Isnin, 24 Jun 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Taliban attack Afghan presidential palace - Reuters witnesses

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 08:37 PM PDT

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban gunmen attacked Afghanistan's presidential palace and surrounding buildings, including the CIA's Afghan headquarters, early on Tuesday, with explosions and gunfire shaking the city centre.

Smoke rises from the site of an attack in Kabul June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Smoke rises from the site of an attack in Kabul June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

A Reuters reporter at the palace said the attack began soon after 6.30 a.m. (0300 BST), when at least one man opened fire with an automatic rifle at a gate to the palace in the central Shash Darak district.

Karzai's whereabouts were not immediately known, though he was due to attend a press event at the palace after 9 a.m. (0530 BST).

Reporters had been gathering at the palace when the attack began and dived for cover as government forces returned fire. Heavy explosions resounded and the gunfire intensified.

Schoolchildren walking to classes nearby were also caught in the exchanges.

The Taliban claimed responsibility the attack in a text message to Kabul reporters from spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

"Today at 6.30 a.m. a number of suicide bombers attacked the presidential palace, defence ministry and the Ariana Hotel," Mujahid said.

The Ariana Hotel is known to house the headquarters of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Afghanistan. A thick plume of smoke was seen rising from the building.

An Afghan official told Reuters the attackers had made their way into a nearby building from which they were firing.

Shash Darak includes the most important buildings in Kabul, including the palace, the headquarters of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan Defence Ministry and the CIA's Afghan station.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Related Stories:
All assailants in attack on Afghan presidential palace killed - police

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Singapore smog eases as Indonesian planes waterbomb fires

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 07:50 PM PDT

SINGAPORE/JAKARTA (Reuters) - Air quality in Singapore improved significantly to "moderate" pollution levels on Saturday, as Indonesian planes waterbombed raging forest fires and investigators scrambled to determine the cause of one of Southeast Asia's worst air pollution crises.

A car drives past fire from burning trees planted for palm oil, during haze at Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir, on Indonesia's Riau province, June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Beawiharta

A car drives past fire from burning trees planted for palm oil, during haze at Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir, on Indonesia's Riau province, June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia's environment minister said eight domestic firms were suspected of being responsible for the blazes on Sumatra island that blanketed neighbouring Singapore in record levels of hazardous smog. Parent companies of the Indonesian firms included Malaysia-listed Sime Darby, the government said.

A senior presidential aide on Friday also blamed units of Jakarta-based PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) for the fires.

"We will take legal action whoever they are," Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya told reporters. "Any companies from Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore, they will be legally processed."

But Indonesia's Forestry Ministry, which is leading the investigation, warned about naming suspects and jumping to conclusions too soon.

"We have to be very careful in any legal action. We have to really find out what happened, why the fire happened, and so on. This could be due to negligence too," said Hadi Daryanto, the ministry's general secretary.

Under Indonesian law, any company or person proven to be involved in an illegal forest fire could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to 5 billion rupiah ($503,800).

Sime Darby and APRIL said there were no fires in any of their operating areas in Indonesia.

SMART said they it had a "zero burning" policy and that most, if not all, the fires raging in and near their concessions were caused by the local community.


Singapore has warned the "haze" - which has fuelled fears about health problems and raised diplomatic tension in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia - could last for weeks, or even longer.

Indonesia has deployed military planes to fight the blazes on Sumatra island from illegal burning that typically takes place in the June to September dry season to clear space for palm oil plantations. The fires are unusually widespread this year and the smog was the heaviest in Singapore's history.

On the sixth day of the thick smoke, Singapore's pollution index eased to the "moderate" zone with readings as low as 77. It hit a record of 401 on Friday afternoon, a level considered potentially life-threatening for the ill and the elderly.

Despite the improving conditions, streets in the clean and green city-state were far less crowded than on a typical Saturday when people go out to shop, meet in outdoor cafes and have fun at the park.

The Ministry of Education advised public schools to cancel all activities planned for the holiday month of June.

StarHub Ltd, a cable television and Internet provider, said it was providing a free preview of more than 170 channels over the weekend "as we stay home to escape the unbearable haze".

The cost of the smog for Singapore, a major financial centre and tourist destination, could end up being hundreds of millions of dollars, brokerage CLSA said in a report.

In Malaysia, the haze spread north. Air quality in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, and in several surrounding areas worsened into the "unhealthy" zone. The air quality was now "unhealthy" in 17 areas of Malaysia and "very unhealthy" in one area.

(The story corrects second paragraph of June 22 story to remove Wilmar as a parent company of firms suspected of being responsible for the fires. Adds sourcing to second sentence of second paragraph.)

(Additional reporting by Randy Fabi, Fergus Jensen and Michael Taylor in JAKARTA, Eveline Danubrata and Kevin Lim in SINGAPORE, and Stuart Grudgings and Siva Sithraputhran in KUALA LUMPUR; Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Brazil's Rousseff calls for constitutional vote to quell protests

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 07:10 PM PDT

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff sought to overcome a sudden wave of national discontent with a surprising call on Monday for a referendum on what would be the country's most ambitious political reform in decades.

Police control demonstrators as they march towards the Castelao Stadium during a Copa Confederations soccer match in Fortaleza, June 23, 2013. REUTERS/Davi Pinheiro

Police control demonstrators as they march towards the Castelao Stadium during a Copa Confederations soccer match in Fortaleza, June 23, 2013. REUTERS/Davi Pinheiro

Rouseff proposed a national vote on amending Brazil's constitution in a meeting with governors and mayors the week after the country's largest protests in 20 years jolted politicians of all stripes. It immediately raised questions about whether she could deliver on such an undertaking as she heads to what may be a more difficult re-election in 2014.

Brazil's last sweeping political reform was 25 years ago, when the current Brazilian constitution was ratified in 1988 by the country's last constitutional assembly, three years after the end of its military dictatorship.

"The streets are telling us that the country wants quality public services, more effective measures to combat corruption ... and responsive political representation," Rousseff said, reiterating her support for the democratic spirit of most protesters gathering in Brazil's biggest cities in recent weeks.

It was unclear how Rousseff sought to address political reform, and analysts said her proposal may only add to concerns about whether she can placate protesters whose demands vary but ultimately come down to disillusionment with government.

A constitutional reform could take years as the government must arrange a public vote calling an assembly to debate the overhaul of Brazil's representative democracy.

"The creation of a Constituent Assembly to deliver a deep cutting political reform could add another element of medium-term uncertainty," wrote Alberto Ramos, chief Latin American economist at Goldman Sachs, in a note to clients.

"These transformational events tend to take a long time and the final outcome is extremely hard to predict," he added.

The president also laid out proposals to expand public transport, improve health services and crack down on corruption - concerns raised by the leaderless protest movement that has shaken markets and threatened her popularity.

Still, a sluggish economy has left the president with little room to maneuver the federal budget and protesters are unlikely to see rapid improvements in their daily lives.

Polls taken before the current wave of demonstrations showed public approval for the left-leaning Rousseff had slipped to around 55 percent - enough to win a second term in a single round of voting. She is widely expected to seek re-election next year.

The recent peak of the mostly peaceful demonstrations came on Thursday, when about a million people took to the streets across Brazil with occasional flashes of violence and vandalism.

The days since then have been calmer but social media points to another round of protests surrounding a Wednesday football match between Brazil and Uruguay in the city of Belo Horizonte.

Football has become a focal point for protesters objecting to big funding for stadiums for the 2014 World Cup that they believe would be better spent on transport, education and hospitals.

The demands for better public services have raised concerns about looser government spending, which Rousseff sought to head off by introducing her agenda on Monday with a call for fiscal discipline.

Rousseff then proposed an additional 50 billion reais ($22 billion) of investments to address the complaints about public transport that first set off the protests over two weeks ago.

Fare hikes for buses and subways in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro that incited early outrage have since been withdrawn, and the governor of Sao Paulo also announced on Monday plans to roll back higher tolls on the state's highway concessions.

Rousseff also cited demonstrators' demands to lend urgency to parts of her agenda that have faced political resistance, such as setting aside future oil royalties for education and importing doctors from abroad.

She may struggle to find new tax revenue for her proposals, however, as the economy struggles to gain steam, inflation is eating away at purchasing power, and rising interest rates are making consumer credit more costly.

Two years of what many economists decry as fiscal slippage under Rousseff have also made it tougher to increase spending.

Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on long-term ratings for Brazil's sovereign debt this month to negative from stable, citing a deteriorating fiscal outlook and slow economic growth.

($1 = 2.25 Brazilian reais)

(Additional reporting by Caroline Stauffer and Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo and Maria Pia Palermo in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Shamed by sausages

Posted: 25 Jun 2013 03:42 AM PDT

They came, they saw, they ate ... and they failed to conquer the yard-long sausage. Now, they have to play Cinderella in the award-winning kitchens of Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur.

Papi Zak and Grumpy from Red FM's Really Really Late Breakfast Show (Monday-Friday, 2pm-5pm) attempted to tackle the One Yard Long Nacho Cheesy Smoky Hot Dog each in 45 minutes at the Red FM studio on June 19.

The One Yard Long Nacho Cheesy Smoky Hot Dog, which is served at Gastro Sentral, Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, features a log of meat at a yard long (91.4cm) topped with nacho cheese, tomato salsa, guacamole, pickled jalapenos, deep fried onions and 0.5kg of fries.

Grumpy started off with trying to complete the onion rings and fries, but 20 minutes into the challenge hesurrendered, stating the jalapenos were just too spicy.

Papi Zak who almost finished the meal said: "The mountain was higher than expected.

" When asked about the penalty of being kitchenhands for a day at the bustling kitchens of Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, Papi Zak said he is looking forward to it.

"My first part-time job when I was a student was in a restaurant making burger patties and washing dishes. This time around it will be in a prestigious location, so I can't wait for this experience again."

Nine diners have attempted to take on this challenge but failed. Head on down to Gastro Sentral, Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur to see if you can best this yard long sausage.

Fascinating insight

Posted: 25 Jun 2013 03:42 AM PDT

A new project by Petronas offers a look into the Harvest Festival in Sabah and Sarawak.

WHERE else can you find blowpipe competitions, beauty pageants, homemade rice wine, arm wrestling and traditional warrior dances all in one place? Once a year in Sabah and Sarawak, the local folks get together for several days of traditional rituals and merry-making to give thanks to the spirits and gods for a good rice harvest, and to ask for a bountiful one the following year.

The annual Pesta Kaamatan in Sabah (or Gawai Dayak, as it is known in Sarawak) is a religious, cultural and social festival, which has its roots in ancient beliefs and culture.

From the ngajat – a traditional warrior dance where the men adopt energetic, aggressive movements, complemented by the precise and graceful motions of the female dancers, elaborate headgear and a hypnotic percussion beat – to the communal preparation of traditional dishes, this multi-faceted celebration is truly unique.

Another popular event during the festival is the highly anticipated beauty pageant Unduk Ngadau, that will see the selection of the fairest in the land. Like many other aspects of this annual celebration, the pageant is steeped in history: Legend has it that the Creator, after creating animals and humans, had to sacrifice his only daughter so that his people would have seeds to grow the food they need.

This year, Petronas embarks on a project to capture bits of this fascinating festival in East Malaysia. The Petronas Kaamatan and Gawai Webisodes will be presented as a series of 12 webisodes (short online videos) which will be uploaded sequentially on Petronas' official YouTube channel from June 25 onwards.

The series will also offer an insight into Petronas' signature corporate social responsibility programme Sentuhan Kasih, where the company's employees join in the celebrations and embody the spirit of camaraderie by reaching out to those who are less fortunate in the community.

"Petronas has always sought to bring Malaysians closer together by setting an example through our interaction with the communities we work with and our stakeholders. This includes taking the lead in sharing the concept of togetherness and cross-cultural understanding with our stakeholders by being a part of each celebration with them," says Petronas senior general manager of group corporate affairs division Datuk Mohammad Medan Abdullah, in a press statement.

Hosted by television personality Pamela Chong, this is the first time Petronas is producing a webisode series revolving around the Kaamatan and Gawai celebrations. Each webisode is three to four-and-a-half minutes long.

"The webisodes will educate and remind all Malaysians about how diverse we are as a nation, yet similar in so many ways through the values that we share and the traditions which we continue to hold dear," says Mohammad.

"This is why it is so important to understand each other better and celebrate our rich cultural heritage."

He adds that Petronas endeavours to portray positive values in each of their festive campaigns in a way that is relatable to everyone in our multicultural nation.

It is no different for The Petronas Kaamatan and Gawai Webisodes.

There will be special episodes aired in honour of 2013 being the 50th anniversary of Malaysia Day, which commemorates the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

A new webisode will be available exclusively on the Petronas official YouTube channel ( every Tuesday and Friday, from today onwards.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Chong Wei puts on ‘weight’ and it suits him fine

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 04:50 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is putting on "weight" in his bid for glory at the World Championships in Guangzhou, China, from Aug 5-11.

The 30-year-old has been wearing a new and funky high-tech performance suit in training since last week. Named Lila, it is a locally-made brand and created by Joseph Dolcetti, a former head of the conditioning department at the National Sports Institute (NSI).

Weights are attached to the suit, which uses the Exogen technology (High Performance Exoskeletons), and the wearer can load up to 10% of his body weight.

"Age is catching up. So, I am game to try out anything new in sports science to give me power and speed to keep up with the youngsters. Why not embrace it if it helps. I have tried Lila and I am comfortable with it," said Chong Wei, the first Malaysian athlete to adopt the new weight training programme.

He wore the suit yesterday during his on court training under the watchful eyes of coach Tey Seu Bock, Dolcetti and Sean Sturgess, the NSI's physical trainer.

"I really feel like an ironman," he said, flashing a smile.

"This is a different form of weight training compared to the ones we do. The shirt is comfortable and not bulky. I am able to attach different amount of weights at different parts of my body.

"When I remove it, I feel very light. Ultimately, I hope I will be able to increase my speed and movement on court," said Chong Wei.

Revitalised Indonesia a great concern, warns world No. 1

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 04:25 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia's re-emergence as a badminton powerhouse is a great concern for world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.

In the just-concluded Singapore Open, Indonesia clinched three titles with 25-year-old Tommy Sugiarto scoring a first in his career by winning the men's singles crown. The other two titles were won by in-form Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan in the men's doubles and the ever-dependable Ahmad Tantowi-Lilyana Natsir in the mixed doubles.

In Chong Wei's absence, Malaysia's best performer was Chong Wei Feng who lost to Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand in the quarter-finals. Two others – Daren and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif – were beaten in the first round.

It was even worse in the men's doubles with Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem going out in the first round.

Chong Wei said yesterday the appointment of Rexy Mainaky as the high performance director could see Indonesia challenging for more honours in the future.

"Indonesia are doing well right now. Taufik Hidayat retired at the recent Indonesian Open and then Tommy won his first Super Series title on Sunday. The timing could not have been better. It was a good start for Tommy.

"The Indonesians now have several up-and-coming men's singles players who are stepping out of the shadows of the seniors. Even Dionysius (Hayom Rumbaka) is doing well. We also saw some good results from their doubles department. I believe they are going to be a force again," warned Chong Wei.

Last year, Indonesia returned home empty-handed for the first time from the London Olympics since badminton made it as an Olympic sport at the 1992 Barcelona Games. On top of that, they also failed to make the semi-finals for the first time in the Thomas Cup Finals.

Following Rexy's resignation as Malaysia's men's doubles coach, the All-Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) quickly grabbed him to revive their fortunes.

Since his appointment in April, Indonesia have produced some excellent results. He made a number of crucial decisions, including recruiting former players to be coaches and officials and allowing the independent players to represent the country.

"Rexy was with us (for more than seven years). But since returning to Indonesia, there have been some positive changes there. It is important to have a leader who can oversee and manage the team. If the team is united, I am sure the players will also be encouraged to go the extra mile," added the 30-year-old.

For Chong Wei, he hopes Daren and Wei Feng will step-up for the World Championships in Guangzhou, China, from Aug 5-11.

"Wei Feng's performance is more stable now. He has been reaching the quarter-finals quite consistently but we hope he will be able to go further. Daren's outing in Singapore was demoralising but I hope he will bounce back. He is already 26 and it is time for him to raise his level of performance."

Shuttlers kicked out of training venue as Sukma takes precedence

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 04:24 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The World Championships-bound shuttlers were not smiling after a hard day's work at their national training centre in Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara yesterday.

Besides having to deal with the worsening haze in the country, they have been told that they cannot use the stadium from today onwards as it will be used for the 16th Malaysia Games (Sukma). The Games begin on Thursday and the netball event will be held there.

The shuttlers, who are preparing for the world meet in Guangzhou from Aug 5-11, can only resume training at the stadium on July 8.

With the move to accommodate Sukma, the national coaches will now have to find their own venues for training.

It will also mean that the singles and doubles players will not be training together.

All of them will now have to travel from their hostel to all the different venues, raising the risk of getting injured.

Even the 60 members of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) junior programme are affected as they will have to move to another venue.

The players are preparing for the Asian Junior Championships in Sabah next month.

A player, who chose to remain anonymous, said: "Is Sukma or the World Championships more important? For us, the world meet is a major event and we just have a few more weeks to prepare.

"The Badminton Association of Malaysia should have known that this is not the right time for them to move us around.

"There is also the risk of getting injured. The environment for training will also not be as conducive as the national centre.

"One cannot help but feel like a football, being kicked around. Then, they keep telling everyone they are providing the best facilities and support. It is high time that we get our own centre so that we do not have to face problems like this."

On the haze condition in the country, world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei said they were taking all the necessary precautions.

"We are taking plenty of fluid and are avoiding spending time outdoors.

The haze has even seeped through inside the stadium.

"Some of us are having breathing difficulties and our coaches are tapering down some of our workouts during training.

"We just have to make do with the situation and not let it hamper our preparations," added the two-time Olympic silver medallist.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

CIMB Research: Property stocks to come under short-term selling pressure

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 05:40 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Equities Research expects property stocks to come under short-term selling pressure as share prices rallied after the 13th general election, giving investors an excuse to take profits.

It said on Tuesday any slowdown in property sales will likely be temporary, perhaps similar to the previous cases of two to three months as house buyers hold out for lower prices.

"But given the strong fundamentals of the residential sector with affordability near its best-ever level, transaction volume and property prices should remain firm. We remain bullish on the sector and would advise investors to buy property stocks on any selloff," ot said.

CIMB Research said media reports stated Bank Negara Malaysia may impose curbs on the developer interest-bearing scheme (DIBS).

"If true, this would be negative for developers in the short term, though not entirely unexpected as speculation on such moves had already surfaced in May," it said.

The research house said although such a policy would have a negative impact on speculative demand, it believed the impact on earnings would be muted, while creating a healthier property market led more by fundamentals.

"We remain Overweight on the property sector with Mah Sing as our top pick and robust sales and earnings growth as sector catalysts. Any weakness in property stocks is an opportunity to accumulate, in our view," said CIMB Research.

CIMB Research: Jaya Tiasa’s timber earnings to surge

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 05:53 PM PDT

Published: Tuesday June 25, 2013 MYT 8:54:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Equities Research expects Jaya Tiasa's timber earnings to surge in the coming quarters, due to the recent sharp rise in log prices.

It said on Tuesday another factor is the stronger housing starts in Japan, which are likely to support plywood prices in 2H13.

"We upgrade our call from underperform to Trading Buy given the likelihood of a near-term re-rating, driven mainly by stronger timber earnings.

"We raise our FY13-15 EPS by 29-60% to account for the more bullish outlook for timber prices. Our SOP-based target price goes up to RM2.36 as we apply a higher valuation to the group's timber business," it said.

Affin Research maintains "Add" call on IOI Corp, TP RM5.62

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 06:26 PM PDT

Published: Tuesday June 25, 2013 MYT 9:26:00 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Affin Research is maintaining its "Add" rating on IOI Corporation Bhd with an unchanged targed price of RM5.62.

"As all other salient terms of the Proposals announced on 14 May 2013 remain unchanged, the revision in the above terms does not change our valuation of RM5.62 for IOI Corp based on an implied valuation of RM4.42 for ListCo," it said.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Monsters scare zombies for top chart position

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 08:30 PM PDT

HOLLYWOOD (Reuters) - Monsters University, the prequel to Pixar's 2001 animated blockbuster Monsters, Inc., scared up US$82 million in weekend ticket sales to easily outdistance the week's other new movie, the big-budget apocalyptic thriller World War Z, which came in with an impressive haul of US$66 million.

World War Z, the story of a zombie pandemic starring Brad Pitt, was Pitt's biggest opening weekend ever, easily outpacing the US$50.3 million for Mr. And Mrs. Smith.

Last week's top movie, the Superman reboot Man Of Steel, was third with ticket sales of US$41.2 million.

Monsters University, featuring the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman as monsters who flunk out of the college's scare program, continued the tradition of hugely successful films produced by Pixar, a unit of the Walt Disney Co.

It was Pixar's 14th consecutive film to head the box office for the weekend it premiered in theaters, according to Paul Dergarabedian, president of's box office division, easily outpacing industry projections of a US$70 million weekend.

"It definitely exceeded our expectations," said Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios. "The first film was so beloved and set such a high bar so we're ecstatic."

Hollis said Monsters University was boosted by word of mouth.

"It's turned into a bit of a date night option," he said. "And there haven't been a lot of family options in the marketplace."

Distributed by Paramount Pictures, World War Z was delayed from its initially planned December release after the studio decided to reshoot the final third, pushing its budget from US$170 million to more than US$200 million, according to published reports.

Paramount said the film, which Pitt produced, cost US$190 million to produce. Pitt stars as a former U.N. crisis specialist called upon to help defeat zombies who threaten to take over the planet.

The film had been forecast to rack up ticket sales of about US$50 million, according to's box office division, while the studio said it was looking to the high 40s, given the competition from Monsters and Man Of Steel.

"I don't think there's a person on the planet who thought this would open at US$66 million," said Don Harris, Paramount's president of distribution. "These are pretty heady numbers."

"We're in really good shape" heading into the lucrative peak summer season weeks including the July 4 holiday, Harris said.

"And we certainly broadened the audience," he added, noting the film's 51 percent female-49 percent male audience breakdown, unusual for a big budget summer action film.

Man Of Steel, which stars British actor Henry Cavill as the muscled superhero, has generated domestic ticket sales of US$210 million, already more than 2006's Superman Returns, which starred Brandon Routh and took in just over US$200 million.

Directed by Zack Snyder, the current version was distributed by Warner Bros.

This Is The End, the apocalyptic comedy written by star Seth Rogen and his childhood friend Evan Goldberg, collected US$13 million to take fourth place in the United States and Canada.

Now You See Me, starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg as magicians who evade the police after high-profile robberies, was fifth with ticket sales of US$7.9 million, pushing its total domestic take to just under US$95 million.

Despicable Me 2, which opens July 3 in North America, had a strong debut in Australia where Universal opted to open the film early to coincide with winter school holidays. The film took in US$4.3 million, added to US$2.1 million from paid previews last week.


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Haze: Jakarta must act against firms causing haze, says PM

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 08:28 AM PDT

Published: Monday June 24, 2013 MYT 11:23:00 PM
Updated: Monday June 24, 2013 MYT 11:28:59 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya wants Jakarta to take firm action against companies that are causing the haze, regardless of their ownership.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he will send a letter to President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono to urge the Indonesia government to act against the culprits.

"It does not matter if the companies are Malaysian, Singapore or Indonesian-owned. Action must be taken against those who are causing the haze," he said after chairing the Barisan Nasional supreme council meeting.

Najib said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G.Palanivel would meet with his Indonesian counterpart on Wednesday to discuss on the haze issue.

Malaysia, he said, would also offer Indonesia the service of its water bomber planes to help put out the fires.

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Haze: Indonesia's president Yudhoyono apologises for haze

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 08:34 AM PDT

JAKARTA: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (pix) has apologised for the haze that had blanketed Singapore and Malaysia in recent days and continues to remain a threat in coming days.

"For what has happened, as President, I say sorry and seek the understanding of our relatives in Singapore and Malaysia," he said.

"Indonesia had no intention to cause this. And we will continue to bear responsibility to overcome what has happened," he said in a televised press conference at his office on Monday evening.

Dr Yudhoyono's comments came as Indonesia stepped up its response to the haze with forest fires in Riau continuing to spread, amid efforts to control them by cloud-seeding and water-bombing, and after some of his ministers had hit out at neighbouring countries' reactions to the haze.

"There are statements from several office-holders that I feel need not be put across that way," he said.

"Sometimes the facts have not been checked, and that becomes an issue. This has become a concern from Singapore and also Malaysia," he added.

"There are statements that contradict one another. I have instructed officers that there is no need to give statements like these."

"If there are companies at fault whether they are from Indonesia, or foreign companies, there's no need to say that," he added.

"What is needed is to focus all efforts on overcoming the haze and burning. Enforcement action will continue we leave that to police and the authorities. There is no need to discriminate."

"Whether it is an Indonesian company or foreign company, the law will be applied firmly and fairly," he said. - The Straits Times/ANN

Haze: Kuala Lumpur, Selangor schools back to normal Tuesday, Klang to remain closed

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 08:37 AM PDT

Published: Monday June 24, 2013 MYT 10:20:00 PM
Updated: Monday June 24, 2013 MYT 11:37:04 PM

PETALING JAYA: All schools in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor will reopen tomorrow (Tuesday) while those in Klang to remain closed in view of the worsening haze there.

This was confirmed in a short messaging service (SMS) reply by Education Ministry director-general Tan Sri Abdul Ghafar Mahmud to a query from The Star.

"All schools in KL and Selangor will be reopened tomorrow except for schools in Klang district. Tq," he said.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) for Port Klang touched the 319 mark making the district a hazardous area.

Abdul Ghafar was responding to calls received by The Star as to whether schools in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, which were closed on Monday, would be back to normal tomorrow (Tuesday).

Earlier, Abdul Ghafar said in a statement that all schools located in areas where the API reading is 300 and above must close.

Schools in areas with API reading below 250 should stay open.

The state education department has to refer to the ministry in areas where the API is between 250 and 300.

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Haze: DOE bans open burning in several states
Haze: Parents can opt not to send children to school, says Muhyiddin
Haze: MAS warns of flight interruptions
Haze: Malacca, Kuantan, Port Dickson schools reopen Tuesday but no outdoor activities
Haze: Port Klang now hazardous as haze heads north and east coast
Haze: Govt will support any Indonesian action on Malaysian companies doing open burning


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Air quality worsens in several places in the Klang Valley

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 04:22 AM PDT

THE air quality in the Klang Valley has worsened with Air Pollutant Index (API) recorded at unsafe levels in Port Klang (API 192) and Banting (API 115) over the weekend.

Residents in Petaling Jaya (API 125) and Shah Alam (API 112) are facing the brunt of the Sumatera forest fires in Indonesia as they experience hazy skies and poor visibility.

Visibility in Subang Jaya (API 112) was also greatly reduced early yesterday morning, with motorists driving cautiously with their lights on along the Federal Highway.

A Taman Kinrara, Puchong, resident said he was disappointed that his son's school had not postponed their Sports Day despite the haze.

He said it should be called off and if the situation did not improve soon, he would keep his son at home.

Another resident S.K. Lim from Subang Jaya, said he bought face masks for his children, fearing that they would suffer from respiratory illness from prolonged exposure to the haze.

"My seven-year-old son is suffering from sore throat and eye irritation due to the polluted air."

Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) Health and Environment Department director Dr Chitra Davi N. Vadivellu advised the public to stay indoors.

She also urged residents to reduce the use of ceiling fans in their homes and opt for air-conditioners.

"The air quality is poor and when the fan is turned on it tends to circulate more polluted air into their homes.

"Air-conditioning units with filters and ionisers are better options during this period," she added.

Chitra also advised the public to minimise their outdoor activities and consume at least five glasses of water daily.

Children, especially those who suffer from asthma, should stay indoors.

"Also use the N95 face mask that filters dust from the air.

"If you have young children, keep them indoors at all times, especially when the air quality is so bad," said Chitra.

On whether MBPJ would provide face masks to the Petaling Jaya residents, Chitra said there were no plans to do so as yet.

Postpone outdoor events if API is over 200, says NGO director

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 04:22 AM PDT

Organisers should postpone their events if the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings are recorded above 200, said Global Environ-ment Centre (GEC) director Faizal Parish.

He said this at an interview at SP Setia Bhd's Setia Eco Walkathon yesterday.

Faizal said the walkathon went on as planned as the API reading was at 95 the night before the event.

"If API readings are above 200, it is best not to hold outdoor activities.

"Drink plenty of water and wear a face mask, especially those suffering from asthma," he said.

GEC is a Malaysian non-profit organisation which has been working in haze affected Asean countries over the past 15 years to develop practical solutions to the regional haze crisis.

The organisation provides technical advice to the Environmental Department, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and Forestry Department.

It has set up a booth at the walkathon to increase awareness on their "Stop the Haze" campaign.

GEC is conducting daily patrols at peat forests with another non-profit organisation Sahabat Hutan Gambut to check on peat fires, which are difficult to extinguish.

It also has a community-based peatland fire prevention programme to promote sustainable management of peatland bio-diversity in Southeast Asia.


The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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Families still out and about with children despite worsening haze

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 04:05 PM PDT

PASIR GUDANG: Despite high air pollutant index (API) readings here, parents, especially with small children, were still having picnics, fishing and allowing their children to play at the playground in Bukit Layang-Layang here.

Checks by The Star revealed that although the number of visitors were few, there were a handful of families who had brought along young children including infants.

Most of them were not wearing facemasks despite the whole area being blanketed by haze.

Logistics officer Yunos Jumail, 36, said that it was his two children aged 8 and 12 who insisted that the family go to the lake.

"My boys were restless as schools have been told to close and they have been cooped up at home.

"This is the main reason why I decided to bring them here today," he said adding that although the haze was quite bad, he planned to only spend a few hours outside.

Yunos who admitted that his throat felt itchy and uncomfortable also said that he only had the weekends to spend with his family.

Another parent, businesswoman Zulhasni Md Zulkifli, 26, also said her three daughters had insisted that she bring them out despite the haze.

"The haze is quite bad in my area and waking up to the smell of smoke is something of a norm now.

"My husband and me however, decided to bring my children out to the park as it is a weekend and we usually participate in some family activities," she said, adding that her daughters were aged 3,4, and 9.

When asked if she was not concerned that the haze could affect her children's health, Zulhasni said that she had brought along masks if the condition worsened.

Meanwhile, State Health Department director Dr Mohd Khairy Yaakub said that it was dangerous for children to be out and about in the haze.

"The levels in Johor are high and the suspended particles in the air can irritate and harm the respiratory system, especially for children.

"The affects may not be seen immediately but the haze contains dangerous chemicals including sulphur dioxide and nitrous dioxide which can cause children to develop all sorts of illnesses," he said.

He added that the vulnerable skin of children could also be irritated by these chemicals.

"Parents should be responsible and not wait until the air quality turns hazardous before taking precautions," he said adding that outdoor activities were unadvisable.

The latest readings by the Department of Environment show that all areas in Johor are above the unhealthy levels with Muar leading with an API of 373, Pasir Gudang, 190, Kota Tinggi, 187 and Larkin Lama, 170.

God’s gift is free

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 04:13 PM PDT

KOTA TINGGI: For the past 10 years, locals have been crying foul over the mandatory entrance fee at the Kota Tinggi waterfalls here.

Businessman Datuk Mohamad Mahmood, 56, who voiced out the issue to state government officials during a dialogue session here, said that the state government have deprived the locals of their favourite recreational place.

"The waterfall is God's gift for all, and it is one of the favourite recreational spots here, but since the government has privatised the area, we locals, especially the poor, cannot afford to visit it often," he said.

He added that visitors are charged a sum of RM7.50 per person for entrance regardless of their age and another RM5 for parking.

"Foreigners only pay an additional RM2.50 for their entrance fee," he said adding that he has brought up the issue several times to the Kota Tinggi Municipal Council, but the council had failed to look into the matter.

In reply to the issue, Kota Tinggi district officer Mohd Noorazam Datuk Osman said that the waterfall was currently under the care of Johor Economic Planning Unit (UPEN).

"We have reviewed the issue and discussed the matter with UPEN, and have mutually decided to discontinue the agreement.

"Termination of the agreement is in process but I will write an official letter to UPEN to request them to speed up the process," he said.

The community dialogue session was headed by Johor State deputy secretary Norizan Kulop, with a panel of 17 officials including the Prime Minister's Office Public Complaints Bureau (BPA) head Datuk Mahani Tan Abdullah.

The session, which was organised by BPA, was held at Dewan Jubli Intan here on June 14.

Datuk Mahani said that since January this year, BPA had received a total of 4,529 complaints nationwide, of which 208 complaints were made against government departments and agencies in Johor.

"We will follow up with the complaints made here today, to ensure that the rakyat's issues are addressed and resolved as soon as possible," she added.

About 480 Kota Tinggi residents came forward to voice out their concerns over various issues including security and safety issues as well as the lack of road signs in the district and a total of 65 official complaints were made during the session.

Executive ordered to enter defence

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 03:28 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: A 28-year-old contract executive was ordered to enter his defence after a Sessions Court here found he had a case to answer for insulting the Johor Sultan on a social networking site.

The prosecution had proved a prima facie case against Ahmad Abd Jalil for posting the insult on Facebook under the profile name of 'Zul Yahya' at around 10pm on October 10, 2012.

He committed the offence under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Ahmad was first charged on Nov 8, last year where he pleaded not guilty to the offence committed on a computer in his office in Jalan Wangsa Delima 11, Seksyen 5, Kuala Lumpur.

Sessions judge Muhammad Jamil Hussin ordered Ahmad to enter his defence on July 25 and 26 where the defence would call up four witnesses.

Muhammad Jamil said that the court found circumstantial evidence against Ahmad, which was the IP address traced from his office computer and mobile phone that was the exact one as derived from the Facebook post.

The prosecution was led by Johor prosecution unit head Umar Saifuddin Jaafar and DPP Norashikin Ibrahim while Ahmad was represented by defence lawyer Mohd Radzlan Jalaludin.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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Robin Thicke hold on to top UK chart spot

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 08:42 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - American R&B singer Robin Thicke has notched up a fourth week at the top of the British pop charts with his summer hit Blurred Lines, the compiler said on Sunday.

The Official Charts Company said Thicke sold a further 133,000 copies of the single over the last week to bring total UK sales to 718,000, the year's second biggest selling track.

The song, which features vocals by U.S. artists T.I. and Pharrell Williams, has already been a number one hit in the United States and around the world.

Second place on the weekly single chart went to American singer Jason Derulo's new release The Other Side.

London-based rapper Dizzee Rascal was the second highest new entry at number five with Goin' Crazy, a collaboration with British singer Robbie Williams.

On the album charts, U.S. rapper Kanye West secured the number one position with his new entry, Yeezus. It was his first British number one album since Graduation in 2007.

Last week's top-selling album, 13, by heavy metal veterans Black Sabbath, fell one spot to second place.

2PM wins album of the year at MTV VMAJ

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 08:08 PM PDT

JAPAN(Reuters) -- Korean boy group 2PM has nabbed a trophy at MTV's Video Music Awards Japan (MTV VMAJ 2013) for the second year in a row.

2PM's second Japan studio album LEGEND OF 2PM won Best Album of the Year at MTV VMAJ 2013, which held its star-studded awards at Chiba city's Makuhari Messe last Saturday night, 2PM's agency JYP Entertainment said in a statement the following day.

Proving their overwhelming popularity in the country, the six-member group took the honour after beating out famous pop artists Linkin Park, Carly Rae Jepsen, One Direction and Japanese artist Nishino Kana.

"It was such an honor to join other great artists at the last year's awards and we're so grateful for this big award again this year. We feel sorry that we are unable to show up at the awards due to our Korea concerts but promise to show you better performances in the future," 2PM members were quoted as saying.

2PM had grabbed Best Group Video awards at MTV VMAJ 2012 with the music video of I'm Your Man, the title tune to their first Japan full-length album REPUBLIC OF 2PM.

The idol group wrapped up their Asia tour 2PM LiVE TOUR What Time Is It? with two sold-out Korea shows over the weekend, and are revving up for their vigorous individual activities in and out of Korea.


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