Rabu, 23 Januari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Philippine Congress okays bill on payments to human rights victims

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 08:10 PM PST

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine Congress has approved a bill awarding compensation to thousands of victims of human rights abuses under late President Ferdinand Marcos's 20-year iron rule.

Under the final version of the bill approved by a bicameral committee late on Wednesday, payments amounting to more than 10 billion pesos ($246 million) to the victims will come from funds recovered by the government from Marcos's ill-gotten wealth.

The abuses occurred during the period of martial law from September 21, 1972 up to Marcos's downfall on February 25, 1986.

Victims who can claim compensation include about 10,000 people, subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and execution during the Marcos regime, and their relatives who filed and won a class-action suit against Marcos in 1995 in Hawaii.

Marcos, who was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986, fled the country and died in exile in Hawaii.

The bill needs to be ratified by a plenary session of Congress on Monday before it is signed into law by President Benigno Aquino, whose late father, a former senator critical of Marcos, was assassinated in 1983 at a Manila tarmac upon his return from exile in the United States.

"We urge Congress to immediately ratify the compensation bill and for President Aquino to sign the bill into law so that the reparation process can start," Neri Colmenares, a party-list representative and one of the proponents of the bill, told reporters.

Marcos's family has since returned to the Philippines and retains power and influence in the country. His wife Imelda, infamous for her collection of jewellery and shoes, is currently a member of the lower chamber of Congress while his son is a senator.

In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court awarded over $600 million in funds, considered to be illegally acquired by Marcos, to the Philippine government.

The bill provides for the creation of an independent body that will evaluate and process payments to the victims, with compensation to be based on the gravity of abuse they endured.

(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

North Korea to target U.S. with nuclear, rocket tests

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 07:58 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Thursday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its "enemy".

A North Korean flag flutters in the wind on a foggy and rainy day in this picture taken from a military observation post of the South near the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jang Ye-seul

A North Korean flag flutters in the wind on a foggy and rainy day in this picture taken from a military observation post of the South near the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jang Ye-seul

The announcement by the country's top military body came a day after the United Nations Security Council agreed a U.S.-backed resolution to censure and sanction the country for a rocket launch in December that breached U.N. rules.

"We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States," North Korea's National Defence Commission said, according to state news agency KCNA.

North Korea is believed by South Korea and other observers to be "technically ready" for a third nuclear test, and the decision to go ahead rests with leader Kim Jong-un who pressed ahead with the December rocket launch in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.

"Whether North Korea tests or not is up to North Korea," Glyn Davies, the top U.S. envoy for North Korean diplomacy, said in the South Korean capital of Seoul as KCNA released its statement.

"We hope they don't do it. We call on them not to do it," Davies said. "This is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean peninsula."

The North was banned from developing missile and nuclear technology under sanctions dating from its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

The concern now is that Pyongyang, whose only major diplomatic ally, China, endorsed the latest U.N. resolution, could undertake a third nuclear test using highly enriched uranium for the first time, opening a second path to a bomb.

Its previous tests have been viewed as limited successes and used plutonium, of which the North has limited stocks.

North Korea gave no time-frame for the coming test and often employs harsh rhetoric in response to U.N. and U.S. actions.

Its long-range rockets are not seen as capable of reaching the United States mainland and it is not believed to have the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.

"The UNSC (Security Council) resolution masterminded by the U.S. has brought its hostile policy towards the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) to its most dangerous stage," the commission was quoted as saying.

(Writing by David Chance; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

U.S. to lift ban on women in front-line combat jobs

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 07:22 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military will formally end its ban on women serving in front-line combat roles, officials said on Wednesday, in a move that could open thousands of fighting jobs to female service members for the first time.

U.S. Army convoys are given a thumb up from a female soldier after crossing into Kuwait during the last convoy out of Iraq in this December 18, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files

U.S. Army convoys are given a thumb up from a female soldier after crossing into Kuwait during the last convoy out of Iraq in this December 18, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files

The move knocks down another societal barrier in the U.S. armed forces, after the Pentagon in 2011 scrapped its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

U.S. defence officials said the decision to end the ban had been taken by outgoing U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and individual military services would have until 2016 to seek exemptions if they believed any combat roles should remain closed to women.

Panetta is expected to announce the decision formally on Thursday. It will come after 11 years of non-stop war that has seen 84 women killed as a result of hostile action in the unpopular, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military services will have until May 15 to submit a plan on how they will comply by 2016.

Women have represented around 2 percent of the U.S. casualties of in Iraq and Afghanistan and some 12 percent - or 300,000 - of those deployed in the war efforts in the past 11 years, in which there were often no clearly defined front lines, and where deadly guerrilla tactics have included roadside bombs that kill and maim indiscriminately.

Women serve in combat roles for the armed forces of a few developed nations, including Canada and Israel, but officials say demand from women for such jobs in NATO nations is very low. In 2010, Britain decided after a review that it would not change rules excluding women from infantry or combat teams.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a suit in November seeking to force the Pentagon to end the ban on women in combat, applauded the planned move, which will overturn a 1994 policy preventing women from serving in small front-line combat units.

The outgoing head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Democratic Senator Patty Murray from Washington, and Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also voiced approval.

"This is an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defence of our nation," Murray said. Levin said it reflected the "reality of 21st century military operations."


A plan for implementing the decision will have to be approved by the defence secretary and notified to Congress. The plan will guide how quickly the new combat jobs open up and whether the services will seek exemptions to keep some closed.

Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, questioned the extent to which women would ultimately gain access to front-line combat, saying he doubted there would be a "broad opening."

Michael O'Hanlon, a defence analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, noted that integrating women was "a very delicate matter." He called for the Pentagon to take a gradual approach, perhaps starting with special forces.

Former female service members cheered the move.

Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain and head of the Service Women's Action Network, said her decision to leave the Marine Corps in 2004 was partly due to the combat exclusion policy.

"I know countless women whose careers have been stunted by combat exclusion in all the branches," said Bhagwati, who called the decision an "historic moment."

"I didn't expect it to come so soon," she said.

The move comes nearly a year after the Pentagon unveiled a policy that opened 14,000 new jobs to women but still prohibited them from serving in infantry, armour and special operations units whose main function was to engage in frontline combat.

For Panetta, it will add to his legacy as a secretary who oversaw the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and pushed the process to end discrimination against women.

Asked last year why women who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan conducting security details and house-to-house searches were still being formally barred from combat positions, Pentagon officials said the services wanted to see how they performed in the new positions before opening up further.

(Additional reporting by Eric Johnson in Chicago, Marty Graham in San Diego and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Brunnstrom)

Related Stories:
Ending US combat ban will even career playing field, servicewomen say

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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New auto sales hit record historic high

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 05:13 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: New auto sales in Malaysia grew 4.6% to hit a record high last year, with total industry volume (TIV) at 627,753 units.

It was also the third consecutive year that the TIV had breached the 600,000-unit level, according to data from the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

Last year, passenger vehicle sales increased 3.2% year-on-year to 552,189 units, while commercial vehicle sales jumped 16.2% to 75,564 units.

MAA president Datuk Aishah Ahmad (pic) said the record new vehicle sales in 2012 was due to factors such as strong economic growth, the implementation of infrastructure projects under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), increased consumer spending and consumption due to stable employment and rising disposable income, introduction of new models at competitive prices as well as aggressive sales campaigns by car companies.

Aishah also said the Malaysian auto industry had performed well last year despite challenges in the early part of 2012 such as the aftermath of the Thailand floods, which impacted the automotive supply chain, and the implementation of Bank Negara's responsible lending guidelines.

Aishah also noted that in 2012, sales of hybrid cars had jumped 84% to 15,355 units (compared with 8,334 units in 2011).

The hybrid car sales came from four marques, namely, Toyota (5,653 units), Lexus (979 units), Honda (8,712 units) and Porsche (11 units).

Aishah also pointed out that Malaysia's automotive TIV growth was in tandem with increased new vehicle sales in other parts of the Asean region.

According to MAA data, for the first 11 months of 2012, Thailand and Indonesia had recorded significant 75% and 26% jumps in TIV to 1.29 million and 1.03 million units, respectively.

Meanwhile, MAA has forecast the TIV to grow to 640,000 units this year.

Aishah said MAA's forecast accounted for factors such as an expected economic growth of 5.6% in 2013 (based on a survey by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research), a stable interest rate environment, multiplier effects from the ETP, stability in the employment market, concerns about the fragility of the global economy, introduction of new models to generate buying interest and promotion campaigns by car companies.

"We also expect more than 200 new car models and variants to be introduced in the Malaysian market this year, further stirring buying interest," she said.

The MAA is also organising the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show 2013 (KLIMS13) in November, which is expected to provide a further boost to the auto industry.

KLIMS13 is due to be held from Nov 15 to 24, 2013, at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur.

The motor show is expected to be a bigger event this year, as the response from automotive players has been strong, with 93% of the exhibition space booked.

Themed "Efficiency in Motion", KLIMS13 is expected to occupy close to 30,000 sq m of gross exhibition floor, with more than 150 exhibitors set to attract over 330,000 visitors.

Uptrend seen for Kulim

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 05:11 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: One of the stocks that analysts are eyeing as a buy following this week's market selldown is Kulim (M) Bhd.

AmResearch in a note to clients said it is upgrading its recommendation on Kulim from "hold" to "buy" as valuations are now more palatable. The counter has a new fair value of RM4.30 based on a fully-diluted price earnings ratio of 15 times for its financial year ending Dec 31, 2013. (FY13)

Kulim ended the day one sen higher to RM3.61 on a volume of 1.25 million shares. The stock had dropped 19 sen over the last two days of the selldown.

AmResearch expects a 31% increase in Kulim's net profit of RM325.6mil in FY13 to be underpinned by volume recovery, stabilisation of production cost per tonne and lower minority interest.

"We forecast a fresh fruit bunches (FFB) production growth of 14% in FY13 aided by yield enhancements and acquisition of estates from its parent company, Johor Corp (JCorp). In total, Kulim would have an additional 13,687ha of plantation landbank from the acquisition. Production costs per tonne are expected to remain relatively unchanged from FY12's RM1,500 per tonne."

An analyst from another local research house concurred.

"Kulim should perform better in FY13, with better contributions from the Papua New Guinea side. Production should normalise. The only caveat is if crude palm oil (CPO) prices continue to weaken," he said.

Kulim has a 49.54% stake in Papua New Guinea-based palm oil maker New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL).

Analysts said that some newsflow that could excite the market would include some form of asset acquisition or the disposal of its remaining shipping assets. Observers said management could be mulling over the listing of its shipping arm, although no timeline has been given.

"We reckon that it would take time for Kulim to seek and evaluate acquisitive proposals. Alternatively, we believe that a faster option would be for Kulim to increase its shareholding in NBPOL," noted AmResearch.

The research house estimated that it would cost Kulim about RM42mil to increase its equity interest in NBPOL by 1 percentage point. Kulim's dividend income from NBPOL is expected to be RM40.6mil for FY12. Currently, Kulim owns 49% of NBPOL.

Aside from that, there has been speculation that Kulim and NBPOL could also end up becoming privatisation targets of JCorp. This follows the recently-concluded exercise by JCorp to take QSR Brands Bhd and KFC Holdings (M) Bhd private.

The RM5bil acquisition of QSR and KFC by a consortium comprising JCorp, the Employees Provident Fund and CVC Capital Partners was part of a bigger restructuring by JCorp to streamline its businesses.

The speculation is that JCorp may consider embarking on another round of restructuring with its stable of assets and that could involve Kulim and NBPOL.

Banking sector repairing damage this year

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 05:05 PM PST

THE global financial services sector kicked off the year with some powerful news.

Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan chief and probably the highest profile Wall Street banker, had his salary halved to US$11.5mil (US$1.5mil in pay and US$10mil in shares last year) (RM34.92mil) due to a US$6bil rogue trading loss, The Telegraph reported.

Over in London, the Bank of England was getting sweeping powers to force banks to hold more capital, with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking group being among the first to be given a deadline to plug an estimated £30bil shortfall, said The Telegraph further.

The Bank of England's new financial policy committee was also getting specific powers, which it could use to force banks to hold more capital against mortgages with high loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, or a high loan-to-income ratio, said The Guardian.

This is in view of the resurgence in confidence in the London property market, which some surveys have dubbed the most expensive, and where prices are expected to stabilise.

At Barclays Bank, new chief executive officer (CEO) Antony Jenkins has issued standards in ethical banking, asking staff to either sign up or quit.

Towards the end of last year, it was governments and regulatory authorities that were actively on the scene, fining banks for various reasons.

The descriptions of these offences had gone wild, accusing banks of money laundering and aiding terrorists and drug barons.

The authorities also showed their teeth in the hefty fines and arrests made on the Libor interest rate rigging.

Beginning this year, however, it looks like the banks or employers themselves are initiating stern action against their staff, from top down.

If these indicators are anything to go by, then it looks like the banking sector is seriously tackling its woes, ranging from reputational damage to ethics.

Making the CEO take responsibility by halving his salary is a drastic step and sets a precedent for action elsewhere, should other banks also face similar woes.

Dimon, who had initially described the London Whale trading loss as a "tempest in a teapot,'' in the end said: "You make mistakes that you acknowledge and you fix."

Getting down to business, Barclays' Jenkins is making sure his staff are fully aware of his new "purpose and values'' blueprint.

They have to sign up and agree to practise ethical banking.

Sometimes people don't practise what they preach.

In this case, the new boss is getting everybody back down to earth with the basics of banking.

Barclays, rocked by the Libor interest rate-rigging scandal, is seeking to rebuild customer trust.

Making the staff sign up on corporate governance and imposing LTV are unglamorous things done in the East.

The Western world of banking is generally associated with high finance and the sophistication of a derivatives-related world.

Of course, the West has its tradition of solid investment bankers and fund managers who manage piles of money belonging to, among others, governments, pensioners and families.

But as they say, things always come back in full circle, and most of the time, we have to pay for our mistakes.

The credit bubble of 2008 revealed severe weaknesses in the risk management of derivatives-related trades.

Now, bankers around the world seem to be increasingly on an international platform, using the same weapons to fight unethical behaviour and pre-empt credit bubbles.

It looks like there could be some interesting developments in relation to these concerns in banking and finance worldwide this year.

  • Columnist Yap Leng Kuen quotes Albert Camus: "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was, in me, an invincible summer."
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    The Star Online: Sports

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    Knicks, Lakers top Forbes list of most valuable clubs

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 04:50 PM PST

    NEW YORK - Even without Asian-American star Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks are the most valuable franchise in the NBA at $1.1 billion, according to a list released on Wednesday by Forbes magazine.

    The Los Angeles Lakers were second at $1.1 billion followed in order by the Chicago Bulls at $800 million, the Boston Celtics at $730 million, the Dallas Mavericks at $685 million and the NBA champion Miami Heat at $625 million.

    Lin, the NBA's first Asian-American player, touched off "Lin-sanity" last February when he came off the bench to spark the injury-hit Knicks on a six-game win streak with clutch shooting and passing skills.

    But the Knicks did not match an offer from the Houston Rockets and Lin went to the Texas squad this season, signing a three-year deal worth $25 million.

    The Rockets were seventh on the Forbes list at $568 million, with Golden State at $555 million, the newly relocated Brooklyn Nets at $530 million and the San Antonio Spurs at $527 million rounding out the NBA's richest 10 teams.

    Ranked 11th at $525 million were the Sacramento Kings, who are in the process of being sold by the Maloof family for that sum to a group that would move the team to Seattle, which lost the NBA SuperSonics when they relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008.

    On the bottom of the Forbes list came the Milwaukee Bucks, valued at $312 million. Just ahead of them were the Charlotte Bobcats at $315 million, Atlanta Hawks at $316 million, New Orleans Hornets at $340 million and Minnesota Timberwolves at $364 million.

    The Washington Wizards, with the NBA's worst record on the court, ranked 23rd on the list at $397 million.

    The Knicks' value jumped 41 percent thanks in part to a renovation of Madison Square Garden that moved more seats closer to the court, allowing for a jump of ticket prices by an average of 49 percent last season.

    Merchandise sales and television ratings were also higher, giving the Knicks $243 million in revenues last season. Both figures were boosted by the "Linsanity" phenomenon.

    The Lakers' value jumped 11 percent despite the team having the highest payroll in the NBA for the third year in a row, forcing the club to pay $12.6 million in luxury tax under NBA salary cap rules.

    The Celtics boasted the highest average ticket price at $69 to help their value jump 51 percent while the Nets jumped 48 percent thanks to the relocation from New Jersey to a new arena in nearby Brooklyn.

    Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov owns 80 percent of the Nets with arena majority owner Bruce Ratner owning the other 20 percent.

    NBA commissioner David Stern, set to retire in another 12 months after 30 years on the job, successfully saw team values jump after the signing of a deal with players that split revenues 50-50 following a lockout that trimmed the season by 20 percent.

    The average NBA team is worth $509 million, a jump of 30 percent over last year's figures, largely due to the new union contract. - AFP

    Tiger Woods back on familiar ground

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 04:27 PM PST

    SAN DIEGO (California): Tiger Woods returned to Torrey Pines, the site of some of his greatest triumphs, for a practice round on Tuesday ahead of his US PGA season debut at the US$6.1mil Farmers Insurance Open.

    "I feel comfortable here. There's no doubt about that," Woods said. "There are a few courses like that where I've had my share of success."

    Woods won his most recent Major title at Torrey Pines in 2008, limping to a playoff victory over Rocco Mediate for his 14th Major title, only four shy of the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus.

    "I do look at that week often," Woods said. "What comes back to me is the memory of pure pain."

    During his practice round, Woods was more concerned about adapting to a course that was firmer than usual.

    "I didn't really think about any of the past stuff," Woods said.

    "I was just trying to get a feel for the golf course, what club to use and where my lines are going to be.

    "This golf course was playing different. I can't remember it playing this dry. It has been a while."

    Woods has not won a Major crown since the 2008 US Open, struggling with injuries and the aftermath of his sex scandal.

    But Woods has also won the course's PGA event six times, including four in a row from 2005 through 2008 plus 1999 and 2003.

    That gives him seven career titles at Torrey Pines as well as at PGA events at Bay Hill and Firestone.

    Sam Snead holds the record for PGA titles at one event with eight at Greensboro. Snead also owns the career mark for PGA victories at 82 with Woods second at 74.

    Woods, whose most recent triumph came last year at Congressional in the National, says his emphasis this season will be on improving his overall game.

    "Improving what I'm doing, becoming more efficient at what I'm doing," Woods said.

    "The majority of the year (in 2012) I hit it pretty good but my short game and putting weren't there. Those were working better later in the year but I wasn't hitting the ball as well.

    "I just have to marry those two combos and hopefully I can do that on a consistent basis."

    But Woods said wins are harder to come by than when he began on the tour because of greater depth in the fields. — AFP

    Federer fights off Tsonga to set up a rematch with Murray

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 04:32 PM PST

    ROGER Federer survived a searching examination from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win a gripping five-setter and set up an Australian Open semi-final against Andy Murray yesterday.

    The Swiss world No. 2 was pushed all the way and needed five match points before dousing seventh-seeded Tsonga to win 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3 in three hours 34 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

    His victory has set up a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final with third seed Murray in tomorrow's semi-final.

    World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will play Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer in the other semi-final today.

    It was Federer's composure under pressure that won the day in the fifth set against the explosive Frenchman, who frequently gave the Swiss great problems with his all-court game.

    Federer handled the tension of the deciding set and got a crucial break in the fourth game to take control, but was forced to five match points before he could put Tsonga away to improve his five-set record to 21-16.

    "It was a tough close, for sure, the whole match was tough and any set could have gone either way," Federer said.

    "It's tough because you never know what Jo is going to come up with.

    "I hit three great serves there in the fifth set and every time he got them back, and that's what he can do and that's why he remains dangerous throughout a match."

    Federer has now reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open for the 10th straight year and also extended his record number of Grand Slam semi-final appearances to 33.

    The Swiss great is bidding to become only the second man to win five Australian titles behind Australian Roy Emerson, who won six in the 1960s.

    Federer began well breaking Tsonga's opening service game but the Frenchman hit back with the Swiss losing his serve for the first time in the tournament.

    The set went to a tiebreaker and Federer played the big points the better to go one up after 50 minutes.

    The athletic Tsonga took the second set after breaking Federer in the seventh.

    Both players exchanged breaks early in the third set and again it went to a tiebreaker.

    Once again the world No. 2 revelled on the pressure moments and took the set after a magnificent retrieve which forced Tsonga to hit out and hand Federer a two sets to one lead.

    Tsonga fought back with two more service breaks to take the match into a fifth set but Federer was more consistent on the big points to get home.

    "I played a good match. I was solid. I was there every time," Tsonga said.

    "I kept my level of concentration really high at all times. I just gave my best today, so I'm proud of that.

    "He didn't miss a lot in the fifth set. I mean, it makes a difference."

    Meanwhile, Murray beat Jeremy Chardy to reach the semi-finals without dropping a set, and then shrugged off concerns he will be undercooked for the battles ahead.

    The British third seed was too strong and accomplished for the unseeded Frenchman, winning 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in one hour 51 minutes to set up a showdown against Federer. — AFP

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    The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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    A villain is back in the 'Captain America' sequel

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 01:22 AM PST

    During an interview with Heyuguys.co.uk, actor Toby Jones revealed he will play Nazi scientist Arnim Zola in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

    Toby Jones will be joining Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan, the only actors from the first installment so far to have been confirmed for the sequel.

    The Winter Soldier will be set about 60 years after the Second World War, which marked Steve Rogers's transformation into a supersoldier known as Captain America.

    The character played by Toby Jones will be in control of a robotic body, in keeping with his evolution in the original comic books.

    Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders will reprise their roles as SHIELD agents in the movie. Anthony Mackie will also feature in the superheroic world of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Falcon, a social worker who can fly.

    Anthony and Joe Russo will direct the movie in 2013. The finished product is set for worldwide release in 2014.


    'Mama' screams to top of N. America box office

    Posted: 22 Jan 2013 06:33 PM PST

    LOS ANGELES: Newly released horror film "Mama" pushed the Oscar-tipped bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty" out of the top slot at the North American weekend box office, industry figures showed Tuesday.

    "Mama," in which a shadowy being trails two young children who were rescued after being lost in the woods when their parents died, screamed into first place with $32.1 million as it debuted on a four-day US holiday weekend.

    It stars Jessica Chastain, who last week won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of a CIA officer in the acclaimed but controversial "Zero Dark Thirty." That film took in $18.6 million in its second weekend on national release, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

    The dark romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," coming off a best comedy actress Globe win for star Jennifer Lawrence, zoomed to third place from 10th last week, raking in $12.7 million at the weekend box office.

    In fourth place was the Sean Penn action flick "Gangster Squad," with $10.1 million, just barely ahead of "A Haunted House" at $9.47 million.

    They were trailed by newcomer "Broken City," a crime drama starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, which earned $9.46 million, and Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked spaghetti Western tribute "Django Unchained," with $9.2 million.

    Musical adaptation "Les Miserables" took eighth place, taking in just over $9.0 million. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first part of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" prequel trilogy was in ninth at $7.6 million.

    Rounding out the top 10 was Arnold Schwarzenegger's new action flick "The Last Stand," which earned $7.2 million in its debut weekend. - AFP

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    The Star Online: Nation

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    Najib: Moderation must prevail to build progressive nation

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 07:14 AM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: The concept of "wasatiyyah" or moderation as taught by Prophet Muhammad should prevail to ensure that the mission of building a progressive and competitive nation is achieved, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

    In his message in conjunction with Prophet Muhammad's birthday celebration Thursday, Najib said the Prophet was a role model who practised moderation in his life and the concept had brought about unity and solidarity of Muslims throughout the world.

    "Moderation as practised by the Prophet has resulted in creating the momentum to drive the development of each race and country in the world.

    "Therefore, this momentum needs to continue to ensure our mission to build a progressive and competitive country is achieved," he said in his personal blog Wednesday.

    Najib said Malaysia's ability to strengthen relations between the West and Islamic world was highlighted by former Asean secretary-general Dr Surin Pitsuwan as a successful model of the moderate approach, as practised by the Malaysian government in handling various issues and conflicts in the region.

    He said the practice of moderation in Malaysia had become the best example to Islamic countries in resolving regional issues, including Malaysia's success as mediator in the southern Philippine conflict, which proved that it was not only respected among Islamic countries but also among western countries.

    "I have just made a humanitarian visit to Palestine to show our full support for the struggle of the Palestinians in facing the Zionist regime in Gaza and offered to help as a middle person to bring peace between Hamas and Fatah.

    "The fact is that the world recognises Malaysia as an important voice for peace. Therefore, we need to maintain ourselves as a credible and respectd government at the international level," he said.

    In ending his message, Najib called on Muslims in Malaysia to spread peace and blessings to the Prophet as a sign of love and affection for him.

    "The Prophet was indeed the greatest man, thus we should also strive to become great Muslims.

    "I pray the celebration this time will move us in our struggle to attain goodness in this world and hereafter as enjoined by the Prophet," he said. - Bernama

    Three Genneva directors, ex-director ordered to defend money-laundering charges

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 06:22 AM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: Three directors and a former director of gold investment company Genneva Sdn Bhd were ordered by a Sessions Court here Wednesday to enter their defence on 224 charges of money-laundering and five charges of illegal deposit-taking involving more than RM100mil.

    Judge Datuk Rozana Ali Yusuff made the decision after finding the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against Ng Poh Weng, 63, Marcus Yee Yuen Seng, 61, Chin Wai Leong, 37, and Liew Chee Wah, 59, respectively.

    The court fixed March 15 for the defence trial. All four had opted to testify under oath.

    For the money laundering charges, Ng is facing 93 counts, Yee, 40 counts, Chin, 61, and Liew, 30 counts.

    They allegedly committed the offences at Public Bank Berhad, Kuala Lumpur branch, City Main Office, Menara Public Bank, 146 Jalan Ampang here between July 2008 and June 2009.

    For the illegal deposit-taking charges, they allegedly committed the offences at Jalan Kuchai Maju 6, off Jalan Kuchai Lama between November 2008 and July 2009.

    Mardziatun Nisa is deputy public prosecutor while Datuk Hanif Hashim represented the four accused. - Bernama

    All set for grand Thaipusam celebration

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 05:47 AM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: Some 1,300 police personnel and more than 500 members of the People's Volunteer Corps (Rela) will be deployed for security control during the Thaipusam celebration on Sunday.

    Gombak police chief ACP Abdul Rahim Abdullah said Wednesday that police would also make available five mobile police stations for the people to lodge reports on crime.

    He said many devotees were expected to gather at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee in the wee hours of Saturday and follow the silver chariot on its journey through several streets of Kuala Lumpur to the Sri Subramaniam Temple in Batu Caves.

    "We expect the procession to arrive at Batu Caves at about 2.30pm the same day. Several roads along the way will be closed in stages to facilitate the procession.

    "Besides Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, the other roads to be closed are Jalan Sultan, Jalan Dang Wangi, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Ipoh," he told a news conference held together with Sri Maha Mariamman Dhevasthanam temple chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah.

    Nadarajah said the temple management had secured the cooperation of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, several other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Selayang Municipal Council to facilitate the Thaipusam celebration.

    He also said the number of stalls in the Batu Caves temple compound had been reduced to 400 this year to facilitate movement of the anticipated 1.6 million devotees and visitors.

    He advised the devotees and visitors not to wear too much jewellery and ensure that their belongings were well secured so as not to attract the attention of snatch thieves and robbers.

    An information and complaints counter would be opened at the administration office near the entrance of the temple, he added.

    Meanwhile, the MIC said in a statement that it would be distributing 30,000 refreshment and food packets to devotees in the vicinity of its headquarters in conjunction with the Thaipusam celebration.

    Its secretary-general Datuk S. Murugessan said the party would be setting up a "Thaneer Panthal" (refreshment stall) on Friday from 11pm for the benefit of devotees taking part in the chariot procession.

    "It is expected that there will be more than 100,000 devotees in the procession from the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee to the Batu Caves Sri Subramaniam temple," he said.

    Murugessan said MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel and other MIC leaders would be present during the chariot procession.

    Reminding Hindus that Thaipusam, despite attracting many tourists over the years, was still a religious festival, he urged those participating in the procession to be mindful of the fact and to be traditionally dressed.

    The festival commemorates the birthday of Lord Muruga, who was given a "vel" (spear) by the Goddess Parvathi to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. - Bernama

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    Lack of sports facilities

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 04:09 AM PST

    I HAVE lived in Kajang for many years. The town has recently developed massively. Previously, Kajang was only known for its roundabouts.

    While still being developed, I feel that the town is badly planned for the following reasons.

    As a sports enthusiast, I am perturbed by the lack of sporting facilities. I use to play tennis at a golf club in Kajang. However, the club was recently acquired by another party, which I believe will be utilised for commercial development.

    Sports enthusiasts are now left with no sporting facilities. There were public tennis courts next to the stadium, but it was also acquired, again for development.

    As a resident, I would like to know from the local authority, Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj), why there are no areas assigned for a sports complex or proper public sporting facilities.

    I wonder whether the youths these days would be exposed to any form of sports, looking at the recent state of sporting facilities.

    Also with the rapid development, the poor drainage in town causes massive floods.

    Businesses are affected when it floods. What is MPKj doing to improve the flood situation?

    The bus station, located in the middle of a main street, causes massive traffic jams.

    The buses stop all over the place at their own whims and fancy.

    Why should a bus station be located in an area that affects the traffic? Besides the buses, taxis are also haphazardly parked waiting for customers.

    Kajang has grown rapidly, however the number of parking bays has not increased in the same tandem. Again, I wonder where one is expected to park.

    I believe we have enough buildings at this stage.

    I have no complaints for development of a township, but I believe it has to be well planned.

    Sporting facilities is a must in every township and not merely selling every piece of existing land for development.

    In many countries, you find public sporting facilities in suburbs or townships. I believe this translates into sporting success.

    Bus stands and taxi stops have to be built in a location where it does not affect traffic, which I believe is very basic in any town planning. I hope the authorities in Kajang live up to the status of a Majlis Perbandaran, as opposed to a Majlis Daerah many years ago.


    Price hike not justified

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 04:09 AM PST

    I HAVE noticed over the years that some hawkers usually take the opportunity to raise their prices in the new year.

    I don't know why they always choose the new year to give their loyal customers the "bad news".

    Previously, they cited the increase in the price of sugar, condensed milk, oil, flour and other ingredients to justify the increase.

    The prices of some of these essential items are controlled by the government and yet it does not deter them.

    This new year, two stalls which I frequent, namely a noodle stall, which happens to sell tasty plain nasi lemak and a roadside apam balik stall have decided to increase their prices by 30sen and 50sen respectively.

    I suppose if they were to raise their prices by 10sen or maybe 20sen it would seem reasonable.

    How do these proprietors justify their price increase when most of the ingredients used had not seen any increase in prices?

    The increase has put a bad taste in my mouth and I feel it is also bordering on profiteering as the proprietors know they are doing well with a steady flow of loyal customers and as such they are taking advantage of the situation.

    There is no law to prevent anyone from increasing the prices of their food. The consumer just has to be aware and make a choice whether they want to continue patronising such stalls or simply boycotting them.

    However, the Inland Revenue Board should also be aware of such proprietors and check if they do pay income tax.

    For me, I would not be boycotting them in total but just frequent them less.

    Michael Ng

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    Surfers making waves in Desaru

    Posted: 22 Jan 2013 06:35 PM PST

    THOUSANDS of extreme sport fans thronged the Desaru public beach area in Johor to catch a glimpse of 80 local and foreign surfers competing in the annual Monsoon Mayhem International Surf Challenge.

    The three-day event that was held from Jan 4-6, saw participation of surfers from Malaysia, Australia, Holland, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

    Desaru beach was chosen for the competition, which was in its seventh edition as it was one of the best spots for water surfing in the region with "extreme and harsh waves" posing perfect challenges for competitive surfers.

    Among the 80 participants were two brothers - Mohd Helmi Jasni, 16, and Mohd Haikal, 23 - both sharing the common passion for surfing since they were young.

    At the competition, Mohd Helmi clinched the Best Local Surfer title while Mohd Haikal emerged as the winner of the Men's Open Category.

    Mohd Haikal said his friends introduced him to the water sport when he was 12 years old and his passion for surfing grew ever since.

    "I enjoy surfing and practice my skills every day as my house is located near the Tanjung Balau beach,'' he said.

    He and his brother also travel to beaches in Desaru or Tanjung Sedili to practice and horn their skills as different beach locations had different waves patterns.

    Mohd Haikal said he planned to use the cash prize of RM2,000 to travel to Bali next month with his brother and three other surfing buddies to catch the waves at the popular Indonesian holiday destination.

    Mohd Helmi on the other hand, would use the winning cash of RM500 to buy new surfing gears, as his current ones were a little outdated.

    "I have been in training for three years now, and my surf board is getting old, so I am planning to get a new one for myself," he said adding that his ambition is to become a pro-surfer.

    Mohd Helmi also said that his brother was his source of inspiration and grateful to him for teaching the surfing skills and techniques to him in the past three years.

    "My brother has taught me many tricks and always guided me during our daily training sessions," said the SMK Bandar Penawar Kota Tinggi student.

    Former convict arrested after robbery attempt

    Posted: 22 Jan 2013 06:04 PM PST

    TANGKAK: A former convict was arrested after he tried to rob a foreign worker from Bangladesh using a fake pistol near a textile factory here.

    Ledang police chief Supt Harun Idris said the suspect, aged 20, was detained by a police motorcycle patrol team which rushed to the factory after being alerted of the robbery attempt.

    He said the incident happened at 2.35pm on Jan 12 when the suspect who came in a car approached the worker and threatened him with the pistol.

    The suspect then demanded the foreign worker to surrender his wallet and a mobile phone.

    Two policemen on motorcycles who arrived at the scene managed toarrest the suspect, he told reporters at his office yesterday.

    Supt Harun said the pistol was a fake Walter P99 with plastic bullets and the suspect was a former convict who used to serve time in prison.

    He said the suspect, who was tested positive for drugs, was previously sentenced to six months jail and fined RM1,800 for a drug-related offense.

    The suspect has been remanded to assist in investigations under Section 32 of the Firearms Act 1960 and Section 385 of the Penal Code.

    UTM students win competition with design based on cars from the 1920s

    Posted: 22 Jan 2013 06:33 PM PST

    JOHOR BARU: The classic Ford T car produced in 1927 inspired a group of 12 final year students to win a fuel saving car design competition held by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) here.

    The group, which called themselves Power Rangers, are students from UTM's Kemahiran Hidup (Living Skills) Education faculty, beating five other groups to win the overall title.

    Power Rangers leader Nurfairus Jaafar Sidek, 28, said that the group's car design was loosely based on classic cars from the 1920s.

    "Our single seater car is only 130kg which is one of the lightest in the competition with a top speed of 60kilometres per hour.

    "The engine itself comes from a Honda motorcycle which I bought all the way from Kelantan as it was in good condition and cheap," he said adding that in total the group spent RM4,000 to build the car from scratch.

    He added that the reason the group's car was influenced by the Ford T model was because the vehicle was light and could go far without using much fuel.

    "It was a challenge as we could not find such cars on the road now but we wanted to build something similar to the Ford T.

    "In the end, we researched online about the model and finally came up with the winning design," he said.

    He added that the car was completed a week before the competition and the group put it through several tests to ensure that it was in good condition.

    "This is why we were pretty confident that we would emerge as champions," he said.

    Nurfairus also said that the group's car managed to save about 30% of petrol per litre in the one-kilometre track.

    "Everything went well for our car from the handling to its performance and I am very proud as our hard work has paid off.

    "Our next focus is to improve the car further and represent UTM in the Eco Shell Challenge that will be held in June," he said.

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    Lump in the neck

    Posted: 23 Jan 2013 02:25 AM PST

    A lump in the neck may signify a great many things.

    MY mother recently discovered a lump in the side of her neck. Naturally, she is very worried. What can a lump in the neck be due to?

    There are many causes of neck lumps. The causes can also be derived from where the lump is – right side of the neck, left side of the neck, in the midline, below the jaw, etc. You also have to think about the different layers in your neck.

    There are many structures within your neck. Outermost is the skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscles, arteries, veins and nerves.

    A very important artery in the neck is the carotid artery. Its accompanying vein is the jugular vein.

    There are also the lymph nodes that form part of your lymphatic system.

    Then there are structures within the neck, such as the salivary glands – the sublingual, the parotid and submandibular pairs of glands. There's the thyroid gland and the lymph nodes. There's the pharynx and larynx (voice box) and trachea.

    Then there are the bones that support the neck – your cervical spine, all seven vertebrae.

    Many of these structures can give rise to a lump in your neck.

    What are the most frequent causes of lumps in the neck?

    Most people fear cancer when they see a lump in their neck. But rest assured that most neck lumps are not cancer.

    Enlarged lymph nodes are the most frequent cause. These are usually caused by infections: bacterial, viral, and also, more ominously, cancer.

    Other more common causes of neck lumps include enlargement of the salivary glands under the jaw, also either by infection (eg mumps) or cancer. Lumps that are under the skin or in the skin are usually cysts, including sebaceous cysts.

    Lumps in the neck muscles are usually caused by injury. The thyroid gland also may give rise to a lump or multiple lumps. This is not necessarily thyroid cancer, though it should always be suspected.

    Say that my lump is due to an enlarged neck lymph node. What should I do?

    Most enlarged lymph nodes are due to exposure to a bacteria or virus. These may be painful and tender, and range in size from that of a pea, or even larger.

    The doctor will ask you for other symptoms that accompany this enlarged lymph node. If you have an infection, there may be fever, flu-like symptoms or a sore throat and runny nose. If you have an upper respiratory tract infection, this may affect the lymph nodes in your neck.

    If your neck lymph node is not the only enlarged one, and there are other enlarged lymph nodes in your body, this may signal a more generalised disease affecting the entire body.

    Generalised body lymph node enlargement could be due to a widespread infection such as HIV, an immune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer such as Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    Since most enlarged lymph nodes are due to an infective and benign cause, they will resolve when your infection goes away.

    However, if you are worried, you should see a doctor. You should definitely see a doctor if the lymph node:

    *Continues to enlarge

    *Is still there after two weeks

    *Feels hard and rubbery

    *Feels very immobile

    *Is accompanied by persistent fever, sweating at night or weight loss

    *Causes difficulty in swallowing or breathing

    Must a biopsy be taken? I'm scared.

    If the doctor suspects that the enlarged lymph node is due to more than just infection, he or she may suggest a biopsy. Most lymph node biopsies are done via a fine needle. It will only hurt like a simple injection or blood taking, so don't worry.

    The specimen will then be sent to the lab. Treatment will depend on the cause of the enlarged lymph node, which will be identified by the biopsy results.

    What is lymphoma? That is actually the disease I am afraid of getting.

    Lymphoma is a type of immune system cancer. Here, the lymphocyte – your white cell that is associated with producing antibodies and defending your body against foreign attack – is affected.

    The lymphocytes go out of control and multiply. They then accumulate in your lymph nodes and spleen and tonsils, forming a tumour that grows larger and larger.

    There are two types of lymphoma: Hodgkin's disease and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They have similar symptoms.

    Can lymphoma be cured?

    There are many subtypes of lymphoma. Some of them are aggressive, and others are slow to proliferate and grow. Some of them can indeed be cured with targeted therapies, especially aggressive Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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

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