Jumaat, 22 Mac 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Fearing stark future, Syrian Alawites meet in Cairo

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 06:20 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Opposition campaigners from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect will meet this weekend to support a democratic alternative to his rule and try to distance the community from wholesale association with the government's attempts to crush a two-year uprising.

The two-day meeting in Cairo, the first by Alawites supportive of the revolt, will draft a declaration committing to a united Syria and inviting the mainstream opposition to cooperate on preventing sectarian bloodletting if Assad falls and agree on a transitional justice framework, organisers said.

As the war takes on an increasingly sectarian bent, severing the Alawite fate from that of Assad could be crucial for the survival of the community, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that comprises about 10 percent of Syria's population.

"The meeting is happening almost two years late, but it will help disassociate the sect from Assad. Every effort is needed now to prevent a wide-scale sectarian bloodbath when Assad eventually goes, in which the Alawites would be the main losers," a Western diplomat said.

At least 70,000 people have been killed since a peaceful protest movement led by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority broke out against four decades of family rule by Assad and his father, members of the Alawite sect.

The demonstrations were met by bullets, eventually sparking a Sunni backlash and a mostly Islamist armed insurgency that is leading some Alawites to fear they have no future without Assad.

Assad has said he is fighting a foreign-backed conspiracy to divide Syria and that the rebel forces are Islamist "terrorists."

A statement by the organising committee of the Alawite conference said: "The regime, which is becoming more isolated and weak, is working on turning sectarian zealotry into bloodshed. There are anti-regime forces also pushing toward sectarian warfare."

"Depriving the regime of the sectarian card is crucial for its ouster and for negotiating a Syrian national covenant on the basis of a modern statehood and equal citizenship and justice," the statement said.

About 150 Alawite figures, including activists and religious leaders, who were mostly forced to flee Syria for supporting the revolt, will attend the conference in Cairo, which will start on Saturday.

Alawites were prominent in a leftist Syrian political movement that was crushed by Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, in the 1970s and 1980s, along with Islamist opposition.


Among prominent Alawites currently in jail is free-speech advocate Mazen Darwish, who worked on documenting the victims of the crackdown against the revolt, and Abdelaziz al-Khayyer, a centrist politician who advocated peaceful transition to democratic rule.

Issam Ibrahim, a lawyer who is helping organise the conference, said the uprising had given the Alawites a chance to show the sect was not monolithic, and that it aspired like the rest of the population to live under a multi-party democracy, while fearing the rise of Islamist extremism.

Ibrahim recalled taking part in a pro-democracy demonstration at the beginning of the uprising in the Sunni district of al-Khalidiya in the central city of Homs when the protesters came under attack by a pro-Assad militia.

"A group of us took refuge in a house, and the house owner, who did not know I was Alawite, began cursing Alawites. When my comrades told him I was one, he came to me and gave me the keys to his house."

"We are in a sectarian crisis and the political forces of the opposition are falling into a serious error by not discussing it," Ibrahim, whose father was jailed for years under the rule of the elder Assad, told Reuters.

He said the document that would emerge from the conference "will affirm Alawite commitment to national unity and inter-communal existence and civic peace," mirroring a stance the sect's leaders took during French colonial rule in the 1920s in opposition to proposals for partition of the country.

"There is an Islamist current that is expanding at the expense of the democratic civic current, which needs to unite," Ibrahim said. "We as Alawites are Syrians first. We are trying to be part of a real change."

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Congolese warlord arrives at war crimes court jail

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 04:49 PM PDT

KIGALI (Reuters) - A Congolese warlord known as "the Terminator" who is accused of murder, rape and other atrocities arrived at the International Criminal Court's jail in the Netherlands early on Saturday, the court said.

Fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda talks on his mobile phone at his office in Goma, April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Harera

Fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda talks on his mobile phone at his office in Goma, April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Harera

Bosco Ntaganda, who walked off the street and gave himself up at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali in a surprise move on Monday, was flown in a private jet from the Rwandan capital to The Hague after being handed over to the court's custody.

After a 15-year career that spanned a series of Rwandan-backed rebellions in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he will appear in court on Tuesday for the first hearing in a process that could lead to him being put on trial for war crimes.

Ntaganda was most recently a commander in the M23 rebel movement, but his position weakened after the group split in two.

His removal from the conflict creates an opportunity to secure a peace agreement to end the year-old rebellion in a region dogged by conflicts.

Ntaganda's surrender was the first time an ICC suspect had voluntarily handed themselves over to be in the court's custody.

He asked stunned U.S. officials at the embassy to be transferred to the court, where he will face charges of recruiting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution, sexual slavery and rape during the 2002-3 conflict in northeastern Congo's gold mining Ituri district.

His whereabouts had been unknown after hundreds of his fighters fled into Rwanda or surrendered to U.N. peacekeepers last weekend following their defeat by a rival faction of M23 rebels in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.

"Bosco thought his choice was the ICC or probable death," said Jason Stearns of the Rift Valley Institute.


Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Ntaganda flew out of Kigali in the custody of ICC officials following cooperation between the Rwandan, U.S. and Dutch governments.

A Reuters witness had seen a blacked-out U.S. Embassy vehicle under police escort drive along the perimeter of Kigali international airport. Shortly after, a private jet took off.

His first courtroom appearance, to confirm his identity, will be on Tuesday morning, the court said in a statement.

With an arrest warrant hanging over him, Ntaganda and his backers were seen as an obstacle to peace between the M23 and the Congolese government that the rival faction had shown signs of warming to.

"Bosco's arrest won't bring peace to the eastern Congo, but Bosco's arrest does spell a victory in the battle against impunity and the dismantling of one of the barriers to a peace process in the country," Stearns said.

The trial of Rwandan-born Ntaganda could prove an embarrassment to the Rwandan government, which has denied charges by a United Nations panel that it backs the M23 rebels.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda might seek to add additional charges related to rebellions that followed the alleged Ituri crimes, analysts said.

Wars in Congo have killed about five million people in the past decade and a half, and many eastern areas are still afflicted by violence from a number of rebel groups despite a decade-long U.N. peacekeeping mission.

"Bosco Ntaganda's arrival in The Hague will be a major victory for victims of atrocities in eastern Congo," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi and Thomas Escritt and Sara Webb in Amsterdam; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Rosalind Russell and Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Congolese warlord Ntaganda arrives at ICC's Hague detention centre

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 04:26 PM PDT

Fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda talks on his mobile phone at his office in Goma, April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Harera

Fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda talks on his mobile phone at his office in Goma, April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Harera

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda has arrived at the International Criminal Court's detention centre in The Hague, the court said on Saturday.

Ntaganda was flown to the Netherlands from Kigali on Friday after turning himself in at the U.S. embassy in the Rwandan capital earlier in the week.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Jillian’s way

Posted: 23 Mar 2013 12:51 AM PDT

The Biggest Loser's tiny drill sergeant, Jillian Michaels, weighs in with a weight-loss book. Don't be scared off, though, because she's showing her gentle side now.

JILLIAN Michaels orders two eggs over easy with a smidgeon of oil and two slices of dry toast.

And coffee.


"Two strong cups, 400mg, fights pancreatic cancer," she says, "plus Alzheimer's, Type 2 diabetes and improves cognitive functions."

Not that Michaels is a health-nut goodie-goodie.

"I still drink a little bit of alcohol," she confides. "And I haven't been to the gym in five days!"

No wonder. There's this gruelling book tour on top of an always-heavy workload, plus the routine demands of parenting a three-year-old daughter and an 11-month-old son who, along with her partner, Heidi Rhoades, have come with her on this recent New York visit.

But all is never lost, says Michaels, in the battle to lose weight and be healthy. "Even if you're just standing while you're talking on the phone," she offers, "you can burn up to 300 calories in a day."

That's the sort of forgiving advice found in her latest book, Slim For Life: My Insider Secrets To Simple, Fast And Lasting Weight Loss (Harmony Books).

"It's my softest approach to weight loss," says Michaels, a wellness coach to whom the word "soft" is seldom applied.

After all, she is famous as the drill-sergeant trainer on hit weight-loss TV series, The Biggest Loser, a tiny 1.5m force of nature who doesn't hesitate to throw her tautly-muscled weight around.

But during this recent breakfast, she seems different from her Biggest Loser persona. Clad in jeans, sweat shirt and Ugg boots, her hair pulled under a newsboy's cap, she could pass for half her 39 years. She is animated, high-rev. But in no way overbearing.

"I wanted to write a book where you felt like I was sitting right there with you," she says, a vision of reassurance seated across the table, "providing a simple solution for every problem or complaint I've ever heard."

Fitness is too time-consuming, complicated, costly, inconvenient, plus I'm hungry all the time – Michaels has heard every excuse from the audience of her website, weekly podcast and speaking engagements.

"I wanted to integrate the answers and knock down the myths and the fad diets," she says. "For every possible dieting dilemma that you could ever have, I provide an umpteen number of solutions. Pick one!"

In her book, every strategy comes with a point system scored from 1 (a "bonus" tip) to 3 (most effective and important). Totalling the strategies you're able to adopt can help predict your rate of weight loss, she says.

If some of this stuff gets a little technical (she prescribes workouts complete with calories-per-minute burned for each exercise), Michaels also packs the book with simple no-brainers: Eat before you head to the party so you're less tempted by those fatty hors d'oeuvres. Nix foods tagged with "danger words" like smothered, loaded, tender, deep-fried and creamy. At the supermarket, avoid the centre aisles (high-trafficked destinations for junk food, she warns) in favour of the store perimeter, where fresh foods are likely to be stocked.

For imbibers who aren't satisfied with the occasional red wine (pretty healthy in moderation), she even offers recipes for low-cal cocktails.

"I'm going to show you exactly what you need to understand, exactly what never to do, and what it looks like in your life," she says. "This is never going to be easy. But it's never gonna be easier than this."

Growing up, physical health wasn't something that came easily to Michaels.

Her dad was overweight, she says, "and one of the ways that we spent time together was through food: 'Let's go get a pizza."'

Her parents went through what she calls an ugly divorce when she was 12, which only hardened her image of herself as "a fat kid, a loser, someone who deserved to get picked on".

But a few years later, she got hooked on martial arts. She had long felt like an outsider in school and almost everywhere else, a feeling heightened by the fact that she was gay and hadn't yet accepted it. But here in the dojo, she was part of a community. She felt supported. She blossomed.

Then came a real turning point: She broke two boards with a sidekick.

"The next day when I walked into the school, no one ever (messed) with me again," she says, her eyes blazing at the memory.

From there, a career unfolded for Michaels as a trainer, physical therapy aide, then sports-medicine professional.

A decade ago, she signed on to The Biggest Loser. There, she instantly stood out as a taskmaster, even a bully.

"I always identify with the underdog, and I think that's one reason I feel fine yelling at them," she explains. "I feel like I'm yelling at a peer: Take responsibility, own this situation and bring your best. Let's start exploring your potential."

With the 14th season of The Biggest Loser (American edition) just ended, Michaels has seen full potential reached by her charge, Danni. The 26-year-old advertising account coordinator from Illinois lost 54kg, beginning at 107kg and losing 46.9% of her body weight under Michaels' dogged coaching.

"You found yourself and you just soared," Michaels told her on TV in a voice choked with emotion, "and you became everything that I had hoped you would be."

Michaels returned to The Biggest Loser this season after a two-year absence. Her reasons for coming back included "a whole new group of producers I really trust and like," she says. "Besides, it's a heckuva platform."

But it's only one of many platforms from which this go-go fitness guru spreads her gospel – a gospel she says isn't really about fitness.

"It's never been about fitness for me," Michaels says. "I don't even really like to work out. But when you're strong physically and you feel confident about your body and your health, you're strong in every other facet of your life. It's transcendent."

> Catch Jillian Michaels the workout series every Sunday at 7am beginning March 31 on Li TV (Astro B.yond Ch728).

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Michael Tio wants his people connected

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 05:23 PM PDT

PKT Logistics group chief executive and managing director Datuk Michael Tio wants his work force of 356 on Facebook.

He reckons that since separate email accounts for personal use and work are possible, the social networking website should be similarly utilised for improved communication and efficiency.

It is a blisteringly hot Saturday afternoon at the company's sprawling headquarters in Shah Alam, Kuala Lumpur, and a sprightly Tio has just done some Yoga and running with his workmates at the gym upstairs.

It's about taking control and knowing what's happening in every facet of the business, he says, pushing the door into his spacious two-room office.

Award trophies and certificates deck the first hall, and the second room where he works houses an eight-seater conference table facing a flat screen on the wall, and so

Tio keeps his workspace relatively spartan; just his laptop and some snacks.

PKT's public Facebook account flashes on and displays a whopping 15,091 likes, which is a rather unusual high for a corporate business that's not in the retail nor entertainment industry.

In fact, PKT leverages on its online following for branding and promotion purposes, even job advertising as the responses are quicker.

Tio garners interest via student talks and organising field trips to his office headquarters.

To date, throngs of secondary school and tertiary students, in particular those from politecnic institutions, have visited the warehouse and gladly "like" the company page for a free tee.

"I want a 15,000 man strong sales force in the next two years," Tio says.

He hopes to achieve what he calls the "Milo phenomenon, where the beverage company trucks have shown up at events and schools and branded the chocolate drink so well that kids remained faithful to it well into adulthood."

That's the ensuing result he desires from the branding efforts, some of which include good human interest angles.

Earlier this month, the social media team posted up a tear-jerking video of a proposal that took place in the office.

Staffers hid a female colleague's significant other (not from PKT) in a room when she returned to her desk from lunch and found on it helium balloons, confetti and other memorabilia from her relationship.

He emerges, she weeps tears of myrth, co-workers cheer, and amid the excitement, there is a whisper of a yes.

It's romantic alright, and a warming glimpse into the support system and ties that bind in that office.

Internally, every staff is wired via a closed network and every single department is connected, even security.

"See you at the gym tomorrow," Nawaraj, a young Nepalese guard posts on Tio's "wall".

Easy banter and process updates udates are happening all the time.

"Their being on Facebook does not impair efficiency. In fact, it enhances workflow," Tio says. "Efficiency has gone up 30% since implementing social media and these recreational facilities."

A quick tour of the office building is a further insight into Tio's mind and his motivation in creating a relaxing environment for his employees.

People stay if they like the place, he says, gesturing at the three-acre pineapple plantation flanking the three-building compound, where quarterly farming is done by dozens of willing officers.

The harvest goes to clients.

Tio leads the way into a floor lounge where staff can kick back on sofas and help themselves to the bar snacks.

There are no accessibility issues here; workers from every rank are entitled to a breather.

An honest system governs the place; there's a price list and in the permanent absence of an appointed cashier, munchers deposit their dues into a little wooden chest on the counter.

On Mondays, delicious breakfasts are distributed to woo unwound staff back to work.

"People who work for me improve their health," he says in reference to Gymmax, the company annual weight loss competition that rewards the first three winners with RM10,000 each for a trip for four to any Asean destination.

In their first season, 26 of 29 challengers participated and seven achieved their ideal weight goals.

Only three persons gained weight, but overall, it was a heartening result for candidates considering the fact that the competition stretched over the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays.

"We're seeing less medical certificates than ever before," says Tio, who finds inspiration from travelling and checking out foreign sites.

Once, he'd visited a major warehouse in Japan and found it strange that all the workers looked like housewives.

"We found out that they were indeed housewives, as their employer had worked out a schedule for homemakers who wanted to work part-time. Similarly, we've made arrangements for mothers in our office. There's a plan for young mothers and another for mature ones whose children have grown up," he explains.

Ultimately, Tio wins by capitalising on the people element in his business.

"To stand out, we make our concept strong. Everything we have implemented works for that purpose."

DDB wins Creative Network of the Year

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 05:12 PM PDT

AFTER a final judging session in Singapore last week, Campaign Asia-Pacific has announced that DDB Group Asia Pacific has won the coveted Creative Network of the Year award.

Naga DDB Sdn Bhd says in a statement that this achievement allows the DDB Group Asia Pacific to be recognised as the leading creative agency by the entire industry, its competitive peers, and prospective new client partners in Asia-Pacific.

This recognition comes off the back of DDB Asia Pacific's stellar performance in the Agency of the Year Awards in December with the group registering 29 wins and finalist positions.

DDB Asia Pacific's footprint covers 13 territories including Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

Naga DDB chief operating officer David Mitchell says "this is an incredible achievement that would not have been possible without the creativity, drive and tremendous talent of each and every one of our teams in the region."

"On the local front, Naga DDB is pleased to have contributed towards this win by way of having won 32 local and international awards in 2012 our most notable being that we were the only agency in Malaysia to be awarded a gold for our Dear Malaysians campaign for DiGi at the Malaysian Effie Awards," he adds.

He also says that Naga's "do good" creative philosophy, coupled with the formation of its new creative department under the leadership of Alvin Teoh and Tim Koomsorn, are examples of ensuring that the agency remains relevant and at the forefront of change.

Traditional media going strong

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 05:11 PM PDT

It remains relevant in the digital era

DON'T discount the traditional media yet despite the emergence of digital media.

That is the clear message from a panel discussion at the annual Malaysian Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) Conference on Thursday, which sought the answer to Is marketing now online marketing?

Celcom Axiata chief marketing officer Zalman Aefendy Zainal Abidin, one of the panellists, says Celcom has increased advertising spending in the areas where it knows will make the biggest impact.

While he says that digital is one of them, it is not the only area where it is spending a lot more on.

"I think there's still a lot of room for some of the other traditional media," he says. "I don't think we can discount traditional media right away. One of the things about online marketing is there's a lot of fake advertising out there − there's a lot of spam. So traditional media have its own value in terms of endorsing what is seen in cyberspace."

DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd chief marketing officer Albern Murty says DiGi also uses a mixture of traditional and digital media.

"There's no magical number, and from time to time we adjust the numbers to reach the segments we target. I don't think it's all going to be towards one media in the future; I think there's still relevance of using both digital and traditional media. How they can complement each other is probably very key. And complementing them will be the job of the marketing services team," he says.

Google Malaysia country head Sajith Sivanandan says Google spent more than US$1bil globally in advertising last year, including on offline media.

"What matter are where the audience is spending most of their time and what do you (as a marketer) want to achieve. Why are we thinking (either) online or offline? All these distinctions are pretty much blurred right now."

Zalman says Celcom is today structured by business units that mirror agency structure, with each head of an account having a person under him who manages the different mediums that can be used to engage with consumers.

"We believe that right now, we have to look at it more on a holistic idea direction. We think of the ideas that would bring the best returns. It could be an idea that depends on medium. So the specialist must know more than just online," he says.

"We used to split online and traditional media, but last year we merged them into the business units. When you look at a campaign, you look at reaching the customer from every aspect of the his (media) consumption habit rather than just from one point of view. The danger of doing the latter is your (messages in the) mediums could be disjointed in what they are doing and what they are saying to the consumers."

Celcom Axiata regularly uses its consumer lab to understand consumer behavioural insights better.

"We need to constantly learn about consumers, and we're not talking about simple focus groups. I believe in understanding consumers, be it using desktop research, focus groups or our own research and consumer behaviour studies. We also make sure we regularly check our mediums to see which mediums are still popular," says Zalman.

Murty thinks the industry has to develop different ways of measuring the success of campaigns. "We're still very traditional. As we shift more and more to digital, and traditional is becoming digital, it'll be extremely challenging not only to do it but to find the right people that are able to."

Meanwhile, The Star Radio Group deputy chief broadcasting officer Kudsia Kahar says in the country, five million people consume radio not by the traditional way and "we need to capture that (group) more and more so that we have accurate numbers."

She puts radio content consumers into three categories, of which two are almost always engaging online.

Firstly, there are the traditional radio listeners who listen usually 20-40 minutes while driving to work.

"FM transmission in Malaysia is not great because there's a lot of valleys and high-rise buildings, but the emergence of smartphones has given radio a new lease of life and also created a new kind of radio content consumers: those who listen to us only by their smartphones or online via laptops and other devices.

"Then you have the third type of consumers who only catch up on podcasts."

She says The Star Radio Group and other dynamic radio companies are creating commercial options for clients where they don't just touch the traditional radio scenario of 30-second ads, but follow up with more engaging campaigns online.

Kudsia says for radio, one can track online the listenership preferences and behaviours better than using focus group results. "This is great for us because listenership changes all the time."

She says Star radio can also devise radio campaigns that are not necessarily on air. "In fact, that's one thing we discovered about Capital FM (Star's women-centric radio station). When they come to our website, they want to see a magazine', so it does not look the traditional radio website."

The conference, organised by Matrade (the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp) and the International Advertising Association Malaysia chapter, also features Maxis Bhd joint chief operating officer Suren J. Amarasekera.

Speaking on how to lead in the competitive telecommunications sector, he says that Maxis is focusing to be an integrated player by leveraging the cloud services.

"Our vision is to bring the future to our customers and businesses; we want it to be simple, personalised and enriching manners," he says.

"Today there are multiple layers of integration such as phone, tablet and television content such as Astro and Media Prima.

They have the content and we have the capability to provide the experience. Nowadays, consumer demand is more on mobility and multiple screen services to view the contents," he adds.

Meanwhile, CIMB Group head group marketing and communications Effendy Shahrul Hamid explains how the global financial crisis has changed the banking sector and how banks are adapting to this change.

"Banks must continue to position themselves accurately amidst the evolving operating landscape, with a key focus on ensuring that its propositions continue to be relevant to its customer base," he notes.

Unilever Malaysia and Singapore chairman and managing director Rakesh Mohan says having patience is a critical factor when engaging with the emerging market as well as building intimacy with the consumers, building local talents, corporate reputation and relevance.

"It takes time to build consumption in this market," he says.

He shares several marketing strategies on how to approach emerging markets such as India where there is a lack of media penetration. He says one of the strategies used was stamping messages on bread.

"It's about leveraging opportunities in the market."

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Tennis: Injured Azarenka out, Ferrer advances at Miami

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 06:39 PM PDT

MIAMI: World No. 3 Victoria Azarenka withdrew with a right ankle injury while Spanish men's third seed David Ferrer advanced by walkover Friday at the WTA and ATP Masters Miami hardcourt event.

Reigning Australian Open champion Azarenka complained of ankle pain after a 6-3, 6-1 fourth-round victory over Urszula Radwanska in the Indian Wells quarter-finals last week before withdrawing eight days ago.

"I am very disappointed that I am unable to compete this year in Miami," Azarenka said.

"This is one of my favorite events and the Miami fans are always supportive.

"I have been working very hard to rehab my ankle this week but unfortunately it is still not fit to play. I look forward to returning next year."

Ferrer moved into the third round of the $8.5 million tournament when Russian opponent Dmitry Turnsunov withdrew with a stomach bug.

He next faces Italian 32nd seed Fabio Fognini, who beat France's Michael Llodra 6-3, 6-1.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic plays his first match later Friday against Czech Lukas Rosol while Argentina's fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro meets German Tobias Kamke and Russian third seed Maria Sharapova meets Canadian wild card Eugenie Bouchard.

Azarenka, who like all Miami seeds received a first-round bye, is unbeaten on court this year, a 17-0 run that includes the Australian Open and a title in Doha.

But she has twice surrendered matches by walkover, the first in January at a Brisbane semi-final against Serena Williams with an infected right toe that resulted from a pedicure.

Azarenka was replaced in the Miami draw by 19-year-old US lucky loser Lauren Davis, who saved three match points in the deciding tiebreaker to defeat compatriot Madison Keys 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (9/7).

Davis, ranked 81st, never expected to even have the chance to play after watching Azarenka warm up in the morning.

Now she awaits either Britain's Laura Robson and France's Alize Cornet to decide a spot in the last 16.

"I'm so ecstatically happy," Davis said.

"I came here this morning with like no hope left that I was going to get in, because I had seen Azarenka practicing and stuff, but I just hoped and I wished and I prayed that I would get in."

"I got a call at 10 a.m. saying I got in. I was just so happy. I didn't care if I won or lost. I just was so grateful for the opportunity to play." - AFP

Golf: Rose shares PGA lead as Tiger stumbles late

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 06:32 PM PDT

ORLANDO, Florida: England's Justin Rose fired a two-under par 70 on Friday to keep a share of the lead after two rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational as Tiger Woods stumbled.

Rose and American Bill Haas stood on nine-under 135 after 36 holes at the $8.5 million US PGA event, which for Woods and many others is likely the final tuneup event for next month's Masters, the year's first major championship.

Woods moved within a stroke of the lead only to finish with three bogeys, a disappointing 70 leaving him in a share of seventh, four strokes behind overnight leader Rose and Haas, who fired a bogey-free 66 to leap up the leaderboard at Bay Hill.

"I played good," Woods said. "I missed a couple short ones. The score doesn't indicate how well I played.

"I'm four back. I'm right there. The good news is we've got 36 holes to go. There's a lot of golf left. Certainly four shots can be made up."

Rose birdied the par-3 second and par-5 sixth, 12th and 16th holes while taking a bogey at the par-3 14th and missing a five-foot par putt at the 18th to fallback into only a share of the lead with Haas.

Woods, who would become World No. 1 with a victory this week, opened with a birdie, eagled the sixth and added birdies at the par-4 11th and 13th holes to pull within a stroke of the lead.

But then everything fell apart for the 14-time major champion. He found a bunker off the 16th tee, then went into the water and missed a 27-foot par attempt to take a 6.

At the par-3 17th, Woods found the rough left off the tee, punched out 21 feet from the cup and two-putted for another bogey.

At the par-4 18th, Woods found the right rough off the tee and left himself 30 feet for par, coming up just short to drop yet another stroke.

American John Huh, who birdied two of the last three holes, was third on 136 with Americans J.J. Henry, Ken Duke and Jimmy Walker sharing fourth on 138. Woods was on 139 with Fiji's Viji's Singh and American Mark Wilson.

Haas, who is due to become a father in eight weeks, birdied the second and par-4 eighth, added back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th and eagled the par-5 16th to make his charge.

Haas has been bothered by a sore neck for more than a month but showed no sign of distress on Friday.

"It's not bad. I can honestly play," Haas said.

"I can make a full turn. Sometimes when I look to the left it kind of tightens in the back of the neck. We should call it a sore neck, not an injury.

"When you're playing poorly, it hurts, and when you're playing well, it doesn't hurt." - AFP

Rugby: Jamaica debut at Hong Kong Sevens

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 06:25 PM PDT

HONG KONG: While the titans of international rugby slug it out at the Hong Kong Sevens this weekend, Jamaica are hoping their first outing at the tournament will put the game on the map back home.

In a nation lauded for its cricket, athletics and football prowess, rugby is a fledgling but growing sport with an increasing fan base, says Jamaica coach Conroy O'Malley.

"It's not as popular as soccer but it is a growing sport. We've been progressing over the past 12 years in terms of rugby development and we have a lot of fans now - I'd say around 50,000 people that are really interested.

They'll be watching us in this Sevens on TV," he told AFP.

Jamaica are taking part in a pre-qualifier tournament at the Hong Kong Sevens which runs parallel to the main HSBC Sevens World Series competition.

They are vying with 11 other teams to come in the top four of that contest, earning them a place at the London Sevens in May and a chance to be promoted into the World Series next year.

The dramatic setting of the 40,000-seater Hong Kong Stadium with its singing crowds and electric atmosphere is a far cry from what the team are used to.

"This is the biggest stadium and crowd the team has played in front of and it will help us build confidence," captain Tyronie Rowe told AFP.

"The pitch here for us is like velvet. We train on asphalt so most of the guys here get a lot of injuries," said Rowe, who also plays for the national 15s side.

Rowe hopes that a good performance in Hong Kong will spur sponsors and the authorities in Jamaica to give rugby better backing.

"Rugby can join cricket, track-and-field and football, with more support from local authorities. We could have better training conditions and push a lot further. Because we don't have gym facilities at the moment, I home-train on my own," he said.

Jamaica lost their first match to Georgia 27-17 on Friday night and are bottom of their group going into Saturday, when they take on Japan and Brazil.

But O'Malley said he was happy with the team's performance.

"A lot of folks may have expected us to be trampled by the Georgians but with that score I think they'll look at us differently from now on," he said.

"I just told the players to get out there, enjoy themselves and put on a good show." - AFP

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Tom Cruise will star in 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' movie

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 01:19 AM PDT

Deadline.com has announced that British director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes) is set to direct Tom Cruise in a movie based on 1960s series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Hollywood actor has apparently started talks in the hope of playing one of the two heroes: spies Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. One is American and the other is Russian but they both work within the same antiterrorist agency in the series set during the Cold War.

Tom Cruise's name has been linked to the project since George Clooney's withdrawal. The latter was supposed to be directed by Steven Soderbergh who also backed out.

Since then, the names of Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Joel Kinnaman and Michael Fassbender have been mentioned but nothing definite has come of it.

Warner Bros. still needs to find Tom Cruise's partner. The actor already plays the lead in the Mission: Impossible franchise based on an old TV series. Filming should begin soon on a fifth installment. He will be back in cinemas in April with Oblivion.


Movies coming soon

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 01:05 AM PDT

Ip Man: The Final Fight

DONNIE Yen is replaced by Anthony Wong as the story of the legendary Wing Chun grandmaster fast-forwards several years after Ip Man 2. It's post-war Hong Kong and the retired martial artist is called upon to fight once again. Co-starring Jordan Chan and Eric Tsang.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

While some of us are still trying to understand the plot of the first film, the sequel – delayed from last year – has arrived. The Joes have to counter the villainy of Cobra even as their own government is busy trying to kill them. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Bruce Willis, Byung-hun Lee and Channing Tatum.

Kate Winslet to star in 'Divergent'

Posted: 21 Mar 2013 10:55 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has been cast in upcoming young adult film "Divergent," boosting the profile of the latest adaptation from a best-selling novel to the big screen.

Film studio Summit Entertainment said on Thursday that Winslet, 37, will play the cold and unlikeable Jeanine Matthews in the film set in a dystopian future.

Divergent, based on the first of a trilogy of novels by Veronica Roth, is set in a society that is divided into five factions that define how a person lives their life.

The Abnegation people are selfless while the Erudite devote themselves to a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Winslet will play the leader of the Erudite, Summit said in a statement.

The studio previously announced the casting of rising star Shailene Woodley, 21, and British newcomer Theo James, 28.

Divergent, due for release in March 2014, is the latest young adult novel to be translated to the big screen following the conclusion of lucrative franchise The Twilight Saga and the success last year of The Hunger Games, starring new Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence.

The five Twilight films, which followed the romance between a vampire, human and werewolf, grossed more than US$3.3 billion at the global box office and put studio Summit into Hollywood's big leagues.

Film studio Lions Gate Entertainment, which acquired Summit for $412 million last year, released The Hunger Games in March 2012. It grossed more than US$690 million worldwide.

The next installment of the Hunger Games franchise is due out in November this year, while The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, another adaptation of a young adult novel with supernatural and dystopian themes, is due in U.S. theaters in August.

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Malaysian woman missing after being deported from Singapore

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 08:54 AM PDT

BIDOR: A Malaysian woman who worked in Singapore has been missing ever since she was deported a month ago.

Machine operator Chang Foong Yee, 42, did not contact her family after being released from Singapore's Changi Prison on Feb 4 this year, according to her mother, Liew Mee Moi.

"I learnt from her landlord that she was detained in Singapore since July last year because her work permit had expired.

"I only visited her in prison once, a few weeks before Chinese New Year.

"She told me not to worry as she would return to Malaysia soon but until this day, I have not received a single phone call from her," Liew said, adding that Chang's phone could not be reached.

The 72-year-old housewife was speaking to reporters at her house in Kampung Baru Tanah Mas here on Friday and said she had yet to lodge a police report.

"I just hope she could give us a call and tell us where she is," she added.

Chenderiang assemblyman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who learnt about Chang's case in early March, said he had written a letter to the prison.

"The authorities have confirmed that she was deported to Malaysia, so we want to bring this case to the public's attention, to help locate her.

"I will also advise the family to lodge a police report on the matter," he said.

Customs tracking hundreds of Langkawi-registered cars with falsified papers

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 08:54 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Up to 368 Langkawi-registered vehicles are running in the rest of Malaysia under suspected forged customs declaration forms, the Customs Department said Friday.

"We have detected 368 vehicles originally registered in Langkawi and subsequently registered in Principal Customs Areas using suspected falsified custom declaration forms without payment of customs duties and taxes," a statement from the agency said.

Areas outside of Langkawi and Labuan, it said, were known as Principal Customs Areas (PCAs).

It added that it had seized 76 vehicles "for further investigation" and were tracking the remainder.

The department did not offer an explanation over the suspected falsified forms.

On Thursday, MCA Public Complaints Bureau chief Datuk Seri Michael Chong met with used car dealers who had their cars towed away by Customs over unpaid duties.

The dealers claimed that duties for these cars had been paid, and were approved by various government agencies.

Previously, Chong said he had met with Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai over the matter, adding that an investgation was underway.

Meanwhile, Customs said owners of Langkawi-registered cars could go to the deparment's Putrajaya headquarters to check if their declaration forms were valid.

Citing item 21A of the Customs Duties (Exemption) Order 1988, its said vehicles from Langkawi and Labuan were allowed to be taken to the PCAs for not more than 30 days in a single trip and not more than 90 days per year.

Owners wanting to do otherwise needed to pay customs duties through a declaration form to cancel the two islands' vehicle registration status.

"(Those) exceeding the permitted period without payment of custom duties are deemed to be uncustomed goods under the Customs Act 1967 and are subject to seizure," it said.

The agency advised buyers to be "extra cautious" of vehicles registered in these places or of "highly discounted" models.

It added that another 409 Langkawi-registered vehicles exceeded their allowed stay in the PCAs, and that they would be tracked and seized.

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Hundreds of used cars from Langkawi seized over unpaid taxes

Lahad Datu: No need to bring to ICJ to determine Sabah’s sovereignty, says expert

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 08:25 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no need for Malaysia to bring the issue of Sabah's rights to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as historical and non-historical facts clearly show that it is a sovereign state of Malaysia, said historian Prof Emeritus Dr Ranjit Singh of Universiti Utara Malaysia.

He argued that apart from historical facts, the Sulu Sultanate and the Philippines had in fact lost their sovereignty rights of Sabah to Malaysia based on the principle of effectivity.

Despite being ruled by the Sulu sultanate, Sabah, which used to be known as North Borneo had been put under the administration of the British North Borneo Company in 1878 and later the British Empire, before being granted independence to form the Federation of Malaysia with Sarawak and Malaya.

"If you don't do anything to it, don't administer it, don't pass any law (in that area), you lost that title," he said at a discourse titled "The Lahad Datu Imbroglio: The Sabah Claim and Beyond" at Universiti Malaya, here, on Friday.

Citing the Pulau Batu Puteh case, Ranjit Singh, who also led the Malaysian team pertaining to the sovereignty of Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan at ICJ in 2002, said Malaysia lost its rights over the island to Singapore because, despite being the title holder, it (Malaysia) had never administered or was present physically on the island.

It was reported by a Filipino daily "Philippine Star" a few days ago that the Philippine government had not given up Sabah and had engaged a team of lawyers to study its claims on Sabah.

The issue of Sabah's sovereignty re-emerged after an incursion by a group of Filipino terrorists claiming to be the army of the now-defunct Sulu sultanate, in Lahad Datu and Semporna, which had led to a bloody clash between the Malaysian armed forces and the militants.

Ranjit Singh, who specialises on Sabah and Sarawak history, also said that the issue was non-negotiable as the will of the Sabahans must be respected whom through the Cobbold Commission of 1962 had chosen to form Malaysia with Sarawak and Malaya.

Ranjit Singh also urged Malaysia to stop any future annual cess payment to the sultanate and bring to a close the issue by coming up with a strong policy to protect the sovereignty of Sabah.

"The moment we negotiate, we compromise our sovereignty again," he said. - Bernama

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A decade of Chris Ware’s work in Building Stories

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 07:22 AM PDT

Who says ordinary life has to be boring? This new graphic novel makes normal seem fascinating.

CHRIS Ware's Building Stories is a "graphic novel" unlike any other. It consists of 14 "distinctively discrete books, booklets, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets" about the occupants of a three-storey apartment building in Chicago.

Just unpacking the large, beautifully designed box it comes in was an experience – from discovering a large broadsheet "newspaper" to hardcover books and tiny little comic strips, it felt like I was opening a treasure chest full of mundane yet fascinating wonders.

Building Stories collects an entire decade of Ware's work, some previously unpublished, others having appeared in esteemed publications like The New Yorker, The New York Times and McSweeney's Quarterly Comics. The critically acclaimed Ware is also the creator of graphic novels Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth and The Acme Novelty Library series.

The sheer amount of content in the Building Stories box was overwhelming at first. Although the publishers helpfully provided suggestions on how to read it, I was still unsure about where to start.

In the end, I started with the biggest piece of the puzzle – a huge cardboard foldout with four pages and blueprints of the building at the back.

Almost wordless, with whimsical little pictures and arrows pointing all over the place, it turned out to be the piece that intrigued me the most and drew me deeper into the lives of the inhabitants of this building.

It's amazing how those four wordless pages of hard cardboard with colourful little pictures could be so engrossing. I found myself feeling sorry for the lonely one-legged girl's depression after turning up for a blind date and getting stood up; getting angry at the husband on the second floor's impure thoughts about the one-legged girl; feeling a sense of what might have been for the old landlady on the ground floor who missed her chance at love years ago; and strangely, a whimsical touch of grief and alarm for the life (and sudden SPLAT) of a little bee and his family.

After those wordless four pages (which I pored over for almost an hour, admiring the details in the drawings and trying to draw more stories from it), I moved on to the next hardcover piece of the puzzle, which turned out to be the heart-rending tale of the one-legged girl's mundane and lonely life.

Other stories in the collection include a day in lives of the building's occupants, giving us fascinatingly detailed perspectives of the old landlady, the married couple and the lonely girl (which are bookended by the thoughts of the building itself), a collection of strips that follows the childhood of the one-legged girl's daughter; as well as the amusingly whimsical tale of Branford, The Best Bee In The World.

These snippets of the little bee's life are some of the more light-hearted tales in Building Stories, and cover Branford's life from his birth, on to his awakening as Branford, the Bee with a Developing Moral Conscience, his marriage to Betty the bee, and finally, his ultimate fate of being squashed (thus becoming Branford the Benevolent Bacterium). It's a bittersweet tale that is probably the cutest yet most philosophical story ever written about a bee.

Artistically, Ware's clean, almost retro artwork is so jam-packed with details that you can't help but study each and every panel. He manages to make even the most mundane of details fascinating – a ribbon stuck in a vent, the arrangement of flowers in a vase, a hook stuck in the wall ...

Ware's characters ponder little ordinary things like these, and he dedicates whole pages to these mundane sorts of things you see every day but never bothered to dwell on. It's almost as if Ware decided to take everything we usually take for granted and make us care more about it.

Sure, there are no superheroes or world-threatening crises in here; but Ware's stories are so fascinating that you can't help but keep reading just to find out more about his characters' lives.

After almost half a day of eavesdropping on their intimate conversations, sharing their innermost thoughts and feeling their loneliness and depression, I felt as though I had practically lived the lives of these ordinary folk.

Philosophical, whimsical, and incomparable, this may be a book about mundane ordinary life, but Ware manages to find and tell the most interesting stories ever about mundane, boring, and ordinary life. Building Stories isn't a just a story about life, it's a story about how to live life, and I couldn't recommend it more.

> Building Stories is available at Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC.

The Expats is everyone’s idea of a breathless page-turner

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 07:19 AM PDT

This is a book that is very well written, has convincing characters, an intriguing plot and a surprise a minute.

The Expats
Author: Chris Pavone
Publisher: Faber & Faber, 485 pages

FROM time to time, one comes across a first novel that is almost indecently accomplished. I suppose the fact that The Expats is published by Faber & Faber should have been warning enough that this was a book likely to exceed expectations.

As one of the world's most venerable independent publishing houses (their list includes five Booker Prize winners and 12 Nobel laureates!), they have a reputation to maintain.

At first glance, a thriller set in Luxembourg is some way adrift of the fairly erudite titles on which Faber has built its reputation. For The Expats is an out-and-out thriller, a tale of deception and double-crossing, of deviousness, subterfuge and greed.

In short, The Expats is everyone's idea of a breathless page-turner – and a very good one at that. Good enough, in fact, for Chris Pavone to have attracted the attention of one of the world's great publishing houses.

Kate Moore is a working mother with a deep dark secret. Now desk bound, she has in her recent past been a full-blown CIA operative whose fieldwork operations have included assassination. She is a highly-skilled agent who is clearly exhilarated by the thrill of dangerous undercover work.

How, then, will she adapt to expat life in Luxembourg where her computer nerd of a husband, Dexter, has just been offered a very lucrative job?

Predictably, the answer is "not very well". Kate will get bored with the rounds of school playground gossip, drinks parties, barbeques, and tennis.

And so, when another American couple, Julia and Bill, take an unusual interest in her and Dexter's life, Kate's investigative instincts are aroused.

It takes one to know one, they say, and so it proves for Kate. The more contact she has with Julia and Bill, the more convinced she becomes that they are not the normal expats they at first appear to be. Worse, she fears that they may be investigating her for events connected to her previous CIA role.

The twists in the plot start early. Kate has never told Dexter of her past and she is reluctant to open up now. So, whatever suspicions she has about Bill and Julia have either to be kept secret or parcelled up and presented to Dexter in "innocent" terms.

But then, Dexter is also behaving a little oddly. He is abnormally vague about what exactly he does for a living ("computer security systems"), unwilling to tell her who actually employs him ("the client"), and guarded about the purpose of his steadily expanding travel itineraries.

When Kate breaks into his office and discovers a set-up somewhat at odds with Dexter's description of his job, Kate knows that something odd is happening. And so it proves.

So far, we have an expat mother with a CIA past, a computer nerd of a husband who is clearly not doing what he says he is, and two friends who bear an uncanny resemblance to agents. This, you might think, is complexity enough to be going on with. Not so. As in all the best thrillers, the plot thickens, the deceptions grow, and absolutely nothing is as it seems.

Pavone prefaces The Expats with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies." So, be warned: you can take nothing here at face value.

Pavone is an ex-book editor who spent a year and a half in Luxembourg when his wife got a job there. He started to write The Expats in its "cobblestoned street cafes" so it is not surprising that his version of expat life rings true.

And he must have had enormous fun creating what is one of the most complex plots I have come across in a long time. It is something of a cliché to claim that the plotting of a thriller is intricate because that is what, in essence, thrillers are: complex situations which someone has to pick their way through, working from the few clues they are given.

That said, even by thriller standards, The Expats demands pretty close attention as twist follows twist until at the end, most readers will be scrambling backwards to tie up all the loose connections. Is it satisfying? Eminently so.

A feature of the book some readers may find irritating or confusing is the time scheme. This is particularly true at the beginning when Kate flits between the present and the past.

All I can advise is to keep going: things sort themselves out. That apart, I can only warmly recommend The Expats as a crackingly good read. It is very well written, has convincing characters, an intriguing plot and a surprise a minute. This is a very accomplished book from an author I am sure we are going to hear much more from – hopefully involving the very beguiling Kate Moore.

Case of poor chemistry

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 12:50 AM PDT

The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co, 236 pages

THE premise of this short young adult novel seemed excellent: 17-year-old Hadley Sullivan narrowly misses her flight from the United States to London, making her late for her father's wedding to a soon-to-be stepmother she has never met but already loathes.

While waiting for the next flight, she meets handsome British boy Oliver, who also happens to be sitting in the same row as her on the plane. The duo talk. A lot. And snuggle. And hit it off brilliantly (or so the writer would have us believe). However, upon arriving at Heathrow, the pair lose track of each other and Hadley makes it her mission to find him again.

I found this book terrible.

A poor man's Before Sunrise, the plot is cheesily executed. Strained, cringe-worthy dialogue, and absolutely boring side plots just prolonged my torment.

The character of Oliver falls short of being the dishy European that author Smith was obviously shooting for: he's moody and inconsistent, and no young woman should be wasting her time on such a jerk. His bad behaviour towards the end of the book is later explained away with a death in the family – but it's an excuse, not a reason. His dialogue is stilted and false-sounding – I don't actually know any British people who talk this way – and he's kind of a snob. ("You obviously do read some good literature ... I love Dickens," he says.)

Hadley, too, is a pain. Come to think of it, she and Oliver would be well-suited if they didn't have such poor chemistry. She vacillates between angsting about her father's impending wedding to a really, really pleasant woman and agonising over Oliver. In between, she treats her mother poorly as well. I don't understand authors who write books for teenagers about teenagers, and then make these teenagers really bratty and cliched.

Of course, as is the wont of such books, everything is neatly and nicely resolved at the end. Hadley comes to terms with her dad's marriage to the not-so-awful Charlotte, and sets off across London to find Oliver. Even this part, the part that's meant to be exciting and full of quirky Zooey Deschanel-type mix-ups, comes off as boring.

Her romance with Oliver is nothing more than a cheap trick to get you to start reading – it's trite and doesn't ring true.

There is little to no character development. At the start, we're presented with Hadley's emotional hang-ups: recently dumped, feeling abandoned by her father, witnessing her mother's hurt at being left for a younger woman, her dislike for her stepmother-to-be. None of these issues are satisfactorily resolved – instead, Hadley finds a new love, gets over her dislike when she meets Charlotte, and forgives her father because he "still loves her mother". What? After pages and pages of the author setting up Hadley's father as the bad guy, surprise! He isn't all bad. Why? We don't know, he just isn't.

This is a good premise that has been let down by boring prose and vague, ephemeral characters. I have to say that The Statistical Probability Of Falling In Love was a dull waste of my time.

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