Ahad, 27 Januari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

The festive edge

Posted: 28 Jan 2013 03:25 AM PST

IN the final week of January, Chinese radio station 988, as always, offers a string of interesting topics, candid interviews and freebie giveaways for you to enjoy. The following are a few highlights not to be missed this week.

The Feature Monday-Tuesday 9am-10am

The town is buzzing with excitement as preparations for Chinese New Year goes into full swing, with the Year of the Snake just around the corner. Festive shopping is both exciting and stressful. Festive price hikes are a headache when it comes to shopping. So are "fake" ingredients for delicacies such as abalone, dried scallops and sea cucumbers. Whether you're an experienced shopper or a novice, tune in to pick up a trick or two and be a wiser consumer this year.

Street VIP Wednesday-Friday 9am-10am He may not be good looking but he's definitely funny. Hong Kong comedy actor, Ba Liang Jin is here to give you a good laugh. Or perhaps not. The popular actor was once a billionaire and his fall to poverty was a bitter pill to swallow. Hear him recount his rollercoaster-like life journey.

Music VIP Monday-Friday 2pm

Sweet. Girl-next-door. These are words that are used to describe the younger Cyndi Wang Xin Ling. But today, the popular Taiwanese singer-actress is slowly transforming from a girl into a woman. So, how has maturity played a part in her career so far? Let her tell you herself.

988 Specials Jan 28 – Feb 1

It's freebie time! First up for grabs are exclusive invites to the premiere showing of Hong Kong Lunar New Year film I Love Hong Kong 2013. Starring many of Hong Kong's famous personalities such as Sandra Ng, Alan Tam, Kate Tsui, Bosco Wong and a line of TVB artistes, the film is produced by funnyman, Eric Tsang. Don't miss the chance to be one of the first few to laugh out loud at the premiere showing of this blockbuster. Simply stay tuned for the cue to call.

Also not to be missed, it is your last chance to win some cash for the festive season, this week. All you have to do is to visit (988.com.my/events/iamthehuattest) and follow the instructions on the website. Wait no longer to win cash prizes of up to RM888!

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

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Tiger Woods takes charge at Torrey Pines

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:48 PM PST

LA JOLLA (California): Tiger Woods strengthened his hold on the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, carving out a six-shot lead with 11 holes to play at the Torrey Pines course where he has won seven titles.

Seeking the 75th victory of his legendary career, Woods fired a three-under par 69 in a third-round that was wiped out Saturday by fog, then birdied three of the first seven holes in his fourth round before darkness halted play.

Woods was on 14-under par 202 after 54 holes, then birdied the par-3 third, par-four fourth and par-5 sixth before a par at the seventh at dusk left him on 17-under at a course where he has won six PGA events and the 2008 US Open.

"I drove it great in the morning. I drove it on a string all day," Woods said. "I've got 11 holes to play and I've got to go out and play them well."

Americans Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker shared second at 11-under with Canada's Brad Fritsch fourth two shots further back.

Snedeker had five holes to play. Watney had twice as many. Fritsch had 11 to finish.

No other rivals were within nine strokes of Woods, who could beat his record victory margin at the $6.1 million event, an eight-stroke triumph in 2008.

Woods has been the sole leader of an event 41 times after 54 holes and won 39 of those tournaments.

Past success at Torrey Pines has been a precursor to strong seasons from Woods, a 14-time major champion who at age 37 hopes to close the gap on the career record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus after seasons diminished by injuries and the aftermath of an infamous sex scandal.

A victory Monday would put Woods seven shy of Sam Snead's all-time PGA title mark of 82.

The Farmers would be the third event Woods has won seven times in his career, joining tournaments at Bay Hill and Firestone and all one shy of Snead's PGA record eight career wins at Greensboro.

Woods wore a gray sweater in cool conditions for the fourth round start but said he would don his familiar red shirt for Monday's concluding holes.

Defending champion Snedeker, who rallied from seven strokes down to win the event last year, birdied three of the first six holes to charge again, but was only one-under over the next seven holes while Woods pulled away.

Watney's charge fizzled as well. He birdied three of the first four holes and then scored four pars before darkness fell. - AFP

Djokovic sets sights on career Grand Slam

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:42 PM PST

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic set his sights on completing the elusive career Grand Slam at this year's French Open after confirming his mastery of men's tennis at the Australian Open.

With six Grand Slam titles at the age of 25, the Serbian world number one could be forgiven for taking it easy but immediately after clinching his fourth Melbourne win, his mind was on Roland Garros in May.

Djokovic has gone from the Paris quarter-finals to the semi-finals and the title match in successive seasons, falling to seven-time winner Rafael Nadal last year, and now he wants to take the last step.

"I want to go all the way in the French Open. I went to the finals last year and had a great match against Rafa, but he's always the favourite on that surface and he's the ultimate player to beat on clay," Djokovic said.

"But I think if I continue on playing well, stay healthy, I can have a chance."

It all seemed routine for Djokovic as he beat Andy Murray in four sets, picked up the trophy and US$2.5 million winner's cheque, and then headed straight to the airport, eschewing parties and the usual day-after media commitments.

Djokovic was anxious to hurry home in good time for this week's Davis Cup tie with Belgium. The surface? Clay.

"It's going to be a lot of fun next weekend to see how I can adjust to a clay court in indoor conditions, playing away Davis Cup, which is always tricky," he said.

"But, look, right now my thoughts are on this trophy, enjoying it as much as I can. Hopefully I'm going to have time to recover and get ready for that tie."

Australian Open victories in 2011 and 2012 proved a springboard for Djokovic, who put together 145 wins against just 18 losses over the two seasons and finished both years as the world number one.

With Nadal's physical state unknown, following his long break with knee problems, victory in Paris does not look a long shot for Djokovic, who would surely then target the hallowed calendar-year Grand Slam.

Djokovic received the trophy from Andre Agassi, another four-time Australian winner who managed to lift all four Grand Slam titles during his career.

Last week, Agassi said Djokovic had lifted the sport to new heights. But asked whether he was now taking tennis into a new era, the Serb parried.

"I leave you guys to judge about changing the game or not. I'm just trying to play this game with 100 percent of devotion, love, passion, and fun also," he said.

"I mean, 25 years old and I've won six Grand Slams and have a lot of trophies. It's amazing. You know, I'm just trying to embrace this moment and enjoy it as much as I can and see where tomorrow brings me." - AFP

Doping chief wants US decisions on Lance Armstrong's fate

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:40 PM PST

NEW YORK: American jurors and US anti-doping officials should decide Lance Armstrong's fate rather than the International Cycling Union, the main investigator who has chased Armstrong for years has said.

US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief executive Travis Tygart spoke to the CBS television network in an interview broadcast on Sunday, saying he thinks the US Justice Department should join a fraud case against Armstrong.

And Tygart also wants Armstrong to testify before USADA rather than the world cycling governing body UCI, saying USADA-gathered evidence contradicts Armstrong's claims that UCI never assisted him in covering up a positive test.

"He exonerated, essentially, the UCI and our information, and the evidence, is different than that," Tygart said. "I think their involvement was a lot deeper in him pulling off this heist than he was willing to admit to."

In announcing the "60 Minutes" interview on Friday, CBS said Tygart had imposed a February 6 deadline for Armstrong to testify under oath before USADA or lose any chance of having his life ban from competitions reduced.

"He would have to come in just like all 11 of his teammates did and testify truthfully about all of those who were involved with him pulling off this grand heist," Tygart said.

Armstrong lawyers say the 41-year-old Texan, who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles based on USADA-gathered evidence, would not be able to meet the deadline and was likely to tell his story to the UCI, a group tainted in Tygart's mind where Armstrong is concerned.

"The access they had to inside information - to how the tests work, what tests went in place at what time, special access to the laboratory - he was on an entirely different playing field than all the other athletes," Tygart said.

Tygart wants to see Armstrong tell his story in court, specifically in a $90 million fraud case brought by former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis, himself an admitted dope cheat stripped of a Tour de France title.

The fraud lawsuit claims Armstrong lied about doping to get US Post Office sponsorship for the team that dominated the Tour de France for years.

The US Justice Department ended an 18-month probe of Armstrong last year without filing charges. US government officials are expected to decide in the next few weeks whether or not to join the Landis lawsuit.

"I think they have to join the suit," Tygart said. "I mean, we were surprised the criminal case didn't go forward based on the evidence that we had seen and generated through our investigation.

"So we'll be once again shocked if they don't join the suit.

"I think a jury should have an opportunity to decide whether the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that were defrauded by this team and Lance Armstrong and his associates, whether or not the government should be paid back for that."

Armstrong denied taking any banned substances after 2005 but Tygart says plenty of evidence shows Armstrong's Tour de France efforts in 2009 and 2010 were enhanced by banned substances, which could help the fraud case against the cyclist.

"The evidence is clear. His blood tests in 2009, 2010, expert reports based on the variation of his blood values from those tests, one to a million chance that it was due to something other than doping," Tygart said.

"There's a five-year statute on a fraud criminal charge. If the last point of his doping, as we alleged and proved in our reasoned decision, was in 2010, then the statute has not yet expired and he potentially could be charged with a criminal violation for conspiracy to defraud."

Tygart also said Armstrong lied when he denied trying to buy USADA's silence. "I received a phone call from one of his closest associates and they offered us the money," Tygart said, refusing to identify the middleman but saying there was no mistake about the attempt to pay USADA to back off. - AFP

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

In Davos, world seeks U.S. engagement

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:03 PM PST

DAVOS, Switzerland: As President Barack Obama starts his second term, the world's business and political elite pines for greater American engagement to tackle a thicket of security challenges.

From Syria to Mali, from Iran to the South China Sea, the United States' reluctance to be drawn into conflicts far from its shores was a leitmotiv of geopolitical debate at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.

The absence of top Obama administration officials from the annual brainstorming and networking event in the Swiss mountains symbolized to some a perceived pullback from global leadership, even though it was Inauguration Week in Washington.

Leaders of Russia, Germany, Britain, Italy, South Africa, Jordan and many other nations made the journey.

U.S. bankers, business leaders and academics were out in force, but the most senior U.S. government officials were a Treasury undersecretary, an assistant secretary of state and the outgoing U.S. Trade Representative.

Delegates debated whether and when China would overtake America as the number one economy and global power -- estimates ranging from the early 2020s to never -- and what troubles were brewing while Washington remains in hands-off mode.

The ground rules of many Davos panels preclude identifying the speakers. One minister, shielded by that anonymity, lamented the dangers of "a world without American leadership".

Without U.S. involvement, one session was told, Syria would become a "Somalia on the Mediterranean", with Middle East states waging a proxy war via sectarian factions, some of which would export militant violence to the neighbors and to Europe.

Iran may accelerate its nuclear program to try to break out of isolation, Vali Nasr of Johns Hopkins University said, because Washington is squeezing it with economic sanctions but shunning either direct diplomatic engagement or military action.


In a public address, King Abdullah of Jordan said his country, which had sent troops to fight Islamist militants in Afghanistan, now faces a "new Taliban in Syria", where an al-Qaeda affiliate has gained ground among forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad. It could take years after the fall of Assad to "clean them out", the king said.

His fragile desert kingdom has taken in some 300,000 Syrian refugees, straining its thin resources and political stability. Some Syrian exiles present in Davos complained that Jordan has closed its border to Syrian opposition fighters.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country has absorbed some 150,000 refugees and serves as a rear base for rebel fighters, said the international community would one day have to apologize to the Syrian people, as it had done in Rwanda, for failing to intervene to prevent massacres.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in two years of civil war in Syria, according to the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the royal family, former head of intelligence and ambassador to London and Washington, said the rebels were not receiving game-changing anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons because of U.S. and manufacturers' restrictions on transfers to third parties.

U.S. strategic experts explained that Washington's sole interest in Syria was to prevent any threat to Israel and ensure chemical weapons did not fall into "terrorist" hands.

The same reluctance to be sucked into conflict meant Washington would provide little more than verbal and intelligence support for France as it battles in Mali against al-Qaeda-linked militants who have taken root in the vast ungoverned spaces of the Sahara and Sahel.

Few if any expect Obama, who burned his fingers in an early attempt to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to stop Jewish settlement building, to launch a fresh peace initiative now.

Any risk of the United States being drawn into military intervention in the Islamic world after extricating itself from Iraq and winding down its presence in Afghanistan is anathema to the Obama administration, said Gideon Rose, editor of the policy journal Foreign Affairs.


Some delegates cited Obama's strategic "pivot" towards Asia, shifting Washington's focus towards the fast-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region, as one reason why tensions were on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa.

The president's first foreign trip after his re-election in November to southeast Asia was overshadowed by a flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, a reminder of an issue on the back-burner that can explode at any time.

It came during a potentially dangerous phase in relations around east Asia between China and Japan, North Korea and its neighbors, and above all China and the United States.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a China expert, urged Obama to use his second term to take a major initiative to build a cooperative security relationship with China, partly to avert conflicts in the South China Sea. Rose doubted that the Obama administration would undertake anything so ambitious.

Wu Xinbo, dean of the School of International Studies at Fudan University in China, said Washington should start by ending aggressive air and sea patrolling off China's shores, which he said smacked of the "containment" of the former Soviet Union.

He voiced concern that Japan, driven by a more nationalist new government and public opinion, could pursue an "offensive" approach to a dispute over a group of small islands in the South China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Joseph Nye, a former U.S. official and Harvard academic who visited Japan and China recently as part of a semi-official U.S. delegation, said both countries were worried by the perceived growth of nationalism and militarism in the other although "this is not 1930s nationalism".

But Nye said both countries' new leaderships would give top priority to economic development and provided the United States sent careful messages to both, there was the prospect of a strong triangular relationship. - Reuters

Nikkei rises as yen extends loss to new lows

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:00 PM PST

TOKYO: Japanese equities rose on Monday as the yen extended losses to fresh lows, further improving earnings prospects for exporters as Japan's corporate reporting season enters full swing this week.

Global investor sentiment improved on Friday due to brighter prospects for the European economy and its debt crisis as well as solid U.S. corporate earnings.

Japan's Nikkei stock average <.n225> traded 0.7 percent higher after jumping 2.9 percent on Friday to log an 11th straight week of gains, its longest such run since 1971. <.t>

Against the yen, the dollar hit 91.26 early on Monday, its highest level since June 2010 while the euro touched 122.91, its highest point since April.

New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for aggressive monetary easing and huge fiscal spending to beat deflation. The yen has fallen some 13 percent since mid-November when he began making those calls as part of his election campaign.

"The potent mix of Abenomics and strong risk appetite abroad is continuing to soften the yen, which means investors will still be buying stocks," said Masayuki Doshida, senior market analyst at Rakuten Securities.

South Korean shares <.ks11> fell 0.7 percent, after closing on Friday at an eight-week low, weighed by caution ahead of fourth-quarter earnings and a stronger won hitting exporters.

U.S. stocks extended a rally to an eighth day, their best run since late 2004, with the Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> and the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> both closing at their highest in more than five years on solid U.S. corporate earnings.

The improving global macroeconomic environment has curbed interest in safe haven assets such as gold.

Spot gold steadied around $1,658.54 an ounce on Monday, still below its 200-day moving average. As riskier equities rallied on Friday, bullion saw its biggest weekly drop this year on Friday.

U.S. crude inched up 0.1 percent to $95.94 a barrel.

Investors pumped $5.65 billion into stock funds worldwide in the latest week, with most of the sum flowing into emerging market stock funds, data from EPFR Global showed on Friday.

The euro hovered near an 11-month high of $1.3480 hit on Friday. The Australian dollar stumbled to an eight-month low against the euro early on Monday.

The European Central Bank said on Friday banks will repay 137.2 billion euros ($185 billion) in 3-year loans, more cash than expected, in a sign at least parts of the financial system are returning to health. The ECB lent banks a total of more than 1 trillion euros in twin 3-year, ultra-cheap lending operations in December 2011 and February 2012, easing funding concerns.

German Ifo business morale index improved for a third consecutive month in January to its highest in more than half a year, further evidence that Europe's largest economy is gathering speed again after contracting late last year.

European shares scaled fresh multi-month peaks on Friday, led by Frankfurt's DAX index <.gdaxi> scaling five-year highs.

Data on Sunday also showed profits earned by China's industrial companies rose 17.3 percent in December from a year earlier to 895.2 billion yuan ($143.9 billion).

Investors will focus this week on the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee statement on Wednesday and U.S. nonfarm payrolls due on Friday. ($1 = 0.7421 euros) - Reuters

Malaysia’s inflation rate to hit 2%-2.5% this year

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 05:57 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's consumer price index (CPI) is expected to increase by between 2% and 2.5% this year, mainly because of the implementation of minimum wage policy and subsidy rationalisation programme in 2H2013.

"Resilient domestic demand could possibly facilitate partial transfer of higher cost to consumers particularly by industries that are heavily reliant on foreign labour," said Hong Leong Research.

It forecast the first half of 2013 (1H13) would have a mild inflation trend at about 1.6% on-year and rising to 2.4% on-year in the second half.

The government reported that the CPI for last year averaged by 1.6% in comparison to 3.2% in 2011. The CPI for December 2012 increased to 1.2% from a year ago, the slowest pace within a three-year.

Alliance Bank Malaysia research chief economist, Manokaran Mottain said moving ahead, "we expect a two-speed consumer prices movement".

He told Starbiz that while expecting a slower pace of inflation in the first half-year, potential subsidy cuts after the post GE 13 could likely pressure a reversal in price pressures in 2H13.

"Overall, we expect inflation to accelerate to 2.5%, aided by a recovery in demand in later part of this year, both internally as well as externally," he said.

He said a recent World Bank forecast further softening in global commodity prices in 2013 on extreme weather conditions and sluggish economic growth in major parts of the advanced economies.

Although the U.S. and Chinese economies look to remain on track for slow growth, Europe's debt problem is still seen weighing on economic expansion, reducing the appetite for commodities, according to the World Bank report. Food prices should drop by 3.2%, led by a sharp downturn in edible oils, such as soy oil or palm oil.

Meanwhile, Bank Negara Malaysia's monetary policy committee, which meets this week, is scheduled to announce the overnight policy rate (OPR) on Jan 31 and analysts expect the OPR to likely to remain at 3%.

Manokaran said due to the low levels of inflation risks to recovery, he reckons the central bank would have more room to keep the OPR at accommodative levels.

The OPR will likely to remain unchanged at 3% for this year, ensuring an accommodative monetary policy stance and price stability in the domestic economy, he added.

Hong Leong Investment Research said the OPR would ensure domestic demand to support the economic growth, despite "inflation outlook accords room for a rate cut".

JF Apex research affirmed its stance that the OPR would be maintained at 3% until 1H13, with CPI below 2.5%.

It said the demand for food is likely to keep rising as emerging economies continue to consume more due to growing of population and affluence. However, uncertain weather conditions would threaten the supplies and hence drive food commodity prices up.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Nasharudin removed from PAS Syura Council

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 05:16 AM PST

SHAH ALAM: Former PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa has been removed from the party's Syura Council, reports Sinar Harian Online.

It quoted Syura Council secretary Datuk Nik Zawawi Nik Salleh as saying that Nasharudin was found to be in violation of several of the council's regulations.

"The decision (to remove Nasharudin) was made on Jan 13 during a meeting chaired by PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat," he was quoted as saying.

He added that among the reasons for the removal was Nasharudin's absence from the council's meetings.

"The letter on the removal was delivered after the meeting," Nik Zawawi told the website.

The William Yau Zhen Zhong tragedy (Update)

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 03:57 AM PST

Published: Sunday January 27, 2013 MYT 10:24:00 AM
Updated: Sunday January 27, 2013 MYT 7:57:52 PM

Man held after car chase, cops seize weapons from suspected stolen vehicle

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 03:19 AM PST

IPOH: Police have arrested a 26-year-old man and seized an array of weapons after a car chase from Sitiawan to Pantai Remis.

Perak police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Mohd Shukri Dahlan said police tried to stop three vehicles at a petrol kiosk in Sitiawan at about 2.15am on Saturday.

"A red Honda CRZ and a blue BMW sped away after police stopped a grey BMW car and arrested a suspect, and a car chase ensued.

"The chase ended at the junction of Kuari Tin in Sungai Batu, when the blue BMW skidded and crashed into a house," he said, adding that the driver then fled on foot.

Upon searching the car, the police found a semi-automatic pistol, 10 9mm bullets, a computer bag containing a parang, a 34cm knife, two masks and an axe.

He said police later found the Honda CRZ abandoned by a third suspect at a housing estate near Jalan Gereja in Pantai Remis.

"The registration plates to all three cars were fake and they were reportedly stolen in the Klang Valley between November last year and January," he said.

DCP Mohd Shukri said the 26-year-old man was from Cheras and had 12 previous convictions.

He said the man would be remanded until Feb 2 while police investigate the case under Section 8 of the Firearms Act 1971.

He added that police were looking for Chan Yung Ting, 22, who is believed to be from Pantai Remis, to facilitate investigations.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Lucas hails new 'Star Wars' film director Abrams

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 05:56 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Sci-fi and action filmmaker J.J. Abrams will direct the next "Star Wars" film, the franchise's creators and owners confirmed Saturday, saying its "legacy couldn't be in better hands."

George Lucas's Lucasfilm, bought by entertainment giant Disney for $4 billion in October, said Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay for "Star Wars: Episode VII," due out in 2015.

"It's very exciting to have J.J. aboard, leading the charge as we set off to make a new 'Star Wars' movie," said Kathleen Kennedy, who took over last year as president of Lucasfilm, confirming industry media reports.

"J.J. is the perfect director to helm this... He understands the essence of the 'Star Wars' experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture," she added, in a statement issued by Disney.

George Lucas added: "I've consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He's an ideal choice to direct the new 'Star Wars' film and the legacy couldn't be in better hands."

Abrams himself said the collaboration was "an absolute honor."

"I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid," he added.

Abrams, 46, directed "Mission: Impossible III" (2006), "Star Trek" (2009) and "Super 8" (2011). He is the co-creator of the popular television series "Lost," and is currently finishing work on "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Writer Arndt won a best screenplay Oscar for 2006's "Little Miss Sunshine." He was also nominated for an Academy Award for "Toy Story 3" in 2011.

His other credits include "Brave," nominated for best animated film at next month's Oscars.

Disney announced when it bought Lucasfilm last year that it was planning a new trilogy in the wildly popular Star Wars sci-fi saga, which has raked in an estimated $4.4 billion since 1977.

Lucas - who created the saga and directed four of the six films to date - will serve as a creative consultant for the three new films, which are expected to come out every two to three years.

Lucas's original "Star Wars" movie in 1977, which marked the birth of a new era of blockbuster cinema, launched the career of a young Harrison Ford.

It was soon followed by the equally popular "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983).

In the late 1990s, Lucas drew mixed reviews when he resurrected the blockbuster series with a prequel trilogy: "The Phantom Menace" (1999), "The Attack of the Clones" (2002) and "The Revenge of the Sith" (2005).

The newer trilogy featured Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen. -AFP

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts &amp; Fashion

A journey through Tew Nai Tong's work and life

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:06 AM PST

Tew Nai Tong's latest exhibition is a veritable journey through the veteran artist's work and life.

THE Glories exhibition is a cursory timeline of Tew Nai Tong's art, craft and life, taking up the story nearly 35 years into his career after his first art studies at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore (Nafa, 1957-58).

Maybe not so much by design, the 28 works offer glimpses of his different periods and at different places, while he varies on his trademark "Nanyang-and-Post" repertoire in terms of nuanced changes in technique, style and subject.

Starting from 1991 (Sisters And Free Land), the works do show, as a capsule, how he breaks convention in terms of colour, spacing, perspective, depth, form and surface painting (brushstrokes and palette knife). His latest, Morning Market (2012) and Childhood Happy Life (2012), also leave a "negative" corner space of drawings to reveal the incipient strokes as well as for strategic contrast with the heavy impastoes.

Significantly, the "starting point" in this show was a time when Tew began painting in oil (1990) after working mostly in watercolours. It was also when he went truly full-time (1992) following a 23-year teaching career at three local art institutions.

Now 77, the Klang (Selangor)-born Tew is regarded as one of the very last "Nanyang" (Southern Seas) Style matinee heroes (his living contemporaries in Paris, Tan Tong and Long Thien Shih, are not Nafa-trained).

He has remained faithful to the subject of the charms of the old Malaya with its frontier unexplored land and sparse, harsh vegetation. But there are subtle developments resulting in a style that has been more noticeable over the last three decades and a half, with his remodelled Figures.

Yes, the "Nanyang Style" wannabe who started at Nafa and then followed up with tutelage in Paris (Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, 1967-68) is now a master in his own right.

Some may compare his early works to those of the Singapore art pioneer Cheong Soo-pieng (who, incidentally, never taught him at Nafa), though he was not into Cheong's exaggerated forms and gestures like elongated limbs and distended torsos.

His figures are imbued with the spirit of the bygone age – a willingness to work, carefree, a bit naive perhaps, serene and contented, uncomplicated and most of all, free!

Women are the favoured sex in Tew's figurations with their cheeks sometimes ruddy and sometimes pale like in a Le Pho painting. At times, the figure appears androgynous.

Men or women, on Tew's canvas, they are all born with "squinty eyes" or "phoenix eyes", an attribute redolent of the refined figure stereotypes of the Tang and Sung dynasty arts in China.

If you look carefully, both sexes are coined in the visage of the artist himself, squinty eyes et al. The Amber Chia lips are different though, to suggest a pout – of coyness as well as for a touch of humour. Also, his figures are, in line with the times, clothed and not half-naked or even clad in brassieres, for modesty and a certain decency.

If at all, his figures are more akin to Modigliani's, with the graceful "pulled" lines and slightly rouged faces. On a deeper bonding level, there is the mother-and-child theme – a perennial favourite of artists West or East.

Tew likes to subvert the time-honoured colour wheel using colours as emotive projection and even decoration, sometimes off-tangent of one another, and not as naturally prescribed. This is most obvious in his technicolour cows that come in purple, red, green, orange....

His palette has also changed from the duller ochres couched in the sombre in the pre-1990s to interesting, much brighter hues in keeping with the tropical milieu.

He uses outlines to demarcate and register the various forms and spaces, with coloured geometric patches as backdrops. His trademark technique also includes the vertical pole – tree or stave – that cleaves the composition into two, even three – something that is a disaster in the hands of a novice.

His works are down-to-earth and people-orientated, pushing the ground-level horizontal line upwards, compressing the sky. Even the landscapes are as they are – backdrops. The Figure is The Thing.

Various techniques and elements are often brewed in his painting pot like in Charming Girl (2007 – the Year of his Retrospective at the then-National Art Gallery), which combines figures, still-life (flowers in transparent cylindrical vase) and a painting-within-a-painting format.

Balinese Dancers (1998) notches a de rigueur interpretation as is wont of artists in the region, making pilgrimages to the mythical island of dance and rituals.

There is one concession to urban life, Leisure (2001) – of Parisian kids roller-skating in thick clothing in the streets under a cloak of grey autumnal backdrop. Done in his last revisit to Paris, it followed an annual pilgrimage from 1999 – the first after a lapse of nearly 30 years.

Tew's works remain true to the old ways of life – its serenity and simplicity and also dignity, reflecting fleetingly on the relationship between man and nature, man and animals. It also dwells on culture and tradition.

There is also the notion of plentiful – with the abundance of fruits, and where the fowls, cattle and goats are treated more like pets than a protein sustenance on the dinner table.

There are two large works in the show – Tew's new fascination with the panorama, especially in the Festival Series celebrating the multi-cultural spectrums (not shown here). The bigger works reflect more his greater sense of freedom and also in terms of the expression of movement.

One, Precious Moments (2012), a diptych measuring 2 x 148.6cm x 119.4cm, shows a bevy of rubber tappers seemingly as "tall" as the trees shouldering poles with big buckets of tapped latex on each end. The other, Glories (2012), stretching 138cm x 242.6cm, packs a repertoire of the villagers' pastimes – kite-flying, fighting cockerel, top-spinning and bird-rearing.

Just like his Chagall-like nudes hovering in the air in dreamscapes like a human dirigible as in Life Of Freedom, it registers a transient spirit looking for permanence, pleasure and peace, like the refugees of life in search of a better place and a better tomorrow. It resonates with the artist's inner cry for his own freedom, whatever it is.

> Glories, a solo art exhibition by Tew Nai Tong, is on display at Pinkguy Malaysia Art & Frame in Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur, until Feb 2. For details, call 03-2166 2166.

Fadli Yusoff pushes the boundaries

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 06:05 AM PST

An artist who has shunned painting human figures for over a decade returns to the subject with gusto.

THERE is a contemplative stillness in the painting depicting a man deep in prayer, even as ribbons of text dance around him and colours swirl. There Is No God But Allah, Prophet Muhammad The Messenger Of Allah is one of approximately 30 figurative artworks to emerge from artist Fadli Yusoff's studio in time for his first solo exhibition, simply entitled Md Fadli Yusoff 2007-2012.

The exhibition at Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur, is a collaboration with 12, an experimental and conceptual art group with gallery space in Setapak, KL, that is managed by Shooshie Sulaiman and Fatina Alfis.

The works in the exhibition were made over a five-year period, from the end of 2007 to 2012, and are the result of Fadli's first real foray into the world of figures; prior to that, he had not touched figurative works since an art class in university taught by artist and part-time lecturer Amron Omar in 1995.

"I had even planned to draw my grandfather at work in the village for my final year project. But when a friend told me about a book by the United Ulama Council of South Africa stating that it is haram (prohibited) to do figurative art, I read it and decided that I couldn't go on with it," says Fadli, a Fine Arts graduate of Institut Teknologi Mara (now Universiti Teknologi Mara).

Determined to start afresh, the young Fadli took his thick sketchbook with his work thus far and tore the pages out.

"I burned them one at a time under a single lamp in the dark of the night. It was hard. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. But if figurative art is something I am not supposed to do, then how can I do it? At least, those were my thoughts at that time," the 38-year-old Kelantanese relates during a chat at 12 in Setapak recently.

Fadli threw himself into landscapes and still life for the next 11 years in his career as an artist. And then it all came to a standstill.

"What happens when you do the same thing over and over again for a long time? You find that you reach a point where you are unable to progress any further," he confides.

The artist felt there were no more avenues within the confines of this subject matter left to explore. "Landscape painting no longer posed any challenge to me and I wasn't able to grow and develop as an artist," he says, pointing out that there is a religious teaching that encourages the faithful to attain knowledge.

And therein lay the conflict.

"On the one hand, I had thought for such a long time that I wasn't supposed to do figurative art. But on the other hand, I felt that figurative art was the direction I now had to move towards if I intended to expand my exploration as an artist and be the best I can be. It is an aspect of art that is important for my growth as an artist. These two things seemed to contradict each other," he says.

He was directed to another book that touches upon matters concerning figurative art in more detail. After reading it, Fadli then realised that the issue revolving around the depiction of figures were not as set in stone as he had initially thought.

"Instead, there are guidelines to follow and there are different levels of things I can do, should not do, and what I am not allowed to do. And every action has its consequences. I felt that I had to truly understand this issue because I am an artist and this affects me and my job," he says.

After a lot of soul searching, he proceeded with figurative works in 2007 and stuck with it.

The result is humanity captured on jute and canvas in a variety of poses and moods, all acrylic, with the exception of a batik on satin work of Myanmar's Aung San Syu Kyi.

But don't expect to see nudes or sculptures at this exhibition; Fadli draws the line at these in accordance with his beliefs. And despite making the decision five years ago to do figurative art, that's not to say that he didn't have any doubts while preparing for the exhibition.

"Many a day I would be troubled by thoughts of whether what I was doing was right. But I pushed for a deeper understanding of the issue and in doing so, in the last five years, I think I have grown as an artist as well as a person. At the end of the day, what matters to me is that I have a clear conscience," he says.

As much as the works in this exhibition are intertwined with his religious convictions, he does not label his work as Islamic art.

"What makes something Islamic art? I don't say that what I create is Islamic art, that's up to the viewer to decide. I won't judge either way. But I try to be a good Muslim and a good person, and my art is very much a part of me, so there are inevitably Islamic elements in them," he says.

As to where he will go from here, Fadli is still uncertain.

Plans are underway to have an exhibition in Brussels this summer, co-organised by the Malaysian ambassador in Belgium and the 12 art group. In a type of artist-in-residence programme, Fadli will stay in Brussels for at least two months to produce his artworks.

After that, he might cast his net even further or perhaps head in another direction altogether. But whatever the next step is, it will always be something close to his heart.

"I simply express my reaction to things that happen around me and my works will always be something straight from my heart," he concludes.

> Md Fadli Yusoff 2007-2012 will run from Wednesday to Feb 8 at the White Box, MAP@Publika, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Admission to the exhibition is free. There will be a conversation and workshop with the artist at 2pm on

Feb 5. Visit 12as12.com or call

03-4023 4128 for more information.

Winged Victory to be restored

Posted: 27 Jan 2013 03:06 AM PST

THE Louvre is to restore one of its most iconic works, the Winged Victory Of Samothrace statue (pic) depicting the Greek goddess Nike, in September, the museum announced on Monday.

A team of experts will oversee the 3mil (RM12mil) restoration of the ancient Greek marble statue – one of the Paris art museum's three best-known pieces, along with the Mona Lisa and the Venus De Milo.

Repair work on the headless statue, which dates from between 220BC and 185BC, is expected to take over a year, though the work should be back on show in spring 2014.

Previously restored in 1934, this second touch-up entails cleaning up the statue and resolving a number of structural problems that were not addressed the first time, the museum said.

According to the Louvre, over seven million museum-goers visit the statue every year. – AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Fertility awareness

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 08:58 PM PST

Fertility awareness methods of contraception include all methods that are based on the identification of the fertile days of the menstrual cycle.

FERTILITY awareness is a term for individuals' understanding of their reproductive anatomy and physiology in relation to fertility.

In the case of a woman, it includes identification of the fertile time during the menstrual cycle. In the case of a male, it includes understanding of his reproductive potential. In the case of a couple, it includes the development of a shared understanding about their fertility potential at different stages of their lives and their ability to communicate about fertility issues with one other and healthcare professionals.

Fertility awareness methods (FAM) of contraception include all methods that are based on the identification of the fertile days of the menstrual cycle (fertile time), which is at or about the time when the ovary releases the egg (ovulation). FAM works by keeping sperm out of the vagina during the fertile time.

The effectiveness of these methods depend on two important variables – the identification of the fertile time and the modification of sexual behaviour during this time. Couples can either abstain from vaginal intercourse or use a barrier method correctly during the fertile time.

FAMs are suitable for individuals or couples who do not find other methods of avoiding pregnancy acceptable because of personal, cultural or religious reasons.

Fertility pattern

In order to know when one is most likely to get pregnant, a woman has to be familiar with her menstrual cycle.

Pregnancy occurs when the woman's egg is fertilised by the man's sperm. There are days in the menstrual cycle when fertilisation can occur and there are days when they cannot. There are some days when fertilisation is unlikely but still possible. Vaginal intercourse during the days when it is possible for fertilisation (fertile time) is necessary for pregnancy to occur.

The length of a menstrual cycle is measured from the first day of menstruation, ie fresh red bleeding, up to, but not including, the first day of the next menstruation. The normal cycle length varies widely in healthy women and even in the same woman at different stages of her life.

The fertile time depends on the length of the cycle. The ovary invariably releases an egg (ovulation) about 12 to 14 days before the next menstruation. The time before ovulation, however, is more variable.

The fertile time depends on the life spans of the egg and the sperm, which are about 17 hours and seven days respectively. Fertilisation must take place during those few hours after ovulation if pregnancy is to occur. Various studies reported that nearly all pregnancies occurred within a six day fertile window.

The fertility pattern varies in different women. Some women have different fertility times in different months of their menstrual cycles.

The advantages of FAMs include the planning and avoidance of pregnancy; acceptability to all religions and cultures; absence of physical side effects; and no use of chemical agents or physical devices.

It is relatively cheap and educational as it promotes fertility awareness. It encourages shared responsibility and increases communication. It is effective provided the user is taught well and follows the instructions given.

The disadvantages include the keeping of daily records, which some women find difficulty with; taking at least three to six menstrual cycles for effective learning; abstinence or use of a barrier method during the fertile time, which some couples find difficulty with; and no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

Its success depends on strong commitment by both partners all the time. Events like illness, stress, shift work and travel may make the interpretation of fertility indicators more difficult. The fertility monitoring devices are relatively more expensive than other more effective family planning methods.

The fertile time can be identified by observation of physiological indicators, calculations based on cycle length or fertility monitoring devices.

Physiological indicators method

The physiological indicators of the fertile time include basal body temperature, cervical secretions and changes in the cervix that occur in response to the changes in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle.

These indicators may be used alone or in combination to improve effectiveness.

Progesterone causes an increase in basal body temperature (BBT, or waking temperature), which is the temperature before getting out of bed and after resting for at least three hours.

As soon as ovulation occurs, progesterone increases the BBT by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The higher temperature is maintained until the progesterone level falls at menstruation.

The temperature needs to be charted, using a fertility or digital thermometer, every day upon awaking in the morning (before eating or drinking).

The temperature chart does not identify the start of the fertile time. The fertile time ends after the temperatures recorded for three days in a row are higher than all the previous six days. This means that couples using BBT as a single indicator method have to abstain from intercourse from the beginning of menstruation until they have recorded three successive temperatures of at least 0.2 degrees Celsius higher than the preceding six days.

It is important to remember that the temperature can change because of reasons other than ovulation, eg if the temperature is taken earlier or later than usual, if there is an illness like flu or cold (the temperature can go up), or if painkillers are taken (the temperature can go down).

When used on its own, BBT's overall failure rate is 5.4%, ie 5.4 pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use. It is only effective if used by highly motivated couples able to tolerate at least two weeks of abstinence because they have to abstain from the start of the cycle until after the temperature increase.

Cervical secretions are influenced by oestrogen and progesterone. After menstruation, when the oestrogen levels are low, there are no secretions, or they are minimal, thick, white and sticky, leading to rapid destruction of sperm by the acidic environment of the vagina.

With increasing levels of oestrogen, the cervical secretions increase in amount and become clearer, wetter, slippery and stretchy, like the white of a raw egg, leading to facilitation of sperm movements.

The fertile time starts when the woman is first aware of any cervical secretions. The last day of the transparent, wet and slippery secretions (peak day) coincides closely with ovulation.

With ovulation, the cervical secretions thicken, under the influence of progesterone, to form a thick plug, which does not favour sperm penetration. The peak day is only recognised on the day after the peak when the cervical secretions have become cloudy and thick.

The fertile time ends on the fourth morning after the peak day.

A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 94% of women could detect changes in cervical secretions indicating the start of the fertile time. Most women need to observe these changes for at least three months before they can recognise the changes with some degree of confidence.

It is important to remember that the changes in cervical secretions can be affected by semen, vaginal infections or spermicides.

When used on its own, the overall failure rate is about 20%, ie 20 pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use.

Changes in the muscle and connective tissue of the cervix are influenced by oestrogen and progesterone. These changes can be recognised by gently feeling the cervix with the fingers at about the same time every day.

The fertile time starts at the first sign of the cervix becoming soft, open or high. It ends after the cervix has been firm, closed and low for three days.

It will take several months to gain confidence in making out the cervical changes. These changes are of value in women with long menstrual cycles, during breastfeeding, and around the time of the menopause.

Although there are reports that these changes correlate with the cervical secretion and BBT in identifying the fertile time, there are no studies of the effectiveness of using the cervical changes as an indicator alone.

Oestrogen and progesterone also cause other recognisable changes – mid-cycle abdominal pain or spotting, abdominal heaviness, breast changes, and changes in desire and mood. Although the changes may be consistent in some individuals, they cannot be depended upon. Some of these changes may be symptoms of underlying medical conditions, which require treatment.

Cycle length method

The length of the menstrual cycle can also help detect the fertile time. This requires a record of the menstrual cycle for at least six months.

A WHO study reported that in women whose menstrual cycle lengths are between 26 and 32 days, the fertile time is likely to occur from days eight to 19 of the cycle, day one being the first day of menstruation (first day of fresh red bleeding). Further studies are needed to determine its effectiveness and acceptability to users.

The calculation method based on previous cycle lengths takes into consideration the survival time of the egg and the sperm. It is based on the length of a woman's previous six to 12 menstrual cycles.

From a record of at least the previous six cycles, 20 days is subtracted from the shortest cycle to give the first fertile day, and 10 days is subtracted from the longest cycle to give the last fertile day.

If the longest or shortest menstrual cycle length changes, a recalculation has to be made. The reported failure rates vary from 5-47%, with an overall failure rate of about 20%, ie 20 pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use.

The Standard Days Method can be used by women with menstrual cycle lengths between 26 and 32 days, with the fertile time likely to occur within days eight to 19 of the cycle. Arevalo, Jennings and Sinai reported a probability of pregnancy of 4.75% over 13 cycles with correct use of the method, and 11.96% probability of pregnancy with typical use.

Fertility monitoring devices

Different fertility monitoring devices can provide the user useful information about her fertile time. The devices include hormone monitoring systems, computerised thermometers, luteinizing hormone sticks and saliva testing devices.

There is large variation in the pricing and effectiveness of these devices. A discussion with the doctor is advisable if you're considering fertility monitoring devices.

A combination of FAM methods improves the accuracy in predicting the fertile time. One method can confirm that of the other, eg cervical secretions are helpful if the BBT is affected by sickness.

The common combined methods include BBT, cervical secretions and cycle length. The commonest combination is the symptom-thermal method, which involves BBT and cervical secretions.

The effectiveness of combined methods is more than that of a single method. Successful use requires a high degree of motivation. A recent study of combined methods reported an overall failure rate of 2.6%, i.e. 2.6 pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use.

Lactational amenorrhoea method

Breastfeeding reduces fertility because ovulation is suppressed by the raised prolactin levels during breastfeeding. A woman has effective protection against pregnancy in the first six months after giving birth if she has no periods and the baby is breastfed all the time, ie the baby is not given other food or drink.

Another contraceptive method has to be used when the periods return or the baby gets to six months of age or is given other food or drink regularly.

The failure rate of the lactational amenorrhoea method is 2%, ie two pregnancies in 100 women in one year of use.

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

Breaking the habit

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 08:57 PM PST


Increasingly, obsessive habits or behaviours are eating into the Malaysian psyche. Fit4Life investigates the physical and psychological impacts of such addictions.

THE idea of addiction as a brain disease is a fairly new one. Historically, addiction was thought to be a personality flaw or a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, this stigma continues to hound the disease, creating a major problem for addicts, as well as those who treat them.

Addiction is the continued use of a mood-altering substance or behaviour despite adverse dependency consequences. When a person can't stop using drugs even if he wants to, he is likely to be suffering from addiction. It is an urge so strong, that even if an addict knows that regular drug use can cause harm or lead to death, he is unable to stop.

The thing is, when people start using drugs, they don't plan on getting addicted. For some, it is a form of escapism from the harsher realities of life. Drugs just make them feel better. However, as taking drugs or substances will alter the natural chemistry of the brain over time, drug users will start to need the drug just to feel "normal".

At this stage, reducing or discontinuing the use of a substance that the body has grown dependent on can lead to acute withdrawal symptoms. These can include anxiety, irritability, intense cravings for the substance, nausea, hallucinations, headaches, cold sweat and tremors.

Addiction can take over a person's life, replacing even vital aspects, such as the need to eat and sleep. Worse, an addict might resort to doing things like stealing or hurting someone in order to sustain their drug or behavioural habits.

According to Dr Nivashinie Mohan, a neuro-psychologist from Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur, "All addictive substances or behaviours directly satisfy the pleasure centres in the brain. This causes the person to experience a physical or mental 'high'.

"However, this high will become increasingly difficult to achieve over time. As a result, a person who is addicted will have to keep increasing the frequency or volume of whatever substance or behaviour they have grown dependent to, to achieve the high."

According to Dr Nivashinie, alcohol abuse and drug abuse are among the most common types of addictions in Malaysia. The country's proximity to the notorious 'golden triangle' of drugs makes them relatively easy to obtain, she opines. The golden triangle is infamously known as a production region of drugs.

"Alcohol is another commonly abused substance because it is often considered harmless, and again, it is easy to obtain," she adds.

However, psychological disorders such as having an addiction to shopping, eating, social media, as well as pornographic materials and sex, are also becoming more common.

Let's look at the physical and psychological symptoms that follow these "unassuming" addictions.

Sexual addiction

Sexual addiction has been described in many terms: hypersexuality, nymphomania, Don Juanism. In essence, it is a conceptual model devised to provide a scientific explanation for sexual urges, behaviours, or thoughts that are extreme in frequency, and may be occurring out of one's control.

The list of behaviours associated with sexual addiction includes consistent use of pornography, engaging in frequent and unsafe sex, having extra-marital affairs, voyeurism and visiting prostitutes.

For some people, the addiction can escalate to involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public) and molestation. However, not all sex addicts will end up becoming sex offenders.

The biggest challenge for sex addicts is that it is often treated as an issue of morality rather than a genuine mental problem. Despite the increase in people seeking therapy, most of those affected by it often try to deal with the addiction alone.

But while some experts regard sexual addiction as a medical form of clinical addiction, there are others who believe it is a myth perpetuated by social and cultural influences.

For the sex addict, their urges are not only real and uncontrollable, they can yield serious and devastating consequences. People have lost their families and homes, and have even become suicidal because they feel that they will never be able to embark on a proper relationship.

Compulsive shopping

With the scorching sun, and a lack of public amenities and facilities available, it is no wonder that shopping malls are such popular hangout places for Malaysians. Just try navigating through a local shopping mall on a weekend and you'll know what we mean.

Most Malaysians enjoy shopping. And let's face it, we've all succumbed to the occasional impulse to buy that perfect pair of heels to complement your little black dress. But when your wardrobe starts to explode with too many shoes or clothes, you could be suffering from a serious shopping addiction.

Oniomania is the technical term for the compulsive desire to shop. The phenomenon is often linked with a preoccupation with buying new things; distress or impairment as a result of the activity; as well as hypo-manic or manic episodes resulting from compulsive buying.

Many balk at the idea of compulsive buying as a real addiction, although it has the potential to create a whirlwind of emotional and financial distress. Like all addictions, these shopping addicts often experience highs and lows associated with their compulsion to buy.

For instance, the "high" derived from buying may be followed by a sense of disappointment or guilt. This could lead to an urge for yet another shopping spree in a never-ending pursuit for satisfaction.

More alarmingly, compulsive shopping could result in serious financial debts, which may lead the habit to become a secretive act. Some shopping addicts end up hiding or destroying their purchases because they feel ashamed of their addiction.

Addiction to social media

By now, most of us would have a Facebook account. In fact, according to an October 2012 report, approximately 13 million out of the 28 million-strong Malaysian population are on Facebook. This suggests that about 45% of Malaysians now have Facebook accounts.

In fact, you are probably refreshing your Facebook page even as you read this. But it is one thing to be a kaypochee (nosy parker) who likes to be in the know about your friends' love lives, gastronomical adventures or work-related rants, and another to be obsessively keeping track of your Facebook newsfeed.

According to Dr Nivashinie, the term Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) was coined by American psychologists to describe the addiction to Facebook. Because it is not seen to be as harmful as tobacco or drugs, FAD often goes undetected because most addicts do not realise or want to admit they have a problem.

However, if you prefer to interact on Facebook rather than have a normal real-life conversation, you could be suffering from a real psychological disorder, she warns.

Like any other addiction, being addicted to social media prevents one from participating in daily activities, which could in turn cause anxiety or depression.

"Addicts feel the need to be connected to their Facebook friends all the time as they fear they may miss out something important if they don't cosntantly check out the website," she adds.

According to Dr Nivashinie, research has shown that it is mostly adults in their 20s and 30s who are addicted to social media.

"As these groups make up the working population, the implications are manifold – from the breaking of families to loss of work productivity, isolation and depression, when away from social media," she says.

The doctor concludes: "Technology is important and we cannot deny the benefits of it, but social media should not replace actual social interaction. Excessive use of social media can also turn us into a more individualistic and narcissistic society. People become more self-absorbed and isolated, choosing to be online, rather than out and about."

Food junkie

There is no denying that food and incessant eating are part and parcel of our national culture. Malaysians are, in fact, notorious for stuffing themselves with obscene amounts of food at any given time of the day.

Given these habits, it is no wonder that Malaysia is now the fattest country in South-East Asia. Current findings by the Health Ministry reveal that two in every five adults are either overweight or obese.

However, there is a difference between being just plain greedy and being a compulsive overeater. The latter is often characterised by an individual who has an obsessive-compulsive relationship with food. The food junkie often engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating or binge-eating, during which they may feel overwhelmed or out of control. Often, they may even consume food past the point of being comfortable.

Food addicts eat even when they are not hungry. Their obsession is further exacerbated by spending excessive amounts of time and thought (and often money) on food, and secretly planning or fantasising about their next meal.

Not surprisingly, many individuals suffering from food addiction are overweight or obese. That said, not everyone who has a weight problem is a compulsive overeater. People of normal or average weight can also be affected by this addiction.

During binges, a compulsive overeater may consume up to 15,000 calories daily (an average person needs only about 1,600 calories!). For the food junkie, eating provides a temporary relief from psychological stress through an addictive high that is similarly experienced by drug and alcohol users.

Left untreated, the over-indulgence can lead to serious medical conditions, including high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases.

Addiction to exercise

Even the seemingly innocuous domain of exercise is not exempt from the grips of addiction. According to the American Running Association, when the commitment to exercise crosses the line to dependency and compulsion, it can create a physical, social and psychological quagmire for the ardent exerciser.

This phenomenon typically affects runners.

To the addict, exercise has become overvalued compared to other important elements in life, including work, family and friends. Anything that comes in between them and exercise is immediately scorned and resented. Signs of addiction to exercise include withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability and depression when one's circumstances prevents one from engaging in physical activity.

Exercise addiction can cost you more than just a night out with friends. The obsession can bite back in the form of osteoarthritis, a lesser-known but equally malignant cousin of osteoporosis, due to trauma and overuse of the joints.

According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, "People who engaged in sports or other physically demanding activities are known to be at an increased risk of osteoarthritis in the joints they use most (eg knees and hips in soccer players, and hands in boxers).

That's not all, an addict's manic devotion to exercise could end up destroying one's relationship with their family, friends or significant other.

The solution to most of these habits or behavioural problems may be obvious – just cut down or limit whatever acts or vices that could be disrupting your daily life. Of course, in most cases, this is easier said than done.

The road to recovery begins with acknowledging the problem. To do that, a person suffering from addiction must first learn to recognise the signs of addiction, before progressing to seek therapy or medical help.

Change will not occur overnight, but by taking that first step, an addict stands a chance in regaining control of their lives, and with that, a second chance to live.

Fighting knee pain

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 08:57 PM PST

The knee is a complex joint that is highly susceptible to injuries.

IT bends, straightens and rotates slightly. Sometimes it creaks, and when the situation is bad, it gives way. Such are the workings of the knee joint.

Many of us know at least two persons with a knee problem who complain about the nagging pain. If it's your grandma or grandpa, you can excuse them as over time, the joint gets worn out. But I've seen young hikers, runners and dancers wearing a knee brace for support.

Since the knee absorbs 80% of our body weight while standing, it is at a high risk for injury. The knee is formed by the articulation of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (bone of the lower leg), and is encased in the joint capsule. It contains an assortment of ligaments and tendons, which provide the structural framework for the joint.

The stability of the knee joint and the primary restrictions of action are provided by the complex ligament structure of the knee. The knee joint is surrounded by a large thigh muscle in front of the leg (the quadriceps), an equally large muscle at the back of the leg (the hamstring), muscles at the back of the lower leg (the calf muscles) and a long band of connective tissue that stretches from the hip bone, running alongside the outside of the thigh, down to the outside of the knee (the iliotibial band).

As we age, our fast twitch or explosive muscle fibres (eg hamstring, bicep) which are used for sprinting, atrophy at a faster rate than our slow twitch or endurance muscle fibres (eg quadriceps, triceps) used for marathons.

Activating fast-twitch muscle fibres is the key to improved strength, speed and power. Unlike slow-twitch muscle fibres, which are responsible for most of our day-to-day muscular activity, fast twitch muscle fibres are quite lazy and tend to slumber until called to action. It is also easily fatigued, and if pushed beyond its capacity, gets injured easily.

I always tell my students that if they sustain a back or knee injury, it's going to stay with them for life. Unless it's a simple sprain or strain, the likelihood of injuries recurring is extremely high, but the good news is that it can be managed by strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee.

A few months ago, one of my dance students came to me with incessant knee pain. Every time she did grande plies or landed from a jump, she would feel a sharp pain. She iced the area diligently and sought treatment from a sinseh, but it didn't help much.

The fact that she was dancing at least 30 hours a week compounded the problem. It got so bad to a point she started to limp and could barely take steps down. I packed her off to see a specialist.

The orthopaedist couldn't find anything major and diagnosed it as a soft tissue injury. He prescribed her anti-inflammatory medication and glucosamine supplements. I was shocked. Glucosamine at 21?

My grandmother only started taking it at 80, and this kid was barely out of university. She hadn't even started her professional career!

I had to force her to stop all activities and reluctantly, she agreed. We worked on strengthening and stretching the appropriate muscles and slowly, the pain subsided. Today, among other things, she can leap, take a tumble and do knee spins without pain.

There are many causes of knee injuries, including bursitis, tendonitis, ligament tears, worn-out cartilages, arthritis, sprains, strains and a host of other problems. Postural misalignment such as knock-knees or bowlegs may also predispose a person to knee injuries.

According to fitness trainer Mark Vella, women have a four to six times greater chance of sustaining serious knee injuries than men. In his book, Anatomy for Strength and Fitness Training for Women, Vella says women have a tendency to begin exercising from a knock-knee position, and when they start flexing the knees (bending), this position is aggravated further. Their wider pelvic structures also result in a more acute angle from the femur to the knee joint. Women also have softer ligaments and tendons due to hormonal effects, which are pronounced during ovulation and pregnancy.

Many women are concerned that leg exercises such as squats will cause their buttocks to become bigger, but this is far from the truth. The natural tilt of a woman's pelvis is more likely to be slightly anterior than in men, thus creating an increased lordosis (arched lower back), which then emphasises the buttocks. If less strengthening emphasis on the glutes is desired, then when doing squats, a wider stance should be used. There are always alternatives.

It may come as a surprise but exercise is one of the best remedies to alleviate pain and relieve stiffness among those suffering from knee arthritis.

Here are a few simple exercises I find most effective when strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee. Start off with three sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Wide-stance or duck squats (second position plie, feet turned out)

Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out 45° to 75° with hands on the hips or folded in front. Bend your knees (making sure it doesn't go past the toes) until it forms a 90° angle to your thighs. Hold the stance for two seconds and come back up. To make it harder, you can hold on to dumb bells or lift the heels off the ground while in squat position.


Stand with feet parallel, six inches apart, and take a huge step forward with one leg. Bend both your knees (keeping the front foot flat on the floor) so your rear heel lifts off and the knee is almost in contact with the floor. Come back up. Repeat 10-12 times, keeping your body erect. Return to starting position and switch legs.

Wall slides

Stand with your back against the wall, foot shoulder-width apart and about 12 inches or more in front of you. Slowly bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until you knees are bent no more than 90° and are not extending past your toes.

Beginners will probably not able to go past 45°. Hold this position for five seconds. Focus on pressing your heels to the ground as you slowly slide back up until you're back to starting position. Once you get stronger, try one-legged wall slides.

Standing calf raises

Stand on the edge of a step or elevated platform with heels hanging over the edge. Tuck in your stomach and squeeze your glutes. Rise up, hold for two seconds and come down. I like to do these in three positions. First stand with feel parallel, then with feet turned out and lastly, with feet pointed inwards.

Hamstring curls with stability ball

Lie on your back on a mat, keep your knees straight and place your heel on top of a stability ball. Lift your back off the floor and contract your abdominal and butt muscles. Slowly and with control, bring your heels toward your body as you roll the stability ball underneath your legs.

When you've moved about 10-12 inches, return your legs to the fully extended starting position.

Not only do these exercises do wonders for strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee, it also helps peel the layers of fat and gives you a great looking tush!

However, use your own discretion when performing these exercises. If at any time you feel pain, then skip it. You can try it again after working on the other exercises for a couple of weeks. The important thing is to listen to your body, to challenge it, but not to overstress it.

The writer is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places.

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