Ahad, 9 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Philippines, leftist rebels declare truces in disaster areas

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 09:10 PM PST

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - The Philippine government and Maoist rebels have declared truces in two southern provinces devastated by a typhoon last week as the army concentrates on relief and many rebels recover from the disaster, a commander said on Monday.

Typhoon victims sit at the entrance of a tent with a coffin of a relative, who died after a coconut tree fell on him at the height of Typhoon Bopha, in Montevista town, Compostela Valley in southern Philippines December 9, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Typhoon victims sit at the entrance of a tent with a coffin of a relative, who died after a coconut tree fell on him at the height of Typhoon Bopha, in Montevista town, Compostela Valley in southern Philippines December 9, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Typhoon Bopha killed 647 people and caused crop damage worth 8.5 billion pesos ($210 million).

The most intense storm to hit the Philippines this year wiped out about 90 percent of three coastal towns in Davao Oriental province and buried an entire town in neighbouring Compostela Valley province under mud.

Communist New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas are active in those two worst-hit provinces, which are on Mindano island.

Major-General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander, said he had ordered troops to shift from combat to relief operations, and to help deliver food and rebuild communities.

"We heard the rebels had declared an informal ceasefire, we welcome that because we can all concentrate on helping typhoon victims," Bernardo told Reuters.

"I believe many of these rebels were also affected and could be in the shelter areas."

The death toll stood at 647 on Monday, with nearly 800 missing and more than 1,000 injured, the national disaster agency said in its latest tally. About 100 fishermen were feared lost between Mindanao and Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

The Philippines' social welfare department and the United Nations are appealing for help as humanitarian agencies bring in food, water, medicines and shelter material for more than 5.4 million people affected by the storm.

NPA guerrillas have been battling government forces in various parts of the Philippines for decades.

The government signed a peace deal with the country's biggest Muslim rebel group, which also operates in the south, in October.

Bernardo said troops had cleared roads of debris and mud and restored links to cut-off communities to allow in food and other supplies.

Television pictures showed entire coastal areas in Davao Oriental levelled to the ground.

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

(Additional Reporting By Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Bomb kills provincial Afghan police chief

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 09:05 PM PST

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed the police chief of Afghanistan's western Nimroz province on Monday, a police official said.

General Mohammad Musa Rasoli was heading home from his office when his vehicle was struck by the bomb, the official said.

(Reporting by Sharafuddin Sharafyar; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

China suspends eight officials for deadly mine accident - report

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 07:15 PM PST

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China suspended eight officials and arrested two others over a coal mine accident this week that killed 17 people in southwest China's Yunnan province, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The eight suspended officials include Fuyuan county's coal industry bureau chief and the bureau's deputy director, Xinhua said, quoting Fuyuan's publicity office.

China's mines are the deadliest in the world because of lax enforcement of safety standards and a rush to feed demand from a robust economy. But the death toll from accidents has been falling, government statistics show.

On Wednesday, 17 miners were killed when an explosive device was set off, triggering a blast in the gas-filled mine located in the Huangnihe township in Fuyuan.

Police have arrested two people over the mine blast. The families of the 17 dead will receive compensation of 990,000 yuan ($158,900), Xinhua said.

In August, a similar mine explosion in Sichuan province killed 26 miners, marking it as one of the biggest coal mine disasters of the year.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Paul Tait)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Malaysia's blue chips start week on firm note, Genting up

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 05:33 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips traded higher on Monday, underpinned by gains in consumer stocks and Genting Bhd while Time dotCom's securities rallied.

At 9.15am, the KLCI was up 3.98 points to 1,621.75. Turnover was 66.27 million shares valued at RM36.89mil. There were 95 gainers, 54 losers and 92 counters unchanged.

Hwang DBS Vickers Research (HDBSVR), in its strategy outlook for the 30-stock index, said the KLCI slid to a low of 1,601.71 last Tuesday before rebounding to close at 1,617.77 last Friday which was a weekly gain of 6.9 points or 0.4%, its first increase in six weeks.

"With our Malaysian bourse appears stuck inside a sideways pattern at the moment, we reckon the benchmark index will probably end the year somewhere between 1,600 and 1,635," it said.

Nestle was the top gainer, up 84 sen to RM65.42, Dutch Lady added 58 sen to RM46.68 and BAT 52 sen to RM59.96.

Petronas Dagangan rose 16 sen to RM23.80, UMW 14 sen to RM11.36 and Genting nine sen to RM9.24.

Time dotCom was in focus after it proposed to distribute up to 137.50 million DiGi.com Bhd shares to its shareholders.

Its shares jumped 52 sen to RM4.02 with 1.08 million shares done while its call warrants, TdC-CF rose sebe sen to 17 sen and TdC-CE added 6.5 sen to 17.5 sen.

Lafarge fell the most, down 20 sen to RM9.50 with 100 shares done. Shell fell 14 sen to RM8.75, HL Bank six sen to RM14.72 while Bumi Armada and AirAsia shed five sen each to RM3.75 and RM2.71. Tenaga fell four sen to RM6.95.

Malaysia-Market factors to watch on Dec 10(Monday)

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 05:30 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Following is a list of events in Malaysia as well as news company-related and market news which could have an influence on the local market.

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks, dollar up modestly after strong jobs data

SE Asia Stocks-Mixed; Manila at record peak


* Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia signs memorandum of understanding with Binary University of Management and Entrepreneurship at Dataran Kewangan Darul Takaful, Kuala Lumpur at 0945am (0145).

* Press conference by China Stationery Ltd and Pelikan International Corporation on latest corporate exercise between the two companies at Impiana KLCC Hotel, Kuala Lumpur at 1000am (0200).

* Naton Medical Group joint venture signing ceremony at Ministry of Health, Putrajaya at 1030am (0230).

MARKET NEWS > Nikkei rises to 7-month high after strong U.S. jobs data > US STOCKS-Dow, S&P rise on jobs, but Apple bites Nasdaq again > TREASURIES-Prices fall on job growth, ahead of new supply > FOREX-Euro stung by euro zone worries; China trade data eyed > PRECIOUS-Gold rises from 1-month low after U.S. payrolls > Oil seesaws as US job growth offsets budget deadlock > Palm oil flat, posts biggest weekly loss in nearly a month

MALAYSIA IN THE NEWS: > Canada OKs CNOOC, Petronas deals, but slams door on any more > Sunway Bhd consortium wins tender for $394 mln Singapore land parcel > SE Asian governments gamble on making cheap labour less cheap > Cash-rich Genting Singapore hopeful of Japan foray > Malaysia's Petronas to shut Malacca crude unit -industry sources > Malaysia Oct exports worse than expected due to weak China, Japan > ANALYSIS-As China's clout grows, sea policy proves unfathomable > US extends waivers on Iran sanctions to China and India. - Reuters

DIARY - Malaysia 10/12/12(Monday)



* KUALA LUMPUR - Delegation of the European Union, the Bar Council Malaysia and The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia invites to Pleadings Competition 2012: Grand Final at Parliament House of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur at 0930am (0130).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia signs memorandum of understanding with Binary University of Management and Entrepreneurship at Dataran Kewangan Darul Takaful, Kuala Lumpur at 0945am (0145).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Press conference by China Stationery Ltd and Pelikan International Corporation on latest corporate exercise between the two companies at Impiana KLCC Hotel, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur at 1000am (0200).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Yayasan Amanah Perdana Malaysia soft launch of the Biography book entitled: "Rosmah Mansor" at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur at 1000am (0200).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam holds press conference on 'MySihat Indian 1Malaysia' programme at Wisma Perkeso, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur at 1000am (0200).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Najib Razak attends launch ceremony of 'Coffee Table Book' at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur at 1015am (0215).

* PUTRAJAYA - Naton Medical Group joint venture signing ceremony at Ministry of Health, Putrajaya at 1030am (0230).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Suaram's Human Rights Award 2012 and launch of 2012 Human Rights Report overview at Auditorium Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Jalan Maharajalela at 1030am (0230).

* KUALA LUMPUR - Intel Malaysia 2013 Technology outlook at Intel Electronics (M) Sdn Bhd at Wisma UOA, Damansara II, Changkat Semantan, Damansara Heights at 1030am (0230).


KUALA LUMPUR - Release of Oct 2012 Index of Industrial Production (IPI) and Oct 2012 Manufacturing Sales.

KUALA LUMPUR - The Global Movement of Moderates Foundation and the Embassy of France in Malaysia jointly preset a lecture by director of the Center for International Studies and director of the Centre for South and Southeast Asia studies and member of the board of INALCO, Marie-Sybille de Vienne at Grand Hyatt, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur at 1400pm (0600).


KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia Institute of Estate Agents press conference on The Malaysia Property Outlook for 2013 at Sime Darby Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur at 1500pm (0700).


KUALA LUMPUR - Release of Nov 2012 Consumer Price Index.


KUALA LUMPUR - Release of International Reserves as at 14 Dec 2012.


KUALA LUMPUR - Market and Public Holiday - Christmas Day.


KUALA LUMPUR - Release of Nov 2012 Money Supply data.

NOTE: The inclusion of diary items does not necessarily mean that Reuters will file a story based on the event. - Reuters

VEGOILS-Market factors to watch Dec 10(Monday)

KUALA LUMPUR: The following factors are likely to influence Malaysian palm oil futures and other vegetable oil markets.


* Malaysian palm oil futures closed flat on Friday, but notched their biggest weekly loss in almost a month amid an uncertain outlook where record high stocks are weighing on prices at the same time as expectations are rising for a pick up in demand.

* U.S. corn futures fell to a 2-1/2-week low on Friday in the steepest slide in nearly a month, pressured by technical selling and concerns that stockpiles are growing as elevated prices blunt demand.

* Oil prices were little changed on Friday after data showing U.S. job growth offset statements by U.S. Republican lawmaker John Boehner indicating deadlock in talks to avert a U.S. budget crisis.


* Global shares rose modestly on Friday after a surprisingly strong U.S. jobs report for November was tempered by a drop in American consumer sentiment amid a lack of progress in talks to avert the "fiscal cliff."

* Oil seesawed before closing lower on Friday and sharply lower for the week, while copper rose on the day as stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs growth in November offset deadlocked talks in Congress to avert a budget crisis.


> Trade sees USDA paring S.America corn crop forecast > New Argentine rains worsen soy planting delays

> El Nio unlikely before Northern Hemisphere spring > Rain forecast in Brazil as gov't forecasts record soy crop

> POLL-Trade estimates for U.S. grain ending stocks


* Malaysian Palm Oil Board will issue official data on November palm oil exports, stocks and production after 0430 GMT Monday.

* Malaysia's Commodities Ministry will hold a briefing for refiners on crude palm oil export taxes at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Kelana Jaya, Monday from 9.00am (0100).

* Cargo surveyors Intertek Testing Services and Societe Generale de Surveillance issue Dec 1-10 Malaysian palm oil exports on Monday. - Reuters

Greece gets 30bil euros, it’s set to buy back half of debt owned by private investors

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 05:25 PM PST

ATHENS: Greece is set to purchase back about half of its debt owned by private investors, broadly succeeding in a bond buyback that is key to the country's international bailout, a Greek government official said.

Greek and foreign bondholders offered the targeted 30 billion euros in the deal, which is central to efforts by Greece's eurozone and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders to cut its debt to manageable levels.

"The buyback went well in broad terms. The amount offered by investors was within the range expected, about 30 billion euros," the official said on condition of anonymity. He did not provide more details.

The buyback accounts for about half of a broader, 40-billion euros European Union (EU)/IMF debt relief package for Athens agreed in November. The package broadly doubles the average maturity of its rescue loans to almost 30 years and cuts its interest rates by one per centage point to a level far below 1%.

Under its terms, Athens will spend up to 10 billion euros of borrowed money to buy back bonds with a nominal value of about 30 billion euros. This is nearly half the 63 billion euros of Greek debt held by private investors eligible for the plan.

Since the bonds are to be bought far below their nominal value, the country's net debt burden would fall by about 20 billion euros.

A successful buyback will ensure that the IMF, which contributes about a third of Greece's bailout loans, will stay on board of the rescue. It would also unlock the payment of 34.4 billion euros of aid later this month.

Athens badly needs that money to refloat its ailing economy by replenishing the capital of its cash-strapped banks and settle arrears with government suppliers.

The EU and the IMF have been withholding rescue payments to Greece for six months because it had fallen short of promises to shore up its finances, privatise and make its economy more competitive.

Athens has received 148.6 billion euros in EU/IMF funds since May 2010. It stands to get almost 90 billion euros more by the end of 2014.

But the rescue comes at a heavy price. Austerity measures taken in exchange for aid have plunged the country into economic depression. Unemployment hit a record 26% in September, the highest in the eurozone.

The economy is going through its fifth consecutive year of recession and is expected to have shrunk by 24% when recovery begins in 2014.

The buyback was expected to go well after Greek banks, which hold about 17 billion euros of bonds, announced shortly before a Friday deadline they would take part. Two Cypriot lenders also said they would offer their bonds.

Foreign investors have offered between 15 and 16 billion euros worth of bonds, Greek newspapers reported yesterday, citing initial estimates without saying how they got them.

Athens' hopes of drawing enough investors to the scheme grew after it announced better-than-expected terms last Monday, with price ranges at a premium over market prices.

The price range varied from a minimum of 30.2% to 38.1% and a maximum of 32.2% to 40.1% of the principal amount, depending on the maturities of the 20 series of outstanding bonds.

Hedge funds, which bought the debt at rock-bottom prices when it was feared the country would exit the euro, are estimated to hold a large part of Greek debt and the offer was seen as good enough to make them a nice profit.

"Athens put forth a reasonable if not generous offer for hedge funds to participate," Sassan Ghahramani, CEO at New York-based Macro Advisers, a hedge fund consultancy, said on Friday.

"I expect there will be strong participation from hedge funds, tendering a substantial portion of their Greek bond holdings," he said.

The government also enticed Greek bankers by offering to protect them from possible shareholder lawsuits stemming from the buyback.

Greek bankers had been reluctant to take part, in the fear they would book losses on top of the ones they incurred earlier this year when Athens enforced a debt cut on its bondholders.

But the lenders were nevertheless expected to participate because they depend on the bailout funds that Athens stands to receive if its bailout continues smoothly. - Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Perry and O'Hair win Shootout

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 04:21 PM PST

NAPLES (Florida): Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair birdied five of the last six holes in the final-round scramble on Sunday to win the Franklin Templeton post-season golf event by one stroke.

The duo combined for a 12-under 60 to finish at 31-under-par 185.

O'Hair won this event for the first time, while Perry won for the third time with his third different partner and at 52 became the oldest winner in the event.

He won with John Huston in 2005 and Scott Hoch in 2008.

"All three have been different," Perry said of his Shootout victories. "John and I were pretty even partners, and then the year Scott and I won, I played fantastic that week. ... This year, my roles have been reversed, and I was complementing Sean."

O'Hair added: "I think that was kind of the best thing about this was just we had a ton of fun, just like being a kid enjoying what you're doing."

Hosted by Aussie great Greg Norman, the tournament features 24 golfers playing in two-man teams in a mixed-format of modified alternate shot, better ball, and scramble.

Perry and O'Hair, who led by two strokes going into the final round, will share US$750,000 of the US$3mil total purse.

South Africa's Rory Sabbatini and American Charles Howell threatened with a back-nine surge that included an eagle on a par-four, but even combining for a final-round 57 they came up short on 186.

"We played really well and gave ourselves a lot of opportunities," Sabbatini said. "We put a good number up there and that's all we can really do. We had a lot of fun and Charles hit the ball fantastically."

Jason Dufner and Fiji's Vijay Singh finished third at 28 under. - AFP

Jamieson wins inaugural Mandela Champs

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 04:20 PM PST

JOHANNESBURG: Scott Jamieson of Scotland won his first European Tour title at the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship at the Royal Durban Golf Club Sunday as the world peace icon underwent medical tests.

The 29-year-old beat England's Steve Webster and Spaniard Eduardo de la Riva on the second hole of a play-off.

They were tied for the lead at seven-under 123 after the tournament was reduced to 36-holes with heavy rain washing out the first two days.

"To get your name on any European trophy is a fantastic achievement," the 29-year-old said, "but it's a little more special when it's for someone like Nelson [Mandela]," he added while holding an unusual trophy sporting colourful miniatures of Mandela seated with an open book and surrounded by small children.

The proceeds of the tournament will got the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

Meanwhile in the capital Pretoria the 94-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate, after whom the tournament was named, spent the night in hospital for medical tests.

President Jacob Zuma found him "comfortable, and in good care" during a hospital visit.

Jamieson, having finished the first round outside the top 40 with one-over-par 66, fought back on Sunday to card eight-under-par 57 on the way to his maiden European Tour title.

Play was much swifter in the reduced tournament co-sanctioned by the European Tour and South Africa's Sunshine Tour - the first time in ten years that two days were cut.

Waterlogged conditions also delayed play the Thursday and Friday in the 2002 Portugal Open.

"I knew I had to get off to a fast start after a really mediocre round yesterday," said the Glaswegian.

"I really had to get up and down to save par at ten and then I chipped in on eleven, which really got me going."

"I built up some momentum from there, made three birdies in a row on the par threes, which doesnt happen often," he added.

Having finished tied in the lead with Webster and De la Riva, he had to wait five hours before the play-off to see if any of the late-starting players caught up.

"I was pretty nervous for the playoff. But that's why we play, we want to get in that situation and that's what I kept telling myself. The other guys would have been nervous too, so it's just a case of who plays the best golf," Jamieson said afterwards.

De la Riva bogeyed the first play-off on the 18th hole, while Webster lost a stroke on the second to hand the on-par Scotsman the title.

He hoped the victory would help him to more successes this season.

"The goal is to try to break into the top-100 in the world rankings and get into the US PGA in August... There is also the US Open and British Open qualifier as well," he said.

Overnight leaders Tim Clark from South Africa and Dane Morten Orum both shot one-under par 64 on the last day to finish third.

Their total of six-under-par 124 was tied with those of Germany's Maximilian Kieffer and Englishman Matthew Nixon. - AFP

Thien How-Wee Kiong eye top four finish in Shenzhen

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 05:27 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Shuttlers Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong are the lowest ranked men's doubles pair at the BWF World Super Series Finals, which begins in Shenzhen tomorrow.

But the duo plan to ruffle some feathers and make the top four, at least, in the US$500,000 tournament.

Thien How-Wee Kiong are one of the eight qualifiers for the Tour's season finale. The others are compatriots Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong; Japan's Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa; China's Hong Wei-Shen Ye and Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng; South Koreans Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang; Danes Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen; and Thailand's Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit.

All the qualifiers have won Open titles – either a Super Series or a Grand Prix Gold in their careers – except for Thien How-Wee Kiong. And all of them are currently ranked in the top 10 in the world expect for world No. 15 Thien How-Wee Kiong.

The 23-year-old Wee Kiong admitted that they were ranked outsiders but that, he said, won't stop them from trying to create a few upsets.

"Thien How and I only paired up in April, so to have qualified for the Super Series Finals together with Koo and Tan is a bonus for us. We do not want to waste this chance by playing below par," said Wee Kiong.

"We'll be thrilled to reach the semi-finals, although it means we'll have to beat at least two higher ranked pairs."

The draw, to be conducted tomorrow, will see the eight pairs divided into two groups of four each. The top two pairs from each group will then meet in the crossover semi-finals.

Wee Kiong acknowledged that the last-minute entry of four-time world champions and reigning Olympic gold medallists Cai Yun-Haifeng would make the men's doubles competition very challenging.

The Chinese pair, who won the final leg of the Tour at the Hong Kong Open last week, received a lucky break when fourth qualifiers – Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata of Japan – withdrew.

This enabled the first reserves – Cai Yun-Haifeng – to make the cut.

"Without them, the men's doubles race would have been more open. Cai Yun-Haifeng are the most consistent pairs and will surely be the ones to beat in this tournament," said Wee Kiong.

Malaysia's other qualifiers for the Finals are Lee Chong Wei, Liew Daren and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying. Except for Thien How-Wee Kiong, all the other Malaysian shuttlers have tasted success in the Super Series Tour at least once.

The qualifiers

Men's singles: 1. Lee Chong Wei (Mas), 2. Chen Long (Chn), 3. Kenichi Tago (Jpn), 4. Hu Yun (Hkg), 5. Daren Liew (Mas), 6. Boonsak Ponsana (Tha), 7. Du Pengyu (Chn), 8. Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den).

Men's doubles: 1. Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas), 2. Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa (Jpn), 3. Hong Wei-Shen Ye (Chn), 4. Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang (Kor), 5. Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den), 6. Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit (Tha), 7. Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong (Mas), 8. Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn).

Women's singles: 1. Li Xuerui (Chn), 2. Juliane Schenk (Ger), 3. Wang Shixian (Chn), 4. Saina Nehwal (Ind), 5. Tine Baun (Den), 6. Sung Ji-hyun (Kor), 7. Eriko Hirose (Jpn), 8. Ratchanok Intanon (Tha).

Women's doubles: 1. Shizuka Matsuo-Mami Naito (Jpn), 2. Eom Hye-won-Jang Ye-na (Kor), 3. Tian Qing-Zhao Yunlei (Chn), 4. Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn), 5. Duanganong Aroonkesorn-V. Kunchala (Tha), 6. Christinna Pedersen-Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Den), 7. Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi (Jpn), 8. Pook Lok Yan-Tse Ying Suet.

Mixed doubles: 1. Xu Chen-Ma Jin (Chn), 2. Chan Peng Soon- Goh Liu Ying (Mas), 3. Tantowi Ahmad-Lilyana Natsir (Ina), 4. Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei (Chn), 5. Sudket Prapakamol-T. Saralee (Tha), 6. Joachim Fisher-Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen (Den), 7. Yoo Yeonseong- Jang Ye-na (Kor), 8. Mohd Rijal-Debby Susanto (Ina).

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

More than kid’s tales

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 07:30 AM PST

CHILD advocacy group Voice of the Children (VoC) has published a series of four children's books that each tell a story incorporating specific issues that affect children. Besides being quirky and attractive, the books aim to raise public awareness and educate both adults and children on issues affecting children. Proceeds from the sale of the books are channelled towards VoC's work.

Two reviewers examine the books and the various important issues they highlight.

Kailash – The Little Zebra by Quek Sue Yian, illustrated by Khairul Azmir Shiob (44 pages): Before the Great War, the okapis and the zebras lived together in harmony on the savannah. However, when resources became scarce, Strap, an okapi leader, said that the savannah belonged to the okapis. He declared the zebras illegal and ordered them out of their land.

War ensues and it is during these terrible times that Kailash, whose name means "mountain", is born. He is soon separated from his parents and finds himself in a strange land, among strange people. He meets rejection at every turn and is close to death when a young girl decides to take him in.

This is a book about a child refugee's life that you can read with young children (five to eight years old) and that older children (nine to 12 years old) can read independently. The writer depicts the child refugee's harsh reality in simple terms – no sugar-coating.

Children will be able to empathise with Kailash and his confusion about his identity, his longing to belong and fit in with his peers, and how he questions his self-worth.

The introduction by UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) Malaysia is the perfect opener for readers who might not know exactly what the word "refugee" means. It describes simply why families become refugees and how it affects children.

The "Notes to Parents and Teachers" at the end of the story provides learning points to aid in discussions. Engage your child through the "Let's Discuss" exercises that require him to put himself in the child refugee's shoes to help him understand what it means to be a refugee. Your child will then probably ask how they can help to make things better for the child refugee. When he does, show him the "What You Can Do" list at the beginning of the book. – Louise Manjaji

Cats In The Rubbish by Laura Comerford & Peter Worthington, illustrated by Queenie Chow (30 pages): Cats In The Rubbish is a story about street children, told using cats as characters.

Nick the cat lives in the city's rubbish dump with a gang of cats like himself. The introduction is friendly enough. The tone of the story is positive despite the bleak setting of a dump. The writer shares the nature of street children's happiness at the sight and sound of a garbage truck. Where we shy away or wrinkle our noses at garbage trucks, these rubbish dump cats delight in its presence as this ensures their survival.

The writer walks us through the trials of Nick and his gang as they fight for everything from food to territory. They are constantly in a state of fear. Being street cats, they are prone to illnesses on top of being exposed to kidnapping, abuse and other horrors one can only imagine. Nick and his friends earn their next meal by trading little treasures they find among the garbage at a local market for food.

They are also sometimes forced to steal to survive, but the act of stealing is properly addressed and reprimanded. Parents can rest assured that the writer clearly conveys that it is wrong to steal.

The uncertainty of where the cats' next meal will come from and the exposure to danger from lack of a guardian or shelter give readers a lot to think about.

This book is suitable for children aged from seven to 12 years old. While the language is straightforward, the typeface could be improved with a cleaner-looking one. – Adlin Omar

Fin The Brave by Shalini Gonzaga, illustrated by Koh Joo Na (28 pages): Fin can't wait for the day when he can attend the Reef Adventure School, where he will join his two best friends in exploring the oceans and haunted wrecks. However, his dreams are crushed when he discovers that he and his family do not belong to Paradise Reef and that he can never go to school. Angry and ashamed, he runs away and gets mixed up with the evil Octo Gang. Will he join the Octo Gang and turn into a bad hat? Or will he stay true to his friends and family?

Children will be able to relate to Fin's excitement and joys of friendship, and the subsequent confusion, disappointment and fear that he faces when he learns of his stateless status. The term stateless may mean nothing to your child, but he will certainly be able to relate to the emotions. He might just ask a few fundamental questions after reading it.

The foreword in the beginning of the book and descriptions at the end of the story provide a concise definition of the what, where, how and why of stateless children, and include the problems and risks that they face. This information can be used as an excellent springboard for further discussion.

I find the segment that suggests ways for children to help stateless children very good, as it empowers children by showing them how they can make changes.

The writer tells the story in a manner that will appeal to older children, yet uses simple language forms and words that can be easily understood by young children. She combines a child's exuberance for life with a marine environment, and contexts that are familiar to children across a broad range of age groups.

Parents and teachers should read this with young children (five to eight years old) to raise awareness about stateless children and families. Older children (nine to 12 years old) can read this book independently and discuss the issues at hand with an adult. – LM

The Little Dancing Bear by Peter Worthington, illustrated by Samantha Robinson (24 pages): The predicament of child labourers is examined in The Little Dancing Bear by using the character of a bear so that children can empathise with those less fortunate than themselves. In a way, it provides a gentle introduction to a tragedy.

The story tells of the plight of children who are forced into labour years before their time. The harsh reality of child labour is never a pleasant subject, and neither is the story of The Little Dancing Bear. The writer does not pull his punches as he takes us through the everyday life of a dancing bear that has to work to earn its keep. The little bear is punished when it fails to make enough money.

When the little bear runs away from its master, we are given a glimpse of street children's survival instincts in making it through each day.

This book may affect impressionable little ones as it paints a gritty picture of child labourers' poor living conditions. Depending on the child's level of maturity, he or she might well need parental guidance when reading this book.

Much as one might expect of children with no shelter, the bear succumbs to his ill health and – shockingly, for a children's book – dies. To provide a lift after that sad moment, though, the writer introduces the idea of a bear heaven and a spirit freed from its mortal chains.

Though presented in a form that is geared towards children between the ages four and six, the message would be more suitable for children aged eight and above. The thoughtful child will take a step back and take stock of their privileged lives. And that may be the beginning of change. – AO

Each book costs RM35, except for Kailash which is RM50. A set of four is sold at RM140. The books can be purchased at the Silverfish bookstore in Kuala Lumpur (No. 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru; e-mail info@silverfishbooks.com or go to silverfishbooks.com) or at VoC (No. 29C, Third Floor, Jalan 52/1, Petaling Jaya; call 03-7960 4776 or visit voc.org.my).

What sort of children’s book writer do you want to be?

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 07:29 AM PST

What sort of children's book writer do you want to be? Making money is great but wouldn't it be good to do that with a product of the best possible quality rather than one that is merely good enough?

IT always cheers me to come across children's and young adult books with Asian, especially Malaysian, content, even better if these books are the work of Asians.

It puzzles me that not more of these books are getting published. I teach creative writing and I know that there are Malaysians who write very well and who could, if they put their minds to it, produce good books. Of course, they would have to then find a publisher willing to give their stories a chance, and also devote time (and money) to getting them ready for publication.

At an editing class that I took recently, the facilitators used actual manuscripts they'd worked on to explain certain editing processes and techniques. It transpired that one of the manuscripts was the soon-to-be-published debut work of an author who had, a couple of years ago, conducted a creative writing workshop in Kuala Lumpur, which I'd had the good fortune of attending. One of the other participants at the editing workshop was puzzled: Why did this author's work need editing when she was a creative writing teacher?

It's a little like how doctors are advised not to treat members of their own family. You tend to lose objectivity when it's someone close to you. And this is also the case when you've spent years working on a book. If an editor has accepted your book for publication, she has seen its potential and believes in it, yet has enough distance to give you objective and constructive advice on how to make it an even better piece of work.

If your publisher tells you that your work doesn't need editing and will only be proof-read, I would advise you to find another publisher. No one is above being edited, although I dare say some big names don't get edited as much as they should – either they are in a position to insist that no one touches their work (there is no limit to the shamelessness of an inflated ego) or the publishers figure that these authors are so famous, their books will sell even in draft form.

You want your book to be as good as it can possibly be before it hits the bookstores, so hearing that it will be edited and that an editor will be working on it with you, should be music to your ears.

I know a local writer who does very well with her self-published children's books. In my opinion, the books need a lot of editing and one series she's produced has exceptionally hideous illustrations. Still, the books are bestsellers (so I hear) and so perhaps all my talk about editing is a lot of rot. Then again, as we know, some trash sells millions (see Twilight and Fifty Shades Of Grey)....

I guess it boils down to the sort of writer/publisher you want to be. Making money is great but wouldn't it be good to do that with a product of the best possible quality rather than just one that is good enough?

Alexandra Carey's two Ted Ted books are examples of work I feel have much potential but could do with more editing than they seem to have undergone.

To begin with, I feel that the plots of the books (Ted Ted And The Dhobi Ghats and Trouble In Tokyo) are too similar as they are both about Ted Ted going missing, his owner Tilly coping with her loss, and how the toy eventually finds his way home again.

Furthermore, I think the books would work better as illustrated early-readers than as picture books. They have generally more text and less artwork than the average picture book, the text stands quite well on its own, and the stories do not rely on picture-propelled page-turns to move forward – the way they would if they were picture books.

I would also work out a better way of explaining certain place names and difficult words used than placing them in parentheses.

For example the placement of the parentheses in the following sentence seems to confuse things further: "The location of this calamity was Mumbai in India (which used to be called Bombay)."

I do, however, like the fact that Carey's stories are set in Asian cities. Perhaps there will be more to come, including one about Ted Ted's adventures in Kuala Lumpur. I hope he doesn't get lost again, though!

Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.


Posted: 08 Dec 2012 11:25 PM PST

FOR the week ending Dec 2, 2012:


1. Syed Mokhtar Albukhary: A Biography by Premilla Mohanlall

2. Unstoppable: The Incredible Power Of Faith In Action by Nick Vujicic

3. 1D: The One Direction Story by Danny White

4. The Wisdom And Teachings Of Stephen R. Covey by Stephen R. Covey

5. Creating A Purposeful Life by Richard Fox

6. The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

7. Chicken Soup For The Soul: The Gift Of Christmas by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Amy Newmark

8. Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

9. Achieve Your Goals by Infinite Ideas

10. Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started (100% Official) by Justin Bieber


1. Life Of Pi by Yann Martel

2. The Hobbit (movie tie-in) by J.R.R. Tolkien

3. Fifty Shades Of Grey by E.L. James

4. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

5. The Sins Of The Father by Jeffrey Archer

6. The Garden Of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

7. The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry

8. One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

9. Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill

10. Standing In Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin

Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Betty Banafe weds British consultant

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 02:46 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Actress Betty Banafe has tied the knot with British technology consultant Bruce Darghous at her parents' house in Kempas near here.

The 33-year-old, whose real name is Betty Ibtisam Abu Bakar, wore a long gown with turquoise trimmings while Darghous wore a black suit.

The ceremony was attended by close relatives and friends from both sides, some of whom came from Jakarta and England.

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

Their marriage was solemnised by Johor Islamic Religious Department deputy assistant chief Ahmad Faisal Mohamed.

The couple will hold a reception at the Danga Bay Convention Centre on Wednesday before going on their honeymoon at Sipadan island.

Betty is of mixed Arab, Malay and Javanese parentage while Darghous, 31, has a mixed English-Lebanese background.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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Dragon boat competition called off after official goes missing

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 03:54 AM PST

GEORGE TOWN: A technical official who went missing during the lunch break has forced organisers of the Penang Pesta Dragon Boat Race 2012 to call off the competition.

The official, identified only as Jacob Issac Fletcher, 19, was believed to have gone for a swim at the Teluk Bahang Dam during the one-hour interval.

The organisers realised he was missing only when all officials reported to the secretariat after lunch.

Announcements and numerous phone calls were made to contact Fletcher but to no avail.

Only 15 out of 25 races were competed prior to the incident.

At 7.30pm, Fletcher had yet to be found, and marine police, the navy and firemen will continue search operations on Monday.

All public housing flats to get facelift

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 03:52 AM PST

SEREMBAN: All public housing flats will get a facelift with the implementation of the National Blue Ocean Strategy 7: My Beautiful Neighbourhood project under the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said the project would be implemented with the minimum-cost-maximum-results concept.

He said seven public housing flats in Alor Setar, Ipoh and Johor Baru had been given the facelift so far this year.

"Here, we have chosen the Lobak flats as the pioneer. The flats have been given a facelift and now turned into a beautiful neighbourhood that the residents can be proud of," he told reporters after the handing-over of the completed project at Lobak flats here Sunday.

He said the project, which involved works to repair and upgrade the drainage system, roads, community halls and beautification of the landscape, was completed in just three months at a cost of RM4mil.

Next year, the project would also be implemented on 18 other public housing flats across the country. - Bernama

Teo is new Dapsy chief

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 02:55 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Incumbent DAP Socialist Youth (Dapsy) organising secretary Teo Kok Seong has been elected the new Dapsy chief for 2012- 2015.

Teo replaces Rasah MP Anthony Loke, who did not contest in this year's polls.

Teo, who is from Negri Sembilan, won 192 votes against Wong Kah Woh of Perak (137 votes).

Penang heavyweight Ng Wei Aik, who is Komtar assemblyman and Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's political secretary, lost in his bid to rejoin the Dapsy national executive council.

Ng managed to garner 153 votes in the race to be Dapsy national secretary but lost to Tan Hong Pin of Johor, who received 176 votes.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Art auction: Some hits but mostly sombre showing

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 07:25 AM PST

Record sales for some works, but generally sombre showing at art auction.

FIVE stellar records for artists were set in the Malaysian Modern and Contemporary Art Auction (MMCAA) in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 2. The buoyancy pumped up by the big-ticket items belied an otherwise insipid "under-performing" outing for the lower-rung/bit-player works out of the 108 works on the block.

In the auction proper, 18 works were not sold but more sombre was that 40 works were sold below the low-estimates even after adding premiums and out of these, 33 were sold at opening bid prices!

The biggest casualty was Datuk Hoessein Enas' Gelora, an unusual landscape for the portrait pioneer. There were no takers even for a RM65,000 opening gambit.

The relative lacklustre scenario was in stark contrast to its inaugural auction, then known as the Malaysian Indonesian Modern and Contemporary Art Auction (MIMCAA), at the same Sheraton Imperial venue on Sept 30, which registered 87% success (with post-sales) for a RM2.76mil turnover.

Still, this auction rallied to a creditable RM2,467,360 turnover in the auction proper. Post-auction sale, however, was 89%. Clearly, this outing was a party for Latiff Mohidin, Yusof Ghani, Abdullah Ariff, Khalil Ibrahim and Ismail Latiff.

Latiff, who is also an Asian-class poet laureate and at 74 the "last one standing" of the Big Three, was the top grosser in the auction. His Landscape Rimba (1995) achieved a remarkable premium of RM715,000, eclipsing his previous record of RM572,000 set at the Henry Butcher (HB) Art Auction 2011. The Latiff frenzy was such that if someone were to put up anything Latiff, it would be sold: his three paper works all did exceptionally well.

Datuk Ibrahim Hussein, one of the Big Three, came in at No 2 when his Untitled (1996) monochrome of fused forms fetched RM308,000 but well below his record of RM797,500 – still the record for the highest price paid for a Malaysian painting at an auction although he is the only Malaysian artist to have sold a piece for more than RM1mil! His latest performance somewhat redeemed a flagging "interest" in the last two (different) auctions.

Yusof Ghani leapfrogged into the Big League when his Siri Tari II (1984-85) done in the United States shinkansen-ed up to RM190,000 (premium: RM209,000) from an RM8,000 overture. It was a new Yusof personal best – less than two months after he sold at RM93,500 premium at the HB October 2012 auction, also for a Siri Tari. His five other works in this auction were also sold.

Batik art pioneer Datuk Chuah Thean Teng was fourth despite his Harvesting (1991) reaping only RM77,000 but another Penang pioneer artist, Abdullah Ariff, breached his record twice with RM44,000 and then RM55,000 for two brilliant watercolours from the family estate.

Ismail Latiff, introduced at the first MIMCAA, soared high when his mesmeric, magical canvas Lembah Bayangan Rembulan... Mahligai Kayangan "conjured" a RM52,800 premium. His other work, sold at RM33,000, also breached his previous RM28,600 record.

Khalil Ibrahim, who is recovering from a stroke, also hit the RM52,800 mark but that is still below his painting record of RM57,000 set at HB2011. However, it was a new record for his batik work when his large 1983 batik, Abstract, went for RM33,000 by the same phone bidder who first tested the waters at RM14,000.

The other notable batik artist, Datuk Tay Mo-Leong, known for his innovative double-resist technique, scored RM24,200 for a 1958 work (Padi Farmers) and RM15,400 for his opalescent Stone Flower work. Batik artist Ismail Mat Husin, who has enjoyed a spectacular revival in the last two years, grossed RM11,000 – well below his RM26,400 record set at the HB October 2012. There were highly unusual price movements, however, for two relatively obscure batik artists – Tan Thean Song and Kwan Chin, both in their 60s.

While there was the inevitable "migration" of artists from HB to MMCAA, this auction saw 10 more artists making their debut. They had an uneventful outing except for Melayu Pop artist Haron Mokhtar, whose Muslim Shrine, Penang, fetched a RM8,800 premium – well clear of its RM5,000 low-estimate.

All the nine younger artists, those born 1970 and later, were range-bound in the low-estimates while two did not elicit any interest.

Other artists who managed to sell in the five digits were New York-based duo Eng Tay and Lee Long Looi; Amron Omar; Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal – the third of the Big Three (only paper works); Datuk Sharifah Fatimah Zubir; Rafiee Abdul Ghani; Ahmad Zakii Anwar; Khoo Sui Hoe; Jolly Koh; Ahmad Khalid Yusof; Raphael Scott Ahbeng; Peter Liew; Singaporean pioneers Cheong Soo-Pieng and Chen Wen-Hsi; and the only Indonesian, Jeihan Sukmantoro.

While some saw some of the prices as lukewarm, the bargain-hunters were obviously delighted. Three works were a steal, all coincidentally sold at RM7,150 each: Cheah Yew Saik's 1963 Cubist oil called Return From The Sea; Lye Yau Fatt's vintage-1986 drybrush called Edge of Temple; and Peter Liew's Kampung Scene from his vintage 1996-97 years.

KL Lifestyle Art Space owner Datuk Gary Thanasan, who organised the auction, also conducted the event as in his previous auction. Thanasan said that at that first auction, some 194 paddle-boards were taken up but that only a third were active bidders.

Going by the same yardstick, the uptake was only a third of the numbers in the first auction. While the floor was relatively thinner in actual bidding, the phone bidders truly saved the day albeit clearly with a Latiff bias.

While prices may climb phenomenally in an auction, the 10% seller's and 10% buyer's premiums are lower than the 40%/50% hike normally charged by commercial galleries, but which generally hawk more recent works of artists.

There will be finger-pointing at the general lukewarm response: same auction being held just two months of each other, five auctions a year, buyers' fatigue, undeveloped "market", holiday season (collectors on annual vacation), the JLo concert ...

But then, RM2.47mil is not something to be scoffed at.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Sweet alternative

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 07:20 PM PST

The skinny on sugar-laden beverages.

YOU'VE heard the saying "you are what you eat". What about "you are what you drink"?

What you drink can be as harmful to the body as what you eat, and there isn't a shadow of a doubt that consuming too many sugar-laden beverages can significantly contribute to abdominal obesity, therefore increasing your chances of developing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Over the past 20 years, the consumption and availability of sugar-laden beverages, such as sodas (sugar carbonated drinks), fruit drinks, energy (sports) drinks and 3-in-1 instant hot beverages have risen significantly.

Most consumers are considerably misjudging how much sugar supposedly "healthy option drinks" contain, researchers from the University Of Glasgow, Scotland, revealed in a new report.

The investigators asked 2,005 individuals across the country to estimate how much sugar some popular drinks contained. They found that, in general, people have a tendency to slightly overestimate the sugar content of sodas (fizzy drinks), while seriously underestimating levels in milkshakes, smoothies, energy drinks and several fruit juices.

Most health guidelines encourage people to consume drinks such as orange and apple juice in order to have a healthy balanced diet. But the findings of two teams of British researchers turn that advice on its head – concluding that fruit juices should be avoided.

The studies found that even freshly squeezed fruit juices can contain as much as five teaspoons of sugar per glass because the squeezing process concentrates their sweetness. This is around two-thirds the amount found in a can of soda, and can contribute to obesity, as well as affect blood sugar levels and the body's natural metabolism, the studies found.

Do you know that your regular three-in-one hot beverages have an average of three to four teaspoons of sugar in each serving? By taking two or more cups of these beverages daily, you would have exceeded your daily sugar quota recommended by the American Heart Association, which states that one should have no more than six teaspoons a day of added sugar for women, and nine teaspoons for men.

For many people struggling with their weight, reducing their intake of such drinks, and replacing them with water or sugar-free alternatives such as stevia sweetened three-in-one sugar-free beverages would be a sensible first target to help them lessen their calorie intake.

Stevia, also known as sweet leaf or Stevia rebaudiana, originates from Brazil and Paraguay, and is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, but contains no calories. Stevia extract is made from the sweetest part of the stevia leaf, which is called Rebiana-A (Reb-A).

Stevia does not raise blood sugar levels, and is thus, an ideal choice for pre-diabetics, diabetics, and those concerned about health.

Stevia has been found to be safe. In December 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially granted GRAS (generally recognised as safe) status to high purity Reb-A. Japan on the other hand has approved stevia as a sweetener since the 1970's.

When it comes to sweetness, no sweeteners, whether natural or artificial, can ever compare to sugar as sugar is the "gold standard" – we are used to taking sugar since birth. However our taste buds can be retrained over time to enjoy stevia's natural sweetness. The taste is easily acquired. It is still an excellent substitute for cane sugar. Reference: Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000253. CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety. December 17, 2008. Accessed July 25, 2011.

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

Tender, loving care

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 07:19 PM PST

Raising a child with mental disabilities requires emotional resilience and flexibility. Two mothers share their experience in undertaking the various medical, caregiving and educational responsibilities in bringing up their children, and gaining strength and inner peace in the process.

GERALD Chan Wai Khin looked almost serene as he dawdled about the sleepy enclave of a two-storey bungalow.

Inside, the living room was alive with the shrill sounds of children. Mats in red, green and blue coated the floor, on which half a dozen children were lying and moving around.

Gerald remained oblivious to the commotion, his face complacent as a young child's, as a staff member propped him up on a chair and wiped the drool off his face.

Like many of his peers, Gerald had been napping that late morning when my photographer and I paid a visit to the training centre of The Society for the Severely Mentally Handicapped (SSMH) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Medication for his epilepsy – a condition marked by recurrent seizures that causes the brain's messages to become halted or mixed up – makes him drowsy, Tham Keng Seng, the centre's administrator, later explained.

If Gerald was perturbed by the presence of strangers, he certainly showed no sign of it.

The place was after all, familiar territory for the 30-year-old, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, and has hypotonic cerebral palsy. He was first admitted at the centre some 15 years ago when he was only 15.

The SSMH, a Selangor-based voluntary organisation, was established and registered with the Registrar of Societies in 1984. The society's training centre was built to facilitate its training programmes for special children.

On weekdays, the centre conducts morning and afternoon sessions aimed at training and providing rehabilitation for children and youths with severe or multiple mental and physical abilities aged two to 19 years.

There are currently eight full-time staff comprising an administrator, six teachers, a housekeeper and three therapists at the centre to help educate and acquaint these children with basic survival skills such as motor skills, language and communication skills, self-help skills like toileting, eating and dressing, as well as cognitive and social skills.

Since the centre started, the society has helped almost 100 children develop some basic living skills. At least 15 of the group have gone on to integrated special schools, having progressed from the training received from the centre.

Gerald's case is especially severe, as his mother, Evelyn Chan, SSMH's honorary secretary pointed out.

"On top of his hypotonic cerebral palsy, cleft lip and cleft palate, he also has a hole in his heart," says the articulate 63-year-old retired lecturer.

Hypotonic cerebral palsy is a form of cerebral palsy that is marked by floppy or overly relaxed muscles.

People with the condition have arms and legs that hang down like a "rag doll" and have lax joints.

This means that Gerald has difficulty walking, and has no control of his head.

The condition also causes postural problems, as well as breathing and swallowing difficulties. Speech may also be difficult, and intelligence is usually affected.

Despite his age, Evelyn still sends Gerald frequently to the centre. The systematic approach and schedule at the centre is something the mother-of-three has grown to appreciate.

She had, after all, shouldered most of the medical, caregiving and educational responsibilities in raising Gerald for the first 15 years of his life.

"We didn't know there was a society for the severely mentally handicapped, so much of Gerald's early training was done at home.

"I was fortunate enough to be able to engage the services of a speech therapist, a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist, who would go to my house to conduct lessons at different times of the week," she says.

But Gerald's physical and mental disabilities still required constant attention from the doting mother, who spent 24 hours a day tending to her son.

"When he was younger, he couldn't even sit on a normal chair and we had to buy special chairs for him.

"He was so floppy, he also needed support for his neck."

Gerald continued his treatment at the centre, reinforcing physical skills like standing, sitting and crawling by balancing on a fit-ball and a standing-frame.

"All the things that we take for granted, Gerald had to struggle to learn," says Evelyn.

Despite the challenges, Gerald would learn to walk at age 12, and would gain enough strength to walk up to 15 minutes unassisted after he enrolled at the centre.

"There was a point where he could walk one round at the padang (field) without any help," Evelyn says.

Unfortunately, a severe epileptic attack a few years ago has affected this ability, and brought all progress to a halt.

Evelyn wasted no time in helping Gerald get back on his feet. "He still can't walk to this day, but we continue doing regular physical exercises to help him regain the balance and physical skills he has lost," she says.

Evelyn, who has two younger daughters, shares that her daily activities now revolves around chauffeuring Gerald to and from the centre, helping him exercise, taking him to parks, feeding, and generally tending to his needs.

At night, before bed, she reads and sings to him. "He loves books with pictures, and I try my best to read to him every day," she shares.

Finding hope

Like Evelyn, SSMH vice-president Noriah Abdul Rahman, dedicates her life to taking care of her son Nor Asraf Rosly.

Although he is physically able, Asraf, 20, was diagnosed with having developmentally delay, and has an abnormally large head. He also has moderate autism and moderate mental retardation.

Noriah, 54, first noticed something amiss when Asraf was three months old. "He looked normal, but he wasn't like any other children and was certainly not like his two older siblings," the soft-spoken homemaker begins.

At six months, the youngest of her three sons had still not learnt how to move and often just lay where he was put, she shares.

It wasn't until he was two that he finally learnt to sit up.

Noriah first learned about SSMH when Asraf was four, after being introduced to the centre by a doctor at a private medical centre. At that time, Asraf had still not learnt how to walk or stand, and was still in diapers.

But after spending a year at the centre, doing gross motor exercises such as walking, balancing, standing, climbing and squatting, as well as honing fine motor skills like eye and hand coordination, and self-help skills like feeding, dressing and toileting, Asraf started walking unaided at the age of five.

By six, he was able to eat and drink on his own.

A year later, he could dress and cleane himself, and go to the toilet with minimal assistance.

Although Asraf has never learned to talk, he understands verbal instructions and communicates through vocalisation, as well as performs social gestures such as shaking hands.

At 13, Asraf left the centre as he had acquired all the necessary basic skills. "He graduated early," Noriah says with a laugh.

In 2003, she enrolled him at a more advanced special school with the hope that Asraf would gain some basic vocational skills, but her dream didn't come to pass.

"I was hoping that he could learn to do simple chores like packing magazines into envelopes, but Asraf couldn't cope with that," she shares.

But Noriah remains optimistic. "He can now go to the bathroom on his own, though he sometimes forgets to take off his pants or stands under the shower with his clothes still on," she divulges with a laugh.

The biggest challenge lies in communicating with her son.

"Asraf can't talk, so we have to try to understand what he's trying to say from his body language.

"If he wants to eat, he will go to the kitchen. Or if he wants to drink, he will get a cup."

Now, the family is focused on helping Asraf hone his social skills. Asraf, who has grown acquainted with being outdoors, now enjoys regular outings to the mall, and playing ball outside the house with his siblings.

A common endeavour

While both mothers come from different backgrounds, they are united in their endeavours to care for and to protect their children, especially in the face of stigma and discrimination.

Gerald does get stares from random passers-by whenever we bring him to places like the mall, Evelyn shares.

While they are often harmless, these fleeting glances can sometimes leave a deeper and more troubling impact on the family.

"In Asia, having a special child is often seen as a bane. Some families may not even bring their children out of the house," says Evelyn.

"Even my youngest daughter would tell me that she hates kor kor (brother) when she was younger. She would try to hide him, and would never want me to tell any of her friends about him."

"I think it is very natural for kids to feel ashamed of a sibling with disabilities, especially when they are young.

"But my daughter is 20 this year, and is now very protective of Gerald."

The advent of a special child can also have significant impact ona marriage if not properly dealt with, Evelyn opines. There have been many instances when the husband would just walk out of the family

"Both of us have been very blessed to have husbands who are supportive," says Evelyn, exchanging an empathetic glance with Noriah.

"If you look at it from a positive point of view, having a special child can actually help strengthen the relationship because you know that you need each other's help, encouragement and support to make things work."

Giving back

Both women are now committed to helping other children with disabilities by becoming committee members of the society.

To enhance the learning experience for these children, the centre is also equipped with a Snoezelen Room, a multi-sensory room with equipment designed to help stimulate the primary senses of touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing.

"Our children have a very low sensory threshold. The equipment in the room helps stimulate their senses," says Tham.

Some of the equipment in the room include a "blower", which creates a blowing sensation on skin, a vibrating bubble tube to stimulate the sense of touch, and changing lights to encourage eye-tracking.

The society currently needs about RM20,000 a month to maintain the training facility and to ensure the continuation of its programmes.

About 10-15% of their requirements come from the Government through the Women and Family Development Ministry's Department of Social Welfare, but the SSMH does not have a regular source of income.

Funding is obtained mostly through donations from the general public and the corporate sector, and through their own fundraising activities.

The SSMH is also planning to renovate its facility to create more space to conduct training for the children. The renovation costs are estimated to be around RM500,000.

To find out how you can help, log on to www.ssmh.org.my to learn more about the society.

Alternatively, you can also contact the centre at: careforhandicap@ssmh.org.my or call them at 03-7874 6703.

Cry me a river

Posted: 08 Dec 2012 03:45 PM PST

What next if you're diagnosed with cancer?

IF you have just been diagnosed with cancer in the last fortnight or so, have a good cry. Why not? It is sad and frightening news. There is so much uncertainty. There are many unanswered questions. Thoughts of death flit through your mind. All that you are used to may take on a new complexion.

Let the tears flow.

Then, wipe your tears and regain your composure, for the hard-thinking part is about to start. Here is a guide I have put together on what to do next.

No rush

The cancer has been growing in your body for decades. It takes 10 to 20 years for the first cancer cell to transform to a mass of detectable and diagnosable cancer.

Take at least two weeks to a month to work things out. Do not embark on any treatment – surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy – until most of your questions are answered. And until your emotions are no longer on a roller-coaster.

The pathological review

In all probability, the diagnosis of cancer was confirmed after tissue from a certain part of your body was examined in the laboratory.

Ask for a pathological review of your biopsy/surgical specimen (polite term for second opinion) if there is uncertainty as to the subset of cancer. Perhaps it may not even be cancer, but it is unlikely if your medical history and physical examination point in that direction.

Sometimes, the initial pathological study is not detailed enough. For example, if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the pathological information should include the size of the tumour, the number of lymph nodes in your armpit affected by cancer, the grade, the oestrogen receptor status, the progesterone receptor status, the presence of lymphovascular invasion, and the HER2 status.

The HER2 status is an indication of how aggressive the tumour is, and whether your tumour will respond to a certain class of drugs. Many pathology reports do not include all this information.

Another example is lung cancer. Today, lung cancer is approached as if it were approximately 10 different diseases. Is your lung cancer EGFR mutation positive? Is it ALK protein positive? If it is squamous cell carcinoma, certain drugs work better and certain drugs less well. If it is small cell lung cancer, a different approach is needed. The stage of the cancer

It is important to know the stage of your tumour, ie how far the cancer has spread.

Firstly, it is to avoid unnecessary surgery if the cancer is at an advanced stage. Take lung cancer. If surgery is contemplated, we ask for a positron emission tomography scan (a PET/CT scan). This scan will show if the cancer has spread extensively to the lymph nodes in the vicinity of the lung, or to a distant site in the body.

Surgery is then not warranted. If the PET scan shows a localised, potentially operable tumour, the next step is to insert an ultrasound probe into the large air passages of the lung and oesophagus to determine if the tissues behind your breastbone are involved with cancer. If the answer is yes, surgery is out.

Secondly, the stage will determine the type and number of cancer drugs to be used. For instance, in stage II colon cancer, we usually use two drugs, and in high-risk stage II and stage III, we use three drugs. The doctors

Never be pushed to see any doctor against your wishes. Choose your surgeon wisely. You should also choose your radiologist (the doctor who undertakes and studies X-rays and scans) and your pathologist.

Needless to say, you choose your oncologist.

All these specialist doctors will work in concert to look after you.

Your friends and counsellors

Whether to share this painful news with your loved ones is entirely up to you. After all, cancer (or any illness for that matter) is a very private matter. You can keep it all to yourself (and there is much to say for this), or share it with the world.

The danger of too many people knowing about your cancer is obvious. Purveyors of alternative medicine won't leave you alone. Multi-level marketers of food supplements, multivitamins/multiminerals and fruit juices will assail you with their latest cure-alls and "boosters of the immune system". Religious zealots will make a beeline to your home to save your soul.

At such a time, you really don't need all this mumbo-jumbo.

Be thorough, systematic and punctilious

Start a folder for all your medical, laboratory and X-ray reports. All bills and correspondence to insurance companies too.

Request for written information each time you see a doctor – this goes into your folder as well.

All these notes will help you help your oncologist immensely. You will also feel "in charge" to some extent, and this will boost your morale. In today's cyberworld, this information should also be maintained in your computer. And a back-up is the prudent thing to do.

The second opinion

Not only is the second opinion important, perhaps a third or a fourth may be necessary. You can then weigh the wisdom against the folly of each opinion you get.

However, I wish to warn you of two pitfalls. The first is: be clear that you are not seeking a second, third, fourth opinion just to hear what you want to hear.

Scientific medicine is not a popularity contest. Nine doctors out of 10 concur on a certain treatment approach. This does not necessarily mean that the one dissenting voice is wrong.

The second pitfall is this: four opinions should not mean having four oncologists treating you at the same time.

Four ways of flying an aircraft does not mean four pilots grappling with the controls during the flight.

Change your attending oncologist by all means if you are not satisfied with her. But give your oncologist at least two months exclusively at the helm before you make that change.

By then, two or three cycles of chemotherapy would have been given. That would be the time to take stock if the chemotherapy regime is effective.

The crying may start again. And it is alright. Steel your heart, calm your nerves and boot up your brain.

You will be the better to fight your cancer.

Dr Albert Lim Kok Hooi is a consultant oncologist. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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