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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

What if comic books were made into television shows?

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 11:56 PM PST

Comic books are invading your TV screen! We round up a list of comic books we would love to see on TV.

IT is a great time to be a comic book fan and a TV addict. With the phenomenal success of The Walking Dead, the rising popularity of Arrow (based on DC Comic's Green Arrow character), and the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series from Marvel, it seems TV show producers are now recognising the potential for great TV shows in comic books.

While there have been live-action TV treatments of comic books in the past, most of these have fluctuated between being pretty good (Smallville), cheesily iconic (The Incredible Hulk with Lou Ferigno, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, and Adam West-starring Batman series) and plain bad (Mutant X, Swamp Thing: The Series and the low budget The Amazing Spider-Man).

Most have focused on trying to bring a popular superhero to the small screen, while the only recent attempt to adapt a more mature and edgier comic I can think of is the rather uninspiring Human Target (based on the Vertigo Comics' edgy psychological thriller), which downgraded the intriguing main character (a bodyguard who literally takes on his clients identities and personalities to protect them) to a boring, colourless bodyguard-for-hire.

That was way back in 2010, the same year that a little show called The Walking Dead was released. Based on Image Comics' series of the same name, the zombie apocalyptic TV show became a smash hit, and proved that there is a way to translate some of comic books' sometimes outrageous stories onto the small screen, and that it doesn't really take a superhero in a costume to do it.

With that in mind, here are 10 non-superhero comic series that can and should be turned into live-action TV shows.

1) B.P.R.D. (Dark Horse)

The premise: Remember that big red guy with horns and a big stone hand whom you might have seen on the big screen a couple of times?

Well, this is the story of the guys he hangs out with. You know, the green fish-guy, the gaseous German guy in a containment suit, the girl who sets things on fire… all of whom are part of this little organisation called the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, which goes around investigating paranormal stuff and saving the world from ancient demon cults.

Why it would work: Hey, Hellboy's got his own movies, so why can't Abe Sapien, Johann Krauss and Liz Sherman have their own show?

It could be a Fringe or X-Files-like show where the team investigates a Monster of The Week, and the central plot could be based on one of the long running stories in the comic books, like the Plague Of Frogs and War On Frogs sagas. And if the special effects budget goes overboard, well, the current BPRD: Hell On Earth stories do focus a lot on the agents without "enhanced talents"…

2) Gotham Central (DC)

The premise: It's not easy being a cop in Gotham City. Besides the sky-high crime rate, the detectives of the Gotham City Police Department's (GCPD) Major Crimes Unit also have to contend with an insane number of super villains like the Joker, the Riddler, the Mad Hatter, Killer Croc and so on. And if wasn't bad enough, they also have to contend with Batman swooping around and dispensing his own brand of justice.

Why it would work: Yes, we mentioned that there wouldn't be any superheroes in this list. But the idea of a dark, gritty crime procedural drama set in Gotham City, and focusing on the GCPD's Major Crimes Unit is just too awesome to let it pass. The comic series alone has a wealth of great stories that a potential TV show could draw upon (one, involving the Joker going on a murderous spree during Christmas is just brilliant), plus Christopher Nolan's Batman movies has already set the tone for a grittier and more realistic Batman universe that the show could be set in. I want this TV show to be made so badly.

3) Transmetropolitan (Vertigo)

The premise: Spider Jerusalem is an almost insane celebrity journalist in a futuristic City, who constantly sticks his middle finger up at the government. He affects change in the city by.... writing a column.

Why it would work: Eat your pen, Carrie Bradshaw. This is how a TV show about a journalist/columnist should be like. With such a thoroughly badass character whose vocabulary has more swear words than actual words at its core, this could work as a hard-hitting, no holds barred, edgy, R-rated version of The Newsroom, with Spider Jerusalem tackling a different social, political or economical issue in each episode. We could do without the scenes of him running around naked all the time though...

4) Runaways (Marvel)

The premise: A group of kids find out that their parents are actually members of a cabal of super villains, and decide to run away from home together. Along the way, they discover that they too have super powers, and decide to band together to stop their parents.

Why it would work: Yes, yes, this is yet another show with superheroes, but hey, at least the kids don't wear stupid spandex costumes.

With the comic book focusing more on character development than super powered bash-ups, this could probably work best as a light-hearted, Buffy-like teenage ensemble show (the group even has a Goth chick teenage witch called Nico as their pseudo-leader). Heck, Joss Whedon himself used to write the comic book, and with his current role in Marvel (besides directing the Avengers sequel, he is also producing the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D TV show), here's hoping one of his upcoming projects will also include producing a Runaways TV show.

5) 100 Bullets (Vertigo)

The Premise: What would you do if a stranger came up to you at your darkest, lowest point of your life, gave you the name of the person responsible for ruining your life, then handed you a suitcase containing a gun and 100 bullets, and said that that you can do anything with the gun without fear of any consequences whatsoever?

Why it would work: Drawn in a highly stylised noir-styled, the comic book starts out with a couple of episodic stories featuring the above-mentioned high concept, but midway way through its 100 issues, connects those early stories into a sprawling crime saga that would be perfect as a gritty, ultra-violent, hardcore crime noir drama (preferably with 100 episodes).

6) Ex-Machina (Wildstorm)

The premise: Mitchell Hundred used to be the world's one and only superhero. As The Great Machine, he could communicate with machines and control them. During 9/11, The Great Machine managed to save one of the World Trade Centre towers; and after that, Hundred hung up his jetpack and managed to get himself elected as Mayor of New York.

Why it would work: Imagine what Batman would do if he became the mayor of Gotham City, or if Captain America was actually President America instead (oh, wait, that actually happened recently in the Ultimate Marvel universe). Combining political drama with superhero fantasy, Ex-Machina revolves around Hundred's efforts to run the city while struggling to deal with his superhero past. Kind of like The West Wing, but with superheroes!

7) Sandman (Vertigo)

The premise: Morpheus aka Dream is the lord of dreams and part of an immortal family of powerful beings called the Endless, together with Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair and Delirium.

Why it would work: A Sandman movie has been stuck in pre-development hell since the beginning of Destiny's book, and it is still nowhere near being green-lit. Though frankly speaking, Neil Gaiman's epic series has such a sprawling, rich storyline and so many characters that putting it all in one single movie would never do it justice. A TV show would be a better idea though – with the right producers, it could be an epic, dark serialised show that doesn't just focus on Dream, but even Death, and the rest of the Endless as well. Or it could be a Twilight Zone-like show with various stories in which one of the Endless could be involved. The possibilities are err ... Endless! 8) Hellblazer (Vertigo)

The premise: John Constantine is many things – a Scouse scoundrel, a lovable rogue, a chain-smoking conman, and above all, a powerful magician. Although he tries hard not to show it, he's got a good heart, and also an eye for getting into trouble with all sorts of demons, ghouls, and even the Devil himself.

Why it would work: Yes, he already has a Hollywood feature film, but as entertaining as it was, it just didn't capture the spirit of Constantine (plus Keanu Reeves was just too American to be Constantine).

Besides, it's John Constantine. I can't think of any other comic character I would love to see in a TV show than him. The awesome (and sometimes downright scary) supernatural situations that Constantine gets into would make for an awesome TV show. And with the character's profile set to go up further with his impending return to the main DC Universe, this would be a great time for him to get his own show. Heck, there could even be a crossover with the Sandman series!

9) DMZ (Vertigo)

The premise: America has been plunged into a second Civil War, and the island of Manhattan in New York City has been turned into a demilitarized zone, or DMZ. With the entire island completely cut off from the rest of the world, Matty Roth is the only journalist on the island, struggling to remain objective (and alive) as he reports on life in the DMZ.

Why it would work: A show about a war set in New York City? Now that's a brilliant idea. Brian Wood's richly detailed and hard-hitting story would make for an intense, story-driven serialised show. Besides, it's about time someone made a show about a war journalist, even though this is based on a fictitious war.

10) Y: The Last Man (Vertigo)

The premise: The entire male population on Earth has been wiped out by a strange phenomenon, except for Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. Despite being the only male human being left in a world full of women, Yorrick only wants one woman – his girlfriend Beth, who is stuck halfway around the world.

Why it would work: Seriously, all you need to make this show a hit is get a really good looking guy to play Yorrick, and fill the rest of the cast with lots of hot babes. Preferably in bikinis. Oh wait, that didn't work out for the recent Charlie's Angel's remake either.


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Rallies across U.S. assail Obama's proposed gun curbs

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 06:51 PM PST

(Reuters) - Pro-gun activists held "high noon" rallies across the United States on Saturday to defend the right to own firearms they say is being threatened by President Barack Obama's gun-control proposals.

Michael Rugh (2nd-L) holds a AR-15 rifle as he participates along with David Mace (L) and Luchie Wooten (R), during the Guns Across America pro-gun rally at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Michael Rugh (2nd-L) holds a AR-15 rifle as he participates along with David Mace (L) and Luchie Wooten (R), during the Guns Across America pro-gun rally at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

The U.S. debate over gun control erupted in mid-December after a man armed with an assault rifle killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut - the deadliest of a string of U.S. shooting sprees last year.

"We are law-abiding citizens, business owners, military, and we are not going to be responsible for other people's criminal actions," former Marine Damon Locke said to applause at a Florida rally he had helped organize.

Some in the crowd of about 1,000 in Brooksville, about an hour north of Tampa, hoisted signs that said "Stop the Gun Grabbers" and "Gun control isn't about guns, it's about control."

Obama and gun control advocates have begun a push to reinstitute a U.S. assault weapons ban following the Connecticut massacre. A number of other states have taken up gun legislation, and New York, with among the strictest gun control laws in the country, broadened its assault weapons ban on Tuesday.

Obama has also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines and more stringent background checks for gun purchasers.

Coinciding with the pro-gun rights rallies - which took place from Oregon to Connecticut - an accidental shooting at a North Carolina gun show wounded three people including a retired sheriff's deputy.

It happened when an owner was taking a 12-gauge shotgun out of its case and the firearm accidentally discharged at the entrance to the show in Raleigh, causing non-life-threatening injuries, state officials said.


In Connecticut, a rally for gun rights drew around 1,000 people at the state Capitol, where lawmakers have reacted to the Newtown shooting with proposals to tighten gun control rules, including limiting access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

That does not sit well with gun owner Jessie Buchanan, who attended the rally in Hartford.

"They could take away the 10-round magazine today and tomorrow it would be the five-round and the next day it would be the whole thing," Buchanan said.

Across the country in Denver, the mood was defiant as about 500 people, including families with children, gathered in unseasonably warm weather outside the state capitol.

"I have earned the right to have my guns," said Don Dobyns, an Air Force veteran and former police officer from Colorado Springs, who was among the rally organizers.

Sporting a shirt that read, "Girls with guns," 31-year-old Jennifer Burk said: "My parents didn't raise a victim and the government shouldn't try and make me one."

Gun control advocates say U.S. civilians have no justifiable need for assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, and they say more background checks will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

The reaction has been fierce from gun supporters such as the National Rifle Association, who point to a right to bear arms that is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and which they do not want to see watered down.

Gun-control advocates on Sunday plan to hold a National Gun Prevention Sabbath, where they say 150 houses of worship will call on the faithful to advocate for an "actionable plan to prevent gun violence."

People who have lost loved ones to gun violence will display their photographs, organizers said.

Related Stories:
Three hurt in firearm accident at North Carolina gun show

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Algeria ends desert siege with 23 hostages dead

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 04:20 PM PST

ALGIERS/IN AMENAS, Algeria (Reuters) - Algerian troops ended a siege by Islamist militants at a gas plant in the Sahara desert where 23 hostages died, with a final assault which killed all the remaining hostage-takers.

Hostages are seen with their hands in the air at the In Amenas gas facility in this still image received January 19, 2013 and taken from video footage on January 16 or January 17, 2013. The Algerian army carried out a dramatic final assault to end a siege by Islamic militants at a desert gas plant on Saturday, killing 11 al Qaeda-linked gunmen after they took the lives of seven more foreign hostages, the state news agency said. REUTERS/Ennahar TV via Reuters TV

Hostages are seen with their hands in the air at the In Amenas gas facility in this still image received January 19, 2013 and taken from video footage on January 16 or January 17, 2013. The Algerian army carried out a dramatic final assault to end a siege by Islamic militants at a desert gas plant on Saturday, killing 11 al Qaeda-linked gunmen after they took the lives of seven more foreign hostages, the state news agency said. REUTERS/Ennahar TV via Reuters TV

Believed to be among the 32 dead militants was their leader, Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, a Nigerien close to al Qaeda-linked commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, presumed mastermind of the raid.

An Algerian interior ministry statement on the death toll gave no breakdown of the number of foreigners among hostages killed since the plant was seized before dawn on Wednesday.

Details are only slowly emerging on what happened during the siege, which marked a serious escalation of unrest in northwestern Africa, where French forces are ratcheting up a war against Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali.

Algeria's interior ministry said on Saturday that 107 foreign hostages and 685 Algerian hostages had survived, but did not give a detailed breakdown of those who died.

"We feel a deep and growing unease ... we fear that over the next few days we will receive bad news," said Helge Lund, Chief Executive of Norway's Statoil, which ran the plant along with Britain's BP and Algeria's state oil company.

"People we have spoken to describe unbelievable, horrible experiences," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he feared for the lives of five British citizens unaccounted for at the gas plant near the town of In Amenas, which was also home to expatriate workers from Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp and others.

One American and one British citizen have been confirmed dead. Statoil said five of its workers, all Norwegian nationals, were still missing. Japanese and American workers are also unaccounted for.

The Islamists' attack has tested Algeria's relations with the outside world, exposed the vulnerability of multinational oil operations in the Sahara and pushed Islamist radicalism in northern Africa to centre stage.

Some Western governments expressed frustration at not being informed of the Algerian authorities' plans to storm the complex. Algeria, scarred by a civil war with Islamist insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives, had insisted there would be no negotiation in the face of terrorism.

President Barack Obama said on Saturday the United States was seeking from Algerian authorities a fuller understanding of what took place, but said "the blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out."

Official sources had no immediate confirmation of newspaper reports suggesting some of the hostages may have been executed by their captors as the Algerian army closed in for the final assault on Saturday.

One source close to the crisis said 16 foreign hostages were freed, including two Americans and one Portuguese.

BP's chief executive Bob Dudley said on Saturday four of its 18 workers at the site were missing. The remaining 14 were safe.


The attack on the heavily fortified gas compound was one of the most audacious in recent years and almost certainly planned long before French troops launched a military operation in Mali this month to stem an advance by Islamist fighters.

Hundreds of hostages escaped on Thursday when the army launched a rescue operation, but many hostages were killed.

Before the interior ministry released its provisional death toll, an Algerian security source said eight Algerians and at least seven foreigners were among the victims, including two Japanese, two Britons and a French national. One British citizen was killed when the gunmen seized the hostages on Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday one American, Frederick Buttaccio, had died but gave no further details.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said nobody was going to attack the United States and get away with it.

"We have made a commitment that we're going to go after al Qaeda wherever they are and wherever they try to hide," he said during a visit to London. "We have done that obviously in Afghanistan, Pakistan, we've done it in Somalia, in Yemen and we will do it in North Africa as well."

Earlier on Saturday, Algerian special forces found 15 unidentified burned bodies at the plant, a source told Reuters.

Mauritanian news agencies identified the field commander of the group that attacked the plant as Nigeri, a fighter from one of the Arab tribes in Niger who had joined the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in early-2005.

That group eventually joined up with al Qaeda to become Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It and allied groups are the targets of the French military operation in Mali.

The news agencies described him as "one of the closest people" to Belmokhtar, who fought in Afghanistan and then in Algeria's civil war of the 1990s. Nigeri was known as a man for "difficult missions", having carried out attacks in Mauritania, Mali and Niger.


Britain, Japan and other countries have expressed irritation that the Algerian army assault was ordered without consultation.

But French President Francois Hollande said the Algerian military's response seemed to have been the best option given that negotiation was not possible.

"When you have people taken hostage in such large number by terrorists with such cold determination and ready to kill those hostages - as they did - Algeria has an approach which to me, as I see it, is the most appropriate because there could be no negotiation," Hollande said.

The apparent ease with which the fighters swooped in from the dunes to take control of an important energy facility, which produces some 10 percent of the natural gas on which Algeria depends for its export income, has raised questions over the country's outwardly tough security measures.

Algerian officials said the attackers may have had inside help from among the hundreds of Algerians employed at the site.

Security in the half-dozen countries around the Sahara desert has long been a preoccupation of the West. Smugglers and militants have earned millions in ransom from kidnappings.

The most powerful Islamist groups operating in the Sahara were severely weakened by Algeria's secularist military in the civil war in the 1990s. But in the past two years the regional wing of al Qaeda gained fighters and arms as a result of the civil war in Libya, when arsenals were looted from Muammar Gaddafi's army.

(Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Oslo, Estelle Shirbon and David Alexander in London, Brian Love in Paris; Writing by Giles Elgood and Myra MacDonald)

Related Stories:
Cameron says fears for five Britons in Algeria

Obama seeks "fuller understanding" of what happened in Algeria siege
Algeria says 32 militants, 23 hostages killed at desert plant
Four of BP's 18 Algeria gas plant staff still missing
Five Norwegian Statoil employees still missing in Algeria

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Sudan, South Sudan border talks get nowhere, delay oil exports

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 03:08 PM PST

KHARTOUM/JUBA (Reuters) - Sudan and South Sudan on Saturday failed to agree on how to withdraw armies from their disputed border after a round of talks in Ethiopia, delaying again the resumption of crucial oil exports.

The African neighbours came close to war in April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 under a 2005 deal which ended decades of civil war.

After mediation from the African Union, both countries agreed in September to set up a demilitarized buffer zone and resume oil exports from landlocked South Sudan through Sudan. Oil is vital to both economies.

But neither side withdrew its army from the 2,000-km (1,200-mile) border due to mistrust left from one of Africa's longest civil wars.

To end the stalemate the AU brought together Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan's Salva Kiir two weeks ago in Ethiopia. But after a week of talks in Addis Ababa to discuss how to set up the buffer zone, as agreed by the presidents, both sides accused each other of making new demands.

"We were facing difficulties during the talks in Addis Ababa because of the changing position of South Sudan which keeps altering every time we reach an agreement," Sudan's defence minister Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein told reporters after his return at Khartoum airport.

Talks would be postponed until February 13, he said.

Hussein said South Sudan made new demands for demilitarization of a disputed border area called Mile-14 and had not given up support for rebels fighting Sudan's government.

Khartoum accuses Juba of backing Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two Sudan states bordering the South. Juba denies this.

The SPLM-North, made up of fighters who sided with the South during the civil war, controls part of the Sudan side of the border, which complicates setting up the buffer zone.

South Sudan accused Sudan of refusing to withdraw its forces from the border and making new demands regarding "Mile-14".

"The Republic of South Sudan also agreed to resume oil production immediately ... (but) Sudan has refused to accept the oil for processing and transporting in Sudan," until the buffer zone was fully operational, South Sudan said in a statement.


South Sudan, which says Sudan often bombs its territory, shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) a year ago after failing to agree export and transit fees with Khartoum. It had hoped to be producing 230,000 bpd by December.

Crude from southern fields will take two months to reach the Red Sea terminal on Sudan's coast after output resumes, South Sudan said this month, suggesting exports are unlikely to hit markets until April or even May after the latest delay.

The AU had planned to publish last week a timetable for setting up the buffer zone.

But in a statement on Saturday it only said both sides had made "substantial progress" and would hold further talks regarding the buffer zone and "the key issue on when oil exports could resume and under what circumstances."

It did not say when talks would resume.

Apart from oil and the buffer zone, the two countries must also agree on ownership of Abyei and other disputed areas.

On Thursday, Juba had raised hope of an understanding when it said it had started withdrawing its army from the border.

But it was unclear whether Juba had actually begun pulling out its forces because its military spokesman Philip Aguer told Reuters the army was still awaiting orders to do so.

(additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jason Webb)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


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Analysis: Apple earnings need to overcome technical malaise

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 05:24 AM PST

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO: To those who study technical stock charts, Apple Inc looks broken. Even though it is widely viewed to be undervalued after hitting an 11-month low this week and nine out of 10 brokerages recommend that investors buy or hold the stock, Apple shareholders could still be in for more rough times if technical strategists are right.

They note that trading charts show few price points where investors can expect clusters of buying to support Apple's shares. For example, the stock's medium-term momentum, based on its 50-day rate of acceleration, has been on a downward slope since March, but has not hit over-sold levels.

Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research, said it is hard to find an entry point at current levels, calling the stock "broken."

"There's been a lot of technical damage, but at the same time it still looks like it's in a downtrend," Detrick said. "This could still be a name you want to avoid and could very well still underperform in our opinion."

Apple has a chance to turn things around when it reports results for the December quarter on January 23. Investors are unusually nervous because of reports that Apple might be curtailing purchases of screens for its iPhone and iPad, which together account for over 70 percent of revenue.

If Apple can substantially beat Wall Street's subdued expectations, that would go a long way towards restoring confidence in the near term. It is not enough for Apple to just meet targets - that could cause shares to fall further in the short term, some analysts say. Apple has only missed analysts' profit forecasts four times in the last 10 years, two of those in the most recent reporting periods.

"If you have a 10 percent to 15 percent beat on estimates, it will be enough to have people say, 'Oh my gosh, Apple has its game back,'" said Chris Bertelsen, chief investment officer of Global Financial Private Capital, a Sarasota-based wealth manager with $1.7 billion assets under management.

The fund had cut back its holdings in Apple to less than 1 percent of its portfolio from about 5 to 6 percent last fall, but Bertelsen said it is now adding again. He likes Apple's longer-term prospects as the global smartphone market grows, particularly in developing countries such as India and Brazil.

Analysts on average estimate Apple's fiscal first-quarter earnings per share at $13.41, down slightly from $13.87 in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue is seen up 18 percent at $54.7 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The December quarter is typically the strongest one of the year for consumer electronics sales and Apple had a new product, the iPad mini, in its holiday season line-up.

Wall Street estimates Apple sold between 47.5 million and 53 million iPhones, up considerably from the 26.9 million sold in the previous quarter, when the iPhone 5 had not made it to all markets. IPad sales are expected at 23 million to 25 million.


Apple shares have fallen nearly 30 percent after hitting a record high in September, in part on worries that its mobile devices are no longer as popular as they were. As competition intensifies from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and others using Google Inc's Android software, investors are wondering if Apple's days of hyper growth are over.

There are still plenty of Apple bulls on Wall Street. Forty-eight out of 58 equity analysts who cover the stock rate it a "buy" or "strong buy" and another seven say it is a "hold," according to Thomson Reuters data. Only three recommend that investors sell the stock.

The median price target is $745, which is roughly 50 percent above Apple's Friday close of $500.

The company is expected to continue to post double-digit revenue growth into at least 2015 and a StarMine analysis of its expected growth over the next decade puts the stock's intrinsic value at about $708 a share.

"We still expect iPhone growth. They are still pointing to a strong December quarter and, if you think there's any momentum left, that they can grow on the high end (of the smart phone market) or find growth in other sectors, this is a buying opportunity," said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello, who has a fair value call on Apple at $770.

Investors also expect Apple to follow through on a promised $10 billion stock buy-back program.

"If the company is not buying back at this level, I think it's absurd and suggests that something is seriously wrong with the company," said Mark Mulholland, manager of the Matthew 25 fund, which has about 17 percent of its holdings in Apple.

Last year, the fund posted a considerable 29 percent gain, although it lost 2.8 percent in the last quarter as Apple slumped. (Apple shares gained 31 percent over 2012)

Mulholland values Apple at more than $1,000 per share, based on its growth prospects and cash level. Apple had cash and securities of $121.25 billion at the end of September, or about $129 per share.

Still, he agrees with technical analysts who say there is little momentum behind the stock. Some point to support near $425 per share, which means there is room for the stock to fall another 15 percent from current levels.

"Three things influence a stock price: growth, value and momentum. The growth and value are there, but you've completely lost your momentum," said Mulholland.

Apple shares are trading at 15.4 times projected 12-month earnings, a level that analysts say is unusually inexpensive for a company with its growth profile.

Samsung trades at a forward P/E of 7.6, while Nokia trades at 92.3 times.

Sandy Villere, portfolio manager of the $356 million Villere Balanced Fund, said the fund has been scooping up more shares as the price fell, but notes it is more fashionable to be down on the iPhone, iPad and Mac computer maker these days.

"It's becoming almost a contrarian thing to want to buy Apple shares," Villere added. It's "a great buying opportunity." - Reuters

Blockbuster UK administrators to shut 129 stores, cut 760 jobs

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 05:21 AM PST

LONDON: Entertainment retailer Blockbuster UK will shut 129 of its 528 stores and make 760 out of its 4,190 employees redundant, the firm's administrators said on Saturday in the latest bad news for Britain's gloomy high streets.

Blockbuster, which is owned by U.S. satellite TV company Dish Network, went into administration on Wednesday, days after music and DVD retailer HMV did the same.

"Having reviewed the portfolio with management, the store closure plan is an inevitable consequence of having to restructure the company to a profitable core which is capable of being sold," Blockbuster administrator Lee Manning of Deloitte said in a statement.

The 129 store closures, which will take place gradually over the coming weeks, are in addition to 31 store closures that had already been decided prior to administration, the statement said.

"The joint administrators continue to review the profitability of the store portfolio and announcements of further closures may be made in coming weeks," it said.

Blockbuster is the third casualty in the British retail sector since Christmas, after HMV and camera chain Jessops.

Many specialist retailers are struggling against competition from supermarkets like Tesco, online stores like Amazon and download sites like Apple's iTunes.

British retailers are also suffering from Britain's protracted economic troubles, with little wage growth for consumers whose budgets are being squeezed by government austerity measures. - Reuters

Intel may have little choice in big manufacturing bet

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 05:18 AM PST

SAN FRANCISCO: Intel Corp's decision to spend $13 billion in 2013 to develop and build future manufacturing technology has not gone down well on Wall Street but it may be necessary if it wants to stay on top of rivals in coming years.

The top chipmaker's shares slumped nearly 7 percent on Friday, a day after executives said the company would increase 2013 capital spending from an already dizzying $11 billion.

Some analysts decried the move, saying adding new capacity should be far from Intel's mind in a waning personal computer market. Increased spending may further pressure margins and leave Intel with even more idle capacity if PC sales keep falling.

But others believe that Intel's top priority must be maintaining its technological edge, a costly but necessary endeavor that may even pay off in the long run with market share gains. Moving up the technology ladder can also deliver cost savings, helping safeguarding Intel's margins as it tries to catch up to rivals in smartphones and tablets.

"That's the bet they're making and they're all in," said Sanford Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon. "If you stop, TSMC and Samsung close the gap - and you're toast."

Of Intel's $13 billion capex this year, $2 billion will go toward expanding a fabrication plant, or fab, in Oregon where engineers will work on a long-term plan to manufacture microchips on silicon wafers measuring 450 mm - about the size of a large pizza.

The other $11 billion goes toward more immediate improvements in Intel's manufacturing technology, letting it build chips over the next two or three years with features measuring just 14 nanometers, and then 10 nm. The narrower the features, the more transistors can fit on a single chip, improving performance.

The newest fabs currently use 300 mm wafers, about the size of a vinyl record. Moving up in size will make room for more than twice as many chips to be etched on each, leading to cost savings.

Lowering costs will be a serious priority for Intel as it ventures into the tablet and phone markets, where chips sell for much less than in the PC industry. Intel, which has yet to make meaningful progress in mobile, stresses that its most advanced fabs have the lowest cost per chip produced.

"One of reasons why Intel is so aggressive on capital spending is to maximize the chances it has of protecting its gross margins as it moves into smaller and lower priced CPUs," Longbow Research analyst JoAnne Feeney said.


Intel is not the first tech company to worry Wall Street with aggressive long-term investments whose payoffs are difficult to estimate.

Investors in the past have criticized Inc for splurging on costly warehouses and other shipping facilities, investments that eventually paid off and contributed to rich stock valuations.

While the size of Intel's capex increase alarmed investors, the chipmaker since 2011 has been spending heavily. Intel normally pours 12 to 16 percent of its revenue into capex, but spending has been closer to 20 percent in the past two years and will probably be higher this year, Feeney estimated.

The costs of developing the new technology to use 450 mm fabs are so high that just a few companies, such as Intel, Samsung Electronics and Taiwan's TSMC, are expected to have the scale to make the jump worthwhile. Building 450 mm plants from the ground up is expected to cost $10 billion or more.

It's not just a matter of creating bigger silicon wafers. Most of the high-tech equipment - sold by the likes of Applied Materials - used in chip manufacturing has to be redesigned as well.

The transition from 300 mm to 450 mm is so expensive and complicated that the world's biggest chipmakers and tool makers are collaborating to establish new standards and timing new technology.

Intel made a $3 billion strategic equity investment last year in chip equipment supplier ASML to help fund the development of future lithography tools for 450 mm fabs, a move followed by rivals Samsung and TSMC.

Intel's Oregon plant will lead the effort to produce chips on 450 mm wafers, with other larger Intel plants upgraded in the future, Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith told Reuters on Thursday.

Rasgon said Intel's long-term investments in manufacturing will mean more pressure on its margins over the next few years, but that its spending will help ensure it remains a major player in the chip industry over the next decade - though there's no guarantee.

"If there's any company I can look at five years from now, they'll be here and they'll be really successful at whatever they're doing. But I don't know what they'll look like," Rasgon said.

"They have to do this, but it doesn't mean I want to own the stock while they're doing it." - Reuters


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Chong Wei faces tough challenge in bid to make history

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 04:09 PM PST


IT is going to be just like the old times.

Two seasoned campaigners – Lee Chong Wei versus Sony Dwi Kuncoro. Two rival camps – Malaysia and Indonesia.

Welcome to what can be dubbed as an explosive men's singles final in the Maybank Malaysian Open badminton at Putra Stadium today as local hero Chong Wei sets out to carve a piece of history as he bids to become the home champion for a record nine times.

Yesterday, Chong Wei fended off a fiery challenge from Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark before pulling off a 21-13, 17-21, 21-12 win in a 56-minute battle.

Sony also had to come through a harrowing time as he recovered from a brief spell of inconsistency to beat a gritty Kenichi Tago of Japan 21-12, 19-21, 23-21 in a one-hour and 13 minutes energy-sapping semi-final match.

Sony has been a spoiler for Chong Wei before and the Malaysian knows it.

In their 12 head-to-head meetings, the Indonesian has beaten Chong Wei five times and his memorable wins over the Malaysian came during major tournaments – the 2007 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur and 2009 World Championships in India.

And based on his resurgent form, the 28-year-old Indonesian has the ability to prevent Chong Wei from becoming the most successful player in the Malaysian Open by winning his ninth crown. Last year, Chong Wei had equalled late Wong Peng Soon's feat of winning eight.

Chong Wei, who lost focus in the second game against Jorgensen yesterday, acknowledged Sony's revival but did not want to be too worried about it.

"Sony came through a great fight against Tago today. He has improved and showed that he has fully recovered from his injuries. I would rather focus on my game right now," said Chong Wei.

"Today, Jorgensen really gave me a good fight. He is confident and the top players will have to be wary of him. Fortunately, after trailing 0-4 in the decider, I managed to find my touches again."

The 25-year-old Jorgensen said: "Chong Wei is just so good in his attacking game. One has to be in a such a high level all the time to beat him. I am happy with my game though because I managed to steal one game from him at home. Next, my goal is the All-England (March 5-10)."

Meanwhile, despite being pushed to all corners by Tago yesterday, the 28-year-old Sony said that he had enough energy in the tank to give Chong Wei a run for his money.

"It will be a heavy task against Chong Wei because the Malaysian is really in a good shape now but I promise to play to my maximum ability," said Sony.

The world No. 5 and 2007 World Championships runner-up Sony said that his form had been inconsistent due to his back problem but things had turned out to be better since early last year.

"I am physically much stronger now and playing with better technique and style. This is my first Malaysian Open final and I am ready to give my best," said Sony, who is expecting his second child soon.

Chan-Goh find form in second game to march into final

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 04:08 PM PST


MIXED doubles top seeds Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying survived a massive scare before progressing into the final of the Maybank Malaysian Open at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Peng Soon-Liu Ying struggled initially before overcoming Poland's Robert Mateusiak-Nadiezda Zieba 12-21, 21-18, 21-16 in the semi-finals.

They will now bid to become the first pair in 50 years to win a home mixed doubles title in the Malaysian Open since its inception in 1937 when they take on Denmark's Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen in the final.

The last mixed doubles pair to win the title was Tan Aik Huang-Teoh Siew Yong in 1963.

No pair has ever came close to that feat since and it is certainly a breakthrough for Peng Soon-Liu Ying, who felled in the semi-finals last year.

They have previously won a title in Malaysia – the Malaysian Open GP Gold last year in Johor but it was a smaller scale tournament.

Yesterday, despite being cheered on by a vociferous home crowd, Peng Soon-Liu Ying was all jitters in the first game and made a string of unforced errors as the Poles took the initiative.

They were then staring at defeat after trailing 14-16 in the second game.

Fortunately, they woke up from their slumber to turn the game around before taking charge in the rubber game to seal a historic win.

Liu Ying later admitted that the huge home support initially got to them causing them to lose the first game.

"While it was really nice to see the crowd, I was really caught by surprise at the number of people who were cheering us on. Its something we're not used to," said Liu Ying.

"Thus in the first game, I was simply too nervous and was making a lot of unnecessary mistakes. It didn't help that our opponents got comfortable playing against us.

"But I'm really happy that we managed to pull through because we badly want to win this tournament. It will definitely be a better feeling than winning the Japan Open last year," added Liu Ying.

Meanwhile, Peng Soon added that they will have to be extra careful against Nielsen-Pedersen who play well in big matches and will be a tough opponent.

The Danes who appeared lethargic throughout the tournament finally found their form to end the fine run of Indonesian qualifiers Praveen Jordan-Vita Marissa, winning 21-14, 21-17.

"It was a tough match nonetheless. The Indonesians are a good pair and we had to rely on all our experience to pull through," said Nielsen.

Pedersen, meanwhile, added that it will be tough playing Peng Soon-Liu Ying in front of their home crowd and they will need to be at their best.

"Well I thought the crowd love us don't they?" jested Pedersen.

"Either way, we'll have to find the extra energy for the final," she added.

In women's doubles, second seeds, Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi of Japan powered past Shinta Mulia Sari-Yao Lei of Singapore 22-20, 21-14 to set up a showdown with China's Bao Yixin-Tian Qing.

Youngster Tzu Ying shows class in women’s badminton

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 03:17 PM PST


TAIWANESE youngster Tai Tzu Ying has enjoyed a stellar rise in the rankings since making a breakthrough three years ago.

Then, as a 16-year-old barely out of high school, Tzu Ying announced her presence to the world when she reached the final of the Singapore Open, before losing to India's Saina Nehwal.

She then went to become the youngest national champion in Taiwan before winning her first international title – the US Open GP Gold a year later.

Now at 19, the daughter of a firefighter has grown so much in stature and has already become a regular in the upper echelons of women's badminton.

Playing with a cool and composed style, together with a variety of strokes and excellent footwork, Tzu Ying has already beaten several top stars such as China's Wang Yihan and Wang Xin, India's Saina Nehwal and Thailand's Inthanon Ratchanok.

Tzu Ying, currently ranked No, 12 in the world, also captured the Japan Open last year making her the first Taiwanese to win a Super Series title.

Despite her achievements, the Kaohsiung native remains very much down-to-earth and prefers to enjoy her time on court especially when she engages in long gruelling matches.

"I try not to think too much about my achievements and the breakthroughs I have made because I just love getting on court," said Tzu Ying.

"Playing on court is the best time of my life and it really makes me feel alive. In fact I'm most happy when I'm involved in a long taxing match."

Meanwhile, the teen sensation, has been in sparkling form in the Malaysian Open after dishing out several impressive performances including knocking out two-time champion Tine Baun of Denmark in the quarter-finals.

"It is quite surprising that I've done so well here, especially against Tine because I was expecting her to beat me flat," said Tzu Ying.

Yesterday, the fearless Tzu Ying once again put up another impressive performance to beat top seed Saina Nehwal of India 22-20, 21-14.

She faces Chinese qualifier Yao Xue, who overcame South Korea's Bae Youn-joo 21-15, 21-18, in today's final.

"In fact I've never really done well in Malaysia in the past as it has always been first round exits for me. By reaching the final here I'm actually very happy because I do not need to rush back to Taiwan for the national tournament."


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PM urges Malaysians to help make Visit Malaysia 2014 a success

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 06:00 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: All Malaysians have a role to play in ensuring foreign tourists here get a tourist-friendly Malaysian experience, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said the government targeted to receive 28 million tourists next year under Visit Malaysia 2014, an additional three million to the 25 million foreign tourists received last year.

"Every Malaysian needs to make the success of this campaign a national project and mission, and everyone should show a tourist-friendly attitude to let tourists feel that when they visit Malaysia, they are accepted with polite and friendly treatment from locals," he said when launching the Visit Malaysia 2014 promotional campaign carnival at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium here Saturday.

Also present were the Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, and deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.

Najib noted that despite the promotional work being done by the government ministries and agencies, the best advertisement for the country was the experience of tourists.

"Their sharing of experience to their family and friends back home is what will encourage more people to visit, so we must prepare to give them a Malaysian experience that will leave a lasting impression in their hearts and minds," he said, adding that Malaysia's uniqueness rested in its successful combination of Eastern and Western values.

At the launch, the campaign's theme song, Celebrating 1Malaysia, Truly Asia, was also premiered by Malaysia's rock queen, Ella. The song will be used worldwide to promote the campaign.

Earlier, Dr Ng said the campaign was already garnering attention as there were 56.3 million online searches on Visit Malaysia 2014.

The launch was part of a three-day carnival, which ends today. The carnival presents a variety of events, including music and dance competitions, performances by popular artistes Datuk Khadijah Ibrahim, Jimmy Palikat and Azlan and the Typewriter, and lucky draws with over 2000 prizes.

Visitors can also buy holiday packages from over 200 booths manned by hotels, tour agents and tourism product operators at the carnival, besides learning more about local tourism programs like the Malaysia Homestay program and the 1Malaysia International Shoe Festival.

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Firefly to increase Subang-Johor Baru flights ahead of Chinese New Year

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 05:55 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Firefly will be increasing its Subang-Johor Baru flights from 28 to 35 weekly, effective Feb 4.

From Feb 18, 38 weekly flights will be offered.

In a statement, Firefly said the additional frequencies has been brought forward partly because of the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

"Johor is a vital part of Firefly's growth plan as our target market expands to passengers from the southern region, Singapore, Batam, and transit passengers at Senai International Airport.

"The introduction of Firefly's added services underlines our commitment to develop Johor Baru as our potential southern hub," said Firefly's CEO Ignatius Ong.

To celebrate the fleet expansion and added frequencies, Firefly is offering an all-in, one-way promotion starting from RM35 to domestic and regional destinations.

Booking is until Jan 27 for travel from Jan 21 to March 29, next year.

Tickets can be bought from Firefly's website, mobile application, airport and city ticketing offices, call-centre and through travel agents.

For further information to to

53 Malaysian students evacuated in Jakarta

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 04:56 AM PST

JAKARTA: The number of Malaysian students evacuated from Universiti Trisakti in West Jakarta to the flood relief centre at Malaysia Hall has risen to 53.

Education Malaysia director Assoc Prof Dr Juzhar Jusoh said most people in the group, which included 23 female students, had just returned from clinical training outside Jakarta.

"All of them are safe, except for a couple of students who are suffering from cough and flu. Their families have also been informed about their situation," he told reporters here Saturday. - Bernama


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Ang Lee mulls directing historical epic 'Cleopatra'

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 02:18 AM PST

TAIPEI - Oscar-winning director Ang Lee said Saturday he will "probably" accept an offer to direct historical epic "Cleopatra" starring Angelina Jolie, after the Hollywood actress wrote to him asking him to come on board.

Lee, whose 3D adventure "Life of Pi" has earned 11 Oscar nominations, said he would read the script before making a decision but the project was "very attractive".

"Sony has asked me to shoot the movie and Angelina Jolie wrote to me to express her wishes to collaborate. We admire each other... the project looks very attractive," the Taiwanese-American told reporters in Taipei.

"It's a big-budget movie so I am carefully evaluating it ... this is a rare opportunity and I will probably take it."

Lee returned to his birth place over the weekend to celebrate after "Life of Pie" earned 11 Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director.

The movie, based on the novel by Yann Martel about about an Indian boy cast adrift with a Bengal tiger, has become Lee's highest-grossing film ever with more than $450 in global box office sales, according to 20th Century Fox.

About 70 percent of the movie was shot in Taiwan, including at a now-abandoned airport in the centre of the country where Lee's team built a specially designed wave-generating tank.

Asked if he plans to cast his son Mason Lee, who starred in "The Hangover Part II", in his future projects, Lee joked that he would rather not "torture" his kin.

"He likes acting and I give him my blessings... I am tough on actors but it's difficult to be tough on your own son and it'd be an unnecessary torture for us. I'd rather torture other people's kids."

The filmmaker, who is based in New York, was hailed as the "glory of Taiwan" after becoming the first Asian to win a best director Oscar for his gay cowboy drama "Brokeback Mountain" in 2007. - AFP

Bro love

Posted: 19 Jan 2013 12:06 AM PST

Actor Matt Damon is proud of his buddy Ben Affleck's achievements.

BEN Affleck is storming through the Hollywood awards season with his movie Argo, and no one could be happier than his old friend Matt Damon.

Argo, which Affleck directed, produced and stars in, won best drama movie and best director awards at both the Golden Globes Awards and the Critics Choice Awards recently. It is also nominated for seven Oscars.

The story of the rescue of US diplomats from Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution has put Affleck back in the spotlight after a gruelling period 10 years ago when he became tabloid fodder while dating Jennifer Lopez, and the couple starred in 2003 romantic comedy flop Gigli.

Damon, with whom Affleck shared a screenplay Oscar for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, talked about his friend's success.

You must be so proud of Affleck.

I'm just thrilled for him. I'm really happy. I'm not at all surprised, because I've known him for so long and I know how talented he is.

Ben went through a rough patch in the early 2000s when the media was merciless with him, his career and his personal life. Was it rough to watch from the sidelines?

It was tough to watch him get kicked in the teeth for all those years because the perception of him was so not who he actually was. I always felt a knee-jerk need to defend him. It was just upsetting. It was upsetting for a lot of his friends because he's the smartest, funniest, nicest, kindest and an incredibly talented guy. And the perception of him was the opposite. So that was tough.

When did that perception change for better?

It's taken him a long time. It wasn't one thing that got him out of the penalty box. He had to dig. He did a lot of really good work over a long amount of time. The last movie he did (The Town) was a great movie. And the movie before was a great one too (Gone Baby Gone). Finally people now are ready to go, 'Wow, he's at the very top of the food chain'.

The two of you came up together in your careers, and won a screenplay Oscar together. How is it that you escaped the media scrutiny and he didn't?

Ten years ago he was in a relationship (with actress Jennifer Lopez) and he was on the cover of Us Weekly magazine every week. Nobody was more aware of it than him. I talked to him about it back then. He said, 'I am in the absolute worse place you can be; I sell magazines not movie tickets'. I remember our agent called up the editor of Us Weekly, begging her not to put him on the cover any more: Please stop. Just stop! And she said, 'My hands are tied. He's still moving magazines all through the mid-West. Sorry'.

So he was aware of what was happening as it was happening.

Do you think Gigli deserved to be vilified in the way that it was?

There are a lot of movies that cost more and made less than Gigli. But for some reason, people think Gigli is the biggest bomb of the last decade and it wasn't. There's a narrative that gets attached to all this stuff and Ben knew it. He had a millstone around his neck and that's it.

As Ben goes through this awards season, what are you feeling?

Now I'm just thrilled. I'm watching him go through it and it's great. He deserves everything that he's going to get. Just for going through what he went through, he deserves it. But he deserves it because he made a great movie. – Reuters

Leonardo DiCaprio to take 'long, long break' from filming

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 04:27 PM PST

BERLIN: "Django Unchained" and "Titanic" star Leonardo DiCaprio said on Friday he was planning to take a significant break from filming and concentrate on his environmental campaigning.

In an interview with Germany's mass circulation daily Bild, the 38-year-old American actor said: "I am a bit drained. I'm now going to take a long, long break. I've done three films in two years and I'm just worn out."

"I would like to improve the world a bit. I will fly around the world doing good for the environment," added DiCaprio, in comments published in German.

DiCaprio is currently starring in Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked spaghetti Western tribute "Django Unchained," which picked up two Golden Globes on Sunday.

He has also recently filmed "The Great Gatsby", directed by Baz Luhrmann and Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street."

He burnished his green credentials in the Bild interview, saying: "My roof is covered with solar panels. My car is electric. A normal person does not drive more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) a day. That can be done with a plug.


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