Sabtu, 26 Januari 2013

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French, Malian forces capture Gao rebel stronghold

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 04:45 PM PST

KONNA, Mali/PARIS (Reuters) - French and Malian forces fighting Islamist rebels took control on Saturday of the rebel bastion of Gao, the biggest military success so far in an offensive against al Qaeda-allied insurgents occupying the country's north.

A Malian soldier stands near a wall with bullet holes in the recently liberated town of Konna January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

A Malian soldier stands near a wall with bullet holes in the recently liberated town of Konna January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

The United States and Europe back the U.N.-mandated Mali operation as a counterstrike against the threat of Islamist jihadists using the West African state's inhospitable Sahara desert as a launching pad for international attacks.

In an overnight assault on Gao backed by French warplanes and helicopters, French special forces seized the town's airport and a key bridge over the River Niger, killing an estimated dozen Islamist fighters without suffering any losses or injuries, the French army said.

"The Malian army and the French control Gao today," Malian army spokesman Lieutenant Diaran Kone told Reuters.

The speed of the French action in a two-week-old campaign suggested French and Malian government troops intended to drive aggressively into the north of Mali in the next few days against other Islamist rebel strongholds, such as Timbuktu and Kidal.

There have been 30 French air strikes on militant targets around Gao and Timbuktu in the past 36 hours.

News that the French and Malian troops were at Gao, the largest northern town held by the Islamists, came as African states struggled to deploy their intervention force in Mali, known as AFISMA, under a U.N. mandate.

Regional army chiefs said on Saturday that a total of 7,700 African soldiers would be dispatched, up from 5,700.

Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Guinea and Uganda are due to join the mission, but it was not clear if progress had been made at meetings in Abidjan or Addis Ababa to overcome gaps in transport, equipment and financing.

French army spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said French forces had come under fire from rebel fighters inside Gao, but that both the bridge and airport runway were undamaged.

In Paris, the French Defence Ministry said Malian and French troop reinforcements were brought in and that soldiers from Chad and Niger, who have experience in desert warfare, were also flown in.

Those Malian and regional troops would have the task of securing Gao and its surrounding area, the ministry said.

To the west, French forces recaptured Lere, on the road to Timbuktu, and were advancing, a Malian military source said, asking not be named.

For two weeks, French jets and helicopter gunships have been harrying the retreating Islamists, attacking their vehicles, command posts and weapons depots. The French action had stymied a sudden Islamist offensive launched in early January that had threatened Bamako, Mali's capital in the south of the country.

Reacting to the French-led offensive, one of the leaders of the alliance of Islamist groups occupying Mali's north promised resistance to what he called the "new Crusader aggression", in comments published by Al Jazeera's Arabic website.

Yahya Abu Al-Hamman, leader in the Sahel of al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM, which along with Malian militant group Ansar Dine and AQIM splinter MUJWA occupies Mali's north, said a "Jihadist Islamist emirate" would be created in the territory.

Washington and European governments, while providing airlift and intelligence support to the anti-militant offensive in Mali, are not planning to send in any combat troops.

U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in a call on Saturday with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, commended France's "strong leadership" in the effort and said the U.S. Africa Command would support the French military by conducting aerial refuelling missions.

They also discussed plans for the United States to transport troops from African nations, including Chad and Togo, to support the international effort in Mali, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.


At an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, AU leaders called on the United Nations to provide emergency logistics and funding to allow the African force for Mali to deploy.

AU officials say AFISMA is severely hampered by logistical shortages and needs airlift support, ammunition, telecoms equipment, field hospitals, food and water.

There appeared to be some embarrassment among African ministers and leaders that the continent was having to rely on a former colonial power, France, much criticised for past meddling in Africa, to take the lead in the military campaign in Mali.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said France's intervention was "justified".

"If Africa can't do it, somebody else should do it," Mushikiwabo told reporters on the sidelines of the summit.

France, which dispatched its military to Mali at the Bamako government's request, already has 2,500 soldiers on the ground in its former colony.

About 1,900 African troops, including Chadians, have been deployed to Mali so far. Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Niger and Chad are providing troops while Burundi and other African nations have pledged to contribute.

While the French and Malians thrust northeast in a two-pronged offensive towards Gao and Timbuktu, Chadian and local forces in neighbouring Niger are preparing a flanking thrust coming up from the south.


Malian army officers said the Islamist insurgents had pulled back to avoid deadly French air strikes.

"They are all hiding. They are leaving on foot and on motorcycles," Malian Army Captain Faran Keita told Reuters at Konna, about 500 km (310 miles) southeast of Gao.

Konna's capture by the Islamist insurgents on January 10 triggered the sudden French military intervention. Reporters there saw charred rebel pickup trucks that had been blasted by French air strikes. Munitions lay scattered about.

The question remained whether the Islamists would fight to hold Gao and Timbuktu or withdraw farther north into the trackless desert wastes and mountain fastnesses of the Sahara.

"France can expel rebels from certain of the key towns, but it cannot occupy and control the entire north Mali. North Mali is the size of France," Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, told Reuters.

On a visit to Chile, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault admitted French forces in Mali still faced "a lot of work".

On Friday, the Islamists blew up a road bridge on the main road south from Gao to Niger, but military officials from Niger said the Chadian and Nigerien forces could still reach Gao by other routes when they advanced.

The AU is expected to seek hundreds of millions of dollars in logistical support and funding at a conference of donors for the Mali operation to be held in Addis Ababa on January 29.

(Additional reporting by James Regan in Paris, Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako, Richard Lough and Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa, Ange Aboa in Abidjan, Alexandra Ulmer in Santiago, Sami Aboudi in Dubai, David Lewis and Pascal Fletcher in Dakar, and David Alexander in Washington; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by David Lewis, Jason Webb and Peter Cooney)

Related Stories:
Mali's displaced hopeful of return home as rebels melt away

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Venezuela's Chavez overcomes infection, still having treatment

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 04:02 PM PST

SANTIAGO/CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has overcome a respiratory infection, but is still being treated for breathing problems after cancer surgery in Cuba last month, a government minister said on Saturday.

Venezuela's Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas reads a health statement of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the summit of the Community of Latin American, Caribbean States and European Union (CELAC-UE) at Santiago, January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Sanchez

Venezuela's Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas reads a health statement of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the summit of the Community of Latin American, Caribbean States and European Union (CELAC-UE) at Santiago, January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Sanchez

Official statements have sounded upbeat about the socialist president's condition in recent weeks, following rumours he was gravely ill in a hospital in Havana and might be unable to keep governing after being re-elected in October to a third term.

"(Chavez) has overcome the respiratory infection, although he still has a certain degree of respiratory insufficiency," Information Minister Ernesto Villegas told reporters in Chile, where Latin American and European leaders are meeting.

"Vice President (Nicolas) Maduro has estimated that Chavez could come back in weeks, but we haven't wanted to put a time frame on the president's recovery," Villegas added.

Earlier on Saturday, Maduro said Chavez, 58, was in his "best moment" since his operation 45 days ago.

"What we can share with you is that the commander is in his best moment that we have seen in all of these days of struggle," Maduro said in televised comments before dawn on Saturday, after returning from Cuba to meet with the president.

Chavez has not been seen in public since undergoing his fourth and most complex surgery to treat an illness that might jeopardize the future of his self-styled revolution.

He has never said exactly what type of cancer he has, only that the initial tumour found in mid-2011 was in his pelvic area and was the size of a baseball.

In contrast to Chavez's previous visits to Havana for treatment, officials have not published any evidence of his condition. In 2011, with great fanfare, they broadcast videos of him reading a newspaper, walking in a garden and chatting with his daughter.

In the absence of such proof this time, many Venezuelans are questioning the terse official bulletins that provide few details about his condition or treatment.


Maduro said earlier on Saturday that Chavez had ordered a series of economic decisions that would help boost Venezuelan exports, comments that came amid speculation the government was preparing a devaluation of the bolivar currency.

"He gave a series of orders that the economic team will share in the coming hours with the people of Venezuela, which are focused on building Venezuela's export capacity," he said.

He did not elaborate.

A Finance Ministry source who asked not to be identified said on Saturday the ministry was not planning on making any announcements right now.

Devaluation would make exports more competitive by lowering local production costs and spur domestic industries by making imports less competitive with locally produced goods.

It would also improve state finances by providing more bolivars per dollar of oil exports, following heavy spending in 2012 on homes for the poor and pensions for the elderly that helped Chavez win re-election.

But it would also push up consumer prices in a country that already has one of the highest inflation rates in the region.

A lack of dollars in recent weeks has left many businesses struggling to import the products they need. Some goods such as wheat flour and sugar have disappeared from supermarket shelves, partly because of import bottlenecks.

Business leaders insist a devaluation would help address the problem.

(Additional reporting by Antonio De La Jara and Alexandra Ulmer in Santiago, and Eyanir Chinea in Caracas; Editing by Helen Popper and Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Venezuela's Chavez overcomes infection, treatment continues

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 03:19 PM PST

[unable to retrieve full-text content]SANTIAGO/CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has overcome a respiratory infection, but is still being treated for breathing problems after cancer surgery last month, a government minister said on Saturday.


The Star Online: Sports

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Irving: Nicol’s total commitment towards her game is second to none

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 06:22 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: After training world No. 1 Nicol David for 10 years, Liz Irving believes that the Penangite is by far one of the most amazing athlete she has ever coached.

Nicol moved to Squash City, Amsterdam, at the tender age of 19 to train under Irving.

Since then, Nicol, now 30, has gone from strength-to-strength, winning a record seven world titles, and looks set to dominate the women's squash scene for a long time to come.

And Irving believes that Nicol, with her determination and the discipline she puts into training, will have no problems playing until she's 37 or38.

"Nicol and I have been working together for nearly 10 years. Not a single day goes by when she is unable to achieve her training goals," said Irving.

"That itself, is quite remarkable and her total commitment towards her game is second to none.

"Her drive and passion for the game, her motivation to be the best she can be, is also very special and it's a rare quality in any athlete.

"In terms of preparation and facing the occasional defeats, we are always assessing her on and off the court. She's always extremely well prepared and the losses that she had are good learning experiences for her.

"It is rare though for her to lose but she always learns from them and picks herself up quickly. As for age factor, she is actually just entering her prime years in squash.

"Female players generally peak between 28-37, so she still has a good many years left. We will however continue to always look at how to make each year better.

"Nicol herself will continue to keep developing her game and every small improvement is big at this stage," added Irving.

Related Story:
Working towards getting squash in the Olympics

Working towards getting squash in the Olympics

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 06:23 PM PST

There can be no better ambassador to get squash into the Olympic Games than Malaysia's seven-time world champion Nicol David. The Penangite has gone to great lengths to get the sport into the Games and with the BackTheBid2020 campaign gaining momentum, squash appears to be the frontrunners to make it to the 2020 edition. Starsport's Kng Zheng Guan talks to Nicol on her future and aspirations if squash gets the greenlight for the Olympics.

Starsport: You'll be turning 30 this year. How does it feel joining the elite group of 30 plus such as Madeline Perry, Natalie and Rachael Grinham? With so many younger players, especially those from Egypt and even Low Wee Wern (national No. 2) catching up real fast, do you see it as a challenge to keep you on your toes?

Nicol: Thanks for reminding me that I'm turning 30. Beng Hee has been waiting for me to join the elite group for a while. On a serious note, it's really going to be the best years of my career now because I continue to gain a lot from my past and bringing it forward to adjust to what works for me as I'm sure the other players around my age are doing the same too. The youngsters are just going to keep improving but that's the exciting part – staying ahead – so precision with training is vital.

Starsport: You didn't come back to celebrate Christmas last year. That's the first time since you were based in Amsterdam right? Is Amsterdam growing on you?

Nicol: It's always tough being away from home especially during Christmas but I have a great group of friends who have become like family to me for almost 10 years and we celebrated Christmas together. The timing with the Worlds in Caymans and then World Series Finals in London was too short a time to travel home but I'm getting really comfortable being in my so called second home in Amsterdam.

Starsport: At 30, some athletes find it harder to recover from a gruelling tournament. But you never seemed to have any problems in terms of fitness. How do you take care of yourself and how well do you work with your physio team in Amsterdam?

Nicol: The important stages in any sporting career is getting proper recovery treatment with the physio and being taught how to rest well without over-training during my younger days. Then throughout my career, it's all about maintaining the recovery process. You need to do stretching combined specific strengthening exercises without over-loading the body especially as I get older. Everything is precise but it has to start during the junior days and I was fortunate to get the National Sports Council (NSC) to support me throughout my career.

Starsport: Now looking at the Olympics, do you reckon that the best efforts has been put into the Olympics 2020 bid? In comparison to the previous bids, do you suppose that this year's bid is the most complete?

Nicol: The campaign has improved by leaps and bounds from the previous ones for Rio and London. Squash is getting known and has improved in so many aspects. It is getting more spectator viewership especially with televised matches and video reviews for players to review referee decisions. The players play a big role in this with their appeal to the public and squash enthusiasts by reaching out through the Squash 2020, Back The Bid campaign through the available social media channels. Support the bid at and

Starsport: Squash does appear to be one of the frontrunners for the Olympics. Do you suppose enough has been done in order to ensure that squash makes it?

Nicol: It's still going to be difficult as we have to depend on the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to first take a sport out of the London Olympic programme to allow one of the seven sports short-listed to get in. I think we have to continue our campaign to create awareness in the sport before we present our bid to the IOC in May. Even then, it's still up to IOC to decide which sport deserves a spot in the 2020 Olympics.

Starsport: We know that you've been craving to compete in the Olympics. How bad actually, do you want it and do you think that if it gets in you'll still be able to participate in a competitive manner?

Nicol: It'll mean the world to me and I don't think I can express it any other way as it's the pinnacle of any sportman or woman to take part in the Olympics. When you watch the Olympic Games on television, you will dreaming of being there one day and be an Olympic medallist.

If there was even a slight chance that I can see myself participating in the Games in 2020 then I'll make it happen – to live my dream that one time. However, when the time comes, and I can't make it somehow then I would still like to be part of the team seeing squash in the Games.

Starsport: How would you celebrate if squash gets in?

Nicol: Wow, too many things crossing my mind as I imagine squash getting into the Olympics! I'll have to wait for that moment and let you know what I'll do then.

Starsport: Do you think that there has been enough support from the Malaysians in terms of Backing The Bid for Olympics 2020? Do they need to do more to help?

Nicol: Malaysia is truly been a nation behind our Malaysian squash players and me in the support of Backing The Bid 2020 and their enthusiasm to see squash in the Olympics is very overwhelming. Malaysians can still keep this campaign strong by spreading the news around and start playing squash among their school friends, colleagues and take part in fun squash gatherings and watch the tournaments held in Malaysia to show their support for squash and the campaign. Their involvment can make a difference.

Starsport: You and Beng Hee have obviously laid the foundation for the Malaysian squash years ago. What do you make of the current youngsters and would you hope to see someone emulate your feat.

Nicol: The main thing is to let the youngsters enjoy themselves playing the sport without comparing them to the likes of Beng Hee or me but to have their own personal goals. The quality of squash juniors are at such a high level in the international scene and we can't force or pressure them to achieve what we have achieved but give them the support and guidance they need to develop and to stay in the game just as long as Beng Hee and me.

Related Story:
Irving: Nicol's total commitment towards her game is second to none

Wee Wern off to a winning start in first 2013 tourney

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 03:28 PM PST

[unable to retrieve full-text content]PETALING JAYA: World No. 7 Low Wee Wern got off to a flying start in her first match of the year with an easy win over Ireland's Aisling Blake in the first round of the Greenwich Open at Conneticut on Friday.

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Wall Street Week Ahead: Bears hibernate as stocks near record highs

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 05:49 AM PST

NEW YORK: Stocks have been on a tear in January, moving major indexes within striking distance of all-time highs. The bearish case is a difficult one to make right now.

Earnings have exceeded expectations, the housing and labor markets have strengthened, lawmakers in Washington no longer seem to be the roadblock that they were for most of 2012, and money has returned to stock funds again.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> has gained 5.4 percent this year and closed above 1,500 - climbing to the spot where Wall Street strategists expected it to be by mid-year. The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> is 2.2 percent away from all-time highs reached in October 2007. The Dow ended Friday's session at 13,895.98, its highest close since October 31, 2007.

The S&P has risen for four straight weeks and eight consecutive sessions, the longest streak of days since 2004. On Friday, the benchmark S&P 500 ended at 1,502.96 - its first close above 1,500 in more than five years.

"Once we break above a resistance level at 1,510, we dramatically increase the probability that we break the highs of 2007," said Walter Zimmermann, technical analyst at United-ICAP, in Jersey City, New Jersey. "That may be the start of a rise that could take equities near 1,800 within the next few years."

The most recent Reuters poll of Wall Street strategists estimated the benchmark index would rise to 1,550 by year-end, a target that is 3.1 percent away from current levels. That would put the S&P 500 a stone's throw from the index's all-time intraday high of 1,576.09 reached on October 11, 2007.

The new year has brought a sharp increase in flows into U.S. equity mutual funds, and that has helped stocks rack up four straight weeks of gains, with strength in big- and small-caps alike.

That's not to say there aren't concerns. Economic growth has been steady, but not as strong as many had hoped. The household unemployment rate remains high at 7.8 percent. And more than 75 percent of the stocks in the S&P 500 are above their 26-week highs, suggesting the buying has come too far, too fast.


All 10 S&P 500 industry sectors are higher in 2013, in part because of new money flowing into equity funds. Investors in U.S.-based funds committed $3.66 billion to stock mutual funds in the latest week, the third straight week of big gains for the funds, data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service showed on Thursday.

Energy shares <.5sp10> lead the way with a gain of 6.6 percent, followed by industrials <.5sp20>, up 6.3 percent. Telecom <.5sp50>, a defensive play that underperforms in periods of growth, is the weakest sector - up 0.1 percent for the year.

More than 350 stocks hit new highs on Friday alone on the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow Jones Transportation Average <.djt> recently climbed to an all-time high, with stocks in this sector and other economic bellwethers posting strong gains almost daily.

"If you peel back the onion a little bit, you start to look at companies like Precision Castparts , Honeywell , 3M Co and Illinois Tool Works - these are big, broad-based industrial companies in the U.S. and they are all hitting new highs, and doing very well. That is the real story," said Mike Binger, portfolio manager at Gradient Investments, in Shoreview, Minnesota.

The gains have run across asset sizes as well. The S&P small-cap index <.spcy> has jumped 6.7 percent and the S&P mid-cap index <.mid> has shot up 7.5 percent so far this year.

Exchange-traded funds have seen year-to-date inflows of $15.6 billion, with fairly even flows across the small-, mid- and large-cap categories, according to Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at the ConvergEx Group, in New York.

"Investors aren't really differentiating among asset sizes. They just want broad equity exposure," Colas said.

The market has shown resilience to weak news. On Thursday, the S&P 500 held steady despite a 12 percent slide in shares of Apple after the iPhone and iPad maker's results. The tech giant is heavily weighted in both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 <.ndx> and in the past, its drop has suffocated stocks' broader gains.


In the last few days, the ratio of stocks hitting new highs versus those hitting new lows on a daily basis has started to diminish - a potential sign that the rally is narrowing to fewer names - and could be running out of gas.

Investors have also cited sentiment surveys that indicate high levels of bullishness among newsletter writers, a contrarian indicator, and momentum indicators are starting to also suggest the rally has perhaps come too far.

The market's resilience could be tested next week with Friday's release of the January non-farm payrolls report. About 155,000 jobs are seen being added in the month and the unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 7.8 percent.

"Staying over 1,500 sends up a flag of profit taking," said Jerry Harris, president of asset management at Sterne Agee, in Birmingham, Alabama. "Since recent jobless claims have made us optimistic on payrolls, if that doesn't come through, it will be a real risk to the rally."

A number of marquee names will report earnings next week, including bellwether companies such as Caterpillar Inc , Inc , Ford Motor Co and Pfizer Inc .

On a historic basis, valuations remain relatively low - the S&P 500's current price-to-earnings ratio sits at 15.66, which is just a tad above the historic level of 15.

Worries about the U.S. stock market's recent strength do not mean the market is in a bubble. Investors clearly don't feel that way at the moment.

"We're seeing more interest in equities overall, and a lot of flows from bonds into stocks," said Paul Zemsky, who helps oversee $445 billion as the New York-based head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management. "We've been increasing our exposure to risky assets."

For the week, the Dow climbed 1.8 percent, the S&P 500 rose 1.1 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.5 percent. - Reuters


Rumble in the Wall Street jungle: Ackman, Icahn duke it out on TV

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 05:47 AM PST

NEW YORK: Two of the most prominent investors in the world, Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman, had Wall Street mesmerized on Friday as years of acrimony exploded into a bruising verbal scrap on live TV.

Initially CNBC was only talking to Ackman, but then the cable TV station put Icahn on as well and all hell broke loose.

The argument centered on nutritional supplements company Herbalife Ltd , in which Ackman has had a well-publicized short position that Icahn has slammed.

Icahn, 76, who has gone from feared corporate raider to activist investor in more than three decades of dealmaking, called Ackman, 46, a "liar" and "the most sanctimonious guy I ever met in my life."

In a tirade that included expletives, Icahn said he would never invest with Ackman and predicted investors in his Pershing Square hedge fund would lose a lot of money on the Herbalife bet. U.S. news outlets have reported that Icahn has a long position in Herbalife, although he has not confirmed that.

Ackman, who is usually much more restrained than Icahn when speaking publicly, got in a few verbal shots himself. Icahn "does not have a good reputation" and "is not an honest guy," he said.

The altercation quickly became the talk of the financial world, both on trading floors and on Twitter.

"I will never delete today's Ackman vs Icahn CNBC debate from my DVR. Even when DVRs are like Betamaxes, I'll force my grand kids to watch," tweeted Eric Jackson of hedge fund Ironfire Capital LLC.

Business Insider Deputy Editor Joseph Weisenthal tweeted: "It's never going to get any better than what we just saw."

The influential blog ZeroHedge called it the "Ultimate Hedge Fund Deathmatch: Icahn And Ackman As The Real Billionaire Husbands Of CNBC Going Wild."

BusinessInsider held an online poll: "Who Won The Brawl Between Carl Icahn And Bill Ackman?" As of 5 p.m. New York time, 70 percent of the more than 1,800 people who voted declared Ackman the victor.

Neither Ackman nor Icahn could be reached for comment after the CNBC show.

Ackman has called Herbalife a "well managed pyramid scheme" that he predicted will collapse. Herbalife has denied the allegation.

"On CNBC today, Mr. Ackman continued to misrepresent Herbalife," an Herbalife spokeswoman said on Friday.

"Herbalife is a financially strong and successful company, having created meaningful value for shareholders, significant opportunities for distributors and positively impacted the lives and health of our consumers over our 32-year history."


The genesis of their feud stems from a nasty contractual dispute involving a real estate company deal 10 years ago, when Ackman was running his former hedge fund, Gotham Partners, which he co-founded in 1993 with former Harvard Business School classmate David Berkowitz.

After eight years of litigation, a court ruled in Ackman's favor and Icahn was forced to pay Gotham $4.5 million, plus interest.

Indeed, the discussion on CNBC often had little to do with the merits of Ackman's view of Herbalife. At times, Icahn also feuded with CNBC host Scott Wapner, accusing him of "bullying" him when he was pressed on whether he had gone "long" on Herbalife shares.

Icahn may have little to lose from the dustup given that he is simply managing his own money these days. Ackman, on the other hand, manages about $11 billion at Pershing Square, including money from many prominent institutional investors.

Herbalife shares briefly surged over 5 percent when Icahn said during the row that Ackman, by going public with his big short position, would cause the "mother of all short squeezes" in the stock.

A short squeeze is when short sellers are forced to cover their position, a move that pushes a stock higher.

Ackman and Icahn's dislike of each other is well known in financial circles. Some of the tension stems from the fact they both specialize in the same game - taking big positions in companies and agitating for management changes.

Ackman's bet against Herbalife is also being challenged by another big hedge fund player, Third Point manager Daniel Loeb, who has said he holds a big long position on the stock. - Reuters


IMF urges mid-term plan for Japan debt reduction

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 05:34 AM PST

Published: Saturday January 26, 2013 MYT 9:34:00 PM

DAVOS, Switzerland: The head of the International Monetary Fund called on Saturday for Japan to put forward a medium-term plan to reduce its public debt after this week's bold monetary and fiscal stimulus measures.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told the World Economic Forum in Davos: "Japan has made very important decisions. We are very interested in these policies. We would like them to complement it with a mid-term plan on how the debt would be reduced." - Reuters



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Six injured in Johor Baru train derailment

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 07:03 AM PST

Published: Saturday January 26, 2013 MYT 9:12:00 PM
Updated: Saturday January 26, 2013 MYT 11:03:43 PM

JOHOR BARU: Six passengers were injured when four coaches of a passenger train from Kuala Lumpur derailed while heading to Singapore on Saturday.

Deputy Johor Baru (North) police chief Supt Beh Eng Lai said the mishap at 3.30pm occurred near Taman Impian Emas between the Kulaijaya station and Kempas Baru station. "The passengers sustained minor injuries and were taken to Sultanah Aminah Hospital for treatment," he said.

KTMB said in a statement that 200 passengers were onboard the train when the mishap occurred.

Following the derailment, the train's return trip from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and from Singapore to Kelantan have been cancelled.

"The affected passengers can get a refund for their tickets or reschedule their trips," the statement said.

Najib: Militant threat in Southeast Asia declining

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 06:56 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The threat of Islamic militants in Southeast Asia has receded quite substantially due the efforts from other nations in the region, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

He said the cooperation between Malaysia and the other countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, had helped to tackle Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

"I think most of them (the countries) are behind us. I think we've dealt with radical Islam," he told a CNN televised session entitled 'An Insight, An Idea with Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak' at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

In the 30-minute interview which was anchored by Fareed Zakaria, the Prime Minister also pointed out Malaysia's involvement in hosting peace talks between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its deployment of troops to head an international truce-monitoring force in the region.

The Philippine government signed an accord last October with the MILF, who had been fighting for more than 40 years and had cost about 120,000 lives.

"This means that the whole potential of that area being radicalised, being linked up with Al-Qaeda directly or through the various groups, has been eliminated.

"That's a huge contribution towards peace and a more moderate form of Islam in Southeast Asia," Najib said.

He stressed that although in the past some form of military-type action was "unavoidable", the task was now to engage with fundamentalist Muslims and persuade them to embrace more moderate forms of Islam.

On his visit to Gaza, Najib said he had privately as well as in his speech told Hamas that he was there for humanitarian reason and with a mission in peace.

"I did not come to side with the Hamas. I did not come to interfere with the internal politics.

"I came with a mission and basically to tell them...look you have to be united and form a unity government.

"Once you have unity government, then you should negotiate with Israel," Najib said. - Bernama

Najib: Malaysians' expectations, demand have increased

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 06:54 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: People's expectations and demand of the government have increased, and this should be well understood to ensure Barisan Nasional's victory in the next general election, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

Najib, who is Barisan chairman, said having realised this, the government was determined to do things differently and work as hard as possible.

"We need to realise that people are not going to give their votes to you based on how much you've done in the past.

"But people would say, 'what can you do right now and for the future'," he told a CNN televised session entitled 'An Insight, An Idea with Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak' at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Najib noted that nobody could deny the fact that Umno and BN had pursued an agenda for development after fighting for the country's independence.

On Barisan's failure to win a two-thirds majority in the 2008 general election, Najib explained one of the factors was that people had become more critical in tandem with advances in technology and communication, as well as the use of social media.

At the end of the interview, the prime minister was queried about his plans if given the mandate to rule by voters in the country's 13th general election.

He responded by saying that the government had stated publicly that it wanted to see Malaysia become a fully developed nation by 2020.

"And I'm committed to do everything and anything possible to make it happen and if I get my second term, that's exactly what I'll do."


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New method of investmentin the stock market

Posted: 25 Jan 2013 04:27 PM PST

MALAYSIA'S warrants specialist Alan Voon has come up with his first book, Trading The China Market with American Depository Receipts. A coup indeed, as the book is also published under the Wiley Trading Series which typically features only authors who are heavyweight hedge fund managers.

While Voon's expertise lies in warrants, he is now writing on a new instrument – American Depository Receipts (ADRs), an instrument which he says will enable us to make some "free lunch" money in the stock market which is not entirely efficient.

Voon says that while his finance professor used to tell him that there was no free lunch in the stock market, and this is somewhat true considering today's well-connected global market place, to some extent, there are some risk-free opportunities in the market.

ADRs are securities that are issued by foreign-based companies and traded in the US market. Investors who are active during US market hours can actually capture quick profits through a relatively risk-free trading strategy utilising price-moving, after-market news from Asia to build positions in ADRs or their derivatives in the US market.

Throughout the book, there are more than 10 case studies on how Voon has made use of after-hours market announcements in Asia, and utilised that information to trade the company's ADR in the United States. Thus, Voon makes money before the ADR prices are reflected in the earnings news.

Voon explains that there are many Chinese or Hong Kong companies which typically make company announcements after hours, and as late as 10pm Hong Kong time.

"By this time, the Hong Kong media has closed their papers. Markets will only be opened in Hong Kong tomorrow morning. But the US market is open. So with this information, you can basically trade the US market now, using what will be tomorrow's headline news in Asia," explains Voon.

Chapter two is extensively on ADRs, the different types of ADRs, and the mechanisms of creating and cancelling ADRs. Voon goes on to introduce 10 companies that should be kept on one's watch list to take advantage of possible price-moving news.

In the case studies offered, Voon shows how an investor can benefit, not just through an earnings surprise, but also when companies deliver disappointing earnings or when governments announce policy changes.

Voon uses the real life example of Genting Bhd, Guangshen Railway Company Ltd and Yangzhou Coal Mining Company and China Unicom (HK) Ltd among many others.

Case studies aside, Voon offers some advice to investors.

"In investing, you must control your emotions. Investment psychology is important. How many times have we seen people chasing stocks only after they have gone up," he says.

Unlike other fund managers, Voon does not think that being short term is bad thing.

"It is the short term which determines the long term. Sometimes, the event in the short term will lead to a change to the long term's outlook. Therefore people can be short term, but play within your means. To contra is just wrong," he says.

By the end of the book, readers will know more about ADR. Secondly, they will understand international investing and how to go about it. Voon explains this in some detail. He also shows some of the tools available to assist readers in the investment process.

"This book is basically meant for the retail investor who wants to do some international investing," says Voon.

The book is priced at RM216 and is available in MPH, Kinokuniya and selected bookstores.

Growing your business faster

Posted: 25 Jan 2013 04:26 PM PST

Title: Start At The End
Author: Dave Lavinsky
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons

DAVE Lavinsky sounds like a helpful guy, and by writing this wonderfully informative book, he has done the business world a favour. He is giving entrepreneurs, small business owners or even anyone responsible for growing an idea and reaching for one goal, a roadmap to grow their business bigger and faster.

What Lavinsky advocates is by no means rocket science. The point is by first knowing where you want your business to end up, you can reverse-engineer your business plan to get to that goal, be it to multiply revenues or to sell the business for millions. An old proverb puts it most simply, "a vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world!" Hence, recognising our vision or ultimate goal is essential in the success of any business.

Business owners and managers, as well as their teams, have lost sight of their visions amid the daily battles in generating sales and profits. Unknowingly, they have become short term in their planning and short sighted in their vision. Their long-term aim has been blurred by the daily, weekly and monthly operational routines. Hence, it is high time for them to re-engineer their strategy by spearheading it directly towards their goal.

But simply following conventional wisdom or common sense will get you common result, which means failure in most business, and not the success you deserve. Hence, be unconventional by starting with the end (your desired exit vision) and work backward.

"So what is your vision?" asks Lavinsky, but without waiting, he has already gone on in the following chapters, enthusiastically and earnestly, to help you uncover your answer.

In turn, he, being a season entrepreneur, reveals the precise steps you'd need to take to achieve that goal, brings you back to the basics of running a company and makes you a better leader.

What follows next are Lavinsky's personal advice on the nitty-gritty of running a company. It is these nuts and bolts that make this book interesting.

One of the major tenets of business, SWOT (strength and weakness analysis), for example, is proclaimed dead by Lavinsky. Though unconventional, it is more logical to focus on fully developing strengths than to try to improve weaknesses. Make sense, doesn't it?

Do not be afraid to raise prices, he continues. How, you ask. Lavinsky explains and his answer is intriguing but not at all inconceivable.

In terms of management, the problem lies in the fact that business owners have not realised how much time they have been wasting on operating and administering their business. They do not have the time to devise strategies and plans, let alone grow their business. That makes anyone judder, for it is exactly what leaders are doing these days – operating the fort but not steering it to growth.

Human resource (HR) management is the heart of a business, and getting employees to buy into the vision and plan will give your company a sizeable advantage. Sadly, the vast majority of HR managers out there have not been fully convinced of this, and what they in turn have are dissatisfied employees comprising the majority of their workforce.

Finally, how to be a better and more effective leader? You work less, hire the best and do not micro-manage.

There are so many other equally valuable advice, and as Lavinsky slowly builds up his idea, you too will be slowly guided to his final tactic which most organisations will be more than willing to pay hefty sums for their managers to learn. Lavinsky calls these the multiplier tactics and they are proven tactics to help you to generate more revenue and reach the end vision quicker. One of the tactics is not new but it is most clearly elucidated by Lavinsky – the 80/20 Rule.

A book with a chest-full of ideas, plans, business advice, systems and financial models like this is surely a must-read. If your business is stagnant amid an economic slowdown, all the more you need to read this book to give yourself a different perspective.

And if you are already doing well, read it, too, to multiply your position results. Whether to resuscitate a business or to grow it, re-living the dream you have envisioned in the first place is the best way to start. You will realise that Lavinsky, in a prose so plain but so full of life, has got everyone covered. Whatever you may need, Lavinsky has it, and it is this that makes this little book a treasured roadmap.


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Director Abrams to helm new Star Wars, fans say force with him

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 01:54 AM PST

Sci-fi filmmaker J.J. Abrams will direct "Star Wars: Episode VII", Walt Disney Co said after days of speculation, giving hope to many long-suffering fans who were disappointed by the last three installments in the iconic franchise.

The announcement was greeted with celebrations on online networks by the films' army of enthusiasts who have already watched Abrams rescue the aging "Star Trek" series with a high-grossing prequel in 2009.

Disney said late on Friday Abrams would work under the leadership of producer Kathleen Kennedy, the former president of Lucasfilm, and the script would be penned by Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt. "J.J. is the perfect director to helm this.

Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise," Kennedy said in a statement on

Fans were equally enthusiastic. "JJ Abrams to the rescue!!! Yes!! #starwarsVII," wrote Jonny Radtke on Twitter. "Great news about JJ Abrams directing Star Wars. Might just rescue the brand...," added Alastair Brookshaw.

Rumours that Abrams, one of Hollywood's most successful directors and producers, would take stewardship of the films filled industry publications and online forums over the past week.

The 46-year-old made his name with TV shows "Alias" and "Lost" and earned his stripes as a director of effects-laden blockbusters with "Super 8", "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and another widely-expected Star Trek film "Star Trek Into Darkness", due out later this year.

The Star Wars franchise, which was created by George Lucas' Lucasfilms Ltd, has grossed more than $4.4 billion at the global box office since the first film was released in 1977, making it the third most successful movie property after the "Harry Potter" and "James Bond" series.

Star Wars characters such as Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and the anti-hero Darth Vader have become a staple part of pop culture, along with the catch phrase "May the force be with you".

The Star Wars films were acquired by Disney after they bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in October 2012. They announced then that three new installments would be made, starting in 2015. Lucas, 68, gave Abrams his blessing on, saying the director was "an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn't be in better hands".

Abrams said his new role was "an absolute honor". Disney had previously said Lucas would remain a creative consultant on the series.

Lucas himself said in October he had story treatments for Episodes 7, 8 and 9, which he would hand over to Kennedy, who assured him that she would adhere to his ideas.-Reuters

First Steve Jobs movie gets red carpet premiere

Posted: 25 Jan 2013 10:40 PM PST

PARK CITY, Utah: The first movie about Apple's legendary co-founder got a warm reception at its world premiere on Friday, just 15 months after Steve Jobs' death.

"jOBS," starring "Two and a Half Men" actor Ashton Kutcher as the tech and computer entrepreneur who revolutionized the way people listen to music and built Apple Inc into an international powerhouse, got a red carpet roll-out at the Sundance Film Festival ahead of hitting U.S. theaters on April 19.

"jOBS' chronicles 30 defining years of the late Apple chairman, from an experimental youth to the man in charge of one of the world's most recognized brands.

It is the first of two U.S. feature films about Jobs, who died in 2011 at age 56.

"Everybody has their own opinion about Steve Jobs, and they have something invested in a different part of his story. So the challenge is to decide what part of his story to tell, and not disenfranchise anybody," director Josh Stern told Reuters ahead of the screening.

"Hazarding a guess and venturing into too much speculation is always dangerous, especially with a character who is so well-known," Stern added.

The film, co-starring Josh Gad and Dermot Mulroney, begins with Jobs the dreamer, the poet and the occasional drug user in college, and his initial ideas for Apple Computers, before his vision took on a life of its own.

Much of the drama is based around the early 1980s, and Jobs' ideologies for the Apple Lisa and Macintosh computers, which ended up performing poorly for the company and led to Jobs being fired.

Kutcher's Jobs is seen as the rock star of the tech world, admired but misunderstood in his early days as he constantly tried to think outside of the box and bring a notion of "cool" to his brand.

The audience on Friday warmly applauded the film following the screening. In a question-and-answer session after the screening, Kutcher took to the stage to talk about his preparations of mastering Jobs' posture, hand gestures and eccentricities, saying his "painstaking research" included watching more than 100 hours of footage of the Apple innovator.

Notably missing from the film are details about Jobs' personal life - his court settlement with the mother of his first child features only in the backdrop of the 1980s, a time when he struggled to gain support from the Apple board for his visions.

Stern told the audience that he deliberately stayed away from the CEO's personal life, saying the film was "not about getting mired in some of the soap opera" of Jobs' life.

Kutcher, 34, told Reuters on the red carpet before the screening that he was honored to play Jobs but also terrified because of the former Apple chairman's iconic status. "To be playing a guy who so freshly is in people's minds, where everywhere you go you can run into people who met him or knew him or had seen a video of him ... that's terrifying because everyone is an appropriate critic," Kutcher told Reuters.


Hours before the screening, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said the movie appeared to misrepresent aspects of both his own and Jobs' personalities and their early vision for the company. Wozniak was commenting after seeing a brief clip of an early scene that was released online on Thursday.

"Totally wrong. ... The ideas of computers affecting society did not come from Jobs," Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Jobs and Ronald Wayne in a California garage in 1976, told technology blog

"The lofty talk came much further down the line," Wozniak said in a series of emails.

"Book of Mormon" star Gad, who plays Wozniak, told Reuters on Friday's red carpet that the filmmakers had tried to reach out to him to get his input on "jOBS," but that Wozniak was "participating in another project about Steve Jobs.

" Wozniak is tied to a movie based on Walter Isaacson's official biography "Steve Jobs," being developed by screen writer Aaron Sorkin of "The West Wing" and "The Social Network" fame. No release date or casting has been announced.

Kutcher said he hoped Wozniak would look more kindly on the movie when he had seen the whole two hours. "I hope that when he sees the film, he feels that he was portrayed accurately, that the film accurately represents who he was and how he was, and more importantly, inspires people to go and build things," he said.-AFP

Actress Miriam Margolyes becomes an Australian

Posted: 25 Jan 2013 10:16 PM PST

SYDNEY: British actress Miriam Margolyes, best known for her work in the Harry Potter films, became an Australian citizen on Saturday, saying she felt that the rest of her life would be "joyous".

Margolyes was one of 100 people taking the pledge at a ceremony in Canberra attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and one of a record 17,059 people from 145 countries to become citizens on Australia Day.

"This is your new country, and you'll never want another," Gillard, who was born in Wales and who came to Australia as a small child, told the gathering.

"Welcome to citizenship. Welcome to Australia. Welcome home."

Margolyes, 71, who won the BAFTA for best supporting actress for the 1993 Martin Scorsese film "The Age of Innocence" and played Professor Sprout in two Harry Potter movies, joked it had taken her years to take the plunge.

"Well, you have to be sure don't you," she said. "Now I am. I'm just very happy to be here and I will be with friends and the rest of my life will be joyous."

Ahead of the ceremony, the character actress whose partner is an Australian said she had been visiting Down Under for decades and had always loved the place.

The outspoken actress told The Sydney Morning Herald she had always felt an affinity with Australia and would be a loyal citizen but joked: "This sheila is not going to shut up." - AFP


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Musical troupes help devotees on their journey to the temple

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 06:14 AM PST

THAIPUSAM is an important festival dedicated to Lord Murugan. The Hindus celebrate it in the Tamil month of Thai (January to February).

The festival typically comprises a hive of activity as devotees flock to the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Batu Caves to fulfil their vows and pay penance to Lord Murugan.

Kavadi bearers and those who carry pots of milk as offerings to Lord Murugan are also part of this crowd. However, among this lot, another group also stands out.

They are the musical troupes known as urumee melam in Tamil. Without a doubt, this group adds colour to the festivities with their mesmerising beats.

The kavadi bearers' demonstration of devotion and thanksgiving to Lord Murugan usually starts weeks before the festival. As part of their preparations, they fast and even abstain from certain comforts.

On Thaipusam day, the urumee melam group plays a pivotal role as they are a must-have for kavadi bearers who walk along to the thumping beats.

The Akini Periya Gandhi Amman Urumee Melam troupe is one of the many groups from the Klang Valley that has taken up the challenge of accompanying the bearers on their spiritual journey.

Group leader Kalimuthu Ramalingam, 29, is a religious man who joined the group four years ago. Most of the group members are relatives and good friends, making it a fun venture.

"No event, function or festival is complete without music and for Thaipusam, the urumee melam is part and parcel of the festivities," said Kalimuthu.

He has regular bookings as well and over the last few years, the group's popularity has grown, thanks to his cousin Meenachi Saravanan's fame.

Meenachi is the only female pambhai player in the country and during Thaipusam, many visitors enjoy wathching her play the instrument. The 18-year-old started playing for the group at the age of 15.

"She watched us play and picked it up. Now, she can compete with the boys," he added.

Another group, the Sri Maayakarar Bhagavathy Urumee Melam, was formed by Uwan Kannathasan, 26, and his friends, who developed a deep interest in the folk drum called urumee, a double headed hourglass shaped drum.

Uwan believes that urumee plays an important element in the Thaipusam festival as it gives devotees the energy derived from the musical beats.

"The kavadi bearers are lulled into a trance-like state by the beats. The music also gives them the energy to sustain and complete the two-hour journey up to the caves," he said.

"We also feel that as part of the urumee melam groups, youths are engaged in a healthy activity and not go astray.

"In our group, we teach our boys discipline as well as the importance of charity work," said Uwan.

Surprisingly, there are no special classes that urumee melam groups attend to master the skills of playing the instruments, namely urumee, pambhai and thavil.

Uwan, who is also the president of the group, said they mastered the skills simply by listening to urumee melam albums by popular groups in the country.

"To learn the art and get it right takes about one to two months. We usually practise two times a week but nearing Thaipusam, we practise three to four times a week," he said.

When they first started, the group comprised only 10 people but has now grown to 20 members, the youngest a six-year-old and the oldest a 27-year-old.

Playing during Thaipusam is no easy feat as they have to be at their best for the huge crowd that converges at the temple.

They receive bookings as early as six months prior to the festival. During the two-day festival, they accept a maximum of eight bookings.

The money they receive is used for repairing or buying instruments and on uniforms for group members.

"None of the boys has asked us for a single sen. We play because of our interest in music and not for the money.

"When possible and when we have some extra money, we perform for residents at charity homes, like on Ponggal day," added Uwan.

Like the Sri Maayakarar group, the Sri Nageswari Amman Urumi Melam (SNAUM) is another favourite among the Indian community.

Its manager, R. Krishnamoorthy and his brother R. Jeyaraman as well as a friend had set up the group in June 1989. Since then, SNAUM has grown to become a leading urumee melam group in the country.

Presently, the group has 20 members. For each of them, the instruments have to be respected when handled.

"We do not drink alcohol and we are barefooted when we play the drums, even during practice sessions," said Krishnamoorthy, adding that the youngsters do not smoke.

For them, the music they make is a link between the kavadi bearer and god, bringing them closer spiritually.

A SNAUM member, Surendran Chandragasi, 28, said they took their music seriously and would never do anything to obstruct the kavadi bearer's aim or the group's reputation.

SNAUM usually receives bookings a year ahead, mostly from regular clients and to ensure they give their best, they practise often.

Their earnings are also spent on repairing and buying instruments.

"We only buy the best hide for the drums because it produces better beats. We also place a lot of importance on the traditional attire we wear when performing," said Krishnamoorthy.

For Kalimuthu, the leader of the Akini Periya Gandhi Amman Urumee Melam troupe, competition is a healthy way to gauge the the performers' expertise.

He does not allow his team members to compete outside the music arena.

"We have had players joining us, learning new things and leaving to join other groups. We don't mind or see it as a loss as we believe in imparting our knowledge and skills. It makes us happy," he said.

The group has a Facebook page and its videos can be found on Youtube.

Traders tired of waiting for relocation

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 06:10 AM PST

MORE than 70 traders are questioning the delay in relocating them to the new Pasar MBSA in Pekan Subang, Shah Alam which was completed in 2011.

Kota Damansara assemblyman Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim said the traders had been waiting for eight years now.

"The original development was planned in 2005 and to be completed in 2007. However, there were delays and the developer gave various reasons," he said, adding that Shah Alam Municipal Council (MBSA) had informed them that the developer had yet to complete the sewerage treatment plant.

Nasir said the traders were asked to move into Kompleks Seri Gaya in 2006 to make way for the new building that could accomodate at least 80 traders.

"The traders are paying RM160 in rental to MBSA every month for the temporary site and have been here for almost eight years now," he said.

He added that the developer was also supposed to build a Sekolah Rendah Agama in Bandar Utama, but that nothing had been done so far.

"I urge MBSA to look into the matter and avoid any more delay. The developer should also not be allowed to carry out any other project in Selangor until this project is completed," said Nasir.

He also said all those involved should stop pointing fingers at each other and instead act to resolve the problem.

Pasar U6 association president Johari Mohd said they want to move into the building as soon as possible.

"The current site is small and very crowded, especially on Sundays," he said.

He said visitors would also benefit from the five-storey carpark as it would help ease the congestion caused by lack of proper parking space in the area.

"Illegal hawkers are also trading here and this has affected our business," he said.

Johari said a letter had been sent to the mayor but nothing had been done so far.


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