Khamis, 30 Mei 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Dashing Zo In-Sung is back

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:28 PM PDT

After a stint with the South Korean air force, the dashing Zo In-Sung stages a successful comeback into showbiz.

AT 186cm, the fair and handsome Zo In-sung (also known as Jo In-seong) stands out in the crowd. However, when paired with petite South Korean actresses such as Song Hye-kyo (who stands at 161cm) in the romantic drama That Winter, The Wind Blows, that could pose as an issue on camera.

But that problem has never crossed his mind. "I've never thought about it," said the towering 31-year-old, adding that it was fantastic working with an established actress like Song, also 31.

Like all able-bodied young men in Korea, Zo had to serve his two-year mandatory military service and did so by following in his father's footsteps by joining the air force in 2009.

After being discharged in 2011, Zo made his comeback the following year in That Winter, The Wind Blows, his first drama in eight years.

In the 16-episode television series, Zo portrays an orphan named Oh Soo who is addicted to gambling and becomes a con-artist after losing his first love. Things change when he pretends to be the long-lost brother of Oh Young (Song), a blind heiress who has lost her parents. Together, they begin to discover new meaning in their lives.

The dashing model-turned-actor was in a happy mood during a media interview at KL Hilton last Tuesday to promote That Winter, The Wind Blows. "Being here (in Kuala Lumpur) and doing this media interview is just like a holiday for me. I find it all very relaxing and enjoyable," he drawled as he took a sip from a tall glass of iced coffee. Zo also shared that this was his second visit to Malaysia; his first trip here was to shoot a commercial.

When That Winter, The Wind Blows first aired on ONE HD in March, it was the top rated show in its time slot among international channels in Malaysia and Singapore for pay-TV. Asked to comment on that, Zo said: "I'm not a fortune teller so I didn't expect it to be this big. I did have a good feeling about this drama, though. With such a wonderful script and story, I had a feeling I could really work at it, and maybe in a way, expect other people to love this drama too."

Unlike fellow Korean artistes like Lee Byung-hun (G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra and G.I Joe: Retaliation) and Rain (Ninja Assassin and Speed Racer) who ventured to Hollywood, Zo said that he does not aspire to take his career beyond Korea. "I don't speak English," the lanky chap said, adding, "I don't have big dreams. I'm already lucky and happy to be in this position here. There is a saying that goes, "If you don't worry about your future too much, you can focus more on the present".

>Due to popular demand, That Winter, The Wind Blows is set for a re-run every Saturday and Sunday at 3.15pm on ONE HD (Astro B.yond Ch 393) starting June 1.


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China's Tiananmen Mothers criticise Xi for lack of reforms

Posted: 30 May 2013 08:19 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - A group of families demanding justice for the victims of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have denounced new Chinese President Xi Jinping for failing to launch political reforms, saying he was taking China "backwards towards Maoist orthodoxy".

The Tiananmen Mothers activist group has long urged the Chinese leadership to open a dialogue and provide a reassessment of the June 4, 1989 pro-democracy movement, bloodily suppressed by the government which labelled it a "counter-revolutionary" event.

China's President Xi Jinping attends a signing ceremony with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China's President Xi Jinping attends a signing ceremony with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

In an open letter released on Friday through New York-based Human Rights in China, the group said Xi "has mixed together the things that were most unpopular and most in need of repudiation" during the time of former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the latter who oversaw the putting down of the protests.

"This has caused those individuals who originally harboured hopes in him in carrying out political reform to fall into sudden disappointment and despair," the group said.

Xi became Communist Party chief in November and president in March at a time of growing public pressure to launch long-stalled political reforms.

Some intellectuals had predicted that Xi would follow in the footsteps of his father, Xi Zhongxun, a reformist former vice premier and parliament vice chairman. Xi has also tried to project a softer and more open image than his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

But Xi's government has clamped down on free expression on the Internet and detained anti-corruption activists, giving no sign the party will ever brook dissent to its rule.

The Tiananmen Mothers said it has not seen Xi "reflect upon or show remorse in the slightest for the sins committed during the three decades of Maoist communism".

"What we see, precisely, are giant steps backwards towards Maoist orthodoxy," the group said.

After initially tolerating the student-led demonstrations in the spring of 1989, the Communist Party sent troops to crush the protests on the night of June 3-4, killing hundreds.

The topic remains taboo in China and the leadership has rejected all calls to overturn its verdict.

A handful of people remain in prison, 24 years on, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S. group that works for the release of Chinese political prisoners.

While China grapples with thousands of protests a year, over everything from pollution to corruption and illegal land grabs, none of these demonstrations have even come close to becoming a national movement that could threaten the party's rule.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Editing by Ben Blanchard and Matt Driskill)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Venezuela's Maduro slams Colombia's Santos for 'betrayal'

Posted: 30 May 2013 08:03 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, of "betrayal" on Thursday, saying he had lost faith in him for meeting with Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shakes hands with Venezuela's opposition leader Henrique Capriles during a visit at the Narino presidential house in Bogota May 29, 2013. Javier Casella/Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shakes hands with Venezuela's opposition leader Henrique Capriles during a visit at the Narino presidential house in Bogota May 29, 2013. Javier Casella/Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Maduro said he was putting bilateral relations, which were frequently hostile during his predecessor Hugo Chavez's 14-year socialist rule, under review following Santos' meeting on Wednesday with Capriles.

The Venezuelan opposition leader, a 40-year-old business-friendly state governor, was in Colombia to press his case that Maduro's presidential election win last month, by just 1.5 percentage points, was fraudulent.

"I'm very sorry President Santos has given credence to the fascist Venezuelan right wing," Maduro, 50, said, again accusing Capriles of plotting to overthrow him and saying the Colombian government was now in league with that plan.

"There is time for rectification, that is what we call for. Meanwhile, we will continue evaluating all our relations with the Colombian government."

Venezuela has already withdrawn its envoy to peace talks in Cuba between Colombia's government and Marxist guerrillas, in protest at the Santos-Capriles meeting.

"I made efforts with the Colombian guerrillas to achieve peace in Colombia," Maduro complained during a speech in the central city of Valencia carried live on state TV. "Now they're going to pay us like this, with betrayal. I've lost confidence in President Santos unless he shows me the contrary."

Colombia is a major U.S. ally and the government before Santos had dire relations with Chavez's administration.

But despite ideological differences, Santos patched things up with Chavez in the name of pragmatism and regional solidarity after taking power in 2010. That helped trade to flow and enabled both sides to chase guerrillas, smugglers and paramilitaries on their long and violence-plagued border.

Still in Bogota on Thursday, Capriles criticized other Venezuelan officials' anger over his meeting with Santos as overblown and unjustified. Minutes after Maduro's comments, he gave a scathing reaction via Twitter.

"He's lost the plot. He doesn't know where he's going - incompetence and illegitimacy combined!"

The refusal of Capriles and his millions of supporters to accept Maduro's election win - which they are disputing in local courts - is infuriating the government, which lambastes him daily as a "fascist" and "coup-plotter."

Authorities are considering legal action against Capriles over post-election protests by the opposition, during which some nine people died. But they are also wary of inflaming the situation given that Venezuelans are split down the middle and arresting Capriles would be bound to spark mass protests.

The election dispute has made for a traumatic start to the post-Chavez era in Venezuela, an OPEC member with the world's largest oil reserves and a population of 29 million.

Chavez died of cancer in March, after naming Maduro as his preferred successor.

The political tensions have also hindered attempts to right an economy that, despite massive oil revenues, is suffering from slowing growth, increasing shortages of basic products, and one of the world's highest inflation rates.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Indian shot dead in growing land dispute in Brazil

Posted: 30 May 2013 07:44 PM PDT

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A growing conflict over land ownership in Brazil's farm belt turned bloody on Thursday when an Indian was shot dead during the violent eviction of some 200 natives from a disputed property owned by a former congressman.

The Terena Indians refused a court order to leave the cattle ranch which they invaded two weeks ago. A federal agency designated the ranch as ancestral native land in 2010, but a local court ruled last year that it belonged to the farmer.

The Indians threw stones at riot police who fired tear gas to dislodge the occupiers from the 17,000-hectare property in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, which produces soy and corn for export.

Brazil's indigenous policy uses anthropological studies to return land to natives and is considered one of the world's most progressive. But it has sparked violence since the country became an agricultural superpower and Indian policy clashed with farming interests.

A Federal Police spokesman in the nearby town of Campo Grande said the Indians shot at the police during the clash and it was not clear who was responsible for the fatal shooting since no bullets were found in the body.

Authorities opened an investigation to establish who shot the Indian. Four other natives were injured, as well as four policemen who had bullets lodged in their bullet-proof vests, the spokesman said.

Reuters reported earlier this month that President Dilma Rousseff has ordered her government to stop turning over farmland to Indians in what the powerful farm lobby says is a hugely misguided effort to right historical injustices.

Thirteen percent of Brazil's territory has been set aside for Indians and handing over more is under consideration. Conflicts, like the one in the cattle ranch, are common and are growing increasingly tense.

The government's Indian affairs office Funai says the federal justice ministry approved the designation of the disputed ranch in Mato Grosso do Sul as a reserve for the Terena in 2010. But ranchers say they have lived in the area for decades.

Farmers praised a government announcement on May 8 that other federal agencies will be involved in land decisions, effectively reducing the jurisdiction of Funai. The farm lobby ultimately wants politicians in Congress to have the last word.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Wearable computing emerging as major technology cycle

Posted: 29 May 2013 10:03 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO: Wearable computing is emerging as the type of significant technology shift that will drive innovation in the way personal computing did in the 1980s or mobile computing and tablets are doing currently, said Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker at the All Things D conference on Wednesday.

While technology cycles generally last 10 years, she said wearables were coming on stronger and faster than is typical. The change is noteworthy because major technology cycles often support tenfold growth in users and devices, she said in her annual report on the state of the Internet.

Many of the 150 times or so per day that users interact with their phones - to look for messages, make calls, check the time, and the like - could be hands-free with wearable technology, she said.

"Some people laugh at wearables..." read one slide featuring an image from the TV show "Saturday Night Live" that mocked Google glass, a wearable technology. As the audience chuckled, she brought up the next slide, reading "Some people laughed at PC & Internet." The slide showed a 1999 Barron's cover trumpeting the headline "Amazon.Bomb."

Later in the morning, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo picked up the theme, telling conference goers that it was clear wearable technology would play a large role in the future, even if what is perhaps the most-discussed example-- Google glass-- doesn't emerge as the first mainstream hit.

Speaking last night at the conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook stopped short of clarifying if Apple was working on wearable products amid speculation that it is developing a smart watch, saying only that wearable computers had to be compelling.

He added that Google's Glass is likely to have only limited appeal.

Meeker also reviewed themes she has highlighted in the past, including the remarkable growth of mobile technology and the Chinese economy, and the ceding of power from traditional personal computing companies to phone and tablet makers. - Reuters

Lehman, Barclays clash in court over 2008 sale

Posted: 29 May 2013 09:45 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Lehman Brothers' defunct brokerage told an appeals court on Wednesday it was entitled to billions of dollars in cash it says was wrongly included in its 2008 sale to Barclays Plc.

The arguments in federal appeals court in New York renewed a murky, years-old court battle with huge implications for the brokerage's creditors, including Lehman affiliates and hedge funds.

"It was made very clear" in the asset purchase agreement "what was going to Barclays and what was staying behind," said the brokerage's lawyer, William Maguire. "The deal didn't exclude just some cash, it excluded all cash."

The dispute has its roots in the hectic sale of the brokerage's assets to Barclays in the days following the $639 billion bankruptcy of parent company Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in September of 2008.

The brokerage contends the $250 million deal did not include the brokerage's cash assets. But Barclays says otherwise, relying on a so-called clarification letter signed after the deal was approved.

The disputed assets include margin to support exchange-traded derivatives, which could top $5 billion. They also include roughly $2 billion in so-called "clearance box" assets, which facilitate the clearance of securities trading. And they include $769 million promised to Barclays if Lehman's customers were paid in full.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Peck approved the deal in 2008. Days later, the sides signed a "clarification" letter on the cash assets.

In 2011, Peck ruled that the clearance box assets should go to Barclays and the margin assets should stay with the brokerage. Then in June 2012, Judge Katherine Forrest in federal court in New York partially reversed Peck's ruling, assigning both the margin and the clearance assets to Barclays.

The focus of Wednesday's arguments was on the margin assets, over which the sides presented drastically diverging narratives.

Attorney David Boies, representing Barclays, said the clarification letter merely identified and quantified the assets already agreed to by the parties as a way of validating that the deal would boost Barclays' assets.

It did not change the terms of the deal, Boies argued.

But according to Maguire, Peck's initial approval of the deal specifically excluded cash assets. The clarification letter, far from mere explication, represented a fundamental change to the deal, amounting to an asset grab by Barclays.

Barclays currently holds about $2 billion of the margin assets and $786 million of the clearance box assets, with the Lehman brokerage holding the rest. The appeals court could grant both to one party, or divvy them up. In a less likely scenario, it could unwind the sale altogether.

After the hearing, a spokesman for James Giddens, the trustee winding down the Lehman brokerage, said the trustee's "position from day one has been that no cash was included" in the sale.

"That means billions of dollars in cash rightfully belong to the" brokerage's estate, spokesman Jake Sargent said.

Because customers of the brokerage are slated to get paid in full regardless of the outcome, it is general creditors whose recoveries depend on the appeals process.

They include roughly 12,000 claims from hedge funds, former employees, counterparties such as pension funds, banks and Lehman affiliates. Some of them were present on Wednesday in a packed courtroom on the 17th floor of a federal courthouse in New York. Security staff asked some standing spectators to move to an adjoining room with a video feed.

Judges Peter Hall, Gerard Lynch and Ralph Winter asked pointed questions of both lawyers. Winter suggested that Barclays' aim - to acquire the collateral of the exchange-traded derivatives business it bought - was only natural.

"Why would anyone expect someone to buy an ETD business and not buy the margin assets?" Winter asked Maguire. "You must have been delighted to pull off that economic coup."

Maguire countered that, for Barclays to essentially pay cash to acquire cash would have been a circular transaction and that it should have used its own assets to secure the derivatives business. Including cash, he said, would have handed Lehman's business, as well as billions of dollars in cash, to Barclays for only $250 million.

"That would skew the economics," he said.

Boies said the no-cash provision applied only to retained or unencumbered cash, but clearly excluded margin.

Boies faced his own helping of scepticism from the panel, including from Judge Hall, who suggested that a "no-cash" rule should be taken at face value.

"I would have taken that to the bank," Hall said.

The case is No. 12-2322, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. - Reuters

Australia to unlock area size of England with mineral resources worth $35bil

Posted: 29 May 2013 09:37 PM PDT

CANBERRA: Australia will ease access restrictions on the world's largest weapons test range in the remote outback - an area larger than England - to unlock an estimated $35 billion in untapped mineral resources, with legislation for the change unveiled on Thursday.

The Woomera Prohibited Area covers 127,000 square km (49,000 sq miles) of mostly barren desert and has been closed to the public since 1947, when it was used for Cold War rocket and nuclear tests by Britain, Australia and the United States.

The sprawling site, which is almost free from electronic signal interference, was also chosen this year as test site for the joint British-French unmanned supersonic stealth drone Taranis, under development by BAE Systems Plc .

Defence Minister Stephen Smith told MPs that new legislation would allow miners and some members of the public with reason to be there to share access to the land with the military, to better balance national security and economic concerns.

"The South Australian government has assessed that over the next decade about $35 billion worth of iron ore, gold and other minerals resources are potentially exploitable from within the Woomera Prohibited Area," Smith told parliament.

The change, under consideration for three years, is an attempt to ease investment concerns around land near Woomera since the government blocked Chinese company Minmetals from buying an Oz Minerals copper and gold Mine at nearby Prominent Hill in 2009, citing national security.

Parts of Woomera, which hosted British nuclear weapons tests between 1955 and 1963, also lie adjacent to the Olympic Dam site, which BHP Billiton decided not to expand last year as Australia's mining boom stalled.

A small number of mines already exist in the area, including Prominent Hill and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd's Challenger gold mine.

Under the new access arrangements, the military would remain in charge of the area, but a permit system would give civilians the right to enter Woomera. As well as miners, indigenous Aboriginal residents can also enter the zone, and environmental or other researchers.

The legislation sets up a series of zones, some of which would be zoned red for "continuous defence use" and others which would exclude mining and exploration for between 14 and 70 days a year, in a timeshare arrangement with the military.

"It allows users to make commercial decisions with some assurance as to when they will be required to leave the Area because of defence activity," Smith said.

It was unclear if the changes would ease national security concern about Chinese mine ownership, as foreign investment applications would still be assessed by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

China-based hackers were this week accused of stealing the blueprints to Australia's new domestic spy agency in Canberra.

The government of South Australia state has estimated the vast test site holds untapped gold, copper and uranium resources worth up to A$35 billion, while other estimates for total mineral wealth run as high as A$1 trillion.

Smith said the legislation would be passed as a priority before parliament was dissolved for September elections. - Reuters


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Great day for squash

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:51 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: World No. 1 Nicol David heaved a huge sigh of relief after squash made the shortlist for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics.

Besides squash, wrestling and baseball-softball also made the shortlist after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday.

Only one sport will make it to the roster for the 2020 Games. The decision will be made at the IOC full assembly in Buenos Aires on Sept 8.

Besides Nicol, the other squash member who made the presentation was Egypt's Ramy Ashour, the men's world No. 1.

"This is a great day for squash as it takes us closer to realising our long-held ambition of joining the Olympic Games," said Nicol from St Petersburg yesterday.

"I told the executive board that one of my big regrets was that I never had the chance to compete in the Games and I would trade all my world titles for that one chance. It goes to show what it means to me to get a chance to play in the Games.

"It was indeed an honour to play a part in our presentation. I will now do everything I can as we head towards Buenos Aires for the final selection," added Nicol.

Ashour, who recently bagged the British Open title, was also delighted to see squash getting a step closer to the Olympics.

"It was great for Nicol and me to be part of the presentation team and to represent the men's and women's professional squash tours," said Ashour.

Several players also took to social media, Twitter, to express their delight.

"Yessssssss!! One step closer to the 2020 Olympics. #2020olympics #vote4squash!" tweeted India's women's No. 1 Dipika Pallikal.

"What a great day today is for all squash players! #BackTheBid2020 #Vote4Squash" said former world junior champion Amanda Sobhy of the United States.

Men's world No. 2 Nick Matthew, who was beaten in the semi-finals of the British Open last week, remained optimistic of squash making the 2020 Games.

"Come on squash. Let's make that top 3 today! Then top 1 in September," tweeted the Englishman.

Related Story:
SRAM: Much need to be done to get squash included in Olympics

SRAM: Much need to be done to get squash included in Olympics

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:52 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: With squash taking a step closer towards realising its Olympic dream, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) have promised to do everything they can to support the bid.

Squash was among the three sports included in a shortlist for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board after a meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday. It will compete against wrestling and softball-baseball. Only one sport will be included in the 2020 Games and the decision will be made in Buenos Aires on Sept 8.

SRAM president Datuk Syed Mustaffa Syed Ali (pic) believes more effort should be made to push for squash's inclusion.

"Squash has just crossed the first hurdle. The battle is only half won.

"It is going to be tough from now on as wrestling is still the favourite. We need to work a lot harder from now on," said Syed Mustaffa.

"SRAM will definitely provide more support. We will continue to help out in whatever way we can. Hopefully, this will lead to squash's inclusion in the Olympics for the first time," he added.

Women's national No. 2 Low Wee Wern stressed that getting into the final shortlist may be the start of better things to come for squash, especially in Malaysia.

"It's really good that we made it to the final round. I hope there will be more local interest in squash now," said Wee Wern.

"Squash needs more attention and every bit of help it can get.

"I will do my part in helping to create awareness in the sport. Nicol David's commitment to the cause is on another level. I'm happy to help out whenever I can," added Wee Wern, the world No. 7.

Men's national No. 1 Ong Beng Hee, however, cautioned against complacency.

"To be honest, there's not much to celebrate yet because it's just the final shortlist. September is the big moment and a lot more work needs to be done," said the 33-year-old.

"I was hoping wrestling would not make the shortlist. It makes our job a lot tougher now.

"Still, it was a good job to everyone in getting us shortlisted because it wasn't that easy. If we did not clear this round, that would have been the end for squash," added Beng Hee.

Related Story:
Great day for squash

Sivasangari storms into last eight, Farez also through

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:52 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Reigning Asian Junior Under-15 champion S. Sivasangari (pic) showed her class to storm into the quarter-finals of the Milo All Star Junior Open squash championships at the Astaka Sports Complex yesterday.

The 14-year-old Sivasangari was just too strong for India's Riddhi Sampat, winning 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 in the Under-15 third round.

Pint-sized Sivasangari, the defending champion, will next take on Hong Kong's Hayley Ip.

Japan's Satomi Watanabe, Sivasangari's main challenger, also moved into the next round after beating Selangor's Alexandria Ryanka Aloysiu 9-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-3.

Satomi, who is based in Penang and trains under Malaysians Aaron Soyza and Khoo Teng Hin, will take on Penang's Nur Aliah Izzati for a place in the semi-finals.

Seventh seed Nur Aliah, the Asian Under-13 champion, overcame Alya Atirah Khairunizam of the Federal Territories 11-4, 11-5, 11-9.

Two other top contenders – third seed Andrea Lee and fourth seed Zoe Foo – also checked into the last eight without any problems.

Andrea defeated Teh Min En 11-8, 11-9, 12-14, 11-7 while Zoe stormed past India's Nikita Joshi 11-4, 11-6, 11-9.

In the boys' Under-15 event, top seed Mohd Farez Izwan stayed on course for the title by beating Hong Kong's Law Yat Tong 11-4, 11-6, 11-7. He will meet Matthew Lai, also of Hong Kong, for a spot in the semi-finals.

Second seed Ong Sai Hung of Kedah and third seed Jesse Foo of Kelantan also came through unscathed, winning their matches in straight sets.

But there was disappointment for fourth seed Ryu Han-dong. The South Korean was sent packing after losing 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 4-11, 5-11 to Hong Kong's Harley Lam.


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Sit down protest in Penang turns into stand-up affair

Posted: 30 May 2013 08:57 AM PDT

BUKIT MERTAJAM: A sit down protest in support of arrested student activist Muhammad Safwan Anang Talib turned out to be a standing affair due to the unsuitable location selected for the gathering tonight.

Some 30 people who took part in the 45-minute long protest at the Bukit Tengah roundabout here Thursday night chose to stand as they did not want to disrupt traffic flow there.

The emcee Khairul Ishak said they chose not to sit as Special Branch officers had earlier advised them not to disrupt the traffic.

"There is a drain encircling the roundabout and if we sat down, it may have been difficult for passers-by to hear us.

"We thank the police for giving us their co-operation that enabled our gathering to run peacefully," he said on Thursday.

This was the third such gathering organised by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) in Penang after the earlier ones held near Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) main campus in Gelugor and in the Esplanade grounds in George Town.

Khairul said the objective of the "Solidarity with Safwan Anang" gathering was to allegedly seek justice after Safwan and four others were detained and later charged for making seditious remarks in a public forum.

The four others, PKR vice-president Tian Chua, former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Ghafar Baba's son Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar, Opposition activist Haris Fathillah Mohamed Ibrahim and political activist Hishamuddin Rais were released after posting bail pending their trial set on July 2.

Muhammad Safwan, 24, who is president of Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia president, refused bail that was set at RM5,000 to send a message on the need to uphold human rights Among those who spoke included Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim Chee Keong, Machang Bubok assemblyman Lee Khai Loon and PSM central committee member Soh Sook Hwa.

The gathering started and ended with the singing of Negaraku.

Some motorists honked in support of the gathering while some stopped their vehicles by the side to listen to the speeches.

Central Seberang Prai district OCPD Asst Comm Azman Abd Lah had earlier said that no permission was given for the gathering, which was deemed illegal.

"We will later take action based on the nature of the gathering," he said.

Only Belaga police chief can issue statistics of boat tragedy victims

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:42 AM PDT

BELAGA: Effective immediately, only Belaga district police chief, DSP Bakar Sebau can issue statistics of express boat victims who survived and are still missing in the tragedy in Sungai Rajang on Tuesday.

Sarawak Deputy Police Commissioner SAC Datuk Law Hong Soon said Bakar who is field commander for the search and rescue operation is more aware of the real situation.

"I urge all parties not to speculate on statistics of victims saved or still missing.

"After this, don't accept statement from other people except the Belaga police chief," he told Bernama, here on Thursday.

Law did not deny the fact that not all the information received was inaccurate adding the move was made to avoid conflicting statistics.

"The list of victims saved and missing keep changing.

"The number may rise or drop based on the police report received," he said.

Earlier, Bakar said the number of survivors on Thursday stood at 186, while 12 are still missing and one body was found.

However there was confusion as two victims reported missing are safe at Berundang Longhouse, Nanga Ensawi, about two hour boat ride from Kapit.

Report that they are safe was made by family member Connie Menai at Kapit police headquarters. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Police deny two bodies found in Tuesday's express boat tragedy
Search for survivors of capsized express boat continues
Belaga not equipped for emergencies
Express boat capsizes in Balui River, two bodies found so far (updated)
Penans dismantle blockade of access road to Murum Dam site

Woman drowns after car plunges into irrigation canal

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:15 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: A woman drowned after the car she was driving skidded and plunged into an irrigation canal in a padi field in Parit 6, Sungai Besar on Thursday.

Sungai Besar senior fire officer Ishak Hamzah said the incident at about 2pm killed Asiah Mohd Rasidi, 54, while her two passengers were slightly hurt.

"The Proton Wira she was driving is believed to have skidded before plunging into the irrigation canal killing her instantly," he said when contacted.

Her body was removed from the car by members of the public who sent it to Sabak Bernam Hospital for a post-mortem. - Bernama


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Henry Cavill in talks to replace Tom Cruise in 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'

Posted: 30 May 2013 01:14 AM PDT

Hollywood's new Superman has been tapped to top the bill for this spy film by Guy Ritchie, Variety divulges.

British movie actor Henry Cavill, who'll be flying faster than a silver bullet this summer in Man Of Steel, is in talks to supersede Tom Cruise as the lead in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger) and Alicia Vikander (Royal Affair) will co-star in this liberal adaptation of the 1960s TV series.

After exploring the complicated friendship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Guy Ritchie will be shifting gears and switching eras to home in on the Cold War rivalry between American agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill of course) and his Soviet opposite number Illya Kuryakin (Hammer), who are compelled to team up against a terrorist organization.

Robert Vaughan and David McCallum played these parts in the original '60s series. Warner Bros. hopes to start shooting The Man From U.N.C.L.E. this fall.



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Close watch on garbage contractors in Petaling Jaya

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:53 AM PDT

IN A move to get contractors engaged by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to improve their services, mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad has put in place some new measures.

They involve dividing Petaling Jaya into 28 zones, assigning a council staff as cleaning supervisor for each zone, and making public the names of the contractors.

"All the cellphone numbers of cleaning supervisors will also be made available to ratepayers.

"Residents can call them regarding complaints and they will help resolve them," said Alinah.

Cleaning supervisors will receive a monthly RM60 phone subsidy each.

"I have been monitoring the complaints on street cleaning and household waste collection.

"Service in certain areas is not up to mark and it is time for the contractors to buck up," said Alinah.

"When contractors fail to perform, the council is the one that has to deal with the complaints from angry residents," she said.

She added that she would also call the numbers at random to ensure the phones were not switched off.

Alinah warned that if the complaints still persisted, the contractor's services would be terminated.

"Some may consider this harsh but we have to act to improve the standard of services offered to ratepayers," she said.

On the illegal dumping of garden waste, construction waste and other materials that marred the image of the city, Alinah said efforts were under way to stop such acts.

Drain troubles over for Taman Muda resident

Posted: 30 May 2013 06:53 AM PDT

A SUMP at the corner of Jalan Bunga Melur 2 and 1 in Taman Muda, Ampang has been upgraded following complaints of frequent flashfloods by residents.

Works were completed a few days ago and includes the repairs of a broken drain along the same corner.

Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) public relations officer Norhayati Ahmad said they had discovered the area to be low-lying.

"This is also true for the house at the corner of the two roads that is most affected every time there is a flashflood," said Norhayati.

She added that the sump was too small, filling up and overflowing quickly.

Resident and bicycle shopowner Ng Nga Chai, 56, said water from the drain would overflow whenever there was a downpour.

"The flood recedes but the water can sometimes rise to about half a foot.

"This problem began about three years ago when the drain next to my shop collapsed," he said.

He added that MPAJ had repaired part of the drain two years ago but the unrepaired parts had collapsed and were clogging the drain.

"Things became so bad that I had to place some large stone slabs over the collapsed parts so that people could cross over safely," said Ng.

Teratai public complaints bureau chief Ben Liew had visited the troubled spot and helped expedite matters with MPAJ.

"I have also observed that contractors are not cleaning the drains in this area properly.

"When flashfloods happen, residents have to deal with the stench and overflowing dirty water," he said.

Liew also said MPAJ should be more diligent in its monitoring the area because it has a popular food court, and night and morning markets.


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Harvest festival is a time to cast aside differences and celebrate a season of plentiful

Posted: 29 May 2013 07:32 PM PDT

Kaamatan or Harvest Festival is a time for everyone, regardless of their differences, to come together in thanksgiving for the plentiful harvest that symbolises all the good that they have received in life.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said Kaamatan was a time for everyone to cast aside their differences and rejoice with hope for a better future.

Similarly, he said political differences should not hinder the leaders and people from cooperating to develop the community.

"We may have political differences but we should have a common ground to come together and carry out development plans and programmes because surely our common goal is for the betterment and well being of the people," he said when launching the Kota Marudu district level Kaamatan celebrations on Sunday.

He said several efforts had been initiated to bring new technologies and methods to increase agricultural and agro-based products in Kota Marudu, especially with the recent launch of biotechnology initiatives in the constituency where agriculture is a main economic activity.

"This includes the opening of a tissue culture laboratory which will provide farmers with seedlings such as for the planting of pineapple, banana and papaya of high value.

The biotechnology initiatives for Kota Marudu also involve the planting of high-value and high-technology hybrid paddy while a private company is also keen to begin the cultivation of oysters in Kota Marudu.

"These will enable Kota Marudu's agriculture sector to develop further and the people to earn better income, but it requires the commitment and cooperation of all parties," he said.

Touching on his new ministerial role which also involves resolving basic utility issues in Sabah, he said any solution to resolve the problem would require the people, as one of the important stakeholders, to work together with the government.

He also announced that Kota Marudu has been chosen as the venue for the state launching of district-level Kaamatan celebrations next year, adding that this would give it an opportunity to showcase its products as well as the unique cultures of the various ethnic groups such as the Rungus, Tobilung, Irranun, Tinagas, Lingkabau and Kimaragang of Kota Marudu.

At the event, he also crowned Kota Marudu's Unduk Ngadau or Harvest Queen, Daphne Fay William Santor, who will represent the district at the state-level competition on May 31.

PR1MA is not in competition with developers, says Muhammad Safian

Posted: 29 May 2013 07:32 PM PDT

KUANTAN: The 1Malaysia People's Housing (PR1MA) project is not competing with developers for business, said State Secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail.

He said PR1MA would instead complement other housing projects in Pahang as it catered to a different market.

"Housing developers control the urban market while PR1MA is being developed in the outskirts surrounding the town. I know there is some dissatisfaction from the Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association of Malaysia (Rehda) but to say PR1MA is competing with them is wrong," Muhammad Safian said at the opening ceremony of the Malaysia Property Expo 2013 here recently.

He said Rehda could actually participate in PR1MA provided they find the land to be developed.

Once the land was found, Rehda could submit a proposal to the state secretary office's housing unit for consideration, said Muhammad Safian.

"Please do not complain. It is like the proverb where fire ants guard the fruit but they do not eat it. When the fruit falls, nobody else can eat it anymore.

"Likewise, we ask you to find land but you don't want to. When other people got it, you make noise," said Muhammad Safian.

He added that Kuantan is going to be developed at a rapid pace with several major projects in the pipeline and thus ample affordable housing had to be provided to meet the demand.

Muhammad Safian said among the projects was the expansion of the Kuantan port, the upgrading of the Kuantan-Segamat road into a dual carriageway and the proposed construction of a new airport.

"We have already received more than 40,000 applications for affordable homes and we have to be prepared. We admit it is an overwhelming response but then again it is not a definite thing.

"Therefore, PR1MA is actually complementary to other housing projects. It will give the impression that there are plenty of affordable housing in Kuantan," he said.

Meanwhile, Pahang Rehda chairman Cheoh Chee Guan said house buyers should not place the blame solely on developers for expensive properties.

He said there were other factors such as difficulty in securing loans from financial institutions and the increasing land prices.

Irresponsible people electrify water for easy catch

Posted: 29 May 2013 07:33 PM PDT

ROMPIN: Outsiders have been singled out for the poisoning of a river for quick and easy catch that has affected the local fishermen.

Bukit Ibam assemblyman Datuk Wan Kadri Wan Mahussin said these people also used generators to electrify the water causing all manner of species in the water to die leaving nothing for the local fishermen to catch.

Wan Kadri said it was difficult for the enforcement officers from the related agencies to catch the culprits because they did it during the night and in the absence of the officers.

"This matter cannot be solved as long there are irresponsible people who are greedy without thinking of others particularly the locals who earn their income from the river.

"It is true the river and all life forms in the water belong to everybody but if they have the sense and concern for others, they can still fish provided it is done professionally without disturbing the environment," he said after releasing some 60,000 lobsters and fish fry into Sungai Rompin in Kampong Gading here recently.

He was representing Rompin MP Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis. Also present was State Fishery department director Adnan Hussein.

He said it was important to have a sense of responsiblity among fishermen to be concerned about the environment surrounding the river because it provides numerous source of income for them.

Wan Kadri also said only 50% of the fry would survive due to the water current and other factors but the number will keep on growing in the next seven to eight months as the lobsters and fishes will breed.

He said Sungai Rompin is one of the rivers which had become the source of income for the villagers to catch lobsters and a few other fish species including "lampam".

He said one kilo of huge lobsters can be sold at RM60 while smaller sizes were sold at RM40 per kilogramme.

"If the catch is good, the fishermen can earn more than RM300 per day as there is a high demand for lobsters currently. Most lobster lovers are tourists who travel from Singapore to Kuantan and they will stop by Rompin to look for the lobsters," he said.

Wan Kadri said if they could not get fresh lobsters because of the shortage in supply, they could buy the cooked lobsters which is sold at a bit higher price between RM55 and RM75 per kilogramme depending on the size of the lobsters.


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George Michael leaves hospital after accident

Posted: 30 May 2013 01:02 AM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - British singer George Michael is out of hospital after being treated for head injuries from a car accident two weeks ago, his website said on Wednesday.

The 49-year-old former Wham! frontman, who has been "under observation" since the May 16 accident, has been discharged and is resting, said.

"We can confirm that George Michael has been discharged from hospital and continues to rest and recuperate," the message on Michael's website said. "He is well and thanks everyone for all the messages of support."

British media have reported that the Careless Whisper singer fell out of a car he was travelling in on the M1 motorway just outside London during rush hour - the latest of a string of accidents and health scares.

Last year, Michael cancelled a tour of Australia due to "major anxiety" brought on by a 2011 battle with severe pneumonia in Vienna, where he was treated in intensive care for a month.

The singer has sold an estimated 100 million records over his career, but in the past few years has hit the headlines for his personal life more often than for his music.

In 1998 he was arrested in California for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public toilet. He has also had a number of run-ins with British police for possession of narcotics, and served time in jail for driving under the influence of cannabis.

Justin Bieber under police probe for reckless driving

Posted: 30 May 2013 12:26 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Teen pop star Justin Bieber is under investigation for allegedly speeding through his gated Los Angeles-area community in a Ferrari sports car, prompting neighbours to complain to police, authorities said on Wednesday.

Residents of the singer's private Calabasas, California, neighborhood called police on Monday saying Bieber was driving recklessly through the gated estate, Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

"Two witnesses called us and claimed he was driving a white Ferrari at high speed," Whitmore said, adding that one witness was former NFL football player Keyshawn Johnson.

Bieber, 19, who has refused to be questioned by police, could face a misdemeanor reckless driving charge when the investigation is handed over to local prosecutors in the coming weeks, Whitmore said.

A representative for the Canadian singer declined to comment on the reckless driving allegations.

It is the second incident involving Bieber and his neighbours in recent months.

In March, Bieber was accused by a neighbour of spitting on him during a confrontation over parties hosted at the singer's home while he was on tour in Europe. The case has been turned over to prosecutors, who have yet to bring charges against him, Whitmore said.

The incidents follow a string of headline-grabbing episodes over the course of his European tour earlier this year.

A capuchin monkey that belonged to Bieber was confiscated at the Munich airport in March for not having the necessary paperwork and is now German national property after the singer failed to reclaim it.

Bieber also startled onlookers in Lodz, Poland, in March by stripping off his shirt on a freezing evening as he walked through security to his private jet, and in London he scuffled with a photographer outside his hotel.

Daft Punk's latest album tops Billboard 200 album chart

Posted: 30 May 2013 12:01 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - French electronic dance music duo Daft Punk scored their first No. 1 album on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday, as their risk to use retro technology paid off with fans.

Random Access Memories, the highly anticipated fourth studio album from Daft Punk, sold 339,000 copies in its first week, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan. That was the group's best sales week to date.

Digital downloads of the album were approximately 65 percent of overall sales, with 221,000 copies downloaded.

Daft Punk, formed by childhood friends Thomas Bangalter, 38, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 39, were at the forefront of electronic dance music in the 1990s, fusing synthesizers and computers to create music on hits such as Around The World. Daft Punk became popular figures in the dance music field, known for wearing shiny helmets on stage and being elusive and unpredictable.

For the release of their latest album, they stayed away from big stages and instead launched it at a small music festival in the small Australian town of Wee Waa on May 17, which they themselves did not attend.

After the 2005 album Human After All, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo said they took time out to explore "uncharted territories" in their field, waiting eight years before releasing Random Access Memories.

"It's always been a quest (with the) making of each record, somehow reinventing ourselves a little bit, and this time we feel like it's the same musical influence somehow that we maybe had 15 years ago on our first record," Bangalter told Reuters ahead of the album's release.

Random Access Memories is not just an homage to the dance floor music of the late 1970s but an attempt to capture the actual time period itself, the duo said.

"If you listen to Pink Floyd records or the majority of the albums in the late 1970s, they were really experimenting with art, elegance, radicality and integrity," Bangalter said. "That was inspiring for this record, to try to do something that has certain elegance and certain experimentation to it."

The new album features numerous collaborators, including singer Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, veteran Italian music producer Giorgio Moroder and R&B singer Pharrell Williams, who lent his vocals to the raunchy dance floor track "Get Lucky."


After inspiring a new wave of electronic dance music DJs in the past decade that has included David Guetta, Random Access Memories sees Daft Punk strip away all digital components, recording solely with live instruments onto analog tape in a studio setting.

"Digital technologies are more efficient at working on other aspects of music, like dynamic and energetic qualities," Bangalter said.

"In the same way that sometimes a film camera seems to grab a moment in raw emotion than with a digital camera, that's what analog tape usually is ... it tends to - and we don't know why - grab a magic moment that is emotional."

The risk of going analog appears to have paid off, as the duo topped the Billboard chart with the second-highest debut album of the year, behind only Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, which opened in March with 968,000 copies.

Get Lucky, which first premiered as a music video broadcast at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Southern California in April, has been streamed more than 33 million times globally on Spotify since its April 18 release.

Daft Punk led four new albums debuting in the top 10 of the Billboard chart this week. Darius Rucker, frontman of rock group Hootie & the Blowfish, entered the chart at No. 2 this week with his country solo effort, True Believers, selling 83,000 copies.

Rock band The National landed at No. 3 with Trouble Will Find Me, while rapper French Montana rounded out the debuts in the top 10 this week with his first album, Excuse My French, at No. 4.

Rockers 30 Seconds to Mars landed at No. 6 the album Love Lust Faith + Dreams, while last week's chart-toppers, Vampire Weekend, fell to No. 7 this week as sales of Modern Vampires Of The City dropped by 64 percent.


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