Isnin, 18 Februari 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Clash of clans

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 02:49 AM PST

Two bickering matriarchs have to make their peace when their children fall in love in this new drama series.

It has often been said that marriage is not just the union of two individuals, but that of two families. But when the two households are as different as can be, will love be enough to make the world go round?

In Laws is a new Mandarin drama from Ntv7 which explores this premise and examines the clashing of cultures between traditional and modern households.

The light-hearted family drama follows one such scenario where the young ones fall head over heels in love, even though the two mothers can never seem to see eye to eye.

In a press conference recently, the main cast of In Laws gathered in Kuala Lumpur to launch the 20-episode series.

The two bickering mothers-in-law in question are Hong Yu Zhen (Remon Lim) – a reputable matchmaker-cum-wedding chaperon who believes in the sanctity of marriage – and Xiao Mei Feng (Loo Aye Keng), a hotshot lawyer who frequently changes partners.

The very conventional Yu Zhen runs a specialty store supplying customary Chinese wedding gifts with the help of her husband Zheng Wen (Kelvin Leong) and two sons Shen Feng (Frederick Lee) and Qi Jian (Lawrence Wong).

Meanwhile, the sophisticated Mei Feng single-handedly raised her two daughters Na Na (Danielle Dai) and Hui Min (Joey Leong) after her husband left them.

For playing the snooty lawyer, the statuesque Loo quipped, "My character is a modern mother with a succession of young boyfriends. She stands apart from others in the way she walks and the way she talks, and even in the way she sits and eats."

Commenting on her fiery collaboration with Loo, Golden Awards best actress winner Lim shared how even the director was moved by the sparks that ensued. "The director is known to sit viewing the monitor with a blank expression, but this time, we were happy to see smiles and thumbs up gestures."

Similar to his role as a supportive husband in the series, Kelvin expressed that he was all for equality, and said, "In fact, I'd much rather be the one staying at home taking care of the kids if she's happy doing the work that she likes best."

When the story begins, Yu Zhen's eldest son Shen Feng and Mei Feng's eldest daughter Na Na are high school sweethearts who have been married for two years.

Unbeknownst to the two mothers, the marriage is headed for a break-up because Shen Feng is a workaholic who has been neglecting his sassy dancer wife Na Na so much that she nearly ends up seeking solace in the arms of her ex-lover Shu Wei.

Yet, while the two bickering in-laws wish to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, nothing prepares them for the earth-shattering news when the stork finally pays a visit. While trying to help Shen Feng and Na Na patch their marriage, the two younger children Hui Min and Qi Jian surprise their elders when they decide to get married because Hui Min got pregnant!

Comely teen actress Joey, who plays the young woman headed for a shot-gun marriage, lamented, "I had to give my first kiss to Lawrence while filming this series and he kept saying he couldn't believe it was my first time."

As Joey's love interest, Wong said he was thrilled to play a young college student in the throes of first love and gleefully added, "Taking on this role was simply brilliant as it has made me feel like I am 18 all over again."

Keep up with the In Laws, which airs on Ntv7 from 9.30pm to 10.30pm every Monday to Thursday, starting tomorrow.


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Analysis: Japan's Abe looks to prove this time, he has the right stuff

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 07:38 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Five years after staring into a political and personal abyss, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is out to prove that the man who threw in the towel after barely a year in office has what it takes to survive as a long-term leader.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during an upper house budget committee session at the parliament in Tokyo February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during an upper house budget committee session at the parliament in Tokyo February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Abe, whose 2006-2007 term as premier ended with his abrupt resignation after a year plagued by scandals, an election defeat and a gastro-intestinal ailment worsened by stress, won a rare second chance when his party surged back to power in December.

This time, in an effort to show he's taking care of his health, Abe has resumed jogging and is sipping room-temperature water during parliament sessions, apparently to avoid stomach upsets. The prime minister also, media say, still consults memos reflecting on mistakes that he jotted down after quitting.

Even some opposition members say Abe and his aides display a better ability to govern than the first administration, when gaffes and scandals cost him five ministers including one who committed suicide.

"I think we can see ... the effect of lessons they learned from the first Abe administration, which gave up mid-stream," said Tetsuro Fukuyama, an upper house lawmaker whose Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ousted Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2009, only to be crushed themselves at the polls in December.

"I don't know (if he is a changed man), but I sense that those close to him are pulling together more effectively."

That said, members of Abe's team do occasionally show signs of singing a bit out of tune.

Finance Minister and former premier Taro Aso - who some suspect of dreaming of a come-back of his own - said on Tuesday Japan had no plan to buy foreign currency-denominated bonds as part of a monetary easing programme. A day earlier, Abe had said buying foreign bonds was a monetary option.

Those who know Abe say the 58-year-old leader, who goes to Washington this week with a message that Japan is reviving its economic and diplomatic strength, has learned a lot from his first term, when critics said he packed his cabinet with inexperienced cronies.

The grandson of a prime minister and scion of an elite political family, Abe was 52 when he first took office, making him Japan's youngest post-war premier. He also succeeded a popular prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, without having to fight a general election.

"He's more mature, seasoned, a sort of a 'come-back' guy after seeing hell," said Kunihiko Miyake, a former diplomat who has known Abe for years.

"Before, he was a person in a hurry and wanted results soon, impatiently. Now he is comfortable and not in a hurry," added Miyake, research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo.


Critics say Abe's improved image benefits from the low bar set by predecessors, including himself. Abe is Japan's seventh prime minister since Koizumi ended a five-year term in 2006.

"He's assiduously avoiding previous mistakes," said Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii.

"It's not a lot to be proud of."

Clearly, Abe has rethought his priorities, not least to avoid a repeat of the stinging 2007 upper house election loss that created a deadlock in parliament and helped seal his fate.

Abe has made reviving the economy his top priority, a big shift from his first term when his main agenda was to loosen the limits of Japan's pacifist constitution on the military and restore national pride and patriotism. Those remain vital to Abe's platform, but for now are taking something of a back seat.

Rising Tokyo share prices and support rates of over 60 percent suggest investors and voters are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to "Abenomics" - a mix of big spending and hyper-easy monetary policies with a promise of reforms to come.

"The strategy is totally different. He's clearly decided that at least until the upper house election (in July), he is going to focus on the economy," said Gerry Curtis, a Columbia University political science professor who has watched some two dozen Japanese prime ministers come and go during his career.

Well aware voters punished the Democrats for their perceived inability to govern, Abe's team is taking pains to act quickly when crises erupt, such as this month's North Korean nuclear test.

The tight grip at the top also applies to damage control. Finance Minister Aso, known for verbal bloopers, quickly retracted a remark last month that implied terminally ill old people should be allowed to die quickly to save tax money.

And a junior cabinet minister swiftly resigned this month just before a magazine was to publish a damaging article.

Early success might, ironically, carry its own risks.

"If he wins the next upper house election, he would have no obstacles in parliament," Miyake said, adding that Abe could become over-confident. "He might be tempted to rush ahead again, although I don't think he would."

A further flare-up in ties with China or South Korea, strained by territorial feuds and disputes over Japan's wartime history, could also erode Abe's image as a deft leader.

Whether Abe can survive the rough patches expected when his honeymoon with markets and voters fades remains to be seen.

"The consistency of the message is one thing that has encouraged people to think more positively," said Jeffrey Young, research director at U.S.-based hedge fund Woodbine Capital, referring to Abe's monetary easing push.

"The government must know it is all done on the basis of expectations and are wondering at what point the public, media and the markets will turn to results."

(Editing by Dean Yates)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Fighting breaks out in Sudan's Blue Nile border state

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 07:17 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Fighting broke out in a Sudanese border state between the military and rebels trying to overthrow President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, both sides said on Monday, and the government said its forces had killed scores of insurgents.

The rebels gave a different account, saying the government forces had attacked civilian areas.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends a meeting with leaders from South Sudan at the National Palace in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends a meeting with leaders from South Sudan at the National Palace in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

The conflict in Blue Nile started in September 2011, a few months after neighbouring South Sudan seceded under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, another Sudanese border state, fought as part of the southern rebel army during that war, but were left on the Sudanese side of the border after partition.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes because of the fighting since 2011.

On Monday, Sudanese state media reported the armed forces had taken the Muffa area in Blue Nile and "expelled the remnants of the rebels," who had been backed by tanks and artillery.

The army killed 66 rebels, it said, quoting the armed forces spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid. The armed forces suffered a "small number" of casualties, it said, without giving details.

The rebels, known as the SPLM-North, said the Sudanese armed forces and allied militia had started a "military dry season campaign" on February 14 in a heavily populated area at Muffa.

It said the fighting had forced thousands of civilians to flee toward Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Events in the two states are difficult to verify independently because of government restrictions on media, and the two sides often give conflicting versions of the fighting.

Some 2 million people died in Sudan's north-south civil war, which ended in 2005 with the peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan's independence.

Khartoum accuses Juba of continuing to back the rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. South Sudan denies the accusation.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz and Khalid Abdelaziz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Cuban dissident blogger met by small protests in Brazil

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 07:11 PM PST

RECIFE, Brazil (Reuters) - Cuba's best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, was greeted on Monday by small groups of protesters who called her a CIA agent upon arriving in Brazil, the first stop on a whirlwind tour that will take her to a dozen countries.

A smiling Sanchez brushed off the student demonstrators who sympathize with Cuba's communist government, saying she wished Cubans had the same freedom to protest back home. Sanchez's arrival in Brazil kicked off her first trip abroad since the Cuban government finally granted her a passport after more than 20 refusals in the past five years.

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez speaks at Classe Apart Hotel in Feira de Santana, February 18, 2013. Sanchez's arrival in Brazil kicked off her first trip abroad since the Cuban government finally granted her a passport after more than 20 refusals in the past five years. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez speaks at Classe Apart Hotel in Feira de Santana, February 18, 2013. Sanchez's arrival in Brazil kicked off her first trip abroad since the Cuban government finally granted her a passport after more than 20 refusals in the past five years. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

About eight students from a local university shouted "sell out" and "CIA agent" as Sanchez arrived in the north-eastern Brazilian city of Recife, according to a Reuters photographer who was at the airport.

"Viva la democracia! I want that democracy for my country too," she responded.

Another group of protesters met her at the Salvador airport in Bahia state and police were called in to escort her when demonstrators interrupted a debate in the nearby municipality of Feira de Santana.

The Cuban government labels dissidents as mercenaries on the payroll of the United States, its decades-old ideological foe. Sanchez, a 37-year-old Havana resident, has incurred the wrath of Cuba's government for constantly criticizing its communist system in her "Generation Y" blog,, and using Twitter to denounce repression.

Sanchez, who was starting an 80-day tour, was granted a passport two weeks ago under Cuba's sweeping immigration reform that went into effect this year. She has won several international prizes for blogging about life in Cuba but has been unable to collect them until now.

"I am so happy. It has been five years of struggle," Sanchez told local media.

"Unfortunately, in Cuba you are punished for thinking differently. Opinions against the government have terrible consequences, arbitrary arrests, surveillance," she said in an interview with GloboNews television.

Sanchez's visit touched a political nerve in Brazil, where the left-leaning government of President Dilma Rousseff is often criticized for not taking a more critical stance with Cuba's one-party system and the repression of political dissent there.


According to local news magazine Veja, Cuban diplomats recently met with militants from Brazil's ruling Workers' Party in Brasilia and asked them to organize protests against Sanchez during her stay in the South American country. One junior official in the Rousseff administration was present at the meeting, Veja said.

The report prompted some opposition legislators in Congress to accuse the Rousseff government of tacitly endorsing a Cuban-led smear campaign against Sanchez. One senator, Alvaro Dias, said he would demand that the government formally explain its role in what he called the "unacceptable monitoring" of Sanchez.

Rousseff's office later said in a statement that the official had participated in a routine meeting about Cuban migration policy and preparations for Sanchez's visit at the embassy and did not stay the whole time.

In the interview with GloboNews, Sanchez said recent reforms undertaken by President Raul Castro have been positive but minimal, such as the lifting of bans that prevented Cubans from buying new cars and other goods.

"There is a difference between the reforms we dream of and the reforms that are being carried out," she said. "We dream of freedom of association, freedom of expression, but it does not look like we will get this too soon."

Sanchez, considered Cuba's pioneer in social networking, told Reuters earlier this week in Havana that, in addition to Brazil, she planned to travel to Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, and visit the headquarters of Google, Twitter and Facebook in the United States.

(Reporting by Helia Scheppa; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Todd Benson and Eric Beech)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Bursa Securities quizzes IRM Group over surge in share price

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 06:18 PM PST

Published: Tuesday February 19, 2013 MYT 10:18:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Bursa Malaysia Securities had queried IRM Group Bhd on Tuesday over the unusual market activity of its shares recently.

At 10.03am, it was up two sen to 26.5 sen. There were 1.18 million shares done at prices ranging from 24 sen to 28.5 sen.

The FBM KLCI fell 2.3 points to 1,618.63. Turnover was 227.13 million shares valued at RM97.70mil. There were 105 gainers, 174 losers and 166 counters unchanged.

Bursa Securities queried IRM Group over the sharp increase in the share price recently.

It queried the company if there was any corporate development relating to the goup's business and affairs that had not been previously announced that might account for the unusual market activity including those in the stage of negotiation and or discussion.

It also asked the company whether there was any rumour or report concerning the business and affairs of the group that might account for the unusual market activity.

Petronas Gas buoys KLCI amid cautious trade

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 05:44 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Some mild buying of Petronas Gas helped put the FBM KLCI back in positive territory early Tuesday amid a cautious market, especially after the late sell-off on Monday

At 9.26am, the KLCI was up just 0.24 of a point to 1,621.17. Turnover was 136.78 million shares valued at RM34.42mil. There were 83 gainers, 76 losers and 127 counters unchanged.

Maybank KE Research said after the KLCI fell 7.0 points to close at 1,620.93 on Monday, the resistance level of 1,620 and 1,640 would cap market gains, whilst weaker support areas are located at 1,597 and 1,617.

Stock market data showed retail investors were net sellers at RM23.7mil and institutions net sellers at RM9.9mil but foreigners were net buyers at RM33.6mil.

Petronas Gas was the top gainer, adding 24 sen to RM18.70 with 1,100 shares done. UMW gained six sen to RM12.18 and RHB Cap three sen higher at RM7.68.

Plantation stocks were mixed, with PPB Group up eight sen to RM12.20 but KL Kepong lost 28 sen to RM21 with 200 shares done and Batu Kawan eight sen lower at RM18.56.

Tasek fell 18 sen to RM14.38 on profit taking after the price surge on its dividends announcement.

Hospital operator KPJ-WA fell nine sen to RM4.08 and the shares eight sen to RM5.87

Yen firmer but near lows, Asian shares capped

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 05:28 PM PST

TOKYO: The yen remained near recent lows on Tuesday, as attention turned to the appointment of a new Bank of Japan governor.

Regional share markets held to tight ranges as the absence of catalysts and a holiday in the U.S. overnight capped demand.

The yen, which has dropped 20 percent against the dollar since mid-November, fell further at the start of the week after financial leaders from the G20 promised not to devalue their currencies to boost exports and avoided singling out Japan for any direct criticism.

The choice of the next BOJ governor and two deputies has drawn market attention as a gauge to how strongly Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is committed to reflating the economy. The G20's message was that as long as Japan pursues aggressive monetary easing to achieve that goal, a weaker yen as a result of such domestic monetary policy will be tolerated, analysts say.

"But that means that some other economy's monetary conditions have been tightened," said Barclays Capital in a note.

"Japan hasn't even changed its policy stance thus far, and the effect of expectations of a looser setting have led to limited moves in domestic interest rates, but the sell-off of the JPY has been marked and has clearly caused unease in other economies."

Market reaction was muted to the release of the minutes of the BOJ's January 21-22 meeting, when the bank set a 2 percent inflation target and pledged to an open-ended quantitative easing from 2014, but the yen was bought when Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters Japan has no plans to buy foreign currency bonds as part of monetary easing, a trader said.

The dollar was down 0.2 percent to 93.75 yen, but remained near its highest since May 2010 of 94.465 hit on February 11. The euro also eased 0.3 percent to 125.05 yen, below its peak since April 2010 of 127.71 yen touched on February 6.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was nearly flat.

The Nikkei stock average .N225 opened down 0.6 percent, after closing up 2.1 percent on Monday to approach its highest level since September 2008 of 11,498.42 tapped on February 6. .T

Australian shares .AXJO inched down 0.1 percent on the back of weakness in metals prices, with investors focusing on local corporate earnings for direction after a three-month rally that has taken the market to 4-1/2 year highs.

Seoul shares .KS11 opened little changed, and were expected to struggle to find momentum on worries about the weak yen.

"The market has been taking a breather recently after staging a recovery earlier this month," said Lee Jae-man, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities in Seoul. "The weaker yen has been priced in to some extent, and the pace of its fall is expected to slow down."

Disappointing earnings pushed European shares lower on Monday for a third straight session of losses while U.S. markets were closed for the President's Day holiday.

The euro was steady around $1.3348. The currency eased slightly on Monday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said in a speech at the European Parliament that "the exchange rate is not a policy target but is important for growth and price stability" and that its rise is "a risk."

The risk of an inconclusive outcome in Italy's election this weekend added to investor concerns.

Sterling hovered near a seven-month low against the dollar touched on Monday after a key policymaker made comments about the need for further weakness, while recent poor data has spurred worries of another British recession.

U.S. crude fell 0.4 percent to $95.47 a barrel. - Reuters


The Star Online: Sports

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Chong Wei resumes training with vigour after CNY break

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 06:11 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: After a one-week break for the Chinese New Year, world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei has resumed training at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara.

National singles coach Tey Seu Bock was as pleased as punch after observing Chong Wei's attitude on the first few days of training.

And Seu Bock confidently declared that Chong Wei would be the favourite for the All-England in Birmingham from March 5-10 and that the Malaysian would remain unbeatable in the local badminton scene.

He gave the thumbs-up on Chong Wei's serious attitude and discipline during training and he's hoping that others like Liew Daren, Chong Wei Feng and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, will learn to adopt the same outlook.

Out of the three, only Daren had beaten Chong Wei once – at the Indonesian Super League in Jakarta in one of the ties before the Chinese New Year.

"Normally, a player will take it easy on the first few days after a long break but not Chong Wei. He ravages the court and has an unwavering focus," said Seu Bock.

"Chong Wei is surely showing much greater maturity on court after his marriage. With this positive attitude going into the All-England, I would reckon that he will not make it easy on his opponents at all – despite hitting his 30s."

Chong Wei won the prestigious All-England singles title in 2010 and 2011 but last year lost to Lin Dan of China in the final.

For this year's edition, Lin Dan has skipped the tournament, leaving the job to spoil Chong Wei's party to his younger comrades – second seed Chen Long and Du Pengyu.

"I do not see any of the local players overtaking Chong Wei as long as he is around. Their standard is still quite far behind," said Seu Bock.

"In training, Daren, Wei Feng and Arif are still lagging. I wish they can push Chong Wei to the limit and not resign to the fact that they cannot get the better of him. They must try harder to give quality time during training."

Currently, all singles players – elite and back-up are training together – and all three coaches Rashid Sidek, Seu Bock and Hendrawan are working together.

The back-up players are Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Goh Soon Huat, Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub, Loh Wei

Sheng, Goh Giap Chin, Tan Kian Meng and Choong Yee Han.

"Eventually, we hope the others will start winning titles as well," added Seu Bock.

For the record, except for Chong Wei, all the other elite players will be competing in two tournaments in Europe. Daren, Wei Feng and Arif have also been entered for the Swiss Open from March 12-17 in Basel.

Time for Chooi and Ow to shine

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 06:12 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Former world junior boys doubles champions Chooi Kah Ming-Ow Yao Han have not won any badminton titles since coming under the charge of Tan Kim Her but all that could change soon.

The promising shuttlers are slated to compete in the Austrian International Challenge starting tomorrow at Vienna and the German Open Grand Prix Gold in Mulheim from Feb 26-March 3.

The reigning national runners-up have a better chance to nick the title in Vienna as they are the top seeds.

National doubles chief coach Kim Her, however, would be contented if they score at least one upset win each in the Austria and German Open respectively.

"In the Austrian Open, they will probably face tough opponents – Bodin Isara-Pakkawat Vilailak of Thailand – in the quarter-finals. This match will be a tricky one as Bodin is a very experienced player," said Kim Her.

The other Malaysian pair in the fray in Vienna are 2011 world junior champions Teo Eei Yi-Nelson Heg Wei Keat but they have a challenging path to final.

"Kah Ming-Yao Han have been showing marked progress and they did well in last year's National Championships. Hopefully, they can pull off a good win."

In the German Open, the duo have been drawn to play against fifth seeds Vladimir Ivanov-Ivan Sozonov of Russia.

"I am not looking beyond the first round. The Russians are strong opponents and to me, a win against them will be a bonus," said Kim Her.

Currently, Kah Ming-Yao Han are ranked 32nd in the world. Their fast progress as a pair is commendable – especially when Kah Ming was ruled out because of a knee injury for a year in 2011.

Five local pairs are ranked ahead of them: World No. 2 Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong (9th), Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem (19th), Gan Teik Chai-Ong Soon Hock (22nd) and Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif (23rd).

NSC back Nicol’s bid for squash’s inclusion in Olympics

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 02:45 PM PST

BUKIT JALIL: Squash queen Nicol David's tireless effort to push for the sport's inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games programme received the thumbs-up from the National Sports Council (NSC).

And the government body will continue to support and back Nicol to see her dream of getting squash into the Olympics fullfilled.

On Saturday, the six-time world champion Nicol managed to get the support of tennis star Roger Federer to intensify the sport's campaign to get into the Olympics.

The endorsement of Federer, winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, came in the wake of International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s decision to drop wrestling from the Games and this has given an opportunity for squash to get included.

NSC's elite programme director Ariffin Ghani said Nicol's latest move to get Federer's support was a tremendous boost for her campaign.

"Nicol is already an icon in squash but she is also very driven in pushing for squash to be an Olympic sport. We admire her committment," said Ariffin yesterday.

"We do hope her dream will come true. Even if she does not get to compete as player in the Games, we hope that she will be able to ensure that the future generation of squash players get to play in the Games.

"We are happy that there are few juniors coming through after Nicol and players like Low Wee Wern will surely benefit if the sport makes it.

"NSC have been very supportive of squash and we will continue to give our 100% backing."

For the record, besides squash, the other sports hoping to get into the Olympic Games programme are karate, wushu, baseball and softball.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Analysing the Constitution

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 07:41 AM PST

A resource for engagement with and critical discourse on our Constitution, this book should find its place in every Malaysian's library.

The Constitution Of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis
Author: Andrew Harding
Publisher: Hart Publishing, 266 pages

A CONSTITUTION document is but a written text, its practice and survival uncertain and fragile. The Proclamation of Independence of Malaya dated Aug 31, 1957, contained the stirring words to the effect that the new nation will advance as a Constitutional monarchy based on a Parliamentary democracy. With this statement the goal of nationhood was articulated, and that elusive yearning for the realisation of "the imagined community" (as Benedict Anderson's time worn phrase puts it) was launched.

This work is part of the Hart Publishing ( series on Constitutional systems of the world; Dr Andrew Harding is general coeditor of the series with Peter Leyland.

Harding's book is a compendious stock taking of the uncertain journey of this text that was to inform, demarcate and delineate the contesting polities of nascent nationalism. What is compelling about this work is that it weaves a narrative out of the dry bones of the text, a narrative that teases out the leitmotif of Malaysia as exemplary of a Developmental State.

The survival of the Constitution is by no means an assured historical fact. Whether the so-called Merdeka Constitution has been amended beyond its substance and identity is a major subtext of Harding's reflections in The Constitution Of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis. Harding is a pre-eminent jurist and has taught, mentored and written on the Malaysian Constitution for decades. Currently, he is professor of law and director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore.

He brings his learning to bear on eight major trajectories that confront Malaysian experience with the Federal Constitution. The learning is worn lightly, however, and concerned citizenry with no legal training will find a sure guide through the structure of the Constitutional labyrinth. The historical backdrop is sketched admirably and deftly interweaves each chapter.

Chapter two is an overture to the whole work. In this section, the narrative of a dominant Executive that extended its grasp into all levels of governance is set out clearly. The office of the Prime Minister being intolerant of inhibitions, whether judicial or juristic, based on the mantra of development is ably charted. The debate over what is the nature and scope of the Malaysian social contract is analysed together with its "ineluctable conundrums".

The analysis of the fate of the Parliamentary democracy and the tensions of pluralism within a tenuous democratic state is realistic here while also being hopeful.

There are harsh realities of power configurations and competing elites impatient at being circumscribed in their assertions of power interests. Harding draws us a canvas of such competitiveness, including the 1983 Rulers Crisis and the 1988 judicial impeachment of the Chief Justice and the five Supreme Court judges. Post the watershed event of May 13, 1969, Parliament could have been eclipsed completely but the so called Rukunegara amendments of early 1970s demonstrated its obituary was premature. However, the amendments since then still cast a long shadow over entrenched rights.

General elections are given a concise treatment in chapter three, which charts Malaysia's election processes with the useful and stimulating role of political parties in the Dewan Rakyat.

The analysis of the role of Constitutional Rulers is intriguingly placed under the rubric of territorial governance linked to State Constitutions. One of the paradoxes of modern Constitutionalism is that there is evidence that regimes with a Constitutional monarch can have sound democratic practices, and Malaysia's experience in this is illustrative.

There are challenging cases, though, as seen in the Perak Mentri Besar 2009 case of Nizar v Zambry in which the people's sovereignty as represented by the office of Chief Minister yielded to a judicial ruling in favour of the Ruler's residual power of dismissal. Harding's cautionary note on this case is salutary, and his caution that it "is not apparent in the Constitutional text or in the general understanding of conventions" gives us reason for critical pause.

Many such comments illuminate the cases discussed in this book, which will be a boon to lawyers and also political scientists.

Conventions and their role in construing the Constitution is a pervasive issue (for example the Tun Mustapha v Pairin case in 1985) that raises conflict and argumentation. Here, political morality intersects with Constitutional governance, a fertile locus for deeper investigations.

Chapter six, on human rights and the authoritarian state, hits the right notes, and the intersection of liberal democracy with an emphasis on a rights-based approach with weak institutional support in the face of emergency powers is desultorily described. A hopeful but realistic note is sounded in describing Suhakam's (Human Rights Commis­sion of Malaysia) work. A section on indigenous people's rights closes a fascinating chapter.

The concluding chapters on the judiciary and also the role of religion augment the work with analytical finesse. The religious tension over burials, custody of children, apostasy and the use of "Allah" in non-Muslim texts are where the deep waters of Constitutional interpretation will continue to reverberate.

As Malaysia faces the demands of dominant ethnic-religious elements with claims of modernity and a secular ethos, the fate of our nation will in part be determined by how much the Malaysian Constitution still matters and how it can arbitrate between and reconcile warring factions. If it is not to suffer the fate of the Weimar Constitution (of Germany, after WWI) or many African Constitutions, it will be in part because us readers have pondered the lessons contained within the pages of this admirable work.

This book should find its place in every person's library; while there are occasions when one can demur from the writer's opinion, The Constitution Of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis is, nevertheless, a resource for engagement and vital critical discourse.

The Constitution Of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis will be launched in Malaysia on Feb 23 at 11am at Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok (No. 3-4, 4th Floor, Jalan Bangsar Utama 3, Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur). Author Andrew Harding will be present to discuss his book.

Malaysian lawyer Philip Koh co-edited Sheridan & Groves' The Constitution Of Malaya (5th Edition) and has been involved in a number of landmark public and Constitutional cases.


Posted: 17 Feb 2013 12:57 AM PST

FOR the week ending Feb 10, 2012:


1. Syed Mokhtar Albukhary: A Biography by Premilla Mohanlall

2. Physics Of The Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny And Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100 by Michio Kaku

3. Chicken Soup For The Soul: The Power Of Positive by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Amy Newmark

4. Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

5. 1D: The One Direction Story: The Unauthorized Biography by Danny White

6. Lincoln: Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

7. Quiet by Susan Cain

8. Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

9. The Return Of A King: The Battle For Afghanistan by William Dalrymple

10. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


1. Safe Haven (movie tie-in) by Nicholas Sparks

2. Life Of Pi by Yann Martel

3. One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

4. Admission (movie tie-in) by Jean Hanff Korelitz

5. Les Misérables (movie tie-in) by Victor Hugo

6. The Hobbit (movie tie-in) by J.R.R. Tolkien

7. Lullaby (Watersong #2) by Amanda Hocking

8. The Host (movie tie-in) by Stephenie Meyer

9. Low Pressure by Sandra Brown

10. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur;

Healing with words

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 12:52 AM PST

Battling colds, a flu, an ache or two? There, go there to a bookstore, a book is waiting.

YOU do know, don't you, readers, that among the thousands of books on the bookshelves of any bookstore, magic awaits?

This magic, however, is uncanny, suspicious – and trivial in the eyes of those who have no love for books. We should tell these people yet to be spellbound by this magic, shouldn't we, that if they sift through the shelves mindfully, they will unravel some great reads and experience the pleasures and excitement that you and I have all these years?

We mustn't whisper, readers. The greatness of books should be made known to all in great voices, not just to those who eavesdrop. But how can I convince them to buy a book and experience for themselves the joy of reading? We can't, you say? Yes, I can if I can tell them how wonderfully obsessed I am of late with Donna Tartt's The Little Friend and how throughout the course of relishing it, I have for several times stared at it, completely awestruck by the magnetic power of fiction.

The Little Friend has provided me with comfort in my combat with a nasty viral infection, prevalent when summer and autumn indiscernibly swap their places here, Down Under. In the middle of the night when I wake with sweat gathered on my forehead despite the chill air, the sight of The Little Friend at my bedside table soothes, as it did last night when my temperature reached 39°C. And if I am sensible enough to ignore its temptation, the anticipation of reading it again when day breaks will lull me back to sleep.

The best way to chase away the worsening flu is to stay in bed and read, and I am doing just that. I want to know how Robin, the little nine-year-old boy, ends up hanging by the neck from a tree in his front garden and no one knows about it. The mystery needs to be unlocked, but Tartt loves to takes her time, filling us instead with suspenseful dribs and drabs that antagonise even as they entice. Her prose suits me, as it drowns me in suspense, allowing me to be excused from my household chores and to be a detective, albeit a rather unhealthy one.

Truly, I have gazed at the book several times, wishing the whole world knows what a wonderfully enticing story it contains within. The last time when I was sick it, too, it was Tartt's book that healed me – The Secret History. It is only at my most vulnerable moments can I muster the courage to read something of my own choice. At other times, I read books that need to be read for the benefit of other readers and to vindicate the boundless joy books bring.

From the onset, I can tell straight away that Al Gore's latest is a book every one of us must get our hands on. It is spot on in how it deals with the world's emergent changes as well as a host of other converging changes that are taking place in our lifetimes. "We have gone through revolutionary periods of change before, but none as powerful or as pregnant with the fraternal twin – peril and opportunity – as the ones that are beginning to unfold," muses Gore in the introduction (where I last stopped to combat the flu).

Thick but not at all indigestible and with every bit relevant, the book is in my study, luring me to it – in the same way Kishore Mahbubani is ensnaring me from one of the tables in my sitting room. A former Singaporean diplomat, Mahbubani thinks now is the best time for the "West And The Rest" (to quote from Niall Ferguson's book title). His long-term optimism is not without challenges, but he offers solutions. But books of this sort need to be gnawed at slowly, and at time like this when my throat is sore and my head aches, it is best to indulge in fiction, don't you think?

So, in bed now and resting again, I am back with my Little Friend. A hundred pages into it, not a sentence unimpressive, not a single description unmemorable, no character nondescript and not one turn of event expected. It is a wonderful book, more than wonderful enough to douse you in pleasure, my dear reader, if you have not already immersed yourself in reading it.

So let's read. Books sing a paean to the beauty of the human character even as they epitomise its ugliness. In a contrived world where truth is fabricated, it is best to indulge in fiction where truth is blatant and unyielding, and to rub shoulders with nonfiction where erstwhile truth is told in future terms.

There, go there to a bookstore, a book is waiting. n While battling his flu, Abby's son is reading Terry Deary's Horrible Histories series about the frightful First World War. It is healing him, he says, though the ghost soldiers give me the creeps.


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Sulu group members old, malnourished, Hisham tweets

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 06:57 AM PST

Published: Monday February 18, 2013 MYT 10:29:00 PM
Updated: Monday February 18, 2013 MYT 10:57:45 PM

PETALING JAYA: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Monday that most of the members of the Sulu group holed up in Kampung Tanduo are malnourished.

"Fact: Most of the intruders old or malnourished. Wear sarongs/slippers..a few.. hv arms," he tweeted at 9.04pm.

And that was the reason that police have shown much restraint, he tweeted.

He is now in Kota Kinabalu and is expected to go to Lahad Datu on Tuesday.

A group of armed intruders landed at Lahad Datu on Feb 12 and are now surrounded by Malaysian armed forces at Kampung Tanduo.

They insist on speaking to a prominent person.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has made it clear that he wants continued negotiations so that bloodshed is avoided.

Related Stories:
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Time running out for Filipino gunmen
Lahad Datu standoff: Foreign gunmen ask for meeting with prominent figure
PM: Talks ongoing to get group to leave peacefully
Gunmen want recognition, will only leave if demands are met
Manila urges gunmen in Lahad Datu to return home
PM: Cops negotiating with armed men in Lahad Datu to avoid bloodshed
IGP: Armed men in Lahad Datu followers of 'a descendent of Sultan of Sulu'
IGP: Armed foreigners who landed in Lahad Datu surrounded by security forces

Three men acquitted of murdering clerk in Kedah

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 05:52 AM PST

ALOR SETAR: The High Court here has acquitted three men over the murder of a clerk from Taman Teratai here two years ago.

Ong Keow Min, 34, Lai Kim Seng, 36, and Lim Inn Hwa, 25, all from here, were acquitted without their defence being called at the end of the prosecution case on Monday.

Judicial Commissioner Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab found that the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against the accused. Ong, Lai and Lim were charged with murdering Low Choon Aik, 26, at a coffee shop in Lorong Ros, Jalan Kota Tanah here at about 9pm on May 11, 2011.

They were charged with committing the offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the mandatory death penalty.

Mohd Zaki said the court found that there was no evidence to show that the three men were involved in the act.

One of the prosecution witnesses who testified that he saw the incident, had failed to identify the perpetrators and the victim. "There is no statement to link the men to the act," he said.

Defence counsels R.S.N. Rayer and Jamil Mohamed Shafie represented Ong, while Lai was represented by counsel Ai Cha Ran and Lim by Burhanudeen Abdul Wahid.

DPP Norshuhada Mohd Yatim prosecuted.

It was earlier reported that Low's body was found floating in a river with his feet bound and a rope around his neck at about 11am on May 14, 2011.

Flash floods hit Puchong

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 05:11 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Two southbound sections of the LDP (Damansara-Puchong Highway) were hit by flash floods for about 30 minutes on Monday due to heavy rains and backflow from the Klang River.

According to operating concessionaire Litrak's head of communications Shah Rizal Bin Mohamed Fawzi, Km 21.36 and 23.50 on the southbound-side of the LDP was flooded around 5.22pm.

The flash flood, which was caused by backflow from monsoon drains feeding into the Klang river, reached 0.8m in height at parts of Km 21.36 and caused a number of cars to stall.

In addition, the basement floors of IOI Mall Puchong opposite the affected highway section were flooded as well.

The interior of the mall was hit as well, causing several businesses at the entrance to close down temporarily while cleaning operations were effected.

Shah Rizal explained that the two affected sections were flood-prone areas and in response to the floods, Litrak had termporarily opened the U-turn at Km 19.9 to divert traffic to the Kesas highway.

"As soon as the downpour began, we deployed our Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) to monitor the affected areas and help out with any emergency events," said Shah Rizal.

He added that the Video Messaging System (VMS) at the Kelana Jaya LRT station had also set to broadcast the flash floods alert to southbound road users.


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'Zero Dark Thirty', 'Argo' win top Writers Guild Awards

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 10:26 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. film and television writers gave their top two movie awards on Sunday to Zero Dark Thirty and Argo in the final Hollywood guild awards show before next week's Oscars.

Writer Mark Boal won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicles the intense U.S. manhunt and daring raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Asked backstage what message he hoped to send to audiences with the film, Boal said: "I think (director Kathryn Bigelow) said it best when she said she wanted to shine a light on a dark decade. I don't know that I could put it any better than that."

Argo, about the Hollywood-assisted rescue of American hostages in Iran during the 1979 revolution, earned writer Chris Terrio WGA's trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay.

"I've never actually won a call-your-name award before," an overwhelmed Terrio said backstage at the awards.

The WGA awards gave the winning films a last boost in the race for the Oscars, the world's top film honors, because many guild members also belong to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that hands out the Oscars on 24 February.

The guild gave a special nod to Lincoln, honouring screen writer Tony Kushner with a special award recognizing work that embodies the spirit of civil rights and liberties. Lincoln, a drama about President Abraham Lincoln's fight to abolish slavery, was up against Argo for WGA's Best Adapted Screenplay.

Argo and Lincoln are considered front-runners for this year's Best Picture Oscar, although Argo recently has taken a slight edge after also nabbing the top prize from both the director and producer guilds, which each have strong records of predicting Oscar winners.

Searching For Sugar Man writer-director Malik Bendjelloul nabbed the WGA award for documentary screenwriting.

Breaking Bad won for Best TV Drama Series and the writers of Louie claimed the prize for TV Comedy Series. Girls was named for Best New TV Series.

Nic Cage ready to make DreamWorks romp into franchise

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 08:12 PM PST

BERLIN (AFP) - The makers of the new DreamWorks 3-D animated movie The Croods, including stars Nicolas Cage and Emma Stone, said Friday they're ready to turn it into the studio's next sequels juggernaut.

Following monster-hit series like Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks made The Croods, a prehistoric romp directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders that had its world premiere at the 63rd Berlinale.

The movie, which got a warm reception at the festival, features the overprotective caveman dad Grug (voiced by Cage) trying to shield his family from the dangers of an unknown world beyond their grotto hideaway.

But his teenager daughter Eep (Stone) has a rebellious streak that gets stoked by a lone wolf (Ryan Reynolds) who introduces her to fire and lures her to "follow the light" and leave her sheltered life behind.

Asked whether The Croods could be the start of another successful franchise, Cage said: "Yes, I would like to see another adventure with The Croods."

Sanders said he thought the characters -- including a stunning array of now-extinct beasts -- had "universal" appeal. "I can't even tell you how many sequences we didn't really ever end up putting in the film so if we did have to make another one, we could pull it together with lots of spare parts right now, with lots of good stuff left over," Sanders said.

Stone, best known for The Amazing Spider-Man and Crazy, Stupid, Love, said playing Eep was "one of the most fun things I've ever gotten to do".

"The Croods has elements of all of my favorite movies which is that it's not just funny and it's not just heartbreaking, it takes you on a journey throughout the entire film," she said. "It's different than any other animated movie I've ever seen in the sense that it feels so true to life the entire time even though we are in the Stone Age."

Cage said he considered animation work good training and called the sweet-natured family tale "a very heartwarming experience".

"Fifty percent of performance is voice and in between some of the other movies that I make it was a great opportunity for me to stay in shape, stay in tune. I consider all acting to be musical on some level," the actor, who won an Oscar for the 1995 alcoholism drama Leaving Las Vegas, said.

"Acting is voice and imagination. Even though Emma and I weren't really in the room together (when doing the voiceovers) I could listen to what she did and I could imagine her being there and I could riff off of that... it would be like jazz.

"It's a marvellous exercise to stay in shape as an actor to be able to do animated features," he said.

With its trademark brand of kids' movies that have enough winks and nudges for adults to join in on the fun, DreamWorks animated features have pulled in more than US$10 billion in global ticket sales, according to the US trade press.

Could 9-year-old win youngest best actress Oscar?

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 07:11 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: She landed the part by lying about her age: Quvenzhane Wallis was five, and the filmmakers were only auditioning girls at least six years old.

But they believed her fib and tried her out - and were blown away, giving her the starring role in the low-budget "Beasts of the Southern Wild" over 4,000 other hopefuls.

And now she could become the youngest ever winner of the best actress Oscar, at the 85th Academy Awards, the climax of Hollywood's annual awards season, next weekend.

"It was very clear don't meet six-year-olds who have that quality," said director Benh Zeitlin, recalling her audition. "She just had this natural charisma and focus and fierceness and wiseness and morality.

"Coming out of a body that small and a mind that young, it's almost alien and alien in a way that goes kind of straight at your heart .. It's her perspective that unlocks the truth in the film."

That charisma is obvious when you see Wallis being interviewed to promote the movie over recent months, even before it was elevated to the stratosphere by being nominated for four Oscars in January, including best picture.

"I was in my bedroom half asleep," Wallis told Jay Leno, about waking last month to learn she was nominated alongside Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Watts and Emmanuelle Riva, the oldest ever best actress nominee, at 85.

"So nothing reacted on the outside, but I was like flipping cartwheels and stuff on the inside," she told the talk show host, whom she admonished - cutely - for asking her a question more appropriate for the director.

In the movie Wallis plays Hushpuppy, living in the Louisiana bayou with her hot-tempered and ailing father Wink, in a community threatened by floods driven by melting ice-caps.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" won the prestigious Camera d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival in France, and the Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film at Sundance.

The movie's setting was close to Wallis' home: the actress - her first name is pronounced Qua-ven-zhah-nay - was born in Houma, Louisiana, on August 28, 2003. The "zhane" part of her name means fairy in Swahili.

"Beasts" was her first acting job, and she only got it after ignoring the filmmaker's audition rules - perhaps, appropriately, like the character she was asked to play.

"It was for a six-to-nine-year-old. So my Mom said I couldn't go 'cause I was only five. But we just went and we act like we're having nothin' to do; we had done nothin' wrong," she said.

"The character who is Hushpuppy, she does what is right and she is fearless and that's what I did at the audition."

Wallis is the youngest best actress Oscar nominee by four years: the next is Keisha Castle-Hughes, who was 13 when nominated for "Whale Rider" in 2003. The third, Lawrence, nominated again this year, was first tapped in 2010 at age 20 for "Winter's Bone."

The youngest ever best actress Oscar winner is Marlee Matlin, who took the prize in 1986 for "Children of a Lesser God" at the positively mature age of 21 years and 218 days.

The youngest person to ever win an Oscar in any competitive category is Tatum O'Neal, who was just 10 when she took home the best supporting actress prize in 1973.

Wallis is already on her third film - "Twelve Years a Slave," with Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender, due out in September. She has also made "Boneshaker," a short about an African family lost in America.

Whether she wins an Oscar on Sunday or not - the favorites are Chastain and Lawrence, admittedly - she is clearly a force to be reckoned with, and an actress to watch out for in years to come. - AFP


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