Khamis, 4 April 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Witness at ex-dictator's trial links Guatemalan president to war crimes

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 07:36 PM PDT

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A former member of Guatemala's armed forces implicated President Otto Perez in civil war atrocities as he testified on Thursday at the genocide trial of ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt attends the tenth day of his trial in the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt attends the tenth day of his trial in the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Hugo Reyes, who was stationed as an army engineer in a violent region of Guatemala under Rios Montt's 1982-1983 rule, said Perez commanded soldiers who burned down homes and shot and killed civilians during the civil war, which pitted leftist insurgents against a series of right-wing governments.

Perez, a retired army general who was elected president in 2011, also known as major Tito Arias during the civil war, has previously denied involvement in war crimes.

Reyes, speaking to the court by video link from an undisclosed location, said he witnessed the killing of farmers on an army base near the village of Nebaj in northwestern Guatemala by troops under the command of Perez and another officer.

"The soldiers under the orders of Major Tito Arias, known as Otto Perez Molina, Francisco Marin and the officers they were in charge of, and the commander of the company of engineers, coordinated the burning (of homes) and pulling people out so they could execute them," Reyes, 47, told the court.

There were gasps in the court as he spoke, and people who had been chatting fell silent. Throughout his testimony, Reyes kept his face hidden with the peak of the baseball cap he wore.

Before Perez took office in 2012, Reuters asked him about testimony linking him to war crimes during the 1960-1996 war in which around 200,000 people died and another 45,000 disappeared. Perez said the allegations were "completely false."

As president, Perez is protected by amnesty granted to public officials and cannot be subpoenaed.

Rios Montt, who left Congress last year, was ordered to stand trial in January when a judge found sufficient evidence linking him to the killing of more than 1,700 indigenous people in a counterinsurgency plan carried out under his command.


Prosecutors allege Rios Montt turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson against leftist rebels and targeted indigenous people in a "scorched earth" offensive that killed at least 1,771 members of the Mayan Ixil group.

Rios Montt, 86, has yet to take the stand in the trial, the first in which a country has prosecuted one of its former heads of state for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Reyes, now a mechanic, related how soldiers took kidnapped civilians to a military base where they were tortured, killed and dumped in mass graves.

"Some had their tongues cut out and their fingernails removed and other injuries," he said. "The army officers said to them: 'Sons of bitches, talk or we'll cut out your tongues.'"

Many of the victims of the conflict were ethnic Maya.

"Indian seen, Indian dead. That was the motto they had," said Reyes, the only former member of the armed forces prosecutors have lined up for the witness stand.

Perez, a conservative, was the first military man to take the Guatemalan presidency since the end of the war.

He won election not long after Guatemala began sentencing military officials for crimes committed during the war, and human rights activists raised concerns that Perez might obstruct efforts to bring army officials to justice.

Perez sought to allay those fears, and there was jubilation among victims' families when Rios Montt went to trial.

But when Reyes was asked by a lawyer working for the prosecution if he feared he had put his life in danger by testifying, he said he was afraid of retribution from Perez and his former military comrades.

"I'm totally sure that they feel nothing in their soul torturing and disappearing someone," he said.

(Editing by Dave Graham and Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Magnitude 5.4 earthquake shakes buildings in Mexico City

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 07:31 PM PDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook buildings in Mexico City on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damages.

The epicentre of the earthquake was in Guerrero state on Mexico's Pacific coast, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

A Reuters witness in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, the biggest city in Guerrero, said the earthquake seemed slight, with some people not even noticing the tremor.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said city services were operating normally after the earthquake.

(Reporting by Dave Graham, Elinor Comlay and Luis Enrique Martinez; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

More deaths in China from new bird flu; U.S., Japan on guard

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 07:17 PM PDT

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - China said it was mobilising resources nationwide to combat a new strain of bird flu that has killed six people, as Japan and Hong Kong stepped up vigilance and the United States said it was closely monitoring the situation.

A farmer feeds chickens at a hennery in Ganyu county, Jiangsu province, April 3, 2013. A total of 10 people in China have been confirmed to have contracted H7N9, all in the east of the country. The latest was a 64-year-old man from Huzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, who state media said on Thursday was admitted to hospital on March 31. Picture taken April 3, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

A farmer feeds chickens at a hennery in Ganyu county, Jiangsu province, April 3, 2013. A total of 10 people in China have been confirmed to have contracted H7N9, all in the east of the country. The latest was a 64-year-old man from Huzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, who state media said on Thursday was admitted to hospital on March 31. Picture taken April 3, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

All of the 14 reported infections from the H7N9 bird flu strain have been in eastern China and at least four of the six dead are in the financial hub of Shanghai, a city of 20 million people.

The strain does not appear to be transmitted from human to human but authorities in Hong Kong raised a preliminary alert and said they were taking precautions at the airport. Vietnam banned imports of Chinese poultry.

In Japan, airports have put up posters at entry points warning all passengers from China to seek medical attention if they have flu-like symptoms.

A total of 14 people in China have been confirmed to have contracted H7N9, all in the east of the country. One of the cases was a four-year-old child, who was recovering, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Hong Kong authorities said six people had died.

Authorities in Shanghai also discovered the H7N9 virus in a pigeon sample taken from a traditional wholesale market, Xinhua added, believed to be the first time the virus has been discovered in an animal in China since the outbreak began.

In the United States, the White House said it was monitoring the situation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had started work on a vaccine if it was needed. It would take five to six months to begin commercial production.

But the groundwork is being laid.

The virus has been shared with World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centres in Atlanta, Beijing, London, Melbourne and Tokyo, and these groups are analysing samples to identify the best candidate to be used for the manufacture of vaccine - if it becomes necessary.

Any decision to mass-produce vaccines against H7N9 flu will not be taken lightly, since it will mean sacrificing production of seasonal shots.

That could mean shortages of vaccine against the normal seasonal flu which, while not serious for most people, still costs thousands of lives.

Sanofi Pasteur, the world's largest flu vaccine manufacturer, said it was in continuous contact with the WHO through the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), but it was too soon to know the significance of the Chinese cases.

Other leading flu vaccine makers include GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis

Preliminary test results suggest the new flu strain responds to treatment with Roche's drug Tamiflu and GSK's Relenza, according to the WHO.


With the fear that a SARS-like epidemic could re-emerge, China said it was pulling out the stops to combat the virus.

"(China) will strengthen its leadership in combating the virus ... and coordinate and deploy the entire nation's health system to combat the virus," the Health Ministry said in a statement on its website (

In 2003, authorities initially tried to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China and killed about 10 percent of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

China "will continue to openly and transparently maintain communication and information channels with the World Health Organisation and relevant countries and regions, and strengthen monitoring and preventative measures", the ministry said.

Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for many years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human.

So far, this lack of human-to-human transmission also appears to be a feature of the H7N9 strain.

"The gene sequences confirm that this is an avian virus, and that it is a low pathogenic form (meaning it is likely to cause mild disease in birds)," said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain's Imperial College London.

"But what the sequences also reveal is that there are some mammalian adapting mutations in some of the genes."

Regions near the affected zone have begun taking precautions.

In Hong Kong, authorities activated the preliminary "Alert Response Level" under a preparedness plan for an influenza pandemic, which calls for close monitoring of chicken farms, vaccination, culling drills, and a suspension of imports of live birds from the mainland.

All passengers on flights in and out of Hong Kong were being asked to notify flight attendants or airport staff if they were feeling unwell.

Vietnam said it had banned poultry imports from China, citing the risk from H7N9.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Olivier Fabre in TOKYO, Hanoi newsroom; Kate Kelland in LONDON and Julie Steenhuysen in CHICAGO; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

GE13: Getting the people to vote with a Bieber touch

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 05:22 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Are you ready to vote?

A parody of Justin Bieber's chart-topping single Baby has dominated the airwaves to remind the Malaysian electorate to step out and cast their votes.

Red FM 104.9 released the catchy tune with the GE13 in mind and it has turned into an instant hit, becoming the second most downloaded song on the iTunes charts on the day of its release.

The song featured talents from the Red FM crew and Malaysian hip-hop artist, Sayla.

Celebrity deejay Lil' Kev said the song, aptly called Undi, was produced to encourage its young listeners to exercise their voting rights.

"We wanted to do something for the elections and to do our part.

"When we released it on Tuesday, the timing was just right as the announcement on the dissolution of Parliament came the very next day," said Lil' Kev, whose real name is Kevin Arokiasamy.

His co-host on The Red Breakfast WTF! show, JJ Fernandez, said the original song by Bieber was among the songs recently removed from the radio station's playlist.

However, the song made a comeback in the form of the parody as it was a familiar tune that "everyone could sing along to", JJ said.

"We banned the song (Baby) because listeners have suggested that we were playing a little too much of Bieber on air.

"Putting the parody together was a fun way to perform our duty as Malaysians as it (voting) shouldn't be seen as a boring thing to do.

"I won't say that the Beliebers (a popular name given to Bieber fans) will think our version of the song is better, but they have accepted the song and enjoy it as much as our other listeners do," said JJ.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

For more information, log on to, join its fan page ( or follow it on Twitter (@iloveredfm).

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


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Musclemen flexing for glory in Myanmar’s ‘coming out’ party

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 05:37 PM PDT

DEC 11-22

YANGON: Sporting just a navy blue thong and several layers of tan oil, Zarli Tin says he dreams of becoming Myanmar's greatest bodybuilder as the discipline undergoes a revival after years in the doldrums.

One of a new generation of musclemen, he hopes to be among the beneficiaries of a cash injection for the sport, which floundered like all others during the wasteful and corrupt junta era.

"I'm not great yet, I'm not very famous ... but I'm trying, I'm on the way," says the jovial 33-year-old, flashing a grin as he flexes his grapefruit-sized biceps by way of credentials.

Myanmar's reformist government has loosened the purse strings for sport as it hunts success at the South-east Asian (SEA) Games regional event which it will host in December, billed as the country's 'coming out' party.

It has targeted several medals at bodybuilding and hopes to extend the nation's impressive record in the event.

Home to a demure culture and relatively diminutive people, Myanmar has an unexpected lineage in the ultimate of exhibitionist sports – which was popularised through the 1970s by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Myanmar claimed two silvers at the 2001 World Bodybuilding Championship – held on home soil – a bronze at the Asian Games the following year and has taken a clutch of medals whenever the sport is contested at the SEA Games.

But bodybuilders say those achievements mask a deep malaise, with woeful funding over the final years of the avaricious junta leaving them without decent gyms, proper coaching or nutrition – a huge cost in an impoverished country.

At the final SEA Games selection contest in Yangon, 32-year-old truck driver Tint Lwin says he struggles to afford the high protein diet and supplements required to power him through a brutal four- to six-hour daily training regime.

"The money I get from work isn't even enough for a single bottle of the vitamins I need to train," he says as an assistant applies a final coat of the stinking copper-coloured tanning oil to his back with a paint roller.

"But the sport will get bigger ... the officials are helping us get better. It will come."

Myanmar's sporting prowess was eviscerated by the former regime, with a lack of investment in facilities and planning choking the pipeline of talent in all disciplines.

Football fell hardest, with the national team slumping from one of Asia's best in the mid-1960s and the 1970s, to claiming just a single 1993 SEA Games final spot, and a semi-final in the Asean Football Championship of 2004.

For the nation's bodybuilders the demise has been less precipitous, but still keenly felt.

Once they toured schools and colleges drawing adulation with their combination of muscle, machismo and showmanship.

But the visits waned as student activities of all kinds came under intense scrutiny from the paranoid former junta after a failed college-led uprising led in 1988, which was brutally crushed by the army.

Strongmen have flexed their way back into popularity over the last few years, with improved access to US bodybuilding websites boosting its popularity just as the reform-minded government throws its weight behind the SEA Games.

While several contestants quietly share suspicions that some of their rivals take steroids, the high cost of the drugs and lack of ready availability makes doping harder in Myanmar than in western countries where bodybuilding draws its biggest fanbase.

"The top bodybuilders are very famous here," says 19-year-old student Oak Tharkyaw who is among the raucous 150-strong audience.

"It's a healthy sport, it builds your confidence and strength. It feels great ... the only bad thing is Myanmar girls prefer the small, skinny Korean pop star look."

He breaks off to applaud as local boy Zarli and the five other contestants in the 90kg category waddle up to the spot-lit stage, their giant arms held crab-like away from their torsos.

To cries of "squeeze" from the crowd, they strain through seven poses accentuating the main muscle areas – biceps, triceps, thighs, back and abdomen.

The resulting mass of oily muscle, veins and sinew is both impressive and a touch grotesque, while the skimpy "posing suits" elicit titters from the female fans and bawdy jeers from a group of inebriated older men.

Judges give marks for symmetry and proportion as well as the definition and size of the muscle, according to Ne Lin, a former champion bodybuilder scoring the contestants.

"Our athletes always tried hard but we struggled for money ... all sports suffered. But the bodybuilding federation is now supporting us," he says, adding the target is two golds out of the five available at the SEA Games.

Zarli finishes third in his category – not enough to take a spot at the Games' training camp but impressive given his struggle to afford the expensive diet needed in the run-in to a competition.

For all the rivalry, Zarli says the bodybuilders are "like brothers", united by punishing training and an all-consuming passion.

"We may be poor," he adds. "But we love this sport." — AFP

Chance to gauge SEA Games exponents

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 03:55 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: National coach R. Puvaneswaran intends to use the SEAKF Karate Championships later this month to gauge their rivals' strength for the December SEA Games in Myanmar.

The SEAKF meet will be held at Clark, Pampanga in the Philippines from April 16-21.

"This is a very important meet for us. Since it's a regional karate meet, it will allow us to size up our competition for the SEA Games. It's like a free pass for us to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of our rivals. It will give us a good idea on what to expect in Myanmar," he said.

Puvaneswaran also said that the SEAKF meet was one of two crucial tournaments – the other is the Asian Championships in Dubai in September – for his exponents ahead of the SEA Games.

And he wants his charges to also take full advantage of the Dubai meet as it would be almost like a prelude to the SEA Games.

Puvaneswaran will be hoping for an improved performance from his charges after their positive showing at the K1 Slovenia World Cup in March, when they returned home with four bronzes – through Nisha Alagasan (women's kumite below 55kg), Nur Eleena Malik (women's kumite below 50kg,) S. Senthil Kumaran (men's kumite below 75kg) and R. Govinash (men's kumite below 60kg).

The coach is also counting on the back-up squad – comprising Senthil, Govinash, Thanaseelan (men's kumite below 55kg), R. Sharmendran (men's kumite below 67kg), J. Sharrma (men's kumite below 75kg) – as well as youngsters P. Tarshyent (men's kumite below 55kg) and Priya Shankari (women's kumite below 48kg) – to step up their game.

Puvaneswaran warned his charges that much will be riding on their performances at the SEAKF meet as he would use it to map out his team selection for the Games.

"They did well at the World Cup last month. Hopefully, they can come up with another good performance this time. Everything has gone well during training and I'm confident we'll be able to win a few gold medals in Pampanga," he said.

"The tournament is the lowest-tier competition ... but that does not mean our exponents will have it easy. All I ask of them is to give it their best."

No birthday joy but gymnast Tracie has plenty of reasons to smile

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 05:36 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Top national women's artistic gymnast Tracie Ang (pic) did not get to celebrate her 20th birthday with a medal in her first back-to-back international tournament recently but she's still brimming with joy.

She qualified for one final at the World Cup Challenge in Doha on Sunday as the fifth qualifier in the balance beam – and finished eighth with a score of 12.325.

Romania's Larissa Andreea came out tops with 15.500, and followed by China's Zeng Sigi (15.150) and Gabrielle Jupp of Britain (14.450).

Tracie was Malaysia's best performer and it was only her second final appearance in the World Cup. She featured in her first final at the World Cup in Belgium three years ago in the same event.

She had also competed in the Challenge Cup in Cottbus, Germany, two weeks ago but did not make any finals. Last week, she competed in the World Cup with Tan Ing Yueh and Farah Ann Hadi.

"I turned 20 on March 21 ... I wished for a birthday gift but I didn't win any medals. I struggled in Germany but qualifying for the final in the World Cup was memorable. I've never been ranked fifth before – so that felt good," said Tracie.

"We''ve been training at home since January and it was good to finally get a chance to compete abroad. Now we know where we stand against some of the best gymnasts in Asia and Europe."

Although age is catching up, Tracie has not given up hope on qualifying for the next Olympic Games.

She is even willing to undergo the punishing training regime.

"I know there are few more years to go before the Olympic Games and that I'm not getting any younger ... but I'm not quitting yet," she said.

"My body can still endure the high intensity training and I won't stop dreaming of the Olympics."

Tracie, who is one of the longest-serving gymnasts in the national team, said that her next major would be the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, from Sept 30-Oct 6.

"Gymnastics is not on the list for the Myanmar SEA Games this year. So, the World Championships will be the main one for me and my team-mates. This is another opportunity for us to gauge our standard. I want to perform better," said Tracie, who trains under coaches Nurul Fatiha and Nataliya Sinkova.

"These two coaches work together to improve our standard and build our confidence. Some of my skills have improved since I started training under them last year," added Tracie, whose next assignment is the Islamic Games in Riau, Indonesia.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Maybank Research cautiously optimistic of aviation sector

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:26 PM PDT

Published: Friday April 5, 2013 MYT 9:27:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Maybank KE Research said the aviation sector had underperformed the FBM KLCI in 2012 due to depressed earnings, escalating fuel prices and regulatory uncertainty.

The research house said the sector had de-rated with an average decline of 27.6% in 2012.

But year-to-date for 2013, its top pick, MAHB gained 15% while the airlines were both up modestly with 6% rise in share prices.

"We are now Overweight on the sector as traffic growth will accelerate and profits will rise, in our view. Furthermore, valuations are undemanding and exhibit value.

"Volatile fuel price is the primary risk factor. Our top picks in order of preference are MAHB, MAS and AirAsia," it said.

Maybank Research believe there will be modest profit growth stemming from economies of scale benefits and from cost saving initiatives. Revenue growth will continue at healthy levels supported by stable GDP growth (+5.3% in 2013) and it expects the yield environment to be benign.

"MAS to turnaround in 2013 and deliver a profit of RM385.6mil (versus a loss of RM566.1m in 2012), we estimate. This is driven by its multitude of business turnaround initiatives and the benefits of new aircraft in its fleet," it said.


OM Sarawak gets full funding for ferro alloy smelting project

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:26 PM PDT

KUCHING: OM Materials (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd (OM Sarawak) has secured full funding for its ferro alloy smelting project (Phase I) in Samalaju Industrial Park, Bintulu, with the sealing of a financing facility amounting to US$315mil (RM970.36mil) with four local an d foreign lenders.

The lenders are Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Bhd, RHB Bank Bhd, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia and Malayan Banking Bhd.

StandChart is OM Sarawak's financial advisor in the smelting project.

OM Holdings Ltd (OMH), which owns an 80% equity interest in OM Sarawak through wholly owned unit OM Materials (S) Pte Ltd, said the successful execution of the project financing facility agreement (FA) and corresponding project support agreement (PSA) represented a significant milestone in the project development.

"Together with committed equity from OM Sarawak's shareholders, Phase I of the project is now fully-funded," it added in an annoucement with the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Phase I's capital expenditure, according to OMH chief executive officer Peter Toth, is estimated at US$397mil.

OMH's partner in the joint-venture project is Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB) via wholly owned subsidiary Samalaju Industries Sdn Bhd, which holds the remaining 20% stake in OM Sarawak.

"The FA is comprised of limited recourse senior project finance debt facilities totalling US$215mil and RM310mil for the total capital cost of the project's Phase I ferrosilicon production facility, and another RM126mil credit line for the issuance of performance and payment guarantee to the power provider, Syarikat Sesco Bhd, as part of OM Sarawak's obligations under the power purchase agreement.

"Syarikat Ses co, a unit of Sarawak Energy Bhd, will supply 500 MW for 20 years to OM Sarawak.

"As is customary for a project finance facility, the project is backed by OM Sarawak's shareholders OM Materials (S) Pte Ltd and Samalaju Industries Sdn Bhd and its sponsors OMH and CMSB, as set out in the PSA.

"The PSA governs the rights and obligations of the project's shareholders and sponsors. The obligations and liabilities of the OMH Group and CMSB Group under the PSA are serveral and pro-rata to their respective 80% and 20% shareholdings in OM Sarawak," added OMH. OMH said the PSA would lapse and the project would become nonrecourse 18 months after the satisfaction of pre-agreed project completion tests.

Toth said during his presentation at the Metal Bulletin 14th Ferro Alloy Conference in Hong Kong last week that OM Sarawak was expected to sign the project's engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract agreement in the current quarter.


CEO wants to raise TdC stake

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:16 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Time dotCom Bhd (TdC) chief executive officer Afzal Abdul Rahim says he will continue buying TdC shares to raise his stake in the company.

But unlike other shareholders who bought big blocks in other companies, he said he was merely nibbling in the open market, and that even raising his stake by 1% could take a long time.

"I have every intention of continuing to accumulate more shares in TdC. I have been doing so and will continue to do so," he told StarBiz.

However, he was quick to err on the side of caution by sayin g that "it is my own personal long-term view, and as always, I would advise investors to trade based on fundamentals and not sentiments. "

Added Afzal: "The buying is not significant. I have just picked up 0.34% over the past weeks. As long as I have the means, I will continue to do so."

When asked how many more shares he intended to add, he answered: "I have not thought of that."

Afzal and his partner Gan Te-Shen own a 36.24% equity stake in TdC, above the 32.8% threshold that would require them to make a mandatory general offer.

Afzal, however, pointed out that he had obtained a waiver.

Afzal and Gan's stake in TdC is held via Pulau Kapas Ventures, in which he holds a 75% equity stake, while Gan, his long-time friendturned- partner, holds the remaining 25%.

Other than Pulau Kapa Khazanah Nasional Bhd has an 11% equity stake in TdC.

Afzal first emerged in the then ailing TdC in October 2008 when the shares of the company were trading at 20 sen.

The share price has gone up significantly after he overhauled the business, and in yesterday's trading, the shares closed eight sen higher at RM4.15 a share.

In a bid to give the company a lifeline, he has injected some of his prized assets into it. The stock was once shunned by the investing and analyst fraternity, but has since popped up on the radar screens of analysts.

Among the assets Afzal had injected into TdC were the AIMS Group, Global Transit Communications (GTC) and Global Transit Ltd (GTL).

The company's financial performance has improved since Afzal took over, and for full-year 2012, the company reported a profit of RM193mil on the back of RM419mil in revenue compared with RM117mil and RM313mil, respectively, a year ago.



The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

GE13: Anwar names 5 PKR candidates for Perak, says will decide on his seat in 24 hours

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 10:46 AM PDT

GERIK: The hype over Opposition leader and PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim naming the Perak constituency he would contest in the 13th general election turned out to be a letdown.

A crowd had turned up late Thursday, expecting his announcement during the Jelajah Merdeka Rakyat roadshow here, but Anwar said he would make a decision within 24 hours, after consulting with his constituents in Permatang Pauh.

He also declined to answer journalists who tried to interview him after the ceramah.

Anwar did, however, confirmed the PKR candidates of five parliamentary seats.

They were Dr Lee Boon Chye (Gopeng), Dr Muhamad Nur Manuty (Bagan Serai), Mustapha Kamal Ayub (Pasir Salak), and newcomers Laksamana (R) Imran Abdul Hamid (Lumut) and Dr Meor Ahmad Isharra Ishak (Padang Rengas).

Anwar had previously announced his intention to contest in Perak, leaving his longtime constituency of Permatang Pauh.

He was the MP in Permatang Pauh from 1982 when he joined Umno. His wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail took over his seat in the 1999 general election when he was imprisoned over sodomy and corruption charges.

Anwar re-contested for the parliamentary constituency in 2008 in a by-election after Wan Azizah vacated the seat, after the expiry of the 10-year ban imposed on him when he was sacked as deputy prime minister.

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

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GE13: PAS' Mat Sabu to contest in Kedah, Husam may go for Putrajaya

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 10:21 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu confirmed Thursday that he would be contesting in Kedah in the 13th general election.

However, Mohamad, who is better known as Mat Sabu, declined to name the seat.

"Wait for the decision after a meeting of the party's top leaders," said Mat Sabu, who has been speculated to contest the Pendang parliamentary seat in Kedah.

Mat Sabu contested the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat in the 2008 general election but lost by 628 votes to Datuk Razali Ismail from Barisan Nasional.

Meanwhile, PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa is expected to contest the Putrajaya parliamentary seat, which is now held by Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

"I've heard about this but we'll wait for the outcome of the meeting," Husam said.

Husam is Salor assemblyman in Kelantan and said to be among the potential candidates to replace Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat as Mentri Besar. - Bernama

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

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GE13: Kelantan state assembly dissolved

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 09:29 AM PDT

KOTA BARU: The Kelantan state legislative assembly was dissolved at midnight Thursday, Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat announced at his official residence at JKR 10 here.

He said Kelantan Sultan Muhammad V had consented to the dissolution late Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the Johor and Selangor state assemblies were dissolved, leaving just two still outstanding - Penang and Kedah, which are expected to follow suit on Friday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called for the 13th general election on Wednesday, after receiving the King's consent to dissolve Parliament.

Perlis, Perak, Malacca, Pahang, Terengganu and Sabah announced the dissolution of their respective state assemblies the same day.

The Negri Sembilan state assembly automatically dissolved on March 28, while Sarawak held state polls in 2011.

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

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GE13: Najib announces dissolution finally


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

A classic retold

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 05:25 AM PDT

Renowned Hong Kong director Ronny Yu gathered a star-studded cast for this epic tale on the legendary Yang family.

CONFUCIOUS once wrote, "fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue".

Well, director Ronny Yu might have just defied that centuries-old quote with his most recent movie, Saving General Yang.

Although his cast features some of the most good-looking men in Chinese entertainment, including Ekin Cheng and Raymond Lam from Hong Kong, Wu Chun and Vic Chou from Taiwan, and China's Yu Bo and Li Chen, you can't deny that this movie does indeed highlight the virtues of the legendary Yang family.

"When Edmond (Wong, writer of the movie) and I got together to produce this movie, we wanted to have the prettiest and coolest boys for the Yang family, but at the same time we made sure that the boys were assigned to characters that suited their personality," said Yu, who was in town on Sunday along with four of his cast members – Cheng, Wu, Chou and Yu Bo – for the gala premiere of movie at Pavilion KL.

As an example, Yu pointed out Chou, whom he says is the quiet one. "When I first met him for the role, he only said three sentences, 'Hello', 'How do you want me to interpret the role?' and 'Thank you'. So, his character in the movie also had three sentences only!" he said.

Then again, Yu also emphasised that the movie is not just about pretty boys. "It is about the values of the Yang family, which are zhong (loyalty), xiao (filial piety), ren (humaneness) and yi (righteousness). This is the main highlight (of the movie), and we want to remind the youth about these values."

The movie centres on the renowned Yang clan led by patriarch Yang Ye (played by Adam Cheng), and his seven sons, who were the loyal defenders of the ancient Chinese Song Dynasty. General Yang's seven sons set off on a mission to rescue their father, who has been captured by their bitter enemies, the Liaos. The movie, which opens today, is distributed by Lotus Five Star, along with marketing partner RAM Entertainment.

By focusing on the seven Yang brothers and their father, Yu's film is a contrast to the usual television dramas on the Yangs, which tend to revolve around the widows of the generals, who became female warriors.

The story of the lady Yang warriors are apparently urban legends and were fictional characters created by script writers, explained Yu, who did extensive research and preparation, almost a year prior to shooting the movie.

"(The film) took three years in total. Nine months of training for the casts, three months of production and 12 months of post-production," said Yu.

Based in Los Angeles for the last 15 years, Yu has directed movies such as Jet Li kungfu blockbuster Fearless, and horror flicks Bride Of Chucky and Freddy vs Jason, and this time, the 63-year-old director wanted to make a Chinese movie that could be on par with Hollywood films.

Together with producer Raymond Wong, they concluded that time and financial constraints are usually the main variables that determine a movie's quality, so Yu decided to take his time directing this US$26mil (RM80mil) movie.

To ensure the movie looked authentic, Yu made his cast members wear bulky and heavy infantry armour while riding horses.

In one scene, Wu's character had to carry a dead body and a stash of weapons on his own.

"The dummy was 60kg and the weapons were not light. Luckily I listened to Yu and worked out at the gym during the training period," the 34-year-old Taiwanese heartthrob said.

Chou, who played the archer of the family, had to put up with an ancient bow that could not function as a bow because the string and the limb were too stiff.

"On one occasion, they wanted me to try firing an arrow with it, and it ended up just three feet away from me," said Chou with a laugh.

Even the more experienced Cheng, the eldest of the "seven brothers", was not spared – the 45-year-old actor had a near-death experience during the shooting of the war scenes as well.

"There was a scene where I was leading the charge, and we were shooting near a cliff. Behind me were my 'brothers' and 500 horses. While charging, we (Cheng and his horse) came very close to falling off the cliff, but we somehow managed to get back upright. It was a miracle!" said Cheng.

That close call was captured on screen, and it is featured in the behind-the-scenes production.

Coincidentally, while looking for the location for shoots, Yu actually stumbled upon the exact battleground where the Yang generals fought their last war.

Hence, the director and his cast members truly felt that they were blessed by the spirits of the Yang family who wanted them retell their story.

"Many a time, we could feel the presence and aura of the Yang family when we were doing the shoots. I learned so much of our history from this movie itself," added Yu.

As to whether there will be a sequel on the Yangs, Yu hinted at a more contemporary take, the likes of Ocean's Eleven.

"The boys would definitely be happier with this idea because they will be driving Ferraris and Porsches instead of riding horses!" he concluded with a laugh.

n Saving General Yang opens in cinemas today.

Changing scenes

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 12:18 AM PDT

For the first time, a Hollywood flick, The Company You Keep, opens in a Malaysian online portal.

THE days of standing listlessly in a queue, waiting to get tickets to watch the hottest movie in town may soon be over as brings new Hollywood films to viewers online.

The first on the list is Robert Redford's political thriller, The Company You Keep. The movie premiered in Malaysia on Thursday on the online portal exclusively, ahead of its United States limited theatrical release on Saturday.

Ahmad Izmir, CEO of the IZI Media Group which runs, says screening the movie online meant that viewers can watch it with ease and convenience. "This is the first time a high-profile movie such as The Company You Keep premieres in Malaysia on an IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) channel instead of the cinemas. Malaysian viewers will be able to watch the movie from the comfort of their own homes, rather than head off to the cinema," he says.

"We are proud to bring The Company You Keep to Malaysian shores. We are certain that the film will appeal to local audiences of all ages, with its all-star cast under the brilliant direction of Robert Redford," he continues.

The political action flick, based on the 2003 novel by Neil Gordon of the same name, is helmed by Oscar-winning director Redford and stars some of the biggest names in Hollywood such as Shia LaBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Terrence Howard, Sam Elliott and Anna Kendrick.

The movie revolves around a suburban single father and civil rights lawyer, Jim Grant, whose treacherous past catches up with him when a young nosy reporter, Ben Shepard, knocks on the his door.

Grant was a former 1970s anti-war radical fugitive who is wanted for a bank robbery and the murder of the bank's security guard.

Meanwhile, Shepard, an ambitious journalist eager to impress his editor and make a name for himself, catches wind of Jim's involvement in the murder following the arrest of Sharon Solarz, Jim's friend who was part of the same bank robbery.

Grant and his daughter Isabelle travels to Toronto, Canada, after receiveing an unwelcome visit from Shepard. But the relentless reporter is bent on getting the truth out, spawning the heart-pounding cat-and-mouse chase that takes place anywhere from Milwaukee in Wisconsin to New York.

Besides The Company You Keep, has been streaming various movie and television titles such as The Prisoner, The Take, Top Boy, Lilyhammer and Borgia, for free since its inception last September.

The online channel, also launched in Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines, was created with male viewers in mind in response to the current barrage of female-centric programming on television. It is committed to providing viewers with raw, action-packed, uncensored entertainment.

Catch The Company You Keep on


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Punters start placing bets on election date

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:26 AM PDT

WITH Parliament dissolved, the question now revolves around nomination and polling dates.

Coffeeshops in Petaling Jaya Selatan (PJS), consisting of Bukit Gasing and Taman Medan, are filled with patrons guessing on the possible dates.

Punters and armchair politicians, even before the Election Co-mmission can announce the da-tes, are placing bets on some possible dates.

Some have chosen April 11 as the nomination date and April 20 as the polling date while others are predicting April 13 for nomination and April 27 for polling.

C.L. Cham, 63, said he and other punters were placing bets on the numbers, in various order, to inc-rease their chances of winning.

"Some have also chosen nine as Najib announced dissolution on April 3, and 13 for the year 2013.

"Nine reflects a man of prominence," he said.

Meanwhile, PJS MCA has begun setting up its operations centre for the Section 17 neighbourhood.

It will operate from a 40ft modified shipping container .

PJS Wanita MCA division deputy chief Datin Wong Fong Leng was at the operations centre answering queries from residents in the area.

PJS has 79,044 voters, and is made up of Bukit Gasing (34,645) and Taman Medan (44,399).

Section 17 has 2,373 voters, with Chinese (1,667), Malays (537), Indians (144) and others (25).

Wong, who lived in Section 17 while a student at Universiti Ma-laya, is known among the local folks in the area.

Awning deprives pedestrians of walkway

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:22 AM PDT

AN ILLEGAL car awning outside a house in Petaling Jaya Selatan (PJS) 2/1 is posing a danger to pedestrians, including schoolchildren.

They are now unable to walk along the road shoulder at this stretch and risk being hit by motorists.

Residents in the neighbourhood want Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to take action against the owner of the house as the extension had encroached into public property.

A resident, who wanted to be known as just Haron, said MBPJ must demolish the awning as the owner of the house had violated the council's bylaws and deprived people access to the road shoulder.

"Such selfish acts endanger roadusers, who have no choice but to walk on the road, braving the traffic," he added.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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Diabetes link to low sleep hormone levels: study

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 10:49 PM PDT

A decrease in levels of the sleep hormone melatonin has been linked to an increased risk of adult onset diabetes, according to a study published Tuesday.

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 370 women with diabetes were compared with 370 women of the same race and age without the disease.

Researchers found participants with diabetes produced low levels of melatonin at night compared to the control group without diabetes.

Melatonin is produced by the brain during sleep, when its levels are higher in blood, to help regulate the circadian rhythm or "body clock."

"This is the first time that an independent association has been established between nocturnal melatonin secretion and Type 2 diabetes risk," said Ciaran McMullan, a researcher in the Renal Division and Kidney Clinical Research Institute at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.

The research found that participants who produced a low level of melatonin at night were twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to those who produced a high level of the hormone.

Melatonin secretion varied sharply between the participants, with some producing nearly five times as much as the lowest. -- AFPRelaxnews


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