Ahad, 20 Oktober 2013

The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz


Latest trailer of Ben Stiller&#39;s <i>The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty</i>

Posted:

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is tentatively scheduled to open on Christmas Day.

The Secret Life Of Walter MittyThe latest trailer for this Ben Stiller project, tentatively scheduled to open on Christmas Day, gives us more clues as to who Walter Mitty is. The earlier trailer was brilliant as it had no dialogue except right at the end.

Besides new visuals, this new one has all the bits that appeared in the first trailer only this time we get the conversations. With Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott in the cast – Stiller is also the director – it's not surprising that the film promises to both tickle our funnybone and inspire us. Also, from both trailers, it's very hard not to like an underdog like Walter.

Based on a short story by James Thurber, it introduces us to Walter – an office worker who is letting life pass him by. He is the first to admit that he might as well just blend into the background.

There is a heartbreaking scene in this 168-second trailer when a female colleague (Wiig), whom he is a little in love with, throws a question in his direction. He starts to answer only to realise, a tad too late, that she isn't talking to him at all but to the girl behind him. (Oops. We all hate when that happens to us.) Walter also works for a real douchebag (Scott), a guy who takes every opportunity to belittle him.

No wonder Walter zones out from time to time, imagining he is doing something fantastic – including pushing his boss out the window in a tall building.

But that is not what this film is about. As the trailer progresses, we learn that Walter steps out of his imaginary world to have the greatest adventure of his life. Awww. Let's hope the film lives up to these two very good trailers.

Screening in Tokyo

Posted:

Nine-day film festival in Japan opens with Hong Kong horror flick Rigor Mortis.

Hollywood glitz descends on the Japanese capital this week as Tom Hanks, Robert de Niro and Francis Ford Coppola arrive for one of Asia's largest movie celebrations.

A US$50,000 (RM157,000) top prize is up for grabs at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), where movies from around the globe will be competing for recognition.

The international film section will award the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix and carries with it a US$50,000 (RM157,000) pay-cheque, while the new Best Asian Future Film Award section, aimed at showcasing Asian and Middle Eastern films, offers a US$10,000 (RM31,000) purse.

The nine-day event begins on Thursday with the screening of Hong Kong horror flick Rigor Mortis directed by Juno Mak, which is in the running for the Asian Future award.

US heavyweight father-and-daughter pairing Francis and Sofia Ford Coppola are likely to be a big draw for punters, with Sofia's latest directorial offering The Bling Ring being shown in the special screening section for high-profile films.

"Since the very first TIFF in 1985 ... (it) has been a platform for talented young filmmakers to win international recognition and find inspiration," organisers said in a statement.

Past award winners include Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, whose film, Babel won the Prix de la Mise en Scene, (Best Director Award) at Cannes in 2006, and Michel Hazanavicius, whose film, The Artist won five Academy Awards in 2012.

Chief judge, Chinese director Chen Kaige, said in a video message: "We all understand that good films require talent. Without talent nothing can be done. But sometimes I feel like... there is something even more important than the talent, which is the unique personal understanding of the world.

"But strange(ly) enough ... most of (the) time we could only find this kind of unique understanding of the world in the early age of a filmmaker's career. So that's why we want to pay very close attention to young filmmakers' works," he said.

Last year, 1,332 films from 91 countries and regions were nominated in the international competition, according to organisers.

Previous highlights of the festival include the French film Untouchable, the 2011 winner of the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix. It later set a world record for attendance for a French language film and was a long-running hit in Japan.

The film festival is also aimed at introducing high-profile international films that have not been released in Japan and promoting Japanese independent movies to the international industry. – AFP RelaxNews

<i>Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit</i> trailer

Posted:

Check out the brand new international trailer from Kenneth Branagh's upcoming crime drama.

One of author Tom Clancy's famous characters, Jack Ryan, is coming to the big screen.

The character was last played by Ben Affleck in The Sum Of All Fears (2002); prior to that, Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin have also carried the role in The Hunt For Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992) and Clear And Present Danger (1994). This time around, Ryan is played by Star Trek (2009) actor Chris Pine.

In the latest instalment – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Ryan is a young CIA agent who uncovers a plan by the Russians to cripple the United States government and launch an attack. To make matters worse, his wife is also somehow involved in the whole thing.

The movie, from United International Pictures, is set to open on Dec 31 in Malaysia and stars Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Colm Feore and Kenneth Branagh, who also directed it.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews


Latest trailer of Ben Stiller&#39;s <i>The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty</i>

Posted:

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is tentatively scheduled to open on Christmas Day.

The Secret Life Of Walter MittyThe latest trailer for this Ben Stiller project, tentatively scheduled to open on Christmas Day, gives us more clues as to who Walter Mitty is. The earlier trailer was brilliant as it had no dialogue except right at the end.

Besides new visuals, this new one has all the bits that appeared in the first trailer only this time we get the conversations. With Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott in the cast – Stiller is also the director – it's not surprising that the film promises to both tickle our funnybone and inspire us. Also, from both trailers, it's very hard not to like an underdog like Walter.

Based on a short story by James Thurber, it introduces us to Walter – an office worker who is letting life pass him by. He is the first to admit that he might as well just blend into the background.

There is a heartbreaking scene in this 168-second trailer when a female colleague (Wiig), whom he is a little in love with, throws a question in his direction. He starts to answer only to realise, a tad too late, that she isn't talking to him at all but to the girl behind him. (Oops. We all hate when that happens to us.) Walter also works for a real douchebag (Scott), a guy who takes every opportunity to belittle him.

No wonder Walter zones out from time to time, imagining he is doing something fantastic – including pushing his boss out the window in a tall building.

But that is not what this film is about. As the trailer progresses, we learn that Walter steps out of his imaginary world to have the greatest adventure of his life. Awww. Let's hope the film lives up to these two very good trailers.

Screening in Tokyo

Posted:

Nine-day film festival in Japan opens with Hong Kong horror flick Rigor Mortis.

Hollywood glitz descends on the Japanese capital this week as Tom Hanks, Robert de Niro and Francis Ford Coppola arrive for one of Asia's largest movie celebrations.

A US$50,000 (RM157,000) top prize is up for grabs at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), where movies from around the globe will be competing for recognition.

The international film section will award the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix and carries with it a US$50,000 (RM157,000) pay-cheque, while the new Best Asian Future Film Award section, aimed at showcasing Asian and Middle Eastern films, offers a US$10,000 (RM31,000) purse.

The nine-day event begins on Thursday with the screening of Hong Kong horror flick Rigor Mortis directed by Juno Mak, which is in the running for the Asian Future award.

US heavyweight father-and-daughter pairing Francis and Sofia Ford Coppola are likely to be a big draw for punters, with Sofia's latest directorial offering The Bling Ring being shown in the special screening section for high-profile films.

"Since the very first TIFF in 1985 ... (it) has been a platform for talented young filmmakers to win international recognition and find inspiration," organisers said in a statement.

Past award winners include Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, whose film, Babel won the Prix de la Mise en Scene, (Best Director Award) at Cannes in 2006, and Michel Hazanavicius, whose film, The Artist won five Academy Awards in 2012.

Chief judge, Chinese director Chen Kaige, said in a video message: "We all understand that good films require talent. Without talent nothing can be done. But sometimes I feel like... there is something even more important than the talent, which is the unique personal understanding of the world.

"But strange(ly) enough ... most of (the) time we could only find this kind of unique understanding of the world in the early age of a filmmaker's career. So that's why we want to pay very close attention to young filmmakers' works," he said.

Last year, 1,332 films from 91 countries and regions were nominated in the international competition, according to organisers.

Previous highlights of the festival include the French film Untouchable, the 2011 winner of the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix. It later set a world record for attendance for a French language film and was a long-running hit in Japan.

The film festival is also aimed at introducing high-profile international films that have not been released in Japan and promoting Japanese independent movies to the international industry. – AFP RelaxNews

<i>Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit</i> trailer

Posted:

Check out the brand new international trailer from Kenneth Branagh's upcoming crime drama.

One of author Tom Clancy's famous characters, Jack Ryan, is coming to the big screen.

The character was last played by Ben Affleck in The Sum Of All Fears (2002); prior to that, Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin have also carried the role in The Hunt For Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992) and Clear And Present Danger (1994). This time around, Ryan is played by Star Trek (2009) actor Chris Pine.

In the latest instalment – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Ryan is a young CIA agent who uncovers a plan by the Russians to cripple the United States government and launch an attack. To make matters worse, his wife is also somehow involved in the whole thing.

The movie, from United International Pictures, is set to open on Dec 31 in Malaysia and stars Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Colm Feore and Kenneth Branagh, who also directed it.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


Radioactive water leaks at Fukushima as operator underestimates rainfall

Posted:

TOKYO (Reuters) - Highly radioactive water overflowed barriers into Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, its operating utility said on Monday, after it underestimated how much rain would fall at the plant and failed to pump it out quickly enough.

The utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, also known as Tepco, has been battling to contain radioactive water at the nuclear complex, which suffered meltdowns and hydrogen explosions following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Dealing with hundreds of tonnes of groundwater flowing through the wrecked nuclear plant daily is a constant headache for the utility and for the government, casting doubt on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's promises that the Fukushima water "situation is under control."

After heavy rain on Sunday, water with high levels of radioactive strontium overflowed containment areas built around some 1,000 tanks storing tonnes of radioactive water at the plant, Tepco said. The radioactive water is a by-product of an improvised cooling system designed to keep the wrecked reactors under control in case of further disaster.

Tepco said it had planned to pump out the accumulating rainwater into empty tanks, check it for radioactivity, and if it was uncontaminated, release into the sea. But the company was overwhelmed by the amount of rainwater.

"Our pumps could not keep up with the rainwater. As a result, it flowed over some containment areas," said Tepco spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai. The company had planned for 30 to 40 millimetres of rainfall on Sunday, but by late afternoon the rainfall already stood at around 100 millimetres, he said.

The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 220 km (130 miles) north of Tokyo, highlight the immensity of the task of containing and controlling radioactive water and eventually decommissioning the plant, processes expected to take decades.

Earlier this year, Tepco lost power to cool spent uranium fuel rods at the plant after a rat shorted wiring at the plant.

In the latest incident, containment areas surrounding 12 of 23 groups of tanks overflowed, with one of them containing Strontium-90 as highly concentrated as 710 Becquerels per litre - 71 times higher than the level set by the company as safe for release.

Strontium-90 is a by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors as well as nuclear weapons, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its website.

Tepco said it will prepare some 30 extra pumps and lay additional 10 kilometres of pipes to prevent overflowing from happening again.

The utility has come under increased scrutiny after it found in August that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of the hastily built storage tanks at the Fukushima site. Japan stepped up support for the embattled utility in September, pledging half a billion dollars to help contain contaminated water at Fukushima.

Tepco is seeking permission to restart its only remaining viable plant - Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's largest nuclear power station, to cut high fuel costs and restore its finances.

Egyptian gunmen kill three outside church in Cairo suburb

Posted:

CAIRO (Reuters) - Gunmen on a motorcycle fired on Egyptian wedding guests outside a Coptic Christian church in a Cairo suburb on Sunday night, killing three people, security sources said.

The masked assailants shot randomly at the people as they left the church, the sources said. It was not immediately clear if those killed were Christians, they said.

State news agency MENA reported that one of the dead was an eight-year-old child.

A Coptic priest at the wedding told Reuters he was inside the church when gunfire broke out. Thomas Daoud Ibrahim said he rushed outside to find a dead man, a dead woman, and "many injured".

Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million people, and have generally coexisted peacefully with majority Sunni Muslims for centuries, despite bouts of sectarian tension.

But the army's overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3 has been followed by the worst attacks on churches and Christian properties in years.

The immediate trigger for the attacks was a bloody security crackdown in Cairo on August 14, when police dispersed two Islamist protest camps set up to demand the reinstatement of Mursi, and killed hundreds of his supporters.

(Reporting By Maggie Fick and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Paul Simao)

Mexico calls alleged U.S. spying on Calderon &#39;unacceptable&#39;

Posted:

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico scolded the United States on Sunday over new allegations of spying after a German magazine reported that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had hacked Felipe Calderon's public email account while he was president.

Weekly Der Spiegel said in May 2010, an NSA division known as "Tailored Access Operations" reported it had gained access to then-president Calderon's email account, and turned his office into a "lucrative" source of information.

It said details of the alleged NSA hacking of Calderon's account were contained in a document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden's leaked information has prompted angry recriminations against Washington in Latin America, particularly Brazil.

According to Der Spiegel, the NSA succeeded in hacking a central server in the network of the Mexican presidency that was also used by other members of Calderon's cabinet, yielding a trove of information on diplomatic and economic matters.

Without citing by name the German report, which was picked up by a number of Mexican media, the Mexican foreign ministry condemned the latest allegations about "suspected acts of spying carried out by the National Security Agency."

"This practice is unacceptable, illegal and against Mexican and international law," the ministry said in a statement.

Mexico is one of the United States' biggest trading partners and the report could damage ties as the two sides seek to improve cooperation on issues like cross-border security, migration and fighting organized crime.

The ministry said President Barack Obama had pledged to carry out an "exhaustive investigation" into who was responsible for the suspected espionage in his latest meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto, who succeeded Calderon in December.

"In a relationship between neighbours and partners there is no place for the actions that allegedly took place," it added.

Pena Nieto, who according to separate reports was also a victim of NSA spying before he took office, had already called the alleged U.S. espionage "unacceptable" in July.

Still, Mexico, which sends nearly 80 percent of its exported goods to the United States, has so far offered a more restrained response to the spying allegations than Brazil.

Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff suspended plans for a state visit to Washington due to revelations the NSA had snooped on her communications, and she later blasted the United States over spying at the U.N. General Assembly.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Paul Simao)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV &amp; Radio


Glee to end next year

Posted:

Hit TV series to sing final number after Season Six, co-creator Ryan Murphy says.

It looks like Glee will take its final bow next year.

The Fox drama / musical will end its run after six seasons, Ryan Murphy, the series' co-creator, said at a Paley Center for Media event honoring FX Networks on Wednesday night, according to TV Line.

Murphy, who also runs FX's American Horror Story, said Glee star Cory Monteith's drug-overdose death earlier this year forced him to rethink how to close out the show.

"The final year of the show, which will be next year, was designed around Rachel and Cory / Finn's story," Murphy said, as quoted by TV Line.

"I always knew that, I always knew how it would end. I knew what the last shot was – he was in it," Murphy said. "I knew what the last line was _ she said it to him. So when a tragedy like that happens, you sort of have to pause and figure out what you want to do, so we're figuring that out now."

A spokesperson for Fox declined to comment on the report. However, Murphy's reported remarks essentially confirm those made by Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly at the Television Critics Assn. media tour this summer.

Ratings for the show this year have been low compared with last season's. The season premiere drew about five million viewers and earned a rating of 2.0 in the key 18-49 age demographic, down more than 30% compared with the Season Four opener.

However, a recent episode of Glee that paid tribute to Monteith brought in its best numbers so far this season, with its key demographic rating up 75% compared with the previous week.

The episode featured numerous emotional performances dedicated to the actor, including Lea Michele's rendition of Make You Feel My Love. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Solve your financial woes

Posted:

Everyone is feeling the heat with the cost of living rising. Hence, it's of utmost importance that we learn to manage our finances better.

Under an initiative supported by Bank Negara Malaysia, 988 is collaborating with Agensi Kaunseling Dan Pengurasan Kredit (AKPK, Credit Counselling And Debt Management Agency) to educate the public on this topic.

Whether you're interested in making, saving or investing money, tune in to 988's Yuet Lei Yuet Dor Choi (Prosperity Beckons When You Take Charge) every Thursday from 8am to 9am to get expert advice on managing finances and budget planning.

If you're constantly facing money woes, the simple and practical financial tips should come in handy.

In this 60-minute show, AKPK representative will discuss financial issues commonly faced by the public, with tips on how to overcome them.

Listeners also stand a chance to win RM200 by participating in the show's SMS contest. Questions will be based on the content of the show. Suria FM will also air a similar show called Doktor Wang Suria every Tuesday from 8am to 9am.

Also on 988 this week

April 25 marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong Cantopop legend Danny Chan Bak Keung's passing.

As a tribute, let's take a walk down memory lane with Chan's many golden hits such as Yat Sang Ho Kau. Also, stars like Joey Yung, Raymond Lam, Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Kay Tse and Gin Lee share their thoughts on Chan's music and his influences on their music career.

Music Gets Crazy (Mon-Fri, 1pm-3pm)

Last Vegas, starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, is a new comedy which has been likened to The Hangover... for senior citizens!

Stay tuned for the cue to win tickets to this hilarious film which features an outrageous bachelor party that takes place in Sin City.

*For more information, log on to www.988.com.my. Download the 988 app or stream it online at www.988.com.my.

Casual intrigue in The Blacklist

Posted:

Many questions pop up when watching The Blacklist. Some are highly intriguing, others not so much.

WHAT happens when everything and everyone around you are not what they seem? This conundrum is what Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) faces from the very first day she starts work as an FBI profiler in the new series The Blacklist.

What she thought was going to be an ordinary first day turns into a life-changing moment the minute she is brought into the agency to talk to Raymond Reddington (James Spader), who has been on the FBI's Most Wanted list for years.

On Elizabeth's first day at her new job, Reddington casually walks into FBI headquarters and surrenders. Needless to say, this man has leverage – a list of people who pose a threat to the United States and a plan on how to apprehend them.

Ultimately, the list sways the FBI to grant him conditional freedom. His terms: a stay in a luxury hotel, expensive room service, personal tailor – and he will only talk to Elizabeth.

This last demand is one of the first mysteries that intrigues the audience. Why is Reddington so insistent that he only deals with her, when she has no idea who he is?

She has a dark past, judging from a scar on her hand and something about adopting a child, but how is all this connected to Reddington? The most obvious solution to this question is that he is her father (!) but that seems too easy a way out of this mystery, and The Blacklist is obviously a series that wants to throw many twists at the viewer. Also, Reddington would seem to have more than enough resources to bring down the people on his list by himself. Does he really need the FBI's help like he claims?

Another intriguing mystery in the series is the one which revolves around Elizabeth's personal life. She discovers the man she's married to has a secret, in the form of multiple fake passports, cash and a gun, which he has hidden in a box under the floorboards in their home. Is he a spy sent to keep an eye on Elizabeth? Or is he working with Reddington? The possibilities are endless.

This, in turn, brings us to yet another question – who is Elizabeth that two different individuals have been keeping a close eye on her? By the end of the third episode, a third party comes into the picture and makes it his business to watch her. Just who is she, anyway?

These mysteries are what drive the series more than the list of really forgettable baddies. It's also interesting that the relationship between Reddington and Elizabeth kicks off with the same vibe as Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in Silence Of The Lambs, but goes on to hint at something else.

Actress Boone (Law & Order: LA) gives her character a sombre personality as Elizabeth goes deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, managing to hold her own when placed side by side with the more over-the-top Spader (he has the better lines).

While the main characters are watchable, the people around them are not. The most annoying bit has to do with the FBI. It's all a bit too convenient the way the FBI and the government submit to Reddington's "wishes" by the third episode, though it must be said that the man always seems to have the upper hand even when the bureau has him locked up and isolated in a maximum-security cell.

One reason why Reddington may not feel threatened by the agency may be because the FBI – as portrayed in The Blacklist – is somewhat incompetent. This comes across loud and clear whenever Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) comes into the picture.

This guy insists that he does everything himself, but he's no Jack Bauer (of 24). For example, when he needs to save someone's life, but is miles away, he doesn't pick up the phone and send the closest unit there – he drives madly through traffic and does the job himself. What?

When he is tracking Reddington, he botches it because he doesn't have back-up. Seriously? If this dude isn't annoying enough, they bring in a CIA agent, Meera Malik (Parminder Nagra), seemingly just to have the CIA and FBI butt heads about how each agency conducts its business.

It's a good thing that The Blacklist has a good thing going at its core – the mystery surrounding Elizabeth and Reddington – otherwise it might have ended up on the casualty list all too soon.

*The Blacklist airs every Wednesday at 10pm, first and exclusively on AXN (Astro 701 / HD Ch 721). Reader response can be directed to entertainment@thestar.com.my.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


The Hired Man

Posted:

AUTHOR Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland, but spent much of her childhood overseas. Her previous two novels, The Memory Of Love and Ancestor Stones, have won numerous awards and her memoir, The Devil That Danced On The Water, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize. She was one of the panel of judges for the 2013 Man Booker Prize announced on Tuesday.

The Hired Man is her latest novel and is set in a fictional town named Gost in present-day Croatia. Laura is an Englishwoman with two teenaged children and an absent second husband. They have bought an old house on the outskirts of the town which they intend to renovate and keep as a holiday home.

The narrator, Duro Kolak, is a local man. He is good with his hands and is the only person in the town who speaks English. Laura hires him to do some maintenance and renovation, but is unaware of Duro's personal past connection to the house. In fact, Duro knows the house so well that when he climbs the wooden stairs he automatically avoids the steps that creak.

Anton Chekov once said that if there was a gun in the first chapter then it had to go off by the second or third chapter. In The Hired Man the gun is introduced in the very first paragraph, but the reader has to wait quite a bit longer than Chekov advised before the shooting starts. In fact, the reader spends quite a long time waiting for anything to happen.

Duro is a marksman who never misses his shot. Most of the shooting is at the deer that shelter in the woods on the surrounding hills, but the past is slowly revealed.

There is a sense of something lurking beneath the surface throughout this book and the poignant exchanged glances and charged exchanges among Duro and the townsfolk conceal more than they reveal. Laura is blissfully unaware of all this. Where she sees beautiful pastures full of wild flowers, Duro sees fields have been left fallow for fear of unexploded landmines. Much is hidden beneath the surface. Crumbling plaster on the fa├žade of the house reveals a hidden mosaic. A fountain is discovered beneath the weeds in the garden. An old car is concealed under a dusty tarpaulin. With Duro's help these things are restored and he uses Laura and her family to recreate elements of the past the significance of which only the locals will understand.

The graveyard is laid out like a mirror of the town with rows and zones for the rich and the poor. But even the dead are haunted by the past and some of the graves and their stones have been blown apart by a bomb. The Orthodox church is unused and abandoned because the people who prayed there 'went away.' There are gaps in the village, like the abandoned bakery. There are shops that Duro boycotts, driving far out of his way rather than to give them any business.

Over the summer Laura and her family gradually come to suspect that all in Gost is not what it appears, but they never truly discover the truth and any time things get uncomfortable Duro is always there to smooth things out and feed them fictions that will make them feel safe.

While skilful and mastered, the writing is somewhat cold and distant. Like the damaged narrator, the writer herself has had her fair share of tragedy (her father was hanged for treason in Sierra Leone when she was 11 years old) and there is something staid and clinical about the style that keeps the reader at arm's length. There is plenty of precision but very little poetry, and what little music there is in the writing has all the appeal of the dull rhythmic ticking of a metronome.

The cardboard-cut-out characters feature in the story, but they are never really part of the story. They are neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but if the truth be told, apart from the narrator it is difficult to feel anything for any of them.

At times the narrator slips into the second person, addressing the reader directly, but it happens so infrequently that when it does it jars and rends the otherwise seamless fabric of the story and reveals it for the artifice it is.

What is very well done though is the way the writer depicts the after-effects of the unspeakable, or how people continue their lives despite the awful knowledge of what has been done by ordinary neighbours to other neighbours; how a simple thing like using a different word for "bread" can lead to an unmarked mass grave and how people learn to live with their ghosts and with themselves.

It is an uncomfortable and edgy book that derives its strength by working its way around things rather than facing or stating them directly, much like the cryptic conversations between Duro and his childhood pals who he wishes dead but has no wish to kill, even though he reveals that killing is something that comes very easily and naturally to him.

The deer he kills out of necessity, the soldiers he kills, not because his life is threatened in any way, but just because he can. Despite this chilling side of his character he is the one who ultimately finds the strength to forgive his neighbours and former friends for what they have done. Though he isn't above using Laura and her family to thumb his nose at them and taunt them for what they have done.

The writer finally gets into her stride in the last few chapters, which are the most fluid and readable of the whole book, and it ends more or less satisfyingly.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation


Radio presenters cook up a storm

Posted:

SUBANG JAYA: Eight radio presenters took time out from work to labour for 90 minutes over stoves, kitchen utensils and raw food.

Shoppers at the Empire Shopping Gallery stopped to watch Suria FM deejays Halim Othman, Linda Onn, DJ Lin and news reader Haffiz compete against Red FM deejays Jeremy, Lil Kev, Fiqrie and Terry to cook a three-course meal for four judges at the Palm Oil Rocks Cook Off challenge yesterday.

"The most difficult aspect of this was time, as we do not usually rush like this at home," said Linda Onn, whose team struggled to finish before the bell rang.

The challenge is part of Star Radio Group's initiative to educate Malay­sians on the economic importance of palm oil and its various uses and benefits.

Meals cooked by the two teams contained palm oil as a key ingredient.

Red FM served up creamy pumpkin soup, salmon with yellow rice and sago gula melaka, while Suria FM presented Middle Eastern dishes of tabouleh and nasi Arab kabsa, along with caramel pudding.

Visitors to the event were tickled by the antics of the radio presenters, particularly the all-male Red FM team, which admitted to lacking cooking skills.

"We hardly even knew how we were going to cook what we had chosen, and we just bulldozed our way through," said Terry.

The four judges were the winner of Malaysia's first Masterchef Celebrity Datuk Fazley Yaakob, celebrity chef Sherson Lian, G Tower executive chef Johny Fua and Star Publications (M) Bhd acting group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai.

After evaluating the two teams' dishes based on taste and presentation, the judges declared the Suria FM team as the winners.

In delivering their verdicts, the judges praised both teams for their good work in producing dishes that tasted good within a limited time.

The event was organised by the Star Radio Group and prizes included Buruh and Carotino cooking oil as well as Maggi hampers.

Felda Global Ventures also contributed 100 oil palm seedlings which were distributed to the public after the event.

The Star&#39;s Meng wins another green accolade

Posted:

SINGAPORE: The Star's assistant editor Meng Yew Choong garnered two awards at the second edition of the Asian Environmental Journalism Award (AEJA 2013) here.

Organised by the Singapore Environment Council (www.sec.org.sg), AEJA honours journalists, bloggers and photographers from all over the region for their outstanding work on environmental issues.

Meng, 44, won a merit award on Friday for the Coca-Cola Environmental Story of the Year for his story on the unseen dangers posed by improper disposal of compact fluorescent bulbs.

He also won another merit award as the City Developments Ltd (CDL) Environmental Journalist of the Year for his overall coverage that ranged from waste disposal to energy efficiency and conservation.

CDL is a major Singapore developer, which is supportive of green measures.

The Environmental Journalist of the Year was Jing Li from the South China Morning Post, who reported courageously from China on its manifold environmental problems.

Meng prevailed in a field of 84 entries from 14 countries, judged by a panel of 10.

A fortnight ago, Meng received the Green Tech Journalist of the Year award for English print media from the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation.

That award honours members of the media who have played a catalytic role in driving the nation's green agenda.

Wahid: PM to decide when to start GST

Posted:

JOHOR BARU: The goods and services tax (GST) would help to boost the country's revenue but the enforcement would be decided by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"Also, the Government understands how the GST may cause uneasiness, especially for the lower income group, but measures will be taken to help and reduce their financial burden," said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar.

The Government was aware of the "unintended" negative impact of the GST if it is introduced, he said, but added it was something the country needed to incorporate.

"The GST will be the best way for us to significantly increase the country's revenue and the decision on when to implement it is solely up to the Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister," he said.

Abdul Wahid was speaking to reporters at a conference organised by the Singapore Eisenhower Fellowship Society and Eisenhower Fellows Association of Malaysia held in Nusajaya, near here, yesterday.

He said many countries had succeeded with the GST and they had also introduced various policies to help the lower income groups.

"Some of these policies can be adopted but there is no denying the need for GST to be introduced as soon as possible," he said.

Abdul Wahid also said there is a dire need for the country to slowly reduce subsidies.

"A large chunk of our income is pumped into paying off subsidies.

"For example, for fuel alone, the Government forks out about RM24bil yearly, which is approximately 12% of our total revenue," he said, adding that this was too much.

He said the reduction of subsidies would be done at an acceptable pace.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Self-styled Sulu Sultan dies of multiple organ failure

Posted:

MANILA, Oct 20, 2013 (AFP) - A self-proclaimed Philippine sultan whose followers launched a bloody incursion into the Malaysian state of Sabah earlier this year died of organ failure in a Manila hospital on Sunday, his wife said.

Jamalul Kiram III, 75 - who described himself as the "Sultan of Sulu" after a group of islands in the southern Philippines - passed away at a government hospital but remained defiant to the end, his wife, Fatima Kiram said.

"The sultan died a poor but honourable man," she told AFP, adding that his fight to reclaim Sabah as part of the sultanate's territory would continue.

"His last words to all his brothers and followers were, 'It has already begun. Let us continue it for the good of our people. Do not abandon our people,'" she quoted him as saying.

She said, however, this did not mean renewed violence, adding that the family was willing to enter into negotiations with Malaysia.
Her husband had been undergoing twice-weekly dialysis sessions for kidney disease before his death.

In February, at least 100 armed followers of Kiram, who claimed to be the hereditary chief of the "Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo," entered Sabah to press his claim on the Malaysian state.

After the group refused to lay down their arms Malaysian security forces moved against them, resulting in deadly clashes that left dozens dead and sent the invaders fleeing.

The Sultan of Sulu once ruled over islands that are now parts of the southern Philippines, as well as Sabah.

However the sultanate lost control of Sabah to European colonial powers in the 18th Century. The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.

Kiram and his family, as heirs to the sultanate, still receive annual compensation from Malaysia - the equivalent of about $1,700 - but he had previously said this amount was far too low.

Aside from Kiram, there are other descendants of the sultanate who also claim to be the true sultans of Sulu.

Fatima Kiram said her husband's younger brother, Bantillan, would take over as sultan, stressing he had "the legal authority".

Sydney Opera House celebrates 40 years

Posted:

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Sydney Opera House, world heritage-listed as "one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity", celebrated its 40th birthday Sunday with a flotilla of lifesavers, Aboriginal dancers and a gigantic cupcake.

Huge crowds packed the steps for a distinctively Australian performance on the glittering harbourfront, where three generations of Danish architect Jorn Utzon's family were the guests of honour.

It was a postcard-perfect day beneath the same cloudless blue skies that inspired Utzon's winning design to build Sydney an opera house back in 1956 - the white sails drawn from his childhood in the Aalborg shipyards.

"A building like this happens once in a lifetime," Utzon's son Jan told revellers on Sunday.

"It is a unique Australian expression of will and enthusiasm and 'let's go do it' kind of spirit."

A crew of surf lifesavers wearing their famous yellow-and-red caps and costumes arrived at the Opera House's Man O' War steps on one of Sydney's distinctive ferries, flanked by six of the association's dinghies and two tugboats.

They were met and led up the red-carpeted steps by Aboriginal dancers where a traditional smoking ceremony was held to spiritually cleanse the site accompanied by an indigenous dance ritual and didgeridoo.

A giant cupcake topped with a model of the Opera House made from icing was carried onto the stage by the lifesavers, and Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes - frontman of Cold Chisel - led a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday accompanied by a navy brass band and school choir.

An Etihad A340 made a low pass over the site to cap celebrations.

The distinctive performance hall is one of Australia's best-known landmarks and centrepiece of Sydney's cultural scene, hosting some 2,000 shows every year and attracting 8.2 million visitors.

"As the most internationally recognisable symbol of both Sydney and Australia, it has become our calling card to the world," said Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, whose husband Nicholas Shehadie was the mayor of Sydney when Queen Elizabeth II opened the Opera House on October 20 1973.

"We will never forget the universal joy and pride, heralding a glorious new chapter in the performing arts," she said of that occasion.

Utzon won an international design contest to build the harbour city an opera house in 1956 that attracted 233 entries from 28 countries, despite being relatively unknown in the architecture world.

His ambitious blueprint, drafted from photos and maps without ever having visited the harbour site, took 14 years and Aus$102 million to complete, funded by a state lottery.

It was one of the most difficult engineering feats ever attempted at the time, with Utzon envisaging a chamber with vaulted roofs unsupported by pillars or columns.

The Opera House was listed a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007.-AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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Let&#8217;s juice this up!

Posted:

Juice made from green leafy vegetables is the latest health-food trend. Is it really good for you, or just an expensive fad?

MOVE over flat whites. A drink the colour and consistency of Labyrinth's Bog of Eternal Stench is emerging as the US' must-slurp beverage: green juice.

Drinks made from leafy green vegetables are popping up on supermarket shelves, in juice bars such as Crussh, in recipe books (thanks, Gwyneth Paltrow) and on Instagram, currently clogged with green-juice selfies.

New York is undergoing a "juice bar brawl" as each brand claims its juice is the healthiest.

While vegetable juice is nothing new, with the likes of V8 having been around for years in the US, green-juicing uses large quantities of leafy vegetables and brassicas, such as kale, spinach, chard and broccoli.

The other main difference between (fresh) green juice and traditional vegetable drinks is the technique – cold-pressing, where the juice is extracted by crushing.

Filename : shutterstock_22.1e6e4.original.jpg - To go with

Green juicing uses large quantities of leafy vegetables and brassicas, such as kale, spinach, chard and broccoli. – AFP

Centrifugal juicers use fast-spinning blades that heat up, thus, cold-press converts say, oxidising and destroying some of the nutrients in the juice.

Clare Neill, co-founder of juice company Radiance Cleanse, says juice from a centrifugal machine "oxidises faster because so much air has gone through the juice while it's being made".

Fresh green juice wins several health points over packaged fruit juice and smoothies.

First, most fruit juices sold in shops are pasteurised. Nutritionist Vicki Edgson says: "They're heat-treated, so they have a longer shelf-life and no bacteria, but this means a lot of the nutritional value is knocked out."

Second, green juices contain much less sugar than their fruity counterparts.

Third, there is a range of nutrients present in those dark green vegetables – kale is packed with beta-carotene, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin K.

So, is drinking a glass of green juice as good as eating the vegetables? Not quite. Registered dietician Iona Taylor says: "You'll get the vitamins and minerals, but not the fibre. And the soluble fibre in vegetables is really good for your cholesterol and blood pressure."

There is a potential way around this. Edgson suggests avoiding both standard centrifugal and cold-press juicers, and using a powerful blender instead: "When you pulverise or blend with a Vitamix or similar, you get the benefits of the fibre as well."

Both Edgson and Taylor say there are some people who should approach green juice with caution. Edgson checks that clients aren't on anti-depressants or blood-thinning medication, and is also "a little wary when women are in the first trimester of pregnancy". This is because "many of the ingredients that go into a green juice speed up detoxification through the liver," she says. She is concerned that the juice could increase the rate at which medication moves through the body.

For the rest of us, green juice seems an easy way to add more leafy vegetables to our diets. "You can put a lot more in a juice than you could sit and eat," says Edgson.

But how palatable is a big glass of cabbage? I spent a week finding out.

I kicked off with a mini juice fast from Radiance Cleanse, with six 500ml bottles for the day. The juices were delicious. Alka Green – courgette, spinach, broccoli, fennel, apple and lemon – tasted zesty and vital, with no hint of broccoli or spinach.

I spent the day hovering between the sofa and loo though, and missed solid food, so, for the rest of the week I incorporated green juice into my regular diet instead.

I made my own, following Paltrow's tasty green juice recipe: kale, mint and an all-important apple.

Green juice is surprisingly filling. I drank it mid-afternoon and found it alleviated snack cravings. I experimented with spinach, spring greens and cavolo nero. In juice form, none tasted like the vegetables in question. Most likely it was psychological, but I felt healthier and more energetic, too.

My new green-juicing habit is here to stay. Kale and spinach to go, please. – Guardian News & Media

Look good, feel better

Posted:

Model-turned-actress Jenvine Ong shares her secrets for looking good onscreen.

MODEL-turned-actress Jenvine Ong used to be an ugly duckling. The lanky 23-year-old recalls being a "nerd" with weight issues and skin problems back in secondary school.

"I was studying in the library one day, when someone walked up to me and said: 'Miss, you are really ugly,' and then he walked away."

"I didn't even know that guy," she says, but his comment hit a nerve. "That was when I saw that no matter how well you perform academically, or how good a person you are, you will always be judged by your looks. That's when I told myself, I have to be pretty no matter what."

The following years would see the young lady transform into a swan that would stop any guy in his tracks. Ong went on to become a model, a beauty queen, and an actress.

While her exotic features have made her a much sought-after commodity among casting agencies, Ong admits she has lost a number of career opportunities because of her body. "Casting agents would tell me straight that I have a beautiful face, but I have a flabby body, and that I was fat."

Earlier this year, Ong bagged the title of second runner-up at the Miss Chinese Cosmos South-East Asia pageant.

With her sights now set on the Hong Kong and Taiwan entertainment scenes, the budding entertainer is more determined than ever to cut the fat and shape up.

"I have lost weight since, but my manager still wants me to lose about six kilos," says the 1.69m beauty, who currently weighs 52kg.

Jenvine Ong's fitness regime

I was amazed at how much stronger I'd become (after martial arts training). My body has also gained a lot more tone. —JENVINE ONG

"You have to be really thin to look good on television."

Ong shares that her problem areas are her arms and her thighs. "When you're on screen or in front of the camera, it doesn't matter how flat your stomach is, or how thin your thigh is. If your face and arms look fat, you will look horrible."

To get herself camera-ready, Ong, a former state athlete who represented Selangor in table-tennis in her teens, shares that she follows a regular exercise routine to maintain her slender physique. They include:

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Ong, who juggles her time between modelling and acting, shares that she does not have a lot of time to hit the gym. To stay fit, she relies on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a form of interval training that alternates between short, intense bursts of anaerobic exercise and short recovery periods.

These short, intense workouts, varying from four to 30 minutes, have been shown to improve athletic capacity and condition, glucose metabolism, and facilitate fat burning.

Ong shares that she follows a programme called m100 by fitness trainer Mike Chang, who runs the popular online site sixpackshortcuts.com.

The m100 programme claims that you can burn up to 500 calories in just five minutes – that's more calories than half-an-hour of running, she says.

"I start with three sets of 10 burpees, 10 mountain-climbers, and 10 squats, then finish with another 10 burpees. That's 100 reps altogether," she shares.

"Sometimes, I do it twice a day when I'm feeling fat."

Hiking

When she's not busy posing for the camera, Ong enjoys a good session of hiking. "I used to go hiking about two times a week. I always go in a group, so it is really fun. It also helps build teamwork.

"The best thing is that hiking actually helps burn a lot of calories, and it certainly beats running or working out alone at the gym."

A somewhat underrated exercise, hiking is a great cardiovascular workout. Going up and down hills provides excellent benefits for the heart.

It is also friendlier on the joints than high-impact exercises such as running, and offers psychological benefits to boot. Hiking takes you away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, resulting in feelings of relaxation and enhanced well-being that come on after a long walk in nature.

Martial arts

Ong's first experience with martial arts came when she had to prep for her role as a police woman in her debut film, Gemeilia. Not only did the actress learn how to kick butt in the process, she developed a keen interest in the sport.

"The director thought I didn't have the 'style' of a police woman, and decided that I should take kungfu classes to toughen up. So he sent me for a month-long training," she shares.

"By the end of it, I was amazed at how much stronger I'd become. My body had also gained a lot more tone."

Whether you are looking to improve your cardiovascular health, lose weight, or have a cheaper alternative to anger management, martial arts may just be what you need.

For those who are driven by aesthetics, martial arts can greatly improve the amount of muscle mass that you have, enhancing that "toned" look that you see in athletes.

The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic demands will be – this means you will be burning more calories every day, even while at rest.

While it is unlikely to give you the ability to navigate roof tops, regular sessions of martial arts training can help improve your agility and reflexes. Over time, these newfound skills will result in faster reaction times, and will seep into other aspects of your life, including daily activities such as driving or dodging an annoying colleague.

For optimum results, try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes for at least five times a week.

"I aspire to be a kungfu star, just like Michelle Yeoh," says a smiling Ong.

Despite her blossoming career, Ong shares that she sometimes gets moody from the stress and her diet.

"Unfortunately, I gain weight easily, so I have to be careful with what I eat.

"The problem is, I like to eat, and my friends like to eat, and it can get very frustrating when I'm hanging out with them and I can't enjoy the same food that they're enjoying."

She deals with the frustration by keeping her goals in mind. "I have been in this industry ever since I was 19, and I realise that I haven't made it big yet, partly because of my weight.

"So whenever I get frustrated now, I always remind myself that if you want something, you have to work hard for it, because nothing ever comes easily, and I will work very hard to achieve my goals."

Biodata

Name: Jenvine Ong

Date of birth: Jan 12, 1990 (age 23)

Measurements: 34-25-35

Hobbies: Playing the piano, snowboarding, sports (gym), dancing, martial arts, and reading health magazines

Dislikes: People who are rude and don't respect other people.

Status: Single

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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Self-styled Sulu Sultan dies of multiple organ failure

Posted:

MANILA, Oct 20, 2013 (AFP) - A self-proclaimed Philippine sultan whose followers launched a bloody incursion into the Malaysian state of Sabah earlier this year died of organ failure in a Manila hospital on Sunday, his wife said.

Jamalul Kiram III, 75 - who described himself as the "Sultan of Sulu" after a group of islands in the southern Philippines - passed away at a government hospital but remained defiant to the end, his wife, Fatima Kiram said.

"The sultan died a poor but honourable man," she told AFP, adding that his fight to reclaim Sabah as part of the sultanate's territory would continue.

"His last words to all his brothers and followers were, 'It has already begun. Let us continue it for the good of our people. Do not abandon our people,'" she quoted him as saying.

She said, however, this did not mean renewed violence, adding that the family was willing to enter into negotiations with Malaysia.
Her husband had been undergoing twice-weekly dialysis sessions for kidney disease before his death.

In February, at least 100 armed followers of Kiram, who claimed to be the hereditary chief of the "Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo," entered Sabah to press his claim on the Malaysian state.

After the group refused to lay down their arms Malaysian security forces moved against them, resulting in deadly clashes that left dozens dead and sent the invaders fleeing.

The Sultan of Sulu once ruled over islands that are now parts of the southern Philippines, as well as Sabah.

However the sultanate lost control of Sabah to European colonial powers in the 18th Century. The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.

Kiram and his family, as heirs to the sultanate, still receive annual compensation from Malaysia - the equivalent of about $1,700 - but he had previously said this amount was far too low.

Aside from Kiram, there are other descendants of the sultanate who also claim to be the true sultans of Sulu.

Fatima Kiram said her husband's younger brother, Bantillan, would take over as sultan, stressing he had "the legal authority".

Sydney Opera House celebrates 40 years

Posted:

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Sydney Opera House, world heritage-listed as "one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity", celebrated its 40th birthday Sunday with a flotilla of lifesavers, Aboriginal dancers and a gigantic cupcake.

Huge crowds packed the steps for a distinctively Australian performance on the glittering harbourfront, where three generations of Danish architect Jorn Utzon's family were the guests of honour.

It was a postcard-perfect day beneath the same cloudless blue skies that inspired Utzon's winning design to build Sydney an opera house back in 1956 - the white sails drawn from his childhood in the Aalborg shipyards.

"A building like this happens once in a lifetime," Utzon's son Jan told revellers on Sunday.

"It is a unique Australian expression of will and enthusiasm and 'let's go do it' kind of spirit."

A crew of surf lifesavers wearing their famous yellow-and-red caps and costumes arrived at the Opera House's Man O' War steps on one of Sydney's distinctive ferries, flanked by six of the association's dinghies and two tugboats.

They were met and led up the red-carpeted steps by Aboriginal dancers where a traditional smoking ceremony was held to spiritually cleanse the site accompanied by an indigenous dance ritual and didgeridoo.

A giant cupcake topped with a model of the Opera House made from icing was carried onto the stage by the lifesavers, and Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes - frontman of Cold Chisel - led a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday accompanied by a navy brass band and school choir.

An Etihad A340 made a low pass over the site to cap celebrations.

The distinctive performance hall is one of Australia's best-known landmarks and centrepiece of Sydney's cultural scene, hosting some 2,000 shows every year and attracting 8.2 million visitors.

"As the most internationally recognisable symbol of both Sydney and Australia, it has become our calling card to the world," said Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, whose husband Nicholas Shehadie was the mayor of Sydney when Queen Elizabeth II opened the Opera House on October 20 1973.

"We will never forget the universal joy and pride, heralding a glorious new chapter in the performing arts," she said of that occasion.

Utzon won an international design contest to build the harbour city an opera house in 1956 that attracted 233 entries from 28 countries, despite being relatively unknown in the architecture world.

His ambitious blueprint, drafted from photos and maps without ever having visited the harbour site, took 14 years and Aus$102 million to complete, funded by a state lottery.

It was one of the most difficult engineering feats ever attempted at the time, with Utzon envisaging a chamber with vaulted roofs unsupported by pillars or columns.

The Opera House was listed a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007.-AFP

Japan PM Abe&#39;s brother &#39;goes to Yasukuni shrine&#39;

Posted:

Tokyo (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's younger brother, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine Saturday, a report said.

Kishi told reporters that his action should not affect Japan's relations with other countries and that he had not conferred with the prime minister about the visit, Kyodo News said.

His visit at the shrine's annual autumn festival came only a day after scores of Japanese parliamentarians, including a cabinet minister, paid tribute there Friday, drawing a rebuke from Beijing which said the visit was a bid to "whitewash" history.

Yasukuni is the believed repository of the souls of about 2.5 million war dead.

The shrine is controversial because of the inclusion of 14 convicted top war criminals from the World War II era.

China and South Korea, whose peoples suffered under Japan's militarist rule, say Yasukuni is a symbol of Tokyo's present-day unwillingness to come to terms with its past misdeeds.

However, Japanese conservatives say it is natural that they pay homage to people who lost their lives in the service of their country, and insist the shrine is no different from Arlington National Cemetery, where the United States honours its war dead.

Abe, a committed conservative who has not visited the shrine since he came to power late last year, on Thursday donated a symbolic gift to the shrine, in what was taken as a sign that he would not be there in person.

Abe has so far remained strategically vague about his plan to visit the shrine.

Kishi, 54, is Abe's blood-related brother. But he was adopted by a relative who had the different surname.

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