Rabu, 6 Februari 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syrian rebels fight close to heart of Damascus

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 12:08 PM PST

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian rebels battled President Bashar al-Assad's forces on the edge of central Damascus on Wednesday, opposition activists said, seeking to break his grip over districts leading to the heart of the capital.

A man stands in an empty street near a burning building hit by a mortar shell fired by Syrian Army soldiers, in the Zamalka neighbourhood of Damascus February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A man stands in an empty street near a burning building hit by a mortar shell fired by Syrian Army soldiers, in the Zamalka neighbourhood of Damascus February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Their offensive aims to break a stalemate in the city of 2 million people, where artillery and air strikes have prevented rebels entrenched to the east from advancing despite their capture of army fortifications, the activists said.

"We have moved the battle to Jobar," said Captain Islam Alloush of the rebel Islam Brigade. The district links rebel strongholds in the suburbs with the central Abbasid Square.

"The heaviest fighting is taking place in Jobar because it is the key to the heart of Damascus," he said.

Assad, battling to crush a 22-month-old uprising in which 60,000 people have died, has lost control of large parts of the country but his forces, backed by air power, have so far kept rebels on the fringes of the capital.

State media and pro-Assad websites said rebel fighters had been pushed back from Jobar and other parts of the Ghouta area of eastern Damascus.

"Our noble army is continuing its operations against the terrorists in Irbeen, Zamalka and Harasta and Sbeineh, destroying the criminal lairs," Syrian television said.

But video footage taken by activists purported to show opposition fighters inside Jobar after they overran an army road block, and rebels said they had made significant gains.

"Parts of the Damascus ring road fell to us today. The road has been effectively the last remaining barrier between the Ghouta and the city," said Abu Ghazi, a rebel commander based in the eastern suburb of Irbeen.

"I don't want to give people false hopes but I think if street fighting reaches central Damascus, the regime will not be able to quell it this time."

A disorganised rebel advance on the city failed last year. Ghazi said that this time opposition fighters had established supply lines to support their offensive.


The Damascus Media Office, an opposition activists' monitoring group, said 13 people had been killed in fighting in Jobar, while three people had died in army shelling on Thalatheen, a rebellious neighbourhood in southern Damascus.

The Syrian National Council, an opposition group operating in exile and dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, said Syrian Free Army rebel units were attacking "strategic targets" in Damascus.

"There is a new strategy, brigades are united. What is happening in the field is huge but it is a preparation for bigger operations," said Abu Moaz al-Agha, a leader and spokesman of the Gathering of Ansar al-Islam, which groups many Islamist brigades.

"Right now we will attack checkpoints especially in Jobar that some time ago seemed impossible to get near to. We want to shake the regime."

Abbasid Square and the Fares al-Khoury thoroughfare were closed as fighters attacked roadblocks and fortifications with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, and mosque speakers in Jobat blasted out chants of "God is Greatest" in support of the rebels, activists said.

"The areas of Jobar, Zamalka, al-Zablatani and parts of Qaboun and the ring road have become a battleground," activist Fida Mohammad said from Qaboun.

Residents reported explosions across the east and north of the capital. "The army seems to have been caught by surprise," one activist said. "Reports from the heart of the battle are talking about several tanks being hit and the army has been pushed to Abbasid Square."

The rebel Liwa al-Islam unit said the operation to enter eastern parts of Damascus aimed to relieve pressure on two large southwestern suburbs that have been under army siege.

Assad's core forces, mostly from his minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, are based in Qasioun Mountain, which is part of Damascus, and on hilltops dotted with artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers.


Estimated at 70,000 army, security and militia personnel, the core forces have a supply line to the coast that has remained open despite rebel efforts to disrupt it.

Rebels were also attacking Adra, 17 km (10 miles) northeast of Damascus. Video footage purported to show an armoured vehicle in the area being hit by a rocket. Thousands of refugees have fled to the town, which is home to Syria's largest prison.

In Palmyra, 220 km (140 miles) northeast of Damascus, on the main road to the oil-producing east, a suicide car bomb struck a military intelligence compound, causing dozens of casualties, opposition campaigners said.

A bomb destroyed part of the back wall of the compound near the Roman-era ruins in the city and then a suicide car bomber drove through, detonating the vehicle and destroying parts of the facility, activists in Palmyra said.

They said it was not immediately clear how many people had been killed in the blast and the clashes that followed. Video footage, which could not be immediately verified, showed a large cloud of thick smoke rising in the city.

"The first car bomb struck at around six in the morning. The second one, which caused the larger explosion, broke through into the compound 10 minutes later," activist Abu al-Hassan said from the city.

He said tanks in the compound had responded by shelling an adjacent neighbourhood, killing several civilians.

Roadblocks across the city also came under attack.

The state news agency said two "suicide terrorists" blew up cars packed with explosives near a garage in a residential district, killing and wounding several people.

Street demonstrations against Assad's rule erupted in Palmyra at the beginning of the revolt almost two years ago. But the army has since tightened its control of the city, which is situated near a major oil pipeline junction.

After a failed uprising in the 1980s led by the Muslim Brotherhood against the rule of Assad's father, the late president Hafez al-Assad, thousands of political prisoners were executed in a military jail in Palmyra.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Related Stories:
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Copyright © 2013 Reuters

French battle Mali Islamists as Tuareg problem looms

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 11:46 AM PST

KIDAL, Mali (Reuters) - French and Malian troops are fighting Islamist rebels in the Sahara outside northern Mali's biggest town, France's defence minister said on Wednesday, describing the desert campaign against al Qaeda as a "real war" that was far from won.

A Malian transports wood with a donkey cart on the road between Timbuktu and Douentza February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

A Malian transports wood with a donkey cart on the road between Timbuktu and Douentza February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

After driving the Islamists from northern Mali's main towns with three weeks of air strikes and a lightning ground advance, France is now pursuing them in the remote northeast, where pro-autonomy Tuaregs are pressing their own territorial claims.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French and Malian joint patrols were searching the scrubland outside the desert trading towns of Timbuktu and Gao. Gao residents said on Tuesday the town had been hit by rebel rockets fired from the bush.

"There were clashes yesterday at Gao because from the moment where our forces, supported by the Malian forces, started undertaking missions and patrols around the towns we had taken, we encountered Jihadist groups that fought," Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. "It's a real war."

With just 4,000 ground troops in an area the size of Texas, France has appealed for the swift deployment of a U.N.-backed African military force (AFISMA) to help secure the region, and says it expects to start pulling its troops out from March.

The African deployment has been slowed by lack of transport and equipment, but Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris that France wanted the African force to be converted into a U.N. peacekeeping force by April.


"From the moment that security is assured, we can envisage without changing the structures that it can be placed under the framework of U.N. peacekeeping operations," he said.

France has said that several hundred Islamist fighters have been killed since it intervened In Mali on January 11 to turn back an Islamist column advancing south toward the capital.

With logistical support from Washington and European allies, it wants to restore stability and remove the threat of Islamists using Mali as a base to launch attacks in Africa and the West.

French troops are cooperating with Tuareg pro-autonomy MNLA rebels who say they have occupied the remote northeastern town of Kidal and surrounding areas after the Islamist fighters fled French air strikes into the nearby Adrar des Ifoghas mountains.

But that on-ground cooperation, and France's public insistence that the MNLA should take part in talks on Mali's political future if it drops a demand for full independence for the north, is an irritant for Mali's troubled military.

"The MNLA are playing PR ... they might go and occupy those places where there is nobody and pretend they are militarily present, but they don't represent anything for us," said a Malian military source who asked not to be named.

Mali's armed forces are still smarting from their defeat in last year's northern Tuareg rebellion, which triggered a coup in the capital Bamako and was later hijacked by Islamist jihadists. Many ordinary Malians deeply resent the MNLA for opening the door to the Islamists' seizure of the north.

Interim President Dioncounda Traore, installed by the military after last year's coup, has offered talks to the MNLA if they do not seek full independence, and says he is aiming to hold a national election by July 31.


Experts say the MNLA are poorly organised and divided and represent only a part of the north's population.

"There will never, ever be a solution if you don't talk to the Tuaregs - but they are not homogenous," said Jeremy Keenan, a British anthropologist and expert on the Tuaregs.

"You have a huge part of the rest of Mali not wanting to have anything to do with the Tuaregs - the Tuareg problem has to be resolved and it goes wider than Mali." There are also restive Tuareg communities in neighbouring Algeria and Niger.

Paris argues that lasting peace in Mali hinges on political talks to reconcile the black African-dominated government in Bamako with the restive north, in particular the Tuaregs.

Positioning itself for talks, the MNLA said on Tuesday it had occupied the town of Menaka, more than 250 km (185 miles) south of its remote northern stronghold of Kidal.

The MNLA has started its own patrols in the remote regions around the Algerian border where Islamist fighters are believed to be holding seven French citizens hostage. It announced this week it had arrested two senior Islamists fleeing to Algeria.

French special forces and some 1,800 Chadian troops are also based in Kidal, but Malian government troops have kept away.

"AFISMA and also the Malian army will deploy eventually to Kidal," AFISMA spokesman Col. Yao Adjoumani told a news conference in Bamako. "Talks between the MNLA and the government will take place later."

(Additional reporting by John Irish and Alexandria Sage in Paris, Pascal Fletcher in Dakar, Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra in Bamako; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Kevin Liffey)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Tunisian leader to form new government after activist shot

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 11:03 AM PST

TUNIS (Reuters) - The killing of an outspoken critic of Tunisia's Islamist-led government on Wednesday sparked street protests by thousands who fear religious radicals are stifling freedoms won two years ago in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings.

A police officer fires teargas to break up a protest during a demonstration in Tunis February 6, 2013. REUTERS/ Zoubeir Souissi

A police officer fires teargas to break up a protest during a demonstration in Tunis February 6, 2013. REUTERS/ Zoubeir Souissi

Chokri Belaid was shot at close range as he left for work by a gunmen who fled on the back of a motorcycle; crowds poured on to the streets of Tunis and other cities, attacking offices of the main ruling party Ennahda, and by the end of the day the Islamist prime minister promised a national unity government.

There was no immediate local reaction to the plan by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of Ennahda to dissolve his coalition and bring in a wider range of political groups. After dark, hundreds of demonstrators were still fighting running battles with police in the capital, throwing rocks amid volleys of teargas.

Jebali, whose party has dismissed any suggestion it might be behind the assassination, said he would shortly announce the formation of a new government of non-partisan technocrats.

World powers, alarmed in recent months at the extent of radical Islamist influence and the bitterness of the political stalemate, urged Tunisians to reject violence and see through the move to democracy they began two years ago, when the Jasmine Revolution ended decades of dictatorship and inspired fellow Arabs in Egypt and across North Africa and the Middle East.

As in Egypt, the rise to power of political Islam through the ballot box has prompted a backlash among less organised, more secular minded political movements in Tunisia. Belaid, a 48-year-old left-wing lawyer who made a name challenging the old regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, led a party with little electoral support but his vocal opinions had a wide audience.

The day before his death he was publicly lambasting a "climate of systematic violence". He had blamed tolerance shown by Ennahda and its two, smaller secularist allies in the coalition government toward hardline Salafists for allowing the spread of groups hostile to international culture.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Alison Williams and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Related Stories:
Tunisian policeman killed in protest over opposition slaying

Tunisian PM says will form small technocrat government

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

The morning riot

Posted: 07 Feb 2013 03:08 AM PST

Red FM has rolled out a royal rumble with a new breakfast show featuring superstar deejays JJ and Lil Kev. Bow to the fun.

THERE'S no denying that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". Of course, it also helps when you have an exciting breakfast radio show to get you revved up and raring to go. A rib-tickling breakfast show filled with music, fun and banter can be just as good a kickstart as 40 cups of coffee. Add the infotainment checklist to this equation.

At Red FM, the breakfast show deal now includes a newly acquired wicked cackle.

On Monday morning, popular deejay JJ Fernandez, better known by his on-air name JJ, announced his arrival as a new member of the Red FM family.

He didn't forget to bring his trademark laugh with him. That signature laugh had been missing from the airwaves for more than a month, with his fans getting impatient to have him back. He kept dropping hints through Twitter on when and where he would next be heard.

It was an early (morning) start for JJ as he teamed up with veteran deejay Lil Kev on the brand new JJ And Lil Kev: The Red Breakfast WTF! show, which runs weekdays from 6am to 10am on Red FM. Yes, their names get to frontline the title of the show.

Billed the "Kings of Radio", the Klang Valley-raised duo aims to push the limits of what can be achieved in mainstream broadcasting. If anything, both are passionate about their job – a shared frequency that bodes well for this blossoming team-up on Red FM.

The unique thing about the pair, despite their vast experience, is that they have never worked together, prior to The Red Breakfast WTF!

"Yes, we have known each for a very long time. We are family friends, but this is the first time we are being paired in the studio together," explained JJ in an interview earlier this week.

Both have had long histories at Astro Radio's hitz.fm but this new Red FM partnership promises to be a special one for these close buddies.

"If you told me this time last year that I would be partnering Lil Kev in 2013, I would not have believed you! I started on radio as part of a cruiser team.

"That was when Lil Kev used to be on air. Yes, basically, we were working in the same company at the time but never together. And now, to be part of this duo, is just amazing," he added.

It's all change for JJ, who has moved on in more ways than one.

For him, it's a new sparring partner, a new Facebook fanpage (facebook.com/jjonair) which is growing rapidly (nearly 22,700 fans) and a whole new bag of laughs on air with his new radio station. The 36-year-old, who is a Red Devils fan, is taking the challenge head on.

Well, just imagine Robin van Persie teaming up with Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford if you need a football-related analogy about this new Red FM partnership.

As far as Lil Kev, 41, is concerned, he is glad to have a new sidekick, and JJ is the sort of deejay to get the masses tuning in to Red FM. Talk about an instant impact signing.

"What we want to give is a truly Malaysian breakfast experience," explained Lil Kev, whose real name is Kevin Arokiasamy, after the launch of the show on Monday.

The Red Breakfast WTF! show sees the original king of radio, Lil Kev, raising the roof with JJ, the current king of radio.

As far as profiles go, these chaps are natural born celebrities and have a massive following.

If their aspiration is to ensure that Red FM listeners nationwide will never have a dull morning while driving in torturous city traffic, they are on to a good thing.

As heard on Monday's debut show and the following mornings, there is a lot of good energy between both deejays and everything has fallen seamlessly into place.

The years of experiences accumulated by the duo in the radio industry shows in the way they chatted away and also in their vibrant song selection.

Listeners also had a chance to catch JJ and Lil Kev in the studio via live streaming on the Red FM website. The phones in the studio also went off the hook with listeners calling to express their excitement about the pairing and the new show.

"It was great to be back on air. The rush of adrenalin was fantastic," said JJ.

The perfect made-for-radio marriage, you say? Twitterverse definitely thinks so.

The listeners were delighted with Red FM's new pairing and are calling this the perfect radio match. On Twitter, Darween Vasudev Nair vowed he was setting Red FM as his primary radio channel from now on. Listener Jun Vinh Teoh posted on the Red FM's Facebook page, "Today was the first time I genuinely had fun listening to the radio. WTF FTW!"

Avid JJ fan Mabel Ong also gave her thumbs up on this partnership. "I almost refused to get down from my car. Great combo btw!" was what she wrote on the station's Facebook page.

When asked who they consider their biggest threat in radioland, Lil Kev and JJ cheekily said that it would be themselves.

"Actually, we are our own biggest threat ... if we don't deliver! Radio content now compared to 10 years ago has become so much more spontaneous. The threat is being complacent," said Lil Kev, sounding serious for once during the interview.

The segments on The Red Breakfast WTF! include Weird, True and Freaky News (trivia facts), What's The Fuss? (topic of the day), What The Football! (football updates and results) and Who The Fella? (celebrity birthdays). To kick off the week, the Throwback Mondays segment rolls back the years with retro music.

On Fridays, there is a weekly wrap of the top five stories of the week. These guys also plan to interact with their listeners through every possible platform, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Lil Kev was beaming from ear to ear as the debut show also saw his former radio        partner FlyGuy calling in from London, England where he resides now. The two of them were pioneers of the irreverent breakfast show culture here in the late 1990s. The idea is to bridge the distance between radio show and listener.

"We want to know what listeners would like to hear as they start their day," added JJ.

In the coming months, the duo will even take to the streets as listeners call in to address challenges to them. So stay tuned, the good and crazy times have just begun.

Now, what's with WTF?

"Some people assume it's vulgar, but actually, the acronym also stands for 'Welcome To Ferringhi', 'Why Trout Fish' and for us, it's 'Who These Fellas?' 'Why These Fellas?' 'What's The Fuss?' and 'Where's The Fire?' " said Lil Kev with a hearty laugh.

Fully aware of several other morning shows for listeners to pick from, the guys said their show is different because it is a "Malaysian breakfast show" with a strong local flavour.

"We see ourselves as the Malaysian breakfast show because we relate to our fellow Malaysians. We talk about what Malaysians are familiar with. We embrace who we are," he added.

JJ also agreed that a show that connects with the masses is vital. The lingo will be homegrown and street savvy. The topics hot and spicy.

"The morning show is like two good friends bantering about anything and everything. It's a chat in the morning with everyday people, sincere and down-to-earth Malaysians," said JJ.

When teased about how long they see themselves on air, JJ said, as long as the listeners are tuning in.

"But Lil Kev and I have talked about how our retirement plan could be opening a fine-dining mamak stall in Brickfields," he concluded with a boisterous burst of laughter.

Yes, that laugh.

> Catch the all-new JJ And Lil Kev: The Red Breakfast WTF! show on Red FM every weekday morning from 6am to 10am. Check out red.fm for the latest updates on the show. Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page on facebook.com/redfm.my and follow the station on Twitter @iloveredfm.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

MBf rises to offer price of RM1.50

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 06:47 PM PST

Published: Thursday February 7, 2013 MYT 10:47:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: MBf Holdings Bhd's share price rose to its takeover price of RM1.50 in active trade on Thursday.

At 10.34am, it was up two sen to RM1.50. There were 6.17 million shares done.

The warrants gained six sen to 49 sen with 3.0 million units done. The offer price for each warrant was 50 sen.

However, the FBM KLCI was down 4.36 points to 1,609.78, but off the early low of 1,597. Turnover was 237.83 million shares valued at RM351.49mil. There were 121 gainers, 260 losers and 227 counters unchanged.

MBf Holdings' chief executive officer Tan Sri Mogan Lourdenadin, who owns 87% of the company, has launched a takeover at RM1.50 a share. The last traded price was RM1.48.

The company said the takeover offer included 50 sen per offer warrant and RM4.64 per Class A United States dollar denominated redeemable convertible secured loan stock RCSLS.

MBf Holdings CEO launches takeover at RM1.50 a share, 2 sen upside

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 05:41 PM PST

Published: Thursday February 7, 2013 MYT 9:42:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: MBf Holdings Bhd's chief executive officer Tan Sri Mogan Lourdenadin, who owns 87% of the company, has launched a takeover at RM1.50 a share. The last traded price was RM1.48.

The company said the takeover offer included 50 sen per offer warrant and RM4.64 per Class A United States dollar denominated redeemable convertible secured loan stock RCSLS.

"The board does not intend to seek an alternative person to make a take-over offer for the offer shares," it said.

The joint offerors were Tor Private Ltd, Nadin Holdings Sdn Bhd, Impact Action Sdn Bhd and Market Share Investments Ltd.

Trading was halted from 9am to 10am following the announcement.

To recap, on Sept 14 it was reported that MBf Holdings, which was selling its credit and charge card operations to AMMB Holdings Bhd, was looking into the possibility to reward the shareholders of more dividends.

Mogan was quoted saying the plan was to pay out a total of RM1 as dividend per share, which includes the special net dividend of 30 sen a share proposed earlier.

At the EGM, the shareholders had unanimously voted in favour of the disposal of subsidiary MBF Cards (M) Sdn Bhd for a total cash consideration of RM623.4mil to AMMB.

S&P hires top defense attorney for US$5bil lawsuit

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 05:31 PM PST

NEW YORKL Standard and Poor's has hired John Keker, one of the country's top white-collar defense attorneys, to help fight a $5 billion lawsuit brought by the U.S. government this week.

Keker, who is based in San Francisco and has represented everyone from cyclist Lance Armstrong to Enron's Andrew Fastow, was hired at the recommendation of Floyd Abrams, a prominent New York attorney who also represents the ratings firm.

"John Keker is one of the great trial lawyers in this country," Abrams said.

Keker did not return calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for his firm, Keker & Van Nest, confirmed that Keker and another partner, Elliot Peters, were on the case.

The U.S. government sued Standard & Poor's in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday, accusing the McGraw Hill Cos Inc unit of a scheme to defraud investors in mortgage-related securities that collapsed in the financial crisis.

Standard & Poor's has said the lawsuit is "without legal merit and unjustified" and that it will "vigorously defend" itself against the erroneous claims.

Abrams, a noted First Amendment lawyer who has defended S&P in dozens of lawsuits over its ratings, said this week that freedom of speech may not be a defense in this case.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Abrams said bringing Keker onto the team was an indication that "we are going to be more than ready, if necessary, to have a trial."

Keker, known as a combative defense attorney, won credit from legal experts in 2006 when Fastow, considered the mastermind of Enron's fraud, was sentenced to only six years in prison.

Keker also helped Armstrong fend off a U.S. Justice Department investigation into doping last year. Armstrong admitted doping earlier this year, raising questions over whether the investigation could be reopened.

Keker also represented ex-Citigroup banker Brian Stoker in a case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over his role in a mortgage bond deal that collapsed. Stoker was cleared of wrongdoing.

A former Marine, Keker prosecuted Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Abrams, a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, said he would meet with Keker in New York on Thursday.

Abrams said the government will find it difficult to portray the banks in the deals as victims of bad ratings.

In 11 of the deals highlighted by the government, the financial institution that bought the debt was the same institution that arranged the securities, Abrams said.

"They are the entities that had their hands on precisely what went into these CDOs because they were the ones that made the choices," he said. "The notion that rating agencies are somehow to be held liable for their losses is an unlikely one."

Abrams also discounted the lawsuit's reference to a video of an S&P analyst singing a parody of the 1983 Talking Heads song "Burning Down the House."

"The government's got a heavy burden here and I don't think they can come close to meeting it," Abrams said. "And they certainly can't meet it by that sort of anecdotal, wise-cracking evidence."

Abrams said the defense will look at whether 1989 the statute cited in the lawsuit, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), applies to the government's claims.

He said the government was effectively using the statute as a substitute for securities law, but with an expanded statute of limitations.

"Certainly it wasn't passed with the intention to allow lawsuits like this," Abrams said.

The case is United States of America v. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 130-00779. - Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Pedrosa again fastest in Sepang testing

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 04:04 AM PST

SEPANG, Malaysia: Spaniard Dani Pedrosa of Honda fought hard to set the quickest lap on Wednesday, the second day in pre-season MotoGP testing at Malaysia's Sepang circuit which saw rainfall towards the end of the session.

Pedrosa was first on the timesheet with a fastest lap of 2 minutes 00.549 seconds, while reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha was 0.019 seconds slower, and Honda's star rookie Marc Marquez was 0.254 seconds off the pace.

Italy's nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who is back with Yamaha after two dismal seasons with Italian team Ducati, again ended the day fourth, 0.489 seconds behind Pedrosa.

It was the Honda and Yamaha foursome that continued to top the timesheet although the gap to the rest of the field is narrowing.

Pedrosa continued to test parts for engine durability, while Lorenzo was close on his tail with his new chassis and engine upgrades.

Spain's Marquez continued to impress as is Rossi, who is also putting in consistent times as he gets reacquainted with his Yamaha machine after a two-year absence.

Pedrosa, a three-time championship runner-up who is still looking for his first world crown, told reporters at the end of the day that he concentrated on the weight balance settings on his bike.

"Yes, lap time is okay. (But) the bike is not ready for maximum push. It is not done yet but we are on it. I did one lap in the afternoon and the rain came," he said.

Meanwhile a smiling Marquez who managed to stay ahead of Rossi for two straight days said that he was happy to set constant lap times. "Today I tried to understand the electronics control on the bike. The Honda team tried to help me. Sure it is a surprise to be in front of Rossi," he said.

"But we are in the pre-season testing. The position is not important. This is only the first test."

Lorenzo, who is in the hunt for another successful MotoGP year, was worried about his acceleration out of corners.

"Well I am happy today," he said but "we still could not solve the problem with the acceleration."

Lorenzo, however, said the strong point of the Yamaha was its powerful braking, resulting in the bike being competitive with his rival Pedrosa.

The first test session ends on Thursday. The second test session will be held at Sepang from February 26 to 28. The third session will be held in Jerez from March 23 to 25.

The opening round of the MotoGP world championship will be in Qatar under floodlights on April 7. Malaysia will host round 15 on October 13.-AFP

Ligety shocks field to win super-G title

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 03:37 AM PST

SCHLADMING: Ted Ligety handed the US team the boost they needed after losing starlet Lindsey Vonn to injury with a shock victory in the men's super-G at the World Ski Championships on Wednesday.

Just a day after Vonn's season was brought to a premature halt when she ruptured knee ligaments in a horror crash in the women's super-G, Ligety's perfect mix of accuracy and aggression saw him pip a handful of pre-race favourites.

The 28-year-old clocked 1min 23.96sec down the 1.8km-long Planai course, with late French call-up Gauthier De Tessieres taking silver at 0.20sec, and Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal claiming bronze, a further 0.02sec adrift.

"I'm really happy," Ligety beamed, saying he had not dwelt on Vonn's crash. "You can't let those races affect you. It's too bad for Lindsey."

The result was "pretty crazy", he said. "I was trying not to slide any turns. I couldn't really see the snow that well."

It was, on paper, a startling result for Ligety, a giant slalom specialist with not a single World Cup super-G victory to his name in 10 seasons on the global ski circuit.

His sole podium in the event came on the notorious Bellevarde piste in Val d'Isere in 2010.

But the Planai course here was not anywhere in the same category as that, although there was a tricky roll six gates from the end that ensured many skiers were 'bumped' into losing valuable time by skiing wide on the next gate to compensate.

Ligety, with his familiar low, crouched racing position, mastered the slope magnificently as he touched speeds of 83kph, and importantly maintained his control through the final, testing roll to give himself a clean line into the finish.

It bodes well for Ligety's medal hopes in the giant slalom and combined events, the American the reigning world champion in the former and Olympic gold medallist in 2006 in the latter.

It was also some result for De Tessieres, called up to replace Johan Clarey in the French team at the last moment.

Norwegian colossus Svindal saw his bid to add the world title to his Olympic crown slip away within sight of the finish, a horrendous error going wide into the final schuss losing him valuable tenths of a second.

Svindal, who already has four gold medals to his name (super combined (2), giant slalom and downhill), started the race as outright favourite, having won three of the four super-G races on the World Cup tour this season, including the last two.

Defending world champion Christoph Innerhofer of Italy, who also won on the Planai slope here at the World Cup finals last year, finished in seventh at 1:25.05, 1.09 sec off the pace.- AFP

Hamilton spins out on first Mercedes drive

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 03:14 AM PST

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, Spain: Britain's former world champion Lewis Hamilton had a minor accident on Wednesday during his first day of testing for his new team Mercedes in Spain.

The 28-year-old, 2008 champion, was on his 15th lap of timed testing when he drove the brand new car straight off the track and piled into a barrier of tyres without sustaining any noticeable injuries.

The session was immediately brought to a halt, while German teammate Nico Rosberg was only able to complete 14 laps before calling it a day on Tuesday, following electrical problems that caused a minor fire.

Despite the problems which are possibly linked to a faulty front suspension, Hamilton has high hopes for the upcoming season that begins on March 17 in Melbourne.

"There is no company with a longer history in Grand Prix racing than Mercedes-Benz and it is an honour for me to tread in the footsteps of legends like Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Michael Schumacher." Hamilton told the Mercedes website.

"It's the start of a new chapter for me, a new adventure Rosberg who has just one victory on the circuit in 128 starts says he is also well prepared for the new season in his fourth year with the English-based team.

"I've been working really hard over the winter on my physical preparation, both in the mountains - climbing to over 2,000 metres with ski boots - and also in the Mediterranean, training on my bike, swimming and running.

"The atmosphere in the team is very positive and the people are highly motivated to succeed. And, of course, I have a new team-mate with Lewis (Hamilton).

"It's his first time in the Silver Arrow and I look forward to working together and pushing each other hard, to make this the best team in Formula One."

Germany's Sebastian Vettel will be gunning for a fourth straight driver's crown as the campaign begins in Australia and will feature 19 races until the final Grand Prix on November 24 at Sao Paulo, Brazil.-AFP

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Chapman To is funnier than ever in his latest comedy Hotel Deluxe

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 01:40 AM PST

Hotel Deluxe gets its five-star rating from its funny employees.

HONG Kong funnyman Chapman To seems to be in every rib-tickling Cantonese movie we see from Hong Kong these days. Why, he's even pulling in the laughs from another funny Malaysian movie, The Wedding Diary 2, which also opens on Feb 7.

Currently one of the most sought-after comedians in Hong Kong, To was featured in 10 movies in 2011 and seven last year, slowing down for a bit to recover from Miller Fisher Syndrome – a rare nerve disease that can lead to paralysis and death. But, it appears he has bounced back funnier than ever in his latest role as a hotel employee in lunar new year comedy Hotel Deluxe.

"I play a bartender in the movie. In order to transform the Hundred Star Hotel into a five-star hotel, I have collaborated with the devil boss (played by Teresa Mo), the head of housekeeping (Sandra Ng) and the lobby's assistant manager (Ronald Cheng), to organise a grand wedding dinner for one of the hotel's most loyal customers (played by Fiona Sit)," said To in an e-mail interview from Hong Kong.

Directed by Vincent Kok and produced by Raymond Wong, the rip-roaring Hotel Deluxe also co-stars Lynn Hung and Karena Ng as rival superstars who check into the Hundred Star Hotel with their respective entourages and give the hotel employees a headache with their rivalry.

Coincidentally, To used to work in the hotel industry, thus, he felt that he could identify with his character in the movie. "Well, the biggest challenge would be having to pick up some bartending skills. Being a bartender meant I would be required to mix cocktails and also perform unique tricks while tending to the bar. During the shoot, I would sometimes miss catching the props while attempting the tricks. Hence, a lot of props were broken," said the stocky comedian, who pointed out that the biggest difference in this movie was that he did not have to do any cross-dressing, like he did in All's Well Ends Well.

Playing ambassador to the amusing, yet, heart-warming Hotel Deluxe, To expressed: "The setting of this movie is a hotel. And since every one of us has stayed in a hotel before, we all know that there are many different and interesting, or creepy and unimaginable things that seem out of this world, which happen in hotels all the time. And, all these may well be happening at a hotel where you are staying; it's just that you may not know about it then. Furthermore, this movie has a collection of the best comedians, including Ronald Cheng, Teresa Mo, Sandra Ng, Fiona Sit, Jim Chim, Eric Kot, etc, and me, Chapman To! Isn't the selling point obvious?"

The rollicking movie was shot in Hangzhou, China, and the 40-year-old actor mused that the filming process went smoothly with few hiccups. "The five-star Qian Dao Hotel has a tranquil environment and the facilities there are quite comprehensive. The most difficult part was acting with Fiona Sit. That is because she cannot stand the jokes that I make. She laughs too easily when I try to be funny, disrupting the filming process," To mocked his pretty co-star with whom he also collaborated in Mr And Mrs Gambler (2012).

To also described an amusing scene which marked his first collaboration with the dashing mainland China actor, Yu Bo. "There was a scene where he had to meet with his parents, and I was the one who acted as his father. So, I was required to dress up as an old man. After I was done with the makeup, all the staff on the set agreed that I looked just like a movie star from the 1990s. And, if you want to know who the movie star is, you will have to go to the cinema to find out!"

As a parting message to fans of Chinese cinema, To has this to say: "I think the movie hopes to bring happiness to audiences and I, too, hope that audiences can have a happy new year filled with loads of laughter, especially since everyone was traumatised by rumours of the end of the world last year. Hopefully, this movie will bring positive energy and fun to all."

> Hotel Deluxe opens its doors at local cinemas nationwide on Feb 7.

French 'Artist' actor to return to Oscars stage

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 05:53 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: French actor Jean Dujardin, star of last year's Oscar-winning movie "The Artist," will return this year as an Academy Awards presenter, along with his fellow laureates, organizers said Tuesday.

Meryl Streep, who won best actress last year, will present awards at this show, as will Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer, best supporting actress and best supporting actor respectively.

"We are honored to have Meryl, Octavia, Christopher and Jean, last year's Oscar winners in each of the acting categories, return to the Oscar stage," said the February 24 show's producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

Streep is the most Oscar-nominated actor ever with 17 nods, and has won three, including for her role as former British premier Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

Dujardin won best actor on his first nomination, for his role as a silent, black-and-white movie star struggling with the arrival of sound on the big screen.

Spencer also won with her first nomination, as a black maid in civil rights drama "The Help," while Canadian veteran Plummer became the oldest actor ever to win an Oscar, at the age of 82.

Steven Spielberg's presidential drama "Lincoln" has the most nominations for this year's show, with 12 nods, followed by "Life of Pi" with 11 and "Les Miserables" and "Silver Linings Playbook," both with eight.

But Ben Affleck's Iran hostage crisis drama "Argo" has won a succession of top prizes in Hollywood's annual awards season, leading some to tip it as favorite for the coveted best picture, despite only having seven nominations. - AFP

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The Star Online: Nation

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Dapat founder Azli Paat dies of high fever

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 09:00 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Azli Paat, the ICT expert and founder of SMS shortcode business operator Dapat, died of high fever around 7pm, at his house in Bukit Segambut here Wednesday.

His son Ahmad Naim, 23, said his father had been down with high fever since Tuesday and had sought treatment at a clinic.

Azli leaves behind a wife and 10 children.

He will be buried in Batu Pahat, Johor, on Thursday.

Azli founded Dapat, the SMS shortcode business operator which allows seamless messaging across all telecommunication companies.

He also founded the community-based service RakanCop.

He was a panel speaker on Bernama Radio 24 at 7.30am daily since 2007.

"Azli was a jovial, intelligent and humble person," said Bernama Radio 24 producer Kok Jun Sern. - Bernama

Nasharudin: PAS has deviated from original struggle

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 09:00 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Former PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa, who was sacked from the party's Syura Council last month, has alleged that there are certain groups causing the Islamist party to deviate from its original struggle.

"When they put political struggle as their main agenda, they are forced to put aside their faith (akidah).

"I think PAS has moved away from its original struggle, when it was first established in 1951.

"Current times demand that the party becomes less strict as they now have to accommodate the other parties," he told Media Prima director Datuk Ahmad Abdul Talib an in interview on TV3 late Wednesday.

He also refuted speculation that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak or any others had invited him to join other political parties.

It was reported that PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat had said on Jan 30 that the Syura Council had decided to sack Nasharudin during its meeting on Jan 13 because the latter did not attend three consecutive meetings.

Nasharudin, however, is still a member of party.

PAS has so far ignored calls by various quarters to review its decision to sack Nasharudin from the council, as he was not given a chance to defend himself.

Nik Aziz announced Nasharudin's sacking soon after the latter returned to Malaysia after accompanying the Prime Minister on his historic visit to the conflict-ridden Gaza.

Related Stories:
Nasharudin finally gets his termination letter from Syura Council

Pahang PAS members, supporters hold protest against DAP sec-gen Lim

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 06:45 AM PST

MARAN: Several members and supporters of Pahang PAS held a peaceful demonstration Wednesday to protest the call by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng for the federal government to allow the use of the word "Allah" in the Malay version of the Bible.

They gathered in front of the As-Syakirin Mosque in Maran at about 5.30pm and burned a poster of Lim, who is the Penang chief minister.

A representative of the demonstrators, Muhammad Rolbani Ibrahim of the Jerantut PAS branch, urged the PAS leadership not to be afraid of the DAP.

The demonstrators dispersed 30 minutes later on the prompting of the police. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Group to DAP: Stay out of Muslim affairs
Nik Aziz makes about-turn on Allah' use
Non-Muslims can't use Allah'
Pakatan plays down Allah issue
Protesters slam Guan Eng

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Metro watch

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 05:28 AM PST


The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has opened a counter to facilitate tax payment at Jusco Metro Prima Kepong (10am to 8pm), Jusco Taman Maluri Cheras (10am to 9pm) and Mid Valley Megamall (10am to 9pm) until Feb 28. A mobile counter has also been opened next to the Road Transport Department office, Jalan Permaisuri 8, Bandar Seri Permaisuri, Cheras (9am to 6pm) until Feb 10. For details, call 03-2617 9950 (Zaisatul).


The right-most lane along the Sprint highway, between the Kiara interchange and Maarof interchange (Kuala Lumpur-bound), will be temporarily closed until April 4, from 9pm to 6am, to facilitate utility piloting and construction works. For details, visit www.mymrt.com.my or call the MRT Hotline at 1-800-82-6868.


The KL-Kuala Selangor Expressway (Latar Expressway) will undertake maintenance and remedial works until May 2. Road users are advised to follow traffic signs along the affected stretch. For details, call 03-6145 1515 or visit www.latar.com.my


THE Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) has opened a mobile counter to facilitate payment of assessment tax from Feb 16 to 17 and from Feb 23 to 24 at Aeon (Jusco) Taman Equine from 11am to 8pm. Ratepayers can check, make enquiries and payments, print bills, update their mailing address and apply for property transfer at the mobile counter. For enquiries, call 03-8026 3286/ 3285/ 4317/ 4316/ 4314.


A free talk titled "Connection to Life Purpose" will be held on Thursday from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at Silva Method Malaysia, Mid Valley City. For details, call 03-2282 9939 or email to enquiry@silvamethod.com.my or visit www.silvamethod.com.my


The National Museum is organising various activities at the "World Masks Exhibition: 1001 Expression" until March 20. The exhibition includes information on the uses of clay and mask motifs. For details, call 03-2267 1111 ext 321.


Kelana Jaya Medical Centre, in collaboration with the National Blood Bank, is organising a blood donation drive at its premises on Feb 16 from 9am to 12.30pm. For details, call 03-7805 2111.


The Africa Asia Destitute Relief Foundation (ADRF) 5th Volun-teerism Training will be held on Feb 23, at 20, Jln 20/18, Paramount Garden, Petaling Jaya, from 10.30am to 1pm. Registration is currently open and admission is free. There will also be a self-defence lesson by renowned NLP Interventionist. For details and reservations, call 03-7865 3648 (Asya) 012-210 2404 (Dr Sharon).

Footballer aiming to make an impact with current side in Premier League

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 05:28 AM PST

KL SURUHANJAYA Perkhid-matan Awam (SPA) rookie Gan Jay Han has fond memories of his stint in junior football tournaments in Subang Jaya.

The former SK Seafield pupil said it was a wonderful experience playing at grassroots level.

Besides community-based programmes, the 20-year-old footballer also took part in various school and club-based tournaments.

He developed his skills with the Subang Jaya Community Youth Football League (SJCYFL) and the Brazilian Football Club in Subang Jaya before earning his place in the Selangor junior line-up.

Despite settling as runner-up with the SMK Seafield side in the Under-18 contest at the Selangor Schools Sports Council (MSSS) Petaling Perdana district football competition in 2010, Jay Han said they were proud to achieve a breakthrough and set a benchmark for current and future students to improve on their achievements.

Back then, their opponents SMK Seksyen 19 from Shah Alam, struck a late winner for a narrow 1-0 win at the end of the 25-minute second half.

"I contributed four goals in the campaign but it was not about personal glory. We really gelled well and forged exceptional teamwork. The teachers and coaches were also very supportive. Looking back, it was all worth it when we trained under the hot afternoon sun.

"We want to inspire the school's current and future teams to go up better than us. Hopefully, they can assemble a stronger team to be considered as serious contenders and challenge for the top position at the district meet," he added.

Last year, Jay Han donned the national Under-19 stripes at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament in Brunei and a triangular tournament in Singapore.

The youngster said it has always been an uplifting feeling to perform national duties and to put on the national playing kit with the national flag positioned close to his heart on the left corner of the jersey.

"The rare privilege of wearing the national jersey comes with huge responsibilities. Although we are only a national junior side, we are carrying the nation's hopes on our shoulders. When we get on the pitch, it is more than a football match. It is about playing with pride and giving our best to protect the dignity of our beloved country. It has not been easy to go up against junior teams in the South-East Asia region," he added.

The Inti College student chalked up a fruitful season with his usual role as a rightback defence and occasionally on the right wing for Harimau Muda B squad in the previous season.

However, Harimau Muda B cannot retain his services because he is above the age of 19.

This year, Jay Han is the newest and the youngest inclusion to KL SPA in the Malaysia Premier League.

KL SPA earned promotion from the FAM League to join the fray in the Premier League.

Jay Han aims to make an impact with his current side in matching other sides in the Premier League.

The two other contests in the domestic competitions are FA Cup and Malaysia Cup.

Recently, Jay Han was named in the KL SPA starting eleven for a 4-2 win over Perlis in their second league match.

However, he picked up a right knee injury and will have to go through a six-week rehabilitation process.

For the new season, Jay Han is coping with a hectic schedule attending two separate training sessions in the morning and evening as well as classes in between.

"It is tough and tiring. I am willing to sacrifice to fulfil my potential. I know that I have not reached my best yet.

"I need to improve on my strength and endurance to become a better footballer," said Jay Han.

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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UTM students build prototype cars to help save fuel

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 02:54 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: A group of final year Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) students have managed to build a prototype car that could help save fuel for our vehicles.

The university recently organised a fuel-saving car design competition for its Kemahiran Hidup Education faculty as part of its final year assignment.

UTM Technical and Engineering Education Department, Education faculty lecturer Prof Adnan Ahmad said six teams participated in this year competition.

He added that the main target for the students was to design a car that could use less fuel over a long period.

"We are very satisfied with the performance of each team as all of them had done a wonderful job in coming up with original designs in the competition.

"These prototype single-seater cars built by the students themselves give a glimpse for the future as they managed to save lots of fuel compared to current road vehicles," he said.

Adnan pointed out that a car would use one litre of petrol for 7km while the prototype car could go up to 12km.

He added that the winning prototype car used up to 35% of one litre of petrol in the event.

"The cars were put in a series of tests including a racing mode, where a car would commonly lose more fuel if it accelerates.

"By far, a prototype car designed by a group of final year students, who called themselves Power Rangers saved more fuel compared to other cars," he said.

Power Rangers leader Nurfairus Jaafar Sidek, 28, said the group had spent RM4,000 to build and design their car in just two months before the competition.

"There are 12 of us and each one of us had specific tasks in building our car which is loosely based on the Ford T car produced in the late 1920s.

"Our single-seater car is only 130kg, which is one of the lightest in the competition with a top speed of 60km per hour. The engine itself comes from a Honda motorcycle," he said.

Nurfairus said the group's next target is to represent UTM in the Shell Eco Challenge, which will be held in Sepang, Selangor in June.

Authorities step up efforts to clean up pirated DVD hotspots in Johor

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 05:21 AM PST

JOHOR BARU: The Johor Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) has declared an all-out "war" against pirated DVD sellers here.

Its director Ayub Abd Rahman said last year, the department had seized almost 150,000 pirated DVDs alone in known hotspots at major shopping centres in the city centre.

He added that last year, the department raided 98 shops for selling such DVDs, of which 39 cases had been brought to court.

"The department is looking into the matter seriously as we do not want Johor Baru to be known as a pirated DVD haven.

"In 2012 alone, we seized about 148,090 DVDs, including pornographic movies from such raids," he said when contacted here.

Ayub added that besides setting up a special taskforce to look into the matter, the department was also working closely with other enforcement agencies such as the local authority, Customs Department and police.

"This is part of our efforts to clean up known hotspots that sell pirated DVDs to locals and foreigners," he said.

Ayub also advised members of the public to stop buying such DVDs as it would only increase the amount of pirated DVDs in the market.

He pointed out that pirated DVD sellers were making an offence under the Trade Description Act 1972 and the Copyright Act.

"Under the Trade Description Act, DVD peddlers could face a maximum fine of RM20,000 or a jail term of not more than three years while the company could face a maximum fine of RM50,000.

"DVD peddlers could also face a maximum fine of RM30,000 for each pirated DVD or a jail term of not more than five years under the Copyright Act 1987," he said, urging those who have information on such activities to contact the department's hotline at 1-800-886-800.

It was recently reported in The Star that DVD sellers were raking in thousands of ringgit each month from Singaporeans who wanted their pirated DVDs to be delivered across the Causeway.

DVD sellers, especially at major shopping centres and hypermarkets in the city centre, have been providing the delivery service to Singaporeans for the last few years.

They are now sending the DVDs by courier to avoid getting caught by the Malaysian and Singaporean authorities.

Developer will launch scheme for eligible first-time houseowners

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 02:54 PM PST

GELANG PATAH: UEM Land Holdings Bhd will be launching its affordable housing scheme project made up of landed residential properties for eligible first-time houseowners this year.

Its senior general manager Mohd Nadzari Bachek said the company would build about 1,000 units of houses on a 32.37ha site near the Iskandar Malaysia Public Housing project in Jalan Ulu Choh-Lima Kedai near here.

"We are already in the final stage of planning the project including the pricing and the floor built-up area of each unit," he told StarMetro.

Mohd Nadzari said this after presenting a RM90,000, 14-seater van to Kampung Pok An-Nur Mosque chairman Musa Johari. The van had been converted into a hearse.

He said the company was still contemplating on building single-or double-storey terrace houses for the project, and that it all depended on the state government's approval.

"We are looking at selling the houses at RM150,000 each but the final price will also take into account other factors such as building material and labour costs," added Mohd Nadzari.

He said initially, the company wanted to build apartments but the state government was not too keen on the proposal as other issues such as collecting joint building maintenance fees from residents could arise.

Separately, Mohd Nadzari said the company wanted to attract more Chinese investors into Nusajaya as they were looking at foreign countries to diversify their investment portfolios.

He said these investors, including property developers, had a lot of money in hand and when they invested overseas, they would spend generously.

"We still have 3,237.48ha land for development in Nusajaya, including 1,821.08ha in Gerbang Nusajaya, which is suitable for big-scale property projects," added Mohd Nadzari.

Last December, UEM Land and Chinamall Holdings Pte Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding to develop China Mall, a trade and exhibition centre in Gerbang Nusajaya.

The 1.4mil sq ft gross floor area of a 12.94ha site worth RM562mil will house 3,000 merchants from China offering products such as textile, gifts, souvenirs, furniture, electrical and household appliances, jewellery and toys.

In an unrelated matter, the company also planned numerous corporate social responsibility events that focus on academic development through its Pintar school education programmes lined up for this year.

UEM Land has adopted 17 schools within Nusajaya in Iskandar Malaysia under the Pintar programme since 2007, with initiatives such as the English Programme, Green School Project, Hygiene Talk and Motivational Camp.

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