Jumaat, 4 Januari 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Jon Favreau to direct episode of 'The Office'

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 09:15 PM PST

The director of the first two Iron Man installments will direct an episode of The Office before the show goes off the air in May in the US.

After directing NBC's new Revolution pilot, Jon Favreau (pic) is set to continue his collaboration with the network.

According to Tvline.com, the director will bring his talent to an episode of The Office but as of yet, no information has been leaked, not even the air date.

After nine seasons with the Dunder Mifflin paper distribution company employees, NBC's hit comedy will go off the air in May.

Over the years, the comedy has welcomed several renowned directors including J. J. Abrams (Lost), Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Jason Reitman (Juno), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Steve Carell, former star of the show.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Chavez swearing-in can be delayed - Venezuelan VP

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 06:41 PM PST

CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez's formal swearing-in for a new six-year term scheduled for January 10 can be postponed if he is unable to attend due to his battle to recover from cancer surgery, Venezuela's vice president said on Friday.

Pictures of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez are seen at a religious altar in Caracas January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Pictures of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez are seen at a religious altar in Caracas January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Nicolas Maduro's comments were the clearest indication yet that the Venezuelan government is preparing to delay the swearing-in while avoiding naming a replacement for Chavez or calling a new election in the South American OPEC nation.

In power since 1999, the 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public for more than three weeks. Allies say he is in delicate condition after a fourth operation in two years for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvic area.

The political opposition argues that Chavez's presence on January 10 in Cuba - where there are rumours he may be dying - is tantamount to the president's stepping down.

But Maduro, waving a copy of the constitution during an interview with state TV, said there was no problem if Chavez was sworn in at a later date by the nation's top court.

"The interpretation being given is that the 2013-2019 constitutional period starts on January 10. In the case of President Chavez, he is a re-elected president and continues in his functions," he said.

"The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court at the time the court deems appropriate in coordination with the head of state."

In the increasing "Kremlinology"-style analysis of Venezuela's extraordinary political situation, that could be interpreted in different ways: that Maduro and other allies trust Chavez will recover eventually, or that they are buying time to cement succession plans before going into an election.

Despite his serious medical condition, there was no reason to declare Chavez's "complete absence" from office, Maduro said. Such a declaration would trigger a new vote within 30 days, according to Venezuela's charter.


Chavez was conscious and fighting to recover, said Maduro, who travelled to Havana to see his boss this week.

"We will have the Commander well again," he said.

Maduro, 50, whom Chavez named as his preferred successor should he be forced to leave office, said Venezuela's opposition had no right to go against the will of the people as expressed in the October 7 vote to re-elect the president.

"The president right now is president ... Don't mess with the people. Respect democracy."

Despite insisting Chavez remains president and there is hope for recovery, the government has acknowledged the gravity of his condition, saying he is having trouble breathing due to a "severe" respiratory infection.

Social networks are abuzz with rumours he is on life support or facing uncontrollable metastasis of his cancer.

Chavez's abrupt exit from the political scene would be a huge shock for Venezuela. His oil-financed socialism has made him a hero to the poor, while critics call him a dictator seeking to impose Cuban-style communism on Venezuelans.

Should Chavez leave office, a new election is likely to pitch former bus driver and union activist Maduro against opposition leader Henrique Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state.

Capriles lost to Chavez in the October presidential election, but won an impressive 44 percent of the vote. Though past polls have shown him to be more popular than all of Chavez's allies, the equation is now different given Maduro has received the president's personal blessing - a factor likely to fire up Chavez's fanatical supporters.

His condition is being watched closely by Latin American allies that have benefited from his help, as well as investors attracted by Venezuela's lucrative and widely traded debt.

"The odds are growing that the country will soon undergo a possibly tumultuous transition," the U.S.-based think tank Stratfor said this week.

(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Christopher Wilson)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Chavez swearing-in can be delayed - Venezuelan VP

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 05:52 PM PST

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's formal swearing-in for a new six-year term scheduled for January 10 can be postponed if he is unable to attend due to his struggle to recover from cancer surgery, his vice president said on Friday.

Pictures of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez are seen at a religious altar in Caracas January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Pictures of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez are seen at a religious altar in Caracas January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Nicolas Maduro's comments were the clearest yet that Venezuela's government is preparing to delay the swearing-in while avoiding naming a replacement or calling a new election in the South American OPEC nation.

The political opposition argues that Chavez's presence on that date in Cuba - where there are rumours he may be dying from complications after his latest operation on December 11 - is tantamount to the president's stepping down.

But Maduro, waving a copy of the constitution during an interview with state TV, said there was no problem if Chavez was sworn in at a later date by the nation's top court.

"The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court," he said.

Despite his serious medical condition, there was no reason to declare Chavez's "complete absence" from office, Maduro said. Such a declaration would trigger a new election within 30 days, according to Venezuela's charter.

Chavez was conscious and fighting to recover, said Maduro, who travelled to Havana to see his boss this week.

"We will have the Commander well again," he said.

Maduro, whom Chavez named as his preferred successor should he be forced to leave office, said Venezuela's opposition had no right to go against the will of the people as expressed in the October 7 vote to re-elect the president.

"The president right now is president ... Don't mess with the people. Respect democracy."

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

U.N. Security Council voices worry about Central African Republic rebels

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 05:02 PM PST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council voiced alarm on Friday at an advance by rebels in Central African Republic that has brought them within striking distance of the mineral-rich nation's capital, and renewed its call for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize will refuse to leave power during talks with the Seleka rebel alliance, his spokesman said on Thursday, rejecting the insurgents' main demand and raising the prospect of a return to fighting.

The rebel alliance, which has accused Bozize of reneging on a past peace deal, closed in on the capital Bangui this week before bowing to international pressure to start negotiations.

"The members of the Security Council expressed their concern regarding the 'Seleka' coalition's advance toward Bangui since ... December 27," the council said in a statement.

The 15-nation body also urged "an end to Seleka's military offensive, and said the current situation in CAR cannot be resolved militarily."

"They called again on all parties to seek a peaceful solution by engaging constructively, without preconditions, and in good faith in the negotiations to be held in Libreville beginning January 8 under the auspices of the Economic Community of the Central African States (ECCAS)," the council said.

The advance by Seleka, an alliance of five armed groups, was the latest in a series of revolts in a country at the heart of one of Africa's most turbulent regions. The country remains plagued by poverty and underdevelopment despite its reserves of diamonds, gold and other minerals.

The council also repeated its previous demands that Seleka "cease all hostilities, withdraw from seized cities, and cease attempts to advance further."

It voiced concern about "reports of the targeting of ethnic minorities, arrests, detentions, looting, as well as recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in CAR."

The Security Council urged "all parties to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians and to respect human rights, and emphasized that those responsible for such violations should be held accountable," according to the statement.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

1MDB powers to the top

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 05:57 PM PST

AMID the volatile equities market in 2012, the corporate scene had its fair share of news headlines, with 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) emerging as the top acquirer as it made its foray into the power generation business.

1MDB's purchase of Tanjong Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd and Genting Bhd's power generation business for a total of RM10.8bil saw it vault to No. 1 spot on the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) list.

The financial services sector saw several multi-billion-ringgit deals, while in the food business, there was the takeover of KFC Holdings (M) Bhd (KFCH) and QSR Brands Bhd.

Loss-making national car manufacturer Proton Holdings Bhd hogged the headlines in January, following its takeover by DRB-Hicom Bhd.

The financial services sector saw AIA Group Ltd's purchase of ING Malaysia; RHB Capital Bhd's acquisition of OSK Holdings Bhd's investment banking business and also AMMB Holdings Bhd's acquisition of Kurnia Insurans Malaysia Bhd.

In the spotlight were EP Manufacturing Bhd (EPMB)'s proposed foray into tolled road operations with the proposed acquisition of Maju Expressway Sdn Bhd (MESB) and Ambang Sehati Sdn Bhd's takeover of Bandar Raya Developments Bhd (BRDB)'s property assets.

1MDB acquired the power assets of Tanjong Energy from tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan in March for RM8.5bil. It then went on to buy Genting's power business for RM2.3bil.

In terms of the value of the deals, the acquisition of Tanjong Energy topped the list, with the Genting power purchase taking the fourth spot.

The two acquisitions saw 1MDB emerging as the second-largest independent power producer (IPP) in the country after Malakoff Bhd.

In second spot was AIA Group Ltd when it bought ING Malaysia for US$1.73bil (RM5.31bil) in a deal funded through internal cash resources and external debt financing.

This saw AIA increasing its life insurance market share from 11.3% to 24.8%.

In the third spot was KFCH and QSR's, following the disposal of their entire businesses and undertakings to Massive Equity Sdn Bhd in a deal that valued both companies close to RM5.2bil.

Massive Equity was a special purpose vehicle set up to privatise KFCH and QSR. Johor Corp has a 51% stake in Massive Equity, while the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and UK-based CVC Capital Partners hold the remaining 49% stake via Melati Asia Holdings Ltd.

The takeover offer via MESB valued KFCH at a market capitalisation of RM3.17bil or RM4 a share and QSR at RM2.06bil (RM6.80 per share).

At fifth spot is OSK Holdings Bhd's sale of its investment banking business to RHB Capital Bhd for RM1.99bil. The merger transformed RHB Investment Bank Bhd into Malaysia's largest investment bank by assets.

In the shares and cash deal, RHB Capital acquired 100% of OSK Investment Bank shares from OSK Holdings for a purchase consideration of RM1.95bil. This was satisfied by RM1.803bil the form of 245 million new RHB Capital shares at RM7.36 per share, and RM147.5mil cash.

RHB Capital also acquired 100% of OSK Investment Bank (Labuan) Ltd's shares as well as the remaining 20% in OSK Trustees Bhd, 20% in Malaysian Trustees Bhd and 59.95% in Finexasia.com Sdn Bhd for a cash consideration of RM39.3mil.

The deals resulted in OSK Holdings emerging as RHB Capital's third-largest shareholder with a 10% stake.

Taking sixth spot is EPMB's proposed acquisition of MESB and its business from Bright Focus Sdn Bhd, which is a part of Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ulimas Sdn Bhd for RM1.15bil. The deal is still pending.

The RM1.15bil would be satisfied by 38.46 million new EPMB shares at RM1.30 per share, RM100mil redeemable unsecured loan stocks and RM1bil cash. EPMB will also assume MESB's debts of RM550mil. The total acquisition value stands at RM1.7bil.

The bulk of the borrowings will come from the issuance of new Islamic securities with a nominal value of RM1.35bil.

In the insurance sector, AMMB emerged as the leading general insurer and market leader in motor insurance after its 51%-owned AmG Insurance Bhd bought Kurnia Insurans Malaysia Bhd for RM1.627bil.

The purchase price was funded by AmG entirely with capital funds injected proportionately by its shareholders (AMMB and Insurance Australia Group Ltd). AMMB's contribution included internal cash resources and RM500mil of senior debt notes.

In the property sector, Ambang Sehati, which held an 18.5% stake in BDRB, launched a second takeover for the remaining 81.5% equity interest.

At an indicative price of RM2.90 per share and RM1.80 per warrant, this saw Ambang Sehati forking out RM1.17bil for the remaining stake.

This was the second attempt after Ambang Sehati, which is controlled by chairman Datuk Mohamed Moiz Jabir Mohamed Ali Moiz, failed to acquire the selected assets of BDRB in September 2011.

The first bid was at RM914mil, comprising of RM430mil in cash and RM484mil in net liabilities.

Even so, AmInvestment Bank Bhd, the independent adviser for the second deal, deemed the offer of RM2.90 per share and RM1.80 per warrant as "not fair but reasonable", advising minority shareholders to accept the offer.

DRB-Hicom's takeover of loss-making Proton Holdings Bhd put to rest months of speculation of the entry of a new shareholder to turn around the carmaker after several failed tie-ups with other carmakers.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd divested its 42.72% Proton stake to DRB-Hicom for RM5.50 per share or RM1.291bil cash, triggering the mandatory takeover for the remaining Proton shares.

Dijaya Corp Bhd was also in the limelight after its chief executive officer Tan Sri Danny Tan Chee Sing's injection of his private property assets into the company.

Under the corporate exercise, Dijaya would acquire 73 properties comprising 49 parcels of lands and six buildings held by Tan for a total consideration of about RM943mil to be satisfied by RM250mil cash.

In the news too was MISC Bhd when it sold its 50% equity interest in Gumusut-Kakap Semi-Floating Production System (L) Ltd (GKL) to E&P Venture Solutions Co Sdn Bhd, a unit of Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd.

The disposal consideration of US$305.7mil (RM934.4mil) was 50% of the total cost of MISC's equity investment in GKL as at Oct 4, which amounted to about US$611.4mil.

Another notable M&A was France-based Carrefour SA's sale of its Malaysian business to Aeon Co for an enterprise value of 250 million euros (RM990.19mil).

Rahim: Build more affordable housing

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 05:56 PM PST

WHILE the overall property sector has stabilised last year, with further consolidation this year, Savills Rahim & co executive chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman says his main concern is the affordable housing sector.

"Instead of 30% low cost housing allocation, a policy from the 1980s imposed on developers, let us do 20% low-cost housing and 10% in affordable housing, or 15/15 with medium cost housing priced between RM100,000 and RM400,000, and within 10km of the developer's development site.

"This provision of medium cost housing must be imposed on developers," Rahim says.

Rahim says as a result of government policies in the early 1980s, Malaysia now has more than one million of low cost houses which were built at a cost ranging between RM25,000 and RM42,000 depending on the state, as land is a state matter.

But despite having built more than one milion low cost houses, the location and allocation of these houses has not been successful. There are some areas which have too many low-cost housing until there are no takers, while in other areas, there are not enough of them, says Rahim.

Another issue is the location of some of these houses. A developer, says Rahim, may be developing in a high-end area but the location of its low-cost housing are located far away in a place which lack public amenities and transportation.

Rahim says not only are low cost housing misplaced, but Malaysia's young working population are also displaced as a result of the steep rises the past couple of years.

He says there are 3.5 million out of the country's 28 million population who earn between RM1,500 and RM5,000 a month. But the number of houses priced between RM100,000 and RM400,000 are only 2.3 million.

"This means there is a shortage of more than one million units within this price range," he says.

On a broader level, Rahim says assuming a household of about 4.3 per household, the country has more than 6.3 million households but the country only has 4.5 million of housing which he would defined as liveable and fit for habitation. This excludes squatters and houses with no proper access and no sewage systems and proper stairs.

He says there are about one million housing which are not fit for habitation and the government need to allocate funds to make these housing fit for habitation. Most of these are in the rural areas.

While making the one million houses fit for habitation, there is still a shortage of 1.8 million "habitable" houses," he says.

But today's pricing has made affordability an issue, which the government and the private sector need to address, and speedily.

"As for 2013, I expect the landed residential sector to continue to be stable, despite the cooling period in 2012," he says.

"We desperately need more affordable housing," he says.

The government has budgeted for RM1.9bil to build 123,000 affordable housing.

High prices remain an issue

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 05:56 PM PST

FOR the last few years, two issues have hogged the market affordability and the steep rise in prices in the landed residential sector, which subsequently spilled over to the high-rise condominium market in the Klang Valley and in other cities. There are a few exceptions.

While affordability will continue to bog down the sector this year despite the easy credit environment, there seems no respite from the high prices of previous years, as prices remain stubbornly high.

Notwithstanding that, there has been some semblance of sanity in 2012.

Consultants polled concluded that the overall property market took a long-awaited and much-sought-after breather last year with "minimal price increases".

Several developers say the pending general election has dampened the market somewhat. Generally, consultants and developers prefer "a slow and steady" rise in prices, as steep rises may mean steep falls.

Property consultants say the market was "stable" in 2012, with active transactions in the second half.

CBRE's executive Paul Khong expects this year to remain "relatively flat" while DTZ Nawawi Tie Leung Property DTZ's executive director Brian Koh says "prices have gone too far ahead of the curve for many potential upgraders, unless developers adjust their pricing to more realistic levels."

Two factors are working against such a scenario.

The first is land cost. Land prices have gone up a lot the last several years, says Fiabci (Malaysia chapter) president Yeoh Thit Sang. Higher land cost translates into higher prices. Generally, for high-rise high-end residential land cost ranges between 15% and 25% in Kuala Lumpur compared with 25% and 40% in Singapore, says Yeoh.

"There has been a scramble for land by developers and many of them are buying land in Kajang and Rawang, some buy unconverted agricultural land, which means they will have to pay a premium to get it converted."

Another challenge is the shortage of labour, a fact acknowleged by Bolton Bhd and the Sunway group.

Most of the building and construction workers in Malaysia come from Indonesia. Foreign investments are flowing into Indonesia and this has created a healthy job market there, which means they can seek work at home instead of leaving their families, says Yeoh.

"Our contractors are finding it tough to find skilled labour. We have successfully trained them and they now have a pool of skilled labour working in their own property sector," says Yeoh.

This, he says, explains why the property players and the Government are considering using the Industrialised Building System (IBS) which requires a huge capital outlay.

New launches versus established housing

New launches are expected to do better than the secondary market chiefly because of "financial engineering" prevalent in the market in the form of Developers Interest Bearing Scheme and other freebies "given" by developers, which are actually factored in the price of the house.

Jordan Lee & Jaafar Sdn Bhd managing director P. Tangga Peragasam says so long as "progress" is equated with development, income levels and trying to match (up to) the developed nations, "financial engineering" will continue.

"We should instead be looking at conserving our resources, planning our developments properly and looking into issues like safety, comfort levels, transport, environment, pollution. instead of being so fixated on progress'," he says.

Says PPC International Sdn Bhd managing director Siders Sittampalam: "We predict a slowdown in the mid to high-end segment of the market."

With few exceptions, developers have, in 2012, reported that anything RM1mil and above have been challenging to sell. This is expected to spill over into this year.

Notwithstanding this, BRDB's Serai have generated 60% sales last year. This, says marketing director K.C. Chong was due to its location, the BRDB branding and the super luxury and niche factor of Serai at between RM1,300 and RM1,500 per sq ft.

This takes us then to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). In that location, some of the units are hovering more than the RM1,600 mark.

The question that begs to be asked is, how is that Serai is able to generate sales while the units in and around KLCC are languishing? Serai offers units 4,000 sq ft and above.

Sources say city-living attracts the younger generation who do not have the purchasing power to build a home in the KLCC area. The KLCC market is for the high network individuals who want city living and there are not many of those around. Generally, Malaysians who have that buying and earning power may opt for a location in Damansara Heights or Kenny Hills, which offer a more home and suburban feel.

Another issue is the traffic congestion in the city, which can be a huge drawback.

The likes of niche developments like Serai and KLCC condominiums aside, it is the masses and the 30 to 40-something that most developers are targeting today.

The last couple of years, due to steep price hike, developers offered small one-bedroom units in the region of 500sq ft.

Such units have limited audience comprising singles or two-somes. This segment of the market enjoys a huge investment market. A large segment of this market may enter the secondary market or be put up for rental.

Jordan Lee & Jaafar Sdn Bhd's managing director P. Tangga Peragasam says rentals have not moved up with property prices, returns may be low when compared with prices.

"This situation will continue to have some effect on the sector this year. If inflation sets in because of the low interest rates, then the effect could be different, especially if interest rates are forced upwards by inflation.

Tangga says hotspots in the Klang Valley will continue to be Petaling Jaya and surrounding areas. Those areas coming within new proposed MRT stations will also see appreciation in values.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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Cricket: Wade's thrilling ton heralds Australia declaration

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 06:41 PM PST

SYDNEY: Matthew Wade scored a thrilling unbeaten century as Australia declared to lead Sri Lanka by 138 runs on the first innings on the third day of the final Sydney Test on Saturday.

Wicketkeeper Wade opened up in a last-wicket stand of 39 with Jackson Bird to grab his second Test century and gave skipper Michael Clarke the opportunity to declare his team's innings at 432 for nine in the half hour before lunch.

The Sri Lankans made a steady start to their second innings and had wiped 18 runs off the deficit, with Dimuth Karunaratne on 17 and Tillakaratne Dilshan yet to score.

Wade scampered towards his teammates in the Sydney Cricket Ground Members Stand and excitedly kissed his helmet after crashing Suranga Lakmal for a boundary to raise his century off 158 balls, after setting out on the third day on 47.

He was dropped by Dhammika Prasad at fine leg two balls later going for another big heave before skipper Clarke called a halt with the declaration.

Wade, who scored 106 against the West Indies in his third Test match in Dominica last April, faced 158 balls and hit nine fours for his first home Test ton.

Bird provided staunch support to give Wade his chance to go after the century. Wade was on 70 when the fast bowler came to the crease. Bird remained six not out.

Only last week Bird left Mitchell Johnson stranded on 92 in the Australian first innings in the second Melbourne Test when he was the last man dismissed.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath finished Sri Lanka's leading wicket-taker with four for 95 off 31 overs.

Australia lost the wickets of Peter Siddle (38), Mitchell Starc (2) and Nathan Lyon (4) on the third morning, but the tourists were unable to prevent a rush of late runs as Wade went all out after his century. - AFP

Tennis: Stosur in Zheng clash ahead of Australian Open

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 06:27 PM PST

SYDNEY: Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur faces a tough opponent in China's Zheng Jie in the first round of the Sydney International, a critical lead-up to her Australian Open campaign.

World number nine Stosur has had a rocky build-up to her home Grand Slam, being dumped in the first round of the Brisbane International last week by Swede Sofia Arvidsson who took full advantage of the Australian's 48 unforced errors.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki will also be hoping for some valuable court time at the Sydney tournament, which begins Sunday, ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year after her first round loss in Brisbane to a qualifier.

Wozniacki was bundled out of the competition by Kazakhstan's Ksenia Pervak in a battle lasting almost three hours, in which Pervak bested her 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1).

Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, world No four, heads a strong women's field for the Sydney tournament, which includes three Grand Slam champions - China's Li Na, the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova and Australia's Stosur.

Radwanska, who will be coming straight from Saturday's final of the ASB Classic tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, has a bye in the first round.

She is joined in the top half of the draw by eighth seed Nadia Petrova, former world number one Jelena Jankovic and former top five player Daniela Hantuchova.

In the lower half, Wozniacki will face number 31 Urszula Radwanska, Agnieszka's younger sister, while German number two seed Angelique Kerber has a bye into the second round.

Third seed and last year's French Open finalist Sara Errani will play a qualifier in her first-round match, and could face a potential clash with 2011 Wimbledon champion Kvitova in the quarter-finals.

In the men's draw, top seed Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has withdrawn with a hamstring injury sustained while playing for France in the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth on Friday.

Tsonga was the second top seed to drop out of the Sydney event after his compatriot Richard Gasquet, world number 10, pulled out for personal reasons.

The Sydney International takes place from January 6 to 12. - AFP

Tsonga, Gasquet withdraw from Sydney event

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 04:47 PM PST

SYDNEY: French tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has withdrawn from next week's Sydney International with a hamstring injury, tournament organisers said on Saturday.

The world number eight pulled out of the last major lead-up event to this month's Australian Open after suffering the injury playing for France in the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth on Friday.

"Unfortunately Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sustained an injury in Perth and has been forced to pull out of the Apia International Sydney with a left hamstring injury," tournament director Craig Watson said.

"We wish him a speedy recovery and all the best for a successful Australian Open."

Tsonga became the second top seed to drop out of the Sydney event after French compatriot Richard Gasquet, the world number 10, pulled out for personal reasons, organisers said. - AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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Retaining wall at UPM collapses, crushing seven motorcycles

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 07:09 AM PST

Published: Friday January 4, 2013 MYT 11:10:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Heavy rain since afternoon caused a retaining wall to collapse at Kolej Serumpun, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Serdang near here Friday.

The 1.5m high wall collapsed about 6pm, crushing seven motorcycles parked at a lot nearby.

However, there was no report of any casualty and the incident did not affect the hostel block at Kolej Serumpun.

Selangor Fire and Rescue assistant director (Operations) Mohd Sani Harul said an engine with six firemen from the Serdang station went to the scene after receiving a call at 6.30pm and arrived there 12 minutes later.

According to a specialist in engineering geology at UPM, Dr Husaini Omar, the wall collapsed due to the presence of trapped water in the soil. - Bernama

Armed robbers in RM40,000 payroll heist

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 07:04 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Four men armed with machetes escaped with RM40,000, which was part of RM150,000 withdrawn from a bank in Desa Park City, Kepong Friday afternoon.

The money was meant to be paid to workers of a construction contractor's company, said an employee of the company who wished to be identified only as Mamat.

He said, together with four other workers, he had withdrawn the RM150,000 from the bank to pay the salaries of the workers at a construction site.

However, about 500m from the site, Mamat said the car they were travelling in was intercepted at 3.45pm by a black sports utility vehicle (SUV) in which were six men.

"As I brought my car to a halt, four of the men in the SUV surrounded our vehicle.

"Using machetes and iron rods, they smashed the front and rear windscreens of our car before snatching a bag containing RM40,000," he added.

Mamat said one robbers also tried to grab another bag containing RM110,000 which was by two of his colleagues.

However, one of the colleagues put up a struggle and held on to the bag, despite being struck on the hand by the robber who was armed with a machete.

"The robbers then fled from the scene. We sent our injured colleague to the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

"Fortunately, we had placed the money in separate bags and were able to prevent the rest from falling into the hands of the robbers," said Mamat.

Sentul police chief ACP Zakaria Pagan confirmed the robbery. - Bernama

Public can pay last respects to Kanang until Sunday

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 05:18 AM PST

KUCHING: The body of Datuk Temenggong Kanang anak Langkau will be placed at the Suarah Hall here from Saturday to enable the public to pay their last respects.

The Sarawak Information Department, in a statement here Friday, said those wishing to pay their last respects can do so over the weekend as the body of the national hero would be taken to the St Thomas Cathedral at 1pm Sunday for the funeral service.

Kanang would be laid to rest at the heroes' burial ground in Jalan Budaya at 3pm, the statement said.

His body was currently placed at the Bukavu Hall in Penrissen Camp to enable his immediate family members to pay their last respects.

Among those who paid their last respects to Kanang Friday were Defence Minister Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof.

Present were Third Infantry Brigade Commander Brig Gen Datuk Redzuan Baharuddin and Ninth Infantry Brigade Commander Brig Gen Datuk Stephen Mundaw.

A former member of the famed and fearsome Sarawak Rangers, Kanang died of a heart attack at 1.45am Thursday at the Sarawak General Hospital.

He had been rushed there from his home about midnight when he complained of breathing difficulties. He was 68.

Kanang was a Sarawakian who became the nation's pride for his bravery in fighting communist terrorists in 1962 and 1963 while in the service of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

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The Nao Of Brown - Unique storyline with nice visuals

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 12:55 AM PST

The story of a young woman suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder is told in a visually arresting manner.

THE Nao Of Brown by Glyn Dillon is one of the most gorgeous graphic novels I've seen. The lush watercoloured panels, elegant red-edged pages, delicately-realised facial expressions and deliberate merging of different illustrative techniques makes turning each page an act of discovery; these aren't merely pictures to accompany a story, but rather, works of art in and of themselves.

The real genius of The Nao Of Brown, though, is that the illustrations do tell a story, vividly, and sometimes even without any words.

After all, a graphic novel's main difference from a book is its reliance on the visual, and this is one great example.

Dillon's rich visuals capture so many nuances of expression and body language that a single line of speech is often all that's needed to express an entire internal monologue. His use of watercolours – translucent and subtle for exterior locations, brilliant and dramatic for intimate settings – is an inspired choice, the colours brightening or dimming according to the mood of the scene.

It is a technique that is particularly suited to the story of Nao Brown, a half-Japanese, half-English girl who spends as much time grappling with the events in her mind as she does with the ups and downs of the everyday. Artistic, introspective and utterly charming to almost everyone who meets her, Nao is also plagued by a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that manifests as sudden murderous fantasies.

In stark contrast to the abstract nature of her condition, almost everything in Nao's life is primarily visual. She works in an art toy shop, is obsessed with a fictional anime series called ichi, does Japanese calligraphy, and practises Buddhist meditation and visualisation techniques (complete with statues and thangka paintings).

Woven within Nao's tale as a story within a story are folkloric vignettes about Pictor, a boy who is half human and half chestnut, from the ichi series. These panels are deliberately different from the main story, employing a more rigid and digital illustration style.

Playing with opposites even further, Nao soon finds herself attracted to Gregory, a middle-aged, balding, washing machine repairman, who is given to quoting poetry and philosophy. While her initial attraction to him is because of his physical resemblance to ichi character The Nothing, she soon finds in Gregory another complex person with his own baggage.

Meanwhile, Nao's friend and boss Steve is obviously in love with her, a fact that she doesn't realise because of her tendency to remain so resolutely self-focused.

What makes Dillon's depiction of Nao's condition so absorbing is that it is never explicitly explained or described. Rather, her breakdowns, horrible imaginings and compulsive rituals are brought across by the detailed drawings that capture every expression and movement on Nao's face.

Dillon's wife apparently suffered from OCD during her younger years, and it is obvious that this is a personal subject to him – he seems more interested in exploring the actual experiences and emotions associated with the condition.

Red is liberally used to represent both Nao's dynamism and volatility, and the way Dillon uses this single colour to evoke multiple meanings is impressive. One particular section is a brilliant visual metaphor for her struggles; in it, Nao suffers an "episode", the panel is overwhelmed by red, and then she is left literally colourless.

Dillon further livens up the novel by incorporating several different illustration styles in very specific ways to tell a particular story, for instance mimicking traditional Japanese woodblock prints. One of my favourites, however, is his renditions of several thangkas, or Buddhist paintings – bursting with colour and details, they would be equally at home at a modern art exhibition.

The story of The Nao Of Brown is difficult to pin down because it is so entwined with its visuals. Nevertheless, it is one that instantly captures you, thanks to an extremely unique and, despite her flaws, very lovable protagonist. The other characters are equally interesting, particularly Steve. His frustrated facial expressions are captured perfectly by Dillon, and you root for this classic underdog in the love triangle all the way.

Which is why the end of the novel was rather frustrating. After so much time is taken with the densely-detailed story, the denouement of Nao's tale seems incredibly rushed and almost anti-climactic. The author even resorts to that cliched technique of skipping ahead a few years to avoid dealing with all the conflicts he's set up, which seems a tad lazy.

Nevertheless, The Nao Of Brown is certainly worth owning, not just for graphic novel enthusiasts, but for those who enjoy a unique storyline told in a beautiful, unusual way.

For this month only, get a 25% discount off The Nao Of Brown (with a purchase of another item) at Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC.

Magic, murder and science

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 12:52 AM PST

Falling Kingdoms

Author: Morgan Rhodes

Publisher: Razorbill, 400 pages THEY gave up magic in exchange for peace, or so they thought. But now, three kingdoms are grappling for power and brutalising their citizens in the process. Could the old, forgotten magic be the answer?

Four young people are caught up in the threatening chaos: a princess, a rebel, a girl discovering her supernatural gifts, and a warrior taught only to conquer, never to love. They each begin journeys, both literal and metaphorical, as they discover their strengths and weakness even while grappling with the dire situation their countries face.


Author: Sarah Ockler

Publisher: Simon Pulse, 400 pages

SHE'S a master baker at only 17, so what is Hudson doing keeping her head down and baking cupcakes for her mother's struggling diner? Well, there was her parents' divorce for which – like most teens – she feels responsible, and then there's the friendship issue that she's struggling with after a huge betrayal. It's enough to make any girl stick her head in the sand and take cover.

But what happens if opportunity comes a-knocking again? Will Hudson have the courage to lift her head and grab life with both hands?

When We Wake

Author: Karen Healey

Publisher: Little Brown Us, 304 pages

IT is the year 2027 and teenagers are still pretty much teenagers: 16-year-old Tegan Oglietti is balancing friends and a new boyfriend, playing her guitar, and protesting the world's ills. And then she dies. And wakes up 100 years in the future.

Tegan, you see, is the first person to ever be revived from being cryonically frozen, which makes her an instant celebrity. But this future she's seeing is an ugly one and when deadly secrets come to life, she has to decide if she wants to keep her head down and simply survive or rise up and fight for a better world.

The Archived

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Hyperion Books, 336 pages

IN a world where the dead are called Histories and their stories can be read like books by people called Librarians, Mackenzie Bishop takes over from her father as a Keeper of the Archive.

Not only is her job a constant reminder of the loss of her father, it's also very dangerous as she has to keep the often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out.

To make things worse, someone is changing the Histories that should never be touched, taking out important chapters. Mac has to piece together what is left before the Archive itself crumbles and falls.

Etiquette And Espionage

Author: Gail Carriger

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 320 pages

GAIL Carriger, author of Victorian comedy of manners series, The Parasol Protectorate, begins a new series with Etiquette And Espionage set in the same steampunk era she's famous for.

Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality isn't your typical finishing school, 14-year-old Sophronia finds. After being sent there by her mother because of her tendency to favour unladylike pastimes, Sophronia gleefully welcomes the discovery that this school not only teaches a girl how to curtsy properly but also how to throw a knife while doing it!


Author: Paula Weston

Publisher: Indigo Books, 388 pages

HOW do you recover from losing a twin? It has been a year since Gaby Winters lost twin brother Jude in a car crash and though she's physically healed, her emotions are still raw.

It doesn't help that the 20something keeps having unsettling nightmares about a strange guy and of battling demons, either.

Then the stranger from her dreams appears in town. Rafa has stories to tell Gaby, about her brother, about how her life is not what she thinks it is, about the Rephaim .... – Compiled by Natashya Khoo and Wu Yee Pheng

Growing up without a father

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 12:44 AM PST

This young adult fiction novel does a good job of handling a serious subject with humour and understanding.

Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks
Author: Ellie Phillips
Publisher: Electric Monkey, 295 pages

YOU might be forgiven for thinking that Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks is a book by a stand-up comedian telling the tale of his or her funny growing-up years. At times, it certainly felt like one when I was reading this book. In actuality, though, this is a light-hearted, humorous way of dealing with a rather serious topic: growing up without a father. Mind you, the father in question is not actually dead, though we don't know that at the beginning of the story.

The book opens with a family dinner to celebrate Sadie's 15th birthday. The guest of honour is keeping to tradition and opening her birthday cards at the dinner table when she finds one sent by her father. The father whom she has never met, whose identity she doesn't even know, as he was pretty much an anonymous sperm donor.

Could it be a cruel trick played by former best friend Shonna, with whom Sadie is feuding at the moment? Or could it really, truly be from the other half of her DNA contribution?

Whoever sent the card, it gets Sadie thinking about her father and sends her on a quest to find this nameless figure. Does she succeed? Somewhat, but that's all you're going to get from me.

I have to be honest: this book started out a little slow for me. The writing seemed rather young, though I feel a bit embarrassed about saying that since most books that I read are supposedly aimed at a much younger audience.

Nonetheless, Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks seems to be more "young" and less "adult". However, after about 50 pages in, it started to grow on me a little. After all, what's not to love about a teenager who has a dry sense of humour (as opposed to the usual broody ones that populate this genre) and whose hobby is trying out various hairstyles (there are several hairstyles to try out in the book if you're into that) and dreams of owning her own salon someday?

I really loved the concept of Sadie as a protagonist with a personality, still managing to keep her wits about her while on a mission. At some points, I could almost visualise her standing beside me, hand on hip, making sarcastic comments. Yes, more often than not no one likes a sarcastic teenager, but in Sadie's case, I beg to differ.

Another thing that I really enjoyed was that unlike so many other YA books that conveniently have a complete lack of parental or familial guidance for the teenaged main character, in this one, the protagonist has strong family support.

While the book does bring up the bucket-load of issues Sadie seems to have with her mother, the constant presence of her protective uncle, almost-but-not-quite-deaf great-aunt, a cousin who manages to be more reliable than annoying, and even a friend who could be more, Sadie seems to have more family and loved ones around her than most YA fic protagonists.

Unfortunately, the book did have its negative points, a main one being that I feel that the author left a few strings untied, ones that in my opinion are crucial to the story, though I'm not sure whether that's because the author has a sequel in mind to tie up the loose ends.

These days, when families are a little more complicated than the standard issue mum, dad and siblings, Dads, Geeks And Blue-Haired Freaks presents a lovely way to explain growing up within an atypical family.

More importantly, while it starts out as a search for a father, what it ultimately comes down to is a story about finding oneself and being grateful for what one already has. All that and a bunch of fancy hairstyles to try out!

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