Rabu, 13 Mac 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China's Xi appointed president, completes rise to the top

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 09:12 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's parliament formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi Jinping as the country's new president on Thursday, completing the country's second orderly political succession since the Communist Party took power in 1949.

China's newly-elected President Xi Jinping shake hands with China's former President Hu Jintao during the fourth plenary meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 14, 2013. China's parliament formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi Jinping as the country's new president on Thursday, succeeding Hu Jintao, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China's newly-elected President Xi Jinping shake hands with China's former President Hu Jintao during the fourth plenary meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 14, 2013. China's parliament formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi Jinping as the country's new president on Thursday, succeeding Hu Jintao, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The largely rubber-stamp National People's Congress chose Xi in a tightly scripted ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power.

Xi was appointed party and military chief - where real power lies - in November.

The 59-year-old was also elected head of the Central Military Commission, the parallel government post to the party's top military position which he already holds, ensuring that he has full power over the party, state and armed forces.

There was virtually no opposition among the carefully selected legislators to Xi becoming president. Xi drew just one no vote and three abstentions from the almost 3,000 delegates.

Xi bowed deeply and shook hands with his predecessor Hu Jintao upon the announcement of the result, carried live on state television. Xi and Hu exchanged a few inaudible words.

Li Yuanchao was also elected vice president, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang is set to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao in a similarly scripted vote on Friday.

Hu, 70, relinquished the presidency after serving the maximum two five-year terms.

Hu's accession to president a decade ago marked Communist China's first peaceful transition of power. Violent events such as the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators had overshadowed previous hand-overs.

Since taking up the position of the much more powerful post of party chief last November, Xi has focused his rhetoric on fighting corruption and promoting austere practices such as banning senior military officers from holding alcohol-fuelled banquets.

Many Chinese hope Xi will bring change in a country that has risen to become the world's second-biggest economy but is marred by deepening income inequality, corruption and environmental destruction left over from the administration of Hu and Wen.

Xi inherits a constituency that is more distrustful of government and well-versed at using the Internet to criticise their leaders.

At the same time, his administration must deal with a slowdown in economic growth, juggle the urgent task of calming a frothy housing market, defuse local government debt risks and wean China off its addiction to investment-led expansion.

Xi will also have to deal with an increasingly provocative North Korea and tensions with the United States, Japan and Southeast Asia.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

For China's rising political star, an early test

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 08:40 PM PDT

SHANGPU, China (Reuters) - An explosion of unrest in a south China village after a controversial sale of farmland, followed by a harsh police crackdown on villagers, has become a testing ground for a man considered a potential leader of the country.

An injured villager stands in a hospital in Mianhu town where dozens of villagers are being treated for injuries after a crackdown by riot police in Shangpu in China's southern Guangdong province March 11, 2013. Chinese security forces fired tear gas and beat protesters in a village in southern China on Sunday to quell a grassroots protest movement over a land dispute, residents said. REUTERS/James Pomfret

An injured villager stands in a hospital in Mianhu town where dozens of villagers are being treated for injuries after a crackdown by riot police in Shangpu in China's southern Guangdong province March 11, 2013. Chinese security forces fired tear gas and beat protesters in a village in southern China on Sunday to quell a grassroots protest movement over a land dispute, residents said. REUTERS/James Pomfret

The village, Shangpu, is in Guangdong, bordering Hong Kong. The province is China's most wealthy and most politically aware, and the Communist Party chief there is Hu Chunhua, a member of the powerful 25-person national politburo and a protege of former leader Hu Jintao.

Guangdong has been the site of many violent protests by villagers angered by the seizure of farmland by corrupt local officials. This land is often sold on to businessmen building industrial zones in the region, the engine of China's growth.

How Hu Chunhua, who has a reputation for being a reformer, has handled the protests in Shangpu so far offers some clues into his leadership and crisis management style. He was appointed to the job in Guangdong just three months ago, replacing the high profile and reformist Wang Yang, who won plaudits for defusing a similarly volatile land grab standoff in Wukan village in 2011.

Already this year, Hu has stepped in to mediate a newsroom strike over censorship at a prominent Chinese newspaper, but the dispute in Shangpu has required a different set of skills.

"We want him (Hu) to help us get peace in the village," said a middle-aged woman in Shangpu, who did not want to give her name. "Only the provincial government can help … the local government here is so black."

The trouble in Shangpu began in mid-January when villagers discovered 33 hectares of fields and rice paddies had been secretly sold off by its village chief to a businessman. Petitions to higher officials went nowhere.

In February, a clash erupted between villagers and what local officials have described as a "mafia-like" gang of thugs hired by the businessman, Wu Guicun, to force through the land deal. Residents chased away the men, smashed more than 20 vehicles and barricaded the area with makeshift guardposts.

Authorities responded within days, detaining the village chief Li Baoyu who allegedly brokered the land deal and issuing an arrest warrant for Wu. Meanwhile, a local court issued a statement on March 6 effectively nullifying the sale.

"The provincial government helped us," said Shangpu's deputy party secretary Li Kaiwen, who took over running of the village after his boss was detained.

"Things couldn't have been moved so quickly if the provincial government didn't issue instructions to the county and township officials to act," he told Reuters. Li added, however, that he never spoke to Hu directly.

But days later, local police surged into Shangpu to clear away the gutted vehicles, firing volleys of tear gas and beating up villagers with truncheons. Nearly 30 villagers, including elderly men and women in their 70s, were hospitalised.

"They hadn't even finished the negotiations and they just attacked us. This made the situation worse when it could have been resolved peacefully," said a local teacher in Shangpu who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.


Hu's involvement, either in the first quick reaction to the unrest and or in the crackdown, isn't clear. He is currently in Beijing for the annual session of parliament, but analysts say how he handles this local crisis may be crucial to his career.

"These things to Hu Chunhua are even more important for him than other provincial leaders because of his potential," said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at City University in Hong Kong. "They could affect his image and affect the central government's assessment of his performance."

Hu, 49, is part of the so-called "sixth generation" of potential national leaders born in the 1960s. This generation is likely to take power in 2022, after the decade-long rule of current leader Xi Jinping comes to an end.

Hu spent two decades in restive and remote Tibet, where he learned to speak Tibetan, rare for a Han Chinese official. While there, he came under the wing of Hu Jintao, the outgoing president.

Prior to Guangdong, Hu Chunhua was party boss of Inner Mongolia where he oversaw rapid economic growth and displayed what some have called a deft touch in handling protests by ethnic Mongols. Data on Hu's connections can be seen on Reuters' Connected China site, http://connectedchina.reuters.com/.

Despite having a reputation as more of a moderate and a reformer, Hu sent back Inner Mongolia's most notable Mongol dissident, Hada, to jail almost as soon as he completed a 15-year sentence for separatism in late 2010.

Cheng says what has happened in Shangpu is fairly typical for Chinese administrators who want to quickly defuse tension flashpoints, but also drive home the message that the party's writ remains supreme.

"It's a kind of carrot and stick policy. They want to negotiate, to settle the issue," he said. "But they'd also like to indicate that they're quite prepared to crack down."

Hours after the crackdown, Guangdong's Political and Law Committee reiterated on its Weibo microblog account that Shangpu's land contract had been scrapped, and the village chief detained along with more than 10 others.

Over the past week, village anger and defiance over the contradictory signals is being slowly replaced by a grudging acceptance that the worst may be over.

Seven gutted cars left on a village street as a symbol of continued resistance were cleared away on Tuesday without incident. Villagers, however, continue to place joss sticks at a makeshift roadside shrine seeking Buddha's blessing for justice, given nagging fears of fresh reprisals and land grabs in future.

"No senior leaders have come to speak with us directly, but hopefully they've now heard our voices," said Li Huqiang, whose bandaged head was struck by a tear gas bullet.

Li said despite Shangpu's tribulations, he retained faith in top party officials like Hu Chunhua to enshrine rural rights and justice by ensuring an irrefutable return of their farmland.

"Only they can get rid of corruption in our village. They're the only people with the power to help us."

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

New pope promises to bring new look to Church

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 08:12 PM PDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's election as pope has broken Europe's centuries-old grip on the papacy, opening the doors on a new age of simplicity and humility for the Roman Catholic Church, mired in intrigue and scandal.

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

He is the first South American pontiff, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first to take the name Pope Francis, in honour of St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th century saint who spurned wealth to pursue a life of poverty.

His elevation on the second day of a closed-door conclave of cardinals came as a surprise, with many Vatican watchers expecting a longer deliberation, and none predicting the conservative 76-year-old Bergoglio would get the nod.

He looked as startled as everyone, hesitating a moment on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica before stepping out to greet the huge crowds gathered in the square below to catch a glimpse of the new pontiff.

"I ask a favour of you ... pray for me," he urged the cheering crowds, telling them the 114 other cardinal-electors "went almost to the end of the world" to find a new leader.

He also offered a prayer to his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who resigned unexpectedly last month, after saying he was too frail to tackle the many problems assailing the world's largest organisation, which has an estimated 1.2 billion members.

"Good night and have a good rest," Bergoglio said before disappearing back into the opulent surroundings of the Vatican City - a far cry from his simple apartment in Buenos Aires.

Delighted priests, nuns and pilgrims danced around the obelisk in the middle of St. Peter's Square, chanting: "Long Live the Pope" and "Argentina, Argentina".

In his native Argentina, jubilant Catholics poured into their local churches to celebrate.

"I hope he changes all the luxury that exists in the Vatican, that he steers the Church in a more humble direction, something closer to the gospel," said Jorge Andres Lobato, a 73-year-old retired state prosecutor.


The 266th pontiff in the Church's 2,000-year history, Francis is taking the helm at a time of great crisis, with morale among the faithful hit by a widespread child sex abuse scandal and infighting in the Vatican bureaucracy.

His unexpected election answered some fundamental questions about the direction of the Church in the coming years.

After more than a millennium of European leadership, the cardinal-electors looked to Latin America, where 42 percent of the world's Catholics live. The continent is more focused on poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse, which dominate in the West.

They also chose a man with long pastoral experience, rather than an academic and Vatican insider like Benedict.

"It seems that this pope will be more aware of what life is all about," Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli told Reuters.

Bergoglio was born into a family of seven, his father an Italian immigrant railway worker and his mother a housewife. He became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies.

Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years. é"€ Bergoglio has a reputation as someone willing to challenge powerful interests and has had a sometimes difficult relationship with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Displaying his conservative orthodoxy, he has spoken out strongly against gay marriage, denouncing it in 2010 as "an attempt to destroy God's plan," and is expected to pursue the uncompromising moral teachings of Benedict and John Paul II.

Not everyone liked the look of his profile.

"I think they missed an opportunity to renew themselves. They've picked another old guy," said Daniel Villalpando, a 32-year-old web designer in Mexico City. "Sure, he's a Latino, but they got the most European of the Latinos."

Bergoglio is the first Jesuit to become pope. The order was founded in the 16th century to serve the papacy and is best known for its work in education and for the intellectual prowess of its members.

"I did not expect to see him in white tonight. I think it was a surprise, but it shows the courage of the cardinals to decide to cross the ocean and therefore to broaden perspectives," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

The Vatican said his inaugural Mass would be held on Tuesday. U.S. President Barack Obama said the election of Francis "speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world."


In preparatory meetings before the conclave, the cardinals seemed divided between those who believed the new pontiff must be a strong manager to get the dysfunctional bureaucracy under control and others who were looking more for a proven pastoral figure to revitalise their faith across the globe.

Bergoglio was a rival candidate at the 2005 conclave to Benedict, but his name had not appeared on lists of possible contenders this time around, with many discounting him because of his age, thinking prelates wanted a younger leader.

The secret conclave began on Tuesday night with a first inconclusive ballot. Three more inconclusive ballots were held on Wednesday before Francis obtained the required two-thirds majority of 77 votes in the fifth and final vote.

Billowing white smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica rang out to announce the news, drawing Romans and tourists to the Vatican.

"May God forgive you," Bergoglio said to the cardinals at a subsequent dinner, raising loud laughter, according to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

He is due to make a private visit to a Rome basilica on Thursday and then meet Benedict, who is secluded in the papal summer residence outside Rome. Francis will celebrate a Mass with cardinals in the late afternoon.

(Additional reporting by Catherine Hornby, Naomi O'Leary, Tom Heneghan, Barry Moody and Keith Weir; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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Petronas awards US$2b LNG plant contract to Japan's JGC Corp

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 06:45 PM PDT

Published: Thursday March 14, 2013 MYT 7:49:00 AM
Updated: Thursday March 14, 2013 MYT 9:45:43 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has awarded a contract worth nearly US$2bil to Japan's JGC Corporation to build the liquefied natural gas (LNG) train in Bintulu.

JGC said on its website on Thursday the contract was awarded to its Malaysian subsidiary, JGC Malaysia Sdn Bhd for the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) work.

This would be to construct the 9th LNG Train and its associated facilities in the Petronas LNG Complex

"The EPCC Contract is valued close to US$2.0bil, and work is for completion at the end of 2015," it said, confirming a StarBiz report.

Earlier report Japan JGC wins US$1.8bil Malaysia LNG train order

TOKYO: Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp has won an order from Malaysian state oil firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) for a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) train in Malaysia's Sarawak state in a deal estimated at 170 billion yen ($1.77 billion), the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday.

The ninth LNG facility, called Petronas LNG Train 9, with capacity of 3.6 million tonnes per annum, is expected to start operations in the fourth quarter of 2015.

($1 = 96.0100 Japanese yen) - Reuters


KLCI opens in the red as profit taking continues

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 06:43 PM PDT

Published: Thursday March 14, 2013 MYT 9:43:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips fell sharply in early trade on Thursday as profit taking picked up pace on index-linked counters.

At 9.18am, the FBM KLCI fell 8.43 points to 1,637.79, extending its losses from Wednesday when the index fell more than 10 points.

Turnover was 47.36 million shares valued at RM50.10mil. There were 68 gainers, 115 losers and 128 counters unchanged.

Maybank Research said the KLCI's resistance level of 1,646 and 1,664 would cap market gains, whilst weaker support areas were at 1,622 and 1,641.

Reuters reported the US dollar hovered near a seven-month high against a basket of currencies on Thursday as strong US retail sales data sustained an optimistic growth outlook, while Asian shares steadied after another record Wall Street close.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched down 0.1 percent, weighed by a 0.3 percent drop in resources-reliant Australian shares which were hit by weaker commodity prices.

At Bursa Malaysia, BAT was the top loser, down RM1.74 to RM60.86 while Petronas Gas fell 48 sen to RM18.48 and Petronas Dagangan lost 28 sen to RM23.04.

UMW was down 20 sen to RM13.16, HLFG shed 16 sen to RM14.92 and HLBank 14 sen to RM14.32 while KL Kepong gave up 14 sen to RM20.36.

MBF Holdings surged 15 sen to RM1.67 while glove maker Hartalega added six sen to RM4.86.


Accord between JPMorgan, MF Global parent gets court approval

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 06:21 PM PDT

NEW YORK: A bankruptcy judge on Wednesday approved a settlement that will increase JPMorgan Chase & Co's potential recoveries from the liquidation of MF Global Holdings to as much as 76 cents for every dollar in claims.

The deal resolves a complaint from JPMorgan over the value of an intercompany settlement among MF Global affiliates. That complaint had posed a potentially significant obstacle to getting creditor support and court approval for MF Global's payout plan.

In an order entered in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, Judge Martin Glenn approved a supplement to the payback plan that raises the maximum projected recovery for JPMorgan for its $1.2 billion loan. Its recovery had maxed out at about 73 percent in an earlier version of the plan.

The settlement also provides for a slight increase in the size of JPMorgan's claim.

Creditors must vote on the plan later this month. It must then go before Judge Glenn for a final approval hearing, scheduled for April 5.

The supplement decreases the projected maximum payout for unsecured creditors of MF Global's finance unit to 34.4 cents on the dollar, down from 39 cents in the earlier plan.

There was little change for unsecured creditors of MF's parent entity, with a maximum projected recovery of roughly 34 percent of claims.

Commodity trader customers of MF Global's broker-dealer unit are expected to recover all of their money.

The judge's approval follows an agreement reached between the parties last week.

MF Global, run by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, is liquidating after filing for bankruptcy in 2011. Regulators determined that the firm misappropriated money in customer trading accounts to cover liquidity gaps as the firm teetered on the brink. Corzine has denied any wrongdoing.

The company's creditor payout plan was proposed earlier this year by a group of its hedge fund creditors, led by Silver Point Capital, Knighthead Capital and Cyrus Capital Partners. Louis Freeh, the trustee liquidating MF Global's estate, cooperated with the hedge funds on later drafts of the plan.

JPMorgan, agent on the $1.2 billion revolving credit facility, filed claims against MF Global's parent and finance entities. Of the maximum 76 cent payout, up to 34.4 cents on the dollar would be paid by the parent, while the finance company would pay as much as 41.5 percent of its claim.

The case is In re MF Global Holdings Ltd, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-15059. - Reuters


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Fatehah out to claim her first World Cup gold medal

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 05:27 PM PDT

SEPANG: Having won at the Asian level twice, Fatehah Mustapa is setting her sights on bigger goals.

Fatehah is hoping to claim her first World Cup gold medal as the Olympic qualifying period kicks into second gear later this year.

Fatehah returned home yesterday for a well deserved break after bagging her first career Asian Cycling Championships sprint gold medal in New Delhi on Monday.

It was the second year she made it to the top of the podium as she took silver in keirin behind reigning London Olympic bronze medallist Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong and bronze with a new national record in the 500m time trial. Fatehah said the success in the sprint discipline made up for losing the keirin title which she won in Kuala Lumpur last year.

"I did not expect this and I am surprised actually. It is a blessing for me as I was not fully fit. I injured my lower back just before the world meet and I am still bothered by it," said Fatehah, who celebrated her 23rd birthday on Tuesday.

Fatehah added she intends to race in the local and international Grand Prixs as the Olympic qualifying period for Brazil in 2016 has already started.

"We need to collect points to qualify for another Olympics. The World Cup legs will be important for us and I hope to win one. I have made it to the final before but never won," said Fatehah, who made the World Championships final for keirin in Holland in 2011.

Fatehah, who was also the first Malaysian woman cyclist to ride at the Olympics in London last year, will return home to Melbourne by the end of this month.

Malaysia have collected seven golds, three silvers and seven bronzes to currently lie second to South Korea (12-7-7) in the medal standings at the end of track competitions.

The other gold medals came from Josiah Ng (men's elite keirin and sprint), Muhd Firdaus Mohd Zonis (men's junior sprint, keirin and 1km time trial) and Irwandie Lakasek (men's junior 1km time trial).

Speedy Arif stuns sixth seed Daren in second round

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 05:27 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's Mohd Arif Abdul Latif (pic) pulled off a stunning win over compatriot Liew Daren 21-15, 21-17 in the second round of the Swiss Open in Basel yesterday.

Sixth seeded Daren, who broke into the top 10 of the badminton world rankings last week, was given a rude shock by the speedy Arif who won in 36 minutes.

"I just didn't play well and Arif was the better player during the match.

"It was great to break into the top 10 but this result shows that I still have a lot of catching up to do and I need to become more consistent," said Daren.

It was Daren's second loss to Arif who also beat the former in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Korea Grand Prix.

The 36th ranked Arif is unseeded in the Swiss Open but he got his campaign off to a great start by ousting Germany's Yoga Pratama 21-17, 21-16 on Tuesday to set up the second round clash with Daren.

The Negri Sembilan shuttler will now face Japan's Takuma Ueda in the third round. If he overcomes the 13th seeded Japanese, Arif is likely to meet either Dane Viktor Axelsen or Hong Kong's Hu Yun in the quarter-finals.

And if the 24-year-old Arif gets past the last eight, his semi-final opponent should be top seed Du Pengyu of China.

In other matches, national champion Misbun Ramdan Misbun fell 18-21, 16-21 in the second round to Taiwan's Hsu Jen Hao.

Malaysia's ninth seeded Chong Wei Feng and Zulfadli Zulkifli booked places in the second round by beating Taiwan's Wang Tzu Wei 21-19, 21-13 and Switzerland's Anthony Dumartheray 21-11, 21-7 respectively.

Wei Feng will meet Germany's Marcel Reuter next, while Zulfadli faces a tough second round match against fourth seed Jan O Jorgensen.

In men's doubles, Hoon Thien How and Tan Wee Kiong shrugged off their disappointing quarter-final exit at last week's All-England with a convincing 21-19, 21-17 win over Scottish-Malaysian pair Robert Blair-Tan Bin Shen. The third seeded pair should face Dutch pair Jacco Arends and Jelle Maas next.

In women's singles, Tee Jing Yi crashed out in the first round to Hong Kong's Chan Tsz Ka 21-17, 21-17.

Hamilton the wildcard as Vettel seeks fourth world title

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 04:41 PM PDT

MELBOURNE: Lewis Hamilton is shaping as a wildcard challenger to Sebastian Vettel as the German embarks on his bid for a historic fourth straight Formula One title at this week's Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, and new Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg were the best performers in winter testing, giving the German marque hope as it bids to gatecrash the F1 cartel of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

The ultra-fast Briton, who quit his long-term employer McLaren for Mercedes last season, is attempting to succeed where seven-time champion Michael Schumacher failed in leading the Silver Arrows back to success.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who missed out on his third title by just three points last season, and McLaren's Jenson Button, the 2009 champion who finished a disappointing fifth in 2012, are Vettel's other main challengers.

"The teams don't know how they compare in terms of performance and with big changes to the tyres again this year, we just don't know what will happen in the race," Hamilton said.

"We had a good, reliable car during winter testing so that's the positive we can take with us into this weekend but we know that in terms of performance, everything begins again from zero in opening practice."

After the intrigue of testing, the game of cat and mouse will be over when the cars take to the Albert Park street circuit in tomorrow's opening practice for the first of three Asia-Pacific races ahead of Malaysia and China.

Red Bull's Vettel, 25, is bidding to become the youngest driver to win four world titles in a row, a feat only achieved by Formula One legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Schumacher.

The young German was only eighth fastest in testing at Barcelona this month, but despite the inconclusive session and the performance of the new Pirelli tyres, he was upbeat about the season ahead.

"We learned a lot over the winter tests and we'll be bringing that new knowledge with us to Australia. I am already really looking forward to it," he said.

Australian team-mate Webber, who will be competing in his 12th home Grand Prix, agreed it was difficult to judge which team had the quickest car ahead of the opening race.

"It's difficult to read, and in general we do have some quick teams, there's no question about it," Webber said.

"Mercedes can certainly pull a single lap out that's pretty strong. Ferrari will definitely be there and they'll be challenging for victories, as will Red Bull, as will Lotus, as will McLaren.

"But as the season goes on I think that will close down a little bit and the teams that are more organised and develop well will be stronger."

Alonso brilliantly mastered performance problems with his Ferrari to take last year's title down to the last race, after leading by 34 points at the halfway point of the season.

The Spaniard has a consistent record in Melbourne, finishing in the top five placings in the last nine years.

McLaren, which has won the Australian Grand Prix 11 times, will be pinning their race hopes on Britain's Button, a three-time winner in Melbourne, who is now partnered by former Sauber ace Sergio Perez.

"This year I don't think any team really knows or understands the competitive order," said Button.

"It's been an extremely hard-to-read winter: varying fuel-loads and levels of tyre degradation mean that it's hard to accurately predict who'll arrive in Australia with the best-sorted car. But that's part of the game." — AFP

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Spielberg planning Kashmir film: report

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 02:19 AM PDT

MUMBAI (AFP) - US director Steven Spielberg is planning to produce a film set partly on the de facto border between India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region, a report said Tuesday.

Spielberg, who is currently in India's entertainment capital Mumbai, told The Times of India that the film would be produced by his DreamWorks Studios and its Indian partner Reliance Entertainment, which is headed by tycoon Anil Ambani.

"We have finalised a script for a movie," Spielberg said. "Part of it will take place on the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir. But we're still trying to figure out the casting, locations and who's going to direct it."

On Monday night, Spielberg spoke to a gathering of Indian directors at an event moderated by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai.

Bachchan later said on Twitter that he had "a scintillating evening with Mr Steven Spielberg", describing the acclaimed director's comments as "simple, honest and with immense candor".

The 66-year-old is reportedly on his first visit to Mumbai partly to celebrate the success of his film Lincoln, which was co-produced by Reliance Entertainment.

Spielberg, known for classic hits such as Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park, was seen by AFP leaving Ambani's office on Monday afternoon.

Reports said billionaire Ambani and his wife Tina were throwing a lavish party in honour of the director during his visit.

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PKR's Azmin gives statement to MCMC

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 08:18 AM PDT

CYBERJAYA: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali (pix) on Wednesday turned up at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) office to give his statement about the recording of a video which showed identity cards (IC) being given to foreigners on Youtube.

Azmin, who is also Gombak Member of Parliament, arrived at 2.30pm and spent about three hours.

Talking to reporters later, Azmin said, 51 questions were posed to him about the video with the title "Program Tukar Ke Orang Melayu (Project IC By Mahathir)".

"The video displayed the issuance of identity cards to foreign nationals, and my first comment about the video was a media statement which I issued on Jan 18, on the issuance of ICs in Sabah.

"So, I was investigated to determine if I was involved in making or giving comments about the video," he said.

Nevertheless, Azmin denied his involvement with the video.

He said, full cooperation had been given to MCMC to help in the investigation and hoped it would be done professionally. - Bernama

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Selangor MB should have handed over list of suspicious voters to EC

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 07:28 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim should have handed over the information or the list of what he claimed as suspicious voters to the Election Commission (EC) to ensure that the next general election will run smoothly and in a transparent manner.

EC secretary Datuk Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria said Abdul Khalid should not have made public the information as it could cause confusion among the people in Selangor.

"The objective (to hand over the information and list of voters to the EC) is to enable the EC to run a check or field study and prepare an explanation for the Selangor Mentri Besar," he said in a statement here on Wednesday.

The March 8-15 edition of SelangorKini newspaper, in its article titled 'Projek Pendemokrasian Bongkar Pengundi Lebih Ramai Daripada Penduduk' claimed that there exists certain state constituencies in Selangor, including Bestari Jaya Utara in Ijok parliamentary constituency, where the amount of voters surpasses the residents.

"The article quoted Selangor Mentri Besar as saying that Bestari Jaya Utara has 1,788 residents , but the number of voters in the electoral roll refers to the number of voters in 18 localities in the state constituency. "Based on the electoral roll gazetted in December 2012, the number of voters for Bestari Jaya Utara stands at 3,558.

"There is an increase of 1,317 voters from the Master Electoral Roll gazetted in 2006 as there is also an increase of nine new localities," Kamaruddin said.

He said there was no truth in the article and that it was merely aimed at confusing the people to gain political mileage.

He also called on members of the public to refer to the EC if they had any questions about election.

The law provides the opportunity for the public, who have doubts and wanted to protest against the electoral roll, to do so when the EC put the quarterly roll updates on display, he added. - Bernama

Explosions and fire raze factory producing furniture undercoat

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 05:34 AM PDT

MALACCA: Several deafening explosions were heard as Fire Officers battled to douse an inferno that ravaged a factory producing undercoat for furniture at Bukit Rambai Industrial estate here.

The fire also caused the factory operating at the site for the last 12 years to suffer almost 80 percent in damages.

State Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Sohaimi Mohamed said that distress call was made at 3.51pm and its Tangga Batu station responded in just four minutes by dispatching engines to the scene.

"However, the factory had it own safety features to contain any fire outbreak that made us to swiftly control the inferno in just an hour taking into consideration that the large built-up area of the factory," he told reporters after leading the operation.

Sohaimi said 46 fire officers were involved in the operation where some 750liters of foam were used to squash the fire.

He said the fire also had caused 5,000 liters of shellac coating in liquid resin form to emit a pungent stench.

"No injuries were reported. We are in the midst of probing the cause of the fire and the estimated loss," he added.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses said they heard several loud explosions before the factory was engulfed in flames.

The owner of the factory, Loh Seng, 62, said he received call from his worker at 4pm, informing him about the fire.

"I was in Batu Pahat to attend a meeting and rushed back upon hearing the news only to see that my factory was destroyed. I estimate losses at almost RM2mil," he said.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Contemplating eyelid surgery

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 08:10 AM PDT

What to expect when you have eyelid surgery.

MY FRIEND just had a double eyelid surgery, and I'm contemplating it myself. However, I never had plastic surgery before. I am naturally apprehensive as to what to expect. What does upper eyelid surgery entail?

Upper eyelid surgery is also known as upper blepharoplasty. There is also lower eyelid surgery, which is known as lower blepharoplasty.

Upper blepharoplasty does not only give you a double eyelid, if you so wish.

It can also improve the appearance of your eyes, making them "open up" or seem bigger and brighter.

Naturally, for plenty of Oriental women, this involves the formation of a double eyelid, or making the double eyelid seem deeper.

Many people, not only women, complain of "tired eyes" when they get older because the skin around the eyes sags and loses its elasticity.

Blepharoplasty can rejuvenate your appearance. The thing is to manage your expectations. Don't go into the doctor's office asking to look like Anne Hathaway!

How does upper and lower eyelid surgery perk up my eyes?

Upper eyelid surgery can remove excess fat from under your skin, which makes your eyes appear puffy in the upper eyelids.

It can also tighten loose or sagging skin that creates folds, which can sometimes cover the outsides of the eyes, impairing your vision as you get older. This is called an eyelid lift.

Lower eyelid surgery can remove excess skin and fine wrinkles from the lower eyelid. It can also remove eye bags and correct any droopiness that causes the whites (sclera) of the eyes to be revealed under your irises.

Is this surgery done under general anaesthesia?

It can be, but most of the time, plastic surgeons prefer to do it under local anaesthesia. This is because they prefer you to be an active participant in opening and closing your eyes when they need you to, so that you can achieve a better look.

I will be very scared if this surgery is done under local anaesthesia! Isn't it painful?

There is an initial pain when the doctor injects the local anaesthetic into the areas that need numbing. But this is no more painful than an ant bite, or when you go for a facial that involves the (rather painful) squeezing of blackheads and comedones, and the plucking of oil seeds (milia).

Thereafter, your skin will be numb and you won't feel any pain. You will, however, feel some minor discomfort as your tissue is manipulated, but this discomfort is that of skin tugging and pulling.

If you still feel pain in your deeper tissues, your doctor will be able to top up your anaesthesia with more injections, which you won't feel because your skin is already numb.

Do I need to prepare anything before surgery?

Arrange for someone to drive you to the surgery, which is an outpatient procedure, and back. You may think you can drive yourself, but there will be considerable swelling of your eyes after the surgery, so don't risk it.

Eat something before the surgery. You will be given some antibiotics, and you need something in your stomach.

You are advised to stop taking aspirin or any analgesic that may cause you to bleed more profusely during surgery.

And do stop smoking well in advance.

What can I expect after the surgery?

You can expect a lot of swelling around your eyes and bruising. This will get worse the day after the surgery, but will eventually subside. There will be some oozing around the sutures as well, and you may shed excessive tears, which may be bloody.

But all this is to be expected.

Meanwhile, you have to avoid carrying heavy objects or exercising during the first week, as this can increase your swelling. You should consult your doctor if you have any questions.

When can I expect to see the results of my surgery?

The results will appear after several weeks, but it may take up to a year for the incision lines to fully refine.

Eyelid surgery usually only needs to be done once in a lifetime. The results will last you for many years, although you will continue to age naturally.

Can I expect complications?

As with any surgery, there is always the risk of complications. But it doesn't mean any of these will happen to you.

You may get scarring, temporary blurred or impaired vision, dry eyes, difficulty in closing your eyes, a lag in pulling down your eyelid, bleeding and the formation of a haematoma, infection, fluid accumulation, blood clots, numbness or changes in skin sensation, eyelid disorders, and the worse possible complication, loss of eyesight.

But again, these are merely risks, and they are rare.

What not to use in the bedroom: petroleum jelly

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 10:17 PM PDT

A new study finds that women who use petroleum jelly such as Vaseline vaginally can put themselves at risk for a common infection called bacterial vaginosis.

Prior studies have already linked douching with a host of ill effects, including bacterial vaginosis, but not much research has been done on how petroleum jelly affects female sexual organs.

Lead researcher Dr. Joelle Brown of the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues recruited 141 women in the study, with half of the women saying they had used some type of sexual lubricant, petroleum jelly, or baby oil vaginally in the past month.

When the researchers tested the women for infections, they found that those who'd used petroleum jelly in the past month were more than twice as likely as non-users to have bacterial vaginosis.

While the illness doesn't cause long-term problems, it can be uncomfortable, and worse puts a woman at greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Your best bet: reach for water soluble products designed specifically as a vaginal lubricant, which are both safer and more cosmetically pleasing.

The new findings are published online and in the April print issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. -- AFPRelaxnews

Energize Your Day with the Essentials of Protein

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 04:33 PM PDT

What did you have for breakfast today - a hearty dose of Nasi Lemak with fried chicken, completed with Teh Tarik? Or perhaps a much-needed steaming cup of coffee to go with the morning paper?

For some people, it is a norm to skip breakfast in the morning for an extra 10 minutes of snooze time or to beat the traffic jam. For those who do have breakfast, you'll have to admit that we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the selection of food we can have to start our day.

The question is, are you eating right for the right start to your day?

While bread or cereal may seem to be a convenient option, they are high in carbohydrate and may lead to elevated blood sugar levels which drop quickly and leave you feeling hungry and drained. Research have showed that a breakfast high in protein helps with stabilising blood sugar and prevents hunger for a number of hours.

According to the Malaysian Food Guide, Food Pyramid and Food Composition, breakfast should account for 30% of our protein intake – which translates to approximately 21 grams. While there are many types of food we can consume to meet the 21 grams of protein intake for breakfast, we have to also be mindful not to take in too much calories and fats, which may lead to obesity.

Each person's protein needs depend on several factors such as age, size, physical condition, and the level of physical activity. Nutritionists use a standard method to estimate a person's minimum protein requirement daily, which is to multiply a person's body weight (kg) with 0.8, as the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) in the US for protein is 0.8 grams per kilograms of body weight of adults.

Take a typical Malaysian breakfast for instance. According to Nutriweb Malaysia 2000-2012 Database of Nutrient Composition of Malaysia Food, three pieces of Roti Canai can provide you with 21 grams of protein for your first meal of the day, but that also comes with 31 grams of fat, and 136.5 grams of carbohydrate. Likewise, in order to have 21 grams of protein, you will need to have 2.2 packets of Nasi Lemak, but provides you with 28.8 grams of fat and 128 grams of carbohydrate.

Understanding the importance of a high-protein breakfast, leading direct selling company Amway have introduced its NUTRILITE™ All Plant Protein Powder to help you boost your protein intake and get a right start for the day. With 2.5 scoops of NUTRILITE All Plant Protein that can be mixed with any of your favourite beverages or food, it is an easy and convenient breakfast option that can help you achieve the needed 21 grams of protein, with only 1.3 grams of fat and 0.8 grams of carbohydrate.

"Certified Halal, lactose-free and safe for vegetarians, the NUTRILITE All Plant Protein Powder caters to many people as it has no cholesterol and contains only minimal fat content and nine essential amino acids to aid the body's digestion," said Dr. Gene Maly, Senior NUTRILITE Research Scientist.

"This complete, nutritious alternative to meat and dairy products is suitable for those seeking a lean source of protein in their diets, with its naturally sourced with a unique tri-blend of soy, wheat and pea," Maly added. "It is a boost to your diet to load up your day's essentials, giving you an energized start in the morning."

Energize your day and start it right with NUTRILITE All Plant Protein Powder, available through Amway Distributors nationwide and at the 20 Amway Shops located in Petaling Jaya, Seremban, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu, Batu Pahat, Bintulu, Penang, Klang, Wangsa Maju, Mentakab, Taiping, Malacca, Segamat, Brunei, Alor Setar, Kuantan, Nusa Bestari, Seberang Perai, Sibu, and Ipoh. For more information on NUTRILITE All Plant Protein Powder, log on to http://www.amway.my/nutrition/nutrilite/energise-your-day or call Amway at (03) 7946 2800.

*Source: Nutriweb Malaysia 2000-2012 Database of Nutrient Composition of Malaysia Food

This article is brought to you by Amway.

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Labis tapping into other sectors

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 07:24 PM PDT

LABIS: Historians believe that Labis, the name of the second largest town in the Segamat district of Johor, was derived from a Malay word labi-labi or river terrapin.

Labis started with the combination of a few Malay villages including Kampung Paya Merah, Kampung Tenang and Kampung Sungai Gatom.

Based on old folks' tales, Labis existed after British officers who came in to survey areas for development, discovered many river terrapin (labi-labi) in the village, and decided to name the place Labis.

Located between Yong Peng and Segamat, Labis is an agricultural town where most of its residents work in rubber estates or oil palm plantations, while some others are petty traders and government servants.

The opening of rubber and oil palm plantations by the British led to the arrival of Indians to toil in the plantations.

Labis town as well as two other small towns — Chaah and Bekok — were resettlements for the Chinese during the communist insurgency in the 1950s.

Bekok is well known to nature lovers as it houses the western entrance to Endau Rompin National Park, Sungai Batang waterfall and several orang asli villages.

The parliamentary constituency that is carved out of Tenang and Bekok state seats, is easily accessible via road through Jalan Yong Peng-Segamat or even by train, which makes it a popular weekend outing among visitors.

One of the major events in these areas in recent years was the major floods during the Tenang by-election in 2011.

While the constituency has seen a lot of development in recent years, the locals feel that more can be done to develop the area including tapping into its tourism charm, setting up more higher learning institutions, improving facilities, setting up more infrastructure and ensuring better flood mitigation projects.

According to self-employed Tey Ah Lim, 51, Labis had become a regular place of visit mainly among Singaporeans who come and buy durian, cookies and visit the hot springs at Pekan Ayer Panas, located about 14km from Labis town.

However, Tey said there were now less fruit trees and believed that it was because farmers had switched to planting rubber and oil palm that fetch better yields and cash.

He hoped the government would further develop the tourism sector in Labis to help attract more visitors to the small district.

"We have one of the highest mountains in Johor right here in Labis that has yet to be explored.

"The state government could encourage environmental studies to the forest and mountain areas as well as other nature based activities," he said.

He added that tourism was important for local economy besides agriculture.

Mohamed Haari, 46, a rubber tapper from Felda Cemplek, said Labis was lacking higher learning institutions for the young people.

The father of five said he was satisfied with the overall local developments here, but felt the government should do more to attract colleges and universities to the area.

"Our children have to travel far away from homes to Segamat or other districts or states to pursue their studies and it is difficult for families who cannot afford to do so.

"We have been waiting for a college to be set up for over two decades and hope that the dream will come true soon," he added.

A 57-year-old housewife from Bukit Mambai Fatimah Ahmad, 57, said many roads in Labis had been widened, which was good news for the people here as good infrastructure was important for them to travel from one place to another.

However, she felt that the government should enhance their focus on youths and build more sports facilities in villages.

"The children in our village have to travel to Labis or Segamat to play futsal and I hope a futsal court will be built here as sports activities are important for young people and they help keep them away from negative activities," she said.

She added that some of the villages in Labis were lacking sports facilities.

Plantation smallholder Hoh Seow Pong, 48, said he was always worried about commodity prices and hoped to see a stable economic growth and good commodity prices.

"As businessmen, our only hope is continuous economic growth as well as a peaceful society.

"Before this, we heard a lot of complaints about illegal gambling but thank God it is less of a problem now.

"We hope the authorities will continue to monitor such unhealthy activities because many teenagers and adults were visiting illegal gaming centres," he added.

Goh Eng, a 72-year-old coffee shop assistant from Chaah, said flood issues were always the biggest headache for the residents here.

"We will start to worry every time it is near monsoon season.

"Floods happen every year and fortunately it didn't flood during the last monsoon season," she said, and hoped the district council would continue to maintain good drainage to prevent floods.

S. Nadia, 26, a clerk from Ladang Gunung Mas said many workers, especially those living in the estates are still receiving low salaries.

"We hope the minumum wage would be implemented and carried out soon. Even a little increase in salary will mean a lot to us because the cost of living is very high now.

"I do not know when the company I work for will give us our revised salary, but I hope it can be done as soon as possible," she said.

Auxiliary police personnel S. Rama, 29, said he hoped the government could allocate more money to maintain the roads in plantations.

"It is difficult for those living in plantations travelling in and out from their homes to the town without proper roads," said Rama who is also from Ladang Gunung Mas, which has about 80 families in the village.

Nurses at a clinic in Tenang Station Siti Asmidah Che Hassan and Siti Hawa Arzmi said they were glad that the town had an automated-teller machine (ATM) finally.

"People here have been waiting for an ATM for years and it is so convenient now as we do not have to travel to Labis or Segamat, which is about half an hour away, just to withdraw money," she said, adding that the ATM started operations end of last year.

This general election, both Barisan Nasional and the opposition will be going all out to woo the 37,224 voters in this constituency, which has a larger number of non-Malays.

Former soldiers’ wives to receive special aid

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 04:46 PM PDT

MUAR: The Government plans to give a special aid of RM1,000 to widows of former soldiers without pension, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the payment was to honour their husbands' contribution and planned to submit a proposal on the matter to the Cabinet.

He said he personally supported the move and would also submit the matter to the Human Resources Ministry to enable these widows to receive such a scheme.

The Prime Minister has the power to decide on it and I will raise this matter at the Cabinet meeting.

"We have the fund and would want the widows of former soldiers to receive the aid after their husbands had died," he said before presenting cash aid to former soldiers with pension in Johor here recently.

Muhyiddin, who was accompanied by Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad, said the Malaysian Ex-Army Association had played its role in fighting for the needs of its members.

Brighter future for widows

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 07:25 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: Two widows who lost their husbands in separate accidents can now look forward to a brighter future due to assistance from MCA.

Housewife Aw Yong Ngee Lien, 50, and saleswoman Ngoh Mei Foong, 32, both lost their husbands who met with accidents in Gelang Patah and Skudai here.

The cause for both accidents was because of errant contractors who did not put up warning signs while conducting road works.

Both women said that they were grateful to MCA who had hired lawyers on their behalf to claim for damages against the contractor.

Both recently won their respective suits.

Aw said without the settlement money, she would be at a loss, as she had to take care of four children after her husband met with an accident on Jan 6 in 2011.

"I have no job and my eldest child is studying at a local university and my youngest is still schooling," she said adding that the money would definitely reduce her financial burden.

Ngoh also said that she was grateful to MCA for their assistance.

"My husband died on June 2 last year and without help, my family's future would have been quite bleak," she said adding that the money would be used to educate her two children.

Meanwhile, MCA Gelang Patah division chief Jason Teoh, who aided both women in settling their cases urged the local council to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.

"The local council should conduct checks to ensure that contractors adhere to the regulations and put up enough sign boards to warn motorists of road works," he said.

He added that the council should also take stern action against errant contractors as their inconsiderate behaviour could lead to the loss of lives.

"MCA Gelang Patah division will always help those who are in need especially when it comes to cases like this," he said.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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