Sabtu, 15 Jun 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

North Korea wants to hold high-level talks with U.S.

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 08:01 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea on Sunday offered high-level talks with the United States to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, only days after it cancelled planned official talks with South Korea for the first time in over two years.

People attend a mass rally at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 14, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA

People attend a mass rally at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 14, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA

Planned high-level talks between North and South Korea were scrapped last week after the North abruptly called off the talks. The North blamed the South for scuttling discussions that sought to mend estranged ties between the rival Koreas.

North Korea National Defence Commission in a statement carried by KCNA news agency on Sunday said Washington can pick a date and place for talks and the two sides can discuss a range of issues, but no preconditions should be attached.

"In order to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and to achieve regional peace and safety, we propose to hold high-level talks between the DPRK and the United States, " said the spokesman for the North's National Defence Commission in the statement. North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"If the U.S. is truly interested in securing regional peace and safety and easing tensions, it should not mention of preconditions for the talks," the statement said.

Earlier this year, North Korea threatened nuclear and missile strikes against South Korea and the United States after it was hit with U.N. sanctions for its February nuclear weapons test.

In the statement, Pyongyang reiterated it was willing to discuss disarmament but the world should also be denuclearised including its southern neighbour. It added it wants the United States to sign a formal peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War that divided the two Koreas.

Korea was divided after the Second World War and when the Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a permanent peace treaty, leaving the two countries technically at war.

North Korea agreed a denuclearisation-for-aid deal in 2005 but later backed out of that accord. It has said its nuclear arms are a "treasured sword" that it will not abandon.

North Korea's one major diplomatic ally, China, has urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme and return to talks.

The North has a long record of making threats to secure concessions from the United States and South Korea.

North Korea's 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un, took power in December 2011 and has since carried out two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear weapons test, as well as a campaign of threats against South Korea and the United States.

Threats have waned in the past month, showing signs of easing tensions such as proposing talks with South Korea in early June. The talks had been intended to discuss issues resuming operations of joint commercial projects and families split during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Hong Kong rally backs Snowden, denounces allegations of U.S. spying

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 07:39 PM PDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A few hundred rights advocates and political activists marched through Hong Kong on Saturday to demand protection for Edward Snowden, who leaked revelations of U.S. electronic surveillance and is now believed to be holed up in the former British colony.

Protesters from the pro-Beijing party, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), march to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, June 15, 2013, as they rally against the United States government hacking into Hong Kong computers. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Protesters from the pro-Beijing party, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), march to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, June 15, 2013, as they rally against the United States government hacking into Hong Kong computers. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Marchers gathered outside the U.S. consulate shouting slogans denouncing alleged spying operations aimed at China and Hong Kong, but the numbers were modest compared to rallies over other rights and political issues.

"Arrest Obama, free Snowden," protesters shouted outside the slate grey building as police looked on. Many waved banners that said: "Betray Snowden, betray freedom", "Big brother is watching you" and "Obama is checking your email".

In his first comments on Snowden's case, Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said late on Saturday that the government would handle it in accordance with established laws.

"When the relevant mechanism is activated, the Hong Kong SAR Government will handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures of Hong Kong," he said.

"Meanwhile, the government will follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of the institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated."

Some protesters blew whistles in support of Snowden, 29, the American former CIA contractor who has acknowledged being behind leaks of the surveillance programmes by the National Security Agency.

The procession moved on to government headquarters in the city, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 but enjoys far more liberal laws on dissent and freedom of expression.

About a dozen groups organised two rallies, including the city's two largest political camps. Leaders of major political parties sought explanations for Snowden's allegations of spying.

Hong Kong's largest pro-Beijing political party, the DAB, demanded an apology from Washington, clarification of "illegal" espionage activities and an immediate halt to them.

"I think the Hong Kong government should protect him," the DAB's vice-chairwoman, Starry Lee, said outside the consulate.

Snowden reportedly flew to Hong Kong on May 20. He checked out of a luxury hotel on Monday and his whereabouts remain unknown. Snowden has said he intends to stay in Hong Kong to fight any potential U.S. moves to extradite him.


China has avoided any explicit comment on its position towards Snowden. A senior source with ties to the Communist Party leadership said Beijing was reluctant to jeopardise recently improved ties with Washington.

Snowden told the South China Morning Post this week that Americans had spied extensively on targets including the Chinese University of Hong Kong that hosts an exchange which handles nearly all the city's domestic web traffic. Other alleged targets included government officials, businesses and students.

Snowden pledged not to "hide from justice" and said he would place his trust in Hong Kong's legal system. Some legal experts, however, say an extradition treaty between Hong Kong and the United States has functioned smoothly since 1998.

It is unclear whether Chinese authorities would intervene over any U.S. attempts to extradite Snowden, though lawyers say Beijing has rarely interfered with extradition cases.

His arrival comes at a sensitive time for Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, whose popularity has sunk since taking office last year amid a series of scandals and corruption probes into prominent figures. Leung has offered no comment on Snowden.

Interest among residents into the case is growing and numbers could rise if extradition proceedings are launched.

Demonstrations on issues ranging from denunciations of pro-communist education policy imposed by Beijing, high property prices and a growing wealth gap have attracted large crowds.

A vigil marking the anniversary of China's June 1989 crackdown on democracy advocates drew tens of thousands this month and a record 180,000 last year.

Diplomats and opposition figures in the city have warned of growing behind-the-scenes meddling by Beijing in Hong Kong's affairs, as well as deep-rooted spying activities.

(Additional reporting by James Pomfret and Anne-Marie Roantree; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Ron Popeski and Michael Perry)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Police raid on Istanbul park triggers night of rioting

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 06:19 PM PDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul overnight on Sunday, erecting barricades and starting bonfires, after riot police firing teargas and water cannon stormed a park at the centre of two weeks of anti-government unrest.

A riot policeman fires teargas during an anti-government protest in Istanbul June 15, 2013. REUTERS/Serkan Senturk

A riot policeman fires teargas during an anti-government protest in Istanbul June 15, 2013. REUTERS/Serkan Senturk

Lines of police backed by armoured vehicles sealed off Taksim Square in the centre of the city as officers raided the adjoining Gezi Park late on Saturday, where protesters had been camped in a ramshackle settlement of tents.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had warned hours earlier that security forces would clear the square, the centre of more than two weeks of fierce anti-government protests that spread to cities across the country, unless the demonstrators withdrew before a ruling party rally in Istanbul on Sunday.

"We have our Istanbul rally tomorrow. I say it clearly: Taksim Square must be evacuated, otherwise this country's security forces know how to evacuate it," he told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at a rally in Ankara.

Protesters took to the streets in several neighbourhoods across Istanbul following the raid on Gezi Park, ripping up metal fences, paving stones and advertising hoardings to build barricades and lighting bonfires of trash in the streets.

Some chanted, "Tayyip, resign."

Local television footage showed groups of demonstrators blocking a main highway to Ataturk airport on the western edge of the city, while to the east, several hundred walked towards a main bridge crossing the Bosphorus waterway towards Taksim.

Thousands more rallied in the working-class Gazi neighbourhood, which saw heavy clashes with police in the 1990s, while protesters also gathered in Ankara around the central Kugulu Park, including opposition MPs who sat in the streets in an effort to prevent the police from firing teargas.

A main public-sector union confederation, KESK, which has some 240,000 members, said it would call a national strike for Monday, while a second union grouping said it was holding an emergency meeting to decide whether to join the action.

"One million people to Taksim" - a call for more anti-government demonstrations later on Sunday - was a top-trending hashtag on Twitter.

"The police brutality aims at clearing the streets of Istanbul to make way for Erdogan's meeting tomorrow," said Oguz Kaan Salici, Istanbul president of the main opposition People's Republican Party.

"Yet it will backfire. People feel betrayed."


A similar police crackdown on peaceful campaigners in Gezi Park two weeks ago provoked an unprecedented wave of protest against Erdogan, drawing in secularists, nationalists, professionals, trade unionists and students who took to the streets in protest at what they see as his autocratic style.

The unrest, in which police fired teargas and water cannon at stone-throwing protesters night after night in cities including Istanbul and Ankara, left four people dead and about 5,000 injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

Panicked protesters fled into an upscale hotel at the back of Gezi Park during Saturday night's raid, several of them vomiting, as clouds of teargas and blasts from percussion bombs - designed to create confusion rather than injure - engulfed the park.

"We tried to flee and the police pursued us. It was like war," Claudia Roth, co-chair of Germany's Greens party, who had gone to Gezi Park to show her support, told Reuters.

The Gezi Park protesters, who oppose government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks there, had defied repeated calls to leave but had started to reduce their presence in the park after meetings with Erdogan and the local authorities.

"This is unbelievable. They had already taken out political banners and were reducing to a symbolic presence in the park," Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University, told Reuters from the edge of Gezi Park.


Erdogan told protesters on Thursday that he would put the Gezi Park plans on hold until a court rules on them. It was a softer stance after two weeks in which he called protesters "riff-raff" and said the plans would go ahead regardless.

But at the first of two rallies this weekend by his ruling AK Party, he reverted to a defiant tone, telling supporters on the outskirts of Ankara that he would crush his opponents in elections next year.

The police intervention so soon after Erdogan spoke took many by surprise on a busy Saturday night around Taksim, one of Istanbul's main social hubs, not least after President Abdullah Gul, who has struck a more conciliatory tone than Erdogan, said earlier on Saturday that talks were progressing well.

Erdogan has long been Turkey's most popular politician, his AK Party winning three successive election victories, each time with a larger share of the vote, but his critics complain of increasing authoritarianism.

He has said the AK Party rallies in Ankara and Istanbul are meant to kick off campaigning for local elections next year and are not related to the protests, but they are widely seen as a show of strength in the face of the demonstrations.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler, Can Sezer, Asli Kandemir, Evrim Ergin in Istanbul, Jonathon Burch and Humeyra Pamuk in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Wall St. Week Ahead: Investors will look to Fed to ease volatility

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 12:47 AM PDT

NEW YORK: Stock investors eager to hear from the Federal Reserve about its plans for continuing economic stimulus may get some soothing words from the U.S. central bank next week.

The Fed is unlikely to tip its hand about when it may begin to scale back its bond-buying program, but policymakers still may be inclined to try to tamp down recent volatility in financial markets with some mention of the issue.

The rally in stocks stumbled and Treasury bond yields rose to 14-month highs following Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments that the Fed may decide to begin scaling back its quantitative easing in the next few policy meetings if the economy improves.

As part of its quantitative easing policy, adopted more than four years ago, the Fed has been buying Treasury and other bonds each month to keep interest rates low and promote growth.

Interpreting Bernanke's words and recent signs about the economy have roiled markets since then. The Dow industrials climbed 200 points in eight of the 17 sessions since Bernanke's comments, and its daily average swing has been 191.5 points.

"What (Bernanke) has done is create what I call an early summer market storm, not a huge one but enough to cause people to become a little nervous," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Stocks ended a third negative week in four. The Dow fell 1.2 percent, the S&P 500 slid 1 percent and the Nasdaq lost 1.3 percent

Next week might offer a bit more clarity, he said, but probably not the details many investors are hoping for. Still, analysts said, the Fed may want to say something to remove some of the markets' anxiety.

The markets have priced in a sea change and seem to think that rates are going up soon, said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco. But "I think the Fed is not going to want that to be the market's impression," he said.

The news may be that any change is going to be gradual, he added.

Comments from Fed policymakers in recent weeks have added fuel to the guessing game. Views have ranged from favoring continuing the stimulus policies for some time to starting the process of winding down quantitative easing in the near term.

But Bernanke's views hold the most weight, so investors will likely be on edge awaiting his comments. The Fed chairman is due to give a news conference at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday shortly after the Fed's policy committee ends a two-day meeting and issues a statement.


Although earnings have taken a back seat to Fed talk, forecasts for second-quarter profits have come down in recent weeks. Growth is forecast at 3.2 percent, down from an April 1 forecast of 6.1 percent, and negative preannouncements have outnumbered positive ones by a ratio of 6.9 to 1, according to Thomson Reuters data. That would be the most negative ratio since at least 1996.

Investors worry speculation about the Fed's course alone may have been enough to spark the long-feared pullback in stocks, which have rallied for most of this year. Even with recent losses, the S&P 500 is up 15 percent for the year to date.

The benchmark index is down 2.5 percent since May 21, but there have been short-lived rallies in that period.

Also the gains in bond yields since Bernanke's comments caused investors to rotate out of high-yielding dividend stocks. Dividend stocks had been among the market's leaders as investors favored those shares over fixed-income securities in a low interest-rate environment.

The Dow shot up 200 points and scored its best day since January 2 after the U.S. employment report for May showed 175,000 jobs were created, a positive sign but not strong enough for the Fed to abandon stimulus efforts to aid the economy.

"As we see mixed signals in terms of economic growth from across the globe, a marginal tapering can have significant effects," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

"What would happen if the tapering is too soon, I think, is that it puts risk into financial assets, both equities and bonds."

Among next week's economic reports, the Consumer Price Report for May is due on Tuesday along with data on housing starts. - Reuters

Wall St. slides in volatile week, eyes on the Fed

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 12:44 AM PDT

NEW YORK: Stocks fell on Friday on low volume to end their third negative week in four on lingering concern over whether the world's central banks will soon start to trim their stimulus programs.

Uncertainty about the longevity of loose monetary policy around the world has caused volatility to jump lately. Nerves were frayed some more earlier in the week when the Bank of Japan decided to hold policy steady.

Attention is now focused on the Federal Reserve's policy-setting meeting and press conference next week. Chairman Ben Bernanke's congressional statement on May 22 raised concerns that the Fed could soon begin to cool its stimulus efforts.

"Bernanke is going to try to soothe the market and maintain his position he's not tightening soon," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

"The market wants to see the timetable for the tapering, and I doubt they're going to get that."

Bernanke "has become the market whisperer," she said. "He knows tapering is necessary, but he's learning the market isn't going to wait for the Fed to act."

The unwinding of trades linked to central bank support has recently strengthened correlations between asset classes.

The 200-day correlation between the S&P 500 and the Japanese currency stands at minus 0.91, near its strongest inverse correlation in more than four years. Bets against the yen, cemented on expectations that Tokyo will keep accommodative monetary policy in place, have been used to finance long positions in Wall Street equities.

The U.S. dollar extended losses against the yen on Friday to fall more than 3 percent for the week, its largest such drop since July 2009.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 105.90 points or 0.70 percent, to close at 15,070.18. The S&P 500 .SPX slipped 9.63 points or 0.59 percent, to finish at 1,626.73. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 21.81 points or 0.63 percent, to end at 3,423.56.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.2 percent, the S&P 500 slid 1 percent and the Nasdaq lost 1.3 percent.

The Dow swung 161 points throughout Friday's session. Its 14-day intraday average range is now 193 points - the highest since December 2011.

The CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, or VIX, rose 4.5 percent to end Friday's session at 17.15. The VIX is Wall Street's favorite measure of investor anxiety.

Analysts say the market's volatility will continue as traders try to anticipate the Fed's next move.

Financial stocks led the market's decline on Friday. The S&P financial sector index .SPSY has dropped more than 3.9 percent from a 4-1/2 year intraday high hit last month.

Dow component American Express (AXP.N) fell 3 percent to $72.97 and led financial shares lower. The stock extended its weekly loss to 6.5 percent.

DuPont (DD.N) ranked as the Dow's second-biggest percentage decliner, falling 2.2 percent to $52.68 after a brokerage cut its price target on the stock following the company's second-quarter earnings pre announcement on Thursday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) shares slid 1.9 percent to $53.13 after the bank said its private equity unit, One Equity Partners, will become independent and raise future funds from an external group of partners.

Decliners beat advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of about 8 to 7. On the Nasdaq, about 18 issues fell for every seven that rose.

About 5.5 billion shares exchanged hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, far below the daily average so far this year of nearly 6.39 billion.

In contrast with the market's downturn, shares of Groupon (GRPN.O) surged 11.5 percent to $7.65 after an analyst's upgrade increased optimism about a recent strategy shift by the world's largest daily deal company.

On the economic front, Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary index on consumer sentiment fell to 82.7 in June after touching a near six-year high of 84.5 in May. June's reading was the second highest in the last eight months, suggesting Americans were far from gloomy about their long-term economic prospects.

The overall U.S. producer price index rose more than expected in May as gasoline prices rebounded, the Labor Department reported. But underlying inflation pressures remained muted, which could bolster the argument against an early pullback in the Federal Reserve's stimulus program. - Reuters

Yen strength sustained, market uncertain on monetary policy

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 12:41 AM PDT

NEW YORK: The yen rose against the U.S. dollar on Friday for a fourth straight day and gained ground versus the euro as investors unwound bets against the Japanese currency due to uncertainty whether central banks will maintain their easy monetary policies.

With the Federal Reserve's next policy meeting just a few days away, there has been increasing focus - and growing uncertainty - over when the U.S. Federal Reserve might pull back from flooding the market with dollars, a policy meant to spur borrowing and investment to bolster a sluggish economy.

In addition, doubts over the Bank of Japan's commitment to its inflationary policies has caused some investors to exit their use of profitable carry trades in the yen. That practice involves using the low-yielding yen to fund purchases of higher-yielding assets, such as U.S. stocks.

"The strength against the euro doesn't surprise me because the dollar and yen strength tend to be consistent with a loss of risk appetite. We are in a more risk averse mode," said Michael Woolfolk, global markets strategist at BNY Mellon.

"The carry trade has been put on the shelf until we get more certainty on U.S. monetary policy. These short-yen positions that invested in equities and other high yielding assets outside of Japan have been brutalized recently due to a drop in both the Nikkei and the Dow and yen strength," he said.

The Fed will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the U.S. central bank's policy statement that will be released at the close of the meeting and the news conference by Fed chief Ben Bernanke will be scrutinized for clues on when the Fed might start to pull back on its stimulus program.

The euro fell against both the yen and greenback on Friday.

Trading in the dollar-yen has been locked in step with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 .N225 index in recent weeks as investors unravel the sell-yen, buy-stocks trade that dominated the market between November and May.

Japanese benchmark stock prices have fallen for four consecutive weeks and U.S. stocks are down nearly as much.

A fall in equities also forces investors to pare the dollar hedges initially put in place to protect them from a weakening yen.

Although the Nikkei rose 1.9 percent on Friday, all three major U.S. stock indexes fell and the yen buying extended into the weekend.

In addition, a survey showing U.S. consumer sentiment retreated this month after reaching its highest level in nearly six years in May favored the safe-haven yen.

"The yen has proved to be investors' go-to safe haven to ride out global stock market volatility," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington, D.C.

"The uncertainty has prompted investors to exit recently overcrowded plays like betting on the dollar and Japan's Nikkei stock index and against the yen," he said. "With that play now in reverse, the yen has steadily been squeezed higher."

The dollar last traded down 1.07 percent at 94.34 yen, up from a low of 93.99, its lowest point since the BoJ announced on April 4 that it would buy $1.4 trillion in bonds to stimulate its economy.

The euro fell on Friday, dropping 1.28 percent against the yen to 125.89 yen. It hit a session low of 125.17 yen.

The dollar had its worst week against the yen since July 2009, with a decline of 3.3 percent. The euro lost 2.4 percent against the Japanese currency, its worst week since July 2012.

"Until investors get a better handle on the future course for monetary policy in the U.S., Japan and Europe - which could come as soon as next week - the yen should be poised for a continued grind higher," Manimbo said.

After hitting a four-month high of $1.3390 on Thursday, the euro traded down 0.2 percent to $1.3345, according to Reuters data. The dollar index was off 0.13 percent at 80.639 .DXY, recovering from a four-month low of 80.500 on Thursday.


The Star Online: Sports

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Lee Chong Wei beats Dionysius to set up clash with Zwiebler

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 05:05 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: World No.1 Lee Chong Wei showed that he's still the top dog in badminton after powering past Indonesia's Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka in the semi-finals of the Indonesian Open in Jakarta.

Chong Wei, seeking his fifth Indonesian title, was just too strong for Dionysius, winning 21-17, 21-14 in 39 minutes yesterday.

The 30-year-old Chong Wei started off at a very fast pace, taking an 11-4 lead before the 25-year-old Dionysius even had time to catch his breath.

But the world No. 24 Indonesian, boosted by his upset win over world No. 3 Du Pengyu of China a day earlier, regained his footing to whittle down Chong Wei's lead before taking a 15-14 lead.

That stirred Chong Wei into action and he duly stepped it up once more to take six straight points to go on and win the first game 21-17.

It was a closer fight in the second but Chong Wei showed his class to edge ahead 11-9 before powering home to win it 21-14.

The Penangite, who last won the Indonesian title in 2011, will face Marc Zwiebler in today's final. The German world No. 22 disappointed the volatile home crowd with a stirring performance to beat home favourite Tommy Sugiarto 21-17, 21-10.

"Dionysius plays a very strong attacking game ... I had to be patient and attack him at the right time," said Chong Wei.

"The home crowd was cheering really loudly for him, which is normal, and I had to adapt to that too.

"But, overall, I'm really happy to be back in the final since I missed this event last year through injury.

"I'm looking forward to putting up another good performance and hopefully win another title this year."

There was further bad news for Indonesia when their top mixed pair of Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir failed to make the final.

The All-England champions, bidding to win their first home title as a pair, were well under-par en route to losing 15-21, 14-21 to Denmark's Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen.

The women's doubles final will be an all-China affair with top seeds Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang taking on Bao Yixin-Cheng Shu.

In the women's singles semi-finals, China's Li Xuerui ended Hong lass Yip Pui Yin's grand run winning 17-21, 21-11, 21-11.

Junior star Joo Ven thumps Zairul to make final

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 04:10 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Top junior shuttler Soong Joo Ven stayed on course for the Under-18 title in the National Junior Circuit GP Finals after a stylish performance in the semi-finals at the Sukpa Stadium in Kuantan.

Joo Ven, who hopes to end his junior career on a high, was too strong for Bukit Jalil Sports School's Zairul Nizam Zainuddin, winning 21-17, 21-10 yesterday.

In the boys' doubles, Darren Isaac Devadass-Ong Yew Sin showed their mettle by beating Mohd Aliff Haika-Mohd Akmal Zakaria 21-14, 21-23, 21-15 to set up a showdown against fellow BJSS trainees Eric Jong-Ng Di Hua.

In the girls' singles, Sylvia Kavita Kumares, who has already won the Under-12, Under-14 and Under-16 titles, stayed well on course for the Under-18 title after beating Yap Rui Chen 9-21, 21-14, 21-3.

She will take on top junior Ho Yen Mei, who was made to work hard before beating Lee Zii Yii 18-21, 21-15, 21-10, in the final.

In girls' doubles, top seeds Joyce Choong-Yap Cheng Wen will be the favourites when they go up against Goh Yea Ching-Peck Yen Wei in the final.

The call of duty

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 05:12 PM PDT

I LOVE receiving phone calls. Some are encouraging, some thought-provoking and some rather disturbing.

I had three missed calls from Datuk Tan Yee Khan recently.

When I returned his call, he was agitated, saying I must have been busy with my "boyfriends".

I know it was a joke but I was annoyed, nonetheless. It was not like I was lying on the beach with my "Man" on one side and a glass of ice-cold fresh lemonade on the other. How I wish!

It had been a busy day, actually.

Anyway, my annoyance aside, let's talk about Yee Khan's annoyance – well, that was the reason he called.

It wasn't targeted at me, fortunately. But against the national shuttlers, coaches, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) ... well, the whole of Malaysian badminton, actually.

I can understand his grouses.

For someone who has been successful as a player (winning the All-England and Thomas Cup) and as a coach (reviving the national team from its slump in the 1980s), the 73-year-old Yee Khan is naturally a strongly opinionated man set in his own ways.

His intentions are good. He wants to see Malaysian badminton continue with his legacy.

He was spot-on on several issues – especially about the players' lack of commitment and coaches compromising on discipline.

He hopes to see former players being given more influential roles in the BAM and the birth of more champions. However, I can't help but disagree with him on certain aspects.

The sport has evolved. This is a new generation, where players and coaches are motivated by different things.

He can't impose the same training methods practised aeons ago – they are just outdated and impractical.

Sports Science too has evolved in a big way, thanks to the excellent job done by the National Sports Institute (NSI).

I wish Yee Khan could drop by to see the players in training – that'll give him a clearer picture and better understanding of the work going on in the background.

I know that Yee Khan and other veteran sportsmen have been vocal because they are gravely concerned with the state of Malaysian sports.

It's uplifting and inspiring to listen to these old-timers ... but, at the same time, I hope that they will stay abreast with the times.

The second call I received was from a school teacher who is concerned about the lack of playing fields.

Where are all the school fields?, he asked. Why are stadiums not allowing schools to use their field?

According to this teacher, the stadiums are always under renovation and even the ones in Bukit Jalil are constantly being upgraded.

How can we fulfil the Education Ministry's one student one sport policy when we do not even have fields to start with?

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wants the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil to restore its image as the "Wembley of Malaysia", but what about the schools?

He will have no one to play at the "Wembley of Malaysia" if nothing is done to tackle the shortage of fields.

Finally, there was another call – one subtly "telling" me to lay off writing on certain matters.

I can accept it if someone calls me to give me his or her opinions, thoughts and ideas. But to put fear in me in the name of offering a "friendly advice", now that's another thing all together.

Still, I love receiving phone calls.

The writer admires all the call centre operators for answering hundreds of calls daily – with a smile, no matter what.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Cheers to Bradley Cooper

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 12:38 AM PDT

The Hollywood actor is not only easy on the eyes but has a heart of gold.

They say good things come to those who wait and, truly, success couldn't have happened to a sweeter guy than Bradley Cooper.

He isn't a vain pot even though he's earned the tag Sexiest Man Alive in People magazine's November 2011 issue. He's not that into designer labels and the trappings of fame. He isn't afraid to show his love for his mum; in fact, he even took her in to live with him when his dad passed away.

For all these reasons and more, Cooper has made it as the cover guy of Galaxie's June 16-30 issue.

In Galaxie's Hollywood correspondent Philip Berk's interview with Cooper, whose latest film is the box-office success The Hangover Part III, the actor said of the franchise: "It really has provided me the opportunity to do all these other films, and it changed my life, it changed my family's life, my friends' lives, it has provided everything for me, for (co-stars) Ed (Helms), for Zach (Galifianakis) and for Ken (Jeong) and Todd (Phillips, the director)."

Clearly, Cooper has had the time of his life with the Hangover films. But that does not stop him from pursuing lesser-known films like the crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines, also out this year.

In a special interview, Galaxie also gets Lawson's Andy Brown and Adam Pitts to answer readers' questions. Among the questions the readers posed to the British band was: What would they do if it was their last day on Earth?

Brown replied: "I would probably eat a lot of unhealthy food. And probably, as a band, we would throw a free concert in London and get everyone down and play one last gig."

As the official magazine for the G-Dragon concert in KL, which will be staged on June 22, Galaxie offers a full page spread on the spectacular concert with behind-the-scenes details, for example: there will be 80 people traveling with G-Dragon, made up of the production crew, dancers, wardrobe, hair and make-up stylists, security and management staff, as well as the rest of the Big Bang members.

Telly addicts will be glad to know that Bates Motel stars Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga talk about the Psycho prequel while Castle's Stana Katic reveals that she digs the Castle-Beckett chemistry.

Also get posters of Kelly Clarkson, Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, 30 Seconds To Mars and more, as well as a chance to win World War Z goodies, among other contest prizes.

For all these and more, pick up a copy of Galaxie June 16-30.

> Galaxie, voted Entertainment Magazine Of The Year for two years straight, is owned by Star Publications (M) Bhd. The magazine also has an online presence at Follow Galaxie on Twitter (@galaxiemag) and visit the Facebook page (

Breaking hard habits

Posted: 14 Jun 2013 06:31 PM PDT

Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg's book helps readers to analyse bad habit s and how to change them to be a bet ter pers on. A must-read.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Author: Charles Duhigg

Publisher: Random House

IAM in withdrawal. Not from professional-development book-reviewing, which your dutiful correspondent still undertakes almost daily. No, this is tele-visual withdrawal.

Last summer was another long hot season of Breaking Bad, a TV series, set in starkly beautiful New Mexico, the United States. The show, as many of you know, is as addictive as Mad Men or The Sopranos. The first of the last few episodes will air on Aug 11. But in the meantime, I've had to forgo my Breaking Bad online viewing habit for now, and the comedown has been excruciating.

However, through analysing my addiction to this show about a crystal-meth manufacturer, I've been able to control my passive viewing habits. Friends have told me that that the series Dexter is just as compulsive. But I'm not going there.

What I need – what Breaking Bad provided – is both excitement, and vistas of the great outdoors. So I've bought myself a mountain bike. And go riding at dusk, just around Breaking Bad o'clock. The ferocious feral dogs of Hong Kong's New Territories are good adrenaline-pumping stand-ins for trigger-happy methheads in the deserts of the Southwest.

By happy coincidence, the author of this week's StarBizWeek featured book review is a New Mexico native, one Charles Duhigg, whose The Power of Habit has been flying off the shelves of the business section in recent months.

Duhigg, born 1974 and who hails from Albuquerque, is one of those Gen-X popular-psychology wonderboys whom I've found myself writing about more and more since Malcolm Gladwell unleashed The Tipping Point in 2000. Their time has come, it seems. They have answers where baby-boomer thinkers just left questions hanging in the self-help ether.

Duhigg's a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter at The New York Times. And a foreign correspondent who did a stint in war-torn Baghdad. Previously, he was a staff writer of the Los Angeles Times. From where did he graduate? Yale University and Harvard Business School, no less. Some people reach the stratosphere at an early age and just keep cruising.

Duhigg's first book, about the science of habit formation, reaches for the sky. But its feet are very much on the ground. Here's one way he applied the lessons which are found in The Power Of Habit.

"Since starting work on this book, I've lost about 30 pounds (13 kg), I run every other morning and I'm much more productive. And the reason why is because I've learned to diagnose my habits, and how to change them.

"Take, for instance, a bad habit I had of eating a cookie every afternoon. By learning how to analyse my habit, I figured out that the reason I walked to the cafeteria each day wasn't because I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. It was because I was craving socialisation, the company of talking to my colleagues while munching. That was the habit's real reward. And the cue for my behaviour – the trigger that caused me to automatically stand up and wander to the cafeteria – was a certain time of day.

"So, I reconstructed the habit: now, at 3:30pm each day, I absentmindedly stand up from my desk, look around for someone to talk with, and then gossip for about 10 minutes. I don't even think about it at this point. It's automatic. It's a habit. I haven't had a cookie in six months."

The breadth of this book encompasses far more than personal habits, however. Part One looks at the habits of individuals – and delivers a wealth of insights for professional development, notably the concept of the Habit Loop. Part Two identifies the habits of successful organisations. And part three ambitiously explores the habits of societies.

A number of case studies looks at broken individuals hellbent on self-destruction, and draws some key conclusions. One of the most salient is the importance of addressing – and eliminating – your "keynote bad habit". Other bad habits will then fall like dominoes, or so Duhigg posits.

Examining successful organisations, he uses a case study from the marketing-masters at Procter & Gamble, when they were trying to rescue a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in the company's history. Suddenly, they detect an almost imperceptible pattern – a habit – in consumer behaviour, and, duly, with a nuanced shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to become P&G's best-selling products.

Other "right habits" case studies here mined for their inspirational ore, are the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the Midas Touch of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and the unstoppable tenacity of civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.

Duhigg says it's all about "patterns of behaviour", and how success can be brought about by transforming or overriding habits. The Power Of Habit succeeds in its ambition. We are taken to the cusp of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Indeed, Duhigg takes us to laboratories where neuroscientists examine how habits operate and deduce where, exactly, they reside in our brains.

In this penetrating work, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature. At its core, The Power Of Habit contains an exhilarating premise: The key to personal wellness and becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving outrageous success can be found in one place: understanding how habits work.

The author contends that "you have the freedom and responsibility" to remake your habits. He says "the most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager."

He makes it sound easier than the reality probably is. Here Duhigg - who evidently has never underachieved in his life - sounds a little out of touch.

If you believe habits are destiny – or believe in destiny, full-stop – this book isn't for you. But Duhigg does reassure us that habit-changing, while hard initially, does get easier as we progress in our personal journeys to transformational change.

I'm sure I'll slip back into my Breaking Bad habit when it starts airing again in a few weeks; I can avoid everything except temptation. But that mountain-biking has done me a power of good. And has revealed my keystone bad habit: slothfulness. So I'll keep mountain-biking. And get a little more organised. And work harder. Then a little TV downtime can function as a reward for daily to-do-lists accomplished.

Duhigg has a lot to say about rewards (and their dangers). But according to the key message of his debut book, I'm on the right habitual track. No back-pedaling from here.


Posted: 14 Jun 2013 06:28 PM PDT

What you're really meant to do: A road map for reaching your unique potential

Author: Robert Steven Kaplan

Publisher: Harvard Business Review

Too often, we charge down a path leading to "success" as defined by those around us. Ultimately, we are left dissatisfied. Each of us are made differently and we have to take charge of what we define as success. Harvard professor identifies specific and actionable approach to defining your own success and reaching your potential.

Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot your business

Author: Mitch Joel

Publisher: Business Plus

Of late, we keep hearing this term "reboot". It used to be applied to computers, and is increasingly being used in the business world to mean change and transformation. What does it mean to "reboot" your business, or to "reboot" yourself? The book is divided into two - how business models should change and how we, as entreprenuers, should surf the wave to be part of that change.

Broke: Who killed the middle classes?

Author: David Boyle

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Today's middle classes may struggle to enjoy the same standard of living as their parents' generation. How did they end up in this situation? The author argues that they are not entirely innocent in their downfall. He also writes about the importance of a healthy middle class and how it underpins the economy. They may be broke, but they are not beyond repair.


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Maxis says Klang Valley customers may face service disruption till midnight

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 07:57 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Maxis Communications said Saturday that its customers in the Klang Valley may face difficulties in making and receiving calls until midnight, as there are interruptions with incoming and outgoing calls here.

Its Twitter handle @MaxisComms, in explaining the matter, also stated that the company was working towards resolving the issue and apologised for the inconvenience.

Meanwhile, Maxis support system Twitter handle @MaxisListens also assured customers complaining of not being able to get incoming or make outgoing calls that the problem was expected to be resolved by midnight.

Leslie Lau: ‘We left Malaysian Insider because of disagreement over company direction’

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 06:19 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Contrary to speculation, the majority of staff at news portal The Malaysian Insider did not walk out on Friday, said its former executive editor Leslie Lau on Saturday.

Lau took to Twitter earlier Saturday to explain that his plans, and that of his sister and managing editor Joan Lau, to leave the company had been planned for months, and Friday was their last day at work.

"Despite some speculation the majority of staff at @tm_insider (The Malaysian Insider) did not walk out yesterday. The current owners were given notice of our departure.

"Our reasons for leaving @tm_insider was because of disagreement over direction of company," he said.

Speculation was rife that the majority of The Malaysian Insider's editorial staff had left the company with Lau, who will join a brand new news portal, The Malay Mail Online, expected to begin operations on July 1.

Lau added that all the editors of the company had planned their departure, but "one decided to stay at the last moment".

"I wish him all the best. We wish people who have been recruited to take over at @tm_insider all the best just as I'm sure they wish us well," he said.

A check on the portal's website listed only five members of the editorial team, including its chief executive officer Jahabar Sadiq.

Lau also stressed that the move was a business decision, and no politics had been involved despite some wild speculation.

"We at will strive to practice the same if not better journalism than we did at @tm_insider."

Woman, who allegedly insulted King on FB, turns up at Dang Wangi police HQ

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 03:53 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A woman who is wanted by the police for allegedly insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah turned up at the Dang Wangi District Police Headquarters (IPD), here Saturday to give her statement.

The woman arrived at the IPD accompanied by her lawyer at 1.15pm.

On June 1, a Facebook (FB) account using the name 'Melissa Gooi' was said to have issued statements which insulted the speech of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim.

Subsequently, many people, including non-government organisations lodged police reports urging stern action against the owner of the FB account. - Bernama


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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21-year-old has a zest for life despite suffering from brittle bone disease

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 06:29 AM PDT

Saturday June 15, 2013

IN HER parents' words, she is like a "glass doll". Her skull was soft as fontanel until she was two; her bones were so brittle that even a cassette could fracture them.

In fact, days after she was born, doctors had said that Nadeera K. Vasu might not survive beyond five years.

They advised: "It is better to let her go."

Suffering from among the most severe cases of osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, nevertheless delicate Nadeera was the best gift for her parents.

*Full story in your copy of The Star today

Selangor to improve enforcement and bus services

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 06:29 AM PDT

SELANGOR residents can soon enjoy playgrounds equipped with solar lights, improved bus services and beefed up enforcement over the next five years.

These will be implemented under the first phase of a five-year plan announced by new Local Government, Studies and Research executive councillor and former state speaker Datuk Teng Chang Khim yesterday.

Other elements include increasing the councils' revenue through a better auditing and payment system, improving local councils' image, live telecast of monthly council meetings, improving the welfare of council employees, finalising bylaws including the licensing fees of commercial buildings and regulating the swiftlet industry, installing CCTV and beefing up enforcement and upgrading public markets.

Teng said the councils would also build or replace facilities in 500 fields and playgrounds in residential areas over the next five years.

"This will involve gazebos, playground equipment such as swings and slides, outdoor gym apparatus, stone benches and solar lights.

"In each zone, two playgrounds will be chosen by the respective assemblymen every year."

He said Selangor would be the first state to air its monthly council meetings live, with Aug 30 set as the target date.

"All the councils will be streaming their monthly meetings live.

"The meeting minutes will also be made available via the councils' websites.

"This is in line with the state's amended Freedom of Information Act," Teng said.

"We will also increase the number of enforcement officers to ensure people's safety and complement the police's efforts."

A total of 414 CCTV cameras will be installed. The private sector will also be roped in, including banks.

"We hope more CCTV cameraS can be positioned not just inside but outside buildings so that we can use the recording for investigation purposes in case a crime occurs."


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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Adele honoured in Queen Elizabeth's birthday list

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 02:46 AM PDT

LONDON: Grammy Award-winning singer Adele and Mr Bean actor Rowan Atkinson were among more than 1,000 people recognised by Britain's Queen Elizabeth in her Birthday Honours List on Friday.

Marking the monarch's official 87th birthday, the honours went to 1,180 recipients from all walks of life, from a beekeeper and a whisky maker to diplomats, artists and business leaders.

London-born Adele, 25, was awarded an MBE - member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - for services to music.

One of Britain's best-selling artists, Adele has won a string of international awards for songs such as "Rolling in the Deep", "Someone Like You" and "Skyfall", a James Bond theme.

Comedian Atkinson, known to millions of fans around the world for his bungling creation Mr Bean, was given a CBE, Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

A knighthood went to actor Tony Robinson, who played Atkinson's long-suffering servant Baldrick in "Blackadder", a popular BBC comedy series set in different periods of British history.

"Some might say that Blackadder (Atkinson's bullying character) will finally have to treat Baldrick with a bit more respect," Bob Kerslake, head of Britain's civil service, told a news conference.

Away from the celebrities and public figures, hundreds of people working in schools, hospitals and charities were also recognised.

Those honoured will receive their awards from Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in ceremonies over the coming months, Kerslake added.

Others in the arts to be honoured included sculptor Anish Kapoor, who created the Orbit tower at the London Olympics site. He received a knighthood.

CBEs went to cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry, actress Claire Bloom and Julian Glover, an actor whose many roles include a Bond villain in "For Your Eyes Only".

Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, which runs four art galleries across Britain, becomes a Companion of Honour.

In business, there were knighthoods for Richard Olver, chairman of defence company BAE Systems Plc and Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis , Britain's biggest department store group. Brendan Barber, former head of the Trades Union Congress also becomes a "Sir".

Diplomats receiving an OBE included John Baugh, who last year became Britain's first ambassador to Somalia in more than 20 years.

Martyn Roper, ambassador to Algeria, was awarded an OBE, in part for his handling of the hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas plant in January. -Reuters

New Kanye West album leaks, creating online buzz

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 02:12 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Kanye West's new album "Yeezus" leaked online Friday, four days before its official release, but the US rapper appeared unconcerned as the Internet went crazy over his latest record.

The much-anticipated album - due to be officially released Tuesday - immediately became a top Twitter trending subject, while instant reviews were largely positive.

It was not immediately clear if the leak was part of a marketing strategy or was a genuine non-deliberate release. The album includes contributions from French electro artists Daft Punk, Frank Ocean, Justin Vernon and Kid Cudi.

The 36-year-old held a public listening session for media in New York on Monday for the new album recorded in Paris and Los Angeles, his sixth solo record, without preventing anyone from recording what they heard.

Pop culture and technology website Mashable said its representative was among 100 or so people at the session, and that West's record company staff appeared to have no qualms about the music leaking.

Mashable quoted the rapper himself as telling those present: "I have this new strategy. It's called no strategy," adding with expletive accompaniment: "This album is all about giving."

Rolling Stone called the album "the darkest, most extreme music Kanye has ever cooked up, an extravagantly abrasive album full of grinding electro, pummeling minimalist hip-hop, drone-y wooz and industrial gear-grind.

"Every mad genius has to make a record like this at least once in his career," the music bible added, giving the album 4.5 stars out of five.

The New York Daily News gave it a five-star review, saying: "Everything about the album ups the ante of its advance press: It presents Kanye as nothing less than the Johnny Rotten of his generation."

"The entire disc rethinks industrial rock of the early '90s for both a new era and genre," the newspaper's critic added.

In the past, West has taken extreme precautions to prevent pirating of his music, limiting the number of people involved to reduce the risk of files leaking by email or other means. -AFP

Uncle Kracker reflects on his musical journey

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 02:31 AM PDT

Detroit's Uncle Kracker, whose breezy pop approach has bred hits such as Drift Away and Smile, is in his hometown in support of his November album Midnight Special – his first for the Nashville indie label Sugar Hill Records after a 12-year run with Atlantic.

The 38-year-old father of three is hoping to get a boost from his high-profile summer tour with old pal Kid Rock, which will kick off June 28 in Virginia.

On parting ways with Atlantic

"Things just weren't going the way both of us wanted it. It was time to do something different. I'd been with Atlantic my whole career, and I'd gone through different sets of people with every album. It was just time for somebody that understood ...

"Where I'm at in my career, it was the best musical fit for me at Sugar Hill. They've got a pretty eclectic roster, and nobody there is trying to write your songs for you. It's very relaxed. They've had my back since I got there. I like being able to do what I want to do, whenever I want to do it."

On being patient awaiting a single to hit

"The good news is that I've been through that enough to know that happens. Some days you're scraping the bottom, sometimes you're on top. I know what it's like to be skunked, and I know what it's like to yank a few out of the water. I've been very lucky – and blessed – in that department. It keeps everything fun."

On progressing as a songwriter since he started

"Writing songs is a craft, and it's a technique that's more from the heart, not a studied thing. You can look at something and say, 'That's a perfectly written song,' and then there are others where it's like, 'Wow, that's horrible, how'd they do that?' but it still hit you where it counts, and you felt it.

"Music's always been a soundtrack in the background of my life, for everything I've done. I can think back and remember a song for a certain time, even as far back as walking into Disneyland when I was a kid, songs that were played here and there."

On rekindling his partnership with Kid Rock

"We were on different paths for the last seven years. I helped him write a couple of songs on the last record. Lately, we've connected more than we had in a long time. We're gearing up for this next tour with ZZ Top, and I'm sure we'll be writing.

"In the past, it always worked out that my record would come out and I had to tour, and when I was done his record would come out. The cycles never worked out.

"But (last autumn) his record and my record finally came out pretty close to each other." — Detroit Free Press/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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