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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

A storm of swords

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:58 PM PDT

Season Three of Game Of Thrones premieres this week, and this could be its bloodiest (and muddiest) season yet.

THE new season of Game of Thrones promises to be a real storm of swords – not just because it is largely based on the third book, A Storm Of Swords, in George R. R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire saga, but also because there will be a lot more fighting this time, and also a lot more backstabbing, betrayals and political intrigue.

If the books are anything to go by, this could be the most intense and bloodiest season of the show yet.

Among the most unique aspects of the series are the numerous parallel and overlapping storylines involving a large number of characters, each involved in different aspects of the story. The scope is so vast and the storylines so varied that it is filmed in three different locations in three different countries – freezing Iceland, sunny Croatia and gloomy Northern Ireland.

Star2 was in London recently to meet some of the cast members and to get some insight into what viewers can expect this year. And, in the spirit of the show (and the books), we decided to separate these interviews into groups based on the point of view of their characters, and where they stood at the end of the previous season.

>Game Of Thrones Season 3 premieres Saturday, April 20 at 9pm exclusively on HBO (Astro Ch411) and HBO HD (Astro Ch431).

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The odd couple

Posted: 14 Apr 2013 12:33 AM PDT

AT the end of Season Two, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) were embarking on a journey towards King's Landing, after Catelyn Stark decided to free the Kingslayer in exchange for her two daughters. And so began a road trip involving one of the oddest pairs of travelling buddies in Westeros – one, a handsome (albeit a little scruffy looking), cynical and proud knight from House Lannister, and the other a slightly insecure but powerful giant of a female knight.

On screen, the two characters are constantly bickering and at odds with one another, and apparently, this relationship also crosses over to real life as well.

"Nikolaj torments me! Hmm... and also drives me to distraction," said Christie, smacking her lips cheekily and grinning as she recalled her ruggedly handsome co-star.

"The dynamics you see between us on screen are almost identical to (what) you see off screen."

"Gwendoline is a lot of fun (to work with), and allows me to torment her. I'm just being horrible towards her all the time!" said Coster-Waldau with a laugh.

"She came on the show last season, and all Jaime does with Brienne is drive her crazy, and for some reason that carried on off screen, so I was doing it to her all the time!"

At one point of the show's new season, Jaime calls Brienne a "giant, towheaded plank", referring to her muscular stature and mop of blonde hair. In real life, the 1.9m tall Christie is nothing like the awkward, gangly, manlike Brienne. She is charming, friendly and incredibly articulate, with one of her most amiable characteristics being her infectiously hearty laugh. ("She has a very loud laugh," quipped Coster-Waldau, when asked about working with her.)

In contrast to the more animated and open Christie, Coster-Waldau was more subdued, taking his time with his answers, and shifting uncomfortably when questions about his personal life popped up.

According to him, Season Three was the one he had been waiting for ever since he joined the cast.

"When I first met the guys and talked about the show and Jaime's arc, I was just praying that we would make it to Season Three," he said, while refusing to divulge more information about its plot.

Having spent most of the second season sitting in a jail cell, the 40-year-old Danish actor is glad to finally be out and about, even if it involves a lot of slogging around in mud.

"There are moments this year where I was just very muddy and rolling around in mud," he recalled. "One day I came on set, the director of that episode, Alex Graves, was standing in front of this big pool of mud, and I said, 'Hmm, that looks really tasty'. Then he said, 'Oh, it's not done yet', and got some guys to hose it down even more!"

"I am always slogging around in mud," sighed Christie, who added that the toughest part of the role was playing a character that needs to look as unattractive as possible.

"As an actor, to have a part where so many of your personal insecurities are amplified, and you look incredibly unattractive and masculine, is incredibly challenging," she said. "It forces you to question your own notions of femininity and what it is to be a woman, in and outside the part."

While the books go on and on about how ugly Brienne is, Christie decided to play her as someone who is outside the conventional social norms, rather than the obvious choice of being really ugly, massive and manly.

"It's an exciting dynamic to have a very large woman being a brilliant fighter, and it's very sexy as well. She's a classic outsider, very specific and unique and the kind of character you don't see frequently."

Although she was happy to go to great lengths to realise the character, including undergoing training to build up muscle and strength, certain measures turned out to be harder than she expected.

"When they cut my hair off ... even though I knew that would happen, and I WANTED it to happen, it was still bizarrely more difficult than I thought it would be!"

Beyond the Wall

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 07:01 PM PDT

ONE of Game Of Thrones' taglines is "Winter Is Coming", but for Kit Harington, Rose Leslie, and most of the cast and crew filming the "Beyond the Wall" segments of the show in Iceland, it is pretty much winter every day.

"It is tough – it is very, very, very cold there. It has a completely alien landscape, which is perfect for Beyond the Wall stuff," said Harington.

"Beyond The Wall" refers to the wild lands in the northernmost area of Westeros, separated from the Seven Kingdoms by the gigantic Wall guarded by the Night's Watch, of which Harington's Jon Snow is a member.

At the end of last season, Jon had infiltrated the vast wildling camp ruled by the King-Beyond-The-Wall, Mance Rayder (CiarĂ¡n Hinds), having convinced the wildlings that he had betrayed the Night's Watch.

Of all the series' filming locations, Iceland is probably the toughest, and it doesn't get any easier when Harington gets in touch with his fellow cast members on the other sets.

"There I am freezing my b**ls off in Iceland, surrounded by men with beards, and then I get a call from Croatia and they say, 'Oh it's too hot to film today, we're just hanging by the pool'," he complained, adding that despite it all, he has fallen in love with the country and is seriously considering buying a place to live there.

The role of Jon Snow has certainly opened a lot of doors for Harington (he will be starring in the upcoming film Pompeii, alongside Emily Browning), and he is especially grateful for the fact that this is such a great character to play.

"He's got an incredible story arc. After I read the first episode, I was already excited about the character; and then I read the books, because I couldn't help myself, and I loved everything about him," he said. "His story arc is very different from everyone else in the series. He's got lots of things to work out – his mother issues, his problem with women, his loyalty, his ambition ... he's got all of these elements that make him an interesting hero type character, but he's not your typical hero.

"One of the great things about TV is you have this one character that you can develop over the years. When I started this I was about a year out of drama school, and now I'm growing as an actor, and Jon Snow is growing with me as well."

However, his newfound fame has its downside as well, and the 26-year-old has found things to be a bit more intrusive lately. "I was out shopping one day and someone was filming me. Who's going to be interested in that? It's just me buying some chicken! What's the headline going to be, 'Jon Snow buys chicken'? It's really weird to me, that sort of thing," he said.

This season, Jon will be getting a whole lot closer to the wildling girl Ygritte, played by flame-haired Downton Abbey alumna Rose Leslie.

"Rose and I get on really, really well and this season, it'll be interesting to see what people make of the dynamics between our two characters. It's been a lot of fun and she's a brilliant actress," he said.

Leslie was similarly complimentary about her co-star.

"Acting with Kit is enormous fun. He's lovely and he's very, very nice. And 'awful' to look at as well," she said teasingly, while giggling like a schoolgirl.

In real life, Leslie, who grew up in Scotland, reminds one of Princess Merida from the Pixar film Brave, with her curly red hair and smoky voice with a hint of a Scottish brogue.

The similarities between Ygritte and Merida don't end there. "This season I was really happy because I get a bow and arrow! I get to show off my archery skills ... rather poorly," Leslie said, adding that it's been great playing such a feisty, free-spirited character. "She has always been fiercely independent. For me, she embodies true grit – she is strong, tough and ruthless, but also playful as well. I think she gets so much pleasure from teasing and aggravating Jon Snow as well!"

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A storm of swords

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China says new bird flu cases found in central China

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 08:05 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two people in the central Chinese province of Henan have been infected by a new strain of avian influenza, the first cases found in the region and bringing the total number nationwide to 51, Xinhua state news agency said on Sunday.

One of the victims, a 34-year old man in the city of Kaifeng, is now critically ill in hospital, while the other, a 65-year old farmer from Zhoukou, is stable. The two cases do not appear to be connected.

Journalists (L) take pictures and videos of a screen showing a girl, who according to hospital officials, is infected with the new H7N9 bird flu strain and is undergoing treatment, during a news conference at Ditan Hospital in Beijing April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Journalists (L) take pictures and videos of a screen showing a girl, who according to hospital officials, is infected with the new H7N9 bird flu strain and is undergoing treatment, during a news conference at Ditan Hospital in Beijing April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Three cases have now been reported outside the original clusters in eastern China, including one in the capital Beijing, but there is nothing out of the ordinary so far, the China representative of the World Health Organisation said.

"There's no way to predict how it'll spread but it's not surprising if we have new cases in different places like we do in Beijing," Michael O'Leary told reporters.

A total of 19 people in close contact with the two new victims were under observation but had shown no signs of infection, Xinhua said.

On Saturday, the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a seven year-old child in the capital of Beijing had been infected by the H7N9 bird flu virus, the first case to be reported outside of eastern China, where the new strain emerged last month.

The child's parents work in the poultry trade.

Investigators are trying to ascertain the source amid fears that it could cause a deadly pandemic similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, which killed about one in 10 of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

China has been anxious to avoid a repeat of the panic of 2003 by promising total transparency, and O'Leary said his organisation has been "very pleased" about the way information was being shared.

Authorities say there is still no indication of human-to-human transmission of the virus, which has already killed 11 people in Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui.

"That's a key factor in this situation," said O'Leary. "As far as we know, all the cases are individually infected in a sporadic and not connected way."

The husband of a H7N9 victim in Shanghai was recently infected, but O'Leary said there was no cause for alarm.

"If there's only very rare cases ... That's different from the ease of transmission from person to person. It's that ease of transmission that we are concerned about, and there's no evidence of that yet."

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Earthquake strikes off Papua New Guinea

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:53 PM PDT

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An earthquake of 6.7 magnitude struck 46 miles west of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

There were no immediate reports of tsunami warnings or damage.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Pro-Chavez Venezuelans mark coup anniversary on eve of election

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 05:09 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Hugo Chavez loyalists celebrated on Saturday a milestone in the late leader's socialist revolution ahead of Venezuela's presidential election, irking the opposition that complained of a campaign tipped in favour of the government.

Venezuela's acting President and presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro speaks during ceremony to commemorate eleven years of the return of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to power after a brief coup that ousted him for two days in 2002, at the 4F military fort in Caracas April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela's acting President and presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro speaks during ceremony to commemorate eleven years of the return of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to power after a brief coup that ousted him for two days in 2002, at the 4F military fort in Caracas April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Saturday marked the 11th anniversary of Chavez's dramatic return to power after a two-day coup tacitly backed by the United States. The event galvanized support for the former paratrooper and prompted him to push ahead with increasingly radical policies that further polarized Venezuela.

Venezuelan state television broadcast a barrage of programs glorifying Chavez and portrayed the opposition candidate in Sunday's election, Henrique Capriles, as the political heir of a "right-wing oligarchy" that orchestrated the 2002 coup.

Pro-Chavez militias also gathered in commemoration at the Caracas military museum where the president's coffin is on display. That event ended up giving government candidate Nicolas Maduro more valuable air time despite a ban on formal campaigning in the final two days before the vote.

One by one, the acting president decorated each member of the so-called Bolivarian militias, armed civilian groups that Chavez created in 2009 to help defend his self-proclaimed revolution and prevent a repeat of the 2002 coup.

To shouts of "Chavez lives," a sombre Maduro said: "Let's honour his memory, his legacy."

Frustrated by what it sees as an unfair use of state funds to buoy Maduro's candidacy, the opposition lodged a formal complaint with the electoral authority alleging that state TV channel Venezolana de Television (VTV) was violating election laws by broadcasting "biased political content."

"It is unacceptable that an official channel breaks the rules," Capriles' campaign team said in a statement that called on election authorities to take immediate action against VTV.

In its complaint, the opposition also alleged that Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona had flouted Venezuelan election laws by publicly endorsing Maduro, who is favoured to win on Sunday.

Maradona, who is well-known for his leftist politics and was close to Chavez, flew in on Thursday to join Maduro in his final campaign rally and spent much of Friday by his side.

A representative from Venezuela's Election Council said it had not commented on the opposition complaint.

Meanwhile, VTV broadcast live footage of Foreign Minister Elias Jaua touring an apparently abandoned construction site of an athletic complex in Miranda, the state that the sports-loving Capriles governs, warning viewers that only a Maduro victory could ensure prosperity for all Venezuelans.

"This is another white elephant," said Jaua, who ran for governor of Miranda last December but lost to Capriles. "Tomorrow is a historical day in which we'll vote to strengthen democracy and our revolution."


After formal campaigning came to a close on Thursday night, the 40-year-old Capriles relaxed the next day by playing basketball in Petare, the largest slum in Caracas. He has campaigned on an image of youth and energy, almost always sporting a Venezuela baseball cap.

The campaign to succeed Chavez, who died on March 5 after a two-year battle with cancer, has been especially acrimonious, with both sides spouting harsh language and personal insults.

At stake is control of the world's largest oil reserves, economic aid to a host of left-leaning governments in Latin America, and the future of what Chavez called "21st century socialism," a mix of hard-left politics, generous government spending on the poor and state control over the economy.

The Maduro camp has relentlessly accused Capriles of being a spoiled rich kid who plans to dismantle the oil-funded social welfare programs that made Chavez a hero to the poor, a claim the opposition has repeatedly denied.

For his part, Capriles has described Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver, as a "poor imitation" of Chavez and a political novice without a plan to address problems such as rampant violent crime, high inflation and a slowing economy.

To be sure, both candidates have offered few specifics on the policies they would adopt as president, leaving many Venezuelans to lament the lack of a serious political debate.

"We haven't talked seriously about the grave problems in our economy. We don't really know how we are going to solve the crime problem. We haven't discussed the militia, education, or our crumbling infrastructure," wrote Juan Nagel, a contributor to the Caracas Chronicles, a prominent political blog that sympathizes with the opposition.

Polls open on Sunday at 6 a.m. (1030 GMT) and voting will run until 6 p.m. (2230 GMT), though it could drag on later if there are still lines. Results are expected on Sunday night.

(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Xavier Briand)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

CEO Jagan says BRDB projects provide the ‘good life’ for clients

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 01:55 AM PDT

THE phone rang. The caller wanted to buy into BRDB's Emerald Bay in Puteri Harbour, Iskandar Malaysia in southern Johor.

"May I call you back in a while?" Datuk Jagan Sabapathy asks. The chief executive officer of BRDB himself is his own salesman.

Now here is a poser. Between Iskandar and Kuala Lumpur, which will represent a better choice? he asks.

Kuala Lumpur! Came the reply.

Jagan gave a thoughtful look.

"Wherever you buy, KL or Johor, you have to buy well, look at the location, developer and long-term objective of the developer in the area and consider your own objective," he says.

Jagan is trained in accountancy and finance. But the form and feel of the properties that the company has launched is very much driven by Jagan himself, says an employee.

"He lives the good life, having lived abroad and travelled well. He knows what the people want," the employee says.

Whether one buys into KL or Seri Kembangan, there is an aspirational element to any property purchase. People buy based on aspirations, he says.

The venue of the interview, the Serai show unit in BRDB's sales gallery in Bangsar, is itself a lesson in luxury. There is a serenity and an aspirational quality about the place. Serai is today more than 80% sold.

"It is 120 units on 2.5 ha and you have your own lift lobby. You have your own privacy in large public spaces and it is so central," he says.

It represents the good life and everybody aspires to have a good life, he says.

How do you build that cosmopolitan element? he asks. He answers his own question.

"It is one of the intangibles. La Dolce Vita (Italian for the sweet life or the good life)," he says.

He concludes his analysis of the different elements of a BRDB project: "(You must buy into) a project will provide you with a good life."

Between this and next year, BRDB will be launching Emerald Bay, a 111-acre RM2.5bil waterfront project in Puteri Harbour, to be developed over eight years. In the cool elegance of the Serai show unit,

"It will have a worldwide appeal with a combination of landed, townhouses, semi-detached units, bungalow and low and high-rise condominiums. I don't think people will want to buy into a place in Johor and so Emerald Bay will have a sense of place.

"There will be a lot of tropical elements, tropical architecture. It will not resemble... (he names a place in another country). It will not just be another waterfront project. It must have a sense of place, because whoever buys into it will want to come back to it, wherever and whoever they are. It will have the Wow!' factor," he muses..

While Emerald Bay is a dream, the more immediate launch will be Senja (which means dawn in Bahasa Malaysia), a 47-acre project in Bluwater in Seri Kembangan Selangor.

The RM800mil 40-acre project, tentatively scheduled for a July launch comprises 278 units of link villas, semi-detached units, detached units and bungalows. The built-up areas will range from 3,250 sq ft to 5,600 sq ft in a gated and guarded environment with pool, gym, tennis and basketball courts, recreational parks and a 1.7-acre par course.

The entire community will be build around a lake.

There will be a huge upgraders' market in Seri Kembangan and Balakong, he says.

The project will also leverage on the nearby Australian International School of Malaysia and the Alice Smith International School.

"We will provide four-star price but deliver five-star value," he says.

That same template will be used in its 300-acre Rawang project where BRDB will be building another gated and guarded project near the town centre.

There are not much details yet about its Rawang project other than a double-storey link will be priced between RM700,000 and RM800,000.

"The lifestyle space is getting exciting!" he says.

Judge denies US$20m severance to outgoing AMR chief

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 08:03 PM PDT

NEW YORK: A judge has rejected a proposed severance package of nearly $20 million for Thomas Horton, the chairman and chief executive officer of American Airlines parent AMR Corp, saying the payout was not allowed under federal bankruptcy law.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane in Manhattan issued his decision on Thursday, after having approved at a March 27 hearing AMR's planned $11 billion merger with US Airways Group Inc .

Horton's $19.9 million severance had been part of the merger agreement and was to consist of equal amounts of cash and shares of the combined company.

Lane had suggested at the hearing that severance might be better addressed in AMR's reorganization plan, which the company has yet to submit and which requires creditor approval.

U.S. Trustee Tracy Hope Davis, a Department of Justice monitor for the bankruptcy, also opposed Horton's severance.

"It's American Airlines' current intention to address Mr. Horton's compensation arrangement in the plan of reorganization," said Mike Trevino, a spokesman for the carrier.

The combined company would be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker, with Horton as nonexecutive chairman. Parker would become chairman after the first annual shareholder meeting, probably in the spring of 2014.

The plan of reorganization will address how creditors will get paid back. Shareholders of AMR may end up with a stake of at 3.5 percent in the combined company, which an attorney for AMR's creditor's committee has said could be valued at between $350 million and $400 million.

Horton first joined AMR in 1985, left in 2002 for a four-year stint at AT&T Corp and then returned. He became CEO of AMR when it filed for bankruptcy in November 2011.

AMR at first opposed merging while still in bankruptcy, but reversed itself under pressure from creditors. The merger would create the world's largest airline, and AMR and US Airways hope to save more than $1 billion of annual costs by 2015.


Davis had called Horton's proposed payout too large relative to severance for nonmanagement workers, and improper because it was not part of a program for full-time workers in general.

Lane rejected AMR's argument that these restrictions did not apply because the payout would be made - or could be voided - by the combined company after the merger closed.

"It is unclear what purpose would be served by the court's approval of the severance if (the combined company) could later veto the severance through a vote of its board," he wrote.

The judge also said deferring to AMR's "business judgment" in allowing the payout was "exactly what Congress sought to prevent" in capping severance awards by companies in bankruptcy.

AMR has said the payment to Horton recognized his efforts in leading the company through bankruptcy and into the merger.

Its lawyer, Stephen Karotkin, told Lane on March 27 that the desire of AMR directors to maximize value and see the merger through justified payments to Horton and others.

The combined carrier would take the American name and be based in AMR's hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. US Airways is based in Tempe, Arizona.

The case is In re: AMR Corp et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-15463. - Reuters

United States puts Japan on notice in currency report

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 08:00 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration on Friday put Japan on notice that it was watching its economic policies to ensure they were not aimed at devaluing the yen to gain a competitive advantage.

In a semi-annual report on currency practices of major trade partners, the United States also said China's currency remained "significantly undervalued," but again stopped short of labelling the world's second-biggest economy a currency manipulator.

It has been more than 18 years since the U.S. Treasury has designated any country a manipulator. China was labelled a manipulator between 1992 and 1994.

The U.S. Treasury said it would press Japan to adhere to the commitment it made in February as a member of the Group of Seven and Group of 20 nations to let the market determine exchange rates. The U.S. move followed comments by Japanese officials that suggested they were targeting a weaker yen.

Treasury's report highlighted statements made by Japanese officials last year who said they wanted to "correct the excessively strong yen," and also some proposals to ease monetary policy by purchasing foreign bonds.

But since then, Japan has mostly avoided commenting on the yen and has not intervened in currency markets, according to the congressionally-mandated report.

"We will continue to press Japan to adhere to the commitments agreed to in the G7 and G20 ... and to refrain from competitive devaluation and targeting its exchange rate for competitive purposes," the report said.

The Treasury also said it was closely monitoring policies in Japan meant to support the growth of domestic demand. The Bank of Japan launched a massive bond-buying program earlier this month to try to shock the economy out of two decades of stagnation.

The policy has sharply undercut the value of the yen - ending the dollar to another four-year high against the Japanese currency on Thursday - and refuelled a debate about competitive devaluations.


The U.S. Treasury also said China did not meet the legal requirements to be deemed a currency manipulator, although Beijing controls the pace at which the yuan can rise by intervening in foreign exchange markets.

The label is largely symbolic, but would require Washington to open discussions with Beijing on adjusting the yuan's value. Many U.S. lawmakers have accused China of deliberately keeping the yuan undervalued to gain a trade advantage.

As in other reports over the last several years, the analysis on China reflected both the administration's desire to maintain good relations with its top creditor and an attempt to keep up pressure for changes in China that could benefit the U.S. economy and mollify domestic critics.

Efforts to take a stronger stance on China's currency moves have also faded due to an increase in the value of the yuan, a big drop in China's global trade surplus and a rise in labour costs that has made Chinese products less competitive.

The report said China had allowed the yuan to rise 16.2 percent against the dollar in inflation-adjusted terms since June 2010, when China moved off its exchange rate peg.

The yuan, also known as the renminbi, hit a record high against the dollar on Friday as China's central bank fixed its official midpoint for the currency at the strongest level yet ahead of a Beijing visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Nonetheless, the available evidence suggests the renminbi remains significantly undervalued, intervention appears to have resumed, and further appreciation of the renminbi against the dollar is warranted," Treasury said in a statement.

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin of Michigan, said "action is long overdue" on what he called serious problem.

"Currency manipulation needs to be addressed in ongoing trade negotiations, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks," he said in a statement, referring to an 11-nation Asia-Pacific free trade agreement that Japan is moving toward joining.

The United States also said it remains concerned that China's progress may not last. For example, China's trade surplus has narrowed not only due to a higher yuan, but also because of weak demand for Chinese exports in advanced economies, suggesting the trend may reverse once the global economy recovers more.

The U.S. Business and Industry Council condemned the currency report, and called on the Obama administration to use tariffs to punish China for manipulating the yuan.

"The Treasury Department's latest refusal to label China a currency manipulator once again demonstrates President Obama's deep-seated-indifference to a major, ongoing threat to American manufacturing's competitiveness, and to the U.S. economy's return to genuine health," the Council said in a statement.

As in the previous report, Treasury also kept the pressure on South Korea, urging it to limit foreign exchange intervention except in exceptional circumstances.

South Korea says it intervenes to smooth the volatility of its won currency. But Treasury said it had gone into the market throughout 2012. - Reuters


The Star Online: Sports

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Snedeker and Cabrera in tie for Masters lead

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 04:52 PM PDT

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Brandt Snedeker of the United States and Angel Cabrera of Argentina shared the lead at seven-under par 209 after the third round of the Masters on Saturday.

Snedeker opened on four under, two back from leader Jason Day of Australia, and he parred the first 12 holes before advancing with three birdies in four holes to get to seven under.

Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, also picked up three shots on the day, making a birdie at the last to finish, like Snedeker, with a three-under 69.

Day, who led the field by one overnight, looked set to join Snedeker and Cabrera in a three-way tie, but he missed short putts at the last two holes to slip back to five under.

That was one back of countryman Adam Scott (69), who was alone in third at six under.

A third Austraian, Marc Leishman, was level with Day at five under after a 72 with Matt Kuchar (69) alone on four under and South African Tim Clark on three under after a 67, the best round of the day.

Level with Clark was Tiger Woods, who was hit with a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop before the round started, but then clawed his back into contention at three under with a round of 70.

History is against him though as he has never won a major when not leading. or sharing the lead, going into the final round.

World number two Rory McIlroy, the winner of the previous major at the PGA Championship in August, shot himself out of the tournament with a 79 that included a triple bogey at the 11th and a double at the 15th to stand at five over.

"It's very disappointing. I feel like I was playing well and feel like I have been playing well coming in here and it's just a frustrating day here," said McIlroy, who has been struggling since the start of the year when he changed his golfing equipment.

The English challenge stuttered as Lee Westwood had a 73 to slip to two under, Justin Rose carded a 75 for level par and Luke Donald managed only a 75 to sink to two over.

Phil Mickelson's hopes were shattered as the three-time former winner slipped out to eight over with a 77, while defending champion Bubba Watson, out first alone, came in with a 70 to get to two over. -AFP

Fast finish puts penalty-hit Tiger in Masters hunt

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:14 PM PDT

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Tiger Woods fired a two-under par 70 in Saturday's third round of the Masters only hours after being hit with a two-stroke penalty, putting him in the hunt for his 15th career major crown.

Woods began a run of three birdies in four holes at the par-3 12th and made tense par putts on the last three holes to stand on three-under 213 after 54 holes at Augusta National Golf Club, where he has won four green jackets.

After a bogey at the par-4 11th, Woods birdied three of the next four holes, then made a sand save at the 16th, a tricky par putt at 17 and a 10-footer for par at the 18th after a bad tee shot.

"That was a nice one to make," Woods said of his last putt. "The last three saves were key and kept me in the tournmament."

Woods was four strokes off the lead when he reached the clubhouse with the leaders still finishing their third rounds, but the 14-time major champion has never won a major when he was not leading after 54 holes.

World number one Woods began the day with an early morning meeting with the Augusta National competition committee, which imposed the penalty on him for an improper drop at the par-5 15th hole in Friday's second round.

"I made a mistake. Under the rules of golf, I made an improper drop and I got a penalty," Woods said. "I'm abiding by the rules."

The committee had checked the drop and ruled it proper on Friday after a television viewer inquiry, but comments by Woods in a post-round television interview opened the door to reconsider the ruling.

After hitting the flagstick with his third shot at 15 on Friday and seeing his ball roll into a water hazard, Woods had said he dropped the ball two yards back from the original shot to avoid a similar risk on the next shot.

When Augusta National competition committee chairman Fred Ridley saw those remarks, the group reversed itself and imposed the penalty, but it would have been within its rights to disqualify Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard.

"Take the fact that it was Tiger out of the equation and it is a fair ruling," tweeted Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut. "Since it is him the debate begins about TV ratings etc etc." Ridley said Woods was treated like any other golfer.

"I thought (on Friday) Tiger had done his best to comply," Ridley said. "Other people may disagree with that. It was my decision.

"It would have been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him. If this had been John Smith from wherever he would have gotten the same ruling because it's the right ruling under the circumstances."

Instead, a rule change approved in 2011 governing such situations allowed for a two-stroke penalty rather than disqualification for a player who unknowingly makes a violation, which Ridley ruled Woods had done.

"It was certainly a distraction early with the routine but it's like anything, it happens and you move on," Woods said. "I was ready to play come game time."

The ruling sparked furious comments from former players who were accustomed to players withdrawing themselves if they found they had made a violation, none moreso than three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo of England.

"He should really sit down and think about this and the mark this will leave on his career, his legacy, everything," Faldo said on The Golf Channel.

"It's just dreadful. Tiger is judge and jury on this. There is absolutely no intention to drop as close to the divot. That's a breach of the rules."

Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open and has not won the Masters since capturing his fourth green jacket in 2005.

The spectre raised of Woods winning on Sunday and having a tainted victory as he tries to catch or pass Nicklaus was raised by commentators.

"This is a flagrant, obvious violation," retired player Brandel Chamblee said. "If Tiger has read the rule it is incumbent on him to say he is in violation and disqualify himself. Anything else is unacceptable."

Faldo, however, backed off his comments in Masters TV coverage, saying, "We're in a new era under new rules. Even if they bring some controversy, we're playing under new rules. Some of the old pros like myself, we have to accept that now."

Ridley noted that the US PGA and European tours and the US and Royal and Ancient Golf Associations were notified of the decision and supported it.

"I'm pleased the governing bodies and the tours are behind our decision because I think it's a good decision," Ridley said. "I can't really control what the perception might or might not be." -AFP

England’s Jackson lands his first ADT title in Johor

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 04:15 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: England's Grant Jackson carded a final round one-under 71 to win the PGM Maybank Johor Masters – his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title – at the Johor Country Club.

Jackson capitalised on his course record of 64 in the penultimate round for a four-day total of 17-under 271 and a four-stroke win in the RM200,000 event.

Local hope R. Nachimuthu and Venezuelan Womer Murillo finished joint second on 275.

Yesterday, Nachimuthu charged up the leaderboard with a 68 while Murillo, making his ADT debut, carded a 72.

Reigning PGM Tour Order of Merit winner Nicholas Fung carded a 71 to finish fourth – five shots behind Jackson.

Jackson, who finished seventh on the ADT Order of Merit last year, credited his victory to a new putter and to his golf coach in Thailand.

"This means everything to me. It's the only reason why I'm playing on the ADT as I want to try to finish in the top three (on the Order of Merit) to get the Asian Tour card," said the Englishman.

"This is a nice change as I've been knocking on the door for quite a bit. The change in putter and working with a coach in Thailand have really helped my game. I wish I had made those changes earlier."

He earned US$11,315 for his victory – propelling him to second place on the Order of Merit behind James Bowen of the United States.

Jackson also received six Official World Golf Ranking points for his triumph.

Murillo, the leader on day two, rued missing out on winning his first career title after making 11 straight pars from the eighth hole.

"The greens were of different pace today ... I guess I was a bit anxious in trying to get the win. I hit good and bad shots and missed some birdie opportunities," he said.

"Still, I'm happy with second place. Grant held himself well and played solid."


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RM1.6mil approved for Karak water plant upgrade

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:51 AM PDT

BENTONG: A total of RM1.6mil has been approved to improve the water treatment plant in Karak to curb water shortage.

"This is a short-term solution to ensure residents of Karak do not face any water disruption," said Bentong MP Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai after meeting residents of Taman Hijau in Karak on Saturday.

He said he was aware that the plant built in the 1960s was not able to meet the needs of Karak now.

"People here need 1.4 million gallons (5.2 million litres) of water a day but the plant is only able to supply one million gallons (3.7 million litres) a day,'' he said, noting that water from Bentong is being channelled to Karak.

Liow said the Government had approved RM2mil to conduct an in-depth study as it wanted to build a new water treatment plant costing RM53mil.

"This new plant will be able to supply water for 10 years to come," he added.

He said the plant would benefit the people and help further develop Karak.

Liow said the study would also determine a suitable and strategic location for the plant.

Lahad Datu: Special medal for security forces, govt agencies involved in Ops Daulat, says PM

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:50 AM PDT

LAHAD DATU: The government has agreed to create a special award (medal), Pingat Kedaulatan Negara (PKN), in appreciation of the Malaysian security forces and government agencies involved in Ops Daulat.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the PKN could be given to any individual who served or was directly involved in Ops Daulat, aimed at fighting against the intrusion in Lahad Datu by militants from southern Philippines.

"This award is in recognition of the good deeds, bravery, service and sacrifices of members of the security forces as well as public servants involved in Ops Daulat.

"Therefore, today I symbolically present the award to some of those involved in the operation," he said in his speech at the Ops Daulat Appreciation ceremony, here, Saturday.

On injured members of the security forces in Ops Daulat, Najib said they would each be offered to purchase 50,000 units of Bank Rakyat shares.

He said Bank Rakyat had agreed to offer shares worth RM100,000 to each family affected by the tragedy of the Lahad Datu intrusion.

"With the dividends paid out by Bank Rakyat at 15 percent per annum and the bonus, each family will receive 15,000 units per annum or RM1,250 per month.

"And if they take out a housing loan of RM300,000 to RM400,000, the amount is sufficient to pay for the monthly instalment."

Najib said Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia had, meanwhile, given out RM1.5mil worth of aid to the Felda Sahabat land scheme settlers.

"For the 26 families who lost their homes or their houses were damaged, the Yayasan 1MDB has allocated RM2mil to assist them," he added.

At the event, the Kelab Putera 1Malaysia also gave 9,100 ration packs to be distributed to members of the security forces, Rela and Civil Defence Department. - Bernama

Longest underwater cleanup in Sabah makes it into the World Guinness Records

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:48 AM PDT

KINABALU: A new record has been officially set in the World Guinness Records Astro Kasih's longest underwater cleanup in Sabah's Tungku Abdul Rahman marine park which ran for 168 consecutive hours that ended at 8.30am March 13.

Local and international divers who successfully completed Astro Kasih's longest underwater cleanup and helped made it into the World Guinness Records with a total of 3,171kg of trash collected were however surprised by the amount of rubbish picked up during the duration.

Amazed by the beautiful beaches and rich marine life Sabah sea has to offer, British diver Krystle Stevens said she was proud to be part of the effort which helped clean the sea up, but was saddened by the fact that there were some people who were uninterested in preserving it.

"It has been a tiring but fulfilling week as we have finally completed this effort and helped make it into the World Guinness record but I was really saddened to see so much rubbish especially at dive sites near settlements within the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park," she said.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said this has been a fact said and documented many times, and would not be improved unless people changed their habits.

"Although proud to see Sabah being elevated to the eyes of the world with the record set today, I am still sad to hear that our visitors too feel that we could have done more on our part to help keep our sea clean," he said after witnessing the record from Guinness World Record adjudicator Kirsty Bennet to Astro Chief Executive Officer Datuk Rohana Rozhan on Saturday.

A total of 139 divers from all over the world took part in the challenge which lasted for a total of 168 hours and 38 minutes since April 6, whereby participants were required to dive consecutively taking turns from one team to the other picking rubbish without breaking it for a second.

A total of 1,526kg of plastics, 140.44kg of glass and ceramics, 318.36kg of metal and 335.84kg of rubber and cloth, among others, were picked up in the attempt.

In this respect, Rohana said she chose Sabah as the location for this challenge not only because of the unique and rich natural resources it has, but also because Sabah is the place where she grew up in for the first 10 years of her life.

"Sabah is also chosen because it has some of the most beautiful dive sites and because there is so much that we can do here," she said.


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Posted: 12 Apr 2013 04:47 PM PDT

Start-up Guide for the Technopreneur + Website
Author: David Shelters
Publisher: Wiley & Sons

Having advised numerous tech start-ups in the US and Asia, the author puts the elements of finance and strategy in proper perspective to help readers avoid the dangers inherent in business start-ups in general, and to deal with the realm of venture capital in particular. He writes about crafting a business plan, raising funds and formulating overall financial strategy for your business

HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press

One of the most crucial thing about those in middle management is managing their working relationships. There is a need to manage up and across if one is to achieve one's goals and be happy in an organisation. So, building relationships is important. It helps you to reach your targets, meet your deadlines and nurture a happier working relationship.

The Boy Billionaire: Mark Zuckerberg in his own words
Edited by George Beahm
Publisher: B2 Books

A compilation of Mark Zuckerberg's quotes from interviews, public statements and media coverage. Considered one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in our era, the Facebook creator's quotes are divided into the different phases of his life, beginning from personal to his college days, starting out the Facebook and moves on his views about life, values and career.

Adaptation in the working world

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 04:45 PM PDT

The Finch Effect
Author: Nacie Carson
Publisher: Jossey-Bass

IF you're reading this part of the newspaper, you are probably grimly aware that today's working world is faster, more unpredictable, and less forgiving than ever before. Basically, we live in times of unprecedented flux.

But people are inherently averse to change; we fight and resent it, because we are afraid of the unknowns that change will unleash. Yet surviving in the current environment requires us to embrace a very specific type of inner change: adaptation.

According to Nacie Carson, professional development expert and author of The Finch Effect, adaptation and change are not synonyms. Adaptation implies a conscious response to shifts in the environment. In other words, it is the change that we are able to control.

The title of her book comes from an observation of Origin Of Species legend Charles Darwin. Darwin noticed that the beaks of each generation of Galapagos Island finches changed to accommodate shifting food resources, allowing the birds to survive by adapting their capabilities to the new environment. And is the central thesis of Carson 's rather clever book.

We're all going to have to adapt to survive. In the post-crisis economy, traditional career strategies spell professional extinction, but the fluid new "gig economy" offers tremendous potential for anyone willing to adapt.

Based on her popular blog and drawing on her leadership development experience, Nacie Carson explains what it takes to make it in today's world of work. And she outlines and explains five steps for ensuring professional success: adopt a gig mindset; identify your value; cultivate your skills; nurture your social network; and harness your entrepreneurial energy

The Finch Effect offers the information professionals need to earn big, achieve their potential, and remain at the top of the work food chain.

"The collision of chronically high unemployment with an expanding global workforce (among other factors) has turned the job market into an ongoing survival-of-the-fittest scenario where professionals have a clear choice: evolve their careers or risk career extinction." That's the problem, as spelled out in Chapter One. The solution is lucidly presented by Carson .

After conducting over 100 interviews with working individuals -- workers who had found a way to improve their careers even in the face of recession -- Carson realized that the common theme of the conversations was adaptation. Being agile, flexible, and open -- that is, being adaptable -- might be one of the most important professional skills, capable of saving our careers from stagnation and finding new opportunities in any economic paradigm.

Adaptability starts with its more basic element: career ownership. Owning your career means internalizing the attitude that puts you in control of everything what happens with your professional life. If you feel that you are in charge, external changes will not shatter and collapse your world, but rather be seen as an opportunity to re-consider and change strategy.

Thus, increasing your adaptability will help to build a stronger definition of professional self and move forward under any circumstances. However, career ownership also implies greater responsibility for the outcomes, both good and bad.

Such responsibility can become more daunting than the actual necessity to change in response to external influences. Thus, it is important to recognize that things outside of your control will happen, but if you know where you are going and are ready to alter the plan based on circumstances, change becomes less scary.

Owning your career also creates empowerment, which makes us happier. This happiness comes with the feelings of capability, opportunity, and ability to handle whatever happens next: good or bad. If you feel being in control, worry and anxiety will decrease, because these disruptive emotions arise from helplessness. Hopefully, such happiness will bring along enthusiasm, since adaptability means not only overcoming hurdles and dealing with problems, but also proactively using opportunities. Carson is convinced that increased adaptability means facing the future with excitement: it is open and unknown, but not no longer intimidating.

In addition to a marvelously insightful foreword from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, the book has much going for it. Three selling points stand out. Firstly, "specificity". This book is filled with specific, actionable suggestions and tips.

Secondly "inspiration". Carson has a wonderful and engaging voice. Never patronizing or defeatist, her realistic analysis of the changing job market and tips for adaptability, challenge, motivate and inspire the reader.

Finally, "versatility". The steps and advice presented in The Finch Effect are applicable to all ages and career paths. The anecdotes and examples provided show how different people have utilized these ideas and taken action to improve their careers and quality of life. It doesn't matter if you're 20-something techie with a start-up idea or 60-something apparently over-the-hill office-plodder, if you embrace constructive change, you will reap the rewards.

The Five Finch Effect Strategies

1. Adopt a gig mindset. This strategy is all about taking ownership of your career, creating your own career ladders to move your career forward. (The gig economy involves piecing together multiple jobs and projects rather than working in a full-time position with one employer; some experts refer to this strategy as Portfolio Careers.)

2. Identify your professional value. This strategy focuses on discovering, communicating, and leveraging the key personal and professional traits that help you stand out from other workers/job-seekers. One of the key tools for accomplishing this strategy is developing what Carson calls your adaptive professional brand (APB).

3. Cultivate your skills. This strategy is all about managing your professional development -- enhancing the key skills that comprise your brand and help differentiate you from others. Carson recommends working to improve your top 5 to 7 skills; then, choosing just one of those skills to refine and showcase as what she labels as your centerpiece skill. How do you upgrade your skills? Consider formal training, informal training or apprenticeships, and self-taught opportunities.

4. Nurture your social network. This strategy is about learning to communicate and grow your professional brand through social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If you have existing social-media accounts, the first step is to clean them up and refocus them on the brand you want to portray. Social media provide a great opportunity for both brand enhancement and networking, but a challenge, Carson reminds readers, is finding the right time-spent-to-rewards ratio.

5. Harness your entrepreneurial energy, taking ownership of your career. This strategy revolves around developing a creative approach to find and win new jobs, establish new income streams, and build the value of your brand. Carson states that the top professionals she spoke to understand that others may present you with opportunities, but that often, to best advance your career, you need to create them yourself.


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Metro Watch

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:39 AM PDT


Plaza Low Yat is back with their 4th ICT Carnival's "Buy, Dip, Buy" event held this weekend at the concourse area from 10am to 10pm. For IT gadget lovers, this is a golden chance to acquire IT products offered at discounts up to 70% off. To be eligible for the "Buy, Dip, Buy" promo, customers need to spend a minimum of RM150 in a single receipt or any combined receipts from any outlets in Plaza Low Yat, Federal Hotel Arcade and BB Park. For details, visit


The Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields conducts a Feeding the Needy programme every Sunday evening at 5.45pm at the open air car park between Bursa Malaysia and Menara Maybank in Kuala Lumpur. Food, bread and drinks are distributed to the homeless gathered there. For details, visit, contact the Vihara Office at 03-22741141, or email


A basic photography workshop for teenagers will be held tomorrow from 1pm to 3.30pm at Wisma Kebudayaan SGM, 43, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Participants will learn to observe their surroundings, and how to compose images and some basic camera functions. Registration is free and open to those aged 13 to 17. 20 seats are available, on a first come first serve basis. Participants should bring their own DSLR or compact camera. For registration and enquiries, call 012-289 7708 (K'vin Yim).


Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) will be having an open day session this weekend from 9.30am to 5.30pm at Utar Sungai Long Campus, Jalan Sungai Long, Kajang. Talks on programmes and PTPTN loans, student projects and art showcases, campus tour and academic counselling will be available. For details, call 03-7958 2628 ext 7153/ 8281/ 8553, email or visit


Cetdem (Centre for Environment, Technology & Development, Malaysia) is having a composting class on "How to Turn your Kitchen Waste into Compost" tomorrow from 9.30am to 11.30am at Cetdem Organic Farming Community Centre, No. 29, Jalan 19/15, Petaling Jaya. For details, call 03-7875 7767/ 016-219 5826 or visit


Taman Bukit Maluri Residents Association (TMBRA) is organising a free medical check-up and health talk by healthcare speakers on nutrition and diet. It will be held tomorrow from 10am to 3.30pm at Dewan TBMRA, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. For enquiries, call either 012-329 4873 (Ng) or 012-213 3161 (Lim).


Bangsa Ria Centre for Special Children is organising its annual jumble sale on April 28 from 10am-5pm at its premises in No 40, Jalan 12/14, Petaling Jaya. For details, call 03-7960 0560.

Pupil chalks up back-to-back victory to secure top spot

Posted: 13 Apr 2013 06:35 AM PDT

FAVOURITE Natasha Andrea Oon of Kuala Lumpur retained her national schools (MSSM) girls' Under-12 title at the Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, over the recent week-long school holiday.

And the Sri Cempaka, Damansara Heights pupil chalked up her back-to-back victory in convincing fashion.

Following her courageous fight-back to secure the top spot in her age-group at the MSSM last season, Natasha flexed her domination as she led from start to finish.

En route to victory, Natasha carded a 22-over 238 (77-78-83) after three rounds of 18 holes.

She got off to a good start with a healthy five-stroke lead after the opening round on the par-72 course and went on to stretch her advantage to 11 strokes on penultimate day.

"Going into the competition, I knew that I was one of the serious medal contenders. I did not feel the pressure but it was a totally different feeling staying at the top in maintaining my position. It was a perfect opportunity for me to adjust to the demands and take on the challenges as the leader of the pack," she added.

Despite reducing her winning advantage to four strokes in the decisive final round, Natasha did enough to protect her top spot.

"After a consistent display in the second round, I was on the right track to defend the title. I was confident that I was getting closer to accomplishing my goal of bagging the gold medal again. On the final day, I could hardly get my game going and struggled especially with the important second shot in directing the ball to stay on the green. Although it was a poor 11-over effort for the final round, I am glad to walk away with the win," she said.

Natasha completed her fruitful outing with a birdie at the par-five 14th hole from the second round and repeated a similar feat in the third round.

Natasha, who trains under the care of Lim Siew Ai at the Impact Elite Academy, said it was a great experience to tackle the scenic course for the first time.

"I had two practice rounds and a day of rest before the tournament. I had the impression that it was going to be tough to overcome the long and narrow fairways. Soaking up the tranquil atmosphere around the course was an added bonus for competing there," she added.


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