Jumaat, 5 April 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

North Korea asks embassies to consider moving diplomats out

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 07:53 PM PDT

LONDON/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea warns it could not guarantee the safety of diplomats after next Wednesday and has asked embassies to consider moving staff out of the country, European diplomats said, amid high tension on the Korean peninsula.

An excavator moves past U.S. Army Patriot missile air defence artillery batteries at U.S. Osan air base in Osan, south of Seoul April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

An excavator moves past U.S. Army Patriot missile air defence artillery batteries at U.S. Osan air base in Osan, south of Seoul April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

The requests came on the heels of declarations by the secretive state that real conflict was inevitable, because of "hostile" U.S. troop exercises with South Korea and U.N. sanctions imposed over the North's latest nuclear weapons test.

They also followed South Korean media reports that the North, under its 30-year-old leader Kim Jong-un, had moved two missiles to the country's east coast.

"The current question was not whether, but when a war would break out on the peninsula," because of the "increasing threat from the United States", China's state news agency, Xinhua, on Friday quoted the North's Foreign Ministry as saying.

It added that diplomatic missions should consider evacuation. North Korea would provide safe locations for diplomats in accordance with international conventions, Xinhua quoted the ministry as saying in a notification to embassies.

On Saturday morning, a South Korean government official expressed bewilderment at the North's appeals to diplomats.

"As North Korea has many reasons behind the latest threats, it's hard to define what is its real intention," said the official, who asked not to be identified. "But it might have intensified these threats to strengthen the regime internally or to respond to international community."

There was no sign of tension on Seoul's rainsoaked streets, with traffic operating normally and no extra police visible.

The South Korean media reports on Friday said North Korea had placed two of its intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them on the east coast, a move that could threaten Japan or U.S. Pacific bases.

The report could not be confirmed, but White House spokesman Jay Carney said that based on past behaviour, "we would not be surprised" to see Pyongyang conduct another missile test.


Britain said its embassy in Pyongyang had been told by the North Korean government it "would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organisations in the country in the event of conflict from April 10th".

"We believe they have taken this step as part of their continuing rhetoric that the U.S. poses a threat to them," Britain's Foreign Office said.

It said it had "no immediate plans" to evacuate its embassy and accused the North Korean government of raising tensions "through a series of public statements and other provocations."

A Polish spokesman said the warning was "an inappropriate element of building up the pressure and we obviously think that there is no risk from outside on North Korea."

The United States, which does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and is served by Sweden as a "protecting power" in Pyongyang, echoed the British and the Poles.

"This is just an escalating series of rhetorical statements, and the question is, to what end?" said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Asked if the United States had received any instructions from the Swedes on the small number of U.S. aid workers or tourists who could be in North Korea, she said there was no indication Sweden would heed Pyongyang's warning.

Brazil's foreign minister said its ambassador could be moved to Dandong, a city across the Chinese border, though its embassy had an underground shelter and a power generator.

"We will evaluate exactly what the conditions are before we make a decision on his stay," Antonio Patriota told a news conference in Brasilia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "remains deeply concerned about escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula," but U.N. humanitarian workers remain active across North Korea for the time being, a spokesman said on Friday.

"U.N. staff in the DPRK (North Korea) remain engaged in their humanitarian and developmental work throughout the country," said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky. The United Nations has 36 international staff and 21 locally recruited personnel working in North Korea, the world body said.

Under the Vienna Convention that governs diplomatic missions, host governments are required to help get embassy staff out of the country in the event of conflict.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said North Korea had "proposed that the Russian side consider the evacuation of employees in the increasingly tense situation", according to a spokesman for its embassy in Pyongyang.

Moscow said it was "seriously studying" the request.

Kim Jong-un is the third member of his dynasty to rule North Korea. He took over in December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, who staged confrontations with South Korea and the United States throughout his 17-year rule.

In a fusillade of statements over the past month, North Korea has threatened to stage a nuclear strike on the United States, something it lacks the capacity to do, according to most experts, and has declared war on South Korea.

The threats against the United States are "probably all bluster", said Gary Samore, until recently the top nuclear proliferation expert on President Barack Obama's national security staff.

The North Koreans "are not suicidal. They know that any kind of direct attack (on the United States) would be end of their country," he added.

Speculation about missile movements centred on two types of weapon, neither of which is known to have been tested.

One is the so-called Musudan missile, which South Korea's Defence Ministry estimates has a range of up to 3,000 km (1,865 miles). The other is the KN-08, believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea has always condemned the military exercises held by U.S. forces and their South Korean allies, but its reaction to this year's has reached a blistering pitch.


Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in an essay in Cuban state media, warned ally North Korea against war, describing the situation on the Korean Peninsula as "incredible and absurd" and "one of the gravest risks of nuclear war since the Crisis of October (Cuban Missile Crisis), 50 years ago.

The verbal assaults from Pyongyang have set financial markets in South Korea, Asia's fourth largest economy, on edge.

South Korean shares slid on Friday, with foreign investors selling their biggest daily volume in nearly 20 months, hurt after aggressive easing from the Bank of Japan sent the yen reeling, as well as by the tension over North Korea.

(Additional reporting by Lim Seung-gyu, Hyunjoo Jin, Somang Yang, Peter Apps, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations, Paul Eckert and Roberta Rampton in Washington, and Jeff Franks in Havana; Editing by Andrew Roche, Peter Cooney and Michael Perry)

Related Stories:
U.N. alarmed by North Korea crisis, but aid staff still working

No surprise if North Korea conducts new missile test, White House says

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Magnitude 5.6 quake hits near Vladivostok, Russia - USGS

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 05:58 PM PDT

(Reuters) - A magnitude 5.6 quake struck near Vladivostok, in Russia's far east near the border with China and North Korea, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Friday.

The quake hit on Saturday morning local time, 54 miles (87 km) west-southwest of the major Pacific port of Vladivostok, at a depth of 356 miles (540 km), the USGS said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Putin critic who faces trial says he wants to be president

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 03:32 PM PDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian opposition leader said he wanted to become president and would do everything in his power to put Vladimir Putin in jail, in a defiant message days before he goes on trial on theft charges he says are politically motivated.

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny speaks to journalists during an unauthorised rally in central Moscow December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny speaks to journalists during an unauthorised rally in central Moscow December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who was a leader of the biggest opposition protests of Putin's 13-year rule last year, is to go on trial on April 17.

The 36-year-old says the case is part of a Kremlin campaign to silence dissent. He faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of stealing 16 million roubles (333,673 pounds) worth of timber from a state firm in 2009.

He has denied wrongdoing in the timber case as well as separate cases in which he is accused of defrauding a mail transport company and stealing funds from a political party, describing the allegations as "absurd".

"I want to become president," Navalny told Internet and cable TV channel Dozhd late on Thursday. "I want to change the way people live in this country, I want to change the system of government in this country."

He said he would do to all he could to see Putin and wealthy businessmen with longstanding ties to the president jailed. "For me they are all links in the chain of loathsome, thieving authorities," he said.

Russia's next presidential election is in 2018. Putin, who began a six-year term last May, has not ruled out seeking re-election.

Navalny popularised the label "party of crooks and thieves" for Putin's ruling United Russia party, and it became a slogan at protests that erupted after a December 2011 parliamentary election marred by allegations of widespread fraud.

The Kremlin denies the charges against Navalny are politically motivated.

Western governments and rights groups have expressed concern over the prosecution of government critics such as the punk band Pussy Riot, as well as laws tightening controls on advocacy groups and street protests.

(Editing by Pravin Char)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Second chance for man on death row

Posted: 06 Apr 2013 02:01 AM PDT

The new Sundance Channel miniseries Rectify tells the story of a man who returns home after 19 years on death row.

Abigail Spencer was in high spirits. She was in London, busy promoting her new movie, Oz The Great And Powerful, in which she plays May, Oscar the magician's assistant. The Mad Men actress was also spending her time talking to the press about the new Sundance Channel miniseries, Rectify.

She seemed genuinely excited, even asking what the time was in Kuala Lumpur during our phone conversation. It's easy to see why she was chosen to play Amantha Holden in Rectify, the woman who is determined to do anything to fight for her brother Daniel.

Daniel has spent the last 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend. But Amantha is convinced of his innocence and has spent all her life fighting for his release. The day finally comes when Daniel is allowed back into society due to a technicality. But life out there is a little different now, and Daniel has to try and cope with a world he no longer understands.

The show has been getting good reviews, and part of it is due to its ensemble cast which includes Australian actor Aden Young (who plays Daniel), Adelaide Clemens, Hal Holbrook and Deadwood actor Sean Bridgers. The story itself keeps viewers guessing as to what really happened in the past and what is going to happen in the future as those who were involved in the investigation of the case still think Daniel is guilty.

Rectify also takes advantage of its small town setting to weave an intriguing web of connections and relationships within the tight community, and how that community copes with the return of a man who had been put away for nearly two decades.

Incidentally, Young, who was to play the lead character upon which the entire series is hinged, was the last to be cast. Spencer, on the other hand, was the first to be signed.

"I had worked with Mark Johnson, who produces Breaking Bad and also our show Rectify, on a movie called Chasing Mavericks," said Spencer. "And we were reminiscing about how this all came together in our lives. And he was like, 'I think you were the first person cast!' And I was like, 'Really?!' I discovered that it was me, and then the whole family, and the only one who wasn't cast was Daniel."

Even when she was already flying out to Georgia to start shooting for the show, the producers had still not found the actor for Daniel. But she said she had full trust in the series' creator Ray McKinnon.

"I believed that he wouldn't settle for anyone until the right person comes to the part," said Spencer. "I felt that the script and the material called for it. If you're signing up for really good material and really good people, they will find the right people. You don't have to worry and you can trust their process."

She revealed that Young was in Bangkok, Thailand shooting a movie and he had to literally film himself on his computer reading the lines before he finally flew back to the United States to read for the part.

"When I saw him," said Spencer, "I just knew, like, 'Oh, that's Daniel. That's him, that's the guy, that's my brother, let's do this'."

Amantha and Daniel are close siblings, and even after 19 years of his incarceration, she doesn't seem to feel the temporal divide between them. Asked how she and Young had managed to pull off that chemistry between two people who have grown up together, Spencer said it just came naturally to them both.

"I think we just have it," she said. "I don't even know how to describe it. I don't know how to put words around the magic that Aden and I ... we have similar work ethics, so I think that helps. We feel that brotherly, sisterly connection. We have a very similar sense of humour. What was required was an unspoken connection, and I think that's what we had. And if we were to define it, try and work on it, I think it would actually go against what was already there. You just had to let it be."

The series was shot in Griffin, Georgia which became the show's fictional town of Paulie, Georgia. McKinnon himself was also born in a small town in Georgia named Adel. Spencer grew up in a small town in northwest Florida which was a stone's throw away from Georgia.

She said the show deliberately looked for a contemporary representation of the American south, something that has not yet been seen before on TV or cinematically. What usually ends up on the big or small screen when it involves the south is normally something of a gothic nature and of the past, she said, but Rectify consciously stayed away from those kinds of images.

"This is really the present," said Spencer. "It feels really right. The house that we shot in is a real house in Griffin. I remember when I walked in, I was, like, oh my gosh, it smells just like my grandmother's house! It even had the same wall panelling and wallpaper."

On whether small-town America is really like what the movies and TV shows normally depict, a powder keg of small-mindedness and caustic relationships, Spencer said it's all about points-of-view.

"This show is about private lives, about family and the intricacies of people who love each other and people who've gone through some things that define them," she explained. "And once that order is disrupted and chaos breaks out, how do people react? I think it's not confined to just small-town America. Anybody can relate to the show, who have families and who've loved and lost."

She said while she thinks the show can be about many things to many people, she feels the central theme is rebirth.

"Daniel is being reborn, and in a certain way it's the man who fell to Earth," she said. "All the characters are having a shift, there's a reawakening. Also the title of the show, to rectify is to make right. What does that mean to everyone? What is broken, what is the wrong that has to be made right in everyone's lives?"

While the story may keep viewers guessing as to whether Daniel is really guilty or not, Spencer feels the more important aspect is that the producers have created characters that viewers will care about.

"You're going to go on a journey with them," said Spencer. "I think that's the most important thing. It's not necessarily about what happened. You care about the people and wonder what's going to happen."

Rectify is the first wholly-owned Sundance Channel scripted miniseries. It airs every Thursday, 10pm, on the Sundance Channel (Astro Ch 438).

Korean actor Song Seung-heon sheds “pretty boy” image

Posted: 06 Apr 2013 02:06 AM PDT

Korean actor toughens up to play a reformed thug in his new drama.

It is hard to believe over a decade has passed since veteran actor Song Seung-heon earned his place in the Korean Wave firmament with the now-iconic Autumn In My Heart.

After Song melted many a female heart as the singularly devoted and sweet not-quite-brother to Song Hye-kyo's ill-fated heroine, he went on to star in five more television dramas, most of which fell into the same genre that propelled him to international fame – the heart-searing melodrama.

Song's latest work is no exception, but, according to the 36-year-old actor, MBC's upcoming A Man In Love is his roughest role to date.

Though he played a gangster in his popular small screen comeback East Of Eden, Song said, "This character has it tougher than other characters I've played and that might be why I was drawn to this role."

Confessing that he wanted to shed his "pretty boy" image, during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, recently, Song put it quite simply that as a man well into his 30s, he felt playing a man's man was the right fit.

In this case, his man's man is a cold-hearted loan shark, a thug who survives his boss' betrayal and steps up from right-hand man to head of the gang, only to leave it all behind in the name of love and morph into a successful businessman.

The twist comes when his sweetheart, played by High Kick 2 actress Shin Se-gyeong, betrays him for another man, leaving him bent on revenge, and suddenly it all becomes quite clear that A Man In Love is no picnic. It is a bona fide melodrama with all the requisite trappings – unrequited love, betrayal and revenge.

While none of this is new to Song, the actor revealed that he had been gnawing over his role, worrying about it because it presented something of a challenge to him.

"What I am most concerned about is how to go about playing a thug who has never been in love and yet suddenly finds himself in love, having to express it in his own awkward way," Song explained.

Indeed, portraying a man whose day-to-day life is steeped in high-stakes violence and yet who is in the dark when it comes to true boy-meets-girl love requires a certain complex duality that cannot be taken lightly.

Pulled off right, it would be a poignant role of the kind that could up Song's star power, and judging from co-star Shin's description of his character as a "Daddy-Long-Legs" of sorts, it appears as though Song's hero will display a sweetness that might just have viewers rooting for him to the end. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Serbia, USA knotted at 1-1 after Davis Cup openers

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 07:43 PM PDT

BOISE, Idaho: Novak Djokovic got Serbia off to a hot start, but American Sam Querrey's gritty victory over Viktor Troicki saw the United States pull level on the opening day of their Davis Cup World Group quarter-final tie.

World No. 1 Djokovic beat big-serving John Isner in straight sets in the first singles match, recovering from an early break in the first set en route to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 7-5 triumph.

The Serbian player saved the only break point he faced in the third set - in the second game - and broke Isner at love for a 6-5 advantage.

He served out the match with a love game, wrapping it up in two hours with a backhand winner that sent him dancing over to celebrate with his teammates.

Isner had made a quick start, breaking Djokovic for a 2-1 lead in the first set and holding for 3-1.

But Djokovic found his rhythm on the indoor hard court in the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, which sits at an altitude of about 800 meters (2,600 feet), and broke back to level the set at 3-3.

Djokovic delivered a second-serve ace to take a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker and claimed the first set on his third set point when Isner knocked a backhand long.

The Serbian applied the pressure early in the second set, breaking Isner in the third game and widening the gap with another break in the seventh.

Tasked with getting the best-of-five tie back on terms, Querrey started strong, winning the first set and going up an early break in the second.

But he let that advantage slip away and after dropping the second and third sets had to dig deep for a 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

It was just the second five-set match victory of Querrey's career, and he finished it in style, breaking for a 5-4 lead in the fifth set and serving it out with a love game.

Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic had called on Troicki for singles duty after world No. 10 Janko Tipsarevic opted out of the tie.

The winner will take on the victor of the quarter-final tie between Canada and Italy in Vancouver.

Serbia's run to the 2010 Davis Cup title included a victory in their only other meeting with the United States, who have lifted the trophy 32 times.

US captain Jim Courier has a formidable weapon at his disposal for Saturday's doubles, when he'll send Bob and Mike Bryan against Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac. - AFP

Williams sisters book semi-final showdown

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 07:35 PM PDT

CHARLESTON, South Carolina: Serena and Venus Williams pulled double-duty on Friday, winning two matches apiece at the rain-disrupted WTA claycourt event in Charleston to book a semi-final showdown.

The Williams sisters will face each other across the net for the first time since 2009. Both played twice on Friday, after a lengthy rain delay on Thursday saw four third-round matches postponed.

Top seed and defending champion Serena defeated American Mallory Burdette 6-4, 6-2 in the third round, then returned to beat sixth-seeded Czech Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-1 in a rematch of last year's final here.

Williams rallied from a 2-4 deficit in the opening set, winning the last four games to finish off the frame and giving Safarova little opportunity in the second.

Venus Williams, seeded fifth, beat American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals, and followed up with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Madison Keys.

Although the scoreline against Keys looked more routine, Williams had to rally from an early break down in each set.

Serena Williams said she was motivated by seeing her older sister come through both of her matches.

"I figured if she can win two matches, I have no excuse not to win my two matches," Serena said.

"It's actually not that bad to play two matches in one day - it's not ideal, but I play doubles all the time, and so I looked at it like, 'OK, I play singles and I play with Venus in doubles the same day.' So really that's how I looked at it."

The Williams sisters haven't played each other since Serena triumphed over Venus in the final of the WTA Tour Championships at Doha in 2009.

Serena beat her older sister in the Wimbledon final earlier that year.

They last met on clay in the 2002 French Open final won by Serena, who leads their career head-to-head 13-10.

"It definitely feels like a long time ago," Serena said.

"But Venus is the toughest opponent I've ever played.

"I think she's beaten me the most out of any player. I know her game and she knows my game. I think it'll be a great match tomorrow."

Ninth-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic also secured a semi-final berth, with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

Jankovic's victory was her 500th career match win, a statistic she wasn't aware of until after the contest.

"I had no idea how many wins I had," she said.

"But it's pretty nice. It's a great achievement to get my 500th win, and hopefully I can have many more."

Jankovic next faces Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele, who beat second-seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Wozniacki was up a break at 3-2 in the third set but lost the last four games. - AFP

Golf: Horschel leads, McIlroy lurks at Texas Open

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 07:32 PM PDT

SAN ANTONIO, Texas: Billy Horschel had six birdies in a four-under par 68 on Friday to seize a two-stroke halfway lead in the US PGA Tour's $6.2 million Texas Open.

Horschel's eight-under par total of 136 gave him a two-shot lead over Daniel Summerhays, Charley Hoffman and Australia's Steven Bowditch.

It was a further stroke back to a group of seven players sharing fifth place on 139, which included Northern Irish star Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy, toppled from the world No. 1 spot by Tiger Woods in March, added the Texas Open to his schedule to give himself more rounds before next week's Masters, the first men's major of the year.

He was feeling good about that move on Friday, after a five-under par 67 that included seven birdies and two bogeys.

"I definitely feel like I made the right decision to come here, and even if I hadn't been in this position and have been a few shots back I'd still feel the same way," McIlroy said.

"I haven't really been in contention this year. So it will be nice to get into the mix."

McIlroy birdied his last three holes, draining a 26-foot putt at the 16th and a 12-footer at 17.

He reached the green of the TPC San Antonio's par-five 18th in two and just missed a 25-foot eagle attempt.

Two-time major champion McIlroy is among the few golfers to reach 18 in two this week, and he was also on the green in two at the 592-yard, par-five eighth - but missed his 12-foot eagle attempt.

"I think that shows where my game is," McIlroy said.

"Those two par fives are probably the toughest to hit in two with how small the greens are. It shows that my ball-striking is there."

Horschel birdied his last two holes for his second straight 68, dropping birdie putts of more than 10 feet at both the 17th and 18th.

In search of a first PGA Tour victory, he's hoping to keep building on the momentum of a runner-up finish in Houston last Sunday.

Hoffman climbed up the leaderboard with a 67 that included six birdies and a bogey.

Bowditch carded a 69 as did Summerhays to share second on 138.

Among the players joining McIlroy on 139 were South Korean K.J. Choi, South African Retief Goosen and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge. - AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Confidence in Malaysian stock market

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 05:56 PM PDT

SO, the wait is over. And for many, there is not only more clarity for making decisions at work, but also for the decisions in their personal lives.

I'm talking about Wednesday's long-awaited announcement on the dissolution of Parliament. With an idea of when the elections would finally be held, most can now plan their workflow, events and even vacations.

Given the months of waiting, it was certainly some form of music to the Malaysian ear. Businessmen, media practitioners, everyone in fact, have lived with bated breath for the past six months and have heaved that sigh of relief now!

No doubt, many people have grown indifferent to the situation, adopting a "come as it may" attitude. This is only because whatever happens, whenever it happens, the show must go on.

For many businessmen, they acknowledge that business has to continue and what they have to take into consideration is how to manoeuvre through the political climate in Malaysia.

It's no news that politics and business often affect each other in any country but what I found comforting about business leaders are those who keep their eyes on their game despite the clamours and debates going on.

The long wait, however, would have also given time for the public and the market to prepare themselves for the 13th general election so much so that when the market took a 53-point plunge on Wednesday morning upon hearing that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was going to dissolve Parliament, it recovered steadily back into the black in the hours before its close.

As the market is reflective of what investors feel, clearly, investors seemed ready to bounce back. The upward momentum in the market in the past two weeks has been strong, and the announcement has shaken things up too much.

The following day, the FBM KLCI remained resilient. In fact, it closed nearer to the 1,700 psychological mark which market watchers have pointed to this whole week.

In MIDF Equity Research's April 1 report on fund flows, it noted that foreign funds are interested in Malaysian equity.

"Foreign investors were in the market buying every single day last week. Buying momentum was extremely strong with net absorption exceeding RM300mil a day from Monday to Thursday," it said.

Year-to-date, foreign investors have already bought RM9bil net of Malaysian equity compared with RM13.7bil in 2012.

"Foreign participation rate also stayed elevated last week. Average daily gross purchase and sale was RM1.08bil, the fourth week in a row that it had exceeded RM1bil."

MIDF said these are "positive overtures for Bursa Malaysia".

Locally, retail investors and funds have been taking profit. MIDF said that while the retail investors had remained net sellers, local funds had offloaded RM1.94bil net, among the heaviest selldown on record.

Although local investors appear more wary, it looks like foreign funds are not and that should signal ample belief in Malaysian stocks.

Election is not reason to sell stocks

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 05:56 PM PDT

THE showdown has began for what will be the most keenly watched general election in recent history.

The dissolution of Parliament and all state assemblies except for Sarawak will mean that Malaysians will get to vote for the federal and state representatives at one go.

With so much posturing by both sides of the divide prior to the dissolutions this past week, the stock market reacted the way it's always done.

The old axiom of sell on news was on full display Wednesday when profit-taking sent the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index (FBM KLCI) sharply down by 53 points, or 3.4%, after news spread that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was going to announce the dissolution of Parliament.

That sharp drop, however, was all erased by the end of the day. The FBM KLCI recovered to close up 0.4 points at 1,685.

The market has since been choppy, although on an uptrend, and trading volumes illustrated that. Volume spiked to 1.35 billion shares on April 3 and has slowly tapered off since. Trading volume was 974 million shares yesterday.

In 2008, the stock market fell by nearly 9% between the dissolution of Parliament and polling day, The situation was compounded by another big event lurking over the horizon at that point which was the impending global financial crisis.

Global economic weakness made matters worse and it took sometime for the stock market then to recover the sell off that took place after the results of the 2008 general election was announced. The political tsunami was a shock for the market with many investors taking time to digest the repercussions of what that election results meant. That and global weakness had sent the stock market down to a low of 829.41 points on Oct 29, 2008.

The reaction of the market post the 2008 election was somewhat of an anomaly. Based on a report by CIMB which produced a table showing that since 1982, the stock market three months after a general election has been up an average by 6.2%. A year after a general election, the stock market is up by an average of 16.7%.

Those statistics make me wonder if selling stocks ahead of a general election is the right strategy. I remember the Asian Financial Crisis when an analyst told me that Petronas bonds were trading at a yield of 20% because investors were fearing the worst.

We know the companies in the country. There was no way Petronas would go belly up and anyone who bought those bonds or even shares of blue chip listed companies back then at depressed prices would be sitting on a fortune today.

The thing is that life goes on despite the election results. Factories will still be producing goods for their customers, banks will be lending money, plantations will be harvesting oil palm, restaurants will still get their usual business and department stores will still see people walk through their doors.

The same thing played out months after the 2008 election and after the worst of the global financial crisis had hit. After reaching that low of 829.41 on Oct 29, 2008 the market has since gone on a bull run.

On Thursday, the FBM KLCI hit an intraday all-time high of 1,700.55, and part of the reason for the bullishness in equities was the growing economy, liquidity and also reaction investors, both foreign and local, have towards the economic transformation taking place in the country.

There is more vibrancy in the economy today and the most important thing is that the recipe that has helped push progress in Malaysia should continue. And maybe investors should think twice before deciding on how to act during this general election period.

Acting business features editor Jagdev Singh Sidhu wishes he could turn back time when it comes to investing.

Who will take over as MSWG chairman?

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 04:44 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: As long-standing Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group (MSWG) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali steps down, the attention has turned to who might succeed him.

One name that is being bandied about is Tan Sri Azlan Zainol. However, this could not be confirmed at press time.

Since being established in 2000, MSWG has had two former Employees Provident Fund (EPF) chiefs in its chairman position. Halim was EPF chairman when he assumed the post at MSWG.

Before him, Tan Sri Sallehuddin Mohamed was also EPF chairman. Sallehuddin served as MSWG chairman for about a year. EPF was a prime mover of MSWG in the early days.

This suggests that the company could be looking at a candidate of similar stature to fill in the big shoes. Note that outgoing EPF chief executive Azlan would remain an ex-officio of the national pension fund board.

A source close to the matter said the board would be deciding on the incoming chairman within a month.

"The person has to be knowledgeable about governance issues," the source said, adding that "he needs to have integrity, that is a given."

The source pointed out that while the board would have the ultimate say in who would be appointed, MSWG's substantial funder, the Capital Market Development Fund, had the opportunity to voice its opinion on the candidate.

Another source close to the company said MSWG was likely to get a candidate from outside because its long-serving director, Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, was already involved in several public-listed companies via his position as chief executive in the Armed Forces Fund Board or LTAT (Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera).

The source said Lodin, who has been with the MSWG board since 2001, would be busy with corporate work, and that his position could create a conflict of interest if he became MSWG chairman.

Outgoing chairman Halim was the founding member of MSWG. He retired from his position of 12 years at MSWG's 12th annual general meeting on Thursday, in line with the company's policy.

Prior to MSWG, he was the chief secretary to the Government from 1996 to 2001 and was involved in improving the efficiency of the Malaysian civil service.

He also played a part in ensuring government decisions and directives were properly implemented by all government agencies, in line with creating an electronic Government.

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GE13: BN manifesto has promises that can be fulfilled

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 10:11 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Barisan Nasional manifesto to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Saturday is expected to contain promises on welfare and a better future for all communities, levels of society and sectors.

However, the manifesto is not populist in nature but contains promises that are realistic and achievable, which have been studied after considering the country's financial ability, a Barisan source said Friday.

Najib, who is also Barisan chairman, will launch the manifesto at Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil at the 1Malaysia People First Assembly scheduled at 9pm.

"Wait for tomorrow, but what I can say is that the manifesto is very comprehensive but realistic and can achieved," said a Barisan leader when asked to comment about the manifesto's contents.

He said the manifesto was like a report card of the Barisan government led by Najib in the last four years.

It is understood that the manifesto is based on the philosophy of the Najib administration, 1Malaysia People First and Promises Fulfilled.

"Although the Opposition has launched its manifesto containing various promises including doing away toll charges, lowering car and fuel prices and free higher education, the Barisan manifesto holds fast to fiscal responsibility.

Barisan will continue to adopt a policy to reduce the current account deficit in economic planning and development, to avoid the fate of some European countries," he said.

Asked to comment about the manifesto, Barisan leaders said they expect the manifesto to boost the people's support for the Najib leadership. - Bernama

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

GE13: Ready to take on Ghani, says Kit Siang

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 09:46 AM PDT

BATU PAHAT: DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang says he is ready to take on Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman for the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat.

"I have decided to contest in Gelang Patah not for myself or DAP, but for the people and the country," Lim said at a DAP ceramah here Friday night.

"I never challenged Abdul Ghani to come, I only invited (former Prime Minister Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamed) as we want to see if it will be my political burial ground or his," Lim added.

Earlier in the week, Dr Mahathir had described the news of Lim contesting in Gelang Patah as "ridiculous".

"We have to make sure that Lim does not win," Dr Mahathir said.

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

Related Stories:
GE13: Ghani taking on Kit Siang
GE13: MCA doesn't rule out possibility that Ghani may contest Gelang Patah
GE13: Kit Siang is the one that needs to be changed, says Dr Mahathir

Police nab schoolgirl and five others in connection with gun and drug seizure

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 08:41 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Police have detained a teenage schoolgirl together with four men and a woman in connection with the seizure of a pistol and 631g of drugs worth about RM65,000 in Taman Medan here last Wednesday.

The suspects have been remanded until Monday to facilitate investigations.

Petaling Jaya police chief ACP Arjunaidi Mohamed said the police got their break when they nabbed a 24-year-old suspected drug distributer in Taman Medan Baru about 10pm, adding that he had six previous records for armed robbery.

A pistol, five bullets and a plastic packet containing heroin were seized from the vehicle he was in.

The others, including the schoolgirl, were picked up at a shop in Taman Medan Baru - believed to be a drug distribution centre - in a follow-up operation. - Bernama

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Wrestling with a catch

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 04:25 AM PDT

A former wrestler jumps out of the ring and into the ocean.

UNLIKE in his previous job where he manhandled his opponents in the wrestling ring, TV host Eric Young says he handles the fish he catches carefully.

"Ninety percent of what I do is catch and release, it's more sport fishing than commercial fishing. It's very low impact, people sport fish all over the world. We're very mindful to handle the fish right, make sure we put them back in the water still alive so someone else can catch it and have the same kind of experience that we did," he says.

Young, a former Total Nonstop Action (TNA) professional wrestler, is the host of the Animal Planet show, Off The Hook: Extreme Catches, about unusual and often dangerous fishing methods.

The show features stunts such as Young trying to catch a sand shark with pantyhose – and succeeding.

Young, 34, hints that the second season of the show will be even more extreme than the first, with episodes set in the harsh cold waters near Alaska, an ice festival in Minnesota and even under ice dives.

It is not only fishing enthusiasts who enjoy the programme, he stresses, adding that he has met many unlikely fans.

"I get stopped in the airport, you know, by girls as young as the age of 12 saying they watch the show and they love it. They don't like fishing because fish are 'gross' and they don't like touching them, but it's still a fun show to watch."

Part of the fun, apparently, is due to Young's colourful way with words – he cusses quite a bit on screen.

In his own defence, he says: "Sometimes the emotions just come out and I cannot help it. I know Animal Planet is not a great fan of it and I know kids watch my shows.

"But the person you see on the show is who I am in real life."

In fact, it was his colourful personality in the ring that caught the attention of the show's producers. It turns out, fortuitously, that he is also a fishing enthusiast.

Young, whose real name is Jeremy Fritz (Eric Young is his ring name), is mindful of environmental issues, with the current furore over depleting fish stocks.

He says: "A lot of the fishermen in the United States are worried about world regulations. We did an episode where we were catching bluefin tuna. In the US, they're very protected and you can only catch a certain amount a day, but bluefin tuna are global fish so the same one you catch in Cape Cod in Massachusetts could have been in Portugal earlier that year. Fish that are global should have global regulations."

Strong opinions about the current fishing environment and regulations aside, he urges amateur anglers to just have fun.

"Fishing is a game of patience and testing. There are so many styles of fishing; try spearfishing, try rod and reel, try net fishing, try until you find what you really like."

Ironically, the one person that he cannot seem to convince of the fun of fishing is his wife of 11 months, also a professional wrestler known as ODB, who is in her 30s. He confesses that she is not the biggest fan of fishing and the cold.

This means she does not travel with him and they have been apart as much as they have been together since they got married last May because he has been filming the second season of the show.

He admits: "I'm not good at the married life." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Catch Off The Hook: Extreme Catches on Animal Planet (Astro Ch 556) every Monday at 9pm.

Ghostly encounters

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 04:23 AM PDT

The cast of Ghost Child shares spooky stories which they encountered on the set of their new movie.

FOLLOWING his success in the horror genre with the National Service-themed military ghost flick 23:59 (2011), Singaporean filmmaker Gilbert Chan decided to direct another scary movie.

Written and directed by Chan, the S$1mil (RM2.5mil) Ghost Child is presented by MM2 Entertainment, Clover Films and Zhao Wei Films.

The story tells how things start getting spooky for a contractor's mother and daughter when he brings his new Indonesian wife back to his home in Singapore.

While driving through a remote area in Indonesia late one night, widower Choon (Chen Hanwei) saves a pretty woman by the name of Na (Carmen Soo) from a bunch of burly rogues. Na follows Choon home to Singapore, but finds that she has to contend with a hostile reception from his mother (Cecilia Heng) and daughter Kim (Jayley Woo).

Meanwhile, Kim is also having a particularly rough time in school – poor grades, getting bullied and boy problems – after her mother died of cancer.

As if that is not enough, a ghost child suddenly emerges and starts making mischief in their household.

For those who are not aware, a ghost child (toyol in Malay or gui zai in Chinese) is a mythical goblin – invoked from a dead human foetus through the use of black magic – that is usually kept for financial gain or to create mischief. Its owners usually make offerings of candies, marbles, toys and even blood to appease the spirit and compel it to perform specific tasks.

Chan was accompanied by the movie's leads Soo and Chen at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to promote the horror flick. Each of them had scary stories to share about weird happenings on the set while filming the movie.

Soo, who portrays the demure Indonesian-Chinese woman, admits to being a scaredy-cat who does not really enjoy watching horror flicks. Expressing relief that she did not have any supernatural encounters herself, Soo, however, told of an incident on the set involving the actor who played her first husband.

"There was a scene in which he was supposed to rummage through some drawers to look for something. He'd already had a few practice runs and everything went well. Then, when the cameras started rolling, he suddenly yelled 'Cut, cut' and blood was dripping from a deep cut on his hand," shared Soo, who quietly said a prayer for filming to proceed smoothly after the incident.

Chan said they found signs of a toyol being kept when the crew went to recce for the shoot.

"We saw some marbles, toys and sweets under a shady tree behind the house. In order to film there safely, we were told not to bring any pork onto the set," the director remembered.

"Unfortunately, that particular actor (who had injured himself) was not around when the message was passed around. So, he unknowingly brought more than a dozen packets of wantan mee (pork dumpling noodles) with char siu (barbecued pork) for the crew's supper."

Based in Singapore, multiple-award-winning television actor Chen hails from Johor and said he was thrilled to make his feature film debut with Ipoh-born model/actress Soo as his leading lady.

Playing a contractor who unknowingly brings a toyol home after he marries an Indonesian-Chinese woman, Chen sent chills down everyone's spine at the press conference when he reminisced about his eerie experiences, one of which involved a creepy snapshot on his cellphone. Chen showed the photo to members of the media at the press conference.

Commenting on the blurry selca of himself standing in front of a dark pathway, Chen pointed to a pair of figures faintly visible directly behind him in the photo. "I remember telling everyone to clear the set so I could snap a picture of myself alone. Then, someone pointed out to me that there were two mysterious figures behind me in the picture – an adult wearing a sleeveless tank top with a child next to her. It was particularly creepy because I was very sure all the cast and crew were wearing long sleeves that night. And, we never saw anybody that fit the description on the set that day," Chen concluded.

n Ghost Child is showing in cinemas now.

Coming soon

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 11:18 PM PDT

Oblivion – War inflicted by an alien race has left future Earth in really bad shape. The only good thing to come out of it is that the humans won the war. However, a marine extracting valuable resources from Earth discovers something else during one of his missions. Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko.

Langgar – This local production revolves around the life of a guy named Nizam, who is bent on avenging the death of his pregnant wife who was raped and murdered. The action-packed thriller is directed by Sein (of pop band Ruffedge) and stars Adi Putra, Namron, Hans Isaac and Natasha Hudson.

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Things managers say

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:37 PM PDT

SAMPLES from The Manager's Phrase Book:

> When an employee wants time off: "I don't see any problem with that."

> When an employee is burned out: "I see some symptoms of burnout here; I sure hope I'm wrong."

> How to close a meeting: "Alrighty, let's get out of here!"

> When you need to instill calm: "Everybody here needs to take a chill pill."

> How to say no to a superior: "No".

Funny and fanciful tales for teens

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:36 PM PDT


Author: Sarra Manning

Publisher: Little Brown UK, 387 pages

JEANE Smith, 17, writes a style column for a Japanese teen magazine and she manages a successful lifestyle website that promotes dorkiness as an art form. On top of that, The Guardian placed her at number seven on their "people who are changing the world" list.

Despite all that success, though, Jeane is lonelier than ever. Then she meets Michael Lee, a predictable and proper all-round golden boy who represents everything Jeane doesn't believe in ... and yet, and yet ... Jeane finds herself inexplicably drawn to him.

The Amazing Terry Jones Presents His Utterly Enchanting And Thrilling Fairy Tales

Author: Terry Jones

Illustrator: Michael Foreman

Publisher: Pavilion Books, 120 pages

WHAT do you get when you combine the hilarious Terry Jones of Monthy Python fame with award-winning illustrator Michael Foreman? A collection of wonderfully fractured tales of fantasy featuring everything from a boy who has a dinosaur in his shed to a globetrotting talking fish, and a brave princess who sails to the moon.

Balthazar (Evernight # 5)

Author: Claudia Gray

Publisher: HarperTeen, 384 pages

THE Evernight series by Claudia Gray began four books ago in 2008 and is mainly about teens Bianca and Lucas, a creepy academy of vampires, and battles between vampires, vampire hunters, and wraiths, oh my!

One of the most popular characters from the series, the handsome, affable and generally-good-hearted vampire Balthazar, gets his own story in book number five. His backstory is that his family was brutally murdered by powerful vampire Redgrave four centuries ago, and Balthazar has been alone ever since.

Here, he meets human girl Skye Tierney who is being targeted by Redgrave because of her newfound psychic powers. He vows to protect Skye but at the same time, he is consumed by the need to avenge his family. And amidst all the chaos of going up against an uber vampire, Balthazar finds his heart and realises that he is falling in love.

Hidden (the Avena series)

Author: Marianne Curley

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 336 pages

MARIANNE Curley, Aussie author of the bestselling Guardians Of Time series, begins a new series called Avena.

Ebony grows up in a sheltered world where she is home-schooled by her parents and her friends are limited to a small, closely-guarded circle. As she reaches adulthood, though, something inside her is changing: she feels physically stronger and she begins to ... glow.

No, not just with good health but literally glow! Her parents have a lot of explaining to do.

Middle School: My Brother Is A Big, Fat Liar

Authors: James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou

Illustrator: Neil Swaab

Publisher: Random House, 304 pages

THRILLER writer James Patterson's offers another instalment of the funny Middle School series that began with Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life.

In this book, we meet Georgia, sister of the mischievous star of the previous books, Rafe Katchadorian. Georgia is just entering middle school (the American equivalent of Malaysia's secondary school level) and makes a bet with Rafe that she's going to do so much better than he did – little knowing that Rafe had been so infamous that no one wants to give his sister a chance to prove herself.

Wanting to sway the odds of winning the bet in his favour, Rafe secretly signs up Georgia's band to perform at the school dance. In front of her crush and her rivals, the snooty popular Princesses! How is Georgia going to handle this curve ball?

Geek Girl

Author: Holly Smale

Publisher: HarperCollins, 356 pages

WHAT happens when a geeky, awkward girl gets a chance to reinvent herself as a fashion model? Harriet is most definitely a geek – she knows facts like, the average person laughs 15 times a day and that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear but can't figure out why she's not popular at school. Then she gets talent scouted by a top model agent and is determined to change her life.

Along the way, though, she has a terrible fight with her BFF, catches the unwanted attention of the queen bee, the dreaded Alexa, and finds herself constantly lying to the people she loves. In the fashion industry, things aren't going too well either, as Harriet veers from one fashion disaster to another.

That's when she realises that perhaps this model life is not for her after all. But will Harriet be able to get her old life back before getting consumed by her own model behaviour?

Seal Team 666 offers thrilling yarn

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 06:35 PM PDT

The military and horror genres collide in a thrilling yarn featuring a hero who was once possessed by a Malaysian demon. Really.

Seal Team 666

Author: Weston Ochse

Publisher: St Martin's Press, 310 pages

SO, we've all read and watched tales of the supernatural where the protagonists/victims find themselves thoroughly unprepared and under-equipped for encounters with anything more terrifying than a wet cat.

Why not a tale of horror featuring a group of highly-trained, well-armed warriors with the latest gear, surveillance and intel, kicking otherworldly butt even more effectively than the Ghostbusters?

That kind of thinking is probably what resulted in SEAL Team 666, by former US Army intelligence officer Weston Ochse. This chap has been writing professionally since 1997, more than a hundred short stories and several novels, mostly in the horror/dark fantasy genre, and I'm a little disappointed (with myself) that I never got wind of his work before.

Ochse's inside knowledge of military and defence matters serves SEAL Team 666 well, and it also helps that he is quite skilled at crafting page-turning scenarios, making the book an engrossing and speedy read.

Like the book-cover quote says, this is like "The X-Files written by Tom Clancy" – a whimsical idea that the US government actually has a dedicated multi-agency initiative to combat supernatural threats, with its ground ops handled by the titular team of specially chosen SEALs.

The author doesn't beat around the bush, with the first of SEAL Team 666's unnatural opposition making an appearance just a few pages into the book – "It stepped forward. Glowing eyes. Taloned hands. Dark skin stretched tightly over elongated bones. Demon."

Certainly not the kind of paragraph you'd expect after several pages describing a by-the-book night-time infiltration of a hostile-filled compound with silent insertion, sniper cover, silenced weapons and double-taps on unsuspecting sentries.

After one member of the unit is killed in action, green cadet John Walker is pulled out of the final stages of his own SEAL training to fill the vacancy.

He never bargained on being thrown feet-first into a war against supernatural forces, but then his new comrades never figured on getting him, either.

You see, Walker is not just any rookie. He is a survivor of a particularly nasty bout of demonic possession in his childhood, by – of all things – "a Malaysian hantu kubur, or grave demon". Seems the entity was sent after him as punishment for some unforgivable crime perpetrated by his father, who used to run contraband around the Philippines black market. Uh, you read all that correctly, even the spelling. Hey, take it up with Ochse.

This somewhat liberal interpretation of the hantu kubur legend aside, the book does a good job of carefully feeding the reader glimpses of Walker's suppressed childhood trauma, relating it to his experiences in the present. His possession has turned him into something of a "sensitive", as such folks attuned to the supernatural are sometimes termed.

As the FNG (well, two of those letters stand for "new guy" – guess what the first stands for) in the unit, Walker and his uncanny ability have a hard time fitting in, earning him the ire of team leader Holmes. Yet, even with a past like his, Walker soon finds that the only normal day in his military service was yesterday.

The rapid pace of the story results in characterisation that is mostly superficial, with the exception of Walker. One or two of the other SEALs do have their moment, particularly their strategist, Laws, as he attempts to piece together the big picture behind their current batch of missions.

This big picture involves bizarre animated rag-dolls called homunculi; vicious demonic creatures that transform from stone into unnatural flesh when splashed with blood; and suits stitched out of human skin (someone call Clarice Starling!).

The book's pace hardly slows down for more than a few pages before the team gets whisked off on yet another job, and sometimes this almost episodic structure works against it because the narrative just becomes one multi-part cycle of covert insertion, completing the mission, (sometimes hasty) exfiltration and wound-licking.

Ochse's no-frills prose lends itself well to this fast-flowing tale because he just gets down to business without excessive situational analysis or long pauses while the characters examine their motives or engage in some pace-killing reflection. Maybe with the exception of Walker, but at least his interludes are mostly about that creepy hantu kubur possession episode.

There is a fair amount of discussion about hardware (as in military grade, not home DIY) put in and this could impede story flow for those who aren't into guns and ammo. Given the genres mashed up in these pages, I figure that most people who've come to this party wouldn't mind anyway.

There isn't a whole lot of reading material in the "military horror" sub-genre (unlike military SF, which is so richly served) but SEAL Team 666 is kind of a crowd on its own. All told, a good effort that has been called Ochse's breakout book, which should bring him a wider audience; going by what is on view here, that is well deserved.

Bring on a sequel, hopefully one with zombies or werewolves in it. And some pretty, glittering vampires too, just so the SEALs can shoot them in the head with projectiles made from frozen holy water.

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