Ahad, 13 Januari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Japan voters back PM Abe's efforts to spur growth, beat deflation

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 07:28 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - More than two thirds of Japanese voters support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet, a media survey published on Monday showed, with many of them praising his efforts to battle deflation and stimulate the economy.

Abe took office last month after his conservative Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) landslide election victory on December 16, promising to revive the world's third-biggest economy with bold monetary easing and big spending by the debt-laden government.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (rear C, yellow tie) and his cabinet ministers hold the first cabinet meeting of the year at Abe's official residence in Tokyo January 8, 2013, in this picture provided by Kyodo. Buoyed by a December election landslide, Abe is rolling out a comprehensive PR strategy mixing Facebook, public appearances and policy announcements to prop up voter ratings ahead of a crucial July poll in an effort to avoid becoming just the latest of the country's short-term leaders. Cameras were allowed to film the start of the New Year's first cabinet meeting in the room where ministers deliberate - rather than just the traditional photograph of them sitting stiffly in an ante-room. Picture taken January 8, 2013. Mandatory Credit REUTERS/Kyodo

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (rear C, yellow tie) and his cabinet ministers hold the first cabinet meeting of the year at Abe's official residence in Tokyo January 8, 2013, in this picture provided by Kyodo. Buoyed by a December election landslide, Abe is rolling out a comprehensive PR strategy mixing Facebook, public appearances and policy announcements to prop up voter ratings ahead of a crucial July poll in an effort to avoid becoming just the latest of the country's short-term leaders. Cameras were allowed to film the start of the New Year's first cabinet meeting in the room where ministers deliberate - rather than just the traditional photograph of them sitting stiffly in an ante-room. Picture taken January 8, 2013. Mandatory Credit REUTERS/Kyodo

Support for Abe's cabinet stood at 68 percent, the Yomiuri newspaper's latest survey showed, up from 65 percent in a previous poll taken shortly after he took office.

The survey was taken over the weekend after Abe's cabinet approved on Friday $117 billion (72.4 billion pounds) spending to stimulate growth, bringing a total stimulus package to 20.2 trillion yen (140.4 billion pounds) including spending by local governments and private-sector firms.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed supported Abe's policy of boosting coordination with the Bank of Japan and placing more emphasis on economic growth.

But people were split over Abe's energy policy, with 44 percent in favour of a plan to restart off-line nuclear reactors that are confirmed safe and 46 percent opposed, according to the poll.

Nuclear energy has been a particularly emotive issue since the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear energy plant triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The poll also found showed that 37 percent of respondents would vote for the LDP in the proportional representation stage of an upper house election expected in July, compared with 16 percent for the Japan Restoration Party and 8 percent for the Democratic Party of Japan.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

In Newtown, debate begins on future of school massacre site

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:45 PM PST

NEWTOWN, Connecticut (Reuters) - Parents of children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut expressed mixed feelings on Sunday about what should be done with the facility and its grounds following a December shooting rampage that killed 20 students and six staff members.

People put items from the old Sandy Hook School into garbage containers as they clean up the school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

People put items from the old Sandy Hook School into garbage containers as they clean up the school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Speaking at the first of two "community conversations" on the fate of the school, parents and residents of the community discussed whether to return children to the school or demolish it and build a memorial on the grounds.

Frantic parents who arrived at the school following the December 14 shooting had been directed to a nearby firehouse to learn the fate of their children.

"Unless you were a parent of a Sandy Hook student that day and had to walk to that firehouse, you don't know how we feel," Christine Wilford, the mother of two children who survived the shooting, said during her turn at the microphones set up in an auditorium at nearby Newtown High School.

"On that day, I looked around and it was my Sandy Hook family," said Wilford, who echoed what most parents said at the meeting, which was they wanted to hear what families said privately about the facility's future before deciding her own preference.

The mass killings plunged Newtown, a rural New England town of 27,000 residents about 70 miles northeast of New York City, into grief, along with much of the rest of the nation.

The shootings prompted President Barack Obama to place Vice President Joe Biden at the head of a task force that will find ways to curb gun violence. Biden is due to submit the recommendations as early as Tuesday.

The vice president has said he will recommend universal background checks for gun buyers and new limits on the capacity of magazines like those used by the Connecticut gunman. Gun rights groups said on Sunday that these restrictions would fail in Congress.

The elementary school remains closed to everyone but police investigating the attack. Its students, more than 400 children in kindergarten through fourth grade, have been relocated to a school in the neighbouring town of Monroe.

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra told the audience that the final decision on the school's fate will come only after months of discussions with other groups, including teachers who were there during the shooting and families that lost children.

"The process ahead of us will take months," Llodra said. "But we need to bring our Sandy Hook students home."


Merim Bajraliu, a senior at the high school whose sister attended Sandy Hook, said knocking the school down only increases the damage caused by the gunman.

"Some of my best childhood memories were at Sandy Hook school," Bajraliu said. "I don't think a psychopath should take this away from us. Razing the school would be an absolute injustice to those whose lives were cut short that day."

Several parents agreed with Bajraliu, saying their children are asking to return to the school.

And yet one father who asked not to be identified said his first grader has said he never wanted to step foot in the school again, nor does his wife. He asked that whatever decision is made about the school's future, that families be given the opportunity to attend any other school in the district.

Despite the differences, most of the parents agreed not to separate the children from their classmates.

"You can't divide those kids up. They've been through too much," said Jodi Markowski, mother of a second grader. "It's not too soon. I want them to know where they are going to school."

Families who lost children in the massacre are scheduled to meet town officials in the upcoming weeks, Llodra said. She is also meeting with the affected teachers in the temporary school.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the attack. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before driving to the school. He shot himself dead following the rampage.

(Editing by James Kelleher and Philip Barbara)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Hugo Chavez's condition improving - Venezuela

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:34 PM PST

CARACAS (Reuters) - Cancer-stricken Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's lung infection has been controlled and his medical state is improving more than a month after his latest surgery in Cuba, the government said on Sunday.

A Venezuelan man holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a mass to pray for his recovery at a church in Havana January 12, 2013. REUTERS/STRINGER

A Venezuelan man holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a mass to pray for his recovery at a church in Havana January 12, 2013. REUTERS/STRINGER

"Despite his delicate state ... in recent days the general medical evolution has been favourable," said the latest official health update, which was relatively positive compared to others but still illustrated the gravity of Chavez's situation.

"The respiratory infection is controlled, though the commander-president still requires specific measures to solve breathing insufficiency ... he is conscious."

The communiqué, which gave no more details on his condition, came as the three most powerful government figures after Chavez gathered in Havana to check on him and meet with Cuban allies.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, Congress head Diosdado Cabello, and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez have been shuttling to and from Cuba since the 58-year-old socialist president's fourth and most serious cancer operation a month ago.

Chavez, who missed his own inauguration for a new, six-year term last week, has not been seen or heard from in public since the surgery. Many Venezuelans are assuming his momentous 14-year rule of the South American OPEC nation could be nearing an end.

"We are all Chavez!" and "Chavez will return!" were among slogans sang and chanted at numerous solidarity rallies, meetings and concerts across Venezuela over the weekend, which drew thousands of passionate and anxious supporters.


Venezuelan state TV on Sunday even split its screen into four to show events going on around the nation.

"The situation is complex and delicate," Elias Jaua, a former vice-president and ally of Chavez, told one rally.

"He continues battling for his life."

Villegas said Maduro, whom Chavez has designated his successor, informed his boss of the outpouring at home.

State media said Maduro, Cabello, Ramirez - who also heads the powerful state oil company PDVSA - and Attorney General Cilia Flores all met Cuban President Raul Castro over the weekend. But there were no details of the talks.

The joint presence of top Venezuelan officials in Havana inevitably deepens rumours that Chavez is at death's door - and draws opposition criticism that Raul and Fidel Castro are giving instructions behind the scenes.

"We know which commander is giving the orders to Chavista leaders," opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado tweeted sarcastically, in a reference to the Cuban president.

Officials have been lashing "necrophilic" opponents for such criticism, and Chavez's brother said on Saturday that he was improving daily and not in a coma as rumoured.

Another opposition leader, Julio Borges, said the secrecy around Chavez's precise condition was unacceptable.

"No one is asking for details of the operation or the president's treatment, but that simply they tell the truth about his health prognosis," said Borges, a right-wing legislator who wants Chavez formally declared absent from office.


That would trigger the naming of a caretaker president, and an election within a month. But Venezuela's Supreme Court has ratified that Chavez remains president with Maduro in charge as No. 2 until Chavez's health situation is clarified.

"It's been a year-and-a-half of contradictions and announcements of his complete curing followed by relapses," Borges added, saying problems like inflation, housing shortages and power-cuts were being neglected during a political impasse.

Since the disease was discovered in mid-2011, Chavez has wrongly declared himself cured twice, in an extraordinary and unsettling saga for Venezuela's 29 million people.

The stakes are high for the wider region too. Cuba and a handful of other leftist-ruled nations have for years been depending on Chavez's aid to bolster fragile economies.

Should Chavez die or be incapacitated, the most likely next step would be an election pitting Maduro, 50, against Henrique Capriles, 40, the main opposition leader who lost to Chavez in an October presidential election.

In an opinion column on Sunday, Capriles railed against the "national paralysis" but said the opposition would not be drawn into confrontation or street protests. That tactic failed spectacularly for them a decade ago when Chavez was briefly toppled but came back stronger than before.

"Just as the president has the right to attend his ill health, so Venezuelans do not deserve urgent problems to be put on hold," Capriles said. "We are not going to play the game of calling people onto the street to create a confrontation that will benefit the violent and radical ones."

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore and Mario Naranjo.; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Spreading joy

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 12:25 AM PST

CHINESE New Year is fast approaching, and 988 is ready to enliven the festive atmosphere with its fifth Chinese New Year studio album, 988 Ular La Guo Hao Nian (988 Ular La Have A Good Year)! The album consists of four brand new songs performed by 15 deejays from 988. The album also features a bonus track – an eight-minute medley of hits from the previous years' 988 CNY albums. The four new songs are Ular La Guo Hao Nian (Ular La Have A Good Year), Zou Xiang Qian (Move Forward), Wonderful Beautiful and Ni He Wo De Xin Nian Ge (Our Chinese New Year Song).

There is also a DVD released together with the album which contains music videos of songs Ular La Guo Hao Nian and Zou Xiang Qian. The music videos can also be viewed on YouTube, or just iSnap this page.

To make things more festive, you can now get the CD and DVD of 988 Ular La Guo Hao Nian for free with every purchase made at any Eu Yan Sang outlet nationwide. This redemption promotion begins today.

Also not to be missed is the "988 Ular La mini concert tour" that kicked off a few weekends ago. Catch 988 deejays performing the songs on Eu Yan Sang's specially-modified truck, "Xin Chun Song Huan Le, Quan Cheng Lai Chang Ular La" (literally translated as Joyous New Year, Let's Ular La Happy Sing-Along).

Apart from the special performances, there will also be plenty of games and exclusive CNY goodies for everyone.

You can catch the mini concert tour at Eu Yan Sang outlets in Penang, Johor, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur from Jan 18. For details of the tour, head to www.988.com.my/events/cnyularla2013.

For more information, log on to www.988.com.my. 988 is owned and operated by The Star.

Win goodies

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 12:27 AM PST

WANT to win some prizes before Chinese New Year? All you need to do is go to www.988.com.my/contests/2013/iamthehuattest and simply follow the instructions. Who knows, the next time your cellphone rings, it might just be a 988 deejay calling to give away cold hard cash, up to RM888!

The Feature: Monday-Tuesday, 9am-10am

Find out what's big and what's hot in technology and travel for the year 2013. Apple is reportedly testing several designs for a high-definition big-screen television. Is Apple's "Next Big Thing" set to be on everyone's must-have list this year?

Also, check out what the beautiful Pantai Kemasik in Terengganu has to offer visitors.

Street VIP: Wednesday-Friday, 9am-10am

Multiple-award winning actress Kate Tsui Tze Shan was crowned Miss Hong Kong in the 2004 beauty pageant. She was recently voted TVB audience's "My Favourite Female TV Character". A skillful dancer, Tsui is also fluent in many languages. Learn more about the talented celebrity in this interview.

Music VIP: Monday-Friday, 2pm

Active in showbiz since 1984, Sandy Lam Yik Lin is known for her crisp powerful vocals and energetic dance moves. Lam, one of the reigning divas of Canto-pop, enjoys a goddess-like status in the hearts of many. Witness her charm in this candid interview.

988 Best Music Chart: Saturday, 1pm-3pm

The annual finale for the "988 Best Music Chart" is here! There were plenty of fresh hits and catchy tunes last year – which was your favourite? Join 988 for a quick flashback and vote for your best-loved song and album of 2012. Cast your vote online at www.988.com.my.

For more information, log on to www.988.com.my

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

China's Li into Australian Open second round

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:02 PM PST

MELBOURNE: China's world number six Li Na overpowered Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-3 to reach the Australian Open second round on Monday.

Li, the runner-up two years ago at Melbourne Park, established herself early in each set as she went through in 1hr 18min to set up a match with France's Pauline Parmentier or Olga Govorstova of Belarus.

The 2011 French Open winner belted a deep forehand winner to claim the first game and she seized control by breaking for 3-1 and then 5-1, taking the set with ease.

Karatantcheva made her work harder for the second set but her resistance ultimately proved futile as Li sealed her progression with a forehand winner.-AFP

Double bagel as Sharapova powers into round two

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 05:41 PM PST

MELBOURNE: World number two Maria Sharapova powered into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday, crushing hapless fellow Russian Olga Puchkova in a rare double bagel.

Sharapova, the champion in 2008 and runner-up last year, stormed through 6-0, 6-0 in just 55 minutes and will next play either Croat Petra Martic or Misaki Doi of Japan.

The second seed came into the season's opening Grand Slam without any competitive matches under her belt after a collarbone injury ruled her out of the Brisbane International, but showed no evidence of the problem on court.

She opened her 2013 account on the showpiece Rod Laver Arena on a warm day but without the searing heat that gripped southeast Australia last week, winning her opening serve then breaking her 107th ranked opponent to take a 2-0 lead.

Wearing a summery yellow dress and matching shoelaces, the 25-year-old used her powerful forehand to devastating effect, pushing Puchkova around the court at will as she raced to a 3-0 advantage.

Puchkova, who was playing in her third Australian Open and is yet to go beyond the second round, had little answer to the Sharapova armoury, losing her next service game and netting a forehand to go 5-0 down.

Grunting at full volume, Sharapova then wrapped up the set in just 30 minutes.

Puchkova pushed her to deuce in the first game of the second set but didn't look like breaking her far superior opponent, and she quickly fell behind and never recovered, pushing a backhand long to cap a humiliating defeat.

Playing in her 10th campaign at Melbourne Park, Sharapova is looking to avenge the humbling she was dealt by Victoria Azarenka in the final last year, when she was thrashed 6-3, 6-0 in just 82 minutes.

Sharapova won in Melbourne in 2008 but then suffered a long spell on the sidelines with shoulder problems before climbing back to the top of women's tennis and completing a career Grand Slam at last year's French Open.-AFP

Chong Wei gets off to a roaring start by clinching Korean Open title

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:25 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei got off to a dream and rewarding start to the new badminton season yesterday.

The 30-year-old Malaysian turned on the power to show that he was back in business with a splendid 21-12, 21-15 win over Du Pengyu of China to win the men's singles title at the Korean Open Super Series Premier in Seoul.

It was Chong Wei's third Korean Open title but probably the sweetest one. It made up for his disappointment at the BWF's World Super Series Finals in Shenzhen three weeks ago when he lost in a rubber game to Pengyu before withdrawing from the tournament with a thigh injury.

Yesterday, though, a refreshed Chong Wei showed no signs of injuries or lethargy as he slammed down powerful smashes, showed precision in his tight netplays, entertained the crowd with his delayed drop shots and oozed confidence to prevent the 24-year-old Pengyu from winning his first career title.

The only moment of anxiety was probably during the start of the second game when Pengyu scored four consecutive points to level the score at 8-8. Chong Wei, however, poured cold water on Pengyu's hot run with a powerful smash to regain the lead. After that, it was Chong Wei back in command all the way to the finish line.

The win in badminton's richest tournament was worth a cool US$75,000 (RM227,000) to Chong Wei. He was thrilled with his roaring start.

"I am back," said an overjoyed Chong Wei in a telephone interview.

"It is great to start the year on a bright note. I was tired towards the end of last year and withdrew from the Super Series Finals because of the thigh injury. I have had a good rest and had quality time in training. And today, I was able to avenge my defeat to Pengyu," he added.

Chong Wei will now shift his focus to the Maybank Malaysian Open Super Series starting at the Putra Stadium on Wednesday.

"Now, I want to win another Malaysian Open title. It is always special to play at home and I will do my best to win it for my home fans.

"The weather is extremely cold in Seoul. When I get back home tomorrow (today), it will be warm and sunny. I will have to make quick adjustments," said Chong Wei.

In the absence of many top stars from China, the Malaysian has a golden chance to be most successful player in the history of the Malaysian Open. Last year, he equalled the record held by the late Wong Peng Soon when he won his eighth home title.

"We are players from different era and there should be no comparisons. History aside, all I want to do is to focus on my game and go for the title," said Chong Wei, winner from 2004-2006 and 2008-2012.

National singles coach Tey Seu Bock was pleased as punch with Chong Wei's early success to the season.

"It was all about playing the right kind of game against Pengyu. After the defeat in Shenzhen, we studied Pengyu's game. Today, Chong Wei broke Pengyu's resolve and gave him no room to play his game," said Seu Bock.

"Three weeks ago, Chong Wei looked jaded and not himself at the Super Series Finals in Shenzhen. Today, he was back to his usual confident self and I foresee a great year ahead for him," added Seu Bock.

Meanwhile, the season-opener was not a good one for China, as their top women's singles star Wang Shixian went down 12-21, 20-22 to South Korean Sung Ju-hyun in the final.

China only managed to take home two titles through Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (women's doubles) and Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei (mixed doubles).

How Chong Wei won
First round: bt Wang Zhengming (Chn) 17-21, 21-14, 21-16.
Second round: bt Marc Zwiebler (Ger) 21-11, 21-19.
Quarter-finals: bt Hu Yun (Hkg) 21-15, 21-17.
Semi-finals: bt Wong Wing Ki (Hkg) 21-11, 21-18.
Final: bt Du Pengyu (Chn) 21-12, 21-15.

Men's singles: Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Du Pengyu (Chn) 21-12, 21-15.
Men's doubles: Ko Sung-hyun-Lee Yong-dae (Kor) bt Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) 19-21, 21-13, 21-10.
Women's singles: Sung Ji-hyun (Kor) bt Wang Shixian (Chn) 21-12, 22-20.
Women's doubles: Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn) bt Ma Jin-Tang Jinhua (Chn) 21-17, 21-13.
Mixed doubles: Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Xu Chen-Ma Jin (Chn) 13-21, 21-16, 21-13.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Transocean says Icahn acquired 1.56% stake, seeks more

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:42 PM PST

Published: Monday January 14, 2013 MYT 10:42:00 AM

NEW YORK: Transocean Ltd has disclosed that billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn has acquired a 1.56 percent stake in the offshore rig contractor and is looking to increase that holding, according to a statement on its Web site.

Icahn is seeking regulatory approval to acquire shares worth more than $682.1 million, according to the statement. If he gets approval, Icahn would become one of Transocean's largest shareholders with just over 5 percent ownership in Transocean, based on its closing stock price of $54.09 on January 11.

Transocean's biggest shareholder is Capital World Investors, a division The Capital Group Companies Inc, which owned 5.12 percent of Transocean as of October 15, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Icahn's move comes less than two weeks after Transocean agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle U.S. government charges over BP Plc's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2012 . Transocean employed nine of the 11 workers killed in the accident. - Reuters

CVC, RBS raise US$290mil in Samsonite stake sale-term sheet

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:39 PM PST

HONG KONG: Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and Royal Bank of Scotland sold a combined $290 million stake in Hong Kong-listed luggage maker Samsonite International, a term sheet seen by Reuters showed.

The 138.3 million shares were sold at HK$16.20 each, a 4.9 percent discount to Samsonite's Friday's close of HK$17.04, the terms showed. That would put the total deal at HK$2.24 billion, with about 65 percent of the shares sold by CVC and the remainder by RBS .

Samsonite's shares fell 1.6 percent in early trading in Hong Kong to HK$16.76, compared with a 0.3 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng index <.hsi>, but were still above the selldown price.

The latest sale meant CVC reduced its stake in Samsonite to about 9.7 percent and RBS to 5.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Goldman Sachs was the sole underwriter on the selldown.

Luxembourg-based Samsonite listed in Hong Kong in 2011 in a $1.25 billion IPO. CVC and RBS jointly raised about $821 million by selling into the IPO, although Samsonite's shares languished following the deal.

CVC and RBS have agreed to a 90-day lock-up during which they will refrain from selling any more shares into the market, the terms showed.

($1 = 7.7518 Hong Kong dollars) - Reuters

Indian owned Jaguar to add 800 new UK jobs on soaring Chinese demand

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:35 PM PST

LONDON: Jaguar Land Rover plans to create 800 new jobs at its Solihull factory in central England as demand for its premium cars rockets in China and elsewhere.

For the first time, demand from China outstripped that of British carmaker JLR's home market, with sales in China in 2012 rising more than 70 percent to 71,940 cars.

JLR, owned by India's Tata Motors, said on Sunday that total global sales rose 30 percent to over 350,000 vehicles.

JLR said earlier this month that its outlook for 2013 was positive after UK vehicle sales rose almost 20 percent in 2012.

Its next biggest markets are the U.S., Russia and Germany.

The expansion at the Solihull plant would support the introduction of new models in 2013, the company said.

Last week, Japanese carmaker Honda cut around 800 jobs at its plant near Swindon due to falling demand for its vehicles across mainland Europe - Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Teen: I endured four hours of terror with escaped prisoner

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 07:07 AM PST

BUKIT MERTAJAM: A youth, who was held hostage Saturday night by one of the seven detainees who escaped from police custody last Monday, endured four hours of terror.

During the 'hostage' situation which began at 8.30pm, Mohd Khairul Anas Fazli, 20, was forced to accompany the detainee, Mohd Khairulnizam Abdul Rani, 26, to the homes of the latter's relatives at several locations in Sungai Bakap and Bukit Mertajam.

During the time, the fugitive rode Mohd Khairul Anas' motorcycle, with the hostage as pillion.

Recalling the incident, the victim said he was at a friend's house in Bukit Indera Muda about 8.30pm, when Mohd Khairulnizam, who incidentally knew the friend as well, kicked open the main door.

"He was quite aggressive when he entered the house. Wasting no time, he used the toilet before asking one of us to send him to his sister's house in Sungai Bakap.

"When we declined, he threatened to take away my motorcycle," said Mohd Khairul Anas when met here on Sunday.

He said Mohd Khairulnizam rode the motorcycle, with him as pillion, through Jalan Bukit Teh in Bukit Mertajam. However, he said he could not remember the rest of the route as it was surrounded by oil palm plantations.

"When we arrived in Sungai Bakap, the detainee's sister was not home. He then took me to his friend's house in Sungai Bakap, but that friend was also not home. We then turned back to Bukit Teh through Machang Bubok, to the homes of some of his relatives and friends in Bandar Perda and Bukit Mertajam. They too, were away.

"While many things crossed my mind, I did not dare shout for help because I feared he might harm me. However, when we arrived in Bukit Mertajam, I told him I wanted to ride the motorcycle and took him to Berapit, telling him it was safe to hide there," he said.

At that juncture, Mohd Khairul Anas, noticing the detainee's desperation to hide after six days on the run, said he told him that he wanted to surf the Internet at a cyber cafe (in Berapit).

"I promised the detainee I would pick him up later. He said he had no money, so I gave him RM5.

"I rode fast to the Kubang Semang police station and told the police the location of the detainee," he said. Mohd Khairulnizam was arrested at the cybercafe about 1.15am. - Bernama

Najib: More can be done for Indian community with continued ‘nambikei’

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 05:17 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak gave his assurance on Sunday that more could be done for the Indian community with unity and continued 'nambikei' between the Government and the community.

"With this unity and the continued 'nambikei' between us, I can assure you that we can do much more and reach out to every deserving Indian family, thereby ensuring that the progress of our nation is shared by all Malaysians alike," he said in his message posted on his www.1Malaysia.com.my blog in conjunction with the Ponggal celebration beginning Monday.

He said the arrival of the auspicious month of 'Thai' in the Indian calendar marked the celebration of 'Ponggal', a harvest festival that symbolised a new beginning.

"As our friends celebrate the bountiful harvest by their tradition of boiling milk and rice, we are reminded of the rapid growth of our country's transformation that has brought much success and continued development for the benefit of all Malaysians," he said.

Najib said Malaysia was a country full of opportunities and by strengthening unity as well as working hard together, all Malaysians would share the country's bounty, as the nation progressed towards a developed and high-income nation status by 2020.

Najib also wished all Malaysian Indians "Ponggal Vaalthukkal" (Ponggal greetings).

"Let us all come together in the spirit of 1Malaysia to join our friends and celebrate this festival with renewed hope that this festival of new beginnings will bring Malaysia more progress and success," he said. - Bernama

Police open probe into 3 violations by rally organisers

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 04:41 AM PST

Published: Sunday January 13, 2013 MYT 8:39:00 PM
Updated: Sunday January 13, 2013 MYT 8:41:34 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The police on Sunday opened an investigation into allegations that the organisers of Saturday's gathering at the Merdeka Stadium had violated three of the 27 conditions agreed to between them and the police.

Dang Wangi police chief ACP Zainuddin Ahmad said the alleged violations were bringing children under 15 to the rally; carrying placards, posters and banners with words of a seditious nature; and allowing the number of participants to exceed the agreed 30,000.

The police would call up several witnesses and study the footage of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV), he said when contacted by Bernama.

Zainuddin said the police would conduct an investigation into the alleged violations because the 27 conditions had been agreed to in accordance with Section 15 (1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

Meanwhile, the Merdeka Heritage Trust, owner of the stadium, said it would soon issue a statement on the condition of the arena following the Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat gathering on Saturday.

The Merdeka Heritage Trust is a subsidiary company of Permodalan Nasional Berhad.

About 45,000 people attended the gathering on Saturday, and 200 policemen were deployed for crowd control. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Spielberg's 'Lincoln' eyes Golden Globes glory

Posted: 12 Jan 2013 07:15 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Steven Spielberg is hoping for Golden Globes glory for his political drama "Lincoln" on Sunday, as Hollywood hits the red carpet for its biggest pre-Oscars awards show.

The veteran director's presidential biopic is nominated in seven categories, ahead of Ben Affleck's Iran drama "Argo" and Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti Western tribute "Django Unchained," both with five nods.

Taiwanese-American Ang Lee is also up for best movie with his sumptuous 3D adventure "Life of Pi," as is Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow's controversial Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty."

US TV comedy favorites Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will co-host the Globes at the Beverly Hilton hotel, after three years of edgy British comic Ricky Gervais taking barbed shots at the assembled A-listers.

"Our job is to keep the evening going and make it fun. Not necessarily to break comedic ground or take people down a peg," quipped Fey, famous for impersonating former US vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Spielberg's film won a major boost just days before Sunday's show, when it topped the nominations announced Thursday for the all-important Academy Awards next month, shortlisted in 12 Oscar categories.

"Lincoln" star Daniel Day-Lewis is favorite for best actor, against Denzel Washington for piloting "Flight" while drunk, Richard Gere for "Arbitrage," John Hawkes for "The Sessions" and Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master."

Best actress is slightly more open: Jessica Chastain is widely tipped for her role as a CIA agent relentlessly tracking bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty," while France's Marion Cotillard has drawn praise for for "Rust and Bone."

But Britain's Helen Mirren is also a strong contender as a cinema legend's wife in "Hitchcock." Also in the running are Naomi Watts for Indian Ocean tsunami drama "The Impossible" and Rachel Weisz for "The Deep Blue Sea."

Other drama films tipped include Tom Hooper's musical adaptation "Les Miserables," dark rom-com "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Zero Dark Thirty," which tied for third place with four Globes nods.

The awards are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of less than 100 members seen as more celebrity-driven than the esteemed Academy of Motion and Picture Arts and Sciences, whose Oscars show is on February 24.

Reflecting the perhaps less high-brow taste of the HFPA, Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," which picked up 11 Oscar nominations, is running in only three Globes categories.

On the comedy and musical front, best film nominees are Indian-themed "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Les Miserables," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," starring Ewan McGregor.

Best comedy/music actor nods went to Jack Black for "Bernie," "Hangover" star Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings," Australian Hugh Jackman for "Les Mis," McGregor for "Salmon Fishing" and Bill Murray for "Hyde Park on Hudson."

Three British actresses are shortlisted for best comedy or musical turns: Emily Blunt for "Salmon Fishing," Judi Dench for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and fellow veteran Maggie Smith for "Quartet."

On the small screen, multiple award-winning British period drama "Downton Abbey" was nominated for best drama, against "Breaking Bad," "Boardwalk Empire," spy thriller series "Homeland" and "The Newsroom."

The three-hour Globes telecast, beamed live around the world, starts at 5:00 pm Sunday (0100 GMT Monday). - AFP

FACTBOX - History of the Golden Globe Awards

Posted: 12 Jan 2013 05:25 PM PST

Here is a look at the Golden Globe Awards, which will be held on Sunday in Beverly Hills, California, by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

* The HFPA was formed in 1943 as a way for international journalists to band together, exchange ideas and gain access to Hollywood stars.

* The organization's first awards took place in 1944 with an informal ceremony at the 20th Century Fox studios. Jennifer Jones received the best actress award for "The Song of Bernadette," which also won for best film, while Paul Lukas won best actor for his role in "Watch on the Rhine." Awards were presented in the form of scrolls.

* In conjunction with the Golden Globes presentation, the HFPA held its first gala social event in 1945 with a formal banquet at the Beverly Hills Hotel. "Going My Way" was best picture, and Ingrid Bergman and Alexander Knox won best actress and best actor.

* The actual Golden Globe award appeared in 1946, when HFPA President Marina Cisternas came up with the idea of using a statuette of a "golden globe" with a film strip encircling it.

* In 1952 the HFPA created the Cecil B. De Mille Award to recognize "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field." The first recipient was De Mille himself.

* In 1955 the Golden Globes began honoring achievements in television as well as film. Honorees in the best television show category that year included "Lucy & Desi" and "Davy Crockett." In 2007 the Golden Globes started an award for best animated feature film. The awards now recognize achievements in 25 categories, with 14 in motion pictures and 11 in television. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is the only film to win the Globe in all five major categories (best motion picture, best actor, best actress, best director and best screenplay).

* Meryl Streep has won the most Golden Globes (eight), followed by Jack Nicholson (six) and Francis Ford Coppola, Shirley MacLaine, Rosalind Russell and Oliver Stone (five apiece). Rosalind Russell won all five Golden Globes she was nominated for, though she never won an Oscar. Marlon Brando refused his best actor Globe for "The Godfather" in 1973 to protest U.S. "imperialism and racism." He also refused his Oscar statuette that year. - Reuters

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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Shopping for a bosom buddy

Posted: 12 Jan 2013 03:35 PM PST

Many underestimate the importance of a good sports bra. But unless you want pendulums for breasts, a proper sports bra with sufficient support is vital in helping to maintain your comfort and health while you're working out.

A GOOD friend, some say, is like a bra. She is supportive, uplifting and above all, stays close to your heart.

For the avid exerciser, a good sports bra is indeed a bosom buddy. Like your most trusted confidante, it will never leave you hanging; never let you down, even as you flounce and flounder through life's precarious terrain.

Many underestimate the importance of a good sports bra. Just as you wouldn't run a marathon in your flip-flops, you shouldn't exercise without a proper, supportive bra either. Unless you fancy sagging pendulums for breasts.

When you exercise without proper support, your breasts will bounce in a figure eight, causing wear and tear on the supporting ligaments. This may cause breasts to stretch and sag over time.

The larger your cup size, the greater the force on your breasts, and the more support they need to avoid damage to connective tissues and ligaments.

Wearing an unsuitable bra during your workouts may also lead to painful chafing when the breasts rub against the fabric. A sports bra that pulls moisture away from the skin will help you stay dry and comfortable while you sweat it out.

While breasts will naturally succumb to gravity with age, you can fight the sag by wearing a sports bra that provides sufficient support while you exercise.

The number one thing you need to know when you're sports bra-shopping is that, not all sports bras are created equal. That bra that stretches with you in a pretzel pose during yoga might not hold up to an intense session of running. That bra that boosts a B-cup might be too tight or uncomfortable for someone with larger breasts.

For optimum fit and comfort, it is important to pick the right style of sports bra to go with your type of exercise, whether it is a session of high-impact circuit training, dancing or lifting weights.

Generally, the more intense and physical your form of exercise, the more supportive your sports bra is required to be. Also keep in mind that larger breasts will need more support, even when you engage in lower-impact activities.

Here are a few things to consider when looking for a sports bra:


There are generally two different types of sports bra – a shell-style bra that compresses the breasts, or a two-cup bra that encapsulates each breast.

In most cases, a shell-style bra will work for those with smaller cup sizes, say an A or a B, or for low to moderate impact workouts, such as yoga or line-dancing.

However, if you have Dolly Parton's proportions, you should look for a sports bra that encapsulates each breast in a separate chamber instead. Bras that have two separate cups with a divider between them will help reduce bounce, and offer better support than the simple shell bra.

Wide shoulder straps

The devil is in the details. In this case, it's in the size of your bra's shoulder straps. Believe it or not, the simple shoulder strap can help determine whether your sports bra is a loser or a keeper.

For starters, straps should be wide, and they should feel comfortable on your shoulders.

Those who are well endowed, in particular, should keep a lookout for bras with wide shoulder straps. This is because they help distribute weight better than narrow straps, and can help prevent potential health problems such as back pain and poor posture.

Out-of-the-way seams

When shopping for a sports bra, you'll want to keep an eye out for seamless fabrics, seams with rolled edges, or seams that are covered to help prevent chafing. Just imagine being rubbed raw in the most delicate of places while you exercise. Ouch!

So, make sure that the seams of your exercise apparel are in places that won't get in the way during your workout. You can start by looking for strategically placed seams and stitching that will allow room for some stretching, and help cushion the breasts, but doesn't allow them to bounce.

Moisture-wicking fabric

The fabric of active wear has one main purpose, and that is to wick away sweat and moisture from your skin, and out to the exterior of the fabric. Most active wear, including sports bras, usually work in such a way so as to help keep the wearer cool and dry.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid sports apparel that are made of 100% cotton, because once you start sweating, they'll stay wet. This can spell disaster for your skin, especially when you've planned a long workout.

The moisture that is trapped between the garment and your skin can irritate the skin and result in rashes.

Many moisture-wicking fabrics are made from polyester blends, which absorb very little water, letting you stay comfortable and dry. The general consensus is that these fabrics work very well, and that's probably backed up by the extraordinary price tags attached to them.

When in doubt, always get the bra with the most support. A higher-impact bra will work for a lower-impact sport, but never the other way around.

While trying it on, try jumping up and down, swinging your arms, and moving around in the dressing room. If a bra pokes, rubs, slips, bulges or constricts your breathing, put it back.

More importantly, make sure that your breasts are supported, and not bouncing around in the bra. To make the most of your sports bras, rotate them so that you can get at least a year's use out of each one.

In any case, just remember that the only thing that should be bouncing up and down while you're working out, are the balls of your feet!

> Fiona Ho is a certified personal trainer and a CrossFit enthusiast on a perpetual hunt for the perfect sports bra.

Implants and injections

Posted: 12 Jan 2013 03:35 PM PST

These are two useful contraceptive methods that can be used by most healthy women.

CONTRACEPTIVE implants and injections are hormonal contraception. Unlike the combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill, they contain only progestogens that are similar to the hormone, progesterone, produced by the ovaries. They are long-acting, effective contraceptive methods.

These implants and injections release progestogens continuously and steadily into the bloodstream, which thickens the mucous in the cervix, thereby preventing sperm from entering the uterus.

The progestogens also make the lining of the uterus thin, thereby making it less receptive to the implantation of a fertilised egg on it. It also prevents the release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation).

They are a reliable and reversible contraceptive method that is suitable for women who want to use hormonal contraception but do not want to take oestrogens, or who have conditions which make them unsuitable for the COC.

The implants and injections are very effective as they are more than 99% reliable, ie less than one in 100 women who use it will get pregnant each year.


The primary advantage of contraceptive implants and injections is that they provide protection against pregnancy soon after the implant is inserted (or the first injection is given).

They are long-acting, and fertility returns to normal after its use is stopped.

Implants are effective for about three or five years, and each injection for eight or twelve weeks.

The advantages of implants and injections are that they do not affect the sexual act, and are options for those who are cannot use contraceptive methods that contain oestrogen, ie COC, contraceptive or vaginal ring. Implants and injections can be used during breastfeeding as it does not affect the latter. They may provide some protection against cancer of the endometrium and pelvic inflammatory disease, due to the thickening of the cervical mucous (which may prevent bacteria from entering the uterus).

Implants may reduce heavy or painful periods after about a year of use. Injections may reduce heavy, painful periods, and relieve premenstrual symptoms in some women.


There may be some disadvantages of contraceptive implants and injections that have to be considered.

They do not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They may cause periods to change significantly in the first year of use, becoming irregular, heavy, light and short, or stopping altogether (amenorrhoea).

The altered periods usually settle down after about a year of use, but they can sometimes continue for as long as the implant is fitted, or the injected progestogen remains in the body.

These changes are not harmful, but some women do not find them acceptable. Additional medicines may be prescribed if there is prolonged bleeding.

The effects on periods usually resolve soon after the removal of the implant.

However, it usually takes between eight to 12 weeks for injected progestogens to leave the body, so disrupted periods will continue during this time, and for some time afterwards. It can take between three months and a year for the periods to return to normal.

Users of contraceptive implants and injections may also have headaches, acne and tender breasts. Users of injections may also have mood changes and loss of sex drive (libido). These side effects usually resolve after a few months, but if they persist, medical attention should be sought.

Rarely, infection may occur at the site of insertion of the implant or injection, for which antibiotic treatment may be necessary. There is also a very rare risk of allergic reaction to the injection.

Injections may be associated with weight gain of about two to three kg over a year, although some women may lose weight.

They can cause thinning of the bones, but this does not increase the risk of bone fracture. The bone replaces itself when the injections are stopped, so it is unlikely that the injections will lead to long-term problems.

Women who are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis will usually be advised to use another contraceptive method.

Implants and injections are unsuitable for women who may be pregnant, want to have regular periods, or who have bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse. They are also unsuitable for women who have had a clot in a blood vessel (thrombosis), breast cancer (currently or previously), migraine or liver disease.

The injection is unsuitable for women who have diabetic complications, liver cirrhosis, or who are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis.


Contraceptive implants contain either levonorgestrel or etonogestrel.

The levonorgestrel implant comprises six small silicone rods that are inserted, by the doctor, just below the skin of the upper arm under local anaesthesia. The small wound is then covered with a dressing, usually without the need for stitches.

The rods, which are left in place for up to five years, constantly release a small amount of levonorgestrel into the bloodstream. It is immediately effective if inserted on the first day of the period.

The etonorgestrel implant is a single rod that is inserted in a similar manner as the levonogestrel implant. The rod, which is effective for three years, releases etonorgestrel in a steady and controlled manner during this time. Its insertion and removal is faster than that of levonorgestrel implants.

Implants may be used until menopause, the average age of which is about 50 years.

As long as the implants are used in accordance with their duration of action, there is very effective protection against pregnancy, with 0.1 pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use.

An implant can be removed at any time by a doctor. The removal takes a few minutes under local anaesthesia. Upon removal, there is no longer any protection against pregnancy and the normal menstrual cycle is usually restored rapidly.


Contraceptive injections contain either depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN). There are other injections that contain both oestrogen and progestogen, but these are not available in Malaysia.

The site of the injection is usually the muscle of the buttock, or sometimes, the upper arm.

DMPA injections are given every twelve weeks. The first three NET-EN injections are given at eight-weekly intervals, after which the injections are given every 12 weeks.

Disruptions of the period are not uncommon. There is amenorrhoea in about 45 to 50 in 100 women after the injections have been used for more than a year.

It may take up to a year for periods to start again in some women. This may be acceptable to some women, but others, especially those who want a pregnancy at a later date, may find this unacceptable.

As long as the injections are used in accordance with the prescribing directions, there is very effective protection against pregnancy, with 0.3 pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use.

About 70% of women gain weight with DMPA, with an average of 2.5kg after one year of use. About 20% of women gain weight with NET-EN, with an average of 5kg after one year of use.

About 70% of women conceive within a year of stopping DMPA or NET-EN.

There have been concerns raised about the link between DMPA and cancer. However, data from the World Health Organization suggest that there is no long-term increased risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer.

On the other hand, there is a marked reduction in the risk of endometrial cancer.

Timing it

Contraceptive implants or injections can be inserted or given at any time in the menstrual cycle, provided the user is not pregnant.

Implants and injections that are inserted or given during the first five days of the onset of periods, or within 21 days of childbirth in non-breastfeeding mothers, provide immediate protection against pregnancy.

If inserted or injected at any other time of the menstrual cycle or after 21 days of childbirth, there will be no protection for the following seven days; so another contraceptive method, eg condoms, will have to be used during this time.

There are reports of heavy and irregular bleeding when injections are given within the first few weeks after childbirth.

Injections are usually given six weeks after childbirth for breastfeeding mothers.

Implants can be inserted immediately after a miscarriage or abortion, with immediate protection against pregnancy.

Implants and injections are useful contraceptive methods. They provide excellent protection against pregnancy when used in accordance with the prescription directions. They can be used by most healthy women except those who have conditions which render them unsuitable.

> Dr Milton Lum is a member of the board of Medical Defence Malaysia. This article is not intended to replace, dictate or define evaluation by a qualified doctor. The views expressed do not represent that of any organisation the writer is associated with. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Process and implications of menopause

Posted: 12 Jan 2013 03:34 PM PST

Topics surrounding hot flashes and vaginal dryness are not the sexiest ones around, to be sure. Yet, menopause is a stage of life that will inevitably roll around as a woman ages. It is hence important to understand the process and implications of menopause so that women may continue living normal, productive lives towards their sunset years.

CONVERSATIONS surrounding menopause are not the kind that usually find their way around the coffee table. Hot flashes and vaginal dryness are not the most comfortable topics to talk about after all.

Then we have Madonna, who at 54, still finds it appropriate to routinely flash her lady parts at tens of thousands of people during her recent MDNA world tour.

To her credit, the legendary singer is in incredible shape. Madonna, hailed as the queen of pop, has a killer physique that has defied the ravages of time, and more importantly, the all-too-common, if unforgiving, symptoms of menopause that include weight gain, thinning hair and dry, itchy skin.

If anything, the American singer, known for her flamboyant and hypersexual performances, makes menopause look like an urban myth.

Unfortunately, most of us in the real world do not have access to Madonna's team of top stylists, dieticians and personal trainers (not to mention plastic surgeons, but let's not go there).

Worse, menopause is a phenomenon that affects all women, and more often than not, has deeper implications beyond just waking up to tighter pants or physical discomfort.

The advent of menopause heralds a confusing period of time that can affect a woman's health, relationships and overall quality of life.

Essentially, menopause marks a time in a woman's life when her periods (menstruation) eventually stop, and the body undergoes changes that no longer allow her to conceive.

It is a natural event that normally occurs in women aged between 45 and 55.

In the process, periods occur less often, and eventually stop, signalling an end to a woman's fertility. Sometimes, this happens suddenly, butusually, periods stop slowly over time.

In all accounts, menopause will bring about adverse and permanent changes to the female body.

Dr Teresa L. Knight, CEO of the Women's Health Specialists Centre of St. Louis, Missouri, United States, details the process of menopause during a recent talk at the American ambassador's residence in Kuala Lumpur.

"Women are born with all the eggs that they will ever have. These eggs age with us, and are eventually used before the end of our lives," she tells the female-majority audience at the talk.

Most women will experience changes in mood, weight, food cravings and breast tenderness throughout the month during their active reproductive years, which typically begins from ages 12 to 14 years, with menarche, a girl's first menstrual period.

"These symptoms occur due to the hormonal changes that occur in the female body following the release of an egg during ovulation and the body's preparation for possible fertilisation and pregnancy," she says.

This monthly process that begins in adolescence will end in middle age as menopause when a woman literally runs out of eggs to grow and ovulate.

"When there are no more eggs present to grow, women experience symptoms from the lack of hormones. These symptoms are what we refer to as menopause."

During menopause, a woman's ovaries stop making eggs, and they produce less oestrogen and progesterone. Changes in these hormones result in menopausal symptoms.

These symptoms vary from woman to woman, although the first thing that most would notice is their menstrual cycles starting to become irregular.

Other changes that normally follow include decreased sex drive, mood changes, difficulty in sleeping (insomnia), hot flashes, night sweats and extreme fatigue.

More severe changes like vaginal infections and vaginal dryness can take a toll on a woman's sex life and relationships, Dr Knight points out.

According to a study done by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia 's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the average age for menopause in Malaysian women is 51.

However, some women experience menopause earlier due to natural causes, or following surgery, illness or treatments that destroy the ovaries, says Dr Knight.

When you have not had a menstrual period for more than 12 consecutive months, you are considered postmenopausal.

Menopause can last up to five years or more, and symptoms such as weight gain could translate to more serious health problems, including high blood pressure and heart diseases, Dr Knight elaborates.

Other physiological changes that may occur due to the decrease in hormones include changes in cholesterol levels and loss of bone density.

"Women of Asian descent are particularly vulnerable to losing bone density or developing osteoporosis after menopause," the doctor notes.

Although osteoporosis can strike at any age, women are at the greatest risk for the disease after menopause.

This is mostly due to decreased oestrogen levels in a woman's body after menopause, as oestrogen plays a vital role in helping to prevent bone loss.

Because the bone density of Asian women who are over the age of 50 and are postmenopausal is significantly lower than any other group, they have the highest incidence of osteoporosis.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recently reported that up to 20% of Asian women over the age of 50 display symptoms of osteoporosis, compared to only 10% of non-Asian white females.

In the case of African American women, only 5% of those examined showed any symptoms.

In the first five to seven years following menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of bone mass.

Despite the various challenges faced by menopausal women, many chose to suffer in silence, especially in Asia, where topics on sex are still deemed taboo, says Dr Knight.

"Women tend not to share these problems with other women. They stop feeling sexy and feel unfeminine," she adds.

Some of these symptoms can be alleviated by making certain dietary changes, such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods, and eating soy products, as soy contains oestrogen.

Antidepressants have also been known to help with mood swings and hot flashes.

However, Dr Knight recommends hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for those who are experiencing severe hot flashes, night sweats, mood issues, or vaginal dryness.

HRT are medications containing female hormones to replace the ones the body no longer produces after menopause.

Generally, women who experience menopause naturally are typically prescribed oestrogen, along with progesterone or progestin (progesterone-like medication).

This is because oestrogen alone, when not balanced by progesterone, can stimulate growth of the lining of the uterus, increasing the risk of uterine cancer.

Incidentally, women who have had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) do not need to take progestin.

The benefits of hormone therapy are very much dependant on whether you take systemic hormone therapy or low-dose vaginal preparations of oestrogen.

Systemic hormone therapy or systemic oestrogen comes in pill, skin, patch, gel, cream or spray form.

This type of treatment remains the most effective treatment for relief of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

Oestrogen can also ease vaginal symptoms of menopause, such as dryness, itching, burning and discomfort with intercourse. As such, low-dose vaginal preparations of oestrogen, whether in cream, tablet or ring form, can effectively help minimise such discomforts.

Despite the benefits of HRT, some studies have looked at the risks of hormone therapy, including the risk of developing breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.

While current guidelines support the use of HRT for the treatment of hot flashes, the standard rule remains that HRT may only be started in women who have recently entered menopause. It should not be used in women who started menopause many years ago.

Women who wish to take HRT should also have a low risk for stroke, heart disease, blood clots or breast cancer. Also, the medicine should ideally not be used for more than five years.

"Hormone supplementation or replacement will halt the symptoms that result from the lack of hormone production," says Dr Knight.

To mitigate the risks of oestrogen therapy, a lower dose of oestrogen or a different oestrogen preparation – such as a vaginal cream or skin patch, rather than a pill – may be administered.

Regular physical exams and Pap smears are also recommended to detect any complications that may arise as early as possible.

Understanding menopause is more important than ever as woman are now living longer.

The average lifespan of Malaysian women today is 77 years, compared to just 54 years in the 1960s.

Advances in medicine and better nutrition have contributed to a longer lifespan, and most women will now live beyond the age of menopause.

It is hence, imperative for women everywhere to understand the process of menopause, as well as treatment options, so that they can continue living normal, productive lives.

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