Jumaat, 21 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Ex-U.S. Marine jailed in Mexico wins back his freedom

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:45 PM PST

MIAMI (Reuters) - A former U.S. Marine jailed in a notoriously violent part of northern Mexico was released on Friday after being held prisoner four months for possessing a shotgun that was a family heirloom, according to a member of the U.S. Congress.

After speaking with the family of Jon Hammar, U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said she was able to confirm the 27-year-old man had been released "and is back safely in the United States."

Olivia Hammar of Miami, the mother of the Iraq War veteran, said Mexican authorities had decided to drop all charges against her troubled son, whose case grabbed the U.S. media spotlight and stirred controversy earlier this month, after determining that he never intended to commit a crime in Mexico.

The decision to release Hammar was announced in a press release on Friday morning from the office of Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who said he got the news from the Mexican Embassy in Washington.

"We're grateful; this is a good Christmas present," Nelson said.

Hammar was heading to Costa Rica to go surfing when he crossed into Matamoros, Mexico, from Brownsville, Texas, in mid-August in a beat-up old Winnebago motor home he and a friend bought especially for the trip.

He had registered the shotgun with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on the U.S. side of the border, declaring he planned to take it with him into Mexico.

Despite being told that the shotgun, a Sear & Roebuck model that once belonged to his great-grandfather, posed no problem, Hammar was arrested as soon as he crossed into Mexico. The arrest came when he tried to register the gun with Mexican customs officials, Olivia Hammar said.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said Hammar was charged with possession of a deadly weapon. The family lawyer, Eddie Varon-Levy, had said Hammar faced up to 12 years in prison if he was found guilty.

Making matters worse, Hammar suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his combat experience and the death of a fellow Marine who was killed by a sniper's bullet when the two served together in Falluja, Iraq. He had just completed treatment for PTSD at a centre for veterans in California last year.

His ordeal in Matamoros, in one of the most violent parts of Mexico, included being shackled to a bed and receiving death threats and extortion demands from drug cartel gangsters who run the prison like their personal fiefdom, Hammar's parents said.

Olivia Hammar said her husband, Jon Hammar Sr., had flown down to south Texas from Miami to pick up his son at or near the prison.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

China bans alcohol in military banquets to curb graft

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:11 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has banned senior military officers from holding alcohol- fuelled banquets or from staying in luxury hotels when on work trips in the latest move by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping to fight corruption, state media reported on Saturday.

Receptions will also no longer feature welcome banners, red carpets, flowers, honour guards, performances or souvenirs, the powerful Central Military Commission, which Xi oversees, has decreed, major newspapers reported.

Officers will have to cut back on both the number and length of inspection tours, overseas visits, meetings and reports, according to the new rules.

Speakers at meetings should avoid "empty talk", while the use of vehicles equipped with sirens will be "rigorously controlled during official visits in order to prevent public disturbances".

"Additionally, commission officials are required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates and make sure they do not take bribes."

The rules echo similar demands made of party officials by Xi earlier this month.

The party, which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power, has struggled to contain public anger at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth.

China intensified a crackdown on rampant corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business. But it has crept back in recent years due to a lack of transparency, checks and balances and moral decay.

A senior officer, Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, was sacked earlier this year in what Hong Kong media have said would be the biggest military corruption scandal since the Communists swept to power in 1949, though details have not been officially announced.

Xi, who takes over as president from Hu Jintao at the annual meeting of parliament in March, warned shortly after becoming party boss that the country risked unrest if graft is not tackled.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Four South Korean workers kidnapped in Nigeria freed: reports

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:02 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - Four South Korean employees of Hyundai Heavy Industries, who were abducted earlier this week in Nigeria, have been released, local media reported on Saturday, quoting unnamed government officials in Seoul.

The four hostages had been handed over to South Korean officials in the African country late on Friday, Yonhap news agency and YTN TV said.

There was no immediate comment from either the South Korean government or Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Gunmen kidnapped the four working on Hyundai's operations in the Niger Delta region on Monday.

Kidnapping is rife in Africa's top oil producer, making millions of dollars a year for criminal gangs. It is common across the south, especially in the Niger Delta.

(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Actor Ashton Kutcher files for divorce from Demi Moore

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 04:49 PM PST

LOS ANGELES - "Two and a Half Men" star Ashton Kutcher filed for divorce from actress wife Demi Moore on Friday in Los Angeles, following more than a year of separation, according to court documents.

Kutcher, 34, cited irreconcilable differences in divorce papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, adding that he is not seeking spousal support or denying support to Moore.

Moore, 50, and Kutcher separated in November 2011 after six years of marriage, after a San Diego woman said she had had a brief affair with Kutcher.

Kutcher hired high-powered celebrity divorce attorney Laura Wasser, according to the initial filing.

Representatives for Kutcher and Moore did not return Reuters' calls for comments.

Moore began dating Kutcher a few years after her split from actor husband Bruce Willis, when Kutcher was a young star on the TV sitcom "That '70s Show." Their relationship became tabloid fodder due to their 16-year age gap, and the couple married in September 2005 in Los Angeles.

"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton," Moore said in a statement at the time of their split.

"As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life," the statement said.

Kutcher is currently dating his former "That '70s Show" cast-mate Mila Kunis. - Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Kenanga to buy ING Funds

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:41 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: K & N Kenanga Holdings Bhd has proposed to acquire a 100% interest in ING Funds Bhd.

In its filing to Bursa Malaysia, Kenanga Holdings announced that its unit Kenanga Investors Bhd via Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd had entered into a conditional sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with ING Funds.

ING and its joint-venture partner Tab InterAsia Services Sdn Bhd own ING Funds, with a 70% and 30% stake each.

ING Funds is a corporate cash management solutions and discretionary mandates provider to clients in the institutional space.

"This is a compelling strategic acquisition which will give Kenanga Investors a synergistic platform to adopt global best practices, augment its product portfolio and expand its distribution network to support customers," said Kenanga Holdings group managing director Chay Wai Leong in a statement.

According to the statement, Kenanga Holdings said ING Funds has a strong emphasis and foothold in the retail segment, which would complement Kenanga Investors' focus to accelerate growth in that segment.

The proposed acquisition has yet to receive the relevant regulatory approvals, but both parties expect the acquisition to be completed by the end of the first quarter in 2013.

It is notable that the percentage ratio for the proposed acquisition is no more than 5%. The assets under management of both entities would amount to approximately RM5bil.

Kenanga Investors is a multi-team, multi-style investment house that provides investment solutions to retail and institutional clients.

The ING Funds acquisition would be the Kenanga group's second acquisition within a year.

The group via Kenanga Investment Bank recently completed the acquisition of ECM Libra Investment Bank Bhd, which makes it the largest independent investment bank in the country in terms of trading value and volume.

Kenanga Investment Bank had bought ECM Libra for RM875mil via a combination of cash, shares and loan stocks. The cash portion amounted to RM659.6mil, while the remaining RM215.5mil was via the issuance of 120 million new shares of RM1 each, and RM95.5mil in redeemable non-convertible unsecured loan stocks. The merger also placed Kenanga Investment Bank as the third-largest brokerage in the country with a market share of 10.42%. The entire rationalisation process between both entities was expected to take between nine and 12 months to complete.

Chay had earlier said that the combined operating costs of merging both entities would amount to approximately RM250mil, and should yield savings of about 30% over the next three years.

The local financial industry has seen quite a few mergers and acquisitions this year, led by the RHB Capital Bhd-OSK Investment Bank Bhd merger and then later CIMB Group Holdings.

RHB Capital completed the acquisition of OSK Investment Bank on Nov 9, 2012. The group had earlier said the acquisition had enhanced its products offerings and geographical footprint into eight countries across the Asean region, including Hong Kong.

The acquisition has made the banking group's investment banking arm, RHB Investment Bank Bhd, the largest in the country in terms of assets.

In April, CIMB Group bought the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS)'s Asian operations for RM432mil. This included RBS' Australian cash equities, equity capital markets and mergers and acquisition businesses.

CIMB Group plans to use this acquisition to regain its position as the world's top sukuk arranger.

KENANGA : [Stock Watch] [News]

Cutting construction costs

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:35 PM PST

ONE of Malaysia's most inventive but less well-known companies is located at the backend of Senawang Industrial Estate, 15 km south of Seremban.

But RBM Building Machinery Trading Sdn Bhd's quiet days will soon be over. The world will soon be hearing more about its invention that promises to revolutionise the way buildings are constructed.

Reduce construction cost by 20%?

Improve construction site productivity by 300%?

Amazing claims by any measure. But Goh Chua Woo, inventor of the technology, who is also managing director of the company, says this is not a boast.

"In this business, everything can be tested and everything can be proven. We stand by all that we say."

He has a list of customers here and overseas who have built houses the RBM way and saved a lot of money in the process.

"Ours is a proven technology," Goh says. "We began marketing it two years ago, and a lot of time has been taken getting our products tested and certified by agencies such as Sirim and the Fire Department.

"Now we are ready to make a big push to educate potential customers and explain how they can build faster, better and cheaper and become more competitive," Goh adds.

Inventing from an early age

Goh began as an inventor at an early age. His father was a fisherman in Pontian and when the engine of his fishing boat broke down, he often had to repair it himself.

"I used to observe my father doing this and I learned a lot from him. That's where I learned about nuts and bolts and how machines worked. You can say my education on mechanical equipment was hands on'," Goh says.

"I finished schooling in Johor Baru and when I was 22 years old, I started my own business designing and making customised food processing machines. "My first invention was a cendol-making machine. I charged my customer RM1,600 for it. He was happy because the machine could produce for him in one hour what used to take a whole day to make.

"Then I went on to design and make other food-processing machines to make noodles, koay teow, chilli sauce, bean curd, and so on. This business is still going on today but, of course, it has been overtaken by our building construction business."

But how did he get involved in this business in the first place? He had no previous experience in building construction. Neither did he have any formal training in building science.

"Malaysia was experiencing a building boom in the mid-eighties and contractors were under pressure to complete their projects on time. Some friends approached me and asked me if I could find some way to shorten the construction cycle," Goh says.

"That's when I started to do my research on the construction process the materials used, the steps they go through, the time it takes, and so on.

"We experimented with various prototypes to handle different aspects of the construction work, and to make a long story short, it took us about ten years to develop the RBM-1000 mixer. This is the core component of our building technology. In 2007 we received a world patent for this equipment.

Marketing the technology

Goh is absolutely confident the RBM-1000 is a world beater. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world, he says. His biggest challenge now will be to educate potential customers and make them understand how his technology can make a difference .

"We have been in the market for two years. People visit our website and then contact us. We have found marketing through trade fairs and exhibitions arranged by Matrade very effective. When you appear under a Matrade umbrella, people tend to have more confidence in you, and we have been able to secure many overseas contacts this way," Goh adds.

"We have also won many industry awards, including Miti's Product Excellence Award, the Golden Bull Award, and the SME Innovation Excellence Award. These awards have enhanced our reputation and credibility.

Sales topped RM11mil last year, with 70% of income earned overseas. "We have encouraging responses from different parts of the world. Many told us how our technology has helped them to save time and money. A customer in Mongolia told us our foam concrete is a good insulator and kept the cold out very well. And we also have this customer from the Middle East who said the same thing this time it helped to keep the desert heat out!

But how does RBM explain its relatively low level of sales in the domestic market?

One suspects the company has not done enough to convince local developers, building consultants and contractors about the merits of its technology.

But Goh has a different explanation. "What we are facing is a typically Malaysian response: people are just waiting to see how other people take to the machine before they commit themselves. So they adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

"But I am confident this attitude will change once customers understand how RBM can help them to reduce costs and make more money," he adds.

"What the RBM-1000 does, essentially, is to give the small contractor the capability of a big-time contractor but at a fraction of the cost," Goh says.

"It's like computers. You don't need a mainframe or desktop when a laptop can do just as well.

"Same thing here. You don't need huge batching plants and ready-mix concrete trucks to undertake many of these construction jobs anymore. Our system can do an equivalent job, and it costs so much less.

"And the good news, of course, is that now every contractor can own a RBM-1000."

● This article is part of a series on Winning Companies companies that have achieved outstanding success by being creative and innovative. Research for this article has been supported by the International Trade and Industry Ministry to promote discussion of the impact of change and innovation on the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry.

Related Story:
How RBM building technology works

MAS to re-energise products in Europe next year

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:34 PM PST

FLAG carrier, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is not likely to launch any new route to European countries anytime soon but will continue to re-energise its products in Europe next year, according to regional senior vice-president UK/Europe Huib Gorter.

"We've got some exciting plans for next year. There will be a lot of buzz coming from MAS. Additionally, we will be flying the A380 for KL-Paris-KL route in March 2013 on top of the current KL-London route," he tells StarBizWeek in Amsterdam.

With the new A380 plying KL-Paris-KL daily route, Gorter expects the new product will attract customers to fly with MAS just like they did in London.

MAS has increased its daily A380 flights on the KL-London route to twice daily. It will begin daily A380 operations on the KL-Paris return route from March 1, 2013.

Despite the larger capacity on the jumbo jet, Gorter expects KL-Paris route load factor to average about 80%. He adds that the KL-London-KL flights on A380 had been averaging about 80% load factor.

In 2003, MAS ordered six A380 but delivery had been delayed for a while. It finally received the first A380 in June. So far, it has received four aircraft and will be receiving the balance next year.

The A380 has a capacity of 494 seats in a three-class configuration comprising eight first-class seats and 350 economy-class on the main deck, together with 66 business-class seats and 70 economy-class seats on the upper deck.

"One of the key things is to price your products creatively and at the right time. We have very good airlines competing with us and we can never ever lose sight on the ball, we have to be on top of that and I think we have done it quite well," Gorter says, adding that its business plan for Europe was to develop traffic to home base.

Additionally, he says, MAS works with various groups including Tourism Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak Tourism, hoteliers and tour operators.

Gorter points out that there is "no lack of capacity" flying from Europe to Malaysia and one of its challenges is to move ahead of the curve.

The are sufficient direct flights from Europe to Malaysia (including code sharing) with 17 from Amsterdam, Frankfurt (nine), London (14), Paris (daily) and Istanbul (3), of which 14 of the direct flights are operated by MAS. UK is MAS' biggest market in Europe followed by Paris and Amsterdam.

"We have to be very quick and competitive. We need to have strategies and we have estimated about 122 European tour operators will feature Malaysia in their brochures and online sites," Gorter says.

On competition from airlines, he says consumer trends is hard to predict these days because consumer trend changes fast.

"One minute they could be looking at travelling to Malaysia and the next it could be other destinations. It is a challenge for everyone. We have to act very quick and price our products well. Its mind-boggling," Gorter says.

As brand loyalty poses another challenge, Gorter says MAS entry into oneworld alliance is timely. MAS will become a full member of oneworld alliance effective Feb 1, 2013.

He points out that the industry is experiencing a declining brand loyalty so there is a need for a "constant reinforcement" for the brand.

"Enrich (MAS' frequent flyer programme) is great but Enrich itself is not the key driver (for brand loyalty). With oneworld alliance, travellers flying British Airways or member airlines will be able to accrue flying miles," Gorter says, adding that the new oneworld alliance will allow MAS to enter the corporate market in Europe, which has great potential.

Although there is only one MAS' Golden Lounge in London in Europe region, Gorter says there is no plan to set up lounges in other European destinations MAS flies to such as Amsterdam and Paris.

"We have third party contract to allow passengers on business and first class to gain access to these lounges. We're not setting up Golden Lounges ... not at this point," Gorter says.

He proudly says MAS' business class product is second to none. "We're a very good airline," he adds.

Last year MAS announced a major route rationalisation to stem losses. The rationalisation takes effect early this year and involves the withdrawal of loss-making flights from Kuala Lumpur to cities that include Surabaya, Karachi, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Rome and Buenos Aires.

Gorter describes the KL-Rome route cut as a very "painful" exercise as a need to achieve its revenue target and stem losses from low-yield route. "We made the decision to drop non-strategic routes and Rome was one of it. Life is tough," he reckons.

Gorter says MAS is "a lot better" now. "We have started to get profitable on some routes."

Despite the uncertainty in the eurozone economic outlook, Gorter sees next year as an excellent one for MAS in Europe as the A380 aircraft will definitely enhance MAS' brandname.

"The uncertainty makes it even more challenging in an industry which is so competitive. There are still a lot of travel between Europe and Asia despite the potential slowdown in economy," he says.

MAS : [Stock Watch] [News]

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

WADA suspends Madrid lab from anti-doping work

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:41 PM PST

MONTREAL: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced on Friday that it has suspended the WADA-accredited laboratory in Madrid from carrying out anti-doping work for the next three months.

During the suspension period, the Spanish lab will not be permitted to analyze anti-doping samples.

WADA will re-evaluate the lab after the suspension period.

The laboratory can appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.

WADA has the power to suspend a lab's accreditation for failing to adhere to the International Standard for Laboratories. - AFP

Squash: Nicol on course for 7th World Open crown

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 03:24 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Nicol David is now one match away from a record seventh World Open title after another dominant display in Cayman Islands on Thursday.

The world No. 1 was in a class of her own as she demolished Jenny Duncalf of England 11-7, 11-4, 11-2 to set up a meeting with third seed Laura Massaro. The third-seeded Englishwoman was also in imperious form as she overcame the challenge of second seed Raneem El Weleily of Egypt with a 5-11, 11-9, 12-14, 11-4, 13-11 triumph.

Nicol, who lost twice to Duncalf in 2009, never gave her opponent a chance this time around. She quickly asserted her authority in the first set, winning 11-7.

The Penangite continued to drain Duncalf's belief and confidence in the second as she raced to a huge lead before wrapping it up at 11-4.

In the third set, world No. 12 Duncalf, who was beaten by Nicol in last year's final, started strongly with a 2-0 lead. But that was all she got from Nicol as the Malaysian reeled off 11 points to seal her fifth consecutive final appearance in just 37 minutes. Nicol has now beaten Duncalf 23 times in 25 meetings.

"Jenny was playing some great shots at the start. I couldn't tell where the ball was going and couldn't play my own game," said Nicol on www.squashsite.co.uk.

"But I knew I had to up my game to stay in it and thankfully I got it all together as the match wore on. It's great to be in another final, especially in the World Open. Laura (Massaro) and I both know each other well. We'll be stepping up our games so it'll be a great final," added Nicol.

Massaro started off dismally against El Weleily but recovered to win in 69 minutes to reach her first-ever World Open final.

"We've been taking turns at winning and swapping in the rankings all year so it's fitting that only a couple of points separated us in the whole match," said an emotional Massaro.

"With Raneem there's always going to be patches where she hits winners so it works to just hang tight and come through it.

"But it really feels great to reach the final and I'm really happy right now," added Massaro.

Semi-finals: Nicol David (Mas) bt Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 11-7, 11-4, 11-2; Laura Massaro (Eng) bt Raneem El Weleily (Egy) 5-11, 11-9, 12-14, 11-4, 13-11.

Rafiq and Li Jane triumphant as they emerge as masters of bowling

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 03:43 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: It was double joy for Malaysia at the 13th Milo International Junior All-Stars Championships at the Sunway Pyramid Mega Lanes yesterday with Mohd Rafiq Ismail and Sin Li Jane emerging triumphant.

Mohd Rafiq was the first into action. Having lost the title to Singapore's Tay Hui Chiang in last year's boys' Open final, Mohd Rafiq was very determined not to let the title slip away again.

Playing with a strapped left bicep and blisters on his left thumb, lefthander Mohd Rafiq fought through the pain barrier to beat Singapore's Danish Ramlan 235-231 to emerge as champion. It was a rewarding day as he took home RM25,000.

"I was more relaxed this time around. I was happy to reach the step-ladder finals again, but I didn't want a repeat of last year's final. I didn't want to lose," said Mohd Rafiq.

He has another chance to pick up a fat paycheque. He will be playing in today's Masters finals, which offers a top prize of RM35,000, by virtue of being the defending champion.

"I'm going to try my best to forget the pain and try my best to make it two wins in a row," said the 15-year-old who is member of the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress special squad. National coach Holloway Cheah counts Rafiq a success story in the MTBC special squad programme.

"Danish was good, but Rafiq was better today. He didn't let the pressure get to him," said Holloway.

"Hopefully, he makes the top six tomorrow (today) and if he does he has a very good chance of winning the Masters. My advice to him is simple – stay grounded," added Holloway.

Boosted by Mohd Rafiq's win, Li Jane went into the step-ladder finals full of confidence.

She proved too strong for Singapore's Joey Yap, scoring a 257-193 win to take home RM18,000.

"I'm very happy. The last time I won in 2008, it was also a Malaysian double with Adrian (Ang) winning the boys' title. This time it's Rafiq. It's just great," said Li Jane.

" I didn't really feel any pressure at all. Experience has taught me not to let the pressure get to me. I told myself not get too excited. Bowling is really anyone's game. I didn't really pay much attention to Joey's game and and just concentrated on my game," added Li Jane, the 2010 and 2012 national champion.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

End of the reel

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 05:42 AM PST

Oh look, the world didn't end today after all. But if you're still feeling apocalyptic, try watching some of these movies instead.

IF you're reading this right now, chances are the world has not ended (yet). But that hasn't stopped Hollywood from coming up with all sorts of ways to destroy the world (or civilisation as we know it). Here, we recount the ways that the world could have ended, as according to Hollywood.

Alien destroyers: The Martians from The War Of The Worlds would have completely destroyed the world if they hadn't forgotten to take their flu vaccines; while another bunch of aliens were outdone by a computer virus in Independence Day.

But really, if you're an alien from outer space with superior technology and awesome death rays, and want to bring about the end of Earth, why even bother coming down to the ground to shoot people at random in the first place? Just do it like the Vogons from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, who nonchalantly blew up Earth, to make way for an intergalactic highway. Problem solved.

Apocalyptic stupidity: Inspired by WALL-E, where mankind's extreme stupidity in churning out more garbage than they could get rid of eventually rendered the entire planet uninhabitable. You could also technically include any movie with a nuclear holocaust (Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb), since it involves people being stupid enough to aim nuclear weapons at one another without stopping to think about how it would affect the planet.

Wrath of nature: Yeah, we know, Roland Emmerich pretty much has this category down pat. Heck, The Day After Tomorrow was just the director chucking as many natural disasters into the movie as possible. But Emmerich aside, there have been several times when the world has been destroyed by natural disasters. Armageddon and Deep Impact came close with asteroids (the latter actually did make impact and wipe out a chunk of Earth), while Waterworld actually melted all the polar ice caps, resulting in a world covered with water (which is probably easier to survive than a second viewing of that damp squib of a movie).

Viral killers: Dawn Of The Dead, Resident Evil, Zombieland, 28 Days Later... almost every zombie movie ever made has to do with some virus turning people into those mindless brain-munching monsters. Fortunately, as long as you have an axe or shotgun around (or in the case of Peter Jackson's Braindead, a lawnmower strapped to your chest), you should do fine.

But not all viruses turn people into zombies – in I Am Legend, the plague turns humans into blood-sucking vampires instead (in this kind of apocalypse, the only way you'd survive is if you were Will Smith); while in 12 Monkeys, the virus proves to be so deadly that human beings are forced to live underground and send Bruce Willis back in time to die hard.

Satanic so-long: When it comes to the end of the world, things always get a lot more interesting when religion is involved. Movies like End Of Days, the Omen franchise, and the recent Legion all revolve around the Son of Satan, who is supposed to bring about the end of the world. Oh, hell.

Mechanical blunder: Technically the world doesn't end in movies such as the Terminator or Matrix franchise – it just ended for us humans.

The machines seem to be having a blast, if you ask me. But really, this should actually come under "Apocalyptic stupidity", because we were dumb enough to invent a machine that was smarter than us. But still, if the world were to end with the machines taking over, I can think of worse ways to go than being stuck in a program that allows my mind to keep living a normal life even as my body is being used as a battery. Sure beats having to go up against T-800s or deadly hunter-killers.

Roland endings: Roland Emmerich has destroyed the world so many times in his mega-blockbuster movies that we figured he should get a whole category by himself. He'd been steadily progressing towards his ultimate goal of destroying the world ever since letting a bunch of aliens destroy various famous landmarks (Independence Day) and sic-ing Godzilla on New York City, before going global by unleashing the terrors of global warming in The Day After Tomorrow.

But no, that wasn't enough for dear Roland, and in 2009, he finally released 2012, which pretty much destroyed the whole world while inexplicably allowing John Cusack to escape unscathed. Next stop, the sun!

Comedienne Rebel Wilson to host MTV Movie Awards

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 08:45 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: "Pitch Perfect" star Rebel Wilson will host the 2013 MTV Movie Awards and give a new drama-infused spin to the annual ceremony, the cable television channel said on Thursday.

Wilson, 28, will play host and star by acting in a satirical narrative throughout the April 14 awards show in Los Angeles.

The Australian comedienne who appeared in the 2011 comedy hit "Bridesmaids," gave a sneak peak of the show in a promotional trailer (at MovieAwards.MTV.com.) in which she plays a stone-faced hostage hiding a candy bar in her mouth for a necessary snack.

The trailer hints at a possible role for Wilson's real-life roommate, British actor Matt Lucas, who plays Wilson's captor.

The MTV Movie Awards offer a zany take on Hollywood's usual buttoned-up, black tuxedo and gown awards season.

MTV hands out golden popcorn-shaped trophies in categories such as "best kiss" and "best fight." The awards categories pay respect to blockbuster hits likely to be overlooked by industry stalwarts the Oscars and Golden Globes.

Previous hosts include Lindsay Lohan, Mike Myers and Jimmy Fallon.-Reuters

Movies Coming Soon

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 08:32 PM PST

Yak: The Giant King – A Thai animated feature (pic) that tells of the exploits of Tosakan and his archenemy, Hanuman the Monkey King. It's loosely based on Ramayana, with the characters of men, monkeys and gods replaced by robots that reflect and personify important attributes of the original characters. Featuring the voices of Santisuk Promsiri, Kiattisak Udomnak and Chaninat Sirisawas.

Upside Down – Adam (Jim Sturgess) is a young man caught in one universe whereas Eden (Kirsten Dunst) is in another. Although they don't share even the same gravity, Adam is sure they are meant to be together.

Prince Of The City – Prince (Julian Cheah) is the adopted son of a businessman (Wan Hanafi Su) and is favoured to take over the family business. His brother Putra (Jehan Miskin), who takes the decision badly, frames Prince for murder and forces him out of the country. With the help of New York gangster Ben Carlton (Michael Madsen), Prince plans his revenge.

The Guillotines – The assassination squad of the Chinese emperor comprises a group of thugs. They are trained to use deadly weapons, known as Flying Guillotines, to defeat their enemies.

However, when a new emperor ascends the throne, the Guillotines are deemed expendable. Starring Huang Xiaoming, Ethan Juan and Shawn Yue.

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Book Review: Crisis on Infinite Earths

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 10:33 PM PST

From the destruction of multiple Earths to the end of one woman's world, we look at some of comics' best end-of-the-world scenarios.

IF YOU are reading this, it probably means that you have completed your escape rocket, and are ready to blast off to another planet at the first sign of danger. With Mars being 225 million kilometres away, it's going to be a long journey, so why not complete your post-apocalyptic preparations by bringing along some end-of-the-world themed comics?

The doomsayers' top "How the World Will End" theories have ranged from natural disasters to mutually assured destruction; but the world of comics has seen it all, and then some. Comics thrive on such theories while amplifying them at the same time – Terra Firma has been placed on Galactus' menu, invaded by Skrulls, skirted with Anti Matter, and merged with parallel universes, among other world-ending predicaments.

However, amidst these big-ticket items, let's not forget other apocalyptic permutations that are on a smaller, more individual scale. Hence, on this (possibly final) day we pay tribute to a compilation of end-of-the-world stories, with the hope that the answer to stopping the world's end may just lie in between these panels.

Crisis on Infinite Earths #1-12

Publisher: DC

Writer: Marv Wolfman

Artist: George Perez

Worlds lived, worlds died. Nothing will ever be the same. – Psycho Pirate

This limited series, produced in 1985, is the mother of all end-of-the-world scenarios, as no life form on any planet or parallel universe is left unscathed. With a body count that puts the world's combined acts of genocide to shame, Crisis is certainly the benchmark for all apocalyptic acts to follow. To DC's powers-that-be, Crisis was more than just a sales-raking event but also an opportunity to clean up their universe after years of accumulated parallel universes and the story arc confusion it created.

Armed with a no-holds-barred multi-layered plot, the creative team included past, present, future and even alternate versions of every DC character possible in this restructuring of the DC Universe. No sacrifices were deemed too great, as household names like Flash and Supergirl were killed off, and historical links to the Golden and Silver Ages were revised. Fortunately, these sacrifices were worth every single penny (especially those spent on the crossovers), as the post-Crisis environment did produce a more solid and less confusing foundation for DC's mid-80s and 90s' creative teams.

There aren't enough superlatives to describe Crisis, as it is a masterpiece in every sense. However, if one person should be singled out for its significance, it would be artist George Perez, who made every single panel he drew a sight to behold. For added impact when re-reading Crisis, try keeping a body count!

Watchmen #1-12

Publisher: DC

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Dave Gibbons

All the countries are unified and pacified... Will you expose me, undoing the peace millions died for? – Ozymandias

The best way to delay the end of the world is to fake the end of the world! Regardless of which version of Watchmen finale you know – the comic had Ozymandias simulating an alien invasion while the movie version put the blame on Dr Manhattan – the point is, both versions end with Ozymandias succeeding in uniting the world's warring nations, and consequently staving off the threat of a global nuclear war.

The highlights of this 1986 12-parter include elevating the status of comics and portraying the dark side of heroes. Though technically the world did not end, but the build up to the end was unprecedented; and the payoff was devastatingly brilliant.

Hulk: The End

Publisher: Marvel

Writer: Peter David

Artist: Dale Keown

Hulk is… only one… there is… only one… there is… Hulk feels… cold. – Hulk (who else?)

If the world ends by way of nuclear holocaust, then your best chance of surviving it would probably be to expose yourself to gamma rays. Set two centuries in the future, this "closure tale" features the Hulk (and Bruce Banner) and mutated cockroaches as the only living beings on a radiation-drenched Earth. Despite the continents of space available to them, an entire uninhibited planet still turns out to be too small to house the conflicting personas of both Banner and Hulk.

While the Hulk is elated that he has outlived all his enemies, Banner is not happy to receive the dubious honour of being humanity's last survivor. After 200 years of roaming a barren Earth, he doesn't want to live anymore, but he can't kill himself! Having had all suicide attempts thwarted by the Hulk's emergence, Banner is practically a walking dead man whose only form of solace comes from the memories of his deceased loved ones.

This 2002 one-shot boasted many milestones (i.e. the Green Goliath's "finale", reunion of the best Hulk creative team, etc.), and pays tribute to the characters' evolution. But most importantly, it manages to answer the ultimate question: can the Hulk live without Bruce Banner?

Transmetropolitan #8

Publisher: DC-Helix / Vertigo

Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Darick Robertson "She could have told the future what it'd been like to meet Che Guevara in that old Cuban schoolhouse. She could've told them about the last Queen and Albert Einstein and a million other true stories besides. But the future didn't want to know."

If you are contemplating cheating Death and Father Time at the same time, this 1998 stand-alone tale should make you reconsider that idea.

Mary is a mid-20s bag lady who offers free history lessons in "The City's" alleys, a career choice that is the result of being time-displaced and trapped in a future she does not belong to.

A century ago, Mary was a successful photojournalist who witnessed first-hand historic milestones and personalities. However, her first taste of a heart attack got her so worried that she and her husband signed up for a (then) revolutionary cryogenic program, with the hope of being reborn in a better future.

A century later, Mary did get reborn with a newer body of her choice, but she also got more than she bargained for, as she was revived in an alien environment with no husband (who died in Kuala Lumpur without cryogenic assistance) and no friends. Being a stranger in a strange land, Mary sank into depression, like the many other wealthy folks who had opted for the cryogenic treatment.

To me, this is the most apt tale about cheating death, and it was also my first step towards embracing the more mature Vertigo comics. So while it wasn't exactly the end of the world yet, to Mary, it certainly felt like the end of her world.

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Reviews: Comic Books

Reviews: Comic Books

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 06:46 PM PST


Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Peter Krause, Diego Barretto

WHAT would happen if the world's most powerful, invincible superhero decided to become the world's worse nightmare? Worldwide chaos, destruction and mass genocide, of course. The Plutonion even makes time to wipe Singapore from the face of Earth. Now, that's evil.

Y: The Last Man

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Pia Guerra

Well, not exactly the end of the world… more like the end of half the world. The entire male population on Earth (from humans down to rats) has been wiped out except Yorrick Brown and his monkey Ampersand. Sounds like heaven, guys? Think again.

Sweet Tooth

Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire

The human race is being wiped out by an unknown plague that is causing newborn babies to be born as animal hybrids. The story revolves around Gus, a human/deer hybrid, who could be holding the key to the survival of the human race, but is more interested in chocolate bars and running away from evil scientists and militia who want to conduct bad experiments on him.

The New Deadwardians

Writer: Dan Abnett

Artist: I.N.J. Culbard

Yet another post-apocalyptic world with a lot of flesh-eating zombies. The difference is, this time, in order to deter the zombies from having them for dinner, the "surviving", richer half of the human race decide to turn themselves into vampires instead. So yeah, the rest of us are pretty much doomed.

The Walking Dead

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Artist: Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard

What? You haven't read this critically acclaimed comic about a world overrun by zombies, which is also now a critically acclaimed TV series? What are you waiting for – the end of the world?

Related Stories:
Book Review: Crisis on Infinite Earths

Book Review: Witches, vampires and warriors

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 06:44 PM PST

Witch World

Author: Christopher Pike

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 528 pages

TO celebrate finishing secondary school – and becoming old enough to (officially) gamble! – Jessie Ralle heads off for a weekend in Las Vegas with her friends.

Trying to deal with the pain and awkwardness of having her ex along on the trip, Jessie hits the tables and finds herself in a high stakes game of blackjack with a guy who can't seem to lose. When Russ shares his winning streak with her, it doesn't take much for Jessie to agree to leave the table with him.

What he teaches her in the privacy of his hotel room is nothing like what Jessie expected. Instead of a casual hook up, she discovers a strange and magical parallel world where the people she knows from her ordinary life hide dark secrets – and she herself has amazing abilities.

The Malichea Quest: The Deadly Game

Author: Jim Eldridge

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA, 256 pages

THE first book in the Malichea Quest series, The Invisible Assassin, introduced us to trainee journalist Jake Wells whose life is turned upside down when he uncovers information about the ancient and secret order of Malichea and its lost books full of powerful knowledge.

In this sequel, Jake is determined to get his life back and decides that the only way to do that is find one of the lost books and use it as leverage. But there are powerful forces at work and Jake soon finds himself on the run, marked for death by enemies known and unknown.

Bitter Blood (Morganville Vampires, Book 13)

Author: Rachel Caine

Publisher: Allison & Busby, 416 pages

RACHEL Caine's continuing series about the vampires who rule the town of Morganville and the humans who live there under a precarious compact moves to a new level with this book.

The "gang of four" humans who have been the central focus in all the books, Claire and Shane and Eve and Michael, find themselves torn apart thanks to the machinations of a particularly evil vampire who has decided that it's open season on all humans. Struggling to keep her town together, Claire has to persuade the vampires to keep to their previous deal even while her friends seem to lose faith in her.

Black City

Author: Elizabeth Richards

Publisher: Putnam Pub Group, 384 pages

THE Black City teeters perpetu

ally on the brink of war with the blood-sucking Darklings forced

into ghettos and humans lording it over them while trying to keep the lid on their resentment. When a human-Darkling hybrid falls in love with the human daughter of a high-ranking official, you can imagine the hell the breaks loose.

But Ash and Natalie feel a strange connection that they cannot explain but can't deny, not when Natalie's mere presence causes Ash's long-dormant heart to begin beating, or when Natalie feels literally electrified when Ash touches her. But there's more to their feelings than mere romance, and the two soon find themselves in the middle of a deadly conspiracy that could start another war.

Hunger Games Set

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1,408 pages

THE bestselling trilogy has been packaged in a boxed set that's perfect for this gift-giving season or even as a great excuse to revisit Suzanne Collins' world, where teens of the nation of Panem are sent as "tribute" to the ruling Capitol to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death that is broadcast live on TV.

Jennifer Lawrence plays main character Knatsiss Everdeen in the hit movie adaptation of the first book and will continue her role in the movie of the second book, Catching Fire, in which Knatsiss tours the districts around the Capitol and learns that the history she has been taught might not have told the whole story of how Capitol came to rule over all and why the Games are staged. The final book, Mockingjay, which will also be made into a movie, sees Knatsiss stepping up to try to change her world completely.

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Najib: Face-to-face interactions still the best way to to get close to people

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:18 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: For all the convenience afforded by social media, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak says it is face-to-face interactions that allow him to get close to Malaysians and translate that into initiatives which provide answers to their concerns.

He said online communication could not substitute for the strengthening of interpersonal relations through a firm handshake, and reports could not replace seeing first-hand the daily lives and living conditions of the people.

"As powerful a tool (social media) as it is though, there's still merit to meeting with the rakyat in person. I suppose you could call me a traditionalist, but I believe that certain things are best done face-to-face," he said on his 1Malaysia blogsite.

Sharing his thoughts on the topic 'Combining Technology and Commitment to Achieve Tangible Results', he said: "I listen to tradesmen and housewives tell me of their plights over coffee, from healthcare concerns to cost of living."

He said these were all passed on to the relevant departments to make the changes and provide the initiatives necessary to change their livelihoods for the better.

Najib pointed out that it was translating the effort of listening to producing solutions that mattered most.

"In response to the makciks' concerns about rising cost of living, we've brought to you the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia. In response to those who require regular treatments for their condition, we've brought to you Klinik 1Malaysia.

"And we continue monitoring your thoughts and views online for feedback. The Budget 2013 exercise included many valid points raised by the people," he said.

Najib admitted that with the various social media tools at hand, he was able to accomplish many things, from collecting feedback for next year's budget for Malaysia and keeping Malaysians updated on the latest government policies, to posting updates on the go.

Social media, he said, had become a convenience he could no longer do without.

"Technology has brought us far from where we once began as a country and will continue to bring us to greater heights.

But the tools at our disposal require commitment and dedication from its users to produce the desired results," he said.

Najib added that the BN government had succeeded thus far through putting its words to action for the good of Malaysia, and would continue with its track record in providing tangible results for the people. - Bernama

Water disruption in Petaling and KL on Dec 27 - 29

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:12 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Several areas in Petaling and Kuala Lumpur will experience water disruptions on Dec 27 to 29 due to works by contractors of Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas).

Syabas in its statement, here, said the disruption in Petaling would start at 3pm on Dec 27 until 1am the next day due to work to replace valves at the Water Terminal Pond Inlet, Jalan Kuchai Lama.

The areas affected will be Taman Goodwood, Kuchai Business Park, Taman Lian Hoe, Taman Continental, Taman Indrahana, Taman Pagar Ruyong, Taman GembiraJalan Batalong, Jalan Rukun, Jalan Riang, Jalan Selesa, Jalan Sukacita, Jalan Jiran, Jalan Ramli, Jalan 1/128 and Jalan 1/130.

Also affected will be Sekolah Menengah Sri Sentosa, Sekolah Rendah Sri Setia, KFC and Pizza Hut, Industrial Training Institute, Ajinomoto, Nirvana, Jalan Sungai Besi, Jalan Sungai Besi Petronas station, Kampung Pakar in Sungai Besi, Pusat Hiburan Golden Sun, Kuchai Entrepreneurs Park - Jalan 1/116B until Jalan 10/116B, Taman Kuchai Maju, Taman Sungai Besi and Taman Salak Jaya.

Taman Salak Selatan - Jalan Perkasa 120, Jalan Hang Tuah 16, Jalan Tuanku 14, Jalan Gempita, Jalan Cahaya, Jalan Bendahara, Jalan Laksamana, Sekolah Tunas Bakti, Jalan Sungai Besi temple, ISM Sungai Besi, Kampung Malaysia Tambahan - Jalan 1/141, Kampung Baru Salak Selatan - Jalan 35-37, Salak South Garden, Perumahan Desa Petaling, Kondominium Widuri Impian, Pangsapuri Desa Puteri and Jati Selatan will also experience water supply disruptions.

The water disruption in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 28 from 9pm until 5am the next day will be due to works to relocate pipes to widen Jalan Segambut from the KTM bridge to Jalan Mont' Kiara.

The areas involved will be Taman Sri Bintang, Taman Bukit Sri Bintang, t; Taman Sri Sinar and Taman Prima Pelangi in Segambut, Segambut Dalam, Mont' Kiara - Sunrise (Phase 1 dan 2), Segambut Tengah, Segambut Bahagia, Taman SPPK Segambut, along Jalan Segambut, Taman Segambut, Taman Bukit Segambut, Taman Indah Murni, Jalan Kelapa Bulan, Jalan Kelapa Hijau, Jalan Kelapa, and Taman Prima Impian, also in Segambut.

Syabas advises the affected consumers to store enough water, to use water judiciously and to exercise patience during the period of disruptions.

Consumers can contact the Customer Service Centre (PUSPEL) at toll-free line 1-800-88-5252 or SMS by typing PUSPEL and send to 39222.

Information on the areas involved can be obtained from the Syabas web page at www.syabas.com.my; www.twitter.com/puspel and Facebook by typing 'puspel' or 'puspel syabas'. - Bernama

Rural Ministry writes off Kelantan settler’s old debts of RM133mil

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 05:58 AM PST

KOTA BARU: The Rural and Regional Development Ministry is writing off old debts amounting to RM133 million incurred by more than 6,000 settlers and smallholders throughout Kelantan.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Friday the move was to reduce the debt burden of settlers and smallholders owing since 1978.

"Most of the settlers live in the land development schemes and traditional villages in south Kelantan.

"We are aware that they have been deducting their income and with the debt written off, their burden will be lightened," he told a news conference after opening the 'Minister with the Kelantan Federal Village Development and Security Committee (JKKKP) Session', here.

At the event, he handed over RM1.4mil in allowances to 1,498 JKKKP secretaries and chairmen throughout the state.

Also present were South Kelantan Development Authority (Kesedar) chairman Datuk Ramzi Ab Rahman, Community Development Department (Kemas) director-general Datuk Hassan Mohd Amin and Kesedar general manager Mohd Arshad Ismail.

Mohd Shafie, who is also Umno vice-president, said next year, the government would be allocating RM138mil to Kelantan to assist rural residents in the state.

"The allocation is for development programmes such as construction of roads and other benefits as we are aware of the need to channel more assistance to rural areas as many villages are in need of federal government aid.

"We will ensure that the development programmes progress smoothly next year so that basic amenities are further improved," he said.

Mohd Shafie said the ministry would also cooperate with the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry to raise the living standard of fishermen in the country. - Bernama

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