay overnight here because there is a tendency for their children to neglect them and change their contact details. Furthermore AUTORR Foundation Centre is not an old folks home," she said at the opening of the centre on Sunday.

The centre has 40 toilets, located at every nook and corner of the facility to ensure senior citizens do not have to walk far, meditation centre and health and herbal centre for holistic treatment.

Among the facilities available at AUTORR include walking path, cafe, reading room, physiotherapy sessions and chiropractic sessions while recreational activities include Tai chi, Qigong and meditation.

The senior citizens can also join activities like floral arrangement, balloon sculpture, handicraft, singing and dancing classes.

The centre is situated on a four-acre site donated by Lin Chua, who is the granddaughter of Yap Kwan Seng, a significant leader who played an important role during the early days of Kuala Lumpur.

"We work closely with St John Ambulance Malaysia for any emergency. I am inspired to open this centre after seeing many retirees just sit in front of the television and doze off to past their time," she said.

Lin Chua said besides activities for elderly parents the centre also offered classes for working people such as workshops on how to care for elderly parents and parenting skills.

Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye when met at the opening ceremony on Sunday said the centre was very much needed as it provided an opportunity for senior citizens to enjoy recreation and learn. - Bernama

7 million smartphone users vulnerable to cyber hackers

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 04:48 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: About seven million smartphone users nationwide are vulnerable to cyber hackers who can use them as a conduit to steal money.

Bukit Aman Director of Commercial Crime Investigation Department, Datuk Syed Ismail Syed Azizan said lack of awareness of the risks of smartphone security makes users easy targets as victims.

"Their modus operandi is to send short messaging service (SMS) known as Trojan to consumers who unknowingly will be charged when replying to the SMS.

"Consumers only realise this after receiving high phone bills although they did not use the service," he told Bernama here recently.

The activity involving smartphones was detected via applications such as "Type-On" that when downloaded cause consumers to bear the cost although the victims had uninstalled the application.

Lookout Mobile Security was quoted by AFP as saying that worldwide users lost millions of dollars last year via malware and toll fraud that attack smartphone users for accessing applications from unofficial sources rather than trusted sources such as Apple or Google online shops.

Syed Ismail said police statistics recorded from January to September this year show that losses incurred form cyber crime via SMS or phone call totalled RM21.8mil.

The cyber hackers target users of internet banking or phone banking by hacking and abusing the network including purchases of goods online.

Online purchases recorded the highest losses of RM14.5mil (1,298 cases) followed by SMS or phone call with RM3.4mil (412 cases), hacking with RM3.3mil (24 cases) and internet banking and phone banking with RM590,000 (74 cases).

However, for abusing the network, there were no losses since it did not involve loss of property but extortion of victims such as using photographs and threatening words. It recorded 25 cases.

Syed Ismail said apart from the 7 million smartphone users, Malaysia has 7.7 million mobile internet users adding police will refer to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for further action.

Based on reports received, consumers slapped with high phone bills only complained to the telecommunication companies (telcos) for explanation without taking further action.

"In this regard, they can also channel their complaints to MCMC which can compound telcos for making unreasonable charges. This way, we can detect fraud by cyber criminals."

He said the department strives to equip police with information communication technology (ICT) skills and information sharing between agencies within or outside the country.

"In line with the development of cyber crime, improvement in terms of equipment and special technologies such as hardware and software that must always be updated to ensure effectiveness," he added.

When contacted, MCMC declined to elaborate on the issue fearing that it would lead to the spread of such cases in Malaysia. - Bernama

Selangor Sultan wants position as head of state not to be twisted

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 04:02 AM PST

SHAH ALAM: The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has urged that his position as the head of religion in the state not be twisted by certain quarters just to gain publicity.

Sultan Sharafuddin said as head of religion in the state, he must ensure that Islam continued to be respected and placed at a high level in all affairs of the state.

"During my installation as the Sultan of Selangor, I had pledged to protect the good name and sanctity of Islam. Sincerely, I hope to see the mosque institution contribute to progress and development in Selangor.

"I am also responsible for ensuring that the lives of the Muslims, especially the Malays, be safeguarded," Sultan Sharafuddin said when opening a seminar on mosque management at the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque, here, Sunday.

The Sultan therefore urged that his concern over the mosque institution not be misunderstood.

He said mosques in the state must be fully used by Muslims to foster goodwill among them by organising beneficial activities.

"Although the Muslim community in Selangor comprises various races with different ideologies and opinions, the one thing that unites us is Islam.

"Therefore, we should make the mosque as the most suitable place to unite Muslims and generate sound thinking to develop our beloved state."

The Sultan also urged mosque officials and committees to play an important role in protecting the name and image of the mosque institution.

He said they should prevent negative phenomena at the mosques such as political activities, spread of deviant teachings, disunity among the congregation and delivering of talks by unauthorised individuals, as these could create animosity and disunity among Muslims.

The Sultan also said that members of the mosque committees must also not abuse their power and position for personal gains as he had received complaints on the unethical conduct of some committee members.

He also uged that action be taken against them by the relevant parties. - Bernama

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Pump it up

Posted: 01 Dec 2012 04:36 PM PST

Push-ups are great for working multiple body parts simultaneously.

I HATE doing push-ups. It's one exercise I try to cheat on whenever possible because I just cannot do many no matter how hard I try.

There, I've shamelessly confessed.

Attempting stunts on the trapeze have caused injuries to my overly flexible shoulder, so whenever I do one too many push-ups, I start feeling strain on the joint. Not wanting to aggravate the ageing joint, I gleefully stop.

Of course, I frequently use this as an excuse, though I suspect some people already know my secret.

But, when I'm teaching class, I'll take my students through a punishing regime of doing push-ups in various styles. It's good for them! I'll wow them with two or three with proper postural alignment (because honestly, any more and I'll fall flat, crush my face and bruise my ego), then monitor them doing the rest.

If my boobs start to droop, it'll be entirely my fault. When I'm consumed with guilt and feel my pectorals becoming spongy, I'll head to the gym and diligently do some bench presses. It's easier and works similar muscles.

Push-ups using bodyweight works multiple parts of the body simultaneously and everyone, from newbies to middle-aged uncles and professional atheletes, can derive benefits.

The major muscle groups that produce the motion of a push-up are the chest and triceps. The narower the base, the more your triceps will engage. If you look at the form your body takes during the push-up, you're suspended from your toes all the way to your neck, so in reality, every muscle between your shoulders and your toes is engaged.

According to freelance personal trainer Raphael Glenn Mak, push-ups build strength in your forearms, wrists, upper arms, shoulders, core, legs and naturally, your chest.

"Doing push-ups requires every bit of your muscle strength and when it is done correctly, it becomes effortless. It also increases your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories. When you use only your body as weight, it can be done anywhere, anytime," he says.

Men have the unfair advantage of having more muscle fibres and build bulk faster, so they parade around with rippling pectorals. For women, the breasts get in the way, so we sometimes have to be content with the jiggles.

The breast consists mostly of fat tissue, which is supported by the pectoral muscles. It is impossible to strengthen or enlarge the actual breast with exercise due to the lack of muscle fibres, but chest exercises will assist in supporting breasts that are oversized or sagging.

However, depending on your genetic make-up, some women will find doing push-ups reduces the size of the chest because of the reduction in fatty tissue. When the fat is replaced with muscles, the chest is toned, hence, the boobs appear smaller, although there is actually no change in cup size.

For women, a push-up is considered a resistance exercise, so in addition to muscle strengthening, you also get bone-building effects. It can be as effective as working out with weights, and in the long run, helps prevent osteoporosis.

There is still a lot of misconception among women who avoid training the upper body for fear of developing bulk. Let me stress that we do not have enough testosterone to hulk up. Upper body training gives a woman better posture, poise and confidence. You wouldn't want gorgeous, toned legs with a hunched upper body, right?

If you're starting out and find it difficult to get into the push-up position, Mak suggests doing the plank (with elbows on the floor) for 30 seconds, progressing on to the palms. Once you get stronger, bend your knees and try doing five to 10 push-ups, twice a week.

Another option that also helps to reduce joint strain is wall push-ups, which are performed in a standing position

While push-ups provide an all-round exercise, Mak recommends doing bench presses with heavier weights to gain faster results and definition.

He explains: "As long as you're able to keep you back flat on the bench, you can increase the weights. If your back starts to arch, you're at risk of injury, so reduce the weights. Also, by keeping your legs up on the bench or pointed to the ceiling, you have more support, and this position forces your core to engage. By keeping your legs on the floor, you tend to use the legs as anchor."

Both bench presses and pushups target the same muscles, but push-ups are better for improving the muscle tone in your stomach, quadriceps and glutes. Because you are in the plank position during the entire exercise, you are required to tighten your abdominal, butt and leg muscles to maintain the correct position.

Contrary to what trainers tell you, do not let your chest touch the floor when you come down. Depending on your range of motion, keep your elbows at a 90º angle. Put something underneath you, like a rolled mat or towel or book, so when you touch it, go back up.

Also remember that turning the palms inwards or outward increases stress to the wrists and elbows.

To work with good form, use slow, controlled movements and maintain alignment by keeping your ears, shoulders, hips and knees in line. Avoid compensating with momentum and avoid "hanging" from your shoulder blades.

Perform the exercise smoothly and avoid sagging through the back and avoid hyper-extending the elbow on the way up. Contract your stomach and tighten your glutes all the time. Exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down. Do not look up as this stresses the cervical vertebrae.

A simple tip: As you lower yourself to the ground, the first body part that should arrive at the floor is your chest. If your hips or legs come down first, you're doing it wrong. The moment you lose your form, it's pointless to go on as you're probably too fatigued. Stop and continue two days later.

For fitter folks or if you want a greater challenge, there are many advanced push-up variations you can do. Here are a few suggested by Marc Perry, creator of the BuiltLean programme and editor-in-chief and producer of the BuiltLean blog and videos.


This is a classic push-up that is harder than the standard push-up because you have less leverage to push yourself up. Start out with the wide-grip push up, then bring your hands closer in as you go along. In addition, be sure to keep your hands below the plane of your shoulders, and make sure your elbows do not flare out past 90º. This will help keep the stimulation on your chest, shoulders, and triceps, as opposed to mostly your shoulders.

Front clap

This is the basic military type of push-up where you forcefully push your body off the ground and clap your hand in front of your body, then go back to the push-up position. Or if you'd like variety, instead of clapping, do the push-up on your knuckles but be sure to put a mat underneath as support.

Single arm

The trick to doing one-arm push-ups is to keep your legs as wide as possible for a stable base. Make sure your shoulders are thoroughly warmed up before trying this push-up as it puts a lot of strain on your shoulders and elbows

T push-ups

Get into push-up position, do one push up, then twist to the right (side plank). Repeat the other side. This works the core muscles like crazy. When I do this, my obliques get more defined than my pecs!


The right hand is placed a few inches higher than the left. The lower hand is forced to work harder than the higher hand, which is taken out of the equation. You will still feel a burn in your chest and shoulders.

I make my students perform five slow wide-grip push-ups, then crawl swiftly like a spider – sideways, forward or backward – till they complete two sets.

The whole exercise is then repeated with the palms closer to the body and elbows pointing towards the feet as they lower themselves to the floor. Okay, I usually join them on this one for motivation. It's a fun race to see who collapses first!

For an increased challenge and twist on the traditional push-up, try elevating your legs on a bench with one leg raised or perhaps consider incorporating a portable piece of equipment, such as a stability ball, medicine ball or TRX.

The writer is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battles gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places.

Sunning away my blues

Posted: 01 Dec 2012 04:35 PM PST

DEPRESSION is a mental disorder where extreme feelings of sadness persist for many months or years. It is different from the feelings of sadness that we all feel from time to time. People who are depressed feel perpetually low and have low self-esteem. They lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and tend to withdraw from others, unable to shake their feelings of hopelessness and despair.

A number of studies have reported some connection between vitamin D levels and the risk of depression. Low vitamin D levels may be related to depression, rather than contributing to the disorder.

Therefore if you are depressed, ensure you have sufficient amounts of vitamin D in your body.

However, when we go out into the sun, most of us tend to slab on sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and other forms of skin damages that can interfere with the skin's production of vitamin D.

A mere SPF-8 sunscreen cuts vitamin D3 production by about 90%, while an SPF-30 cuts off a whopping 99%.

What would be advisable is to wear a wide brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasses to cover your face while exposing as much of your body parts as possible to the sun for at least 20-30 minutes between 10am and 2pm to ensure maximum production of vitamin D3.

If you are unable to do this, it is then advisable to take a vitamin D3 supplement.

Risk factors for depression

Although the precise cause of depression isn't known, researchers have identified certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression, including:

  • Experiencing stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one.
  • Having biological relatives with depression.
  • Being a woman.
  • Having traumatic experiences as a child.
  • Having family members or friends who have been depressed.
  • Having few friends or other personal relationships.
  • Recently having given birth (postpartum depression).
  • Having been depressed previously.
  • Having a serious illness, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's or HIV/AIDS.
  • Having certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem and being overly dependent, self-critical or pessimistic.
  • Abusing alcohol, nicotine or illicit drugs.
  • Taking certain high blood pressure medications, sleeping pills or certain other medications (Talk to your doctor before stopping any medication you think could be affecting your mood.)

There are no reported studies showing that vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of depression. However, given the evidence, it is possible that vitamin D could have a positive effect on those who suffer from depression.

Overcoming vitamin D deficiency

According to a recent review, treating vitamin D deficiency in people with depression or other mental disorders may result in improvement in both long-term health and quality of life. Reports confirm that vitamin D has a positive effect on depression:

  • Women in Washington State increased their vitamin D levels to 47 ng/mL (118 nmol/L) by taking 5000 IU of vitamin D each day during the winter. In some of these women, their depressive symptoms lessened as indicated by the decrease in their scores on a depression test.
  • Overweight and obese Norwegian women took 20,000 or 40,000 IU per week of vitamin D and their symptoms of depression decreased. Their scores were also lower on a depression test.
  • Based on studies of other diseases, vitamin D blood levels of 40–50 ng/mL (100–125 nmol/L) appear to reduce the severity of depression.

The connection between vitamin D and depression is not new. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.

In a current study, researchers found that intake of more than 400 IU of vitamin D from food sources was associated with a 20% lower risk of depressive symptoms compared with intake of less than 100 IU. This was a significant benefit from a very small amount of vitamin D as 400 IU is far too low to benefit most people.

It's likely that vitamin D fights depression via several pathways, not only directly in your brain, but also via inflammation. Vitamin D receptors have been identified throughout the human body, and that includes the brain.

Sufficient vitamin D is also vital for proper functioning of the immune system to combat inflammation, and other research has discovered that depressed people tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains.

Affecting serotonin levels

People who don't have enough vitamin D tend to become more depressed in winter, when sunlight, which stimulates the body to produce the vitamin, is limited. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This may occur because vitamin D is needed to maintain adequate serotonin levels in the brain, according to some researchers. Many antidepressant drugs work the same way!

Vitamin D can be found in fish and eggs and is generally added to breakfast cereals, milk and milk products, but many doctors still recommend taking a vitamin D supplement.

In November 2010, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) proposed that the current RDA for vitamin D3 be increased from 400I.U. to 600I.U. Even this amount is way too low, according to the IOS (International Orthomolecular Society) in Canada, an organisation that specialises in researching nutritional medicine. They reported that vitamin D level recommendations by the US government are way too low to prevent some basic health problems.

The organisation, made up of medical doctors, is one of the most credible sources for information on nutritional medicine. The Canadian Paediatric Society's 2007 guidelines dosage recommendation is 2,000 I.U. a day.

The safety limit is much higher than commonly believed. Based on the latest evidence, it is determined that 10,000 I.U. a day is non-toxic. After all, your body can easily make 20,000 I.U. after 30 minutes at the beach between 10am and 2pm by exposing as much skin as possible (without sunscreen).

Published cases of toxicity, for which serum levels and dose are known, all involve intake of more than 40,000 I.U. (1000 mcg) per day. Many health experts recommend 1,000 I.U. to 2,000 I.U. of vitamin D3 supplement a day for the prevention of many heart-related conditions.

Hence, people are at far greater risk of vitamin D deficiency than they are of vitamin D toxicity.

When taking a vitamin D supplement, try to choose a supplement made with natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 (400 i.u.) tablets can be bought at all leading chain and independent pharmacies nationwide.

Apart from optimising your vitamin D3 levels to overcome depression, everyone with depression should also be exercising regularly. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.

For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as "euphoric". That feeling, known as a "runner's high", can be accompanied by a positive and energising outlook on life.


1. Vitamin D Council October 4, 2011

2. www.mayoclinic.com

3. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition October 2011; 94(4):1104-12

4. McCann, J. C. Ames, B. N. Is there convincing biological or behavioral evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to brain dysfunction?. FASEB J. 2008 Apr; 22 (4): 982-1001.

5. Levitan, R. D. The chronobiology and neurobiology of winter seasonal affective disorder. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007; 9 (3): 315-24.

6. Spoletini, I. Gianni, W. Repetto, L. Bria, P. Caltagirone, C. Bossu, P. Spalletta, G. Depression and cancer: an unexplored and unresolved emergent issue in elderly patients. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2008 Feb; 65 (2): 143-55.

7. Sher, Y. Lolak, S. Maldonado, J. R. The impact of depression in heart disease. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2010 Jun; 12 (3): 255-64.

8. Paparrigopoulos, T. Ferentinos, P. Kouzoupis, A. Koutsis, G. Papadimitriou, G. N. The neuropsychiatry of multiple sclerosis: focus on disorders of mood, affect and behaviour. International review of psychiatry. 2010; 22 (1): 14-21.

9. Maletic, V. Raison, C. L. Neurobiology of depression, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain. Front Biosci. 2009; 145291-338.

10. Dowlati, Y. Herrmann, N. Swardfager, W. Liu, H. Sham, L. Reim, E. K. Lanctot, K. L. A meta-analysis of cytokines in major depression. Biological psychiatry. 2010 Mar 1; 67 (5): 446-57.

11. Leonard, B. E. The concept of depression as a dysfunction of the immune system. Current immunology reviews. 2010 Aug; 6 (3): 205-212.

12. Smolders, J. Thewissen, M. Peelen, E. Menheere, P. Tervaert, J. W. Damoiseaux, J. Hupperts, R. Vitamin D status is positively correlated with regulatory T cell function in patients with multiple sclerosis. PLoS One. 2009; 4 (8): e6635.

13. Guillot, X. Semerano, L. Saidenberg-Kermanac'h, N. Falgarone, G. Boissier, M. C. Vitamin D and inflammation. Joint, bone, spine : revue du rhumatisme. 2010 Dec; 77 (6): 552-7.

14. Zittermann, A. Frisch, S. Berthold, H. K. Gotting, C. Kuhn, J. Kleesiek, K. Stehle, P. Koertke, H. Koerfer, R. Vitamin D supplementation enhances the beneficial effects of weight loss on cardiovascular disease risk markers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May; 89 (5): 1321-7.

15. Humble, M. B. Vitamin D, light and mental health. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2010 Nov 3; 101 (2): 142-9.

16. Humble, M. B. Gustafsson, S. Bejerot, S. Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) among psychiatric out-patients in Sweden: relations with season, age, ethnic origin and psychiatric diagnosis. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Jul; 121 (1-2): 467-70.

17. Shipowick, C. D. Moore, C. B. Corbett, C. Bindler, R. Vitamin D and depressive symptoms in women during the winter: a pilot study. Appl Nurs Res. 2009 Aug; 22 (3): 221-5.

18. Jorde, R. Sneve, M. Figenschau, Y. Svartberg, J. Waterloo, K. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. J Intern Med. 2008 Dec; 264 (6): 599-609.

19. Penckofer, S. Kouba, J. Byrn, M. Estwing Ferrans, C. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31 (6): 385-93.

This article is courtesy of Live-well Nutraceuticals, for more information, please consult your pharmacist or call Live-well INFOline: 03-6142 6570 or e-mail info@livewell2u.com. For more information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Broken rhythms

Posted: 01 Dec 2012 04:31 PM PST

Many Malaysians are still unaware of the dangers signified by uneven heartbeats.

ATRIAL fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, or cardiac arrhythmia. It occurs as a result of a glitch in the heart's electrical "wiring".

The electrical impulses that control the pumping motion of the heart are out of sync. Instead of rhythmically relaxing and contracting, the heart quivers as it works to pump blood, and as a result, the heart's job is not carried out efficiently. This leads to blood pooling in the heart's chambers, which often results in blood clots forming.

Your chances of a stroke are increased by as much as five times, and if that isn't bad enough, you also face the risk of heart failure.

Patients with AF represent a large population who are at high risk of stroke, and in particular, severe stroke.

There are three types of AF, and it can change from one type to another over time.

Often, the symptoms associated with AF can be vague or non-specific, and sometimes, there are no symptoms at all. This makes it difficult to identify early, and the easiest way to identify AF is the detection of an irregular pulse.

There may be times when AF presents with obvious symptoms such as:

  • Palpitation – the sudden feeling that the heart is pounding, fluttering, or racing.
  • Discomfort in the chest area – feelings of pain, pressure, or discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath – difficulty in breathing while going about your normal routine.
  • Feeling weak – feeling tired or lacking the energy to go about your normal routine.
  • Dizziness – sudden feelings of light-headedness, or feeling very faint.

It is important to keep in mind that you may not experience any of the symptoms listed above, as many patients with AF do not have obvious symptoms.

Often, AF is undetected until patients see a doctor for other complications like ischaemic stroke, blood clots in the leg, or heart failure.

You can use a simple DIY pulse test method to check your pulse rate, which lets you know how fast your heart beats.

To do the DIY pulse test, hold one hand out with your palm upwards. Place the middle and index fingers of your other hand on the wrist, at the point just under the thumb. This is the point where your radial artery is located.

Start counting the number of pulses (beats) that occur in one minute. A normal heart beat should be strong and regular, with a pulse rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

If you find that you have an irregular pulse, or if it is too fast (more than 100 beats in a minute), then it would be best to see a doctor to confirm whether you have AF.

You can also use arteries located in the crook of your elbow (brachial artery) or at the side of your throat (carotid artery) for this purpose.

The use of this method is much more reliable as a screening method to determine whether or not you might have AF than going for an ECG test for it; this is simply because AF can, and often does, happen intermittently, thus the ECG test may show nothing wrong.

Doing a DIY pulse test will only cost you a few minutes of your time, and can easily be done at your own convenience. While it cannot tell you conclusively whether you have AF or not, it will prove invaluable as a simple screening test to pre-alert you.

The bottom-line is – having AF is not only a possibility, it is a deadly one! Try taking steps to minimise your chances of developing AF by adopting the same healthy habits that protect against heart disease. They include having a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, controlling your blood pressure, avoiding smoking, and limiting your caffeine intake.

If you have AF, you should see a cardiologist to prevent the complications of thromboembolic stroke and heart failure. Current advances in medicine can revert AF back to a normal sinus rhythm. If your AF cannot be reverted, then your heart rate can still be controlled to relieve the symptoms of palpitations.

Blood thinners can reduce the possibility of stroke. New oral anticoagulants such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apioxaban can be used.

Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin is the director of the National Heart Foundation (Yayasan Jantung Malaysia, YJM), and a consultant cardiologist. This article is courtesy of YJM's Public Health Initiative. As part of YJM's continuing community service, a booklet on the topic of Atrial Fibrillation is scheduled for release by the end of 2012. Please visit www.yjm.org.my, or call 03-2693 4709 to get your free copy. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care.

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