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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Famous mums

Posted: 12 May 2013 01:45 AM PDT

From fictional characters to real life superheroes, mothers in the entertainment industry inspire us in many ways.

THE image of an "ideal" mother is unmistakable. Clad in a pastel-coloured blouse with hair tied up in a bun, she lovingly packs her child's lunch box and plants a kiss on his forehead as the school bus honks outside. A soft-spoken, graceful and loving woman, this is the picture of the "perfect" mum many of us have.

However, mums have evolved to meet the needs of our increasingly demanding society. Not only do they have to juggle motherhood and a career, but some have to wear the pants in the family, too, resulting in mothers who are strong, bold and powerful.

In conjunction with Mother's Day (today!), Star2 looks at various personalities in the entertainment industry to celebrate mothers who are tough as nails – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Dressed for TV success

Glamour mum

REVENGE'S Victoria Grayson (played by Madeleine Stowe) leads the charge as the most glamorous and best-dressed mother on television. The philanthropist (as well as full-time schemer), mother of two and Hamptons socialite looks amazing in all her couture outfits, from Roland Mouret to Vera Wang to Valentino.

Don't even bother asking her to dress in Herve Leger's iconic bandage dress which s he so favoured in the first season – she had her assistant burn them because that's so yesterday!

For someone who throws soirees all the time, Victoria has to be fashion forward. Bad has never looked so good.

Queen of duds

IF YOU are going to rule a kingdom, you better do it with style. And no one does it better than the Evil Queen, Regina (Lana Parrilla, Once Upon A Time).

In a kingdom far, far away, she wears elaborate (read: dramatic) gowns with high collars and festooned with jewels and sequins.

Regina, who has an adopted son in present-day Storybrooke, has amazing accessories too – especially her headgears which range from lace caps to eye-catching fascinators.

Philip Treacy would be so proud.

A la mode

JUST because Rayna James (Connie Britton, Nashville) is a country superstar, doesn't mean she is constantly in designer labels from head to toe.

The mother of two young children favours high street fashion, picking simple tops and jackets (from Forever 21) to pair with skinn y jeans (no "mom jeans" for this mum!).

She leaves the flashy outfits to rival Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). When the occasion calls for it, like at red carpet events, Rayna dresses in Versace or Prada for added pizzazz.

Free style

OUR favourite real estate agent Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox, Cougar Town) not only has a hot body but an array of beautiful clothes too.

Living in Florida means Jules is able to show more skin which is why she opts for sleeveless tops and short dresses. But don't worry, they are all age-a ppropriate for the 40-something single mother of one.

Her style is often relaxed yet stylish. She loves bodyhugging dresses (Dolce & Gabbana is her favourite) for a night out and gingham shirts or knitted sweaters from Marc Jacobs paired with white jeans for a day out with besties, Ellie and Laurie.

Suit up

IF WE were to bestow The Best Dressed crown to someone at the law firm of Lockhart/Gardner, it would be the sassy Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) of The Good Wife. But since she's not a mother (not to our knowledge at least), we pick runner-up Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies).

The mother of two teenagers favours classic pieces in muted colours like grey and black. Alicia's work uniform, three-piece suits (sometimes pantsuits), are from no-nonsense labels like Armani, Michael Kors and Fendi. And to make sure she gets to court on time, Alicia wears a Cartier gold watch.

She keeps it classy ... after all she's The Good Wife.

Sensational sing-le mums

Strong Enough for her sons

FOLK-rock singer Sheryl Crow has had it hard. Just months after ending her relationship with now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong in 2006, Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought hard, undergoing radiation therapy, and a year following her diagnosis, Crow was cancer free.

But instead of taking things easy, Crow, 45, shifted into high gear and started a family on her own by adopting a baby boy Wyatt (in 2007), and another one in 2010 named Levi.

She brings the kids on tour with her, and tries to keep things "normal" by tucking them into bed and reading them a bedtime story before she has to perform. Now that's a rock star mum!

Like a Genie In A Bottle

IT'S hard to believe that the once adorable Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera is now a mother. The singer gave birth to Max in 2008, when she was still married to Jordan Bratman. After their divorce in 2010, the pair share joint custody of their son. Aguilera, 32, was raised by a single mum herself, and is thankful that Bratman has been a dedicated father to Max.

Being a single mum hasn't stopped Aguilera from furthering her career either. Since having Max, she has starred in her first feature film (Burlesque), become a mentor and judge on the hit reality singing competition The Voice and released a new album (Lotus).

There's no slowing down this mother.

She's a Ray Of Light

MADONNA is perhaps the coolest mum anyone could ask for. With an ever-evolving musical style, bad@$$ fashion sense and a body to die for, the 54-year-old singer had her first child Lourdes Leon in 1996.

A few years later, Madonna married British director Guy Ritchie and they had two children together – Rocco and David Banda, whom they adopted from Malawi. After the couple divorced, Madonna adopted another Malawian child, Mercy James.

The pop queen admitted in the British tabloid, The Sun that she felt like her "head is going to explode" from all her responsibilities as a single working mum. However, her children seem to be doing fine and her career is still going strong (she released MDNA last year). This mum is like a machine!

Jenny From The Block is a mum

SULTRY singer, dancer and actress Jennifer Lopez became a single mum after ending her seven-year marriage to Marc Anthony in 2011.

Lopez's twins Emme and Maximilian have since become her top priority, inspiring her to write One Step At A Time, a ballad about how she wished her kids wouldn't grow up so quickly.

The gorgeous 42-year-old Latin American not only stays on top of things at home but at work as well. She was a judge for two seasons on American Idol, hosted and produced the TV show Q'Viva, starred in a movie (What To Expect When You're Expecting) and embarked on a world tour – she performed in Kuala Lumpur recently looking as hot as ever!

This single mum certainly has her family and professional life under control.

Mum's love, Day And Night

CANTOPOP singer Sandy Lam once said that the joys and pains of her relationship with Taiwanese songwriter and producer Jonathan Lee inspired her to write some of her best songs. The couple married in 1998, but divorced in 2004.

These days, though, it seems like Lam's biggest inspiration in life is her 15-year-old daughter Li Xi Er.

Lam made the uncharacteristic decision to play the guitar for the first time on stage during the Beijing leg of her MMXII tour last year. She told China Daily that it was her daughter who taught her to play the guitar.

The singer, known for her heartbreak hits such as Scars, said that although they were inspired by painful experiences, thanks to her daughter, she isn't so sad now when she sings them in her shows.

She shared, "Now I am a mother and I have more fun with my daughter. When I sing those heartbreaking songs now, I feel as if I'm telling someone else's stories."

Sharp cookies of the big screen

The clairvoyant

IN Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is always prepared when it comes to her son's safety. She has guns stashed in the middle of nowhere, and she goes the distance even when her own life is put at risk because of it.

Trapped in a high-security asylum? No problem. She knows how to break the guard's teeth or inject them with cleaning liquid to escape.

Sarah has built her physical strength because she knows something about her son's future that keeps her on this perpetual high alert – John Connor (Edward Furlong) is destined to be the leader of a generation when artificial intelligence takes over the world.

The problem solver

What do you do when your house is broken into while you're sleeping? It's a nightmare nobody should experience. Luckily for Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) in Panic Room, their massive four-storey home has a ... panic room, enclosed in steel and complete with CCTV monitors.

Thinking quickly, Meg gets herself and her daughter into the room, away from the maniacal crooks in her house. Only problem is, there is no way to communicate with anyone else on the outside either. Worse, her daughter is sick and needs medication every couple of hours.

Though terrified, Meg knows she must do everything to keep her daughter safe and alive, even if it means she has to make herself the bait.

The bodyguard

Don't mess with soccer mums, especially one who once was a trained assassin, like Samantha (Geena Davis) in The Long Kiss Goodnight.

One Christmas eve, Samantha, who is suffering from amnesia, discovers she can kill a deer by breaking its neck with her bare hands – which she does after accidentally hitting it with her car and figures it's a mercy killing – and chop carrots at incredible speed.

Samantha's quiet life turns upside down when her past returns to haunt her, just as these skills are returning to her. She also has a daughter to protect now, which is something she takes very seriously as the baddies who kidnap her daughter discover a tad too late.

In her hands, a doll becomes a weapon and a frozen pond becomes a war zone.

The absentee

When Kill Bill's The Bride (Uma Thurman) learns she's pregnant, she quits from the "killing people for a living" business. But her boss, Bill (David Carradine), does not allow her to venture too far and tracks her down at the church where she's getting married.

One bloody mess later, The Bride wakes up from a coma and sets her sights on killing Bill for robbing her of a chance to become a mother. (Spoiler alert!) When she discovers that her daughter is still alive, she is more determined than ever to complete her mission.

The regulator

Helen Parr's super flexibility and power in The Incredibles allow her to clean the house and chase after her kids like no other mums can.

Even though this retired superheroine has strict house rules, she understands that her children are doing their best managing their powers.

She knows that when it's time to put on a suit and fight the baddies, there might be some trepidation, but she trusts her children to protect other members of the family.

Needless to say, this former Elastigirl is the one who wears the spandex in the Parr household.


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Deal with ex-rebels ends crisis at Libya's Foreign Ministry

Posted: 11 May 2013 05:58 PM PDT

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Gunmen ended a nearly two-week siege of Libya's Foreign Ministry in the capital after reaching a deal with the government, its Supreme Security Committee said late on Saturday.

In the oil-rich east, meanwhile, hundreds of leaders agreed to join forces to defend their territory against similar armed attacks.

Pro-government protesters hold signs as they rally against violence after gunmen seized control of two ministries, in Algeria Square in Tripoli May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Pro-government protesters hold signs as they rally against violence after gunmen seized control of two ministries, in Algeria Square in Tripoli May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

A commander of an SSE group stationed at the gates of the vacant Foreign Ministry said it had been handed over to a committee made up of members of parliament and leaders connected to the armed protests.

The SSE is a group of ex-rebel fighters under the Ministry of Interior, now better armed and more powerful than the police.

"The protesters had retreated because (some of) their demands were realised," he told Reuters.

Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available to comment on the details of the deal.

Other media outlets quoted the justice minister as saying the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry had been handed over to a government committee.

Armed groups surrounded the ministries in the capital late last month to press parliament to pass a law banning anyone who held a senior position under late strongman Muammar Gaddafi from the new administration.

Rights groups and diplomats criticized the measure, saying its terms were too sweeping and could cripple the government.

They also argued it was unfair because it made no exception for those who had spent decades in exile and had been instrumental in the toppling of Gaddafi nearly two years ago.

Parliament caved in and approved the legislation a week later, leading the armed groups - who say they are revolutionaries and not militia - to expand their list of demands, including the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

The growing tension between the groups and the government has alarmed federalists and other factions in the east, prompting their leaders to unite to defend their territory from a similar assault.

Representatives from these groups pledged on Saturday to revive the Cyrenaica Congress. Formed about a year ago to demand greater autonomy for the east, it sets out a manifesto for a federal Libya.

"We will not let Cyrenaica be ruled by the power of force," said Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi, a distant relative of King Idris, who was deposed in a military coup led by Gaddafi in 1969.

Senussi will remain the symbolic head of the congress.

In addition to selecting a head and combining military forces, the leaders moved to start a television channel for the region.

The eastern congress agreed to start work on June 1, when it will hold its first assembly in the city of Al Baida.

For about 10 years after Libya became an independent state in 1951, the country was run along federal lines with three regions. Power was devolved to Cyrenaica, to the southern province of Fezzan and to Tripolitania in the west.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib and Jessica Donati in Tripoli, and by Feras Bosalum in Benghazi; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Bulgarians vote in election unlikely to soothe anger

Posted: 11 May 2013 04:03 PM PDT

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarians vote on Sunday in an election forced by protests over poverty and corruption, with expectations of a close result that could leave the poorest EU country without a working government.

A woman looks at election posters of Boiko Borisov, leader of the centre-right GERB party, in a suburb of Sofia May 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

A woman looks at election posters of Boiko Borisov, leader of the centre-right GERB party, in a suburb of Sofia May 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

The rightist GERB party, which resigned after violent demonstrations in February, is running neck-and-neck with the Socialists. GERB pledges to keep debts under control, while the Socialists say they will spend more and create jobs.

But six years after Bulgaria joined the European Union, disaffection with the political elite as a whole is widespread in a country of 7.3 million where unemployment is close to an eight-year high.

The activists who brought down the GERB government plan more protests for polling day and a fifth of voters are still undecided which party to back in the parliamentary election.

"People are poor, people are discouraged," said Rumen Blagoev, 62, a retired policeman in Sofia who plans to vote Socialist and complained that Bulgaria had been badly governed for 20 years.

While the euro zone has been preoccupied by its debt crisis, the troubles in Bulgaria show the risks of growing political and economic upheavals on the European Union's fringes.

Under GERB, Bulgaria has kept one of the lowest debt levels in the EU to maintain a currency peg to the euro, but the economy is expected to grow at only about 1 percent this year and the average monthly wage is 400 euros (338.4 pounds).

Led by heavily built former bodyguard Boiko Borisov, GERB has also suffered political damage from a wiretapping scandal. Bulgarian state security officers also seized 350,000 fake ballot papers from a printing house belonging to a GERB local councillor, prosecutors said on Saturday.

But with a recent opinon poll giving it 24 percent to 23.6 percent for the Socialists, GERB could still emerge as the Balkan country's largest party.

That would give it first chance to form a government, possibly in alliance with nationalist Attack and the pro-business Bulgaria for the Citizens, led by former EU commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

The Socialists have previously partnered with the ethnic Turkish MRF and could also seek Kuneva's backing.

But an election characterised more by mud-slinging than policy debate could make it harder for anyone to form a coalition.

Although business is deeply unhappy with corruption in Bulgaria, Borisov's record of keeping borrowing in check wins him favour from investors.

The last time a Socialist government was in power, between 2005 and 2009, Bulgaria went through a credit boom, bust and deep recession.

Whoever wins, there is little room for any government to spend more.

"An undercurrent of discontent persists. So far, the major demands of the protesters - for lower energy prices - have not been fully addressed and unemployment, low incomes, and political corruption are also being highlighted," said Otilia Simkova, an analyst with political risk consultancy Eurasia.

(Writing by Sam Cage; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Sudan says South Sudan helped rebels attacking major town

Posted: 11 May 2013 03:45 PM PDT

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan accused South Sudan of having supported rebels who launched a major assault two weeks ago, warning this could derail recent oil and security agreements between the African neighbours, state media said on Saturday.

The two countries agreed in March to resume cross-border oil flows and end tension that has plagued them since South Sudan's secession in 2011.

Since then ties have improved with Sudan receiving last week the first oil exports from the landlocked South, which had shut down its production in January 2012 in a dispute over pipeline fees.

But in a new setback, Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) said South Sudan had helped rebels who two weeks ago attacked the central city of Um Rawaba. It was the worst assault since a raid on Khartoum in 2008.

"The support for the (rebel) forces ... included fuel supplies and the opening of military hospitals in the South to receive wounded Sudanese rebels," SUNA said, quoting NISS.

South Sudan also had recently supported rebels from the western region of Darfur and two border states with vehicles, SUNA said, adding South Sudan also has provided weapons, ammunition and training at several camps in its Unity state to form a "another force" to send into Sudan.

"NISS has confirmed that Juba has supported rebels against Khartoum since the cooperation agreement (to resume oil flows)," SUNA said.

South Sudan also had issued emergency travel documents for wounded rebels to receive medical treatment in some African countries and hosted some of their leaders in the capital Juba, SUNA said.

The security services "urged the South's government to stop any involvement in support of Sudanese rebels which threatens the implementation of all cooperation deals between Khartoum and Juba," SUNA said.


There was no immediate comment from Juba, which has long denied it was supporting rebels on Sudanese territory.

Khartoum had since the March deal stopped accusing Juba of backing any rebels but mistrust runs deep between the two sides, which fought one of Africa's longest civil wars before a 2005 peace deal.

The Um Rawaba attack, a normally placid commercial hub, was conducted by an alliance of three rebel groups from Darfur, scene of a decade-long rebellion of non-Arab tribes, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North).

The SPLM-North is made up of fighters who sided with the south during civil war and ended up with southern secession in Sudan. They complain like the Darfur rebels of marginalisation in a country controlled by an Arab elite in Khartoum.

Sudan and South Sudan came close to war in April 2012 when border skirmishes broke out over oil exports fees, rebel support and disputed territory.

Under international pressure, both agreed in March to set up a buffer zone on both sides of their border, a condition for Sudan to allow through South Sudan's oil exports.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Bill Trott)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Khe Wei thanks secret recipe for speedy recovery

Posted: 11 May 2013 06:14 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: When national doubles shuttler Woon Khe Wei came down with an archilles heel injury and confined to home for some time last year, her mother Jenny Lee, brewed sweet potato leaf soup to help her recover.

"She fed me everyday with it. In fact, every morning she will take the trouble to do it. I am not a fan of sweet potato leaf but my mom said that it was good for me," said Khe Wei, recalling the difficult moments in her career last year.

"Now, even when I am not sick, she still prepares it for me," said the petite Khe Wei.

Thanks to her mother's love and support during the most trying time of her career and together with Khe Wei's diligence during her rehabilitation programme, she returned to the court in March for the All-England tournament after three months of inactivity.

And within a month – a breakthrough quarter-final finish at the All-England, a quarter-final appearance at the Swiss Open and making the final in the New Zealand Open – she and partner Vivian Ho sealed a ticket to their maiden World Championships in Guan–gzhou from Aug 5-9.

And now, standing tall at their best world ranking of 15th spot in the world, hopes are high on the country's top women's pair to defy the odds during the Sudirman Cup at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil from May 19-26.

The 24-year-old Khe Wei is happy to have made a remarkable return in her badminton career.

And who do you think was her pillar of strength in the pursuit of her career – none other than her loving mother.

And today being Mother's Day, Khe Wei enthusiastically declared: "I really appreciate my 52-year-old mother for playing a big role in my career. She has always been there for me. In fact, every time when I travel abroad, she will give me an ang pow. She works together with my father in a hardware shop. I know it is her savings. The amount varies every time but I get more when she is happy," laughed Khe Wei again.

"She keeps track of all my achievements and collects all the paper cuttings. Most importantly, she is always there during my ups and downs. I remember in Decem–ber when I could not even walk, she helped me to move about."

Khe Wei knows that she will never be able to repay all that her mother had done for her but she is determined to make her "best friend" happy with more good results in the sport.

For a start, she is hoping to get her act right on home soil this year. She did not compete in the Malaysian Open Super Series in January because she was still recovering. In the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara last week, second seeds Khe Wei and Vivian's challenge ended prematurely when they lost to Singaporeans Vanessa Neo Yu Yan-Yao Lei in the semi-finals.

"The Sudirman Cup will be in Malaysia and I do not want to give another disappointing show on home ground. In the Malaysian Open, Vivian and I played well but we did not have a good finish. The challenge during the Sudirman Cup will be tougher but we hope to be ready," she said.

Malaysia are in Group C with Germany and Taiwan.

"We will be the underdogs against all the teams but I believe that we have a 50-50 chance against players in our group ties. In the knockout stages, we may meet top teams like China, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan – depending on the draw – but we are ready to face the more fancied pairs.

"We are aware women players are important in the mixed team event. Instead of taking it as a pressure, we will take it as a challenge. We want to do well in front of our home fans," added Khe Wei.

Rashid wants shuttlers to stay focused ahead of world meet

Posted: 11 May 2013 04:19 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: National singles chief coach Rashid Sidek says Malaysia will not fall victim to the psychological warfare against China ahead of the World Championships in Guangzhou from Aug 5-9.

And he has encouraged all his singles players led by world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei to stay focused and not be intimidated.

Besides Chong Wei, Malaysia will also be represented by Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng in the world meet.

On Thursday, Badminton World Federation (BWF) had awarded a wild card to four-time world champion Lin Dan to participate in the world meet at their home den.

With that decision, China will have an impressive line-up of four men singles representatives. The otheer three are Chen Long, Du Pengyu and Wang Zhengming, who had confirmed their tickets on merit when the one-year qualifying period ended on April.

China are the only country to have a maximum of four shuttlers in an event in the tournament so far. But Chong Wei was not happy with the decision to award Lin Dan a wildcard as he felt that the others had worked hard to qualify for the world meet and on top of that, China had already secured three tickets.

Rashid believed that China was intimidating their opponents with their huge number of qualifiers.

"I was quite surprised when Lin Dan was awarded the wild card. In an indirect way, I believe that his inclusion is meant to distract Chong Wei. They have done it many times to unsettle Chong Wei in the past," said Rashid.

"China is hosting it this year and I am sure that they want the title badly to please their home fans.

"We are used to this though. I will ensure that our players will not be rattled by the presence of Lin Dan. What is more important is for our players to work on their skill and physical condition and look at ways to beat the Chinese players in their own den. As hosts, they will have home advantage, but we do not want to be worried over that. We will focus on ourselves first."

Meanwhile, before the world meet, all the three singles players will compete in the Sudirman Cup from May 19-26 at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil but only Chong Wei is expected to play a more prominent role.

Chong Wei will also take part in the Indonesian Open from June 10-16 while Daren and Wei Feng have been entered for the Singapore Open from June 18-23.

KLHC need early goal to ease into final

Posted: 11 May 2013 06:14 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: KL Hockey Club (KLHC) need to get off to a strong start in the second leg semi-finals of the Premier Division in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) if they want to ease into the final over a desperate Sapura at the National Hockey Stadium today.

The defending champions hold a two-goal advantage after winning the first leg 3-1.

But if Sapura score an early goal, the game may change into a bitter battle for both.

KLHC manager George Koshy said they have to go all out to try and wrap up the tie in the first half.

"Why make it difficult and give them any chance for a comeback. It is in our hands to win the match and we have all the right players to do it. We need to play like we did in the second half of the first leg," said George.

The first leg saw both teams making a fight of it but Sapura failed to capitalise on their early goal as KLHC fought back to win 3-1.

Sapura team manager Louis Gregory admits that they have an uphill task and they have only one option – take the fight to the champions.

"We cannot afford to sit back and hope to break through with counter attacks. We have to play an open game. Of course, we may start off a bit cautiously but at the end of it we must go forward and get the goals" said Louis.

KLHC are on the threshold of a unique record if they make the final on May 19 as it will be their fourth in a row and it will allow them to snatch a record 13th trophy in the MHL since 2006.

Sapura, who were overall champions in 2005 and 2006, have good Pakistan players to bank on. Kashif Ali is their top scorer with 17 goals but he can only be effective if the team earn penalty corners.

There was none in the first leg and their only goal was scored by Joel van Huizen.

KLHC also have good foreign players in Pakistan's Mohamed Imran, Akhtar Ali, Mohamed Umar Bhutta Fareed Ahmad and Wassim Ahmad and Australia Timothy Beavin. These players have blended well with the locals and it has seen them chalk up an unbeaten record thus far.

Today's match is most likely to be a formality for the champions unless Sapura can find something extra to turn the tables on the champions.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Collaboration works better than war?

Posted: 10 May 2013 04:50 PM PDT

Zheng He's Art of Collaboration: Understanding the Legendary Chinese Admiral from a Management Perspective
Author: Hum Sin Hoon
Publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore

THE history and business of publishing throws up some intriguing anomalies.

For the last 15 years, more copies of the IKEA catalogue have been printed annually than copies of the Holy Bible. Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has yet to outsell Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio, which came out in 1881. And more business leaders than military leaders have purchased Sun Zi's The Art Of War, which emerged in book form 27 centuries ago. In recent decades, the latter has become a revered business text, in addition to being the all-time best-selling guide to winning on the battlefield.

"Know your enemies, know yourself," extolled Sun Zi in this world-famous military treatise. In contrast, the legendary Admiral Zheng He might have countered: "Know your collaborators, know yourself."

Prof Hum Sin Hoon, vice-dean of Undergraduate Studies Program at the National University of Singapore Business School, has penned this work from the mindset of the admiral, which he has been able to do thanks to apparently superhuman research undertaken on the subject. In a nutshell, if the admiral had written a leadership treatise, large parts of it would read like this.

What the book delivers is the story of Zheng and his approach to taking charge. Zheng's mellower – and presumably more productive – approach to leadership, contrasts with that of Sun Zi's more antagonistic Art of War.

With his attachment to the collaborative paradigm, the admiral sometimes seems a much more contemporary boardroom player than a 15th century warrior – and this is one of the central themes of the book. Zheng is a win-win guy, not a zero-sum dueller.

The admiral is a truly towering figure in Chinese history. He was a mariner, explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral, who commanded voyages from China to South-East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, East Africa, and the Horn of Africa, from 1405 to 1433.

Zheng was appointed by the Song imperial court as the admiral in control of a huge fleet, and his first voyage, which departed from Suzhou, consisted of a fleet of 317 ships and over 27,000 crewmen. Hum dovetails the maritime yarns and lessons on the leadership approach of China's most-famous-ever admiral into applicable theory, with lucid rationales, and by means of a mind that is good at joining up the dots.

Divided into two parts comprising four chapters each, "Zheng He and his message" and "Zheng He and his management", the text manages to avoid being too dry and scholarly.

The opening chapter asks "Why pay attention to this 15th-century Chinese eunuch?" and then answers the questions from a variety of angles. Much of the rest of Part 1 compares and contrasts Zheng He's Art of Collaboration with Sun Zi's Art of War.

Hum balances this nicely before coming down in favour of the subject of his book, but the professor is evidently an authority on both influential military theorists, and the wealth of historical detail in Part I provides tremendous value.

The four chapters of Part II – Zheng He and his management – quite brilliantly illuminate Zheng He's leadership magic and how it can be applied today in four specific areas (each of which gets a chapter to itself): leadership itself, human resource management, logistics and supply-chain management, and "implications". The latter dwells on the supporting role of religious faith in leadership, a thought-provoking twist in a thoroughly original work.

The Muslim Zheng held a highly inclusive view of faiths, respecting them all. (His men even helped to build temples in distant South-East Asian locales.) Zheng He's brand of multiculturalism meant that he was a man centuries ahead of his time, especially when compared to the Western explorers of his day, who saw the forced imposition of their own faiths on overseas societies as a key goal, unless slavery was a greater priority.

Can this book be flawed? Slightly. It takes rather a long time to get to the meat and potatoes of Parts I and II.

First one has to leaf through no less than nine pages of testimonials from such luminaries as Dr Steven Choo (CEO, Real Estate Developer's Association of Singapore; gee whizz) and Ricky Sim (CEO Suntec Investment). This is followed by a page devoted to describing the publisher, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, and also the International Zheng He Society.

Then there's a foreword by the president of the Zheng He fan club, followed by a four-page message from the chairman of Ultraco Green Tech, followed by a preface from the book's author, followed by three pages of acknowledgements. A tad too much packaging in this reviewer's opinion. The work stands perfectly well on its own commendable merits.

Many books have been written on Admiral Zheng He. But this one approaches the iconic mariner from a fresh angle, and with the verve of a best-selling author of popular history; a writer with the popular touch of Stalingrad author Antony Beevor, perhaps. Or Jonathan Chamberlain, who penned the 2010 best-seller, King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong.

Both sides of this study – the history and the business theory – are as captivating as each other. Zheng He's Art of Collaboration is Hum's first book, and he has set the bar high for his second.


Posted: 10 May 2013 04:51 PM PDT

The Leader's Pocket Guide: 101 indispensable tools, tips and techniques for any situation
Author: John Baldoni
Publisher: Amacom

Leadership can only be learned on the job but here is a guide to inspire and direct. Organised into three sections – self, colleagues and organisation – it provides short, to-the-point ideas on a variety of subjects from developing your confidence, thinking critically, team performance and hire for character and integrity and a whole lot more.

Risky is the New Safe: The rules have changed ...
Author: Randy Gage
Publisher: Wiley & Sons

The financial system is in shambles. Technology is making one redundant. Entire economies are failing. What does the future hold? And how can we prepare for it? The author suggests taking the contrarian view, thinking critically and thriving on emerging business cycles. He looks at the changes taking place in business, technology and the economy and sees extraordinary challenges - and opportunities.

Game Theory: Anticipating reactions for winning actions
Author: Mark L. Burkey
Publisher: Business Expert Press

Game theory, the science of action and reaction, is a rather mathematical, technical subject. This book provides an overview of topics in game theory that are directly relevant to managing an organisation. Although the author tries to make it as easy to digest as possible, it still comes across as quite a maze to get into.


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Reconsider refusal to join cabinet, MCA, Gerakan told

Posted: 11 May 2013 07:34 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA and Gerakan should reconsider their decision not to join the Cabinet, following their poor performance in the 13th General Election recently.

Umno information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan said Saturday the two parties which represented the Chinese community were still needed in the Cabinet to strengthen the Barisan Nasional government's administration.

He said their refusal to participate in the Cabinet was not a good move at this point in time when Barisan needed stabilising and support from all component parties.

He was speaking to reporters after launching a health product, 'Unequein', here.

Ahmad Maslan said MCA and Gerakan needed to think of a way to regain the support of the Chinese community and overcome weaknesses in their respective parties.

MCA on Saturday reiterated its stand not to accept any position in the Cabinet after winning just seven out of 37 parliamentary seats contested.

Gerakan also made the same resolution after winning only one parliamentary seat.

Meanwhile, the product, 'Unequein', founded by singer Asmawi Ani, better known as Mawi, and his wife, Nora'sikin Rahmat, is a health food based on natural ingredients.

It is marketed locally, as well as London, Brunei and Singapore. - Bernama

Najib: Umno is strong but must reflect on its weaknesses

Posted: 11 May 2013 07:22 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: After 67 years in existence, Umno remains a strong and successful party but needs to reflect on its weaknesses if it wants continuous support from the people.

Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Saturday the party, which has been given a mandate for the next five years must be humble and respect the wishes of the rakyat.

"We gather here in this august hall as a party that is strong. The election results which saw the number of seats Umno won increase from 79 to 88 is our testimony.

"Let us correct our weaknesses, thank those who are with us and find ways to win over those who have yet to support us in the 14th general election," he said in his address at Umno's 67th anniversary.

The celebration was also attended by former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and his deputy Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Najib said Umno, who has been in power continuously for more than six decades could be considered as the world's most successful political party.

He reiterated that Umno was not a racist party but one that was inclusive and moderate.

"We ensure justice to all who have rights and regard everyone as our partner.We will defend policies which are fair, equitable and moderate," he stressed.

Najib pledged that Umno and Barisan Nasional would not allow Pakatan Rakyat's "opportunistic politics" to destroy everything that it had worked for.

"Even though we have been strongly challenged in the election, in the end, Malaysians had decided that they want continuity and stability," he said.

Najib called on party members to work as a team so that Umno could guarantee to all Malaysians that it could help to make the country peaceful, prosperous and successful.

Meanwhile, Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his message said the party must undergo a more comprehensive and radical political transformation process.

"This is to allow Umno to become a Malay, Islamic and Malaysian political party which is more dynamic, inclusive and visionary so that the party can become universal in terms of its struggle without forgetting its original objectives," he said.

Muhyiddin, who is deputy Barisan chairman said component parties must also undertake bigger reform efforts so that they could be accepted by all races.

He called on Umno to increase effort to reach out to the Malay middle class in the urban areas, adding that the younger generation was also another important group that the party must do more to woo.

Muhyiddin also urged members to pledge loyalty to Umno and to fully support Najib to continue leading the party and the country.

Sabah is 3rd highest in alcohol consumption

Posted: 11 May 2013 05:58 AM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah recorded the third highest consumption of alcohol in Malaysia, at 18.4 percent after Kuala Lumpur (20.3 percent) and Sarawak (19.7 percent).

State health principal assistant director (non-communicable diseases) Dr Nirmal Kaur said the statistics were based on a National Health and Morbidity Survey carried out between August 2011 and July 2012.

She said alcohol was present in most of the traditional food and drinks and a favourite among 95 percent of the indigenous community in the 20 to 60 age-group.

"According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol consumption should not exceed two glasses to avoid non-communicable diseases.

"A glass of alcohol is equivalent to one can of beer, 70ml of 'montoku' (a traditional drink of the Kadazandusun community), 100ml of 'tapai' or 40ml of whisky or brandy," she told reporters after a health-related seminar here on Saturday.

Dr Nirmal said habitual consumption of alcohol in excessive amounts could lead to heart attack, diabetes, stroke, cancer and liver damage. - Bernama


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New 'Star Wars' movie to be filmed in Britain

Posted: 11 May 2013 03:12 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES, May 11, 2013 (AFP) - The next chapter in the wildly successful "Star Wars" movie franchise will be produced in Britain, Disney's Lucasfilm announced.

"Star Wars: Episode VII" will be the first in the series since Disney bought the studio from George Lucas in 2012 for $4 billion. It is scheduled for release in 2015.

All of the six previous "Star Wars" movies have included production "in such famed (British) studios as Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood Studios," Lucasfilm said in a statement Friday.

"We've devoted serious time and attention to revisiting the origins of Star Wars as inspiration for our process on the new movie," said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Britain, as well as France and other European nations, offer tax credits to attract movie production, especially work from Hollywood studios.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) George Osborne said he was "delighted" that production "is coming back to Britain."

The announcement is "great news for fans and our creative industries," he said in the statement.

Sci-fi and action filmmaker J.J. Abrams will direct "Episode VII," while Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay.

Lucas - who launched the saga in 1977 and directed four of the six films to date - will serve as a creative consultant for the three new films, which are expected to come out every two to three years. -AFP

Spielberg brings Hollywood eye to Cannes Croisette

Posted: 10 May 2013 09:18 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Steven Spielberg will bring a Hollywood veteran's eye to the more art-house Cannes Film Festival next week - but he insists he has no preconceptions and will be a strictly "democratic" jury head.

The legendary filmmaker, who first came to Cannes for the premiere of "E.T." in 1982, says he is looking forward to being on the Croisette, even if he is a little "rusty," not having served on a festival jury for over 25 years.

The 66-year-old - the third American to head the Cannes jury in four years - chairs a panel that also includes Nicole Kidman and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee to pick who wins the coveted Palme d'Or at the May 15-26 festival.

The prospect of watching and critically assessing 19 films in 12 days might be daunting to some, but Spielberg is unfazed.

"Not me! Every weekend I watch between four and six movies. I catch up on what I've missed during the working week. So two films per day in Cannes, I'm rather looking forward to it," Spielberg said in a pre-Cannes interview.

"It's a great honor, but it's above all the promise of great pleasure," he told the French arts magazine Telerama, in comments published in French.

The director, who has won only once at Cannes - best screenplay for 1974's "Sugarland Express" - has had a disappointing run of late on the awards front, with his two latest Oscar entries "War Horse" and "Lincoln" coming up short.

But over the years Spielberg has made some of the biggest blockbusters and award-winning films of modern cinema, including "Jaws" (1975), "Jurassic Park" (1993), "Schindler's List" (1993) and the "Indiana Jones" movies.

Asked if as jury head he would reward films with popular potential, or "more difficult" works, he demurred.

"I believe that, before they are shown, all films are equal. Whether they are small or big, they are a sum of the personal visions and collaborative efforts.

"Each time the filmmaker's intentions are the same, whether it is Christopher Nolan or Michael Haneke: to express what he has inside," he said, referring to the blockbuster "Dark Knight" director and Haneke, whose understated "Amour" won last year at Cannes.

The possibility of a cultural clash between Spielberg's Hollywood sensibility and those of his fellow jurors - an international bunch, to say the least - has not gone unnoticed.

The jury also includes Indian actress Vidya Balan, Japanese director Naomi Kawase, Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay, French actor Daniel Auteuil, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu and Oscar-winning Austrian actor Christoph Waltz.

"No roster of Cannes jurors in recent memory has been as stacked with influential, distinctive, high-profile global film industry figures," wrote film critic Jon Frosch, in a piece published by The Atlantic online.

"The common strand running throughout Spielberg's body of work is the filmmaker's palpable desire to reach directly for the viewer's emotions. Cannes fare, on the other hand, is often cooler, less accessible."

"Spielberg and the Cannes Film Festival should be a fascinating confrontation of cinematic and cinephilic tastes and tendencies," he wrote.

Spielberg has been tight-lipped about what kind of jury chairman he will be when he takes his seat in the Palais des Festivals, where stars will hit the red carpet on Wednesday.

"Democratic!" he said, when asked by Telerama. "But give me a bit of time. I haven't been on a jury since the Avoriaz festival in 1986, when we gave the prize to 'Carrie,' by Brian de Palma. I'm a little rusty," he said.

US jury heads at Cannes are not rare: there have been three or four per decade since the 1960s, before which they were French. Figures on Spielberg's level have included Martin Scorsese in 1998, and Francis Ford Coppola in 1996.

Two of the last three were Americans: Tim Burton in 2010 and Robert de Niro in 2011. In that year the Palme d'Or went to "Tree of Life," one of two American films in competition, but hardly a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. - AFP

Small wonders

Posted: 11 May 2013 03:33 AM PDT

Fly into the gorgeous world of Epic, where the heroes and heroines are tiny but their mission is huge.

THE idea of a tiny civilisation existing in the lush trees and bushes is something that initially came to director Chris Wedge when he attended an art exhibition of 100-year-old paintings that depicted intricate realms existing in the woods.

It occurred to him that this would be an interesting concept for a movie. About the same time, author William Joyce, who had collaborated with Wedge on his animated feature Robots, had written a children's book called The Leaf Men And The Brave Good Bugs. In it, Joyce introduced Samurai-like warriors called the Leafmen, who fight against those bent on destroying the greenery.

With advances in animation, Wedge started conceptualising this unique world and characters consisting of the Leafmen, and the result is Epic.

To mesh this fantastic world with the real one, we meet 17-year-old Mary Katherine, or MK as she likes to be known as. She comes to live with her estranged father after the passing of her mother. Just at the back of her father's house is vast green, where he is convinced exists a community made of tiny people.

In an interview transcript provided by Twentieth Century Fox, actress Amanda Seyfried – who voices MK – says: "When we meet Mary Katherine, she's just lost her mother, so she's coming from a dark and traumatic place. (At this point) she's holding on to some hope and trying to rekindle a connection with her father, which is what her mother would have wanted."

Alas, the father is too obssessed with his own project to actually pay attention to MK, so the latter decides to run away.

"But in a random turn of events, she ends up chasing after their dog one night in the middle of a thunderstorm and somehow awakens to find herself transported to another world. She meets the Leafmen, the people her father has been looking for, and realises he's not crazy. So her story throughout the rest of the movie focuses on giving her father a second chance and really believing in him. It's quite beautiful," adds Seyfried.

In the journey to return home, MK befriends one of the younger (and former) member of the Leafmen, named Nod (Josh Hutcherson). Nod is trying to find his own place in the world after discarding the ideals that Leafmen is built upon – teamwork and unity. His biggest problem, he thinks, is the Leafmen's leader, Ronin (Colin Farrell).

Meanwhile, the community's way of life is being threatened by forces of darkness known as Boggans. They are malevolent creatures – creators of decay, not unlike the cancer-like knob growing out of a tree.

Boggans is led by Mandrake (Christoph Watlz) who has the ability to bring destruction to anything he touches, and his goal is to claim the woods he believes should have always been his. Mandrake knows he'd win the fight if he attacks Leafmen's ruler, Queen Tara (singer Beyoncé Knowles).

Other than getting a chance to see her animated self for the first time, Seyfried is impressed with the A-list actors participating in Epic. However, she admits being "super weird" to have never met many of them. "We've all been involved for a year and a half at least and I've only met Josh twice. I'd love to say that I've done a movie with Christoph Waltz, but I'm not sure it counts since I haven't met him."

She is also very proud of the message Epic is conveying. "I am obsessed with mountains, the forest, anything green. Even as a child, it feels like a safe place and also a place where anything can happen. I still feel that way about the trees, the flowers, everything growing around us, that it gives us some kind of hope about the world.

"It's a great setting for this story since you have so much freedom when it comes to creating the miniature world with all the different plants and colours. I hope kids will see this movie and go out in their backyard and try to find the Leafmen, see how they fit into this world, and what they can do to save the environment."

> Epic opens in cinemas nationwide May 23.


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Single mothers have to play many roles in bringing up their children

Posted: 11 May 2013 04:43 AM PDT

RAISING children is not easy, even for couples.

This Mother's Day, three women share their trials and tribulations in raising children as single mothers and overcoming the odds.

One such single mother is Sophia Chow, who believes that communication, discipline, efficiency and effectiveness are key traits that single parents should have.

"Women of this generation play multiple roles — whether in a marriage or otherwise.

"As a single parent, we have to play the role of both mother and father, good cop and bad cop.

"We have to assure our children that we are accessible at all times.

"We need to stress that the separation had nothing to do with the children — that they still have their mother and father, even though we are no longer husband and wife."

Chow, 38, and her husband mutually agreed to separate and divorce two years ago due to incompatibility.

"After much discussion, including considering the children's interests, we agreed to part ways," said the senior principal (regulatory) with a telecommunications company.

"However, our children — Aidan, 10 and Lauren Hoh, seven, still spend time with their father whom they see at least once a week.

"They are constantly in contact with him, and know that they can call him anytime and vice-versa."

Chow said she has always been working, even when her children came along, as she personally needed the mental stimulation and outside interaction to be a better mother.

"I rely on a maid and day-care service for the day-to-day care of my children.

"I am blessed with wonderful support from family, friends and neighbours, who help with everything, from picking the children up when the transporter service is unavailable.

Chow's advice to other single parents is to stay positive.

"Your ultimate focus should be in the best interests of your children and their future.

"Be positive in your attitude towards life and remember that you are a living example for your children.

"If you cannot move forward from a bad break-up, it will affect them.

"There will always be obstacles and challenges, but if you use your children as your anchor in life, these obstacles and challenges will merely serve as speedbumps."

On how they celebrate Mother's Day, Chow said they like to go outdoors to do different and fun things together.

"We do not need a special day to spend time together, but we do make the effort to plan something for Mother's Day.

"For previous Mother's Days, we have baked cupcakes together, gone on a road trip and picnic, and went on a Skytrex adventure activity. "The children also give me handmade and thoughtful gifts like cards and bracelet, and try to give me a few hours off for personal 'me' time."

Shikin Shuriani Shukor, meanwhile, credits her mother-in-law for being her pillar of strength and reality check.

"As my husband was an only child and his father had also passed away, my mother-in-law moved in with me to my new place in Puchong. "She takes care of my children — Mohamed Eiman Rayyan Mohd Alfian, seven and Tya Orked Mohd Alfian, four — and handles the home affairs.

"We swap roles during the weekend, so she can rest.

Shikin is grateful for having a strong support system from her extended family, neighbours and colleagues, who helped her to cope after her husband passed away suddenly in late 2009.

"I tried to resume work after his death but I had to leave my job almost immediately as I wanted to be fair to all parties involved.

"I needed to move on but was not sure how.

"The only thing that kept me going was my children."

Shikin decided it would be better to take a break after a seven-year stint doing marketing and corporate communications, during which she was presented the opportunity to indulge in her passion for cooking and start a cafe.

She rejoined the corporate sector for a while, but left to focus on getting her son prepared for school.

Shikin, 33, has since become self-employed, dabbling in businesses in printing, branding consultancy and advertising.

"I do not see doing many different things during the many phases of my life as being a failure or a quitter.

"Rather, the experience, knowledge and skills that I have acquired along the way has been of great value in developing multiple talents that I am confident will benefit my positioning in the future."

Shikin spends time with her children during weekends by going out for movies, picnics and barbecues, or even weekend getaways.

"I dedicate Mother's Day to my mother and mother-in-law, both of whom gave me unwavering support as I underwent different phases, and made it possible for me to continue performing my duties.

"I usually spend Mother's Day at a lunch or hi-tea with my mother-in-law and fellow mothers, most of whom are single mothers.

"This group of single mothers have inevitably become my support network as we understand each other better than anyone else."

To couples who are considering divorce, Shikin said that should be a last option.

"However, don't play victim and look at it as a failure when you become a single parent.

"Look at it as an opportunity to become better."

For May Chan, the best Mother's Day gift was when her daughter, Kimberley Tey, scored 10 As in last year's SPM examination.

"Kimberley was granted full scholarship for A-Levels at TAR College, Kuala Lumpur.

"She intends to pursue a course in pharmacy.

"I miss her a lot as she stays on campus. But she comes home on weekends and we are in constant contact daily."

Chan, a kindergarten manager in her mid-40's, has been pretty independent since getting married 20 years ago, and continued to serve as the head of the house after the divorce 10 years back.

"As my ex-husband was travelling for work for long periods, I had to quickly adapt and learn to do things on my own, like managing the children, running errands and calling repairmen to fix things.

"The biggest change after the divorce was our financial status.

"I had to be more prudent and adopt a more thrifty lifestyle.

"Priority for shopping always went to the children first — for their books, stationery and clothes.

"But we were still able to eat out once a week.

Chan was left to fend for her family on her own, as her immediate family stayed in different cities and she did not have any friends in a town new to her.

A couple of years after the divorce, she started taking her children to Sunday school at Evangelical Free Church, Subang Jaya, and they became regulars at the weekly Sunday service.

"The church congregation be-came my support network.

"One church member who stayed nearby helped babysit my children when they came back from school.

"If anybody asks me how I am able to cope, I reply that my faith in God and my children keeps me going."

Chan credits her children, Kimberley, 18, and Bentley, 15, as her pillars of strength.

"Kimberley has been very independent from a young age.

"She knew how to read my emotions, and helped discipline her brother when he misbehaved."

Both of Chan's children learnt to do chores from young, and are able to do the laundry, dishes, cleaning and cooking independently.

"Kimberley even worked part-time at my workplace during the school holidays, and saved up money to buy a handphone.

"My children usually take me out for a treat and give me a break from chores on Mother's Day. They will take me out for a meal using the money saved from their allowance."

Chan said her children also keep in touch with their father.

"My advice to other single parents is to be strong, be grateful and, particularly for women, to learn to be independent early on.

"Be thankful for your children. Have faith and stay positive, and don't worry too much as things will eventually work out on their own."

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Single mother pulls out all the stops for her children

Single mother pulls out all the stops for her children

Posted: 11 May 2013 04:44 AM PDT

NORZITA Hussin, 41, was forced to be independent when her husband passed away after battling liver cancer four years ago.

"At that point, my husband, who worked as a personal driver, was our family's sole breadwinner.

"My world came crashing down after that as I was reliant on him to do everything while I focused on raising our four children."

After his death, Norzita's friends and neighbours from her close-knit community in Taman Puchong Perdana, Puchong, as well as her family, rallied around her.

"They made sure I was never alone. They would pop by to say hello and see how my children are doing.

"In the one year after my husband's passing, I had to quickly learn everything on my own — get a driving licence, acquire the basics of entrepreneurship, and enhance my cooking and sewing skills through formal classes.

"These lessons were paid for using my savings and financial assistance from my family.

"I then started a home-based business supplying nasi lemak and sewing baju kurung."

The housewife turned entrepreneur has four children — Nik Muhd Hafiz Nik Suhaimi, 18, Nik Muhd Hazim Nik Suhaimi, 15, Nurul Izzah Nik Suhaimi, 13, and Nurul Ain Nasirah Nik Suhaimi, six.

"It was initially difficult to cope with the loss of my husband and waking up early to prepare nasi lemak that are sold at nearby stalls.

"I have to be up as early as 3am on weekends, and 4am on weekdays, to do the necessary preparations and cooking.

"I usually sell about 40 packets on weekdays, and 60 to 70 packets on weekends.

"I also supply nasi lemak when I get orders for functions.

"In the couple of months leading up to Hari Raya Puasa, I will also take in orders for baju kurung."

After the daily business aspect is taken care of, Norzita will focus on getting her children ready for school and tidy up her house.

The profits from her businesses are channelled to her household and children's expenses.

Norzita's future plans include expanding her sewing skills to make modern baju kurung, tunics and dresses, and opening her own shop.

On her Mother's Day celebration, she said: "We'll just celebrate with a simple cake-cutting at home.

"It is been difficult for me to play the dual role of both mother and father.

"But shouldering these heavy responsibilities has made me more independent and a more useful person.

"To my fellow single parents, I would advise them to keep their spirits up, never give up and think positive.

"I also strongly advise women to pick up some living skills and not be overly reliant on their partners as we can never predict the future."

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Single mothers have to play many roles in bringing up their children


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