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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Firefighters get the recognition they deserve

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 07:23 PM PDT

In the new drama Chicago Fire, firefighters get the limelight they deserve.

THE last thing one would expect to see in a male-dominated firehouse is a magazine with pictures of cute babies and toddlers. Yet there it was, a Parents magazine featuring a blonde baby on its cover, placed on a table among numerous muscle magazines.

Even though the firehouse was just part of the set of Chicago Fire, a TV drama from NBCUniversal, the sight of that magazine there was still a little strange.

Further down the hall lies the kitchen and dining/living areas which are equipped with a sink, a refrigerator, an oven and burners, pots, pans and utensils, as well as a fully-stocked larder. You will see a lot of this part of the set in the TV series, which revolves around the lives of a group of firefighters, rescue squad and paramedics of Chicago's Firehouse 51. For example, in the pilot, one of the main characters – Lt Matthew Casey (played by Jesse Spencer) – cooked a meal of corned beef and vegetables for his colleagues.

Spencer says that Casey is a bit of a caretaker that way. "(He's) the lieutenant of Truck 81 and he's got people to take care of. He's a caretaker and a brother but he's also a disciplinarian on top of everything else. He's a teacher as well, but he's got a lot of heart, and he's a fighter," the actor describes his character.

Spencer, 34, stars alongside a diverse group of actors including Taylor Kinney, Eamonn Walker, David Eigenberg, Monica Raymund, Lauren German and Charlie Barnett. While the pilot may suggest that Spencer and Kinney play the key roles in the show, Chicago Fire creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt assure that each character is developed almost equally throughout the season.

"We worked hard not to make the other guys riding along in the truck the comic relief or the fool, and give (those characters) some weight. It's great to not have to just rely on one character who's the mastermind of the whole show and solving mysteries about bones," says Haas.

From the interview sessions that day, one can surmise that Chicago Fire is pretty much a show about "family" and just like any family, everyone relies on one another for support and encouragement.

"They all have strengths and weaknesses, but they're also a family. They can hold each other up as a unit even though they're failing in their personal lives, but at work, they're good," says Walker, who plays Battalion Chief Wallace Boden.

Just like a family, everyone has their own issues to deal with. For example, Kinney's character Lt Kelly Severide, who's with the Rescue Squad, is a little brash and seems to have a substance abuse problem. He's deemed the "bad boy" of the show and initially does not get along too well with Casey.

"I don't think he's troubled. He just has personal conflicts and things to overcome like anybody else and works through those problems the best way he can. Sometimes, he falters along the way. Severide also believes in what he does and pursues it with reckless abandon at times," says Kinney, 32.

Meanwhile, Walker thinks that his character is very much the father figure of the team. "Casey and Severide, I treat them as my right and left arms, they're like my two sons, while Dawson (Raymund's character) and Shay (German) are like my daughters and they've all got different attributes.

"I know I treat them all like my kids at some point, and when my children go astray I admonish but in a gentle way. I definitely put my foot down ... or somewhere else (laughs) whenever necessary," says Walker, 51, in his thick British accent. To play Boden, Walker trains with a vocal and dialect coach to get his American accent just right.

Spencer adds that one of the best things about the show is that it focuses on the characters rather than the drama or action. "The thing that really attracted me to the show was (that it was about) the group of good people dealing with situations. A majority of the stuff on TV now is very dark and twisted, and feature antiheroes – that's great entertainment. But our show is about much more real people, good people trying to do good things. And they mess up, they're flawed. I just find that a lot more organic.

"I think the brotherhood and sisterhood of the people who work in the firehouse is the heart and soul of the show," Spencer notes.

Becoming firefighters

Before they started filming, the actors underwent about a week of training at the Chicago Fire Academy, a training facility for Chicago firefighters (which is located on the actual site where the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 first began).

They worked with a group of real firefighters led by the Chicago Fire Department's deputy district chief Steve Chikerotis, who along with a few other colleagues, work as consultants for the show.

During training, the actors were placed in simulated fire situations and taught the different aspects of fire safety. Basically, they learnt how to be actual firefighters, or at least how to pretend to be one.

"They brought us through a whole bunch of stuff. They sat us down in like a class and showed us different structures of housing that are common in Chicago, different types of fires, what you can expect (in certain situations).

"And then we had to learn how to put on our gear, we had to put them on and take them off a whole bunch of times, went up flights of stairs with all the gear on and our masks, learned how to breathe," reveals Barnett, who plays the "new guy" Peter Mills.

He adds that some of them also went on ride-alongs with the firefighters, who do a 24-hour shift each time (they take the next 48 hours off to rest). "It was the best experience because you're living in the house with them and you really see what it's like," says Barnett.

While almost all the actors are fit and buff, most of them find that playing a firefighter is physically demanding, especially when it comes to putting on all that heavy gear and trying to breathe through a mask.

"I had to do a scene the other day. I was dragging someone who my character knew very well, trying to save the person, and I was dragging him or her down this hallway for hours in my gear. I'm fit, I've been trained, I've been doing a lot of boxing training and stuff. But everytime I ran out of there, I was suffocating in my mask," says Spencer.

"I can't tell you how hard it is. How do you do that in real life? Your heart rate increases and you've got to stay calm and if it's someone that you know, it's even worse. I have massive respect for those guys."

Kinney, too, has nothing but awe and respect for firefighters. "These guys are strong, strong gentlemen. They're not sitting around doing yoga, they're lifting weights and eating hearty meals!" he says, adding that being on the show has made him look at firefighters in a different light.

"I think anytime you have a first-hand experience in any medium ... you can sit and cheer on a boxer in the seventh round and tell him to keep his guard up but until you get into a ring and know how tiring it can be, it changes your perception. So, putting all this gear on and coming in and getting to tell the stories, you get a greater appreciation of what these guys do," he explains.

Getting help

Apart from the physical demands of the show, what the actors find to be the most challenging aspect of their job is how to portray firefighters as realistically as they can. Having real firefighters on set and hearing their war stories – many of which are then used as actual scenarios in Chicago Fire – seem to help.

"Trying to see through Steve Chikerotis' eyes, who gives us loads of stories of his real life in his 30 or 40 years as a fireman, and trying to emulate him and the amount of knowledge that he holds within his body – that's my challenge," says Walker.

Kinney shares that it is a big deal for him to get things done right, so he spent a lot of time picking up little nuances and traits that a firefighter would typically do. He says: "The challenge is in trying to pursue this character in a light that's honest and real so that when I walk by firehouses there are guys that want to shake your hand and not have them tell you that you're doing something wrong."

Spencer says that the cast and crew do try to get as much feedback as they can from firefighters. "We've always been nervous about playing firefighters. But it's hard for lawyers to watch lawyer shows, hard for doctors to watch doctor shows and I'm sure it's hard for some firefighters to watch this show. But I must say, when we talk to them, they've always got lots of positive things to say. I think they know that we're making a drama and that they recognise the elements they've given to us for the show."

So far, it does seem like the actors have been doing a good job of depicting the lives and work of real firefighters. In a story published in, Chikerotis was quoted as saying: "Our story doesn't get told too often because camera crews can't follow us where we go to work... Chicago Fire is making an attempt to do it real and sell the emotions that go along with it. The average firefighter throughout the nation will be pretty proud of this show, I think."

Now that's the kind of endorsement the Chicago Fire team can be proud of.

Chicago Fire premieres today on Universal Channel HD (HyppTV Ch 612) at 10.40pm.

Fire and the city

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 07:04 PM PDT

Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, creators of Chicago Fire, are more known for their writing work on a handful of movies including the critically-acclaimed film 3:10 To Yuma, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Wanted. In an interview in Chicago, Illinois, the duo revealed that working on the TV drama has so far been a satisfying venture.

"The movie industry has changed so much ... the kind of movies that Hollywood makes now, they tend to be sort of these big summer movies. And if you wanted to make something smaller ... the studios have become places where they only make them if you consider taking a project that's already put together," shares Brandt.

"Personally, I was getting a little tired of the kinds of movies that we were being offered so when the opportunity to work on a TV show came along, we took it thinking that we'll probably just write the pilot and then go back to writing features (films)."

However, when their script for the pilot was picked up, Brandt and Haas were roped in to the production team and asked to come up with more scripts. With the multiple Emmy Award-winning Dick Wolf on board as one of the show's executive producers (the others include Matt Olmstead, Joe Chapelle, Danielle Gerber and Peter Jankowski), it's a little hard to turn down the offer.

While working in Chicago, the pair discovered a new found love for writing for television.

"Unlike in features, the writers for TV are in charge of the show, or at least are in charge more, and people actually listen to us! It's so satisfying to sit and talk to the director about what we had in mind for a scene and then the director would try and do it.

"So here we are a year and a half later – Derek and I realised that we've had more of our words spoken exactly how we want it in the first couple of episodes (of Chicago Fire) than in our entire features career combined! It's just so satisfying to write something one day and shoot it the next, then see it on TV a few weeks later," Brandt says.

The writers also said that Chicago had always been the original setting for the show, citing the Great Chicago Fire as one of the reasons for it.

(The Great Chicago Fire is considered one of the largest disasters to happen in the United States. The fire started on Oct 8, 1871 and went on for two days, killing hundreds of people and destroying close to 10km² of the city. Today, the Chicago Fire Academy stands on the original site where the fire first began, and serves as a reminder of the horrific event.)

"We didn't want to do it in New York because of Rescue Me (another show about firefighters that's no longer airing), and we also thought about setting it in Boston before realising that Chicago is a city that was born out of fire. Plus, the architecture is beautiful, so you can just about put the camera anywhere in the city," says Haas.

Apart from David Eigenberg, who plays Christopher Hermann, the rest of the main cast of Chicago Fire are not Chicago locals. But everyone seems to have a lot of love for the city, even though some of them are not too crazy about its infamous "bipolar weather".

"The city of Chicago serves as a character in its own right. I don't think we'd have the same show and the same chemistry (among) the cast if we're not shooting in Chicago. There's no excuse not to hang out with one another because most of us are from out of town and we don't have families or friends to go home to here," says Taylor Kinney, who is the boyfriend of pop star Lady Gaga.

For Australia native Jesse Spencer, being on the show was a whole process that he took in his stride. "Yes it was a process, coming here to Chicago, stepping into a new role. I've been doing the same thing for eight years, so stepping into something else and playing American – I played Australian for eight years (in medical drama House)! – it was a departure for me. But it's grown on me over the year or so."

The show, too, has gone through a few processes of its own. It started as a 13-episode season, but midway through, the network decided to extend that to 24 episodes. Rumours are rife that there will also be a second season, with executive producer Dick Wolf announcing at the NBC Summer Press Day event in Los Angeles earlier this week that, "We even know what the first episode of the third season is ... we are definitely looking at the remainder of this season as a jumping-off point for next season." At the same time, there are also reports stating that Wolf is considering making a spin-off of the show, this time focusing on Chicago's police department.

Looks like the Windy City may get to see a lot more small screen action in months to come.

Related Stories:
Chicago Fire: Firefighters get the recognition they deserve

Smash returns with a big bang

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 07:02 PM PDT

The sensational TV musical drama Smash returns with a big bang.

As far as architecture goes there is nothing remarkable about the grey square blocks of buildings that line the stretch of Eagle Street in Brooklyn, New York. However, this is where TV's boldest musical fare Smash is filmed and the transformation that unfolds onscreen is simply magical.

The recent backstage pass to the show's second season not only offered a glimpse into the making of Smash but also provided up close-and-personal access to some of its biggest stars. These include actors Debra Messing (who plays Julia Houston), Anjelica Huston (Eileen Rand), Katharine McPhee (Karen Cartwright), Megan Hility (Ivy Lynn), Jack Davenport (Derek Wills) and Christian Borle (Tom Levitt), as well as their new co-stars.

With such a high-profile TV pilot, expectations for the second season of Smash ran high. The show's stellar cast and big-time executive producer (that would be Steven Spielberg) also added to the assumption that Smash would be a huge success.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite pan out that way.

Despite the strong storylines, fantastic costumes and brilliant performances from its stars, viewer response has been a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Entertainment Weekly described it as "the show everybody wanted to love and everybody loved to hate". Online forums were abuzz with discussions and Twitter was rife with armchair critics actively sharing their opinions.

Luckily, the creators of Smash took note of all this. When they sat down to brainstorm for the new season, they were determined to iron out the kinks and address the show's shortcomings to ensure that Smash's season two reboot would be beyond reproach.

Needless to say, Smash has been given a complete revamp. Where the first season was all about setting the stage for a musical drama to unfold within Broadway, this time around, Smash is all about character development.

Gossip Girl executive producer Joshua Safran has been brought in to give a fresh take on the show while the stars bring their A-game onto the set with unmistakable swagger. Also, big-name guest stars from the likes of Jennifer Hudson to Liza Minnelli add panache to the musicality of the production.

"I feel like, obviously I'm going to say this, but I think the season is really strong, and I hope that people will see that," Safran says. "We have a very strong line, in that you have Bombshell trying to make it to Broadway in big bumps, and then there is a new musical group that begins to be revealed. And I feel that as the episodes progress, those two paths are neighboured more and more, and that's really exciting."

Everything from story arcs and relationships to drama has been heightened. Certain characters from the first season have "faded" into the background to make way for a new lineup of young hopefuls, namely Tony Award-nominee Jeremy Jordan (playing Jimmy Collins) and Andy Mientus (Kyle Bishop).

Messing's character Julia also appears to have ditched her signature scarf, which audiences apparently took offense at.

"The scarves went because there were so many eviscerating blogs and articles that were written about how my character was dressed last year," Messing reveals. "I tried to defend it. I liked the scarves. I thought, you know, she's Bohemian, she's creative. It makes sense to me. And in cold New York, it's practical.

"But, clearly, the people at NBC and Dreamworks read the blogs and they read the tweets. I personally got tweets saying, 'But I love your scarves, bring them back'."

In the second season, the Bombshell team is one step closer to achieving its Broadway dream. The group had a successful run in Boston, but producer Eileen, writers Tom and Julia, director Derek and star Karen are all about to learn that sins of the past have a way of creeping up on you.

Many things will be revealed this season. For example, does Eileen get away with mixing business and pleasure with her shady paramour? Will Julia's marriage to Frank survive the revelation of her infidelity? Will Ivy Lynn bounce back from the shame of losing the lead role to rival Karen and bedding her fiancé in retaliation? And lastly, will Tom and Julia's long-time partnership endure the changing tides of opportunity?

Though the cast members were hesitant to divulge too much about the storylines, they were eager to talk about the prospects of working on the "rebooted" production.

"I haven't done a musical before and I thought that would be the most challenging part because that's a creative thing, and amazing," Safran says. "I think that maybe the most challenging part is that the cast is so incredible, it's so large, and there's so many of them (that) you want to make sure you service all of them. That has been challenging, but I think we've been successful at it. It is a testament to my writers, and you know, it's pretty great."

Hilty's favourite thing about the new season is that bigger musical numbers have been added into the mix. "We have a brand new musical called Hit List, which brings an entirely new genre of music to the show. And there are actually other musicals that we visit, too.

"There's even a point where I sing a classical piece, like it really runs the gamut. It's really interesting this year in how many different types of music are covered. And there's a lot more per episode. I'd say there's a good three or four songs per episode now."

One of the highlights of Smash is the addition of a younger cast that adds a new spin to the dynamics of the storyline. It also brings a kind of "hipster vibe" to the show.

There's Jimmy and Kyle, who are young talents working on a current-day rock musical that could become Bombshell's biggest rival, while Ana Vargas (Krysta Rodriguez) is Karen's new roommate.

"We are just so just excited to do this and are happy to be here," says Jordan. His character Jimmy is also slated to be Karen's new love interest.

"There will be definitely more than one love triangle," says McPhee as she teases the media with a spoiler. "It is safe to say that there has been something brewing between Karen and Derek. I think the audience will get a little bit more information on that and will see where that goes."

As for her character's relationship with Jimmy, McPhee explains: "Their relationship starts off rocky. We didn't know each other either, but as we've gotten to know each other, the chemistry built up and that carried onto our onscreen relationship."

McPhee adds, "I am a firm believer that you can't create chemistry, but you can get more familiar with people in time and realise that you do have chemistry. I think when we met each other it wasn't electric, but when we got on screen together we realised that we clicked. That's something you can't plan."

Safran consciously brought his Gossip Girl perspective to the second season as he explains: "My only thing there was to start to acquaint more young people to the cast, because musicals would mean a lot to younger people. As they download music and they know music, it was important that we added more music."

With the inclusion of Hudson and Minnelli into the storyline for the new season, Smash certainly has a lot going for it. Besides adding more glitz to the glamour, having the two stars on board was also a welcome treat for the cast of Smash.

"It's unbelievable. I mean, they're all so incredibly talented and bring such different energy to the show. I think that's one of the most exciting things about this season – there's always a new face coming in. There's Sean Hayes (who) is hilarious and brings a sense of comedy to the show that we haven't really experienced in that way before. And Jennifer Hudson's voice ... I mean, she's unbelievably talented. And Liza Minnelli is a living legend. So it's really exciting to get to work with all of these incredibly talented people," says Hilty.

Smash has a lot to offer in its re-energised new season. There's more edge to the drama and deeper insights into character development. The cast has poured its heart and soul into giving audiences something different. There may have bumps on the road to success but, as Messing sums up, the show is on the right track.

"The battering of the ego is a constant, in whatever medium you're in, whether it's TV, film or on the stage. I think it's very hard. You get very invested in whatever you're doing, and it's hard to be criticised, but I also think it's dangerous and unhealthy to be overly lauded. So I think it's dangerous waters no matter what, and keeping level-headed and balanced is a tricky thing."

Smash airs on Diva Universal (Astro Ch 702) every Monday at 8pm.


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Algerian president in France for medical tests after minor stroke

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 08:56 PM PDT

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been transferred to France for further medical tests after suffering a minor stroke on Saturday, Algeria's official news agency said.

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seen at the presidential palace in Algiers December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seen at the presidential palace in Algiers December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

The APS agency said late on Saturday that Bouteflika, 76, was in Paris at the recommendation of his doctors.

He was hospitalised after a minor stroke, according to an earlier state press agency report that quoted the prime minister as saying his condition was "not serious."

The health of Bouteflika is a central factor in the stability of the oil-exporting country of 37 million people that is emerging from a long conflict against Islamist insurgents.

APS said Bouteflika had an "ischemic transitory attack," or mini-stroke, at 12:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Saturday.

"A few hours ago, the president felt unwell and he has been hospitalised but his condition is not serious at all," Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was quoted as saying.

Elected in 1999, Bouteflika is a member of a generation of leaders who have ruled Algeria since winning independence from France in a 1954-62 war.

They also defeated Islamist insurgents in the 1990s and saw off the challenge of Arab Spring protests two years ago, with Bouteflika's government defusing unrest through pay rises and free loans for young people.

Bouteflika has served three terms as president and is thought unlikely to seek a fourth at an election due in 2014. Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables said in 2011 that Bouteflika had been suffering from cancer, but that it was in remission.

It is unknown who might take over Africa's biggest country by land area, an OPEC oil producer that supplies a fifth of Europe's gas imports and cooperates with the West in combating Islamist militancy.

More than 70 percent of Algerians are under 30. About 21 percent of young people are unemployed, the International Monetary Fund says, and many are impatient with the gerontocracy ruling a country where jobs, wages and housing are urgent concerns.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Older Boston bombing suspect spoke of "jihad" with mother - report

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 06:20 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The older suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings spoke to his mother about "jihad" in a 2011 phone call secretly recorded by Russian officials, CBS News reported on Saturday.

U.S. authorities learned of the wiretapped discussion between Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two ethnic Chechen brothers suspected of carrying out the April 15 blasts in Boston, and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva within the last few days, CBS said.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev - the two men suspected of carrying out the Boston bombings, attends a news conference in Makhachkala April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev - the two men suspected of carrying out the Boston bombings, attends a news conference in Makhachkala April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

It provided no other details.

CNN quoted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as saying that the matter was "ongoing" and that he could not comment on it.

Jihad can refer to a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty, or to a Muslim's personal struggle in devotion to the faith.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, last week.

His brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property in connection with the Boston attack, which killed three people and wounded 264.

Tsarnaeva and the suspects' father told reporters on Thursday in Makhachkala, the capital of Russia's Dagestan region, that they believed their surviving son was innocent.

Attention has turned to whether U.S. officials missed signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have posed a security threat, including a warning from Russia that he might be an Islamic militant.

The FBI interviewed him in 2011 but did not find enough cause to continue an investigation.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's name was listed on the U.S. government's highly classified central database of people it views as potential threats, sources close to the bombing investigation have said.

Law enforcement authorities do not closely monitor the list, which includes about 500,000 people.

(Reporting By Xavier Briand; Editing by Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Mexico detains 108 in immigration sweep; most from Central America

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 04:54 PM PDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican authorities said on Saturday they detained 108 undocumented immigrants along highways, at bus stations and on a cargo train route that thousands of Central Americans use every year to cross Mexico and enter the United States illegally.

Ninety five Central Americans, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, were detained in the southern states of Oaxaca and Tabasco during sweeps by federal police in the last 24 hours, Mexico's migration institute said in a statement.

Seven of the Central Americans were children, the institute said.

An increasing number of Central Americans are sneaking across Mexico's largely unpoliced southern border en route to the United States. Migrants have been spurred on by rampant poverty and rising drug gang violence in their home countries.

Citizens of other countries are also risking the dangerous route across southern Mexico. Eight people from India and five from Bangladesh were also detained in the southern Mexican police sweeps.

President Barack Obama will travel to Mexico and Central America later this week, and his talks with leaders will likely include prospects for a sweeping reform of U.S. immigration laws and efforts to reduce the tide of undocumented immigrants.

The U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Obama's Democrats, is pushing ahead on a bi-partisan bill that would bolster border security and put 11 million people living illegally in the United States on a 13-year path to citizenship.

The legislation, however, faces a challenge in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The number of undocumented Central Americans deported from the United States has risen in recent years. Nearly 95,000 people from the region were deported from the United States last year compared to about 78,500 in 2011, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.

Most of the migrants were from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala where gang violence has increased in recent years.

Mass detentions of Central Americans in Mexico are common, but authorities have been criticized for lax enforcement at the border. Police are accused of exploiting migrants for bribes, while local gangs regularly kidnap migrants and seek ransoms from their relatives.

Another 120 Central Americans were detained in Oaxaca earlier this month. The migration institute said on April 3 it deported 66 Honduran children, most of whom were travelling with people who had been paid to take them across Mexico to the United States.

(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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Zecon wins RM495mil contract

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 09:57 PM PDT

Saturday April 27, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Zecon Bhd has bagged a RM495mil contract from the Public Works Department for the construction of Petra Jaya Hospital in Kuching, Sarawak.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, it said the project would last 42 months.

Lion Corp sells Lion Forest stake

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 09:57 PM PDT

Saturday April 27, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Lion Corp Bhd has disposed of a 72.8% stake in Lion Forest Industries Bhd via subsidiaries.

In separate filings with Bursa Malaysia, Amsteel Mills Sdn Bhd had disposed of a 53.39% stake, while Lion Industries Corp Bhd hived off 19.49%, which when combined represents 168.76 million shares out of its 231.6 million enlarged issued and paid-up share capital.

Paramount shares traded off market

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 09:56 PM PDT

Saturday April 27, 2013

PETALING JAYA: A total of 2.56 million shares of property developer and education provider Paramount Corp Bhd were transacted off market at RM1.40 each, 9.09% lower than Thursday's closing price of RM1.50.

The 2.56 million shares represent 0.75% of the company's paid-up of 337.81 million shares. Yesterday, the counter closed up one sen at RM1.55.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Glover stretches lead at New Orleans

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 05:47 PM PDT

NEW ORLEANS: Lucas Glover, the 2009 US Open champion, fired a two-under par 70 on Saturday to stretch his lead to two strokes after the third round of the $6.6 million US PGA Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Glover stood atop an all-American leaderboard on 14-under par 202 after 54 holes with Kyle Stanley, Jimmy Walker, Billy Horschel and D.A. Points on 204 and Kevin Stadler another stroke off the pace.

"My speed was a little off today," Glover said. "I left a bunch of 8- and 10-footers short. I just didn't have the speed right."

Early starters fired low scores before afternoon winds began swirling, with Stanley shooting 65 and Walker and Horschel firing 66s while Glover played a roller-coaster round that included five birdies and three bogeys.

"The wind picked up more than was forecast," Glover said. "It was good to see some good scores up there early."

Glover, whose wife is expecting a baby in the next few days, birdied the par-5 second and answered a bogey at the fifth with birdies on the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth.

On the back nine, Glover made bogeys on the par-3 14th and 17th holes but birdied the par-5 11th and 18th to stay on top.

"I knew there were some birdies there," Glover said. "I just didn't take advantage as much as I should have."

Sweden's Henrik Norlander fired a 65 to stand on 206 in a group that included Americans Ricky Barnes, Ken Looper and Boo Weekley.

Chinese schoolboy Guan Tianlang, who became the youngest starter in Masters history earlier this month at age 14, struggled to a 77 on Saturday to stand on 218, last among the 71 who made the cut.

Guan made three birdies but also had five bogeys and a triple bogey.

"Today was not that good, but it's still a great experience," Guan said. "I didn't have a good start and I tried to start back in the middle and made a couple birdies, but it was not a very good round."

Guan plans to take a chance on qualifying for the year's next major event, June's US Open at Merion.

"I'm probably going to try the US Open qualifier and then go back to China after that," he said. -AFP

Spain's Ciganda seizes LPGA lead

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 05:42 PM PDT

IRVING, Texas: Spain's Carlotta Ciganda fired six birdies in a five-under par 66 on Saturday to seize a two-shot lead after three rounds of the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout.

Ciganda, 2012's Rookie of the Year on the Ladies European Tour, had a 54-hole total of 11-under par 202.

World No. 1 Park In-Bee of South Korea carded a 67 to claim a share of second place on 204. She was tied with German LPGA rookie Caroline Masson, who led after both of the first two rounds.

Masson shook off a double-bogey at the first to post a 69.

South Korea's Choi Na-Yeon carded a 66 to stand alone in fourth on 205.

Ciganda, a two-time winner on the LET last season, will try to become the fourth Spanish player to win an LPGA tour title.

"It would be a dream," Ciganda said. "I mean, winning is always great, but I just want to try to focus on each shot.

"Just like today, have a great round and then at the end if someone plays better, just congratulate."

Ciganda's six birdies included an unlikely one at the par-four 12th, where she hit her drive right into a lateral hazard to leave her ball part underwater in a concrete drainage ditch. She blasted an eight-iron off the concrete and with a fortuitous bounce her ball rolled 10 feet from the pin and she made the putt for birdie.

"I just tried to hit it as well as I could, and I think I was pretty lucky," Ciganda said. "It bounced really well to the right, and then I was lucky again to make that putt."

The 22-year-old has plenty of proven talent chasing her, including Park, who claimed the world number one ranking less than two weeks ago.

Park opened with a bogey, but nabbed five birdies - including two to end her round - to keep herself in contention.

Choi, ranked third in the world, carded a five-under 66 to move up from a tie for 11th.

Choi has three top-10 LPGA finishes this season, including a runner-up showing at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore.

She was tabbed by compatriot Park as the player to watch on Sunday.

"When it comes to the final round, I think a more experienced player definitely has an advantage going into the pressure conditions," Park said. "I think Na-Yeon will be one of the ones to beat tomorrow. She had a very good day today. She was struggling a little bit with the putter last week, and you know, she changed her putting grip, and I think it's working really good."

A second cut was made on Saturday, trimming the field to 51 players. Those who didn't make it included US star Michelle Wie and 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Yoo Sun-Young. -AFP

Byrne takes four-stroke lead in Langkawi

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 04:25 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Scotland's James Byrne closed in on his second title for this season after shooting a three-under 69 for a four-stroke lead in the third round of the RM200,000 PGM LADA Langkawi Masters.

Byrne, who won the PGM CCM Rahman Putra Masters in February, finished yesterday's third round at the Gunung Raya Golf Resort with a 198 total and a comfortable cushion over Singapore's Lam Chih Bing and Japan's Mitsuhiko Hashizume.

Chih Bing carded the best score of the day – a 65 that took him to 14-under 202, along with Mitsuhiko, who worked his way to a five-under 67.

The best-placed Malaysian was Nicholas Fung, the reigning PGM Tour Order of Merit title holder, who found himself in a three-way tie for 12th on 208.

Byrne, meanwhile, is confident he can hold his game together today and become only the second player after Danny Chia to win twice in a year.

"I played exceptionally well over the first two days (15-under) ... so, to go into the last round with a four-stroke lead after a 69 today, is good for me."


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GE13: Dr Chua urges people to think of Malaysia’s future when voting

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 06:49 AM PDT

KLUANG: The general election on May 5 is not about whether Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat wins, but the fate and future of the people and the country, said MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

He said voters have the right to change, however, they should seriously consider the consequences that they would have to face next.

"The Pakatan Rakyat pact that target to replace Barisan Nasional as government does not have a common direction.

"One of the clearest issues that has become the debate in the past few days is the Islamic state and hudud law - where one party insists on implementing it, if Pakatan comes to power, while another party is against it.

"We cannot have a pact with members going in different directions to lead the government and the people," he said during his speech Kluang Teow Chew 55th anniversary celebration dinner and installation of new committee line-up here on Satirday.

Also present at the event were incumbent Kluang MP Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung and other Barisan candidates.

Dr Chua urged voters to use their votes carefully and not take the continuous development of the nation and their future for granted.

"Slogans cannot help to develop the country because it needs comprehensive planning and economic models for that purpose," he said.

Dr Chua also said Malaysia might attain the developed nation status in 2018, two years ahead of the target, if Barisan continues to govern the country.

He said Johor, which benefitted the most from the economic development in the country, could overtake Selangor and become the most developed state in the Peninsula between three and five years.

He said he was confident that all the targets could be achieve with the consistent economic growth of 5% to 6% every year.

GE13: MCA hits out at ugly politicking on social media sites

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 05:47 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Pictures of a mock altar with candles and joss sticks placed before Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's photographs are circulating on social media sites.

MCA Young Professionals Bureau chief Datuk Chua Tee Yong said this was an example of how ugly politics in the country had become, with social media becoming a hub for "ugly behaviour."

He said the feedback he received regarding the circulation of the pictures was that no one should go to such an extent.

"All are free to make their own political choices but they should also respect others and differing views," he said when contacted.

Chua believed that the pictures, which he received through WhatsApp messenger, was being widely circulated.

He urged the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission to investigate and act against the culprits.

"There is an ongoing hate campaign which is escalating and in the long term, it is detrimental to the country.

"Is this what the opposition is encouraging? All this started with them promoting street demonstrations and hate campaigns,'' he added.

Chua said that after the 2008 general election, the opposition had been espousing a two-party system which he said had spawned into hate campaigns.

"Politics has become so ugly that it has created discomfort among the middle-aged and older generation," he said.

Meanwhile, Chua said it could be "a sign of conscience" when PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang admitted that two of the pledges contained in the opposition manifesto would be difficult to achieve.

Abdul Hadi was reported to have said during a dialogue recently that it would take a long time before toll could be abolished due to the financial burden of having to compensate highway operators.

He was also quoted as saying that the country faced the risk of recession if vehicle import duties were lowered drastically.

"It shows that Pakatan Rakyat's manifesto is merely a publicity tool," Chua said after a walkabout in Labis town.

GE13: PKR sacks 34 standing as Independents

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 05:43 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has expelled 34 of its members who are contesting as Independents in the 13th General Election, party vice-president Tian Chua announced Saturday.

He said they had failed to respond by the deadline of 5pm on Thursday to a request by the party for them to withdraw their candidacy and apologise.

Tian Chua told Bernama that all the candidates were divisional leaders.

"The party constitution states that any member who goes against the party or joins another would be automatically expelled, but we gave these people a warning and time to apologise.

"However, up to 5pm on Thursday, there was no response from these members. They will be issued with letters of expulsion," he said.

Tian Chua declined to elaborate on the reasons for these members to contest as Independents.

"How do I know why they are contesting as Independents? You have to ask them. Their action indicates that they violated party discipline and for that they should be expelled," he said.

Last Wednesday, PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail gave these members up to 5 pm on Thursday to withdraw their candidacy and apologise. - Bernama

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


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Bend it Like Beckham' star agrees palimony suit

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 09:38 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: British actress Parminder Nagra, who shot to fame in 2002's "Bend it like Beckham," has settled a palimony lawsuit after her ex-husband claimed a share of her earnings, lawyers said Friday.

The 37-year-old actress, who went on to star in the long-running US television series "ER," lived with James Stenson for six years before marrying him in January 2009. She filed for divorce in February 2012.

Stenson claimed that he stopped working as a photographer which he said earned him $300,000 a year to manage the couple's life after she won the role of Dr Neela Rasgotra on the NBC show in 2003.

He claimed that she channeled money through a company that she controlled, Keep it Real Inc., and bought three homes during their premarital relationship, and asked for $500,000 in damages plus half the value of the properties.

The lawsuit was filed last June in Los Angeles Superior Court. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The couple had a son, born in May 2009, a few months after they married.

Nagra, who was born in Leicester and whose mother worked in a factory, played Jesminder "Jess" Kaur Bhamra in "Bend it Like Beckham," about a Sikh teenager who rebels against her parents' ban against her playing football.

She co-starred in the film with Keira Knightley. She recalled once: "I met somebody at a party and they were like, 'Which one of the two girls were you?' I said, 'I was the brown one!'"

Asked about British football superstar Beckham and his wife Victoria moving to Los Angeles, she said in 2007: "It's so funny that people think that we would naturally be hanging out.

"No, not happening! I met them once, and they were lovely." - AFP


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Posted: 26 Apr 2013 08:25 PM PDT

Get Rich Click!: The ultimate guide to making

money on the Internet

Author: Marc Ostrofsky

Publisher: Free Press

There have been a number of books on getting rich in today's digital world. Here is another. And like the rest, they all promise the same thing – a step-by-step guide to achieving financial success by leveraging on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among some of them. Author Marc Ostrofsky is a speaker and venture capitalist and he believes there is much to be made, and much to be learned from the Internet world.

Risk to Succeed: Essential lessons for discovering your unique talents & finding success

Author: Ricky Cohen

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Written in a series of parables, this is a story of a young elephant who is not content to move with the herd. It makes its way into the world and befriends a butterfly who takes it on a risk-taking journey. These "laws of the jungle" are meant to be applied in today's corporate jungle and other aspects of your life.

The Power of Self-Confidence: Become unstoppable, irresistible, and unafraid in every area of your life

Author: Brian Tracy

Publisher: Wiley & Son

Your level of self-confidence determines the size of the goals you set, the energy and determination that you focus on achieving them. It also includes the amount of persistence you apply to overcome every obstacle. Self-confidence allows you to move out of your comfort zone and take risks without any guarantee. Once you have moved passed a goal, you will be empowered to go for the next.

What you should NEVER do in a job interview

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 08:25 PM PDT

● Come into to the interview room with compromised grooming. Even if that means brushing your teeth a second time that morning in the office bathroom. Tasteful, best- business attire on, well-groomed, showered … this pretty much says it.

● Don't interrupt the interviewer. Even if you think you get where they're going and have the most outstanding answer ever to their question, this is one of the most annoying things you can do. Give them a chance to finish.

● Don't wear overpowering perfume or cologne. Generally fragrances don't belong in an interview, it's not that kind of date. Worse, some people may be allergic. n Don't go heavy on the make-up.The closer to natural you look, the more the real you can shine through.

● Don't listen to your iPod, play video games, make calls, etc. while waiting to be interviewed. Take care of all that before you come in the door of the building.

● Or, if you really need to make important calls while you wait, ask if you may use a private area to do so. Watching someone dial their chums or play video games while waiting, leaves the impression the person will be doing that during their workday too.

● Since you are there to present yourself as a capable, serious candidate, start your presentation from the moment you walk in. Impressions you leave will last well beyond the day of the interview.

And you never know whom you run into on the elevator or even as you enter the building. After the interview, maintain your best interview demeanour until you are away from the building.

Having an edge in job interviews

Posted: 26 Apr 2013 08:25 PM PDT

Crazy Good Interviewing: How Acting A Little Crazy Can Get You The Job

Authors: John B. Molidor with

Barbara Parus

Publisher: Wiley

HUGE parts of the global economy are still showing sluggish growth or are in decline. And many of the countless tens of millions who lost their jobs during the Global Financial Crisis Parts 1 or 2 (or arguably Part 3) have not been fully re-employed. The picture in Malaysia is somewhat better than large swathes of North America and the EU bloc.

But we all know someone who has been unexpectedly knocked back, time and time again in the current job market. It's getting a little desperate out there.

Employers are not helping. In the good old days, generally, all you needed was a one-on-one interview, and if you had managed to reach the interview stage, you could pretty much count on getting the job, barring some unforeseen interview-room catastrophe.

With middle managers now having to their justify their existence and salaries to an ever-greater extent, the interview process has, in many places, become tortuously elongated. Very often there's the Skype interview.

This is followed by the one-on-one. Then there's possibly a second interview. Then a panel interview. Then a group assessment. Holy cow! These are testing times.

Dr John B. Molidor steps in to give the poor overwhelmed interviewee a bit of confidence and a fighting chance to make it to the finishing line, in the lively and engaging Crazy Good Interviewing: How Acting A Little Crazy Can Get You The Job, published by Wiley.

On its release last year, it was called one of the best career books for 2012 by the Wall Street Journal's professional career site.

So, how does Molidor present his case that slightly eccentric behaviours can tip the scales in the applicant's favour?

"Crazy Good Interviewing shows readers that 'crazy good' behaviour, can make an applicant stand out favourably in a sea of mediocrity. Crazy good behaviour can range from a candidate who created a keynote presentation on his iPad to show what he could bring to the job or the one who created a DVD highlighting her abilities. I hope this book gives job hunters an opportunity to get their creative juices flowing so they can become the stand-out applicant at their next interview and land a new job."

Molidor penned Crazy Good Interviewing as a result of his many years of conducting workshops and teaching interview techniques. In the book, Molidor explores how crazy good interviewing is all about applying a variety of mental strategies and positive verbal and non-verbal communication skills to the interview process to ensure the best possible outcome.

The book contains self-assessment tips, quizzes and examples from workshops, and tips for reducing interview-day jitters and conquering the group interview.

Molidor is CEO and president of Michigan State University Flint Area Medical Education and a community assistant dean and Professor of Psychiatry at MSU College of Human Medicine. His speciality is helping individuals understand how their brain, communication styles, and interviewing skills can function together with the best synchronicity possible.

The employment-industry-insider wrote this with Barbara Parus, who has considerable experience co-authoring books on human resources-related topics, as well as ghost-writing experience. Parus is also the director of publications for the National Speakers Association in Tempe, Arizona.

Here's a breakdown of what you'll find in the book. Firstly, crazy good and crazy bad behaviours that one might come across in an interview. By understanding what an excellent response to a question would be, you can use this great information to help shape your answers to questions put to you.

Secondly, the all-important business of making a terrific first impression. Molidor points out that "when you upgrade your appearance, there is a greater likelihood of being hired and an 8%-20% higher projected salary as a result of your upgraded look." Obvious, true. But worth reiterating.

Thirdly, the book shows you how to assess your strengths, and goes through each area of strengths and weaknesses and explains how you can include them – and/or mitigate them – in your interview.

Moreover, the author helps you look outside of the box at strengths you may not consider when thinking of your interview. He talks about how one can present hobbies and volunteer work in ways to enhance their relevance to those skills pertaining to the new job you're looking to secure.

To a considerable extent, this book is really old wine in new bottles. To have managed to crank out an entire book on this topic, albeit with the help of one of America's most prolific ghost-writers, is quite an achievement in itself.

In summary, this is a useful and insightful text if you're a rookie in the job-market. And a handy and inspirational book to leaf through if you are unlucky enough to be one of the many sorely jaded by going through all those hoops, time and time again. The essentials of course can be found in the countless dos and don't lists that appear on a regular basis.

And Lady Luck, Molidor can't help you with. But this book does offer possibilities to increase your odds at the interview stage. A most welcome addition to the get-ahead-in-tough-times genre.


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Saturday event

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 05:17 AM PDT


"Flesh: Blacks & Whites" by one of Malaysia's up-and-coming contemporary artists, Sean Lean will be showing at Wei-Ling Contemporary from May 16 to June 20. This will mark the artist's first solo showing. Portraits of albinistic animals have been a recurring theme within Sean Lean's artworks and will be prominent in this exhibition. Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at G212&213A Ground Floor, The Gardens Mall, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Wei-Ling Contemporary is open daily from 10am-9pm. Admission is free. For details, call 03-2260 1106 / 03-2282 8323, email or visit


Viva Home Shopping Mall is celebrating Earth Month to share its environmental initiatives with shoppers. Themed "Love Your Home, Love Your Planet", the mall's Earth Month campaign in on until tomorrow and features plenty of interactive, eco-friendly experiences to raise awareness and responsibility towards the environment.


Michel Anthony, a Malaysian-born artist based in Nice, France, has led a colourful and nomadic life, growing up in Sungai Siput and finally establishing himself as a successful artist and sculptor in Europe. In the last few years, Michel has been creating bronze sculptures, loving the creativity that goes into producing three-dimensional works. His solo exhibition entitled 'Embodied Elegance' will be on from May 3 to May 29 at the Sutra Gallery, 12 Persiaran Titiwangsa 3, 53200 KL.


The Health & Fitness Sports Expo 2013 is on from now till April 28 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC, Hall 5) from 10.30am to 9pm and from 10.30am to 8pm (Sun). There will be a great array of valuable exhibits offering latest in fitness, martial arts, diet, nutrition and supplement, strength, wellness, health care, active gear, golf, apparel, equipment, water sports and other outdoor adventure. Admission is free. For details email or contact 03-9132 9888.


The Urban Abyss, an exhibition by Wong Chee Meng at Wei-Ling Contemporary is on from now until May 15. His art is essentially image-play using the methods and styles of paper-cutting and stencil art, a great combination of such timeless crafts. For details, call 03-2260 1106 / 03-2282 8323.


Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre Klang (SKSMC) is organising "Diabetes Forum in conjunction with Nurses Day" from 8am to 1pm on second floor at Wing B in SKSMC on May 11. The programme will start with aerobic exercise, diabetic mapping on "What I need to know about diabetes", foot care, free pre-screening check-up, and diet counselling by dietitian. Dr Loo Chee Yean, a consultant nephrologist and physician will give a talk on "The myths of insulin therapy". Seats are limited. For details, call 03 3373 3636 ext 7313/7335/7356.

Reality TV show

The Apartment returns with live auditions in Malaysia! Interested participants can audition to be cast in the show to be aired later this year. Live auditions for the public will be held today at Highstreet Concourse in 1Utama shopping centre, Petaling Jaya. The Apartment is an interior design battle where eight couples compete for a chance to win a luxury apartment by Sime Darby Property. At The Apartment Live roadshow, which ends tomorrow, members of the public can meet The Apartment host Jamie Durie and get design tips for their dream home. There will also be a free feng shui talk by master Kenny Hoo, free colour consultations with Dulux colour experts, lucky draw and activities for children and adults. The roadshow is from 10am to 9.30pm.


Starting from today till May 19, Core Design Gallery, 87, Jalan SS15/2A Subang Jaya will be presenting an exhibition of Collective of Young Malaysia Contemporary Artists who has creatively use various mediums to depict their 2D and 3D work of art. Please visit or contact 016-2068 544 (Syikin) for details.


"My Mum, Our Story" Contest organiSed by The Mines Shopping Mall is now open for registration. This contest is open to public aged 18 years old and above in three categories, which are Malay (Category A), English (Category B) and Chinese (Category C). It is limited to 300 words per entry. Contestants can send in your entries together with the completed entry form before May 4. The Prize Presentation for "My Mum, Our Story" will be held on May 11 at 2pm at Level 3, Centre Court, The Mines. All the winners will be invited to attend the prize presentation ceremony For more enquiries and registration, contact Customer Service at 03-8949 6333 or visit or


Shelter Home for Children is organising a "Climb of Hope" up Mount Kinabalu from May 29 to June 1, with the aim of raising RM100,000 for the education, healthcare and protection of children-at-risk under their care. Those interested in participating can contact 03-7955 0663 (Roland/Edwin), or visit for more details.

TNB’s support for Pintar project deserves praise

Posted: 27 Apr 2013 05:17 AM PDT

RECENTLY, I read a report in Tenaga Nasional Bhd's in-house magazine, Tenagawan, headlined "RM1.2mil for TNB schools".

I hope thisproject can be emulated by other government-linked companies (GLC) as a way of helping the rakyat.

TNB has spent RM1.2mil for 13 primary schools it has adopted under the second phase of the Pintar programme. As a retired educator, the programme pleases me.

TNB's assistance here is most welcomed, as are other projects under the Mesra Rakyat 1Malaysia programme.

Its chief corporate officer, Datuk Roslan Ab Rahman, said the money included a contribution of RM30,000 per year for each school, as well as various programmes organised by TNB and the schools.

They include the Newspaper in Education programme, field trips, motivational camps and exam-preparation programmes for students sitting the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).

TNB and the schools will work closely in planning and organising the programmes, which mostly involve Year Four to Year Six pupils, said Roslan.

He added that this was because the company would adopt the schools only for three years under the Pintar programme.

TNB, he said, was focusing on rural schools and thus did not have sufficient access to facilities and information compared with urban schools, Roslan said.

Adding to this, Pintar Foundation programme director Karimah Tan Abdullah had said that TNB was among 31 companies involved in the programme.

There are currently 328 schools under the programme.

Karimah said only some 10% of the schools adopted were at secondary level as priority was given to primary schools.

I hope other GLCs will emulate this project in line with the government's Economic Transformation Programme.

Bulbir Singh



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