Rabu, 31 Julai 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

India’s poor turn to bloodletting to treat illness


NEW DELHI: Mother-of-three Lilavati Devi stood perfectly still in the hot sun in Old Delhi as a practitioner and his assistants checked the veins in her hands.

Then, armed with razor blades, the practitioner sliced neatly into her skin and lets the "impure blood" drain out.

Devi suffers from chronic arthritis and firmly believes that her elderly "doctor" or practitioner, Mohammed Gyas, has the skills to cure her and others through the ancient treatment of bloodletting.

"Science and modern medicine have failed," Devi said , as an assistant poured cold water on her bleeding hands and sprinkled them with a grey-coloured herbal powder.

The 82-year-old Muslim man's treatment "was the only way to end the severe joint pain," she said.

Doctors used the thousands-year-old practice to treat illness until the late 19th century, when it was mostly abandoned and overtaken by modern medicine.

TO GO WITH India-therapy-health-doctors,FEATURE by Rupam NairIn this photograph taken on July 2, 2013 an Indian woman covers her face in pain as she is cut on her hand by Mohammed Iqbal, (R), son of elderly doctor Mohammed Gyas, at their open air clinic outside the Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi.   Among a handful of poorer, and sometimes remote, communities in India, traditional practices like bloodletting are favoured.  About 50 patients queue each day at the open-air clinic in the shadow of India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid, for the treatment which Gyas says can cure everything from paralysis to diabetes and even cervical cancer.     AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA

Blood rites: A woman in pain is covering her face as her hand is cut by Iqbal at the open air clinic outside the Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi.-AFP

But among a handful of poorer, and sometimes remote, communities in India, where medical services are too costly, waiting lists too long or modern doctors simply not trusted, traditional practices like bloodletting are favoured.

About 50 patients queue up each day at the open-air clinic in the shadow of India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid, for the treatment which Gyas says can cure everything from paralysis to diabetes and even cervical cancer.

"The basic tenet of the therapy is the belief that impure blood is the root cause of all ailments.

"Get rid of the impure blood and your health problem is solved," said Gyas, who learnt the skill from his father and has been treating people here for more than 40 years.

"Tracking the flow of impure blood is the biggest skill required. Incisions are not made randomly, every vein has to be checked," he said.

The practitioner finds what he calls blockages, knots, clots and lumps in veins and makes incisions to unclog them, removing blocked blood and improving flow.

Before starting treatment, Gyas instructs patients to stand in the sun for about 40 minutes at the clinic, where nearby ducks and goats wander, and Muslim vendors sell mutton curry, prayer beads and skull caps.

His assistants tie cloth strips around his patients' limbs to restrict blood flow, making veins bulge nearer to the surface of the skin in preparation for a series of small incisions.

Gyas says that he does not charge patients, most of whom are poor. However they pay about 40 rupees (67 cents) to his assistants for their work – about 10 times less than what homeopaths, popular alternatives in India to GPs, charge for a consultation.

"When people come to me, they have very little money. What can I take from such people?" he said.

Gyas depends financially on one of his sons who is a shopkeeper, while another son is following in his footsteps, learning the practice from his father.

"Our treatment is like any other traditional form of medicine.

"We are not commercial doctors because people's well-being is what matters to us," said his son Mohammad Iqbal.

Bloodletting may still be practiced in some parts of India but conventional doctors dismiss it as quackery.

Diabetes specialist Rajesh Keswari said that he regularly sees patients who have put their health at risk by trying unscientific therapies and remedies such as draining blood or drinking herbal potions.

"Diabetes has to be controlled from day one, what has happened is that many people, especially uneducated and poor people, go to such quacks, take treatments which obviously do not work," said Keswari.

Although India has world-class hospitals, many Indians cannot afford them.

A decade of rapid economic growth has allowed the government to boost spending on poor and rural communities, but the public health system still falls short of meeting the needs of its 1.2 billion people, according to a 2013 Oxfam report.

Patients are not drawn to bloodletting as a last, low-cost resort.

Instead they swear by the treatment itself, describing successful results, after numerous consultations.

"Earlier, I was unable to sit or stand," said Jayant Kumar, 42, who was left physically disabled by a road accident four years ago.

"Now I can even walk without any support." — AFP

'Not all stripes to be deactivated'


Several banks will not deactivate the magnetic stripes on local credit and debit cards that have been used overseas at least once in the past year.

But it is understood that the new rule to reduce fraud, which consumers have criticised for its inconvenience, will still hit most users here.

Ong-Ang Ai Boon, director of the Association of Banks (ABS), which imposed the new policy requiring users to "activate" the magnetic stripes on their cards for overseas use, yesterday said banks may exempt frequent travellers and those who are residing overseas.

Out of the 10 card-issuing banks here, five, including Maybank, will not deactivate local cards that were used overseas at least once in the past year.

A sixth bank said it would exempt cards that had been used overseas at least once in the past six months.

All the six banks will be sending letters to exempted customers, giving them the option of deactivating their cards.

These exemptions were allowed as banks were concerned about inconveniencing customers who live overseas or travel often, said Ong.

But she reiterated the need for the new rule, adding: "It was a collective decision taken for the good for the financial sector and for consumers.

The Straits Times reported earlier that all 10 card-issuing banks here will deactivate the magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards by Oct 1. The stripes on all newly issued credit cards will also be inactive by default.

Experts say magnetic stripes pose a real security risk, unlike EMV chips that store data in an encrypted form, making them harder to break into. While all credit and debit card payments here are processed using EMV chips, magnetic stripes are commonly used abroad.

"Anyone can buy an electronic reader to extract the information from the stripe, then clone cards for use," said Samson Yeow, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's school of digital media and infocomm technology.

According to a global survey last year by financial consulting firm Aite Group, 26% of Singapore respondents had experienced some form of card fraud in the past five years.

Singapore resident Ian Farr, 36, who has three credit and debit cards, was a victim.

He received a call from HSBC in December 2011 to verify a S$700 (RM1,780) transaction made on his credit card at a McDonald's outlet in Johannesburg, South Africa. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Drivers say no to setting out early despite ERP rate hikes


Motorists say the latest round of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rate hikes may make it more expensive to drive, but is not likely to change their travelling habits.

From next Monday, drivers passing through the gantries on the East Coast Parkway (Fort Road) and Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) slip road into the ECP between 8.30am and 9am will be charged S$6 (RM15.30) – the highest rate since the ERP system started operating in 1998.

Using the Central Expressway (CTE) will also cost more with rates set to go up by 50 cents or S$1 (RM1.27 or RM2.55) at certain times.

Investment analyst Mark Tan, who drives from Marine Parade to his Raffles Place office daily, currently pays S$5 (RM12.70) for using the ECP.

He said he will pay the extra S$1, but does not expect traffic to improve.

"Even now when I pay S$5, I'm stuck in the jam for more than 20 minutes. Paying more is not likely to make the roads any smoother."

Josephine Chia, who uses the ECP to get to work in Bugis, also doubts the record-high S$6 surcharge will improve the road congestion.

"We already pay so much for our cars, why would an extra S$1 stop us from driving," said the marketing manager, 37.

Drivers, many of whom said they did not have flexible work arrangements, insist they are not likely to wake up earlier, or shift their journeys from the peak period just to pay less.

A check yesterday morning found that westbound traffic slowed to a crawl along the ECP (Fort Road) stretch at 8.30am, although roads started to clear within 15 minutes. The situation along the southbound CTE was no better, with the bottleneck building up after Braddell. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

'Horror film' puts Internet privacy under spotlight


Stalking isn't Cullen Hoback's style, but the chance to confront Mark Zuckerberg about the dark side of the Internet was just too good to pass on.

"Mr Zuckerberg? I'm working on a documentary," the independent filmmaker asked the Facebook founder, strolling in a T-shirt and jeans on the leafy sidewalk outside his southern California home.

"I was wondering if I could just ask you a couple of questions? Do you still think privacy is dead? What are your real thoughts on privacy?"

"Are you guys recording?" Zuckerberg sheepishly replied. "Will you please not?"

"I can stop," said Hoback, switching off his video camera, prompting Zuckerberg to loosen up, smile and invite Hoback to connect with Facebook's PR team – unaware that Hoback was still recording with a pair of spy glasses.

It's a telling scene in Terms And Conditions May Apply, in which Hoback raises disturbing questions about the mountains of online data being collected, shared and stored by governments and Internet giants alike.

The title derives from the rambling fine print most Internet users never bother to read when they sign on to a new online service or app – blissfully ignoring that they're entering into a legally binding contract.

"I think the craziest thing about this whole experience is that I didn't realise I was making a horror film," the Los Angeles-based Hoback told AFP in a telephone interview.

Two years in the making, Terms And Conditions was pretty much complete by the time Edward Snowden came forward with his revelation, leaving Hoback just enough time to tack a quick mention of the whistleblower onto the end of his film.

"The story is constantly evolving, and it's hard sometimes to put the keyboard down and stop editing," he said.

While it makes no blockbuster revelations, Terms And Conditions succeeds in weaving a series of Internet privacy issues over the years into a single narrative that's still playing itself out in real life.

For a typical Internet user, it says, it would take 180 hours – the equivalent of one full month of work a year – to fully read all the terms and conditions attached to his or her favourite websites.

"They're poorly written and they're exhaustive. They take into perpetuity everything you could ever imagine," said Hoback, for whom Internet privacy is "the biggest civil liberties issue of our time."

Google's terms of service, for instance, clocks in at 1,711 words, according to an AFP count, not including a separate 2,382-word privacy policy that is still about 1,000 words shorter than the Google Chrome browser policy.

Terms And Conditions also explains how Internet users, by clicking on a website's "agree" button, consent to their online lives being archived, shared with third parties or passed on to government agencies without notice.

"I really think of the audience as the main character, because this has been happening to us for all of these years," said Hoback, whose 2007 documentary Monster Camp examined the cult world of action-figure enthusiasts.

"The problem is, right now, you either get the service (you want to use on the Internet) or you don't," he said. "There's no one sitting at your side of the table negotiating these contracts."

As for his sidewalk encounter with Zuckerberg, whose social media colossus has come under fire for modifying its user policies without notice, Hoback said he wanted to make a point.

"I just wanted him to say, 'Look, I don't want you to record me,' and I wanted to say, 'Look, I don't want you to record us'," he said. "That was really the motive there." – AFP

Lord of social media


[unable to retrieve full-text content]Peter Jackson celebrates the end of 'The Hobbit' filming with his cat, Mr Smudge.

Movies worth waiting for


Seven bright spots to end a crowded, messy summer at the movies.

If you've been an avid moviegoer this summer, we understand that you might be worn out by now. Maybe you've got superhero fatigue or apocalypse overload, or maybe you're just fed up to the gills with gunshots and fights and things blowing up and tough guys overcoming impossible odds. And maybe, as July comes to an end, you're ready to stay away from the multiplexes for a while, to spend August catching up on Breaking Bad or House Of Cards or rooting on the Dodgers.

But hang on a second.

The summer movie landscape may seem as blighted and unappealing as the ravaged planet in After Earth or the zombiescape of World War Z – but with a month to go, there are actually a few movies that might be worth leaving the house to see. Besides, the volume of releases slacks off in August, meaning that some of these flicks could have a little more room to breathe than their May, June and July counterparts, which were shoved out in a brutally overstuffed release schedule that meant anything that didn't come out of the box with a bang was DOA.

Note: We've only seen two of these movies, The Spectacular Now and Short Term 12, so don't blame us if they're not as good as we think they might be. But this is summertime, and hope springs eternal.

Elysium (Aug 22)

This is the big one. In 2009, Neill Blomkamp put a fresh spin on the sci-fi flick with District 9, which came out of nowhere to capture a Best Picture nomination. His follow-up is also set in the future, with bigger names in the cast (Matt Damon, pic below, and Jodie Foster) and a plotline (guy with cancer tries to fight his way to the one-percenters' haven in the sky where they can cure it) that should allow Blomkamp to once again slide social commentary into the action genre.

Will this be the rare movie that brings a brain to a too-often-mindless arena? Hopes are high enough that Elysium tops our must-see list.

Kick-A** 2 (Aug 29)
This is the movie that was too violent for Jim Carrey, and you can decide whether that's a recommendation or not. A sequel to the 2010 action comedy that brings back stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Grace Moretz (pic below), it features Carrey as a superhero leader called Colonel Stars and Stripes – but after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Carrey tweeted that he wouldn't do publicity for the film because "in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence".

If the original Kick-A** is any indication, the film's violence will be excessive but also cartoonish and tongue-in-cheek. Like the original, K-A2 is based on comic books by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr, which should guarantee that it will be as zestfully tasteless and gloriously offensive as its predecessor.

 Chloe Grace Moretz

The World's End (Sept 12)

Edgar Wright made three movies before this one, and the first two – Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz – were delightfully twisted comedies starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. So it's good news that The World's End stars Pegg and Frost as heavy drinkers whose attempt to complete a legendary pub crawl encounters some unexpected obstacles of alien origin.

The film won mostly rave reviews after its July release in Britain – and in a summer long on end-of-the-world extravaganzas, this might be the right one to put the cherry on top of the impending apocalypse.

Lee Daniels' The Butler (Sept 26)
You've followed the controversy, now see the movie. The Weinstein Co and Warner Bros waged a pitched battle over the title The Butler, with TWC losing the war but gaining a compromise that at least allowed them to use the word butler for this story in which the always-reliable Forest Whitaker (pic below) stars as a real-life White House butler in eight 20th century administrations.

Daniels is hardly the sure thing he might have seemed after his Oscar winner Precious – his last film, The Paperboy, was an absurdly overheated Southern Gothic potboiler that needed to be a little worse to enter so-bad-it's-good territory. But he figures to show more restraint this time around, and you know that Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr and their castmates will all be acting up a storm.

Forest Whitaker

The Grandmaster
You want action? You want fights? You want kick-a** summer multiplex mayhem? Then you might want to get it not from some Hollywood VFX factory, but from Hong Kong's Wong Kar-wai, a director whose cinematic legacy is so unassailable that he is the only Chinese filmmaker to head the Cannes jury.

The Grandmaster is a drama based on the life of Ip Man, a master of the Wing Chun style of martial arts. By all reports it mixes extraordinary action footage (and not a CG monster in sight!) with quieter and more philosophical sequences that have prompted occasional comparisons to the landmark Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Short Term 12

One of the quietest but most touching films on the list, Destin Daniel Cretton's low-key drama won the jury and audience awards at this year's SXSW. It features a remarkable performance from Brie Larson as the supervisor at a foster-care home for at-risk teens, and has an array of fine teen actors playing the kids. Short Term 12 is a quiet gem that never gets mawkish but isn't afraid to be sentimental.

Cretton, who adapted his short film based on his own experiences as a counselor, has made a touching, open-hearted movie that faces the darkness but also looks to the light, and one that insists that family can be forged in the toughest of circumstances.

The Spectacular Now

Remember when heartfelt coming-of-age movies were part of the major-studio mainstream release schedule? For today's moviegoers, The Breakfast Club and Say Anything and their ilk are ancient history, and films like The Spectacular Now are almost entirely the province of indie companies.

But the indie arena suits this film, which consistently understates rather than overplays and features dead-on performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley that make them seem like real teenagers, not movie characters. Director James Ponsoldt, coming off the excellent but more harrowing Smashed, became a Hollywood hot property on the heels of this film's Sundance debut: He's now signed up to direct a Hillary Rodham Clinton biopic and is working on a few things for the Weinstein Co, including an adaptation of the musical Pippin. — Reuters

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Tunisian minister resigns as pressure grows on government


TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian Education Minister Salem Labyedh has resigned, the prime minister's spokesman said on Wednesday, as pressure mounts on the Islamist-led government to step down.

Labyedh, a secular leftist, had said he was considering resigning after the killing of fellow leftist Mohamed Brahmi last week. The secular opposition has blamed the ruling Ennahda party for the killing and has called for the government to go.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Iran grants Syria $3.6 billion credit facility to buy oil products


AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian authorities and Iran signed a deal this week to activate a $3.6 billion credit facility to buy oil products with long term payment terms, officials and bankers said on Wednesday.

The deal, which was agreed last May between the two allies and will allow Iran to acquire equity stakes in investments in Syria, was part of a package to extend Iranian aid to President Bashar al Assad's government, its main political ally.

Another $1 billion credit line to Damascus has already been extended to buy Iranian power generating products and other goods in a barter arrangement that has helped Syria export textiles and some agricultural produce such as olive oil and citrus, trade officials say.

Syria is short of diesel for its army and fuel to keep the economy running because of U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed after a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Its main supplier of petroleum products by sea has been Iran.

Despite political support from China and Russia, which have blocked U.N. draft resolutions which could have led to further sanctions on Syria and opposed military intervention to end the conflict, Assad's fuel and cash lifelines have all but dried up

Iran has steadily expanded economic ties with Syria to help it withstand Western economic sanctions and sealed a free trade deal that granted Syrian exports a low 4 percent customs tariff.

Last January, Tehran agreed during a visit by Prime Minister Wael al-Halki to deposit $500 million in Syria's central bank vaults, banking sources say.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Keiron Henderson)

China's Bo to plead guilty, but maybe not to all charges - sources


BEIJING (Reuters) - Disgraced Chinese leader Bo Xilai has agreed to plead guilty at a trial likely to be held within weeks, three sources said, in an apparent bid to earn a more lenient sentence and allow authorities to close the door on the country's biggest political scandal in decades.

But it was not clear if he would plead guilty to all or only some of the charges of accepting bribes, corruption and abuse of power.

Bo's downfall is the country's most divisive political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

President Xi Jinping is keen for Bo's trial to go off smoothly as he pushes major economic reforms ahead of a closed-door party plenum in September or October where he will need unstinted support from the party.

Reuters reported in February that Bo, one of the Communist Party's high-flyers who fell from grace in early 2012, had refused to cooperate with government investigators, staged a hunger strike twice and refused to shave his beard in protest against what he deemed unfair treatment.

"Bo Xilai had initially refused to admit guilt and insisted on defending himself," said a source with ties to the leadership and direct knowledge of the matter, requesting anonymity due to the political sensitivity of the case.

"But in a change of heart, he cooperated and will plead guilty (at his trial) in the hope that he will receive a relatively lenient sentence," the source told Reuters.

It remains to be seen if his decision to plead guilty will hold until the trial.

In China, defendants are presumed guilty until proven innocent and those who refuse to cooperate are often given harsher sentences.

Other sources indicated Bo may not plead guilty to the abuse of power charge.

A source close to the family, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bo will plead guilty, but should not be held accountable for crimes committed by immediate family members. The source declined to elaborate.

The abuse of power charge is believed to be linked to the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, when Bo was the party chief in sprawling Chongqing city.

Gu was convicted of the murder last August and Bo's police chief, Wang Lijun, was jailed for trying to cover up the crime.

A third source, also with ties to China's leadership, said Bo will plead guilty to accepting bribes and corruption while he was mayor and Communist Party boss of the north-eastern city of Dalian between 1992 and 2000.

But Bo will deny the charge of abuse of power when he was party boss of Chongqing, the source added.

"By pleading not guilty to the abuse of power charge, Bo wants to show that he is a victim of a power struggle," the source told Reuters, also requesting anonymity. The source did not elaborate.

After his appointment as party boss of Chongqing in 2007, Bo turned the region into a showcase of revolution-inspired "red" culture, as well as state led economic growth. He also won national attention with a crackdown on organised crime.

Bo's populist ways and crime clean-up were welcomed by many of Chongqing's 30 million residents, as well as others who hoped Bo could take his Maoist policies nationwide. But his ambition and brash self-promotion irked some top leaders.

Bo's lawyers Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng did not answer telephone calls seeking comment on what his strategy will be at the trial.

He will be represented in court by his family-appointed lawyer Li, as opposed to having a state-appointed attorney forced upon him as happened to his wife, a fourth source with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Bill Powell and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz


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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

John Travolta joins Kirstie Alley in new sitcom


THE Look Who's Talking couple will reunite briefly in Kirstie, a new sitcom hitting TV Land next season.

In Kirstie, Kirstie Alley will play Maddie Banks, a theatre actress whose life turns upside down after a reunion with the son she gave up for adoption at birth.

John Travolta will make a cameo appearance in an episode of the show, playing a stagehand who enjoys a fling with Maddie. – AFP Relaxnews

Oprah Winfrey returns to Late Show

EIGHT is enough? It is for Oprah Winfrey. The media mogul will visit Late Show With David Letterman for the first time in eight years.

Her return, which will take place Aug 1, marks her second visit to the show – the first was in 2005 when she promoted the Broadway musical The Color Purple, which she produced.

It was a historic TV moment (for some). It seemed to signal a burying of the hatchet after a 16-year feud – apparently the product of a 1989 dine and ditch tab, which was later compounded with Letterman's infamous Uma-Oprah joke as host of the Academy Awards in 1995. It's a feud that Winfrey implied was all in Letterman's head when she appeared on his show.

Now, Winfrey has a film project in the works in need of promotion.

Since she can't interview herself (wait, it's Oprah – she probably can?), Winfrey is heading to the Late Show once more to get the word out about her upcoming film Lee Daniels' The Butler. In it, the network executive stars as Gloria Gaines, wife of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker,) who served as a White House butler. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Serving it up


[unable to retrieve full-text content]'MasterChef Australia' judge George Calombaris shares why he loves being on one of "the best cooking shows in the world".
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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

KLCI slightly firmer after weak early start


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips were steadier in early trade on Thursday on mild buying interest in Tenaga and HLFG after a wobbly start following the previous day's selldown.

At 10.05am, the KLCI was up 0.14 of a point to 1,772.76. Turnover was 255.74 million shares valued at RM287.69mil. Gainers led losers 219 to 180.

Hwang DBS Vickers Research said while the selling pressures on Malaysian equities could persist, it pointed bargain-hunters might step in as the local bourse slides further.

"Technically speaking, the benchmark KLCI – after falling 37.4-point or 2.1% in five straight days – will probably find key support at the 1,750 level," it said.

HLFG rose 18 sen to RM14.16 while Tenaga added nine sen to RM8.89 and IJM gained seven sen to RM5.86.

BIMB rose eight sen to RM4.10 when it resumed trading.

BIMB is taking control of Bank Islam by buying the remaining 49% stake in Bank Islam for US$884mil (RM2.81bil) cash from Dubai Financial Group (DFG) and Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH).

Genting Plantations added 14 sen to RM10 but PPB Group was down 18 sen to RM14.72 and KL Kepong fell 14 sen to RM21.06.

Among glove makers, Top Glove gained 14 sen to RM6.03 and Kossan nine sen to RM5.89.

However,Petronas Dagangan and Petronas Gas lost 22 sen each to RM26.58 and RM20.62.

India's 2012/13 Refined Palm Oil Imports Could Jump 69 Pct To Record


NEW DELHI: India's refined palm oil imports could surge almost 69 percent to a record high in the year ending October, a key industry official said, as consumption picks up pace ahead of the festival season starting next month.

Higher purchases will heighten calls to raise import duties to protect local oilseed growers and refiners, many of whom are operating at about a third of capacity as they battle cheap supplies from top exporters Indonesia and Malaysia.

"If the trend that favours the imports of refined palm oil continues, then domestic refiners would turn into packers of imported refined oil, instead of being processors of the crude palm oil," said B. V. Mehta, executive director of the Mumbai-based trade body Solvent Extractors' Association.

Imports of refined palm oil by the world's top buyer of vegetable oils could be as high as 2.7 million tonnes in the year to Oct. 31, up 1.1 million from a year ago, Mehta said.

India's imports of refined, bleached and deodorised (RBD) palmolein hit a record 373,837 tonnes in May, prompting industry experts to see a continuing trend. A dip in June to 296,230 tonnes was mostly due to weakness in the rupee, which made imports more expensive.

The SEA will publish July import figures in mid-August.

India's refiners have lobbied for government intervention to make imports of refined palm oil more expensive, but Delhi's worries about inflation, now running at around 5 percent, have stalled any action.

The country now levies a 2.5 percent duty on crude palm oil imports and 7.5 percent on refined palm oil imports.


Refined palm oil imports could come in at 250,000-300,000 tonnes per month in the four months to Oct. 31, supported by the spread between crude and the refined variant that has dropped to around $5 per tonne, traders said.

On some days, there is no difference in price, traders added. A year ago, the differential was $30 to $40 per tonne.

Refined palm oil's premium to crude has been shrinking since last year because high output has prompted the world's top two producers of the edible oil to adopt export measures to promote sales of the refined product.

Demand for refined palm oil will also get a boost as India gears up for its festival and wedding season, which starts next month and sees out the year, with an accompanying rise in consumption.

India imports about 60 percent of its cooking oil demand of 17 million to 18 million tonnes, with palm oil's share at about 80 percent of the imports.

India's total 2012/13 palm oil imports could be 8.7 million tonnes, up 13 percent from a year earlier, said Govindbhai Patel, a managing partner at GG Patel & Nikhil Research Co.

Projected total palm oil imports include 6.2 million tonnes of the crude variant, said Patel, a crop statistician who has been in the edible oil trade for three decades. - Reuters

Malaysia's July Palm Oil Exports Up 5.3 Pct-SGS


[unable to retrieve full-text content]SINGAPORE: Exports of Malaysian palm oil products for July rose 5.3 percent to 1,385,607 tonnes compared with 1,315,698 tonnes shipped during June, cargo surveyor Societe Generale de Surveillance said on Wednesday.
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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies


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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Sanjeevan not in coma and slowly recovering, says father


[unable to retrieve full-text content]PETALING JAYA: R. Sri Sanjeevan, the target of an attempted murder, is not in a coma and on his way to recovery at the Serdang Hospital.

DAP rejects ROS directive on holding fresh polls


KUALA LUMPUR:  DAP is unable to accept the directive of the Registrar of Societies' (ROS) decision that the party will need to hold fresh polls, said secretary general Lim Guan Eng on Wednesday.

He said the DAP central executive committee (CEC) came to the decision unanimously.

"ROS did not mention as why they were not satisfied with the explanation given by DAP.

"We find this extraordinary that they can just order fresh election without giving any grounds" he said during a press conference after holding an emergency central executive committee (CEC) meeting  to discuss its next course of action following the Registrar of Societies' (ROS) decision that the party will need to hold fresh polls.

In a notice dated July 30 by the ROS that was distributed by DAP on Wednesday night, it was stated that the ROS has decided that DAP must hold fresh elections.

The notice was served under Section 16(1) of the Societies Act 1966. 

Lim questioned ROS, asking them to explain under which provision of law the directive to hold fresh CEC elections is given. 

"DAP is unable to accept the directive of ROS unless the Registrar provides reasons for which it is dissatisfied with the explanation provided by DAP in respect of the conduct of the CEC elections on Dec 15, 2012," he said.

He said "until the (two) conditions are fulfilled, we cannot accept the directive".

Meanwhile, national legal bureau secretary Gobind Singh Deo said they will send a formal letter to ROS on their decision on Thursday. 

"We are asking the Registrar under which provision of law they are acting on.Unless we are told we cannot accept and comply to the decision," he said.

Gobind explained that Section 16 (1) under the Societies Act 1966,in a gist, says that if there is a dispute, ROS has a month to provide an explanation within a month for the registrar to consider. 

"If you read Section 16 (2) carefully, it does not give the ROS the power to direct a political party to hold fresh elections," he said.

The ROS has been investigating complaints of electoral fraud in the DAP CEC election last December.

The issue began when a recalculation revealed that Lim's political secretary Zairil Khir Johari, who had initially received 305 votes, clinched 803 votes.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

West End debut for Grint


[unable to retrieve full-text content]Rupert Grint set to make stage debut as a drug addict in a play called 'Mojo'.

Comfort zone


Lapar Lab explores the relationship between people and space in its latest mixed bill.

SPACE. The nothingness that separates the earth from the moon, the sky from the land, a human being from another human being and a word from a word. We don't see it, we can't feel it, but its significance in the grander scale of things cannot be refuted.

Imagine reading a novel with no space between the words. It will give birth to gibberish. Or imagine people living with no space to separate them from one another. Life would be an asphyxiating journey or perhaps even torture.

But sometimes space or separation can also allude to loneliness, failure, divorce ... death.

What is space, then? And how does it affect our lives?

This very philosophical dilemma is the crux of the latest contemporary dance performance by Lapar Lab, aptly named Space Bar, a tribute to the longest key on the keyboard that separates words. The mixed bill comprises two dance pieces, Safe Distance and Belonging.

Helmed by choreographers Leng Poh Gee and Mak Foong Ming, both the pieces will explore the relationship between people and their immediate environment and how close and intimate and how defensive things can get, in relation to space. The initial idea was sparked, as shared by Leng in a recent e-mail interview, when the inactivity and dormancy of Lapar Lab began to prod him.

"We have been 'sleeping' for at least one year, doing nothing, since our last production in 2011. And the main reason why we haven't been able to do anything was because most of us found jobs elsewhere. We were separated geographically and temporarily.

"That period for me was like a blank space and that was the spark of the initial idea. After much brainstorming, we decided to use the spacebar as the theme, since its function is to separate the words for them to make sense and have meaning. We then realised the significance of separation and disconnection for relationships," Leng reasoned.

Both Belonging, choreographed by Leng, and Safe Distance, choreographed by Mak, explore two different issues, vis-à-vis space but the creative process to mould the different stories involved both choreographers and dancers alike.

Once the direction of each piece was finalised, they went through the process of throwing in ideas based on their everyday lives, from injuries, rushing to work and even the rehearsals itself.

Mak said for Safe Distance, they shared their "own stories pertaining to the issues of interpersonal relationships. The emotion behind each story became an important element for me to create movements and the emotions finally became the motive of the whole dance."

Speaking about her piece, Mak opined that in our interpersonal relationships, we always keep a safe distance. This keeps the bond calm and harmonious. However, once we depart from the safe distance or step out from the comfort zone, conflicts may arise.

"After the conflict, what is the attitude that one will choose toward the other? Is it possible to return to how things were? This is the question I wish to ask the audience."

Echoing Mak, dancer Chow Yong Shuang said, "we are trying to bring out the message that in every relationship, there must not be an absolute intimacy. We human beings are meant to live in groups, but we definitely need to keep some things very personal to ourselves."

Chow went on to say that compared to Safe Distance, Belonging is not such a narrative piece and this endows it with many interpretations. Within it are different chapters and sub-themes with elements like familiar old folk songs, love, worship, contentment and the issues in our country.

"Basically, this piece is a big topic – life," Chow asserted.

But besides the differing narratives, what else makes the two pieces unique and different from each other? Leng shared it had to do with the triggers used to create the movements. He said that in itself engendered different vocabularies for Safe Distance and Belonging.

"Safe Distance utilises daily movements, utilitarian gestures and domestic actions like the pulling of the shirt for instance which can be used as a gesture for anger. So, what has happened is that these daily movements were used to initiate new dance vocabularies and then they were distorted and stylised and some were transformed into pictorial images selected by the choreographer," explained Leng.

Conversely, words, instead of actions, were the trigger for Belonging.

"Keywords such as pray, separation, love and certain lyrics from selected popular songs were used to derive the movements. We played some games and interactive activities to find possible movements," added Leng.

Sub-themes and dance vocabularies may set them apart, but at the end of it all, both Safe Distance and Belonging, seek to explore the relationship between space and people. Without us knowing it, space plays a crucial role in our lives to keep things in order, though sometimes, it causes pain and misery. But that's how life is.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music


[unable to retrieve full-text content]
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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Probation for two youths who ran charity scam


TWO youths, who claimed they were probationers tasked with soliciting for donations for a charity, are now really serving probation. District Judge Siva Shanmugam sentenced Brian Sie Eng Fa, 20, and Ho Loong Ann, 19, to 18 months' probation on Tuesday and also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

Sometime at the end of last year, the duo hatched a plan to obtain fast cash by selling badges for S$2 (RM5) each for St Luke's Elder Care, a charitable body that provides a variety of day care services for elderly folk. For donations of S$10 (RM25) or more, they offered the badge for free. They had bought the badges for an undisclosed sum in Thailand.

On Jan 9, Ho forged two donation registration permits purportedly issued by St Luke's and endorsed by the Singapore Police Force.

At 8am, the duo started from the top floor of a block of flats in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8. However, a resident was suspicious and called the police at 9.20am. Officers nabbed the two cheats at 10pm with 14 badges and the two forged permits. By that time, the two youths had cheated residents of $325. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Teens spread anti-loan shark message


"KENNETH" remembers vividly the dread that gripped his heart when a loan shark came pounding at the door of his flat one night.

Then a pre-schooler, he ran to hide in his room, only to be greeted seconds later with the sight of his dog dashing in after him, its body splashed with blue paint.

Kenneth (not his real name) had been living with his grandfather, who had debts with loan sharks.

Today, the 15-year-old patrols his neighbourhood and approaches members of the public to warn them against borrowing money from such people.

Kenneth is part of the Youth Community Outreach Programme (COP) team, which accompanies policemen on patrols and advises the public on crime prevention.

The project, a partnership between the Students Care Service (SCS), schools and the police, aims to rope in students who may or may not be deemed to be at risk to do some form of community policing. Teachers can nominate students to volunteer or students can volunteer themselves.

It is hoped that the authority and trust placed in them will encourage them to stay away from crime.

"We want to catch them earlier," said Zhuang Xinyan, social worker at SCS.

"Instead of labelling some as bad kids, we give them a positive identity and they usually try to meet those expectations."

Those who have taken part in the patrols have improved their attendance, behaviour and motivation levels in school, Zhuang added.

When The Straits Times tagged along on a patrol to Clementi Town Centre two Thursdays ago, the normally shy teens had their self-confidence tested as they spoke to strangers and handed them loan shark harassment leaflets.

Since the project started in 2007, 375 youths from five schools have taken part in the monthly patrols. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Scratch and lose for naive victims


SINGAPOREANS are still falling victim to scratch-and-win scams in Malaysia – despite many warnings and an ongoing crackdown by the authorities across the Causeway.

And although the number of reported cases has fallen, the con artists are making off with more money each time.

The average amount stolen has hit S$6,300 (RM16,040), Singapore police statistics show, up from S$4,000 (RM10,182) last year.

At least five victims have reportedly lost more than S$10,000 (RM25,455) each.

The scam works like this: The crooks approach the victims and ask them to try their luck with a scratch card.

They tell the victims they have won a mystery prize and ask them to go to an office to find out what it is. When they arrive, the con men reveal the "prize", usually cheap electrical goods, such as foot massagers.

The victims are offered the chance to win a more substantial prize, and asked to hand over cash in advance to cover bogus costs such as "taxes".

Malaysian police have been trying to clamp down on the scam, with some success.

Around 30 Singaporeans reportedly fell for it between January and May, down from 46 in the same period last year. But the amounts involved are on the rise.

Yesterday, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao said that a 39-year-old secretary had been cheated out of more than S$25,000 (RM63,651), the most lost by a victim from Singapore in a single case so far.

Yesterday, a Johor policeman said that a task force had been set up last month to tackle scratch-and-win scams.

At least eight suspects have been charged, said the officer, who asked not to be named because he did not have permission to speak to the media.

These included some of the alleged organisers.

"The scam is nothing permanent; it comes and goes," he said "They are just opportunists at work."

In February, police on both sides of the Causeway launched a series of pamphlets that have been distributed at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, as well as tourist spots in Johor. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

The amazing story of IVF


[unable to retrieve full-text content]The birth of Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, 35 years ago this month, was the start of a revolution in fertility treatment.
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