Jumaat, 26 April 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Obama talks tough, shows no rush to act on Syria chemical arms evidence

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 06:08 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned Syria on Friday that its use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer" for the United States but made clear he was in no rush to intervene in the civil war there on the basis of evidence he said was still preliminary.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Jordan's King Abdullah await questions from the press prior to a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House to discuss issues like the Syrian crisis and regional security, in Washington, April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Jordan's King Abdullah await questions from the press prior to a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House to discuss issues like the Syrian crisis and regional security, in Washington, April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Speaking a day after the disclosure of U.S. intelligence that Syria had likely used chemical weapons against its own people, Obama talked tough while calling for patience as he sought to fend off pressure for a swift response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Horrific as it is when mortars are being fired on civilians and people are being indiscriminately killed, to use potential weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line with respect to international norms and international law," Obama told reporters at the White House as he began talks with Jordan's King Abdullah.

"That is going to be a game changer," he said. But Obama stopped short of declaring that Assad had crossed "a red line" and described the U.S. intelligence evaluations as "a preliminary assessment."

While some more hawkish lawmakers have called for a U.S. military response and for the arming of anti-Assad rebels, several leading congressional voices urged a calmer approach after Secretary of State John Kerry briefed them.

"This is not Libya," said Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, referring to the relative ease with which a NATO bombing campaign helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. "The Syrians have anti-aircraft capability that makes going in there much more challenging."

U.S. officials said on Thursday the intelligence community believes with varying degrees of confidence that Assad's forces used the nerve agent sarin on a small scale against rebel fighters.

Obama had warned earlier that deployment of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would trigger unspecified consequences, widely interpreted to include possible U.S. military action.

Aides have insisted that the Democratic president will need all the facts before he deciding on action, making clear it is mindful of the lessons of the start of the Iraq war more than a decade ago.

Then, the Republican administration of President George W. Bush used inaccurate intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq in pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that turned out not to exist.

Syria denies using chemical weapons in the two-year-old conflict in which more than 70,000 people have been killed.


Ghassan Hitto, the Syrian opposition's elected interim prime minister, said in an interview with CBS television that the opposition needed a no-fly zone, surgical air strikes, and the establishment of safe passages from the U.S. government so aid could be delivered to the Syrian people more effectively.

"We are certain that this regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people," he said.

"We are not asking for boots on the ground. We are not asking for any U.S. soldiers or any British soldiers or any foreign soldiers to come in and put their lives at risk."

U.S. officials said the evaluation that Syria probably used chemical weapons was based in part on "physiological" samples but have refused to say exactly where they came from or who supplied the material.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the evidence so far of Syrian chemical weapons use was not an "airtight case" and declined to set a deadline for corroborating reports.

Obama and his aides also appeared intent on deflecting pressure for swift action by stressing the need for a comprehensive U.N. investigation on the ground in Syria - something Assad has blocked from going forward.

The United States has resisted being dragged militarily into Syria's conflict and is providing only non-lethal aid to rebels trying to overthrow Assad. Washington is worried that weapons supplied to the rebels could end up in the hands of al Qaeda-linked fighters.

But acknowledgment of the U.S. intelligence assessment appeared to move the United States closer - at least rhetorically - to some sort of action in Syria, military or otherwise.

Carney said Obama would consider a range of options, should it be determined that Syria has used chemical weapons.

"It's important to remember that there are options available to a commander in chief in a situation like this that include but are not exclusive to that option," he said.

Some U.S. experts warn that Obama risks further emboldening Assad if he acts too slowly or not all, but the White House must also keep in mind polls showing most Americans, weary of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are against new military entanglements.

As a result, Obama is unlikely to turn to military options quickly or without allies joining him.

Those options vary from limited one-off missile strikes, perhaps one of the least complicated scenarios, to more bold operations like carving out no-fly, "safe zones." One grim scenario envisions sending tens of thousands of U.S. forces to help secure the chemical weapons.


Current and former U.S. officials see little chance of achieving success through the two main diplomatic options: persuading Russia to increase pressure on Syria at the U.N. Security Council, or pressuring Assad to negotiate his own departure.

"There is no evidence of any interest on the part of Assad, who seems to think Iran and Hezbollah and Russia can pull his chestnuts out of the fire," said Fred Hof, who was a top State Department official working on Syria until September.

The Obama administration's sudden disclosure of its chemical weapons findings came just two days after it played down an Israeli assessment that there had been repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria. France and Britain have also concluded that evidence suggests chemical arms have been used.

It is unclear why the Obama administration changed its mind so quickly this week.

Weapons inspectors will determine whether banned chemical agents were used only if they are able to access sites and take soil, blood, urine or tissue samples and examine them in certified laboratories, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which works with the United Nations on inspections.

Assertions of chemical weapon use in Syria by Western and Israeli officials citing photos, sporadic shelling and traces of toxins do not meet the standard of proof needed for a U.N. team of experts waiting to gather their own field evidence, the organization said.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Mark Felsenthal, Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle, Phil Stewart, Xavier Briand and Peter Apps in Washington and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Alistair Bell and Mohammad Zargham)

Related Stories:
Factbox - What is the chemical weapon sarin?

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

"Evidence" of Syria chemical weapons use not up to U.N. standard

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 04:52 PM PDT

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Assertions of chemical weapon use in Syria by Western and Israeli officials citing photos, sporadic shelling and traces of toxins do not meet the standard of proof needed for a U.N. team of experts waiting to gather their own field evidence.

A boy shout slogans as a shoe hangs on the picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad behind him ,during a protest against al-Assad after Friday prayers in Raqqa province, east Syria April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Nour Kelze

A boy shout slogans as a shoe hangs on the picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad behind him ,during a protest against al-Assad after Friday prayers in Raqqa province, east Syria April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Nour Kelze

Weapons inspectors will only determine whether banned chemical agents were used in the two-year-old conflict if they are able to access sites and take soil, blood, urine or tissue samples and examine them in certified laboratories, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which works with the United Nations on inspections.

That type of evidence, needed to show definitively if banned chemicals were found, has not been presented by governments and intelligence agencies accusing Syria of using chemical weapons against insurgents.

"This is the only basis on which the OPCW would provide a formal assessment of whether chemical weapons have been used," said Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Hague-based OPCW.

With Syria blocking the U.N. mission, it is unlikely they will gain that type of access any time soon.

The head of the U.N. inspection mission, Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, will meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Monday.

The United Nations wrote to the Syrian government again on Thursday to push for unconditional and unfettered access for the U.N. investigators, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters on Friday.

"The Secretary-General urges the Syrian government to respond swiftly and favourably so that this mission can carry out its work in Syria," Nesirky said. "You need to be able to go into Syria to be able to do that investigation properly."

"In the meantime the members of that team have been collating and analyzing the evidence and information that is available to date from outside," he said, adding that there was a concern "about the degradation of evidence" within Syria.

The White House on Thursday said the U.S. intelligence community has assessed with varying degrees of confidence that the chemical agent sarin was used by forces allied with President Bashar al-Assad. But it noted that "the chain of custody is not clear."


The Israeli military this week suggested Syrian forces used sarin and showed reporters pictures of a body with symptoms indicating the nerve gas was the cause of death.

Ralf Trapp, an independent consultant on chemical and biological weapons control, said, "There is a limit to what you can extract from photograph evidence alone. What you really need is to get information from on the ground, to gather physical evidence and to talk to witnesses as well as medical staff who treated victims."

Sarin is a fast-acting nerve agent that was originally developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide. It is a clear, colourless, tasteless and odourless liquid that can evaporate quickly into a gas and spread into the environment, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin presents an immediate but short-lived threat.

Sean Kaufman of the Centre for Public Health Preparedness and Research at Emory University, a former biodefense expert for the CDC, said people who have been exposed to sarin most typically die or recover fully. Testing for sarin, he said, requires access to the environment where the nerve agent was used or the clothing of someone who was exposed.

The White House, which has called the use of chemicals weapons in Syria a "red line" for possible military intervention, said its assessment was partly based on "physiological" samples. But a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity declined to detail the evidence. It is unclear who supplied it.

Even if samples were made available to the OPCW by those making the assertions, the organisation could not use them.

"The OPCW would never get involved in testing samples that our own inspectors don't gather in the field because we need to maintain chain of custody of samples from the field to the lab to ensure their integrity," said Luhan.

Established to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the use of toxic agents in warfare, the OPCW has exhaustive rules on how inspectors collect and handle evidence, starting with the sealing of a site like a crime scene.

Multiple samples must be taken and there need to be "blank" samples from unexposed matter and tissue, to set a baseline against which levels of contamination could be determined.

The samples would be split, sealed and flown in dark, cooled air transports to up to three certified laboratories, including one at the OPCW's headquarters in The Hague.

A team of 15 experts, put together in response to a request from the U.N. Secretary General to investigate the claims, has been on standby in Cyprus for nearly three weeks.

Headed by Sellstrom, it includes analytical chemists and World Health Organisation experts on the medical effects of exposure to toxins.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Giles Elgood, Mary Milliken and Cynthia Osterman)

Related Stories:
Turkey says chemical arms use would escalate Syria crisis

Factbox - What is the chemical weapon sarin?

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Islamist says Egypt should press on with judge reforms

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 04:06 PM PDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament must move quickly to adopt judicial reforms that have sparked a revolt by judges, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm argued on Friday.

A burnt police car that was set on fire by protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi during clashes with riot police at a rally in support of the judiciary, is seen in front of El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

A burnt police car that was set on fire by protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi during clashes with riot police at a rally in support of the judiciary, is seen in front of El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The proposed reforms, which would get rid of more than 3,000 judges by lowering the retirement age, have widened the rift between President Mohamed Mursi's government and a judiciary seen by its critics as a last bastion of the old regime that was toppled in the 2011 revolution.

Essam el-Erian, a member of parliament from the Freedom and Justice Party which dominates the legislature, said in a Facebook post that passage of a new law defining the powers of the judiciary should not be delayed.

He said the upper house had the legal authority to do this - something the opposition disputes. The lower chamber was dissolved by court ruling last year and Mursi has said new elections could be held in October.

More than two years after the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is still beset by political turmoil and street violence has contributed to a severe economic crisis by scaring off tourists and foreign investors.

Dozens of masked young men threw petrol bombs and stones in an attempt to break into Mursi's palace in Cairo late on Friday, state news agency MENA reported.

It said members of the black-clad anti-government group known as the Black Bloc were present but that the police fired tear gas to force the small group to disperse. A car was set on fire outside the palace, footage from satellite news channel Al Jazeera's Egypt station showed.

A heavy police presence reinforced the palace's perimeter after nightfall. The police used trucks to block off streets near the palace, preventing protesters from approaching.

Twelve people were arrested on Friday night in connection with the clashes, MENA reported, citing an unnamed security source.

Outside the High Court, which was the scene of clashes last week between Islamist protesters and their opponents, a small crowd of demonstrators gathered earlier on Friday to chant for the judiciary's independence. Islamist parties postponed their latest round of protests calling for it to be purged.

A senior official of Egypt's biggest hardline Islamist party on Friday rejected the reforms under consideration. Abdullah Badran of the Nour Party wrote on Facebook that the constitution required greater consultation with the judiciary.

Separately, a judge who served as the head of the embattled constitution-drafting body said reforms should be postponed until after a new parliament is elected, MENA reported.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Sandra Maler)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Documentary looks into controversies surrounding Oscar Pistorius' case

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 01:09 AM PDT

Did Oscar Pistorius kill his girlfriend in a crime of passion? Or was it a freak accident? A new documentary takes a deeper look into this compelling case.

IT was a story straight out of a summer blockbuster: Oscar Pistorius' stellar rise to fame after overcoming a personal adversity came crushing down when he was arrested for killing his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

He allegedly fired four shots through a locked bathroom door, three of which hit and killed Steenkamp. According to Pistorius, he thought an intruder had entered his home which was why he fired the shots. Prosecutors think there's more to the story.

For now, the script remains unresolved and millions of people are waiting with bated breath for the next chapter. The question that needed answer: was it cold-blooded, premeditated murder or a terrible heartbreaking accident?

In an attempt to shed some light on the incident, a documentary entitled Oscar Pistorius: What Really Happened? will be screened for the first time in Asia, on Life Inspired tomorrow at 9.30pm. Presented by British television personality Rick Edwards, who has met Oscar Pistorius several times, this 90-minute show features fresh information, unseen footage and new interviews with some of the friends and family of Pistorius and Steenkamp, as well as those close to the case.

But first, a little bit about Pistorius. In his article Pistorius And South Africa's Culture Of Violence for Time Magazine, Alex Perry wrote, "Cool, handsome and impeccably dressed in appearances on magazine covers and billboards the world over, he forever altered perceptions of the disabled and even altered the word's meaning – an ambition Pistorius encapsulated in his mantra: 'You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are abled by the abilities you have.'"

Pistorius was born without a fibula in either leg, and both were amputated before his first birthday. Using prosthetics, he went on to play able-bodied sports at Pretoria Boys High School, one of South Africa's most prestigious private schools. A knee injury, however, forced him to switch to carbon-fibre blades attached to his knees. He began running for recovery, clocking in astonishing times while at it.

In the documentary, veteran journalist and broadcaster Graham Joffe described Pistorius as a remarkable teenager who didn't let his disability get the best of him: "I met him for the first time probably 10 years ago, it was soon after his mother passed away. (Here is) this incredible humble kid who had the world at his feet, amazing kid, just full of drive, the positiveness. I was just, in awe of him."

But Joffe, who has covered the athlete's impressive career trajectory over the years, claimed the "real" Pistorius gradually changed – for the worse.

"Sadly, I think as more fame, success and money came into his life, I saw a very different Oscar," he said.

Joffe added: "There were signs. In the last five years, there were incidents that have happened, things that felt like the bubble was about to burst."

If the interviews were anything to go by, it's that Pistorius had his own inner demons to deal with.

Marc Batchelor, a South African footballer, also revealed in the documentary that Pistorius threatened to break his legs in an argument over one of Pistorius' ex-girlfriends. Pistorius, who Batchelor described as drunk, started yelling and swearing over the phone.

"He has a dark side. He gets ragey, he gets incensed. He gets violent ... I think when he was in front of everybody, he was the golden boy. He said the right thing to the right people. He won hearts like that. I think maybe he thought he was untouchable."

And untouchable he was, at least as an athlete. In 2012, the Blade Runner – as he is now known – became the first double-amputee to participate, and emerge victorious, in the 2012 Paralympics. He began dating Steenkamp shortly after, in November that year.

The striking, platinum-haired law school graduate was an up-an-coming star in South Africa, appearing on the cover of FHM and was the face of Avon Cosmetics. She was also gearing up for her debut on television in the reality show Tropika Island Of Treasure.

"Reeva, she was bit feisty," said Batchelor. "If he gave her a mouthful, she'd have given it back. He's a control freak. With his girls, he had to control things."

But there were a few things that were beyond Pistorius' control, including Steenkamp's friendly relationship with her ex-boyfriend, South African rugby star Francois Hougaard. It is believed that on the night she was murdered, Steenkamp had received a text message from Hougaard. It is alleged that Pistorius found out about the message.

But their love life was not a bed of roses. Police claimed they had attended to complaints of domestic violence at Pistorius' apartment on several occasions before Steenkamp's untimely death.

Pepi Dimevski, who did two of Steenkamp's tattoos, was captured in the documentary as saying he was worried about her relationship with Pistorius: "I thought, 'What's she doing with Oscar?'"

The last time he saw the couple together was at a friend's engagement party. "I think he was the only person drunk in there," said Dimevski.

There is the view that for Pistorius, life after the London Olympics was never the same because there was nothing left to achieve.

And then the Feb 14 tragedy happened.

According to Pistorius, the couple of three months had opted to stay in for a quiet dinner. About 10pm, they went to the bedroom, where he watched TV with his prosthetic legs off while she did yoga before they turned in. After a quick succession of events – noise, gunshots, mayhem – that saw Steemkamp lying in the bathroom bleeding to death, Pistorius called his best friend Justin Divaris.

Divaris recounted the incident in the documentary: "He said to me there's been a terrible accident. Reeva's been shot."

Divaris, who lives in Johannesburg, said it took him 40 minutes to get to Pretoria, where Pistorius resides.

"By the time I got there, there was a lot of police. The ambulance had already come and gone, it was really a crime scene, I wasn't allowed in the house, the door was open and I could see her lying at the bottom of the stairs covered in blankets, covered in towels."

Divaris claimed Pistorius was traumatised by what he had done.

"Oscar had been detained in the garage. They allowed me access to the garage to speak to him. He was totally incoherent, he just kept saying, 'I've killed my baby'. He was sobbing the whole time."

But at the hearing, prosecutors painted Pistorius as a ruthless murderer. Steenkamp had allegedly cowered terrified behind the locked door of an enclosed toilet after a quarrel. As Pistorius strapped on his prosthetic legs, he grabbed his pistol, strode seven yards to the door and fired four times through it in cold blood.

There is also the claim that banned steroids were found in his home after the incident. If these reports are true, the fall-out is potentially enormous. Will the Blade Runner be able to outrun a controversy this time? Only time will tell.

Tune in to Oscar Pistorius: What Really Happened? on Life Inspired (Astro Ch 728) tomorrow at 9.30pm.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Business opportunity dictates

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 06:07 PM PDT

The unique thing about Air France's offering on the KL-Paris route is that it has four classes of seating – First, Business, Economy and premium economy. The latter is a class not many airlines offer. It is a bit more expensive than economy but cheaper than business, and a lot roomier than economy.

But still Alexandre de Juniac (pic), the face behind Air France, wants to check out what competition offers on the route. The only direct competitor is Malaysia Airlines (MAS) which uses an A380 for its KL-Paris route.

De Juniac touched down on Tuesday on the first Air France flight into KLIA, and on Wednesday night flew out on a MAS A380. The head honco of Air France also met up with StarBizWeek deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu for an interview. Below are the excepts.

Are you flying MAS on your way back?

Yes, I want to test out MAS. Don't forget I am also the (de facto) chief marketing officer of Air France and I want to try to take lessons from what I see.

They are using the A380 and I want to see how they arrange the cabin, the product and the service. They began using the A380 not long after we announced the KL-Paris route.

Two carriers on the same route. Is there really enough traffic for two?

That means there is a lot of traffic. Last year, over 100,000 French tourists came to Malaysia and thousands more from Amsterdam. With the Paris and Amsterdam link, people can now connect to any city in Europe.

The network is very dense. It is connecting to two hubs and we have a connection to every city in Europe. (Air France and KLM are part of the Air France-KLM airline group).

Malaysia is fast growing. Its industries are developing very fast from agriculture to pharmaceuticals and so many more. The country is growing and it is an interesting place for French businessmen, and the relationship between both countries is good. It is a trusting environment for business and tourism.

The return is after 20 years. Why?

It was UTA that flew to KL years ago, and then it stopped because it was a loss-making airline. Air France bought it in 1993 and it has moved forward again. We have opened many destinations in Asia. For instance, we decided last year to include KL among the destinations for our network, knowing that we already land in Singapore and Bangkok, which are not far away.

In fact, we were convinced we had missed something by not having the KL route on our network. It is now appropriate.

The second trigger for us to return is KLM. They have been flying here for many years. It (KLM) should be one of the oldest airlines flying here and we have bought them about 10 years ago.

So it was a double-reason. There is place for two of us and we decided to open the route in addition to KLM.

What loads are you expecting on the KL-Paris route?

KLM is almost 80%. It is a high load factor. It also serves Indonesia. Historically, Indonesia and the Netherlands have strong links. We aim to have loads of about 80%. Air France is starting with three weekly flights. When will you increase frequency?

When we see demand. According to our forecast, we could increase and it is much better to operate daily instead of three-times-a-week flights as operationally speaking, the latter is not the most convenient from the economic standpoint for the aircraft to wait on the tarmac but this is a start. It is good rhythm from thrice weekly to daily and many airlines do that.

Air France also flies to Bangkok and Singapore. How is it possible to have loads of above 80%?

The customer segmentation is different. For Bangkok, it is mostly tourist traffic and the aircraft that we operate has a larger economy class cabin. For Singapore, it is two types of traffic – connecting and transit traffic to Australia, Jakarta and also business traffic.

For KL, it is totally mixed traffic – leisure and business traffic. There is also a very active French community in Malaysia of over 3,000 people and many European companies are investing here. So, there is high potential for us here. We hope Malaysian tourists and businessmen will use our aircraft and we are pretty optimistic about that otherwise we would not have opened the route considering that we also have flights to Bangkok and Singapore.

We have been opening new routes in China, such as Yuhan, and in other places and now KL. We will open additional Asian destinations and obviously the reason we are targeting this part of the world is because the growth is here compared with the eurozone which is slow and lagging. It could recover but for the long haul, we have to target the fast-growing areas.

On North America, we have established our network together with KLM and Delta for the transatlantic routes and seats. Strong growth in capacity is here.

Nowadays the Asean area – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore – represents a major opportunity for businesses, so we need to cover more.

Why a B777 and not an A380 for the KL-Paris route like MAS?

Our total fleet size is 103 aircraft of which eight are A380 and 62 are B777.

We are very agile in moving planes from one place to another. We were using the A380 for Narita but with the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, we had to change the aircraft.

We use the A380 for the Singapore route, and since we no longer have a partnership with Qantas because it now has a partnership with Emirates, we may have to move the A380 (from the Paris-Singapore route) to another location.

As a carrier that has an enormous number of aircraft, we have to be flexible in the use of our fleet and we have to adopt the size of the aircraft and configuration to demand and this change happens every day.

Every three months, we move planes and also for technical reasons. That is the advantage of operating a big fleet.

Margins are thinning in Europe, hence many more carriers are moving to Asia?

We are here in the hope of margins and traffic. We can capture a large part of the traffic in Asia in cooperation with Asian (airlines) including MAS and Chinese (carriers). We have to cooperate with them and will explore the areas in which we can cooperate and I am meeting the chairman of MAS to explore some form of cooperation.

Of course, the difficulty at this stage is that it (MAS) belongs to oneworld and we belong to Skyteam, which are competing alliances. But it is not impossible that we could envisage something. It could be possible if MAS asks its other oneworld members and any arrangement could be limited to a particular route, destination or traffic.

I give you an example. We have strong cooperation with Japan Airlines and it is a member of oneworld... so it is a case by case approach and we have to explore all of that.

How is the restructuring going on at Air France?

We are on track and on schedule according to the plan we put in place in 2012. We built it on three pillars – industrial, commercial and social.

As a result of the plan and by 2014, we would have restored profitability, competitiveness and decreased our debt. We are reasonably optimistic we are on track and have not lost a day in our plan.

By July 1 you will be the new chairman and CEO of the Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM. What happens to the restructuring at Air France?

It will be followed through and it is my first responsibility at Air France-KLM to ensure the plan is implemented at all levels.

What is your view on budget carriers?

They are developing everywhere, though the trend started off in North America. They meet a demand for the short- to mid-haul market that is cost conscious, and pushed by the economic crisis where everyone looks for a cheaper price.

Companies during an economic crisis push employees to fly behind and not at the front end of the aircraft. The development of low cost will remain an important trend in our industry. But what is interesting is that, in the US, the penetration of low cost is about to plateau.

Customers still want good services and the market share for airlines like Air France and other legacy carriers has improved and they have come back after difficult periods. In Europe, the LCC market dominates with a 40% market share and the situation should change because established legacy carriers such as Lufthansa have reacted strongly by creating their own LCC and they transfer traffic point to point.

We have decided to create our own LCC and we think passengers looking for low price should come to us instead of going to our competitors.

Is there a future for long haul LCCs?

Nobody has demonstrated that it can work. It is completely difficult. Long haul is different from short haul and it is more costly and it is very different to operate. We have not found a LCC operating long haul successfully and there is no reason to believe otherwise.

Up close and personal with Tim Andriesen

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 06:04 PM PDT

EVER since his appointment as the managing director of agricultural commodities and alternative investments to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) in the third quarter of 2009, Tim Andriesen has been racking up frequent flyer miles, flying around the world.

It was just last month that Andriesen was in Malaysia to attend the Palm and Oils Conference & Exhibition: Price Outlook 2013. He tells StarBizweek how the CME group has developed during his time there and his craze for vintage car racing.

Of risk management, commodities and derivatives

In the 3 years or so that Andriesen has been with CME group, business has expanded. "CME has grown really well over the period that I've been there. We have pursued various product opportunities. Some of them are successful, some of them less so," he says.

An interesting product, he says, that the CME group offers to customers is weather derivatives. The group has products that enable customers to manage weather-related risk, and also offer opportunities for speculation which absorbs the risk in exchange for possible profit on the variation in weather.

CME offers various weather derivative products related to temperatures, snowfall, frost and hurricanes. The products are exposed to weather conditions in more than 47 cities in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia.

"These are all products that are really interesting in that there's a broad diversity of customers who have exposure to the weather. We all know that the weather can have an impact on our business, be it something like agriculture or a significant outdoor event," Andriesen says.

One such contract is for snow removal. "We can't control the weather, but what we can control with these products is the financial impact of the weather," he says.

Diverse derivatives

The CME group is by far the largest and most diverse derivatives exchange in the world, with futures and options on grains, livestock, oilseeds, dairy, lumber and many other benchmark products.

These are available either via the company's trading floors, its CME Globex electronic trading platform, and CME ClearPort clearing services for over-the-counter customers. Andriesen says the core responsibilities for an exchange are two-fold.

The first is to discover price, which means to understand the price for a commodity. The second is to facilitate risk transfer. "It's for people who doesn't want to have risk. They could be farmer, end-users or people focused on their business, but because of that business it creates risk.

Facilitating risk transfer means allowing them to transfer that risk to other market participants who want to take on that risk and who are doing that with the intention of trying to seek a return," Andriesen explains.

Last year, Andriesen worked with the Ukrainian government and customers to help them develop the Black Sea Wheat Futures. The product was launched last year and is still in its beginning stages, he adds. The Black Sea region is a major exporting region, and is expected to continue growing but it is a place that lacks risk manager capability.

"It's traded a little bit but we're continuing work to get it to grow. So we think that's a something in the long term that will be very important," he says.

Although Andriesen never expected to be in the commodities business, he thinks where he came from, East Central Illinois, a primarily corn and soybean area influenced his career path.

He had graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in marketing with a specialisation in international business. In a tough job market, he took up a job that a grain company offered him. "I didn't know what a grain merchandiser was, but it came with a paycheck so I thought I'd give it a try," he says.

So, starting from his time there, he learned about the business and agriculture.

Andriesen spent a good chunk of his career actually trading physical commodities in the domestic US market, ranging from corn, and beans to wheat.

"When you're a grain trader you're very much involved in risk management. It's understanding the risk around the positions you have," he says.

Later on he ventured into the bank side of the business, working with several financial institutions in the OTC markets to develop risk management products for the bank's customers.

Importance of free markets

One of the things Andriesen and his wife aim to teach their four children is the importance of free markets and the role that they play. This is not necessarily so just in terms of futures, but also in terms of the importance of a market place in compensating people for meeting others' needs.

"We've always had a belief that the way that you're successful is that you understand what people are looking for and what their needs are and you deliver on that, and quite frankly, you work really hard too," he says.

The work ethic of "Get out, work hard, and that will carry you all the way" has been nurtured since his children were still younglings.

For Andriesen, the biggest thing he continually tried to do is to be a good role model to others, especially to his children. "It's great to talk about things, free markets and how that works, but I think the most important thing is to lead by example," he says.

Of course, there are days when doing that proves to be challenging.

Another value that Andriesen teaches his children is the fact that there is nothing easy in life. "I come from a generation and a place where we learned that there's nothing easy in life. Nothing is handed to you. Nobody owes you anything," he says.

Opportunities for success are aplenty, but no one is owed this. He adds that it is one's job to find opportunities, and make things happen. He also believes that, that is what society wants. "You want a place where people that work hard, are honest, and create value, get something in return," he says.

Whenever he is back in Chicago, where the CME headquarters are located, he often commutes with his eldest two children who are also working in Chicago.

Andriesen admits that he was an average kid, one who played sports, watched TV and just had fun.

Due to the amount of travelling he is required to do these days, he does not have a lot of time to do many of the fun things he used to do, like play tennis. Having said that, his interests and hobbies have evolved, he says.

"My hobby right now is racing cars," he says.

Adrenalin-filled fun

One would think that racing cars is dangerous. Going at sound barrier-breaking speeds in a confined four-wheeler round a track, leaves little or no space for even teeny-weeny mistakes.

However, Andriesen begs to differ that the adrenalin-filled recreation is dangerous. "No it's not dangerous actually! Think of it this way. Where else would you want to have an accident? Number one: there are ambulances all over the place. Number two: you're in a car with a roll cage so it's almost impossible to hurt yourself. And you're belted in so you're not going anywhere," he says.

Furthermore, the racing suit that drivers are required to wear has three layers of Nomex, which is a flame-resistant material. "So, if there's a fire, you're at least fireproof for a little bit," he says.

He adds: "It's actually much less scary than driving on the Interstate some of the time."

Andriesen is a member of the Checkered Past Vintage Racing group, and usually races at various racetracks in the Midwest during the summer months. In a week, he would get about six days of track time. Datsuns and Alfa Romeos are common cars one would see at these races.

He first got into the recreational sport when he lived in Australia. He took a 1996 Nissan Skyline GTR and did some track time. He has been hooked ever since.

"I race in what's called vintage historic, which is pre-1975 cars. I race a 1973 Datsun 240Z. It's very amateur. We go out and have fun, and we try not to wreck the cars, and just have a good time," he says animatedly.

People refer to vintage racing as gentleman racing, he says. "You're a little less aggressive and really are a little more careful about trying not to wreck the cars. It's because you don't make any money from it, so when you break your car you have to pay for it," he says.

Because many of these older car parts are hard to come by, an ongoing joke between him and the other racers is that the car parts are made out of "unobtainium".

Last year, Andriesen had the opportunity to play the role of a driving instructor, in helping a friend out.

"Literally for two days, myself and some of the other guys I race with were called to be driving instructors. Like a Groupon thing, the driver only pays US$169 and gets three laps around the track in either a Ferrari F430 or a Lamborghini Gallardo. Our job was to sit next to them and make sure they didn't wreck the car, which was a little scary!" he says.

Ride the waves, dude

Andriesen thoroughly enjoyed the time he spent in Sydney when he served as managing director, commodities and commodities of National Australia Bank.

He had made friends with a surf photographer, who took pity on him for not being able to surf.

So Andriesen and his friend made it a point to meet every Wednesday morning at Manly Beach to surf. "Keeping in mind that he's really good, and me standing on a board and going forward was my definition of surfing," he laughs.

Silence no longer an option

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 06:02 PM PDT

THIS is about a tussle for control, accusations of wrongdoing, an apparent attempt to gain support with an eye-popping pledge, and a policy U-turn. And no, this has nothing to do with Malaysia's 13th general election.

Bright Packaging Industry Bhd's announcement on Thursday that it was scrapping a plan to pay generous dividends, shows that there are lingering effects from a boardroom battle that began last December with a requisition for an EGM to remove some directors and to appoint replacements.

That showdown ended with the conclusion of the EGM in February, when the resolutions for the proposed board changes were carried. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it's smooth sailing all the way from then on.

The new people at the helm of Bright Packaging have been in charge for two months now. The cancellation of the dividend policy is not all that surprising a promise to pay out all distributable profits as dividends for the next five financial years sounds too good to be true anyway but what else is in store for the manufacturer of aluminium foil packaging materials?

The problem is the current management team isn't saying much, which is similar to the reticence of the four shareholders who had demanded that the EGM be held.

The four were Datuk Wira Syed Ali Abbas Alhabshee, Ang Lay Chieng, Tee Wee Keat and Lye Jun Fei. They proposed that they be appointed to the Bright Packaging board and that then managing director Wong See Yaw and executive director Yap Kok Eng be removed along with non-independent non-executive directors Wong Siew Yoong (who's See Yaw's sister) and Yeap Cheng Chuan.

Yap and Siew Yoong retired and were not re-elected at the AGM preceding the EGM, while See Yaw and Yeap were ousted at the EGM. Syed Ali, Ang, Tee and Lye secured board seats. Ang was the only person among the quarter who was appointed as an executive director. Voting on the resolutions were by poll, which indicated that right until the end, there was resistance to the changes.

(Two other board members at the time, executive chairman Nik Mustapha Muhamad and independent director Low Wan Choon, have been retained.)

What was said and done between December and the EGM on Feb 21 added to the drama leading up to the shareholder meeting. But the traffic flowed one way only.

Between Jan 14 and Feb 4, the Bright Packaging board issued three press releases. The first one touted the experience and abilities of the four directors who faced being booted out. It also pointed out that based on the profiles provided, Syed Ali, Ang, Tee and Lye seem to have "very limited or no knowledge" of Bright Packaging's business, and may require time to build industry knowledge.

On Jan 18, the company announced that the directors had resolved to pay out 100% of all distributable profits as dividends over the next five financial years "to reward shareholders".

When interviewed by a daily, the then MD, See Yaw, was asked if the dividend policy was a sweetener for the minority shareholders ahead of the EGM. "Of course we need to please the shareholders. It's my job (to do so). At any point that I don't do that, I do deserve to be removed from the board," he said.

The announcement of the dividend policy was accompanied by a second press release from the Bright Packaging directors. In it, the board noted that it had not received any comments from the requisitionists, and raised several questions about their motives and plans. Still, the requisitionists said nothing publicly.

The third press release was issued to address allegations made in a letter from a group of minority shareholders to the Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group (MSWG). The Bright Packaging board said the allegations were "frivolous and baseless" and were made to discredit the board, especially those directors whose removal has been proposed.

The board then went on to give its side of the story in respect of four areas that the MSWG had brought up.

In the end, these efforts to explain themselves didn't help the four directors who were dropped. Demi Maju Sdn Bhd, a Wong family vehicle, has sold Bright Packaging shares a number of times last month, easing its shareholding from 30.6% to 28%.

The reconstituted board has been busy this month. On April 19, the directors said there would be another EGM to seek shareholder approval for proposed share buy-backs.

On the same day, the company announced that it wanted to halve the par value of its shares to 50 sen and to reduce its share premium account by up to RM2.16mil. This is so that it can slash part of its audited accumulated losses, which stood at more than RM24mil as at Jan 31.

According to Bright Packaging, the aim is "to rationalise the statement of financial position of the company and to facilitate the company's objective to obtain a better financial position moving forward".

These proposals are essentially accounting manoeuvres and don't involve cash. But dividend payments do require cash outflows. As such, it's reasonable for the board to do away with the dividend policy when the declared focus is on the growth of the company.

"Based on the current assessment of cash needs of our business, the company requires the earnings to be re-invested into the company to build its capacity and that excessive funds are required for the reinvestment for business expansion," it says.

The announcement on Thursday made it clear that Bright Packaging has undergone a board revamp and that the new board wants to broaden the business. However, the directors have yet to share details with the shareholders. Perhaps they're not ready to do so, but they shouldn't keep others waiting for too long either.

Keeping mum may be a strategic advantage when you're plotting to wrest control of a listed company, but once you're in the driver's seat, reluctance to engage with shareholders and the rest of the investing public, is a sure way to breed apathy or worse, suspicion.

Executive editor Errol Oh is mystified by cases of listed companies being subjects of noisy tugs of war and then fading into anonymity later. What about the huge potential that sparked the intense contests in the first place?

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Cricket: Kaneria loses appeal against life ban

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 05:55 PM PDT

LONDON: Controversial Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria failed in his appeal to overturn his lifetime ban from cricket on Friday.

Kaneria was banned last year for his role in a spot-fixing plot, but denied all involvement and immediately indicated his intention to contest the decision.

The 32-year-old was found guilty of "cajoling and pressurising" former Essex team-mate Mervyn Westfield into accepting cash in return for trying to concede a set number of runs in an over during an English county Pro40 match in 2009.

Following the appeal hearing, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive David Collier hailed the decision to uphold Kaneria's ban, saying: "I welcome wholeheartedly the independent panel's decision to dismiss Mr Kaneria's appeal and uphold the earlier decision made by the Cricket Discipline Commission last summer.

"I should like to thank the appeal panel for their time and diligence in hearing this case and I congratulate the ACCESS unit for its work in support of the successful prosecution of this corrupt activity.

"Corruption has no place in sport and ECB will continue to be vigilant and adopt a zero tolerance approach in this area."

However, Kaneria has now launched a further appeal in which the length of his ban could be reduced.

"I am very disappointed with the decision made by the panel," he said.

"We are waiting for what are the reasons behind it and as soon as we know the reasons we will take some further steps."

Westfield served two months of a four-month prison sentence last year after admitting spot-fixing and was banned from professional cricket for five years.

The 24-year-old was summoned to appear as a witness, against his wishes, at the appeal after the ECB obtained a witness summons order from the High Court to force Westfield to attend to give evidence against Kaneria.

During his criminal trial last year, Westfield named Kaneria as the figure who induced him into accepting 6,000 from a bookmaker to under-perform in a match in 2009.

That evidence was key to the ECB's case in imposing their life ban on the former Pakistan leg-spinner but, feeling he was harshly treated in return by the governing body in terms of his own ban, Westfield refused to cooperate further.

With Kaneria's legal team arguing Westfield's original evidence was inadmissible at the appeal, the ECB took the last resort of an order to compel Westfield.

Kaneria's appeal hearing was due to take place last December but was postponed because Westfield did not attend.

The Pakistan Cricket Board said in July that he would be suspended from playing in his home country until the outcome of the appeal was known. - AFP

Cricket: Taylor dismissal puts Bangladesh on top

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 05:52 PM PDT

HARARE: Robiul Islam's tireless spells of fast bowling and an unusually loose stroke from Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor allowed Bangladesh to close day two of the second Test with a hard-earned advantage.

Robiul charged in for 19 overs in a little more than two sessions, dismissing Zimbabwe's openers and applying pressure to the middle order before a late flurry of runs saw the hosts close on 158 for four.

That left them 233 runs short of Bangladesh's 391 all out, in which Nasir Hossain's aggressive 77 had stretched the final total on Friday morning.

Taylor was the lynchpin of Zimbabwe's batting during their handsome victory in the first Test, and so his dismissal for 36 in the final session was a clear triumph for Bangladesh.

The 27-year-old had ridden out a prolonged spell of short bowling from Robiul and eaten up 80 deliveries to score his first 16 runs, but his patience finally broke when he holed out to deep midwicket off the bowling of off-spinner Sohag Gazi.

Malcolm Waller had been Taylor's companion in a watchful 52-run partnership that rebuilt the innings from the troubled position of 45 for three, and went to stumps on 30 not out from 112 deliveries.

He was joined for the last 17 overs of the day by Elton Chigumbura, who threw caution to the wind and survived a dropped catch on his way to an unbeaten 45 from just 49 balls that gave Zimbabwe a much-needed lift.

While Zimbabwe still have some way to go to achieve parity, Bangladesh know that the remaining six wickets could be difficult to come by on a pitch offering little assistance to the bowlers.

"Bowlers have to work hard to get wickets on this track because it's a much better wicket than the last one," Shakib Al Hasan said.

"But if we are patient enough and create lots of pressure then we will take wickets."

Zimbabwe may be hampered by the loss of a key player, with Keegan Meth confirming that he is battling an injury to his right patella.

Despite requiring a painkilling injection to bowl on Friday, Meth showed greater control than his teammates in taking two for 41 from 22 overs.

"I have to bite the bullet. There isn't much Test cricket to come after this so I just have to get through it," said Meth.

"We're behind the game at the moment, we understand that. But that's one of the reasons why we've picked four all-rounders in the side - we bat quite deep." - AFP

Gritty Sharapova books Stuttgart semis berth

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 05:50 PM PDT

STUTTGART, Germany: Defending champion Maria Sharapova had another tough battle on Friday as she booked her place in the semi-finals of the Stuttgart WTA tournament with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 quarter-final win against former world number one Ana Ivanovic.

The 26-year-old Sharapova, who is using the claycourt tournament to help prepare for the defence of her French Open title at the end of May, was again taken to three sets as Ivanovic rallied in the second set.

Having needed three hours to beat Lucie Safarova in Thursday's second round, the statuesque Russian has now played more than five hours of tennis inside 24 hours after needing two hours, 16 minutes to beat Ivanovic.

"It's good to face different styles of playing from different opponents," said Sharapova.

"Ana is a bit more aggressive, while Lucie had a bit more variety in her game yesterday.

"I am happy to get through, but I had to push myself.

"It was a tough battle, it was hard to get my body going again after the last game, but it was good to get another three sets under the belt."

After Sharapova took the first set, claycourt specialist Ivanovic rallied in the second with plenty of aggressive shots on her forehand and is on her way back up the rankings, but lacks consistency.

Sharapova broke Ivanovic twice in the third, in a sequence of three breaks, before her aggressive game finally wore down the 25-year-old Serb, who reached the world number one ranking just after winning the 2008 French Open title.

Sharapova, ranked second in the world, will now play third-seed Angelique Kerber in Saturday's semi-final after the German beat Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 7-6 earlier.

Qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the USA, ranked 104th in the world, has made it through to the semi-finals on her first appearance in the main draw after she enjoyed a 6-4, 6-2 win over Germany's Sabine Lisicki.

Having failed to qualify on her last attempt here in 2005, the 28-year-old will now faces face Chinese second-seed Li Na for a place in Sunday's final.

Li enjoyed a 6-3, 7-5 win over fifth-seed Petra Kvitova, but the Chinese faced some nervous moments in the second set after her strong start left her 2-0, then 5-2 up, before her Czech opponent levelled at 5-5, but Li clung on.

"It's never over until it's game, set and match," said the 31-year-old who reached the Australian Open final and is bidding to reach her third WTA final of the year after winning January's Shenzhen tournament.

"Sorry if I gave the fans some nervous moments," she added with a smile.

Mattek-Sands is on her way back from injury and having won their last meeting, a three-setter in the quarter-finals at the 2011 Madrid Open, Li said she is relishing her chance to reach the final.

"I saw Bethanie play earlier on and she looks like a good, aggressive player," said Li.

"We'll see how tomorrow's match goes." - AFP

Collated results from the fifth day of the WTA Stuttgart tournament on Friday (x denotes seeding):

Women's singles

Quarter finals

Angelique Kerber (GER x3) bt Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-3, 7-6(7/2)

Maria Sharapova (RUS x1) bt Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 7-5, 4-6, 6-4

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) bt Sabine Lisicki (GER) 6-4, 6-2

Li Na (CHN x2) bt Petra Kvitova (CZE x5) 6-3, 7-5 - AFP

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Dr Peggy Wong shares guidelines on living a balanced life

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 05:55 AM PDT

AFTER years of being in the corporate world, global entrepreneur, economist and philanthropist Dr Peggy Wong decided to take a long, hard look at her successes and how she was living her life.

"As I began to evaluate my life, I realised that God measures success differently. It became clearer and clearer to me that genuine success involved much more than power, wealth or status. To be truly successful we need to lead a balanced life," she writes in her book, Living A Balanced Life.

The author proposes seven ingredients that make up a balanced life: Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness, Friends, Fun, and Food. She believes in a holistic approach to living life to the fullest and that the key to achieving balance is not so much about slowing down the pace than it is to lead a purposeful lifestyle.

The 7Fs are meant as a guideline to achieve one's ultimate goal of living a balanced life.

"If we keep the 7Fs in balance," Wong says, "we will find ourselves much happier and life will be more meaningful."

All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the underprivileged children of Living Hope, a non-governmental organisation run by a group of volunteers that aspires to give a voice to poor, needy and marginalised children living in Malaysia and in other parts of the world.

Living A Balanced Life is available at Canaanland Sdn Bhd (canaanland.com.my; 03-2166 2601); Focus on the Family (family.org.my; 03-7954 7920); Glad Sounds Sdn Bhd (gladsounds.com.my; 03-7958 7188); and Living Hope (livinghopeglobal.org; 03-7727 5887). – Rouwen Lin

Magic and mystery

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 01:32 AM PDT

The Age Of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Random House, 304 pages

ONE morning, Julia and her family wake up to discover that the earth's rotation has slowed down. Of course, the sudden change has grave effects like causing environmental chaos and altering the length of nights and days.

As Julia struggles to adapt to this wild new situation, she also has to deal with her parents separating, losing old friends when they begin to behave strangely, and falling in love for the first time.

Can Julia maintain her composure on earth's new normal while making sense of the problems around her?

Wayne Rooney: My Decade In The Premier League
Author: Wayne Rooney
Publisher: HarperSport, 320 pages

ENGLISH footballer Wayne Rooney was only 18 when he became a coveted Manchester United player in 2004. At his debut against Turkish club Fenerbahçe, he became the youngest player to score a hattrick in the Champions League and his side won 6-2.

My Decade In The Premier League details Rooney's personal experience and journey in football so far.

He discusses everything from starting out as a footballer at 16 years old to lifting the Champions League trophy with Manchester United.

He even opens up about the low points in his career, such as losing to rivals Manchester City in the 2011-2012 season. He also gives an insider's perspective on what goes on on the training pitch, inside the dressing room, and about his relationships with managers and coaches.

The Tower (Sancti Trilogy # 3)
Author: Simon Toyne
Publisher: HarperCollins, 496 pages

FBI agent Joe Shepherd has been tasked with investigating the disappearance of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

The only clues left behind are a cryptic countdown clock and a chilling note that talks about the "End of Days".

Joe also discovers that the scientist's disappearance is linked to a number of strange occurrences from eight months ago; these are the events in books one and two of the trilogy, Sanctus and The Key, respectively, involving Turkey's ancient and mysterious Citadel, journalist Liv Adamsen and ex-special forces operative Gabriel Mann.

Now, everything is coming to a head as Liv and Gabriel struggle to stay alive in the Citadel and Joe digs from his end, uncovering a revelation that could spell the end of mankind.

Words You Should Teach Your Children
Author: Paula Balzer
Publisher: Adams Media, 224 pages

THIS is not a word book for teaching young children their first words. Instead, literary agent Paula Blazer (author of How To Sell Your Memoir) offers a simple, hands-on approach on how to instil a sense of worth, respect and perseverance in children.

Blazer believes children will discover these qualities through certain words for which she provides definitions. She uses passages to explain how words like "achievements", "adventure" and "imagination" could have an impact on children's development. Blazer provides 200 words to choose from and highlights important discussion points to have with your children centred on these words.

Citadel (Languedoc trilogy # 3)
Author: Kate Mosse
Publisher: Orion, 544 pages

THE first two books in this trilogy of historical thrillers, Labyrinth and Sepulchre, moved from medieval and 19th century France to the modern-day country as an explosive ancient secret involving Tarot cards and a book of symbols is hunted down.

In this final book, Kate Mosse takes readers into Nazi-occupied France during World War II where a resistance group called the Citadel fights to free the land. Sandrine, a member of Citadel, learns that there is a parallel struggle going on to unearth that ancient secret that has been protected through the centuries. She soon realises that the fight involves Raoul, the young rebel who saves her life during a demonstration, and a mysterious man named Leo Authié. Leo is convinced that Raoul and Sandrine hold the key to the location and activation of the Codex, a device with great power.

Man 2.0: Engineering The Alpha
Authors: John Romaniello & Adam Bornstein
Publisher: HarperOne, 288 pages

FITNESS experts John Romaniello and Adam Bornstein believe that human beings were born to achieve greatness, physically and mentally. But somewhere along the way, so many of us fade into ordinary lives. Romaniello and Bornstein, however, claim that this book will help you re-design yourself.

Want to lose body fat easily, get bigger muscles and be smarter? You can, they claim, by following the hormone optimisation-targeted system that they've developed. The experts provide a practical step-by-step guide to help you look your best and supercharge your fitness. This book also includes an introductory note by actor and former professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One Hundred Names: A beautiful tale

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 01:20 AM PDT

You don't need bombastic words to get a wise message across or tell a beautiful story.

One Hundred Names
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publisher: Harper Collins, 327 pages

AS A writer, one is expected to know as many words (and their meanings) as possible, and that's cool because it helps with the writing; I get that. But what is not cool is when some writers decide to use all the words in the world in one book and try to impress people with their vast vocabulary. What is up with that?

Honestly, that just makes reading difficult for me because I don't even know most of the words out there, let alone their meaning. I found out just three days ago that obstreperous means difficult ... and that word has been around forever.

Anyway, this is precisely why I love Cecelia Ahern, because her books are written in easy sentences for all to understand and, honestly, that it is a trait not seen in many writers today.

Ahern knows exactly how to engage people with nothing but simple words, leaving the difficult ones where they belong – in the dictionary. And though you might deem her words fit only to educate a layman, the message she sends through them could enlighten the wisest person.

Her message often holds such weight that dismissing Ahern as "just" another chick lit author is laughable. Ahern always has an interesting story to tell, and she often tells it well – and in One Hundred Names she tells the best one so far.

In my review of one of Ahern's previous works, Thanks For The Memories, I wrote that most (if not all) of her female protagonists are "self-pitying, whiny, I-need-five-people-to-help-put-my-life-back-together sort of women". I wasn't wrong. The lead heroine in this book is one as well. (Hmm, OK, maybe Ahern needs to work on that a little bit.)

In One Hundred Names, we have Katherine Logan, a young woman who has nothing going right in her life. She is fired as a television host and is facing a lawsuit after she mistakenly accused a teacher of impregnating his student on her show – which has also sparked protests in the form of paint and dog poop smeared on her front door every day.

Her position as a writer for well-respected magazine Et Cetera is hanging by a thread.

And she has been returning to an empty apartment ever since her boyfriend moved out quietly without even informing her of their break up.

Feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders, Katherine turns to her mentor, Constance Dubois, the editor of Et Cetera, for support.

Even that turns out to be a disaster, though, because Constance is suffering from cancer and is on her death bed.

Before she dies, however, she gives Katherine a list of 100 names with just one clue: the names are all connected to "the one story she had always wanted to write but never did".

Excited again, Katherine pitches the idea to Peter, Et Cetera's acting editor, who decides to use it as the main piece in the magazine's tribute to Constance. Not that he's being nice about it – Peter actually expects Katherine to fail miserably. But the woman is hell bent on using the article to re-establish her career and keep her job at the magazine.

With a list of names of people she has never heard of and no Constance to tell her what to do, though, Katherine finds herself facing one of the most difficult articles in her (possibly short-lived) career as a journalist.

When she does manage to track down the people on the list, she realises that her real nightmare has just begun – because none of the folks has ever heard of Constance and no one has common stories to share.

There is the personal shopper who buys perfect gifts for her clients, the old woman looking forward to her 85th birthday, an ex-convict who hears people's prayers, a beautiful young girl who gets fake proposals from her best friend every week, a middle-aged engineer who wants to enter his name in the Guinness World Record for pedalo racing (peddle-powered boat races), and a disfigured butterfly enthusiast who hides from the world. And that's just six out of the 100 folks she has to interview.

With one week to work on the story, and no article to submit to Peter who is breathing down her neck, Katherine is at her wits' end as she races against time.

So, does she find the missing link before the deadline? OK, I'll be nice here and tell you that she does. This is not a spoiler because, first of all ... duh, it's Ahern we're talking about. Does she ever have a sad ending to any of her stories? No.

And secondly, what matters is not the fact that she finds the connection, but the connection itself. It is so beautiful that I wish everyone will learn what it is and will keep it in mind every time they see someone. It has the potential to forever change the way in which we all interact with people.

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