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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Egypt president scraps decree that sparked protests

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 06:34 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has cancelled a decree that gave him sweeping powers and sparked deadly violence, but did not delay this month's referendum on a new constitution as his opponents had demanded.

Egypt's riot police guard a gate of the presidential palace under a banner with a defaced picture of Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi and Arabic that reads "The people want to bring down the regime," in Cairo, December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egypt's riot police guard a gate of the presidential palace under a banner with a defaced picture of Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi and Arabic that reads "The people want to bring down the regime," in Cairo, December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The announcement that Mursi had scrapped his November 22 decree followed hours of talks on Saturday at his presidential palace, billed as a "national dialogue" but which was boycotted by his main opponents and had little credibility among protesters.

One opposition group dismissed Mursi's efforts at appeasement as the "continuation of deception."

His opponents have demanded Mursi scrap the vote on December 15 on a constitution that was fast-tracked through an assembly led by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Liberals and others had walked out, saying their voices were not being heard.

Islamists have insisted the referendum should go ahead on time, saying it is needed to complete a democratic transition still incomplete after Hosni Mubarak's overthrow 22 months ago.

The military, which had run the nation during a turbulent interim period after Mubarak fell, stepped into the crisis on Saturday to tell feuding factions that dialogue was essential to avoid "catastrophe." But a military source said that was not a prelude to the army retaking control of Egypt or the streets.

After Saturday's talks, the president issued a new decree in which the first article "cancels the constitutional declaration" announced on November 22, the spokesman for the dialogue, Mohamed Selim al-Awa, told a news conference held around midnight.

But he said the constitutional referendum would go ahead next Saturday, adding that although those at the meeting had discussed a postponement, there were legal obstacles to taking such a step.

The political turmoil has exposed deep rifts in the nation of 83 million between Islamists, who were suppressed for decades, and their rivals, who fear religious conservatives want to squeeze out other voices and restrict social freedoms. Many Egyptian just crave stability and economic recovery.


Islamists and more liberal-minded opponents have both drawn tens of thousands of supporters to the streets in rival rallies since Mursi's decree last month. Seven people were killed in violence around the presidential palace, which has been ringed by tanks.

The spokesman for the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, which stayed away from Saturday's talks, said his group would meet on Sunday to discuss a response to Mursi's initiative to cancel his old decree.

But Hussein Abdel Ghani added: "My first personal impression is that it is a limited and insufficient step. We repeatedly said that among our top demands is for the referendum to be delayed."

The April 6 movement, which helped galvanise street protests against Mubarak, said in a statement about the outcome of Saturday's talks, "What happened is manipulation and a continuation of deception in the name of law and legitimacy."

The new decree excluded some elements from the old decree that angered the opposition, including an article that gave Mursi broad powers to confront threats to the revolution or the nation, wording opponents said gave him arbitrary authority.

Another article in the old decree had put beyond legal challenge any decision taken by the president since he took office on June 30 and until a new parliament was elected, a step that can only happen when a new constitution is in place.

That was not repeated, but the new decree said that "constitutional declarations including this declaration" were beyond judicial review.


The new decree outlined steps for setting up an assembly to draft a new constitution should the current draft be rejected in Saturday's referendum.

In addition, the opposition was invited to offer suggested changes to the new constitution, echoing an earlier initiative by Mursi's administration for changes to be discussed and agreed on by political factions and put to the new parliament to approve.

Amid the violence and political bickering, the army has cast itself primarily as the neutral guarantor of the nation.

"The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus," the military statement said. "The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow."

The army might be pushing the opposition to join the dialogue and for Mursi to do more to draw them in, said Hassan Abu Taleb of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

He discounted the chance of direct military intervention, adding, "They realise that interfering again in a situation of civil combat will squeeze them between two rocks."

But the military seemed poised to take a more active role in security arrangements for the upcoming referendum.

A Cabinet source said the Cabinet had discussed reviving the army's ability to make arrests if it were called upon to back up police, who are normally in charge of election security.

According to the state-run daily al-Ahram, an expanded military security role might extend to the next parliamentary election and, at the president's discretion, even beyond that.

(Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Egypt's president cancels decree that sparked protests

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 04:50 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has cancelled a decree that gave him sweeping powers and sparked huge protests, but did not delay a referendum on a constitution as his opponents had demanded.

The announcement came from the spokesman for politicians and other figures who took part in a national dialogue on Saturday convened by the Islamist president. But the main opposition group stayed away, so the talks had little credibility among protesters.

Anti-Mursi protesters stand under a banner in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Anti-Mursi protesters stand under a banner in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

One of the opposition's main demands was to scrap a referendum on a constitution that was drafted by an Islamist-led assembly. Liberals and others quit the assembly, saying their voices were not being heard.

But that vote will go ahead on December 15 as planned.

Officials said those at Saturday's talks had discussed a delay but found legal obstacles prevented any change in the date for the referendum.

The president issued a new decree in which the first article "cancels the constitutional declaration" announced on November 22, spokesman Mohamed Selim al-Awa told a news conference. Last month's decree had led to protests and deadly violence.

The new decree excluded some elements from the old decree that had angered the opposition, including one article that gave the president broad powers to confront threats to the revolution or the nation, wording that the opposition said gave him arbitrary authority to act.

Another article in the old decree had put beyond legal challenge any decision taken by the president since he took office on June 30 and until a new parliament was elected, a step that can only happen when a new constitution is in place.

Although that article was not repeated, an article in the new decree put "constitutional declarations including this declaration" beyond judicial review.

The new decree also outlined steps for setting up an assembly to draft a new constitution should the current draft be rejected at a referendum the decree said would be held on December 15.

The spokesman for the main opposition coalition that boycotted Saturday's talks, the National Salvation Front, said his group would meet on Sunday to discuss the announcement, but added his personal view was that it was not enough.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Related Stories:
Egypt dialogue members recommended new decree by president

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Romanians vote in poll that may reopen political spat

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 03:57 PM PST

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's prime minister is heading for victory in parliamentary elections on Sunday that could set off another round of a power struggle with the rightist president and complicate talks for a new IMF deal.

A worker walks past an election poster showing Romania's Social Liberal Union (USL) leaders, leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the president of Social Democratic Party and Crin Antonescu, the president of National Liberal Party (R), in downtown Bucharest December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

A worker walks past an election poster showing Romania's Social Liberal Union (USL) leaders, leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the president of Social Democratic Party and Crin Antonescu, the president of National Liberal Party (R), in downtown Bucharest December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

Prime Minister Victor Ponta's leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) will win most votes and possibly a clear majority, according to opinion polls. But analysts say President Traian Basescu may use his powers to ask one of his own allies to try to form a government.

Any prolonged period without a new administration in place would unnerve markets and raise questions about how the country would obtain a new International Monetary Fund deal once the current agreement expires in early 2013.

The leu fell to a record low against the euro in August, during an attempt by Ponta to remove the conservative Basescu from office, using tactics which the European Union and United States said undermined the rule of law.

At the time, Basescu said he would never again name Ponta as prime minister. Last week, he said only that he would appoint someone in the best interests of the country.

One possibility would be for Basescu to ask someone other than Ponta from within the Social Liberal Union to become prime minister, using the argument that the USL is not a party, but rather a coalition of different political groups, according to analysts.

If the USL falls short of a majority, he could also ask one of his allies from the Right Romania Alliance (ARD) - in second place in polls with about 20 percent - to try to form a coalition.

"Even if Ponta is elected by voters and nominated by Basescu with a secure majority, scope for damaging discord with Basescu in the medium term remains," said James Goundry, an analyst with IHS Global Insight.

The USL has scored at least 57 percent in three opinion polls published in December.

The former communist country has made progress in some areas since the 1989 revolution that overthrew communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but lags regional peers Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and struggles to supply running water and reliable electricity to some of its 19 million people.

Long-term reforms such as privatisations and an overhaul of the health sector have failed to materialise, as the economy struggles to recover from a deep recession.

Romania's complicated electoral system - combining constituencies and proportional representation - favours large parties. The USL has benefited from disenchantment with Basescu and the previous government which pushed through unpopular austerity measures such as salary cuts and higher sales tax.

Less than half of the electorate is likely to vote, according to analysts, due to a deep dissatisfaction with Romania's political class that many voters view as corrupt.

"Romania's political class is all horrible," said Anton Popescu, who lives off a pension of 900 lei ($250) each month. "I have no hope for better times after the election, I just hope it won't be worse than it already is."

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Wall Street Week Ahead: "Cliff" worries may drive tax selling

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 11:09 PM PST

NEW YORK: Investors typically sell stocks to cut their losses at year end. But worries about the "fiscal cliff" - and the possibility of higher taxes in 2013 - may act as the greatest incentive to sell both winners and losers by December 31.

The $600 billion of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for the beginning of next year includes higher rates for capital gains, making tax-loss selling even more appealing than usual.

Tax-related selling may be behind the weaker trend in the shares of market leader Apple , analysts said. The stock is down 20 percent for the quarter, but it's still up nearly 32 percent for the year.

Apple dropped 8.9 percent in this past week alone. For a stock that gained more than 25 percent a year for four consecutive years, the embedded capital gains suddenly look like a selling opportunity if one's tax bill is going to jump sharply just because the calendar changes.

"Tax-loss selling is always a factor (but) tax-gains selling has been a factor this year," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.

"You have a lot of high-net-worth individuals in taxable accounts, and that could be what's affecting stocks like Apple. If you look at the stocks that people have their largest gains in, they seem to be under a little bit more pressure here than usual."

Of this year's top 20 performers in the S&P 1500 index, which includes large, small and mid-cap stocks, all but four have lost ground in the last five trading sessions.

The rush to avoid higher taxes on portfolio gains could cause additional weakness.

The S&P 500 ended the week up just 0.1 percent after another week of trading largely tied to fiscal cliff negotiation news, which has pushed the market in both directions.


Next week's Federal Reserve meeting could offer some relief if policymakers announce further plans to help the lackluster U.S. economy. The Federal Open Market Committee will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday. The policy statement is expected at about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday after the conclusion of the meeting - the Fed's last one for the year.

Friday's jobs report showing non-farm payrolls added 146,000 jobs in November eased worries that Superstorm Sandy had hit the labor market hard.

"After the FOMC meeting, I think it's going to be downhill from there as worries about the fiscal cliff really take center stage and prospects of a deal become less and less likely," said Mohannad Aama, managing director of Beam Capital Management LLC in New York.

"I think we are likely to see an escalation in profit-taking ahead of tax rates going up next year," he said.


Volume could increase as investors try to shift positions before year end, some analysts said.

While most of that would be in stocks, some of the extra trading volume could spill over into options, said J.J. Kinahan, TD Ameritrade's chief derivatives strategist.

Volatility could pick up as well, and some of that is already being seen in Apple's stock.

"The actual volatility in Apple has been very high while the market itself has been calm. I expect Apple's volatility to carry over into the market volatility," said Enis Taner, global macro editor at, an options trading firm in New York.

Shares of Apple, the largest U.S. company by market value, registered their worst week since May 2010. In another bearish sign, the stock's 50-day moving average fell to $599.52 - below its 200-day moving average at $601.38.

"There's a lot of tax-related selling happening now, and it will continue to happen. Apple is an example, even (though) there are other factors involved with Apple," Aama said.

While investors may be selling stocks to avoid higher taxes in 2013, companies may continue to announce special and accelerated dividend payments before year end. Among the latest, Expedia announced a special dividend of 52 cents a share to be paid on December 28.

To be sure, the big sell-off in stocks following the November 6 election was likely related to tax selling, making it hard to judge how much more is to come.

Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist at Delta Global Asset Management in Boston, said there's a decent chance that the market could rally before year end.

"Even with little or spotty news that one would put in the positive bucket regarding the (cliff) negotiations, the market has basically hung in there, and I think it's hung in there in anticipation of something coming," he said. - Reuters


Dow, S&P rise on jobs, but Apple bites Nasdaq again

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 11:06 PM PST

NEW YORK: The Dow and the S&P 500 advanced modestly on Friday, though another sell-off in Apple depressed technology shares and kept the Nasdaq negative, overshadowing a sharply better-than-expected jobs report.

Trading was light, continuing the week's trend of slight moves and anemic volume. The S&P 500 ended up a mere 0.1 percent for the week, following several volatile sessions that repeatedly pushed it in and out of positive territory. The benchmark index is just 3.8 percent below the 2012 intraday high of 1,474.51 reached in mid-September.

Equities opened higher after the non-farm payrolls report, which showed 146,000 jobs added in November, far more than had been expected, while the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent. A sour reading on consumer sentiment caused an erosion of those gains, though markets rebounded going into the close.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for early December fell to its lowest level since August. Sentiment fell on growing concerns over the "fiscal cliff" debates in Washington, which have been a major factor preventing broader moves as well.

"We're not as concerned as we were a few months ago because of improvement like you can see in the employment number, but there's such a wild card over the cliff," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank in Cleveland, Ohio. "There are such concerns about what could happen that markets will be overhung until a resolution is more certain."

One of the biggest drags on the Nasdaq was Apple (AAPL.O) which fell 2.6 percent to $533.25, extending its losses for the week to 8.9 percent. This was the worst week for the stock since May 2010, and with the losses, the stock of the largest U.S. company by market value is now down 24.4 percent from an all-time intraday high reached in late September.

In Friday's session, Apple's 50-day moving average fell to $599.52 - below its 200-day moving average at $601.38. The weakness drove the S&P information technology sector .GSPT lower. The index fell 0.6 percent and was the weakest of the S&P 500's 10 major industry sectors on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 81.09 points, or 0.62 percent, to 13,155.13 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX rose 4.13 points, or 0.29 percent, to 1,418.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC slipped 11.23 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 2,978.04.

For the week, the Nasdaq is down 1.1 percent, hurt largely by the decline in Apple.

The Dow, which does not count Apple as a component, rose 1 percent for its third straight week of gains. The S&P 500 is also up for three straight weeks, rising 4.3 percent over that period.

The equity market has regained most of the ground it lost following President Barack Obama's re-election as markets turned their focus to the coming "fiscal cliff." Market response to the macroeconomic data remained muted as negotiations continued to command investor attention.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said that talks this week with President Barack Obama produced no progress, and he renewed his demand that the president provide a new offer to avert the series of tax increases and spending cuts that are likely to hurt economic demand in 2013.

Material shares .GSPM were the strongest performers of the day, with that index up 0.8 percent. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Co (FCX.N) gained 2.9 percent to $31.70 while Dow Chemical (DOW.N) added 2.2 percent to $30.30.

Amarin Corp (AMRN.O) fell 18.9 percent to $9.69 after the biopharmaceutical company raised $100 million in financing to help it launch its heart drug, Vascepa, but disappointed investors, who had hoped for a sale or partnership.

CombiMatrix Corp (CBMX.O) shares more than quadrupled, soaring 336.6 percent to $8.60 after the company said two studies published in a medical journal favored technology it uses for prenatal diagnosis of genetic abnormalities over traditional technologies.

About 52 percent of shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange closed higher while slightly more than 50 percent of Nasdaq-listed stocks closed lower.

Volume was light, with about 5.47 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares. - Reuters


Cash-rich Genting Singapore hopeful of Japan foray

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:30 PM PST

SINGAPORE: Gaming operator Genting Singapore is examining opportunities to enter Japan, where a new government is expected to pass legislation legalizing casinos in the next 12 months to 18 months, company executives said on Friday.

The operator of the muti-billion dollar casino and entertainment complex Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore is looking to expand overseas at a time its casino in the city-state is facing headwinds from tighter regulations and slowing economic growth.

Its gaming revenue fell 20 percent in the third quarter from a year ago.

"I'm more optimistic on something happening in Japan than for the rest. We see some possible movement in terms of Japanese legislation," chairman of the Genting Group, Lim Kok Tay, said at a press conference.

The Genting Group comprises Genting Berhad as the investment holding company and listed vehicles such as Genting Singapore, Genting Malaysia and Genting Hong Kong .

Genting Hong Kong has applied to Australian regulators to raise its stake in Echo Entertainment Group to 25 percent from about 5 percent, potentially pitting it in a battle for the company against Australian billionaire James Packer, who owns a 10 percent stake.

The group also operates the popular Genting Highlands casino complex near Kuala Lumpur and has invested in the Philippines and Vietnam, after missing out on a concession in Macau more than a decade ago.


The Japanese government has been toying with the idea of changing the law to make casinos legal, but the process has been slowed by constant changes in its leadership.

However, that may soon change with a parliamentary election later this month that is expected to see a win for the Liberal Democratic Party, which has supported legalising casinos.

"We believe that some legislation will come along in the next 12-18 months," said Tan Hee Teck, Chief Operating Officer of Genting Singapore.

The Genting executives did not provide any details on how exactly the group plans to foray into Japan or how much it is willing to invest.

Japan is seen as an attractive market for Genting because of its large market size and potential for larger scale developments.

"We believe if the Japanese government does legislate gaming, then they will be looking for large-scale integrated resorts," said group chairman Lim.

Genting Singapore raised $2.3 billion through perpetual securities earlier this year, and had S$4.1 billion in cash as of end-September.

In Singapore, the company is looking to build more hotels to overcome a shortage of hotel rooms to cater to the higher end of the mass market, which is a factor limiting Genting Singapore's growth, he said.

A subsidiary of Genting Singapore earlier this month placed the top bid of S$238.2 million for a hotel site on the outskirts of the city-state.

Shares of Genting Singapore have fallen 18 percent since the start of the year, making it the third-worst performing stock on the Straits Times Index. - Reuters



The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Sazali and Wong Hong grab golds in Bangkok

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 06:23 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Sazali Samad and Wong Hong flew the flag high for Malaysia after flexing their way to the gold medals in the World Bodybuilding and Physique Federation (WBPF) World Championships in Bangkok.

Sazali retained his world title in the below 70kg lightweight category at the Nimibutr National Stadium while Wong Hong came out tops in the Masters (age 40-50) yesterday.

Both were top ranked in pre-judging en route to the final.

The win was especially sweet for father-of-four Sazali, who hails from Batu Pahat, as he now has the distinction of holding the world and Asian titles in the same year.

It's also the eighth world title for the 45-year-old sub-inspector and is without doubt the most successful bodybuilder the country has produced.

Sazali claimed his first gold in the 65kg category (bantamweight) in Malacca in 2000 and followed it up with wins in Moscow (2004) and Ostrava, Czech Republic (2006).

He then moved up to the 70kg category and came out tops in Jeju, South Korea (2007), Dubai (2009), Varanasi, India (2010) and Malacca last year.

Sazali is happy that he still has the edge over his rivals despite his age.

"I won my eighth Mr Asia title in Guangzhou two months ago and have now secured my eighth world title.

"It has been a wonderful year for me as I also earned a promotion in the police force earlier this year. This win couldn't have come at a better time as I'm celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary with my wife (Hashrine Hashim) this month," said the two-time National Sportsman from Bangkok.

Wong Hong made it a double delight for Malaysia when he stood on top of the podium shortly after.

Bangkok will certainly hold fond memories for the 43-year-old physical trainer and gym owner as he won the super-heavyweight (above 100kg) category when the Asian meet was held there last year.

Wong Hong was a pro bodybuilder before taking a break to pursue a Masters in Human Nutrition in the United States. He made his comeback two years ago.

The former Mr Malaysia also won in the same category when Malacca hosted the world meet in November last year.

Natasha steals the limelight at Yas Marina

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 06:26 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: The national anthem – Negaraku – filled the Yas Marina Circuit not once but twice as Natasha Seatter clinched back-to-back wins in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Formula Gulf 1000 racing series on Friday.

The 19-year-old Natasha, who is the first-ever Malaysian female driver to win an event at the prestigious Yas Marina F1 circuit, proudly stood atop the podium with the Jalur Gemilang draped over her shoulders.

She shared the podium with fellow Malaysian racer Rahul Mayer, who took his first rookie podiums with a second and third placing.

"I found the Yas track technically challenging, with its range of corner designs and chicanes, but my race pace was good and my lap times just got faster as the race progressed.

"I am delighted and grateful to have such a superb team to work with," said Natasha, who set the fastest time in lap 21 of the 22-lap event.

Natasha has now won four rounds of the series and is leading the championship.

The next round is at the Dubai Autodrome on Dec 14.

Arif and Sonia crash out of Korean Open semi-finals

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 03:28 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: National back-up shuttler Mohd Arif Abdul Latif had the perfect chance to win his first GP Gold title at the Korean Open in Jeonnam – but he blew it.

The top-seeded world No. 35 failed to make the most of a tournament shorn of several top players as he crashed 17-21, 21-18, 19-21 to world No. 176 Lee Dong-keun of South Korea in the semi-finals yesterday.

It's certainly a major blow to Arif, who had reached the Hong Kong Open quarter-finals last month and was fancied to go all the way in Jeonnam. Dong-keun will face Thailand's Tanongsak Saemsomboonsuk, who defeated Singapore's Derek Wong, for the title.

National singles coach Hendrawan tried to play down Arif's defeat.

"If we look at the rankings, Arif should have made the final ... and it's a real shame that he didn't," said Hendrawan.

"But sometimes we have to look at how our opponents play ... and his Korean opponent played really well.

"Credit to Arif though, he never gave up. He was unlucky that his opponent was really fired up. Besides, there's always next time."

Malaysia's challenge in a men's doubles also came to an end after the scratch pair of Goh V Shem-Ong Jian Guo were convincingly beaten 11-21, 16-21 by fifth seeds Ko Sung-hyun-Lee Yong-dae.

The newly-formed Korean pair will face top-seeded compatriots Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang, who had no problems dispatching Taiwan's Liang Jui Wei-Liao Kuan Hao 21-19, 21-15.

Budding women's singles shuttler Sonia Cheah's gallant run also came to a halt after losing 13-21, 21-15, 14-21 to Indonesia's Aprilla Yuswandari.

Second seed Aprilla faces top seed and home favourite Sung JI-hyun in the final.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:00 PM PST

It's Your Business: 183 essential tips that will transform your small business
Author: JJ Ramberg
Publisher: Business Plus

Culled from thousands of successful small business owners and entrepreneurs, the author from the MSNBC series Your Business with JJ Ramberg writes about the ins and outs of operating a small business. She covers issues such as funding, building customer loyalty, hiring and getting the word out about your company. Easy to read with each of the 11 chapters having a total of 183 tips with each tip of about a page long. So you can read one tip a day and not get lost along the way.

You Can't Lie To Me
Author: Janine Driver
Publisher: Harper One

Body language expert turned author Janine Driver writes about how to spot liars. She is of the view that if you surround yourself with honest and trustworthy people, other like-minded people will do business with you. But this book is not just about the liars and cheaters of the business world. It is also about protecting your children and guarding your aging loved ones from predators and con artists.

I Shouldn't Be Telling You This: Success secrets every gutsy girl should know
Author: Kate White
Publisher: Harper Business

While there is a place for honesty, unfortunately it is not the honest girls who get ahead, so writes Kate White, an editor of career books. It is the gutsy gals who get the plum job, that promotion and power chair. She writes about breaking out of the pack, mastering the learning curve and having the career you are after. A book for females who have remained in the shadows for too long and for gals entering the job market.

An Englishman abroad and a Japanese scandal

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 03:57 PM PST

Inside the Olympus Scandal: My Journey from CEO to Whistleblower
Author: Michael Woodford
Publisher: Portfolio

THE corporate execution took just eight minutes.

The board of Japanese camera and endoscope maker Olympus Corp voted unanimously on Oct 14, 2011 to fire president and CEO Michael Woodford, one of the few foreigners ever to run a major Japanese company.

There was no discussion and Woodford was not allowed to comment. His secretary had been told to leave the building so he could not say goodbye to her. He was ordered to leave his apartment within a few days, and told he must take the airport bus when leaving the country, rather than a company car. The summary justice was almost unprecedented in Japan's corporate culture.

In his memoir Exposure Inside the Olympus Scandal: My Journey from CEO to Whistleblower, Woodford explains how his dogged attempts to find out about a series of suspicious deals had put him in direct confrontation with the board and management teams that had run the company for many years.

Woodford looked like a safe choice when he was promoted to be president of the company 6½ months earlier. He had started with Olympus in 1991 as a medical equipment salesman in Britain, and had steadily climbed up the corporate ladder. He regarded Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, the chairman and the previous holder of the president's job, as his mentor.

But any idea that Woodford would not rock the boat dissolved after a Japanese magazine Facta published several articles reporting on "Mickey Mouse" deals Olympus had done that had nothing to do with its main businesses. These included its purchase of a maker of microwavable dishes, a cosmetics mail order firm, and a hospital waste company. There were special purpose companies based in the Cayman Islands, and payments of massive fees to advisors.

Woodford called in accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, who produced a damning report. But his attempts to get those involved in the deals to be accountable led to his ousting.

He wasn't going to go quietly. He mounted a campaign to get shareholders to replace the board. He was prepared to return to run a reformed company, but it became clear that Japan Inc was not going to let this foreigner radically transform the way things were done. Olympus' board, its Japanese shareholders and bankers closed ranks.

Grew up in poverty

As Woodford launches this book – which is likely to be followed by a movie – and goes on the international lecture circuit to talk about the need for corporate reform in Japan, he acknowledges his mission is very difficult. The resistance to change goes very deep. Despite all the media coverage in the past year, there is still much that hasn't been explained about the Olympus scandal.

While much of the appeal of this book is in its thriller-like elements – justifiably or not, Woodford and his wife feared for their lives – it is also fascinating because of the personal elements that he introduces.

We learn how Michael Woodford grew up in a harsh environment after his mother left his father at an early age and took him to live in poverty in Liverpool. His home didn't have a bath and he had to wash in a public bathhouse. He faced racial taunts as a child attending a Jewish school and possessing vaguely Asian features, which he explained, without providing detail, came from his father's side of family.

Most relevant, Woodford writes of developing from an early age a distinct sense of justice and civic responsibility. After stealing chewing gum from a store, his conscience drove him to return it.

Witnessing as a teenager a fatal crash that killed a motorcyclist led to a lifelong commitment to road safety. He has been involved in more than 1,000 roadsafety projects. If he sees a road danger that could be reduced he will stop to take a picture and send a report to the relevant traffic authority.

We also learn how Woodford's insecurity at home helped to produce the drive to build a sales career after leaving school at the age of 16 without any major qualifications.

It is a combination of that sense of right and wrong, the insecure man's determination, his sense of civic duty, and his determined nature that led him to expose wrongdoing at Olympus.


Woodford also shows how his battle with Olympus impacted his Spanish wife, Nuncy, who had not wanted him to take the job in Tokyo in the first place. At the height of the stress on the Woodfords from the scandal, she began to have nightmares in which she screamed "They're going to get us." And at one stage things get so tense between the couple that a panel gets smashed in the front door of their home.

There are also surreal moments. Such as the Woodfords' decision not to call the police on their neighbour's kids when they had a rowdy party for fear that armed officers – who were on call to protect the couple – would storm the place. And at times Woodford gets carried away with his new "rock star" status as he is mobbed by the Japanese media at the airport.

Perhaps the most poignant moment comes at the end of the book when Woodford has a clandestine rendezvous with the original whistleblower, an Olympus employee who had provided Facta with much of its information. The whistleblower apologises for not going straight to Woodford with the scandal: "I didn't know you weren't one of them."

It may say a lot about the current state of corporate governance in Japan that this whistleblower remains anonymous. In the United States, a whistleblower in such a high-profile case might by now be featured in the media, be writing a book, and be claiming a big reward. In Japan, they live quietly, in fear. — Reuters


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Traffic diversion on Linkaran Putrajaya

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 05:16 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Traffic along Lingkaran Putrajaya at Km2 P2.4 at the Taman Sains Selangor Interchange will be diverted from Dec 10 to 14 to facilitate inspections and remedial works of the bridge.

The diversion will be closed to all heavy vehicles from 7am and 8.30am, said the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) in a statement Saturday.

Road users from Elite heading towards Putrajaya or Cyberjaya are advised to exit the expressway at the Saujana Putra Interchange and enter the South Klang Valley Expressway (SKVE) to continue their journey to Putrajaya or Cyberjaya.

"Hence, MHA advises road users plying the stretch to drive carefully and abide by traffic signs and instructions in the area," the statement said. - Bernama

DAP backward in democracy, says MCA man

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 05:09 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The first DAP Wanita election on Saturday is a telling sign of the "glacial pace" of democracy within the party, MCA central committee member Loh Seng Kok said.

He added it would be misguided to view the internal election as a "milestone" when such elections had long been the norm in other political parties.

"The DAP constantly brags it is better than other political parties in its promotion and support of democracy and human rights. But here we can see how slow it is in practising democracy," he said in a statement on Saturday.

Loh, the deputy chairman of MCA's publicity bureau, was commenting on reports that the DAP would be holding its first internal polls for the DAP women's wing and quoting wing chief Chong Eng as saying it was a "milestone" for the party.

Chong Eng, who is Bukit Mertajam MP, said 27 candidates are in the contest for the 15 seats at stake during the DAP Wanita Congress here. She has been the DAP Wanita chief for 12 years.

Loh said that in the larger Pakatan Rakyat context, none of the main leaders of the three parties were elected.

"DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim were never voted through internal party polls but they go around proclaiming themselves democratic," said Loh.

Actress Betty Banafe marries Briton Bruce Darghous

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 03:32 AM PST

JOHOR BARU: Johor-born celebrity Betty Banafe has tied a knot with a technology consultant Bruce Darghous from Britain in a simple akad nikah (solemnisation) ceremony held at her family house in Kempas here.

Betty or her real name, Betty Ibtisam Abu Bakar, 33, of mixed Arab, Malay and Javanese parentage married Darghous, 31, who also comes from a mixed English-Lebanese background.

She looked radiant in a bustier long gown with turquoise trimmings and smiled all the way throughout the ceremony with her husband who looked dashing in a black suit.

The ceremony, which started at 2.30pm, was attended by close relatives and friends from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and England.

"Although there were ups and downs in our relationship I am happy that we ended as husband and wife and hope our marriage will last forever," said Betty.

Betty received a dowry in a form of a ring and gold bracelet but declined to reveal the amount of duit hantaran (gift money) received.

The akad nikah ceremony was conducted by the Johor Islamic Religious Department deputy assistant chief (mosques management unit) Ahmad Faisal Mohamed and Darghous recited the nuptial once.

The wedding reception would be held at the Danga Bay Convention Centre on Dec 12 and the couple plan to spend their honeymoon at Sipadan Island in Sabah.

Betty, who comes from a family of six siblings, is also an entrepreneur in the food business with Banafee Village restaurant located along Jalan Abdullah Tahir here.


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Scottish hardman softens up for US romantic comedy

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 10:28 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Scottish hardman actor Gerard Butler, known for thrillers and action movies, has softened up for his latest role, in a romantic comedy set in smalltown America.

In "Playing for Keeps" Butler plays ex soccer player George, who has fallen on hard times and returns to live in Virginia near to his ex-wife and son, vowing to rebuild his life and relationship with at least one of them.

But signing up as football coach for his child's team, while helping father-son ties, complicates things as the local soccer mums swarm to his exotic Scottish charm and rugged good looks.

The film, out this weekend in North America, is directed by Italian Gabriele Muccino, who scored a hit with 2001's "The Last Kiss," but is possibly more well known for Will Smith movies "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Seven Pounds."

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman are among his soccer mom co-stars, while Dennis Quaid plays Thurman's husband in the movie, which has admittedly had mixed pre-release reviews.

In a first draft of the screenplay "it was a baseball movie. But soccer had a more international appeal. It also allowed me to be Scottish, which I don't get the chance to be very often," 43-year-old Butler told AFP.

He's a big football fan too. "I grew up as a big Celtic fan and I supported Liverpool for many years.

Basically I went into a studio and mimicked the moves that were in those actual games and then we put it into the games.

"It was actually a cool experience to live that for a moment, because obviously as a child, it was my dream."

Born in Paisley, Scotland, Butler's past roles include 2006 action fantasy flick "300" and British gangster movie "RockNRolla" - but he has also shown his warmer side in other romantic comedies like 2007's "P.S. I Love You."

In "Playing for Keeps", the comedy stems mainly from the relationship between his character and a succession of smalltown moms who share his bed - although the filmmakers were careful not to overplay that.

"At the end of the day, this is a comedy, but it's also dramatic and you don't want it to feel too light, which is another reason why we pulled back on George and the women," Butler said.

"Because at the end of the day, we leant more heavily on the father-son and the story between George and his ex-wife."

The movie also led the British actor to reflect on the Hollywood star system, and on how his life would change if he stopped being a celebrity, and did something like George.

"Sometimes, when you're in the middle of this, you're like, 'I look forward to that day when I pull things out and go hiking in the mountains, or go traveling around the world.'

"And then you think 'Oh my God, I don't want this to stop!'" he added.

"But at the end of the day, it's all smoke and mirror, and what is important is growing up, becoming responsible, committing to your friends and your family, finding a home, something that you can pass on." - AFP


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Couchsurfing provides free accomodation and enables members to see more

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 05:07 AM PST

Anew method of travelling has emerged and it involves sleeping on a couch., which is promoting this new way of travelling, has connected more than five million members around the world who provide free accommodation to travellers.

As part of the arrangement, the host will bring the Couchsurfers around town to experience the non-touristy places usually frequented only by locals.

Aptly named, the host would prepare a couch for the visitors to sleep on, a basic necessity for those travelling on a shoestring budget.

An avid Couchsurfing member Tey Kher Ying has hosted more than 23 Couchsurfers and the most memorable experience was when she hosted an Italian motorcyclist who was travelling around the world on his third-hand motorbike.

"I had a chance to ride with him around Malaysia for a week. We slept in palm oil plantations and beaches, we rode during the day and night, and event in the rain.

It was an amazing experience," she said, adding that she felt like Ernesto from the movie titled The Motorcycle Diaries.

That experience in her life has now motivated her to backpack and travel a fair bit herself.

The 29-year-old freelance writer, who is now living in Melbourne, Australia said hosting Couchsurfers had been a learning experience.

"If you can't get out to the world, bring the world to your doorstep.

"Learn about the world through surfers and you will realise that the conventional beliefs that we hold on to so firmly mean nothing once we step out of our little bubble.

"My Couchsurfers taught me that anything is possible if you set your heart on it," said Tey, who had travelled to more than 50 countries by Couchsurfing.

A new member of Couchsurfing Lina Abdullah said hosting Couchsurfers had been an eye-opening experience and that through hosting, she had been to parts of Kuala Lumpur that she would normally not venture into.

"Central Market is always a good bet and they always want to see the Petronas Twin Towers. I usually take them to good places to eat and chill out," she said, adding that Couchsurfers usually ended up being the ones who taught her about her own city.

German couchsurfer David Schneider, 34, had visited Malaysia three times and all three were through Couchsurfing.

"I learnt about the locals more deeply and experienced their way of life through Couchsurfing, something that I would not be able to do had I stayed in a hotel," he said.

Schneider added that during his first visit to Kuala Lumpur, he stayed with a couple who took him back to their kampung in Alor Setar.

"I followed them and had a chance to see the simple life of villagers, surrounded by the lush greenery and serenity that I did not get in the city," he said.

Neighbours against home-based restaurant

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 05:05 AM PST

A HOUSE in Jalan Bukit, Kajang, has been converted into a restaurant and some residents in the area are unhappy because it is causing inconvenience to them.

A resident, who did not want to be named, said the restaurant in the house compound was causing distress in the neighbourhood.

"We have to endure the odour wafting out from the house as well as noise pollution every morning.

"The restaurant operates from as early as 6am and business goes on until midnight.

"My house is near the restaurant and I am badly affected," he said, adding that he had to keep his windows closed all the time.

"There are no proper disposal of food waste and I fear that it will attract pests like rodents and stray animals to the area.

"I have also seen food waste floating in the drain junction box nearby," he said.

He added that he was also worried about safety aspects as the caterers were using gas tanks to cook the food.

"Fourteen residents had signed a petition against the conversion of the house into a commercial lot in August and alerted the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj)," he said, adding that nothing much was done about it.

During a check by StarMetro, food waste was spotted in the drain nearby and the stench was unbearable.

Another resident, who also did not want to be named, said the traffic in the area had also worsened due to the restaurant.

"This is a residential area and cannot cater to the number of people patronising the restaurant.

"Some customers even resort to parking their vehicles illegally by the roadside.

"This obstructs the view of motorists coming out to Jalan Bukit. It is dangerous for drivers who want to turn out to the main road," she said.

When contacted, councillor Mohd Adram Musa said the council's audit committee was investigating the case as they suspect that the conversion of the residential house was not according to the council's bylaws.

"The residents have highlighted their concern to me many times.

"Having a restaurant operating in their midst is not right.

"The council is still monitoring the problem and I will follow up with them," he said.


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New hotel in Malacca keeps it green and pleasant

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:44 PM PST

MALACCA: The new Explorer Hotel in Malacca has unveilled a new concept to tap the growing number of tourists in the historic city.

The hotel that recently opened its doors at Plaza Merdeka in Taman Melaka Raya has positioned itself as the first eco-friendly budget hotel in the city.

Its manager Melissa Chuah said Explorer took the opportunity to complement the growth of the state's tourism sector by providing visitors with a "back to nature" feel within an eco-friendly environment.

She said the hotel had 143 rooms spread over four storeys and are serviced by two elevators.

"Guests can choose from the standard, deluxe to the executive rooms, all of which come with basic amenities such as television, coffee and tea-making facilities, free wi-fi access, en suite bathroom and hairdryer," she said.

Chuah said as an eco-friendly hotel and mall in Malaysia, The Explorer is designed to add a breath of fresh air to its concrete surroundings and help reduce carbon footprint.

"Every effort has been placed to create an environmentally sustainable business — from eco-friendly construction materials and energy-efficient technologies right down to the choice of water closets and even to the roof and paving," she said.

She noted that the hotel's most distinctive feature is its curvy, almost billowing white roof.

Chuah revealed that the roof is a high performance composite membrane, which hails from the Ferrari-architecture series.

"Its uniform translucency optimises natural lighting while its highly concentrated PVDF dirt-resistant surface treatment makes maintenance easy," she said

Chuah added that the roof had exceptionally high resistance to UV rays and extreme atmospheric conditions, offering extra protection while keeping the walkway cooler.

"Best of all, it is 100% recyclable using the Ferrari Group's Texyloop process.

"Our rooftop is a rainwater harvesting system where collected rainwater is recycled for flushing toilets and watering plants.

"The hotel is also fitted with LED lights, which save cost and boost energy efficiency," she said.

Chuah added that the interior of the hotel, features such as skylights, garden courtyards and open spaces help draw in natural daylight and promote cross channel ventilation.

"Our ongoing green efforts allow us to provide a fresh, clean and pleasant environment for the satisfaction of our guests," she added.

Malacca council’s contractors need to buck up and play fair

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:34 PM PST

MALACCA: Mayor Datuk Zainal Abu is upset over non-performing contractors commissioned by Malacca Historical City Council (MBMB) who have conveniently dropped names of eminent politicians from the state to avoid their contracts from being terminated.

However, Zainal said he was unfazed by such actions and had terminated the contracts of three incompetent contractors this year alone.

"The dissatisfied contractors went to the extent of hurling threats at me and my officers by misusing the names of those in office whenever we attempted to take action against them for not abiding to our prerequisites.

"We have nullified the contracts of three contractors this year even though they had attempted to use the names of prominent leaders from the state to intimidate us. This took place after we had given them a second reminder to improve their quality of work," he said after launching a nocturnal road-cleaning service at Taman Melaka Raya here, recently.

Zainal also hinted that more contractors would face the same action if they continued to be lackadaisical by perceiving that they were protected by influential people.

He added that some of them had even told him to be careful as they had forged close relationships with the local leaders.

"For me, it is important for the projects to be completed. If they fail to perform, I have no qualms to show them the way out," he said.

"I have told my officers to take stern action if the contractors continue to disregard the second reminder," he said.

"We pay them accordingly but as they have failed to execute their responsibilities, we have to take action.

"Moreover, there are those waiting to be part of the council's contractors and we have to give a chance to those who are willing to work," he said.

Zainal added that his Facebook account were often filled with complaints from residents.

"When checks are made, we realised that the contractors who claimed to have special connections with prominent figures were the ones slacking," he said.

On the night cleaning service that was recently launched, Zainal said it was aimed at maintaining a high-level of cleanliness at crowded and tourist spots, here.

He said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam had highlighted to the local councils to keep such areas clean.

Zainal added that the night cleaning service at Taman Melaka Raya was considered a pilot project and would be extended to other areas under the council's jurisdiction, gradually.

‘Tourism ambassadors’ promote historic city

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:14 PM PST

MALACCA: Mara Youth Tourism Association (Myta) has set foot in the historic city and UiTM Shah Alam students will act as "tourism ambassadors" to promote tourist destinations in the state.

Forty undergrads led by their advisor Ahmad Fitri Amir will go around introducing the interesting destinations through virtual and cyberspace.

The inaugural tourism ambassador programme launched by State Tourism, Heritage and Culture committee chairman Datuk Wira Latiff Thambi Chik, recently, is aimed at creating more experts in the tourism industry to help encourage travel and promote intriguing destination in selected states.

It is also designed to enhance the communication skills of undergraduates who are pursuing tourism related studies.

For Malacca, the group concentrated at Porta de Santiago, St Paul Hill, Maritime Museum, Malacca River Cruisejetty and the Stadhuys.

The seven group of undergraduates were each assigned to interesting spots within the historic city.

Those interested in taking part in the programme may contact Nur Selina Rafee at 013-300 9832.


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