Selasa, 25 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Explosion in Afghan city of Khost, Taliban say target U.S. base

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 08:36 PM PST

KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A blast in the eastern Afghan city of Khost on Wednesday wounded three people, and the Taliban said they had sent a suicide bomber in a vehicle to attack an American military base.

The area's police chief said the explosion took place near a U.S. base. Hospital officials said three people were wounded and the number of casualties was expected to rise.

(Reporting by Elyas Wahdat; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Storm brings tornadoes, snow to US South; 2 dead

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 08:02 PM PST

MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - A major winter storm system swept through the southern United States on Tuesday, spawning tornadoes in several states and killing two people in weather-related road accidents.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said a tornado struck Mobile, Alabama, home to about 200,000 people, at about 5 p.m. local time (2300 GMT). There were reports of damage to trees and widespread power outages, along with some structural damage, but no injuries or fatalities.

Tornadoes also touched down in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, flattening houses and causing some injuries, according to the NWS.

The wild Christmas weather was expected to continue into early Wednesday - the NWS' Storm Prediction Center forecasted the development of "a few strong tornadoes and thunderstorm wind damage over parts of the southeast" this evening and overnight.

It warned that tornadoes at night at this time of year can be particularly dangerous because they are usually fast-moving and obscured by rain and darkness. Areas mostly likely to be hit by strong storms include southern and eastern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia, the NWS warned.

Tuesday's storms also contributed to a 21-vehicle pile-up that shut down a major highway in Oklahoma City and tens of thousands of power outages.

A Texas man died after an accident involving a tree in the road, and another person died in a weather-related accident on I-44 in Oklahoma, according to local authorities.

The storm was expected to evolve into a blizzard from Arkansas to southern Illinois on Tuesday night, with snowfall of up to a foot (30.5 cm) in some areas, according to senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski warned on the website that travel will be "extremely treacherous, if not impossible, as the snow clogs roads, such as interstates 24, 55 and 57, and the blowing snow severely lowers visibility."

The Indiana governor's office issued an advisory Tuesday evening that "non-essential employees" who live in areas where snow emergencies have been declared do not have to come to work.

The snowstorm will shift on Wednesday to the eastern Great Lakes and northeastern region, with a blizzard warning in effect for Cleveland starting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday (1200 GMT), forecasters said. Cleveland could get up to a foot of snow, according to the NWS.

Southern Indiana is under a blizzard warning starting early Wednesday morning, according to NWS meteorologist Crystal Pettet. Indianapolis could see its biggest snowfall in four years, with a possibility of 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30.5 cm) of snow.

"Conditions should be pretty bad in time for rush hour," Pettet said.


In the town of McNeill in southern Mississippi, an apparent tornado destroyed 12 homes and injured eight people, though none of the injuries appear life-threatening, said Danny Manley, director of the Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency.

Manley said the homes could not be rebuilt, as some had lost roofs and their top stories and one was smashed by a tree.

Another apparent tornado hit Centreville, Mississippi, in the southwestern part of the state, injuring one person, destroying a trailer and heavily damaging other homes and buildings, according to Tim Destri, a NWS meteorologist in New Orleans.

A tornado destroyed a building 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Crockett, Texas, and a bank lost a section of its roof, according to

Freezing drizzle overnight led to 10 separate collisions on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City early on Tuesday, said Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The city also got a rare Christmas snowfall.

The 21-vehicle pile-up included three tractor-trailers and shut down the westbound lanes for about five hours, she said. Twelve people were taken to hospitals, and troopers were checking on the severity of their injuries.

Ahead of the storm's path, parts of eastern West Virginia are under a winter storm warning. Ice accumulations of up to half an inch (1.25 cm) are expected in higher elevations, the NWS said.

Related Stories:
Tornado touches down in downtown Mobile, Alabama; damage reported

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Japan's Abe set for second term, to tap allies for cabinet

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 06:09 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Shinzo Abe will be voted in as prime minister by parliament's lower house on Wednesday, giving the hawkish lawmaker a second chance at Japan's top job as the country battles deflation and confronts a rising China.

Japan's incoming Prime Minister and the leader of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo December 25, 2012. Abe reiterated on Tuesday a pledge to revive the economy by correcting the recent trend towards a stronger yen. Abe is set to be selected as prime minister by lawmakers on Wednesday after leading his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a landslide victory in a lower house election earlier this month. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japan's incoming Prime Minister and the leader of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo December 25, 2012. Abe reiterated on Tuesday a pledge to revive the economy by correcting the recent trend towards a stronger yen. Abe is set to be selected as prime minister by lawmakers on Wednesday after leading his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a landslide victory in a lower house election earlier this month. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Abe, 58, has promised aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan and big fiscal spending by the debt-laden government to slay deflation and weaken the yen to make Japanese exports more competitive.

The grandson of a former prime minister, Abe has staged a stunning comeback five years after abruptly resigning as premier in the wake of a one-year term troubled partly by scandals in his cabinet and public outrage over lost pension records.

His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) surged back to power in this month's election.

"I want to learn from the experience of my previous administration, including the setbacks, and aim for a stable government," Abe told reporters as he entered parliament, where he will be voted in later in the day as Japan's seventh prime minister in six years.

Abe looks set to pick a slate of close allies leavened by some LDP rivals to fend off the criticism of cronyism that dogged his first administration.

Japanese media have said Abe will name former prime minister Taro Aso, 72, as finance minister, ex-trade and industry minister Akira Amari as minister in charge of a new economic revival headquarters and policy veteran Toshimitsu Motegi as trade minister. Motegi will also be tasked with formulating energy policy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.

Loyal Abe backer Yoshihide Suga is expected to become chief cabinet secretary, a key post combining the job of top government spokesman with responsibility for coordinating among ministries.

Others who share Abe's agenda to revise the pacifist constitution and rewrite Japan's wartime history with a less apologetic tone have also been floated for posts.

"These are really LDP right-wingers and close friends of Abe," said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano. "It really doesn't look very fresh at all."


The yen has weakened about 9.8 percent against the dollar since Abe was elected LDP leader in September. On Wednesday, it hit a 20-month low of 85.38 yen against the greenback on expectations of aggressive monetary policy easing.

Abe has threatened to revise a law guaranteeing the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) independence if it refuses to set a 2 percent inflation target.

BOJ minutes released on Wednesday showed the central bank was already pondering policy options in November, concerned about looming risks to the economy. The BOJ stood pat at its November rate review meeting but eased this month in response to intensifying pressure from Abe.

Abe also promised during the election campaign to take a tough stance in territorial rows with China and South Korea over separate chains of tiny islands, while placing priority on strengthening Japan's alliance with the United States.

Japanese media said Abe would appoint two low-profile officials to the foreign and defence portfolios.

Itsunori Onodera, 52, who was senior vice foreign minister in Abe's first cabinet, will become defence minister while Fumio Kishida, 55, a former state minister for issues related to Okinawa island - host to the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan - will be appointed to the top diplomatic post, the reports said.

Abe, who hails from a wealthy political family, made his first overseas visit to China to repair chilly ties when he took office in 2006, but has said his first trip this time will be to the United States.

He may, however, put contentious issues that could upset key trade partner China and fellow-U.S. ally South Korea on the backburner to concentrate on boosting the economy, now in its fourth recession since 2000, ahead of an election for parliament's upper house in July.

The LDP and its small ally, the New Komeito party, won a two-thirds majority in the 480-seat lower house in the December 16 election. That allows the lower house to enact bills rejected by the upper house, where the LDP-led block lacks a majority.

But the process is cumbersome, so the LDP is keen to win a majority in the upper house to end the parliamentary deadlock that has plagued successive governments since 2007.

"It's the economy, the economy, the economy," an LDP source close to Abe told Reuters. The new government plans to submit an extra budget for the fiscal year to March 31 in late January.

Financial markets expect a budget worth about 10 trillion yen ($117.93 billion), but the source said no more than half of that would be spent on public works projects, a traditional staple of LDP economic stimulus packages.

(Additional reporting by Leika Kihara, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chris Meyers; Editing by Dean Yates)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Jessica Simpson's Christmas tweet seems to confirm pregnancy rumour

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:22 PM PST

NEW YORK: U.S. actress, singer and fashion designer Jessica Simpson sent a Christmas Twitter message that apparently confirms media rumours that she is pregnant - showing a photo of her daughter Maxwell with the words "Big Sis" spelled out in sand.

The picture's caption reads "Merry Christmas from my family to yours."

Simpson had her first child, Maxwell Drew Johnson, in May. She has since become a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.

A representative for Simpson was not immediately available for comment.

Simpson rose to fame as a teen pop star and became a household name after starring in a TV reality show with her then-husband Nick Lachey, a member of the boy band 98 Degrees. The pair divorced after three years of marriage.

She went on to star in the 2005 film version of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and re-invented herself as a country singer in 2008. She currently designs apparel, accessories and other fashion products and is a mentor on the TV contest "Fashion Star."

Simpson's fiance, Eric Johnson, is a former U.S. professional football player whose career spanned seven seasons for both the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints. - Reuters


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Bryant leads Lakers over Knicks

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 06:12 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Kobe Bryant scored 34 points while Steve Nash and Pau Gasol turned in major performances to spark the Los Angeles Lakers over the New York Knicks 100-94 on Tuesday in an NBA Christmas matchup.

NBA scoring leader Bryant surpassed the 30-point mark for the ninth game in a row as the Lakers stretched their winning streak to five games and improved to 14-14 on the season.

"We held them to 16 points in the fourth quarter and played good defense," Bryant said. "We did it as a group and we did it in stages. It's a process. We just tried to get better."

Canadian point guard Nash, in only his second game back after a leg fracture sidelined him for 24 games, had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, while Dwight Howard added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Spanish forward Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Lakers.

Carmelo Anthony, second on the NBA scoring list, led New York with 34 points, while J.R. Smith added 25 points and Raymond Felton contributed 10 points.

The Knicks had ripped the Lakers 12 days earlier in New York, but that was with Los Angeles lacking Nash and Gasol due to injuries. The Lakers have not lost since.

"Give them credit. They made the plays defensively," Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. "The fourth quarter was pretty much in their favor. We had some breakdowns late and they cost us."

New York fell to 20-8, still best in the Atlantic division and second-best in the Eastern Conference.

Anthony, who went only 4-of-11 from the field in the first half for 10 points, netted 17 points in the third quarter to pull the Knicks ahead 78-71.

But the Lakers scored the last six points of the third period and went on an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter capped by back-to-back Bryant buckets for an 87-82 lead with seven minutes remaining.

Smith missed a tying three-point shot and Gasol followed with a dunk with 12 seconds left to seal the Lakers' triumph.

"I don't dunk as often as I used to so it felt good to go to the hole with some explosiveness," Gasol said.

The Knicks, who have played a record 48 Christmas contests, fell to 22-26 on December 25, while the Knicks improved to 21-18 in such games. -AFP

Rondo powers Celtics over Nets

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:21 PM PST

NEW YORK: Rajon Rondo scored 19 points and contributed six rebounds and five assists as the Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 93-76 on Tuesday in an NBA Christmas Day matchup.

The Celtics made a successful start to a four-game road trip, pulling level with the Nets at 14-13 for the season. Both clubs now share second place in the Atlantic Division behind the New York Knicks.

Jared Sullinger scored 16 points for the Celtics while Jeff Green added 15 points and Kevin Garnett had eight points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which lost twice to Brooklyn earlier this season.

"We played firm. That's what we have got to be," Garnett said. "We've got to be more consistent with what we are doing."

After the Nets battled back within eight points, the Celtics scored the last seven points of the third quarter to seize a 73-68 lead. Rondo had nine of Boston's 17 points in the third quarter to spark the visitors.

Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace each scored 15 points to lead Brooklyn while Joe Johnson added 12 in a losing cause.

The Nets, who lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to 9-7 at home this season, were without power forward Kris Humphries, who is suffering from an abdominal strain. He is averaging 7.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. -AFP

NBA: Kings reinstate Cousins after missing one game

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 05:07 PM PST

SACRAMENTO, California: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was reinstated by the NBA club on Monday, two days after being suspended indefinitely for unprofessional behavior and detrimental conduct.

Cousins missed the Kings' 108-96 home victory over Portland on Sunday because of the suspension, a triumph that lifted the team's record to 9-18, still last in the Pacific Division.

Cousins exchanged angry words in the locker room with coach Keith Smart at half-time of the Kings' 97-85 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

Smart decided to bench Cousins for the entire second half, ordering him not to join the other players when they returned to the court for the second half. After the game, an apologetic Cousins said his outburst was wrong.

In his third NBA season, Cousins is averaging a team-high 16.6 points plus 9.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.35 steals a game after 23 games.

Cousins was suspended for one game earlier this month by the NBA for hitting Dallas guard O.J. Mayo in the groin and suspended two games in November by the league after a confrontation with San Antonio Spurs announcer Sean Elliott. - AFP


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Samsung seeks US sales ban on some Ericsson products

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 05:21 PM PST

SEOUL: Samsung Electronics said on Wednesday it had filed a complaint against Ericsson with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), requesting a U.S. import ban and sales ban on some of the Swedish telecoms equipment maker's products.

The action taken on Friday by the world's top smartphone maker, which accused Ericsson of breaching seven of its patents, came after Ericsson requested an ITC U.S. import ban on Samsung products and sued the South Korean firm for patent infringement.

"We have sought to negotiate with Ericsson in good faith. However, Ericsson has proven unwilling to continue such negotiations by making unreasonable claims, which it is now trying to enforce in court," Samsung Electronics said in a statement.

"The accused Ericsson products include telecommunications networking equipment, such as base stations," Samsung said.

With Ericsson suffering a big drop in sales at its network unit, down 17 percent in the third quarter, it is turning to the courts to maintain its patent income, part of a wider trend where big technology names are fiercely protecting intellectual property as global sales of tablets and smartphones boom.

Ericsson is facing a growing challenge from Samsung Electronics, a smaller player in the network equipment market.

"I'm sure that at this point, no one in the industry would underestimate Samsung's ability to become a significant player, if not the leader, in a new segment of the overall market for telecommunications hardware," Florian Mueller, a patent expert, said in a blog posting on Monday.

"This certainly adds a more strategic dimension to the Ericsson-Samsung dispute."

Samsung Electronics and its arch smartphone rival Apple Inc have been also locked in patent disputes in at least 10 countries as they vie to dominate the mobile market and win over customers with their latest gadgets.

The European Commission on Friday charged Samsung Electronics with abusing its dominant position in seeking to bar rival Apple from using a patent deemed essential to mobile phone use.

Samsung Electronics shares were trading up 1.3 percent, outperforming the wider market's 0.7 percent gain as of 0037 GMT. Reuters


Tradewinds shares hit 5-month high after US$490mil buyout offer

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 05:18 PM PST

Published: Wednesday December 26, 2012 MYT 9:19:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares in Malaysian commodity firm Tradewinds (M) Bhd jumped to an five-month high on Wednesday following a 1.5 billion ringgit (US$489.40 million) buyout offer by Malaysia's seventh richest man Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.

Tradewinds surged nearly 15 percent to 8.90 ringgit on Wednesday, just a whisker from the offer price of 9.30 ringgit made by the reclusive tycoon.

The deal would result in the Syed Mokhtar leading a mandatory general offer for two units under Tradewinds, Tradewinds Plantations Bhd and national rice distributor Padiberas Nasional Bhd, for 4.03 ringgit and 3.25 ringgit per share respectively.

Shares of Tradewinds fell 3.07 percent to 4.10 ringgit on Wednesday, while Padiberas lost 0.6 percent to 3.29 ringgit.

The offer for Tradewinds comes after Syed Mokhtar's autos-to-property conglomerate DRB-Hicom Bhd took the country's largest automaker Proton Holdings Bhd private for $412 million in January. - Reuters


RUBBER-Tokyo futures hit 7-1/2 month high on weak yen

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:48 PM PST

TOKYO: Key TOCOM rubber futures extended gains for a third day on Wednesday to their highest level in more than seven-and-a-half months, jolted by a weaker yen on growing hopes for further monetary easing in Japan.


* The key Tokyo Commodity Exchange rubber contract for June delivery was changing hands 2.4 yen, or 0.8 percent, higher at 294.5 yen as of 0034 GMT. The benchmark contract rose as high as 295.6 yen, the highest since 302.2 hit on May 9.

Tokyo rubber has been driven higher in recent days as the yen fell to around 20-month lows against the dollar, pressured by expectations that the incoming Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, would push the Bank of Japan into more forceful monetary easing.

* Crude rubber inventories at Japanese ports had climbed to a two-week high of 6,352 tonnes by Dec. 10, after rising 149 tonnes in the previous 10 days, data from the Rubber Trade Association of Japan showed on Wednesday.

* The London Metal Exchange is still closed on Wednesday for the Christmas holiday.

* For the top stories in rubber market and other news, click , or


* U.S. markets were closed on Tuesday for Christmas Day holiday.

* U.S. crude prices rose by 50 cents to above $89 a barrel on Wednesday.

* Japan's Nikkei share average edged higher on Wednesday as the yen slipped to a 20-month low, on expectations of an aggressive monetary easing stance by the new government.


* The following data is expected on Wednesday: (Time in GMT)

- 1355 U.S. Redbook retail sales

- 1245 U.S. ICSC chain stores yy Weekly

- 1400 U.S. CaseShiller home price index Oct

- 1500 U.S. Richmond Fed Manufacturing, Services index/Dec

- European Market Holiday - Reuters



The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Agong pays last respects to Dr Lim Keng Yaik

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:25 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah on Tuesday paid his last respects to former Gerakan president Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik.

The King, who arrived at 11.10am, spent about 10 minutes at Dr Lim's home, accompanied by the latter's son, Datuk Lim Si Pin.

He was earlier received by Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon upon his arrival.

Dr Lim, a Cabinet minister for 22 years, died Saturday at the age of 73. Dr Lim, who was Energy, Water and Communications minister from 2004 until 2008, is survived by his wife Toh Puan Wong Yoon Chuan and three children.

His body would be cremated at the Cheras Crematorium after being accorded national honour on Wednesday. - Bernama

Najib: Keng Yaik fought for all Malaysians

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:08 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said it would be hard to find another figure like Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik, the former Gerakan president who died on Saturday, in the local political landscape.

"He had inimitable style and it'll be very hard to find another Lim Keng Yaik in Malaysian politics.

"So, he definitely will be missed and we'll remember him for a long time," he said after paying his last respects to the late Dr Lim, here. Accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Najib spent about half an hour at Dr Lim's residence.

Dr Lim, a Cabinet minister for 22 years, died on Saturday aged 73. He was Primary Industries Minister from 1986 to 2004 and Energy, Water and Communications Minister until Feb 13, 2008, before stepping down.

Dr Lim is survived by his wife Toh Puan Wong Yoon Chuan and three children.

Najib said Dr Lim was a national political figure who was well respected besides being noted for his strong spirit and his own political style.

He said Dr Lim had a very appealing style and was not afraid to give his own views on any issue.

"Throughout his tenure as a member of the Cabinet, he had championed the country's economic interest including the efforts to stabilise the country's commodity prices.

"In the political arena, as Gerakan president and even before that, he had given immense contribution in championing the interest of the Barisan Nasional and strongly believed in the importance of maintaining peace in our multi-racial country," Najib said.

At the international level, he said, Dr Lim succeeded in forging relations with several countries in championing national interest.

"Personally, I'm deeply touched at the passing of Tun Dr Lim because he was a politician who had gone through two eras, first, the era of my late father and subsequently the era when we became colleagues in the Cabinet previously.

"His passing will certainly be deeply felt by the nation, and my wife and I, personally," he added.

Related Stories:
State funeral for Keng Yaik
Dr M holds back tears as he bids farewell to Lim
Lim Keng Yaik a true visionary behind Wawasan Open University
Sombre mood at the late Tun Lim's residence

Najib: Govt has done a lot to engage Christian community

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:05 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has urged Malaysian Christians to join in the journey of change and renewal for a better Malaysia.

Speaking at a Christmas reception organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Najib said he understood that the community might have felt despondent at times, feeling that not enough was done by the Government to engage them.

"But I must in good conscience state that we have in fact achieved quite a lot through subtle engagement away from the glare of publicity and the latest decision to lift restrictions on Christians to carry out pilgrimage in Jerusalem is one of the results.

"This is the inclusivity that I am seeking because I believe there is a place for all of us under the Malaysian sun.

"This country is large enough for all our aspirations and we must work together to make this a reality.

"I am also here today to once again offer the hand of friendship of the government, to embrace the Christian community and share your goodwill," he told the gathering which was hosted by the Lutheran Church in Malaysia.

Several DAP leaders led by secretary-general Lim Guan Eng also attended the reception.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to the Christian community, adding that they should not feel that they have been forgotten.

"The countless personal interactions I have had with church leaders show that I have not forgotten the Christian community as some had alleged, in fact, every community, be it ethnic or religious, is important to my government and I because we cannot exclude anybody," he said.

Najib stressed the need for dialogue and discussions and continuing to engage with one another constructively, noting that for the past three years, a permanent dialogue mechanism in the Committee on Promoting Harmony and Understanding Amongst Religious Adherent had been in put in place for the purpose.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Bestselling author of 'Life Without Limits' releases second book

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 03:12 AM PST

Unstoppable: The Incredible Power Of Faith In Action
Author: Nick Vujicic
Publisher: WaterBrook Press, 240 pages

A BOOK entitled Unstoppable quite expectedly features a front page illustration of a man waterskiing, wearing a smile that seems to say he's got the whole world in his hands. A closer look at this book cover will uncover a small discrepancy to that thought: he does not have a hand. Nor has he legs! You become quite interested. You read the subtitle: The Incredible Power Of Faith In Action. It gets more fascinating. This is how the journey typically starts with Nick Vujicic, international speaker, motivator and bestselling author of Life Without Limits.

In this second offering, Vujicic shares, in his usual humorous and persuasive style, the powers that can be garnered if we let go and "let God".

The book is really made of two parts. The first part is an inspiring walk through Vujicic's life and his definition of faith in action. He shares honestly and with humour the many obstacles that have defined his path of steadfast faith in God. In all his sharing, he comes off as sincere and humble and in no way condescending.

There is a feeling that Vujicic genuinely writes to reach out to people and to make the reader understand that here is a man who is "a good example of a bad example". He relates bad experiences in acting without faith by allowing his ambition to overwhelm his business plans, which leads to emotional consequences. He assures us his honesty, only if we promise to learn from it. It must be said, there is more goodness about Vujicic's life than just bad examples.

The other part of the book could be a struggle for a free-thinker, as Vujicic dives deep into what drives him hardest: God. By saying, "Will I always get what I want? No! But I will always get what God wants," Vujicic underlines the importance of faith before there can be action.

Excusing some parts for its heavy preaching, the book is a delightful collection of stories of people who have defied odds and held on to faith and accepted God's plan for their lives. Their troublesome lives turn to beautiful opportunities and bad experiences become blessings. You could almost understand why Vujicic wants everyone to take that leap of faith in action together with him.

Those who enjoy a religious journey will definitely enjoy this offering by one of the more unique evangelists of our age. Vujicic's flavour of preaching is very practical and, I feel, would be acceptable even to moderates. A perfect example is his narration of how Jesus Christ did not back down when harassed by religious persecutors. In the story, Jesus demanded an explanation from the man who struck him and stood up for his thoughts. One finds this brand of spirituality and power to the righteous more palatable than turning the other cheek.

Most of what he shares is to the point and pleasantly engaging. From his stories of skateboarding down a steep hill exclaiming "Look Mum, no hands!" to the T-shirt collections of another limbless person with messages like "Arms are for Wimps" and "Who Needs Limbs When You Have God", Vujicic's story is a testament to the fact that a fulfilling life is possible despite having disabilities. In fact, Vujicic explains that his life has been such a great ride because of his disability, not despite of.

However, the book could do without the one too many references to the people Vujicic has met and had an impact on. I was left wishing to hear more about Vujicic's own life and his challenges rather than another's.

Nick Vujicic offers, through a Christian outlook, the universal message of loving all and serving all. This book brings with it a promise of emancipation; a possibility of joy in abundance if one could surrender to God and act in faith. Whatever be your belief system, you cannot deny the temptation of becoming Unstoppable by taking the leap of faith with that skiing man with a smile on his face.

A different spin

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 01:35 AM PST

FROM the funny to the outrageous, there's a Christmas-related book here for everyone. Laugh as Santa replies to kids pleading their way out of the naughty list or cringe while reading zombie-inspired Christmas carols. It's a quirky Christmas indeed!

Santa Responds: He's Had Enough ... And He's Writing Back! by Santa Claus

"Dear Billy,

I know you honestly believe that the good deeds you rattled off represent your behaviour for the entire past year rather than the activities that occurred during the two hours leading up to the writing of this letter. Two hours of good behaviour hardly justifies a new Playstation, let alone a trip to Disney World!

Your pal, Santa."

Santa's just back from a particularly strenuous, chilly night riding his sleigh around town, and he's letting loose by replying letters sent to him by kids and pleading parents alike. Oh, and he definitely isn't holding back with his replies. You've been a good kid all year, you say? Well, Santa knows the truth.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Imagine a year without Christmas. No sparkly decorations, mouth-watering indulgences, lavish parties and no Christmas tree. Come Dec 25, Luther and Nora Krank won't be staying at home as they usually would during Christmas, for they will be sailing across the Caribbean. The Kranks are in for a different Christmas indeed.

Santa Claus Is Dead by Jason Twede

An Elf is wandering around the forest when it stumbles upon a set of footprints leading to Santa's body. However, nothing else is around for miles and the footprints disappear. And so begins an investigation led by bitter detective Johnny Iceberg.

Enter a world where Christmas tales come alive, and contrary to popular belief, your favourite Christmas characters aren't what you would expect them to be. More importantly, experience the heartache of past Christmases and the promise of Christmas futures.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Zombies! – A Book Of Zombie Christmas Carols by Michael P. Spradin

Outside, the temperature's dropping. Snow is falling. Sleigh bells are jingling. Soon, it will be that time of flesh-devouring horror – Christmas is on its way! Santa Claws is coming to town, and he knows who's been naughty or naughtier ... and who'll taste best with a glass of Chianti!

This merry macabre season, we present more than two dozen of the most soul-stirring carols composed for the decomposing. Favourites like I Saw Mommy Chewing Santa Claus, and Deck The Halls With Parts Of Wally, are guaranteed to lift the spirits of the undead and their temporarily still breathing meals-to-be. So sing loudly – to drown out the screaming!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On by Team Ugly

Definitive in every way, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book includes the history of the event, how to throw the perfect party, what to wear, and how to judge the ugly Christmas sweater contest. But most importantly, it is packed with more than 100 hilarious photos of outrageously ugly sweaters, including Scarf Face, Wreath Witherspoon, and Ryan Treecrest. A must-have for those who plan to throw or attend an ugly Christmas sweater party – and it's all authorized by Team Ugly, experts on ugly Christmas sweater parties.

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

Let It Snow consists of three stories, The Jubilee Express, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, and The Patron Saint of Flying Pigs, that are all interconnected and based in a small city called Gracetown, which is right smack in the middle of a snowstorm during the events of the stories. There are stories about catching a cheating girlfriend, dyeing hair pink, and buying teacup pigs, which evidently sums up teenage romance. While braving the "biggest snowstorm in 50 years", however, each of them grows and finds love. (Yes, this is a normal young adult fiction book – well, into the weirdest collection a little normal must fall.)

The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited And Distasteful Diversion For Christmas by Edward Gorey

In the preface to the ever-popular A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens wrote that he tried "to raise the Ghost of an Idea" with readers, trusting that it will "haunt their houses pleasantly". A few Christmases later, in 1997, New York Times Magazine asked Edward Gorey, also known as the "iconoclastic artist and author", to refurbish this enduring tale. The result? A dispirited and distasteful – and yet strangely compelling – diversion for Christmas.


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Heart and soul

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 02:28 AM PST

Where music is concerned, Les Misérables is untouchable.

IF the Les Misérables film had been made 25 years ago when the idea was first mooted to producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, 66, it might have turned out a totally different show – not only because of the calibre of the younger cast members, but also the musical training that most of them have.

"Even though we were going to do it 25 years ago, thank God we didn't. This amazing cast we've got were either in school, were babies or they hadn't been born yet.

"I don't believe we would have ever found such an extraordinary cast – most of them having a background in musical theatre that would have been able to tell the story through music in the magnificent way they all have done," said Mackintosh.

Anne Hathaway has already proven herself a formidable actress, but the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks really held their own in the film.

The three actors make up the "trinity" of Les Mis: the daughter of a wealthy mayor and the student rebel who fall in love while a third person – the daughter of thieves – pining for the latter.

So connected at these three characters in the story that Mackintosh explains that the producers even adopted the same strategy of casting the three younger characters as they usually do on stage.

"You can't cast Eponine (played beautifully by Samantha Barks), Cossette (Seyfried) and Marius separately, we always cast the three together," he said.

At the press conference to promote the film in London, all three spoke about how desperately they had wanted to get the part.

"I sent in three different tapes in the course of a month," she said. "I finally met Tom (Hooper, the director) in Los Angeles and I thought we had this kind of connection, and I kind of knew right there that he was going to fight for me."

Still, it was a long and painful process which took four months before she finally got the affirmative answer she was hoping for. Like Seyfried, Redmayne too had sent in an audition tape, taken using his phone,.

While the two were relatively established – Seyfried had experience in film musicals such as Mamma Mia! and Redmayne is a Tony-award winning actor with film experience – this is Barks' first foray onto the big screen.

The young actress, 22, has only had a short-stage career, but she had a trump card. In Les Mis, Barks reprises her role as Eponine, which she had played in London's West End prior to the commencement of the shooting for the film.

But if she thought that the experience was going to make things easier for her, she was in for a surprise.

"I've been singing in theatre, so I thought, 'Oh, singing live would be something I'm comfortable with' but there was lots of challenges that you won't come across in theatre, one being the big rain machine which sort of followed me around for a lot of the film," she shared.

It wasn't just Barks who found the experience challenging. Redmayne, 30, spoke about the pressures of living up to expectations and being able to turn in a good performance, especially since most of scenes involved live singing.

"I grew up listening to Michael Ball who sang this part (in the stage production) and it is the version of Empty Table And Empty Chairs, it's the one that (people) know and love.

"And the stakes get higher throughout shooting because you'd come into set and you'd hear whispers on set of the crew going, 'Oh, my god, did you hear Anne singing I Dreamed A Dream, it was breathtaking'," he shared.

Then there is also the fact that they had to sing live over and over again. Hooper had earlier mentioned that Redmayne's Empty Tables solo which features in the film is the last of 21 takes shot in one day. The director was happy with seven, but the actor would not have it.

"With theatre, you can mend it the next day; if you screw it up, you can try to do it better. Here, I knew that I leave at the end of that day and you could never do anything about it , you would have to wait six months and be disappointed with what you've done, which tends to be the sort of case.

"So we did, I think, seven takes, and Tom said, 'I think we got it, mate'. I went, 'No, no no, we'll keep going until there's actually blood coming out of my eyes!' said Redmayne.

Even Seyfried's Mamma Mia! experience – she was one of the leads in that film – didn't make it easier for her, describing Les Mis as "a completely different animal".

"Mamma Mia! didn't feel to me like a musical by the time I really got involved in this. At the same time, I took a little bit of that confidence in me that I had done something that kind of worked in a way, but this is the biggest challenge of my career and I can't even compare it," the 27-year-old actress explained.

Tough as it was for all of them, few who have watched the show would disagree that they really shone. In fact, even their older and more experienced colleagues acknowledge this.

Interrupting Seyfried talking about how challenging the experience was, lead actor Hugh Jackman said: "Not many singers can hit a High C over and over and over and over again."

She then responded: "You know what, I probably hit that twice out of like eight times" to which Jackman just shook his head and said, "Stop, just stop" to the amusement of everyone in the room.

Despite the challenges, however, the talent of the younger cast members is evident in the film version of Les Mis. In fact, it wouldn't be too far wrong to say that the trio – together with Hathaway and 12-year-old stage actor Daniel Huttlestone who reprises his role as Gavroche – stole the show. – By Niki Cheong

Broadway musical Les Misérables makes its way to the silver screen

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 02:27 AM PST

Banish those worries – the Hollywood film version of Les Misérables remains truthful to the stage version.

FOR over 27 years, fans of musical theatre have been entertained and thrilled by the wonderful stage musical that is Les Misérables.

Whether on Broadway in New York, or in London where the musical premiered or on the many different stages around the world (and in a variety of languages), Les Misérables rarely disappoints because of the strength of the words and the music of Frenchmen Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, and Herbert Kretzmer's English-language libretto.

"I don't know any other musical that has ever had this extraordinary life," said producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh in an interview at Claridges Hotel in London.

Mackintosh was also behind the original staging of the musical in 1985.

Today, the musical has finally come to Malaysia albeit in the form of a film which features a star-studded cast list including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.

The musical is based on French novelist Victor Hugo's book of the same name, set mostly during the June Rebellion of 1832 in Paris. Many years before the uprising, Jean Valjean, a prisoner who has just earned his ticket of leave breaks parole. Javier, the police inspector who released him, spends many years searching for him.

Those concerned that Hollywood may have taken liberties with one of the most popular musicals of all time can heave a sigh of relief – the film version of Les Mis, as it is commonly referred to, remains true to the stage version.

The cinematic version features all the songs as well as a new one written by Schönberg, and has brought together the original creative team who worked closely on the production.

"It was essential to us from day one when we started talking to Cameron and Claude-Michel and all that they stayed close creatively," said producer Eric Fellner at the same press conference in London. "Actually, it was (director Tom Hooper) that insisted they stay very close creatively to the whole process so that we could ensure that we were making a film that was absolutely would appeal to the fans of the musical."

The film stuck to the essence of the stage version, keeping dialogue to a minimum, making it essentially sung-through. Besides that, Hooper also insisted that most of the scenes – particularly the solos and duets – be performed live, with an on-set accompaniment playing music into ear-pieces on the actors.

To prepare for this, all the actors went through nine weeks of gruelling rehearsals. Jackman, who plays the lead role of Jean Valjean and has had years of musical theatre experience, said that it was "as intense a rehearsal period as it is for any theatrical show".

This, he explains, is quite different from his experiences in other film productions.

"Normally, on a film, the rehearsals could be a little half-hearted, (there would be) discussions, people will give half performances.

"(This) was not like that. Tom was literally moving in his chair, being three feet away from us, being a camera right from the beginning," he explained.

If it was hard for the actors in rehearsals, it would have been tougher on the set. They had to deal with the realities of film – many takes for each scene ("He doesn't care," Hathaway joked, when answering a question about Hooper's many takes of them singing live), technical difficulties as well as other elements including rain machines.

In addition, this was the first time singing live on film for most of the actors; one could imagine how this would take its toll on them. However, this was not the case as Hooper gave an example of actor Eddie Redmayne who gave exemplary performances as Marius singing the heart-wrenching song Empty Chairs And Empty Tables.

"He sang that 21 times and he would have kept going. And as you can see in take 21 (the take which ended up in the film), there was no issue of vocal stamina," Hooper shared.

The reason for making his actors sing to live accompaniment was to give them the freedom to explore their characters and stories.

"When you have the freedom to change scenes, as Anne did with I Dreamed A Dream to change the tempo faster or slower, it means each take is a unique event. I wanted to put her in a place where she wouldn't be compromised in her interpretation," he said.

The method truly paid off. While it appeared to be an odd decision to use so many close-ups in the film – at times coming across like one was peering into a fishbowl of singing actors – there were moments that were total gems.

A case in point is Hathaway's rendition of I Dreamed A Dream, with the whole song in the film coming from one take.

Most of the women in the show, including Amanda Seyfried and (a cameo-of-sorts by) Helena Bonham Carter, were outstanding in their roles, but Hathaway was particularly spellbinding in her role as Fantine, a factory worker who finds herself jobless and on the streets, and having to turn to prostitution. Her performance has already garnered her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and generated Oscar buzz.

Like most of the others, Hathaway has never sung live on film before and said that it was a new concept for her, considering that with her training in musical theatre, "you're used to telling a story through the song that would resonate with however big your audience is that you're playing to in the theatres".

"But the language of film is so different from the language of theatre and I was so excited to take this iconic song that is so beloved and find a way to put it through the prism of film, and that meant having to go very, very deep inside myself to some uncomfortable places," said Hathaway.

Indeed, things at time got really uncomfortable for the actor. In talking about the amount of research she had to do – looking at how women were in that period, as well as reading up on sex slaves in modern society – she said: "Sometimes you have so much in common with your character that you feel like you should return your paycheque. This was not one of those times."

Still, so committed to the role of Fantine was Hathaway that she even suggested to Hooper that a scene where the character has to sell her locks was really her hair being cut on camera live.

"I was of the opinion that as much of the physical transformations could be real, they ought to be real," she explained.

There were also sacrifices from the others. Jackman, for example, lost 15kg for the early scenes of him as a freshly released prisoner and then had to quickly put it all back on ("that bit was fun, by the way," he joked) for the other scenes.

Hooper also wasn't too keen on doubles, the actors hinted, and in one scene, Jackman had to carry Redmayne himself.

"Eddie is a very trim guy, but he is not as light as he looks!" added Jackman . "I constantly wanted to call for a double, like a jockey or someone to come in."

In that sense, many parts of the film will come across as real, both in terms of being honest to the original musical and also to the characters.

Les Mis is set to be a big hit, and has already received mostly positive reviews. In the mind of the producers, however, this is as good as it can get.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this film will live forever," said Mackintosh. But they never took it for granted.

He concluded: "Everybody worked hard in creating something new, rather than just going, 'Oh, it's Les Mis, it's a big hit'. We had to prove it."

>Les Misérables opens nationwide today.


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Metro Watch

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 05:40 AM PST


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. Areas in Kuala Lumpur will be affected on Dec 28 from 9pm to 5am the next day. 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.


Vision International Properties is having a fundraising community campaign, Dogs and Cats Lunch gathering on Jan 19 at Bandar Utama Central Park, from 9am until 1pm to raise funds for Second Chance Animal Shelter which is in need of upgrading and improvement for the comfort of helpless dogs and cats. Lunch tickets are sold at RM50 per person. For details or reservation, call 016-228 9233.


VisiMu Daycare & Development Center is organising a talk on "Effective Parenting" on Jan 12, from 10am to 11.30am for RM20 per family (free for those who have registered) at 12-1, Jalan Putra Murni 3/2A, Putra Heights, Subang Jaya. Light refreshments will be served. Registration ends on Jan 4. For details, call 03-5192 2289 or 012-300 0604 from Mondays to Fridays, from 9am-6pm.


St Mary's Catholic Society together with the Malaysian Tamil Christian Sports, Culture and Welfare Association will hold 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 more information on the event, call 019-281 5004 (Chandran Ezekiel) or 019-362 4694 (Peter Raiappan).


Persatuan Epilepsi Malaysia will be organising a family day on Jan 13, 2013, at Taman Tasik Permaisuri, Cheras, next to Santai Café, opposite SMK Sains, from 7.30am to 11am. It is to 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. Confirm your attendance by Dec 29 by calling 012–358 2715 (Rosalind), 019-255 0455 (Linda) or 012–241 5206 (Magrett).


Methodist Boys' Secondary School Kuala Lumpur Class of 1963 (Form 5) will be having their 50th Year Reunion Dinner on March 30 next year. For more information, call 016-287 2986 (Lo Kok Kee), 012-342 5534 (Wong Tuck Meng), 012-293 3637 (T. Jeyalingam), 012-210 0889 (Ngiam Fook Tien) or call 012-200 6291 (Ang Kok Wah).

The year that Tiger ruled

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 05:40 AM PST

SPORTS enthusiasts in the Klang Valley were treated to some entertaining and exciting events this year.

It was the year for golf fans. The legendary Tiger Woods made a return to Malaysia in the CIMB-Classic at the Mines Resort and Golf Club in Seri Kembangan. Like a Pied Piper, Woods lured the fans to the golf resort.

There were some big names but in the end it was fellow American Nick Watney, the world No. 22, who triumphed with a 22-under 262 (71-65-65-61).

The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club also proved to be a success. The championship had all four 2012 Major winners as well as the world's top 10 players lining up on the first day.

But in the end, South Korea's Park Inbee carded a 15-under 269 to win the prestigious title by two strokes. The other notable names were Choi Na Yeon, Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Sandra Gal and Yani Tseng.

It was also good to see the LPGA stars help create awareness about breast cancer and raise about RM800,000 for the Cancer Research Initiative Foundation (Carif) at a charity gala dinner.

The Sultan of Selangor's Cup, held at the Shah Alam Stadium, was also an exciting affair. About 70,000 fans had flocked the stadium. Local artistes Ziana Zain and Awie entertained the crowd with their latest songs. There were also fireworks display as well as performance by about 500 students.

Singapore, who had won the three previous competitions, found the going tough and fell to 3-1 defeat to Selangor.

Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin had initiated the competition in 2001 to foster better relations between Selangor and Singapore. It was then known as the Regent of Selangor Cup. With the coronation of the Sultan in 2003, the competition was renamed as the Sultan of Selangor's Cup.

For Kelantan it was a memorable season. They grabbed all three titles — FA Cup, Super League and Malaysia Cup — at stake in the M-League. The Malaysia Cup final between Kelantan and Armed Forces was played in a packed Shah Alam Stadium. With the backing of their fans, Kelantan won 3-2.

There was mixed response for the AFF Suzuki Cup. The fans in the Klang Valley were rooting for Malaysia to win the Cup again. Malaysia, coach K. Rajagopal, started their title defence on the wrong footing. The Harimau Malaya lost 0-3 to Singapore. Eventually Malaysia qualified for the semi-finals but lost 1-3 to Thailand in the two legs.

The running scene was lively with half marathons and 10km runs in the Klang Valley.

The Star together with the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) organised the PJ Half Marathon. Considered as the pioneer 21km run in the country, the response for the PJ Half Marathon was overwhelming. Runners came from all over the country to be part of the half marathon.

The Football Association of Selangor (FAS) league, with three divisions — Super, Premier and Division One — was also an exciting affair in the Klang Valley.

The league, with almost 96 teams, was competitive with the knock-out FA Cup competition. Emkay-NPNG won the Super Division for the fourth season while Cemerlang were the FA Cup champions.


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