Rabu, 27 Mac 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Nations close to deal on UN arms trade treaty - envoys

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 09:10 PM PDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations members on Wednesday were close to a deal on the first international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade, though delegates and rights groups said India, Iran or others could still block agreement.

Paramilitary soldiers hold guns with water bottles hanging from their ends during aiming training in Zhengzhou, Henan province July 11, 2011. REUTERS/China Daily

Paramilitary soldiers hold guns with water bottles hanging from their ends during aiming training in Zhengzhou, Henan province July 11, 2011. REUTERS/China Daily

Arms control campaigners and human rights groups say one person dies every minute worldwide as a result of armed violence and a treaty is needed to halt the uncontrolled flow of arms and ammunition they say fuels wars, atrocities and rights abuses.

United Nations member states began meeting last week in a final push to end years of discussions and hammer out a binding international treaty to end the lack of regulation over cross-border conventional arms sales.

The world body's 193 member states received the last revision of the draft treaty ahead of the final day of the drafting conference on Thursday. Reuters questioned delegates from over a dozen countries who said they were cautiously optimistic that the treaty would be adopted unanimously.

"India, Syria and Iran are countries that could still cause trouble," a European diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "But I'll wager the treaty will pass by consensus."

Iran, which is under a U.N. arms embargo over its nuclear program, is eager to ensure its arms imports and exports are not curtailed, diplomats say. Syria is in a two-year-old civil war and hopes Russian and Iranian arms keep flowing in, they added.

But they are under pressure to back the draft, envoys said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official declined to say whether Washington would support the draft treaty.

"We are continuing to review the text with an eye toward ensuring that it accomplishes all of our goals, including that it protect the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade and, of course, that it not infringe upon the constitutional right of our citizens to bear arms," he said.

Several U.N. diplomats predicted Washington would vote yes.

The National Rifle Association, a powerful U.S. pro-gun lobbying group, opposes the treaty and has vowed to fight to prevent its ratification if it reaches Washington. The NRA says the treaty would undermine domestic gun-ownership rights.

The American Bar Association, an attorneys' lobby group, has said that the treaty would not impact the right to bear arms.


Other major arms producers like Russia and China, which had initially resisted the treaty, along with Germany, France and Britain were also expected to support the draft, diplomats said.

The chief British delegate, Ambassador Joanne Adamson, said the new draft treaty has many improvements over earlier drafts.

"These (improvements) include inclusion of ammunition in the scope of the treaty, a new article on preventing diversion of arms, and strengthened section on exports which are prohibited," she said. "Human rights are at the heart of this text."

The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States - the world's biggest arms exporter - reversed U.S. policy on the issue after President Barack Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support an arms treaty.

The point of an arms trade treaty is to set standards for all cross-border transfers of conventional weapons. It would also create binding requirements for states to review all cross-border arms contracts to ensure arms will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism or violations of humanitarian law.

Several human rights groups and arms control advocates, including Amnesty International, Oxfam and Control Arms, praised the new draft. They said it had shortcomings, but was a major improvement over an earlier draft that had too many loopholes.

"While there are still deficiencies in this final draft, this treaty has the potential to provide significant human rights protection and curb armed conflict and violence if all governments demonstrate the political will to implement it," Brian Wood of Amnesty International said.

But he made clear that there were problems with the text, including an overly narrow scope of types of arms covered. It covers tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light arms.

Predator drones and grenades are among the weapon categories that are not covered explicitly in the draft treaty.

Anna Macdonald of Oxfam said there were "some improvements" in the draft, though some problems remained that she wanted fixed in the final hours before a decision is made by U.N. member states.

"We need a treaty that will make a difference to the lives of the people living in Congo, Mali, Syria and elsewhere who suffer each day from the impacts of armed violence," she said.

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, predicted that "over time, the treaty will help tip the scales in favour of human rights and human security when states consider arms sales in the future."

Rights groups complained about one possible loophole in the current draft involving defence cooperation agreements. Several diplomats who also oppose this loophole said it could exempt certain weapons transfers from the treaty.

Three delegates dubbed that provision the "India clause," because it was something India pushed hard for, they said.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Despite threats, North Korea keeps border factories open

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 08:16 PM PDT

PAJU, South Korea (Reuters) - A heavily armed border crossing between North and South Korea that allows the North access to $2 billion (1 billion pounds) in trade a year, one of its few avenues to foreign currency, remained open on Thursday despite Pyongyang's move to cut communications.

A South Korean soldier (top R) stands to check vehicles heading to the inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, at the CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) office, south of the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul March 28, 2013. REUTERS/Lim Byeong-sik/Yonhap

A South Korean soldier (top R) stands to check vehicles heading to the inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, at the CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) office, south of the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul March 28, 2013. REUTERS/Lim Byeong-sik/Yonhap

North Korea on Wednesday severed the last of three telephone hotlines with South Korea as it readied its troops to face what it believes to be "hostile" action from Seoul and Washington. The phone line is used to regulate access to the Kaesong industrial park on the North Korean side of the border as well as for military communications with the South.

Nearly 200 South Koreans and 166 vehicles carrying oil and materials drove into the park just inside the North early on Thursday after North Korean authorities used a separate phone line from the park's management office to allow access, South Korean officials said.

The North has already cut a direct hotline to U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea and a Red Cross line that had been used by the governments on both sides.

Severing hotlines is one of the least threatening but symbolic things Pyongyang can do to raise tensions and at the same time pressure Seoul and Washington to restart dialogue, said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

North Korea periodically cuts the lines. Its latest moves follow U.N. sanctions imposed for its February 12 nuclear test and routine drills by South Korean and U.S. forces. Pyongyang has also scrapped an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

"What else can they do? Actually start a war?" said Yang.

"Not answering the phone and saying the armistice is not valid any more, that's what they can do and they've done this before."


Workers and traders crossing the world's most heavily militarised border made sure they had U.S. dollar bills for the trip, some borrowing from a co-worker so they had enough of the zone's officially accepted currency.

Pyongyang's rhetoric against Washington including a vow to attack its military bases in the Pacific and to stage a nuclear strike has not yet extended to its willingness to accept dollars, which South Koreans said they had to use to buy cigarettes and other goods in the zone.

"I am a bit nervous but it looked the same as before when I went in there yesterday," truck driver Park Chul-hee, 44, told Reuters outside the Paju customs office. North Korean soldiers in and around Kaesong had been wearing combat fatigues recently, he added.

The North-South military hotline was used on a daily basis to process South Koreans and vehicles across the border and in and out of the Kaesong project, where 123 South Korean firms employ more than 50,000 North Koreans to make household goods.

About 120 South Koreans remain in the park on an average day. The presence of South Koreans at Kaesong poses a potentially serious political risk for Seoul given they could be trapped if Pyongyang sealed the border.

The first of the 511 people and 398 vehicles who were scheduled to return from the zone on Thursday began crossing the border into the South, indicating the crossing was operating normally in both directions.

"I think the third nuclear test is the last tipping point. I was worried so I came out," said one South Korean who has been running a factory in Kaesong for six years and who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Few people believe the North will shut down the project.

The $2 billion (1 billion pounds) a year it generates reduces Pyongyang's dependency on China, which accounted for almost $6 billion (3 billion pounds) in trade in 2012, according to South Korean government estimates.

Kaesong also generates more than $80 million (52 million pounds) a year in cash in wages. This is paid to the state rather than to workers.

(Writing by Jack Kim, Editing by Dean Yates)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Former Chilean leader Bachelet seeking presidential comeback

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 06:00 PM PDT

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet ended months of speculation late on Wednesday by announcing she will run in a November presidential election that she is favoured to win.

Former Chilean president and former executive director of gender equality body U.N. Women Michelle Bachelet is welcomed by her supporters upon her arrival at Santiago airport March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Former Chilean president and former executive director of gender equality body U.N. Women Michelle Bachelet is welcomed by her supporters upon her arrival at Santiago airport March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

A popular centre-leftist who ruled the copper-exporting nation from 2006 to 2010, Bachelet will likely face a candidate from the right-wing bloc of President Sebastian Pinera, who is barred from seeking a consecutive term under the constitution.

Front-runners for the ruling coalition's candidacy are charismatic businessman and former Public Works Minister Laurence Golborne and former Defence Minister Andres Allamand, a seasoned politician.

"I've taken some time to think about this decision ... And with happiness, with determination and much humility, I've taken the decision to be a (presidential) candidate," Bachelet said to cheers during a speech in Santiago, days after she quit her job as the head of U.N. Women.

Bachelet's return after months of speculation is a great relief to her fractured left-wing coalition, which Pinera ousted from a 20-year rule. She is expected to face little competition in the primaries.

Bachelet, a paediatrician-turned-politician, was one of Chile's most popular presidents.

Voters liked her affable manner, welfare policies and credited her for solid economic growth in one of Latin America's most stable, business-friendly countries.

Her high-profile U.N. post and time away from local politics have boosted her popularity, political analysts say, and opinion polls show her with a wide lead over other potential candidates.

In a poll published in January by local pollster CEP, 49 percent of those surveyed said they wanted Bachelet to be Chile's next president, versus 11 percent for Golborne and 5 percent for Allamand.

But analysts warn Bachelet's large lead will likely ebb during what looks set to be a heated campaign.

Whoever is elected on November 17 or in a potential run-off on December 15 will face demands for improved distribution of a mining bonanza in the world's No. 1 copper producer.

While Chile's economy grew a robust 5.6 percent last year and unemployment is at a six-year low, the country has the steepest income inequality among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states.

Bachelet on Wednesday centred her speech on combating inequality, saying deep reforms were needed for Chile to become a developed country. Education, energy policy and wages are key electoral issues.

Chile's open economy and its solid institutions are expected to remain broadly intact regardless of who governs until 2018.

A single mother of three and a victim of torture under Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, Bachelet was one of conservative Chile's most unusual leaders since the return to democracy in 1990.

Critics said too much of her appeal was based on personality. Others in the wide-ranging leftist bloc blasted her for not pushing through bolder social reforms.

Bachelet's legacy was tainted by a slow response on providing aid and halting looting after a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit at the end of her term in February 2010.

She faced sharp criticism over the failure of the navy's catastrophe-alert system to warn of the ensuing tsunami, leaving hundreds who survived the quake to be engulfed by huge waves that followed.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Comedies 'Girls', 'Louie' headline Peabody Awards

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 09:20 PM PDT

REUTERS - Irreverent U.S. cable television series Girls and Louie on Wednesday headlined the winners of the annual Peabody Awards, the oldest and one of the top honors in broadcasting.

The awards recognize excellence in television and radio broadcasting, as well as by webcasters, producing organizations and individuals.

HBO's Girls, which has earned creator and star Lena Dunham, 26, two Golden Globe awards and a slew of Emmy nominations, was lauded by the Peabody panel for its "singular, decidedly unglamorous take on sex and the single girl."

Comedian Louis C.K.'s Louie, a cult hit on FX of unconnected story lines and vignettes about a single father in the entertainment business, was praised as a "milestone of comedic reach and candor."

The Peabody panel, which also honors international and local programs, awarded a prize to WVIT-TV, an NBC affiliate in West Hartford, Connecticut, for its coverage of the elementary school mass shootings in December in nearby Newtown.

Other notable winners include British broadcaster ITV's documentary on the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile that explored allegations of decades-long sexual abuse by the once beloved star.

The BBC science-fiction drama Doctor Who won an Institutional Peabody Award for its ability to evolve with the times over its some 50 years in production.

Producer Lorne Michaels, the driving force behind NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, won an individual Peabody Award for career achievement.

The website SCOTUSblog.com, which provides analysis and archival material on the U.S. Supreme Court, also won an award and was praised as a one-stop shop for information on the court.

A 16-member board of critics, experts, and news and entertainment industry insiders select the winners of the annual awards handed out by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The winners will be honored at a ceremony in New York on 20 May.

Keeping it real

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 02:36 AM PDT

Ex-mafioso Lou Ferrante takes viewers into the secret world of mobsters.

WHEN former mobster Lou Ferrante was serving time in a maximum security prison in Pennsylvania, he couldn't bring himself to watch Tony and his friends take care of business on popular mob drama The Sopranos.

"The mobsters that I was in jail with would watch The Sopranos every week and I would say 'Oh, come on guys. Why do you want to look back at that stuff! That's what got us here'," said Ferrante in an exlusive phone interview from New York city.

Now at 44, Ferrante said it was difficult for him to relive his gang life on television. He can be seen on Discovery Channel's Inside The Gangster's Code, a documentary series in which he uses his mob and prison experiences to explore gang life in different parts of the world.

"For me, it was too painful to even look at because I lived it. I didn't want to think about the people we have victimised."

As a teenager growing up in Queens, New York, Ferrante and his gang used to hijack delivery trucks. Then he became part of the mafia by joining the infamous Gambino crime family.

He became a loan shark and joked that his interest rates were better than most banks in the United States. Then in 1994, the FBI caught up with him and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on various racketeering charges. He was able to appeal against one case and was released in 2003 after serving almost nine years in prison.

In prison, Ferrante said, he got into an altercation with one of the guards. His misdemeanour landed him in solitary confinement and that's when he had an epiphany.

"I tried to grab the guard's necktie through the food slot and he called me an animal. He said I belonged in the 'zoo' that I was in. And I just realised that I was an animal. I don't want to be one anymore and that was the beginning of the change that took place inside me."

Ferrante thought he had all the answers: "I was as ignorant as everyone else. Then I called up a friend and asked him to send me some books. And what I got was Adolf Hilter's Mein Kampf, Julius Caesar's Gallic War and a biography on Napoleon Bonaparte." It was then Ferrante discovered his love for words. Upon his release from prison, he went looking to get published.

"I did not want to write anything to do with true crime. Unfortunately, every publisher and agent that I went to would say 'Give us your story, we feel like your story is too important to overlook'. I held out for, like, three years, I just didn't want to talk about prison."

Eventually, Ferrante took the worst times of his life and made the best out of it. In 2009, he released a memoir about life in prison entitled Unlocked: The Life And Crimes Of A Mafia Insider. Then in 2011 came a business advice book, Mob Rules: What The Mafia Can Teach The Legitimate Businessman.

"Everything I do today, as far as business is concerned, I learned from the mob; how to keep my word, how to resolve differences in people and everything else. Basically, I just strip away the violence that the mafia has and just took the business-savvy part."

On the Discovery series, he said: "I travel around the world and I enjoy meeting gangsters, because I feel that I've walked in their shoes. Although I'm on the right side of the law now, I do understand that and I'm sort of able to unravel them (gangsters) for the viewers. I think we get an insider's perspective on different subcultures around the world and just the way gangs operate."

He explained how he made the experience of going on a whirlwind trip to prisons in South America and Europe bearable for his production crew.

"I have to let the film crew know that if we're interviewing an inmate and he's got to run off and do something – which happens occasionally – we have to let him go because he's basically running the prison. He controls the inner workings of the prison. It's like allowing the warden to take care of his business."

He added: "What goes on inside the prison is a sensitive thing and the film crew would pretty much refer to me. I was able to lead them through the ins and outs, and I thank God we were able to do it safely."

He also made it a point to make sure that the show does not glamorise gang life.

"In one of the episodes, I came across a body and I said 'that's real gang life'. In movies, the actor gets up, wipes the ketchup off his face and goes on to the next scene. But in real life, gangsters get killed, (a guy's) in the street and he's dead. I look for opportunities to take the veneer off organised crime and show the raw brutality of it."

Ferrante hopes viewers will see that there's a global phenomenon taking place and gangs are everywhere.

"When people feel displaced, that they can't find work because of the economy, they have to commit criminal deeds to survive. You know, I think criminal activity and gangs is a growing subculture and hopefully this will help heighten awareness of gang problems around the world."

Catch Inside The Gangster's Code tonight at 10pm on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551).

The right stuff

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 02:38 AM PDT

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is still one of today's most watched shows.

As television shows go, it is an utterly predictable formula – a cops-and-criminals drama spiced up with graphically gruesome details, a music video-worthy soundtrack and implausibly attractive investigators, with the whodunnit teed up at the start of each episode handily solved within an hour.

While CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has cleaved to this formula since it first aired in 2000, it has managed to stay fresh, partly by enlisting some big names in television and film, including Golden Globe winner Ted Danson in 2011 and Oscar-nominated actress Elisabeth Shue last year.

Danson is best known for playing quirky, sardonic characters including bartender Sam Malone on the sitcom Cheers (1982-1993), which won him two Golden Globes. And he seems more than happy to be in a long-running hit series.

"I'm thrilled that it remains the No. 1 watched show in the world even after I joined,'' the 65-year-old actor quipped during a press conference in Los Angeles recently.

"The different kinds of people who come up to you and talk about it still surprise me." He plays D.B. Russell, supervisor of the CSI team in Las Vegas.

Shue, 49, saw her film career peak in the 1990s, when she won an Oscar nomination for playing a prostitute in the 1995 film Leaving Las Vegas.

Since then, her projects have been few and far between, as she has been reluctant to leave her children with filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, two daughters and a son, aged six to 14.

"I decided to be on CSI knowing that my youngest was in school. I had a tough time deciding to do any television shows when she was still young because I didn't want to miss out on any moment in her life.

"But I'm glad I chose CSI because it's a show that is an ensemble – there are a lot of great characters so I still get time off to take care of my family and keep that balance. And the show's very well-run."

While she is used to working on dramas, acting out stories about murders and dead bodies was a bit of an adjustment for Danson, who is more of a comedic actor despite three Emmy nominations from 2008 to 2010 for his role in the Glenn Close legal drama Damages.

"There are times you can see smoke coming out of my ears because the words are so hard," he says of the multisyllabic scientific and technical terms that trip off Russell's tongue. "It's very difficult to memorise, so I am a little tired right now."

Comedy is nevertheless more challenging, he adds. "Because it's very hard to get the right tone of what's funny. In drama, there's an old joke that you can show up drunk, depressed and divorced and the camera goes, 'Ooh! Wow! That's interesting!'."

Over the years, the CSI cast have had more opportunities to flex their dramatic muscles as the show's writers have delved increasingly into the lives and personal stories of their characters.

But its chief appeal is still its forensic "procedural" element, the whodunnit-on-steroids genre that it pioneered, in many ways, leading to the spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, as well as similar shows such as Bones and Cold Case.

"This show has stuck to what made it great early on, they really do provide you with a forensic mystery that is as honest as you can make it, considering you have 45 minutes to tell a story," says Danson.

"We try to make the science as real as possible and they have stuck to that formula. I think that is what makes it successful." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 13 airs on AXN (Astro Ch 701) on Wednesdays at 10pm. You can also watch repeats of Season 12 on the same channel.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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Tennis: Ferrer fights back to book Miami semi-final

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 05:28 PM PDT

MIAMI: Third-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer quieted his early nerves and battled back for a three-set victory over Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Miami ATP Masters.

Ferrer defeated the unseeded Melzer 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and will face either French 11th seed Gilles Simon or giant-killer Tommy Haas of Germany for a place in the title match.

Haas, 34 years old and seeded 15th, toppled world No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets on Tuesday to book his quarter-final berth.

Djokovic's ouster left Ferrer as the highest seed remaining in the top half of the men's draw.

Perhaps the Spaniard felt the pressure of that status in the first set against Melzer.

He grabbed a quick break for a 2-0 lead, but the Austrian left-hander reeled off the next five games to serve for the set at 5-2.

Ferrer gained another break, and held to extend the set, but Melzer fended off two break points in the 10th game to pocket the set.

"Well, I started good with 2-0 up, but he played very good and he played with great power with his shots," Ferrer said. "And when he broke me, I played not so good.

"I was a little bit nervous in the first set and part of the second, but I tried to fight every point, to be focused, and I had a good feeling in the end of the second set and of course in the third one."

Ferrer broke Melzer for a 3-1 lead in the second, and although the Austrian immediately broke back Ferrer was able to regain the advantage with a break for 4-2.

By the third set, he was rolling, his cause aided by the 23 forehand errors Melzer scattered through his match.

Ferrer hadn't made it to the final four at Miami since 2006, when he lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

He was toppled in the second round of the Indian Wells Masters immediately prior to Miami, although until then he'd been enjoying a fine season that included titles at Auckland and Buenos Aires and a runner-up finish Acapulco.

Ferrer has won more matches this season - 24 - than any other player. He's also due to jump back over compatriot Rafael Nadal for the world No. 4 ranking next week, but Ferrer said he didn't mind working in relative anonymity.

"I'm very happy with me, with my career of tennis," he said. "I don't mind a lot (whether) I am a more important player or not. I like playing tennis and it's my job." -AFP

Athletics: Bolt, Blake and Felix to run in Kingston

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 05:26 PM PDT

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Usain Bolt, the two-time reigning Olympic champion at 100 and 200 meters, will run at the Jamaica International Invitational athletics meet on May 4, organizers announced on Wednesday.

Yohan Blake and US sprint star Allyson Felix will also compete in the meeting, but meet director Donald Quarrie, a former Olympic 200 champion, said there will be no showdown between Bolt and Blake in the same event at Kingston.

"Bolt has been confirmed, but his coach, Glen Mills, will decide on the event he will run at a later date," Quarrie said. Blake, second to Bolt in both sprints at the London Olympics, is also undecided about his event.

"Bolt and Blake will run, but not in the same event," Quarrie said. "Hopefully next week we should know the event."

Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, will compete in the meet for the first time and she will have a showdown with Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown in the women's 100, Quarrie said.

Felix, a three-time world champion in the 200, first ran in Kingston at the 2002 world junior championships.

Two-time Olympic 100m women's champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will run the 200, the event in which she finished second at the London Olympics.

Hansle Parchment, a London Olympic bronze medallist, will run the 110m hurdles.

El Weleily overcomes minor hiccup as Nicol cruises

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 05:07 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 2 Raneem El Weleily made a solid start to her campaign in the CIMB KL Open and warned that the "best is yet to come".

The 24-year-old El Weleily dropped a set against national No. 3 Delia Arnold in the first round at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil here but still proved too strong in the end, winning 11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 11-1 in 28 minutes.

And El Weleily, who has already beaten world No. 1 Nicol David twice in the last six months, believes that she can still up her level even more.

"It's been a long time since I faced Delia and I didn't know what to expect," said El Weleily. "I had a bad start in the third set and that gave her a bit of confidence. But I managed to regroup and refocus.

"Still, it's good to win ... I like being back in Malaysia. Hopefully, I'll enjoy another good tournament."

The Malaysian Open champion, however, believes that although she has beaten Nicol twice, "the gap between us is still miles apart".

"Beating Nicol twice doesn't count. She's still a level above and I've yet to find the secret to beating her (consistently). But we'll see how ... hopefully, we'll have a chance to face each other in the final," said Weleily, who will take on Natalie Grinham of Holland next.

Nicol also got off to the perfect start, cruising past South Africa's Siyoli Waters 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 in 31 minutes.

"Siyoli brought a different style of play, a little more attacking but I managed to take control and get into the right rhythm to play my own game," said Nicol.

Waters, who is the All-African champion, was simply relieved to have lasted longer than 15 minutes on court against Nicol.

In other matches, national No. 2 Low Wee Wern finally got her act right in her eighth KL Open to get past the opening round for the first time.

The 23-year-old Penangite overcame a slow start to beat England's Lauren Briggs 16-14, 11-4, 11-3 in 39 minutes.

"Lauren played really well. She was a top 15 player before getting injured and she showed that quality against me," said Wee Wern.

"It was a very close game despite the scoreline and I'm really happy to go through."

The world No. 6 will now take on Ireland's Madeline Perry, who defeated Czech Republic's Lucie Fialova 11-2, 11-5, 11-3.

Third seed Laura Massaro of England and fourth seed Nour El Sherbini of Egypt also made the second round after hard-fought opening wins.

Denmark's Line Hansen was the only player to create an upset, beating 16th seed Rachael Grinham of Australia 12-10, 11-8, 11-7.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Emirates, Qantas tie-up wins final approval

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 06:32 PM PDT

SYDNEY: Australia's competition watchdog gave final approval for Qantas and Emirates to launch a "game-changing" global alliance, saying the tie-up will benefit passengers.

The decision by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), widely expected after a preliminary green light in December, allows the airlines to combine operations for five years.

Under the alliance, they will coordinate ticket prices and flight schedules, and struggling Qantas will shift its hub for European flights from Singapore to the Emirates' Dubai base.

It also means an end to Qantas's partnership with British Airways on the so-called kangaroo route to London, which has spanned nearly two decades.

"The ACCC considers that the alliance is likely to result in public benefits through enhanced products and service offerings by the airlines, and improved operating efficiency," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

The decision comes after a six-month review and just days before the first joint flight from Sydney to London, via Dubai, is scheduled on Sunday. However, the regulator said it was concerned that New Zealand was a key market where competition could be eroded.

To deal with this, it imposed a condition on flights between Australia and New Zealand, forcing the airlines to maintain existing capacity on four overlapping trans-Tasman routes that were in operation before the alliance.

"With this condition, the ACCC is satisfied that the relevant net public benefit tests are met," it said.

The alliance is seen as vital to the sustainability of Qantas, which last year posted its first annual deficit since privatisation in 1995, due to tough regional competition and high fuel costs for its international arm. Qantas chief Alan Joyce called it good news for travellers and Australian tourism.

"Qantas is an Australian icon and the future of its international business is much brighter with this partnership," he said. "Customers are already responding very strongly to the joint network that Qantas and Emirates have built, and to the frequent flyer benefits that extend across it, with a significant increase in bookings."

Qantas shares rose 1.74% to A$1.75 (US$1.84) in afternoon trade.

With services to Asia no longer tied to onward links to Europe, Qantas recently announced that new direct destinations from Australia are being considered, including Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai, Delhi and Tokyo-Haneda.

For Emirates customers, it opens up Qantas's Australian domestic network of more than 50 destinations and nearly 5,000 flights per week.

"This is a truly game-changing partnership that brings together two of the world's best airlines and offers some of the highest quality travel experiences," said Emirates chief Tim Clark.

Dubai Airports has earmarked major funds to further expand the capacity of the international travel hub and expects to handle 75 million passengers by 2015 and 98 million by 2020.

Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese forecasts lower fares for air travellers as a consequence of the deal.

"The Flying Kangaroo has a special place in the heart of all Australians and this is good news for Australian travellers and the Australian economy," he said. "Millions of travellers stand to benefit from cheaper fares, reduced travel times and greater access to more destinations in the Middle East, Africa and Europe." - AFP


SILK posts higher Q2 net profit

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 06:25 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: SILK Holdings Bhd posted a 13.15% increase in net profit to RM1.97mil for the second quarter ended Jan 31, 2013, against RM1.74mil in the corresponding quarter the previous year.

Revenue for the quarter rose slightly to RM99.1mil from RM98.1mil a year ago.

In its filing with Bursa Malaysia, the company said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) for the quarter increased 11% to RM58.4mil from a year ago.

SILK's oil and gas (O&G) division remained its main contributor of revenue and operating profit, with a 81% contribution to the group's revenue.

Although 21 vessels were deployed by the O&G support services division for the quarter compared with 22 vessels last year, the company managed to maintain revenue from the division.

Revenue from the division stood at RM80.1mil compared with RM80.2mil a year ago. Year-to-date, the division recorded revenue of RM159.5mil, 25.6% higher than the previous year.

"Despite recording lower fleet utilisation due to scheduled vessel dockings, the division managed to maintain its revenue level on the back of the strengthening charter rates," it said in a statement.

SILK's highway infrastructure division recorded a 14.2% improvement in average daily traffic volume (ADTV) to more than 169,000 vehicles per day resulting in RM1.1mil higher revenue in the current period. However, due to higher charges of amortisation, the division recorded a slightly higher pre-tax loss of RM3.6mil in the quarter compared to RM3.5mil pre-tax loss a year ago.

Half-year revenue stood at RM197mil, 21.1% higher than RM162.7mil recorded in the previous year while EBITDA for the period was 28% higher at RM116.6mil from a year ago.

"This improvement is mainly driven by better top-line performance during the period," it said.

It said the board was confident that traffic volume at the highway infrastructure division would continue to grow in line with increased development activities in the vicinity it serves.

In addition, it said the board was also of the view that the O&G support services division would continue to remain competitive.

"Hence the decision to expand the fleet as announced recently. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the board expects these developments to contribute positively towards bottom-line performance in the future," said chairman Datuk Mohd Azlan Hashim.


MISC privatisation RM5.30 offer per share not compelling enough based on low acceptance rate

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 06:25 PM PDT

ON Jan 31 this year, our national oil company Petronas offered to buy the rest of the shares it did not already own in the global shipping company Malaysia International Shipping Corp Bhd (MISC) for RM5.30 per share.

MISC, incorporated in 1968 and the country's leading international shipping line, is currently worth RM23.8bil and majority-owned by Petronas at about 63%, while Employees Provident Fund (EPF) at about 9% and Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) at about 6% are the next largest shareholders.

Today, with over 130 liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Aframax (oil) tankers, MISC is one of the most important transportation players in the global oil and gas industry, an industry that Malaysian service providers have built a niche in, with customers in the LNG, petroleum and chemical industry.

The offer document stated the reasons behind Petronas' move to privatise MISC were, among others, the prevailing industry backdrop and uncertain global economy which had made efforts to sustain and transform the business challenging.

The exercise will also allow Petronas to obtain full control of the company, thus having greater flexibility in deciding MISC's strategic direction. It also stated that this move will provide minority shareholders the opportunity to exit and realise their investment at RM5.30 per share.

MISC has been going through some difficult times because of a combination of factors including a global oversupply of vessels, which has driven tanker rates to rock-bottom levels and recessionary concerns in the eurozone due to its ongoing debt problems, which, along with an uneven economic recovery, has pressured global energy prices. These woes have been reflected in MISC's share price. Before the offer was made, MISC stock traded in the RM4 levels compared to its high of RM9.94 in December 2007 (after adjusting for rights).

In financial year 2012, there were early signs of recovery as the group operating profit had a growth of 3.0% compared to previous financial year, coming out from a rock bottom level in 2011. The increase in operating profit was largely due to the commencement of the LNG regasification project and lower losses in the group's petroleum business from lower operating costs.

In addition, the loss-making liner division had been hived off and the bulk of the provisions had already been made in 2011. Adding to this, the acquisition by Petronas of Progress Energy Resources Corp could provide MISC a more dominant role in the global transportation of energy which is expected to benefit MISC in the medium to long term.

To reiterate, the offer of RM5.30 per share represents a premium of 18% over MISC's last traded price on Jan 30 and as much as a 27% premium to the three-month volume weighted average price (VWAP) of MISC shares.

However, the offer price is at a discount to MISC's sum-of-part value (SOPV) with independent adviser's, AmInvestment Bank Bhd, valuation ranging from RM5.69 per share to as much as RM6.10 per share. The independent adviser had said the offer was unfair as it was priced at a significant discount to MISC's SOPV but considered it reasonable due to a weak shipping outlook that may persist and the absence of a competing bid, hence recommended minorities to accept the offer.

There was a rights issue in November 2009 at RM7 per share to raise funds mainly for the Gumusut-Kakap project, where 50% was later sold off to Petronas.

On March 19, MISC announced that the offer was extended without revising its offer price to April 5, indicating that minority shareholders did not see Petronas' offer as particularly appealing despite the independent adviser's recommendation. This was on the back of only 0.74% acceptance rate, bringing its total ownership to 63.41%, far short of the 90% needed to make the offer unconditional.

We ourselves felt that the offer price was not compelling enough. And for the institutional investors, we urge them to discharge their stewardship responsibilities wisely in considering this offer, to ensure that the investment value for their ultimate beneficiary or client is adequately protected. All minority shareholders whether institutional or retail, should take into account their entry levels and risk considerations.

Petronas might do well to consider putting a larger carrot on the stick if their intention is to fully take MISC private.

  • Rita Benoy Bushon is chief executive officer of Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group.

    Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

    The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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    Charlize Theron to star in a crime thriller

    Posted: 26 Mar 2013 09:01 PM PDT

    The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that Charlize Theron is to star in a suspense-thriller set against a backdrop of vigilantism and corruption.

    After playing villains in Prometheus and Snow White And The Huntsman in 2012, Theron has many new projects in the pipeline.

    The 37-year-old actress is now looking to take part in a criminal intrigue by Dan Nowak, the screenwriter of US TV drama The Killing.

    Not much is known about the plot of the as-yet-untitled movie, described as similar to End Of Watch and The Departed.

    Before then, Theron will film the comedies A Million Ways to Die In The West and Ladies Night. She will also play the lead role in Gilles Paquet-Brenner's Dark Places, a psychological criminal drama based on a bestseller by Gillian Flynn.


    A full cast of Ninja Turtles joins Megan Fox

    Posted: 26 Mar 2013 08:45 PM PDT

    Paramount has reportedly picked the four actors who will star in The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new film based on the 1980s pop culture phenomenon.

    According to Deadline.com, Noel Fisher, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Pete Ploszek will play the main characters in the movie coproduced by Michael Bay.

    They will respectively give mutant turtles Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo their expressions, gestures and voices.

    The comic book characters, created in 1984 and who are crazy about martial arts and pizza, will encounter journalist April O'Neil, who will be played by Megan Fox.

    Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath Of The Titans) will direct the movie, conceived as a reboot of the saga. It will be the fourth live-action film for the Ninja Turtles since 1990.


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    GE13: Run-up to Negri Sembilan Assembly Dissolution

    Posted: 27 Mar 2013 07:48 AM PDT

    Published: Wednesday March 27, 2013 MYT 7:42:00 PM
    Updated: Wednesday March 27, 2013 MYT 10:48:47 PM

    GE13: Negri Sembilan to make history when state assembly expires

    Posted: 27 Mar 2013 07:38 AM PDT

    SEREMBAN: At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, history was made as the Negri Sembilan state assembly expired.

    This unprecedented event sent law scholars and veteran journalists scurrying, but Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan is clear about the procedure.

    "According to the state laws, the five-year term started the day after the first special meeting of the 12th term and that was on March 28, 2008."

    Mohamad said although the 36-member state legislature was automatically dissolved at the stroke of midnight, the executive council would continue to meet as usual to discuss the day-to-day running of the state government and other minor matters.

    "I will continue to remain as Mentri Besar and, together with my exco, will see the day-to-day running of the government.

    "There has to be a caretaker government because we will have to pay wages and look into other matters during the period. Without a caretaker government, there will be anarchy,"

    However, Mohamad said the remaining members of the assembly are no longer "Yang Berhormat" nor can they claim to be wakil rakyat in their respective constituencies as their tenure has automatically ended.

    "The MB and the state exco are different as they wear two songkoks. One is as wakil rakyat and the other as a government employee.

    "So we will continue to serve as the caretaker government until the election," he said rubbishing talk that the state government has become an illegal entity after it completed its five-year mandate.

    Mohamad said he also had his regular weekly audience with Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir at Istana Hinggap on Wednesday.

    "I briefed Tuanku about developments in the state as well as the functions of the caretaker government, which will come into force tomorrow," he said, adding that the Ruler had told him to do the necessary.

    The state assembly was officially opened by the then Yang di-Pertua Negri, the late Tuanku Ja'afar Tuanku Abdul Rahman, on April 25, 2008.

    The automatic dissolution of the Negri Sembilan assembly Wednesday will go down in Malaysian history as the first state legislature to be disbanded in such a manner since 1959.

    Mohamad said he had decided to hold the first sitting of the state legislature earlier than the other states after the 2008 elections because he wanted the assemblymen "to get started".

    "I did not want to wait longer because the people expect to see their wakil rakyat working," he said.

    The state assemblies whose terms are due to expire next are those of Johor and Malacca (April 21) followed by Selangor (April 25).

    For more election stories, please visit The Star's GE13 site

    Related Stories:
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    GE13: Assemblymen to go on serving their constituents
    GE13: Dissolution of Negri's state assembly may prompt call for 13th general election
    GE13: Negri Sembilan speaker to notify EC of state assembly dissolution
    GE13: Negri Sembilan Speaker to notify EC of state assembly dissolution

    GE13: Election 101 with Red FM Deejays JJ and Lil Kev (Audio)

    Posted: 27 Mar 2013 06:47 AM PDT

    Red FM deejays Lil Kev and JJ interview the Election Commission's deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar in their Red Breakfast WTF morning show, to dissect the upcoming general election.

    Get insights into the voting process as the dynamic duo, in their inimitable style, asks the questions that you would like to ask as the average Malaysian voter.

    The phone-in covers details on how to vote, what will happen after the parliament has been dissolved, and what to look out for, including the dos and don'ts of voting.

    From dissolution to nomination day, right down to campaigning and the polls proper, Wan Ahmad explains it all.

    To get even more details on the Malaysian elections check out our election FAQ at http://elections.thestar.com.my/ge_faq.aspx up to you.

    For more election stories, please visit The Star's GE13 site

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    The Star Online: Metro: Central

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    Residents look forward to Traffic Impact Assessment to ease congestion on LDP

    Posted: 27 Mar 2013 05:14 AM PDT

    IT IS great news to hear that a holistic Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) will be carried out in Subang Jaya/USJ, to study the traffic, drainage, development and environment in Subang Jaya/USJ, and subsequently, the Puchong area.

    More laudable is that the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) has engaged a consultant for the task.

    It is apt that MPSJ responded to the appeal of Bandar Puteri/ Taman Wawasan residents over the unsettling commercial development and traffic landscape at the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP).

    We thank councillor Chang Kim Loong and JKP 16 in bringing this pressing matter to the highest level.

    The authorities have prescribed a viable solution that brings a fresh perspective to residents confronted with chaotic traffic flow in their area.

    Traffic congestion can become critical due to rapid developmental changes and construction of high-rise condominium projects.

    The existing road infrastructure is just unable to cope with the traffic generated from such a high density population.

    The safety of road users on the LDP is at stake as vehicle drivers are exposed to accident-prone situations.

    It has been observed that traffic plans or layouts to disperse heavy traffic are not effective, probably attributing to the manner it is undertaken — on a piece-meal basis as opposed to a more holistic approach.

    To add to the dilemma, the conversion of prime land to commercial status is not uncommon.

    The issue raised by our community is the inadequacy of the traffic dispersal system, both in road linkage and alternative routes to cope with the heavy traffic flow.

    Improvising additional infrastructure such as widening existing roads, building slip-roads or diverting traffic only adds to traffic hazards and appears to be short-term solutions to a big problem.

    It can be seen that public opinion reflects an uneasy feeling towards the Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) and Environ-mental Impact Assessment (EIA).

    Although resident associations are not short of facts on traffic disharmony, nevertheless, many are ready to engage traffic consultants to undertake a completely independent TIA/EIA study for a second opinion.

    They are ever willing to foot the expenses incurred in order to give professional credibility to the findings.

    All they want is to ensure that all fundamental traffic considerations are complied with accordingly before the green light is given.

    All they ask of the policymakers is to look on a broader perspective at the developmental plans in line with the Town and Country Planning Act.

    Against this background, we wish to appeal to MPSJ to review any high-density developmental projects which are seemingly controversial.

    Suffice to say, this is a gigantic job and not an overnight decision to put us in the right direction for the betterment of all.

    Looking at the current situation, residents can't be blamed if they have any adverse opinion towards any high density project as ultimately, they are the end users who will live with the consequences in years to come.

    Puchong, Selangor

    Metro watch

    Posted: 27 Mar 2013 05:14 AM PDT


    Besraya (M) Sdn Bhd will be closing the U-turn at Jalan Istana today, from midnight to 5am, from CH.2A-100 to CH.2A-200. This is to facilitate works at the BR 3A bridge for the Sungai Besi Highway Link Project. Vehicles from Jalan Istana heading towards Jalan Syed Putra are advised to use the route to Bulatan Loke Yew, whereas those from Jalan Istana heading towards the city and TUDM should use the Pudu roundabout and exit to Jalan Yew, Jalan Sungai Besi and Jalan Istana. For details, call 017-622 1621 (Ti-Indawati Mohd Aslar) or 019-265 2143 (Norhasziala Hashim).

    TRAFFIC-LIGHT WORKS The New Pantai Expressway Sdn Bhd is conducting reconfiguration works for the traffic-light junction in PJS, NPE highway. The works are being carried out to improve the traffic system in the area, especially during peak hours. For details, call NPE Infoline at 1 300 88 1010.


    The Royal Thai Embassy Kuala Lumpur and Ti Ratana Penchala Community Centre are jointly organising the 'Remembering Loved Ones Robe Offering Ceremony' at Wat Chetawan, Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya this Sunday, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. The event marks the first visit of Luang Pu Tohn Phra Ratcha Yan Wisutthi Sophon (65 Vassa) to Malaysia, who is currently the Abbot of Wat Sri Apaiyawan, Loei Province North East Thailand. For details, call 03-7955 2443 (Phra Kru Woon) or 012-324 6246 (Wong Tum Keng).


    The Barom Kagyu Sam Ten Chuling Buddhist Centre will be conducting a training session on Jamgon Kongtrul's seven-point mind-training and meditation programme on April 6 and 7 at 108-3B Jalan PJU 1/3B, Sunway Mas Commercial Centre, Petaling Jaya. It will be conducted by Khenpo Dhamcho Dhawa Rinpoche from the Chrodak monastery in Tibet. For details, call 016-232 3777 (Adeline) or 019-333 1704 (Lim).


    In conjunction with World Kidney Day, Sentosa Medical Centre will be organising a talk by consultant physician and nephrologist Dr Choy Kwan Loong and diabetes educator Vitdhia Muniandy this Saturday. The talk will be held at the Meeting Room, Lower Ground floor of the hospital from 10am to 12.30pm. Admission is free. For details, call 03-4043 7166, ext 146 / 222 (Manpreet / Ros).


    The Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields will be holding meditation classes and sessions every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 8pm to 10pm and on Sunday, from 10am to 11am. The sessions are free and beginners are encouraged to come early. For details, visit www.buddhistmahavihara.com, call 03-2274 1141 or email to rogleestar@gmail.com.

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