Khamis, 21 Mac 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. optimistic for Chinese action on North Korea

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 08:23 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States is optimistic China will take action against North Korea by increasing scrutiny of financial transactions to Pyongyang that could contravene fresh U.N. sanctions, a senior U.S. envoy said on Friday.

Stopping illicit money flows are a key part of the sanctions imposed on North Korea in response to its February 12 nuclear test. China is Pyongyang's sole diplomatic and economic ally, although it negotiated the latest sanctions with Washington and has said it wanted them implemented.

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Treasury Department David Cohen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington July 17, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Treasury Department David Cohen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington July 17, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

"We asked the Chinese for enhanced scrutiny of financial institutions in North Korea. It's no secret that there is a fair amount of financial relationship between China and North Korea and Chinese financial institutions in North Korea," David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told reporters in Beijing.

"We encourage the Chinese regulatory authorities to inform the Chinese banking sector about Security Council Resolution 2094 to the provisions that call for preventing financial services to North Korea if they could contribute to nuclear/ballistic missile programmes or North Korea's conventional arms sales," he added.

"We are hopeful that Chinese banks and Chinese regulators will take heed of the Security Council resolution. I have every confidence that they will."

Beijing has become increasingly frustrated with North Korea's actions, Chinese experts have said. Besides the February 12 nuclear test, North Korea tested a long-range missile in December and has stepped up its rhetoric against the United States and South Korea.

Dan Fried, the U.S. State Department's new coordinator of sanctions policy, also said Washington hoped ultimately to reach a diplomatic solution with North Korea.

Chinese regulators appear to have issued a warning shot to North Korean banks, telling them to stay within the remit of their permitted operations in China or risk penalties.

A report from South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Tuesday cited a Beijing-based source as saying the warning had been given to four North Korean financial institutions, some of whom have been named in United Nations and United States sanctions for aiding Pyongyang in its nuclear and missile programmes.

The report said the banks may have been able to save on fees and get access to preferred exchange rates through their short-term lending and remittance operations.

Clamping down on such practices would not amount to anything close to what the new U.N. sanctions call for.

The March 7 sanctions tighten financial curbs on North Korea and also order mandatory checks of suspicious cargo.

Yonhap said Tanchon Commercial Bank, Korea Kwangson Banking Corp (KKBC), Korea Daesong Bank and Golden Triangle Bank had received notices from the banking regulator ordering them to conduct business according to their permits.

Beijing has joined every round of U.N. sanctions against North Korea although questions remain over how closely it imposes restraints on its neighbour.

(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Writing by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Dean Yates)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

U.S. hopeful for strong action by China over North Korea - envoy

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 07:33 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States is optimistic that China will take strong action against North Korea and has urged Beijing to increase scrutiny of financial institutions with links to Pyongyang, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said on Friday.

Cohen said that the United States believes that China is looking at the threat by North Korea in a new and different way.

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Treasury Department David Cohen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington July 17, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Treasury Department David Cohen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington July 17, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Dan Fried, the U.S. State Department's new coordinator of sanctions policy, also said Washington hopes ultimately to reach a diplomatic solution with North Korea.

(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; editing by Jonathan Standing)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Venezuelan police fire tear gas during clash ahead of vote

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 05:46 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Police fired tear gas in downtown Caracas on Thursday as anti-government student protesters clashed with supporters of late President Hugo Chavez in an increasingly volatile atmosphere ahead of next month's election.

Venezuela's opposition leader and presidential candidate Henrique Capriles greets supporters as he arrives at a rally in Maturin, at the state of Monagas March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela's opposition leader and presidential candidate Henrique Capriles greets supporters as he arrives at a rally in Maturin, at the state of Monagas March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Several hundred students were marching to the election board's headquarters to demand a clean vote when they were blocked by government supporters who hurled stones, bottles and eggs at them, a Reuters witness said.

Some of the students threw stones back, other witnesses said.

"We were holding a peaceful march. ... All we want is democracy," said law student Eduardo Vargas, 19, whose eye was injured in the incident. "We're all Venezuelans. We just want a fair vote."

Police fired tear gas towards the 150 or so government supporters and formed a cordon between the two sides.

It was the first outbreak of violence since an election was called on April 14 for the South American OPEC nation following Chavez's death from cancer two weeks ago.

Both candidates, acting President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles, have been trading personal accusations as they rally supporters for the vote.

One onlooker, Gustavo Malave, a 78-year-old who works for one of the socialist "community councils" set up during Chavez's 14-year rule, blamed the students for starting the trouble.

"The clash began because the opposition started throwing stones," he said. "I support Chavez and Maduro. Chavez set this course, and it's going to continue for 40 or 50 years."

Before the clash, the students had been marching to the election headquarters singing the national anthem and carrying signs including "Free and fair elections" and "Nicolas is a liar."

"The students are saying to the world and to the country that we are in the street. We want transparent and free elections," said one student leader, Victor Fernandez.

Maduro at an evening campaign rally called the students "a small group of recalcitrant right-wing people."

"None of us can ... be provoked by those tiny groups that make a living off hatred," he said.

He said the group had links to two U.S. diplomats expelled on the day of Chavez's death on charges they were attempting to conspire with the Venezuelan military.

"I want you to know that those two men directly gave orders and instructions and money to this same group," he said.

That charge follows a flurry of recent accusations against U.S. authorities including a charge that the State Department is seeking to kill Capriles to spark a coup.

Washington denies the accusation.

With sympathy over Chavez's death galvanizing government supporters, Maduro, 50, a longtime socialist stalwart, is favourite to win next month's vote.

Two polls published this week put the former bus driver ahead of Capriles by more than 14 percentage points.

Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, accuses Maduro of being a nonentity who is exploiting the emotion around Chavez's death. He wants voters to focus on daily problems confronting Venezuelans ranging from potholes to high crime rates and corruption.

Capriles, a centrist politician who says Brazil's free-market economics with strong welfare policies is his model for Venezuela, lost to Chavez last year by 11 percentage points.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)

Related Stories:
U.S. put off by Venezuela's "bizarre" behaviour - official

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Join Red FM's Teh Tarik Party in aid of furry friends

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 12:59 AM PDT

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Woods scrambles to 69, trails Rose by four

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 05:21 PM PDT

ORLANDO (Florida): Tiger Woods, chasing Rory McIlroy for golf's world No. 1 ranking, scrambled to a 69 on Thursday that left him four shots off the first-round lead of Justin Rose at Bay Hill.

Woods can overtake Northern Ireland's McIlroy atop the world rankings with a successful defence of his Bay Hill title. McIlroy isn't playing the event.

The 14-time major champion got off to an erratic start, hitting just eight fairways and 12 greens and needing 28 putts in a three-under-par first round of the Us$6.2mil US PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"I didn't drive it well, didn't hit my irons well and didn't control my distances or trajectory well," said Woods, a seven-time winner of this event.

But he countered his three bogeys with an eagle at the par-five 16th and four birdies, including three in a row from the par-five fourth.

Several key par saves included one at his opening hole, the 10th, where his approach from a bunker was long. He chipped to within three feet and made the putt.

"I certainly didn't play my best, but I got around and made a few good saves out there," he said.

England's Rose, playing alongside Woods, opened with a 65. His seven-under effort included an eagle and six birdies - including a stretch of four in a row from the fourth.

He had a two-shot lead over American John Huh, whose five-under 67 included six birdies.

American John Rollins and Brad Fritsch of Canada were tied on 68, while Woods was in a group of 10 players on 69 that also included Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen. - AFP

Serena races into third round at Miami

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 05:31 PM PDT

Published: Friday March 22, 2013 MYT 8:18:00 AM
Updated: Friday March 22, 2013 MYT 8:31:00 AM

MIAMI: World No. 1 Serena Williams cruised into the third round of the Miami WTA and ATP Masters hardcourt tournament on Thursday with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Italian Flavia Pennetta.

Williams saved all seven break points she faced and broke Pennetta five times. She had the Italian under pressure often - giving herself 18 break points.

Williams next faces Japan's Ayumi Morita, a 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-3 winner over Belgian Yanina Wickmayer. - AFP

Li Na makes winning return to WTA tour

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 05:21 PM PDT

MIAMI: China's Li Na made a winning return to WTA action on Thursday, beating Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1 in her second-round opener at the Miami WTA and ATP Masters hardcourt tournament.

Li had been sidelined for seven seeks after hurting her left ankle in the final of the Australian Open, where she fell to Victoria Azarenka.

"I wasn't nervous today before the match, but I was excited," Li said. "For the last six or seven weeks I haven't played any tournaments so I was happy with the result and to win my first match after such a long time."

Li, ranked fifth in the world and seeded fifth in a field headed by world No. 1 Serena Williams, didn't drop her serve, saving both break points she faced in the emphatic 67-minute match. She was buoyed by a vocal contingent of fans, something she wasn't expecting.

"There were a lot of fans there to support me today, I was like 'Wow!'" she said.

"My game was pretty good. I followed the plan of what I should do. I just had to believe in myself that I could do it." - AFP


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

ECB to uphold emergency funding to Cyprus till Monday

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 06:38 PM PDT

Friday March 22, 2013

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank (ECB) warned that it will only continue to provide emergency funding to Cyprus until Monday as the debt-hit country scrambles to secure funding for its banks.

"The governing council of the European Central Bank decided to maintain the current level of Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) until Monday. Thereafter, ELA could only be considered if an EU/IMF programme is in place that would ensure the solvency of the concerned banks," the ECB said in a short statement.

On Wednesday, ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen had hinted that Cyprus' banks could not count on the ELA emergency funding if Nicosia did not agree to a bailout deal, complete with a restructuring of its banking system.

The ECB could only provide funds to banks that were solvent, and their solvency would not be assured "if an assistance programme for Cyprus that guarantees a rapid recapitalisation of the banking sector is not agreed upon soon," Asmussen said.

Cypriot leaders were to decide yesterday on a newly drawn-up plan aimed at securing a bailout for the near-bankrupt eurozone member, after parliament rejected a controversial tax on savings.

President Nicos Anastasiades is to present a "Plan B package" to party leaders at the presidential palace, after he chaired an emergency cabinet meeting called to weigh the alternative plan on Wednesday. - AFP

Bankers get one last bonus season before EU cap

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 06:37 PM PDT

Friday March 22, 2013

BRUSSELS: Bankers in Europe will have one final bonus season before they are barred from awarding themselves payouts worth more than their salary, European Union lawmakers agreed on Wednesday, paving the way for the first cap of its kind globally.

The cap is designed to address public anger at a bonus-driven culture many European politicians believe encouraged the risk-taking that led to the near-collapse of some of the region's biggest banks.

The law will take effect in January 2014 but will only apply to bonuses paid in 2015. A special provision to recognise that bonuses are paid for the previous year's work means bankers who collect payouts next February and March will not yet be affected.

The new rules will make it harder to award large payouts such as the bonus worth more than £17mil cashed in this week by Rich Ricci, the head of Barclays' investment bank.

The rules, part of a wider capital regime for banks, allow bonuses of twice bankers' salary if shareholders agree. They represent the toughest bonus regime anywhere in the world. - Reuters

Japan February exports fall

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 06:36 PM PDT

TOKYO: Japanese exports fell in February from a year earlier, but confidence among Japanese manufacturers improved for the fourth consecutive month in a sign that the economy is slowly recovering from last year's recession.

Finance Ministry data showed exports fell 2.9% in February from a year earlier, more than a 1.9% drop expected by economists in a Reuters poll, after a revised 6.3% rise in January.

Analysts said it would take time for the yen's slide to 3-year lows, which has been driven by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push for aggressive monetary easing and fiscal pump priming, to feed through to improved exports even though it immediately raises the price of imports.

But the policy mix aimed at ending nearly two decades of deflation and dubbed "Abenomics" is already boosting corporate morale.

A Reuters monthly poll, which is closely correlated with the Bank of Japan's quarterly tankan corporate survey, showed manufacturers' sentiment index rose two points to minus 11 in March and was expected to swing to plus four in June.

"The trade data show the pace of improvement in exports is slower than previously expected. The yen's weakness is likely to have an impact on export volumes gradually from the March and April data toward summer," said Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief economist at Itochu Economic Research Institute in Tokyo.

"The Reuters Tankan shows a pickup in corporate sentiment for both manufacturers and non-manufacturers on the back of higher share prices," he said.

A negative reading in the poll means there are still more pessimists than optimists, but the March 418 survey of 400 firms, shows the gap has been steadily narrowing since the end of 2012.

Imports rose 11.9% in the year to February, a fourth straight increase but below expectations of a 15.1% rise. The 777.5 billion yen (US$8.14bil) deficit was narrower than the 836 billion yen deficit expected by economists, but was still the largest on record for the month of February. - Reuters


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Banting murders trial: Lawyer did not know client would plead guilty

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 08:50 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: A lawyer denied knowing his client would be charged for disposing evidence related to the murder case of cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and her three aides.

Roslie Sulle, 36, who represented K. Sarawanan in 2010, said he did not know his client would plead guilty to the charges under Section 201 of the Penal Code.

(On Oct 15, 2010, Sarawanan, 22, and another man U. Suresh, 30, pleaded guilty to disposing the evidence in the murders of Sosilawati, 47, her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 44, CIMB bank officer Noorhisham Mohammad,38, and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32 at Lot No 2001, Jalan Tanjung Layang, Tanjung Sepat, Banting on Aug 30, 2010.)

The witness, who ceased practice early this year, however, admitted that he prepared a mitigation for a guilty plea for Sarawanan a day before the accused was brought before the magistrate in Banting.

"I had a discussion with (co-counsel) M. Puravalen on the possibility of our clients being charged. (In our opinion) They were most likely to be charged under Section 201 or Section 302 of the Penal Code.

"We only did preparation. If they want to plead guilty, we would use this (mitigation). If they don't, we would not proceed," he said.

Roslie said he prepared the mitigation for Sarawanan while another co-counsel Muhammad Naguib Abdul Malik prepared for Suresh.

To another question by lawyer Manjeet Singh Dhillon, Roslie said he prepared a standard mitigation for all his clients.

The witness disagreed to suggestion that he was earlier informed by the police that his client would be brought to court on Oct 15, 2010, when he took up the case.

Manjeet: I put it to you, you issued a bill dated Oct 13, 2010 for a RM500 payment for you to appear in court on Oct 15, 2010.

Roslie: I don't know.

Manjeet pointed out a bill was made by Roslie Sulle & Co to one Muniamah (Suresh's mother) citing payment of RM500 for court appearance on Oct 15,2010.

"What I remember is their remand expired on Oct 15, 2010 but I don't know whether they will be charged. But I promised I would appear whether they are charged or not," he said.

Manjeet then suggested that Roslie had cheated his client as he issued them a bill before his court appearance, to which Roslie did not reply.

Sarawanan and Suresh are currently serving a total of 28 years jail each in Sungai Udang prison, Melaka.

Sarawanan admitted to burning the bodies while Suresh threw the ashes into Sungai Panchau in Jalan Morib the next day (Aug 31, 2010).

Four men N. Pathmanabhan, T. Thilayalagan, R. Matan and R. Kathavarayan have claimed trial to murdering Sosilawati and her companions.

They allegedly committed the offences at Lot 2001, Jalan Tanjung Layang,Tanjung Sepat, Banting, between 8.30pm and 9.45pm on Aug 30, 2010.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Justice Akhtar Tahir.

Lahad Datu: Roads in Terengganu named after two fallen heroes

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 07:40 AM PDT

BESUT: The Terengganu government will immortalise two national heroes who were killed in Lahad Datu by naming roads after them.

Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said said it was a sign of remembering the deeds and sacrifices of the late ASP Zulkifli Mamat and ACP Ibrahim Lebar.

"We will name roads at the places of their births after them," he said at a ceremony to hand over contributions to their families in Kampung Kubang Ikan and Jabi, Jerteh, here, on Thursday.

A contribution of RM50,000 each from the state government was given to the families of Zulkifli and Ibrahim.

Ahmad also said education loans would be offered to two of Ibrahim's children studying at a university in Egypt and Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Segamat.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim's widow, Rosiah Dahlan,40, expressed her appreciation and thanks to the state government and the police for their help.

The mother of the late Zulkifli, Khatijah Ismail, 62, who received the contribution on behalf of her daughter-in-law, Noraziah Noor, 30, said she would hand over the contribution to Noraziah, who was not well. Bernama

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Papa Gomo releases "intimate chat" video clip

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 07:17 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Blogger Papa Gomo has released a video-clip showing a man resembling Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim having an intimate chat with another male as a response to the latter's RM100mil suit against him.

The blogger said he had uploaded the 2.37-minute video clip "because Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had filed the RM100mil defamation suit against me for uploading allegedly lewd photographs.

"Watch the video and you can evaluate for yourself if the man in this video is Anwar Ibrahim or not," he wrote in his blog.

The video shows a man, who resembles Anwar, sitting on a couch talking in a "flirtatious" manner with another man.

There was nothing lewd in the video and the conversation centred on where they had been and what they had done.

The blogger also implied that more videos would be released.

The blogger claimed that he had met the other man unseen in the video and was now "protecting him" with some other friends. Papa Gomo said the man was an undergraduate.

Papa Gomo said the suit filed by Anwar provided a big opportunity for him to call "a string of people" as witnesses, among them former Thai consul Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah, Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Noordin, PKR founding member Ng Lum Yum, Datuk S. Nallakaruppan, Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan, and a senior PAS leader.

Related Stories:
Anwar threatens Papa Gomo with RM100mil defamation suit over naked photo


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

British horror writer James Herbert dies aged 69

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 08:16 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Best-selling British horror writer James Herbert, who penned novels such as The Rats and The Fog, has died suddenly at the age of 69, his publisher said on Wednesday.

Herbert's editor at publisher Pan Macmillan, Jeremy Trevathan, said the writer died on Wednesday morning in bed at his home in Sussex. No cause of death was given but a spokeswoman for the publisher said he had not been ill.

Herbert (pic) wrote 23 novels, was published in 34 languages and sold more than 54 million copies worldwide during a writing career which spanned nearly 40 years.

Four of his novels were made into films: The Survivor, Fluke, Haunted and The Rats, whose silver screen title was Deadly Eyes.

"Jim Herbert was one of the keystone authors in a genre that had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s," Trevathan said in an emailed statement from Pan Macmillan.

"It's a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death."

Herbert, who was born in London's East End, worked as an art director at an advertising agency after studying at art college and began writing his first novel when he was 28.

His first novel, The Rats, depicting a London overrun by mutant, flesh-eating rodents, was released in 1974 and its first printing of 100,000 copies sold out in three weeks, paving the way for Herbert to become Britain's leading writer of horror.

Herbert, who designed his own book covers, was awarded the OBE in 2010, the same year he was made the Grand Master of Horror by the World of Horror Convention.

He is survived by his wife Eileen, and their three daughters.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

The Host merchandise, ticket contest

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 01:30 AM PDT

When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about, proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.

Catch The Host in cinemas this month. eCentral and Nusantara Edaran Filem is giving away movie merchandise and special screening tickets to this movie.

Plus, thanks to Universal Music, some of you will also receive a copy of Night Visions. The song, Radioactive by Imagine Dragons is featured in The Host. Night Visions is available in CD stores and iTunes.

To win, answer the questions below.

1. Name the actress who plays Melanie Stryder.

2. This movie is based on the book written by the same author as the Twilight series. Name this author.

Email your answers with your details (name, address, IC number and contact number) to by 25 March 2013. Title the subject THE HOST.

Movie Prizes

4 X The Host t-shirt + Night Visions album + one pair special screening tickets each

4 X The Host laptop sleeve + one pair special screening tickets each

4 X The Host torchlight + one pair special screening tickets each

Special screening

Date: 3 April (Wednesday)

Time: 9.30pm

Venue: Hall 15; Cathay Cineplex eCurve 16

Rules & Regulations

1. The contest is open to all Malaysian residents residing in Malaysia only.

2. To qualify for a prize, contestants must include relevant personal details (full name, address, new IC number , contact number). Email your answers to

3. Contestants may submit only one entry each. Multiple entries will be disqualified.

4. One prize is allowed per contestant only.

5. Prizes are not exchangeable for cash and the organizer reserves the right to exchange the prize with that of a similar value without prior notice.

6. Staff of The Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad, sponsors and their immediate families are not allowed to participate.

7. Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entertained.

8. Judges will be from The Star Online.

9. For enquiries, please e-mail

10. I hereby expressly consent to the collection, collation, use and/or disclosure of all my personal data by Star Publications (M) Berhad for the purposes of The Host contest.

11. Winners will be notified by email.

Selena Gomez breaks free from squeaky clean image

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 09:18 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress and singer Selena Gomez breaks out of her squeaky clean Disney Channel image to star in the independent film Spring Breakers for filmmaker Harmony Korine.

In the film, which opens in wide release in the United States on Friday, Gomez stars as a young girl who is part of a quartet of college students whose spring break in Florida takes them from parties to jail and a criminal underworld.

Gomez is best known as pop star Justin Bieber's ex-girlfriend and the star of Disney's The Wizards Of Waverly Place, which ended its four season run last year. She recently returned to the channel for a reunion film, The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.

Gomez, 20, spoke to Reuters about her career, growing up and transitioning into more adult roles.

Harmony Korine has a reputation for shocking his audience with movies like Kids, Gummo and Trash Humpers. Weren't you nervous about doing this film?

I was more excited and enticed. When I auditioned for Harmony, we talked about how he wanted to leave my lifestyle behind and have me go on this adventure with him. I knew it was going to be crazy, but I was comfortable with it.

What do you mean by lifestyle? The squeaky clean Disney lifestyle which was totally flipped upside down in this movie?

It was more that Harmony wanted an innocence because he thought it would be creepier. I agree with him.

You spend most of the film in a skimpy bikini. Did you feel self conscious?

When we did the spring break scenes, we were surrounded by hundreds of spring breakers in bikinis who wore even less, so that was okay. I was more uncomfortable in the scenes where I was (in a bikini) getting arrested, in jail and in the pool hall with strangers. It added vulnerability and helped me feel grossed out, which was what my character is supposed to feel.

For someone who started her career on the pre-school show Barney & Friends and spent her teen years on the Disney Channel, this must have been unlike any other acting job.

It was completely liberating. (Up until this film), everything I've been a part of definitely has been a bit more processed, like how many pieces of jewelry I have on, what my hair looks like. With Harmony, I never wore makeup and he never cared about my hair.

After an experience like that, you must come out the other side feeling like you've grown and changed somewhat.

I think that's a really good way of putting it because I feel like I did grow up shooting this. This was the first movie I shot by myself without my mum coming. It was the first time I got to improvise as much as I have.

And to work with someone like James Franco, it was the first time I was around someone of that acting caliber. Harmony believed in me and pushed me to be a better actor, so there's a special place in my heart for Harmony for sure.

You've got a couple of other films in the can - the action film The Getaway, a cameo in the horror film, Aftershock. Now that your film career is taking off, why did you go back to Disney for a reunion with your Wizards cast?

A: I missed them. I missed the channel, I missed everybody on the show. It was a big part of my life that I'm thankful for. That's where I started so I wanted to go back.

Your younger fans can't see Spring Breakers. Was this TV movie your way of giving them something new as well?

It always made me happy that we got to bring families together every night. I love having that connection with the younger audience and I missed that feeling.

How do you chart a film career from this point on?

I'm actually taking a complete turn now and going in to music. My album comes out this summer and I'll be touring. I always structure my music and tours in a way that is geared for my fans and supporters that have been there from the beginning. My music is definitely the kind I would want them to hear.

How do you balance between moving forward into more adult roles while bearing in mind that you are role model to many young girls?

It's a very awkward transition to make. I want to challenge myself and (my choices) may not be appropriate for a young audience. I'm choosing movies that I feel are artistically fun and creative. I hope people are appreciative of the work I do. I feel like I'm doing the best I can and hopefully it works out.

Last man standing

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 04:12 PM PDT

A battle rages on in the White House as extremists hold the most powerful nation to ransom.

THE action-packed Olympus Has Fallen very quickly introduces its main players before embarking directly into its core premise. A premise that is sure to get anyone's attention – the White House is attacked, putting both the US president and the nation in great peril.

Well, it definitely got producer and actor Gerard Butler interested in the project, as well as director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and a slew of great actors (including Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster).

In the film, Butler plays Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent and former Special Forces member assigned to protect President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) and his family. But due to an unforeseen tragedy, Banning is removed from the White House and put in a desk job. All this is established in the first 15 minutes of the film. After that, things start rolling really fast when a group of terrorists – each with a specific role to play – takes over the White House with scary precision.

To make the hostile takeover as real as possible, Fuqua researched all the possible scenarios with a team of consultants comprising former Secret Service, FBI and CIA agents, as well as law enforcement officials. According to them, an attack on the White House is very possible as it takes at least 15 minutes for emergency military forces and support agents to get to the location. In the film, the takeover happens in real time – 13 minutes.

Fuqua said in the film's production notes: "The way Washington DC is laid out, there is no direct road to the White House. It would take a bit of time for any real force to arrive by land. In the air, it would be much shorter, but a well oiled-plan would still cause chaos. Even with all the security they have in place, the concept that someone could inflict serious damage is real. You get up to the fence with a backpack, how do they know what's in it? If you can get into our airspace, and you're willing to die, what kind of harm could you do first?"

Butler shared Fuqua's view of wanting to ground the happenings to reality and to make what's happening believable. A mock attack was minutely detailed with every little thing explained, during the scripting of the film. For example, in one part of the attack, a garbage truck is used to make an impactful damage to the exterior of the White House. The reason for this was that since the story is set on July 5 (a day after the country celebrates its Independence Day), garbage trucks cleaning the streets are a common scene.

Butler shared: "Nothing is simple conjecture. It's all about the genius of the plan, rather than just the level of action. Remember, 9/11 was as simple as some guys taking a box cutter onto a plane. That's what grabbed me about this, how relevant and how provocative it was."

When the dust settles down, Banning (who arrives at the White House after hearing the sirens and explosions) is the only one who can do anything to shift the balance away from the baddies. Using his intimate knowledge of the presidential residence, Banning has to find a way to infiltrate and systematically retake control, while trying to rescue the president who is held hostage in the underground bunker (the place the president and his close aides are evacuated to in case of an emergency).

Following the rule of keeping everything real, limited special effects were used and a replica of the White House was built in Shreveport, Louisiana. Production designer Derek Hill – who had previously built one for Oliver Stone's W. – once again created a detailed set including the water fountain, the front façade and the interior of the front lobby for Olympus Has Fallen.

As Butler is in almost every frame of the film, he was also responsible for keeping everything real with his character, Banning.

The actor, who has done his share of action films, was constantly put in physical danger but took the brunt of the abuse like a champion. Even Keith Woulard, a former Navy SEAL hired to oversee the action, was impressed with the actor's commitment. Several times, when the Scottish actor had the option of using a stunt double, he chose to do the stunt himself.

Fuqua said: "He is extremely dedicated. We could have done a wide shot and let a stuntman do it, but he wanted to do it all. He took a few bruises, because he and Rick Yune would just go at it, slamming each other against the walls. And because those walls aren't real, we had to keep stopping to fix them!"

He added: "Any time we have to confront danger, there is something exciting about that. Putting yourself on the edge creates adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you feel more alive. A movie like Olympus Has Fallen makes you think about life and the dangers it holds.

"Since 9/11, we have come to look at the world differently. The movie is extremely entertaining, but it's also a cautionary tale. When we let our guard down, anything can happen."

Olympus Has Fallen opens in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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God of Love emerges at art museum

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 07:00 PM PDT

Romance in third century BC: It was a lot like now.

A plump, naughty looking winged baby with a bow and arrow: sounds like the illustration on a Valentine's Day card, right? Wrong: it's a two-thousand-year-old statue on show in New York.

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Changing Image Of Eros, Ancient Greek God Of Love, From Antiquity To Renaissance, demonstrates that love as we know it doesn't just last forever – it's been around forever too.

The centrepiece of the exhibit, which opened last week and runs through June 23, is a remarkable, life size bronze sculpture of Eros shown as a sleeping baby.

His chubby legs are draped over a stone. One of his wings lies flat, the details of every feather visible, and the other is tucked up underneath.

Unusually for Greek art, the god's eyes are shut. And in a touching nuance, the baby's mouth rests open, while his left hand lies limp, having dropped his famous bow.

"He's in the midst of his labours and he's taking a nap," curator Sean Hemingway told AFP.

Those labours, according to the Greek myth, were very much as doodling, love-sick teens might imagine them today: Eros firing arrows of love.

Less well known is that the Greek Eros had two arrows – "either tipped with gold or tipped with lead," said Hemingway.

"The golden ones gave burning desire and the lead ones," he added with a chuckle, "repelled people from burning desire."

The image of Eros captured in the statue, which is dated to the third-second centuries BC and comes from the island of Rhodes, spawned a remarkable dynasty of lookalikes, right from Roman art's Cupid to the winged cherubs of Renaissance paintings, and into our popular culture today.

But Eros wasn't always so cuddly. Until the period when winged babies came out with their darts of passion, the god was depicted in Archaic Greek poetry as a "powerful, often cruel, and capricious being," the exhibit explains.

The baby version meant love was "brought down to earth and disarmed."

"The idea of love is a universal concept," said Hemingway, an archaeologist and the grandson of the novelist Ernest Hemingway.

"For the Greeks, it was an important god and we continue to think of love, if not as a god, as important. Valentine's Day is coming up, so it's a good time to remember him."

Hemingway called the piece a "great masterpiece" that has always "fascinated" him.

It certainly fascinated the Romans, who made copies in large quantities, followed by the Renaissance artists whose rediscovery of Classical art inspired Europe's cultural explosion after the Middle Ages.

"He was rediscovered in the Renaissance early on," said Hemingway.

Incidentally, there's one more link between that ancient artwork and our modern cult of love: the statue's presumed birthplace.

Rhodes, Hemingway pointed out, "means 'rose' in Greek." – AFP

Hackett London makes 'fashion invasion' in KL

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 06:57 PM PDT

In a fashion invasion of sorts, Hackett London makes its presence felt in the city of Kuala Lumpur.

IMAGINE you are busy going about your business in the daily grind called life, when you suddenly come across a bunch of bowler-hatted men carrying umbrellas convening at a landmark location in Kuala Lumpur.

"Who are they? What are they doing? Why are they here?" you may ask yourself. Well, it was the Hackett Bowler Hat Invasion.

The "fashion invasion" that took place on Feb 25 was a marketing initiative by British menswear brand Hackett London to announce its arrival in Malaysia.

It marked the recent opening of the brand's boutiques in the city, and six male models in dapper, tailored suits made several stops at several of Kuala Lumpur's most famous locations.

Jeremy Hackett, the fashion designer and founder of Hackett London, sees this so-called "invasion" as a celebrated arrival of the brand. As the bowler hat and umbrella are synonymous with Britain, he thinks it is a humorous way of bringing the brand to our country.

"The message is that Hackett London is truly a British brand that understands its heritage. It is this heritage that we draw upon to dress men," Hackett further explains.

As seen in the snapshots photographed exclusively for Star2, the fanfare involved the men posing at places such as the National Mosque, Merdeka Square and Petronas Twin Towers. Not only that, they also played an impromptu game of cricket at the Royal Selangor Club, stopped for tea at the Coliseum Café and took a train ride from the city's railway station.

However, this is not the first time such a marketing initiative has come from Hackett London. It has been carried out by the brand in various cities all over the world for other boutique openings.

Hackett says: "The last one we had was in Italy for the opening of our Milan boutique. We had about 20 models similarly dressed, and they paraded around the city – sitting in cafés, reading an English newspaper and hailing London cabs which we had hired.

"The whole idea was just something I came up with one day. I felt it would be great fun and the perfect way to announce our presence, not to mention slightly eccentric, which, of course, makes it all the more British."

Hackett also thinks that men all over the world are generally captivated by the image of the English gentleman. More so, with Malaysia having a past connection with Britain, there is still a lingering appetite for all things British.

"The introduction of British style and fashion through Hackett London has proven to be successful in other Asian countries. I believe that it will also be relevant to Malaysian men in this regard," he adds.

For Spring/Summer 2013, Hackett London is giving a unique modern approach to evocative style. What is observed is that the brand's contemporary take on classic menswear conveys both authenticity and originality for the season.

The different lines of the collection each tell a story. The Roaring 20s line brings a new modernity to a nostalgic man's style, with a nod to the elegance of that era. In the Artist, we see the brand revisiting a period when big names such as Picasso and Matisse ruled, reflecting a bohemian, more laid-back style of living.

Boathouse channels the spirit and preppy, collegiate style of a bygone era when sportsmanship and the art of dressing up went hand-in-hand, while Desert Rally is a refreshing take on the traditional "British explorer" look, with a tougher, slightly more rugged, aesthetic.

Finally, there's the Jamaica line. James Bond creator Ian Fleming's Jamaican residence provides the setting for the final story this season, with lightweight blazers, bright cotton trousers and garment dye knits – perfect for warmer climes.

When asked, Hackett says that he particularly likes the soft tailoring of this season: "It is elegant yet relaxed. For example, the seersucker and linen suits co-ordinated with bow ties are very smart. The white paint splattered trousers are also my favourite, which can be worn with a simple polo shirt."

Hackett London's iconic Mayfair line remains sleek and streamlined for the new season. A slim silhouette is evident in all the designs, with emphasis on colours and patterns, especially checks.

What's new is the addition of innovation to its tradition. The brand's unique "mechanical stretch" process allows pure blend luxury fabrics and gives sharp tailoring a greater degree of movement in all its garments.

Hackett says that a man need not have a particular style to find Hackett London's pieces appealing.

Instead he thinks that if you are interested in fashion, you will appreciate the brand's aesthetics.

"I believe we present our style in such a manner that makes it desirable for a great number of men. We are here, really, to open up the possibilities of dressing well, and not to be dictatorial about it," he comments.

His thoughts on the reception of Malaysian men towards Hackett London?

"Judging by the initial reaction to our boutiques in Kuala Lumpur, I dare say Malaysian men are indeed very receptive."

Hackett London boutiques are located in Suria KLCC and Pavilion KL. The brand will be having a fashion show at Pavilion KL tomorrow evening.


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Adults exploiting children can be prosecuted

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 11:59 PM PDT

THE Federal Territory Welfare Department said adults found exploiting children will face the full brunt of the law.

It said this following cases where children were found begging and peddling items out on the streets.

Its director Noor­mah Abd Rauf said the culprits could be prosecuted under Section 17 (1)(k) of the Child Act (2001) and fined up to RM5,000.

"When we come across such cases, the first thing we do is warn their parents.

"We make them aware that they cannot allow their children to go out and beg or become peddlers," she said, adding that orphans found doing so would be placed under the Welfare Depart-ment's custody for one month.

"During this time, we investigate the child's background and try to locate their relatives who can provide care," she added.

"If we return the children to the parents or their legal guardians, we warn them first or sign an agreement with them to ensure they do not exploit the children," Noor­mah said.

She said errant parents or individuals who exploited children would not be allowed to get away with it. However, Noormah said in many cases, the parents were simply unaware of their childrens' activities.

She said they could have been exploited by those at the home they were placed in or by others.

"In most cases, we find that the parents or their guardians are usually unaware of what their children are up to after being sent to these homes," she said

Noormah said homes registered under the Welfare Department found to be exploiting children could be charged under Section 93 (1) of the Children Act (2001).

"The homes can also be blacklisted by the Registrar of Societies or the Registrar of Companies," she added.

Noormah said it was difficult to identify these homes and that sometimes these children were from unregistered homes.

"Some homes such as Baitulmal or orphanages are also registered under the state religious department," she said.

Noormah said the public could help curb this problem by not giving money to children found begging or buy items peddled by them.

"Malaysians are usually generous and sympathetic. They feel compelled to help but they must not encourage this practice. They must remember that the money collected goes to some unscrupulous adults," she said.

Noormah said the public who come across children begging or selling items can alert the Welfare Department by calling Talian Nur's helpline at 15999.

Metro Watch

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 11:21 PM PDT


Learn the fine art of public speaking from experienced trainers at The Star-ESUM-PKT Logistics Group Public Speaking Workshop which will held from 9am to 5pm at Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, Petaling Jaya, on March 23. It is open to students aged between 16 and 20 years. Those interested can call 03-7967 1388 (ext 1237 or 1240).


Celebrity Designer Eric Leong will conduct a workshop entitled "ID Uncensored" at The One Academy, Bandar Sunway, from 9am to 1pm on March 28. It is open to all SPM leavers on a first-come-first-served basis. For enquiries or reservations, call Lee Yun at 03-5637 5510 ext 133 or email


Pantai Hospital Cheras will conduct a Diabetic Counseling Session at Diabetic Couseling Room, third floor, Pantai Hospital Cheras, from 8.30am to 1pm on March 23. For more information or for enquiries, ca Sr Sunthari at 03-9132 2022 ext 2126 or Ms Ang at 03-9132 2022 ext 3302.


Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre Klang (SKSMC) will be organising a public forum on "Kidneys for life: STOP Acute Kidney Injury" from 8.30am to 1pm at Wing B, second floor, SKSMC on April 6. Participants are advised to reserve a place as seats are limited. For more information call 03-3373 3636 ext 7313/7335/7356.


Koperasi Usahawan India Malaysia Berhad will be organising a programme titled "Investing in Palm Oil: Opportunities and Networking" from 6.30pm to 10pm at Perdana 1 and 2, Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur, on March 28. For details, call Jency (03-67334533) or Elizabeth (016-2258797).


Jochebed Isaac, a clinical psychologist who has many years of experience with autistic children, will be having a talk on understanding autism from 3pm to 5pm at Sentul Buddhist Temple on March 23. For details, call 013-511 1330.


The International Psychology Centre is organising a public talk titled "Anger Management" from 10m to 11am at its centre on March 30. It aims to raise awareness among the public about the issue.


Students and parents are invited to Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman's Open Day on March 23 and 24 (PJ campus), March 30 and 31 (Perak campus), April 6 and 7 (Setapak campus) and April 13 and 14 (Cheras). Free shuttle bus service is available at certain pick-up and drop-off points. For details, visit, call 03-7958 2628 ext 7153/8281/8553 (PJ) or 05-468 8888 ext 2522/2261/2262 (Perak) or 016-223 3559 or e-mail


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