Jumaat, 31 Mei 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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U.S. rebalance to Asia-Pacific gaining steam, Pentagon chief says

Posted: 31 May 2013 09:03 PM PDT

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The U.S. military will devote more air power, ground troops and high-tech weaponry to the Asia-Pacific region as it moves ahead with a strategic rebalance, the U.S. defence chief said on Saturday in a speech that accused China of cyber incursions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during the first plenary session of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore June 1, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during the first plenary session of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore June 1, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

In remarks laying out his vision for regional security, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel assured allies and partners at the annual Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore that the United States was fully able to continue its strategic pivot to the region despite budget constraints at home.

"It would be unwise and short-sighted to conclude ... that our commitment to the rebalance cannot be sustained," he said in prepared remarks, noting the United States represented 40 percent of global defence spending even under the "most extreme budget scenarios."

Hagel sketched out some of the region's thorniest security issues, including North Korea's effort to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, competing territorial claims in the seas around China and disruptive activity in space and cyberspace.

While noting U.S. concerns about cyber intrusions linked to the Chinese government and military, Hagel underscored his belief that resolving many regional security issues would require closer cooperation between Washington and Beijing.

"Building a positive and constructive relationship with China is ... an essential part of America's rebalance to Asia," he said. "While the U.S. and China will have our differences ... the key is for those differences to be addressed on the basis of a continuous and respectful dialogue."

On Friday, Hagel said cyber threats posed a "quiet, stealthy, insidious" danger to the United States and other nations, and called for "rules of the road" to guide behaviour and avoid conflict on global computer networks.

CHINA QUESTIONS U.S. MILITARY FOCUS

In questions and answers after Hagel's speech, Chinese Major General Yao Yunzhu, an expert on U.S.-China defence relations, asked the Pentagon chief what the United States could do to reassure China it really wants a positive relationship when it is focusing so many military resources on the region.

"That's really the whole point behind closer military-to-military relationships," Hagel said. "We don't want miscalculations and misunderstandings and misinterpretations. And the only way you do that is you talk to each other, you have to be direct with each other ... And I think we're on track with that."

Hagel outlined numerous military contacts between the two countries over the past year and said the United States encouraged the responsible rise of China and other powers because they would have a vested stake in regional stability.

The speech to the Asian security summit was Hagel's first as defence secretary. But as a U.S. senator he was an early supporter of the event, led the U.S. congressional delegation to the inaugural session and has addressed the group several times.

Hagel emphasized U.S. efforts to deepen ties with allies and partners in the region through both bilateral and multilateral engagement. He announced he was inviting defence ministers from the ASEAN grouping of nations to a first-ever U.S.-hosted meeting in Hawaii next year.

"Relationships, trust and confidence are what matter most ... in the region," Hagel said.

The U.S. defence chief used the speech to underscore his long experience with Asia - from his military service in Vietnam, to business travels in China as a cell phone executive to later visits to the region as a U.S. senator.

"What I took away from all these experiences was a firm belief that the arc of the 21st century would be shaped by events here in Asia," Hagel said, adding that was clear the United States would need to rebalance its resources toward the region once it ended its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, told the Shangri-La gathering last year that the United States would commit 60 percent of its naval forces to the Asia-Pacific by 2020, a shift of about eight ships from the current deployment.

Building on that, Hagel told the conference the U.S. Air Force would commit 60 percent of its overseas-based aircraft and airmen to the region - about the same level as now - while U.S. Army troops and Marines would resume their Asia-Pacific roles as they draw down following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hagel said in the future the Pentagon would "prioritize deployments" of its most advanced weapons systems to the Pacific, including the radar-evading F-22 Raptor jet fighter, the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Virginia-class fast attack submarine.

He indicated the region could soon see other advanced systems as well, noting the Navy planned to deploy a directed energy laser weapon on the USS Ponce next year and last month successfully launched an experimental jet drone from an aircraft carrier for the first time.

"Combined with new concepts, doctrine and plans that integrate these new technologies and other game-changing capabilities, we will ensure freedom of action throughout the region well into the future," Hagel said.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Tornadoes hit near Oklahoma City, two dead

Posted: 31 May 2013 08:36 PM PDT

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Violent thunderstorms spawned tornadoes that menaced Oklahoma City and its already hard-hit suburb of Moore on Friday, killing a mother and her baby, and officials worried that drivers stuck on freeways could be trapped in the path of dangerous twisters.

Large clouds are seen as a tornado passes south of El Reno, Oklahoma May 31, 2013. Violent thunderstorms spawned tornadoes that menaced Oklahoma City and its already hard-hit suburb of Moore on Friday, killing a mother and her baby, and officials worried that drivers stuck on freeways could be trapped in the path of dangerous twisters. One twister touched down on Interstate 40 and was headed toward Oklahoma City. REUTERS/Bill Waugh

Large clouds are seen as a tornado passes south of El Reno, Oklahoma May 31, 2013. Violent thunderstorms spawned tornadoes that menaced Oklahoma City and its already hard-hit suburb of Moore on Friday, killing a mother and her baby, and officials worried that drivers stuck on freeways could be trapped in the path of dangerous twisters. One twister touched down on Interstate 40 and was headed toward Oklahoma City. REUTERS/Bill Waugh

The mother and baby were killed while travelling on Interstate 40, just west of Oklahoma City, when their vehicle was picked up by the storm, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The interstate was shut down due to the storm, with multiple crashes and injuries.

At least 40 to 50 people were being treated for injuries suffered in the storms, including five patients in critical condition, among them a child, according to the Integris Health hospital system.

National Weather Service meteorologists at one point declared a tornado emergency for parts of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, including Moore, and storm spotters were tracking a tornado in the western suburb of Yukon.

One twister touched down on Interstate 40 and was reported headed toward Oklahoma City. Television images showed downed power lines and tossed cars as menacing gray funnels churned across the darkening prairie.

A tornado also touched down in Moore, which was hit by a massive EF-5 twister last week that killed 24 people.

"The Interstate is at a standstill," Randolph said. "We are begging people to get off the Interstate and seek immediate shelter ... We are in a dire situation."

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin told CNN that motorists stuck on any freeway in the path of a twister should try to go in the opposite direction to where the twister was coming from.

"What we saw from the tornadoes that came through Moore and the other ones last week was that people who were in cars on the Interstate were killed," Fallin told CNN.

Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis told CNN it was "unbelievable" that Moore had been hit again.

MULTIPLE STORMS

Tim Oram, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said it was difficult to know exactly how many tornadoes had touched down, but three major storms were potentially producing tornadoes throughout the center of the state.

The service later lifted a tornado warning for Oklahoma City and surrounding areas, but cautioned that storms would bring flooding, large hail and damaging winds to an area south and east of the sprawling metropolitan area, which is home to more than 1.3 million people.

At a little after 8 p.m. CDT, two of the storms were passing through Oklahoma City's southeastern suburbs, including Moore, he said. Those two storms were headed toward Norman, with the other storm southwest of the Oklahoma City.

Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City was shut down as it sheltered 1,200 people, local station KWTV reported.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company said that 68,000 customers in the Oklahoma City area were without power.

Storms in Oklahoma and Arkansas on Thursday killed at least three people, including a sheriff.

The body of Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter was recovered early on Friday, said Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Authorities continued to search for a missing game warden on the Fourche La Fave River.

A man also died in Tull, Arkansas, when a tree fell on his car and a woman's body was found flood waters in Scott County on Friday.

Large, long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells are responsible for producing the strongest tornadoes, along with large hail and other dangerous winds.

Tulsa, as well as Springfield, Missouri, may all be buffeted by Friday's severe weather and possible tornado touchdowns, said Rich Thompson, a lead forecaster at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The danger zone included Joplin, Missouri, he added. Joplin was hit by a monster tornado, one of the most catastrophic in U.S. history, that killed 161 people and destroyed about 7,500 homes two years ago.

(Additional reporting by Suzi Parker in Little Rock, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee Tom Brown in Miami, Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Tim Gaynor; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Barbara Goldberg, Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

German tourist shot and seriously wounded in Rio slum

Posted: 31 May 2013 05:26 PM PDT

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A German tourist was shot and seriously wounded in the stomach on Friday in one of Brazil's largest slums, where drug traffickers still control areas despite a crackdown in 2011.

Frank Daniel Benjamin, 25, was shot in an alley of the poorest section of the Rocinha slum on Rio de Janeiro's south side, a police statement said. A local resident picked him off the ground and carried him to a police unit from where he was rushed to hospital with a serious wound to the liver.

A policeman patrols the Rocinha slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro in this November 14, 2011 file photo. According to local media, a German tourist was shot on May 31, 2013 during a visit in Rocinha slum. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/Files

A policeman patrols the Rocinha slum during an operation against drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro in this November 14, 2011 file photo. According to local media, a German tourist was shot on May 31, 2013 during a visit in Rocinha slum. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/Files

The shooting added to a recent wave of violence that has hit visitors to Rio, including the brutal kidnapping and rape of an American tourist that shocked the tourist trade.

The violence just weeks before Rio hosts football games in a warm-up for the 2014 World Cup has raised alarm over the city's ability to control crime and ensure the safety of visitors in a city that will also hold the Olympic games in 2016.

In July, hundreds of thousands of Catholics are expected to descend on Rio to see Pope Francis on his first trip abroad as pontiff.

The recent violence has raised questions about the effectiveness of efforts to "pacify" Rio's large slums by sending in troops and police to dismantle drug-trafficking rings.

The Rocinha slum, part of a shanty town perched on steep hillsides, was "pacified" in November 2011 and now attracts visits by foreign tourists on guided tours.

The German tourist, however, was shot in the poorest part of the slum known as "Dirty Clothes," where drug traffickers still rule a maze of back alleys that are hard to patrol and tourists normally do not visit, a police source told Reuters.

A friend who was with the wounded man told police they were surprised in an alley by an armed man who shot at them when they ran off.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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Moriya, Blumenherst share LPGA lead

Posted: 31 May 2013 06:06 PM PDT

GALLOWAY, New Jersey: LPGA rookie Moriya Jutanugarn and fourth-year pro Amanda Blumenherst shared the first-round lead on Friday in the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Thailand's Moriya nabbed six birdies with just one bogey in her opening round of five-under 66 to seize a share of the overnight lead for the first time in an LPGA event.

While her 17-year-old sister Ariya has garnered most of the headlines this year with a Ladies European Tour win in March, 18-year-old Moriya has been quietly building a solid season on the LPGA Tour.

She currently leads the Rookie of the Year race and is eager to take advantage of the steady opening round she delivered on a day when scoring got worse as the round wore on.

"This course is going to be really windy in the afternoon, so we're lucky because we played in the morning," Moriya said.

"My game today, I hit it in the fairway a lot, so it kept me in the places that are easy to play.

"But the greens were getting firmer and firmer. It's in good shape, but you have to see where you can miss it and where you cannot."

Blumenherst, who won the 2008 US Women's Amateur championship, had an eagle and four birdies in her round, a confidence booster for a player who has missed the cut in six of her eight starts this season.

"It's been a while since I've had a very solid round of golf and felt like I just played well throughout the entire day," the American said.

"It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun out there because it's been a challenging start to the season."

The leading duo had a one-shot lead over defending champion and world number two Stacy Lewis. Lewis capped her 67 with her fifth birdie of the day on the par-five ninth.

Lewis is seeking a third victory of 2013 after wins in Singapore and Phoenix.

She also trying to successfully defend a title for the first time, and see if she can gain any ground on world number one Park In-Bee.

Park endured her first missed cut since the 2012 season-opening Women's Australian Open in the weather-truncated tournament in the Bahamas last weekend, and she got off to a slow start Friday with a three-over 74 that left her tied for 76th.

Two-time LPGA Tour winner Michelle Wie posted her best round of the season, a three-under 68 that gave her sole possession of fourth place. - AFP

Cricket: Top Indian officials quit in spot-fixing row

Posted: 31 May 2013 06:01 PM PDT

NEW DELHI: Two top officials of the Indian cricket board quit on Friday over an escalating spot-fixing scandal, reports said.

Sanjay Jagdale, the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and treasurer Ajay Shirke submitted their resignations to the board president, the NDTV news network and other channels said.

"I don't want to give any reason, I have sent my resignation to the BCCI president," Jagdale was quoted as saying by NDTV.

The resignations of Jagdale, the number two in the board hierarchy, and Shirke were likely to pile on more pressure on president N. Srinivasan to quit.

Srinivasan has been under fire to resign after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested last week for allegedly betting on Indian Premier League (IPL) matches.

Meiyappan, an executive at the Chennai Super Kings IPL team which is owned by Srinivasan's group India Cements, is being probed by a three-member BCCI commission.

Meiyappan's arrest came after Test paceman Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two teammates in his IPL franchise the Rajasthan Royals - Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila - were also taken into custody.

The trio, who deny any wrongdoing, are in jail in New Delhi after police accused them of deliberately bowling badly in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars after striking deals with bookmakers.

Srinivasan, who was elected as the BCCI president in 2011, has been resisting pressure for him to step down and can only be removed if two-thirds of the board's members vote against him.

Earlier this week, India's sports ministry said Srinivasan should quit on "moral grounds" over the widening scandal that has rocked the sport.

Police suspect that the betting racket is being controlled by international crime syndicates whose bosses are well aware of the rewards if they can manipulate events on the field in the cricket-mad region.

Earlier Friday, Siddharth Trivedi, a paceman with Rajasthan Royals franchise, testifed before a judge in a New Delhi court in the case against his teammates.

"His statement is important because he has told us he has information on some of the bookies arrested by us," the police officer, who is part of the investigating team, told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Trivedi's statements will be admissible as evidence in the court. It will definitely make our case stronger," the officer said.

Sreesanth, who has played 27 Tests for India, is alleged to have been paid four million rupees ($72,000) to give away around 14 runs in an over while playing against the Kings XI Punjab on May 9.

Chandila and Chavan are said by police to have agreed to similar deals in two other IPL matches.

Spot-fixing is an illegal activity in which a specific part of a game, but not the result, is fixed.

Batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar earlier on Friday voiced distress over the betting and spot-fixing scandal, becoming India's first big-name player to speak out on the issue.

"The developments in the last two weeks have been shocking and disappointing," Tendulkar, the world's leading scorer in both Test and one-day cricket, said.

Also on Friday, a court in Mumbai ruled that Meiyappan and Bollywood actor Vindu Dara Singh Randhawa, would have to remain in police custody until Monday.

Police say Meiyappan passed on match-related information to Randhawa by telephone. - AFP

Olympics: Rogge defends wrestling U-turn

Posted: 31 May 2013 05:58 PM PDT

SAINT-PETERSBURG: International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge on Friday defended the organisation's dramatic U-turn on wrestling.

Having removed the ancient sport from the 2020 summer Games programme in February, the IOC then included it on Wednesday, three months later, on a short-list of three sports competing for inclusion in those Games.

"I don't see any shortcomings in the system, I don't see any errors in the system," said Rogge at the end of a three-day executive board meeting in St Petersburg.

He added: "We do not go for change for the sake of change. We only go for a review of the Olympic programme periodically to take the decision to lead the best Olympic programme.

"I cannot forsee the future, (the IOC session) won't go for a new one (sport) just for the sake of a new one. Novelty is not the issue, quality is the issue."

Wrestling was part of the original ancient Olympic Games in 708BC and since the modern Games were resumed in Athens in 1896, it has only once been left off the programme, in 1900.

Now it has been placed on a shortlist alongside baseball-softball and squash to compete for a single berth.

The winning sport will be voted on during the IOC session in Buenos Aires in September, when the host city for the 2020 Games will also be decided. Rogge praised the International wrestling Federation for its reaction to being initially dumped back in February.

But he said that criticism and complaints would have been directed at the IOC no matter which sport or sports came under threat.

"If you look at the reaction of the federation to their admitted shortcomings, the international federation drastically changed its own governance, including women in the executive board - which was a criticism of the report from the IOC - changing the format of the competition, changing the presentation," he said.

"Had we decided to eliminate another sport from the core sports, such as modern pentathlon, we would have been criticised for having betrayed the legacy of Pierre de Coubertin, who invented the sport.

"Had we decided to eliminate taekwondo, we would have been accused of betraying the spirit of Asian sport, I mean we would have had criticism for any sport that would have been eliminated." - AFP

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Too much office space in the Klang Valley?

Posted: 31 May 2013 05:40 PM PDT

SERENA Yeong of Essel Properties has been an office market specialist for the Klang Valley the last 12 years. She is aware of the hike in office space come 2015/2016.

"We can still make a living when companies migrate from old buildings to new ones. Owners of older buildings will be worried, though," she says.

Landlords of older buildings are already feeling the heat, offering several months of free rent and more car parking bays. It is a tenant's market in the Klang Valley. Property professionals highlighted the situation as far back as two years ago.

Last year, Savills Rahim & Co founder and executive chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman called for prudence and suggested the imposition of stricter rules when granting development permits to curb overbuilding, which results in congestion, in the Klang Valley. The problem of city congestion has resulted in companies relocating to fringe city locations and suburban area with some form of public transport connectivity. For sectors like banking and oil and gas, this may not be possible.

Property consultancy Jones Lang Wootton drew attention to the office stock in March when senior vice-president and head of research David Jarnell said the supply of office space prime and secondary stock in the Klang Valley had surpassed 100 million sq ft.

He called it "a historic milestone". Saying the situation was "manageable", he nevertheless cautioned this could lead to a consolidation of rental levels for the rest of the year.

In the last quarter of 2012, seven office buildings in the Golden Triangle bordered by Jalan Ampang, Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Chulan, the decentralised area of KL Sentral in Bangsar Pantai, Petaling Jaya and Putrajaya, totalling 2.23 million sq ft, were issued with certificates of completion and compliance. Accumulated office stock rose to 100.694 million sq ft.

Jarnell also compared the Klang Valley with metropolitan areas of Bangkok, Singapoore and Jakarta. Greater Bangkok has the second-highest office stock, totalling 87.85 million sq ft, followed by the Special Capital Region of Jakarta with 65.66 million sq ft. Singapore's office stock is slightly less than Jakarta at 64.01 million sq ft.

Greater Bangkok's population is 8.2 million, Jakarta 10 million and Singapore about 5.1 million. The Klang Valley has a population of about 7.2 milion.

The fact that Bangkok and Jakarta have more people but 12 million sq ft and 34 million sq ft office space less respectively is something to think about. Singapore also has about a third of office space less. Has the Klang Valley over-built?

Don't call it glut

Six out of eight property professionals are reluctant to use the word "glut" as it is "far too simplistic".

"The issue is not whether there is a glut or not; the issue is there are increasingly more prime office space entering the market and this is affecting the rental market," says Elvin Fernandez, managing director of Khong & Jaafar group of companies.

He says in order for a free market to work, it is best to make known the facts regarding the office market to the various stakeholders and the public.

"Only then can the market correct itself," he says.

How did the Klang Valley get into this situation?

Jones Lang Wootton attributes the strong supply growth to steady and sustainable economic growth, a vastly growing services sector and integrated mixed use developments, and improvement in the public transport system when the light rail transit (LRT) came into service in the mid- to late-1990s.

Office stock has grown at an average of 3.62 million sq ft per annum since 1998, Jarnell says. The average annual take-up rate is 1.5 million to 2 million sq ft, another consultant says.

Simply put, as new buildings enter the market, tenants moved from the old to the new, leaving the former vacant.

Greater Kuala Lumpur or the Klang Valley's office market is not a homogenous one. It is a tapestry comprising different sizes, locations, green versus prime grade A stock, and older buildings. The prime office market has splintered into different sub-segments - the normal grade A, grade A plus and super prime category. Certified green buildings may fall into any of these.

The lack of focus on redevelopment some quarters call it regeneration may have lent itself to today's massive office market. Instead of leaving pockets of green here and there, the easier route and the more profitable one for both developers and the local authorities seems to be building new offices.

That does not mean regeneration or refurbishment have not been carried out successfully. The Intermark is a result of redevelopment of what was then the Empire Tower, City Square, Crown Princess and Plaza Ampang in 2007 by an Australian-based fund MGPA. Another successful refurbishment is Menara Standard Chartered, previously Shahzan Insas Tower by Government Investment Corp (GIC) of Singapore.

Says DTZ Nawawi Tie Leung executive director Brian Koh: "Most of the buildings coming up today are Grade A which means that most of them are in Kuala Lumpur. But the oversupply situation is an issue that affects the office space market across the board.

"It is a concern to landlords and those in the property profession given that occupancy is likely to go downward because of oversupply. Landlords will have to give more competitive terms to tenants which will affect their bottomline.

"It also affects the banking and finance sector because banks are funding the development and construction of these properties. That means the banking sector will have to be more cautious and there may need to be restraints on funding," Koh says.

Size and locality are not the only defining qualities of office buildings which come with varying degrees of "greenness" and technological features known as MSC (multimedia super corridor) status.

The range of offices available is as diverse as its rental per sq ft. Office space rental is priced as low as 87 sen per sq ft in Kampung Baru to RM12 per sq ft at the Petronas Twin Towers in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), according to property websites. There is a huge middle segment priced between RM4 and RM6 per sq ft available in prime locations like Damansara Heights, Mid Valley, Petaling Jaya and in the Ampang area.

It is this diversity that makes it difficult to tar the sector with one stroke that a glut exists.

A property website estimated that office rental rates have dropped by between 20% and 25%. Buildings in the category of G Tower, a green building, used to be RM8-RM8.50 per sq ft initially. A property consultant says buildings in the same category may be rented out at RM6.50-RM7 per sq ft effectively with rent-free incentive for a few months.

Regeneration Vs new projects

Savills Rahim & Co James Goh says there are three issues excess space, old buildings that do not meet international standards and rental pressure. The general office yield today is 6%. Some put it at between 6.5% and 7% net for average grade A buildings.

"Landlords need to bite the bullet and upgrade or risk becoming obsolete," he says. "Landlords have to accept the new market reality. Those who adapt quickly will fill up their buildings faster," says Goh.

The Petronas Twin Towers are fully occupied, Menara Maxis is about 90% occupied but some KL downtown offices priced at above RM7 per sq ft are half filled.

Says Serena Yeong of Essel Properties: "There are many downtown buildings that are struggling. There is a lot of migration to outside KL city." This accounts for the 80%-90% occupancy enjoyed in Bangsar South, Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya.

The average occupancy level today in the Klang Valley is about 75%. Anything below that should set off warning bells.

If the various mega projects announced by the Government were to go ahead, the amount of space is expected to swell further. Among which are the Tun Razak Exchange, KL Metropolis area near the Matrade Centre, the former Pudu prison redevelopment and Bandar Malaysia in Sg Besi. KL Sentral, a government-initiated project, is almost complete.

How much is enough?

In a nation striving for developed nation status and building liveable cities, how much is enough?

There is no straight-forward answer, because unlike Britain, where the London mayor's office regulates developments, in the Klang Valley, approval is given by the local authorites based on compliance with by-laws, and not according to demand and supply and market feasibility studies.

"So lenders have to be the regulators' because they are funding the projects. In the past, Bank Negara insists applications for project financing come with market and feasibility studies but this has changed. There is no property regulatory body to oversee developments based on demand and supply, how much space is needed and over what period of time," says a property consultant who declined to be named.

This may be one of the reasons contributing to the Klang Valley's burgeoning developments far exceeding neighbouring cities like Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok.

Property consultant Henry Butcher chief operating officer Tang Chee Meng says: "This is an area of concern as the potential increase in supply of office space from these mega projects is significant and will lead to an oversupply situation, unless the Government can attract overseas companies to take up the additional space.

"At the current projected pace of economic growth, it is unlikely the normal organic growth in demand for office space can take up the additional space being created by these mega projects."

It is part of the Government's plans to attract 100 of the world's largest multinationals from the Fortune 500 or Forbes Global 2000 to invest in Greater KL by 2020.

As important as developments that meet international standards may be, it takes more than bricks and mortar to attract investments and people to Kuala Lumpur. There are factors such as the city's liveability and infrastructure, which includes both public transport and utility needs, security, green and open space, air quality, to name a few.

Location branding

There are certain sectors of the economy that need the branding that a city location offers. Sectors such as financial services (banks, insurance, fund management) and oil and gas may need to remain in the city.

Professional services such as accounting, architectural, engineering, valuation and real estate may prefer to decentralise to take advantage of lower rents or better transportation links and less traffic congestion.

Accenture and international law firm Wong & Partners, which is part of Baker & McKenzie International, are today in the Mid Valley Mega Mall area while British Telecoms has expanded to KL Sentral, says YY Lau of YY Property Solutions Sdn Bhd.

Head hunters Korn/Ferry International and Michael Page International may be in the city because of their clientele. Data centres may want to be in Cyberjaya because of the MSC status, although that is now possible outside Cyberjaya, says Lau.

"When a company chooses a location, factors under consideration includes branding, perception, budget and talent retention. Sg Buloh will not be an address for a multinational company, but it could be the back office for a bank," she says.

Consultants polled say the emphasis on development changed more than a decade ago with the entry of the government versus entrepreneur-style private sector. Among them being Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) for KL Sentral, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) for the Tun Razak Exchange, Sime Darby group, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) and S P Setia Bhd. The ones leaning towards commercial developments would be MRCB, 1MDB and PNB.

Says Koh of DTZ Nawawi Tie Leung: "(It goes back to) risk management by the respective stakeholders. Unlike Singapore, where the government releases land as and when needed to control the property market, we don't have that sort of mechanism. So the banking sector has to come in because they are the ones financing the projects."

How the problem came about

Posted: 31 May 2013 05:30 PM PDT

THE flood of office space in Greater Kuala Lumpur today is a result of policies and responses by both the public and private sector before the 2008 global financial crisis.

Khong & Jaafar group of companies managing director Elvin Fernandez says it is necessary to look back in history to understand the current office market. The second thing to note is capital value of office space is driven by rents.

Elvin says the Klang Valley office market was peaking before 2008. Prime rents for new buildings were shooting up from an earlier base of RM6 per sq ft to between RM8 and RM9 per sq ft in 2008. When rentals began to head towards the RM10 per sq ft a month level, the capital value of the office space began to move up. It is rent which drives capital value.

"It was during this time, when capital values began to shoot above RM1,000 per sq ft and we saw a lot of transactions," says Elvin, who is also an adjunct professor at Universiti Malaya's Faculty of Built Environment.

As a rough rule of thumb, if the rental is RM6 per sq ft, the capital value would move roughly in tandem at RM600 per sq ft.

"So if the value of RM6 per sq ft was going towards RM10 per sq ft, the capital value would move towards the RM1,000 per sq ft level. But instead of even hovering at the RM1,000 per sq ft level, capital value went past it," Elvin says.

While at times capital values do run ahead of fundamental factors like rents and there were many transactions like that this at once indicates froth in the market, says Elvin.

The global crisis did not affect Malaysia that much but it did affect the office and condominium markets in Kuala Lumpur, he says. Rents fell. The question is: If the Malaysian economy was not much affected, why were the office and condominium markets affected? The answer: Both these markets had over-extended themselves, he says.

"Weaknesses had built into the market and the affected markets shook as a result of the external events," he says.

Since then, the markets have come down and rents for both the office and condominium sectors are no longer aggressive.

The market is no longer dreaming of RM10 per sq ft for average prime office market rents, but there exists today in the city, very prime office space by virtue of their location or the facilities/amenities or what property professionals call prime plus and are in places around the Petronas Twin Towers.

"Rents for average prime have fallen to between RM7 and RM8 per sq ft. Hence the capital value, at one time past the RM1,000 per sq ft mark, is also retreating," says Elvin.

Nonetheless, there are developers who are selling strata office space at RM1,000 per sq ft. But these are minor distractions and the focus should remain on the wider office sub-segment. What is fundamental today is that the Klang Valley office market is on a more realistic level, driven by rent of RM7 to RM8 per sq ft, and capital value of between RM700 and RM800 per sq ft for average prime office space with exceptionally well located or green buildings commanding higher prices.

The next question is, why has the capital value remain at this RM700 and RM800 per sq ft level?

This, says Elvin, is the replacement cost. It will cost that much to replace new buildings. The cost of replacement (or cost of construction) is also a driver in the market. It benchmarks the bottom line. But there is a caveat and it is this during times of severe stress, the capital value can go below cost of replacement. This was seen in Japan and in Kuala Luimpur itself post the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis. It is demand and supply which dictates the capital value, and not just cost of replacement. The policies of the day are also important drivers.

In the case of the Klang Valley, between 2010 and the present, something important has taken place.

Transformation

Between 2010 and today, a new euphoria has entered the overall property market.

"The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), and its focus on property and transportation, has created a new emphasis to turn Kuala Lumpur into a more liveable international city. It is a policy that hinges on nearly every segment of the property market," says Elvin.

As of September last year, the Klang Valley office market has total vacancies amounting to about 23 million sq ft while the annual net absorption rate will not exceed 2 million sq ft. This vacant space covers all buildings, both old and new, but excludes government buildings.

Demand is also shifting. "There may be less hope for the old ones unless they are refurbished or redeveloped," he says.

From that perspective, the vacancies will probably be in the older buildings. The onus is for owners of older buildings to decide if they want to invest in redevelopment, says Elvin.

Fresh ideas and policies are needed to look into what can be done as companies migrate to newer, grander buildings.

He says there is an approved total incoming supply of about 18 million sq ft and a planned supply of about 2 million sq ft as at March this year. This total of 20 million sq ft is a huge figure, and may not include all the big ticket projects announced but not detailed out or given development orders as yet. It is imperative, therefore, he says that decision-makers and lenders understand the market.

"The long and the short of it is, don't be aggressive in building. But to suggest that the local authorities step in is not a good idea as they may not have the expertise to navigate a good balance. It would be better to impose the burden on banks as they are the lenders of these projects, and to insist they play a more effective role through the mechanism of requiring detailed market and feasibility studies before financing approvals through loans or other means," he says.

The cost of congestion

Posted: 31 May 2013 05:30 PM PDT

WHEN Marylene had her first baby, she continued working. When she had her second baby, she decided to quit the working world. Marylene's office is in Petaling Jaya and her home is in Bukit Antarabangsa, Kuala Lumpur.

"I love my job. But the traffic congestion was getting unbearable," she says.

Marylene took a few months off work. Armed with a degree in economics and with her banking experience, she decided to seek work based on two criteria distance from home and working hours.

She found an 8am to 4pm research job about 10 minutes' drive from home.

In her search for new office space for her clients, YY Lau of YY Property Solutions says she is coming across more women turning away from the career they are trained for, or giving up work altogether, because they are unable to juggle work commitments and home life.

It is under this scenario that building owners are considering adding a child care centre within their premises.

"2012 was a dragon year which naturally saw a baby boom. Working mothers are having a hard time getting help to look after their babies. Hence, the trend today among building owners is to have a child-care centre within their premises which they outsource to an operator," says Lau, adding that 1 First Avenue in Bandar Utama has one. Jaya33 in Section 13, and Pinnacle in Sunway are planning to have this facility. These office buildings are located in Petaling Jaya.

She says the main concern among companies today is traffic congestion. There used to be a time when this was an issue confined to Kuala Lumpur but it has since spread to other parts of the Klang Valley.

Where construction of the mass rapid transit (MRT) has started, lanes are being squeezed, exacerbating the situation. The Sungai Buloh-Kajang line, the first MRT line, is scheduled for completion by June 2017.

"Between now and completion of the MRT line, it may be necessary for companies to consider flexi-hours, staggered working hours or working from home," says YY.

It is against this backdrop that companies are leaving the city to relocate in fringe and decentralised areas. "The decentralised areas appear to be doing better than the central business district (CBD) area. Fringe areas like KL Sentral is a workable solution. British Petroleum moved from KLCC area to KL Sentral," she adds.

Lau divides the office market into four broad categories CBD, KL fringe, decentralised areas and Cyberjaya/Putrajaya. Decentralised areas include Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang while KL fringe areas include locations like KL Sentral, Mid Valley and Gardens, Damansara Heights and Bangsar South.

Average rates for decentralised and fringe areas are between RM4.50 and RM5.50 per sq ft while grade A buildings in the city average between RM7 and RM9 per sq ft.

Lau says the move to decentralised areas started with IBM and KPMG several years ago. The most recent one was global consultancy group Accenture, which moved from KLCC to the Mid Valley locality. Wong & Partners, which is part of Baker & McKinsey international law firm, is in KL Sentral while British Telecom has expanded operations in Bangsar South.

Lau says these movements indicate the appeal of non-city locations which are close to transport links. Both Mid Valley and Bangsar South have link bridges connecting rail transportation. KL Sentral is an interchange station.

"The mindset has changed," Lau says.

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Umno to hold party elections by year-end

Posted: 31 May 2013 06:49 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno will hold its party elections before the year-end which will see almost 150,000 members selecting the top office bearers, including the president.

Party president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the actual date would be decided after the party determined the mechanism and explained the voting process to members.

He said the election would be conducted in accordance with amendments to the party's constitution which allowed more members to directly vote for the party leadership.

"The election will be more complex and challenging because it is in line with the reforms which we decided upon three years ago," he said after chairing the party supreme council meeting here Friday.

Umno was scheduled to have its election by March last year but postponed it by 18 months as the party was preparing for the general election. The last party election was in 2009.

Prior to the amendment in 2009, only about 2,500 delegates had the right to vote for office bearers with strict conditions imposed on aspiring candidates before they could qualify.

The party constitution was amended to make Umno more democratic as part of Najib's political transformation efforts.

Apart from the 150,000 members who will be voting for supreme council aspirants, 100,000 members from each of the party's three wings Youth, Wanita and Puteri will be eligible to vote for their respective movement leaders.

Asked whether he expected a challenge for his position as party president, which he won uncontested in the previous election, Najib said: "Umno is a democratic party. I do not know (if he would be challenged) but we must accept that Umno is an open party, unlike some (Opposition) parties."

Najib: Umno to set up lab to study proposal on single BN party (Updated)

Posted: 31 May 2013 06:57 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno will set up a special laboratory to study in detail the proposal to turn the Barisan Nasional into a single party, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Umno president said Umno also had to gather feedback from its members before making a decision on it.

"Umno is a party that is close to the members hearts...so any changes must be studied in minute detail to avoid the issue of non-acceptance," he told reporters after chairing a meeting of Umno's Supreme Council at the party's headquarters here on Friday.

The proposal to turn the Barisan into single party was forwarded by Gerakan acting president Datuk Chang Ko Youn.

Chang said efforts in this direction was needed because the general election showed urban and young voters no longer voted along racial lines.

Meanwhile, Najib also announced that Umno's disciplinary committee had received 99 complaints on internal sabotage during the general election

Decisions on the complaints would be made by the committee, he said.

A total of 192 Umno members who contested as independents or joined the Opposition during the general election had earlier been given the immediate sack based on party policy.

Under the policy which is spelled out in Clause 20.10 of Umno's constitution, sacked members cannot rejoin Umno forever.

Among those sacked were Wanita Umno vice-president Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim who stood as an independent candidate for the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary seat; Datuk Seri Mohd Shariff Omar (contested the Tasek Gelugor parliamentary and Sungai Dua state seat as and independent ) and Sepang Umno Youth chief Datuk Suhaimi Mohd Ghazali (contested the Sepang parliamentary seat as an independent).

Meanwhile, Barisan secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said Barisan would be filing more than 50 election petitions on the general election results in the High Courts of the states involved soon.

He said the coalition's lawyers were studying the cases including in 37 constituencies where the nomination of Opposition candidates appeared to be doubtful in that election regulations were not followed. - Bernama

Restaurant worker suffers burns in kitchen explosion in Bukit Bintang

Posted: 31 May 2013 06:09 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A worker suffered about 80 percent burns on his body in a cooking gas cylinder explosion at the kitchen of a restaurant in Bukit Bintang on Friday.

The worker, identified as Fauzi, in his 30s, was rushed to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital following the incident at about 12.30pm at the restaurant in Jalan Bulan, said Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman.

"A preliminary investigation revealed that the explosion occurred in the kitchen on the upper floor of the double-storey premises," he said in a text message to Bernama.

A restaurant worker identified as Faizan, 26, told Bernama he was attending to a customer when he realised there was a strong smell of gas.

"Suddenly, the electricity supply was disrupted, resulting in the customers leaving the premises.

"Fauzi went to find out what the problem was in the kitchen," he said. Faizan said shortly afterwards there was a loud explosion and the glass windows in the kitchen were shattered, and Fauzi was injured.

Khirudin said the department sent 24 fire fighters in two trucks from the Pudu and Hang Tuah fire and rescue stations.

The fire fighters brought the fire under control in eight minutes and extinguished it in 30 minutes, he said.

The damage had yet to be assessed, he added. - Bernama

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Raising hell … with style

Posted: 31 May 2013 01:45 AM PDT

Great actors, without a doubt; but the 'stars' of this week's featured graphic novel could also raise the wrist like no other.

I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.

– Peter O'Toole

IF PETER O'Toole's life as chronicled in the graphic novel Hellraisers is anything to go by, his and compatriots Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed's lives have been anything but common. Indeed, the four Hellraisers featured in this depressingly droll (yes, it actually does manage to be both) volume can be uncouth, out of control and pretty much mad, but they are never, ever boring.

Telling the stories of four of the greatest boozers of all time to emerge from the acting profession, the book is a clever mix of autobiography, fiction and satire, with a healthy dose of the fantastical thrown in.

We are introduced to the story by Martin, a boozer whose excessive drinking has strained his family relationships to breaking point. As he is drinking in a pub alone on Christmas, he is visited, A Christmas Carol-style, by each of the four Hellraisers, and taken on a personal tour of their lives.

This includes everything from their childhoods and rise to stardom to their messy relationships, astounding drunken adventures, and in some cases, their tragic demises.

Written by Robert Sellers, the book is part rollicking adventure and part cautionary tale; stories of wild drunken parties, orgies and tall tales are mixed in with episodes of public humiliation, broken relationships and failing health.

However, it is also a wild ride into a bygone era of screen and stage, and any cinephile will enjoy the liberal references to iconic films and plays these actors have been in.

Equally enjoyable are vignettes detailing the actors' adventures with other famous names, like Errol Flynn introducing Burton to the pleasures of a bordello, or O'Toole getting Michael Caine so drunk that they lose several days.

Bringing vivid life to these tales are the illustrations by JAKe, which manage to capture a wealth of detail despite the minimalistic approach. Each Hellraiser is perfectly drawn, and I particularly like how their changing appearances, from debonair stars to craggy older gentlemen, are depicted so well. The artist also fills each panel with tons of elements that pay homage to Hollywood, from iconic sets and movie scenes to instantly recognisable faces.

The downside to the graphic novel, however, is that its episodic format tends to feel a little repetitive after a while. Each character follows a familiar arc, and after one or two, you can see where each is going. The segments also tend to feel slightly uneven; Burton's story, for instance, is quite long and filled with details, whereas Reed's and O'Toole's feel like they could have been expanded upon (especially since O'Toole, at 80, is the "last man standing" of the four).

What does make Hellraisers so interesting, though, is that it both celebrates and critiques its main characters. Time and again, they talk about how they are not alcoholics, but rather, men who thoroughly enjoy the uninhibited camaraderie of boozing. It is also difficult not to feel admiration when you read about their humble working-class backgrounds and the obvious pleasure they took in life after working their way up.

Yet, for each instance of this, there are several others of tearful wives, ruined career opportunities, lost memories and major illnesses. And by the end of the book, after reading through each of the Hellraisers' lives, you are left with a wistful sense of what could have been.

Of course, few would argue that the likes of Burton or O'Toole could have had better careers, but you do get the sense that they could have been more considerate of others in their lives. And for all their carousing and notorious fame, their lives also seem permeated by loneliness, of their own making.

But this is showbiz after all, and even the worst-behaved Hellraiser apparently deserves a chance at redemption. And so, as you say goodbye to the four jolly old men who you know have, for all their faults, led remarkable lives, it is truly with no small amount of affection.

> The graphic novels reviewed today, Hellraisers and Scarlet, are available at Kinokuniya bookstore, Suria KLCC. For further enquiries, call 03-21648133 / e-mail ebd3_kbm@kinokuniya.co.jp /visit kinokuniya.com/my.

Red-haired rebel

Posted: 30 May 2013 04:43 PM PDT

Everything is broken. Good people are victims. Bad people are heroes. Dumb is a virtue. Food is poison. Corruption is a national pastime. Rapists rape. The poor are left to rot. No one is safe, and everyone thinks it's funny … why is the world allowed to be this way?

– Scarlet

Scarlet, Book 1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Alex Maleev

MEET Scarlet Rue. She used to be just another rebellious teenage girl growing up in Portland, Oregon, falling in love with the perfect guy, and happily minding her own business … until a corrupt cop killed her boyfriend, shot her in the head and left her for dead.

But that's just the beginning of the story. After miraculously surviving the shooting, Scarlet becomes hell-bent on revenge. Vowing to rid the world of power-abusing scumbags in positions of high authority, she is willing to use whatever means necessary to achieve her mission. Kind of like a modern-day V For Vendetta, except in her case, it's more like V for Vengeance (plus she's hotter than V too).

But then, something crazy happened along the way. What started out as a mission of revenge turned into something bigger. It turned into a full-fledged, modern-day revolution.

Collecting issues #1-#5 of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's creator-owned series, this first volume of Scarlet is a compelling read – giving light to real-world issues and problems in a gritty and violent yet strangely poetic way.

Bendis is in the form of his life right now. Besides spearheading one of the most fun yet intriguing X-Men runs in a long time (the scribe currently handles the excellent All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men series), he also writes Ultimate Spider-Man, and is in the midst of wrapping up Marvel's main event for 2013 – Age Of Ultron – right now, as well as the stellar Daredevil: End Of Days miniseries.

At the same time, he's also writing some excellent creator-owned series like Scarlet, Brilliant, Takio and Powers (even finding time to develop a Powers TV show pilot).

Scarlet is a far cry from Bendis' relatively more innocent and clean-cut mainstream Marvel books. The script is foul-mouthed and hard-hitting, with dialogue that is smart and straight to the point. He sure as hell isn't afraid to lay on the shock and awe, either – his first panel has Scarlet breaking a dirty cop's neck, and later on, she gets hold of a sniper gun, a video camera and … well, you can guess the rest.

Another interesting element also sees Scarlet (and a few other characters) breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader directly. Though you might argue that it's a conveniently easy way for the writer to throw in some lengthy exposition about why she is doing what she does, it does allow him to get to the point early on – the first nine pages consists of Scarlet introducing herself to the reader and explaining her actions, before a quick fire montage of her life's "greatest hits" (ranging from birth, first kiss, first sexual experience, first drink, etc) sets us up for the big "origin story" of how the Scarlet we know came to be.

Bendis' violently compelling story is complemented perfectly by Maleev's gritty, realistic artwork. The two have collaborated before (on Moon Knight, Daredevil and during Bendis' Avengers run), but the freedom of Marvel's mature Icon imprint allows him to let loose with some of his most compellingly realistic and detailed output yet.

The way he draws Scarlet – with her mop of red hair and her not-unattractive looks – gives life to a character who flits from doe-eyed innocence to steely-eyed determination flawlessly. While Bendis' writing allows us to know what's going on inside Scarlet's head, Maleev's artwork translates those thoughts into pure emotional expressions of rage, hate, joy and sadness.

Why should you read this book? Because it may "just be a comic book", but it hits the nail on the head with so many real-world issues and problems – corruption, crime, greed – and would resonate with anyone who gives a damn.

To paraphrase Scarlet herself: "'Why' is the cloud… 'why' makes you better for just thinking the question. The question is … what are you going to do about it?"

So stop asking, "why should I read this book?" and go read the darn thing already.

Of tombs and terror

Posted: 30 May 2013 04:26 PM PDT

This young adult fiction book has an unusual setting for its murder mystery wrapped in romance: Renaissance-era Venice.

Venom
Author: Fiona Paul
Publisher: Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, 435 pages

I WAS fortunate to have finished reading Venom while on a trip to Venice, the very city this young adult fiction book is set in – and, as one of my friends mentioned, it may have slightly influenced my judgement of the book. I do have to say that I found the author's portrayal of this beautiful Italian city spot on, particularly when she writes about travelling by boat down the Grand Canal and describes the grand palazzos.

Venom begins with a funeral – a bleak beginning indeed, though thankfully, the bleakness does not get deeper. At the funeral, our main character Cass is not only mourning the death of her friend but also – metaphorically – the demise of her own hopes and dreams. While she has always imagined a life of adventure, the imminent arrival of her wealthy fiancĂ© from his studies abroad marks the end of daydreams and the beginning of a path she is not sure she wants to take – that of marriage.

Within the first few chapters, one can tell that Cass is not the ditzy, waiting-for-her-knight-in-shining-armour-to-rescue-her sort of girl. This is made evident by how she thinks it's perfectly normal to walk into a graveyard in the middle of the night to say a personal farewell to her dead friend, which is where the story really begins. This is when she discovers that, one, the body in the crypt is not that of her friend Liviana; and, two, the casket holds the body of a young woman who has very clearly met a cruel end at someone's hands.

Struggling with the horror of this discovery, she stumbles into Luca, a struggling artist whom she has met before and likened to a thorn in her side – a very handsome thorn that she finds herself drawn to against her better judgement.

Unable to share her discovery of the dead girl with anyone else she knows, Cass turns to Luca for help and the pair embark on a journey to identify the murdered young woman and her murderer as well as find Liviana's body.

This is the first book in The Secrets Of The Eternal Rose series and Fional Paul's debut novel.

While the book is set at some point between the 14th and 17th centuries, the emotions and struggles experienced by the protagonist could easily be captured within the pages of a contemporary young adult novel. Unfortunately, this serves as both a positive and negative point. While the book's historical setting is unique for young adult fiction and beautiful, it does at times seem that the author could just as well have set the story in the present day. In other words, the setting doesn't influence the story enough.

A historical note might have helped. Since the book is based in a particular time period, one that had a great impact on the Western world, I was slightly peeved that I could not even pinpoint which year the book is set in or the surrounding events that may have had significant impact on the main character's life.

I always try to make a note of the cover and while it appears generic, there are aspects of the image that are linked to events in the book, and that is something I admire. One of my major gripes about book covers is when they are very obviously stock images that just look pretty and have nothing to do with the story.

It was also slightly annoying to have been introduced to several characters in the book who did not seem to have much to contribute to the main storyline.

Perhaps, though, these charcters will have more to contribute in the sequel, which I hope will also answer questions about the strange deaths of Cass's parents.

To her credit, Paul doesn't end Venom with such a cliff-hanger that it would cause a reader to want to bite all her nails off....

While not the best book I have read, the author should be commended for coming up with a slightly romanticised version of the intrigue of Renaissance-era Venice while hinting at the underbelly of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my
 

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