Rabu, 16 Januari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Floods paralyse Indonesian capital, heavy rains continue

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:59 PM PST

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Heavy monsoonal rains triggered severe flooding in large swathes of the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Thursday, with many government offices and businesses forced to closed because staff could not get to work.

Weather officials warned the rains could get worse over the next few days and media reports said that thousands of people in Jakarta and its satellite cities had been forced to leave their homes because of the torrential downpours this week.

People are transported across a flooded road on a wooden cart in Jakarta January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

People are transported across a flooded road on a wooden cart in Jakarta January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

"For the next two or three days it is estimated that there may be increasing activity of the Asian Monsoon which could increase weather activity in southern Sumatra and Java," said Soepriyo, an official at the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency.

An estimated more than 100 mm (12 inches) of rain had fallen overnight in the capital. This year's rainy season has brought some of the heaviest downpours for five years.

In the centre of Jakarta, whose streets overflow with vehicles at the best of times, traffic was brought to a near standstill by waist high flood waters.

The city's main airport remained open but many roads leading there were reportedly blocked. Most commuter train services and the bus system were closed.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange did open but trading was light.

The presidential palace, the finance and agricultural ministries and the central bank were all open, spokesmen said.

However, the trade ministry said it was forced to close because of a power cut triggered by the flooding.

(Reporting by Michael Taylor and Rieka Rahadiana, writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Firebrand cleric raises fear of "soft coup" in Pakistan

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:55 PM PST

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - To Pakistan's ruling party, a firebrand cleric camped outside parliament with thousands of protesters is looking more and more like the harbinger of their worst fear: a plan by the military to engineer a "soft coup".

A supporter of Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation Muhammad Tahirul Qadri wears her leader's badge on her scarf during his speech on the third day of protests in Islamabad January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

A supporter of Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation Muhammad Tahirul Qadri wears her leader's badge on her scarf during his speech on the third day of protests in Islamabad January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

In their eyes, Muhammad Tahirul Qadri seems like the perfect candidate for such a mission. A practised orator who has electrified crowds with his anti-corruption rhetoric, the doctor of Islamic law leapt into action to back the last power grab by the army in 1999.

The aim this time, some politicians suspect, is to use Qadri to bring down the current administration and provide a pretext for the army to hand pick a caretaker cabinet.

"What we are seeing is dangerous and evidence that unconstitutional third forces are up to their tricks again," said Mahmood Khan Achakzai, a politician who has been a frequent critic of the army's record of interfering in politics.

The military has denied any link to Qadri, and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has built up a reputation for standing more aloof from politics than predecessors who have not hesitated to dismiss civilian governments. Pakistan has been ruled by the military for more than half of its 65 years as an independent nation.

Critics note, furthermore, that the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which has a long record of confrontation with the military, has often been quick to portray itself as a victim of bullying by the military to distract attention from its shortcomings.

But the timing of Qadri's return from six years of living in Canada, just a few months before elections are due, and his role in supporting a 1999 coup by former army chief Pervez Musharraf have nonetheless rung alarm bells.

Qadri, who led a convoy of buses carrying thousands of protesters into the capital, Islamabad, on Monday, has repeatedly demanded that the army should have a say in the formation of an interim administration that is due to oversee the run-up to elections in May.

"You meet army officers in the night; I'm asking that you consult with them on the caretaker set up under the sunlight," Qadri said in a speech on Tuesday in remarks clearly addressed to the government.

The PPP's fears over the potential for military meddling centre on the impending formation of a caretaker cabinet.

Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment last year that requires the government and opposition to agree on the composition of the temporary administration.

The amendment is designed to prevent any ruling party exploiting the advantages of incumbency to manipulate elections by using state power to skew the playing field.

The PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League, the main opposition party, have spent months negotiating a list of mutually acceptable names for the transitional cabinet, including a number of politicians noted for resisting military rule.

"The PPP has lost three generations of leaders fighting against dictatorships," said a senior member of the PPP. "You think we will give up now? We will take up this battle at all levels."


Military officers privately do little to conceal their contempt for the PPP, whose government has been unable to end militant violence, bring down sharp food price inflation or get the economy on track since it took power in March, 2008.

They are also dismissive of the Pakistan Muslim League.

One officer, speaking in a personal capacity, said the army had no desire to seize power but might be forced to play a role as mediator between political factions if the cleric's protests trigger a prolonged crisis.

"If this gets worse, then the army may have to intervene (as a moderator)," he told Reuters.

After years of suspicion and ill-will between the generals and the PPP-led coalition led by President Asif Ali Zardari, Qadri's protests have seemed to signal a shift in the political landscape, with unpredictable consequences.

"We can't say who is behind him. But all we know is that he can't pull this off without backing from someone," Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the veteran leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Pakistan's biggest religious party, said on television.

The political temperature soared even higher on Tuesday when Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in connection with a corruption case. Authorities have yet to carry out his instructions.

An aide to Ashraf said the military was behind this move as well, but the chief justice is known to be independent-minded.

If Qadri succeeds in bringing down the government, then a man whose name had faded from the limelight since he left Pakistan for Canada in 2006 will have sabotaged the PPP's bid to be the first civilian government to complete a full term.

That would undermine Pakistan's struggle to bury the legacy of decades of military dictatorship by building institutions strong enough to resolve the nuclear-armed country's multiple crises.

The military has a track record of picking interim administrations in past decades that have then overstepped their mandates by hounding the army's political opponents or manipulating elections.

Army officers in Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until it broke away in 1971, have used a similar approach to appoint a technocratic government to implement reforms.

But some commentators and Western diplomats argue that times have changed and the military has lost the appetite for embroiling itself in struggles with increasingly assertive political parties and a hyperactive media.

"The military has no interest in disrupting the path to elections: in fact their interest is the opposite, supporting the transfer of power from one elected government to another, which is a political milestone in Pakistan's history," said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington.

Much will depend on whether Qadri has enough rhetorical firepower left to persuade his followers to maintain their protest, or whether the government decides to order the police to apply pressure to disperse them.

"There is nothing wrong with raising your concerns and protesting," said Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira. "But if you try to hold the capital hostage and disrupt the lives of its people, the law will take its course."

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy and Mubasher Bukhari; Editing by Michael Georgy, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Robert Birsel)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Sahara hostage siege turns Mali war global

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:16 PM PST

ALGIERS/BAMAKO (Reuters) - Islamist fighters have opened an international front in Mali's civil war by taking dozens of Western hostages at a gas plant in the Algerian desert just as French troops launched an offensive against rebels in neighbouring Mali.

File photo of the gas field in Amenas, Algeria in this handout photo provided by Scanpix April 19, 2005. REUTERS/Kjetil Alsvik/Statoil via Scanpix

File photo of the gas field in Amenas, Algeria in this handout photo provided by Scanpix April 19, 2005. REUTERS/Kjetil Alsvik/Statoil via Scanpix

Nearly 24 hours after gunmen stormed the natural gas pumping site and workers' housing before dawn on Wednesday, little was certain beyond a claim by a group calling itself the "Battalion of Blood" that it was holding 41 foreign nationals, including Americans, Japanese and Europeans, at Tigantourine, deep in the Sahara.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed one Briton had been killed and "a number" of others were being held hostage. Algerian media said an Algerian was killed in the assault. Another local report said a Frenchman had died.

"This is a dangerous and rapidly developing situation," Hague told reporters in Sydney on Thursday, adding Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron had spoken with the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

"We have sent a rapid deployment team from our foreign office in order to reinforce our embassy and consulate staff there. The safety of those involved and their co-workers is our absolutely priority and we will work around the clock to resolve this crisis."

One thing is clear: as a headline-grabbing counterpunch to this week's French buildup in Mali, it presents French President Francois Hollande with a daunting dilemma and spreads fallout from Mali's war against loosely allied bands of al Qaeda-inspired rebels far beyond Africa, challenging Washington and Europe.

A French businessman with employees at the site said the foreigners were bound and under tight guard, while local staff, numbering 150 or more, were held apart and had more freedom.

Led by an Algerian veteran of guerrilla wars in Afghanistan, the group demanded France halt its week-old intervention in Mali, an operation endorsed by Western and African allies who fear that al Qaeda, flush with men and arms from the defeated forces of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, is building a haven in the desert.

Hollande, who won wide praise for ordering air strikes and sending troops to the former French colony, said little in response. In office for only eight months, he has warned of a long, hard struggle in Mali and now faces a risk of attacks on more French and other Western targets in Africa and beyond.

The Algerian government ruled out negotiating and the United States and other Western governments condemned what they called a terrorist attack on a facility, now shut down, that produces 10 percent of Algeria's gas, much of which is pumped to Europe.

The militants, communicating through established contacts with media in neighbouring Mauritania, said they had dozens of men at the base, near the town of In Amenas close to the Libyan border, and that they were armed with mortars and anti-aircraft missiles.

They said they had repelled a raid by Algerian forces after dark on Wednesday. There was no government comment on that. Algerian officials said earlier about 20 gunmen were involved.


The militants issued no explicit threat but made clear the hostages' lives were at risk: "We hold the Algerian government and the French government and the countries of the hostages fully responsible if our demands are not met and it is up to them to stop the brutal aggression against our people in Mali," read one statement carried by Mauritanian media.

The group also said its fighters had rigged explosives around the site and any attempt to free the hostages would lead to a "tragic end." The large numbers of gunmen and hostages involved pose serious problems for any rescue operation.

Smaller hostage-taking incidents have been common in the Sahara and financial gain plays a part in the actions of groups whose members mingle extremist religious aims with traditional smuggling and other pursuits in the lawless, borderless region.

Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the raid was led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s and recently set up his own group in the Sahara after falling out with other local al Qaeda leaders.

A holy warrior-cum-smuggler dubbed "The Uncatchable" by French intelligence and "Mister Marlboro" by some locals for his illicit cigarette-running business, Belmokhtar's links to those who seized towns across northern Mali last year are unclear.

French media said the militants were also demanding that Algeria, whose government fought a bloody war against Islamists in the 1990s, release dozens of prisoners from its jails.


The militants said seven Americans were among the 41 foreign hostages - a figure U.S. officials said they could not confirm.

Norwegian energy company Statoil, which operates the gas field in a joint venture with Britain's BP and the Algerian state company Sonatrach, said nine of its Norwegian employees and three of its Algerian staff were being held.

Also reported kidnapped, according to various sources, were five Japanese working for the engineering firm JGC Corp, a French national, an Austrian, an Irishman and the Britons.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: "I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation."

He said he lacked firm information on whether there were links to the situation in Mali. Analysts pointed to shifting alliances and rivalries among Islamists in the region to suggest the hostage-takers may have a range of motives.

In their own statements, they condemned Algeria's secularist government for "betraying" its predecessors in the bloody anti-colonial war against French rule half a century ago by letting French warplanes fly over its territory to Mali. They also accused Algeria of shutting its border to Malian refugees.

Panetta said Washington was still studying legal and other issues before providing more help to France in the war in Mali.

Hollande has called for international support against rebels who France says pose a threat to Africa and the West, and admits it faces a long struggle against well-equipped fighters who seized Timbuktu and other oasis towns in northern Mali and have imposed Islamic law, including public amputations and beheading.

Islamists have warned Hollande that he has "opened the gates of hell" for all French citizens.

Some of those held at the facility, about 1,300 km (800 miles) inland, had sporadic contact with the outside world.

The head of a French catering company said he had information from a manager who supervises some 150 Algerian employees at the site. Regis Arnoux of CIS Catering told BFM television the local staff was being prevented from leaving but was otherwise free to move around inside and keep on working.

"The Westerners are kept in a separate wing of the base," Arnoux said. "They are tied up and are being filmed. Electricity is cut off, and mobile phones have no charge.

"Direct action seems very difficult. ... Algerian officials have told the French authorities as well as BP that they have the situation under control and do not need their assistance."


French army chief Edouard Guillaud said ground forces were stepping up their operation to engage directly "within hours" the alliance of Islamist fighters, grouping al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and Mali's home-grown Ansar Dine and MUJWA.

West African military chiefs said the French would soon be supported by about 2,000 troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and other states - part of a U.N.-mandated deployment that had been expected to start in September before Hollande intervened.

Chad's foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, told Radio France International his country alone would send 2,000 troops, suggesting plans for the regional force were already growing.

In Mali, residents said a column of some 30 French Sagaie armoured vehicles had set off toward rebel positions from the town of Niono, 300 km (190 miles) from the capital, Bamako.

A Malian military source said French special forces units were taking part in the operation. Guillaud said France's strikes, involving Rafale and Mirage jet fighters, were being hampered because militants were sheltering among civilians.

Many inhabitants of northern Mali have welcomed the French attacks, although some also fear being caught in the cross-fire.

Hollande said on Tuesday that French forces would remain in Mali until stability returned to the West African nation.

The conflict, in a landlocked state of 15 million twice the size of France, has displaced an estimated 30,000 people and raised concerns across mostly Muslim West Africa of a radicalisation of Islam in the region.

But many who have lived for many months under harsh and violent Islamist rule said they welcomed the French.

"There is a great hope," one man said from Timbuktu, where he said Islamist fighters were trying to blend into civilian neighbourhoods. "We hope that the city will be freed soon."

(Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher and Andrew Callus in London, Balazs Koranyi in Oslo, Laurent Prieur in Nouakchott, Daniel Flynn in Dakar, John Irish, Catherine Bremer and Nick Vinocur in Paris, David Alexander in Rome, Andrew Quinn in Washington and Jane Wardell in Sydney; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Peter Cooney and Michael Perry)

Related Stories:
Japan government to hold meeting on Japanese hostages in Algeria - Jiji

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

There’s a fresh tag team on the airwaves

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 03:36 PM PST

MORNING radio listeners were probably aware of a change in the lineup of deejays earlier this week on Hitz.fm. On Monday, a new Hitz.fm Morning Crew – Jin and Ryan – took over the early morning duties (weekdays, 6am-10am) from popular duo, JJ and Ean.

"Hello. My name is jin. And im now on the hitz.fm morning crew show with Ryan. Im really excited and I hope I dont disappoint :) thank u all foe ur support," wrote Jin on his Instagram page (Jinnyboy), where he posted a picture of himself with Ryan and Hitz.fm's content manager Raqeem Brian.

"Jin and Ryan are young talents who have not only established themselves on radio, but also in the entertainment industry. With their vibrant personalities and on-air compatibility, they would definitely be able to rock the airwaves in the morning," Brian says in a statement.

Jin and Ryan are also happy to be the station's new Morning Crew. "I'm really excited about it! It's a whole new experience (for me). I know it's going to be tough to fill in some big shoes but I'm willing to try and I'm always up for a challenge," says Jin.

Ryan shares that it will help them improve their skills. "It's definitely more than enough incentive to keep working on our craft and harnessing our work to entertain," he says.

In line with the change, there will also be some new features to the show. One of them is Cover Me, a segment where listeners have to guess a snippet of a cover of a song correctly. Whoever gets it right, will win a cash prize. Another segment is called Tag team, which engages two listeners to work together.

"It's like charades but instead of seeing what your teammate is doing, you have to listen to them and guess what they're trying to tell you from the sounds they make," says Jin.

And in case you're wondering, the ever-popular Gotcha segment will still be in the show.

Although the duo have just started their new schedule, Jin says that they are already getting the hang of waking up at dawn for work. "I have discovered that sunrise is the most beautiful thing in the whole world, and that traffic is great because there are no cars on the road. Did I mention that I don't have to fight for a parking spot at the office? I am the envy of all my colleagues who hold 9-to-5 jobs!" says Jin.

Ryan adds: "Traffic is a breeze. Parking at the office is a breeze. Jin's early morning breath ... not so much of a breeze!"

Where's JJ and Ean?

MANY are wondering where the former Morning Crew will be, now that Jin and Ryan have taken over. Well, Ean is currently hosting Jin and Ryan's old show, Hitz Live (weekdays, 8pm-midnight), which focuses on all things social media.

JJ, on the other hand, has left the station and, based on his tweets (@JJ_on_air), he will be starting a new job sometime in February.

On Monday, when the new Morning Crew officially went on air, JJ assured his fans that he will be back by tweeting: "Thanks for the well wishes Peepz!! And to answer your question... I'll be back on Radio in Feb."

He has also been dropping hints as to where his new venture will take him. On Jan 11, he posted this message: "I'll be back on Radio soon enough peepz!! All I can say for now, I'm a RED Devil" which was accompanied by a picture of him wearing a Manchester United jersey. He re-posted the same picture on Jan 13, when his favourite football team played against their rival, Liverpool, that night.

Guess we need to wait till next month to figure out where JJ will eventually turn up.

Give it your all

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 12:39 AM PST

SIXTY seconds is all it takes for you to be at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards 2013 in Los Angeles on Feb 10.

Want to rub shoulders with the biggest stars in the music world and be among the lucky few to walk the red carpet with the likes of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Adam Levine?

Then, send in a video featuring yourself doing something awesome, to Red FM and get chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The first thing you need to do is be fearless, daring and talented. So far, Red FM has received hundreds of entries ranging from handsome hunks and popstar wannabes belting out their favourite tunes, to slick Ricks performing dance numbers that sizzle up the screen. Musicians have also sent in their entries which show off their mad skills in playing instruments.

"Malaysians are super-talented. Some of these videos are simply unreal," says Prem, one of the producers and judges for the contest.

There are other quirky entries, too, which are no less interesting. There are those who sent in videos of themselves whistling songs, doing stand-up comedy and performing awe-inspiring acrobatics. Who knows what else might grab the judges' attention? Just capture whatever talent you have on video and send it to Red FM!

The deadline for Red FM's 60 Seconds To The Grammys is Jan 22 (that's next Tuesday), so send in your entry soon.

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 them on Twitter (@iloveredfm).

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

> Red FM station frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1 FM, George Town and Seberang Prai, Penang: 107.6 FM, Ipoh, Perak: 106.4 FM, Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9 FM, Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6 FM, Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9 FM, Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8 FM.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Top seed Azarenka races into Open third round

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:16 PM PST

MELBOURNE: Defending champion Victoria Azarenka romped into the Australian Open third round Thursday with a comprehensive straight-sets thrashing of Greek Eleni Daniilidou.

The world number one Belarusian lost just one game in the 6-1, 6-0 demolition and will next play either American Jamie Hampton or Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum.

The victory keeps top-seeded Azarenka on course to meet former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter-finals as she defends her first Grand Slam title.

Azarenka had only played the Greek once before, five years ago, and lost, but on a scorching hot day on Rod Laver Arena she opened her account with a serve to love then comfortably held, with the signs ominous for Daniilidou.

The Belarusian easily broke again then held for 4-0, with the Greek till then having won just three points in the entire match.

Azarenka's key rivals, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, have both scored double bagel whitewashes here and Azarenka looked intent on producing her own until Daniilidou finally won a game for 5-1, to big cheers.

But it was only a hiccup for Azarenka, and with her renowned grunting growing in volume and shouts of "c'mon" becoming more regular, the pumped-up top seed raced through the second set in 31 minutes.

While Azarenka is the world's top-ranked player, Sharapova and Williams are breathing down her neck and she needs to reach the final to have any chance of remaining number one. -AFP

Top seed Azarenka 'in the zone'

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:12 PM PST

MELBOURNE: Pumped up defending champion Victoria Azarenka said she was "in the zone" Thursday with her game exactly where she wants it as she cruised into the Australian Open third round.

The world number one Belarusian lost just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing of Greek Eleni Daniilidou and will next play American Jamie Hampton, who sent Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum packing.

Azarenka's victory keeps the top seed on course to meet former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter-finals as she defends her first Grand Slam title, and she said she was in good touch.

"I felt really good, I enjoyed a lot the way I was focused," she said.

"I definitely stepped it up from my first match, and I was in the zone trying to execute all of my shots. I was trying to make everything happen, and that's what I'm happy about."

Azarenka had only played the Greek once before, five years ago, and lost, but on a hot day on Rod Laver Arena she opened her account by breaking to love and then comfortably held, with the signs ominous for Daniilidou.

The Belarusian easily broke again and held for 4-0, with the Greek till then having won just three points in the entire match.

Azarenka's key rivals, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, both scored double bagel whitewashes here and Azarenka looked intent on producing her own until Daniilidou finally won a game for 5-1, to big cheers.

But it was only a hiccup for Azarenka, and with her renowned grunting growing in volume and shouts of "C'mon" becoming more regular, she raced through the second set in 31 minutes.

"I was just trying to focus on one point at a time and not looking too much at the scoreboard or anything. Just really executing myself and staying in the moment," she said, adding that the heat was motivation to get off court quickly.

"It was pretty hot. That's why I was trying to play fast. The first match I got a little bit sunburned and you don't want to make that mistake again."

While Azarenka is the world's top-ranked player, Sharapova and Williams are breathing down her neck and she needs to reach the final to have any chance of remaining number one.

Both of her top rivals have also been in ominous form in Melbourne, but Azarenka said too much shouldn't be read into the scorelines.

"Well, I think it's really competitive. The score sometimes doesn't tell the whole story about the match, and to win matches like 6-0, 6-0, it requires a lot of discipline, a lot of focus," she said.

"Sometimes it's harder than winning, you know, 6-2, 6-2 or something like that. So I honestly can only speak for myself, but it seems like everybody is in great form, and it's going to be very interesting." -AFP

Tsonga stops Go to reach third round

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:56 PM PST

MELBOURNE: Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overcame a mid-match stumble against Japan's Go Soeda before taking his place in the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.

The 2008 runner-up was made to work hard for his 6-3, 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 win over 73rd-ranked Soeda in 2hr 3min in hot temperatures on Margaret Court Arena.

It was seventh-seeded Tsonga's second victory in straight sets in the tournament and puts him in the last 32 where he will face an unseeded opponent, Australian James Duckworth or Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic.

Tsonga began well in the opening set but encountered stiffer resistance in the second set from Soeda, who broke the Frenchman's serve in the second game before he gave up the break with a forced error in the ninth.

Tsonga was on song in the tiebreaker, ripping through with two mini-breaks before clinching it on the back of a 24-stroke rally.

It was plain sailing in the final set for the Frenchman with a break in the sixth game, and he finished the match with 17 aces and 44 winners.

"Go is a good player, he plays flat and didn't give me any rhythm and I'm pleased to go through in straight sets," said Tsonga, who now leads Go 3-0 in their matches. -AFP

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Report: India unlikely to raise edible oil import duties soon

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 05:57 PM PST

NEW DELHI: India is unlikely to increase import duties on edible oils, including palm oil, immediately, government sources said on Wednesday, after speculation of an imminent rise to curb a surge in overseas purchases of cooking oils pushed futures higher.

Malaysia, one of India's biggest suppliers, ended Kuala Lumpur's export duty on crude palm oil from Jan. 1 and imports could hit a record in January, a senior industry official has said, prompting calls for retaliation from domestic producers.

"No item on edible oil duty hike is listed so far for tomorrow's (Thursday's) cabinet meeting," one of the sources told Reuters.

Soyoil futures had been gaining on speculation there might be an imminent duty increase. The most actively traded soyoil contract on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange closed at 715 rupees ($13.1) per 10 kg, losing 1.1 percent from the day's high at 722.8 rupees.

India is the world's top vegetable oil buyer and imported 783,091 tonnes of palm oil in December against 614,574 tonnes in November, way beyond trade expectations.

More than half of its 16-17 million tonnes of edible oils demand is met via imports with nearly 80 percent palm oil.

A population growing at the rate of about 19 million people a year, along with an increasingly wealthy middle class, continue to push demand higher.

India allows duty free imports of all types of edible oils including palm oil and imposes a flat 7.5 percent duty on refined oils.

Any move by India against Malaysia, the world's No. 2 palm oil producer, would not be the first time New Delhi has faced pressure to change its import taxes.

In August, the South Asian country raised its taxable level of refined palm oil cargoes to make the product more expensive and help local farmers and refiners.

That was a response to a cut in 2011 in export taxes on processed grades by top palm oil producer Indonesia, to half of those of crude, to encourage its processing industry and lift earnings from higher value-products.

India is bound by global trade agreements not to raise import duties abruptly or without reason.

India buys mainly palm oils from Indonesia and Malaysia and a small quantity of soyoil from Brazil and Argentina.

[$1 = 54.6000 Indian rupees] - Reuters


Report: Gold prices to hit record high this year

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 05:54 PM PST

Investors to drive gold price higher in H1-GFMS 16/01/13 21:07:27 LONDON: Persistent concerns over the health of the U.S. economy and pressure on the dollar will send gold prices to a record average high this year, Thomson Reuters GFMS said on Wednesday, before the metal's 12-year bull run tops out late in the year.

Gold investment fuelled by negative real interest rates and debt concerns is seen driving prices higher in the first six months of 2013, it said, offsetting a dip in jewellery demand and a rise in mine and scrap supply.

GFMS forecasts that gold prices will average $1,775 an ounce in the first half of 2013, up from an average $1,685 in the second half of 2012, and well above the previous half-yearly record average of $1,693 set in the last six months of 2011.

It expects gold to average $1,847 an ounce in the full year, but monthly forecasts suggest it will peak in late 2013. Prices are expected to remain extremely elevated in the first half of 2014.

The company is forecasting a surge in implied net investment, which covers activity in exchange-traded funds, futures and over-the-counter trading, in the next six months to 152 tonnes, against 59 tonnes in the first half of last year.

That is likely to balance a projected 4.2 percent, or 40 tonne, drop in jewellery offtake -- which is expected to weaken especially in the major Indian market -- a 20 tonne rise in mine output and a 57 tonne increase in scrap supply.

"I think we could see investment in a number of arenas, and at a higher set of prices," GFMS' head of research Philip Klapwijk said. "Commentary on the dollar/euro has shifted in recent months from being very bearish on the euro. We don't see much scope for dollar appreciation this year."

"We are also expecting the Fed will continue with its asset purchase programmes, and that we won't see these cease in 2013," he added. "We think the U.S. economic performance will disappoint this year."

Implied net investment more than tripled last year, GFMS estimated, to 354 tonnes from 104 tonnes in 2011, picking up the slack after physical bar investment fell by a fifth to 961 tonnes. Jewellery buying, the largest demand segment, fell 4.4 percent to 1,885 tonnes.

Global coin minting is forecast to have dropped to a four-year low of 199 tonnes, down 19 percent from the previous year.

High prices weighed on demand from jewellers last year, particularly in price-sensitive Asian markets such as India, historically the world's largest consumer of the precious metal.

Jewellery fabrication demand in the Indian subcontinent fell 11 percent last year to 624 tonnes, and was down in almost every individual region. It rose 5 percent in the Middle East, however.


Fabrication demand from India and its subcontinent is forecast to fall to 322 tonnes in the first half from 348 tonnes in the same period of 2012.

Indian jewellery demand is expected to dip 9 percent in the first half, leaving it at a four-year low.

Fabrication demand in east Asia, which includes China and smaller markets such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia, is expected to dip just over 2 percent to 465 tonnes.

Chinese jewellery fabrication demand fell in 2012 for the first time in nine years, though by only 1 percent.

Chinese fabrication demand failed to take over from that of India, still the world's biggest overall gold consumer, as it had been forecast to do.

"Though we expect this year that China could take on a firmer tone, we're still concerned about prospects for India," Klapwijk said. "That has provided a slightly less secure floor for the price, as opposed to a rising floor."

Bullion demand from central banks, which have turned from net sellers to net buyers in recent years in a bid to diversify reserves, is forecast to remain relatively steady in the first six months of the year at 280 tonnes, against 277 tonnes in the same period of 2012.

Gold buying from the official sector rose by 79 tonnes to a 48-year high of 536 tonnes last year as a whole, GFMS said.

On the supply side of the market, mine supply is expected to tick up 1.5 percent to 1,389 tonnes in the first half.

Recycling of gold scrap is set to increase a weightier 7.5 percent, with scrap flows rising in the Middle East, east Asia and India, falling in Europe, and stagnant in North America.

Scrap supply from the Middle East is expected to climb nearly 18 percent to 192 tonnes, and by a similar percentage from the Indian subcontinent, to 91 tonnes. - Reuters


Malaysia-Market factors to watch on Jan 17(Thursday)

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 05:49 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Following is a list of events in Malaysia as well as news company-related and market news which could have an influence on the local market.

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares flat as financials offset growth concerns

SE Asia Stocks-Thai stocks fall further; Indonesia at record


> Ingenuity Consolidated Bhd holds EGM at Bukit Jalil Golf & Country Resort, Kuala Lumpur at 0930am (0130).

> AirAsia X's new route announcement: Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah at The Royale Chulan Hotel, Kuala Lumpur at 1430pm (0630).

> Resorts World Genting's mobile apps hit 10,000 downloads talk show at Wisma Genting, Kuala Lumpur at 1500pm (0700).

> Express Rail Link 10th anniversary gala dinner & book launch at The Majestic Hotel KL, Jalan Hishamuddin, Kuala Lumpur at 1915pm (1115).


> Japan's Nikkei recovers slightly after sharp fall

> S&P 500 ends flat as bank profits temper growth

> U.S. bond prices rise on view on Fed purchases

> Euro still looking for inspiration, yen firm

> Platinum up for 7th day as South Africa crisis stirs supply fears

> Oil rises on Algerian gas field attack, US stock draw

> Malaysia's zero export-tax optimism lifts palm oil


> Gangnam Style' takes top song prize at 'K-pop Grammys'

> Japan's Abe turns to SE Asia to counter China

> Stansted attracts three bids worth 1 bln pounds-sources

> India unlikely to hike import duty on vegoil soon-sources

> Iraqi approves Samsung's $879 mln oilfield contract-govt

> Indonesia rules out changes to palm export tax structure

> Badminton's future in doubt, says gold medallist Taufik - Reuters

VEGOILS-Market factors to watch Jan 17(Thursday

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The following factors are likely to influence Malaysian palm oil futures and other vegetable oil markets.


* Malaysian palm oil futures rose to their highest in over a week on Wednesday on investor optimism a zero-duty tax structure will spur exports from the world's No.2 producer and help boost global demand for the tropical oil.

* U.S. grains rose on Wednesday, with corn rebounding from early losses to post the longest rally since June, as dry weather in South America and the United States stoked fears that the slimmest grain stocks in six years could tighten further.

* Oil prices rose on Wednesday after an Algerian gas field came under attack from Islamist militants and as data showed crude stocks fell in the United States last week.


* World stock markets ended flat on Wednesday as strong financial results lifted banking shares, though weak data from Europe raised concerns about the global growth rate.

* Fear of dry weather drove soybean and corn prices to multi-week highs on Wednesday, setting up what could be another prolonged rally in U.S. agricultural markets after last summer's bumper run.


> Odds favor 2013 summer drought in U.S. Corn Belt

> Indonesia rules out changes to palm export tax structure. - Reuters


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Banting murders: Accused denies murdering Sosilawati

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:27 AM PST

SHAH ALAM: The fourth witness in the murder trial of cosmetics millionairess Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and three other individuals told the High Court here Wednesday, that he did not kill the four.

R. Kathavarayan, 32, who is also the fourth accused, said this in reply to counsel Manjeet Singh Dhillon who is defending first accused N. Pathmanabhan.

Manjeet noted that the accused had been detained since Sept 9, 2010, that trial commenced on July 4, 2011, and that Wednesday was the 94th day of hearing.

Counsel asked Kathavarayan whether he had shared all evidence he gave under oath, to the police, to which the witness replied: "Only part of it".

"So, the charge against you, that you committed murder on Aug 30, 2010 is rubbish?" asked Manjeet.

The inference by counsel was objected to, by prosecution head Deputy Public Prosecutor Ishak Mohd Yusoff, who said it was for the court to decide whether or not, it was.

However, Justice Datuk Akhtar Tahir overruled the objection and counsel re-phrased the question, opting to use the word 'wrong' and 'unjust', instead of 'rubbish', to which Kathavarayan replied in the affirmative.

Kathavarayan, with Pathmanabhan, 43, T. Thilaiyalagan, 21, and R. Matan, 22, are accused of murdering Sosilawati, 47, bank officer Noorhisham Mohamad, 38, lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32, and Sosilawati's driver, Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 44, at Ladang Gadong in Lot 2001 in Jalan Tanjong Layang, Tanjung Sepat, Banting between 8.30pm and 9.45pm on Aug 30, 2010.

At the proceedings Wednesday, Kathavarayan denied he was a police informer when asked by Manjeet whether he had been asked by a police officer to assist him again, when he was brought to the Gombak police headquarters on Sept 10, 2010.

Meanwhile, Akhtar rejected an application by Kathavarayan's counsel, Hasshahari Johari Mawi, to get the court to acknowledge his client's two police reports dated Dec 3 and Dec 10, last year.

Hasshahari had submitted that Kathavarayan made the reports because of death threats against his family, but Akhtar deemed them irrelevant to the case.

The trial continues Thursday. - Bernama

Perodua recalling 74,000 new Myvi cars to replace power steering

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 05:39 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Perodua is undertaking a preventive measure campaign to replace the electronic power steering column (EPS) in 74,000 new Myvi variants produced between March 2011 and March 2012.

The compact car maker said this was to ensure that owners of the New Myvi enjoy optimum performance from their vehicle.

Managing Director Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh said the campaign was necessary as the car's performance might not be at its best and could partially compromise the driver's response time at low speeds.

"Based on studies conducted by Perodua, the problem could be detected when the EPS indicator is alight, after which, the driver could feel a slight heaviness at speeds of between 30 and 40 kilometres per hour.

"This can be temporarily fixed by switching off the engine and restarting the car but, for a permanent fix and to eliminate any possibility of risk to our customers, we kindly request them to make an appointment at any of our 170 service centres, nationwide, for the replacement of the EPS column," he said in a statement.

Aminar said the car company had already issued notification letters to the affected customers and Perodua would absorb all costs for the replacement of the EPS column.

The campaign time frame is open ended.

However, customers are encouraged to make an appointment as soon as it was convenient for them to ensure that the replacement can be done orderly and smoothly. - Bernama

Free LRT ride to Bukit Jailil on Saturday for launch of Visit Malaysia Year 2014

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 05:25 AM PST

PUTRAJAYA: Free LRT service will be provided to Bukit Jalil on Saturday in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 promotional campaign carnival.

The free service applies on the Ampang-Seri Petaling line with disembarkment on the Bukit Jalil station from 6pm to midnight.

The three-day carnival, which kicks-off Friday, is scheduled to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the second night at 8pm.

A total of 97 companies have contributed 1,896 products and vouchers worth over RM200,000 to be given away during the duration of the carnival.

Najib himself is expected to hand over the grand prize, which is a Naza Blade 250cc motorcycle worth RM18,000.

"We advise members of the public to take the public transport in view of limited parking spaces.

"There will also be a free shuttle service available from the Technology Park Malaysia to the tourism carnival to facilitate parking for those who drive," Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said in a press conference Wednesday.

To qualify for the lucky draw, visitors must first register on the Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Facebook page or at a designated booth located at the tourism carnival.

Othet highlights at the carnival include a food fair, a showcase of Malaysian tourism products, booths offering special holiday packages, an exhibition on 1Malaysia Chopper Bikes, and a display of more than 60 different lanterns and lights.

Malaysian queen of rock, Ella, is also scheduled to belt out the VMY 2014 theme song during the launch, alongside performances by other local celebrities.

The carnival opens at 4.30pm Friday and from 10am on the subsequent two days.

The ministry has targeted 28 million tourists to visit the country next year.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Return of the muscle

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 12:53 AM PST

Schwarzenegger is back, and Hollywood hopes he's still a star.

As he famously droned on-screen in his signature Terminator movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back.

A year after leaving the California governor's office and becoming tabloid fodder for fathering a boy with his family's housekeeper and splitting with his wife, Maria Shriver, the 65-year-old former bodybuilder will star in no fewer than three Hollywood movies over the next 12 months.

None are likely to win Schwarzenegger an Oscar.

Indeed, the movies, and Schwarzenegger's own fee, are low-budget compared with his global blockbusters of yore. But studio executives are betting that overseas fans especially will once again respond to a personality whose 24 films generated worldwide ticket sales of US$3.9bil (RM11.7bil), according to boxoffice.com.

"He is still a worldwide star who resonates with action audiences around the world," said Rob Friedman, the co-chairman of the Lionsgate motion picture group, which is scheduled to release his next two films.

The Last Stand opens in Malaysia tomorrow and The Tomb will open in September in the United States. Ten, the third film, is scheduled for release in January 2014 by Open Road Films, a joint venture of the AMC and Regal Theatre chains.

"When you have left the movie business for seven years, it's kind of a scary thing to come back because you don't know if you're accepted or not," Schwarzenegger said at a recent press event for The Last Stand.

"There could be a whole new generation of action stars that come up in the meantime."

The actor said he was "very pleasantly surprised" by what he called a "great reaction" to his cameo in the 2010 action film The Expendables, which featured fellow action stars Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Since then, Schwarzenegger appeared in a second The Expendables film and says he will join a fifth instalment of the Terminator if it is made.

Comcast's Universal Pictures wants to "do a bunch" of new films based on the 30-year-old Conan The Barbarian movie, said Schwarzenegger, in which he would reprise his role as a barbarian.

He added that Universal, after 10 years of prodding by Schwarzenegger, also wants to do a sequel to the 1988 comedy Twins, in which he and Danny DeVito played mismatched twins, to be called Triplets.

Schwarzenegger no longer commands the US$25mil (RM75mil) paychecks he cashed in his heyday and will get between US$8mil (RM24mil) and US$10mil (RM30mil) for each of his next three films, according to two people with knowledge of his salary but who were not authorised to speak publicly about it. He also gets a percentage of the profits, according to one of the people.

The new Schwarzenegger calculus banks on his films doing outsized business overseas while operating within budgets that are a fraction of the US$200mil (RM600mil) cost of his last action film, the 2003 Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. The budget for The Last Stand is estimated at US$50mil (RM150mil), according to movie resource site IMDB.com.

"He has significant value outside the US and Canada, where he is still revered by people who have grown up with him throughout the years," said Jere Hausfater, chief operating officer of film production company Aldamisa International, which hopes to do a film with Schwarzenegger in the future.

What audiences will see is an ageing star who isn't afraid of showing his drooping muscles and widening paunch, or of making fun of being past his prime. In the The Last Stand, a less-than-rock hard Schwarzenegger plays a retired Los Angeles policeman who becomes the sheriff of a small border town and is then called on to stop a violent drug lord from crossing.

In Ten he plays an ageing drug agent, and in The Tomb an older prison inmate.

"We all go through the same dramas, we look at the mirror and say, what happened? You once had muscles and slowly they are deteriorating," said Schwarzenegger at The Last Stand press event.

"The great thing in the movie is that they we're not trying to play me as the 35-year-old action hero but the one who is about to retire, and all of a sudden there is this challenge where he really needs to get his act together."

The one-time muscle man compares his career metamorphosis to that of his friend Clint Eastwood, who transitioned from his Dirty Harry days to a wiser person who was not afraid to make fun of his slipping abilities in recent films like Trouble With The Curve.

"That's called evolution," said Sylvester Stallone, who stars with Schwarzenegger as ageing inmates in The Tomb. "There are no more wooly mammoths. Things change, but the one thing you cannot replace is charisma. Certain people have it, and will have it until the day they die."

Schwarzenegger's infamy in fathering a son outside of his high-profile marriage to Shriver initially seemed to hurt his popular appeal. Within weeks of the disclosure, The Governator, a comic book that would feature his likeness, was cancelled.

Ultimately, though, moviegoers will be less interested in Schwarzenegger's political adventures and personal scandals than in what he puts on the screen, says Peter Sealey, founder of The Sausalito Group and a former Columbia Pictures president of marketing and distribution.

"The movie-going audience really don't care about things like infidelity, DUIs," added publicist Howard Bragman, vice-chairman of the firm called Reputation." They overlook a lot. Ultimately, it remains, how are the movies? Is he credible? Is he going to be a joke?" – Reuters

The Last Stand, rated 18, opens in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.

Lindsay Lohan pleads not guilty in latest court fight

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 10:23 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: The troubled American actress Lindsay Lohan pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three misdemeanor charges stemming from an auto accident in a case that could send her to prison.

Lohan did not attend the hearing in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles, and did not have to do so. The judge convened the next hearing for January 30.

The 26-year-old actress was charged in November with resisting and obstructing an officer, giving false testimony and driving recklessly. All this stemmed from an accident in which a Porsche hit a truck; Lohan said she was not driving the sports car in that June accident in Santa Monica.

Police later concluded she had in fact been driving the Porsche. If found guilty, Lohan could go to jail for between three months and a year. That's because at the time of the crash she was already on probation for a shoplifting conviction; she had been found guilty of robbing a necklace from a jewelry shop in 2011.

In December a judge revoked her probation.

Tuesday's hearing was messy and could have ended in an arrest order against Lohan if her recently fired lawyer, Shawn Holley, had not shown up to defend her, showbiz website TMZ reported.

It said Holley, who has shepherded Lohan through numerous brushes with the law in recent years, was dismissed in a letter sent by Lohan's lawyer in New York, Mark Heller.

But Heller is not certified to practice law in California.

And if the actress had had no legal counsel representing her Tuesday, the court could have issued an arrest warrant against her.

Holley showed up anyway and presented a not-guilty plea on behalf of Lohan.

Though Lohan, who has had problems with drugs, has been in and out of court often since 2007, she has managed to stay out of prison except for 87 minutes she spent behind bars in November of that year.

She has also done community service work in a morgue but did not have to deal with dead bodies.

Although she won praise for her performance in the 2004 film "Mean Girls" as a teen, the former Disney star has become better known for her drug problems, legal woes and social life than for her acting work. - AFP

Iran to make own movie to counter 'distorted' Argo

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 03:54 PM PST

TEHRAN: Iran is to make its own movie about the American hostage drama during the 1979 Islamic revolution to counter the "distorted" film "Argo" by Ben Affleck, which swept the Golden Globes awards, media said Tuesday.

Iranian actor and filmmaker Ataollah Salmanian was quoted in the reports as saying the screenplay for the Iranian movie was ready.

"The draft of the movie, 'Setad Moshtarak' (The General staff), has been approved by (Iran's) art centre and it awaits budget to start shooting," Salmanian said.

"The movie is about 20 American hostages who were handed over to the US embassy by Iranian revolutionaries at the beginning of the (Islamic) revolution. This movie... can be an appropriate response to distorted movies such as 'Argo'."

On November 4, 1979, Iranian Islamist students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage, holding them for 444 days in an action that caused the rupture of diplomatic ties between Washington and Tehran.

"Argo" chronicles the hostage drama, with Hollywood actor-director Affleck playing a CIA agent who rescues six US diplomats from the Canadian ambassador's residence in Tehran.

The movie has been accused of taking liberties with history, notably by exaggerating the role of the CIA in getting the US diplomats out, at the expense of the Canadian envoy in Tehran at the time.

Affleck won both best dramatic film and director awards at the Golden Globes on Sunday for the movie.

"Argo" has been banned in Iran but pirated copies are being circulated in the country.

Iranian media dismissed the movie's success and criticised the Golden Globes as a "political ceremony."

"'Argo' is a sign of Ben Affleck's attempt to recreate Tehran in 1980. While his attempt might be ridiculous for Iranians, it has delighted American experts and critics," said the daily 7Sobh. - AFP

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Metro Watch

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:00 AM PST


Vision International Properties is having a fundraising community campaign, Dogs & Cats Lunch Gathering, on Jan 19 at Bandar Utama Central Park for Second Chance Animal Shelter. Lunch ticket, which is sold at RM50 per person, comes with a free pet's hotel voucher - for pet hostel/basic grooming/obedience training/animal health screening. The event starts from 9am to 1pm. For details and/or for reservation, call 016-228 9233.


Hulu Langat will be having a water disruption on Jan 30 as Syabas will be working on pipe removal at Jambatan Baru from Jalan Bangi Lama to Universiti Islam Selangor College (KUIS) for Public Works Department (PWD) Selangor, Hulu Langat. Users are advised to keep sufficient water supply and use water wisely during the disruption. For details, contact Customer Service Centre (PUSPEL) via toll free 1800 885 252 or SMS; by typing PUSPEL , and send to 39222. This information can also be obtained from www.syabas.com.my


University Tunku Abdul Rahman is organising a talk on "Chart Your Career in 21st Century" by Singapore's top speaker Advocators Education Pte Ltd CE0 Kong Yew Kiin and author of "A is Easy". The talk will be held on Jan 19 at 10am to noon at University Tunku Abdul Rahman, PD Block, Level B1, No 9 Jalan Bersatu 13/4, Petaling Jaya. For details, call 03-7957 2818 (Joleena/Izad).


Hands Percussion will be performing at Sungei Wang Plaza on Jan 19 and subsequent weekends leading up to Chinese New Year. The performance will have at least 10 drummers for 25 minutes. Additionally, shoppers who purchase RM100 in accumulated receipts on the same day are entitled to redeem one set of exclusive red packets while stocks last. For details, call 03-2148 6109.


Learn basics of patchwork on Tuesday, Jan 22 from 1pm to 5pm at Sungai Way Subang Methodist Church Tuition Centre. Donations will be collected for Home of Hope, Bangalore. To register, call Rosalind 017-308 3380. Limited to first 30 participants.


LSU graduates from 1960s to 1990s are invited for the alumni reunion which will be held on Feb 15 at MAEPS Mardi, Serdang from 3pm to 6pm. For details, call 012-624 3777 (Prof Dr Zaitun Yassin), 019-249 7037 (Hishamudin Jamil), 019-384 1948 (Jusri Aziz).


TTDI Toastmasters Club will be having the TTDI Toastmasters Meeting: Building Credibility today at 7.30pm at Wisma WIM, 7 Jalan Abang Haji Openg, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. For details, contact 012-670 8316 (Diong) or 017-878 5282 (Kenneth)

Underprivileged kids get up close to ocean creatures in Aquaria KLCC

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:00 AM PST

VOLUNTEERS from Ireka Cares and children from Rumah Kanak-Kanak Angels immersed themselves in the underwater wonders at Aquaria KLCC recently.

The exploration started at the interactive DNA touch pool where the children and volunteers interacted with exotic exhibits such as sea cucumbers, horseshoe crabs, spotted starfish and bamboo sharks.

After some time learning about animals such as otters, water rats and electric eels, they proceeded to Level Two where they were greeted by creatures of the wetlands in the Malaysian Flooded Forest section.

The journey became even more exciting as the volunteers and children embarked on an underwater discovery in the Oceanarium. They were treated to a face-to-face encounter with the ferocious Sand Tiger Sharks and Giant Stingrays, all within a surreal environment where Green Turtles were gliding through the corals and thousands of fish swam away from the deadly predators.

After this, the group made their way to the Aquatheatre where they had a close-up view of the Aquaria divers feeding the marine life in the giant tank.

"We hoped to take the children on a recreational trip that would also be educational, which was why we chose Aquaria," CSR action committee head Nor Fathiyyah said.

"As the children learned about aquatic life, the volunteers also learned from the children about cherishing what life gives us," she added.

Ireka Corporation Bhd deputy managing director Datuk Lai Foot Kong said, "The home's caregivers, William and Belinda, wanted our volunteers to spend time with the 12 children on a regular basis. Therefore, aside from refurbishing and repairing the home, we have also planned monthly activities for the children."

Rumah Kanak-Kanak Angels, Ireka Cares Year 3 adopted home, was set up in 2004 to provide shelter to underprivileged or abandoned children aged from 5 to 16.

Ireka Cares had previously adopted Lighthouse Children's Welfare Home (Year 1) and Rumah Hope (Year 2), with yearly themes including community, arts, recreation, environment and sports.

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