Ahad, 30 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

South Korea to restart one of two troubled reactors this week

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 08:12 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will restart one of two nuclear reactors this week after being shut for nearly two months to replace parts which were found to have forged documents, easing power supply concerns as winter bites, the nuclear regulator and operator said.

The State-run Nuclear Safety & Security Commission said in a statement on Monday that it had approved the restart of a 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactor in Yeonggwang county, 300 km (186 miles) southwest of the capital Seoul.

A spokesman at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, state-run Korea Electric Power Corp's subsidiary that runs the country's nuclear industry, said the reactor is expected to fully supply power within this week.

South Korea's nuclear sector has been involved in a series of minor incidents and a scandal over forged certificates for parts used in what the government insists are non-essential operations - events that led to the closure of two reactors.

The commission has not yet decided when to approve the restart of the second reactor and is still discussing the issue with local residents, its officials said.

The commission has been investigating all 23 reactors to see if they were supplied with parts with fake quality documents and whether there are any safety concerns.

South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, depends heavily on oil and gas imports but its nuclear reactors supply a third of its power.

Of the 23 reactors, four with a combined 3,680 MW power supply capacity remain closed, according to industry data.

Public support for nuclear power remains strong in South Korea despite last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, and Seoul plans to have added another 11 reactors by 2024.

The government has been campaigning nationwide to save energy and avoid power blackouts in the colder than usual winter.

(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

China academics warn of "violent revolution" if no political reform

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 08:10 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - A prominent group of Chinese academics has warned in a bold open letter that the country risks "violent revolution" if the government does not respond to public pressure and allow long-stalled political reforms.

The 73 scholars, including well-known current and retired legal experts at top universities and lawyers, said political reform had not matched the quick pace of economic expansion.

"If reforms to the system urgently needed by Chinese society keep being frustrated and stagnate without progress, then official corruption and dissatisfaction in society will boil up to a crisis point and China will once again miss the opportunity for peaceful reform, and slip into the turbulence and chaos of violent revolution," they wrote.

The letter began being circulated on the Internet earlier this month, but online references to it in Chinese media reports have now been removed.

The government, which since 1949 has been controlled by the Communist Party, needed to push democracy and independence of the judiciary as well as deepen market reforms, the letter said.

He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University and one of the signatories, told Reuters he believed the demands were rather moderate, but that now was the time to make them as President Hu Jintao prepared to hand over the reins of state power to Xi Jinping, who was made party chief in November.

"We have come to that period again when the leadership is changing. People expect continuing advances when it comes to reform of the political system," he said.

"The Chinese people, including intellectuals, have been talking about this for a while, but little has happened. So I think we have the opportunity now to push it again."

Other signatories include Zhang Sizhi, defence lawyer for Mao Zedong's widow, Jiang Qing, leader of the "Gang of Four" that wielded supreme power during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. She was given a suspended death sentence in 1981 for the deaths of tens of thousands during that period of chaos.

About 65 Chinese academics, lawyers and human rights activists have signed a similar letter demanding top party members reveal their financial assets, saying it is the most fundamental way to end corruption.

Analysts have been searching for signs that China's new leaders might steer a path of political reform, whether by allowing freer expression on the Internet, greater experimentation with grassroots democracy or releasing jailed dissidents.

But the party, which brooks no dissent to its rule and values stability above all else, has so far shown little sign of wanting to go down this path, despite Xi trying to project a softer and more open image than his predecessor.

However, Xi himself warned shortly after becoming party boss that if corruption were allowed to run wild, the party risked major unrest and the collapse of its rule.

The letter said democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights were "a global trend that could not be stopped".

"China's 100 years of bloody and violent history - especially the painful and tragic lesson of the decade-long Cultural Revolution - show that once we go against the tide of democracy, human rights, rule of law and constitutional government, the people will suffer disaster and social and political stability will be impossible," the letter said.

(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton hospitalized with blood clot

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 07:57 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital on Sunday with a blood clot linked to a concussion she suffered earlier this month, the State Department said in an announcement that looked sure to fuel speculation over the health of one of America's best-known political figures.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at Stormont Castle in Belfast December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at Stormont Castle in Belfast December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Clinton, 65, has been out of the public spotlight since mid-December, when officials said she suffered a concussion after fainting due to a stomach virus contracted during a trip to Europe.

"In the course of a follow-up exam today, Secretary Clinton's doctors discovered a blood clot had formed, stemming from the concussion she sustained several weeks ago," State Department spokesman Philippe Reines said in a statement.

"She is being treated with anti-coagulants and is at New York-Presbyterian Hospital so that they can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours," Reines said. "They will determine if any further action is required."

U.S. officials said on December 15 that Clinton, who cancelled an overseas trip because of the stomach virus, suffered a concussion after fainting due to dehydration.

They have since described her condition as improving and played down suggestions that it was more serious. She had been expected to return to work this week.

Clinton's illness, already the subject of widespread political speculation, forced her to cancel planned testimony to Congress on December 20 in connection with a report on the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

The attack became the subject of heated political debate in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in November, and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly demanded that Clinton appear to answer questions directly.

Clinton's two top deputies testified in her place on the September 11 attack in Benghazi, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans and raised questions about security at far-flung diplomatic posts.

Some Republican commentators have implied that Clinton was seeking to avoid questioning on the subject, suggestions that have been strongly rebutted by State Department officials.

Clinton has stressed that she remains ready to testify and was expected to appear before lawmakers this month before she steps down, as planned, around the time of Obama's inauguration for his second term in late January.

After narrowly losing the Democratic presidential nomination to Obama in 2008, Clinton has been consistently rated as the most popular member of his Cabinet and is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

Any serious medical concern could throw a fresh question mark over her future plans, although she has frequently alluded to her general good health.


Dr. Edward Ellerbeck, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, said clots are more common in people who are sedentary, genetically predisposed, or on certain types of medicines such as the contraceptive pill or Estrogen replacements.

Ellerbeck, who is not treating Clinton, said clots are usually treated with blood thinners, typically for three to six months, and generally carry a low risk of further complications

Clinton is not known to have any of the risk factors that increase the risk of abnormal clotting, such as atherosclerosis or autoimmune disorders.

Head injuries such as the one she sustained earlier this month are associated more with bleeding than with clotting.

In one well-known case of bleeding following a head injury, actress Natasha Richardson hit her head skiing in 2009 and seemed fine, but died two days later of a hematoma, or bleeding between the outer membrane of the brain and the skull.

Clinton has said she wants to take a break from public life and has laughed off suggestions that she may mount another bid to become the first woman president of the United States - a goal she came close to reaching in 2008.

Her stint as secretary of state has further burnished the credentials she earned as a political partner to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and later as a Democratic senator from New York.

In the four years since she became Obama's surprise choice as the top U.S. diplomat, Clinton has broken travel records as she dealt with immediate crises, including Libya and Syria, and sought to manage longer-term challenges, including U.S. relations with China and Russia.

She has maintained a punishing travel schedule, and was diagnosed with the virus after a December trip that took her to the Czech Republic, NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dublin and Belfast - where she had her last public appearance on December 7.

Officials announced on December 9 that she was ill with the stomach virus, forcing her to cancel a trip to North Africa and the Gulf that was to include a stop in Morocco for a meeting on the Syria crisis.


Clinton has repeatedly said that she only intended to serve one term, and aides said she was on track to leave office within the next few weeks, once a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Her last months in office have been overshadowed by the Benghazi attack, the first to kill a U.S. ambassador in the line of duty since 1979, which brought sharp criticism of the State Department.

An independent inquiry this month found widespread failures in both security planning and internal management in the department.

It did not find Clinton personally responsible for any security failures, although she publicly took overall responsibility for Benghazi and the safety and security of U.S. diplomats overseas.

The State Department's top security officer resigned from his post under pressure and three other mid-level employees were relieved of their duties after the inquiry released its report.

The controversy also cost U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice her chance to succeed Clinton as secretary of state.

Rice drew heavy Republican criticism for comments on several television talk shows in which she said the attack appeared to be the result of a spontaneous demonstration rather than a planned assault. She ultimately withdrew her name for consideration for the top diplomatic job.

Obama on December 21 nominated Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to fill the position of secretary of state.

(Additional reporting by Jilian Mincer and Sharon Begley.; Editing by Eric Walsh and Christopher Wilson)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Venus Williams leads US to victory over S. Africa

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 03:28 PM PST

PERTH, Australia: American tennis star Venus Williams gave her comeback hopes a boost with a win at the Hopman Cup in Perth on Sunday, and said she still believed she could be a force in the Grand Slams.

The former world number one beat Chanelle Scheepers in three sets to help the United States post a 2-1 win over South Africa in their Group B tie at the mixed teams tournament.

Williams, playing for the first time since October and just 24 hours after arriving in Australia, made a slow start against the 60th-ranked Scheepers but steadied to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

The seven-time Grand Slam singles winner has climbed the rankings this year as she recovered from a major setback due to illness in 2011.

Williams has not won a Grand Slam singles title since her 2008 success at Wimbledon. She slipped to 134th in the rankings last year after suffering from Sjogren's Syndrome, a systemic autoimmune disease.

However, the 32-year-old has enjoyed much better fortunes this year.

She won her first singles title since 2010 in Luxembourg, teamed with sister Serena to win gold in the doubles at the London Olympics and finished the season ranked 24th in the world.

Speaking after hitting 44 winners in disposing of Scheepers, Williams said this year was a great platform for the coming 12 months.

"Last year was so awesome for me, winning a tournament and getting to the Olympics and getting a gold," she said. "I was extremely happy last year and moved up quite a few spots.

"This year is just about building on it and continuing to play deep into the draws and put myself in positions to play well deep into the tournaments."

Williams said she still believed she could be a force in the Grand Slams.

"I always feel that way," she said. "That's how you have to feel, you have to be positive.

"I try to be positive and tell myself I'm the best now. It doesn't happen every time but you've got to have that mind frame."

Kevin Anderson levelled the tie for South Africa with an upset win over fellow big man John Isner in the men's singles, the world number 37 beating the world number 14 after two tie-breaks, 7-6 (7/0), 7-6 (7/5).

The Americans then prevailed in straight sets in the deciding mixed doubles 6-3, 6-2.

In the evening Group A session Spain beat France 2-1, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga recovering from a break down in the first set to beat Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-3 in the men's singles, before Anabel Medina Garrigues levelled the tie with an easy win over Mathilde Johansson, 6-3, 6-2.

The Spanish dominated the mixed doubles, winning 6-3, 6-3.

Meanwhile, Germany's Andrea Petkovic has withdrawn from the tournament after injuring her right knee during her singles match on Saturday, and will be replaced in the German team for the remainder of the tournament by Tatjana Malek.

The injury-plagued Petkovic, a former top 10 player, has ruptured the meniscus in her right knee and will miss the Australian Open, but hopes to only be sidelined for a month. - AFP

Ramdan follows Misbun’s footsteps by winning national title

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 03:58 PM PST

ALOR SETAR: There is another national champion in the Misbun family now.

Yesterday, Misbun Ramdan Misbun etched his name in the Malaysian badminton annals by beating Chong Wei Feng 13-21, 21-18, 21-18 in the men's singles final of the National Grand Prix Finals at the Kedah BA Hall.

The 21-year-old Ramdan, the son of six-time national champion Datuk Misbun Sidek, was an underdog against second seed Wei Feng.

Despite losing the first game, the fifth-seeded Ramdan refused to give up and was rewarded for his perseverance in the next two games to take home RM7,000.

"I'm really happy with the result. I was a bit nervous in the first game as I could not cope with Wei Feng's pace," said Ramdan.

"Luckily, I settled down in the second game and managed to overcome him."

There was also joy for Tee Jing Yi. She exacted sweet revenge over Lydia Cheah to reclaim the women's singles title.

Jing Yi won 21-18, 23-21 to take home the winner's cheque of RM4,000. It was Jing Yi's third title, having also emerged triumphant in 2009 and 2010. Last year, she lost to Lydia in the final.

"I think both of us were quite nervous and we played quite conservatively because we wanted to win," said Jing Yi. "Lydia lost because she made a lot of mistakes."

In the men's doubles event, Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong had no trouble fending off Chooi Kah Ming-Ow Yao Han's challenge.

Top seeds Thien How-Wee Kiong were hardly troubled as they beat the 2009 world junior champions 21-14, 21-15.

There was a thrilling battle for the mixed doubles crown with Goh V Shem-Soong Fie Choo prevailing over Lim Khim Wah-Vivian Hoo to win 21-18, 7-21, 21-19.

Senheng-Samsung offer RM1mil for gold in 2016

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 04:00 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: A RM1mil reward will be given to a shuttler who wins a gold in the 2016 Olympic Games. The coach will also get RM1mil for his efforts in producing the gold medallist.

And should a doubles pair emerge triumphant in Rio de Janeiro, the reward will be shared by all three. And if there is no winner in Rio, the offer still stands for the 2020 Games.

But there is a catch. The reward, offered by Senheng Electric (KL) and Samsung, is only for players from the Looi Badminton Academy (LBA).

The incentive was announced during LBA's inaugural annual dinner at Sports Arena, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday.

Lim Kim Heng, the managing director of Senheng Electric, said the offer was made early to motivate the players at the academy.

"The 2016 Olympics is four years away so it will give them time to internalise that dream. It's a great mental motivator. I'm sure the players' families and friends will be behind them and encouraging them all they way," said Kim Heng.

"We made the offer to both the player and coach because one will not achieve success without the other. We want this to be a concerted effort. It's an incentive for both to work hard. And I think they've got a great set-up here and hopefully, with this incentive, future Olympic champion will come out of Looi BA," he added.

Kim Heng, however, quipped: "In the final, after he or she wins the last point, they must come and hug me first! If they hug their coach, there will be no reward."

LBA chief coach Cheah Soon Kit, a member of the 1992 Thomas Cup winning team and 1996 Olympic silver medallist, was delighted with the offer.

"It's a good gesture by Senheng and Samsung to offer the reward. It will definitely motivate and encourage our players to look forward to the Olympics," he said.

"Our recruitment is on-going and it's not easy to find a talent with skills.

"They must also have the right attitude. But it's not an impossible target to win an Olympic gold. We will try our best and we have to think positive. Anything is possible," added Soon Kit.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Foreign funds bought more than RM13.5b of Malaysian equities in 2012

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 06:41 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign funds bought more than RM13.50bil of Malaysian equities in 2012, which was 7.1 times the net inflow of RM1.9bil in 2011, according to MIDF Equities Research.

The research house said since January 2010, cumulative net purchase of Bursa Malaysia-listed shares by foreigners stayed above the RM30bil mark at RM30.8bil.

It also estimated foreign investors remained net buyers of Malaysian equities for the third straight week ended Dec 28. It should be noted the FBM KLCI closed at an all-time high of 1,681.33.

"On a net basis, foreign investors bought RM150.7mil (of equities) in the open market, surprisingly higher than the RM99.8mil purchased the week before, considering the fact that it was a Christmas week," it said.

MIDF Research said foreign funds were net buyers on every trading day last week despite that overall trading volume was extremely low.

"The rate of participation (average daily gross purchase and sale) was only RM508mil, the third lowest this year and a sharp drop compared with RM982mil the week before," it said.

The research house said local investors continued to withdraw from the market which saw retailers continuing to be net sellers for the fourth consecutive week, offloading RM46mil of equities.

As for participation rate, it was low and averaged less than RM500mil a day for the fourth week running at only RM451mil.

"Local institutions also continued to sell, clearing RM105mil. Daily average participation rate plunged to RM1.01bil among the lowest this year. For 2012, local institutions sold, on aggregate net basis, RM9.52bil of equity," it said.

Malaysia's blue chips open lower, Axiata weighs

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 05:18 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI opened lower on Monday, the last trading day of the year, on some mild profit taking on key stocks including Axiata, Public Bank, CIMB and Tenaga after hitting an all-time high last Friday.

At 9.07am, the KLCI was down 4.80 points to 1,676.53.Turnover was 24.78 million shares valued at RM13.04mil. There were 63 gainers, 63 losers and 111 counters unchanged.

Axiata fell nine sen to RM6.65 and Tenaga was down four sen to RM6.90 while among the banks, Public Bank fell eight sen to RM16.22 and CIMB shed seven sen to RM7.60.

KLCCP fell the most, down 13 sen to RM6.17 with just 100 shares done while Lafarge slipped 10 sen to RM9.32, also with 100 units transacted.

Affin Research maintains Reduce rating on Aeon

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 05:09 PM PST

Published: Monday December 31, 2012 MYT 9:09:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Affin Investment Research maintains its Reduce rating on Aeon Co. (M) Bhd and target price of RM10.30 pegged to an unchanged price-to-earnings ratio of 17 times CY13 earnings ratio (PER) of 17 times 2012 earnings per share.

It said on Monday although it is positive on the group's prospects due to its sound expansion plans; healthy domestic consumer spending spurred by the government's handouts and steady growth in its property management division with healthy rentals and resilient growth in tenancy, the sharp year-to-date share price appreciation of more 75% has pushed valuations to an unjustifiable high level.

"The stock is currently trading at 20 times FY13 PER with a dividend yield of just 1.3%. We maintain our Reduce rating on the stock and TP of RM10.30 pegged to an unchanged PER of 17 times CY13 EPS," it said.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Where are the women?

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 12:06 AM PST

Our columnist is in search of something more than a band of male creatures questing and fighting.

SO the family went to watch Peter Jackson's The Hobbit today (Christmas eve). I didn't hate it, but at one point I forgot that it was the first part of a trilogy and felt acute distress that there was a lot more story left to be told. "How much longer do I have to sit here?" I thought.

I don't think I shall go for the next film. (Tolkien/Peter Jackson fans reading this, your hate e-mail will not be forwarded to me so save your energy.)

Gimli is my favourite character in The Lord Of The Rings books that follow The Hobbit and I disliked how he was portrayed as a figure of fun in Peter Jackson's film trilogy.

In The Hobbit, when they're not fighting (or running from) orcs, the dwarfs generally behave like a bunch of clowns and look like the hairy, short and beefy creatures you imagine them to be (based on mythology and Tolkien's descriptions). However, Thorin Oakenshield, Fili and Kili are portrayed as handsome, vertically-challenged human men in The Hobbit, not dwarfs – and that's most definitely about PJ knowing that eye candy sells movie tickets.

I read The Lord Of The Rings but did not get very far with The Hobbit, although it is said to be an easier read. I may give it another go if only in an attempt to remove the bad taste Martin Freeman, as Bilbo Baggins, has left in my mouth – I prefer him as John Watson in the TV series Sherlock.

But, really, Freeman or no Freeman, The Hobbit is just a trifle too male and hairy for my tastes.

Although he created a few significant female characters (for The LOTR, not The Hobbit), Tolkien doesn't allow them much space in his books. Perhaps he didn't know much about women and didn't feel he could portray them well or believably. Or perhaps he just didn't think they were terribly interesting (as a sex) and so didn't bother with them. The Hobbit was initially written for Tolkien's young sons who probably would not have cared for women characters. However, the author expanded and revised the book for publication and could have added to the cast to include women, but didn't.

I understand PJ has included a female in his cast – an elf named Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly who was in TV's Lost. I'm sure a sexy elf makes good business sense and PJ knows that he can't rely on Cate Blanchett for that: Galadriel is just too unnerving with her mysterious smiles and the echo-y voice-overs when she's communicating telepathically with Gandalf.

Still, those scenes would have at least added some variety to the book. I'm not interested in romantic sub-plots (my children expected Galadriel and Gandalf to kiss when she held his hands – horrors!), just something more than a band of male creatures questing and fighting.

I wonder if there will be many books in the coming year about questing and fighting. Will The Hobbit movies encourage the publication of fantasies featuring dragons and (sexy) dwarfs? Rachel Hartman's Seraphina has dragons quite unlike what readers of high fantasy are used to and the sequel will be published mid-year, but we shall have to wait and see about the dwarfs. Perhaps someone will write a new version of Snow White in which the heroine falls in love with Grumpy instead of a prince? I'd read that!

> Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to star2@thestar.com.my and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.

Life as a marked man

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 12:05 AM PST

Joseph Anton – A Memoir
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House, 636 pages

An acclaimed author's memoir of living under a death sentence ruminates on some very important issues in today's world.

SOME books make for great reading, others are important to read. Salman Rushdie's memoir, Joseph Anton, which recounts his years living under a death sentence fatwa following the publication of the infamous The Satanic Verses, is a book that fits both categories.

Given that it is penned by the Booker Prize-winning Rushdie, considered to be one of the great writers of our time, it may go without saying that the memoir is an excellent read. What makes it an essential read, however, is the way in which the events outlined in the book continue to resonate so strongly today, almost 24 years after they were first set in motion.

Intolerance, religious fundamentalism, and freedom of speech are salient issues that we continue to grapple with today, so Joseph Anton's publication in September seems very timely indeed.

Rushdie's story is one of those real-life accounts that seems right out of the pages of fiction. The book begins on Valentine's Day in 1989, when he receives a phone call at his London home from a BBC journalist telling him that Iran's spiritual leader at the time, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had proclaimed a fatwa demanding Rushdie's execution.

His crime was writing The Satanic Verses, which was seen as blasphemous against Islam. With a sizeable bounty on his head and the religious "call to arms" nature of the fatwa, Rushdie instantly becomes a marked man.

This is the start of the author's life in hiding, as he is forced to live under special police protection while moving secretly from house to house.

He is asked to choose an alias to conceal his real identity, and he picks "Joseph Anton": a combination of two favourite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov.

Meanwhile, protests rage across the world against The Satanic Verses, people are calling for Rushdie's death, the book is banned in multiple countries, and within Britain public and political opinion is divided over whether Rushdie deserves the special treatment of police protection (at taxpayers' expense) or whether he has simply brought all this upon himself.

The author would go on to live in this manner for more than nine years, and it would be 2002 before British Intelligence finally lifts the protection accorded to him. During this time, Rushdie struggles to maintain some semblance of a normal life, as he falls in (and out) of love, tries to be a good father, and of course, continues writing.

Written in the third person – Rushdie refers to himself as "he" throughout – Joseph Anton may surprise those who are used to Rushdie's more dense and layered prose in his fiction. While the writing style amply displays his flair for language and dry humour, it is also very down-to-earth and relatable.

The book is not without its flaws, one of which is a tendency to slow to a crawl in parts. As he himself says, long periods in his life during this time were spent in stasis, and not even a writer of his calibre can make reading about drudgery feel exciting.

The book is also very much Rushdie's opinion of Rushdie, which can sometimes seem rather gratingly high. But for all his tendency to self-aggrandise, there can be no downplaying what the man has lived through, and you'd be hard-pressed to read Joseph Anton without keenly feeling the loss of all those years in his life.

Things that we take for granted – visiting our parents, going on a date, taking holidays abroad, playing in the park with our children – are near impossible for Rushdie during this time in his life, and driving this painful point home is one of the book's fortes.

As with most memoirs, the book also offers many voyeuristic pleasures, with Rushdie recounting his relationships with the women in his life.

Here, he is often as brutally honest about his own flaws and failings as he is about his partners'. His accounts of his love for his sons, meanwhile, and his very real fear for their safety, are some of the most touching parts of the book.

Also exciting is his hobnobbing with many famous names, ranging from the late Harold Pinter, the playwright, and celebrity chef and "domestic goddess" Nigella Lawson to rock star and humanitarian Bono.

Rushdie's observations and anecdotes on those who share the literary scene with him too are quite delightful, encompassing everyone from Roald Dahl to Arundhati Roy.

What comes through even more, though, is the efforts of those around him to champion his cause: the many officers who voluntarily put themselves in danger to protect him, publishers and booksellers who championed his works in the face of assassination threats, other writers who at great risk to speak up on his behalf.

To them, Rushdie generously and repeatedly pays homage.

They are fighting, he asserts, not just for his freedom but for freedom of speech itself. For at it's core, that is what Joseph Anton is about – that art can and should be questioned, discussed, praised and denigrated, but never curtailed.

In weaving his own story with that of the fatwa, what Rushdie has done is put a human face to that issue; it may be relatively simple to disregard exactly what it means to call for the death of a person, but it becomes a lot more difficult to stomach when you think of that person as a husband, father, brother, son and friend, one who is blessed, like the rest of us, with all-too-human strengths and failings.

Analogue and ancient vs digital and modern

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 12:03 AM PST

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 288 pages

WHILE most of us have become enamoured of our gadgets and exhilarated by new technological development, I think it's fair to say that we feel a sense of unease when we contemplate what we might stand to lose from our headlong rush to embrace the digital future.

As far as reading is concerned we are on the verge of a revolution as enormous as the one created in the 15th century by Johannes Guttenberg, the inventor of the printing press. But we also experience certain nostalgia for what we are leaving behind, including the physical book and independent bookstores, both of which are currently endangered species.

Can we have the best of both worlds? Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore is a timely novel that takes these questions onboard.

Clay Jannon is an unemployed web designer; his only job experience to date was a spell doing web designs for a Bay Area bagel company. As he wanders the streets of San Francisco (safely distancing himself from the distractions of the Internet), he happens upon a small bookshop in a less than salubrious street, and notices a card in the window advertising a vacant position. The proprietor of the bookshop is one Mr Penumbra who asks him, somewhat portentously, "What do you seek on these shelves?"

Indeed, this turns out to be a very unusual bookshop, and Clay wonders how it manages to stay in business at all. Apart from some shelves near the front of the store which hold more conventional stock, most of the store consists of thousands of leather-bound volumes, stacked so high that Clay must shin up perilously tall ladders to retrieve them.

Clay works the graveyard shift. There are almost no real customers as such, but a succession of elderly folk who come at night to borrow books from what is known as "the waybacklist". They never browse the shelves, but seem to know exactly what title they are looking for. Clay is charged with writing down in a log book the details of who came, what they borrowed, and how they looked.

But Clay has been forbidden by Penumbra to look inside the books himself. He manages to hold out for a month before curiosity gets the better of him when his roommate comes to visit the store. They discover, to their amazement, that the volumes are written in some kind of code.

There's clearly a puzzle to be solved and Clay sets out to crack it in ways the computer nerd knows best, drawing into the quest his friends. There's Kat Potente the ultimate geek girl and Google employee who wanders into the bookstore in response to a targeted ad Clay has placed to draw in customers; and Neel, Clays former online role play partner who has become a start up entrepreneur. Neel shares Clay's love for the Dragon Song Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy, which has a part to play in the unfolding mystery.

The action shifts to New York and the headquarters of a mysterious society which the friends must infiltrate to find answers. Sloan keeps things moving admirably, and even though the plot is a little thin in places when you hold it up to light, it's an enjoyable read which includes many elements that are bound to appeal to a younger generation of readers who have grown up with fantasy fiction and computers.

Sloan's tale very cleverly combines the analogue and ancient with references to online culture and high-tech fantasy. He is spot-on in his observations about our relationship with the digital world. But in the end, it is not the high-tech skills, impressive as they are (especially the Hadoop application that solves a complex problems by sending the data to thousands of computers for processing) that win the day. Instead, it is close attention to detail, and the ability to read between the lines of a favourite novel that solve the riddle. This is a rather comforting conclusion.

What I enjoyed most about the book was its wry humour. You sense Sloan laughing at himself as much as at his characters, and there are some great throw-away lines. One that made me chuckle: "Kat bought a New York Times but couldn't figure out how to operate it, so now she's fiddling with her phone."

It's fitting that Sloan's first novel was inspired by a tweet from a friend who mistook a sign for a 24-hour bookdrop (presumably outside a library) for a 24-hour bookshop. Intrigued by the concept of a bookstore that's open round the clock, Sloan wrote a short story that he self-published with Amazon Kindle (it is still up on Sloan's website, robinsloan.com) and the novel grew from that.

While the novel could be easily read on the digital device of your choice, the publishers have struck a blow for the book as artifact: the attractive cover only reveals its secret when you view it in the dark!

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Stork a-calling

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 04:25 AM PST

Blue Ivy Carter (Jan 7)

Superstar Beyonce and hip-hip mogul Jay-Z welcomed their first child, Blue Ivy Carter. The couple chose Ivy as a middle name due to the significance of the number 4, or IV, Beyonce and Jay-Z were born on Sept and Dec 4, respectively, they tied the knot on April 4, 2008 and Beyonce's fourth studio album is called 4.

Olive Barrymore Kopelman (Sept 26)

Drew Barrymore revealed that she and husband Will Kopelman settled on their baby's name ten weeks into her pregnancy. On The Ellen Degeneres Show, Barrymore said "I was reading a book with my husband. I was three months pregnant and they said your baby is the size of an olive, and that was it. We never looked back."

Noah Shannon Green & Tennessee James (Sept 27)

Megan Fox and husband Brian Austin Green had Reese Witherspoon to thank for the lack of press coverage during the birth of Noah Shannon Green. Witherspoon gave birth to Tennessee James hours before Fox, also on Sept 27. The couple were able to keep Noah's birth a secret for almost three weeks.

Adele & Simon Konecki (Oct 10)

The singer gave birth to a son in October but has yet to reveal his name to the public.

Vivian Lake (Dec 5)

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen announced on Facebook that she gave birth to Vivian Lake on Dec 5. She is Gisele's second child with her husband, NFL quarterback Tom Brady.

Booze hound actor Charlie Sheen opens bar in Mexico

Posted: 29 Dec 2012 06:48 PM PST

LOS CABOS, Mexico: US actor Charlie Sheen, who has a long history of hard partying and scandal, has a new night spot in Mexico - his own, a local official said Saturday.

The perennially troubled Hollywood star hosted a gala opening night dinner Friday at his new bar, The Goose, in the Mexican resort area of Los Cabos, said state Tourism Secretary Ruben Reachi Lugo, who was not invited.

Many celebrities "spend their vacation, celebrate their birthdays or open a new restaurant or new development," Lugo said of the resort area at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula.

Sheen, born Carlos Irwin Estevez, was abruptly booted from his long-running gig starring in the television comedy series, "Two and a Half Men" in 2011, after publicly insulting the producer.

He returned to television in 2012, with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek role playing a man sentenced to anger management counseling.

Son of actor Martin Sheen and brother of another actor, Emilio Estevez, Sheen first became famous for his roles in the Vietnam War drama "Platoon," and 1980s greed parable "Wall Street."

Highlights in his career have also included comedic roles in the "Major League" movies and "Top Gun" parodies "Hot Shots" and "Hot Shots: Part Deux." - AFP

Living legacies

Posted: 29 Dec 2012 03:40 PM PST

They left the world leaving a mark that will be remembered long into the future.

VIDAL Sassoon was known as the man who "changed the world with a pair of scissors". The British-born hairstylist was known not only for his geometric haircuits (which he introduced in the 1960s and are, till today, very much in trend) but his "wash and wear" philosophy aimed at freeing women from the "tyranny of the salon". Although he sold his company many years ago, Sassoon remained one of the most cutting-edge hairstylists of all time. Sassoon passed away in May this year at 84 and is one of the many notable personalities to have passed away in 2012. The literary world also lost some luminaries like Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury and Diana Wynne Jones while famous British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore (who hosted the show The Sky at Night since 1957) passed away at 89 in earlier this month. Moore authored more than 60 books on astronomy and his research on the Moon was used by both The Soviet Union and the United States in their space programmes. Most recently, renowned Indian musician/composer Ravi Shanker, who was hailed as one of the top sitar players in his time, bid farewell, too. He passed away on December 11 at the age of 92. Here are some notable personalities who left us this year.

Jan 20

Etta James, 73

Etta James died at Riverside Community Hospital in California in the United States after undergoing treatment for leukemia and dementia, among other conditions, according to her manager, Lupe De Leon.

Born to a teenage mother with no real idea who her father was, singer Etta James overcame the odds to make a name for herself in the music industry, belting out all-time popular hits like At Last and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.She had earned four Grammy Awards as well as a spot in both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, her constant struggle with drugs (well documented in her autobiography, Rage To Survive) ensured that life was never smooth sailing.

Feb 11

Whitney Houston, 48

Cited by the Guinness World Records as the most awarded female act of all time, Whitney Houston sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide, making her one of the world's best selling artists. Unfortunately, fame and fortune did not guarantee Houston happiness: her marriage to singer Bobby Brown (they separated in 2006) got her addicted to alcohol and drugs, which led to her untimely death at 48, found drowned in her hotel bathroom under drug influence.

April 18

Dick Clark, 82

Nicknamed "the world's oldest teenager", Dick Clark was the consummate entertainer: the founder of Dick Clark Productions was involved in all aspects of the entertainment industry, everything from movies and games to music shows and beauty contests.

Clark first made his name as the energetic host of American Bandstand, a show credited for bringing rock 'n' roll into the mainstream back in the 1960s and 1970s. Through the course of his life, he won five Emmy Awards (including one lifetime achievement award) and one Peabody Award. He had also been inducted into virtually every hall of fame there is: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

More importantly, he served as an inspiration and was the beacon of strength for stroke patients worldwide after he continued to perform despite suffering from the condition himself in 2004, affecting his speech and movement. Clark died after suffering a heart attack following a medical procedure.

May 17

Donna Summer. 63

With five Grammy Awards under her belt, the Queen of Disco was the first artiste to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the United States' Billboard chart. Her numerous disco hits like Love To Love You, Baby, She Works Hard For The Money, I Feel Love, Hot Stuff and Bad Girls are still staples at discos and parties the world over (and not just among those above 40)! Summer was diagnosed with lung cancer recently (convinced that inhaling toxic air after the 9/11 incident caused her sickness) and died fighting the disease.

May 20

Robin Gibb, 62

The co-founder of the legendary 1970s group, Bee Gees, Robin Gibb finally succumbed after a long battle with cancer. With his twin brother Maurice and older brother Barry, the trio formed Bee Gees (which loosely stood for the Brothers Gibb) in 1958 and churned out one defining hit after another, such as Stayin' Alive, Saturday Night Fever, and How Deep is Your Love. Bee Gees was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after having sold more than 200 million albums. Gibb himself was a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, and was the lead singer in the groups' earlier days.

July 7

Paul Ponnudorai, 51

Legendary Malaysian guitarist Paul Ponnudorai was hailed by the Time magazine as "quite possibly the greatest musical interpreter of our time" in 2007. First rising to fame in RTM's Bakat TV talent time competition as a solo guitarist, he had proceeded to play backup for the likes of Sheila Majid and Sudirman, as well as various foreign artistes such as Billy Cobham and Wynton Marsalis.

Ponnudorai, who died of organ failure, was adept at a variety of musical styles.

July 8

Ernest Borgnine, 95

Ernest Borgnine had a career that spanned 60 decades in film and television acting. His best performance was, arguably, in the 1955 Academy Award and Palme d'Or winning movie Marty, for which he also beat screen legends like James Dean and Frank Sinatra to the Academy Award for Best Actor. Age did not slow Borgnine down; he received an Emmy Award nomination at 92 for his work on the TV series, ER. Children will recognise the voice of Borgnine, who portrayed Mermaid Man, in the Spongebob Squarepants cartoon series from 1999 to 2012.

July 16

Jon Lord, 71

"We're as valid as anything by Beethoven." The keyboardist and co-founder of Deep Purple raised some eyebrows when he said this of the band in 1973. However, he had more in common with the composer than most, as Lord himself had composed classical works, such as Durham Concerto.

Lord founded Deep Purple in 1968 and was a member until their break-up in 1976. The group got back together in 1984 and Lord finally left the group for good in 2002. Cancer got the better of the Hammond organist this year.

July 24

Sherman Helmsley, 74

Helmsley is probably best known for his role as Goerge Jefferson in the sitcom The Jeffersons, which ran from 1975 till 1985. Unlike his brash character, however, the American actor was in real life, a shy and intensely private man who was described by many of his friends as being reclusive. Helmsley avoided the limelight and as a result, little of his personal life was public knowledge. In a rare interview with the Archive of American Television, he confessed that playing the role of George Jefferson was hard for him, "but he was the character. I had to do it." Helmsley passed away from cancer.

Aug 15

Punch Gunalan, 68

Malaysia lost yet another legend with the death of Datuk Punch Gunalan, former national champion and badminton hero.

Gunalan boasted an illustrious career which included winning the All England, US Open, Canadian Open and Danish Open with his doubles' partner, Ng Boon Bee. However, it could be said that his biggest contribution to the national badminton scene came after his retirement, when he took up a coaching stint with the Badminton Association of Malaysia and then became Deputy President of the International Badminton Federation. During his reign, his passion for the sport showed in his vow to make badminton the best racquet sport in the world.

Aug 19

Tony Scott, 68

Younger brother of Ridley Scott, the director of Top Gun created shockwaves throughout the entertainment world when he jumped from Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. Scott first entered the directing scene with vampire movie The Hunger (1983), starring Susan Sarandon, David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. Following the relative success of the movie, Scott was approached by producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to direct Top Gun (1986), starring Tom Cruise.

Together with his brother Ridley, the Scott brothers managed the successful ScottFree Productions company, and are known for producing TV series such as the Emmy-nominated TV hit The Good Wife, Numb3rs, and The Pillars Of The Earth mini-series.

Aug 20

Phyllis Diller, 95

The sassy comedienne, famous for her self-deprecating jokes, died peacefully in her sleep "with a smile on her face".

Hailed as the true pioneer for women comics, Diller shot to fame in the 1960s, thanks to her many appearances with Bob Hope on his television specials, US tours and three movies. Later, she also tried her hand at television, her own variety show, as well as a run on Broadway in 1970, starring as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!

Though she had officially retired from stand-up comedy in 2002, Diller will always be remembered for her blonde fright wig and cackling laugh.

Aug 25

Neil Armstrong, 82

This American astronaut made history as the first man to set foot on the moon, uttering the famous line: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". Armstrong had nurtured a fascination with aircraft since his boyhood, taking flying lessons at 15 and flying 78 missions in the Korean War. Over the next 17 years, he served as engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA, and later NASA. The highlight of his life, however, was undoubtedly the moment when he and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, before an estimated audience of 500 million.

September 2

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, 92

The self-proclaimed messiah from Korea founded the Unification Church, a worldwide movement that allegedly has around three million members, including 100,000 in the United States.

Notorious for its mass weddings and purportedly devious methods of recruitment, the church was seen as a cult in the 1970s and 1980s, but these accusations had since faded. In 2009, Moon married 45,000 people in simultaneous ceremonies worldwide, garnering media attention but not so much contempt.

Moon claimed to have met Jesus Christ at the age of 16, and was continuing His work. He founded the church in 1954, preaching a new interpretation of the Bible, fused with elements of Confucianism.

Nov 23

Larry Hagman, 81

The actor of television's favourite villain, J.R. Ewing, in the popular series Dallas succumbed to throat cancer after battling liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s, ailments he attributed to decades of drinking.

From the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Hagman was quite possibly the most famous actor in the world, starring as the villain everybody "loved to hate" in the hit series that showed in 57 countries worldwide. In a monumental cliffhanger episode, Hagman's character was shot twice by an unknown assailant, and the next episode, "Who Shot J.R.?" went on to become the second-highest-rated television programme ever, with a rating of 53.3% and an average audience of 41,470,000 households.

Dec 5

Dave Brubeck, 91

The legendary jazz pianist, composer and bandleader from the Dave Brubeck Quartet died of a heart attack on the way to a cardiologist's appointment one day before his 92nd birthday.

The quartet was founded by Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1951, eventually becoming one of the leading acts in jazz. The band was known for its "Time" albums, such as Time Out, Time Further Out and Time Changes, so named because of its experiments with different time signatures. The quartet's hits include The Duke, In Your Own Sweet Way, Blue Rondo à la Turk, and its biggest hit of all, Take Five.

After the quartet disbanded in 1967, Brubeck composed ballets, musicals, cantatas, oratorios and much more. A strict opposer of racism, he also composed The Truth Has Fallen, a tribute to the students killed by National Guard troops at Kent State University, Ohio in 1970.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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Azizan: I will contest in GE if people want me and I am still strong

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 04:27 AM PST

KUALA NERANG: Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak wants to contest in the upcoming general election.

Azizan, who is Kedah PAS commissioner, said he would make a decision on defending his Sungai Limau state seat.

"We will see...if the people want and the headquarters nominates and I am still strong, I will continue to contest.

"If Nik Aziz (party religious advisor Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat) wants to contest, I will also want to contest," he told reporters when asked to comment on the preparation of Kedah PAS.

He was approached during a working visit to a fruit estate project in Charok Genting Bunga, Pedu near here Sunday.

Azizan said age did not matter in politics as it is about ambition, strategy and planning.

He said Kedah PAS has prepared its list of candidates for the general election.

He said the candidates selected to contest would only be announced after receiving the greenlight from PAS central headquarters at the appropriate time.

DPM: PWD to monitor hillslope development nationwide

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 04:01 AM PST

Published: Sunday December 30, 2012 MYT 6:33:00 PM
Updated: Sunday December 30, 2012 MYT 8:01:23 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Public Works Department has formed a taskforce to monitor hillslope developments nationwide.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said such a team was necessary in light of the collapse of the embankment wall at Bukit Setiawangsa on Friday.

"The taskforce will monitor and review all hillslope developments nationwide to prevent such a disaster from occuring.

"The landslide at Bukit Setiawangsa is unexpected but the department as well as other relevant authorities must stay vigilant," he told reporters when visiting Bukit Setiawangsa on Sunday.

Muhyiddin said he was satisfied with the early measures taken by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as well as other relevant authorities in evacuating the residents.

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Bkt Setiawangsa landslide: Collapsed wall doesn't meet current guidelines, says KL mayor
Bkt Setiawangsa landslide: MP had 'always' been concerned about embankment
Embankment collapses at Bukit Setiawangsa, residents forced to vacate homes
Bkt Setiawangsa landslide: Residents from 46 homes evacuated

Journalist assaulted after covering event in Penang

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 02:37 AM PST

GEORGE TOWN: A journalist with a Chinese newspaper was injured after he was assaulted by four men after covering an event at an apartment in Jalan Perak here Sunday.

Ang Kean Siang, 32, of the Guang Ming Daily, said the incident occurred at about 1.30am when he went to the apartment to cover an incident in which a woman was found dead, believed to have fallen from the building.

He claimed that while taking several pictures of the scene, a man approached and scolded him and told him to leave the premises.

"Afraid of creating a scene there, I left and as I was leaving a man on a motorcycle offered to give me a ride," Ang said when met after he lodged a report at the Timur Laut District police headquarters here.

He claimed that the motorcyclist took him to an area at Lorong Perak, which was being used as a beat base by the Volunteer Patrol Team (PPS) and left him there. "Then came the man who scolded me earlier, together with three other men.

One of them took my camera and smashed it on the ground," he added.

He claimed that the four men also punched and kicked him.

Ang, who has been a journalist for 10 years, sought treatment at the Penang Hospital before going to Loh Guan Lye Hospital.

Timur Laut District police chief ACP Gan Kong Meng confirmed the incident and said police was investigating. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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Micro workouts: Mini-exercise sessions

Posted: 29 Dec 2012 05:08 PM PST

Micro workouts are a great way of getting some short bursts of physical activity throughout the day.

IF you're one of the doomsday preppers, you may have gorged yourself silly with artery-clogging foods, stayed off exercise and lived as if it was your last day on earth. You waited a day, two, three perhaps, and darn, the apocalypse was a no-show.

The sun is still shining and the birds are chirping, but now you've piled on a few kilos and it looks unsightly. Well, it's too late to shake it off before 11.59pm tomorrow, but hey, you can make one of your 2013 resolutions to work out anywhere, anytime. As long as you can squeeze in a few minutes here and there, you'll be on your way to a fitter, healthier body.

Micro workouts – doing short bursts of activity throughout the day – have been around for the past few years. Everyone has a minute here and there to spare, especially when they have to wait for something. Standing at an elevator (you should be taking the stairs in the first place), waiting for the LRT, waiting for your food or date to arrive, and even waiting for the next programme on telly can all add up to little moments of exercise.

These mini-exercise sessions can also be more formal, such as a five-minute walk or a three-minute yoga pose.

The goal of a micro workout is to encourage people to move often, rather than to exercise for a long stretch several times a week. Micro workouts help relieve stress and improve your mood.

Although initially frowned upon by personal trainers, sports medicine scientists have done much research to prove that there are benefits, especially for those who do not exercise at all.

A study at the John Hopkins University, United States, concluded that short exercise intervals can be just as effective as longer ones. You may not feel the same endorphin release, or sweat as profusely as a 30-45 minute continuous workout, but something is better than nothing.

However, if you're looking to shed weight fast, then you have to work out more strenuously. Sorry, there are no short cuts to success although you may see some toning and slimming effects.

Our bodies were designed to move, but with technology taking over most aspects of our lives, we've become sedentary animals, and the effects are being seen on our expanding waistlines. And you wonder why obesity is on the rise?

If you don't have time to work out, it probably means you're doing too much. Most people have to juggle between a career and a family – sure, it's no easy task. But, if you can squeeze three 10-minute sessions into your hectic schedule daily, it will be a great start.

Even if you have to dance to Psy's Gangnam Style, no matter how uncoordinated you are, just get up and do it. Psy's no dancer and his horsey moves are pretty simple to follow. Bottom line: every small bootyshake helps burn calories.

By doing short bursts of activity five times a week, you'll get the 150 minutes of workout weekly, which is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.

If you enjoy a certain activity, stick with it. Exercise doesn't have to be a dirty word. It doesn't always mean pumping irons at the gym or engaging in competitive sports. It can be any physical activity, including gardening or housework.

When American fitness and martial arts guru Billy Blanks released the eight-minute Taebo (a portmanteau of taekwondo and boxing) DVD workout earlier this century, it was a revolution. I recall breaking out in sweat and feeling so good that I'd pop in the DVD and do it twice a day. He claimed it would help burn at least 70 calories in that short span of time, although this is disputable.

His celebrity clients included Paula Abdul, actresses Neve Campbell and Brooke Shields, and athletes Wayne Gretzky, Bruce Jenner, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal. With newer fads and versions of kickboxing entering the market, the workout waned, but it left a lasting impression. Now his son, Billy Blanks Jr, has taken over with his dance-based workout DVDs.

You can start with micro workouts as soon as you rise in the morning. Start with some easy wake-me-up crunches while still in bed. Perform two to three sets of 20, then turn over and stretch those muscles. Do some back extensions and you'll feel alive immediately! You'll spring out of bed in no time.

You can also do two minutes of wall push-ups, squats, lunges and stretching, totalling eight muscle-burning minutes.

There are many basic micro workout routines you can do throughout your day. The key is to perform a few different types of exercise that last a few minutes each. Whether it's taking a brisk walk or stroll, there are still benefits. When you have (or need) a little more energy, do some jumping jacks, run on the spot, or race up the stairs.

Here are some more little exercises you can incorporate into your routine:

*Go over to your colleagues' desk by walking, instead of calling or using inter-office messaging.

*If you're on the cell phone, move around while you talk, or do calf raises or squats.

*If you work in a remote area, consider cycling to work. This option is not viable in the city due to the horrendous traffic, pollution and safety factors.

*At work, though you may have been told countless times to park your car far from the stairs or elevator, and walk, I would advise you against it. Not with the rising number of robberies in carparks.

*Take a lunchtime brisk walk. A rule of thumb, always walk before you eat. You don't want to exercise on a full stomach as it interferes with digestion.

*Use the stairs whenever possible.

*Stretch while waiting for the elevator. I get rude stares for my "indecent" poses, but it doesn't bother me.

*When you're sitting on your "throne", especially in the morning, do ankle and wrist rotations to limber up your joints.

All of the above doesn't take too much effort. One micro step at a time does the trick. On that note, here's wishing all readers a Happy Fit Year ahead!

Treating dance injuries

Posted: 29 Dec 2012 05:06 PM PST

Dancers, despite being high performance athletes, are often unable to find dance medicine specialists to treat their injuries in minimal downtime.

WHAT happens when a professional athlete gets injured?

He is examined by a sports medicine specialist, given a diagnosis, and almost immediately, put on a rehabilitation programme, so that he can get back on the field as quickly as possible. Money and glory are at stake.

But, what happens when a professional dancer gets injured?

We are engaged in equally high performance sports, train for a lifetime to attain technical mastery, and suffer similar injuries. While we're driven by sheer passion to advocate our art and light up stages to entertain, there is hardly any profit to be made.

Lamentably, in this part of the world, we have limited resources, and even fewer dance medicine practitioners who understand our plight.

Dance medicine, a spin-off from sports medicine, is an emerging field, but it's almost non-existent in South-East Asia. As a discipline, it investigates the causes of dance injuries, promotes their care, prevention and safe post-rehabilitation return to dance, and explores the "how" of dance movement.

When I pulled a muscle in my back a few years ago, I raced to the hospital as I was a day away from performing in a week-long festival. I needed my body to execute complex, high-intensity, acrobatic movements.

The specialist told me it was a just a strain, gave me some painkillers, muscle relaxants, and a few days of medical leave to recuperate.

"Rest?!" I asked in shock. "Doctor, I have to perform tomorrow!"

I was concerned if I could dance the following day, and made it clear it wasn't at the disco. After all, I had trained extremely hard for months, and tickets were sold out.

There was no way I could withdraw as I didn't have an understudy. As the performing arts fraternity will say, the show must go on.

Unperturbed by my ramblings, he continued to jot notes and asked, "What's the hurry?"

Obviously, he had no clue as to the urgency of my recovery. Many others in the medical field, who have little or no experience with dancers and high performance athletes, tend to lean toward inactivity for healing.

I collected my medication, threw it in the cabinet, and called my emergency masseur, who speedily put me back on track with her deft fingers.

Why did I not call her first? Because I assumed a doctor would be able to set me right and ease my pain.

Preferring traditional treatments

In a survey conducted by Singaporean sports medicine specialist Dr Jason Chia on dance practices and injury patterns among dancers in Singapore, results revealed that injured dancers preferred going to traditional medicine practitioners.

"Doctors don't rank high among dancers," he says, presenting his findings at the 22nd annual meeting of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) held in Singapore recently.

"More than half the 365 respondents chose self-treatment over medical aid, and for the latter, most turned to physiotherapy or use of traditional alternative treatments. The basis of any injury prevention programme is understanding the injury patterns, the scope of the problem, and the contributing factors. However, there is relatively little local data on the subject among dancers in Singapore," adds Dr Chia.

Dance-related injuries were present in 34.8% of the respondents, irrespective of genre, with 69.9% having one or two recurrent injuries. The most common area affected was the knee (53.8%), followed by the foot and ankle (38.5%).

According to Dr Jeffrey Russell from the University of Ohio, United States, dancers prefer not to seek healthcare from non-dance medicine specialist because they are told to stop dancing.

Dr Russell and his team conducted a survey on university dancers in the United States through an anonymous online questionnaire. Again, like the Singapore findings, 85% turned to their teachers for advice regarding dance-related injuries, while only 50% consulted physicians. However, 54% of students disclosed negative experiences with healthcare providers.

"They indicated that their dissatisfaction stemmed from providers not understanding dancers (80%), providing unhelpful advice (43%), or not spending enough time with them (33%). However, most respondents revealed they had exclusively positive experience with massage therapists," he said in his paper Injury occurrences in university dancers and their access to healthcare.

"The implications of this fact are far-reaching, but most of these can be remedied through increased publicity of dance medicine specialists, and broader educational outreach to dance schools and studios."

In his paper entitled The management of foot and ankle injuries in dancers: a Singapore perspective, orthopaedic specialist Dr K. Kaliyaperumal echoed Dr Chia's sentiment that there are no data or figures on dance in the republic.

He says, "Traditional dance requires peak physical conditioning, and often, a supra-physiological range of movement, which can produce injuries.

"The unique postures and positions attained by our local traditional and recreational dancers give rise to some unusual foot and ankle injuries."

Some of the injuries include ankle impingement syndromes, ankle sprains, metatarsalgia, bunion deformities and persistent heel pain.

"Some of these chronic conditions are managed conservatively, and recalcitrant causes are managed surgically, while acute cases of fractures and fracture-dislocations require emergency treatment," he adds.

Early intervention using a multi-disciplinary approach is best for all forms of injury. If all fails, surgery is the last option for dancers.

Dancing to relieve pain

Clare Guss-West from the Royal Academy of Dance, in Zurich, Switzerland, says dance activity is a natural and accessible lifeline for the elderly, even if they're immobile.

"The use of appropriate dance techniques may relieve rigidity in the upper back, spine and pelvic areas, reduce wear and tear on the joints, facilitate breathing and increased oxygenation of the body, improve circulation, stimulate metabolism, and promote weight loss," she says.

In her movement workshop in dance for the elderly, Guss-West demonstrated how appropriate techniques could be used for conditions such as arthritis, vertigo, and impairment of coordination skills, including the effects of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

UNESCO designated 2012 as the "European year for active ageing and intergenerational solidarity", and dance has played a role in achieving this objective.

In 2007, Dr Mark Liponis conducted a pioneering research on longevity, and considered rhythmic exercises such as dance, to be more beneficial to the body's repair and regeneration than other non-rhythmic exercises such as team sports.

He suggested that the key to the quality of ageing depended on the activity of the immune system, and proposed that dancing is fundamental to immune system control, along with conscious breathing, eating and sleeping.

However, as Dr Reetta Johanna Ronkko, a kinesiologist and doctor at Dance Health, Finland, points out, too much breathing can also be harmful to the health.

She says, "Breathing is often mentioned as an important aspect of many dance training techniques and as part of rehabilitation procedures. It has many mental, even spiritual meanings attached to it, but too much breathing can also cause muscle tension."

Still, Dr Ronkko emphasises that as long as one breathes, it will keep the vital organs functioning, oxygenate the muscles and cleanse the body of waste products.

For more information, check out www.iadms.org

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Advantages and disadvantages of barrier contraceptives

Posted: 29 Dec 2012 05:05 PM PST

Barrier contraceptives are effective means of contraception, as well as preventing sexually transmitted infections, provided they are used properly on every occasion when there is sexual contact.

UNTIL a few decades ago, contraception focused almost exclusively on the prevention of unintended pregnancy. Changes in sexual behaviour and the increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, have led to a shift in the focus towards the sexual and reproductive health of women.

Hence, contraception approaches today seek to address both unintended pregnancy and prevention of STIs, ie dual protection.

Barrier contraceptives prevent the sperm from meeting an egg, and provide some protection from STIs, including HIV/AIDS. This is of particular importance for those who have more than one sexual partner, or whose partner has more than one partner, both of which increases the likelihood of getting STIs.

The cervix in young girls, teenagers and pregnant women is especially vulnerable to infection. Adult women are more than 10 to 20 times more likely than men to get STIs.

As such, barrier contraceptives (ie male and female condoms, caps or diaphragms) in particular, condoms, should be used with other contraceptives, whenever there is a risk of getting STIs.

This article is about condoms, which are popular and immediately effective, provided they are used properly on every occasion when there is sexual contact.

It provides a barrier to the ejaculate, pre-ejaculate and to cervico-vaginal secretions.

They can be used as a primary method of contraception, or as an additional method either in the short term, for example, when starting the Pill, or in the long term, to provide double protection. There are male and female condoms, and the male condom is a commonly used method of contraception in many countries.

When used correctly and consistently, only two in 100 women will get pregnant in one year of use of the male condom. With the female condom, pregnancy occurs in five in 100 women in one year of use. However, usage is frequently imperfect. So, with typical use, which includes incorrect and inconsistent use, pregnancy occurs in 18 and 21 in 100 women in one year of use of the male and female condoms respectively.

The effectiveness of condoms is influenced by various factors, which include background fertility, coital frequency, and usage of emergency contraception when condoms fail. There is no difference in the failure rates of latex and non-latex condoms.


There are no side effects from using condoms. Condoms come in different types, shapes and sizes to suit everyone's needs and preferences, and are easily available and affordable.

The view that its easy availability promotes promiscuity is not supported by research studies.

When used correctly and consistently, condoms are effective at preventing unintended pregnancy. It is the most efficient means of protection from STIs for both partners. The STIs include chlamydia, trichomonas, human papilloma virus (HPV), herpes simplex, hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV/AIDS.

Its use is only needed when there is sexual contact. No advance use is required, and it is suitable for unplanned sex.

Female condoms (femidoms), which can be inserted up to eight hours before sex, provide women with shared responsibility.


Some couples say that condoms affect the spontaneity of sex. This can be addressed by making its usage part of foreplay. Some feel that there is a decrease in sensation. It can sometimes slip off or split.

With the male condom, withdrawal is necessary almost immediately after ejaculation, with care taken not to spill any semen. Men who do not always maintain their erection may encounter difficulty using the condom.

With the female condom, the penis must enter the condom, and not the space between the condom and vagina. The open end of the condom must remain outside. The outer or inner ring of the condom may cause some discomfort.

Female condoms are relatively expensive, compared to the male condom, and are not easily available.

Some people may be allergic to the condom's latex or plastic, or associated spermicides, causing discomfort or irritation. This rare problem can be addressed by using condoms that have a lower risk of causing an allergic reaction. Although strong, condoms may split or tear if not used properly.

A condom can be used only once. Condoms should never be reused, and two condoms should never be used together.

Male condom

This is made of very thin latex or polyurethane (plastic), and has to be fitted before the erect penis touches the vaginal area, as sperm can leak out before ejaculation occurs. It has to be removed immediately after ejaculation, before the penis softens, with the condom held firmly in place as it is pulled out slowly and carefully from the vagina, without spilling any semen.

The expiry date should be checked as the rubber can deteriorate if the date has passed. It is advisable to use only condoms that have a mark from a standards organisation stamped on the packet.

Condoms are lubricated to make use easier. Some couples may want to use lubricants as well. Any lubricant can be used with polyurethane condoms. Oil-based lubricants – body oils, lotions, creams or petroleum jelly – cannot be used with latex condoms because they can damage the latex and increase its likelihood of splitting.

Some people prefer latex condoms, which contain spermicides for additional reassurance. If the spermicide causes discomfort or irritation, its use should be stopped and medical advice sought. Polyurethane condoms do not contain spermicides.

Female condom

This is a polyurethane sheath that lines the vagina, and can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual contact. It may not be suitable for women who do not feel comfortable touching their private parts.

The expiry date on the packet should always be checked before use.

It can be fitted in the position that suits the woman best, eg lying down, squatting or with one leg on a chair.

When taking the condom out of the pack, care must be taken, as sharp fingernails or rings may tear it. The closed end of the condom has to be held, and the inner ring squeezed between the thumb and middle finger, with the index finger on the inner ring to steady it.

The folds of skin at the vaginal opening (labia) are separated with the other hand, and the squeezed ring is inserted into the vagina and pushed up as far as possible.

The index or middle finger, or both, are then put inside the open end of the condom until the inner ring is felt, and the inner ring pushed as far into the vagina as possible, until it lies just above the pubic bone, which can be felt by inserting the index or middle finger into the vagina and curving slightly forward. The outer ring must lie closely against the vaginal opening (vulva).

It is good practice for the woman or man to guide the penis into the condom, so that it does not go between the vagina and condom. The female condom will move during intercourse, as it is loose-fitting. There will be pregnancy protection as long as the penis stays inside the condom. It is removed by twisting the outer ring to keep the semen inside, and then, pulled out gently.


Despite using a condom, sometimes, sperm can get into the vagina. This may happen if the penis touches the vulva or vagina before a condom is put on, the male condom splits or slips off, the female condom gets pushed too far into the vagina, the penis enters the vagina outside the female condom by mistake, and/or the condom is damaged by sharp fingernails or jewellery.

It can also occur when latex condoms are damaged by oil-based lubricants or medicines for fungal infection.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend the following measures to enhance the effectiveness of condoms:

*The use of condoms lubricated with nonoxinol-9 is not recommended.

*When using lubricant with latex condoms, a water or silicone-based preparation is recommended.

*Lubricants are recommended for anal sex to reduce the risk of condom breakage.

*There is insufficient evidence to routinely advise additional lubricant for vaginal sex, but its use can be considered for those experiencing condom breakage.

*Adding lubricants to the inside of condoms, or to the outside of the penis before using condoms, is associated with an increased risk of slippage.

*Condom breakage rates are similar for standard and thicker condoms, and therefore, there is no requirement to recommend thicker condoms for anal sex.

*Ill-fitting condoms can be associated with breakage and incomplete use. One should remember that different shapes and sizes of condoms are available.

Condoms are useful for those who are at risk of sexually transmitted infections or who have occasional sex, as the possible side effects of other prescription contraceptives can be avoided.

Even if an individual is using some other contraceptive, the usage of condoms is advisable whenever there is a possibility of getting sexually transmitted infections.

Dr Milton Lum is a member of the board of Medical Defence Malaysia. This article is not intended to replace, dictate or define evaluation by a qualified doctor. The views expressed do not represent that of any organisation the writer is associated with. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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