Rabu, 9 Januari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Afghans say total U.S. pullout would trigger disaster

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 08:29 PM PST

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan lawmakers said on Wednesday disaster and civil war would follow if Washington pushed ahead with a suggestion to withdraw all its troops from the country after 2014.

U.S. Marines of Police Advisory Team Now Zad, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines Regiment patrol a village near a police station in Now Zad district in Helmand province, southwestern Afghanistan November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

U.S. Marines of Police Advisory Team Now Zad, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines Regiment patrol a village near a police station in Now Zad district in Helmand province, southwestern Afghanistan November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The White House said a day earlier it was considering the so-called "zero option" of a complete pullout - despite earlier recommendations from the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep soldiers there to help the government.

That option and the angry reaction from Afghan officials are likely to dominate talks between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Washington on Friday.

The meeting was already likely to be tense, given ongoing strains in their relationship over the war.

"If Americans pull out all of their troops without a plan, the civil war of the 1990s would repeat itself," said Naeem Lalai, an outspoken lawmaker from volatile Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban.

"It (full withdrawal) will pave the way for the Taliban to take over militarily," Lalai told Reuters.

When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989 after a decade-long war, financial aid dried up and the Afghan communist government collapsed, leading to infighting between warlords. A civil war paved the way for the Taliban's rise to power.

The United States has about 68,000 troops there and that number was already expected to reduce sharply ahead of December 31 2014 - the official end of the NATO-led combat mission in the country.

NATO and its partners are racing against the clock to train up Afghanistan's 350,000-strong security forces though questions remain over how they well they will be able to tackle insurgents in the face of intensifying violence.

Many leading Afghan officials had assumed some U.S. troops would stay.

"If American forces leave Afghanistan without properly training the Afghan security forces, and equipping them, it would be a disaster," said influential member of parliament Mirwais Yasini.

Member of parliament Shukria Barekzai said a total withdrawal after 2014 would be equivalent to the United States "accepting defeat".

The Taliban said it was still considering whether to respond to the White House statement when contacted by Reuters on Wednesday.

"It's very speculative and we are not commenting for now," said its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

On Saturday the group reiterated its call for the immediate removal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the complete withdrawal was "an option that we would consider" on Tuesday.

He made clear that a decision on post-2014 troop levels is not expected for months and will be made based on two U.S. security objectives in Afghanistan - denying a safe haven to al Qaeda and ensuring Afghan forces are trained and equipped so that they, and not foreign forces, can secure the nation.

Washington officials have privately said the White House is seeking a post-2014 presence of between 3,000 and 9,000 troops, which is significantly less than the 6,000 to 15,000 number given by the top commander, U.S. General John Allen.

(Additional reporting by Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi and Mirwais Harooni, Writing by Dylan Welch and Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Michael Perry)

(This story was refiled to correct the spelling of Obama in paragraph 3)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Venezuela's top court endorses Chavez inauguration delay

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 08:01 PM PST

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's top court endorsed the postponement of Hugo Chavez's inauguration this week and ruled on Wednesday that the cancer-stricken president and his deputy would continue in their roles, despite a cacophony of opposition complaints.

A woman walks past a mural depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A woman walks past a mural depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Critics had argued the 58-year-old's absence from his own swearing-in ceremony on January 10 meant a caretaker president must be appointed. Chavez has not been seen in public nor heard from in almost a month following surgery in Cuba.

"Right now we cannot say when, how or where the president will be sworn in," Supreme Court Chief Judge Luisa Morales told a news conference.

"As president re-elect there is no interruption of performance of duties ... The inauguration can be carried out at a later date before the Supreme Court."

The decision opens the door in theory for Chavez to remain in office for weeks or months more from a Cuban hospital bed - though there is no evidence he is even conscious.

It leaves the South American country in the hands of Vice President Nicolas Maduro, as de facto leader of the government.

The opposition say that is a brazen violation of the constitution, and that Maduro should leave office on Thursday when the current presidential term had been due to expire.

They say National Assembly boss Diosdado Cabello, another powerful Chavez ally, should take over the running of the country while new elections would be organized within 30 days.

Maduro would be the ruling Socialist Party's candidate.

Government leaders insist Chavez, 58, is fulfilling his duties as head of state, even though official medical bulletins say he suffered complications after the surgery, including a severe lung infection, and has had trouble breathing.

His resignation or death would transform politics in the OPEC nation, where he is revered by poor supporters thankful for his social largesse, but denounced by opponents as a dictator.


Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost a presidential election to Chavez in October, said the Supreme Court had become politicized under the socialist leader's administration.

"The tribunal gave an interpretation (of the constitution) in order to solve a problem that the government has," Capriles told a news conference.

Moody's Investors Service warned on Wednesday that Venezuela's sovereign credit rating, already at junk status, faces short-term risks over any political transition.

Prices of Venezuela's widely traded bonds have soared lately on Chavez's health woes, but dipped this week as investors' expectations of a quick government change apparently faded.

The president has undergone four operations, as well as weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, since being diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer in his pelvic area in June 2011.

He looked to have staged a remarkable recovery from the illness last year, winning a new six-year term at a hard-fought election in October. But within weeks of his victory he had to return to Havana for more treatment.

The government has called for a huge rally outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on Thursday, and allied leaders such as Uruguay's Jose Mujica, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega have said they will visit - despite Chavez's absence.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, a close friend, has announced plans to visit Chavez in Cuba on Friday.

The unprecedented silence by Chavez, who is well known for his hours-long rambling speeches, has convinced many Venezuelans that his 14 years in power may be coming to an end.

Unlike after his previous operations in Cuba, no photographs have been published of him recuperating, and social media in Venezuela is buzzing with rumours he is on life support.

Cabello, the pugnacious head of the National Assembly, has repeatedly ruled out taking over as caretaker president to order a new presidential election, saying Chavez remains in charge.

"Tomorrow we will all go to the Miraflores palace," he told a televised Socialist Party meeting on Wednesday. "The people will be invested as president. We are all Chavez!"

(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga, Diego Ore and Enrique Andres Pretel; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Chinese paper at centre of censorship protests hits newsstands

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 07:50 PM PST

GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - The latest issue of a Chinese newspaper at the centre of anti-censorship protests appeared on newsstands in Beijing and Shanghai on Thursday as usual, but not its home city Guangzhou.

A policemen walks past as supporters of Southern Weekly demonstrate outside the office of the liberal newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A policemen walks past as supporters of Southern Weekly demonstrate outside the office of the liberal newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Several journalists at the Southern Weekly, seen as a beacon of independent and in-depth reporting in China's highly controlled media, had gone on strike on Monday in protest at heavy-handed censorship.

After three days of fraught talks by journalists and local officials, and protests outside the newspaper gates, both sides appeared on Wednesday to have reached a deal.

The newspaper, which is published on Thursdays, was not available in at least six newsstands in Guangzhou, which normally carry the paper. The paper appeared as normal in Beijing, carrying a cover story on the aftermath of a fire in an orphanage in central Henan province.

"It's not coming today," said one newspaper seller in a kiosk near the Southern Weekly's headquarters in Guangzhou. "I don't know why it wasn't delivered," he said, as a stream of early morning commuters bought other newspapers from his stand.

In Shanghai, two sections of the paper were missing -- one focused on a new regulation on land reclamation and the other on "the dramatic changes" in reform.

When asked about the missing Guangzhou copies, a woman called Zhou at the Southern Weekly's distribution office said: "Today's paper has been published as normal, but may not have arrived at newspaper kiosks yet, which is also normal. It should be available for purchase within today".

Zhou said she had no knowledge of whether some sections may be missing in some cities or why.

In a show of continued resistance, the Southern Weekly republished a Monday editorial from the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, that said "the party's methods of controlling the media must move with the times".

In its interpretation of the People's Daily editorial, the Southern Weekly said the remaining reforms that need to be done are as difficult as "gnawing at bones".

"They need the protection and support of a moderate, rational and constructive media," the Southern Weekly said.

The drama at the Southern Weekly began late last week when reporters at the liberal paper accused censors of replacing a New Year letter to readers that called for a constitutional government with another piece lauding the party's achievements.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, denounced the censorship and called on Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, set to become president in March, to abolish political censorship.

The censorship turmoil at the Southern Weekly has also spread to another newspaper. Online accounts said Dai Zigeng, the publisher of the popular Beijing News daily, had announced his resignation on Wednesday after the newspaper resisted government pressure to republish an editorial criticising the Southern Weekly.

(Additional reporting by Hui Li and Beijing Newsroom in Beijing, Anita Li in Shanghai, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

You have one minute to win a ticket to the Grammys

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 02:28 AM PST

RED FM will send the winner of its competition, 60 Seconds To The Grammys, running from now till Jan 22, to the 55th Grammy Awards. The winner will be announced on air on Jan 25. The Grammys will be happening on Feb 10 at Staples Centre in Los Angeles.

The Grammy Awards is the biggest music event and you don't want to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rub shoulders with the stars as they walk the red carpet in their designer outfits, give their best performances and thank all their fans.

At the Grammys, some of the biggest music talents are celebrated. They are recognised for having pursued their passion and giving it their all. Inspired by this, Red FM wants to reward one listener for going all out to showcase his or her talent and passion. There is no limit on what your talent should be, but what Red FM will be looking for is passion, creativity and showmanship.

The competition started on Jan 7 with Lil' Kev and Sarimah from The Red Breakfast Show (Mondays to Fridays, 7am-10am) inviting listeners to head along to the website (www.red.fm) to upload talent videos.

On Jan 25, two finalists will be on air with the breakfast team from 7am to 9am. The show will have a retro twist, playing music from previous Grammy winners, and it will be streamed live. The winner will be announced during the show.

To add to the LA experience, the winner gets to choose a day trip to either Universal Studios to enjoy awesome rides, or Disneyland to mingle with his/her childhood Disney stars. The winner will be accompanied by a Red FM crewmember and what's more, will be placed in the limelight to document his/her once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Grammys through videos, phone-calls and an on-air interview after the trip.

Don't waste time, start thinking about how you would like to showcase your talent. Grab your camera, press record and head along to the newly launched Red FM website to upload your video.

If you don't have a video camera, meet the Red Ryders at their daily stops as they will have a camera handy to help you take that winning video. Check out their facebook page on facebook.com/redfmryders to find out where they will be.

For more information, log on to www.red.fm. Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page on www.facebook.com/redfm.my and follow us on Twitter @iloveredfm.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

988’s tune welcomes Year of the Snake

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 02:53 PM PST

IPOH: Ooh-la-la! There is a new tune to greet the Year of the Snake and it's none other than Ular La Have a Good Year.

"The 'ular la' chorus is very catchy and could be easily memorised," said Mannson Yong, producer of a Chinese New Year album released by 988, a radio station under the Star Media Group.

He said the song, which has the same name as the album, had a "boisterous melody" that would grow on listeners.

"The dance featured in the music video was also choreographed in a simple manner to encourage viewers to dance along," he said in an interview.

Besides the song, the album also features other tunes such as Move Forward and a medley of 988's Chinese New Year songs from the past four years.

Yong said the album had a retro charm to it and "a tinge of veteran Hong Kong artiste Samuel Hui's style of music".

"We want to bring smiles to listeners with light-hearted and upbeat songs," he added.

He said 15 deejays and a production team took about one month to produce the album.

"The deejays were also involved in writing the lyrics for the new songs," he added.

The Ular La Have a Good Year album is free with every single receipt purchase made at Eu Yan Sang outlets.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Matrade: China cut import tariffs on 784 products from Jan 1

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:32 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) has alerted Malaysian exporters about China's move to lower import tariffs on 784 products from Jan 1.

It said on Thursday the temporary adjustment would allow the products, grouped into five major categories, to be imported on a tax rate lower than the most-favoured-nation tariff.

"Lower tariffs will apply on consumer products that are closely related to people's livelihoods, including infant milk powder and other dairy products.

"Tariffs will also be lowered on raw materials and spare parts for the equipment manufacturing industry and strategic emerging industries, such as robots used for automobile production," it said.

Matrade added resource products including energy-saving and emission-reduction products would benefit from lower rates, together with products which supported the development of the agriculture and textile industries.

Matrade said China's Finance Ministry decision to lower import tariffs on selected products was part of its major initiative to boost domestic consumption and to boost imports to meet rising domestic demand.

Meanwhile, Beijing would also extend the temporary lower tariff rates for some of its export products, including coal, crude oil, fertiliser and ferroalloy.

The lower export tariffs were to boost exports of products with an overcapacity in the domestic market.


DRB-Hicom up as market positive on privatisation report

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:13 PM PST

Published: Thursday January 10, 2013 MYT 10:14:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of DRB-Hicom Bhd advanced on Thursday, underpinned by reports of a possible privatisation of the group with CIMB Equities Research expecting such a move would unlock immediate value.

At 10am, it was up 10 sen to RM2.73 with 9.95 million shares done. Its call warrants, DRB-Hicom-CQ added 1.5 sen to 19 sen, and DRB-Hicom-CL 3.5 sen higher at 20 sen but DRB-Hicom-CR shed 0.5 sen to 19.5 sen.

The FBM KLCI was up 0.37 of a point to 1,690.30. Turnover was 245.85 million shares valued at RM139.15mil. There were 177 gainers, 174 losers and 235 counters unchanged.

CIMB Research said any privatisation would make sense since DRB-Hicom was trading below net tangible asset (NTA) and restructuring could be accelerated through the sale of non-core assets and the separate re-listing of its automotive businesses.

"Outperform maintained. No change to our EPS or NTA-based target price. The indicative privatisation range of RM3.50-RM4 a share, according to the press, is just below our RNAV of RM4.06. Privatisation, if true, would be the catalyst to unlock immediate value, in our view," it said.


Google Earth helps put North Korea gulag system on map

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:03 PM PST

WASHINGTON: Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt's visit to North Korea this week has been met with sharp criticism and low expectations, but the global Internet search giant indirectly is helping to make history by revealing one of the reclusive country's darkest secrets, say human rights activists.

Google Earth, the company's popular satellite imagery product, might be the last thing Schmidt will want to showcase for his hosts, because it presents a bird's eye view of many things that secretive North Korea wants to keep hidden.

Human rights activists and bloggers have taken a Google program used mostly for recreation, education and marketing and applied it to map a vast system of dozens of prison camps that span North Korea, a country slightly smaller in area than Greece and home to 23 million people.

As many as 250,000 political prisoners and their families toil on starvation rations in the mostly remote mountain camps, according to estimates by international human rights groups.

Schmidt's trip to Pyongyang with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has been criticized by the U.S. State Department as ill-timed - coming weeks after North Korea conducted a rocket launch in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Rights activists are skeptical that celebrity visits to Pyongyang can produce meaningful results, but they are inclined to give Google credit for living up to its informal motto of "Don't Be Evil" when it comes to how Google Earth sheds light on North Korea.

"What Eric Schmidt does or does not do in Pyongyang will probably be forgotten in a few weeks," said Joshua Stanton, a Washington lawyer who devotes his spare time to blogging and activism on North Korea human rights.

"The good that Google has done, however inadvertently, by helping people tell the truth about North Korea, will probably be reflected in the history of the country one day," he said.

Google has characterized Schmidt's trip as "personal" travel, and Schmidt did not respond to requests for comment before leaving for Pyongyang. The company declined to comment on the use of Google Earth in monitoring North Korea.

Richardson said last week he hoped to win the release of Kenneth Bae, a U.S. tour guide detained in the North since November.


Stanton's blog http://freekorea.us/ carries satellite images from Google Earth and analysis of the features of six political prisoner camps - three of which he is credited with playing a role in confirming or identifying.

The blogger identifies images of gates and guard houses, and in some cases coal mines and crude burial grounds - corroborated through the work of experts and interviews with defectors from North Korea who lived or worked in the camps.

"The largest of the camps, if you don't know what you're looking at, look like towns or villages, and I suspect they are designed that way to fit into the countryside," said Stanton, whose readers trade tips on the camps and their landmarks.

Stanton, who became interested in North Korea while serving in the U.S. military in South Korea at the height of a deadly late-1990s famine in the North, built on the pioneering work of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a U.S. non-governmental organization which unveiled the camps in a 2003 book, "The Hidden Gulag."

When a second edition of "The Hidden Gulag" came out in 2012, Google Earth received prominent acknowledgement.

"The dramatically improved, higher resolution satellite imagery now available through Google Earth allows the former prisoners to identify their former barracks and houses, their former execution grounds, and other landmarks in the camps," said the study.

"Hidden Gulag" also credited Stanton and a second blogger, Curtis Melvin, whose blog http://www.nkeconwatch.com/ has been at the forefront of using Google Earth to catalog not only prison camps but also ordinary facilities like schools, factories and train stations.

"It opens up areas of North Korea that no foreigners are allowed to see at all," said Melvin, who downloads the free program available to the general public.


Melvin, an economist with an unfinished doctoral dissertation on North Korea's monetary system, verifies landmarks he finds on Google Earth by studying maps and documents and by sitting down in front of his computer in Virginia with North Koreans.

"I've also been watching North Korean television literally every day for about three years, so I have a list of thousands of names (of places) I can ask them specific questions about," he said of his interviews with defectors from North Korea.

North Korean defector Kim Sung Min, who escaped the country in 1997 by jumping off a train that was taking him to be executed, "told me the name of the train station where he jumped, and I pulled it up immediately and we were able to trace his actual escape path out of North Korea," said Melvin.

Some of Google Earth's satellite imagery comes from DigitalGlobe , a 20-year-old Colorado firm that, under its previous name, EarthWatch Incorporated, was the first outfit to get a U.S. government license to gather and sell satellite imagery commercially.

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea receives imagery and analysis pro bono in a project with DigitalGlobe Inc, which has a record of supporting humanitarian causes, said Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the committee.

According to satellite technicians, the imagery available directly from DigitalGlobe is of finer resolution and is updated more frequently than the versions carried for free on Google Earth.

"Satellite imagery readily available through Google Earth has certainly enabled human rights experts to decisively confirm that these facilities do exist, despite the fact that the North Korean regime denies their existence," Scarlatoiu said. - Reuters


Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Ramdan knows it won’t be easy to convince Misbun to coach him

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 04:39 PM PST

KELANA JAYA: Reigning national men's singles champion Misbun Ramdan Misbun has done the "easy" part – quitting the national badminton team.

Now, however, comes the "hard" part – convincing his father Misbun Sidek to coach him into a world-beater.

"I'll go fishing with him if I have to ... although I don't really fancy it, so that I can talk to him to give me a chance. I'll even use my mother to persuade him. All I want right now is for my father to coach me," said Ramdan, who left the national set-up on Monday.

Ramdan has been training under his uncle Rahman Sidek at the Kelana Jaya Stadium, which is the training centre for professional club Nusa Mahsuri.

Ramdan, who will turn 22 in March, clarified yesterday that "no one has brainwashed me into leaving the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) set up".

Two years ago, Misbun resigned as the national coach citing disappointment over some officials in BAM.

"It's my decision. I've been thinking about it for a while. In fact, I wanted to follow my father when he left the national team (in January, 2011) but he wanted me to stay put and be independent. He didn't want me to be too dependent on him," said Ramdan.

"So I stayed back and trained diligently under Hendrawan and I am grateful to him. Hendrawan understands and supports me.

"Over the last two years, I was able to assess the situation myself. Winning the Pahang Open and the national title last year have given me the confidence to make this decision. I defeated Liew Daren, Chong Wei Feng and Zulfadli Zulkifli for the first time.

"My father has never interfered with my coaching programme under Hendrawan. In fact, I've not trained under him (Misbun) for the last two years although we stay under the same roof. He only advises me when I ask for some tips.

"Most of the time he is away, fishing somewhere ... you know my father," he said, flashing a cheeky smile.

Ramdan now hopes to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio under Misbun's guidance.

"Players like Mohd Hafiz Hashim, Roslin Hashim and Lee Chong Wei achieved great results when they trained under my father," said Ramdan.

"I'm jealous. I want my own father to guide me to similar success too. I am, after all, his own flesh and blood!

"I've left BAM despite their good facilities, comprehensive training and good allowances ... but I know what I'm looking for right now.

"I just want my father's touch to go further in my badminton career."

Ramdan, the third of Misbun's six children, said he's also willing to adhere to his father's no-nonsense approach on court.

"I started taking badminton seriously when I was 13. Then, I used to train under my father from 5.30am to noon sometimes. I'd usually fall sick a day later. I dreaded going for training.

"But everything has changed now. I'm ready to take whatever my father has up his sleeve."

As for his next assignment – the Malaysian Open (at Putra Stadium from Jan 16-20) – world No. 87 Ramdan said: "I am looking forward to this tournament ... I know where I stand against the more experienced players. I'll give my best."

He faces China's Chen Yuekun in the first round of the qualifying tournament on Tuesday. If he wins, he will take on the winner of the match between Gao Huan of China and Singapore's Ashton Chen Yong Zhao for a place in the main draw.

Chong Wei gets off to a sluggish start in Korea

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 03:16 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei got off to a sluggish start but it was quite an inspiring day for several youngsters in the Korean Open Super Series Premier in Seoul.

Top seed and defending champion Chong Wei dropped a game for the first time against former world junior champion Wang Zhengming before prevailing 17-21, 21-14, 21-16 to march into the second round.

It was his sixth win over Zhengming.

National coach Tey Seu Bock said that Chong Wei struggled to find his rhythm in the opening game but quickly managed to recover and restore order.

"He dropped a game because he was struggling to adapt to the slow shuttle. He also committed more mistakes than his opponent. But once he settled down, Chong Wei was back in command," said Seu Bock.

Chong Wei's next opponent will be Germany's Marc Zwiebler, who stopped a gutsy Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia 16-21, 21-14, 21-17.

There was more joy for Malaysia in the men's singles when Chong Wei Feng lived dangerously before scoring a 24-22, 21-16 win over Sweden's Hendri Hurskainen. He will take on Gao Huan of China next.

Gao Huan and Ashton Chen Yong Zhao of Singapore enjoyed a remarkable day when they overcame two of China's top players – Chen Jin and Chen Long – in contrasting fashion.

Gao Huan, who just made his mark in the senior ranks last year, fought tooth-and-nail to beat former world champion and third seed Chen Jin 14-21, 21-14, 21-15 while the 24-year-old Ashton had a lucky break when second seed Chen Long retired while trailing 4-11 in the opening game.

In the men's doubles, Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem resumed their partnership on a bright note, clearing their first hurdle with a 15-21, 21-13, 21-17 win over South Koreans Cho Gun-woo-Kim Dae-eun.

The duo, who had not play together as a pair for the last six months due to personal differences, showed that they had mended their ways with this win. They will take on fourth seeds Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa of Japan next.

The Japanese continued to be a bane to Malaysia's Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong. Hiroyuki-Kenichi won 21-12, 20-22, 21-14 for their fifth straight win over the Malaysians.

Top doubles pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will take on Malaysian professionals Gan Teik Chai-Ong Soon Hock today after both pairs disposed of South Koreans rivals – Kang Ji-wook-Lee Sang-hoon and Kim Jae-hwan-Kim Jung-ho – in convincing fashion.

Aik Mong keen on national coaching director’s post

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 03:16 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Tan Aik Mong, a member of the 1967 Thomas Cup winning team, is interested in the national coaching director's post.

It is learnt that the 65-year-old Aik Mong has called up Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Nadzmi Mohd Salleh to offer his services.

Aik Mong feels that the knowledge he has gained would be useful in charting Malaysia's badminton fortunes.

The national coaching director's spot is still vacant as the man earmarked for the post – South Korean legend Park Joo-bong – has decided to stay on with the Japanese team as their chief coach.

The others under consideration include Wong Ah Jit, Kwan Yoke Meng, Cheah Soon Kit, Razif Sidek.

The BAM will deliberate on the national coaching director's post at their exco meeting on Jan 16 – the opening day of the Malaysian Open.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

'Lincoln' leads BAFTA nominations

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 01:48 AM PST

LONDON: Steven Spielberg's political drama "Lincoln", the film version of hit stage musical "Les Miserables" and Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" lead the nominations for the BAFTAs announced in London on Wednesday.

All three are in the running for best film in the British awards, viewed as one of the indicators of Oscars glory, alongside Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty" and Iran hostage drama "Argo".

"Lincoln" received 10 nominations in total, including for best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, best supporting actor for Tommy Lee Jones and best supporting actress for Sally Field, although Spielberg was overlooked for best director.

Hugh Jackman is up against Day-Lewis for his role in "Les Miserables", which took nine nominations including best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway and best British film.

"Life of Pi" also has nine nominations, including best director for Ang Lee, who is up against Bigelow, Ben Affleck for "Argo", Quentin Tarantino for "Django Unchained" and Michael Haneke for French-language film "Amour".

Javier Bardem is up for best supporting actor for his role as the villain in the latest and most successful Bond movie, "Skyfall", among eight nominations which also include best supporting actress for Judi Dench and best British film.

Affleck was nominated in the leading actor category alongside Day-Lewis, Jackman, Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook" and Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master".

In the leading actress category are Cooper's co-star Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty", Marion Cotillard for "Rust and Bone", Helen Mirren for "Hitchcock" and Emmanuelle Riva for "Amour".

Alongside Bardem and Lee Jones in the supporting actor category are Alan Arkin for "Argo", Philip Seymour Hoffman for "The Master" and Christoph Waltz for "Django Unchained".

Dench, Field and Hathaway are in the running for best supporting actress alongside Amy Adams for "The Master", Helen Hunt for "The Sessions".

The BAFTA awards ceremony will take place on February 10 at the Royal Opera House in London. - AFP

Wong Kar Wai back with kung fu epic

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 10:33 PM PST

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong art house director Wong Kar Wai, whose slow-paced, pensive films earned him laurels at international festivals such as Cannes, where he won best director, has just come out with The Grandmaster, his latest kung fu epic.

The fruit of eight years of labour and selected as the opening movie for February's Berlin International Film Festival, The Grandmaster tells the legendary tale of Bruce Lee's master Yip Man, played by Wong's long-time collaborator and Cannes best actor award winner Tony Leung.

The concept of the movie hit Wong even before he released his most celebrated work, In The Mood for Love, back in 2000, said the director, wearing his trademark sunglasses, at the movie's Hong Kong premiere on 8 January.

The idea kept brewing in his head and eventually took him on a three-year journey, knocking on the doors of over 100 kung fu masters across China.

"In the world of martial arts, there's a saying that goes -- 'the skies outside and inside the door are different,' he said.

"When you look at it outside the door, it will forever stay a mystery. But when you have a chance to put your head inside and take a peek, you then realize that (the world) inside draws you in," added Wong, who will also serve as the president of the jury for this year's Berlinale.

The auteur set his eyes on four martial art clans for his feature film, but stressed that he wanted to convey a common spirit shared by grandmasters and aficionados alike.

"In the world of martial arts, there are many people who are not 'masters', but they have a deep affection for martial arts. They always hope to leave something behind for their clan and martial arts during their lifetime," he said.

"I think this spirit is the spirit that The Grandmaster wants to convey -- lingering thoughts that are never forgotten, echos that will always come," Wong said.

Set at the infancy of modern China in the early 1900s, the retirement of a martial arts guru leaves the title of Grandmaster up for grabs.

Among the four top fighters for the position is the feisty Gong Er, played by Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs Of A Geisha.

For her role, Zhang trained under the teacher of kung fu star Jet Li, and said the movements were key to expressing the spirit of the characters.

"She (Gong Er) is a combination of almost all the unique features and merits of women of that era," Zhang said.

"In terms of movements, we trained for such a long time because the director hoped when we went inside the world of the characters, we already carried their spirit in our bodies."

Wong took the Best Director Award at Cannes in 1997 for Happy Together, which depicts a tempestuous romance between two men and was also nominated for the Palme d'Or.

Plagued by delays, The Grandmaster finally made its global premiere in Beijing on January 6, and opened across China on January 8 before showing in Berlin on February 7.

Spielberg, Affleck, Ang Lee among Directors Guild nominees

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 07:41 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Tom Hooper and Ang Lee received nominations from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) on Tuesday, ahead of the Oscar nominations this week.

Affleck, 40, landed his first Directors Guild film award nomination for Iran hostage thriller Argo, alongside fellow U.S. directors Bigelow and Spielberg, Taiwanese director Lee and British filmmaker Hooper.

Bigelow received a nod for her Osama bin Laden-manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty, Spielberg for his U.S. Civil War-era drama Lincoln, Lee for his 3D adaptation of best-selling novel Life Of Pi and Hooper for his screen adaptation of hit musical Les Miserables.

"These directors represent the highest standard of filmmaking, and their films are a testament to artistic achievement, innovative storytelling and the passion that filmmakers share with their audiences," DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement.

Notably absent from the list this year was director Quentin Tarantino, whose latest film Django Unchained, a spaghetti-western slave retribution tale, has been gaining awards buzz after landing five Golden Globe nods including best director.

Filmmaker David O. Russell also didn't get a DGA nomination, despite his quirky comedy Silver Linings Playbook also building awards steam and going into the Golden Globe awards on Sunday with four nominations.

The DGA nominations are often a key indicator of Oscar nominees and winners, as DGA members are often also members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Oscars. The Academy Award for best picture also often goes to the winner of the DGA's best director award.

This is the 11th DGA nomination for veteran director Spielberg, 66, who has previously won the award for Schindler's List in 1994, Saving Private Ryan in 1999 and who received a DGA lifetime achievement award in 2000.

"The privilege of making Lincoln, combined with this absolutely tremendous recognition from my peers, is humbling. I thank everyone for including me on this short list of extremely unique and gifted filmmakers," Spielberg said in a statement.

Since 1948, there have been only six occasions where the DGA winner has not gone on to win the Oscar for best director. Spielberg, Bigelow, Hooper and Lee all won the top directing honors at the Oscars after winning the DGA award.

The winner of the DGA feature film category will be revealed at a dinner ceremony hosted by former Frasier star Kelsey Grammer on February 2 in Los Angeles, three weeks before the Academy Awards.

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Local sci-fi movie 3Genius set to hit Indian cinemas in April

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 07:43 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: A bilingual science-fiction movie, 3Genius, produced by a local company, is set to hit 160 cinemas in India this April.

Deputy Information, Communication and Culture Minister Senator Datuk Maglin Dennis D'Cruz said the movie will be shown during school holidays in the country.

"This is good progress as it is not easy for a local film to get the opportunity to be shown in India," he told reporters after launching the film produced by On Track Animation Sdn Bhd, here Wednesday.

Maglin said he would help promote the Malay and Tamil language movie during his working visit to India on Jan 23.

"The Government continues to support efforts to improve the national film industry. Besides that, efforts to promote local Tamil films abroad will also encourage local producers to come up with more of such films," he said.

Meanwhile, On Track Animation Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer G. Punniamoorthy said the film costing RM1.9mil will begin shooting this month.

"This movie is about the relationship and career of three friends with three different backgrounds, giving the audience a feel of our multi-cultural community in Malaysia.

"Besides science fiction, 3Genius contains elements of action and comedy," he said.

He added that there were plans to show the film in other countries including Sri Lanka. - Bernama

Najib: Malaysia's progress due to political strength, stability

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:18 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia achieved rapid development after 54 years of independence because of the country's political strength and stability, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Besides that, he said progress also depended on a line of effective and visionary leadership.

"The Government's leadership under the Barisan Nasional achieved success after success. The success was also based on a power-sharing formula practised since the country's independence.

"The multi-racial and multi-religious nature of the country is a valuable asset towards making the country an advanced nation," he said in his message in a book titled Istana Negara - The Symbol of Sovereignty and The Supremacy of the Malay Rulers, which was launched at the Shangri-la Hotel here Wednesday night.

The special publication was launched by the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail.

Najib said the construction of Istana Negara in Jalan Duta Kuala Lumpur began under the 9th Malaysia Plan to replace the existing Istana Negara building with a new specially-planned comprehensive complex.

"We are grateful that with Allah's blessings, the Government today has succeeded in realising the development of a complex which is a landmark and symbol of the Constitutional Monarchy system," he said.

The construction of the new Istana Negara began with a groundbreaking ceremony on Nov 16, 2006 by Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, who was the 12th Yang di-Pertuan Agong at that time.

It was completed and handed over to the Istana Negara's management on Oct 20, 2011.

Najib said among the historical events recorded at the new Istana Negara was the installation of Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah as the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on April 11 last year.

He said since the occasion, Istana Negara has fufilled its function as the main residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"I appreciate the special publication of this book on Istana Negara as its architecture encompasses various aspects of human civilisations as well as being eco-friendly," he said.

Najib said he hoped the book written by Datuk Md Nizam Md Sheriff would be an enormous help as a source of reference and guidance to designers, teachers, enthusiasts and interior art decoration practitioners as well as Malaysians in general. - Bernama

Penang CPO: Negligence believed to have led to detainees' escape, four cops suspended

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 05:26 AM PST

TASEK GELUGOR: The four police escorts responsible for the escape of nine detainees have been suspended from duty to facilitate investigation of negligence.

Penang police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi said initial investigation found elements of negligence by the escorts and they may be subjected to disciplinary action.

"In this case, we found that they did not follow the rules and were negligent, causing the detainees to escape," he told reporters here Wednesday.

In the incident at 9am Monday, nine detainees escaped after hijacking a police van.

The detainees had beaten up the police escorts and then pushed them out of the van. The police were escorting the detainees from Penang Prison to Butterworth Court Complex.

Two of the detainees were arrested after police found the van in Kampung Padang Chempedak, Tasek Gelugor, while seven others fled towards an oil palm plantation in Ara Kuda.

Abdul Rahim said the police have a new lead on the location of the detainees' hideout and expected to arrest four of them soon.

"Police are actively hunting down the detainees but I can't disclose the new lead for fear of compromising the investigation."

He said police believe the seven detainees were in hiding in Tasek Gelugor area as they could not go far due to roadblocks.

Police Tuesday formed a task force headed by Penang deputy police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Jaafar.

The task force is made up of 250 members from the Police Air Unit, Bukit Aman.

Meanwhile, police detected one of the seven escaped detainees in Kampung Tun Sardon, the deputy CPO said later in the day.

He said the man was hiding in a vacant house near an oil palm plantation in the village.

Based on a tip-off, police raided the house at 5.30pm and saw a man believed to be one of the hunted detainees but he managed to get away.

"Police pursued but failed. The man, wearing only a pair of trousers, escaped into the oil palm plantation heading towards Kulim Kedah," he said.

He said police had launched a manhunt for the man in the area up to the Kedah border and six more accomplices were believed to be still in the plantation. - Bernama

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Metro Watch

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 05:55 AM PST

Percussion Audition

Hands Percussion invites players with at least five years experience in a percussive instrument to join them as trainee drummers on Jan 13 at 2pm to 6pm at Chong Hwa Independent High School, Jalan St Thomas, off Batu 3 1/2 Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur. Only Shigu drums will be provided. Bring your own instruments and prepare a three- to five-minute solo piece. For details, call 012-223 7769 (Miu Ng) / 016-381 9112 (Zoe Lee).

Free Check-Up

Klinik Damai Utama and Rukun Tetangga Damai Utama will be conducting free medical check-ups on Jan 12 at Bandar Kinrara. There will be a blood donation drive, free breast examination, organ donation drive, and free glucose, BMI and blood pressure tests, and free skin and weight management consultations. It will be held at No 10, Jalan Damai Utama 2, Taman Damai Utama, Puchong from 9.30am to 4pm. For details, call 03-8075 2339.

Feng Shui Talk

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman is collaborating with Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation to conduct a talk on "Use Feng Shui to Turn the Lights On with Master Elaine Kuan" on Jan 12 from 10am to noon at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, PD Block, Level B1, No 9, Jalan Bersatu 13/4, Petaling Jaya. For details, call 03-7957 2818/016-223 3563 (Sia / Izad), or visit www.facebook.com/UTARCEE


Besraya (M) Sdn Bhs will be working on the U-turn diversion at Jalan Sungai Besi from Jan 9 to Apr 1. It is to give way to the construction of bridge piers BR 3 Connection Project for the Sungai Besi Highway. Motorists are advised to comply with traffic signage. For details, call 017-622 1621 (Indawati) / 019-265 2143 (Hasziala).

Toastmasters Meeting

Satu Hati Toastmasters Club welcomes the public aged 18 and above who want to enhance communication and leadership skills by joining the meeting on Jan 10 between 7pm and 9.30pm at Level 4, Bilik Perak 1, Manara PGRM, Jalan Pudu Ulu, Cheras. For details, call 016-292 1923 (Lenny) / 013-304 6481 (Mandy) or email mandysyong@gmail.com

Public Talk

Learn more about Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010, which is to be enforced by this month. Adviser to the Malaysian Government on the PDPA 2010 Professor Abu Bakar Munir will be giving a talk at the Law Faculty, Universiti Malaya on Jan 22 from 10am to 11am. RSVP before Jan 18. For details, visit www.facebook.com/UMCoRS or www.umcors.um.edu.my

Charity Bazaar

Help raise funds for free pranic healing sessions for the underprivileged and to support local charitable organisations at the GMCKS charity bazaar on Jan 12 from 10am to 4pm at SS7/26, Kelana Jaya. For details, call 012-974 2028 / 03-7887 1028 or visit www.pranichealingmalaysia.org


The Rawang Rest and Service Areas (RSA) on the North-South Expressway (NSE) will be temporarily closed between 9am and 6pm tomorrow for maintenance work. All stalls and other public facilities at the rest area, except the petrol station, will be closed to public. For details, call 1800-88-0000.

Property Expo

Malaysia Property Expo Klang will be held at Setia City Mall from Jan 11 to 13. Housebuyers are encouraged to shop for dream homes under the My First Home scheme in Klang and Shah Alam districts. For details, call 03-7880 8000.

AFC uses technology to identify overaged players in U-16 tourneys

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 05:55 AM PST

THE Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has been successful in their fight against overaged players being fielded in Under-16 tournaments with the introduction of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

AFC medical committee chairman Datuk Dr Gurucharan Singh said the use of X-ray was outdated and not applicable.

"The problem has almost been solved with the introduction of modern radiological tools such as the MRI. If a player's MRI scan shows complete fusion of the radial bone growth plate by three independent experts, he is deemed to be above 16 and is not eligible to participate in the tournament and the member association is sanctioned.

"Based on several studies conducted in football, the incidence of having a player with complete fusion between the ages of 16 to 17 is less than 1%. MRI protocol established by a consensus of international experts from 13 countries is designed specifically to be used in football for male players.

"However, it cannot be used for women as they mature early," Dr Gurucharan said.

Fielding overaged players in sports has been a common problem that has gone unabated to date, especially in age-related competitions. There had been more questions and challenges than solutions to keep the sport clean.

Intentional falsification of travel documents or birth certificates, though not always the case, had tarnished the image of some of these tournaments.

"This is against the spirit of sport and the right of players to equal chances, not taking into account the rate of injuries as well as psychological trauma the players endure," Dr Gurucharan said.

He added that it was also ironic to discover all players from a particular team born in the month of January, some with running serial numbers while other players have been caught participating in the same tournament for a couple of years, sometimes using false identities.

Dr Gurucharan said there had been reported cases of players from certain countries having two sets of travel documents. It has got to do with fame and glory, financial rewards and sometimes politically driven.

With the advent of electronic technology and the establishment of an international registration data base, administrators have now been able to curtail these malpractices to some extent.

The AFC has been credited with bringing cheating in football to a virtual stop.

"It had been no easy task to convince the administrators and the football medicine fraternity," said Dr Gurucharan, who is also a member of the FIFA medical committee.

Prior to the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held an expert consensus group meeting to find a scientific mechanism to determine the age of athletes with no success. The eligible age for athletes at the Youth Olympic Games is from 14 to 18 years old.

Data collected from competitions, such as the FIFA Under-17 Finals showed about 35% while Africa had reported more than 21% incidence of overaged players, respectively.

The percentage of incidence has drastically dropped since the introduction of MRI for age determination. In 2007, AFC introduced the use of MRI scanning for age determination at all AFC Under-16 tournaments. The incidence of overaged players has dropped to 0.5% and, in some years (2010 and 2012), zero.

Dr Gurucharan said the outcome seemed to be successful but AFC would not let its guard down.

"The AFC annually conducts MRI workshops for radiologists to assist member associations. Some 22 of the 46 member associations in Asia have benefited from this educational programme.

"Scientists are currently trying to further improve the technology and develop a protocol that could be used by all — in sports, criminal and legal situations. It is just a matter of time," said Dr Gurucharan.

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Understanding hives and other allergies

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 01:38 AM PST

Allergic reactions to certain foods, dyes, chemicals, insect bites or stings, medicines and infections can manifest in a few different ways.

MY back was very itchy recently. After scratching the affected spot, I looked in the mirror and saw that I had multiple raised, red spots on my skin. My wife said it was 'hives'. What are hives?

Hives are also known as urticaria. They look like pale red bumps, patches or weals on your skin. They usually appear suddenly, and are mostly caused by the body's allergic reaction to something that you are allergic to.

However, they can be caused by other things.

They can appear anywhere on your body, including your tongue, ears and lips.

Hives are itchy, and there are some which may also cause burning or stinging sensations. Sometimes, they may join together to form a large red area that is raised. These are known as plaques.

They usually disappear within one day, but some hives may last for days or even weeks.

What causes hives?

Hives are caused by allergic reactions that our bodies have to certain foods, dyes, chemicals, insect bites and stings, medicines or infections. Some diseases may also give rise to hives.

These substances are called allergens.

When you are allergic to any of these, your body releases something called histamine.

Histamine causes your blood plasma to leak out of the small blood vessels on your skin, leading to these raised areas or bumps.

The most common foods that can cause hives are nuts (including almonds and peanuts), fish, prawns and some types of seafood, eggs, milk, wheat and fresh berries. Fresh foods are known to cause more hives than cooked food.

The medicines most cited to cause hives are aspirin and the NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines).

Why do hives last for such a long time?

Hives can be divided into several different types:

Acute urticaria – these last for less than six weeks. These are the ones that are most usually caused by foods, medicines and insect bites.

Chronic urticaria – these last for more than six weeks. The causes are more difficult to identify and may include certain types of diseases like autoimmune diseases, chronic infections and even cancer.

Physical urticaria – this is caused by direct stimulation of your skin. Usually attributed to extreme heat and cold, sun exposure, sweating, certain types of clothes material, exercise and others. This usually occurs one hour after exposure.

Dermatographism – these form after you firmly stroke or scratch your skin.

In what other ways can allergies manifest?

Allergic symptoms usually affect one part of the body or another. When it affects your nose, you may sneeze or have a runny nose. You may also cough.

Allergies can be classified according to severity.

Mild allergic reactions may cause hives, rash, itchy or watery eyes and congestion in the nose. Mild reactions tend to be confined to part of your body only.

Moderate allergic reactions may include itchiness and difficulty breathing. (Such as asthma being triggered by pollen.)

Severe allergic reactions include anaphylaxis, which can progress within minutes to include your whole body.

You may have various degrees of swelling everywhere on your body, as well as difficulty in breathing and swallowing. You may have abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. You can progress to mental confusion.

Severe allergic reactions are life-threatening and you must go to a doctor immediately, preferably the emergency department of a hospital, depending on how severe your symptoms are, as they would have the necessary equipment to intubate you.

Can hives be treated or do I just have to wait for them to go away on their own?

Hives can certainly be treated. Of course, if you know what allergen has caused it, it's best that you stay away from it the next time.

If you can't eat nuts, then avoid all foods with nuts in them. If you eat out, ask the waitress if the dish you ordered has nuts in it first.

If you can't wear certain jewellery or watches because of the nickel in them, then don't wear anything containing nickel.

You can take antihistamines as these will combat the histamine that is being released in your skin. For severe cases, you can go to a doctor, who may give your steroids.

Meanwhile, bathe in lukewarm water as hot water will only exacerbate your hives. Use gentle soap that is hypoallergenic. You can apply a cool, wet compress to the affected area. Try to keep cool at all times.

> Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health advice, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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