Isnin, 24 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


U.N. General Assembly voices concern for Myanmar's Muslims

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 08:20 PM PST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly expressed serious concern on Monday over violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar and called upon its government to address reports of human rights abuses by some authorities.

The 193-nation General Assembly approved by consensus a non-binding resolution, which Myanmar said last month contained a "litany of sweeping allegations, accuracies of which have yet to be verified."

A Muslim woman, displaced by recent violence in Kyukphyu township, cries after arriving at the Thaechaung refugee camp outside of Sittwe in this October 28, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/Files

A Muslim woman, displaced by recent violence in Kyukphyu township, cries after arriving at the Thaechaung refugee camp outside of Sittwe in this October 28, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/Files

Outbreaks of violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingyas have killed dozens and displaced thousands since June. Rights groups also have accused Myanmar security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas after the riots. Myanmar said it exercised "maximum restraint" to quell the violence.

The unanimously adopted U.N. resolution "expressing particular concern about the situation of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state, urges the government to take action to bring about an improvement in their situation and to protect all their human rights, including their right to a nationality."

At least 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas live in Rakhine State along the western coast of Myanmar, also known as Burma. But Buddhist Rakhines and other Burmese view them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh who deserve neither rights nor sympathy.

The resolution adopted on Monday is identical to one approved last month by the General Assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights. After that vote, Myanmar's mission to the United Nations said that it accepted the resolution but objected to the Rohingyas being referred to as a minority.

"There has been no such ethnic group as Rohingya among the ethnic groups of Myanmar," a representative of Myanmar said at the time. "Despite this fact, the right to citizenship for any member or community has been and will never be denied if they are in line with the law of the land."

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.N. approves new debate on arms treaty opposed by U.S. gun lobby

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 06:14 PM PST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to restart negotiations on a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms, a pact the powerful U.S. National Rifle Association has been lobbying hard against.

U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because U.S. President Barack Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge U.S. officials have denied.

The NRA, which has come under intense criticism for its reaction to the December 15 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, opposes the idea of an arms trade treaty and has pressured Obama to reject it.

But after Obama's re-election last month, his administration joined other members of a U.N. committee in supporting the resumption of negotiations on the treaty.

That move was set in stone on Monday when the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly voted to hold a final round of negotiations on March 18-28 in New York.

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom - the countries that drafted the resolution - issued a joint statement welcoming the decision to resume negotiations on the pact.

"This was a clear sign that the vast majority of U.N. member states support a strong, balanced and effective treaty, which would set the highest possible common global standards for the international transfer of conventional arms," they said.

There were 133 votes in favour, none against and 17 abstentions. A number of countries did not attend, which U.N. diplomats said was due to the Christmas Eve holiday.

The exact voting record was not immediately available, though diplomats said the United States voted 'yes,' as it did in the U.N. disarmament committee last month. Countries that abstained from last month's vote included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Cuba and Iran.

Among the top six arms-exporting nations, Russia cast the only abstention in last month's vote. Britain, France and Germany joined China and the United States in the disarmament committee in support of the same resolution approved by the General Assembly on Monday.

NRA THREATENS "GREATEST FORCE OF OPPOSITION"

The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States - the world's biggest arms trader, which accounts for more than 40 percent of global transfers in conventional arms - reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

Obama administration officials have tried to explain to U.S. opponents of the arms trade pact that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on gun sales and ownership inside the United States because it would apply only to exports.

But NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told U.N. delegations in July that his group opposed the pact and there are no indications that

it has changed that position.

"Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition," LaPierre said, according to the website of the NRA's lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA).

LaPierre's speech to the U.N. delegations in July was later supported by letters from a majority of U.S. senators and 130 congressional representatives, who told Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they opposed the treaty, according to the NRA-ILA.

It is not clear whether the NRA would have the same level of support from U.S. legislators after the Newtown massacre.

U.S. officials say they want a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation but protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade.

"We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms," a U.S. official told Reuters last month.

The United States, like all other U.N. member states, can effectively veto the treaty since the negotiations will be conducted on the basis of consensus. That means the treaty must receive unanimous support in order to be approved in March.

Arms control activists say it is far from clear that the Obama administration truly wants a strong treaty. Any treaty agreed in March would also need to be ratified by the parliaments of individual signatory nations before it could come into force.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Japan's policy veteran Motegi likely to serve as trade minister - media

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 06:00 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Incoming Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to pick policy veteran Toshimitsu Motegi as trade minister, who will also take charge of energy and other key economic policies, media reported on Tuesday.

Motegi, 57, a former policy affairs chief for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), will tackle energy problems after last year's Fukushima nuclear crisis, as well as issues such as the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact, public broadcaster NHK said.

Motegi was a leading member of the LDP's panel tasked with drafting an economic revival plan aimed at tackling the strong yen, deflation and preventing Japanese firms from shifting overseas.

The LDP returned to power in the December 16 election for the lower house, calling for radical monetary easing and big spending on public works.

First elected to parliament in 1993 as a member of a small opposition party, Motegi joined the LDP shortly thereafter and has served posts including parliamentary vice-minister for the trade ministry and senior vice-minister for foreign affairs.

Motegi's formal appointment is likely to be made on December 26, when Abe is expected to be elected as prime minister in parliament and form a new cabinet.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio


Jack Klugman, famed for U.S. TV role on 'The Odd Couple,' dead at 90

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:34 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Emmy-winning actor Jack Klugman, a versatile, raspy-voiced mainstay of U.S. television during the 1970s and early '80s through his starring roles in "The Odd Couple" and "Quincy, M.E.," died on Monday at the age of 90.

Klugman, whose pairing with Tony Randall on "The Odd Couple" created one of television's most memorable duos, died at his home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles following a period of declining health, according to his son, Adam Klugman.

"He went very suddenly and peacefully ... he was there one minute and gone the next," the actor's son told Reuters, adding that the elder Klugman had "been in convalescent mode for awhile."

He said his father had lost his ability to walk and spent much of his time in bed. His wife of four and a half years, Peggy Crosby Klugman, former daughter-in-law of the late singer Bing Crosby, was with him when he died, his son said.

In addition to his TV fame, Klugman enjoyed a healthy career on the stage as well as in movies and made successful forays into horse breeding and political activism.

Not even the loss of a vocal cord to cancer in 1989 could silence him for long. Klugman gained fame for playing slovenly sports writer Oscar Madison in the sitcom "The Odd Couple," - a role he also had played on Broadway - and then as a crusading coroner in the crime drama "Quincy, M.E." "The Odd Couple," based on Neil Simon's play about two disparate divorced men forced to share an apartment, ran for five years, starting in 1970, but was never a hit during that time. Only through reruns did Klugman and co-star Randall, who played neat-freak Felix Unger, leave their mark as one of U.S. television's great sitcom teams.

Randall died in 2004. In Hollywood, Klugman had notable supporting roles in such films as "12 Angry Men" (1957), "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962) and "Goodbye, Columbus" (1969).

He won the first of three Emmys in 1964 for an appearance on the legal drama "The Defenders." Klugman and Randall each received Emmy nominations for each of the "Odd Couple" seasons, with Klugman winning in 1971 and 1973 and Randall in 1975.

Klugman also earned four Emmy nominations for NBC's "Quincy, M.E." His character, who stepped out of his role as medical examiner to solve murders that flummoxed the Los Angeles police, never had a first name.- Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports


Don't expect miracles, warns returning Nadal

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:53 PM PST

ABU DHABI: Rafael Nadal will make his long-awaited return to tennis after an agonising six-month knee injury battle in the Gulf this week, but has warned he is not expecting any title-winning pyrotechnics.

The 26-year-old Spaniard joins world number one Novak Djokovic and third-ranked Andy Murray in the six-player, three-day Mubadala Championships ahead of his return to the ATP circuit at Doha from December 31.

Nadal hasn't played since his shock second round exit to 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June, missing the Olympics, the US Open as well as the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic which his country lost.

Although desperate to play again, Nadal is equally keen to play down expectations.

"Abu Dhabi is a test. My goal is not this week, not Doha or the Australian Open. My goal is to get fit, recover all my feelings. The only thing I care about is the knee," the seven-time French Open champion said.

"The idea is to go from there. I won't give much value to what will happen next month or in two months. My real goal is to start in perfect condition at Indian Wells and Miami and reach Monte-Carlo with good feelings, to face the clay season in good condition."

Nadal, an 11-time Grand Slam title winner, has been plagued by knee injuries throughout his career, a legacy of his all-action style.

But he shrugged off any fears that despite falling to number four in the world rankings, he is no longer a threat to Djokovic, Murray and world number two Roger Federer.

"I haven't forgotten how to play. I have played over 600 ATP matches and I have spent two years without playing. My feeling is good. I won Roland Garros and those emotions are still me," he said.

"I know I'm going to play in Abu Dhabi without the knee being great, but I feel better. The doctors say it is fine and that is great news for me. I still feel something, it's not perfect."

Nadal insisted he is not bitter over his recent experiences.

"I have accepted it as normal, as part of my career, part of my job. It's another challenge," he told marca.com.

"All I can do is try. But people have to realise that when you're so many months without competing you need time to progress."

The tournament in Abu Dhabi also features world number five David Ferrer of Spain, world number six Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and Serb Janko Tipsarevic, the world number nine.

Nadal is expected to make his bow on Friday against either Olympic and US Open champion Murray or Tipsarevic. -AFP

Nabil goes to Europe in search of ultimate dream

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:44 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: A sore neck was a sobering reminder for Nabil Jeffri of the power of a Formula Three car as he returned home after completing six days of testing in Europe.

But the 19-year-old is taking things in his stride and feels there is no turning back as he gets ready to go for his debut season in the German F3 Championship next year.

Nabil, who finished runner-up in the JK Racing Asia Series Championship early this month, is on the verge of finalising a sponsorship deal to do three years of racing in the Formula Three series. His ultimate goal is to break into Formula One by 2017.

"It (F3) is the next step for me to go after three years of single-seater racing in Asia (JK Racing Asia Series).

"Europe is where I have to go now if I am serious in developing my next goal to be a winning professional driver.

"I already got a seat offer from Eurointernational and my management team is working on finalising the sponsorship.

"We hope to finalise things by next month so that I can focus on getting ready for the new season," said an optimistic Nabil, who finished sixth overall out of 25 drivers in the two-day session in Valencia over the weekend.

The session was topped by experienced British F3 International Series driver Carlos Sainz Jr of the Carlin Motorsport team. Sainz Jr was just 0.6 seconds faster than Nabil.

Just slightly off the pace set by Sainz Jr was Nabil's Eurointernational team-mate Tom Blomqvist of Bri­tain, who is also a McLaren F1 driver development programme trainee.

"That was my second private testing in an F3 car. I did my first testing in Varano, Italy, where I managed to break the circuit's lap record.

"I was told I should be doing about 12,000km of testing if I am serious about getting ready and be able to make my presence felt when the season starts in April.

"I hope to go for another round of private testing in Italy in February before the actual official testing begins in March," said Nabil.

He added that it was an eye-opening experience driving an F3 car.

"It was fantastic experience to learn the ins and outs of F3. I am amazed at how fast the car was compared to the previous series I was doing.

"The steering felt heavy and you can really feel the downforce.

"I thought I was fit but I ended up having a sore neck.

"It's something I am getting used to. Now I need to work on raising my fitness level before I return to Europe," said Nabil.

Junior squash champ hopes to scale greater heights next year

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 04:50 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Youngster Vanessa Raj has already received an early Christmas gift – the Under-19 title in the KL International Junior Open last week.

And now, the petite 16-year-old is looking forward to spending some quality time with her friends and family over the festive season before getting back into the thick of action next year.

"I actually had my wish and received an early Christmas present already – winning the KL Junior Open. With a higher ranking now and my performance improving as well, there is nothing more I can ask for," said Vanessa.

It has been a good year for Vanessa, who is tipped to follow in the footsteps of fellow Penangites Nicol David, the world No. 1, and world No. 7 Low Wee Wern, in setting the world of squash on fire.

Besides winning the KL Junior Open and National Junior Championship, Vanessa also did extremely well in the Milo All-Stars, Penang Junior Open and the Asian Juniors. She made the semi-finals in all the three tournaments.

Her biggest achievement of the year was reaching the second round of the Malaysian Open in September. She stunned Olga Ertlova of the Czech Republic, the world No. 48, in the first round. That result, followed by another quarter-final appearance in the Penang Open in October, saw Vanessa scale the women's world rankings.

She is now ranked No. 86 in the world. In fact, she is rapidly catching up with more experienced national players like P. Pushppa Devi (82nd) and Zulhijjah Azan (83rd).

The soft-spoken Vanessa, a Form Four student of St George's Girls School, is hungry for more glory next year.

"Next year will be important because I'll be sitting for my SPM as well.

"But I've been balancing my studies and squash for so many years, I'm quite comfortable with the arrangement," said Vanessa, who took up squash at the tender age of six.

"It has been a great year for me, having received good ranking points and beaten some top players along the way.

" I'm satisfied but there's still a lot which I can do. I'm looking to improve more, maybe try to get into the top 50 next year," added Vanessa.

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The Star Online: Business

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Support Line

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:27 PM PST

BY K.M. Lee

KUMPULAN Fima pulled back from the RM2.50 level on Aug 7, the best level since March 2000, to a low of RM1.76 on Dec 10 before stabilising. Based on the chart, this stock appears to have found the bottom, with stronger support pegged at the RM1.74 floor. Initial resistance is seen at RM1.90, followed by the RM2.03, of which a breach would signal a new leg of uptrend.

RENEWED buying lifted Prolexus to a two-month high of 92 sen during intra-day sesssion. Apparently, indicators are pretty encouraging, implying prices may advance in the short term. A decisive penetration of the 92.5-sen heavy barrier would signal a rally continuation, en route to RM1.08 and later, the RM1.30 mark. Solid support is set at the 77.5-sen level.

STONE Master traded slightly higher amid fresh bargain-hunting nibbling after undergoing a period of correction. Technically, prices are likely to firm on follow-through support. A push above the 43 sen barrier may propel prices up to challenge the stiff resistance of 55-sen mark. Current support is envisaged at the 20-sen mark, followed by an additional floor at the 15-sen line.

  • The comments above do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell.
  • Malaysia's success has been the result of sound Govt efforts and resilient people

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:22 PM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: Following Malaysia's independence, the 1960s saw the country go through a period of reconstruction and growth, as efforts were made by the Government to promote agricultural diversification and industrialisation.

    In a little over half a century since, Malaysia is sitting at a tipping point, on its way to becoming a high-income nation and knowledge-based economy that is set to continue to grow and become a formidable presence across the globe.

    At the time of independence, Malaysia had just emerged from a period of upheaval, economically as well as socially. Its economy and growth was highly dependent on the export of a narrow range of primary commodities, including rubber, tin and palm oil, making it extremely vulnerable to external shocks.

    As competitive pressures intensified from the emergence of competing products like synthetic rubber, which offered improvements in quality over natural rubber, and low-cost competitors such as Indonesia, it became increasingly clear that the country's overdependence on agricultural products needed to be addressed.

    Diversification efforts did not take place immediately, however, but with Government intervention, the agricultural sector was able to make substantial gains, providing the necessary platform for the transition to industrial growth.

    In a bid to support Malaysia's agricultural sector, the Government introduced several policies and set up supporting agencies to address challenges faced by key industries.

    Setting up the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) was one such initiative, established to address issues such as land shortage.

    Role of Felda

    Following its formation in the late 1950s, Felda worked to open up virgin land in less-developed areas, while also providing financial services, housing, planting materials and technical advice to help support Malaysia's agricultural industries.

    Other initiatives at the time included efforts to encourage rice planting so as to reduce Malaysia's dependence on imported rice, with the Government continuing programmes dating back to the 1930s, aimed at making existing land conditions more conducive for paddy planning.

    Irrigation schemes were implemented and a generous floor price for rice was also introduced. At this time, palm oil also became increasingly popular and efforts were taken to increase its prominence.

    During this period, the Government also focused its efforts on infrastructure development, recognising the importance of a well-developed infrastructure in ensuring that economic activities could be performed efficiently.

    Policies to promote industrialisation were also notable, with the Government encouraging private sector-led industrialisation. Funds were allocated to set up the Rural and Industrial Development Authority, which focused on the development of small-scale industrial enterprises in rural areas. An industrial development policy was also introduced.

    The policy supported private sector-led growth through stimulating the interests of local and foreign entrepreneurs, and saw tariff protection for infant industries and tax incentives to accelerate capital formation introduced.

    Government efforts during this time were successful, with gross domestic product (GDP) averaging 6.5% between 1960 and 1970, according to the World Bank. Quality of life for Malaysians also improved during this time, with life expectancy, for example, increasing from about 59 years of age in 1960 to about 64 years of age in 1970.

    Increased prominence

    In the late 1980s and through to the mid-1990s, Malaysia's economic performance was at its peak, with GDP growth averaging about 9.5%. Dubbed one of the Asian Tigers, Malaysia's profile in the global landscape increased in prominence.

    Today, Malaysia continues to enjoy strong and stable growth, supported by a diverse economy driven by high levels of both foreign and domestic investment. It has developed itself into a multi-sector economy based on services and manufacturing, and is one of the world's largest exporters of semiconductor components and devices, electrical goods, solar panels, and information and communication technology products.

    The country's success has, no doubt, been the result of a combination of sound Government efforts and a resilient people who have continued to persevere in good times and bad. Most recently, in 2010, the Government introduced several initiatives aimed at transforming Malaysia into a knowledge-based and innovation-rich nation as it embarked on its next phase of growth.

    Studies have shown that innovation, in particular, is key to the positive performance of any organisation, and that their knowledge assets are, in turn, positively associated with firm-level innovation.

    Taking this to the national level, it becomes apparent that as Malaysia moves closer to achieving its 2020 vision of becoming a high-income nation, the two pillars of knowledge and innovation will become ever more important. This fact has not been lost on the Malaysian Government, as through the years, it has focused on promoting both innovation and talent development.

    Under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), for example, Entry Point Project (EPP) 9: Building an advanced engineering, science and innovation discipline cluster, under the Education National Key Economic Area (NKEA), seeks to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers, industry and investors so as to improve research capabilities in Malaysia, driving innovation and increasing opportunities to commercialise research.

    Innovation economy

    In 2011, the Malaysian Innovation Agency (Agensi Inovasi Malaysia) was also set up to drive Malaysia's push towards becoming an "innovation economy", helping to support the nation's 2020 vision.

    The Government's 2013 Budget also continued the country's 2012 Budget focus on innovation, with one of its goals being to "inculcate innovation and increase productivity" with a focus on creating an environment conducive for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in research and development and innovative activities.

    Five research universities have also been earmarked to receive funds to conduct research in strategic fields such as nanotechnology and biotechnology.

    In the area of talent development, several EPPs have also been put in motion to elevate human capital in Malaysia, with the Government building focused industry clusters in areas such as hospitality and tourism as well as Islamic finance.

    The Government is also working to grow the nation into a regional education hub, attracting students from around the region. Initiatives to facilitate talent development have not only been confined to the ETP.

    Work being done by TalentCorp Malaysia since its launch in January 2011, for example, has successfully attracted both Malaysians abroad as well as foreign talent to Malaysia, including such notable names as Zainal Abidin Jalil, who is currently CEO of Malakoff Bhd; Dr Kenneth Pereira, CEO of Hibiscus Petroleum Bhd; and Rhoda Yap, who returned after working for McKinsey to become CEO of British India.

    Malaysia is, therefore, on the right track as it approaches its 2020 vision. As the various Government initiatives continue to bear fruit and the country increasingly elevates its profile as a destination of choice for business and leisure, Malaysians should take a moment to reflect on how far Malaysia has come in such a short period of time, and look forward to a future of endless possibilities.

    Johan Dennelind’s appointment as new Maxis CEO comes as a surprise

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:13 PM PST

    PETALING JAYA: The appointment of former DiGi.Com Bhd chief executive officer (CEO) Johan Dennelind as chief executive officer (CEO) of telecommunications provider Maxis Bhd has taken several analysts and industry players by surprise.

    Maxis made the announcement last Friday, saying that Dennelind's appointment would be effective from July 1 next year. He would also be appointed to the board as an executive director. Dennelind succeeds Sandip Das, who would remain on Maxis' board as a non-executive director.

    Analysts and industry players contacted said the news would be positive for the biggest mobile operator in the country while investors deemed the development as a move to inject fresh blood into the company.

    "We welcome the appointment of Dennelind as Maxis' new CEO. We believe he will be able to lead the company into a new business direction and potential regain its market share in view of his vast experiences in Malaysia's telecommunication industry," Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd analyst Cheow Ming Liang said in a report.

    Another analyst believes that Dennelind's replacement of Sandip would have little impact on the company's strategic direction and did not bear any re-rating catalyst for the time being. He added that Maxis had a strong management structure and succession plan in place.

    "We believe Sandip hands over a company with a clear vision and a well established strategy, so there's little impact on Maxis' strategic direction," he said.

    Dennelind was DiGi.Com's chief financial officer (CFO) and chief marketing officer between 2004 and 2007 before assuming the CEO post in 2008.

    He was previously CFO and deputy CEO at Telenor AB, DiGi's Norway-based parent, as well as a director at Nextra, a subsidiary of Telenor.

    He left DiGi in May 2010 to be replaced by the company's current CEO Henrik Clausen.

    Dennelind is currently CEO of Vodacom International, a South Africa-based telco controlled by British multinational Vodafone.

    Cheow said Maxis remained a solid high-yield play given its firm 40 sen dividend per share in the next one to two years.

    However, he said potential margin erosions were expected as a result of the aggressive rollout of its Home Fibre plan and handset subsidy.

    In the third quarter ended Sept 30, Maxis reported a lower net profit of RM442mil, or 5.9 sen earnings per share (EPS) against RM537mil, or 7.2 sen EPS a year ago. Revenue for the quarter fell marginally to RM2.21bil from RM2.24bil last year.

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    The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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    Bizarre concept in "Upside Down"

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 12:42 AM PST

    Wrap your mind around Upside Down – two worlds co-existing in the same space but not the same gravity.

    THE idea for the film Upside Down came to writer-director Juan Solanas in a strange mental image one morning. In an interview transcript provided by the film's distributor, Rainfilm, Solanas shared: "I woke up and I saw an image – this man on top of a mountain looking up and seeing a woman on top of another mountain, but upside down. I wanted to, with this image, write a story which became this movie."

    In Upside Down, you see another world when you look up – as in the ceiling of one world marks the start of another. So when you are standing at the bottom, the people from the Upper World will look like they are hanging upside down. Is that clear?

    Jim Sturgess, who plays one of the the lead roles in the film, was naturally taken aback by this bizarre concept when he was told about it. He said: "I remember being like … wow! I knew that it was an exciting idea, but I really didn't know how it was going to play out."

    He met Solanas to discuss the project and immediately agreed to sign up. Sturgess recalled: "I met him in London. He was so excited about the project. I could tell that it was a work of passion for him. He was telling me how this idea came from a dream that he had. He showed me all these visual ideas that he had for the story."

    Upside Down marks Sturgess' first entry in the fantasy genre. The 34-year-old's previous films – The Way Back and One Day – are quite gritty in comparison. "So, it's really nice to let your imagination go wild."

    Behind the futuristic concept, Solanas' movie is basically a love story. Adam Kirk (Sturgess) is an ordinary guy living in this extraordinary universe. He lives humbly trying to make ends meet, but clings to the memory of a girl, Eden (Kirsten Dunst), he met a long time ago. Their childhood flirtation becomes an impossible love, with everything against them, especially the gravity and some nasty folk. But when he catches a glimpse of a grown-up Eden on television, nothing will get in the way of getting her back.

    "It's forbidden love. Two people who want to be together when everything is against them. It's a unique take on a classic love story," explained Sturgess. Their tryst brings trouble when they are caught together, resulting in Adam being put away for nine years and Eden having an accident that causes amnesia.

    "The story starts with Adam basically trying to get back up to the top to convince this girl who has no idea who he is, that they were once madly in love with each other."

    Co-star Dunst said: "I think it's traditional, keeping the lovers apart. What I like is that the man has to fight for the girl. It's usually the girl chasing the guy but in this film, she's been in an accident and she doesn't remember him.

    "The accident influences my role," Dunst said. "She lives with this emptiness. She doesn't know how to feel or what happened. She lives in the moment, someone who celebrates and has fun because she doesn't always remember things, and that's all she has. There's a sadness to her because of that."

    As with many futuristic dramas, the citizens of the Upper and Lower worlds live in different conditions, with a company called Transworld ruling this bizarre place.

    Sturgess explained further: "There's the down below world and there's the up top world. The down below world is poverty-stricken and run-down and falling apart. The up top world is thriving and rich," said Sturgess.

    According to Sturgess, the film is filled with metaphors for much bigger issues like slavery, capitalism and inter-racial relationships that are weaved into the story without the need to force them down the audience's throat. Plus, Solanas wants the audience to work out the metaphors for themselves.

    The creation of the two worlds on different planes hugely involves gravity, hence the actors are sometimes suspended upside down for filming.

    Sturgess recalled: "Gravity is huge. It's one of the biggest characters in the film. I'm constantly trying to figure what would happen if I was in the wrong gravity.

    "When you're acting, you have to think about which gravity you're in, what your clothes would be doing, all those things. We were doing a scene and I thought, hang on a minute, I'm wearing down below pants, I should probably tuck in my pants to my socks, things like that. You're always having to think to make sure that it's totally believable. Everything is kind of checked off the list if anybody wants to come and tackle us with 'that wouldn't happen'."

    Dunst said: "Whenever I go to his world, my hair is slicked back in buns because otherwise I'd look really silly. Things like that were really funny to play into. I never wore a skirt when I visited him or a dress because it would be flying up. We had to be conscious about this." – By Felix Culas

    > Upside Down opens in cinemas nationwide this Thursday.

    Zac Efron joins cast of JFK drama

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 10:25 PM PST

    Paperboy actor Zac Efron (pic) has been cast to play a doctor in Parkland, a multiple point-of-view movie about the tumult surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, announced Exclusive Media.

    Alongside Billy Bob Thornton (Faster), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) and Paul Giamatti (Rock Forever), Marcia Gay Harden (Into The Wild) also joins the cast of this historical drama coproduced by Tom Hanks (Cloud Atlas) via Playtone.

    Inspired by an investigation by Vincent Bugliosi, the movie will focus on witnesses of the murder, choosing Dallas's Parkland Hospital as the main setting.

    The medical building successively saw the deaths of JFK, his suspected murderer Lee Harvey Oswald and Oswald's killer Jack Ruby's.

    Parkland will mark Peter Landesman's debut as a director. With the production starting this winter, the movie is set for a November 2013 release, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the President's demise.

    (Relaxnews)

    'Cirque du Soleil' makes 3D leap to the big screen

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 10:20 PM PST

    MIAMI (AFP) -- Oscar-winning director James Cameron, who broke new ground with 3D technology with Avatar, is bringing that knowhow to Cirque du Soleil, producing a 3D film featuring the high-flying acrobatic troupe.

    Cameron acted as executive producer and camera operator for Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away -- a movie spectacle which brings the group's breathtaking aerial routines to the big screen for the first time.

    "This movie was a dream come true," Cameron said of the 91-minute film directed by New Zealander Andrew Adamson, who also was at the helm of the hit Chronicles Of Narnia films.

    Worlds Away recounts the story of Mia, played by acrobat Erica Linz, who, while searching for a lost love, traverses through various universes -- each of which is one of the fantastical worlds crafted by Cirque du Soleil.

    Among the troupe's shows re-created in the film are Believe, Mystere, O, and Viva Elvis.

    The movie was filmed in part at a studio in New Zealand, which the Canadian-born Cameron now calls home, and is due to open Friday in cinemas across North America.

    For all of the fantastical celluloid worlds he has created in the past, Cameron says what he really marvels about is the sheer majesty of the human form in action -- particularly the elastic and athletic "Cirque" performers.

    "Their death-defying acts require such incredible skill and nerve -- we felt it was so important to show the cabling, everything supporting that human ability," he told reporters in Florida ahead of the film's release.

    Another of Cameron's highly-anticipated movie projects, a sequel to Avatar, is expected to open in theaters late next year.

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    Cops nab 50 foreigners, smash international scam syndicate

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 06:31 AM PST

    PETALING JAYA: Police smashed an international scam syndicate dubbed the "Macau Scam" with the arrest of 51 people, 50 of them foreigners.

    The 46 Taiwanese nationals, four Chinese nationals and one Malaysian were picked up in raids on two bungalows, in Section 12 and Setia Bistari, Bukit Damansara, said Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department Cyber and Multimedia Crimes assistant director ACP Kamaruddin Md Din.

    Forty-five of them were men and six were women, and they were aged between 20 and 40, he said, adding that they were picked up in a three-hour operation from 12.45 pm.

    Kamaruddin said it was believed that the Macau Scam was headed by a Taiwanese, and many Chinese and Taiwanese nationals had been tricked into depositing their money in third party accounts.

    "The syndicate does not operate in their own countries for fear of being identified by the authorities there. As such, they set up base in this country," he told reporters at Section 12, here.

    Kamaruddin said the modus operandi of the syndicate was to use the Voice Over Internet Protocol (Voip) to telephone victims and this made it difficult for the police to detect their activities.

    "They pose as bank officers, policemen or lawyers and tell their victims that their bank account or credit card had been breached by a third party and that their money will be stolen unless they transferred it to the syndicate's account," he said.

    He said the police seized 13 laptop computers, 22 walkie-talkies, modems, call connectors, five scripts to defraud and five telephones.

    The police were tracing the head of the syndicate and the losses suffered by the victims were being ascertained, he added. - Bernama

    Prostitution syndicate using Facebook to ‘advertise’

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:54 AM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: A prostitution syndicate is now offering its illegal services on Facebook by super imposing photos of innocent women's faces onto pictures of scantily clad women.

    MCA Public Complaints Bureau chief Datuk Michael Chong said so far they have received five reports from women who have been victimised by the syndicate.

    The latest case involved an administrative officer with a private company who had to face humiliation after her picture was posted on the site as offering sexual services.

    The 20-year-old woman, who wished to be known as only Tan, said her picture was used on two Facebook accounts, 'Jessy Serikembangan' and 'Lisa Carino', charging between RM200 and RM500 for the services.

    "I only found out about it after my friend told me my picture was on the sites. My relatives and friends thought I had to sell my body due to financial problems. This is very embarrassing," she said at a press conference with Michael Chong, here on Monday. She added that her picture was still on the sites and was causing her stress, whereas in actual fact she had no financial problems and was happy with her family and boyfriend.

    Tan said she had also texted the syndicate pretending to be a client and was told to bank in RM300 into a bank account belonging to an individual.

    Tan has since lodged a report at the Shah Alam police station in August.

    There was also no action taken on her email of the matter to the Facebook management, said Tan who was accompanied by her boyfriend. - Bernama

    Khairy gets stay of trial of RM100mil defamation suit filed by Anwar

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:10 AM PST

    PUTRAJAYA: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar on Monday today got the green light at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to stay the trial of the RM100mil defamation suit filed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim against him.

    The Court of Appeal granted his application to stay the hearing, which had been fixed for Wednesday, pending his appeal over the High Court's rejection of his application to set aside an order on Nov 26 to preclude him from defending himself in the suit.

    A three-member panel led by Justice Datuk Clement Allan Skinner felt that the court was satisfied that there were special circumstances disclosed in Khairy's application to stay the trial.

    Skinner said that if the High Court proceeded with the trial before Khairy's appeal over the Nov 26 order was heard at the Court of Appeal, it would adversely affect the integrity of appeal and the appeal would also be rendered nugatory if Khairy succeeded.

    He also said that if the trial proceeded and concluded without giving an opportunity to Khairy to defend himself, the prejudice suffered by Khairy could not be compensated by way of costs.

    The court also ordered Khairy, who is the applicant in the stay application, to pay RM30,000 in costs to Anwar, who is the respondent.

    Skinner, who presided on the panel with justices Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin and Datuk Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, also set Jan 3 for case management on Khairy's appeal over the Nov 26 order.

    On Nov 26, High Court judge Datuk Hue Siew Kheng dismissed Khairy's application to set aside her order to preclude Khairy from defending himself in the suit.

    The judge made the order as Khairy's counsel did not comply with the court's directions during case management on June 29 for parties to file their lists of witnesses and summary of cases for the purpose of the trial.

    On March 7, 2008, Anwar filed the suit against Khairy claiming that the latter, as then Umno Youth deputy chief, had uttered defamatory words and caused the posting on websites, including Malaysiakini.com, a video clip entitled, 'Anwar and kin no threat'.

    The opposition leader claimed that the video clip on Malaysiakini.com contained defamatory words spoken by Khairy at a 'ceramah' (talk) in Lembah Pantai, here, on or about Feb 20, 2008.

    Khairy, in his statement of defence filed on Oct 8, 2010, said he relied on the defence of justification and qualified privilege.

    Khairy was represented by lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah while Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah acted for Anwar. - Bernama

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    Metro Watch

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:41 AM PST

    XMAS CONCERT

    St Mary's Catholic Society together with the Malaysian Tamil Christian Sports, Culture and Wellfare Association will be organising a Christmas concert entitled "Christ in Christmas" on Jan 6, 2013. The event will showcase cultural dances from Asia and Africa, choirs and other musical performances in various languages. The concert will be held at the Dewan Dominic, APC (behind St Anthony's Church), Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. For enquiries, call 019-281-5004 (Chandran Ezekiel) or 019-362-4694 (Peter Raiappan).

    PEM FAMILY DAY

    Persatuan Epilepsi Malaysia (PEM) will be organising a family day on Jan 13, 2013, at Taman Tasik Permaisuri, Cheras, next to Santai CafĂ©, opposite SMK Sains, from 7.30am to 11am. The event is to create and promote public awareness on epilepsy and to share ideas. Admission for patients is free while there is a fee of RM10 per participant for care givers or family members. Please confirm your attendance by Dec 29 by calling 012–358 2715 (Rosalind), 019-255 0455 (Linda) or 012–241 5206 (Magrett).

    ART OF DYEING

    Witness the master of dyeing Takakura San from Japan transfer his art onto apparel at 11am today in Parkamaya, Fahrenheit88. Having worked with famous designers including Issey Miyake and Comde Garuson, Takakura has set up his first pop-up store in Parkamaya with a range of products, including T-shirts, bags and shoes, all individually designed by him. The demonstration will be held at Takakurazome, Parkamaya, 3rd Floor, Fahrenheit88, Jalan Bukit Bintang.

    A NEW FOUND HOPE

    The Acts Church will be presenting a Christmas production featuring an original short film screening entitled A New Found Hope at 10am on tomorrow. Admission is free and members of the public are invited to attend. There will be a Christmas celebration and live performances as well. The production will be at Hall 1 & 2, Level CP3, Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre. For details, visit www.theactschurch.org.

    WATER DISRUPTION

    There will be a scheduled temporary water disruption in several areas in the Petaling district on Dec 27 from 3pm to 1am the next day (Dec 28). Areas in Kuala Lumpur will be affected on Dec 28 from 9pm to 5am the next day (Dec 29). This is to allow for maintenance works to be carried out by SYABAS contractors. The public are advised to ensure that they have enough stored water during this period.

    TAMIL CONFERENCE

    The 2nd World Tamils Protection Conference will be held on Dec 28, at Wisma Peladang, Petaling Jaya (PJ) at 8am. There will be a host of local and international speakers discussing issues affecting the Tamil community. The program includes a cultural show in the evening. Those keen to become a delegate can call 016-688-0455 for registration.

    Hand it to JJ Boys

    Posted: 24 Dec 2012 05:41 AM PST

    THE more mature JJ Boys rode on the experience of the former national representatives to finish the year with a bang.

    They captured the men's title at the Putrajaya President's Cup handball meet at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Sports Arena in Kuala Lumpur recently.

    In completing their group fixtures, they were in good form and stayed undefeated with two wins over Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) A and Pagoh of Johor.

    Tournament organiser Ng Num Thiam said JJ Boys were the deserving winners based on their consistent performances in the recent outing.

    "The former national players definitely added depth to their side. They were in control and produced convincing displays to overcome their opponents," he added.

    En route to the final, JJ Boys ended the campaign of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) 12-7 in the semi-finals.

    Johor's Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) defeated Labu 13-7 to book their place in the final.

    And JJ Boys went all the way to secure the victory with a 12-9 win over UiTM.

    UPSI came in third while Labu were fourth based on goal difference.

    Among the early casualties in the men's contest were Ulu Klang Youth Club (UKYC), Universiti Malaya (UM), UKM A, Pagoh, UKM B, Federal Territories and Skuad Kijang.

    A total of 12 teams signed up for the men's contest and hot favourites Hoisan of Kuala Lumpur pulled out from the tournament because they could not form a team to join the occasion.

    Meanwhile, UPSI triumphed over Selangor with a slim 4-3 victory in the keenly contested women's final.

    In the semi-finals, UPSI registered a comfortable 8-3 win against Phonex while Selangor chalked up another commanding 6-3 victory over Federal Territories to set up the final encounter.

    Federal Territories claimed the third spot ahead of Phonex.

    The other five teams in the women's competition were UM, UiTM, Cempaka, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and UKM.

    Num Thiam said the meet served a warm-up for the Federal Territories women's line up before they took part at the national championships in Malacca recently.

    "We only fielded the women's team comprising 14 players because the men's back-up team are not ready to shoulder the challenge at the national tournament.

    "The reliable seasoned campaigners in the Hoisan men's line-up are not available because they have other priorities over the busy year-end period. The national meet is part of our preparation before naming the women's team for Malaysia Games next year.

    "We are still keeping our options open because several hopefuls are showing their promise to earn their places in the team," he added.

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    Christmas deco transforms shopping centres in Johor Baru into fairyland

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 05:45 PM PST

    JOHOR BARU: Reindeer, Santa Claus and Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes are aplenty at most of the malls here with many going all out to bedeck their complexes with all sorts of decorations in line with the festive season.

    One standout would be the decorations at Johor Baru City Square, which features a large gingerbread house outlined with huge candy canes.

    The decorations aptly themed "A Very Gingerbread Christmas" has a whimsical atmosphere with dozens of green and red candy cane Christmas trees, large red an while lollypops and even oversized three dimensional gingerbread men which rotate.

    Other than taking pictures of the colourful decorations at the main foyer, visitors can also pose for pictures at a place-your-face cut-out depicting a group of gingerbread men.

    Another mall that has standout Christmas decorations is Sutera Mall, which has an enormous six feet tall Santa Claus right in front of its entrance.

    The Santa, which can be seen from quite a distance, greets visitors by revolving from left to right while accompanied with traditional Christmas carols.

    Walking into the mall is also a delight as two rows of white Christmas trees lead visitors to the main entrance, which is guarded by two large toy soldiers with wide grins.

    Another interesting decorative element in the mall is a Santa Claus riding gleefully on his sleigh pulled by six reindeer, which hangs above the main foyer.

    Other malls including The Zon Johor Baru and Plaza Pelangi also feature colourful decorations including large Christmas trees, hanging snowflakes and wreaths decorated with pretty ornaments.

    Besides the malls, Legoland Malaysia also has a special Christmas tree and fairy lights lining its entrance to add to the festive cheer.

    The Lego made tree stands at nine metres tall and is made out of 427,695 Duplo Lego bricks.

    In December, the theme park has a special lighting ceremony for the tree daily where one lucky child will be picked among the crowd to light the tree by pressing a special button.

    Other than that, the theme park also organises special Christmas story telling sessions and Lego ornament-making sessions at designated times.

    The operating hours for the theme park is also extended for the whole of December and only closes its doors at 8pm so that visitors can enjoy the sight of the lighted Lego-made Christmas tree at night.

    MBJB building pump house in Jalan Thompson and upgrading two others

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 03:36 PM PST

    JOHOR BARU: The Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) is in the process of constructing an additional pump house along Jalan Thompson to alleviate flood occurrences during the monsoon season.

    As a solution to overcome the problem in the long run, the council is not only building a new pump house but also plans to upgrade the two existing pump houses in Jalan Kampung Mohd Amin and Jalan Kolam Air.

    Johor Baru mayor Burhan Amin said the total current expenses for the three pump houses is about RM2mil and are expected to be completed by April 2013.

    He added that the council hoped that the constant maintenance and upgrading works would end the flood problems in the city.

    Burhan said that there is a 24-hour flood operation centre located at Dataran Bandaraya here to monitor flood occurrence and to provide immediate transport and logistics assistances to those in need during floods.

    "The council has alerted the city's contractors to ensure the maintenance and cleanliness of the rivers around the city to avoid litter traps in the river," he said during MBJB full council meeting here recently.

    He also said that some irresponsible citizens who cemented the drains outside their business premises were part of the reason for the occurrence of flood around the city.

    "The council received a total of 62 complaints from the public stating that many shoplot owners had covered the drains with cement, which then affected the flow of the rainwater.

    "According to the law, those who had covered the drains could be imposed with a RM500 fine," he said. He urged the public not to make such renovations without the consent of the council.

    Meanwhile, MBJB is also confident of collecting 100% payment of taxes by the end of the year.

    Burhan said that they had received about RM120mil which amounted to 99% of the total taxes payable and 170% of the estimated non-tax revenue was collected.

    "The council has estimated about RM72mil to be used in expenses for the development of the city next year," he said, adding that many development projects would be taking place around city in 2013.

    Students receive RM70 voucher to buy school necessities

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 05:37 PM PST

    JOHOR BARU: Some 200 schoolchildren received a RM70 gift voucher each and went on a back-to-school shopping spree with their parents at a local hypermarket here.

    The group arrived as early as 10am on Dec 16 at the Southern City Giant Hypermarket and shortly after made their way to the entrance to begin their shopping spree.

    Housewife Halijah Abdul Aziz, 49, said the donation from Puteri Umno helped to reduce her financial burden, as her husband — a grass-cutter — does not earn much. "I am thankful to Puteri Umno for easing my burden on expenses for my five schooling children aged between seven and 14,"said the mother of 12.

    Eight-year-old student, Siti Nuraishah Maisarah Rosli described the event as seronok (fun) as she had the chance to shop for uniforms and shoes with other children.

    "The fact that Puteri Umno reached out to needy children yearly was really good and I'm grateful that my two schooling children were also recipients of the voucher," said bank officer C. Andrew Wilson, 38, adding that he hopes the organisation will continue to help the community.

    Secondary school student Maizatun Nasir, 13, said she appreciated the financial help from Puteri Umno. However, she suggested that secondary school students should receive a higher value of voucher.

    "The prices for secondary school uniforms and shoes are much higher compared to primary school pupils, and I believe it's only fair that we (secondary school students) receive a voucher of higher value," she said.

    Johor Baru member of parliament Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad attended the event that was organised by Johor Baru Puteri Umno and supported by Care United Johor Baru.

    Johor Baru Puteri UMNO head Datin Azura Mohd Afandi said the programme was held annually and it was the fifth year running.

    "The number of recipients increased yearly, and this year there was an additional 50 students.

    "All 27 branches of Puteri Umno in Johor Baru, and two other clubs – Fishermen Club and Kelab Kebajikan Parliament Johor Baru — were involved in this back-to-school programme," she said.

    She added that she appreciated the support from Care United Johor Baru that contributed the vouchers and stationery and hoped that Care United will continue to support and steadily increase the number of recipients yearly.

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