Khamis, 6 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Chinese Nobel winner dodges call for laureate's freedom

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 07:55 PM PST

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A flustered Mo Yan, the Chinese winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, steered clear of human rights issues and refused on Thursday to back a petition by fellow laureates for jailed compatriot and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Mo Yan, the Chinese winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, speaks during a news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix

Mo Yan, the Chinese winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, speaks during a news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix

A group of 134 Nobel laureates including the Dalai Lama, wrote to Chinese Communist Party chief and president-in-waiting Xi Jinping urging him to release Liu, who won the prize two years ago. They also want Xi to free Liu's wife.

The case has drawn attention to China's human rights record, although China says Liu is a criminal and decries such criticism as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs.

Mo, the first Chinese national to win the $1.2 million literature prize who was in Stockholm to receive the award, refused to express support for Liu, and sometimes appeared agitated after repeated questions over Liu at a news conference.

The writer also defended censorship as sometimes necessary, comparing it to security checks at airports.

"I have already issued my opinion about this matter (over Liu)," he told journalists in Stockholm through a translator, days ahead of the formal award ceremony.

In October, after the award announcement, Mo said he hoped that Liu would achieve his freedom as soon as possible.

"I have said this prize is about literature. Not for politics," said the 57-year-old whose adopted pen name Mo Yan means "don't speak".


Despite world attention on days of Nobel prize events in Stockholm, Mo shunned any chance of making a clear call for Liu's freedom.

"I am sure you know what I said that day (in October). Why do you want to repeat that? Time is precious," he said when pressed over Liu.

"I have never praised a system of censorship, but also censorship exists in every country," he added. "There is only a difference of a degree of censorship."

Pressed on whether he would support the call from the laureates, Mo said: "I have always been independent. I like it that way ... when I am forced to express my opinion, I will not do it."

Mo was being accompanied on his Stockholm trip by a Chinese official, raising questions over whether the author was under pressure not to say anything about politics.

A number of dissidents and other writers have said Mo was unworthy of winning as he had shied away from commenting on Liu's plight. They have also denounced him for commemorating a speech by former paramount leader Mao Zedong.

Hu Jia, one of China's most prominent dissidents, told Reuters he was "very disappointed" by Mo's statements on Thursday.

"Could he not just say one sentence in his (Liu's) support?" Hu said.

In November, Herta Muller, who won the Nobel literature prize in 2009, called the Nobel award for Mo a "catastrophe".

Liu, a veteran dissident involved in 1989 pro-democracy protests crushed by the Chinese army, won the prize in 2010. He had been jailed the year before and is serving an 11-year sentence. His wife Liu Xia is under house arrest.

Mo is best known in the West for "Red Sorghum", which portrays the hardships endured by farmers in the early years of communist rule and was made into a film directed by Zhang Yimou.

His books also include "Big Breasts and Wide Hips" and "The Republic of Wine".

(This story corrects reference to Nobel award for Mo, instead of for Liu, in fourth-from-last paragraph)

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Philippines starts to bury dead as typhoon toll hits 418

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 07:51 PM PST

NEW BATAAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Residents in the southern Philippines began to bury their dead on Friday even as rescue workers continued scouring remote areas for possible survivors of Typhoon Bopha, the country's strongest storm this year, which killed 418 people and left nearly as many missing.

An aerial view of damaged houses caused by flash floods in Compostela Valley province, southern Philippines is seen in this handout photograph provided by the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division

An aerial view of damaged houses caused by flash floods in Compostela Valley province, southern Philippines is seen in this handout photograph provided by the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division

Officials in Compostela Valley, one of the worst hit provinces on the resource-rich island of Mindanao, were considering mass graves for unclaimed bodies killed by the typhoon which hit two days ago.

Bopha cut a swathe of destruction in the valley, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides.

"We are thinking of burying the unclaimed bodies on health concerns," Major General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander in the southern Philippines, told Reuters. "The foul smell is becoming strong."

Bernardo said rescue and retrieval work was hampered by lack of equipment. "Some of the dead are buried in knee deep mud and we only have our hands and shovels," he said.

Arturo Uy, governor of Compostela Valley, said the province was considering digging mass graves if most of the dead are not claimed in two to three days. He estimates 212 died in his province while nearly 400 were missing.

"Probably half of the missing could be dead by now," he told Reuters.

The official death toll stands at 418, with 383 missing and hundreds injured, the national disaster agency said in its latest tally. But the toll is expected to rise, with local government officials quoting higher numbers of missing.

A Reuters photographer saw at least 10 bodies under mud and piles of logs and debris and only a few hundreds of metres from a crowded makeshift grandstand in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley, where President Benigno Aquino was due to give out relief goods later on Friday.

"Up to now, we are not discussing stopping (the search)," Uy told reporters. "There are still survivors in barangays (villages) which we couldn't reach immediately."

Stephen Antig, executive director of Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, estimates about 7 billion pesos ($171 million) worth of bananas mostly for export in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte were destroyed by the typhoon.

The area, where plantations owned by Dole Food Company Inc and Del Monte Pacific Ltd are located, accounts for almost a fifth of the country's total banana production.

Bopha has now weakened and is slowly moving north-northwest towards the South China Sea, with central winds of up to 110 kph (68 mph) and gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph).

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction. Almost exactly a year ago, Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people in Mindanao, but most storms make landfall further north.

($1 = 40.965 Philippine pesos)

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, Manny Mogato and Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Man pleads guilty in plot to attack Seattle military site - prosecutors

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:10 PM PST

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Seattle man pleaded guilty on Thursday in connection with a plot to mount a machine-gun and grenade attack on a U.S. military recruitment centre in the city, federal prosecutors said.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, 35, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to murder officers and employees of the United States and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

His co-defendant, 33-year-old Walli Mujahidh, pleaded guilty in December 2008 to conspiracy and weapons charges.

(Reporting by Laura Myers; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Chance of a lifetime

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 04:18 PM PST

Red FM wants you to join them in a glamorous affair.

Put on your best cocktail dress and snazziest tux, and walk the red carpet with celebrities as Red FM brings you the gala premiere of Les Miserables.

Catch this year's must-see musical two weeks ahead of its official release date of Dec 25. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is brought to you specially by Red FM with thanks to United International Pictures.

On Dec 12, join DJs like Lil Kev, Terry, Azura, Asha Gill and others from Red FM and Capital FM as they, along with their celebrity friends, watch the much-awaited movie starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried.

To portray Fantine in this movie, Hathaway went through a drastic physical transformation including losing weight and shaving her head. Film critics have described her "live" singing performance as breathtaking.

The gala premiere will start at 8pm at the GSC Signature, The Gardens Mid Valley in Kuala Lumpur. Cocktails and canapés will be served while being entertained by Red FM's very own opera singer, Priya.

You can be part of this glamorous event by winning passes on The Red Zone (Mondays to Fridays, 10am-1pm) and The Red Fix (Mondays to Fridays, 4pm-7pm) all this week.

Jennifer Lopez fun

Red FM had a "JLo-themed day" last Friday. On the Red Bootcamp, DJ Linora gave tips to listeners on how to get a booty like Jennifer Lopez's. Meanwhile, DJ Mynn dished out "JLo's Dirty Bits" on her show, Red Room With Mynn.

Listeners also got the chance to win Lopez's album every hour throughout the day.

Apart from that, Red FM gave a lucky listener two tickets to catch the singer-actress live in action at her concert on Friday night. Winner Farif Naqiuddim, 25, won the coveted tickets at the "Get Low For JLo" party which was held at the Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Farif proved his love for the star by limbo-ing really low!

For more information, log on to Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page on and follow the on Twitter (@iloveredfm). Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

Red FM's Station Frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1FM, George Town and Seberang Prai, Penang: 107.6 FM, Ipoh, Perak: 106.4 FM, Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9FM, Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6 FM, Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9FM, Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8FM.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Pacquiao seeks definitive win to silence Marquez

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:51 PM PST

LAS VEGAS: Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao needs a statement victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in the fourth installment of their epic rivalry Saturday to prove once and for all who is the better fighter.

Pacquiao, 33, will face the 39-year-old Marquez for the fourth time in eight years in a 12-round non-title welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.

Trainer Freddie Roach said he has seen a meaner, harder-punching Pacquiao in their sparring sessions at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.

"I think he has the fire underneath him that he used to have," Roach said. "He has four knockdowns in training camp ... He wasn't so compassionate in sparring this time."

Pacquiao, who is also eager to redeem himself after suffering a defeat in his most recent fight to Tim Bradley, is tired of Marquez blaming his failure to win in their series on biased judging.

Marquez claims he won all three fights - although two were scored in favour of Pacquiao and one ended in a draw.

"I think this is the last fight with him," Pacquiao says. "He always claims he won the fights. So he needs to prove something.

"You cannot say, 'Yes, I won the fight' when you are always backing off. It is contradictory. If you are claiming you won the fight then you have to press the action."

Pacquiao and Marquez, of Mexico, have fought a total of 36 rounds with their most recent fight being 13 months ago.

They met for the first time in 2004 for the featherweight title. Marquez survived three early knockdowns to scrape out a draw.

Fast forward four years and they would meet again at 130 pounds.

Pacquiao was awarded a split decision by the narrowest of margins as one judge gave the victory to Marquez, the second favoured Pacquiao and the third gave it to Pacquiao by just one point.

In November 2011, Pacquiao won on a majority decision that was roundly booed when it was announced. An incensed Marquez stormed out of the ring thinking he had won the fight.

"There is not much I can do about the judges," Marquez says. "I don't pick them, and I sure don't know them. "There is no doubt in my mind that I won all three previous fights."

Marquez feels he will finally break through with a victory this time - and he admits it's important to him.

"Pacquiao continues to be the best in the world and to finally get a win over him would make me very happy," he says.

Pacquiao says he was the aggressor in all the fights, landing more punches, so those close decisions rightly went to him.

Pacquiao sees this fight as a chance to provide definitive proof as to who is the better fighter. He also wants to avoid suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in his 17-year career.

Bradley won the World Boxing Organization welterweight title in June by beating Pacquiao in a controversial split decision.

"Pac Man" could have gone for a rematch against Bradley but in the end his camp figured another Marquez fight would sell more tickets.

Besides, Pacquiao knows that much of his ring legacy will come from his contests with Marquez.

"When you say 'Muhammad Ali', you think 'Joe Frazier'. And I think when you say 'Manny Pacquiao', you think 'Juan Manuel Marquez,'" he said.

Much has been made of Marquez's bulkier physique for this fight.

Marquez's strength and conditioning coach is Angel Heredia Hernandez, who was involved in the steroid scandal that eventually resulted in disgraced American athlete Marion Jones going to prison.

Roach questioned whether Marquez was using performance-enhancing drugs.

"Freddie Roach is saying I've been taking steroids. He's way off base," Marquez told the Los Angeles Times. "I say 'let's do the test right now'." - AFP

Tomic denies he was axed, vows to bounce back

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:49 PM PST

SYDNEY: Troubled Australian tennis star Bernard Tomic has admitted to being on a "slippery slope" this year, but denied he was axed from the Davis Cup team by captain Pat Rafter due to his behaviour.

Tomic, 20, has fallen foul of Tennis Australia several times since reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2011 and the organisation said Thursday he would not be picked for the Davis Cup tie against Taiwan in February.

"It's not one specific incident, just an aggregation of his approach to the game," said Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia's director of tennis.

Australia's most recent Grand Slam winner, Samantha Stosur, also weighed in, telling Tomic he must "knuckle down" if he wanted to live up to his enormous potential.

Tomic said he had taken the comments on board.

"I'm young and I'm learning. You get to a point where you need to stop and I think it's a good bit of advice," he told the Ten Network late Thursday of Stosur's comments.

"I'm working really hard and trying to push myself to become the best tennis player I can be.

"I've had a slippery slope the last year. It's changing me and I'll prove I'm going to be the best-ever player one day to play this game."

He denied being axed from the Davis Cup team, saying he was never going to be available as he planned to focus on ATP events in the United States.

"I was never meant to play that Davis Cup tie," he said.

"I spoke to Pat (about that). I'm going to use that time for training and to prepare for tournaments in America."

Rafter had been scathing of Tomic's performance in losing to Andy Roddick in the second round of this year's US Open, describing his final set capitulation as "disgraceful".

Tomic also admitted that he had given only "85 percent" in his 6-4, 6-0 defeat to German Florian Mayer at the Shanghai Masters in October.

In the same month, he was questioned by police after a fight with a friend on Australia's Gold Coast.

Tomic was found guilty last month of failing to stop for police on the Gold Coast in his high-powered, bright orange sports car and placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond. - AFP

Federer targets Rio Olympics

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:48 PM PST

SAO PAULO: Roger Federer wants to play at the 2016 Rio Olympics and will cut back his schedule in an effort to extend his shelf life.

The 17-time Grand Slam title winner will be 35 by the time the Rio Games come around, but the Swiss world number two remains without a gold medal in singles having been defeated by Andy Murray in the London Olympics final this year.

He was a gold medallist in doubles in Beijing in 2008.

"My goal is to be here again in three and a half years to play the Rio Olympics," said Federer on Thursday, ahead of a series of exhibition matches in Brazil.

Federer will play 14 events in 2013, beginning at the season's first Grand Slam event at the Australian Open in Melbourne, but will skip the Miami Masters and Monte Carlo Masters.

"I'm trying to prioritize the events in which I participate, therefore I am not able to play 25 tournaments in a year," he told the Folha newspaper.

"I am picking just those already won or to which I have a sentimental attachment, either with the people or with the city."

Federer will share the exhibition tour in Brazil with home player Thomaz Bellucci, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Germany's Tommy Haas and Spain's Tommy Robredo.

Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are also part of the tour.

"I'm very excited to be here. I have waited for this for years. I have travelled almost every day of my life. I was not able to come here until now," Federer told the Globo website. - AFP


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Bursa Securities warns of action to curb speculation in Takaso shares

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 05:50 PM PST

Published: Friday December 7, 2012 MYT 9:51:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of Takaso Resources fell early Friday on profit taking while Bursa Malaysia Securities warned of "appropriate regulatory action" to ensure the fair and orderly trading of securities.

The regulator had on Friday cautioned investors over the recent sharp rise in the price and volume of the securities and the company's response to the unusual market activity (UMA).

Bursa Securities also noted that Takaso had on Thursday, in its reply to the UMA, stated it was not aware of any corporate development or explanation that could give rise to the unusual trading activities in its securities.

At 9.33am, the share price tumbled 7.5 sen to 39.5 sen with 8.98 million shares done. Takaso-WB fell one sen to 15 sen with 12.20 million warrants done.

The FBM KLCI slipped 0.81 of a point to 1,615.42. Turnover was 125.14 million shares valued at RM56.08mil. There were 110 gainers, 92 losers and 163 counters unchanged.

On Thursday, Takaso surged in active trade, up 21.5 sen to 47 sen, the highest since Aug 29, 2011. It was the most active with 88.25 million shares done. Takaso-WB rose 2.5 sen to 16 sen with 64.11 million warrants done.


Nod for EADS shake-up Core shareholders reach agreement on new structure

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 05:45 PM PST

Friday December 7, 2012

PARIS: Nations in European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS) have agreed on the biggest shake-up of the European aerospace group since it was founded over a decade ago, opting after years of uneasy co-habitation to put its board and most of its shares beyond public control.

The accord to wind down a complex Franco-German power-sharing pact came weeks after talks broke down to merge the group with UK arms firm BAE Systems, but took advantage of much of the groundwork for the failed US$45bil deal.

It will lead to a simplified management structure, including a new chairman heading a mainly independent board, and a gradual exit by core industrial shareholders that represented French and German interests in EADS since its birth in 2000.

The previous shareholder pact had been blamed for making the company too political and tying the hands of its management.

"This new agreement protects the interests of France, Germany and Spain while giving the company the freedom for manoeuvre it needs to pursue its development," French President Francois Hollande said in a statement.

France and Germany have agreed to control 12% each of the voting rights, handing Berlin a direct stake in the Airbus parent company for the first time. Spain will also have a slightly reduced stake of around 4%.

Until now, parity in EADS – born from a merger of French, German and Spanish interests – had been ensured through a shareholder pact between the French state, French media firm Lagardere and German car firm Daimler AG. — Reuters


Citigroup cuts 11,000 jobs

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 05:39 PM PST

NEW YORK: Citigroup Inc said it is cutting 11,000 jobs worldwide, delivering the first of what investors expect to be a new series of steps to shrink the bank down to a more manageable and profitable size.

The cuts, which amount to about 4% of the bank's workforce, carry the fingerprints of Citigroup's chairman Michael O'Neill. A banking industry veteran, O'Neill, 66, has a history of ruthlessly shedding businesses that are not earning enough money.

Investors were expecting O'Neill to launch a similar plan at Citigroup after he pushed out Vikram Pandit and made Michael Corbat chief executive in October.

Speaking at a conference, Citigroup chief financial officer John Gerspach said the cuts announced on Wednesday were "a fairly comprehensive initial foray" for the new leaders, leaving the door open to more reorganisation.

Citigroup has been cutting costs since at least 2007, but investors have complained that expenses are not dropping fast enough. Its quarterly operating expenses are similar to their levels in 2006, but quarterly income is now less than half 2006 levels.

The bank announced 96,500 job cuts from 2007 to 2011, behind only the US government and General Motors for layoff announcements, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc, which tracks US layoffs.

The cuts announced on Wednesday are expected to bring at least US$1.1bil in annual savings starting in 2014, thanks to both job cuts and broader reorganisation efforts.

The changes the bank is envisioning will also result in revenue falling by about US$300mil annually, and will spur some US$1.1bil of charges through the middle of next year. - Reuters



The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

‘I am wary about meeting politicians’

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 03:34 PM PST

Friday December 7, 2012

SHAH ALAM: The Sultan of Selangor has admitted that he has grown wary of meeting politicians, saying there were some who had deliberately misrepresented what he said to suit their political agenda.

"If any elected representative wishes to see me, I now insist they write officially to my secretary for a proper audience," Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said. "The deliberations of the meeting will be properly recorded to ensure accuracy and formality."

The Tuanku expressed his bewilderment over politicians who didn't understand royal protocol and Malay traditions.

"Some express their wish to seek an audience via the media or blog," he said. "I find this unusual, coming from Malay politicians who ought to know better."

* Full story in your copy of The Star today.

Related Stories:
Selangor Sultan: I am above politics, let's be clear about this
Sultan: I'm on rakyat's side

Sultan: I’m on rakyat’s side

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 03:33 PM PST

Ruler plays down talk linking him to any political party, saying he only has the people's interest at heart.

Q&A with the Sultan of Selangor

THE Sultan of Selangor, by his own admission, is certainly more cautious with his words and speeches of late. He goes through the draft of speeches with a fine-toothed comb, sometimes taking up to two weeks, to ensure the message he wants to deliver does not come across as taking sides with any political party. Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah tells WONG CHUN WAI and LOONG MENG YEE that the only team he wants to be on is that of the rakyat.

> Tuanku, with the general election season, it must be difficult to express your views but yet, be fearful what you say will be misinterpreted by irresponsible parties.

It is very difficult, the speeches I prepare, I will go through them many times, write and rewrite again. I want to be specific, but unfortunately, some will twist my words to say I am on the side of such and such a party; or that I am hitting out at such and such a party.

For instance, in a speech I made to university students, I stressed the importance of respect for our Malaysian flag as some people wanted to change it easily. This is the symbol of our national sovereignty. In some countries, people are willing to die for their flag. Malays, Indians, Chinese, we should be proud of our flag. But, some blogs twist my words, to say I am supporting a certain political party with my statement. Maybe some do not like Rulers who speak up.

* Full story in your copy of The Star today.

Related Stories:
Selangor Sultan: I am above politics, let's be clear about this
I am wary about meeting politicians'

Selangor Sultan: I am above politics, let’s be clear about this

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 03:32 PM PST

SHAH ALAM: Selangor will be one of the hardest fought states in the coming general election. As polling day nears, the Sultan finds himself a victim of attempts to drag his name into politics.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said he was sad that he had become the target of groups and individuals who deliberately twisted his words and actions to imply that he was partial towards Umno.

"Why should I? I have nothing to gain from siding with Umno, PKR or any party," he said. "What has Umno given me?

"Those that brand me as an Umno man, prove it. Show me when was I inclined to be with Umno. Do not blindly accuse me of things I am not guilty of. I have no political agenda.

"As head of the state, I am above politics. Let's be clear about this," the outspoken Ruler said.

* Full story in your copy of The Star today.

Related Stories:
I am wary about meeting politicians'
Sultan: I'm on rakyat's side


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Peter Jackson defends 'Hobbit' trilogy

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 06:02 PM PST

NEW YORK: "The Hobbit" may be a shortish book about diminutive heroes, but Peter Jackson on Wednesday said he was right to elongate the children's story into no less than three epic movies.

The New Zealand-born director has come under fire from some quarters for the trilogy, which opens in the US this month with the nearly three-hour-long first instalment "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

But Jackson said turning the original book into the sumptuous movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastical Middle-earth required a slower approach. The initial plan was for two movies and soon that turned into three.

In Tolkien's often "breathless" text, "very major events are covered in two or three pages," Jackson told reporters in New York. "Once you start to develop the scenes and plus you wanted to do a little bit more character development," the movie grew, he said.

To expand on the story, the filmmakers also dipped into Tolkien's appendices to the "Return of the King," the last of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy that Jackson previously adapted to Oscar-winning films.

"The Hobbit," which was screened for journalists in New York on Tuesday, sees the little Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the good wizard and 13 raucous dwarves embark on a journey bedeviled by a host of evil forces.

It is a prequel to the darker "Lord of the Rings," introducing the main characters and plotlines that reappear through the entire saga. The cursed golden ring also makes its first appearance.

Screenwriter and co-producer Philippa Boyens said the different pace chosen for the movies compared to the book reflected the dynamics of working with actors.

"Great actors come to you for the material and if you give them very slight material, you're just not going to get them. We wanted to write for these great actors," she said.

British actor Ian McKellen, who reprises his "Rings" role as Gandalf in "The Hobbit," batted down suggestions that the filmmakers were trying to milk the maximum profit out of Tolkien fans by splitting the "Hobbit" three ways.

"Anyone who thinks Peter Jackson would fall for market forces, instead of artistic imperatives, just doesn't know him, doesn't know the body of his work," McKellen told reporters.

Ahead of the December 14 US premiere, critics are of two minds.

Jackson's technical wizardry, using 3D and 48 frames a second, rather than the ordinary 24 frames, gets gasps of admiration, mixed with yawns about overkill.

"In Jackson's academically fastidious telling, however, it's as if 'The Wizard of Oz' had taken nearly an hour just to get out of Kansas," The Hollywood Reporter said in a bruising review.

"There are elements in this new film that are as spectacular as much of the Rings trilogy was, but there is much that is flat-footed and tedious as well."

Variety's critic took aim at the overwhelming detail poured into 48-frames-a-second pictures.

"Everything takes on an overblown, artificial quality in which the phoniness of the sets and costumes becomes obvious, while well-lit areas bleed into their surroundings, like watching a high-end home movie," Variety said.

There are bravura battle scenes choreographing Goblin hordes, fantastical caves, and James Bond-style narrow escapes from death for Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf friends.

As in the three "Rings" movies, the natural settings of New Zealand are breathtaking.

But with so many strange beings attacking each other with swords, and so many arrows, rocks and bodies flying in 3D at the audience, the few intimately staged scenes focusing on just a couple characters can come as a relief.

When the action cut suddenly from the latest mass sword fight to a silent cave inhabited by Andy Serkis's creepy character Gollum, journalists at Tuesday's press screening broke out in a rare smattering of applause. - AFP


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Metro Watch

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:03 AM PST


Online registration for the HSBC Charity Partner Walk 2012 closes at 5pm tomorrow. The 3.5km charity walk and mini carnival held at Padang Merbok, Kuala Lumpur on Dec 9 from 6am to 7.30am is in aid of the Children's Wish Society of Malaysia. To register and for further details, visit Participants can also register on the day of the walk.


Montessori Association of Malaysia is holding free public talks on Special Educational Needs, Classroom Management, Parenting, Corporate Practices and the National Preschool Standard Curriculum at Residensi HELP, Jalan Damanlela, KL on Dec 8 and 9, 9am - 5pm. For registration and details, call Daniel (016-2290300) or Aisha (016-2831002).


Shalini Ganendra Fine Art @ Gallery Residence (SGFA) is presenting the artworks of five award-winning Malaysian artists namely Bibi Chew, Eiffel Chong, Jasmine Kok, Kim Peow Ng and Suhaimi Fadzir at its place at 8 Lorong 16/7B, Section 16, PJ from Jan 15 to March 15. Opening hours are 11am - 7pm. For details, call 03 79604740 or visit


Central Market Kuala Lumpur is having a Year End Sale and School Holiday Carnival with Upin and Ipin event on Dec 8 and 9 from 11am to 6pm. Colouring Contests, Shopping Bag Designing Contests and Family Fun Tele-matches are available. For details, visit


A Natural Fibres And Identification talk will be held at Saindera Gallery, National Textile Museum on Dec 6 while the 'Sahabat Tekstil' public talk will be held at the same place on Dec 7. Both talks start at 10am and free admission. For registration and details, email or call 03-26943457/3461.


Eduwis kindergarten and nursery in Bukit Antarabangsa, Ampang will be holding its open day on Dec 8 and 9 from 9am - 3pm for 2013 enrolments and to showcase its current holiday programmes. There will be hands-on arts and craft activities for children. For details call 0123787218 (Woong).


The Selangor state government is organising a Christmas open house at Sunway Resort Hotel and Spa open car park, Bandar Sunway on Dec 8 from 6pm to 11pm. Guests will be entertained by sketches, dances and choir performances. For details, call 03-8026 3131.


Brahma Kumaris Malaysia is organising a free Raja Yoga Meditation Course at Harmony House, 10, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar Park on Dec 8 (9.30am-3.30pm) and Dec 9 (9.30am-4pm). For details, call 012-6986053 (Susan) or 017-2910928 (Celia).

Artist takes an abstract view at life as he tries to stay relevant

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:02 AM PST

IN A sense, the Nuntius 12.12.12 series marks the end of a creative journey that artist Indra Ramanathan began four years ago in order to stay relevant to the creative process that is very much part and parcel of his life as an architect and designer.

Having hit the big 4-0 in 2009, he declared that he was going to create 42 pieces of art outside the realm of his day job to keep his creative juices flowing.

His journey will end on Dec 12, when he will celebrate the culmination of that process by unveiling his fourth solo exhibition at Taksu Gallery.

The final collection of 12 six-by-six abstract pieces named after the 12 disciples of Jesus, carries its own underlying messages to him personally as according to him, they each represented people who led normal lives thousands of years ago, yet had died horrible deaths.

"People can look at it, gauge and have their own perception of the pieces and take away what they each perceive it to be," he said, adding that it was a personal thing.

"And if you look closer, there is an underlying meaning in each piece. Take the one on Judas, for example, if you look closely you will see the motive of the coins on the painting which represents the pieces of silver that were given to him to betray Jesus," he said.

Indra, however, stressed that the emotive connection is different to different people as there are layers of meaning to be perceived in the paintings.

"It is all about everyone's individual journey," he said.

His style in Nuntius is abstract minimalistic and there are multiple layers and textures which represent different emotions that he has experienced while working on the pieces.

"None of it looks anything like what it did when I first worked on them. Each piece has gone through at least five reversals," he said.

He added that the collection was a major effort as it involved ripping the canvas and stitching them together again to create the layered and textured effects and re-painting it over and over on a platform, which was no easy feat.

Indra began his journey with the 09.09.09 installation which featured the nine cities that had a great impact on his life.

For his second solo exhibition entitled Decalogue, he created 10 paintings with a word each on the canvas. Some of the words were — Respect, Renewal, Family, Justice, Faith, Truth and Generosity. 10.10.10 highlighted words of wisdom from the 10 Commandments, words which became Indra's guiding principles in life.

The third exhibition, 11.11.11, explored his patriotic side. Themed Unum, it featured 11 pieces of mixed-medium artworks, which use the Malaysian flag's four colours — blue, white, red and yellow.

So what is next?

"Who knows, all I know is that in order to be relevant, I need to be challenged to keep on producing creative works and I guess that I will continue to paint just not in a public way any more," he said.

Nuntius will be on display from Dec 12 to 19 at Taksu Gallery, No 17, Jalan Pinang, KL. Tel: 03-42514396.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Michael Kors' second Malaysian store

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:47 AM PST

"WALKING through 1 Utama shopping centre is more like strolling through a gorgeous 'garden' that happens to have amazing shopping, too," said American designer Michael Kors during a recent visit there.

It is no wonder, then, that the king of classic couture has chosen the mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, as the location of his brand's second boutique in Malaysia; his first store is in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

Opened by retail giant Valiram, the boutique – which was designed by the company's in-house interior design team – brought a bit of jet-set glamour to this suburb in PJ.

With its polished metal finishes, mirrored surfaces and large-scale vintage artwork, it's not unlike the other Michael Kors boutiques around the world, from New York to Tokyo.

An eclectic mix of accessories like bags, eyewear, watches and fragrances from the Michael Kors label can be found in the 241sqm space.

Esprit's way of life

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:46 AM PST

Consider fashion apparel that reminds you of how to live a balanced life.

"LIVE honestly. Love passionately. Care endlessly. Speak kindly – usually."

These are the empowering sentiments that global fashion and lifestyle brand Esprit conveys with its first sportswear collection, Wellness.

Campaign shots depict supermodel Christy Turlington Burns against a grey backdrop, snugly clad in relaxed-fitting apparel from the new range.

The zen-like calm in her appearance portrays the brand's direction in inspiring women toward a healthy – and fashionable – lifestyle.

The collection combines sportswear and lifestyle fashion apparel that are designed for versatility: cosy sweatshirts and pants as well as sporty tops for layering that come in soft and vibrant colours.

There's the Sharira Top, a snug knit top with an in-built bra and racer back support; the Ganesha Top, a classic hoodie with unfinished seams, which works for both exercise and lounging; and Flow Pants, which are great for yoga classes or worn for gym workouts.

Circular knit designs and laser cut fabrics offer flexibility of movement, and some of the workout apparel have been designed with Esprit's in-house "E" material, which is designed to breathe, dry quickly and prevent odour.

Price starts from RM69.90. The Wellness collection is available at all Esprit outlets nationwide.

Innerwear brand Nukleus' take on cotton

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:45 AM PST

An innerwear brand is intent on sowing the seeds of sustainable fashion.

SPARKED by a cadre of sustainable fashion and affordable innerwear, Nukleus is an all-enhancing appreciation of organic cotton. To demonstrate this, the innerwear brand recently held an event at Zang Toi Cafe in Parkson Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

It was an event not unlike any other, until a video put together by ballsy journalist Leah Borromeo entitled Dirty White Gold was screened. The documentary is an exposé about cotton farming in India, the largest cotton producers in the world. The film documents cases of cotton farmers committing suicide due to rising debt and bankruptcy, brought upon by the purchase of pesticides.

What yours truly never expected to discover was that the cotton we wear without batting an eyelid could possibly be "blood cotton".

Borromeo, in her mission to make ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry a norm, speaks to widows and pesticide peddlers to uncover the harsh truth that has been blanketing the cotton farmers in India.

"When you buy at bargain, who pays for it?" she asked matter-of-factly in the documentary, of the cotton we have grown accustomed to.

Production and trade of cotton is a business of gigantic proportions, estimated to be worth US$30bil (RM91bil) a year. Cotton, too, is the world's most valuable non-food crop but sadly, the life of a farmer involved in cotton farming and production is far from comfortable.

"The use of deadly pesticide is also widespread in conventional cotton farming where a staggering 99% of the world's cotton is produced this way. In 2010, more than US$3bil (RM9.1bil) worth of pesticides were used, and half of the chemicals in pesticides are classified 'hazardous' by the World Health Organisation," explained the brand's CEO Tan Cheng Woi.

Nukleus is intent on sowing the seeds of sustainable fashion with its pesticide-free organic cotton innerwear. With its aim of educating consumers, the company is confident its purposeful greening efforts will go a long way.

Nukleus also actively seeks to improve the welfare of cotton farmers through its advocacy of "buy organic cotton", hoping with the increase of organic cotton usage, more farmers will switch to the less dangerous option available.

Very soon, Nukleus will be sourcing 100% of its organic cotton from India's Morarka Organic. It is a social enterprise backed by non-profit organisation Morarka Foundation, dedicated to improving the lives of Indian farmers through sustainable agriculture. The environmental-friendly brand's philanthropy exercise has been in place since 2010, where part of the sale proceeds are channelled towards WWF Malaysia's conservation efforts.

Since the Christmas season is almost upon us, it's time to start sourcing for a meaningful gift for loved ones. Nukleus innerwear and basics are not just sassy and super-comfy, its favourable, eco-coolness is heightened by environmentally friendly practises and use of materials.

Nukleus is priced from RM15.90 to RM39.90, and available at selected Parkson department stores and online at


The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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Property owners urged to pay assessment arrears or risk legal action

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 06:12 PM PST

BATU PAHAT: Outstanding assessment bills owed to Batu Pahat Municipal Council stands at more than RM14mil.

Council president Abdul Rashid Ismail urged property owners to pay their assessment arrears immediately to avoid legal action.

Under the Local Government Act, the local authority can recover unpaid assessments by sealing premises and moveable assets of the defaulters.

He also advised property owners - housing, commercial or industry, to ensure ownership transfer is done following a buy-sell transaction or as a result of property inheritance.

"Those who fail to do the necessary ownership transfer may be fined RM2,000 or face a jail term up to one year, or both," he said recently.

Abdul Rashid said the council collected average assessment payments of between RM4mil and RM5mil every year.

To encourage settlement of assessments and transfer of ownership, Abdul Rashid said the council is holding a campaign by giving out five iPads and gifts to those who settled the payments early.

The first 10,000 payees at the council's counters would walk away with a gift.

"We are targeting to recover at least RM6mil in arrears during the campaign," he said, adding that the campaign would begin on Dec 10 and ends in Feb 28, next year.

The last similar campaign conducted was in 2003, said Abdul Rashid.

"We do not wish to take stern action and hope property owners will take this opportunity to settle their bills and ownership transfer," he said.

Abdul Rashid said there were property owners who had not pay assessment bills more than 10 years and majority of the defaulters were housing property owners.

For more information about the campaign, contact the council at 07-4334641, 07-4341427, 07-4341628, 07-4341217 or visit the council's website at

Councillor condems illegal renovation

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 06:10 PM PST

MALACCA: A window poser along the famous Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Heeren Street) here has elicited the ire of a city councillor after a restaurant owner was left with no ventilation flowing into his premise following an illegal construction work.

Malacca Historical City Councillor Ronald Gan was dumbfounded when the restaurant owner along the street, within the core zone of Unesco World Heritage site, complained to him that four of his windows were entirely sealed following the illegal extension of a neighbouring colonial building.

"I was really aghast upon arriving at the restaurant which also occupies a pre-war building. All the windows were concealed by a pile of concrete stabs.

"I checked with the city council's building unit and was told there was no application made recently for such renovation work along the street, so it's deemed illegal," he said when met here, recently.

Gan said the workers of the restaurant couldn't open the window to allow the air into the premise eventually affecting their business.

"This shouldn't have happened, such illegal extension was totally prohibited within the core zone," he said.

Gan said the construction was carried out without prior permission from the city council which had contravened Unesco rules that specify construction of heritage buildings must obtain authorisation from relevant authorities.

He said the owner of the neighbouring building should also know that Unesco also recently had warned any indiscriminate development within and near the heritage enclave here could affect Malacca's heritage listing.

Gan noted those who intend to carry out any development projects at the core zone site should first apply for the Heritage Impact Assessments to be done before embarking on such construction works.

"Properties along the street forms part of the cultural and natural heritage, which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. Hence no illegal extension is permitted within the area," he said.

Gan said some of the heritage building owners along the historic city here were overzealous in renovating their properties in a bid to cash in the high arrival of tourists to the city.

"In some cases, the modus operandi employed by the owners was to execute such construction works in the night to dodge the sleuthing council's enforcement officers," he said.

However, Gan said he will also alert Mayor Datuk Zainal Abu on why the enforcement officers have kept a close eye on such illegal construction in the area although building materials were stacked up at the sites.

He said a stopwork order would be slapped on the owner of the building who deliberately sealed the windows of his neighbour. "The owner will not get away freely for being inconsiderate to his neighbour, we will act against him," he added.

Foreign pilgrims for feast

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 06:11 PM PST

MALACCA: Visitng Japanese Catholic priest Fr. Awamoto Teruco was among thousands of Catholics and non-Christian pilgrims, devotees and visitors from Malaysia, Singapore and overseas who thronged St. Paul's Hill in the heart of Historic Malacca to commemorate the feast of St. Francis Xavier.

Fr. Awamoto, 84, who led a 14-strong group from Tokyo's St. Ignatius Church also con-celebrated a mid-morning Eucharistic Celebra-tion in the roofless church ruins of St. Paul which was principally presided by Malacca-Johore Diocese head Bishop Paul Tan. The other clergy members in attendance included Frs. Michael Mannayagam, Marcelin De Pores, Joseph Stephen and Deacon Anthony Chua.

Said the Japanese priest: "This is my first visit to Malacca and to be part and parcel of the Saint's feast day celebrations on the hill is indeed a privilege to be cherished. Like Malacca, Japan too hold St. Francis Xavier dear. The Saint reached Japan in July 1549 while landing at Kagoshima on the Kyushu Island and was instrumental in the spread of the Catholic faith in the country.

Like Malacca which has a church and a school dedicated to the Saint's honour, Kagoshima also has several edifices and statues in public parks to perpetuate his name. St. Francis Xavier is often described as the "Apostle of the East" and the "Patron Saint of Missionaries".

Traditionally, it is the parish Church of St. Francis Xavier in Banda Kaba built in 1845 that organises the week-long feast day religious services, devotional and prayer sessions and fellowships. The finale comprise a Tamil, Mandarin and English language Eucharistic Celebration at the hill conducted a specially erected altar sited at the rear of the saint's empty tomb at the ruins of St. Paul's Church.

Described as the missionary headquarters of the saint who made five visits to Malacca between September 1545 and May 1552, St. Paul's Hill and its immediate vicinity was included in the World Heritage List in October 1988 and is a major tourist attraction. For the records, the ruins of St. Paul's Church spelt a religious edifice to the Portuguese, a great fortress for the Dutch and then a military bastion for the British during their respective rule of the state.

All said, the saint continues to draw pilgrims, devotees, visitors and tourists each year to partake in the reverence, joy and thanksgiving while marking the feast day on the first Sunday in December, with much solemnity and spirituality.

For James Matthews, a Catholic from Singapore coming to St. Paul's Hill for the feast day celebrations, is something he has not failed to do annually over the past 29 years. Aged 68, he said: "I have always considered St. Francis Xavier as a patron saint of this part of the world. I have special devotion for this saint and it was through his intercession that I received favours before I got married in 1973. So coming to this hill as long as I am able, is my way of repaying God's mercy and kindness."


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