Ahad, 3 Februari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Three bodies found at Mexico Pemex blast site, toll reaches 36

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 08:31 PM PST

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican rescue workers found three more bodies over the weekend amid the rubble of a deadly blast that tore through state oil firm Pemex's main office complex, the government said, as search efforts appeared to near a close.

Rescue workers carry a stretcher with the body of the 36th victim at the site of an explosion at the headquarters of state-owned oil giant Pemex in Mexico City February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Rescue workers carry a stretcher with the body of the 36th victim at the site of an explosion at the headquarters of state-owned oil giant Pemex in Mexico City February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

The death toll from Thursday's explosion stands at 36, Pemex said via Twitter. Rescue workers had been digging through the last sections of the building's basement and could soon call off their search. One person was reported still missing.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo said on Friday that it was too early to say if the explosion was due to an attack, an accident or negligence, but he promised results of an investigation in the coming days.

Murillo toured the site on Sunday, but did not publicly comment on the progress of the investigation. Officials have communicated details through social media about the disaster, which struck just before a long holiday weekend.

The investigation will test confidence in President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party ruled Mexico for most of the last century but lost power in 2000, when it was accused of fostering widespread corruption.

Local media reported the three bodies were maintenance workers. A woman who worked as a secretary was still missing, but she was unlikely to be found so deep in the wreckage.

The blast occurred two months into Pena Nieto's presidency, just as Congress was preparing to discuss his plans to open up the state-run energy industry to more private investment.

Hobbled by heavy state taxation, Pemex saw production slump in the last decade and its safety record has been stained by a series of deadly accidents, including an explosion that killed about 30 at a gas facility last year.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

French planes pound Islamist camps in north Mali desert

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 07:50 PM PST

PARIS/BAMAKO (Reuters) - French warplanes pounded Islamist rebel camps in the far north of Mali on Sunday, military sources said, a day after French President Francois Hollande was hailed as a saviour during a visit to the West African country.

Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French army in Paris, said the overnight raids targeted logistics bases and training camps used by the al Qaeda-linked rebels near the town of Tessalit, close to the Algerian border.

"These were important air strikes," Burkhard told Reuters.

Tessalit, some 200 km (125 miles) north of the regional capital Kidal, is one of the main gateways into the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains where the rebels have sought refuge after fleeing major towns.

France says the rebels are also holding hostage in these mountains seven of its citizens, seized in recent years in the Sahara region.

Malian military sources said French and Chadian troops had clashed with members of the Ansar Dine militant group in the region around Kidal on Saturday.

French attack helicopters and transport planes carrying special forces left the city of Gao to reinforce the French and Chadian contingent stationed at the airport in Kidal.

The town of Kidal itself is under the control of the pro-autonomy MNLA Tuareg rebel group, which occupied it after Ansar Dine fighters fled six days ago.

France has deployed 3,500 ground troops, fighter jets and armoured vehicles in the three-week-old Operation Serval (Wildcat) which has broken the Islamists' 10-month grip on the towns of northern Mali, where they violently imposed sharia law.

"Never has a foreign intervention in Africa been as popular as the French one in Mali," the president of neighbouring Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, told Radio France International on Sunday, asking France to maintain its military presence.

"The object of this war should be not just to liberate Mali but to free the whole Sahel from this menace, which threatens not just us but also Europe, France and the world."


Cheering, grateful Malians mobbed Hollande during his one-day visit to Mali on Saturday, when he congratulated French forces and pledged that they would finish the job of restoring government control in the Sahel region state.

Thousands of residents in the capital shouted "Thank you France!" as Hollande addressed the crowd. "Hollande Our Saviour" read one banner.

"There are risks of terrorism, so we have not finished our mission yet," Hollande told a news conference at the French ambassador's residence in the capital Bamako.

He said France would withdraw its troops from Mali once the West African country had restored sovereignty over all its national territory and a U.N.-backed African military force, which is being deployed, could take over from the French.

"We do not foresee staying indefinitely," he said, but he spelled out no specific timeframe for the French mission.

The United States and the European Union are backing the Mali intervention to counter the threat of Islamist jihadists using the Sahara as a launch pad for attacks.

They are providing training, logistical and intelligence support, but have ruled out sending their own ground troops.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview published on the website of French daily Le Figaro that his country would support efforts to ensure Mali's long-term stability and the establishment of an elected government.

"It's important that we cooperate to help participating countries set up the African-led International Support Mission to Mali," said Biden, who meets Hollande in Paris on Monday.

The United States has contributed air transport and logistics support to armed forces arriving in Bamako.

Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly welcomed the success of France's military operation and added his voice to those urging the former colonial power not to scale back its mission.

"Faced with hardened fighters whose arsenals must be destroyed, we want this mission to continue. Especially as the aerial dimension is very important," he told France's Journal Du Dimanche newspaper.

Paris has pressed Bamako to open negotiations with the MNLA, whose uprising last year triggered a military coup in Bamako in March, as a step toward political reunification of north and south Mali.

The MNLA seized north Mali in April, before being pushed aside by a better-armed Islamist alliance composed of al Qaeda's north African wing AQIM, splinter group MUJWA and Ansar Dine.

Coulibaly played down the possibility of direct talks with the MNLA but said it was clear that there needed to be a greater devolution of power from the mainly black African south to northern Mali, an underdeveloped region home to many lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arabs.

He called for northern armed groups to lay down their weapons before peace negotiations could begin and said Mali would press ahead with national elections scheduled for July 31.

(Additional reporting by David Lewis in Timbuktu and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Stephen Powell and Jason Webb)

Related Stories:
Mali's soccer victory caps Timbuktu's post-Islamist rebirth

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Fidel Castro votes, chats in Cuban election

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 06:50 PM PST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro voted in Cuba's general election on Sunday and chatted with well wishers and Cuban reporters in Havana for more than an hour, in his first extended public appearance since 2010.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Havana February 3, 2013 in this picture provided by Cubadebate. REUTERS/Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate/Handout

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Havana February 3, 2013 in this picture provided by Cubadebate. REUTERS/Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate/Handout

Castro had voted from his home in three previous elections since taking ill in 2006 and ceding power to his brother Raul two years later.

A stooped, snow white bearded Castro, 86, was seen on state-run television as he cast his ballot in the late afternoon, wearing a blue plaid shirt and light blue jacket.

The announcer said Castro talked about efforts to reform the economy, Latin American integration, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other matters.

He was heard in a weak voice praising popular participation in Sunday's election.

"The people are truly revolutionary, they have really sacrificed. We don't have to prove it, history will. Fifty years of the blockade and they haven't given in," he said.

Cubans went to the polls to elect a Communist Party-selected slate of 612 deputies to the National Assembly and more than 1,000 delegates to provincial assemblies, at a time of change in how they live and work, but not in how they vote.

President Raul Castro and other leaders were also shown on television casting their ballots and commenting on the importance of the election as a show of support for reforms and independence from the United States.

Raul Castro is decentralizing the state-dominated economy, allowing more space for private initiative in agriculture and retail services and has lifted many restrictions on personal freedoms, such as travel and buying and selling homes and cars.

He has also introduced term limits (two five-year stints) for top government posts, but has drawn the line at legalizing other political parties and contested elections.

"Renouncing the principle of a single party would be equal to legalizing one or more imperialist parties," Castro said at a Party conference last year.

He insisted critics, and even some friends, did not take into account the "abnormal state of siege" the country is experiencing.

"The one-party elections in Cuba, alongside steady but slow progress on opening the economy, represent how the current regime intends to manage change on the island - giving the people more space to participate in the economy while controlling their role in politics and civic life," said Ted Piccone, deputy director of foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Some 95 percent of Cuba's 8.7 million residents over 16 years of age were expected to cast ballots with polling stations on just about every block and where abstention is frowned on.


Reuters talked with more than half a dozen voters before they entered the polls in Havana. None of them knew the candidates on the national slate from their districts.

"What's certain is they are all revolutionaries and that's what matters," said retiree Eduardo Sanchez.

"I vote because I feel I have to, and it doesn't really matter because the deputies have no power anyway," said one young woman, who declined to give her name.

The curious read biographies of candidates posted at the polls, then cast paper ballots in cardboard voting boxes guarded by school students.

Others simply entered the polls and checked a box for the entire slate.

The candidates were equal to the number of positions up for a vote, the only choice being to not vote for a certain candidate or leave blank or spoil one's ballot.

The deputies are elected for five-year terms.

The new assembly will meet this month to approve a party-proposed slate for the Council of State, which Raul Castro is expected to head for his second term. Council of State members must be deputies.

The general election cycle began last year with the election of more than 15,000 ward delegates in the only vote in which residents choose between two or more candidates.

Party-controlled commissions then selected candidates for provincial assemblies and the single-chamber national assembly, at least 50 percent of whom must be ward delegates and the remainder officials and personalities from the arts, sports and other sectors.

The National Assembly usually meets just twice a year for a week of committee and plenary meetings, though deputies remain engaged between sessions while working their normal jobs and can be relieved from work for assembly tasks.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Jack Neo talks to 988

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:26 AM PST

Top Five reasons to tune in to 988 this week.

Street Cases Monday-Friday, 8am-9am

GONG Xi Gong Xi, Da Di Hui Chun (literally means "welcoming spring to the big land") and Cai Shen Dao ("God of Fortune is here") are some of the most popular Chinese New Year songs. Their first few notes would make them instantly recognisable. Yet, few are aware that the CNY classic Gong Xi Gong Xi was originally a celebratory tune toasting the end of WWII. This week, let's relive all these classic songs as we begin the final countdown to the Year of the Snake.

The Feature Monday-Tuesday, 9am-10am

It's perhaps a common practice for many to check out the New Year's lucky colours or ornaments to wear, even the auspicious date to start work. All these are done in the faith that this practice will bring luck for a prosperous year ahead. So how much truth do they really hold? Find out this week. Plus, there's plenty of inside tips from a list of prominent Feng Shui experts for your perusal.

Street VIP Wednesday-Friday, 9am-10am

Veteran Singaporean director, Jack Neo Chee Keong is undisputedly one of the most successful and famous names from across the causeway.

His great works include the early cross-dressing adventure as the well-loved "Liang Popo" (literally, Granny Liang) to the directorial box office hits like, Money No Enough, I Not Stupid and Ah Boys To Men in recent years.

Then, a series of extra-marital scandals hit him hard in 2010.

The media were merciless and Neo had to call for a press conference begging the media to spare him. However, it was something else that unexpectedly got him out of the mess.

Music VIP Monday-Friday, 2pm

Local singer, Eric Lin Jian Hui actually debuted without black-framed spectacles years ago. However, since putting one on during his stint at the popular Taiwan singing contest, Million Star (Xing Guang Da Dao), he has been stuck with the image. Three years on, Lin is finally ready to abandon that look. This move reflects a brand new image and a singer ready for a new musical journey. Tune in to get to know the talented singer, all over again.

988 Best Music Chart Saturday, 1pm-3pm

Weeks ago, we asked you to cast your vote for your favorite 2012's song and album in our "988 Best Music Chart."

The poll result is out; it's time for the revelation of the final nominee lists.

Did your favourites get into the list? Which songs are the crème of the crop? Find out here.

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

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Japan's Dai Nippon Printing to invest RM170.5m in Johor plant

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 07:03 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd of Japan is investing 5bil yen (RM170.5mil)in a plant in Johor to produce dye sublimation thermal transfer media used for photo printing.

It said on Monday the decision to set up the plant was due to the increasing demand for digital photo prints, especially among emerging countries in Southeast Asia.

It said the demand for dry digital photo prints was expanding worldwide in line with the growth of digital cameras and smart phones.

Dai Nippoin said its unit DNP IMS Malaysia Sdn Bhd would undertake the operations.

The plant, which is scheduled to be completed in September 2013, would enable it to expand operations in the region.

"The new company aims for sales of 4.0 billion yen (approximately RM136.40mil) in the fiscal year of 2016," it said in a statement posted on its website.

Dai Nippon Printing had in the late 1980s launched the manufacturing and marketing of dye sublimation media. It has plants in Japan, Europe and the US.

It explained that dye sublimation thermal transfer media was used when printing digital images in a thermal transfer print technology. The media set composed of an ink ribbon (yellow, magenta, cyan and a transparent overcoat layer) and a dedicated receiver paper.

The dye from the ink ribbon is transferred to the receiver paper to match the intensity of the image making it possible to create high-quality photos prints, with smooth gradations, similar to silver halide photography.

Dai Nippon Printing said dye sublimation prints are highly durable, economical and can be quickly produced. It expected the market to increase in mainly in the areas of commercial photo printing such as photo print kiosk terminals, dry mini-labs and ID photos.

Patimas gets request to remove 3 directors

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 06:12 PM PST

Published: Monday February 4, 2013 MYT 10:12:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Patimas Computers Bhd has received a request for an EGM from two shareholders to remove three directors with immediate effect.

It said on Monday the request were from Syawaras Sdn Bhd and CPE Growth Capital Limited requesting for an EGM to remove Datuk Ng Back Heang, Robert Daniel Tan Kim Leng and Law Siew Ngoh

Patimas said it had received the letter dated Jan 31 from Syawaras and CPE Growth Capital requesting for the EGM.

Both shareholders had requested that Datuk Seri Abdul Azim Bin Mohd Zabidi, Datuk Nur Jazlan Bin Mohamed and Lawrence Kwan Ho Ma be appointed directors.

Malaysia blue chips higher in February trade

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 05:52 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips started February on a firm note, supported by gains in finance-related stocks while MISC rallied on Petronas' takeover plan.

At 9.32am, the FBM KLCI was up 8.71 points to 1,636.26. Turnover was 128.66 million shares valued at RM163.09mil. There were 172 gainers, 120 losers and 160 counters unchanged.

However, Hwang DBS Vickers Research (HDBSVR) was more cautious on the market outlook, pointing out a bearish pattern could engulf the Malaysian bourse in the coming weeks as the General Elections (GE) approaches.

"With selling activity likely to gather momentum in the run-up to polling day, the key KLCI, which appears technically vulnerable, may see further weaknesses ahead, threatening to slide towards the major support area of 1,575-1,600," it said.

MISC rose 76 sen to RM5.21, near the RM5.30 takeover offer price by major shareholder Petronas. Its call warrants, MISC-CQ rose 13 sen to 31 sen.

HL Bank rose 26 sen to RM14.50 and Maybank 12 sen to RM9 while MBSB added 14 sen to RM2.40 in active trade on its dividends plan.

Tasek-PA was the top gainer, rising RM1.98 to RM11.68 while PetGas added 24 sen to RM18.80.

Consumer stocks were mixed, with BAT up 78 sen to RM58.18 and Nestle 76 sen to RM59.16 but Dutch Lady fell 32 sen to RM42, F&N 28 sen to RM18 and Carlsberg eight sen lower at RM11.80.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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Carter shatters Fu's German title bid

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 06:35 PM PST

BERLIN: England's Ali Carter came from 5-3 down to beat Hong Kong's Marco Fu 9-6 to win his third world-ranking title at the German Masters on Sunday.

Carter dominated the evening session in the German capital to take the 60,000-euro top prize and add to the titles he won at the 2009 Welsh Open and 2010 Shanghai Masters.

Hong Kong's 35-year-old Fu looked the stronger player in the early stages but struggled with his safety and potting at the business end.

Fu had been seeking his second ranking title having won the 2007 Masters.

"I didn't have many chances tonight. Every time I came to the table I was faced with a tough shot," said Fu.

"Ali played very well so all credit to him. It was nice to be in a final again as the crowd was great - hopefully I can come back next year and win it." - AFP

F1: Defending champ Vettel wary of Webber threat

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 06:33 PM PST

LONDON: World champion Sebastian Vettel insisted on Sunday that he is not the overwhelming favourite for a fourth successive Formula One title and believes his main threat could come from Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.

The season roars into action on March 17 in Melbourne, with 19 races scheduled over nine months with the season closer in Brazil on November 24.

"It's one thing to look back at what we have achieved as a team, but really I feel that we all start again from zero," said Germany's Vettel, who became the youngest man to win three straight titles in 2012 at the age of 25.

"So we've all got the same chances and it will be a long year, a lot of races and a very tough challenge waiting for all of us.

"If anything the expectations are there, people expect something, but more than that, we expect ourselves to do well again so there's a lot of pressure.

"It will be tough - tough to beat Mark (Webber), tough to beat the other guys and the other teams because they will try everything to beat us.

"The best drivers are in the best teams. I think it's easy for you to work out who they are - Fernando (Alonso) certainly is one of them.

"Mark is one of them, Lewis (Hamilton) is one of them and there are others, but I usually don't like to name them as there's a chance of forgetting one of them and that's not the idea. I think it's the usual suspects."

Red Bull unveiled their car for the new season on Sunday with team boss Christian Horner saying the desire for more success is as great as ever.

"As always the competition is phenomenal, so to have won three in a row is quite remarkable. It's testimony to all the hard work that has gone on," said the 39-year-old.

"We're still a young team, but we're evolving and there is a fierce determination to keep those trophies for another year."

Horner also defended recent criticism by team adviser Helmut Marko who questioned Webber's capacity of maintaining a season long challenge for the title.

Horner said they are happy to have extended the contract of Webber, who has won only three races in the last two seasons.

"As we all know Helmut can be outspoken at times and some of his comments, that reflected his opinion, and sometimes these things can be misinterpreted," Horner said.

"If we weren't happy with Mark we would never have signed him for this year. We give both drivers equal opportunity and it's down to what they do on the circuit.

"Certainly in the team, that's the approach and we'll continue to do that. For us, it doesn't matter which driver wins as long as it's in one of these cars."

The 36-year-old native of New South Wales also said he was confident he could beat Vettel to the title.

"I do believe I can have a crack at the championship again this year, as I have done in previous seasons," he said.

"That's what I'm getting up each day thinking. The team know I need 100 per cent support. You cannot win world championships with 90 per cent support. That's what I'm confident of." - AFP

Davis Cup: Spain crash out to Canada, US battle to survive

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 04:48 PM PST

PARIS: Short-handed five-time champions Spain crashed out of the Davis Cup Sunday when Canada completed a famous World Group triumph while 32-time winners United States edged Brazil in a dogfight.

Milos Raonic secured the crucial winning point in Canada's 3-2 victory in Vancouver by beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to send Canada into their first Davis Cup quarter-final.

They will tackle Italy in April for a place in the semi-finals.

Missing top players Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco, Spain, winners of the title three times in the last five years, and the 2012 runners-up, had been 2-0 down on Friday.

Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez kept their hopes alive with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in Saturday's doubles.

But Raonic, the world number 15, was unstoppable on Sunday firing 22 aces and 55 winners past the hapless Garcia-Lopez, the world 82, as Spain were beaten in the opening round for the first time since 2006.

Albert Ramos beat Frank Dancevic 7-5, 6-4 in a dead rubber to create the final margin.

The United States escaped an upset when Sam Querrey rallied to beat Thiago Alves 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) and give the Americans a 3-2 triumph.

Querrey fired 26 aces for a perfect weekend in his first Davis Cup home tie.

Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci battled back to defeat John Isner 2-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 6-3, in Sunday's opener at Jacksonville, Florida.

Isner fired 22 aces in the clash but also committed 81 unforced errors.

The US had been 2-0 ahead on Friday before twins Bob and Mike Bryan suffered a stunning loss in the doubles - just the third of their Davis Cup career - to Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, going down 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The Americans will meet 2010 champions Serbia, who had already defeated Belgium.

Tomas Berdych beat Stanislas Wawrinka in a battle of Davis Cup ironmen as defending champions Czech Republic reached the quarter-finals.

The Czechs led Switzerland 2-1 overnight after Berdych and Lukas Rosol beat Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 24-22 in the longest-ever Davis Cup match, an exhausting doubles which lasted a minute over seven hours.

World number six Berdych and Wawrinka, the 17th-ranked player, returned on Sunday for the first of the reverse singles in Geneva and three hours 15 minutes later, it was the Czech who triumphed again, claiming a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) win.

"Stan is one of the players who I don't like to play. He has a dangerous game," said Berdych, of a player who also featured in a five-hour defeat to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open last month.

"The match on Saturday will go down in history. You play tennis for moments like this," added Berdych, who won all three rubbers he played this weekend and spent almost 13 hours on court.

Wawrinka insisted that despite his three matches - he had also won his opening singles on Friday - he would have been able to play a fifth set on Sunday.

"I care about this competition and love to play for my country," said Wawrinka, who was Switzerland's top player in the absence of Roger Federer.

"We were really close. I was up in the tiebreak today but Tomas played better and showed why he is number six in the world."

The Czech Republic will now travel to Kazakhstan in April for the quarter-finals.

Kazakhstan, who beat Austria 3-1 in their World Group clash on Sunday in Astana, knocked the Czechs out in the first round in 2011.

In Turin, Italy beat Croatia to make the quarter-finals for the first time since 1998.

Italy had led 2-1 overnight but Marin Cilic won his second singles match of the tie by easing past Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.

Fabio Fognini then saw off Ivan Dodig 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to clinch the winning point.

"In Davis Cup, everyone wins or everyone loses...it wasn't just my victory, it was Italy's victory," tweeted Fognini.

The other quarter-final will see Argentina facing France after they completed comfortable victories over Germany and Israel respectively on Saturday. - AFP

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Malaysian journalist Claudia Theophilus killed in Lebanon

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 05:28 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Claudia Theophilus, 42, a producer with Al-Jazeera English Online, was killed in Baakleen, in the mountains of Lebanon at 2.30am (8.30am Malaysian time) on Saturday while on holiday with two friends.

Local police have detained the two people who were with her for questioning and initial police investigations indicate that it may have been a mishap while handling firearms.

When contacted, Ambassador Ilango Karuppannan confirmed she was shot dead but said that details remained sketchy.

He said that her body had been taken to a hospital in Baakleen and an autopsy had been done.

"We are on the way there now," he told The Star.

He said that she had arrived in Lebanon on Jan 28 to visit her friend whom she had apparently known since 2010.

He said that, according to police investigations, the two and another friend who joined them, had been playing with rifles when one of it went off and the bullet killed her.

A statement from Wisma Putra later Sunday said that local police report had classified the death as an accident while handling a firearm but investigations continue.

Theophilus' family have been informed about her death, the statement said.

Claudia Theophilus was a producer at Al-Jazeera English Online based in Doha, Qatar. She has worked for The Sun and Malaysiakini.

Baakleen is a city located in Mount Lebanon, Chouf District, 45km southeast of Beirut.

Yen Yen slams Penang govt over removal of PM's CNY banners

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 04:00 AM PST

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government has come under fire for removing banners which depicted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak extending Chinese New Year greetings to the people.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said it was also unbecoming of the state government as feedback received had indicated that some people had stepped on the banners bearing the prime minister's image, after they were pulled down.

She said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng should apologise for the disrespectful behavior shown to the prime minister.

She said stepping on the prime minister's face is tantamount to stepping on Malaysia's face.

Dr Ng was asked to comment on the Seberang Prai Municipal Council's action to remove Chinese New Year banner wishes from the prime minister as those who had put them up had reportedly not applied for a permit.

Armed Forces chief says no plan to replace ageing Nuri choppers

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 03:53 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The Armed Forces has no plan to dispose the 30 aging Sikorsky S-61A-4 Nuri helicopters which have served for over 50 years.

Armed Forces chief Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said it would be more economical and practical to refurbish the United States-made helicopters to assist the recently acquired EC725 Cougar helicopters.

He said Nuri services were still needed by the RMAF, particularly in utility tasks and aid missions despite taking delivery of 12 French-made EC725 Cougar helicopters by early next year.

"The Nuri helicopters are still in good condition and they can beef up the Cougar EC725 helicopters in utility operations.

"However, we need to upgrade their systems like the cockpit and several other parts," he told Bernama in an interview.

Two of the Cougar EC725 helicopters, which were delivered on Dec 3 last year, were placed at the Kuantan Air Base, serving as training aircraft besides discharging their main functions - strengthening search and rescue, transportation and utility operations.

"Some of the Nuri helicopters will be deployed for the army," Zulkifeli added.

Zulkifeli said the procurement of EC725 Cougar helicopters was aimed at enhancing air surveillance and aid missions.

He said in an effort to further strengthen the country's airspace, the armed forces was planning to acquire several multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) and Airbus 400M aircraft, depending on the country's financial position.

"For the time being, the armed forces is evaluating four MRCA to cater for RMAF needs, namely Gripen from of Sweden, F/A-18E Super Hornet from the United States, Rafale from Syarikat Daesu, and Eurofighter Typhoon from Britain," he said, adding that the analysis would be presented to the government once it is concluded. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Johnny Depp to star as gangster in 'Black Mass'

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 12:50 AM PST

LOS ANGELES - US star Johnny Depp will play notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in the film "Black Mass", to be directed by Barry Levinson, the producers announced Saturday.

The film recounts the fate of the godfather of Boston's underworld who became an FBI informant to get rid of a gangster rival but was eventually arrested in 2011.

Adapted from a book by two Boston Globe journalists, "Black Mass" will be directed by Barry Levinson, who won an Oscar for best director in 1988 for "Rain Man."

Shooting will start in May and the film will be distributed by Universal Studios, said a statement from co-producer Cross Creek.

Depp, 49, will also play in Disney's "The Lone Ranger" scheduled for release next summer.

In June, the actor announced his separation from long-term partner Vanessa Paradis with whom he has two children. - AFP

‘Tau Fu Fah’ short film touches the hearts of many

Posted: 02 Feb 2013 04:36 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Petronas is famed for its emotionally-gripping short films and this year is no different – its new Chinese New Year film has already touched many people's hearts.

Simply titled Tau Fu Fah, the film tells the story of a humble tau fu fah (soya bean curd dessert) seller and his customer, who end up falling in love and starting their life together.

Through the years, they slowly build up their business and grow their family, eventually earning enough to open a tau fu fah shop.

However, disaster strikes when the shop catches fire and they lose everything. They had to rebuild from scratch.

Nevertheless, they persevere and finally get back on track, now as a pair of contented grandparents.

Expressing their gratefulness for their life together, the film ends up on a sweet note with the husband replacing the "fu" word on his old bicycle cart's "tau fu fah" sign with a Chinese New Year "fu" (meaning luck and good fortune) sign.

"Look back on a great life. Look forward to an even greater one," said the simple message at the end of the clip, which is slightly over three minutes long.

Blogger Ringo Tan, who blogs as Cheesie on Cheeserland, said she was extremely touched and inspired by the film.

"I think the message is very clear. If we go through failures in life, never give up. We have to treasure every moment," she said.

Over 100 viewers who watched the clip on the Petronas YouTube page, uploaded yesterday, gave it a resounding thumbs up.

YouTube user Aina Sofea wrote: "My father once sold rojak for a living for the family.

"I cried watching this. Something like this did happen to my family too. I am very touched by this commercial."

Another user, Pierre Ng, praised the details Petronas had captured, such as the placing of the "fu" signs upside down.

"This is a very good commercial from Petronas. It captures a big part of the Chinese resilience and perseverance. Fu is a lucky word. It is very easy to say it.

"Around Chinese New Year, people often put up a poster with this word on it – upside down!

"It's the only time when a Chinese word is posted upside down intentionally. Well done, Petronas!" he wrote.

The short film can be viewed on its channel youtube.com/user/PETRO­NASOfficial, while a shorter version has started airing on television.

Related Stories:
Petronas is helping you help the needy this Chinese New Year
Petronas Chinese New Year campaign kicks off

Benh Zeitlin believes he is on right track after Beasts Of The Southern Wild success

Posted: 02 Feb 2013 04:45 AM PST

Unexpected success of Beasts Of The Southern Wild has convinced director Benh Zeitlin that he is on the right track.

Calling up press on the other side of the planet close to bedtime would not be called a normal activity for a nine-year-old, but then Quvenzhane Wallis is not any nine-year-old.

She is the youngest ever in Academy Awards history to be nominated as Best Actress, for a role she played when she was five in her acting debut.

In the drama Beasts Of The Southern Wild, she appears as the indomitable Hushpuppy, a resident of The Bathtub, an isolated area of the Louisiana bayou settled by a small group of resilient, independent people.

The little girl lives with her father Wink (played by a baker-turned-actor Dwight Henry) and because of his volatile nature and delicate health, she is often left to fend for herself, even as the storm of the century threatens the community.

The film is seen mostly through her eyes and also depicts the fantasy creatures of her imagination.

We spoke with Quvenzhane late last month, over a noisy line from her home in Louisiana, some weeks before the Oscar nominations were announced. Nazie (as she is nicknamed, pronounced "nay-zee"), the youngest of four children, was accompanied on the call by her mother Qulyndreia Wallis, a teacher. Her father, Venjie Wallis, is a truck driver.

Perhaps it was the late hour – 8pm in the US – or the bad connection but she sounded tired and distracted. She said she had a "great" Christmas, partly because she got a scooter as a present. It has been reported that she has signed on to other film projects but, at the moment, she was back at school in Houma, a city of about 30,000 people in southern Louisiana.

She said her name is pronounced "kwee-von-je-nay" ("It means 'fairy' in Swahili," said her mum).

How would director Benh Zeitlin prepare her, an acting novice, before the cameras rolled? Her answer was remarkably straightforward.

"Before every scene, he would come to me and tell me like, what's going on, how it's going to work and how I was supposed to say, and we would do it like that," she said.

Some have said that her astonishing screen presence stems from an innate talent for acting or that she is just being herself. That might not be correct, given that the girl had her share of re-dos for her scenes.

Sometimes, the scene could be done in one take but more often, "he would want to do it a lot of times", each time asking her to read the line differently.

But it was not for her ability to take instructions that Zeitlin picked her from the 4,000 who auditioned. Quvenzhane was five, pretending to be six, when she appeared before him. He picked her for her "powerful and defiant" personality and according to news reports, for her loud scream and ability to burp on command, two skills which Zeitlin then wrote into the script for her character.

The 30-year-old filmmaker, who spoke to us from New Orleans a few days after the call with Quvenzhane, spoke about how he, a New York native, went to New Orleans six years ago to make a short film. He fell in love with the locale and has remained there.

"I was going to different places, trying to make films in the way I imagined, in a collaborative, guerilla style. And when I came to New Orleans, as soon as I tried to make a film here, this community of people helped me. It's a great place for making films and a place that I love living in," he said. Beasts was made with the help of locals and Court 13, a film-making collective Zeitlin co-founded in 2004, when he was a student.

For Zeitlin himself, the success of the bayou story – made for under US$2mil (RM6.2mil) and which has since grossed more than US$11mil (RM34mil) worldwide – is a sign that he can and should go on making movies, in his preferred film-collective style.

And it is enough for him. "When you make a film like this, you never know if anyone is going to watch it or if anyone is ever going to let you make another film.

"Knowing that I can go on making films in the way that I have always wanted to is really, really special." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Why is the world the way it is now?

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 04:56 AM PST

Why is the world the way it is now? Read this book and be informed as well as intrigued and entertained along the way.

1493: Uncovering The New World Columbus Created
Author: Charles C. Mann
Publisher: Vintage (reprint edition), 690 pages

IT was said that somewhere in China there lay a fabled city called Zaytun. A bustling, congested metropolis, Zaytun was the terminus of the maritime Silk Road and the centre of what we now call globalisation.

To trade, people of every ethnicity – Malays, Persians, Indians, Vietnamese, and even Europeans – came to Zaytun, where each group formed its own neighbourhood. A score of junks and other vessels in the harbour impressed Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta, and the rich assortment of Asian luxuries – porcelain, silk, spices, precious stones, pearls – thrilled Venetian explorer Marco Polo, whose account of this wondrous city inspired Christopher Columbus's dream of visiting it.

And went Columbus indeed, though he landed not in China but the Caribbean, and what his voyages brought was an ecological convulsion referred to as the Columbus Exchange.

In 1493: Uncovering The New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann provides interesting and fascinating accounts of the Columbus Exchange and its impact.

The Columbus Exchange is why there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, sweet potatoes in China, apples in America, wheat in the Mexico, and chilli in Thailand. More interestingly, tagging along in the trade ships were earthworms, mosquitoes, cockroaches, honeybees, dandelions, bacteria, fungi, viruses, rats, horses, cows and a host of others creatures. All of which spread willy nilly around the globe.

Also, Columbus' voyages inaugurated an unprecedented reshuffling of homo sapiens – "People shot around the world like dice flung on the gaming table. Europeans became the majority in Argentina and Australia, Africans were found from Sao Paulo to Seattle, and China's towns sprang up all over the globe."

Diseases, too, found their way to foreign soil, while pesticides, new cultivation techniques, and slaves helped boost production of newly introduced crops to prevent famine, changing lives and landscapes in the Afro-Eurasian hemisphere.

Arguably one of the most important events of the world, the Columbus Exchange underlies much of subsequent history. But it was actually four decades later that a Spanish lad called Miguel López de Legazpi connected the world economically, paving the way for the creation of worldwide network in which Europe rose to prominence, China turned inward for fear of foreign invasion, Africa juddered and slaved, and Mexico City, for two centuries, became the centre of the world as Asia, Europe and the Americas came to interact.

Like Columbus, Legazpi sailed west to establish trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. It was in Manila that his fellow Spaniards sold South American silver and copper, mined by African and Indian slaves, to Asians in return for silk and porcelain. For the first time, goods and people from every part of the globe came together for a single worldwide exchange.

Having focused his attention on Native American societies before the Spanish conquest in his last book, 1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus, Mann now turns to a tale more majestic in ambition and scope, trudging across continents (Africa, China, Europe, the Americas, Asia), addressing a myriad subjects (economics, the environment, human migration), and covering the five centuries (the 1400s to the 1900s) preceding the 21st.

In uncovering the new world created by the Columbus Exchange, Mann succeeds with unparalleled grace in giving us an eye-opening interpretation of our past, scientifically and culturally. This colossal book contains valuable knowledge unequalled in its authority and fascination. It feels like immense research presented with a light touch, giving us endless tidings from the old days to explain the current world's political disputes, cultural wars, and economic disparities.

Mann's storytelling ability, despite the complexity of the subject, is enviable and his organisation of the book, clever. From his own musings in the garden, to Columbus landing in the Americas, to Parian, a Chinese ghetto in Manila where goods from China and Europe changed hands, to Brazil where rubber was deemed Black Gold ... Mann never loses his way – or his reader. He has one goal in mind: to uncover the new world brought about by Christopher Columbus. And he does so wonderfully, engagingly, unsparingly, and, as detected from his tone, enthusiastically as well as gracefully.

The global network Columbus and Legazpi initiated is once again in these days split into two spheres with advocates for globalisation on one side and those against it on the other. The less trade, the latter says, is better because of the political, social and environmental destruction globalisation entails. But it was not Columbus who instigated such conflicts. It was events four centuries after Columbus established La Isabela, the first European town in the Americas, that set the template for the times we are living in today.

This book is revelatory. Read it.

Just doing the job

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 12:16 AM PST

No Easy Day
Author: Mark Owen
Publisher: Dutton/Penguin, 316 pages

THERE are two main controversies that have surrounded the release of Mark Owen's firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden: the first is that it claims to be the true account of what actually happened that night in Abbottabad, Pakistan, rather than the account officially put out by the US government; and the second is whether in writing the book the author is guilty of giving away classified information.

If you want to know the full extent of the discrepancy between the official US version and Owen's version, you will have to read the book and do some Internet digging and then put the two side-by-side. But it is fair to say that the book implicitly raises the question, for instance, of whether there was in reality any attempt to capture Bin Laden alive. By the time the Navy SEALS burst into his bedroom he had already been shot in the head and was in his death throes – but just for good measure he was shot repeatedly in the chest to ensure there was no chance of revival.

It would also be difficult on Owen's evidence to substantiate the US claim that Bin Laden's body was treated with respect before being buried at sea. None of this is particularly surprising – war is a dirty business and a nighttime attack on an unknown compound is always going to be a nervy and dangerous operation. Nonetheless, the US attempts to present the attack to the world as some sort of clean cut Boys' Own story takes a bit of a knocking here.

It is possible that this is at least a part of the motivation behind the US government's threat to prosecute Owen for revealing classified information and, as they put it, "for a material breach of the non-disclosure agreements signed by the author".

Their main gripe with Owen and his publishers is that the book was not submitted for pre-publication review, a "no-brainer" according to the official line. Perhaps, but it did not happen and it is not difficult to see why. Submit the book to a pre-publication review and you can easily envisage the extent of the "suggested" cuts that might have followed.

Owen himself is adamant that his book gives nothing away that should remain concealed: "I hired a former Special Operations attorney to review the manuscript to ensure that it was free from mention of forbidden topics and that it cannot be used by sophisticated enemies as a source of information to compromise or harm the United States".

All of this controversy might reasonably lead the potential reader to expect something far more revelatory and exciting than eventually emerges. No Easy Day is a competent book but it is not an edge of the seat read. Its main interest lies in getting what we are assured is the truth of what happened that night in Abbottabad and in discovering more about the training methods, skills, equipment and modus operandi of one of the most elite and efficient fighting forces in the world.

Owen is a SEALS man to the core. From his school days onwards he had but one ambition: to join the SEALS and see if he could "measure up". That he was a team leader on one of the most important assignments they ever carried out would suggest that he succeeded.

One of the first myths to be dispelled is that there are any real-life Rambo qualities about their activities. These men are not solo fighters that go out with all guns blazing. Quite the contrary – the emphasis to the nth degree is on team tactics and on working with and for your comrades. Assignments are not random acts of valour, they are meticulously planned and rehearsed.

The compound in Abbottabad had been under surveillance for months before the attack was launched. The SEALS knew its exact layout, where in the compound each member of the family lived, who was likely to be armed and what resistance they were likely to meet. Yet despite the levels of preparation and training the mission started with disaster when the first of two helicopters went down and was forced to crash land in an outer part of the compound. From that point on, the original planning had to be modified and it is here that the SEALS initiative, training and talents really come into their own and where they are at their most impressive.

No Easy Day is a modest, factual and uninspiringly written account of probably the biggest manhunt of all time. It will be widely read because of the significance that the event carries. If anyone was going to tell this story, possibly in breach of regulations and arguably creating greater risks for future missions, Owen is probably a good choice. He is modest, loyal and there is no self- glory, even in the end; that was created by the government, the press and the public. For the SEALS it was more a question of "job done".

Rewarding creativity

Posted: 02 Feb 2013 11:54 PM PST

'Contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels.'

THE first big prizes in children's literature were announced last night (as I write this, on Tuesday) at the ALA Youth Media Awards in Seattle.

A little background info, from the American Library Association's website: The ALA honours, annually, "books, print and other forms of media through a variety of awards. These awards are given to publications, and the authors, illustrators, and publishers who create them".

You have probably seen the books honoured by the ALA – they're the ones with the gold or silver discs (often embossed) on their covers. Gold means the book has won the medal or main award. Silver "honours" are conferred to worthy books in the same category.

I attended a talk by someone who had been a judge at these awards, and was fascinated by her description of the whole judging process. It sounded very complicated, involved and long-drawn-out. I'm surprised no deaths occur during these discussions every year....

Apparently, if a book is discussed as a potential medal recipient and it is eventually rejected, it does not automatically become a candidate for an honour. Only when the choice for medallist is a done deal do the judges pick potential honour recipients. Also, every final decision must be unanimous. Again, I'm imagining fights to the death. But no, obviously, the ALA juries are all terribly civilised and no one is hurt or maimed, let alone killed.

The Newbery and the Caldecott Medals are what I pay special attention to. I also take note of the winners of the Printz, the Alex and the Laura Ingalls Wilder awards. The John Newbery Medal is awarded to "the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". I love American publisher, bookseller and editor Frederic G. Melcher's reasons for creating this award in 1922: "To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasise to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field." Oh yes!

The Newbery is the world's first children's book award and this year it goes to The One And Only Ivan (HarperCollins Children's Books) by Katherine Applegate.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is no spring chicken either. This year, the award for "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children" turns 75 and goes to the hilariously sinister This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick Press) by Jon Klassen.

The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults goes to In Darkness (Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers) by Nick Lake. While the Newbery and Caldecott winners were both on my "best of 2012" list, I'm afraid Lake's book about growing up in Haiti totally escaped my notice (note to self: must pay more attention and read more books this year).

This is a great reason to pay attention to the ALA and other awards: they flag books I might have missed and point us all in the direction of titles worth our time (and money).

The Newbery Honour book Splendors And Glooms (Candlewick Press), by 2008 Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz, is one such book. This gothic mystery sounds like the perfect companion on a rainy afternoon and goes directly on my "I want" list.

The Alex Awards are always interesting to adults who enjoy reading about the complications of adolescence and childhood (that would be me) and teens who want to try exploring the shelves away from the young adult section. These awards highlight 10 adult books that appeal to teen audiences and among this year's winners are The Round House (HarperCollins) by Louise Erdrich, a coming-of-age story set in a fictional North Dakota Ojibwe reservation; Girlchild (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Tupelo Hassman, about teenage Rory Hendrix who's determined to be happy despite her challenging family and their grim and grotty world and social circumstances; and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Robin Sloan, which is about young love and eternal life – and it's set in a bookstore, enough said.

Before I forget I must mention that this year's William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens goes to Seraphina (Random House Children's Books) written by Rachel Hartman. Seraphina was also on my "best of" list and is probably the newly-published book I enjoyed most in 2012.

I also must mention that Katherine Paterson is the recipient of this year's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which honours "an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". Paterson has won the Newbery Medal twice, for Bridge To Terabithia (1977)

and Jacob Have I Loved (1981), and these and her other works have most certainly touched the lives of readers the world over.

Well, if you haven't already read the award winners mentioned here, you can add them to your 2013 reading list, along with the winner of the Costa Children's Book Award, awarded early in January to Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon (Hot Key Books).

And the next awards to look out for? The Blue Peter Awards results will be announced on March 7. The shortlist includes The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas (Walker Books) by David Almond, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (best story); and Fantastic Mr Dahl (Puffin) by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake (best book with facts). I can't wait!

Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Speak to her at star2@thestar.com.my and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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