Selasa, 1 Januari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

With final vote, U.S. Congress resolves "fiscal cliff" drama

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 08:13 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress approved a rare tax increase on Tuesday that will hit the nation's wealthiest households in a bipartisan budget deal that stops the world's largest economy from falling into a deep fiscal crisis and recession.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) walks with Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) (R) after a meeting with House Republicans about a "fiscal cliff" deal on Capitol Hill in Washington January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) walks with Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) (R) after a meeting with House Republicans about a "fiscal cliff" deal on Capitol Hill in Washington January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By a vote of 257 to 167, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a bill that fulfils President Barack Obama's re-election promise to raise taxes on top earners.

The Senate passed the measure earlier in a rare New Year's Day session and Obama is expected to sign it into law shortly.

The United States will no longer go over a "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts that had been due to come into force on Tuesday but other bruising budget battles lie ahead in the next two months.

It was a reversal for House Republicans, who were in disarray despite winning deep spending cuts in earlier budget fights. But they saw their leverage slip away this time when they were unable to unite behind any alternative to Obama's proposal.

House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican House leaders stayed silent during the debate on the House floor, an unusual move for a major vote.

The deal shatters two decades of Republican anti-tax orthodoxy by raising rates on the wealthiest even as it makes cuts for everybody else permanent.

Lawmakers had struggled to find a way to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts worth $600 billion (367.1 billion pounds) that began to take effect at midnight on January 1, a legacy of earlier failed budget deals that is known as the fiscal cliff.

Strictly speaking, the United States went over the cliff in the first minutes of the New Year because Congress failed to act on time. But the bill passed on Tuesday will be backdated.

While many Republicans were uneasy with the tax hikes and wanted more spending cuts, they seemed to realize that the fiscal cliff would begin to damage the economy once financial markets and federal government offices returned to work on Wednesday. Opinion polls show the public would blame Republicans if a deal were to fall apart.

Income tax rates will now rise on families earning more than $450,000 per year and the amount of deductions they can take to lower their tax bill will be limited.

Low temporary rates that have been in place for the past decade will be made permanent for less-affluent taxpayers, along with a range of targeted tax breaks put in place to fight the 2009 economic downturn.

However, workers will see up to $2,000 more taken out of their paychecks annually with the expiration of a temporary payroll tax cut.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would increase budget deficits by nearly $4 trillion over the coming 10 years, compared to the budget savings that would occur if the extreme measures of the cliff were to kick in.

But the bill would actually save $650 billion during that time period when measured against the tax and spending policies that were in effect on Monday, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent group that has pushed for more aggressive deficit savings.

(Additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai, Kim Dixon and David Lawder; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)

Related Stories:
Factbox - Key points in the U.S. Senate's deal to avert 'fiscal cliff'

U.S. House approves legislation averting "fiscal cliff"

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Venezuela's Chavez aware his condition complicated - Vice President

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 07:10 PM PST

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is aware that his condition is complicated following a fourth cancer operation in Cuba, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, as the OPEC nation watches for clues to the socialist leader's health.

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during an interview with the news station Telesur in Havana January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Foreign Ministry/Temir Porras via Twitter/Handout

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during an interview with the news station Telesur in Havana January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Foreign Ministry/Temir Porras via Twitter/Handout

Maduro said he was returning to Venezuela after spending several days alongside Chavez and members of the president's family. That may help squelch rumours his visit was a sign that the former soldier was near death.

"During these days I was able to see him twice and speak with him," Maduro said during an interview from Havana with regional television network Telesur. "He is completely conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state and he expressly asked us keep the people informed."

Maduro, who Chavez last month designated as his successor, said the president had grasped his hand "with immense strength" as they spoke, and asked him about the state of the economy and the swearing-in of newly elected governors.

"After staying in Havana to accompany the family members, we are returning to Caracas tomorrow (January 2) to continue our work," said Maduro, who visited Chavez with his wife, Attorney General Cilia Flores.

The president suffered unexpected bleeding as result of the complex, six-hour operation on his pelvic region December 11, and later had to fight off a respiratory infection.

On Sunday, Maduro had said the 58-year-old Chavez was suffering a third set of complications as a result of the respiratory problem.

Chavez's son-in-law, who also serves as science minister, on Monday said the president was in stable condition and urged Venezuelans to ignore rumours of his impending death.

Chavez has never said what type of cancer he has.

His death or resignation due to illness would roil politics in Venezuela, where his personalized brand of oil-financed socialism has made him a hero to the poor majority but a nemesis to critics who call him a dictator.

If Chavez stepped down, new elections would be called within 30 days. Maduro would be the ruling Socialist Party candidate.

Chavez's condition is also being watched closely by Latin American countries that have benefited from his generous assistance, as well as Wall Street investors who are drawn to Venezuela's lucrative and heavily traded bonds.

He is due to be sworn in again in Venezuela on January 10 after winning re-election in October. But Socialist Party officials have suggested the ceremony could be delayed if he were unable to return in time.

Opposition leaders say postponing it would show Chavez is not fit to govern and that new elections should be held to choose his replacement.

(Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

U.S. "fiscal cliff" crisis heads to resolution in Congress

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 07:00 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A months-long battle over the U.S. "fiscal cliff" headed to a close on Tuesday as the House of Representatives moved toward final approval of a bipartisan deal meant to prevent Washington from pushing the world's biggest economy into recession.

The Republican-controlled House was expected to back a tax hike on the top U.S. earners shortly before midnight on Tuesday, ending weeks of high-stakes budget brinkmanship that threatened to spook consumers and throw financial markets into turmoil.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) walks with Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) (R) after a meeting with House Republicans about a "fiscal cliff" deal on Capitol Hill in Washington January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) walks with Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) (R) after a meeting with House Republicans about a "fiscal cliff" deal on Capitol Hill in Washington January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Approval of the bill would be a victory for President Barack Obama, who campaigned for re-election last November on a promise to raise taxes on the wealthiest but faced stiff opposition from congressional Republicans.

Republicans had earlier considered adding hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts after the bill had already passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support. That would have triggered further partisan warfare and pushed the crisis well past a self-imposed January 1 deadline.

But party leaders abandoned the effort after determining they lacked the votes.

"We've gone as far as we can go and I think people are ready to bring it to a conclusion," Republican Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia said. "We fought the fight."

Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, a Republican, predicted the House would back the Senate bill, which also postpones for two months $109 billion (66.6 billion pounds) in spending cuts on military and domestic programs set for 2013.

The bill easily cleared a procedural hurdle by a bipartisan vote of 408 to 10.

Lawmakers have struggled to find a way to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts that began to take effect at midnight, a legacy of earlier failed budget deals that is known as the fiscal cliff.

Strictly speaking, the United States went over the cliff in the first minutes of the New Year because Congress failed to produce legislation to halt $600 billion of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for this year.


While many Republicans were uneasy with the tax hikes and wanted more spending cuts in the bill, they seemed to realize that the fiscal cliff would begin to damage the economy once financial markets and federal government offices returned to work on Wednesday. Opinion polls show the public would blame Republicans if a deal were to fall apart.

House Republicans had earlier considered adding $330 billion in spending cuts over 10 years to the Senate bill, which raises taxes on the wealthiest U.S. households by $620 billion over the same period.

But Senate Democrats refused to consider any changes to their bill, which passed 89 to 8 in a rare display of unity early Tuesday.

That measure, which passed the Senate at around 2 a.m., would raise income taxes on families earning more than $450,000 per year and limit the amount of deductions they can take to lower their tax bill.

Low temporary rates that have been in place for the past decade would be made permanent for less-affluent taxpayers, along with a range of targeted tax breaks put in place to fight the 2009 economic downturn.

However, workers would see up to $2,000 more taken out of their pay checks annually with the expiration of a temporary payroll tax cut.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would increase budget deficits by nearly $4 trillion over the coming 10 years, compared to the budget savings that would occur if the extreme measures of the cliff were to kick in.

But the bill would actually save $650 billion during that time period when measured against the tax and spending policies that were in effect on Monday, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent group that has pushed for more aggressive deficit savings.

(Additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai, Thomas Ferraro and David Lawder; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)

Related Stories:
Factbox - Key points in the U.S. Senate's deal to avert 'fiscal cliff'

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Do or do not

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 02:07 AM PST

The Spudniks share their TV resolutions for the new year.

SOMEONE asked me if I was going to watch less TV in 2013. I laughed. What an odd notion!

My answer, of course, was a swift and vehement "No!". But it did get me thinking about my TV resolutions for 2013. I managed to come up with five.

Like most resolutions, these will probably be broken by the second week of the new year. Still, there's no harm in trying, right?

1. Watch more Tamil dramas or movies.

Ever since I lost my grandparents, my ability to converse in Tamil has gone from bad to very, very bad. They were the only people with whom I spoke Tamil. I didn't realise how out of touch I was with the language until last week when I had to converse with someone who spoke no English and hardly any Bahasa Malaysia.

After 10 minutes of neither of us understanding what the other was saying, I passed the phone to my sister who acted as my translator. It was embarrassing. I never want to go through that again.

So, this year, I resolve to brush up on my Tamil by watching more Tamil shows on TV. (My colleagues warn me that this may only help if I intend on throwing a dramatic tantrum, but I am hopeful nonetheless.)

Ann Marie Chandy (AMC) comments: Indra's Tamil is way better than mine – I know maybe 10 words in total. And I don't think watching Tamil movies will improve my ability to speak the language because I will always be reading the subtitles.

However, I don't mind tuning in if the actors are cute. I'll probably watch Hindi movies instead, and ogle handsome stars like Aamir Khan. That can be a resolution, right?

2. I vow to stop watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

I recently got hooked on this series (yeah, about 13 years behind everyone else) and have, for the last couple of months, been watching at least five episodes per day to catch up.

How's that for crazy? I hear the trademark sound – "chang chang" – in my head all the time now and just last week, I dreamt of Detective Elliott Stabler (Christopher Meloni). We were having dinner and I was telling him about all the people I work with. For some reason, he was laughing like crazy.

Another sign that I should wean myself off the show? I size up everyone I meet as a possible perpetrator of crimes I imagine they may be guilty of. I think I am obsessed.

AMC: I actually like SVU, but it disturbs me that it all comes from one man's head. I mean is anyone worried about Dick Wolf? I think he needs to have some New Year resolutions about the shows he creates. I mean, how does one go from writing commercials for Crest toothpaste to coming up with something like SVU?

Indra adds: Speaking of which, did you know that Jeff Lindsay, the guy who created the character Dexter (Dexter) in both the novels and series is married to Ernest Hemingway's daughter? Just thought I'd add that... 3. I will not use TV as an excuse to not cook a proper dinner for myself or my family.

AMC: I will not use dinner as an excuse to not watch TV properly by myself or with my family.

4. I will not ignore phone calls in the middle of a show I am watching. (If it's urgent, text me, OK?)

AMC: Press pause-lah. Then rewind, forward, loop the loop. In this day and age, you can cook dinner, watch TV, answer your calls and do the Gangnam Style gallop all at the same time. 5. I will try not to write about Dexter in every instalment of Spudniks.

AMC: We'll see.

2013 vows

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 02:07 AM PST

Indra has conveniently stolen all my ideas. I was planning to make a resolution to stop raving about Nathan Fillion in every instalment of Spudniks but since she's pinched that idea (with Dexter),

I guess I am free to rave on. (I follow his tweets by the way ... ahh, isn't Nathan Fillion just so darn lovely?) 1. I am going to try and watch a TV series by the episode and not whichever one comes my way.

I have a really bad habit of just watching anything, so I get mixed up with seasons and cast members and plotlines all the time. Wait, didn't what's-his-name die already? And how come Jack (he's the one with the dog right?) likes the horrible sister instead of the lovely but revengeful heroine? You get the drift.

Indra comments: Mind you, this NEVER stops Ann Marie from insisting she is right. Did I say NEVER?

2. I am going to make time for all the great series I have missed in the past – Justified, Breaking Bad, Mad Men.

So many shows, so little time. But 2013 is going to be different.

Indra: Don't forget Dexter! The latest season is airing on HyppTV as we breathe.

3. I am NOT going to let my children win when it comes to battling for the remote.

Why shouldn't my son Ryan wait to check the football score updates if I am watching Castle and Bones back-to-back? And why does my daughter Raena need to watch The Lord Of The Rings or Star Trek or (God forbid) The Tooth Fairy every time they show it on TV? Am I not the boss of my house and my television, I ask you?

Indra: Buy another TV. A true addict has at least two TV sets in the house. 4. I will not just watch shows with good looking actors in it.

I will give every actor a fair chance regardless of how hideous he may be. I am, after all, NOT the "lookist" my friends claim I am.

Indra: I'll believe it when it happens. Hey, wait a minute ... you watch Glee. Who is good looking in that show? Haha. 5. I will not pretend to know about quantum mechanics just because I watch Big Bang Theory.

Have you seen my Shrodinger's Cat T-shirt? Don't you just love Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger's thought experiment about quantum entanglement?).

Indra: Betcha didn't know there are TWO Schrodinger equations! Give me that darn T-shirt already ...


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Deadwood must step down for the good of sport

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 05:25 PM PST

YESTERDAY, StarSport carried the 2013 wish list of its writers. They were all noble intentions really.

But how many of their wishes will come true this year?

We all know the answer to that, don't we?

How many times have we made ourselves clear about leaders having to be accountable for their associations' successes and failures? How long have we been harping on this issue?

Has there been any change? No. And it's unlikely to change any time soon.

Just take a look at the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). The leaders have been there for ages, Malaysia's ranking has taken a beating (and so have the national team) and most of the state FAs are being run by men who have vested interest or no-interest at all (they are there just for the prestige, whatever that means).

Professional football is a serious business but FAM are making a mockery of it. A club can find themselves de-registered one day and reinstated the very next day.

Call us naive, if you want, for coming out with the wish list. But we are just like any other Malaysian.

We want our sportsmen and sportswomen to flourish and glorify the nation in the eyes of the world.

Their success is our joy. Their defeat our sorrow.

Do you still remember how the whole country stood united – yes, 1Malaysia indeed – when Lee Chong Wei faced his nemesis Lin Dan of China in the men's singles badminton final of the London Olympics last year? How we all revelled when he made the final – and against all the odds, mind you. And how we all shared in his tears of sorrow when he lost after a titanic battle?

Didn't everyone go ga-ga over Pandelela Rinong's outstanding performance in the women's diving competition at the Olympics?

Not many knew who she was prior to her bronze-medal feat. Now, she's the darling of the nation.

Would anyone have believed us if we had told you she was capable of winning a medal prior to her achievement? I don't think so.

As much as we adore and appreciate everything Chong Wei and Nicol David have done for the country, don't we all want to see new faces on the podium and hear the sweet notes of the national anthem – Negaraku?

Yes, Chong Wei and Nicol have single-handedly brought glory and fame to the country through their exploits in badminton and squash.

But don't you wonder that something must be amiss when a nation of more than 27 million people can only muster up two world-class athletes?

Of course, there were others who had risen to the challenge too. Like Syafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek and his band of merry bowlers; Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Co in motor-cycling; Jazeman Jaafar and Co in motor-racing; Azizulhasni Awang and Co in cycling; Sazali Samad and Lilian Tan in bodybuilding; and a host of others.

But let's not kid ourselves. We need to produce more world beaters and world champions.

Badminton needs to produce more Chong Weis (not to mention Sylvia Ngs and Wong Mew Choos); squash needs to produce more Ong Beng Hees, Azlan Iskandars and Nicols; football needs to produce more Soh Chin Auns, Mokhtar Daharis, Wong Choon Wahs and Shukor Sallehs; hockey needs to produce more Poon Fook Lokes, Sri Shanmuganathans and Mirnawan Nawawis; athletics needs to produce more Datuk M. Jegathesans, Marina Chins, Zaiton Othmans, Saik Oik Cums and Nashatar Singhs to name a few.

But let's be realistic. To achieve and maintain success, we need the national sport associations (NSAs) to get their house in order first, don't we?

And that means having men and women with passion, vision, drive, enthusiasm, wisdom, time, power and money (or at least the ability to bring in the mullah) to lead the NSAs.

Sadly, that's not the case.

If only we had more Tan Sri Vincent Tans and Tan Sri Tony Fernandeses around.

We've all seen how committed these two tycoons are despite their hectic schedules. They are at the stands supporting their clubs – Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers – in the Championship and English Premier League week in and week out.

Even the EPL club chairmen are as committed. Our leaders can only be seen on Cup final days or during high-profile matches, especially those against the visiting EPL sides.

The ones we have are mostly those who know either nothing or very little about the sport they are leading, let alone anything about the athletes in their associations.

The ones we have (or at least most of them) are highly ineffective, flighty and pliable.

And always surrounded by yes men!

We need committed professionals on a full-time basis to run the show, not volunteers with personal agendas.

We can waste reams of paper writing about them, and they will still hang on to power. Heck, some may even threaten to sue us (though some have) for writing the truth.

Malaysians, in general, are fed up with the way things are being run in most sports associations.

Readers write in to tell us of their frustrations, desperation and angst over the happenings in Malaysian sports.

Let's hope these "leaders" are mature and wise enough to take the hint.

So, stand up, be a man and own up. Then step down, please.

You know who you are.

Or, do you?

R. Manogaran hopes 2013 will be the year that will see a change in fortunes for Malaysian sports – and Liverpool FC! Happy New Year everyone!

Big boost for our cyclists

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 05:32 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: There is good news for Malaysia as more than one cyclist can compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

There is a change in the qualification process with the ranking points going directly to the cyclist for individual disciplines in track cycling for the 2016 Games.

At the London Olympics last year, each country was only allowed to field one rider for each individual event. Malaysia qualified for two events and Azizulhasni Awang was picked ahead of Josiah Ng (pic) to compete in the men's individual sprint and keirin. Azizul justified his selection by reaching the keirin final.

Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad was pleased that the International Cycling Federation (UCI) had removed the major gripe by the major cycling nations.

"We had a big headache choosing between Josiah and Azizul for the London Games.

"We had the two best keirin riders in Asia at that time and things might have been different if we could send both to the Olympics.

"But the rules then only allowed one rider from each country to qualify as the ranking points went to the country.

"The UCI recently notified us of the changes for the next Olympics. With the new qualification process, the cyclist will qualify directly for Rio.

"If we have two in the top 16 of the world rankings, then both will qualify," said Naim.

Naim believes the new qualification process would also help Malaysia gain more places in the women's races.

Fatehah Mustapa was the first Malaysian woman to qualify for the Olympics when she competed in the keirin in London.

"Besides Fatehah, I believes there is a chance for the younger riders like 18-year-old Ummi Hamimah to qualify for Rio," said Naim.

To help more Malaysians qualify for the Olympics, the MNCF will organise more meets to help the riders gain ranking points.

" We will also send our cyclists to compete in all the World Cup legs and World Championships," said Naim.

Forward Shahril worried by his barren spell

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 05:36 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Mohd Shahril Saabah has lost his scoring touch and is worried about his chances of retaining the top scorer's award in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League which begins on Jan 11.

Last season, Shahril emerged as the league's top marksman with 18 goals to help Division One side Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI)-Thunderbolt bag the double.

He was then picked to join the National Juniors and he made his international debut at the All India Ubaidullah Khan Gold Cup in Bhopal, India, last month. It was a disappointing outing for Shahril. He played in three matches and failed to score a single goal as Malaysia finished last in their group.

"It was my first international and I was dying to impress the selectors. Unfortunately I failed to sound the board," said Shahril, who will turn 19 on March 28.

"I hope it will not affect me mentally in my last outing in the MJHL. It's my wish to win the top scorer award again.

"Coach Roslan (Wan Abdul Rahman) has high hopes for me. I hope I won't let him down as he is banking on me to score in every match," added Shahril, who will join SSTMI-Thunderbolt in their first training session in Johor today.

Besides SSTMI-Thunderbolt, the other teams that will feature in Division One are Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), SSTMI Juniors, Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), MBI-Anderson, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), MSSSPP-USM and Malacca High School.

Shahril believes SSTMI-Thunderbolt have what it takes to retain the double.

"We have retained 14 players from last year's squad. We also have the services of three other National Junior trainees (Mohd Aminudin Mohd Zain, Mohd Amirol Aideed Mohd Arshad and Mohd Najmi Farizal Jazlan). I doubt the other teams are capable of stopping us," said Shahril.

Shahril added that his target for this year is to play in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi in December.

"I hope to perform really well in the MJHL to win back the selectors' faith in me," said Shahril.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

KLCI opens lower at start of 2013

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 05:16 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI opened lower at the start of 2013 on Wednesday on some profit taking after the index hit two-straight days of record highs but the undertone of the market was still firm.

It opened down 3.80 points to 1,685.15. By 9.01am, it had slipped 4.66 points to 1,684.29. Turnover was 16.10 million shares valued at RM6.41mil. There were 57 gainers, 39 losers and 68 counters unchanged.

Parkson fell the most, giving up most of its gains from Monday, as it fell 43 sen to RM4.77.

MISC fell 20 sen to RM4.10, Petronas Chemicals 12 sen to RM6.28 while SKPetro slipped six sen to RM3.09 and Astro lost five sen to RM2.95.

Among the banks, Maybank shed 10 sen to RM9.10 and AFG eight sen to RM4.32.

As for plantations, FGV was down seven sen to RM4.55. However, PPB rose 12 sen to RM11.72.

HDBSVR sees Malaysia's blue chips extending gains

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 05:00 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Hwang DBS Vickers Research expects Malaysian equities to start 2013 on a strong note following the resolution of the "fiscal cliff" issue in the US.

"As such, we expect the FBM KLCI Index to continue its upward momentum to extend its gains," it said on Wednesday.

HDBSVR said on Wall Street, key US equity indices gained between 1.3% and 2.0% on New Year's Eve as markets were expecting a deal to be wrapped up to avoid the "fiscal cliff", which would steer the US economy away from recession. Eventually, a deal was struck during the early hours of New Year's Day and is subject to approval by the House of Representatives. At Bursa Malaysia, on the backdrop of limited corporate news flow, HDBSVR expects SEG International to see trading interest on news that Navis Capital has been aggressively increasing its interest in the company.

DiGi.Com could also attract attention after major shareholder Telenor said it may further increase its stake in the company once there is more clarity on the government's plan to further liberalise the local telecommunications sector.

Sentoria Group announced a joint venture with Seriemas Development to develop a RM1.8bil integrated resort city in Morib, Selangor.

Britain urges bold G8 action on global economy

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 04:58 PM PST

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron called on his fellow G8 leaders on Wednesday to start work now on agreeing "bold steps" to help boost global economic growth, ahead of a summit he will host in June.

In a letter marking the start of Britain's presidency of the Group of Eight richest nations, Cameron laid out his three priorities for the year: to extend free trade, tackle tax evasion and combat corruption.

Writing to the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, Cameron said: "It is clear that in 2013 the world will continue to face grave economic uncertainty."

While each country would rightly focus on their own challenges, he said, "the ambitious standards we set and the bold steps we take by working together through the G8 can make a tangible difference by firing up economies and driving prosperity, not just in our own countries, but all over the world".

But he warned that if the G8 is to see progress in these areas, leaders meeting in Northern Ireland in June need to do more than "whip out a chequebook at the 11th hour, pledge some money and call it a success".

"What we are talking about are long-term changes in our countries and the rules that govern the relationships between them. With ambition on this scale, I am convinced that success depends on us starting a debate on these changes now."

Cameron said the G8 nations, which together account for about half of global economic output, could offer leadership to ease trade negotiations, adding that the start of talks on a deal between the European Union and the United States would be "perhaps the single biggest prize of all".

The G8 could also "galvanise collective international action" to tackle tax evasion and avoidance by sharing information and looking at whether global standards need to be extended and tightened, he said.

And the prime minister urged the G8 to "put a new and practical emphasis on transparency, accountability and open government" in its relations with less developed and emerging economies, including by improving the way aid is spent.

Cameron added that he was reviewing why Britain had not yet signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which is designed to shed light on who earns what from the exploitation of natural resources.

The United States was the only G8 country to have joined, he said, adding: "We need to change that. We cannot call on other countries to live up to these high standards if we are not prepared to do so ourselves."

The last time Britain held the G8 presidency was in 2005, when the summit at Gleneagles in Scotland was overshadowed by the bombings on the London transport system which left 52 people dead. - AFP


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Oscars voting extended after online poll gripes

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 07:46 PM PST

LOS ANGELES - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday it has extended voting for the 2013 Oscars, after reports of problems with a new online polling system.

The elite movie industry body is giving its voting members an extra day - the deadline will be this Friday at 5:00 pm Los Angeles time (0100 GMT Saturday), instead of 24 hours earlier - to choose their nominees.

"By extending the voting deadline we are providing every opportunity available to make the transition to online balloting as smooth as possible," said Academy chief operating officer Ric Robertson.

"We're grateful to our global membership for joining us in this process," he added in a statement.

The Academy, which organizes the climax to Hollywood's annual awards season in February, introduced the option of online voting for first time for its nearly 6,000 members.

Old-fashioned voting by mail was still possible, although an initial November 30 deadline for requesting the ballot papers had to be extended by two weeks after complaints from members that they had missed it.

The Academy also set up e-voting stations in Los Angeles, New York and London, where its own officials could help members through the process.

But reports of problems with online voting have snowballed, with some Academy members struggling with the security system of passwords required to register their choices.

"It's easier to break into the CIA," one member told the Hollywood Reporter last week, in a piece which said many voiced concern that many older voters would give up and not cast their ballots.

"You know, a lot of older, cantankerous people - people who aren't so highly motivated to vote - are going to say, 'Oh, forget this.' I'm sure there's going to be some votes lost," added another member.

The median age of the Academy's 5,765 members is 62, according to a recent study cited by the Hollywood Reporter.

Nominees will be announced at 5:00 am on January 10 (0100 GMT on January 11), while the winners will be announced on February 24, at a show hosted by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane.

Unlike in some previous years there is no clear favorite for best picture, with frontrunners ranging from Steven Spielberg's political drama "Lincoln" to Osama Bin Laden manhunt docu-thriller "Zero Dark Thirty."

Others tipped for Oscars glory include musical adaptation "Les Miserables," romcom "Silver Linings Playbook," Ang Lee's 3D fantasy "Life of Pi," and actor-director Ben Affleck's Iran hostage crisis drama "Argo."- AFP

Oscar-winning sound editor drowns in New Zealand

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 07:45 PM PST

WELLINGTON - Double Oscar-winning sound editor Mike Hopkins has drowned in a rafting accident in New Zealand, police said Monday.

Hopkins, a 53-year-old New Zealander, died after being thrown into a fast-flowing stretch of river in the remote Tararua Ranges in the central North Island on Saturday. His two rafting companions both survived.

All three were wearing life jackets, wetsuits and helmets, Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said.

Hopkins won Oscars for his work on "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" in 2003 and "King Kong" in 2006 while working with American Ethan Van der Ryn.

He also worked on several other notable movies including "Blade Runner", "Superman", "The Last Emperor" and "Octopussy". - AFP

Bond film 'Skyfall' sets 100m record in Britain

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 04:33 PM PST

LONDON - The latest James Bond film "Skyfall" has become the first movie ever to take 100 million at the British box office, it was announced Monday.

The 23rd official Bond film surpassed the landmark, equivalent of $162 million (123 million euros), after becoming the highest grossing film ever in Britain earlier this month when it overtook the 94 million generated by "Avatar".

"Skyfall" achieved the figure in just 40 days, while "Avatar" (2009) took 11 months to amass its total.

Globally, the new Bond film has taken more than $1 billion.

It is a mark of the franchise's continuing appeal as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Daniel Craig's third appearance as British secret agent Bond is still on general release more than two months after it first hit British cinemas.

The movie sees Bond battling with villain Raoul Silva (played by Javier Bardem), who aims to take revenge on his former boss M (Judi Dench). - AFP


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Differences that unite

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 01:30 AM PST

US award-winning writer defies conventional wisdom in his latest book Far From The Tree.

IN his latest book Far From The Tree: Parents, Children, And The Search For Identity, the US-based National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon turns the conventional wisdom that children are composites of their parents on its head, but says that is not a bad thing.

In the 700-page tome that explores the lives of families with children with conditions ranging from autism to deafness, Solomon says having a child is an act of production rather than reproduction that "abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger".

Though the book focuses on how families cope with more extreme forms of difference, Solomon, 49, believes that encountering unexpected traits in one's child is a universal part of parenthood.

"I have yet to meet anyone as a parent who has not from time to time looked at their child and said, 'Where did you come from?'" the American author said in an interview.

The book seems to have struck a chord with readers. Far From The Tree is a top-selling book and has garnered praise from critics. Writing for The New Yorker, Nathan Heller called it "a careful, subtle, and surprising book", while the New York Times Book Review wrote: "This is a book that shoots arrow after arrow into your heart."

The book, which includes 10 years' worth of interviews with families and relevant research, is divided into chapters that are devoted to conditions such as dwarfism, transgender and schizophrenia.

Solomon said what unites the diverse collection of conditions covered in his book is that each one often results in isolation for the child and confusion and resentment for parents.

"Intellectually, the difficult part was trying to understand the ways in which these very differences had something in common, and coming up with the underlying idea of the book, which is that these individual differences are isolating, but taken together they're unifying," he said.

Solomon uses his own experience growing up as a dyslexic homosexual, two qualities that set him apart from his parents and were viewed as flaws by most, to frame the travails of the families in his book. He cautioned against viewing the conditions he writes about solely as problems that need to be fixed or eliminated.

"We have to recognise that this thing (homosexuality) so universally described as an illness just 50 years ago could now largely be accepted as an identity. ... We should be awake to the idea that what seems obviously to be an illness today may seem very different 50 years from now," he said.

Solomon noted the strong deaf culture that has grown among deaf people, and predicted that transgendered people and high-functioning autistic people would both gain increased acceptance over the next several decades. Regardless of whether a trait is viewed as an illness or an identity, he believes that the goal should be to improve the life conditions and minimise suffering for the types of families featured in Far From The Tree.

Solomon said the happiest families he interviewed were ones that were able to move past anger and frustration about their child's condition to accept their child and find meaning in challenges.

"The families that had looked at these experiences and acknowledged how unbelievably difficult they are and how painful they can be but nonetheless, have found meaning of the experience were the ones that were doing better," he said.

"I was amazed that for many of these families, experiencing difficulty had intensified rather than undermined parental love." – Reuters

Digital numbers increase

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 02:45 AM PST

THE popularity of electronic books is increasing in the United States, with nearly one-quarter of American bibliophiles reading e-books, according to a survey released last Thursday.

The number of e-readers aged 16 years and older jumped from 16% in 2011 to 23% in 2012, while print readers fell from 72% to 67% in 2012, in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

"The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices," the organisation said. Its report analysed reading trends among the 75% of Americans who read at least one book in the last year.

"In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device ... grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in 2012."

E-book owners increased from 4% in May 2010 to 19% in November 2012, while Americans with tablets jumped from 3% to 25% during the same period, according to the report.

People most likely to read e-books are well-educated, 30- to 49-year-olds who live in households earning US$75,000 (RM229,500) or more.

More women, 81%, read books, compared to 70% of men, and the number of readers declines as people age.

The trend toward e-books impacted libraries, which stocked and loaned more e-books.

"The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year (2012)," according to Pew. Even awareness that library stock e-books has grown, from 24% late in 2011 to 31% in 2012.

The findings were based on a telephone survey in 2012 of 2,252 people, aged 16 years and older, across the United States and a similar poll in 2011. It had a 2.7% margin of error. – Reuters

More than a love story

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 02:45 AM PST

A local author tells a tale of love set against the tumultuous history of Malaya's rubber estates.

LIKE a certain Jack and Rose of the movie world, Nadesan and Janeki are also fictional characters whose love story is set against the backdrop of very real historical events. But, unlike that story about a sinking ship, author Dave Anthony's tale deals with issues that still have repercussions today.

Anthony, a former Catholic priest, had lived with the communities on rubber estates and was immersed in the struggles of the estate workers for many years. Though it was part of his work as a priest, he met with not just the Christians but everyone who lived and worked there. It gave Anthony an empathic insight into the lives of the rubber-tappers who earned a meagre existence in their isolated world of rubber trees, squalid living conditions, and the ever watchful eyes of the estate management.

He decided to bring their stories to the masses, originally through a screenplay. But the task proved too big, the story too long and epic, spanning generations. In the end, he streamlined it all down to a 400-page historical novel called Love And Struggle Beyond The Rubber Estates.

"It took me two years to write," says Anthony, when we meet at his home in Petaling Jaya. "Before that, the idea had been percolating in my mind. For a long time, I had been wanting to write a book because I had been working with the plantation workers for some time. Their plight, until today, hasn't changed very much. So I chose that particular period in history, which I think is almost a forgotten history especially for the Indians."

That period, from 1937 to 1948, encompasses British rule, World War II and the Japanese Occupation, and then the return of the British. It was a tumultuous time when kanganies (overseers) recruited workers from India who were promised a better future in Malaya, but who discover later that they were being shortchanged by the British planters. Then came the war during which many estate workers were forced to work on the infamous Death Railway in Burma, dying from exhaustion and starvation, buried in mass graves. When the British came back, the conditions never improved for them, and still they had to fight for justice.

In the midst of it all, is the story of two lovers who are separated by the war, then have to find their way back to each other.

In the book, protagonist Nadesan, or Desa as he is known to his friends, is the only one on the estate who has had an education and he naturally becomes the leader who unites the workers to fight for their rightful wages. In short, Anthony is emphasising the importance of education, which was largely denied to the workers by plantation owners. Anthony denotes in the book that the denial was a ploy by the estate owners to keep the workers ignorant and exploitable.

"If they get a good education, it would be a good stepping stone for them," says Anthony. "So Desa had some education and he took on the leadership of the group. He even dared to challenge some of the practices on the plantation. The way they managed to assess their cost of living, he was able to do that, and none of them on their own would have been able to.

"And this kind of gave them a self-awareness, and they began to see how their situation was oppressive. So they wanted justice. He stirred them to action, and they paid the price, getting shot at."

Anthony says he researched extensively for the novel, drawing references and information from books and also the Internet. One of his sources was S. Marimuthu, 86, a survivor of the Death Railway. While working on the railway, Marimuthu had taken ill, and the Japanese, thinking that he was dead, threw him onto a pile of dead bodies and buried him alive. Fortunately, some fellow workers saw his hand sticking out of the sand and pulled him out. Anthony recreated that scene for his book, with some creative liberty, of course.

"I got to know him through a friend of a friend," says Anthony. "A student from Singapore had come over here and wanted to meet some people who had experienced estate life. So I took her to this particular family, and I met (Marimuthu) there. I started talking to him and he told me his story. I included quite a lot of it, about 80%."

Love And Struggle Beyond The Rubber Estates is, of course, more than just a love story. It is at its heart a human rights story, an inspiring tale that includes references to makal sakthi (people power) and also hartal, a general strike action the origin of which goes all the way back to Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement.

"(The estate workers) were illiterate and couldn't get proper birth certificates and papers for their children," says Anthony. "Just imagine, they were isolated, illiterate, under the dominion of the planters. For the planters, these workers were like machines that they operated, and they didn't care for their future.

"Also, at the time, citizenship was not an issue. And today, the result of that is there are many stateless Indians in the country."

Anthony says that the struggle goes on today, under different circumstances, different living conditions. "Also, the dispersion from the estates have led a lot of the young people into a lot of violence. They are a bit lost and aimless. When they came out of the estates, they had no skills except rubber-tapping. They just fit into whatever they can find.

"The situation, in some respects, is even worse now than it was in the estates. Without any other skills, they became involved in driving lorries, roadworks. And even now, those jobs are being taken over by foreign labour. They are losing out even there. And we have political parties who are saying a lot of things but not doing much."

As such, the novel fittingly closes with the words "not The End". The struggle against oppression and injustice is a universal one, and Anthony's novel has bigger relevance than even he initially thought. He never set out to write such a book, but only wanted to write an engaging love story that also addresses the issues of the estate workers.

"It works on a micro level as well as on a macro level," he says. "Big nations, first world, the US, Europe, the International Monetary Fund and how they oppress the poorer countries. It's the same pattern, and it repeats itself."

> Love And Struggle Beyond The Rubber Estates by Dave Anthony is available at major bookstores nationwide.


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Woman: Boy molested me

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 05:19 AM PST

MALACCA: A 28-year-old woman has claimed that she was molested by a 13-year-old boy inside the female toilet of a petrol kiosk at Jalan Munshi Abdullah.

Lareece Low Mei Yuet posted on her Facebook page that she was in the toilet at 4.25pm on Monday when the boy barged in and held her as she was coming out.

"I was leaving the toilet when he stormed in and held me, covering my mouth.

"He kissed my cheeks and touched my chest as I struggled to fight him off,'' Low claimed.

Low said that she managed to shout and bit the boy's fingers between struggles, while fighting hard to open the door.

"I heard sounds of people outside the toilet and I fought harder to open the door.

"I managed to slot my hand between the gaps to prevent it from closing.''

Low said that several people outside the toilet heard the commotion and came to her aide.

The boy was caught and held at the kiosk until police arrived. During that time, they questioned the boy and found that he was merely 13.

State CID chief Asst Comm Raja Sharom Raja Abdullah said that a report had been lodged by Low.

He said the boy had been remanded for four days pending further investigation.

The case is being investigated under Section 354 of the Penal Code for outrage of modesty, he added.

Floods close 31 Terengganu schools (Update)

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 04:14 AM PST

KUALA TERENGGANU: Thirty-one schools in Terengganu are closed due to the second wave of floods which hit the state Monday, affecting 12,000 school children on the first school day of 2013.

Twenty-three of them are primary schools and the remaining eight are secondary schools, said State Education, Higher Education, Science, Technology and Human Resource Committee chairman Datuk Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.

Thirteen of the schools were located in the Hulu Terengganu district, 12 in the Besut district and three each in the Kemaman and Setiu districts, he said.

Some of the schools are flooded, some are cut off by floods, some are being used as relief centres and some are being cleaned.

Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Lubuk Periok, SK Tengku Ampuan Intan, Sekolah Menengah Agama (SMA) Mahmudiah and Sekolah Menengah Imtiaz Kuala Berang, all in Hulu Terengganu, and SK Pasir Akar, SK Tok Raja, SK Bukit Jerok, SK Alor Keladi, SK Kampung Nangka, SK Tok Dor and SK Keruak, all in Besut, remained flooded, said Ahmad Razif. He spoke to reporters after calling on new Standard One pupils at SK Tok Jembal here which opened Tuesday for the new school year.

Also present was Terengganu deputy director of education Hashim Mohd Zin.

Ahmad Razif said SK Anak Ikan in Setiu and SK Seri Payong and SK Tenang in Besut were being used as flood relief centres.

Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Bukit Mentok in Kemaman was being cleaned after having been used as a flood relief centre, he said.

He named the schools cut off by floodwaters as SK Kuar, SK Felda Tersat, SK Bukit Taduk, SK Matang, SK Tengkawang, SMK Menerong, SMK Matang and SMK Jenerih, all in Hulu Terengganu; SK Padang Kubu and SK RKT Seberang Tayor in Kemaman; SK Pak Ba and SK Sungai Las in Setiu; and SMK Bukit Payong and SMK Putera in Besut.

"As of now, we are not certain when these schools will reopen.

"We hope the second wave of floods will recede soon. The schools will have to hold replacement classes on a Saturday," he said.

Ahmad Razif said parents could contact the respective schools or the district education offices to find out when the schools would reopen.

Meanwhile, Hashim said 19,878 pupils had registered to attend Standard One from Tuesday at 350 schools in the state.

In ALOR SETAR, Kedah director of education Mansor Lat said 28,900 pupils started school in Standard One at 542 primary schools in the state, down by 2,480 pupils compared to last year.

He also said that 35,354 students entered Form One in 182 secondary schools, up by 4,105 students compared to last year.

"Some 12,290 pupils registered for pre-school and the state education department added 23 classes to the 550 existing ones," he told reporters during a visit to Sekolah Kebangsaan Sultanah Asma.

Mansor said the new Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sungai Pasir Kechil in Sungai Petani opened Tuesday and admitted some of the students from a nearby overcrowded school.

He also said that the new primary schools, Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Mutiara in Kulim and SK Bukit Kiara in Sungai Petani, would open on Jan 13. - Bernama

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Four killed, four injured in two road mishaps

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 03:38 AM PST

PEKAN: Four men were killed and four others were injured in two separate accidents, near here and in Kuantan early Tuesday morning.

In the first incident, two men were killed while three others were hurt when a four wheel drive (4WD) vehicle overturned at KM31, Jalan Pekan-Nenasi, at 6.45am.

The victims, driver Chua Yeok Hwa, 30, of Jalan Sekolah, Bagan Sungai Burung, Selangor and front passenger, Khoo Yong Son, 57, of Seri Damai, Taman Megaria 2, Kuantan died at the scene from head injuries.

Pekan police chief Supt Yahaya Othman said the three other unidentified passengers in the 4WD were also injured and receiving treatment at the Pekan Hospital.

Yahya said, the vehicle was believed to have been heading towards Pekan from Nenasi and tailed by a van, when the driver of the 4WD lost control, skidded onto the oncoming lane and overturned.

"Chua and Khoo were thrown out of the vehicle onto the road. At the same time, the van skidded to the left and spun round towards Nenasi," he added.

Meanwhile, a fisherman and his friend were killed when the car they were traveling in skidded at a bend and hit a lamp post at Jalan Tanjung Lumpur, Kuantan, at 3.45am Tuesday morning.

Kuantan deputy police chief Supt Abdul Aziz Ahmad said Shahrizal Abu Bakar, 33, died on the way to the hospital while Wan Adnan Wan Mustafa, 23, died at the scene. The driver of the car, in his 20s, was seriously hurt and had been sent to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital for treatment, he added. - Bernama


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