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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

French PM says pension reform to keep retirement age of 62 - paper

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 03:03 PM PDT

PARIS (Reuters) - A plan to reform France's state pension system will leave in place the official retirement age of 62, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a French newspaper.

"We won't touch the official retirement age," Ayrault said in an interview with Journal de Dimanche. "The main theme of our decisions is fairness."

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault delivers a speech before a vote of no confidence in the government brought by the opposition at the National Assembly in Paris March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault delivers a speech before a vote of no confidence in the government brought by the opposition at the National Assembly in Paris March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France is under pressure to fix a short-term pension deficit which Ayrault said would swell to 20 billion euros (16.8 billion pounds) by 2020 if unaddressed.

Ayrault said the reform, which is risky for Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is sagging in opinion polls, would address "inequalities" resulting from different pension payouts depending on profession and length of employment.

Ayrault also defended Hollande's effort to resurrect a 75 percent super-tax on million-euro salaries by shifting the levy to companies from people, saying it would only hit big companies that pay chief executives generously.

"Indecent salaries are paid in the big corporate groups," he was quoted as saying, denying that athletes and performers could also be hit. "This issue will be included in our plans for a law addressing corporate governance and compensation."

The effort to shift the tax - one of Hollande's emblematic campaign pledges - to companies has sparked indignation in the French business community.

(Reporting By Christian Plumb and Patrick Vignal; Editing by Jason Webb)

French PM says pension reform to keep retirement age of 62 - paper

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 03:03 PM PDT

PARIS (Reuters) - A plan to reform France's state pension system will leave in place the official retirement age of 62, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a French newspaper.

"We won't touch the official retirement age," Ayrault said in an interview with Journal de Dimanche. "The main theme of our decisions is fairness."

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault delivers a speech before a vote of no confidence in the government brought by the opposition at the National Assembly in Paris March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault delivers a speech before a vote of no confidence in the government brought by the opposition at the National Assembly in Paris March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France is under pressure to fix a short-term pension deficit which Ayrault said would swell to 20 billion euros (16.8 billion pounds) by 2020 if unaddressed.

Ayrault said the reform, which is risky for Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is sagging in opinion polls, would address "inequalities" resulting from different pension payouts depending on profession and length of employment.

Ayrault also defended Hollande's effort to resurrect a 75 percent super-tax on million-euro salaries by shifting the levy to companies from people, saying it would only hit big companies that pay chief executives generously.

"Indecent salaries are paid in the big corporate groups," he was quoted as saying, denying that athletes and performers could also be hit. "This issue will be included in our plans for a law addressing corporate governance and compensation."

The effort to shift the tax - one of Hollande's emblematic campaign pledges - to companies has sparked indignation in the French business community.

(Reporting By Christian Plumb and Patrick Vignal; Editing by Jason Webb)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Pope leads Catholics into Easter at vigil service in St. Peter's

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 02:42 PM PDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, leading the world's 1.2 billion Catholics into Easter for the first time, on Saturday urged those who have strayed from the faith to allow God back into their lives.

A bishop smiles at Pope Francis as he leaves at the end of a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican March 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

A bishop smiles at Pope Francis as he leaves at the end of a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican March 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Francis, who was elected on March 13, presided at a solemn Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter' Basilica to usher the Catholic Church into the most important day of its liturgical calendar.

The immense basilica, the largest church in Christendom, was in the dark for the start of the service to signify the darkness in Jesus' tomb before what Christians believe was his resurrection from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

Some 10,000 faithful lit candles as Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, walked up the main aisle, and then the basilica's lights were turned on.

The 76-year-old Francis, wearing relatively plain white vestments - as opposed to the more elaborate robes preferred by his predecessor Benedict - delivered a simple homily recounting the Bible story of the women who went to Jesus's tomb but were surprised to find it empty.

He urged his listeners not to be "afraid of God's surprises," never to lose confidence during the trials and tribulations of daily life, and, if they have strayed, to let God back into their lives.

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms," he said, speaking in Italian.

"If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won't be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don't be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do," he said.

Another difference between Francis and his predecessor is that Francis reads his homilies standing behind a lectern like an ordinary priest instead of while seated on a throne.

He is still living in the same Vatican guesthouse where he stayed during the conclave that elected him the first non-European pope in 1,300 years instead of moving into the spacious and regal papal apartments in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

Francis has also been inviting ordinary people to his morning Mass at the guesthouse, including Vatican street sweepers and gardeners and staff of the guest house.

During Saturday night's service he presided at another Easter vigil tradition by baptising four new adult members of the Church. They were from Italy, Albania, Russia and the United States.

Holy Saturday was the third of four hectic days leading up to Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar.

On Easter Sunday he will celebrate another Mass and then deliver his first "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to tens of thousands of people in the square below.

The balcony is the same spot where he first appeared to the world as pope on the night of March 13 after his election.


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Tribute to Allan Zechariah

Posted: 31 Mar 2013 12:41 AM PDT

Legendary RTM stalwart Allan Zechariah came from an era when radio deejays were your best friends.

Allan Zechariah was always cool. Most of the disc jockeys on Radio 4 (Blue Network before that and Traxx FM today) had their own intro themes for the programmes they hosted back then. For his Sunday breakfast show in the late 1980s, Allan used instrumental guitarist Joe Satriani's crunching title track from his 1987 album Surfing With The Alien, which made him a firm favourite with the rock faithful.

If that didn't wake up the neighbours on a lazy Sunday morning, few things could. But that really was Allan, the guitar enthusiast, in a nutshell, never afraid to be adventurous and always willing to give new music – foreign and local – a shot.

His colleagues, who invariably became his friends – given his genial personality – remember him likewise. Traxx FM programme manager Philomena Pragasam said: "He gave a lot of opportunities to local musicians to have their music on air."

Music was always close to his heart. If he wasn't playing it on air, then he was busy playing guitar in his band, Z2K, with two other colleagues. Bandmate and buddy G. Krishnan shared: "Allan came up with the idea of having our own band with him on lead and rhythm guitar, Radha Krishnan on drums and me on bass. Z2K evolved to become the Z band, performing for weddings and corporate functions." Krishnan further explained that Z2K (obviously a pun on the Y2K phenomenon at the turn of the century) stood for "Zechariah and two Krishnans".

According to him, while Allan enjoyed his jazz and loved guitarists like Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis, he was also a fan of the king of the blues, B.B. King, and Latin rock hero Santana. "The Z band played old rock 'n' roll tunes. Allan did a good impersonation of Dean Martin," added Kirshnan, who was by his friend's bedside when he passed on last Tuesday.

Christopher Zechariah, who is Allan's youngest and sole surviving sibling (from a family of four brothers), remembered that Allan had a nickname 'Barney' during his school days in the 1950s (After jazz musician Barney Kessel). Born on March 23, 1942, Allan was schooled at St John's Institution and his family home was on Pasar Road in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.

"In those days, we used to raid our dad's 78rpm record collection. Be it showtunes, jazz, country or big band, the Zechariah boys had a wide range of music to discover on the family gramophone at home. That's probably where Allan picked up his early music knowledge," recalled Christopher.

"Allan also took a liking for American jazz guitarist Barney Kessel and he used to play a lot of Kessel tunes. His 'Barney' nickname stuck for a few years."

In 1957, Allan formed his first band The Drifters, which also included his brother Derrick.

Long-time friend Jeffrey Moey, who used to sing with the band, only had praise for Allan's guitar-playing and knack for turning up for a big occasion.

"I wasn't full-time with the band, but they were my buddies and we jammed together. The Drifters backed me up at the first Elvis Presley of Malaysia competition at Chin Woo (stadium) in Kuala Lumpur in 1958. I remember that day well ... I sang Elvis' One Night and the band ripped it up on stage! I won the contest and Allan was my Scotty Moore! (Elvis Presley's guitarist), he was lightning on guitar," reminisced Moey.

In recent years, The Z Band was Allan's main priority as he put in a lot of effort to revive the sounds of the past.

"We had regular jam sessions and Allan, in many ways, wanted this band to play music that not only rekindled old memories, but to also remind people of classic tunes that are timeless," said The Z Band drummer Ronnie Gaffor, who mentioned Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley and Jerry 'Lee' Lewis were some favourites.

Allan never shied away when it came to a photo with his beloved guitars, as his bandmates noted.

"He loved his guitars. He had three or four of them," confirmed Pragasam of her former colleague's passion for the instrument, intimating that his favourite instrument was placed in his casket.

Where his broadcasting work was concerned, Allan was the consummate (radio) voice, always able to perform to the highest standards of the profession. "Deejays today use gimmicks, but Allan could capture his audience with his voice, stories and knowledge of music," she said of her colleague, who flourished during the pre-format radio days.

Allan loved his job simply because he loved to talk, and that was his selling point.

"He used to get a lot of mail, and most of them were women. They were all crazy for him," revealed Pragasam.

But it was his calming personality that was called upon one particular day during his morning show. "A young girl called up saying she had an argument with her mother, and said she was on a building and contemplating suicide. Allan talked to the girl and calmed her down," she shared.

During that scary few minutes, he not only managed to coax the girl out of her plan, but got her to reveal her location so authorities could rescue her.

Pragasam is also grateful to Allan for promoting her weekly programme Children's Hour. "The programme won seven international awards, and Allan interviewed me twice for its success," she said of the veteran broadcaster she first met in the 1980s.

In Allan's early days at RTM, which he joined in 1966, there was a lot of freedom for him to develop his own shows, pick his own music and learn the broadcasting ropes.

Former RTM deejay Emile Moissinac, who was Allan's colleague at the station for over 30 years, remembered their friendship well.

"Allan and I joined RTM's English service broadcast on the same day back in 1966. He was a spontaneous guy, very sharp and witty. He was made for radio. We hit if off immediately as colleagues and friends. In fact, he used to come and pick me up on his Vespa Sprint every morning, have our breakfast in Bangsar and head to the studio at Federal House in Kuala Lumpur," said Moissinac, who kept country music close to his heart during his RTM years.

"As two young deejays back then, we had such a thrill picking out music for our shows. Work hours on some days started at 9am and ended at 11pm. We used to spend hours in the (RTM) library, looking up records and doing research for our programmes. It was exciting times to be a part of radio culture here. Allan would also point out a particular new record, and I would also tell him what I was into. Often enough, we had the same ... good taste," he added, with a smile.

Ronnie Atkinson, Allan's senior at Radio Malaysia, noted that Allan worked hard to build a broadcasting career for himself. It didn't happen overnight.

"He opted out of a law programme at the University of Singapore in 1963. He was a temporary teacher after that. Allan was very brainy, a real bookworm, but he had music in his heart. When the job at Radio Malaysia (RTM) arrived in 1966, he never looked back," said Atkinson, who used to produce shows with Allan as the deejay.

As a car enthusiast and music fan, Allan definitely relished his radio career, especially with opportunities to interview 1960s pop group The Shadows and British F1 racing driver Jackie Stewart in the 1970s. He knew how to turn up with excellent questions and make an interview interesting, according to Atkinson.

"The man was a real trooper. Full of passion. Even with so many programmes to produce, he would still smile and have the energy to go in the (radio) conti and charm the listeners. In the 1960s, I would say Allan and Mustapha Sheriff were the superstar voices on English radio. There were others, but both of them were special," he added.

"Apart from being a good guitarist, Allan used to also sing harmony vocals with his late brother Derrick. They were known as the local Everly Brothers," said Atkinson, who added that he produced the Talentime programme in the 1970s that featured Allan as the emcee.

When asked if Allan ever recorded any material professionally, his brother Christopher recalled that Allan and Derrick used to be in a harmony duo called The Zechariahs.

"They had a recording session with Life Records in the 1960s. But the music was never released," said Christoper.

In a reflective moment, Christoper added that all through his life Allan was the one that taught him to play instruments and shaped his music outlook.

"When I was a kid, Allan taught me to play the ukelele. Then we moved on to all sorts of instruments. Like any cool big brother, he had a cool record collection. When he used to do the jazz shows on RTM in the 1980s, I used to tape those programmes on cassette and learn so much about the music he played on air," he recalled.

Christopher concluded that he would be digging up some of those precious cassette recordings of Allan's radio shows real soon. Just like so many other listeners from a generation past, he might not be the only one dusting off some old cassettes featuring the "Voice of Malaysian radio".

A tribute to Leslie

Posted: 31 Mar 2013 12:21 AM PDT

IN conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Leslie Cheung's passing, local Chinese radio station 988 has dedicated the whole of April to the iconic Hong Kong megastar with their new month-long tribute campaign entitled Dearly Missed Leslie Cheung.

Tune in to 988 tomorrow for a a variety of tribute programmes. At 8am, 988 deejays will be sharing collective memories. Then at 12.30pm, they will revisit Cheung's classic movies.

Every Sunday in April starting at 6pm, 988 will spin Cheung's hottest hits.

988 is also available online ( 988 is owned and operated by The Star.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Dell warns of risks of remaining a public company

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 08:49 PM PDT

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO: Dell Inc warned on Friday that it would be dangerous to take on a lot of debt and remain a public company given its worsening profit outlook, in a sign that it views proposals from Blackstone Group LP and billionaire investor Carl Icahn as fraught with risk.

The No. 3 maker of personal computers published a 274-page preliminary proxy statement to inform Dell shareholders of how a $24.4 billion buyout proposal from founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners was put together, and why it is the best of all the alternatives the company's board had explored.

Icahn has proposed paying $15 per share for 58 percent of Dell, while Blackstone has indicated it can pay more than $14.25 per share -- both deals involve saddling the company with a lot of debt and keeping it on public markets. Silver Lake's $13.65 per share all-cash offer would see Dell go private.

Dell's proxy statement did not directly pass judgment on the Blackstone and Icahn bids, yet it warned that any leveraged recapitalization was risky if the company was to remain public.

"Even when taking into account the certain value distributed to stockholders, (a leveraged recapitalization) would be unlikely to result in an aggregate value exceeding the $13.65 per share merger consideration and would present a number of risks and challenges," Dell said in the statement, referring to its special committee's review.

Such a move would decrease employee, customer and supplier confidence in the company's long-term prospects and potentially limit the company's ability to aggressively implement its long-term business strategy, Dell added.

Under all scenarios examined by Boston Consulting Group, which carried out an independent analysis for Dell, revenues are seen slipping every year to 2016. Dell's board expects fiscal 2014 operating income of $3 billion, down from last summer's internal forecast of as much as $5.6 billion, the proxy shows.


Dell painted an account of arduous negotiations. It set up a special committee to evaluate all the company's options aiming to placate concerns over potential conflicts of interest facing Michael Dell.

The CEO owns 15.7 percent of the company he started in 1984 out of his college dorm room with $1,000. Under his take-private deal, Michael Dell and his investment firm would own 75.9 percent of the company, with Silver Lake owning the rest.

Dell said Michael Dell's and Silver Lake's post-buyout plan anticipated adding a significant number of sales personnel and boosting spending on research and development. There are no plans to embark on major assets sales following the buyout, it added,

The restructuring plan envisioned, were it to be carried out with Dell as a public company, would not be palatable to shareholders and the stock could suffer, Dell said.

Dell also said a strategic party, whose identity it did not disclose, expressed interest on January 24 to acquire its financial services business for its book value, estimated at between $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion, excluding debt.

A standalone deal of this kind would not benefit the company, Dell concluded.


Michael Dell met with Blackstone and its buyout partner Francisco Partners on March 7 and 8 during a 45-day, so-called "go-shop" period when other bidders are invited to make offers, the proxy said, indicating that Blackstone explored early on the possibility of keeping Michael Dell as CEO.

Michael Dell also met earlier this week with Blackstone's senior managing directors Dave Johnson and Chinh Chu, although the outcome of those discussions has yet to become clear, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Michael Dell has expressed concern that Blackstone's offer would dismantle the PC maker he founded in 1984, two people close to Michael Dell have told Reuters.

The founder is worried that the buyout firm's plans would be inconsistent with his strategy to reinvest in the company, they added.

Blackstone has already made an unsuccessful push to recruit Oracle Corp President Mark Hurd to run Dell if it takes over the company, one source familiar with the situation said last week.

Dell revealed that its special committee, chaired by businessman Alex Mandl and set up to assess all possible strategic alternatives for the company, also comprises of board members Laura Conigliaro, Janet Clark and Kenneth Duberstein.

The proxy statement shows how Silver Lake raised its bid six times by about $4 billion, or over 20 percent, during the course of the negotiations. The final agreed price of $13.65 per share in cash is below where Dell shares ended trading on Thursday at $14.33.

Before approving the deal and announcing it on February 5, Dell spent more than five months evaluating alternatives that included a leveraged recapitalization and selling all or part of the business.

Dell was regarded as a model of innovation as recently as the early 2000s, pioneering online ordering of custom-configured PCs and working closely with Asian component suppliers and manufacturers to assure rock-bottom production costs.

But as of 2012's fourth quarter, Dell's share of the global PC market had slipped to just above 10 percent from 12.5 percent a year earlier, according to research house IDC. The proxy statement shows how the special committee wrested with the notion of staying public as the company's financial fundamentals weakened.

Dell's detailed regulatory filing also showed how Microsoft Corp's Windows operating system - which once had a chokehold over the whole PC market, is being undermined by other software.

Dell said it is seeing uncertain adoption of Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, which was launched with much fanfare last year, and an unexpected slowdown in Windows 7 upgrades by businesses. - Reuters

Timeline: The long path to a Dell buyout

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 08:46 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK: Dell Inc founder Michael Dell's efforts to take the PC company private began last summer with an idea pitched by its top institutional shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management.

Here is a timeline of the discussions as disclosed on Friday in Dell's preliminary proxy statement:

June 15, 2012 -- Southeastern Asset Management, which owns 146.5 million shares or about 8.4 percent of Dell, contacts CEO Michael Dell to suggest "a going private transaction" and expresses the fund's interest in participating in it.

July 17 -- Michael Dell meets a representative of private equity firm Silver Lake Partners at a conference and they set up discussions in August. In these talks, Silver Lake suggests to Dell's founder he should take the company private.

August 11, 13 -- Michael Dell meets with a representative of another private equity firm, identified in the proxy only as "Sponsor A," to ask what it thought of such a transaction. Sources told Reuters Sponsor A is private equity firm KKR & Co LP. KKR declined to comment.

August 14 -- Michael Dell informs board member and lead independent director Alex Mandl that he is exploring a buyout but says he has made no decision.

August 17 -- The board has a teleconference during which Michael Dell briefs them on the take-private idea and discussions surrounding it. The board decides to consider a potential transaction and other strategic alternatives.

August 20 -- The board forms a special committee consisting of Mandl, former co-director of Goldman Sachs' Americas equity research unit Laura Conigliaro, Marathon Oil Chief Financial Officer Janet Clark and consulting firm Duberstein Group CEO Kenneth Duberstein. Mandl is subsequently appointed chairman of the special committee.

August 21 -- Dell reports weak second fiscal quarter results. Revenue of $14.5 billion was about $300 million less than what management had expected. The company lowers fiscal 2013 outlook.

August 24 to 29 -- Mandl holds discussions with investment bankers JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc to select a financial advisor. JPMorgan is retained.

September 14 -- JPMorgan tells the special committee it has identified other financial sponsors as potential buyers but notes that Silver Lake and KKR are best placed as each could complete a transaction with significant committed equity.

October 23 -- Silver Lake and KKR submit preliminary proposals to acquire Dell. Silver Lake's purchase price is between $11.22 and $12.16 per share, and KKR's purchase price is between $12 and $13 per share. Both assume Michael Dell would participate in the deal. KKR also assumes Southeastern would participate.

October 27 - The special committee discusses with Dell Chief Financial Officer Brian Gladden potential strategic alternatives such as returning capital to shareholders through a leveraged recapitalization, accelerating the company's current plan, a transformative acquisition and separating certain businesses.

November 2 -- JPMorgan informs Silver Lake and KKR the special committee is not happy with the price ranges.

November 12 -- Dell hires Boston Consulting Group to review strategic alternatives.

Dec 3 -- KKR withdraws from the process, mainly because it is not comfortable with the risks associated with Dell.

December 4 -- Silver Lake submits an updated proposal to acquire Dell for $12.70 per share.

December 7 -- Mandl invites another firm, identified in the proxy only as "Sponsor B," to consider making a proposal. A source told Reuters Sponsor B is private equity firm TPG Capital LP. TPG did not respond to a request for comment.

December 10 -- Mandl informs Silver Lake its offer price is too low. Silver Lake seeks permission to involve Microsoft Corp, from which it intended to seek financing.

December 14-16 -- The company enters into confidentiality agreements with debt financing sources of Silver Lake: RBC Capital Markets, Credit Suisse Securities, Barclays Capital, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

December 17 -- Michael Dell meets with senior representatives of TPG to discuss a potential proposal.

December 23 -- TPG informs it is withdrawing from the process, primarily due to "risks and uncertainties in the PC business."

January 16, 2013 -- Silver Lake submits another proposal to acquire Dell for $12.90 per share.

January 19 -- Mandl tells Michael Dell the special committee is willing to support a transaction at a price of $13.75 per share. Michael Dell then discusses it with Silver Lake, which later proposes a price of $13.25 per share.

January 20 -- Silver Lake informs Dell it is willing to increase its offer price to $13.50 per share.

January 24 -- Silver Lake increases its offer to $13.60 per share.

January 24 -- A party identified as "Strategic Party A" expresses interest in purchasing Dell's financial business for about $3.5 billion to $4 billion. Blackstone Group LP also expresses interest in exploring a transaction. It could not be confirmed whether Strategic Party A IS General Electric Co, which sources previously said had been approached by Blackstone. GE has previously declined comment.

January 29 -- Southeastern informs special committee it would oppose any deal in the range of $14 or $15 per share that did not provide existing large stockholders with an opportunity to participate.

Michael Dell and Silver Lake say they are not interested in pursuing a deal in which any public stockholders would retain an interest.

February 3 -- Silver Lake submits a revised proposal, offering $13.60 per share if the company continues paying its regular dividend, or $13.75 per share if the company stops paying dividends.

February 4 -- Silver Lake ups its offer to $13.65 per share, with the Dell allowed to carry on paying its regular dividend.

Special committee recommends accepting Silver Lake's proposal.

February 5 -- A deal with Silver Lake is announced and a 45-day period starts to uncover other offers. Dell contacts 67 parties, including 19 strategic parties, 18 financial sponsors and 30 others such as sovereign wealth funds. Unsolicited inquiries are also received from four parties, including two strategic and two financial sponsors.

March 5 -- Activist investor Carl Icahn sends a letter to Dell's board stating he is a substantial holder of shares. Icahn later reveals he has $1 billion worth of Dell shares.

March 21 -- Dell advisor Evercore receives an indication of interest from Strategic Party A for a proposed acquisition of Dell's finance business.

March 22 -- Blackstone and Icahn Enterprises send proposals to the special committee. Blackstone, which teamed up with Francisco and Insight Venture partners, offers in excess of $14.25 per share for the whole company, while Icahn offers about $15 per share for 58 percent. Under both proposals, Dell would remain a public company.

March 25 -- Dell releases 274-page preliminary proxy statement on its buyout negotiations.

Sources: Dell's proxy statement, Reuters

Investors wary of "slow panic" on growth after Cyprus rescue

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 08:44 PM PDT

LONDON: World markets have reacted calmly to the twists and turns of Cyprus's financial rescue in the last fortnight but many investors fear the economic fallout is yet to come.

They have sold European assets, rather than make a global dash for safety that could signal concerns about a euro breakup.

Euro blue chip and bank equity prices, regional bank bonds and the euro exchange rate have all fallen sharply this week but Wall St stocks set a record closing high.

Mutual fund data released by fund tracker EPFR on Friday showed that European equity, bond and money market funds all saw hefty redemptions this week even as investors continued to pile into Japanese and U.S. equity funds.

Cyprus's 10 billion euro rescue averted an immediate financial meltdown that could have caused a Lehman Brothers-style shock in financial markets.

But it came with a forced shut down of the island's second largest bank and a raid on bank deposits of over 100,000 euros, that forced big depositors to become part of the rescue.

Global investors are worried that the precedents set in the messy rescue will strain bank funding, hurting businesses and the fragile regional economy and delaying any recovery.

Ben Bennett, strategist at British fund managers Legal and General Asset Management described the scenario of depositor fear, bank solvency and recession as a "slow panic".

"I don't think there's anyone who's woken up in a cold sweat at midnight wondering what assets they need to dump - this is much more of a slow grind," said Ben Bennett, strategist at British fund managers Legal & General Asset Management.

Investors are worried that the precedents set for resolving a bank's problems has pushed up the cost of lenders' funding.

If banks have to pay more to borrow they will be reluctant to lend to businesses, already grappling with a recession and difficult credit conditions.

This would hurt growth and questions about the ability of the bloc to shake off its debt spiral and the viability of Europe's single currency would resurface.

Forcing savers to take a hits also sets a precedent that may mean depositors in other countries withdraw money more quickly in the future if they hear of troubles in the banking system.


While the principle of bail-ins for senior creditors may have been flagged for some time the impact of the depositor exposure is a wild card.

Investors are looking for any sign that savers elsewhere in Europe withdrew deposits from banks fearing they might end up losing money like the depositors in Cyprus.

But it will be at least another four weeks before Europe's central banks release data on depositor behavior post-Cyprus for March and a fuller picture will take another month.

Until there is clear evidence, investors will be nervous, being led by anecdotal evidence and market pricing.

Euro bank stocks have lost more than 10 percent since mid-March to their lowest since September and default insurance costs on senior European bank bonds have jumped about 50 basis points over the same period to six-month highs.

While these price moves are relatively contained, the impact on growth of the higher costs bank will pay to fund themselves appears to be a much bigger worry for many investors.

The world's biggest bond fund manager PIMCO said last week it was cutting exposure to the euro currency and its chief executive Mohamed El-Erian told German tabloid Bild on Thursday that after three years of euro crises, recession on the periphery was hurting the core and "the costs are rising."

John Stopford, co-head of fixed income and currency at Investec Asset Management, said the confidence bought by the European Central Bank's promise last summer to do what was necessary to save the euro hinged on growth returning and policy finding a coherent tack.

The events in Cyprus raised questions about both, he said.

"I'm increasingly pessimistic," said Stopford. "It does seem to me the goalposts are being moved quite a lot at the moment and there's a danger (investor) trust will go again if they're not careful."

"There's a slow credit crunch going on where banks are having to strengthen balance sheets and events in Cyprus can only exacerbate that."


Any problems in the banks would make things worse for the small and medium size firms that are crucial to economic growth and are already struggling to find lenders.

"The lack of funding to SMEs is clearly at the heart of the ECB's thinking at the current juncture, as a blatant and persistent sign that policy transmission remains significantly impaired," a Deutsche Bank report said this month.

The existing credit drought and ongoing fiscal austerity on business confidence has already been clear in regional Purchasing Managers Surveys that disappointed expectations again through February and March.

And beyond the surveys, positive euro zone economic surprises have all but disappeared over the past month.

"At some point does the cumulative pressure just precipitate a decision by countries to get out of here?" asked Stopford at Investec. "If you could turn around the economic dynamics, a lot of the other problems would look less challenging." - Reuters


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Wei Feng leads Malaysia into semis, hopes on Liew to shine in final assault

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 04:55 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Singles shuttler Chong Wei Feng has done his duty well to lead Malaysia's team to a semi-final spot in the Axiata Cup.

Now, it is Liew Daren's turn to complete Malaysia's campaign on a high at home when he finally gets into the action at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium today.

The world No.12 Daren is set to take on South Korean old warrior Lee Hyun-il in the men's singles when Malaysia cross sword with Asia All Stars in the final tie of the second leg.

It will be Daren's first match at home after being under the weather for the last two days.

A good showing will put him on the right mood ahead of the Australian Open Grand Prix Gold at Sydney, starting on Wednesday.

National singles coach Rashid Sidek said that Daren would lead the Malaysian cast as he had a fair record against Hyun-il.

Daren and Hyun-il have played four times with both holding an equal number of wins.

Last year, Daren lost to Hyun-il in the All-England quarter-finals but got his revenge at the Singapore Open.

"We are through to the semi-finals and that is good. Today, we will play against Asia All Stars to determine our standing among the top four teams," said Rashid.

"Indonesia and Thailand are set to be the top two teams going into the semi-finals. We hope to finish at least third in the standings.

"We will go all out to win all four points against Asia All Stars although it will be quite difficult in the women's singles. Their women singles (Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan) is a good player," he said.

Besides Daren, the others expected to be fielded are Sonia Cheah, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong.

Malaysia are not fielding Tan Boon Heong-Koo Kien Keat as they will be leaving for Sydney in the evening.

Yesterday, Malaysia defeated an under-strength Vietnam 4-0 and the points came through Wei Feng, Sonia, Tan Boon Heong-Lim Yin Loo and Wee Kiong-Thien How.

Both Sonia and Boon Heong-Yin Loo dropped one game en route to winning their respective matches.

Yin Loo was happy with the opportunity to play in the Axiata Cup although she struggled to get her game going with Boon Heong.

"It was the first time that I was playing with Boon Heong and naturally, we took a longer time to get adjusted," she said.

Malaysia are currently lying second in the standings with 18 points, just one point behind fancied Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Asia All Stars also had a good workout yesterday when they defeated Singapore 4-0 and are lying at fourth spot with 15 points. They are two points behind third-placed Thailand.

Breakthrough for Kwong Beng in Hanoi

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 04:55 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Coach Li Mao has weaved his magic once again – this time with former international Chan Kwong Beng.

Yesterday, the 24-year-old Kwong Beng, who trains under Li Mao at the Kawasaki Badminton Club in Petaling Jaya, achieved a breakthrough when he reached his first ever men's singles final at the Ciputra Vietnam International Challenge in Hanoi yesterday.

Kwong Beng defeated Pannawit Thongnuam of Thailand 21-18, 21-14 in the semi-finals to emerge as the only Malaysian survivor in the satellite tournament.

National back-up player Loh Wei Sheng had failed to make it an all-Malaysian final when he went down to Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong 21-10, 21-15.

Earlier in the tournament, a total of 18 other Malaysian singles players had crashed out in the early rounds.

The positive showing from Kwong Beng proved that his decision to turn professional in January this year was a wise one indeed.

He ended his 11-year tenure with Badmin-ton Association of Malaysia (BAM) after his failure to attain any outstanding achievements.

In fact, his best showing was a semi-final finish at last year's Malaysia International Challenge.

Kwong Beng, who had been training under Li Mao for the last two months, will be out for a revenge against Ka Long today. He lost to Ka Long in the first round of the Vietnam Grand Prix Gold meet last year.

Li Mao was Malaysia's former national singles coach. Under him, the current world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei enjoyed many breakthroughs, including beating Chinese players in convincing fashions.

Ratchanok exacts revenge on All-England champ Baun

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 04:55 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The win came two weeks late but it was still a sweet one for Thailand's women singles star Ratchanok Intanon when she upstaged All-England champion Tine Baun of Denmark in the second leg of the Axiata Cup at Surabaya.

At Birmingham, the 19-year-old Ratchanok had let slip a chance to be the youngest ever All-England champion when she went down fighting to Baun in the final.

Yesterday though, she showed maturity beyond her age to recover from a demoralising first game defeat 9-21 to turn the table on the lanky Dane for a sensational 21-13, 21-12 win.

The other wins for Thailand came from Boonsak Ponsana, Sudket Prapakamol-T. Saralee and they are also looking good for a place in the semi-finals.

They dropped a point in their weakest event - the men's doubles when Boonsak-A. Songphon lost 21-18, 18-21, 8-21 to Russians Ivan Sozonov-Vladimir Ivanov.

Fancied Indonesia defeated the Philippines 4-0 and also confirmed their ticket for the semi-finals on April 13.

They are now heading the eight-team field with a massive 19 points in the Axiata Cup standings.

It could have been a flawless performance if not for reigning Malaysian Open champions Hendra Setiawan-Mohd Ahsan dropping one game against unheralded Paul J Vivas-Peter G. Magmaya before making a quick rebound to win 21-18, 17-21, 21-11.


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GE13: DAP's Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong to contest in Johor

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 09:16 AM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: DAP's Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong will be contesting the Kluang parliamentary seat in Johor in the 13th general election, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng announced Saturday.

Speculation that Liew would be moving southwards rose after the DAP national convention here last December, when he began notifying aides of his plans.

The Klang Valley-born politician, who is a first-term parliamentarian, joins DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, who is slated to contest in Johor's Gelang Patah parliamentary seat.

Liew is expected to lock horns with the incumbent, Hou Kok Chung from the MCA.

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Wanita MCA sec-gen Chew hospitalised after stroke

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 06:56 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Wanita MCA secretary-general Senator Chew Lee Giok has been hospitalised after suffering a stroke.

Her husband Michael Yeap said Chew, 46, was admitted to the Serdang hospital Friday afternoon after she showed signs of having a stroke.

"She was not feeling well and some friends came to visit her. We noticed that not only were her hands cold but she was breaking out in cold sweat.

"I got my son to check her blood pressure and it turned out to be abnormally low. We then sent her to the hospital," Yeap said when contacted Saturday.

He said Chew, who is also Selangor Wanita MCA chairman, will have to stay in the hospital for a few days.

Yeap, a management consultant, said his wife was a healthy person and never had a stroke before this.

"She is not a diabetic nor does she have high blood pressure. In fact, I'm the one who is more at risk to stroke compared to her," he said.

Wanita MCA vice-chairman Datuk Heng Seai Kie said party wing members will offer their moral support to Chew so that she will be able to overcome this.

"We will pray for her speedy recovery," she said, adding that she planned to visit Chew at the hospital soon.

Lahad Datu: Sabah CPO - No halt to Ops Daulat until Sulu terrorists are flushed out

Posted: 30 Mar 2013 05:25 AM PDT

LAHAD DATU: Ops Daulat will not end until security forces are certain all the Sulu terrorists have been flushed out from areas where they are still holed up, said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib.

He said the security forces have not set a time limit when operations would cease because the fight against the terrorists had spread as far as Semporna and Sandakan, apart from Lahad Datu.

"It (the halt) depends on the security situation in the targeted areas and the operations involved," he told a news conference at Felda Sahabat near here Saturday.

Since Ops Daulat was launched 26 days ago, security forces have killed 68 Sulu terrorists, and arrested 443 individuals for various offences and 121 more under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

Hamza said the body of a terrorist killed on March 6 was retrieved from a battle scene in Kampung Tanjung Batu, Lahad Datu in the morning to bring the total number of bodies recovered so far to 46. - Bernama

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Lahad Datu: Life goes on in Semporna


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Robert Redford to appear in new 'Captain America' film

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 04:57 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES - Robert Redford will appear in the next "Captain America" blockbuster - and the Hollywood legend and independent movie guru insists he is not selling out.

The 76-year-old Redford will play a senior leader in the secret government agency of S.H.I.E.L.D in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," scheduled for release next year, according to the LA Times.

"I told you, there's no money in those films," Redford joked when asked about the new role at an independent film event in Los Angeles this week.

More seriously, Redford - who made his name in movies like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "The Sting" (1973) - added: "I'm doing this film because it's different. It's a new thing for me.

"And I like the idea of stepping into new territory ... I'm excited by it. I also think it's a good bunch of people who really know what they're doing," he added at an LA Times Indie Focus series screening.

The new film - a sequel to 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" - will again star Chris Evans in the title role, along with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow.

Redford, co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, America's biggest independant movie showcase held in the snowy Utah mountains every January, won a best director Oscar for 1980's "Ordinary People."

His movies tend to be critical successes rather than commercial blockbusters. But Redford defended his decision to join the "Captain America" franchise, saying: "I think these films are really powerful.

"This is the kind of film I'd love to have seen as a kid," he added. - AFP

Harry Potter actor Richard Griffiths dies aged 65

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 04:56 PM PDT

LONDON - British actor Richard Griffiths, best known for his roles as Harry Potter's uncle and in the cult film "Withnail & I", has died aged 65, his agent said on Friday.

The portly star of stage and screen, one of Britain's best loved character actors, died on Thursday from complications following heart surgery, Simon Beresford said.

Griffiths will be forever remembered as Uncle Monty by fans of cult classic "Withnail & I", although he reached his biggest audience as Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played the boy wizard in the blockbuster Potter series, led the tributes to a man he said had offered him "encouragement, tutelage and humour".

The two men worked together on the Harry Potter films and later in the play Equus.

"Any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence. I am proud to say I knew him," Radcliffe said in a statement.

Griffiths was born on July 31, 1947 in Yorkshire in northern England, the son of a steelworker. His parents were both deaf so he had to learn sign language at an early age.

He left school at 15 and worked as a porter for a while, but his boss persuaded him to go back to education, to study drama.

He later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, excelling in playing the clown. Early film credits included "Chariots of Fire", "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and "Gandhi", before he landed a starring role in the 1987 comedy "Withnail & I".

Griffiths played the eccentric gay uncle of Withnail, an out-of-work, alcoholic actor played by Richard E. Grant, in a film now regarded as a British classic.

Grant said in a message on Twitter: "My beloved 'Uncle Monty' Richard Griffiths died last night. Chin-Chin my dear friend."

Nicholas Hytner, the director of London's National Theatre who directed Griffiths in one of his biggest stage hits, The History Boys, said he was "the life of every party".

He recalled anecdotes that "would go on for hours, apparently without destination, constantly side-splitting. The only way to stop them was to tell him you were walking away".

Griffiths won a Tony and an Olivier award for his role as an inspirational teacher in The History Boys, and was nominated for a Bafta for best actor for the film version.

"His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often simultaneously," said Hytner.

As a stage actor, Griffiths demanded his audience's full attention, having twice stopped a show to order people out of the theatre after their mobile telephones rang out.

He also had a successful television career, starring as a crime-solving chef in TV series "Pie In The Sky" in the 1990s, and he was awarded an OBE for services to drama in 2007.

Last year Griffiths starred alongside Danny DeVito in The Sunshine Boys in London and was due to reprise the role in Los Angeles in September.

In a statement, Beresford said his client had "brightened my days and enriched the life of anyone he came into contact with", and said his thoughts went out to Griffiths' wife Heather.

"Richard gave acting a good name. He was a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors. He will be greatly missed," the agent said. - AFP


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Posted: 29 Mar 2013 04:49 PM PDT

The Little Book That Still Saves Your Assets
Author: David M. Darst
Publisher: Wiley & Sons

The author describes the practical principles behind the process of managing your money in today's challenging investment climate. He stresses the substantial investment returns that the right mix of stocks, bonds, cash, gold, real estate, commodities and other assets can bring to your portfolio. He also explains how to adjust your asset allocation model for today's market.

The Art of Being Brilliant
Authors: Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker
Publisher: Capstone Publishing

A book about life, growing up, relationships and how our thought life can land us into trouble. A compilation of case studies, other people's life experiences, quotes and questions for young adults who are about to enter the job market. Written in a fun and engaging way with pictures and quote bubbles.

American Turnaround: Reinventing AT&T and GM
Author: Ed Whitacre
Publisher: Business Plus

Having run two of America's corporations, AT&T and GM, Ed Whitacre delves into his years at the telecommunications company and how he was called out of retirement to head GM in 2009. He writes about people and events who have shaped and influenced his career and life.

Good advice from the pros

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 04:46 PM PDT

Mean Girls at Work: How to stay professional when things get personal
Authors: Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

The female of the species is more deadly than the male – British author and poet Rudyard Kipling

Well-behaved women seldom make history – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, professor at Harvard University

I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay – Madonna, singer and eighties pop-culture icon

BITCHES. It's a strong word but it does the job. In the workplace, bitches are hell if they've got it in for you.

Conversely, they're good value if they're on your side, at least until they do a "switcheroo" – and you can count on that happening sooner rather than later. But friend or foe or "frememy", the office bitch has a uncanny ability to get ahead in the company hierarchy, so ignore her at your peril.

Psychotherapist-consultant team and co-authors of 2006's excellent Working with You Is Killing Me (among other bestsellers) Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster use a gentler term for them – Mean Girls – and provide gradations of different kinds of bitch, from Meanest of the Mean to Doesn't Know She's Mean.

Their book is a treatment of the phenomena from a defensive position. It's packed with good advice – much of it painfully obvious – and is penned in a shrill but engaging tone, that's what makes this a useful read for surviving the office jungle, where mean girls stalk and glower at their tender prey – the unassertive and easily intimidated.

There is a brief description of each type of mean girl, followed by a typical bitchy behavioural trait this form of mean girl might indulge in. Some of these moves and acts of malice seem a little adolescent, but – let's face it – the office does bring out the nasty teen or awkward youth in many of us. No wonder bullies thrive in this milieu.

After the vignette of characteristic pettiness from each meanie, there is a section entitled "How You Feel" that projects how you might react inside to such an encounter; angry and/or upset and/or resentful – the How You Feels do get a tad repetitive.

This is followed by the self-evident section "Don't Go There", which is useful, but again rather repetitive. And then the co-authors pile on the agony with "Go Here", which provides a range of helpful and sensible-sounding and screamingly obvious advice, all penned with warmth and tender loving care, and enough repetition to make those eyelids feel a bit heavy all of a sudden. I wish the authors had conceded that sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire, but Crowley and Elster are nice girls, to a fault.

Again, the advice is nearly always identical and predictable. Tips proffered include "be professional and assertive", and the rather more useful "If you need to talk about it, talk to someone who does not have a connection to your work".

No advice though on how to work through the rage of wanting to shove your line manager's face into her al-desko microwaved curry-rice lunch, when she's off her guard, but this book is a bit thin on detail.

Nevertheless, the authors address all-too-real issues that are eschewed in broader treatments of office politics.

Given constructive parameters women work well together, the authors explain, especially if mindful of the destructive potential of succumbing to what they call the "dark side of woman-to-woman relationships".

The long march to all-most equality in the workplace – particularly in Malaysia's commendably inclusive white-collar labour force – is an enduring achievement that requires "solidarity among sisters", not the kind of office Darwinism that drags down overall morale and sets up vulnerable-though-useful employees to be victims.

The tone of this book is generally light and breezy, but the subject matter is anything but. The Meanest Of The Mean is not the office asset she thinks she is, simply an insecure individual who knows how to hurt and underine her co-workers.

Nobody needs one of them pushing down productivity and blocking out the sunlight in the office. As for the lower-ranking mean girls – Passively Mean, Doesn't Know She's Mean, Doesn't Mean To Be Mean – well, that covers the overwhelming majority of meanies, and one must be vigilant against them too. Thankfully this book gives to reader the appropriate defensive weapons.

Thwarting a meanie:

● Don't take her bait – When a mean girl attacks, she's looking for a reaction from you. If she attacks you in a meeting, she'll want to see you angry or crying or otherwise upset. Getting a reaction from you gratifies the mean side of her.

● Don't believe that what she says is true – This rule is especially important when dealing with a mean girl who likes to gossip and spread rumours. If she comes to you with gossip, don't get drawn in.

● Don't engage in negative speak about her – Why? Because you're fuelling the power struggle between the two of you. And you may end up looking like the pettier person.

● Be friendly without being friends – If you discover that one of your colleagues acts in ways you don't like, you don't have to shut her out. Rather, you can maintain a cordial relationship with her where you only discuss the work at hand.

● Aim for professional behaviour at all times – We call this taking the High Road. Acting professional towards all women in your workplace – regardless of how you feel about them – is a key component of "winning" with mean girls.

● Keep communication short and to the point – Aim for short, focused interactions with this woman where you only discuss essential work-related topics. Think, "Proper inter-office communication – no more, no less."

● Find a safe person to confide in – It's best to find a confidante outside of the office setting who can hear your story and offer solid advice.


Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster are the co-authors of Working For You Isn't Working For Me and the bestselling co-authors of the global bestseller Working With You Is Killing Me.

Crowley is a Harvard-trained psychotherapist. Her expertise concerns the "inside of business"; the psychological and interpersonal challenges that are generated by people working together. Crowley helps individuals overcome their emotional obstacles to success.

Elster is an executive coach and business strategist of national renown across the US. She specialises in the outside issues involved in business building. Elster's expertise covers most HR issues especially staff development and management training. Their company is K Squared Enterprises, and since 1989, they've combined their expertise to develop synergies and a unique method for dealing with difficult people and challenging conditions in the workplace.

Bestselling authors, educators, public speakers and executive coaches, Crowley and Elster are experts in the area of professional fulfillment through self-awareness and self-management.

With their media profile rising, they have appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, The Today Show, Good Day NY and many radio shows. Together they've also written Working for You isn't Working for Me, Working with You is Killing Me.


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