Selasa, 11 Jun 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Skirmishes in Turkey after police storm Istanbul square

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 05:42 PM PDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish riot police fought running battles with pockets of protesters overnight after storming a central Istanbul square in a show of force that risked ratcheting up tensions almost two weeks after anti-government demonstrations began.

A riot police fires tear gas against anti-government protesters during clashes in Ankara early June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A riot police fires tear gas against anti-government protesters during clashes in Ankara early June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly dismissed the demonstrators as "riff-raff", was expected to meet protest leaders on Wednesday though one core group said it had not been invited and would not attend anyway.

Police fired volleys of tear gas canisters into the centre of a crowd of thousands on Taksim Square without warning at dusk on Tuesday. The crowd included people in office clothes gathered after work and families with children, as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day.

Clouds of choking tear gas sent them scattering into side streets. Staff in surrounding hotels raised shutters just enough to allow people to crawl inside for shelter, as water cannon swept across the square targeting stone-throwing youths.

The fierce crackdown on the initial protests against the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park, a leafy corner of Taksim, drew international condemnation and calls for restraint. The latest police move came a day after Erdogan agreed to meet protest leaders involved in the initial demonstrations.

"There's no room for dialogue when there's ongoing violence," said Mucella Yapici of the Taksim Solidarity Platform, a core group behind the Gezi Park campaign.

Chanting gangs of hard-core demonstrators taunted police in the narrow lanes leading down to the Bosphorus waterway late into the night, drawing more tear gas and water cannon spray. Municipal workers used bulldozers to remove the remains of vandalised vehicles and clear the square above.

Police also fired water cannon to disperse protesters in the centre of the capital, Ankara.

Erdogan earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, where a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of Gezi Park triggered an unprecedented wave of protest in cities across Turkey almost two weeks ago.


Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of an overbearing government.

The authorities have said legitimate protesters in the park will be allowed to stay, for now, and they remained camped out.

The protests, during which demonstrators used fireworks and petrol bombs, have posed a stark challenge to Erdogan's authority and divided the country. Erdogan, who denies accusations of authoritarian behaviour, said he would not yield.

"They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?" Erdogan said as action to clear the square began.

"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change," he told a meeting of his AK party's parliamentary group on Tuesday.

Western powers have voiced concern about the troubles in an important NATO ally bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. The United States has in the past held up Erdogan's Turkey as an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East.

"We continue to follow events in Turkey with concern, and our interest remains supporting freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest," White House spokesman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement in Washington.

The victor in three consecutive elections, Erdogan says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces. His critics, who say conservative religious elements have won out over centrists in the AK Party, accuse him of inflaming the crisis with unyielding talk.

The unrest has knocked investor confidence in a country that has boomed under Erdogan. The lira, already suffering from wider market turmoil, fell on Tuesday to its weakest level against its dollar/euro basket since October 2011.

The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in 10 months, although it remained far from crisis levels.

Turkey's Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4,947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than 10 days ago. Three people have died.

(Additional reporting by Can Sezer, Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Parisa Hafezi, Humeyra Pamuk in Ankara and Jeff Mason in Washington; Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Christopher Wilson)

Related Stories:
White House says concerned about events in Turkey

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Mali government, Tuaregs reach ceasefire deal 'in principle'

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 04:39 PM PDT

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - A Malian government delegation and Tuareg separatist rebels have reached an agreement "in principle" that would allow planned elections in July to go ahead in the disputed northern Kidal region, a senior mediator in the talks said late on Monday.

Negotiations in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, opened on Saturday, after Mali's army last week began advancing towards Kidal, the MNLA rebels' last stronghold in the remote northeast, in the first direct fighting in months.

France launched a massive military campaign in January which broke al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters' control over the northern two-thirds of Mali. However it allowed the Tuaregs to regain control of their traditional fiefdom.

The Malian government has made clear that it wants civil administration and the army to return to Kidal before elections scheduled for July 28 and had threatened to seize the town if no agreement was reached by Monday.

"On the point concerning the deployment of Malian armed forces in the region of Kidal, we have obtained an agreement in principle," Djibril Bassole, Burkina's foreign minister, told journalists following a round of meetings.

"The two sides have requested a few hours to report back to their bases ... in order to be able to come back tomorrow for the final adoption of this document," he said.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States hoped the talks "will set the stage for long-term national reconciliation."

"We call on the parties to conclude a framework agreement for elections in Kidal without delay," Psaki told reporters.

Mali's Tuareg community has for decades demanded greater political autonomy from the southern capital of Bamako and more spending on development for the impoverished region, which they call Azawad.

The MNLA launched its uprising early last year and soon allied itself with Islamist fighters who took advantage of a coup in the capital in March 2012 to seize the desert north. They were later sidelined by the better armed Islamist groups.

France, which is handing over to a U.N. peacekeeping mission due in Mali next month, has pushed hard for elections to go ahead in order to seal a democratic transition.

However, the MNLA has so far refused to disarm and rejected the return of Malian soldiers to Kidal.

Bassole said the agreement would establish a mixed commission composed of both sides to monitor security and prepare for the army's deployment in Kidal.

Long-term solutions to Tuareg independence demands are expected to wait until after the elections, since the interim government lacks the political authority to make a far-reaching deal with northern armed groups.

"All the arrangements are foreseen in the accord to avoid any incident, any disagreement that could break the trust and make us lose our objective, which is to organise the elections," Bassole said.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington.; Writing by Joe Bavier; editing by Christopher Wilson)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

U.S. soldier in WikiLeaks case said video would cause splash -aunt

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 04:22 PM PDT

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The U.S. soldier accused of providing classified files to WikiLeaks told his aunt a leaked video of a helicopter attack in Iraq that killed civilians would cause a "big splash," she said in a statement at his court-martial on Tuesday.

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (C) departs the courtroom after day four of his court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (C) departs the courtroom after day four of his court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Private First Class Bradley Manning's aunt, Debra Van Alstyne, told Army investigators about his comment when they talked to her at her Potomac, Maryland, home in June 2010, after his arrest, according to a statement read into the trial record.

Manning, 25, is on trial for allegedly leaking more than 700,000 files, videos and other documents to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy website. The largest release of classified data in U.S. history included a gunsight video from a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which civilians were killed, including two Reuters staffers.

In the statement read by prosecutor Major Ashden Fein, Van Alstyne said an investigator collected a digital camera data card that was found to contain some of the leaked Iraq battlefield reports and the Apache video.

Manning called her after his arrest in May 2010 and asked if she had watched the helicopter video, Van Alstyne said in the statement. She said he told her it would be "big news" and that it would make "a big splash in America."

The soldier is accused of leaking the files while serving in Iraq as an intelligence analyst in 2009 and 2010. The 21 charges against him include aiding the enemy and he could face life imprisonment without parole if convicted.

Lawyers for Manning have described him as naive but well-intentioned in wanting to show the American public the reality of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Marine Corps computer security expert testified that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had solicited secret U.S. military information during a 2009 conference in Berlin.

Marine Staff Sergeant Matthew Hosburgh, the expert, said he attended the conference, where Assange encouraged the release of "not only classified information, but also trade secrets and anything of that nature."

Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London as he faces criminal sexual charges in Sweden. Assange, an Australian, says the charges are reprisal for WikiLeaks publishing information embarrassing to the United States and other governments.

Prosecution witness David Shaver, a government digital media forensic analyst, testified that he intercepted "chat logs" between Manning and computer threat analyst and hacker Adrian Lamo, in which Manning referred to information leaked to WikLeaks.

The chat logs, which are digital records of data exchanges over the Internet, show Manning talking about "Gitmo papers" and a 2009 U.S. airstrike in the Afghani village of Garani that killed 26 civilians, he said.

Lamo later reported Manning to U.S. authorities as the person responsible for disclosing the information to WikiLeaks.

Defence attorneys questioned Shaver about gaps and possible inaccuracies created by the computer programs he used to track the chat logs.

David Coombs, Manning's attorney, tried to show that, although Manning might have had access to the classified material, a computer believed to have been used to transfer information to WikiLeaks belonged to Jason Katz, a former Brookhaven National Laboratory computer expert.

Katz was fired in March 2010 from the Department of Energy laboratory for "inappropriate computer activity" about a month before WikiLeaks posted the Apache video.

Shaver said under Defence questioning that there were no telephone calls, emails or other evidence to link Manning with Katz.

Manning's trial coincides with the unauthorized release last week of information by a former National Security Agency contractor of widespread government telephone and Internet usage surveillance of private U.S. citizens not suspected of crimes.

(Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone, Ellen Wulfhorst and Bernard Orr)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Oprah Winfrey donates US$12m to Black history museum

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 08:56 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES ( - Oprah Winfrey has donated a small chunk of her estimated US$2.8 billion net worth to help build The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The OWN chairman and CEO has just donated US$12 million to the museum's capital fund. Combined with a previous donation of $1 million, Winfrey's US$13 million is the museum's largest donation to date.

"I am so proud of African American history and its contributions to our nation as a whole," Winfrey said in a statement.

"I am deeply appreciative of those who paved the path for me and all who follow in their footsteps. By investing in this museum, I want to help ensure that we both honor and preserve our culture and history, so that the stories of who we are will live on for generations to come."

Slated to open in late-2015, the museum's theater will be dedicated to the media mogul. The Oprah Winfrey Theater, one of the largest spaces in the museum at 350 seats, will serve as a center for performers, artists, scholars, educators and other opinion leaders. The museum will be the nation's largest destination totally devoted to Black history and culture.

"We are inspired and profoundly grateful for Ms. Winfrey's generosity at this important time," said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum.

"Her gifts will forever be associated with harnessing the power of art and creative expression to build bridges between cultures and enrich people's lives. Programming at the Oprah Winfrey Theater will mirror the museum's commitment to use African American history and culture as a lens to see what it means to be an American and to help all Americans remember."

Congressional funding provides half of the museum's US$500 million construction costs. Winfrey's US$13 million gift goes toward the other US$250,000, which the organization must raise itself.

Additionally, Winfrey has served on the museum's advisory council since 2004.

Mad about Norman Bates

Posted: 12 Jun 2013 02:43 AM PDT

This television prequel to Psycho gives you plenty of reason to stay a while.

Prequels are tricky; how do you keep the audiences interested in a story to which they already know the ending? And in the case of recently-premiered television show Bates Motel, a story that is an acknowledged classic by a master filmmaker (which has already spawned two sequels, a prequel, and a remake)?

I'm talking, of course, about Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock's iconic 1960 movie that singlehandedly put the fear of showering in motel rooms in us, as well as giving the term "mama's boy" a whole creepy new twist.

The film also introduced the world to Norman Bates, the murderous motel owner who is consistently ranked as one of the best movie villains of all time.

And yet, if they are done right, prequels can also be a very smart marketing move, building on the audience's pre-existing interest to draw them into familiar yet new territory. So far, Bates Motel seems to be hitting all the right notes.

Featuring Norman as a teenager, the show takes us back to before his psychosis became full-blown. Even more tantalising, it explores Norman's relationship with his mother Norma. Billed as a "contemporary prequel", the show is set in current time, allowing the writers to contextualise Norman within today's young people - a decision that serves the show well, as it turns out.

The pilot kicks off with the 17-year-old Norman and Norma moving to White Pine Bay and buying a motel after the mysterious death of Norma's husband.

The show loses no time in throwing us into the weird dynamics of the relationship between mother and son, from Norman's desperate desire to please his mother to her instant disapproval of a pretty schoolmate who befriends him.

Despite Norma's vain attempts at a normal life for them both, a brutal turn of circumstances results in Norma murdering someone and having Norman help her cover it up; something which is sure to set a whole chain of events in motion.

There are also plenty of nods to Psycho – some a tad obvious, and some very cleverly slipped in – that will not only keep the fans happy, but also serve to link the show to the larger themes in the original movie.

What really sells the first episode, however, is fantastic performances from the two leads, Freddie Highmore as Norman and Vera Farmiga as Norma.

Highmore, no doubt, has a massive job on his hands, to live up to Anthony Perkins' career-defining performance. Rising to the task admirably, the young actor somehow manages to imbue the teenaged Norman with a Perkins-like quality without resorting to imitation.

Instead, we feel like we really are watching a younger version of the awkward and affable Norman Bates we first met in Psycho. If anything, we start liking Norman a little too much, which is rather disconcerting when you stop to think about it.

Farmiga, meanwhile, is phenomenal as Norma, slipping effortlessly into the character's different modes, whether it is affectionate, determined, needy, passive-aggressive or just plain manipulative. The control she has over a role that could well have become a caricature is amazing, and in even just the first two episodes, she remains consistently fascinating.

Joining the dysfunctional family in the show's second episode is Dylan (Max Thieriot), Norma's son from a previous relationship.

While struggling with his own demons, Dylan also provides a counterpoint to Norman's relationship with Norma, and it will be interesting to see how this develops as the show progresses.

Thieriot rounds out the main cast very nicely, and shares excellent chemistry with both Highmore and Farmiga, which has already made for some interesting exchanges between the characters.

Bates Motel, however, also seems to be about more than just this little family. There are hints of something being not quite right in the small town of White Pine Bay, what with a girl being chained up somewhere, a thoroughly illegal marijuana field being cultivated in the forest, and a town-wide conspiracy that no one talks about.

While I'm not convinced that creating more drama around a character that already has such an extraordinary backstory (or "frontstory"?) is necessary, it also seems refreshing that the show doesn't just hinge on Norman's future notoriety.

The various plot threads introduced so far also give rise to many interesting theories on whether the town itself has something to do Norman's eventual breakdown.

Bates Motel's first season ended recently in the US to positive reviews, and the show has been renewed for a second season. Of course, the show could still end up a bloody mess, but the twisted plot, compelling characters, and fantastic acting seem to be reason enough to check into Bates Motel for now.

Bates Motel airs every Wednesday at 10.50pm on Universal HD (HyppTV Ch 612).

Jehan Miskin directs his first TV series

Posted: 12 Jun 2013 05:08 AM PDT

Jehan Miskin goes behind the camera to direct his first series, the spooky thriller What If.

WORKAHOLIC Jehan Miskin hasn't gone for his honeymoon yet after tying the knot with Korean Julie Camelia Rhee in May.

The 34-year-old Penangite is currently busy directing (and producing) What If, a 13-episode suspense thriller which airs on 8TV. "Initially, I just wanted to produce the series but as we started working on it and looked at the progression of the characters, it gets tricky so I decided to direct it as well," said Jehan in an interview recently.

This is the first time the multi-talented actor has tried his hand in directing a drama series. Previously, Jehan directed commercials for corporate companies via his production company Master Mind Group.

"It's true that I have not accepted any acting offers in recent months because I've been too busy with my job as a director and producer."

He will return to acting when the time is right, he said, adding that he wants to channel all his efforts into directing at the moment in order to expand his showbiz portfolio.

"I need to push my career to new heights, instead of focusing on only one aspect," he explained. "However, that doesn't mean that I have given up on acting, because it's still my biggest passion."

Life is certainly peachy for Jehan. "I'm thankful that 8TV has allowed me to produce this thriller series because it is a new and fresh (idea) for local TV production.

"Married life is good too," said Jehan with a smile.

"My wife and I just moved into our new home but things are still in boxes. I guess we have not experienced the full impact of being married yet as my wife is busy traveling at the moment while I'm busy with What If. She works as an event manager for an international company.

"Honestly, I wish I was on my honeymoon now (instead of filming)."

Jehan said that he tries to tackle something new, whether in acting or directing, with each new project.

"I love directing but I make it a point not to direct the same stuff that I've done (as an actor) in my previous dramas and movies. If I direct, it has to be different, with fresh ideas," said Jehan whose latest movie is the yet-to-be-released Mamat Khalid's Amukan Buas Fankestein Tempatan.

What If tells the story of 15-year-old Imzan (played by Josiah Hogan), a tortured soul who had lost everything in life through a series of unfortunate events. The young boy keeps himself sane by writing twisted tales about those around him. Then, one day he discovers that what he has written is becoming reality. Things take a slippery turn when Imzan comes face-to-face with his worst nightmare.

What If also boasts amazing sets and a star-studded cast, including Rashidi Ishak, Tony Eusoff, Yasmin Yusoff, Vanidah Imran, Elaine Daly, Nas T, Chelsia Ng, Peter Davis, Nazrudin Rahman, Reefa, Julie Woon and Prem Shanker.

What If airs on 8TV every Wednesdays at 10pm.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

CIMB Research Neutral on Malaysian banks, sees earnings improving

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 06:01 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Equities Research expects Malaysian banks' core net profit growth should rebound in the coming quarters, from its lethargic 1.9% on-year expansion in 1Q13, with improving market and business sentiment after general elections.

"But while loan growth and fee income should fare better, banks could remain dogged by: (1) lower net interest margins and (2) a continuous climb in their credit costs, which would limit the upside for earnings growth from our projected 9.9% for 2013," it said on Wednesday.

The research house said based on these factors, it remained Neutral on the banking sector.

However, its concerns are balanced out by the stable and strong asset quality of Malaysian banks.

"We continue to identify some positives for the sector: (1) financing opportunities for projects under ETP; (2) undemanding P/Es averaging 11.9x for CY14; and (3) net dividend yields of about 3.9%," it said.

CIMB Research projects net earnings growth of 9.9% for 2013, weaker than the 11.7% in 2012.

This would be supported by an increase of 11.3% for net interest income and 18.9% increase for non-interest income.

The research house said while topline growth would be jacked up by the consolidation of several acquisitions completed last year, consolidation could equally raise overheads by 10.1%. Loan loss provisioning is projected to jump by 72.9% in 2013, due to smaller write-backs / recoveries.

KLCI opened lower following overnight fall on Wall Street (updated)

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 06:54 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips fell into the red as key regional markets slid for the second day as investors are cautious after the Asian market's volatile session on Tuesday.

At 9.15am, the FBM KLCI fell 5.27 points to 1,774.30. Turnover was 90.79mil valued at RM65.47mil. Losers outpaced gainers at 181 to 67. 158 were unchanged.

HwangDBS Vickers Research said It is going to be a test of resilience for Malaysian equities following an overnight fall on Wall Street, which saw its leading equity barometers slipping between 0.8% and 1.1%. Asian bourses are expected to remain under selling pressures ahead.

"On the chart, in view of the jittery external backdrop, the key FBM KLCI could pull back a bit more today. Nevertheless, the benchmark index may face relatively limited downside risk as bargain hunters will likely step in on further market weaknesses," it said.

Bloomberg reported Asian stocks fell for a second day, extending a global rout, as investors weighed growing reluctance by central banks to add more stimulus after the Bank of Japan left its lending program unchanged.

Reuters said U.S. stocks slipped in a volatile session while European shares fell to six-weeks lows on Tuesday on concern that central bank support for markets was turning more cautious, as the BOJ's move came amid persistent speculation about the U.S. Federal Reserve toning down its strong stimulus later in the year.

At Bursa Malaysia, Favco rose 12 sen to RM2.55 after securing a RM161mil contract to supply cranes, Aeon six sen to RM16.62.

BAT lost 46 sen to RM62.14, Genting Bhd eight sen to RM10.42,

Among Petronas-linked stocks, PetDag and PetGas each fell 16 sen to RM24.98 and RM20.90.

Plantations were among the decliners with PPB down 16 sen to RM13.74, KL Kepong eight sen to RM21.62 and IOI six sen to RM5.36.

Among banks, AMMB and CIMB rose four sen to RM7.37 and RM8.23 each but Hong Leong Bank fell 18 sen to RM13.90 and HLFG four sen to RM14.60.

The ringgit strengthened against the dollar at 3.138 from the previous close of 3.15

Among the key regional markets:

Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 2.05% to 13,045.13;

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.20% to 21,354.66;

Shanghai's Composite Index fell 1.33% to 2,210.90;

Taiwan's Taiex fell 0.54% to 8,116.15;

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.07% to 1,919.40 and

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.47% to 3,155.58.

US light crude oil fell 54 cents to US$94.84 and Brent fell 33 cents to US$102.63 Spot gold fell 43 cents to US$1377.90

Trading ideas: CIMB, DRB-Hicom, Patimas, AirAsia, Benalec, Favelle Favco

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 05:45 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: JF Apex Research says CIMB Group, DRB-Hicom, Patimas, AirAsia, Benalec and Favelle Favco could see trading interest on Wednesday following fresh corporate developments.

It said CIMB would pay RM945mil to buy a 58% stake in San Miguel Corp's banking unit.

As for DRB Hicom, the group has proposed to enter China vehicle market through an acquisition of a Hong Kong company.

Patimas has informed Bursa that its directors have not received any offer from Tencent Holdings Ltd of HK to acquire 15% of stake in the group.

JF Apex Research said in AirAsia, the group may dissolve its Japan based JV with All Nippon Airways (ANA) due to disagreement between the companies over how to operate the business.

Attention would also be on Benelac after the EGM's approval on its Melaka land sale amidst questioning by the shareholders of the pricing of the land.

As for Favelle Favco, the group won a contract worth RM161mil to supply offshore and tower cranes.

On the market outlook, it said US stocks finished sharply lower in volatile trading Tuesday after briefly wiping out most of their losses, with all key S&P sectors closing in the red, as the Bank of Japan's latest monetary policy decision disappointed investors.

Similarly, European shares closed sharply lower, on ongoing concerns about the scaling back of monetary stimulus programs by central banks.

"On the local exchange, the FBM KLCI fell 8.23 points to 1779.57 points. Today, Asian stocks could be set for heavy losses after global equity markets skidded 1% and the yen soared 3% amid disappointment at Bank of Japan inaction to calm a volatile government bond market," said JF Apex Research.


The Star Online: Sports

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Esther Cheah hits form in step-ladder finals to retain crown

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 05:40 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: National bowler Esther Cheah defied the odds to retain her Hong Open title after beating Singapore's Kimberly Ooi 204-156 and 220-193 at the SCAA Bowling Centre yesterday.

Officially alone with no coach, manager or team-mates, Esther managed to do enough to qualify for the top six step-ladder finals in fifth spot after the conclusion of Masters Stage Two.

Esther opened with a disastrous 164 game in Stage Two but kept her composure to garner 2,003 pinfalls after 10 games.

"I knew that I had to play catch up after the first game and I was just waiting for a break to get back," said Esther.

In the step-ladder finals, Esther was more consistent in her game as she emerged tops in the first game against Singapore duo Joey Yeo Ruoqi and Tracy See. Esther knocked down 210 to beat the Singaporean duo Joey (185) and Tracy (148).

In the next stage, Esther continued her fine form by knocking down 201 pins to beat Singapore's Ilma Nur Jannah (178) and Hong Kong's Chan Suk Han (181) to set up a showdown for the title against Kimberly.

Despite hitting form in both Masters Stage One and Two, Kimberly, however, choked in the final. Esther won the first game 204-156 to set up a shoot-out which she easily won 220-193.

Esther can thank her lucky stars in Hong Kong, and also national coach Foong Tak Meng who was, however, not on official duty in Hong Kong.

Tak Meng was accompanying some graded bowlers to the competition, but helped out by resurfacing Esther's balls during the step-ladder finals.

"I just tried to make good shots throughout the step-ladder and hoped for the best. I was quite fortunate that things worked my way," said Esther who will now rejoin the national squad who skipped the meet in Hong Kong to prepare for the World Championships in Nevada, United States in August.

Malaysia’s biggest ever contingent to world meet

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 04:39 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: With the latest inclusion of women's doubles shuttlers Soong Fie Cho-Amelia Anscelly, Malaysia will have their biggest ever representation (25 players) in the World Championships in Guangzhou in August.

Yesterday, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM)'s president Datuk Seri Nadzmi Mohd Salleh was beaming with pride over the qualification of 21 national players and four independent shuttlers.

The four former internationals are Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari and the Ng sisters – Hui Lin-Hui Ern. Two players will play in two events – Goh Liu Ying and Lim Yin Loo will feature in the women's and mixed doubles.

Despite the big number, the only player with a chance of ending Malaysia's wait for the nation's first world title is world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the men's singles event.

Scott sees high energy and intensity playing alongside Tiger and Rory

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 05:34 PM PDT

MASTERS champion Adam Scott expects high energy and intensity playing alongside world No. 1 Tiger Woods and second-ranked Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds of the US Open.

Scott won his first Major title two months ago at Augusta National and forever shattered the notion of an Australian jinx about winning the Masters, taking the green jacket in a playoff triumph over Argentina's Angel Cabrera.

Now Scott takes his place in the primary trio with McIlroy, who won the 2011 US Open and last year's PGA Championship, and 14-time Major champion Woods, who has won four times this year but has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open.

"It will be a fun week, absolutely – some energy and electricity, playing with him at any time, there always is," Scott said of Woods.

"And given the hype around this grouping and being a Major ... it's going to be an intense couple of days," he said. "But essentially that's what we're playing for. That's a pairing you would hope for on Sunday."

"At some point, if you're playing well and winning a tournament, you're going to have to try and beat him. And that's what you want to be out here for. That's why you spend the hours and test yourself. And I'm looking forward to that on Thursday (tomorrow) and Friday."

When competition begins at Merion Golf Club, Scott will have some insight into Woods as well from caddie Steve Williams, who began carrying the Aussie's bags after he was dropped by Woods, who now has Joe LaCava at his side.

Scott has prior experience with star pairings. This year at Torrey Pines he joined Woods and Phil Mickelson in a feature group for the first two days.

"I think anyone would have felt like the third wheel that week. The hype was enormous around that pairing," Scott said. "It was an experience that I'll never forget. I've never seen that many people on a Thursday morning on the first tee. It was a great atmosphere.

"This year obviously there's a lot of focus on Tiger and Rory. I know what to expect out there. I'm probably also the third wheel this week as well."

But Scott said he feels a boost in confidence coming into a Major for the first time as a Major champion.

"I do feel a lot better coming here," Scott said. "It's a good feeling to come here to know that I've achieved that. I've got my first Major. And my sights are definitely set on trying to win more. But it is a nice feeling.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel playing for the first time in a Major after having won, to see if there's less pressure or if I'm going to put more pressure on myself. I don't really know."

It was another Australian, David Graham, who won the most recent US Open staged at Merion back in 1981.

"I'd like to see him," Scott said. "It would be nice to bump into him and absolutely hear what he has to say about his memories of winning here."

The course, known for using red wicker baskets atop flagsticks, has a history that includes Ben Hogan's emotional 1950 US Open victory, as well as Lee Trevino's 1971 US Open playoff triumph over Jack Nicklaus.

But heavy rains on Monday indicated the course would play soft, failing to produce the test players and organisers had intended.

"It's just all very disappointing with the weather, but hopefully we can get a bit lucky and it can dry out," Scott said.

"It's nice to come to these places that have played such a big part in golf's history because we don't get to do it that much." — AFP


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Actor John Malkovich helps man bleeding on the streets

Posted: 10 Jun 2013 11:39 PM PDT

TORONTO (Reuters) - Actor John Malkovich, known for playing unhinged villains in a 30-year film career, took on the role of real life hero this past week, rushing to the rescue of an Ohio man who was lying bleeding on a Toronto street.

Jim Walpole, 77, and his wife Marilyn had just left a downtown pub on Thursday when Walpole fell, cutting his neck on a piece of scaffolding near the central King Edward Hotel.

Malkovich, in Toronto for a three-day theater run as Casanova in The Giacomo Variations, went to his side almost immediately, putting pressure on Walpole's neck, according to Chris Mathias, a doorman at the luxury hotel who was alerted to the incident by Walpole's wife.

"By the time I got there John Malkovich was already using a scarf and holding it on the wound of the gentleman, because he was bleeding a lot," Mathias said.

Walpole, who was lucid throughout the ordeal, didn't recognize the Oscar-nominated actor, whose had roles in Dangerous Liaisons, Con Air and the self-spoofing Being John Malkovich.

Mathias said paramedics arrived after about ten minutes.

Walpole was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, and he has since returned to his home in Defiance, Ohio, Canadian media reported.

"The ambulance drove away, (Malkovich) looked at me and said 'that was intense'," said Mathias. "And he sort of just faded into the night."

Shaken, stirred and Switched

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 03:57 AM PDT

Who else than the affable Andy Lau for the role of a suave spy in China's answer to James Bond.

GET ready for Switch, China's answer to James Bond.

And who else can play a super suave spy than Asia's most bankable stars, Andy Lau? Excitement is evidently in the air as Switch is set to hit cinemas – finally! – after one lengthy year of post-production and multiple postponements from the original release date.

Lau is joined by two beautiful co-stars – Taiwanese leggy beauty Lin Chi-Ling and China's award-winning actress Zhang Jingchu. Action wise, the actor can be seen tackling Dubai's imposing skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, as Cruise did in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

In an interview provided by movie distributor RAM Entertainment, Lau says he doesn't mind being compared with Cruise, and isn't afraid of people bringing up his age.

"I'm certainly sensitive (about my age), but I'm not afraid of it. After all, I'm old!" the 52-year-old star says.

Asked if some of the film's similarities to Mission: Impossible – such as the Burj Khalifa jump scene – are a coincidence, Lau says he does not know.

"Even if I didn't want to jump, I didn't have a choice. And while we did a 30-feet (9.14m) dive on location, we had filled the backdrop with special effects, a method that renders safer protection for actors against excessive risks.

"I believe there was also extensive planning by Tom Cruise and his crew to complete that scene. After all, not everyone is Jet Li or Jackie Chan who can do a lot of these stunts.

"Though I may not have a martial arts background, having done action films over the years, I think they are enough to convince audiences. So, as long as my body is able, I'll keep challenging myself," says Lau, who confesses to being a fan of Matt Damon's The Bourne Identity.

"After all, I still have films such as A Simple Life (which had won him the Best Actor trophies at the Golden Horse and Hong Kong Film Awards) to fall back on if my body gives way one day. The film genres are so diverse that I don't have to restrict myself."

Switch tells the story of Interpol agent Xiao Jinhan (Lau), who is assigned to protect a famous Yuan Dynasty scroll called Dwelling In The Fuchun Mountains. The scroll is showcased in an exhibition and has attracted the attention of nefarious art enthusiasts in the international black-market, triggering a scramble for it by both the Yakuza and English thugs.

The Yakuza sends mysterious temptress Lisa (Lin) to seduce Xiao, a move masterminded by evil criminal Toshio Yamamoto (Tong Dawei), who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the scroll.

Xiao's adventures take him across seas and deserts, but will he accomplish the mission? Also entrusted with the task of protecting the masterpiece is another agent, Lin Yuyan (Zhang).

Things get personal when the relationship heats up between Xiao and Lin.

Lau adds that the acting isn't as challenging as the movie features many special effects, done during post production. Despite criticisms of Lin's lack of experience and acting ability, Lau was quick to come to her defence.

"She's very meticulous, and made the extra effort to research her role.

"What she needs now is a good script and a visionary director to let her shine," opines Lau.

Asked if family will now be factored in as priority when deliberating on whether to accept riskier roles (he is married with one child), Lau replies: "With my advanced age, the side effects are starting to show – like times where my hands get numb from nerve damage. Thankfully now, there are modern, safer filming techniques in place."

Switch opens in cinemas nationwide on June 13.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Literary gems for sale

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 03:10 AM PDT

An acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature and a first edition of The Great Gatsby are among the rare items going under the hammer at Sotheby's 'Great Literature of the 20th century' auction.

MANUSCRIPTS, letters and drawings of the writers William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett and Joseph Conrad start to go on auction in New York today, giving collectors of literary items a rare chance to snap up their belongings.

Sotheby's has classed today's event in the Big Apple as "the largest and most important group of William Faulkner material ever to appear at auction", ahead of a second event in London next month.

The New York auction includes the Nobel Prize for Literature scroll and medal awarded to Faulkner in 1949 for "his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel", as well as his acceptance speech.

The price tag for the Faulkner lots, discovered by a grandson who was cleaning out a building to make space for chickens on the family farm in Virginia, is estimated at US$2mil (RM6.2mil), sparking interest from universities.

"Some of this collection was thought to be lost. No one has seen it for many years," said Justin Caldwell, vice president of Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's, in an interview last week.

"There are several universities interested, most of this will go probably to an American university."

Among other items to be auctioned are typed copies of stories, proofs of his books, and letters written from Paris by Faulkner (1897-1962), who authored The Sound And The Fury (1929), and As I Lay Dying (1930).

Sotheby's took the rare step last week of displaying several Faulkner items in Paris instead of London ahead of the New York auction on account of the French connection.

"There is more interest in Faulkner there than in Britain," said Caldwell.

"It would be nice to see something going to France."

The New York auction will also see a first edition of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, valued between US$100,000 and US$200,000 (RM309,900 and RM619,800), go on the block.

The second part of Sotheby's "Great Literature of the 20th Century" auction will be held from July 10 in London.

The two biggest items are the working manuscript of Murphy, Irish-born Beckett's first book, and Typhoon, by Polish-born Conrad (1857-1924), who eventually took British citizenship but always considered himself a Pole.

Both texts are currently on display at Sotheby's headquarters in New York, alongside the Faulkner collection.

Murphy, almost 800 pages long, is described by the auction house as "the most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades."

Consequently, its estimate is between US$1.25mil and US$1.87mil (RM3.8mil and RM5.8mil).

Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby's London deputy director specialist in books and manuscripts, said she expected Typhoon, and Murphy, to go to institutional buyers, such as important universities. – AFP Relaxnews


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Third person surrenders to police over insulting Facebook postings

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 08:17 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The third person who was sought by police to assist police into the investigation over a facebook posting for allegedly insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong surrended to the police.

City CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ku Chin Wah said she was among the four person was sought by police.

He said she surrendered at Penang police headquarters yesterday morning.

"We are in the midst of recording her statement," he said when contacted yesterday.

SAC Ku said the fourth person who is overseas is expected to surrender to the police this Saturday.

It was reported that police were investigating a woman for posting alleged insults against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah on her Facebook page.

The woman who went into hiding was tracked down with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Terengganu to propose gazetting of Setiu Wetlands as state park

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 08:02 AM PDT

KUALA TERENGGANU: The Terengganu government will propose the gazetting the Setiu Wetlands as a state park to the Forestry Department in order to preserve its ecosystem.

State Science and Technology, Environment, Green Technology and Water Committee chairman Datuk Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman said the committee would seek views from the department and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) on various aspects to realise the plan.

"We will look at the legal aspect and standards expected in order to gazette the area as a state park soonest possible and we hope that a resolution will be reached at the National Seminar on Conservation of Coastal Forests 2013.

"The effort to ensure balanced and sustainable existence and development in the coastal areas is a challenging process and the state government is committed to this in the interest of many parties," he told reporters after opening the seminar at UMT, here.

Also present were Natural Resources and Environment Ministry deputy secretary-general (Environment) Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Abdul Rahim and UMT deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation) Prof Dr Mohd Effendy Abdul Wahid.

The agreement to gazette the Setiu Wetlands followed the call made by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF) for the area to be gazetted quickly to preserve its uniqueness and ecosystem.

WWF Malaysia chief executive officer, Datuk Dr Dionysis Sharma in a Setiu Wetlands: Nature's Jewel video launched recently, said the effort started in the 1990s in line with the state government's plan to set up a state park in Terengganu based on the East Coast Economic Region Master Plan.

Ahmad Razif said the effort to gazette the wetlands as a state park was timely and Terengganu would promote the area as a tourist attraction which could improve the economy of the local residents.

"The uniqueness of the Setiu Wetlands which has various natural features such as fresh water, brackish water and seawater ecosystems, swathes of paperbark tea-tree and a 14km lagoon, which is suitable as a sea terrapin habitat, making the place very special compared to other state parks," he said. - Bernama

Pandikar to retain Dewan Rakyat speaker role

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 06:43 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia will continue as Dewan Rakyat speaker for the upcoming 13th Parliamentary term, sources say.

Pandikar, a former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, replaced Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib as Speaker in 2008.

The Speaker for the upcoming session will have to be firm and respected by both sides, as there is a larger number of opposition MPs in the Lower House this time around.

Pakatan Rakyat currently holds 89 seats, seven more than after the 2008 elections, the largest number of Opposition MPs in Parliament to date.

Ruling coalition Barisan Nasional has 133 seats.

Parliament will convene on June 24 and is expected to be extremely dynamic and fiery due to the Opposition's strong presence.

Other names speculated for the role were Ramli, former Senate President Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Pawanteh and former Information, Communications and Culture Minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim.


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MPKj officers attend Mandarin classes to communicate better

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 05:00 AM PDT

DO NOT be surprised to hear Ni hau ma (How are you?) when you call the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) Assessment Depart-ment.

The council has been offering Mandarin classes to its frontline staff where they learn useful phrases such as Wo ke yi bang ni ma? (How can I help you?), Ni xiang jian shui? (Who would you like to meet?) and Xie xie (Thank you).

Classes are held thrice a week from 3pm to 5pm.

Council president Datuk Hasan Nawawi Abd Rahman first mooted the idea in 2009 and this was the second batch of students.

He would practise what he preached and occasionally added a few Chinese words during council meetings, such as Wo bu zhi dao (I don't know) and Yi, er, san (One, two, three).

"In Kajang, we have many Chinese ratepayers, hence we started having Mandarin classes. We want to be people-friendly.

"We want our officers to learn more languages," he said, adding that he was contemplating the feasibility of having Tamil class too.

Teaching for free

The classes are conducted by Syazana Hasan Nawawi, who learned the language in kindergarten and primary school.

While she did not continue learning the language in secondary school, she continued speaking the language with her friends.

The 25-year-old took a six-month course at the College of International Exchange, Shanghai University.

Upon graduation, she worked at a travel agency and was put in charge of the China market due to her language skills.

She is now a full-time teacher and gives private tuition.

Syazana is also Hasan Nawawi's daughter and agreed to teach MPKj officers when her father mooted the idea.

"First, I introduced them to the meaning of Chinese characters, why some words are written in that way. It got them interested!

"I mainly teach them basic conversational skills, starting with numbers and greetings.

"I also teach them tongue twisters once a week so classes are not boring," she said.

Hasan Nawawi said the council did not pay her anything except a small amount to cover her travel expenses.

Eager students

Among the students were MPKj Assessment Department officers Mazreen Faris Mazbar, Noridayu Yusoep and Mariam Bibi Abd Rahman.

They have to deal with the public daily, some of whom can only speak Mandarin.

Mazreen, 33, said he loved speaking in Chinese.

"I get discounts when I go shopping. I got a very good price when I bought the Musang King durian from a Chinese vendor!" he recalled.

He added that it was easier to make friends although his Mandarin proficiency was limited.

Noridayu has taken Chinese as a third language in university.

They all feel that starting a conversation in Mandarin helps them build rapport with the ratepayers.

Mazreen now listens to Mandarin songs to improve his skills. His favourite is Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin (The moon represents my heart), a Mandarin classic song.

"I need to improve my vocabulary," he said.

Noridayu and Mariam Bibi both felt that practice would make perfect and watching Chinese movies help.

While only beginner's level classes are offered, all three have expressed an interest to continue learning the language.

At other local councils

Aside from MPKj, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) staff members are also encouraged to pick up another language.

MBPJ has its staff members taking up Arabic language classes in their free time.

Currently, there are five staff members learning Arabic, although according to the council's Public Relations and Corporate Depart-ment, the number used to be higher.

Classes are conducted every Thursday by Shafie Abdullah, an Arabic language tutor at Universiti Malaya.

Meanwhile, police officers in Ampang have been learning Korean with help from the Korean Association. There are about 5,000 South Koreans living and working in Ampang and it will help ease communication.

"We have a few officers who can speak Korean. We will send them for more classes so they can converse better to serve the large number of Koreans in the area," said the then Selangor police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who is now the Inspector-General of Police in a StarMetro's story entitled "Police beat base with Korean link" (Feb 25, 2010).

Encroached quartz ridge must be rehabilitated

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 04:10 AM PDT

THE land below the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge in Gombak needs to be rehabilitated if there is any possibility of the area being made a Unesco World Heritage Site.

"The trees and hillslopes surrounding the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge which have been encroached must be rehabilitated before the papers can be submitted to Unesco,'' said state Town and Country Planning Department deputy director Norasiah Bee Mohd Haniff.

Norasiah added that the state had protected the ridge by making it a Heritage Park two years ago.

She expressed shock at the extent of damage to the ridge.

"Quartz stones cannot be mined at this site but it is being stolen," she said.

"There should be a buffer zone which should be monitored via satellite at all times by the state government and the Gombak Land Office."

She also expressed concern as the Klang Gates dam which holds millions of litres of water could be damaged, threatening the safety of the people and the environment, if the ridge is mined further.


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