Selasa, 19 Februari 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Harry (still hasn’t) met Mindy

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 03:17 AM PST

There's a lot to love about The Mindy Project – the premise is not new, but the approach is fresh.

I'M not quite sure what it is I love the most about The Mindy Project, a new sitcom created by and starring Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor from The Office).

The show revolves around Dr Mindy Lahiri (Kaling), a 31-year-old OBGYN who is hopelessly addicted to romance, living on a steady diet of Sandra Bullock and Meg Ryan-type romantic comedies.

Lahiri isn't like many high-profile career women you find on TV – you know, the ambitious, formidable types who have no time for silly romantic entanglements. Women like Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) or Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in Veep. No, Lahiri is ALL ABOUT romantic entanglements. She's 31 and she wants her When Harry Met Sally moment, dammit ... and she's not afraid to go looking for it.

In the pilot episode, we see Lahiri giving a drunken (and embarrassing) toast at her ex-boyfriend's wedding (the jerk dumped her for a younger blonde woman!) before riding off on a bicycle and ending up at the bottom of a swimming pool where she has an existential conversation ... with a sunken Barbie doll.

Barbie tells her to get it together: "If you don't pull it together, no one will ever love you."

Crazy? Over the top? Bizarre? Funny? Yes, yes, yes and yes. The show and its leading lady are all those things and more. (Incidentally, if you were not impressed by the pilot, keep watching because the show gets way better, fast. As for Lahiri's fast-talking banter, well, that gets to be charming too. It does.)

Let's be brutally honest: Kaling isn't your typical Hollywood leading lady – first of all, she's Indian. Also, she's a little heavier than your typical Hollywood star.

Sure, there's been an Indian invasion of sorts on TV of late: there's Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) on The Big Bang Theory, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) on The Good Wife, Padma Lahari (Dilshad Vadsaria) on Revenge (Season 2), Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty) on Royal Pains, Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) on Heroes and Dev Sundaram (Raza Jaffrey) on Smash just to name (more than) a few.

These characters were, in most cases, stereotyped: the Indian accent, the arranged marriage, the curry references, the Bollywood sequences. There's none of that with Kaling and that's just wonderful. It's fabulous, really. She's just a character.

And then there is the issue with size. Sure, Melissa McCarthy is a large woman and she's achieved some level of success on TV (Mike and Molly) and on the big screen (Bridesmaids) but hey, aren't there endless references to her size on both these shows? As there was with Roseanne.

With Lahiri, weight isn't even an issue. She's a confident woman – a doctor – who isn't bashful about wearing bandage dresses and short, figure-skimming skirts. Bravo!

Sure, her obnoxious colleague Dr Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) tells her she could lose a few pounds, but she's not really bothered. There isn't a breakdown moment or anything. She's confident and unapologetic about her narcissistic and shallow wants in life.

And that's where a lot of the comedy comes from: Lahiri's unrealistic expectations of herself that just don't pan out in reality. She isn't likely to find a character like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman: someone who will drive up to her apartment in a white limousine with flowers and sweep her away. It's just not going to happen. Only, she doesn't realise it ... yet.

Having overcome the barriers of race and size, Kaling's character is free to be herself: a highly capable doctor with a slightly catastrophic personal life.

The show's strength isn't just Lahiri, however. Even though the pilot largely revolves around its protagonist, subsequent episodes flesh out the roles of the supporting characters, making The Mindy Project quite a nice workplace comedy with a captivating ensemble cast.

There is Danny, the macho, serious guy who's just been through a messy divorce (there are some sparks between him and Lahiri, though the two are often poking fun at each other's flaws); Dr Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks), a suave, handsome Brit with whom Lahiri had a brief romp; and Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz), a male nurse who went to prison for grand theft auto but has now reformed.

The characters aside, what makes this show pop is the writing. The premise isn't completely original (the single working woman looking for love, that love-hate tension with a co-worker, etc) but it appears fresh because of the writing (one-liners that not only zing but are genuinely funny).

Yeah, I think I am quite sure about what I love about The Mindy Project: everything!

The Mindy Project airs on Diva Universal (Astro Ch 702) every Thursday at 8.55pm


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Tunisian PM quits after failing to form new government

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 08:23 PM PST

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned on Tuesday after failing to replace a government pulled apart by acrimony between his Islamist allies and their secular opponents.

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali speaks as he announces his resignation during a news conference in Tunis February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali speaks as he announces his resignation during a news conference in Tunis February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Jebali had threatened to quit if his plan for a non-partisan cabinet of technocrats to lead the north African country into early elections foundered.

In the end it was his own party, Ennahda, that rejected the proposal, prolonging the political stand-off that has cast a shadow over Tunisia's fledgling democracy and deepened an economic crisis.

"I vowed that if my initiative did not succeed, I would resign and ... I have already done so," Jebali told a news conference after meeting with President Moncef Marzouki.

Tunisia's deepest political crisis since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali began when leading secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his home in Tunis on February 6.

No one claimed responsibility for the killing, but it deepened the misgivings of secularists who believe Jebali's government has failed to deal firmly enough with religious extremists threatening the country's stability.

Protesters poured onto the streets in the following days and Marzouki's secularist party threatened to quit the coalition government.

Jebali said he would try to form a cabinet of apolitical technocrats to restore calm and take Tunisia to elections, but did not consult his Ennahda allies or their secular coalition partners before making the proposal.

Several secular politicians backed the plan but Ennahda, winner of most parliamentary seats in elections that followed Ben Ali's overthrow, opposed the idea, fearing it would be sidelined from power.

Jebali bet his own job on the outcome, saying he would quit if he was rebuffed, and lost.

He quits 15 months into the job, although political experts said Marzouki was likely to re-appoint him as caretaker premier before a new leader is appointed.

Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi has said he wants to see Jebali head a new coalition. President Marzouki was due to meet Ghannouchi on Wednesday to ask him to name a prime minister.

But Jebali, announcing his resignation late on Tuesday, said he would not lead another government without assurances on the timing of fresh elections and a new constitution.

No government would be viable without Ennahda's blessing given its strength in parliament.

Ghannouchi has said it is essential that Islamists and secular parties share power now and in the future, and that his party was willing to compromise over control of important ministries such as foreign affairs, justice and interior.

"Ennahda is in negotiations with political parties to form a national coalition government", said Fethi Ayadi, a senior Ennahda official.

Iyed Dahmani, a leader of the secular Republican Party, said some kind of agreement was vital.

"We are in real trouble, politically and economically," he said.

The crisis has disrupted efforts to revitalise an economy hit hard by the disorder that followed the overthrow of veteran strongman Ben Ali.

Tunisia has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.78 billion loan and politicians said Jebali's inability to re-establish a functioning government had slowed efforts to restore normality.

Credit rating service Standard and Poor's said on Tuesday it had lowered its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating on Tunisia, citing "a risk that the political situation could deteriorate further amid a worsening fiscal, external and economic outlook".

Related Stories:
IMF says still in touch with Tunisia on loan

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

At least 14 hurt in gas explosion, fire in Kansas City, Missouri

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 07:52 PM PST

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A fire triggered by a natural gas explosion that appeared to originate underground engulfed a restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday, injuring more than a dozen people, authorities and witnesses said.

A still image taken from a KHSB-TV video footage shows fire engines and emergency officials near the scene of the fire at Kansas City, Missouri February 19, 2013. REUTERS/KHSB-TV

A still image taken from a KHSB-TV video footage shows fire engines and emergency officials near the scene of the fire at Kansas City, Missouri February 19, 2013. REUTERS/KHSB-TV

The gas explosion shook the Country Club Plaza, an upscale shopping area about 30 blocks south of downtown Kansas City, around dinner time, just after 6 p.m. CST (0000 GMT), Kansas City Fire Department spokesman James Garrett told CNN.

Mayor Sly James and Fire Chief Paul Berardi said 14 people were injured. Of those, nine were taken to area hospitals, including two with life-threatening injuries. No one was known to have been killed, the mayor said.

"I am just keeping my fingers crossed that this turns out to be what it looks like on first blush - that this is a relatively low number of injuries compared to what it could be," he told reporters.

"Hopefully, no fatalities will come out of it, but we don't know that at this point," he added.

The precise cause of the explosion was not immediately known, officials said. However, an office building was under construction across the street from the fire scene.

One witness, Bryce McElroy, who lives about two blocks away, said he heard a loud boom and headed toward the noise, arriving on the scene to see flames leaping from a manhole cover and advancing on the restaurant, a popular steakhouse and fine dining venue called JJ's.

Jeff Hansen, who lives about four blocks away, said he went to the scene to offer assistance after hearing the blast and saw six to eight people visibly injured who were leaving the area.

"Obviously there were multiple injuries," he said. "The question is if there is anybody still in there."

Firefighters swarmed into the area to battle flames consuming the restaurant as police officers ordered bystanders to move two blocks back from the fire as a precaution. The smell of gas fumes permeated the air around the scene.

The University of Kansas Hospital received six patients from the blast and fire, two of whom drove themselves from the scene and were treated and released, hospital spokesman Bob Hallinan told Reuters.

Of the four patients transported to the hospital, one was listed in critical condition and two in serious condition, he said. The fourth was being transferred from another hospital.

Local television station KCTV-5 reported at least three people were listed in critical condition at nearby St. Luke's Medical Center, suffering from burns and lacerations. Two more people were listed in good condition at Research Medical Center, spokeswoman Denise Charpentier said.

Two JJ's employees who were away from the restaurant at the time of the blast said they were told later by fellow workers who were present that staff members were alerted to the smell of gas shortly before the blast and had begun to evacuate the building.

One of those workers who relayed that account, Talley Saey, said she was told that several employees were among those taken to the hospital.

(Additional reporting by David Bailey; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Eric Beech and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Cuba's Raul Castro meets with U.S. congressional delegation

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 07:28 PM PST

HAVANA (Reuters) - A seven-member U.S. congressional delegation met on Tuesday with Cuban President Raul Castro, official media reported, to improve relations that have been strained since U.S. government contractor Alan Gross was imprisoned there in 2009.

Cuba's President Raul Castro arrives to attend the summit of the Community of Latin American, Caribbean States and European Union (CELAC-UE), at the airport of Santiago January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Claudio Reyes

Cuba's President Raul Castro arrives to attend the summit of the Community of Latin American, Caribbean States and European Union (CELAC-UE), at the airport of Santiago January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Claudio Reyes

Members of the group, which arrived on Monday, also met with Gross, said a delegation member who asked not to be identified.

A statement issued by the Cuban government on Tuesday said Castro and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met first with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont to discuss "issues of interest for both countries," then held talks with other lawmakers.

Leahy met with Castro, Rodriguez and Gross last year.

The senator, who spoke with reporters on Monday, said Gross's fate and reforms under way in Cuba would top the group's agenda.

The Cuban statement, released Tuesday with video of the meeting, said the U.S. delegation also held meetings with parliament president Ricardo Alarcon and Rodriguez.

Leahy was expected to issue a statement on Wednesday.

Other members of the delegation included Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Gross' district in Maryland.

Gross, 63, was arrested in Havana in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing Internet networks under a secretive U.S. program the Cuban government considers subversive.

The case halted a brief detente in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations.

Cuba has linked Gross' fate to that of five agents imprisoned in the late 1990s for infiltrating Miami exile organizations and U.S. military bases.

The agents, known as the Cuban Five, were sentenced to long terms, ranging from 15 years to life, and are considered heroes in Cuba.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, met with Rodriguez in New York in 2010 to discuss the Gross case, according to Foreign Affairs magazine. Former President Jimmy Carter also met with Raul Castro in Havana in 2011.

The Obama administration has said relations will not improve while Gross remains in custody. Under the 1996 'Helms-Burton' law, U.S. sanctions cannot be lifted until Cuba's one-party Communist political system is changed, a demand rejected by the Cuban government.

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Telcos decline, broader market cautious

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 07:21 PM PST

Published: Wednesday February 20, 2013 MYT 11:21:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Telcos fell in late morning trade on Wednesday, in line with the overall cautious market sentiment, with Telekom Malaysia and among the bigger decliners.

At 11.06am, the FBM KLCI was down 4.22 points to 1,610.85. Turnover was 490.32 million shares valued at RM500mil. There were 169 gainers, 273 losers and 236 counters unchanged.

TM fell to a low of RM5.14, down eight sen while DiGi gave up seven sen to RM4.63.

Maxis shed three sen to RM6.33, off the low of RM6.31. Axiata was down two sen to RM6.21, but off the early low of RM6.19.

The telcos were firm favourites among foreign funds in recent months as they sought high yield dividend stocks but concerns about the general elections saw some funds taking profit.

TM's 52-week high was RM6.40 and its low was RM4.57 while for DiGi it was RM5.48 and RM3.76. As for Maxis, the high was RM7.10 and low RM5.77 and for Axiata, it was RM6.87 and RM4.98.

As for Axiata, RHB Research Institute said it was maintaining its Neutral call on with an unchanged sum-of-parts fair value of RM6.50.

It remained concerned over Axiata's Indonesia operations via XL, whose aggressive capital expenditure ambitions which had yet to produce the desired returns from data.

"Hence, we believe earnings growth for XL remains challenging and therefore, growth for Axiata will likely moderate in 2013," it said on Wednesday.


United sees Boeing 787 grounded through March 30

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 06:33 PM PST

WASHINGTON: United Airlines said Tuesday it expected to keep its Boeing 787s out of service through March 30, a fresh sign of how long the aircraft could remain grounded worldwide to fix a battery problem.

United, the only US airline that operates Boeing's cutting-edge aircraft, said it was scheduling alternate planes through March 30 while its seven 787 Dreamliners remained grounded.

"We are further adjusting our published flight schedules to show alternate aircraft in place of our six Boeing 787s through March 30," Christen David, a spokeswoman for United, said in an email.

"We will make further adjustments in the future as we gain more visibility on the question of when service will be restored," she said.

All 50 787s in service around the world have been banned from flight since mid-January after battery smoke forced an emergency landing of one and a battery fire occurred on another.

US and foreign investigators have reported progress in the probe of the lithium-ion batteries but have yet to pinpoint the cause of the problems.

Boeing reportedly is looking for a temporary fix for the batteries, according to the Seattle Times, a daily that covers a region including a major Boeing plant.

The aerospace giant may encase the battery cells in a titanium or steel box fitted with a high-pressure vent to contain any fire that erupts in flight, the newspaper reported Monday, citing people familiar with the plan.

Even if the FAA agrees to the interim solution, it would take at least three months to design, test, certify and retrofit the planes, a source told the newspaper.

The US Federal Aviation Authority refused to comment on the report, while Boeing said the report was speculative and contained unspecified errors.

The Dreamliner, a long-haul fuel-efficient airliner built largely with composite materials, is key to Boeing's business strategy as it battles against European rival Airbus.

On January 16, the 50 Dreamliners in service around the world were grounded after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines plane parked in Boston, and battery smoke on an All Nippon Airways flight forced an emergency landing.

On Tuesday, a Japanese safety board official said that investigators found a battery on the ANA flight that initially was believed to be intact had also been damaged.

Detailed examination of the auxiliary power unit battery revealed that two of its eight cells were misshapen.

Boeing has suspended deliveries of the aircraft but continues to build them at a rate of five per month.

Airbus said last week it will switch from lithium-ion batteries to cadmium batteries for its new A350 long-range aircraft, due to enter service in the second half of 2014. - AFP


BHP Billiton CEO Kloppers retires as profits plunge

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 06:29 PM PST

SYDNEY: Marius Kloppers is stepping down as BHP Billiton's chief executive officer on May 10, the world's biggest miner said in a surprise announcement Wednesday, as half-year profits plunged by 58 percent.

He will be replaced by Andrew Mackenzie, the 56-year-old current chief executive of BHP's non-ferrous business at the global mining giant.

First-half profits dropped to $4.2 billion on lower and volatile commodity prices. Underlying earnings - which exclude one-off writedowns - dropped 43 percent to $5.7 billion in line with analysts' expectations.

The result for the six months to December 31 saw revenues fall 14 percent to $32 billion, BHP said in a statement, declaring an interim dividend of 57 cents a share, up four percent from a year ago.

BHP described the results as "solid" in a challenging half-year for the global resources industry.

"Substantially lower commodity prices and resilient producer currencies, such as the Australian dollar and the Chilean peso, weighed on margins and profitability," it said.

"In the short term, we expect a general improvement in the global economy to support demand and prices for a number of commodities.

However, the addition of low cost supply in many markets is expected to dampen the pricing upside."

BHP Billiton reported net operating cash flows of $6.4 billion and said it remained "on track to deliver strong growth at a lower unit cost".

But it was the departure of South African Kloppers, who been running the miner since October 2007, steering it through the global financial crisis, that drew the most attention.

Last month he warned that China's steel surge had peaked and iron ore and steel growth was likely to decline, meaning the record commodity prices seen over the past decade would not be sustained.

Chairman Jac Nasser paid tribute to Kloppers who "drove new investments into next generation opportunities including US onshore gas and liquids and created one of the most valuable companies in the world.

"He leaves BHP Billiton a safer and stronger company," Nasser said.

BHP Billiton had previously said it was always thinking about succession planning but gave no timeframe amid market expectation the process would take a year or two.

Mackenzie, has more than 30 years' experience in oil and gas, petrochemicals and minerals and joined BHP Billiton in November 2008, the company said in a statement.

"The board has decided that Andrew is the right person to lead BHP Billiton in a changing global environment," Nasser said.

Mackenzie said: "It is a privilege to be asked to lead one of Australia's great companies and the world's leading diversified natural resources company.

The outgoing Kloppers, who will leave the company on October 1, said: "Deciding the right time to retire was never going to be easy," but that it was the right time to "pass the leadership baton".

Mackenzie will be based at the company's headquarters in Melbourne, Australia. - AFP



The Star Online: Sports

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Defending champ Melzer ousted in first round

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 06:35 PM PST

MEMPHIS, Tennessee: Defending champion Jurgen Melzer crashed out of the ATP and WTA US National Indoor Championships on Tuesday, losing his opening-round match in straight sets.

The left-handed Austrian lost to Dutchman Igor Sijsling 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) at The Racquet Club of Memphis.

Sijsling advanced to a second-round match against Croatian top seed Marin Cilic.

Melzer, who was playing with a broken toe, defeated Milos Raonic in last year's final, snapping the Canadian's win streak at nine straight matches.

American veteran James Blake defeated German Florian Mayer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Blake, who got into this year's tournament as a wild card, was runner-up in this event 11 years ago.

In other men's matches, US lucky loser Michael Russell beat Russian qualifier Alex Bogomolov 6-2, 6-4.

On the women's side, Slovakian seventh seed Magdalena Rybarkova reached the third round by ousting American Lauren Davis 7-6 (7/2), 6-2.

France's Claire Feuerstein upset Czech fifth seed Lucie Hradecka 6-3, 6-4 while German third seed Sabine Lisicki reached the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over American Madison Keys. - AFP

China’s youngsters out to ruin our double joy bid at the All-England

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 03:47 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: China will be banking on their youngsters to break the resolves of top players – Lee Chong Wei and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong – to prevent them from making it a double joy for Malaysia at the All-England badminton tournament in Birming­ham from March 5-10.

In the draw released by Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday, top seed Chong Wei will take on Wong Wing Ki of Hong Kong in the first round but he has three youngsters from China – Wang Zhengming, Du Pengyu and Gao Huan – in his half.

Although two-time All-England champion Chong Wei is the favourite but the young upstarts are capable of wearing him down and this could test the world No. 1 shuttler's stamina.

In the lower half of the draw are second seed Chen Long and former world champion Chen Jin of China, Indonesia's rejuvenated Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Japan's Kenichi Tago.

Malaysia also have two other players in the lower half but Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng have challenging openers as they will take on Chen Jin and Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark respectively.

National singles chief coach Rashid Sidek said he could foresee China's game plan based on the draw.

"If Chong Wei beats Wing Ki, he will probably take on Wang Zhengming in the second round. In the Korean Open last month, Zhengming gave Chong Wei a run for his money. I am sure he will be out to made Chong Wei stay on court as long as possible," said Rashid.

"Then there could be Pengyu or Gao Han in the semi-finals.

"Pengyu is the more dangerous one as he had beaten Chong Wei once when the Malaysian was physically and mentally drained at the Super Series Masters Finals in China in December. He will be out to push Chong Wei to the limit again.

"If Chong Wei makes it to the final after all the tough matches, it will surely be very taxing for him. Chen Long is the favourite to enter the final from the lower half.

"Despite all this, I am still confident Chong Wei's campaign will go down well in this edition."

On the chances of Daren and Wei Feng, Rashid said: "It is tough from the start but this is expected. I hope Daren and Wei Feng will be able to rise above expectations and get the better of their higher ranked opponents."

China's young pair Hong Wei-Shen Ye stand in the way of Kien Keat-Boon Heong moving beyond the quarter-finals.

The Chinese youngsters have beaten the Malaysians twice in three meetings and their last victory over the Malaysians was at last year's All-England second round.

But national doubles chief coach Tan Kim Her is confident that 2007 All-England champions Kien Keat-Boon Heong would get past the quarter-finals based on their commitment in training.

"To me, I consider the draw to be fair for Koo and Tan. They will play England's Chris Adcock-Andrew Ellis in the opening round and on current form, should get the better of the Chinese pair if they cross path," said Kim Her.

And there is a possibility for Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem making it an all-Malaysian semi-final with Kien Keat-Boon Heong if they can overcome higher ranked pairs – Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata and Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa of Japan, Kim Ki-jung-Kim sa-rang of South Korea and Indonesia's Markis Kido-Alven Yulianto.

In the top half of the draw, two Malaysian pairs – Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong and Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari – will have for company top seeds Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark, South Koreans Lee Yong-dae-Ko Sung-hyun, China's Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng and Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.

"It is obvious that Hoon and Tan are in the tougher half of the draw. They may play Yong-dae-Sung-hyun in the second round but I hope they will give a good fight against the fancied pair," said Kim Her.

In the mixed doubles, Malaysia's hope rests on world No. 3 Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying but they have been drawn in a tough half as they have China's two great pairs – top seeds Xu Chen-Ma Jin and fifth seeds Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei for company.

They may meet Zhang-Zhao in the quarter-finals.

For the record, Malaysia last tasted double joy in the 1966 All-England through Tan Aik Huang (singles) and Ng Boon Bee-Tan Yee Khan (doubles).

Nadzmi or Justian must back out for the sake of solidarity

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 02:55 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Having two candidates – Nadzmi Mohd Salleh and Justian Suhandinata – from the Asian region to stand for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) president's post will split the vote and cause discord.

With that in mind, Badminton Asia Confederation (BAC) secretary general Surasak Songvarakulpan, has urged one candidate to back out in a show of Asian solidarity.

The closing date for nomination is tomorrow and currently it is a three-cornered fight for the president's post. Besides Nadzmi and Justian, Denmark's Poul-Erik Hoyer Larsen, the president of Badminton Europe, is also in the fray.

Nadzmi is the president of Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and Justian is the head of the All-Indonesia Badminton Association.

Surasak said that it was important for the Asian countries to unite.

"To me, unity is most important. The European countries will not have an advantage if the Asian countries stand together," said Surasak in a telephone interview from Bangkok yesterday.

"I hope that we can strike some kind of compromise between the two candidates from the Asian region.

"Two years ago, BAC had their election and the votes were split and I do not want a similar incident to take place."

Surasak said that he had talked to Nadzmi and Justian.

"I came over to Kuala Lumpur last month and met up with Nadzmi.

"I explained to him the situation and the importance of Asians standing as one. I have also spoken to Justian. Both of them want the best but there was no conclusion," he said.

"For now, I just hope that we can come out with a compromise and a win-win situation for both candidates.

"I, however, would wait until the nomination closes. It will give us a clear picture of who are standing and then, we will make our next move.

The BWF's election will be held during the Sudirman Cup at Putra Stadium, Kuala Lumpur in May.


The Star Online: Nation

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Cops: Revenge behind the poisoning of sun bear and stallion

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 06:38 AM PST

MALACCA: Police believe that revenge is behind the deaths of a female Malayan Sun Bear and an Arabian stallion at the Malacca Zoo and Night Safari here.

"For now, I can only say that it was an act of revenge.

"It is premature to divulge the details as the probe is still ongoing," said state deputy CID chief Supt P.R. Gunarajan.

The two animals were found dead by poison by zoo keepers on Sunday.

Post-mortems showed the bear had eaten a poisoned banana while the horse had the poison sprinkled on the grass it subsequently ate.

The chimpanzees and the orang utans, however, avoided the poisoned bananas, oranges and sugar cane.

The 17-year-old stallion, named Basket, was not part of the zoo exhibits but was housed there by its owner.

Supt Gunarajan said tests revealed that the poison powder was a mix of pesticide and a toxin.

Related Stories:
Cops on the trail of animal killers
Horse, sun bear found dead in Malacca Zoo; poison suspected (Update)

IOI Mall flash floods due to underground drain malfunction

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 06:09 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: A malfunction at one of the three underground water channels along the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) has been identified as the cause of the flash floods around IOI Mall, Puchong near here on Monday

Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) president Datuk Asmawi Kasbi said the failure of one of the channels to function properly caused it to be unable to accommodate the rising quantity of water following a heavy downpour at 12.45pm on Monday.

"According to a Meteorological Department report, 68 millimeters of rain was recorded, resulting in a rapid rise in water level when the water channel malfunctioned," he told reporters here on Tuesday.

He also said another contributing factor was the low-lying position of IOI Mall compared to Bandar Puteri Puchong located on the opposite side.

Asmawi said MPSJ had requested Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd (MRCB), the contractor of the Light Rail Transit track in the area, to enlarge the existing drain to prevent the incident from recurring.

"The existing drain will be completed in one and a half months time," he said.

Meanwhile, LITRAK communications manager, Shah Rizal Mohamed Fawzi when contacted by Bernama said LITRAK, Prasarana Negara Berhad (Prasarana) and LDP would conduct a detailed study on the cause of the incident.

"We will obtain the findings of the study in two weeks," he said.

In the incident at about 6pm, about 140 vehicles were reported trapped in a car park near IOI Mall and traffic was brought to a standstill at several main roads in the area following the flash floods. - Bernama

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Selangor concurs state election be held with parliamentary election

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 03:43 AM PST

SHAH ALAM: The Selangor government agrees that the state election be held together with parliamentary election and leaves it to the Election Commission to fix the date.

Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said there was consensus among all state assembly members from the Opposition pact.

"We agree that the date of the general election be decided by the Election Commission and we have no objection that the state election be held simultaneously with the parliamentary election," he said after officiating at an event, here, on Tuesday.

Prior to this, Khalid had said that the date for the dissolution of the Selangor State Assembly would be announced after Chap Goh Meh following a meeting with Opposition state assemblymen.

On the water issue, Abdul Khalid said he did not receive any complaint from investors in Selangor on treated water supply, noting that the number of foreign investors in the state last year was still high. Bernama

Related Stories:
Khalid yet to discuss dissolving state assembly
Khalid: Selangor ready for state election


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Eight-legged freaks

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 02:45 AM PST

A new giant spider invasion is about to overwhelm hapless cinemagoers, and this time it's comin' at ya in 3D.

THERE have been so many movies with gigantic creatures threatening hapless human beings with monstrous tentacles, claws, paws and jaws. Many of us have also developed an affection for this type of film, with the quality ranging from rather good (Cloverfield, The Host) to enjoyably goofy (Octopus, The Giant Gila Monster) to, of course, mind-numbingly awful.

There haven't been that many, however, that had the mutant monsters or alien menaces roaming the big screen in 3D. That's about to change with Spiders 3D.

Spiders 3D borrows the good old formula of monster movies from the 1950s and 1960s; they have come from outer space to terrorise both the public transport system of New York City and its commuters.

It all starts when debris from an abandoned Russian space station makes its way to New York's subways, bringing with it a whole load of mutated giant spiders.

Transport supervisor Jason Cole (Patrick Muldoon) is up to facing almost any challenge at work, but this one is something he certainly never bargained for – especially when his daughter (Sydney Sweeney) gets trapped in some dark tunnels with the rampaging monsters.

In the production notes provided by film distributor Rainfilm, director Tibor Takacs says: "I love taking an outrageous premise and trying to make it as believable as possible."

He adds: "Why spiders? Many people just have a natural dislike, aversion and repulsion ... spiders lend themselves very nicely to 3D. Especially giant spiders."

With the 3D camera now being lighter than before, Takacs – whose credits include 1980s cult favourite horror film The Gate, which starred a very young Stephen Dorff – was able to cover unusual angles to make everything look scarier. And, let's face it, what could be scarier than a giant spider leaping out of the screen at you?

When actress Christa Campbell, who plays Jason's wife and the mother of the trapped girl, was sent the script, her first thought was she was going to have to work with spiders. At that point she had no idea if the production team was going to have real spiders on the set at all. Luckily for her, the giant spiders were simply computer graphics.

Apparently, Takacs had planned to build several larger-than-life-size spiders. When this idea was hindered by budgetary constraints and a tight shooting schedule, he opted to have just a few giant spider parts built, such as legs to crash through doors or wave threateningly at potential victims. That's as far as physical spider props went on the shoot.

Actor Muldoon (Starship Troopers) credits the director for putting the actors at ease working with unseen threats.

He says: "Sometimes it's tough to act opposite something that isn't there yet, so you have to put your faith in your director. It's his job to orchestrate everything for us: the levels of danger, how big are the spiders, what exactly are we up against? Tibor is a pro at this."

Campbell shares his view, noting that she had no problems imagining giant spiders in her scenes thanks to Takacs' tenacious planning.

In an interview with, Campbell also spoke about her experience working with the other cast members and being on the set of Spiders 3D in Sofia, Bulgaria: "Patrick was great. He loves to tell jokes and is always happy. In his costume, he looked like Yogi Bear to me. Sydney was also fantastic. Ironically, kids are usually better actors than adults. They're just playing or reliving something, and fear hasn't set in.

"We were shooting in Bulgaria in the winter, it was starting to snow, and we were doing night shoots. It was eerie, but also really fun. There was no drama and everything really flowed."

Takacs concludes: "Ultimately, a giant creature film really lives or dies by its tone. I hope I've been able to walk the line between being serious and being a little more light-hearted and funny. We never wink at the audience. I see the film as a black comedy, but we try to sell it as (though) it's actually happening."

Spiders 3D opens in cinemas on Feb 21.

Has politics weighed on Oscars race?

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 09:13 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Perhaps it is no surprise, given that 2012 was a US election year, but this year's Oscars crop includes a heavy dose of politics - which has arguably influenced Hollywood's top awards race.

From gun control advocates blasting blood-spattered "Django Unchained," to rows over CIA torture that were triggered by "Zero Dark Thirty," this year's nominees have, whether coincidentally or not, fueled topical political debates.

The most obviously political film vying for Academy Award glory on Sunday, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," even won a surprise backing from none other than former president Bill Clinton, on stage at the Golden Globes last month.

That looked eerily like the kind of candidate endorsement America spent last year watching, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney vied for the White House, except that it was for a movie, in this case by Democrat-supporting Spielberg.

"A tough fight to push a bill through a bitterly divided House of Representatives - winning it required the president to make a lot of unsavory deals... I wouldn't know anything about that," Clinton quipped at the Globes.

He was joking about the film's plot, in which the 16th US president schemes to ensure Congress backs the 13th Amendment to ban slavery. But he could easily have been referring to any Washington crisis including the current budget one.

"Lincoln" has the most nominations going into the 85th Academy Awards, but even Clinton's backing may not be enough to secure it top honors, in one of the most unpredictable Oscars contests in recent memory.

Political thriller "Argo," which has won virtually every major pre-Oscars award, tells a true story from the sidelines of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, a US diplomatic disaster which effectively sealed president Jimmy Carter's fate.

Reminding US voters of that debacle overall possibly didn't help Democrats too much, although the movie's focus on an audacious CIA operation to free six hostages leaves Carter looking surprisingly good.

One Oscar-nominated film which definitely sheds a good light on a Democratic president - Obama - is Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty."

Indeed, the risk of the film being seen as propaganda - it climaxes with the deadly raid on the Al Qaeda chief's Pakistan hideout, a game-changing Obama triumph - was such that it was only released after the November 6 election.

But the bigger political row it triggered was over its depiction of CIA "enhanced interrogation" techniques, widely seen as torture, and specifically how much role they played in tracking bin Laden to his Abbottabad compound.

The CIA's acting head and a number of top lawmakers lambasted the film for implying that torture helped turn the tide in the hunt for bin Laden - a charge Oscar-winning Bigelow repeatedly rebuffed.

"I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn't mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden," she said.

But the torture row could well have clouded the movie's Oscars chances, as Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters may have balked at casting their ballots for such a politically-loaded film.

But perhaps the most obvious victim of political controversy, in awards terms, has been Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained."

The film is about a black slave freed by a white bounty-hunter in pre-Civil War America, and features Tarantino's trademark over-the-top violence as the pair kill for rewards and revenge in nearly three hours of blood-soaked chaos.

Days before its release, the massacre of 20 small children occurred in Newtown, Connecticut - and America went into paroxysms of hand-wringing about gun violence, just as "Django" was gearing up for its big entrance.

A red-carpet premiere was called off, and a range of toys of the film's key characters was withdrawn and banned from eBay as "offensive."

Tarantino, long used to defending violence in his films, was pushed even more in media interviews, losing his temper in at least one encounter with a British TV channel.

"Yeah, I'm really annoyed," he told National Public Radio (NPR) in the US, saying his film had nothing to do with the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"I think it's disrespectful to their memory. The issue is gun control and mental health," he said.

But for all his arguments, it was never going to help his film's awards chances.

The movie won Golden Globes for best supporting actor for Christoph Waltz and best screenplay for a visibly startled Tarantino ("This is a damn surprise!") but has otherwise failed to pick up any big prizes this season.

It is nominated in five Oscars categories, including best picture - but even Tarantino admits it has little hope of the top honor.

"I don't think we're going to win best film," he told the BBC after the nominations were announced last month. "But the recognition, being invited to the party, is a lot of fun." -AFP

Afghan street kid heads for the Oscars red carpet

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 09:02 PM PST

KABUL: An Afghan street kid is off to Hollywood and the red-carpet treatment at the Oscars - a fairytale ending to a chance encounter that led to a starring role in a movie.

Fawad Mohammadi, 14, was selling maps to passing foreigners on Kabul's famed Chicken Street to help feed his family when he met American director Sam French.

Now he is preparing for his first flight in an aircraft and his first trip outside war-torn Afghanistan to a glamorous world almost beyond imagination on the grimy streets of Kabul.

French cast Mohammadi as one of the main characters in "Buzkashi Boys", a movie shot entirely in Afghanistan and nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at the Academy Awards on February 24.

The film is about two youngsters growing up in Kabul who dream of becoming Buzkashi horseback riders in Afghanistan's dramatic national sport, which uses a headless goat in place of a ball in a wild version of polo.

In the movie, one of the boys is a street kid like Mohammadi, the other the son of a blacksmith forced to spend long hours in his father's dark workshop sharpening axe heads.

Ahead of the US trip, Mohammadi, sporting a leather coat and jeans, told AFP the adventure would be a "great privilege for me and for all Afghanistan to meet the world's most famous superstars".

"It's truly such a great feeling to go to the Oscars, I had never thought about it. I still don't believe it."

Mohammadi, whose ambition is to become a pilot, said he hoped to be able to visit the cockpit of the airplane during his flight to Los Angeles.

"I have grown up watching Afghan movies. When I watched them, I dreamt of becoming an actor. Then I met Sam French on Chicken Street, that's how I came to act in the film," he said, with a big smile.

Mohammadi is the youngest of seven siblings. Their father died several years ago, and his five brothers all also work. He started selling chewing gum on the streets and expanded his trade to selling maps and dictionaries to foreigners.

He learned English as he worked on Chicken Street, a popular destination for expats shopping for Afghan carpets, jewellery and craftwork.

"We knew him from Chicken Street as the kindest and most warm-hearted street-kid, who would provide 'bodyguarding' services and sell maps - he always had a smile and witty remark," French told AFP by email.

"The challenge was to make him not 'act' but to be himself. His kind and generous character was the very same character we had written - so we wanted him to be himself as much as possible and connect with the story on a personal level. He did a fantastic job."

The other Buzkashi Boy is Jawanmard Paiz, also 14 and the son of a prominent Afghan actor, who plays an orphan in the movie. Both boys were 12 at the time the movie was shot.

Paiz has already appeared in a few films after starting his acting career at the age of five, and has attended the Cannes film festival.

"When I saw Fawad acting he was such a good talent although he was a street vendor and he really surprised all of us on set," Paiz said.

Afghanistan's once burgeoning cinema industry was hammered by more than three decades of war, especially during the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, when music and films were banned.

Now Afghan cinema is struggling to re-emerge amid an ongoing Taliban insurgency against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

"There were many logistical challenges," French said. "We spent over a year in pre-production to ensure we had the support of the Afghan government and police protection in all the locations we filmed."

The boys will arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday ahead of the Oscars on Sunday, with the cost of their trip covered by a fund-raising campaign, free tickets from Turkish Airlines and help from the US State Department.

They will stay "with an Afghan family to provide some cushion against the culture shock of travelling from Kabul to Hollywood", French said.

Some of the extra cash raised will be used on Mohammadi's education and to provide for his family.

Mohammadi, who has used his earnings from the film to attend sixth grade at a private school, says he refuses to be swept away by dreams of movie glory.

"I will continue to sell maps and dictionaries and go to school," he said. -AFP


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The book is dead, long live the e-book

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 02:37 AM PST's quarterly earnings figures show the market for e-books has never been greater, while the market for their printed counterparts has never been smaller.

It's official: e-books are now a multi-billion-dollar business, and if Amazon's effervescent CEO is to believed, this new market is due to Amazon and its loyal customer base.

"We're now seeing the transition we've been expecting," says Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of "After five years, e-books is a multi-billion dollar category for us and growing fast – up approximately 70% last year. In contrast, our physical book sales experienced the lowest December growth rate in our 17 years as a bookseller, up just 5%. We're excited and very grateful to our customers for their response to Kindle and our ever expanding ecosystem and selection."

There is no doubting the impact that digital books have had on the publishing industry.

Barnes & Noble, Amazon's largest direct competitor in terms of books sales, announced last month that it will be closing 30% of its physical stores over the next decade as it continues its move into electronic publishing, e-readers and tablets.

Amazon has put the growth of the market down to its Kindle e-readers, but the company's focus on developing Kindle apps that work on iPhones, iPads and Android tablets could prove just as important as the market grows.

The latest data from ABI Research shows that while tablet sales show no sign of abating, the market for e-readers is. And, contrary to popular belief, it is not because tablets are cannibalizing their sales; it's because almost everyone who wants an e-reader, has an e-reader.

"The facts are that the US market continues to dominate e-reader shipments and an ageing Baby Boomer population looking to replicate the print reading experience is a waning audience," says ABI's senior practice director Jeff Orr of the figures, published late last month. "If other world regions do not successfully organise digital publishing markets, the dedicated e-reader market will go away without regard for adoption of tablets and other mobile devices." – AFP

Detailed future reading

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 02:31 AM PST

WONDER what the Year of the Snake has in store for you? Want to find out how the core numbers in your life can help to open the many windows of opportunity in love, money, career and other dreams in 2013?

Well, wonder no more. Singaporean Master Numerologist Gracy Yap (pic) will guide you to discover your hidden gifts, talents and life purpose and teach you how to use the science of numbers to foretell the rise and fall of fortunes, relationships and many more aspects of life.

The sought-after speaker and author of internationally-acclaimed titles such as Finding And Keeping Your Crush as well as Secrets Of Golden Numbers will be conducting a special workshop entitled Forecast 2013 with Golden Numbers.

"People are born to be different and there is a pattern to predict the future and life. So it is important for everyone to find out the unique inborn talents and traits that each has by using numerology as a self-discovery tool. The secrets to the future are actually locked in everyone's birth date and name!"

The three-hour workshop is to be held at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) PJ Campus, Block PD, PD 011 on Saturday (Feb 23) from 2pm to 5pm.

The registration fee of RM39.90 includes a free copy of Yap's Secrets Of Golden Numbers. Customers of Popular bookstore can get their tickets at the special price of RM29.90 with a RM10 coupon available at the store's Klang Valley outlets or downloadable from its Facebook page at

The workshop is limited to 100 participants only. Register online at or call 03-9179 6135 to make reservations. For details, visit Popular's Facebook page or call 03-9179 6135.

The event is organised by Popular with Utar and the Centre of Extension Education.

A rollicking good time

Posted: 19 Feb 2013 02:27 AM PST

Ignore those who sneer at chick lit: this is a well-written solid piece of fiction that discusses real-life issues with a light touch.

The Mystery Of Mercy Close

Author: Marian Keyes

Publisher: Penguin, 507 pages

DYSFUNCTIONAL families: everybody's got some version of one – and maybe that's what makes Irish author Marian Keyes' Walsh family novels just so darn addictive.

Appearing in a series of six books so far, the five Walsh sisters and their slightly dotty parents make for hearty chick lit that sticks to your ribs.

The latest installment, The Mystery Of Mercy Close, features black sheep sister Helen Walsh (although you could argue that all the sisters are dark-hued woolly ruminant mammals in their own way) and her trials and tribulations as a broke, depressed private investigator.

With tongue-in-cheek references to real world events, The Mystery Of Mercy Close sees Helen taking on a missing persons case at the behest of her supposedly dodgy (but extremely handsome) ex-boyfriend, Jay Parker – who has some emotional baggage on hand as well as the euros Helen needs to pay her mortgage. Hard-hit by the recession, she's been kicked out of her flat and reduced to living with her parents.

The missing man she's been contracted to find? Only one-fifth of has-been supergroup boyband Laddz, Wayne Diffney. He's vanished from his house in Mercy Close less than a week before a gargantuan reunion gig that will see his bandmates turn their post-fame pennies into profit.

Of course, it's only a four-man reunion – talented bandmate Shane Dockery (or simply, Docker) has long moved on to bigger, better things. The pop culture wink and nudge here is unmistakable, with narrator Helen announcing early in the book that every band has The Talented One, The Wacky One (who usually has strange hair), The Cute One, The Gay One, and The Other One. Apply to any boyband of your choice (I did it with NSYNC) and you'll find this theory holds water.

Helen's full of these sorts of observations and quirks; another notable one being her Shovel List ("people and things I hate so much that I want to hit them in the face with a shovel").

Throw in an extremely mad family, a love triangle or two, a hunky boyfriend with an exasperatingly, suspiciously sweet ex-wife, and some underworld connections and you've got a mystery on your hands, one that blends escapism with a hearty sense of "that could be me".

The clever thing about this book is that despite being labelled "chick lit", Keyes isn't afraid to take her story to some dark, messy places. Protagonist Helen battles clinical depression, much like Keyes in real life.

They say to write what you know, and while Keyes does that to sometimes annoying effect with Helen, it's clear she understands her character's agony viscerally. The Mystery Of Mercy Close was written after a two-year hiatus in which Keyes was laid low with clinical depression, and it shows in her writing.

Although some of the characters border on aggravating (including Helen herself who is surprisingly show-offy and self-aggrandizing at times), the story moves along smoothly, and that's despite the large supporting cast and subplots.

Engaging enough that you care and light enough you can read it in transit, The Mystery Of Mercy Close is a rollicking good time – you'll laugh, cry, and realise for the first time just how much you missed the Walsh family.

Keyes definitely is a giant of the genre, with a plot so well-knit and watertight you'll be wondering if you could become a private investigator yourself.

Of course, this book does stick to the chick lit staple of having everything resolved perfectly in the last couple of pages – but really, what's wrong with that? Ignore the literati who might sneer; The Mystery Of Mercy Close is a well-written solid piece of fiction that discusses real-life issues with a light touch.


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