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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Egypt's constitution approved in vote, say rival camps

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 07:08 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - A constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly was approved by a majority of Egyptians in a referendum, rival camps said on Sunday, after a vote the opposition said drove a wedge through the Arab world's most populous nation.

A policeman gestures as people queue outside a voting center in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Giza, south of Cairo, December 22, 2012. Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists on Saturday in a second round of balloting expected to approve the charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in Egypt. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

A policeman gestures as people queue outside a voting center in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Giza, south of Cairo, December 22, 2012. Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists on Saturday in a second round of balloting expected to approve the charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in Egypt. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power in a June election, said 64 percent of voters backed the charter after two rounds of voting that ended with a final ballot on Saturday. It cited an unofficial tally.

An opposition official also told Reuters their unofficial count showed the result was a "yes" vote.

The referendum committee may not declare official results for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals. If the outcome is confirmed, a parliamentary election will follow in about two months.

Mursi's Islamist backers say the constitution is vital for the transition to democracy, nearly two years after the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in an uprising. It will provide stability needed to help a fragile economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Mursi of pushing through a text that favours Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women. They say it is a recipe for further unrest.

"According to our calculations, the final result of the second round is 71 percent voting 'yes' and the overall result (of the two rounds) is 63.8 percent," a Brotherhood official, who was in an operations room monitoring the vote, told Reuters.

His figures were confirmed by a statement issued shortly afterwards by the group and broadcast on its television channel.

The Brotherhood and its party, as well as members of the opposition, had representatives monitoring polling stations and the vote count across the country.

The opposition said voting in both rounds was marred by abuses and had called for a re-run after the first stage. However, an official said the overall vote favoured the charter.

"They (Islamists) are ruling the country, running the vote and influencing the people, so what else could we expect," the senior official from the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, told Reuters.


The vote was split over two days as many judges had refused to supervise the ballot.

"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas, 35, a stockbroker, heading to a polling station in Giza, in greater Cairo, in the last round.

At another polling station, some voters said they were more interested in ending Egypt's long period of political instability than in the Islamist aspects of the charter.

"We have to extend our hands to Mursi to help fix the country," said Hisham Kamal, an accountant.

The build-up to the vote witnessed deadly protests, sparked by Mursi's decision to award himself extra powers in a decree on November 22 and then to fast-track the constitution to a vote.

Hours before polls closed, Vice President Mahmoud Mekky announced his resignation. He said he wanted to quit last month but stayed on to help Mursi tackle the crisis that blew up when the Islamist leader assumed wide powers.

Mekky, a prominent judge who said he was uncomfortable in politics, disclosed earlier he had not been informed of Mursi's power grab. The timing of his resignation appeared linked to the lack of a vice-presidential post under the draft constitution.

The new basic law sets a limit of two four-year presidential terms. It says the principles of Islamist sharia law remain the main source of legislation but adds an article to explain this. It also says Islamic authorities will be consulted on sharia - a source of concern to Christians and others.


Rights groups reported what they said were illegalities in voting procedures. They said some polling stations opened late, that Islamists illegally campaigned at some polling places and complained of irregularities in voter registration.

But the committee overseeing the two-stage vote said its investigations showed no major irregularities in voting on December 15, which covered about half of Egypt's 51 million voters. About 25 million were eligible to vote in the second round.

The Brotherhood said turnout was about a third of voters.

The opposition says the constitution will stir up more trouble on the streets since it has not received sufficiently broad backing for a document that should be agreed by consensus, and raised questions about the fairness of the vote.

In the first round, the district covering most of Cairo voted "no," which opponents said showed the depth of division.

"I see more unrest," said Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a member of the National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition formed after Mursi expanded his powers on November 22 and then pushed the constitution to a vote.

He cited "serious violations" on the first day of voting, and said anger against Mursi was growing. "People are not going to accept the way they are dealing with the situation."

At least eight people were killed in protests outside the presidential palace in Cairo this month. Islamists and rivals clashed in Alexandria, the second-biggest city, on the eves of both voting days.

Late on Saturday, Mursi announced the names of 90 new members he had appointed to the upper house of parliament, state media reported, and a presidential official said the list was mainly liberals and other non-Islamists.

A spokesman for the National Salvation Front, which groups opponents who include liberals, socialists and other parties and politicians, said the Front's members had refused to take part.

Legislative powers, now held by Mursi because the lower house of parliament was dissolved earlier this year, will pass to the upper house under the new constitution.

Two-thirds of the 270-member upper house was elected in a vote this year, with one third appointed by the president. Mursi, elected in June, had not named them until now. Mursi's Islamist party and its allies dominate the assembly.

(Writing by Edmund Blair and Giles Elgood; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Todd Eastham)

Related Stories:
Egypt's cabinet denies central bank governor resigned

Egypt president appoints upper house of parliament members

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Violence, fear & suspicion imperil Pakistan's war on polio

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 06:34 PM PST

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani health worker Bushra Bibi spent eight years trekking to remote villages, carefully dripping polio vaccine into toddlers' pursed mouths to protect them from the crippling disease.

Saima, daughter of Fehmida Shah, an anti-polio health worker and mother of six, mourns the third day after her mother's funeral in Karachi December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Saima, daughter of Fehmida Shah, an anti-polio health worker and mother of six, mourns the third day after her mother's funeral in Karachi December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Now the 35-year-old mother is too scared to go to work after masked men on motorbikes gunned down nine of her fellow health workers in a string of attacks this week.

"I have seen so much pain in the eyes of mothers whose children have been infected. So I have never seen this as just a job. It is my passion," she said. "But I also have a family to look after ... Things have never been this bad."

After the deaths, the United Nations put its workers on lockdown. Immunisations by the Pakistani government continued in parts of the country. But the violence raised fresh questions over stability in the South Asian nation.

Pakistan's Taliban insurgency, convinced that the anti-polio drive is just another Western plot against Muslims, has long threatened action against anyone taking part in it.

The militant group's hostility deepened after it emerged that the CIA - with the help of a Pakistani doctor - had used a vaccination campaign to spy on Osama bin Laden's compound before he was killed by U.S. special forces in a Pakistan town last year.

Critics say the attacks on the health workers are a prime example of the government's failure to formulate a decisive policy on tackling militancy, despite pressure from key ally the United States, the source of billions of dollars in aid.

For years, authorities were aware that Taliban commanders had broadcast claims that the vaccination drive was actually a plot to sterilise Muslims.

That may seem absurd to the West, but in Pakistan such assertions are plausible to some. Years of secrecy during military dictatorships, frequent political upheaval during civilian rule and a poor public education system mean conspiracy theories run wild.

"Ever since they began to give these polio drops, children are reaching maturity a lot earlier, especially girls. Now 12 to 13-year-old girls are becoming women. This causes indecency in society," said 45-year-old Mir Alam Khan, a carpet seller in the northern town of Dera Ismail Khan.

The father of four didn't allow any of his children to receive vaccinations.

"Why doesn't the United States give free cures for other illnesses? Why only polio? There has to be an agenda," he said.

While health workers risk attacks by militants, growing suspicions from ordinary Pakistanis are lowering their morale. Fatima, a health worker in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said that reaction to news of the CIA polio campaign was so severe that many of her colleagues quit.

"People's attitudes have changed. You will not believe how even the most educated and well-to-do people will turn us away, calling us U.S. spies and un-Islamic," said the 25-year-old who did not give her last name for fear of reprisals.

"Boys call us names, they say we are 'indecent women'."

Pakistan's government has tried to shatter the myths that can undermine even the best-intentioned health projects by turning to moderate clerics and urging them to issue religious rulings supporting the anti-polio efforts.

Tahir Ashrafi, head of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, said the alliance of clerics had done its part, and it was up to the government to come to the rescue of aid workers.

"Clerics can only give fatwas and will continue to come together and condemn such acts," he said. "What good are fatwas if the government doesn't provide security?"


That may be a tall order in Pakistan, where critics allege government officials are too busy lining their pockets or locked in power struggles to protect its citizens, even children vulnerable to diseases that can cripple or disfigure them.

Pakistani leaders deny such accusations.

Politicians also have a questionable track record when it comes to dealing with all the other troubles afflicting nuclear-armed Pakistan.

The villages where health workers once spent time tending to children often lack basic services, clinics, clean water and jobs. Industries that could strengthen the fragile economy are hobbled by chronic power cuts.

Deepening frustrations with those issues often encourage Pakistanis to give up on the state and join the Taliban.

So far it's unclear who is behind the shootings. The main Taliban spokesman said they were opposed to the vaccination scheme but the group distanced itself from the attacks.

But another Taliban spokesman in South Waziristan said their fighters were behind an attack on a polio team in the northwestern town of Lakki Marwat on Monday. "The vaccinations were part of "a secret Jewish-American agenda to poison Pakistanis", he said.

What is clear is the stakes are high.

Any gaps in the program endanger hard-won gains against a disease that can cause death or paralysis within hours.

A global effort costing billions of dollars eradicated polio from every country except Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Vaccinations cut Pakistan's polio cases from 20,000 in 1994 to 56 in 2012 and the disease seemed isolated in a pocket in the north. But polio is spread person-to-person, so any outbreak risks re-infecting communities cleared of the disease.

Last year, a strain from Pakistan spread northeast and caused the first outbreak in neighbouring China since 1999.

Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said the group had been coming closer to eradicating the disease.

"For the first time, the virus had been geographically cornered," he said. "We don't want to lose the gains that had been made ... Any suspension of activities gives the virus a new foothold and the potential to come roaring back and paralyze more children."


Condemnation of the killings has been nearly universal. Clerics called for demonstrations to support health workers, the government has promised compensation for the deaths and police have vowed to provide more protection.

For women like Fehmida Shah, it's already too late. The 44-year-old health worker lived with her family in a two-room house before gunmen shot her on Tuesday.

Her husband, Syed Riaz Shah, said she spent her tiny salary - the equivalent of just $2 a day - on presents for their four daughters. Even though the family was struggling, she always found some spare money for any neighbour in need.

"She was very kind and big hearted. All the women in our lane knew her," he said.

"The entire neighbourhood is in shock. Pray for my daughters. I will get through this. But I don't know how they will."

(Additional reporting by Imtiaz Shah in Karachi, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Katharine Houreld in Islamabad; Editing by Michael Georgy and Sanjeev Miglani)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Egypt constitution approved in vote, say rival camps

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 06:15 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's new constitution, which was drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly, was approved by 64 percent of voters in a two-round referendum, an official in the Muslim Brotherhood said on Sunday citing the group's unofficial tally.

An official from Egypt's main opposition group, which campaigned against the constitution saying it would deepen divisions in Egypt, also said that its unofficial count indicated the document was approved.

A policeman gestures as people queue outside a voting center in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Giza, south of Cairo, December 22, 2012. Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists on Saturday in a second round of balloting expected to approve the charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in Egypt. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

A policeman gestures as people queue outside a voting center in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Giza, south of Cairo, December 22, 2012. Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists on Saturday in a second round of balloting expected to approve the charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in Egypt. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The first round of voting was held on held on December 15 and a second round was staged on Saturday, with roughly half Egypt's 51 million eligible voters covered in each round.

"According to our calculations, the final result of the second round is 71 percent voting 'yes' and the overall result (of the two rounds) is 63.8 percent," the Brotherhood official, who was in an operations room monitoring the vote, told Reuters.

Murad Ali, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, confirmed the numbers. His group propelled President Mohamed Mursi to office in a June election.

The Brotherhood and its party, as well as members of the opposition, had representatives monitoring polling stations and the vote count across the country. The opposition said voting in both rounds was marred by abuses.

"We can tell from the results so far that it will be a 'yes' vote," an official from the National Salvation Front told Reuters. "They (Islamists) are ruling the country, running the vote and influencing the people, so what else could we expect."

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Bill Trott)

Related Stories:
Egypt's cabinet denies central bank governor resigned

Egypt president appoints upper house of parliament members

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

It’s how you like it

Posted: 23 Dec 2012 12:24 AM PST

Canadian interior designer Samantha Pynn dishes out decorating advice to get your home ready for the festivities.

PUTTING up Christmas decorations can be a daunting task. I remember helping my sister with one of those pine swags last Christmas. The plan was to get it to sit on top of a curtain rod in the living room – don't ask me why, I was just following orders – and have the ornaments hang from it.

It looked great, but more importantly, Christmassy, as we took a step back and admired what we had done in under an hour.

Hoping to be greeted by the sight of a beautiful yule swag on Christmas morning, we instead found it had tipped the curtain rod and fallen onto the sofa. Thank goodness our guests hadn't arrived ... yet.

With that said, I'll leave interior designer Samantha Pynn with the job of dishing out decorating tips and advice.

Pynn boasts more than a decade's worth of experience in churning out home décor ideas and in keeping abreast of the latest happenings in the design world.

She began as a design editor of Style At Home magazine and has worked her way up to be the host and principal designer of her own cottage makeover series Summer Home today.

But Malaysian viewers will most likely recognise the gorgeous brunette from the eco-friendly interior design show Pure Design (airing on Li TV on Mondays at 10.30pm).

In a recent e-mail interview, the self-taught decorator said there's no excuse for people not to decorate their homes this Christmas if they want to.

"You don't really need to spend a lot to have a pretty Christmas. You can have a tree decorated all over with the same type of ornament which is simple, easy and inexpensive," Pynn shared.

What's more, for homeowners on a shoestring budget, Pynn suggested putting the bulk of the decorations in communal spaces like the living room and the kitchen. Just throw in a homemade centrepiece (instead of those overpriced, store-bought ones) and guests will be sure to gather around.

"Line a giant bowl with cedar and fill it with mandarin oranges or just get some clear glass jars and toss in some gingerbread men cookies and chestnuts. Those are all food items that definitely say 'holiday' and won't go to waste," she recommended.

For those living in small spaces with low ceilings, that's not an excuse as well.

"Forgo the (Christmas) tree and decorate with branches and ornaments, or you could opt for mini cypress and rosemary trees," she said.

Pynn believes it is also important for people to let their own sense of style come through in their decorations.

Instead of sticking closely to the traditional Christmas colour scheme and design, she strongly advises homeowners to celebrate their individuality: "This year's trend is all about expressing your personal style. If you want to hang ballet slippers on your tree and have an all soft pink décor – go for it."

However, coming from a family of six myself, it's easier said than done when each family member wants to incorporate his or her own distinct sense of style, resulting in a roomful of mismatched décor blunders.

"You can try to unify them with colour or a repetition of shapes. But even so, when everyone has a different style, you have to make everyone feel included. Let them express his or her holiday style even if it clashes a little bit – celebrate that.

"My mother used to let us decorate the (Christmas) tree any how we wanted. Once we even covered the tree with our small stuffed toys! It didn't match her traditional red and green scheme, but it worked somehow," she revealed. For readers eager to learn more decorating ideas for the holiday season, don't miss the one-hour special, Samantha Pynn: The Party.

The designer extraordinaire is hosting a Christmas party and is letting viewers in on how she goes about preparing for the occasion. She also visits the homes of her favourite designers and draws inspiration from their Christmas designs.

Another one-hour special will also be aired specially for viewers who are less adventurous when it comes to decorating their space with a mix of styles.

In Samantha Pynn: The Mix, she is tasked to style a stark, unfurnished apartment and tries to do that by mixing and matching seemingly conflicting styles.

"The trick to mixing a bunch of styles is to be very purposeful with your choices. You need statement pieces but you also need repetition of shapes and colours. That's what keeps your space looking pulled together and not like a big mess," she said.

In both shows, viewers will notice that Pynn comes up with her design ideas by drawing influences from other interior designers.

She stated being a design editor for 10 years at the home décor magazine certainly had something to do with it: "A big part of my job was to scout interiors for the magazine. I made so many design friends, but I also learned so much from them."

She is thankful to American designer David Overholt for taking her under his wing and is particularly fond of the works of Steven Gambrel, Thom Filicia, Nate Berkus and Kelly Wearstler.

Samantha Pynn: The Mix airs tonight at 10pm and Samantha Pynn: The Party airs on Dec 30 at 10pm on Li TV (Astro Ch 728).

Holiday specials

Posted: 23 Dec 2012 12:27 AM PST

From heartwarming family classics to hilarious cartoons, here's a rundown on what to watch this Christmas and New Year.

STARING into the fireplace, sipping a tall cup of hot chocolate, while the snow falls heavily outside is my idea of the perfect Christmas.

But of course, here in sunny (or rainy) Malaysia, the only thing I will be staring at is the television screen, sipping a cold drink with the air-con switched on for full enjoyment.

It's a good thing then that there's so much to watch this Christmas. Whether it is Christmas classics like Jack Frost and Home Alone, or Christmas episodes of your favourite cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants: It's A SpongeBob Christmas!, there's something for everyone.

And of course, to ease our transition into a new year, be sure to check out New Year-themed shows like New Year's Eve, too.

Christmas treats

DORA The Explorer: Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure (Nick Jr/HyppTV Ch 132, Dec 23, 11am & 2.10pm): Swiper is at it again. This time, the mischievous fox is caught stealing Santa's Christmas presents! Swiper has just one more chance to make it on the nice list by helping Santa and Dora deliver Christmas presents.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians Kristmas Special (E!/Astro Ch 712, Dec 24 & 25, 1.30pm): Celebrate Christmas in style with the Kardashians. Catch up on all 16 episodes of Season Seven back to back, and relive the drama from Khloe's paternity test to Bruce and Kris' heated argument over managing Brandon's music career.

It's A Drink, It's A Bomb (8TV/Astro Ch 708, Dec 24, 5pm): This Hong Kong sci-fi Christmas flick directed by David Chung is a must-watch. Wong, an explosives expert, has thought of the perfect Christmas "gift" for his enemy – a concoction of explosive substances poured into a can of cola. But along the way, the can gets mixed up with other beverage cans. Three strangers come together to track the explosive can before someone gets hurt. Starring George Lam and Maggie Cheung.

Fred Claus (Warner TV/HyppTV Ch 162, Dec 24, 7pm): Fred is the selfish, fast-talking older brother of Santa Claus who got himself into a pool of debt. He asks Santa for a loan (literally) but he only agrees to give him one if Fred helps him deliver Christmas presents. As the two work hand in hand, cold-hearted Fred discovers the importance of relationships and the meaning of Christmas. Starring Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti.

Christmas At Castlebury Hall (Diva Universal/Astro Ch 702, Dec 24, 11pm): Ladies, ever had the fantasy of celebrating Christmas with James Bond? Here, Roger Moore stars as the lonesome Duke Of Castlebury who invites his estranged grandchildren and their young aunt Jules to his castle in Europe for the holidays. Little do they know, a beautiful love story is underway, as Jules is about to find herself a handsome prince. Co-starring Katie McGrath and Sam Heughan.

The Velveteen Rabbit (Ntv7/Astro Ch 107, Dec 25, 9am): A boy is given a stuffed toy rabbit on Christmas. Little does he know that the cuddly toy can come to life if the owner loves it enough. Starring Jane Seymour and Tom Skerritt.

Harry Potter Christmas Marathon (Warner TV/HyppTV Ch 162, Dec 25, 10am-8pm): Catch four back-to-back screenings of the Harry Potter film series, starting with Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.

Jack Frost (HBO/Astro Ch 411, Dec 25, 10.15am): A father perishes in a car accident but comes back to life as a snowman to spend time with his family. Heartwarming yet hilarious, Jack Frost is one of my all time favourite holiday movies. Starring Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston.

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (Fox Movies Premium/Astro Ch 413, Dec 25, 11.45am): The youngest son of the McCallister family is left behind once again in this second instalment of the Home Alone series. But this time, after a mix-up at the airport, the 10-year-old Kevin is headed to New York on his own. After realising that his father's credit card somehow slipped into his hands, Kevin is more than happy to spend Christmas alone ... until a pair of familiar criminals show up. Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

SpongeBob SquarePants: It's A SpongeBob Christmas! (Nickelodean/Astro Ch 612, Dec 25 & 26, noon): Plankton plans to get everyone on Santa's naughty list by poisoning the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom with jerktonium – a substance that will turn anyone into a jerk. That's the spirit!

Beauty And The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (Disney Channel/Astro Ch 615, Dec 25, 7.33pm): Belle prepares a full-blown Christmas celebration to get Beast in the festive mood. However, things take a turn for the worse when Forte, the giant pipe organ, uses the celebration to execute his evil intentions. Voiced by Paige O'Hara and Robbie Benson.

Under The Mistletoe (Diva Universal/Astro Ch 702, Dec 25, 11pm): Single mother Susan is used to prioritising the needs of others. Things change radically when her son enters her in a dating game, sending her into the tender arms of one man after another. Starring Jaime Ray Newman and Michael Shanks.

Michael Bublé: Home For The Holidays (8TV/Astro Ch 708, Dec 26, 12.30am): Join Michael Bublé and his guests such as Carly Rae Jepsen, Rod Stewart and Blake Shelton, as they belt out Christmas standards.

New Year delights

FUTURE Cops (8TV/Astro Ch 708, Dec 29, 8.30pm): While we are about to enter 2013, this film, set in 2043, takes us way into the future. A crime lord is planning to take over the world. Fortunately, a team of cops catches wind of his evil plans and goes back in time (to 1993) to stop him. What a way to nip a problem in the bud, huh? Starring Andy Lau and Barbie Hsu.

Bella: New Year Edition (Ntv7/Astro Ch 107, Dec 30-Jan 2, 11am): Join the lovely ladies of women's talk show Bella – Daphne Iking, Elaine Daly and Vanessa Chong – as they look back at the issues affecting women in 2012 and share their new year resolutions. A little bird tells us that the talk show will be organising the country's first women awards show in March.

The Breakfast Show: New Year Edition (Ntv7/Astro Ch 107, Dec 31-Jan 2, 8am): Funny bunch Nazrudin, Aishah Sinclair, Rashid Salleh, Douglas Lim, Lisa Wong and Satira Diana will relive the best and worst moments in 2012 and share what to expect next year.

Top News Stories In 2012 (Ntv7/Astro Ch 107, Dec 31, 8.30pm): From the kidnapping of Dutch national Nayati Moodliar to our Malaysian athletes' achievements at the Olympics, find out what other happenings made headlines in the country throughout the year.

New Year's Eve (HBO/Astro Ch 411, Dec 31, 10pm): The film follows the lives of a group of New Yorkers – a single mother, a love struck teenager, a cancer patient and two couples who are competing to have their child born in the New Year – as they navigate through the last day of the year. A perfect movie to usher in the New Year! Starring Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michelle, Robert DeNiro and Zac Efron.

Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane (Sundance Channel/Astro Ch 438, Dec 31, midnight): Premiering on New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight, this revealing documentary focuses on one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Rolling Stones. It features unseen historical footage and no-holds-barred commentaries from band members.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

BlackBerry maker RIM's shares dive 20% as fee changes catch market off guard

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 08:57 PM PST

Shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd plunged more than 20 percent on Friday on fears that a new fee structure for its high-margin services segment could put pressure on the business that has set the company apart from its competitors.

It was the stock's biggest, single-day, percentage price drop since September 2008. But shares were still nearly 80 percent above the year's low, which was reached in September. They started to rally in November as investors began to bet that RIM's long-awaited new BlackBerry 10 phones, which will be unveiled in January, would turn the company around.

The services segment has long been RIM's most profitable and accounts for about a third of total revenue. Some analysts said there was a risk that the fee changes could endanger its service ecosystem and leave the Canadian company as just another handset maker.

The fee changes, which RIM announced on Thursday after market close, overshadowed stronger-than-expected quarterly results. The company said the new pricing structure would be introduced with the BlackBerry 10 launch, expected on January 30.

RIM said some subscribers would continue to pay for enhanced services such as advanced security. But under the new structure, some other services would account for less revenue, or even none at all.

Chief Executive Thorsten Heins tried to reassure investors in a television interview with CNBC on Friday, saying RIM's "service revenue isn't going away".

He added: "We're not stopping. We're not halting. We're transitioning."

Since taking over at RIM in January, Heins has focused on shrinking the company and getting it ready to introduce its new BB10 devices, which RIM says will help it claw back ground it has lost to competitors such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics .

But the new services pricing strategy came as a shock to markets, and some analysts cut their price targets on RIM stock.

RIM will not be able to sustain profitability by relying on its hardware business alone, said National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson, whom Thomson Reuters StarMine has rated the top RIM analyst based on the accuracy of his estimates of the company's earnings.

Thompson downgraded RIM's stock to "underperform" from "sector perform" and cut his price target to $10 from $15.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said the move was likely about stabilizing market share: "At the moment, they need to stem the bleeding."

He said the tiered pricing might line up better with RIM's subscriber base as it expands in emerging economies.

RIM's Nasdaq-listed shares closed down 22.7 percent at $10.91 on Friday. The stock fell 22.2 percent to C$10.86 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


The success of the BB10 will be crucial to the future of RIM, which on Thursday posted its first-ever decline in total subscribers. Heins said on CNBC that the company expected to ship millions of the new devices.

He cautioned that this will require heavy investment, which will reduce RIM's cash position in its fourth and first quarters from $2.9 billion in its fiscal third quarter. He said, however, it would not go below $2 billion.

Still, doubts remain about whether RIM can pull off the transformation. Needham analyst Charlie Wolf said the BB10 would have to look meaningfully superior to its competitors for RIM to stage a comeback.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley said it was highly unlikely that the market would support RIM's new mobile computing ecosystem, and he remained skeptical about the company's ability to survive on its own.

"We believe RIM will eventually need to sell the company," said Walkley, who cut his price target on RIM shares to $9 from $10.

Baird Equity Research analysts said BB10 faced a daunting uphill battle against products from Apple, as well as those using Google Inc's Android operating system, and, increasingly, phones with Microsoft Corp's Windows 8 operating system.

Baird maintained its "underperform" rating on the stock, while Paradigm Capital downgraded the shares to "hold" from "buy" on uncertainty around the services revenue model.

"RIM has gone from having one major aspect of uncertainty - BlackBerry 10 adoption - to two, given an uncertain floor on services revenue," William Blair analyst Anil Doradla said.

RIM will have to discount BB10 devices significantly to maintain demand, Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu said.

The BlackBerry, however, still offers the security features that helped it build its reputation with big business and government, a selling point with some key customers.

Credit Suisse maintained its "neutral" rating on the stock, but not because it expected BB10 to be a big success.

"Only the potential for an outright sale of the company or a breakup keeps us at a neutral," Credit Suisse analysts said.

Separately on Friday, ailing Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia said it had settled its patent dispute with RIM in return for payments. Nokia did not disclose detailed terms, but said the deal included a one-time payment to be booked in the fourth quarter, as well as ongoing fees, all to be paid by RIM. - Reuters

Employers can sack workers they find too sexy, Iowa supreme court rules

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 08:43 PM PST

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that employers in the state can legally fire workers they find too attractive.

In a unanimous decision, the court held that a dentist did not violate the state's civil rights act when he terminated a female dental assistant whom his wife considered a threat to their marriage.

The dental assistant, Melissa Nelson, who worked for dentist James Knight for more than 10 years and had never flirted with him, according to the testimony of both parties, sued, saying she would not have been fired if she were a man.

At trial, Knight testified he had complained to Nelson on several occasions that her clothing was too tight, revealing and "distracting."

But sometime in 2009, he also began exchanging text messages with Nelson. Most of these were work-related and harmless, according to testimony. But others were more suggestive, including one in which Knight asked Nelson how often she had an orgasm. She never answered the text.

In late 2009, Knight's wife found out about the text exchanges and demanded her husband terminate the dental assistant because "she was a big threat to our marriage."

In early 2010, he fired her, saying their relationship had become a detriment to his family.

Nelson sued, saying that she had done nothing wrong, that she considered Knight a friend and father figure, and that she would not have been terminated but for her gender.

Knight argued that Nelson was terminated not because of her gender - all the employees of his practice are women - but because of the way their relationship had developed and the threat it posed to his marriage.

The seven justices, all men, said the basic question presented by the case was "whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction."

The high court ruled that bosses can fire workers they find too attractive and that such actions do not amount to unlawful discrimination.

The case was Melissa Nelson v. James H. Knight DDS, PC and James Knight. - Reuters

Wall Street Week Ahead: A lump of coal for "Fiscal Cliff-mas"

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 08:40 PM PST

NEW YORKL Wall Street traders are going to have to pack their tablets and work computers in their holiday luggage after all.

A traditionally quiet week could become hellish for traders as politicians in Washington are likely to fall short of an agreement to deal with $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts due to kick in early next year. Many economists forecast that this "fiscal cliff" will push the economy into recession.

Thursday's debacle in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner failed to secure passage of his own bill that was meant to pressure President Obama and Senate Democrats, only added to worry that the protracted budget talks will stretch into 2013.

Still, the market remains resilient. Friday's decline on Wall Street, triggered by Boehner's fiasco, was not enough to prevent the S&P 500 from posting its best week in four.

"The markets have been sort of taking this in stride," said Sandy Lincoln, chief market strategist at BMO Asset Management U.S. in Chicago, which has about $38 billion in assets under management.

"The markets still basically believe that something will be done," he said.

If something happens next week, it will come in a short time frame. Markets will be open for a half-day on Christmas Eve, when Congress will not be in session, and will close on Tuesday for Christmas. Wall Street will resume regular stock trading on Wednesday, but volume is expected to be light throughout the rest of the week with scores of market participants away on a holiday break.

For the week, the three major U.S. stock indexes posted gains, with the Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> up 0.4 percent, the S&P 500 <.spx> up 1.2 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> up 1.7 percent.

Stocks also have booked solid gains for the year so far, with just five trading sessions left in 2012: The Dow has advanced 8 percent, while the S&P 500 has climbed 13.7 percent and the Nasdaq has jumped 16 percent.


Equity volumes are expected to fall sharply next week. Last year, daily volume on each of the last five trading days dropped on average by about 49 percent, compared with the rest of 2011 - to just over 4 billion shares a day exchanging hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT in the final five sessions of the year from a 2011 daily average of 7.9 billion.

If the trend repeats, low volumes could generate a spike in volatility as traders keep track of any advance in the cliff talks in Washington.

"I'm guessing it's going to be a low volume week. There's not a whole lot other than the fiscal cliff that is going to continue to take the headlines," said Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, in Cincinnati.

"A lot of people already have a foot out the door, and with the possibility of some market-moving news, you get the possibility of increased volatility."

Economic data would have to be way off the mark to move markets next week. But if the recent trend of better-than-expected economic data holds, stocks will have strong fundamental support that could prevent selling from getting overextended even as the fiscal cliff negotiations grind along.

Small and mid-cap stocks have outperformed their larger peers in the last couple of months, indicating a shift in investor sentiment toward the U.S. economy. The S&P MidCap 400 Index <.mid> overcame a technical level by confirming its close above 1,000 for a second week.

"We view the outperformance of the mid-caps and the break of that level as a strong sign for the overall market," Schaeffer's Bell said.

"Whenever you have flight to risk, it shows investors are beginning to have more of a risk appetite."

Evidence of that shift could be a spike in shares in the defense sector, expected to take a hit as defense spending is a key component of the budget talks.

The PHLX defense sector index <.dfx> hit a historic high on Thursday, and far outperformed the market on Friday with a dip of just 0.26 percent, while the three major U.S. stock indexes finished the day down about 1 percent.

Following a half-day on Wall Street on Monday ahead of the Christmas holiday, Wednesday will bring the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. It is expected to show a ninth-straight month of gains.

U.S. jobless claims on Thursday are seen roughly in line with the previous week's level, with the forecast at 360,000 new filings for unemployment insurance, compared with the previous week's 361,000.

(Wall St Week Ahead runs every Friday. Questions or comments on this column can be emailed to: rodrigo.campos(at) - Reuters


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Nicol David plans to emulate veteran McKay

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 06:48 PM PST

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands: Nicol David, the most successful squash player of the professional era, plans to continue competing till the end of the decade irrespective of whether squash is accepted into the Olympics.

David's carefully crafted 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 win over England's Laura Massaro, which on Friday, extended her record of World Open titles to seven, revealed how she is evolving as a player with extremely long term ambitions.

The 29-year-old's movement was as light and flexible as ever, and was allied to reassuring steadiness of temperament as Massaro threatened to get a grip of the second game.

Afterwards David was clear in her mind about the direction in which she is going.

"I have to keep my body in shape. I might go on another seven years anyway but the Olympics would add meaning to it," she said.

"I am working to keep going another five to seven years anyway, but the Olympics would be great."

If she succeeds, which looks quite possible, David would be almost 37 - close to the age at which Heather McKay, the legendary Australian, retired after winning the first two of the fledgling World Open championships in 1979.

David is acutely aware that the physiology and sports science of an ageing body requires specific knowledge and sensitive planning and she may talk about this to the record-breaking 16 times British Open champion.

"I spoke with Heather McKay twice, at the Australian Open, and I was humbled to meet her," said David.

"I hope I have a chance to speak with her again next time I am in Australia. And with other Australian players.

"I also hope to talk more with players in England, like Fiona Geaves and Suzanne Horner, who have been playing past the age of 35. I am hoping to keep going like that too."

Though David has hinted at all this before, the firmness of her utterances now reflect how she is becoming her own person, clearer about the importance of squash to her long-term destiny.

This growing independence is also suggested by the fact that this will be the first Christmas spent at her adopted home in Amsterdam rather than at her origins at Penang, in Malaysia.

"I am growing older. It's partly about having time with my friends. I am growing as a person," David said.

"Of course Penang is my home. But in the last nine-and-a-half years I have been living in Amsterdam and now have a group of people I am close to and have a good time with. I have had my own apartment (in Amsterdam) for a year."

This change reflects other changes - in her self-image, self-knowledge, and capacity for stability under the constant pressure of expectations.

These have developed markedly in the last two or three years, something for which she gives much credit to Frank Cabooter, a sports psychologist at the University of Amsterdam.

"It's been a learning experience, and I am still working on it. There are so many things you can't describe (that go through your mind). There are many questions you have to answer for yourself, rather than being told what to do you have to deal with it yourself," David said.

This is reflected in her off-court promotional presentations, as well as training choices, and tactical decisions on court.

Her state of mind in Grand Cayman was more upbeat than for a while, and her patient tactical choices, especially as Massaro threatened to get back into the final, were vital to her seventh world title in eight years.

Vital too are squash's Olympic hopes, to be decided by the IOC in Buenos Aires in September next year.

David will remain active in the sport's public voice and its private lobbying until then.

"We are wait to hear what comes up from our last presentation," she said. "I have to contact the World Squash Federation to see what they want me to do. I will do as much as I can. I want to make sure we keep the momentum going.

"If squash gets into the Olympics it will be wonderful. It will also make me more eager, and give more meaning to my wish to play for many more years." -AFP

Nicol proves she’s still the queen of squash

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:59 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's Nicol David proved to the world that she's still the queen of squash.

The world No. 1 produced a dominant display to beat Laura Massaro for her record seventh world title in the Women's World Open at the Cayman Islands on Friday.

A day after demolishing England's Jenny Duncalf in the semi-finals, Nicol once again stepped it up to power past Massaro, also of England, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 in just 44 minutes.

The final at Grand Cayman was her fifth on the trot and the 29-year-old Penangite has now won seven world titles in the last eight years.

But credit world No. 3 Massaro – Nicol's sixth opponent in the world meet final after Rachael Grinham (2005), Natalie Grinham (2006, 2009), Vicky Botwright (2008), Omneya Abdel Kawy (2010) and Duncalf (2011) – who didn't play badly at all.

The 29-year-old Massaro showed glimpses of the brilliance that saw her beat Nicol twice last year.

But Nicol deservingly lived up to her nickname – the 'Duracell Bunny' – as she repelled almost everything that Massaro threw at her.

Nicol also came up tops when it mattered most – winning crucial rallies, including four straight points to win the second set 11-8.

That took the fight out of Massaro as Nicol raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set, before wrapping up the match by putting away a loose ball beyond the Englishwoman's reach.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline, the match was far from a walk in the park. Only Nicol's sheer determination and tenacity made it look incredibly one-sided.

And the Penangite, who let out a rare scream of delight after the final point, was rightly a little lost for words after an amazing performance.

"I can't believe it. I just can't believe it. I'm so pleased with my game because Laura was playing ever so well and she pushed me for every point," said Nicol.

"I'm always so focused in Caymans and, with this being the world meet, I just wanted to step up and give it one last push.

"I really wanted to win again in Caymans and that seventh world title. I wanted it all!

"But I also have to thank my team here, in Amsterdam and Malaysia who have been with me all the way. Also not to forget my friends and family back home and the tremendous Malaysian support here in Caymans. It's been a great week."

It has indeed been a great year for Nicol who, apart from a rare September blip when she suffered back-to-back losses in the Malaysian Open and Carol Weymuller Open, has now won eight out of 10 tournaments.

With Nicol going great guns, it's quite impossible to see anyone breaking her stranglehold any time soon.

But with several younger players showing their potential, including national No. 2 Low Wee Wern – who did well to play through injury to make the quarter-finals – next year will be an interesting one for women's squash.

With squash quite possibly on the verge of being included in the Olympics when the International Olympic Council (IOC) meet in Buenos Aires next year, Nicol will surely be hungrier than ever.

Min Jie eyes upset win in British Junior Open

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:56 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: National junior squash player Teh Min Jie (pic) has been struggling for consistency this year and hopes that competing in the prestigious British Junior Open at Sheffield from Jan 2-6 will represent a fresh start.

The pint-sized Min Jie is one of a few promising juniors in the Bukit Jalil Sports School set-up, having made the final of the National Junior Championships last year.

Despite reaching the semi-finals of the Milo All Star and winning the Penang Junior Open Under-17 category earlier this year, Min Jie was overlooked for the Asian Juniors at Kish Island, Iran, back in June.

She, however, competed in the Hong Kong Junior Open in August, but was far from her usual best, losing to compatriot Rachel Arnold in the quarter-finals.

She also did miserably at the KL Inter­national Junior Open last week, winning only one match – against Singapore's Sherilyn Yang – to finish second last in the Under-19 category.

But the 16-year-old, who admitted to being frustrated with her game so far, is looking forward to a postive result at the British Junior Open.

"My performance this year has been largely below average. It was not bad initially but results started going against me and my game went down too," said Min Jie.

"My biggest problem is consistency ... it's been quite a frustrating period for me, especially after the Hong Kong Junior Open.

"I also rarely got the opportunity to compete overseas due to my form but I want to make full use of the opportunity to compete in the British Junior Open for the first time.

"It won't be easy, however, as I've never been to England before and it's cold. My draw is tough as I have second seed Salma Hani in my half. But I'll try to pull off an upset win."

Min Jie faces Lowri Roberts in the first round of the Under-17 category and a win should see her taking on local lass Kip Quiney in the second round, with Hani awaiting after that.

Besides Min Jie, the other Malaysian girls who will compete in Sheffield are Rachel Arnold (Under-17); Zoe Foo and S. Sivasangari (Under-15); and Nur Aliah Anis and Aifa Azman (Under-13).

The boys will be led by Asian Junior champion Ng Eain Yow and Jesse Foo (Under-15); Mohd Syafiq Kamal, Darren Chan, Al Nikc Ally and Bryan Lim (Under-17); and Sanjay Singh Chal and Gurshan Singh (Under-19).

Hong Kong Under-15 champion Mohd Farez Izwan will sit out the Sheffield tournament after fracturing his right wrist last month.


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Stars in Penang for ‘Surprise In One Night’

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 05:31 PM PST

GEORGE TOWN: Chinese celebrity Fan Bing Bing and Hong Kong actor and Cantopop singer Aarif Rahman (also known as Aarif Lee) are in Penang filming their latest Chinese movie Surprise In One Night (Yi Ye Jing Xi in Mandarin).

Fan, 31, and Aarif, 25, were seen shooting a scene at the heritage enclave here.

The movie, directed by Jin Yimeng (also known as Eva Jin), is set to be released next year.

The filming of the romantic-comedy yesterday took place in Armenian Street, Cannon Square and Ah Quee Street.

Murals created by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic were also included in the scenes.

Fan and Aarif were also spotted filming at the Batu Ferringhi beach near Golden Sands Resort.

Fan had starred in several films such as the latest Chinese thriller Double Xposure (2012), Sophie's Revenge (2009) and Shinjuku Incident (2009).

Aarif starred as Bruce Lee in Bruce Lee, My Brother (2010) and the recent Cantonese movie Cold War (2012).


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Najib: Keng Yaik contributed significantly to country

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 06:33 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, have expressed their condolences to the family of the former Gerakan president Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik, who died this afternoon.

Najib said Dr Lim was a leader who had contributed significantly to the country.

"My wife and I convey our condolences to the family of Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik on his demise today.

"He was a leader of the country and Barisan Nasional who had contributed a lot to the nation.

"His deeds and contribution to the government and party will always be remembered," he said in his short messaging service (SMS) to the media.

In his tweet, Najib said Dr Lim had served with distinction as a minister and leader of Gerakan.

"The nation mourns at the loss of Tun Lim Keng Yaik. He served with distinction as a minister and leader of Gerakan. I will miss him much," he said.

Dr Lim, 73, passed away at his house in Petaling Jaya at 4.45pm.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin considered Lim's death as a great loss to the country.

"I am deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik. My deepest sympathies to his family. A great loss to the country," he said in his tweet tonight.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said Dr Lim's demise was a great loss to the nation and the people of Malaysia.

"His distinguished career in politics for over three decades had contributed greatly to the development of Malaysia from an agro-based nation to an industrialised nation.

"His humourous way in engaging the people can never be copied by others.

"His contributions to the nation and people shall be forever remembered," he said.

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Former Gerakan chief Lim Keng Yaik dies

Former Gerakan chief Lim Keng Yaik dies

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 06:22 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Former Gerakan president Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik passed away at his home in Tropicana here at 4.45pm on Saturday. He was 73.

He leaves behind his wife, Toh Puan Wong Yoon Chuan and three children.

After news of his demise was broadcast, media representatives began to fill up the area outside Lim's residence to seek more information from members of his family.

His son, Gerakan Youth chief Datuk Lim Si Pin, when approached by reporters, declined to be interviewed.

Gerakan Youth secretary-general Dominic Lau, who was also present beside Si Pin, pleaded with the journalists to return to their offices.

"We will inform you tomorrow," Lau said.

Dr Lim, a medical doctor-turned-politician, became the Gerakan president in 1980.

Born on April 8, 1939, Dr Lim began his political career in 1968 by joining the MCA. He subsequently contested in the Pekan Baru state seat in Perak in 1969 on an Alliance ticket, but lost.

In 1971, he became the chairman of Perak MCA but was expelled in 1973. In the same year, he joined Gerakan.

Dr Lim became the Ulu Kinta Gerakan division head the next year and moved up to become Perak Gerakan chief in 1974. In 1976, he became the party's deputy president. In July 1978, Lim resigned as senator and contested in the general elections and won the Jalong state seat in Perak.

Dr Lim he contested and won the Beruas Parliament seat in 1986 with a handsome margin and had held the seat until the 2004 elections when he retired from politics.

Dr Lim first joined the Cabinet when he was made Minister with Special Functions dealing with New Villages and Emergency work in 1972.

He held many ministerial positions with the last being the Energy, Water and Communications portfolio in 2004.

On Sept 2, 2005, at the Gerakan annual national delegates conference dinner, Dr Lim announced that he would be retiring as party leader on April 8, 2007, which was also his 68th birthday.

Lim retired from his Cabinet post shortly before the 2008 general election.

Perak Speaker Ganesan lodges police report over porn material

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:14 AM PST

IPOH: Perak Speaker Datuk R. Ganesan has lodged a police report over the two envelopes containing pornographic material in print and VCD form of an individual allegedly resembling him and a woman.

The report was made at the Ipoh Police headquarters at about 10am on Saturday.

Ganesan claimed that he was informed by reporters that four DAP assemblymen - V. Sivakumar, A.N. Sivasubramaniam, Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and Nga Kor Ming - had held a media conference at the Perak State Secretariat building between 12.15 pm and 12.40 pm to reveal that Sivakumar and Sivasubramaniam had received an envelope each containing a VCD and a printed VCD cover of an individual allegedly resembling him and a woman.

He claimed that the production, reproduction and distribution of the printed material and VCD was undertaken with malicious intent to embarrass and defame him.

Ganesan, who was approached by reporters afterwards, said the police report was made to enable the police act against those responsible for the defamation.

Meanwhile, Perak Industry, Investment, Entrepreneur Development, Tourism and Women's Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman lodged a police report against Nga, claiming that he had issued a statement threatening her.

The Sungai Rapat assemblyman claimed in her police report that at about 3.30pm last Thursday, Ngeh had approached her at the dining hall of the Perak State Assembly and said: "You revealed, watch out! I will go after you!"

Hamidah claimed that Hulu Kinta state assemblyman Datuk Rusnah Kassim was a witness to what happened.

She said she lodged the police report to protect herself and her family from any untoward incident. - Bernama

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Perak Speaker Ganesan: I am not involved in any sex scandal


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