Khamis, 31 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Taiwan shows off its first submarine hunter aircraft


PINGTUNG (Taiwan): Taiwan displayed its first long-range submarine-hunting aircraft, days after Beijing showed off its nuclear-powered submarine fleet in yet another sign of China's fast expanding military might.

Taiwan's military introduced the Lockheed P-3C Orion at a ceremony presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou at an airbase in the southern county of Pingtung.

"As the president of the country, I'm proud that the aircraft is joining the force," Ma said.

The aircraft was delivered late last month.

The air force will receive three more by year-end and eight others by 2015, the military said.

Ma said the fleet of 12 P-3C Taiwan ordered from the United States "is the most advanced among the hundreds that are serving many countries in the world".

"I believe that after the aircraft joins the air force, we will see our underwater anti-submarine, ship-to-ship and air attack capabilities greatly enhanced."

Experts say the refurbished P-3C, which can stay in the air for up to 17 hours and is armed with Harpoon missiles and MK46 torpedoes, will expand the surveillance range of Taiwan's current anti-submarine fleet tenfold.

The P-3C fleet, which will cost around US$1.96bil (RM6.17bil), will supersede the ageing S-2T anti-submarine aircraft.

Yesterday's high-profile ceremony came after several state-run papers in China ran front-page stories on the four-decade-old submarine fleet, in an overt declaration of China's high-seas strength.

"China is powerful in possessing a credible second-strike nuclear capability," the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday, adding: "Some countries haven't taken this into serious consideration when constituting their China policy, leading to a frivolous attitude toward China in public opinion."

Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang party became Taiwan's president in 2008. He was re-elected in January 2012.

However, Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory and has refused to rule out the use of force against Taiwan. The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

That prompted Taiwan to keep modernising its armed forces despite the fast-warming relations.

"Although ties with the Chinese mainland have improved significantly in the last five years, they have not changed their military deployments targeting Taiwan. We must not relax our military preparations," Ma said, adding that Taiwan aims to build a leaner but stronger deterrent.

Taiwanese experts estimate the People's Liberation Army has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island. — AFP

Lee: S’pore remains a ‘sampan’


SINGAPORE will be in trouble if it thinks it has arrived and can afford to relax, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated.

The country is small, and while it is no longer as poor and defenceless as it used to be, it must continue to be on its toes and work hard to improve.

Speaking to the at the end of his official visit to France yesterday, he said "my eyes popped out" when he read a commentary in The Straits Times likening Singa­pore today to a cruise ship.

Commentator Koh Buck Song had argued in Monday's Opinion pages that Singapore politicians' oft-used metaphor of the country as a sampan, easily tossed about by the waves of global competition, was no longer valid.

He said it risked promoting small-mindedness and cramping national self-confidence and ambition.

Instead, Koh said, Singapore was more like a well-oiled cruise ship that caters to every need.

As it offers the smoothest of jour­neys, passengers can relax beca­use they feel secure, he added.

Lee, however, warned: "Once you think you are in a cruise ship and you are on a holiday and everything must go swimmingly well and will be attended to for you, I think you are in trouble.

"We are small, we are not as poor as we used to be, we are not defenceless, we are able to fend for ourselves and to make a living for ourselves, and we are better off than before, and I think that we need to keep on working hard, to continue improving."

As to what might be a more app­ropriate metaphor, he said with a laugh: "I think we have upgraded our sampan. It's sampan 2.0."

He made these remarks when asked about the meetings he had held with French business leaders since he arrived on Sunday.

The businessmen were keen to find out more about Singapore's long-term strategy for economic development, and asked about the tightening of foreign talent and workers in recent years.

Lee reiterated that Singapore had to find a balance when it comes to foreigners.

He said the number of foreign workers was "still a little higher than what we would like", but that was dependent on the state of the economy.

He also reiterated the need for society to integrate such that foreigners adapt to Singapore norms, and Singaporeans are open to them "in order to help ourselves prosper".

"This is going to be work in progress for some time to come but we have to persevere."

Lee left Paris for Warsaw, Poland, yesterday. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

New Paper editor takes the stand in match-fixing trial


The trial against alleged match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang resumed with The New Paper editor Dominic Nathan taking the stand.

Nathan yesterday flatly denied defence counsel Hamidul Haq's claim during the first tranche of the trial in July that Ding "does investigative journalism to gather information for his colleagues in the newspaper to develop stories".

Ding was never asked to work on match-fixing stories, said Nat­han, although he was ask­ed if he knew anything about per­sonalities in match-fixing syndicates after reports broke about Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal's arrest in Finland in 2011.

The 31-year-old businessman is accused of bribing three Fifa-accredited Lebanese officials – referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, and linesmen Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37 – with prostitutes to induce them into fixing a match.

The court heard that The New Paper had engaged Ding as a freelance writer from March 2006 until May 2012, during which he published a weekly column titled From The Ground and was on a panel of tipsters.

Known as the Lobang King, Ding was supposed to be the tipster who gave the feel of punters on the ground, of "somebody in the coffee shop, keeping tabs on what the common guy or the average Joe was talking about", said Nathan. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

Gerard Butler will save London


The actor is set to reprise his role in the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen.

Scottish actor Gerard Butler will return to the screen as Mike Banning for the sequel to the successful action film released last March.

The producers of London Has Fallen are currently presenting this sequel to Olympus Has Fallen at the American Film Market in Los Angeles. The screenplay will focus on a large-scale terrorist attack being planned in the British capital during the funeral of the Prime Minister, reports.

The international importance of the crisis will permit the film's producers to bring back Aaron Eckhart in the role of the fictional American President Benjamin Asher, whose life was in danger in the original film. Gerard Butler, playing the film's protagonist, will once again take on the task of saving the world, with help this time from an agent from the MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Shooting on London Has Fallen is expected to begin on May 5, 2014. Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and Radha Mitchell will also reprise their roles for the film's sequel. On the other hand, Antoine Fuqua will not return to the director's chair, and his replacement has not yet been announced.

The premise of Olympus Has Fallen is heading across the pond for a sequel on a terrorist threat in London. — AFP Relaxnews


The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Gerard Butler will save London


The actor is set to reprise his role in the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen.

Scottish actor Gerard Butler will return to the screen as Mike Banning for the sequel to the successful action film released last March.

The producers of London Has Fallen are currently presenting this sequel to Olympus Has Fallen at the American Film Market in Los Angeles. The screenplay will focus on a large-scale terrorist attack being planned in the British capital during the funeral of the Prime Minister, reports.

The international importance of the crisis will permit the film's producers to bring back Aaron Eckhart in the role of the fictional American President Benjamin Asher, whose life was in danger in the original film. Gerard Butler, playing the film's protagonist, will once again take on the task of saving the world, with help this time from an agent from the MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Shooting on London Has Fallen is expected to begin on May 5, 2014. Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and Radha Mitchell will also reprise their roles for the film's sequel. On the other hand, Antoine Fuqua will not return to the director's chair, and his replacement has not yet been announced.

The premise of Olympus Has Fallen is heading across the pond for a sequel on a terrorist threat in London. — AFP Relaxnews


The Star Online: World Updates

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China security chief blames separatists for Tiananmen attack


BEIJING (Reuters) - China's domestic security chief believes a fatal vehicle crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in which five died was planned by a Uighur separatist group, designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States and United Nations.

An SUV ploughed through bystanders in the capital's iconic Tiananmen Square on Monday and burst into flames, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders, in what the government called a terrorist attack.

Beijing police have arrested five people it says were radical Islamists who were planning a holy war. Security has been strengthened in both Beijing and in Xinjiang, the restive far western region the Muslim Uighurs call home.

Meng Jianzhu, a member of the elite 25-member Politburo with responsibility for domestic security, blamed the incident on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

Many Uighurs call Xinjiang East Turkestan, and the government often blames the frequent outbreaks of violence there on extremists agitating for an independent state.

"This violent terrorist incident that's happened in Beijing was organised and premeditated," Meng told Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, in comments carried by the official Xinhua news agency on Friday.

"The group that stood behind the scenes inciting it was the East Turkestan Islamic Movement," he added, speaking on the sidelines of a Tashkent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Chinese and Russian-lead security group.

"We must seek to further strengthen international anti-terror order to create a strong deterrent and further safeguard peace and stability in our region."

Police identified the driver as a man called Usmen Hasan, whose name suggests he is a Uighur, and said his mother and wife were in the car with him, along with devices filled with gasoline and a flag with "extreme religious content" on it.

At least 42 people were injured.

However, exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer told Reuters this week that caution should be exercised over the government's account, adding she did not believe any kind of organised extremist Islamic movement was operating in Xinjiang, a view shared by rights groups and some experts.

The United Nations and U.S. placed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement on lists of terrorist organisations after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Xinjiang, a sprawling, desert-like region that borders Central Asian nations that were part of the former Soviet Union as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been beset by violence, blamed by China on Uighur separatists and extremists.

In 2009, nearly 200 people were killed in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi in rioting between Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese.

(Editing by Ben Blanchard and Michael Perry)

Zelaya's wife to seek IMF deal if elected in Honduras - running mate


TEGUCICALPA (Reuters) - The wife of ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya will seek a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to resolve a mounting debt crisis if she wins next month's presidential election, her running mate said on Thursday.

Juliette Handal, the vice-presidential candidate of Zelaya's wife Xiomara Castro, said their leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) would seek assistance from the IMF to help tackle the country's bloated budget deficit.

"We're going to seek an accord with the International Monetary Fund based on reality; it's necessary, we're very clear about this," Handal told Reuters in Tegucigalpa as her party presented its plan for governing the country.

Honduras, the biggest exporter of coffee in Central America, is on track to post a budget deficit of at least six percent of gross domestic product for the second year running.

The election will be held on November 24, and latest polls show Castro and her conservative rival Juan Hernandez, head of Honduras' Congress, are running neck-and-neck.

Outgoing President Porfirio Lobo is constitutionally barred from running again after serving a four-year term.

A voter survey earlier this month gave Hernandez 28 percent support, compared with 27 percent for the 54-year-old Castro.

In 2010, the IMF agreed to provide some $200 million in financial support to the Central American country to help it strengthen its public finances and stabilize its economy.

The agreement expired in March 2012 and Lobo's government has failed to reach a new agreement with the Washington-based fund after falling short of consolidation targets.

The budgetary crisis has sparked strikes and protests by public sector officials like doctors, nurses in police in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Americas that also suffers from the highest murder rate in the world.

Castro, catapulted into the spotlight after a 2009 coup when she led protests against Zelaya's ouster, is running on a toned-down version of his leftist populism.

Many see Zelaya, whose removal triggered a deep political crisis, as the power behind Castro's candidacy. At rallies, supporters often cheer more for him than for his wife.

The election campaign has been dominated by debate over how to tackle the predations of drug gangs, a major cause of the country's high crime rate. Mexican cartels have moved into Honduras, using it as a staging point for moving large quantities of South American cocaine to the United States.

(Editing by Dave Graham and Ken Wills)

Indonesia summons Australian ambassador over U.S.-led spying claims


JAKARTA/PERTH (Reuters) - Indonesia summonsed Australia's ambassador on Friday to explain media reports his embassy in Jakarta was used to spy on Southeast Asia's biggest country as part of a U.S.-led global spying network.

Indonesia this week called in the chief U.S. diplomat in Jakarta over similar allegations, while China on Thursday demanded an explanation from the United States after the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Australian embassies across Asia were part of the U.S. spying operation.

News of Australia's role in a U.S.-led surveillance network could damage relations with Indonesia, Australia's nearest Asian neighbour and a key strategic ally.

"Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has demanded an explanation from the Australian ambassador in Jakarta about the existence and use of surveillance facilities in the Australian embassy here," Indonesia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The reported activities absolutely do not reflect the spirit of a close and friendly relationship between the two neighbours and are considered unacceptable by the government of Indonesia."

The Herald said its reports were based on U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer.

Snowden leaks to other media have detailed vast intelligence collection by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting protests and a U.S. review of intelligence gathering.

Natalegawa, in Australia for a meeting with his counterpart Julie Bishop and other regional foreign ministers, said the reports of spying by Australia and the United States were likely to be raised "in a more concerted way" by other countries.

"The fact that certain countries may have certain capacities to gather information in the way that they have, that's one thing, but whether you would want to put that into effect and therefore potentially damage the kind of trust and confidence that have been nurtured and developed over many decades and years is something that we may want to ponder," he told reporters in Perth in western Australia.

"I think we have been able to communicate to Foreign Minister Bishop about our concern."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately reply to requests for comment. In an earlier response to the surveillance allegations, a spokeswoman said: "It is the long-standing practice of Australian governments not to comment on intelligence matters."

The Australian ambassador is scheduled to meet Indonesian officials in Jakarta on Friday over the matter, a foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed.

Bilateral relations were already shaky after Australia's new conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, in September proposed turning back boats of asylum-seekers coming through Indonesia.

Abbott made his first official trip overseas to Jakarta last month where he sought to played down tensions over the asylum seekers issue and called instead on both countries to focus on boosting bilateral trade.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor in Jakarta and Rebekah Kebede in Perth; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Michael Perry)


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Higher sales of Polo Sedan seen


SHAH ALAM: Volkswagen Group Malaysia Sdn Bhd (VGM) is targeting a monthly sales of 150 units for its new locally assembled Volkswagen Polo Sedan model.

VGM managing director Dr Zeno Kerschbaumer said locally assembling had enabled the price of the Polo Sedan to be competitively set at RM85,888, which is some RM14,000 cheaper than the previous fully imported Polo Sedan that costs RM99,888.

"Besides the good pricing, the Polo Sedan also comes with a host of class-leading features which should make the B-segment car an attractive buy," he said at the launch of the new Polo Sedan in Setia Alam Convention Centre here yesterday.

Among the car's key features are four airbags, a six-speed automatic transmission and a fuel efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine.

The car also gets several additional features over the previous fully imported model such as a 2-DIN audio system that supports iPod, Bluetooth, SD card and AUX, an automatic air conditioner system, front centre armrest and air conditioner vents for the rear passengers.

Built at DRB-Hicom's facilities in Pekan, Pahang, the Polo Sedan is VGM's second locally assembled model after the Passat.

Dr Kerschbaumer also said VGM's vehicle sales for the first nine-months of the year stood at 6,924 units, a 7% improvement over the corresponding period of 2012.

Will abolishment of DIBS revive secondary market sale?


KUALA LUMPUR: Budget 2014 has placed a ban on Developer Interest Bearing Scheme (DIBS), a scheme that made its way into Malaysian property market in early 2009. Since its emergence, DIBS has made it convenient for property speculators to invest in new launches. They disregard the hassle of subsale market that has a slightly more complicated payment scheme. However, the recent DIBS abolishment could be the game changer in property market buying trend.

While DIBS is thought to be beneficial by those who genuinely wants to own a home, it also created an opportunity for property speculation. Before this, property speculation was an activity affordable only to those with deep pockets. However, DIBS's easy payment scheme allows speculators to find subsale buyers and sell the property within the construction period or shortly after its completion. 

Through this scheme, speculators only have to put forward a small amount of money, while getting a large profit return within a few years.

Therefore, the abolishment of DIBS will certainly dampen speculation activity as the payment scheme will not be as easy anymore. Its effect is exactly as intended by the government. The ban also results in primary market no longer having an edge over subsale market; an area that has been sluggish since DIBS was made popular.

Looking at Propwall's Market Trend, it is evident that primary market is favoured over secondary market. The subsale units at OG Heights in Old Klang Road are transacted below RM400 psf this past year. Meanwhile, Pearl Setia, that has been offering DIBS, is selling at an average of RM550 psf. The take up rate for the new development is claimed to be quite promising.

While primary market certainly has other attributes that adds to its appeal to property buyers, it cannot be denied that DIBS is the factor that draws the buyers in. For the last few years, DIBS has complemented the general rule of thumb when buying property; that is, 'location, location and location'.

Without DIBS adorning the new developments any longer, subsale market is now back in the game.

The good attributes of subsale market will not be overshadowed by DIBS anymore. Those who are still interested in acquiring properties, speculators or not, will broaden their horizon into subsale market since DIBS is no longer an available factor in house selection.

The promotion of DIBS was very strong, sometimes even deceiving, that people overlooked the longevity and good attributes of subsale market. Subsale properties are usually located in matured neighbourhoods with established facilities and amenities. Furthermore, the existing JMC and the neighbourhood's strong sense of community are the indicators of the quality of the development and its future prospect.

For now, looking into the subsale market may be a worthy option. However, if the Housing and Local Government Ministry decides to implement the 'Build-Then-Sell' (BTS) scheme in 2015, the subsale market may very well have to take the backseat once again.

Tenaga drops on weak Q4 earnings


KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of power giant Tenaga Nasional Bhd fell in early Friday trade after its weak fourth quarter earnings, dragging the FBM KLCI into the red.

At 9.22am, Tenaga was down 11 sen to RM9.32. There were 338,800 shares done.

UMW Oil & Gas, which made its debut on the Main Market on Bursa Malaysia, rose 26 sen to RM3.06. There were 83 million shares done.

The KLCI was down 0.27 of a point to 1,806.58. Turnover was 238.26 million shares valued at RM318.31mil. There were 139 gainers and 139 losers while 176 counters were unchanged.

Tenaga registered a significant drop in its net profit for the fourth quarter of its financial year ended Aug 31, 2013 (Q4) from higher operating expenses and a loss in foreign currency translation.

Net profit stood at RM219.4mil, down 79.3% from the RM1.06bil recorded in the corresponding period last year.

For the full year, Tenaga's earnings rose 4.6% to RM4.61bil compared with RM4.4bil in FY12.

Its higher earnings for the full year was mainly due to a foreign currency translation gain of RM493.6mil, which was driven by the strengthening of the ringgit against the Japanese yen, compared with a translation loss of RM230.8mil in the preceding yea

CIMB Equities Research said it was keeping Tenaga as an Outperform with an unchanged target price of RM13.24.

It said there was a stronger likelihood of the Incentive Based Regulation (IBR) being implemented and this would be a catalyst.

"Our target price remains unchanged at RM13.24, based on 14.2 times FY15 price-to-earnings, which is a 10% discount to our target market P/E. Tenaga is our top pick for the power sector," it said. 


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Daniel Radcliffe to play athlete in film


The grown-up Harry Potter star is set to portray British sportsman Sebastian Coe.

Daniel Radcliffe is to play British athletics great Sebastian Coe in a film about his rivalry with fellow middle-distance runner Steve Ovett, filmmakers announced recently.

Gold will examine the tussles between countrymen Coe and Ovett, who exchanged titles and world records during the early 1980s.

Ovett beat Coe over 800m at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, but Coe claimed revenge in the 1,500m final six days later and successfully defended his title at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Coe went on to head the organising committee of the 2012 London Olympics and is the current chairman of the British Olympic Association.

The film is expected to focus on Coe and Ovett's preparations for the 1980 Olympics, but it has not yet been announced who will play Ovett.

"You were either an Ovett person or a Coe person and that's what makes it such a great character piece as well," said the film's producer, Vicky Licorish.

Filming for the movie, which was first announced in February 2010, is expected to begin in April next year.

The screenplay will be based on an account of the rivalry in a book called The Perfect Distance by British athletics journalist Pat Butcher.

Radcliffe, 24, shot to fame by playing the title role in eight film adaptations of J.K. Rowling's blockbuster series of books about child wizard Harry Potter. — AFP Relaxnews

Rachel McAdams is heading into space


The Canadian actress is set to star alongside Keanu Reeves in a new movie.

The star of Richard Curtis's About Time, Rachel McAdams, is negotiating the female lead in the forthcoming science-fiction film opposite Keanu Reeves, Variety reports. Director Brian Kirk (Game Of Thrones, Dexter) will make his film debut behind the camera for this romance in space.

Based on a screenplay by Prometheus writer Jon Spaihts, Passengers will take place within the passageways on a spaceship headed towards a habitable planet. Due to a technical error, one of the passengers is woken 90 years before schedule. Unable to face his fate alone, the lonely hero (Reeves) decides to wake a lovely young woman to keep him company (McAdams, pending current negotiations).

Kirk will begin shooting Passengers sometime in 2014.

McAdams will soon return to cinemas in Every Thing Will Be Fine and A Most Wanted Man. — AFP Relaxnews

<i>X-Men: Days Of Future Past</i> trailer


The X-Men: Days Of Future Past trailer is out. We know you've been waiting for this ...

The trailer for X-Men: Days Of Future Past was launched late last night.

It's a little melodramatic ... but at least it gives us more clues as to what to expect in director Bryan Singer's upcoming movie.

Check it out for yourself:


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Give army a boost, firms urged


KOTA TINGGI: Local companies involved in weapons research and development have been urged to assist the army boost its capability.

The Lahad Datu incident was a reminder that a threat to the country could come from anywhere and anytime, said Armed Forces chief Jen Datuk Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor.

"The incident in Sabah has become a yardstick for the army to protect our country from outside forces.

"This shows how important our defence is especially in terms of weaponry," he said after witnessing the Panah Jaguh exercise here at Tanjung Logok yesterday.

Jen Raja Mohamed Affandi said the armed forces would continue to give its best in protecting the country's sovereignty.

On the exercise, he said that 120 officers and 600 personnel were involved.

He added that the main objective of the exercise is to test the army's weaponry, especially air defence.

"This is a long-range firing exercise carried out twice a year with arms such as the Jernas missile, Igla missile, Anza MK II missile, FN-6 missile and the 35mm Oerlikon canon," he said.

Parliament: Ministry blocks 6,640 websites


THE Communications and Multimedia Ministry has blocked 6,640 websites which contravened the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for phishing, content plagiarism as well as carrying pornographic materials, says its deputy minister Datuk Jailani Johari.

"Twenty cases are now being investigated under the same Act, including a person who had used social media to insult the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the royal institution.

"In the latest case, a 28-year-old suspect was charged with insulting the Sultan of Johor via Facebook and was fined RM20,000 at a Sessions Court," he said.

However, Jailani said there was no plan to set up a special task force to handle issues involving social media.

The cases of complaints about social media were very small and could be handled by the ministry on its own.

"Our role is to facilitate investigations and after completion of a probe, we will forward it to the relevant agency for further action," he told Datuk Abdul Rahman Mohamad (BN-Lipis).

Jailani said that between Jan 1 and Sept 30 this year, the ministry, through the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) recorded 8,101 cases, whereby 63% of them involved complaints regarding services, slow Internet connection and poor 3G coverage.

A total of 37% involved SMS, television and radio, including telecommunication infrastructure and radiation, cyber crimes and other reports which are beyond the ministry's purview, he added.

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Precious gems trader survives assassination attempt


KOTA BARU: A precious gems trader survived an assassination attempt by two assailants who opened fire at him when he was on his way home.

Lokman Zakaria, 49, was in his Mercedes-Benz when the suspects, riding on a motorcycle, directed five shots at him from a distance of 120m at Sering in Binjai here at 6.45pm on Tuesday.

Kota Baru district police chief Asst Comm Azham Othman said Lokman was shot in his shoulder and his left arm.

He said the victim was then sent to Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in Kubang Kerian by residents from Kampung Sering and is now in stable condition.

"Based on the crime scene forensics report, there were three bullet holes on the right side of the car and another two on the rear side.

"The forensics team also found a bullet embedded in the back of the driver's seat of the car and is trying to determine the bullet calibre," he said.

He added that police were still trying to ascertain the motive of the shooting and would hunt down the suspects.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts &amp; Fashion

Kakiseni Arts Exchange 2013 sets sail on international waters


Kakiseni Arts Exchange 2013 programme themed Nama Kamu Atas Perahu is an ambitious multinational journey on stage.

HOW do you bring together artists from half a dozen countries to tell a single cohesive story?

Carlos García Estéves, the artistic director of Manifesto Poetico, believes all you need is a story that speaks to them beyond the limits of their native tongues.

Estéves will be contributing his directing talents to the Kakiseni Arts Exchange 2013 programme themed Nama Kamu Atas Perahu, which brings together 16 artists from seven countries onto one perahu (small boat) with Estéves as their captain.

International artists participating are Iranians Hamidreza Fallahi and Maryam Moiny, Indonesians Deden Trsnawan and Moh Hariyantu, Spaniard Monica Vareal Couto, German Manuel Schunter, Americans Hannah Heller and Ghafir Akbar (now based in Kuala Lumpur), Hong Kong-national Cheung Ming-Yiu, and Korean Jungju Kim.

Representing Malaysia are the boys from Hands Percussion – Jack Wan Wai Keat, Jimmy Ch'ng Lip Hann and Leong Kah Mui, Instant Cafe's Jo Kukathas, Aswara's Zamzuria Zahari and Chinese Opera singer Ling Goh. Their fields of expertise are as eclectic as their nationalities, with actors, dancers, musicians, poets, puppeteers and even a professional clown.

Designed as an intense two week workshop for the varied artists, the training culminates in a visual performance which will be staged at KuAsh Theatre in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur on Oct 31 and Nov 1.

Spanish theater group Manifesto Poetico's artistic director Carlos García Estéves (second left) leads by example in his workshops with the cast of Nama Kamu Atas Perahu.

Aye, aye, skipper!: Spanish theatre group Manifesto Poetico's artistic director Carlos García Estéves (second from right) leads by example in his workshops with the cast of Nama Kamu Atas Perahu.

"I came up with the theme after seeing the artists I was working with. My country and theirs have a society with many immigrants. It is a topic common to everyone here, for people who leave and those who stay behind," notes the Spaniard.

"I wanted a story that concerns all of us. The title Your Name On A Boat (Nama Kamu Atas Perahu) refers to how you are on this boat, I am on this boat, we are all on this boat," says Estéves, though he is quick to laugh off that it was an intentional reference to the Beatles' Yellow Submarine.

Explaining the theme further, he says that in the case of many immigrants, they go abroad to find riches, thinking the grass is always greener in the other country.

"But the riches we're looking for are right here," he says, thumping the spot over his heart with his fist, "it's not just money, but what's inside you, your friends and family".

The director also faced two more challenges in bringing together his artists, the fact he had not met them until he arrived in Malaysia just two weeks before performance day and the issue of language: half of the cast do not speak the other's language!

During one of the Arts Exchange workshops, Estéves shows how good direction isn't hampered by what language one speaks.

"Language is not a barrier, the primary 'language' spoken among the artists is movement, and these guys are quick at picking up what I'm teaching," he says.

It does not hurt that Estéves also speaks English, Spanish and French. It is quite a sight seeing him act as the bridge between fellow Spaniard Couto and Korean Kim (who picked up French while studying in the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris).

To quickly come up with a story without denying his cast a chance at pitching their ideas, Estéves used a Canovaccio story structure. Estéves describes it as a way of "telling what, not how". While the story has some key points and scenes, it would be largely improvisational how the final result will turn out.

Three concrete ideas that he did lay down was that the play will have three main characters: the traveller Mismar (played by Akbar), his wife Alma (played by Zamzuria) and the Narrator (played by Kukathas).

"In the performance, we will play with space, voices and puppeteering. I will also include elements of Mak Yong and folk songs to add to the mood," says Kelantan-native Zamzuria, who teaches traditional theatre, including Mak Yong and Mek Mulung in the Academy of Arts, Culture and National Heritage.

Kukathas says as the narrator, she will pop in and out of the narrative as another visual and vocal element to move the story forward.

"We play point and counterpoint to each other and find ways to keep the story dynamic and playful. Many characters pop in and out of the ensemble and then disappear back into the scene as manipulators of objects and puppets," explains the veteran actress.

The duty of composing the soundtrack to the performance falls on Iranian Hamidreza, with the help of a handful of equally talented musicians like percussionist Jimmy and Jack, as well as actress Heller, who also plays the violin.

"I tried different music according to scenes that Carlos and the actors produced through all materials that could make some sound and at the end, we got the best results through Carlos' intelligent directing method," says Hamidreza.

> Nama Kamu Atas Perahu will be staged at The Actors Studio @ KuAsh Theatre, Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur at 8.30pm on Oct 31 and Nov 1. Entrance is free, though those interested are recommended to prebook at

Sylvester Stallone is an artist


The action star recently showed off his artistic side in Russia.

Art lovers lined up last weekend at the world's biggest museum of Russian art in Saint Petersburg, where US film star Sylvester Stallone unveiled a retrospective of his abstract paintings.

Work by the Hollywood action man won praise from the curators at the State Russian Museum although some critics denounced Stallone for his anti-Russia character Rambo and said such art had no place in the venerable institution.

Stallone was all smiles as he unveiled the exhibition, entitled matter-of-factly "Sylvester Stallone. Art. 1975-2013", and said it was an honour to show his works in Russia's historic capital.

"I hope you will like my pictures," he said at a press conference. "I love all of you."

The 67-year-old star of blockbusters such as Rambo and Rocky said that if he had a choice, he would spend his life drawing and sculpting instead of starring in action hits.

"If my visit is a challenge for somebody, let it be so," he said when asked what he thought of some furious comments, notably by some in the Communist party, who thought that exhibiting Stallone at the Russian Museum was a travesty.

Museum director Vladimir Gusev said Stallone's paintings "show the character of a passionate man" and were not simply "the work of an amateur".

"...This is a real artist," he told journalists. "The Russian museum does not show weak artists."

Mutate Man by Sylvester Stallone. -- EPA/Anatoly Maltsev 

The exhibit attracted a crowd of about 1,000 intrigued people who stood in line on opening day to enter the museum in the centre of Russia's second city.

"I watched Stallone's movies, I'm not surprised that such a macho man can make paintings. I want to look at them," said Natalia Akimova, 49.

Others were curious but dismissive. "I'm sure these paintings wouldn't be up if someone else produced them," said Igor Savenko. "It's a commercial trick, not art."

Stallone, an Academy-award nominated actor as well as a director and screen-writer, had studied art before his film career took off, and has also had shows in Switzerland and Miami in the United States.

The museum website describes Stallone's works as "comments on the events in his creative and personal life" that focus on the use of bright colours.

"Fierce forms and colours contribute to the energetic interpretation by the artist of people around him or famous movie actors."

Stallone arrived in Russia last Saturday evening and was shown on television posing in a leather jacket for photographs with border control employees, who gave the camera exuberant smiles and thumbs-ups.

"Absolutely nothing," he told journalists when asked what he knows about Russia's tsarist capital.

He said he had not expected his works to be shown at the Russian Museum, a revered institution established by Russia's last tsar Nicolas II in 1895.

The museum is heavily focused on Russian art so the decision to exhibit contemporary works by a Hollywood star has raised some eyebrows.

The curators have argued that Stallone's 30-piece show is on display not in the museum's main building, but at one of its branches, which boasts a modern art collection including works by Western artists like Andy Warhol.

Some visitors, particularly fans of Stallone's muscle-man image, were nevertheless perplexed.

"Maybe he painted this when he was emotional," a Russian bodybuilder and fan of Stallone's early movies said as he looked at one painting, television footage showed. — AFP Relaxnews


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Chinese boy, 10, jumps to death &#39;on teacher&#39;s order&#39;


BEIJING: A 10-year-old Chinese boy jumped 30 floors to his death after failing to write a self-criticism letter demanded by his teacher, state media reported Thursday.

The fifth-grade primary school student had been ordered to write a 1,000-character apology by his teacher for talking in class, China National Radio (CNR) reported on its website, citing a neighbour.

The educator allegedly told him to jump out of a building after he failed to complete the task, the report quoted relatives and the neighbour as saying.

"Teacher, I can't do it," was found written in one of his textbooks, CNR said. "I flinched several times when I tried to jump from the building."

The child smashed into a parked car beneath the flat where his family live, the West China City News reported.

His furious relatives posted a banner outside the school in the southwestern city of Chengdu reading: "The teacher forced our kid to jump off the building," pictures showed Thursday.

"The police investigation is still under way," an official of Jinjiang district, where the incident happened, told AFP, declining to comment further.

Strict discipline is an essential part of China's education system and culture, and tradition demands deference to authority, putting children under pressure to obey instructions.

The boy's school said Thursday on its verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that the child and some of his classmates had been ordered to write reviews of their behaviour after they disturbed a speaking competition.

He died "by accident", it said. -AFP

Strong earthquake hits Taiwan, shakes buildings in capital


TAIPEI: A strong earthquake struck eastern Taiwan Thursday, shaking buildings in the capital and causing tremors across the island.

The 6.3 magnitude at 8:02 pm (1202 GMT) had its epicentre 53 kilometres (33 miles) southwest of Hualien city at a depth of 19.5 kilometres, according to the country's Seismology Centre.

The US Geological Survey gave a slightly higher magnitude of 6.6 and a shallower depth of 9 km.

A handout image made available 31 October 2013 by the US Geological Survey shows the epicenter of the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck eastern Taiwan on 31 October 2013.-EPA

There was no immediate information on any damage or casualties. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no immediate threat of a tsunami. 

Residents in Taipei took to social media to describe their alarm after the quake hit.

"Yikes. Now the sirens are going. Definitely the worst earthquake I've felt here," wrote Lola Dodge on Twitter, describing herself as an expat living in Taipei.

Elga Reyes tweeted: "Ohmygod. That was the scariest moment ever! Earthquake in Taipei. I could hear the walls creaking. And felt like I was swaying on a ride." -AFP


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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Scarcity of devices for kids


Medical devices are rarely developed with children in mind. Doctors must routinely alter devices to fit into kids' bodies or wait until they are older to provide treatment.

THERE is no such thing as a baby pacemaker. Or a defibrillator for kids.

For children with an irregular heartbeat, the only option is an adult device. Pacemakers are wedged into children's abdomens because there isn't enough room in their chests. As their bodies grow, they face years of surgeries as the adult devices are replaced or modified.

The wave of medical device innovation that is improving and extending the lives of younger generations is passing over the youngest. While more patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s are benefiting from an extensive range of treatments, products are rarely developed with children in mind. Doctors must routinely alter devices to fit into kids' bodies or wait until they are older to provide treatment.

"The biggest challenge, by far, is size," said Dr Christopher Carter, a paediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. "But there are other issues as they get older: They aren't going to be able to play contact sports. Really, it becomes a lifetime of compromise."

The scarcity of specialty devices for kids is largely a numbers game: There aren't enough children with chronic illnesses to justify the cost of developing products just for them.

Since most devices are developed in the private sector, companies such as St Jude Medical and Medtronic spend their time on products that reach a broader population and ultimately return a profit.

"It can cost US$100mil (RM320mil) to bring a device to market," said Dr Steve Oesterle, Medtronic's senior vice president for medicine and technology. "The market (for kids) just isn't big enough."

Children are noticeably absent from the development of treatments for pain, movement disorders and heart ailments – treatments that are helping tens of thousands in other age groups.

An estimated 1,600 children ages one through 17 in the United States had a procedure involving a pacemaker or a defibrillator in 2010, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. That compares with 56,033 patients ages 45 through 64 and 155,446 ages 65 through 84.

Kids also make up just a fraction of those receiving orthopaedic treatments. Only 200 children had a procedure involving artificial hips in 2010; 188 received knee replacements.

Yet doctors and advocates say there are several technologies they are trying to develop with children in mind – and a few already are coming to market. Among them are defibrillators that don't use wires to connect to the heart and tracheal tubes that won't damage a baby's oesophagus during some procedures.

Such specialty devices also could prove more durable and efficient because they are a better fit. A smaller pacemaker, for instance, could further improve heart function in young children and be better secured in their bodies.

"The need is for a whole variety of low-tech and higher-tech devices that are optimised for kids," said Donald Lombardi, who runs the Institute for Pediatric Innovation in Massachusetts. "It's not rocket science to develop these things. But it takes good engineering – and an overall market."

A group at the University of Michigan is trying to develop products aimed at kids. So are others at the University of California, San Francisco; Stanford University; and Atlanta Children's Hospital.

All have won grants through the Office of Orphan Products Development, a programme through the US Food and Drug Administration that seeks to nurture the development of medical products for patient populations of fewer than 200,000.

But most new devices, if they ever make it to market, are years away.

"It takes a lot of dedicated people and continuing to think outside the box to make things happen," Lombardi said.

Asher Thomas was three days old when doctors cracked open his chest to run the wires from his pacemaker to the outside of his heart. He was born with a condition called heart block, a problem with the electrical system that controls heartbeats.

His heart rate had plunged to 39 beats per minute. On the morning of his surgery, his anxious parents, Robyn and Aaron, couldn't see him awake.

"His heart rate dropped so low that they had to sedate him," Aaron Thomas said. "That was the scariest part."

Asher went home from the hospital after spending eight days in neonatal intensive care. The pronounced bulge extending from Asher's abdomen is a reminder of the adult pacemaker that he will need for the rest of his life.

"Once you're a cardiac patient, you're always a cardiac patient," said Robyn Thomas.

Every three months, Robyn and Aaron hook their son's pacemaker up to a telephone line at their Eden Prairie home so that doctors can see if it's working properly. That's the easy part. They know that every few years, Asher's pacemaker will need to be replaced. They know that the wires that attach the device to his heart – the leads – come with risks.

"Kids are just tougher on leads," said Dr Charles Gornick of the Minneapolis Heart Institute.

Leads are known to last 15 to 20 years, but sometimes they wear out sooner, requiring a complicated surgery to replace them. Even if no hiccups occur, Asher eventually will have the leads run through a vein to his heart, which is how they are placed in adults.

There also are long-term effects of needing an implantable device. No one really knows what a lifetime of pacing does to the human heart.

"These things are not developed for children," said Carter, Asher's doctor. "We're still learning."

Then there are other difficulties. It can be tough to programme devices to accurately sense when a child's heart is dangerously out of rhythm because kids have naturally higher heart rates. Children are also harder on devices because they don't always rein in their physical activities.

"It's always an ongoing negotiation with our younger patients," Carter said.

Fortunately, Asher, now two, is proving to be as energetic and rambunctious as any little boy. He was walking at 10 months. He clambers up and down the carpeted stairs of his family's home. He plays with puzzles and the family dog. Visits to the neighborhood playground are frequent and tiring – for his parents.

"He's into everything," Robyn Thomas said of her son. "He's just busy. He's always been busy."

Several cardiac devices – pacemakers, heart valves and stents – got their start with children.

In the 1950s and '60s, before FDA oversight, the first devices were used in an effort to save young heart patients before the technology was expanded to a broader population.

"Why is that? Because no one wants to see a kid die. I believe kids are the catalysts for imagination," Medtronic's Oesterle said.

But the way devices are developed has changed dramatically since then. In 1976, the FDA was given the responsibility of approving medical devices, which increased oversight. Where doctors once conducted research in backroom labs and tested devices with parents' consent, the FDA now requires extensive testing and clinical trials for new devices.

Convincing device makers to do that for a costly product that might only help a handful of children is a nearly impossible sell, said Dr Robert Campbell, a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon and director of the Center for Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Campbell has developed products for children, including a spine device that can be adjusted as a child grows, but it took 14 years to get it to market.

"I was very lucky," he said. "I had a company that was owned privately and an owner that was very sympathetic to children." – Star Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Jonas Brothers are no longer together


The trio of brothers cancelled their latest tour earlier this week.

Heartthrob boy band the Jonas Brothers are breaking up, at least "for now", they announced Tuesday, a few weeks after cancelling their latest tour due to "deep rifts" between the trio.

The group, whose career took off five years ago with Disney films and TV shows, said they decided "unanimously" to split after a meeting earlier this month.

"It's over for now," Kevin Jonas told People magazine, while brother Nick added: "It's really hard to say 'forever' ... We're closing a chapter, for sure."

"It was a unanimous decision," added Joe.

At an Oct 3 meeting Nick told his brothers he was worried about the band's future. "I was feeling kind of trapped," he said. "I needed to share my heart with my brothers."

The band cancelled a planned 19-date comeback tour, and a band spokesman cited in reports said at the time: "There is a deep rift within the band. There was a big a disagreement over their music direction."

The sibling trio, originally from New Jersey, released their first album in August 2006, but their career took off with the Disney movie Camp Rock in 2008, followed by a sequel two years later. They were also given their own Disney Channel TV series.

They have sold more than 20 million records, and were nominated for Best New Artiste Grammy in 2008, according to their website.

They entered the Guinness Book of Records for the most singles to enter the US charts top 20 in one year, with five in 2009, and have won nearly 50 awards around the world, including an American Music Award. — AFP Relaxnews


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