Selasa, 30 April 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Venezuelan lawmakers hurt during punch-up in parliament

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 07:35 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Fistfights broke out in Venezuela's parliament on Tuesday, injuring a number of legislators during an angry session linked to the South American nation's bitter election dispute.

Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Julio Borges of the Primero Justicia party arrives at a news conference with a bruised and bloodied face after a fight broke out at a session of the National Assembly in Caracas April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Julio Borges of the Primero Justicia party arrives at a news conference with a bruised and bloodied face after a fight broke out at a session of the National Assembly in Caracas April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The opposition said seven of its parliamentarians were attacked and hurt when protesting a measure to block them from speaking in the National Assembly over their refusal to recognize President Nicolas Maduro's April 14 vote victory.

Government legislators blamed their "fascist" rivals for starting the violence, which illustrated the volatile state of politics in the OPEC nation after the death of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez last month.

"We knew the opposition came to provoke violence," Maduro said of the incident. "This must not be repeated."

The 50-year-old Maduro, who was Chavez's chosen successor, defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by 1.5 percentage points. Capriles, 40, has refused to recognize his victory, alleging that thousands of irregularities occurred and the vote "stolen."

The vote exposed a nation evenly divided after 14 years of Chavez's hardline socialist rule.

"They can beat us, jail us, kill us, but we will not sell out our principles," one of the opposition parliamentarians, Julio Borges, told a local TV station, showing a bruised and bloodied face. "These blows give us more strength."

One assembly worker, who asked not to be named, told Reuters the trouble began when opposition legislators shouted "fascist" at the National Assembly leader and unfolded a protest banner reading "parliamentary coup."

Government parliamentarians attacked them. Laptops and tables were hurled in the ensuing melee, with one legislator hit over the head with a chair, the witness said.

Workers later had to show their phones to see if they had photos or videos of the incident, the assembly employee added.


Government parliamentarian Odalis Monzon said she and some colleagues were attacked and beaten. "Today again I had to defend the commander's (Chavez's) legacy," she said.

The fracas came after the government-controlled assembly passed a measure denying opposition members the right to speak in the chamber until they recognized Maduro as president.

"Until they recognize the authorities, the institutions of the republic, the sovereign will of our people, the opposition deputies will have to go and speak (to the private media) but not here in this National Assembly," said Diosdado Cabello, the head of parliament.

Both sides accused each other of starting the incident, which took place behind closed doors without media present.

In a video that pro-opposition private TV station Globovision broadcaster said it obtained from a parliamentarian, various assembly members could be seen hitting each other and scuffling to cries of "stop" from others.

In another potential flashpoint for Venezuela, the government and opposition are planning rival marches in Caracas on Wednesday to commemorate May Day.

Venezuela has been on edge since the April 14 presidential election. At least eight people died in violent protests the day after the vote. There have been scores of arrests in what the opposition is calling a wave of repression.

Maduro has accused the opposition of planning a coup.

Former colonial ruler Spain this week offered to mediate in Venezuela's political tensions. But Maduro rejected that.

"Stop sticking your noses in Venezuela. Spanish foreign minister, get out, you impertinent man. Venezuela is to be respected," he said in a speech, referring to Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Paul Simao and Stacey Joyce)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Obama renews vow to close Guantanamo detention camp

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 07:07 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saying it was damaging to U.S. interests to keep holding prisoners in legal limbo at Guantanamo, President Barack Obama renewed an old vow on Tuesday to close the camp, where about 100 inmates are on hunger strike to protest against their years in detention without trial.

An unidentified prisoner reads a newspaper in a communal cellblock at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Bob Strong

An unidentified prisoner reads a newspaper in a communal cellblock at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Human rights groups welcomed Obama's recommitment to shutting the prison. But some activists called for action, not just words, and said the president could take some steps on his own without hitting congressional obstacles.

"It's not sustainable - I mean, the notion that we're going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man's land in perpetuity," Obama said.

Obama lamented the status quo, which has kept most prisoners in detention without trial or charge since the prison was set up at the U.S. Naval Base on Cuba in 2002 to hold foreign terrorism suspects.

A renewed effort to close the camp would mean finding a series of solutions - some of which would likely come up against the same congressional opposition they faced in the past given lawmakers' reluctance to have inmates transferred to the United States.

Obama, who repeatedly pledged to close the camp when he was campaigning for a first term and after he first took office in 2009, put the blame on Congress for his failure to make good on his promise and said he would re-engage with lawmakers on the issue.

While Obama acknowledged an uphill fight and provided few specifics on how to overcome legal and political obstacles, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden later said he was weighing a range of options aimed at reducing the number of inmates and moving toward "ultimate closure."

She said Obama could implement some measures on his own, including naming a new senior State Department officer to refocus on repatriating detainees or transferring them to third countries, a process that has ground to a halt. That post has been vacant since January.

"We will also work to fully implement the Periodic Review Board process, which we acknowledge has not moved forward quickly enough," she said. This is a system of parole-style hearings the Obama administration set up but which have left many inmates frustrated over the slow handling of their cases.

Obama's comments were his first public remarks about Guantanamo since the hunger strike began in early February. Military officials have attributed the protest in part to a sense of hopelessness among detainees over their open-ended detention.

Long a subject of international condemnation but low on the list of the American public's policy concerns, Guantanamo has been thrust back in the spotlight by the hunger strike and the military's decision to force-feed prisoners to keep them alive.

The U.S. military has said 21 prisoners are being force-fed liquid meals through tubes inserted in their noses. Forty medical personnel have been sent to reinforce the military's existing teams at Guantanamo to deal with the hunger strike.


Some inmates have given harrowing accounts of force-feeding, and the practice has been criticized by rights groups and also by the American Medical Association.

On Thursday, the president of the AMA sent a letter to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterating the association's position that it is a violation of medical ethics to force-feed mentally competent adults who refuse food and life-saving treatment.

Asked about the force-feeding, Obama defended it, saying "I don't want these individuals to die."

On the hunger strike, he said it was "not a surprise to me that we've got problems in Guantanamo."

"Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe," he said. "It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed."

Obama said he had asked his advisers to "examine every option that we have administratively" to deal with Guantanamo. It was unclear whether that meant Obama might use executive powers that some legal experts say he has to transfer some detainees.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed Obama's effort. "The deteriorating situation at Guantanamo, including the ongoing and expanding hunger strikes by prisoners ... is disturbing and unacceptable," he said.

But Howard McKeon, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said: "The president faces bipartisan opposition to closing Guantanamo Bay's detention centre because he has offered no alternative plan regarding the detainees there, nor a plan for future terrorist captures."

Obama has approved military tribunals to try some of the most dangerous suspects, but only nine of the current prisoners have been charged or convicted of crimes. Of the other inmates, 86 have been cleared for transfer or release, 47 are considered too dangerous to release but are not facing prosecution and 24 are considered eligible for possible prosecution.

U.S. lawmakers, mostly Republicans but including some Democrats, have blocked Obama from transferring Guantanamo prisoners to American jails, saying they would pose a security risk if housed in the United States.

The U.S. government will not send some prisoners back to their homelands because of instability or concerns over mistreatment. Most countries are reluctant to accept them for resettlement when the United States itself will not take them.

Obama said ultimately he would need approval from Congress to shutter the facility and acknowledged that would be an uphill struggle, saying, "It's easy to demagogue the issue."


The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has long campaigned to close Guantanamo, said: "We praise the president for reaffirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress."

It said that if Obama were "really serious" about closing the camp, he could use a "waiver process" to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have already been cleared for release, lift the moratorium on transfers to Yemen and appoint a senior administration official to shepherd the closure.

The United States has not sent prisoners back to Yemen, where 56 of those eligible for release are from, since a foiled plot in 2010 to bomb an American passenger aircraft was hatched my militants in Yemen.

The Guantanamo camp was opened by Republican President George W. Bush, to hold foreign terrorism suspects captured overseas after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

Obama failed to meet his promise to close the prison within a year of taking office in early 2009 and it has become an enduring symbol of widely condemned U.S. interrogation and detention practices during the Bush era.

An independent U.S. task force issued a report on April 16 calling indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo "abhorrent and intolerable." It called for the camp to be closed by the end of 2014 when NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan is due to end and most U.S. troops will leave the country.

The U.S. military on Monday counted 100 prisoners as hunger strikers. Five of those being force-fed have been hospitalized for observation but did not have life-threatening conditions, a spokesman for the detention camp, Army Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House, said on Tuesday.

Hunger strikes have occurred at Guantanamo since soon after it opened. The current protest began in early February, after guards seized photos and other belongings during a cell search. Prisoners said the guards had mistreated their Korans during the search. The U.S. military has denied that.

(Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami.; Editing by Frances Kerry, Christopher Wilson and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

EU considers trade action after Bangladesh factory collapse

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 06:15 PM PDT

(Reuters) - The European Union voiced strong concern over labour conditions in Bangladesh after a building collapse there killed hundreds of factory workers, and said it was considering action to encourage improvements, including the use of its trade preference system.

Anger has been growing since the illegally built structure collapsed last week, killing at least 390 people. Hundreds remain unaccounted for but rescue officials said on Tuesday they had given up hope of finding any more survivors.

Members of the police escort Mohammed Sohel Rana (C), owner of Rana Plaza which collapsed last week, after his hearing at the High Court in Dhaka April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Members of the police escort Mohammed Sohel Rana (C), owner of Rana Plaza which collapsed last week, after his hearing at the High Court in Dhaka April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

It was the third deadly incident in six months to raise questions about worker safety and labour conditions in the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.

Representatives of major international garment buyers - some facing sharp criticism in home markets for doing too little to safeguard the mostly female workers making their clothes - met industry representatives in Dhaka on Monday and agreed to form a joint panel to put together a new safety plan.

Clothes made in five factories inside the Rana Plaza building on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, were produced for retailers in Europe and Canada.

Late on Tuesday, the EU issued a brief statement expressing concern and suggested it would look at Bangladesh's preferential trade access to the EU market in considering taking action to encourage better safety standards and labour conditions.

"The EU is presently considering appropriate action, including through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) - through which Bangladesh currently receives duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under the รข€˜Everything But Arms' scheme - in order to incentivise responsible management of supply chains involving developing countries," said the statement, issued by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht.

About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh's garment industry, making it the world's second-largest apparel exporter. The bulk of exports - 60 percent - go to Europe.

Ashton and de Gucht said they were deeply saddened by the "terrible loss of life", particularly because it followed a fire in the Tazreen Fashion factory in a Dhaka suburb in November that killed 112 people.

"The sheer scale of this disaster and the alleged criminality around the building's construction is finally becoming clear to the world," Ashton and de Gucht said.

Also on Tuesday, following a private emergency meeting of Canadian retailers, the Retail Council of Canada said it would develop a new set of guidelines.

That emergency meeting brought together retailers including Loblaw, Sears Canada Inc and Wal-Mart Canada, to discuss how they would deal with the tragedy.

Representatives of some 45 companies, including Gap Inc, H&M, J.C. Penney, Nike Inc, Wal-Mart, Britain's Primark, Marks & Spencer and Tesco, and Li & Fung, also met officials from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association in Dhaka on Monday to discuss safety.

The Retail Council of Canada, which represents operators of more than 43,000 stores in Canada, said it would work with international organisations, the Bangladeshi government and others to find ways to address safety in the Bangladesh garment industry.

Primark and Loblaw have promised to compensate the families of garment workers killed while making their clothes.


With no hope left of finding survivors, heavy machinery is being used to clear concrete and debris from the site in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from Dhaka.

It was still an agonisingly slow process for families waiting for news on loved ones who worked in the Rana Plaza, which collapsed with about 3,000 people inside. About 2,500 people have been rescued so far, many of them injured.

With angry protests continuing daily since Bangladesh's worst industrial accident, the building's owner was brought before a court in Dhaka on Monday, where lawyers and protesters chanted "hang him, hang him".

About 20 people were injured on Tuesday as police fired teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protesters in Savar calling for the death penalty for the owners of the building and factories.

Officials in Bangladesh have said the eight-storey complex had been built on swampy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers entered the building last Wednesday despite warnings it was structurally unsafe.

Eight people have been arrested - four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.

The garment industry employs mostly women, some of whom earn as little as $38 (24.5 pounds) a month.

(Reporting by Susan Taylor, Neha Alawadhi, Serajul Quadir and Rema Paul; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

Related Stories:
Canada retailers plan new Bangladesh trade guidelines

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

American Idol losing viewership

Posted: 01 May 2013 06:30 AM PDT

American Idol is losing steam ... and viewership big time.

IN THE past few weeks we've seen quite a number of new and returning shows making their way into our television schedules. From critically-acclaimed dramas to big-budget programmes to highly-popular comedies, they're all there for the ... viewing.

However, last week's shocking industry news – about how the season finale of Duck Dynasty (History) garnered higher ratings than American Idol (Star World and 8TV) in the United States – is proof that reality-based talent shows have become stale and irrelevant.

Few people want to watch Ryan Seacrest, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson make a few kids' popstar dreams come true these days. We'd rather watch a documentary series about a "swamp family" that made its millions from selling duck hunting products.

The news also tells us that American Idol is not American Idol without Simon Cowell and that Nicki Minaj should just stick to making "music". Not to worry, though, as the show will be over soon enough – there are only four contestants left now.

Meanwhile, if you're into sitcoms, you might want to keep your Thursday nights free as Fox and Diva Universal have gone all out with their Thursday night comedy slot. On Fox, there's the new show The Neighbors (about a family living in a gated community inhabited by a group of peace-loving aliens), followed by Modern Family S4 (update: Gloria is pregnant, Haley is in college, Phil's Phil's-osophies is a book everyone needs to read) and a double episode of Community S4. These sitcoms are also sandwiched between Fox's animated comedies – Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show and The Simpsons – as well as the ever-popular series Bones and Castle.

On Diva Universal's Thursday comedy line-up are Hot In Cleveland (the fourth season ended last week and will be replaced by the all-new Guys With Kids tomorrow), Go On, The Mindy Project and Up All Night. Guys With Kids stars Anthony Anderson, Tempest Bledsoe – whom many of us know as Vanessa Huxtable of The Cosby Show – Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Zach Cregger, Jesse Bradford and Erinn Hayes, as two couples and one divorced couple who do their best in bringing up their kids. It's not the most intriguing of storylines, but the sitcom was created by comedian Jimmy Fallon so it might still be an interesting watch.

Comedies aside, some new and returning drama series that have gotten much publicity, good or bad, include the glamorous soap opera Revenge (Star World and 8TV, although the latter station is currently airing the first season), Supernatural (beTV), Smash (Diva Universal), Cesar Millan's Leader Of The Pack (National Geographic Channel), Game Of Thrones (HBO), Castle (Fox), Defiance (Syfy HD) and Chicago Fire (Universal Channel HD). And of course, there's Hannibal (AXN).

Hannibal is a prequel of sorts to the story of how the cannibalistic Dr Hannibal Lecter came to be. Playing the titular character is Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, with British hottie Hugh Dancy as a criminal profiler with a very special gift and skill for hunting down serial killers. The pace of the show may not be as quick and eager as many other series, but then again, Hannibal isn't your typical investigative drama. Instead, it is a "thinking drama", one that doesn't always let you figure out what's going to happen in the next few frames.

As an added feature to the show, AXN also released its second-screen app for Hannibal, which is downloadable on your tablet or smartphone. While you're watching the show, the app "listens" to it and syncs your tablet/smartphone, giving you extra information about a character, place, or case that's highlighted in that particular episode. According to Sony Pictures Television Networks (which owns AXN), this is the first time that the technology is introduced in Asia.

Another programme that uses technology to make it stand out among millions of other shows is the science fiction Defiance. The new series was created as an accompaniment to a multiplayer videogame of the same name.

The show's storyline is affected by whatever major change is made in the game, and vice versa. For example, if enough players kill off a main character in the game, he or she will no longer appear in the show.

I wish American Idol was also made this way. I know which "character" I'd like to kill off first.

Tweet us (@MyStarTwo) which new or returning programmes are your favourites, and which characters from whatever show you'd like to kill off if you had the chance.

Game Of Thrones retains its winning formula

Posted: 01 May 2013 06:29 AM PDT

Season Three of Game Of Thrones retains the formula that won it such great critical acclaim.

HERE'S what anyone who has been visiting Westeros for the last two seasons knows: in the Game Of Thrones (GOT), the point isn't just to win, but to do whatever it takes to remain on the winning side.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening episode of the epic series' third season, Valar Dohaeris, which sees various characters struggling with what they are willing to do to remain on their chosen side (or the one in which they ended up). It is a theme that continues into the second episode, Dark Wings, Dark Words, and so far, has made for a gripping continuation of a series that has enthralled us with its twists and turns.

Visually, the show – based on George R. R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series of books – has never looked better, with gorgeously dreary outdoor shots contrasting with the medieval sets of the various kingdoms, and the show capitalises on this with the kind of brilliant cinematography and editing that wouldn't be out of place in a big-screen epic.

With just 10 episodes per season, one of GOT's strengths is its ability to pack so much into a few short scenes. We're just two episodes in, and there is much to take in, especially with most of our lead characters being spread out all across Westeros with missions of their own that fit in to the sprawling storyline.

In King's Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), despite orchestrating their victory at the Battle of Blackwater last season, finds himself relegated to the sidelines now that his father Tywin (Charles Dance) has taken over his previous position as the King's Hand. Dinklage is phenomenal as always, but he shines the most in scenes where he has an equally strong performer to play off, and there have been some unforgettable exchanges with Tywin and Tyrion's sister Cersei, so far.

Meanwhile, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) has her own problems, in the form of her son Joffrey's betrothed Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Cersei senses that there is more to Margaery than just a pretty face, and resents the increasing influence she wields over Joffrey, and by extension, the Iron Throne.

In a story where the biggest battles are often fought without any weapons, this struggle between the two headstrong women seems to hold a lot of potential. Hopefully, this will also mean that we see more of Headey, whose strong presence in the first season was diminished somewhat in the second.

Which brings us to the third Lannister sibling, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who is being transported to King's Landing by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) on Catelyn Stark's orders. While we haven't seen much of this odd pairing yet, their verbal and physical sparring has been a real pleasure to watch, and Jaime is fast becoming a much more likeable character than any incestuous, murderous traitor has a right to be.

Speaking of strong women, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), the last living heir of the royal Targaryen family, hasn't been twiddling her thumbs either. With her dragons growing fast, she is in the midst of amassing an army, and while we haven't seen much of her plans yet, it looks like they are certainly going to be (pardon the pun) fiery.

The Starks are still struggling to find each other while also dealing with their own demons. Robb (Richard Madden), who is still King-in-the-North, hasn't forgiven Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) for letting Jaime go, and continues his quest to defeat the Lannisters. Arya (Maisie Williams) has found herself in the company of a band of men whose intentions she still isn't clear about, while Sansa (Sophie Turner) is trapped at King's Landing not knowing who she can trust. Over in the North, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is learning more about his dreams, and coming to realise that despite being a cripple, he may have powers that very few others do.

Besides the main characters, GOT excels with its secondary roles, and among these, folks like Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) continue to fascinate.

The show has so far added three much-anticipated characters from the books: Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster) and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg). Of the three, Rigg has managed to impress as the smart and sharp matriarch of the Tyrell family who may be able to play the game better than the men around her.

Much like in the second season, our huge cast of characters is spread across the length and breadth of the land, and each episode flits between what is happening with each of them. This structure is fast becoming GOT's strength and weakness; when the show is focusing on some of its strongest characters (for me, this includes Tyrion, the Jaime and Brienne pairing, and Daenerys), they give us just enough meat to tantalise us before moving away to something else. However, the same structure sometimes makes the less interesting character arcs (Jon Snow, and some of Arya's journey) feel a tad unsubstantial.

At the start of every new season of GOT, I wonder the same thing: how are they going to resolve the many tangled threads introduced in the previous one? This new season is no exception, and if anything, the sheer complexity of the many plotlines is starting to feel a little overwhelming.

And yet, with storylines this intelligent and characters so addictively layered, it is difficult to fault the showrunners for wanting to keep to the source material as much as possible, and not compromise on the details. And if this season is any indication, GOT isn't going to give up its winning formula anytime soon.

Game Of Thrones airs every Saturday at 9pm on HBO (Astro Ch 411) and HBO HD (Astro Ch 431). Reader response can be directed to

He’s the Mann

Posted: 01 May 2013 03:11 AM PDT

Actor Gabriel Mann has no problems with people calling Revenge a campy, over-the-top soap opera.

NO DRAMA which centres itself around the theme of revenge can be worse than Hollywood, or so says American actor Gabriel Mann.

Referring to his current drama Revenge, the bachelor says with a hearty laugh: "Hollywood is much more vicious. It's a perfect show as a metaphor for Hollywood because everyone out here is always watching their back. If they have to climb over someone to get to where they want to be, sometimes they do."

That says a lot, coming from someone who has been in show business since 1995.

The 1.87m-tall and lanky star plays bisexual technology guru Nolan Ross and aide to Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), daughter of his late benefactor and friend.

He helps her exact revenge on the upper crust who caused her father to be falsely imprisoned for life.

When Mann first received the role, he says "the only outline for it was that he was a tech guru like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs".

He left his fate in creator Mike Kelly's hands. "I said to Mike very early in the game that 'I trust you completely, so anywhere you'd like to go with this character, I'm happy to go there with you'.

"He said, 'Are you sure about that?' and before you know it, Nolan was making out with Tyler Barrol (actor Ashton Holmes, in season one)."

The chatty actor, who answers questions freely and easily, does not mind that Revenge is a melodrama on the verge of being campy.

With pride in his voice, the 40-year-old says: "I believe the show is always over the top from the very first episode. It's definitely a challenge to keep figuring out where you take it. Very thankfully, I'm not one of the writers for the show because I would imagine it is a very difficult task."

Helen Hunt recently directed an episode of Revenge. How is it different working under the direction of someone with acting experience as compared to other directors?

Sometimes on television, the impulse is that you have to move very quickly because you have to shoot so much so fast. A lot of the time you have directors who are trying to make sure that the shot looks perfect but you don't always get that much direction for the acting.

Helen's eyes were very closely set on our performance. She took it to another level, and had us be very thoughtful about things that sometimes get overlooked in a performance. It made us want to push our characters even further.

With soaps like Revenge, you never know who is going to get bumped off next. Do you ever worry about being on shows like these?

Always, every script. I always wonder, maybe this is the episode where they find Nolan in the dumpster or he gets kidnapped ... who knows on this show. When you sign on for a series like this, you know that's part of what makes the series interesting.

I always have so much respect and trust for the creator of the show that if, for some reason, Nolan is going to die, I would be sad but I'm happy to sacrifice myself for the bigger picture.

How big of a soap opera addict are you?

I'm a big fan of Scandal, which is, in some ways, another high-brow soap opera, and Downton Abbey. I love Homeland, I love Girls.

I'm also a big fan of Parks And Recreation, which is not a soap opera but is very entertaining and funny. I also love Nashville, which is maybe another kind of soap opera. So as you can see, I'm a big fan of the genre.

How exactly would you take revenge, if you were in Emily's place?

I'm not a big believer in forcing that issue, I believe the universe always ends up taking care of it. The longer you're in the business, you learn how to handle yourself and protect yourself.

When I was first starting in Hollywood, I had a few experiences where people were trying to do something terrible to me because I believe maybe they felt I was competition to them. But you have to let these things go. And it's more of a reflection on them than it really is of you, it's really par for the course.

How would you like to be remembered?

As an actor who is very collaborative with my fellow actors, as someone who is very committed to my work and very professional, but also that I have a lot of support and love for the craft and people that I work with, and I'm there to support them to do their best work. I think that's how I'd like to be remembered.

And maybe as someone with a good sense of style, I hope. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Revenge Season Two airs every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 6pm on Star World (Astro Ch 711) and Star World HD (Astro Ch 722).


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Yahoo scraps Dailymotion bid after French government concerns

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 06:22 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO: Yahoo Inc has abandoned an effort to acquire a majority stake in online video website Dailymotion due to objections by the French government, according to media reports, scrapping what would have been the biggest deal in the 10-month tenure of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

Yahoo had been in talks to buy a 75 percent stake in Dailymotion, owned by telecommunications company France-Telecom Orange, in a deal that would have valued the video website at $300 million.

But French government officials raised concerns that the country would lose control over one of its biggest Internet industry successes in such a deal, according to a person familiar with the matter.

French government officials and France Telecom executives sought to arrange a deal in which Yahoo would take a 50 percent stake instead, but Yahoo balked, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Yahoo and Dailymotion declined to comment on the matter.

Dailymotion is among the most popular online destinations for video, although it lags far behind Google Inc's YouTube, the world's dominant video website.

News that the deal was running into trouble was first reported by French media last week.

France Telecom-Orange acquired Dailymotion for $170 million through a two-phase deal, with the most recent transaction closing in January. Dailymotion's editorial and executive management operate independently of France Telecom-Orange.

Online video, which commands higher ad rates than traditional Web content, is increasingly important to Yahoo as it seeks to reverse a multiyear decline in revenue and visitor traffic.

Mayer, who took the reins of the struggling Internet pioneer in July, has so far focused her acquisition efforts on scooping up small, mobile start-up companies. - Reuters

E Trade names Morgan Stanley's Nandra as president

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 06:06 PM PDT

NEW YORK E Trade Financial Corp named a pair of executives with consumer experience to fill top operational and marketing roles on Tuesday, continuing a house cleaning that began when the discount broker hired a new chief executive in January.

The New York-based firm named Navtej Nandra, head of international operations at Morgan Stanley Investment Management for the past three years, as president of the company and head of its core retail brokerage operations.

Nandra, 46, replaces Michael Curcio, a 10-year veteran who had run the brokerage unit, E*Trade Securities, since 2005. Curcio is the fifth top executive to step down since Paul Idzik became chief executive of E*Trade early this year.

E*Trade on Tuesday also named Liza Landsman as chief marketing officer. She was most recently global head of digital marketing at investment management firm BlackRock Inc and had previously worked at Citigroup Inc and Bravas Partners.

Nandra, who was chief operating officer of global wealth management at Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch before joining Morgan Stanley, is E*Trade Financial's first president since 2008. He will receive a base salary of $750,000 this year and a guaranteed performance bonus of $3.3 million in cash and stock, according to a regulatory filing.

Under Curcio's employment agreement, he would receive severance of at least $3.0 million if he were terminated "involuntarily," E*Trade said in a 2012 regulatory filing.

Nandra, whose appointment is effective immediately, "will help ensure the company's customers remain at the forefront of E*Trade going forward," the company said in a news release.

At Morgan Stanley, which he joined in the summer of 2010 to help revive its troubled investment management operations, he oversaw a 60 percent rise in the investment bank's international assets under management, E*Trade said.

A Morgan Stanley spokesman confirmed Nandra's departure and said the company has no plans to replace him. His responsibilities will be assumed by other executives.

E*Trade has suffered hundreds of millions of dollars of losses from making subprime mortgage loans during the financial crisis that began in late 2007 and the company has been working to raise new capital and wind down its lending operations.

Landsman replaces Nicholas Utton, one of several executives forced out since Chief Executive Paul Idzik joined E*Trade at the beginning of the year.

On a conference call with investors last month, Idzik suggested he would find new leaders to refocus E*Trade on its core retail brokerage activities following a review of the roles and responsibilities of the company's executive committee.

E*Trade, known for its precocious-baby ads, needed a "much sharper" marketing focus that deemphasizes some advertising and looks more closely at analytics, Idzik said. The company also is trimming marketing costs this year.

In a prepared statement, Landsman said she will capitalize on the "iconic brand" E*Trade has created, but will take "a sharper, more analytic focus" to raise the customer base and sales.

E*Trade shares, up 15.2 percent since the start of the year, fell 2 cents to $10.29 on Tuesday.

In addition to reorganizing the executive suite, Idzik is presiding over a smaller board. Three directors are stepping down before the company's annual meeting next month. They include Kenneth Griffin, founder of the hedge fund Citadel LLC, which has bailed out E*Trade with more than $4 billion of debt and equity since 2007.

Citadel, which had been pushing for a sale of the company, was E*Trade's biggest shareholder until it sold its remaining 9.6 percent stake last month.

Also leaving the board are Frank Petrilli, a discount brokerage veteran who served as chairman and interim CEO of E*Trade, and Ronald Fisher, the president of SoftBank Holdings who had been on the board since 2000. E*Trade said in March that former Fidelity Investments president Rodger Lawson will replace Petrilli as its chairman. - Reuters

Cyprus bailout scrapes through island's parliament

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 06:03 PM PDT

NICOSIA: Cyprus's parliament approved an EU bailout on Tuesday which will force it to wind down its second-largest bank and impose heavy losses on uninsured depositors at another, conditions that have intensified calls from islanders to exit the euro.

With a razor-thin majority of just two votes, lawmakers approved terms accompanying 10 billion euros ($13.18 billion)in aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a show of hands, 29 lawmakers from the three parties in the center-right government approved the motion, with 27 voting against. .

Government officials had warned the island would fall into chaotic default, unable to pay salaries or pensions, as early as next month without emergency funding.

"Unfortunately the (bailout) is a one-way street for us. It will avert disorderly default and gives, albeit with many hurdles, some prospect of getting us out of the storm," said Averof Neophytou, head of the governing right-wing Democratic Rally party.

The bailout was unlike any other aid deal, controversially forcing depositors to foot the cost of recapitalizing banks exposed to debt-crippled Greece.

Opposition parties argued that the bailout would keep Cyprus in perpetual bondage to foreign lenders.

"A 'yes' from Cyprus's parliament is by far the biggest defeat in our 8,000-year history," said lawmaker George Perdikis of the Greens party at an extraordinary parliamentary session opened on Tuesday.

"Its democratically elected representatives have a gun to their head to agree to a deal of enslavement," he said.

Cyprus, the euro zone's third smallest country, is bracing for at least two more years of economic misery and record unemployment as terms on the bailout start to bite.

Attempts to agree a deal triggered financial chaos last month when parliament rejected a plan to make both insured and uninsured depositors pay a levy to fund the recapitalization of banks heavily exposed to debt-crippled Greece.

It was followed by a two-week bank closure. The fallback option was to wind down one of the banks, Laiki, and impose losses of up to 60 percent on uninsured deposits - over 100,000 euros - in a second, Bank of Cyprus.

About 300 demonstrators gathered outside parliament on Tuesday, calling politicians "thieves". One group brought along a fake gallows, which they said was for lawmakers.

Communist AKEL, in government until it lost presidential elections in February, said Cyprus should seek alternative forms of funding, including possibly an exit from the euro currency. The island adopted the single currency in 2008.

"We know leaving the euro is an equally painful option, but reinstating a national currency could offer prospects for growth in the future," AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said.

AKEL had made the initial application for financial aid in June 2012. - Reuters


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No PGA ban for Vijay Singh over deer antler spray

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 05:50 PM PDT

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: Fiji's Vijay Singh will not be suspended by the US PGA Tour for doping as a result of using a deer antler spray known to contain a prohibited growth-enhancing substance.

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced the decision on Tuesday after Singh had appealed a sanction brought against him by the tour after he admitted to using the deer antler spray in a January story in Sports Illustrated.

The spray contained IGF-1, a substance listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and PGA Tour prohibitive lists and one the tour had warned players against using in August of 2011.

While there is no blood test for IGF-1, PGA policy allows for a violation without a positive test if a player admits using a banned substance.

But WADA had informed the PGA that it no longer considered using the deer antler spray to be prohibited unless it resulted in a positive test, a policy confirmed in writing to the tour on Tuesday in a letter from WADA.

"In relation to your pending IGF-1 matter, it is the position of WADA, in applying the Prohibited List, that the use of 'deer antler spray' (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-I) is not considered prohibited," WADA said.

"On the other hand it should be known that deer antler spray contains small amounts of IGF-1 that may affect anti-doping tests. Players should be warned that in the case of a positive test for IGF-1 or HGH, it would be considered an Adverse Analytical Finding."

That left Finchem to rule that Singh, 50, should not face a ban.

"Based on this new information, and given WADA's lead role in interpreting the prohibited list, the tour deemed it only fair to no longer treat Mr. Singh's use of deer antler spray as a violation," Finchem said in a statement.

The statement said Singh should have contacted PGA anti-doping program administrators before using the product to be certain it did not contain banned substances.

Singh has won three major titles, including the 2000 Masters and the 1998 and 2004 PGA Championship. -AFP

Clarke raring for action after long injury layoff

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 05:16 PM PDT

JAKARTA: Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke yesterday said he hoped to make a strong return to action in Indonesia this week after missing the US Masters with a hamstring injury he picked up playing tennis.

Clarke, the 2011 British Open winner who will play the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters in Jakarta, has endured a frustrating five-week spell on the sidelines after pulling his hamstring playing tennis with his children.

"I was playing tennis with my kids and I thought I was 24 and not 44! Unfortunately I had to pull out from Augusta and Korea (the Ballantine's Championship) last week," he said, in a press release from organisers.

"It has been a frustrating period. I'm not good at sitting and not doing anything. I've had intensive treatment on my hamstring and it is fine now," Clarke added.

"I couldn't do anything. I could hardly walk, hit golf balls or putt. I had to sit at home and watch (the Masters). I only watched the last round on television because if I watched every day, then I would have been frustrated."

Clarke will be one of the main attractions in Jakarta, along with four-time Major winner Ernie Els and New Zealand's Michael Campbell, the 2005 US Open champion.

And the popular Clarke said he hoped to benefit from some advice from Lee Westwood, a two-time winner of the Indonesian Masters.

"I haven't played here before but Lee has told me bits and pieces about the golf course," he said.

"The greens and fairways are sensational here. It is set up tough but fair as well. It will be a good, fair and stern test." — AFP

Nafiizwan and Wee Wern can extend Malaysia’s dominance

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 05:09 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia have dominated the men's and women's individual squash titles since 2000.

And when the 17th edition of the Asian Individual Championships begin in Islamabad this week, reigning men's champion Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan and women's world No. 7 Low Wee Wern are confident of extending Malaysia's supremacy.

World No. 1 Nicol David, who has won eight Asian titles, will not be defending her title, having decided to stay away due to the tense political situation in Pakistan.

The men's competition begins today and the women's tomorrow.

The 27-year-old Nafiizwan, who upset compatriot and top seed Ong Beng Hee in the final in Penang two years ago to win the Asian title, has been seeded fourth this time.

The Kuala Terengganu-born world No. 40, is in high spirit after winning the Irish Open in Dublin last Saturday.

The 22nd ranked Beng Hee, a four-time Asian individual champion, has been given top billing again.

Nafiizwan, who arrived in Islamabad from Dublin yesterday, said that he wasn't concerned about the political situation in Pakistan.

(Pakistan will hold its general election on May 11).

"I'm not worried about the situation here although I was escorted by armed personnel from the airport to the hotel," said Nafiizwan.

"I'm in top form ... played my best game of squash in the Irish Open.

"I'm confident of another good outing in the Asian meet."

Nafiizwan, who is in the bottom half of the draw, has a first-round bye and is likely to face ninth seed Farhan Zaman of Pakistan in the second round tomorrow.

Nafiizwan's opponent in the quarter-finals is expected to be another Pakistani – sixth seed Aamir Atlas Khan.

The Malaysian is scheduled to meet second seed Max Lee of Hong Kong in the semi-finals.

The 33-year-old Beng Hee, who also has a first-round bye, should face his nemesis and local player Farhan Mehboob in the second round.

The third Malaysian men's player, Mohd Asyraf Azan, who is drawn in the bottom half of the draw, will open his campaign against Mohammad Hossein Jafari of Iran in the first round today.

Former three-time Asian junior champion Wee Wern, who will be playing in Pakistan for the first time, admitted that expectations would be high on her to win the Asian title in the absence of Nicol.

"I want to enjoy my game despite the tense political situation in Pakistan.

"I need to stay focused and take it one match at a time," said the Penangite, who lost to Annie Au of Hong Kong in the semi-finals of the last Asian meet in Penang in 2011.

Top seed Wee Wern has a bye in the first round and should meet Sri Lanka's Mihiliya Methsarani in the quarter-finals.

The other seeded players in Wee Wern's top half of the draw are two Hong Kong's Liu Tsz Ling and Joey Chan, who are seeded fifth and third respectively.

Wee Wern is expected to face second seed Annie in the final.

The other two Malaysian women players are fourth seed Delia Arnold and eighth seed Zulhijjah Azan, who are in the bottom half of the draw.

Delia and Zulhijjah have also been given first-round byes.


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Najib: 9,999 low- and medium-cost apartments to be built in Air Putih, Air Itam and Paya Terubong

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 08:54 AM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: The Federal Government will build 9,999 units of low- and medium-cost apartments in Air Putih, Air Itam and Paya Terubong, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday.

The units, measuring between 700 sq ft and 1,000 sq ft each, will be sold at between RM72,500 and RM290,000 each.

Najib, the Barisan Nasional chairman, made the announcement at a 1Malaysia mini concert in Rifle Range, near the boundary of the Air Putih constituency where DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng is the incumbent assemblyman.

"Penangites are facing a big problem, which is the lack of affordable housing. How many can afford homes in Penang, where prices are RM700,000 and above?

"In the next five years, Barisan wants to build one million affordable homes across the country (and) tonight, I am pleased to officially launch a total of 9,999 affordable homes which will be built here," he said.

"This is the transformation I am bringing to Air Putih, Air Itam, Paya Terubong and Rifle Range," he added.

During the event, the Penang Chinese Town Hall presented petitions from more than 1,000 organisations in support of the restoration of Penang's free port status and implementation of the monorail system.

Najib also said if Barisan Nasional were given the mandate in Penang, it would scrap the undersea tunnel project.

"Why is Mr Chief Minister (Lim Guan Eng) in such a hurry to build this not-so-transparent undersea tunnel project?

"I ask for your support as Barisan is a government that delivers on its promises. If given the mandate, we will scrap the undersea tunnel project," he said to loud cheers.

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

GE13: Najib - Han Chiang College to be upgraded to university college

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 08:46 AM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: The Han Chiang College here will be upgraded to a university college, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced Tuesday.

He said this was in line with Barisan's "janji ditepati" as he had promised on Feb 11 that the federal government would consider Han Chiang College's application to be upgraded to university college status.

Najib also announced the approval for the setting up of another branch of Heng Ee High School here.

He also said RM1mil would be contributed each to both Han Chiang College and Heng Ee High School from Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia.

In his speech, Han Chiang College chairman Datuk Ooi Soo Hing expressed his gratitude to Najib for gracing the college with his presence despite the latter's busy schedule.

"We owe much thanks to our Prime Minister for his care and commitment to approve and issue university college status to Han Chiang College.

"On behalf of the three institutions of Han Chiang, I extend my deepest gratitude to Datuk Seri Najib, without whom Han Chiang would not have such a bright future," he said.

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

GE13: Guan Eng promises to double Wi-Fi hotspots if DAP retains Penang

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 08:39 AM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has promised to double the number of Wi-Fi hotspots in the state if the party is given another five-year mandate.

"There are now 1,550 hotspots in Penang and if we form the state government again, we will add another 1,550," Lim told a ceramah at Kota Giam in Jelutong here Tuesday night.

Lim, who is also the caretaker Chief Minister, also said fishermen will be given new trawls twice annually.

"If we form the Federal government, not only will there be a reduction in petrol price and free education for all, we will contribute RM600 for housewives, into their EPF accounts," he added.

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


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Bond goes out on his own

Posted: 30 Apr 2013 03:11 AM PDT

THE latest James Bond novel is named Solo and will follow the suave British spy on an African adventure, its author William Boyd (pic) revealed.

"The journey Bond goes on takes in three continents – with the main focus honing in on Africa," Boyd told the London Book Fair earlier this month.

"It's what happens to Bond in Africa that generates his urge to 'go solo' and take matters into his own hands in the United States."

Solo, due out in September, comes 60 years after the publication of the first novel featuring Agent 007, Casino Royale by the spy's creator Ian Fleming.

Fleming died in 1964 after writing 14 Bond novels, but other authors have since kept alive the series, which has sold more than 100 million books.

Skyfall, the latest film in the hugely successful franchise spawned by the novels, took more than US$1bil (RM3.03bil) at box offices worldwide last year.

Solo is the first Bond adventure by 61-year-old Boyd, who used Fleming as a character in his book Any Human Heart.

Explaining his choice of title, he said: "In my novel, events conspire to make Bond go off on a self-appointed mission of his own, unannounced and without any authorisation – and he's fully prepared to take the consequences of his audacity."

The book will be set in 1969 and features a 45-year-old Bond, Boyd revealed in February.

The author was born in Ghana and has written novels set in Africa before, including A Good Man In Africa (1981) – which was turned into a 1994 film starring original 007 Sean Connery – and Brazzaville Beach (1990).

Solo will be published worldwide in hardback, e-book and audio format on Sept 26. – AFP Relaxnews

Haruki Murakami to make rare public appearance

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 09:30 AM PDT

BESTSELLING author Haruki Murakami is to appear at a Q&A session in Japan next month, in a rare public appearance for the publicity-shy but wildly popular writer, the event's organiser said.

Murakami, one of the world's foremost novelists, will be part of a seminar entitled Observe Soul, Write Soul next Monday in the ancient city of Kyoto. The event will reportedly be his first public speech for 18 years.

The seminar will mark the establishment of a literary prize commemorating Murakami's friend, the late clinical psychologist Hayao Kawai. It will also follow the release of Murakami's latest book.

Murakami's new novel hit bookstores on April 12, with online book giant Amazon Japan saying it received more than 10,000 reservations in the first 11 days. The rate is faster than that for the final book in his bestselling 1Q84 trilogy.

The new book's title is only available in Japanese for now: Shikisai Wo Motanai Tasaki Tsukuru To Kare No Junrei No Toshi. An unofficial translation renders it: "Colourless Tsukuru Tasaki And The Year Of His Pilgrimage".

It will be Murakami's first work in three years after the final instalment of 1Q84 – a three-part novel containing the usual Murakami mixture of parallel universes, bizarre characters and surrealist happenings as the lives of a female murderer and a male novelist intertwine. 1Q84, which can be read as "1984" in Japanese, proved a worldwide phenomenon.

Murakami's novels, which have drawn international acclaim and been translated into almost 40 languages, include the titles Norwegian Wood, Kafka On The Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

The author, who divides his time between the United States and Japan, has a huge following, with fans praising his lyrical and surreal prose, which often takes as its subject Japanese people living on the margins of a homogenous society. – AFP Relaxnews

Circumstances that shaped Sister Enda’s dreams

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 09:28 AM PDT

Sister Enda's biography tells the story of the circumstances that shaped her dreams, the school she developed, the young women she nurtured, and the harmony she fostered in Malaysia.

EVERY child looks up to her headmistress with trepidation and I'm no different, despite having left school more than two decades ago. So it was quite a daunting task to interview my former headmistress, Datuk Paduka Sister Enda Ryan, who is known for her Irish temper and sharp tongue.

As the co-founder of both the Assunta Primary (1955) and the Assunta Secondary (1958) schools, Sister Enda is a revered icon. Having served 33 years as headmistress of the secondary school, she was not only a nurturer of young women but an educator who led Assunta to become one of the premier schools in Malaysia.

Like many of my schoolmates, I consider myself a "thoroughbred" Assuntarian. I was born in Assunta Hospital, went to Assunta kindergarten and primary and secondary schools. I had several brushes with the primary school headmistress but only once was I summoned to Sister Enda's office, when I got into a scuffle with another girl. Fear gripped me. But instead of sentencing us, she calmly listened to both sides of the argument before insisting that we shake hands and apologise to each other. I readily held out my hand but the other girl refused to budge. Sister Enda repeated herself and added something about loving and forgiving your enemies. Slowly, the girl came around after being coaxed by our parents, who were also present.

Never mind that I got the rotan when I got home; in my 12-year-old mind, Sister Enda's words were profound. I never forgot that incident and never got into a brawl again. For years, I'd duck every time I'd see her walking through the school's corridors with a whistle in hand. I was afraid she'd haul me into her room to give me the shelling I never got for that fracas!

The nun is indeed a legend and after her recent bout with cancer, the Assunta Alumni decided it was timely to publish her biography. And there was no better writer than Dr Nesamalar Chitravelu, Assunta's first headgirl and a retired associate professor of English.

So, armed with my notepad, I nervously walk into the Assunta Convent in Petaling Jaya, where Sister Enda lives. At 85, she uses a walking stick but she is still as sharp and loud as ever. My hands turn clammy.

"Tell me your name again," she says warmly, taking my hands as I tower over her. "Oh, you're cold!"

"No, it's the air-conditioning in my car," I bluff, as she leads me to a room and introduces me to Dr Nesamalar, 68, the author of her biography, Make Me An Instrument – The Singing Sister. With four other senior alumni members listening in, my job is even more formidable. But with typical Assuntarian spirit, the ladies put me at ease instantly and launch into tales of their schooldays.

"I didn't want to do it! A book about me? It was embarrassing!" Sister Enda cries out in her shrill voice, which I remember so well.

"For Nesam, it was like taking blood from stone. I only allowed it after they convinced me the book would help and inspire others. Whatever I've done is because I'm God's instrument. Some memories I've buried because the rules were so rigid back then. When the book was almost completed, the memories started coming back but it was too late by then."

Dr Nesamalar says, "The timing is significant because most of the girls say they got a lot of values from school. The chemistry in Assunta was right and it should seep out to others. I agreed to write the biography because my life has already unfurled itself.

"My early education guided the person I became and the decisions I made and make. Now the emphasis is more on getting As and not on the process of educating the student. Educators may want to read this book to get a different view of how education can be conceived."

It took three years and plenty of challenges before the book finally materialised. Except for the designer and sub-editor, every part of the publication involved only Assuntarians.

Sister Enda chips in, "My cancer started in 2007, then I had to have stents inserted. Each time they thought I was going to kick the bucket!"

"She has a lot of health problems but she doesn't pay attention to those things. It's very important to learn how to be a human being. She's joyful and not resigned to simply living out her life," says Dr Nesamalar.

"I take it each day at a time. I sing, enjoy the music and make the most of it," shrugs Sister Enda, pointing to her injured shoulder.

Born Eileen Philomena Ryan, she entered the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) at 18 to become a nun. She left Ireland in 1954 for pre-independence Malaya to set up a school. Sister Enda earned the nickname of "the singing nun" because she would always sing to raise funds for the school. Any school function would be incomplete without her alto voice resonating in the air. In fact, there was never a day that went by without music blaring from the speakers.

Hence, it is only appropriate that the book's subtitle is The Singing Sister.

"Music is the metaphor for harmony. Sister Enda was instrumental in making the whole school sing in harmony. She orchestrated life in the school so that everyone from the students to canteen keepers and gardeners all harmonised," says Dr Nesamalar.

The title of the book spun off from part of the school prayer in the early years, which began with "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace"; for the FMM, it was significant because it is a prayer of St Francis, their founder.

The author explains, "For a multicultural school it is a peace prayer that anyone can say. In a sense, it is the symbol of what the school stands for: 1Malaysia. For each to make the meaning that she can live with best."

Race, caste, colour and size were discarded in Assunta. Everyone was family, and the culture of giving was something the headmistress constantly emphasised. The school motto, Ad Veritatem Per Caritatem – To Truth through Charity – is used as a motto by every FMM school and university worldwide with the hope of inspiring students to be charitable in their day-to-day living and their interaction with others.

Dr Nesamalar adds, "I learnt from Sister the importance of society and family, not just what is studied in the books. She instilled the sense of a family unit in Assunta. I learnt to value my family a lot more and continue the heritage of love and affection. In today's world, everybody is for themselves."

The biography is multifaceted, says Dr Nesamalar, beginning with Sister Enda's formative years in Ireland, then sharing how she floundered when she first arrived in Malaya, and continuing on to present her views on education into which she matured, and the kind of governance that made this vision blossom. The final chapter describes how an extraordinary educator re-channels her energies into ordinary life.

It is a polyphonous biography, too, says Dr Nesamalar: "The voices of many are incorporated, especially the students and teachers of Assunta. Ex-Assuntarians may want to read Part 3 of the book to revisit and savour the way Assunta orchestrated so many of their earliest experiences. Those of us who are interested in spiritual journeys may find Sister Enda's journey, as someone who has made a divine instrument of her life, edifying," says Dr Nesamalar.

While Assuntarians might flock to buy this book, others too should get it because it is about someone who has contributed greatly to the education of young people in Malaysia.

Dr Nesamalar adds that a team of people was involved in editing the book and taking it to publication, including Edda de Silva, Amy Pereira and Linda Lee. "In the publishing world, they are all leading lights in their own fields. All these people are in the autumn of their lives and the book harvests the fruits of their years of ripeness," she says.

"Once the book is out, I won't know where to look afterwards!" Sister Enda interjects. "But I owe a great debt to the girls who did it. Initially, I was forced to give in but of course, I enjoy reading it now. It's not any old chin chai thing. It's something to be proud of."

Dr Nesamalar concludes, "The book has many pictures, delightful layout and colours that separate the different voices. It is a book experience worthy of an artist's palate."

> Make Me An Instrument – The Singing Sister is priced at RM80 and can be purchased from The Assunta Alumni at For further enquiries, contact Teresa at 016-260 0100 or 017-684 3276 or e-mail


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