Selasa, 5 November 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Government websites down due to tech glitch


SEVERAL government websites were unavailable for a few hours last Saturday because of a technical glitch, and not because they had been hacked into.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said yesterday that the glitch had occurred during maintenance work to beef up security.

"At no point was it a hacking attempt," said an IDA spokesman at a press conference in the evening.

Government agencies had been on heightened vigilance to enhance the security of their information technology systems since global hackers group Anonymous made threats against them last Thursday.

Over the next few days, some government websites may experience intermittent access while maintenance continues. Agencies will try to complete the work as soon as possible, said the spokesman.

To bolster their resilience, selected government websites had to be taken offline for maintenance.

But last Saturday, between 1pm and 3pm, a combination of Internet routing issues and hardware failures caused a glitch, which took the websites offline longer than expected.

This was rectified by 5.20pm, said IDA.

Websites of the Singapore police and the ministries of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs were among those affected by the glitch.

Unaffected websites included the Central Provident Fund, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Defence Ministry.

Last Thursday, a YouTube video posted by "Anonymous" threatened to bring down Singapore's infrastructure in a show of protest against licensing regulations on news sites.

Instituted in June, the regulations require selected news sites with at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month over a period of two months to post a S$50,000 (RM127,000) bond and take down content against public interest or national harmony within 24 hours.

"We demand (that) you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you," said the video message, delivered by someone wearing a Guy Fawkes anonymity mask.

The threat last Thursday followed attacks mounted on Ang Mo Kio Town Council's homepage on Monday last week. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Son of former JI leader deported to Singapore


INDONESIAN police have deported the son of former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader Mas Selamat Kastari to Singapore, where he is now under investigation, both countries confirmed.

Masyhadi Mas Selamat, 24, a Sin­gaporean, was deported last Wed­nesday, 10 days after he was arrested during his wedding reception in Solo, Central Java, for violating immigration laws.

National police spokesman Ronny Sompie told reporters yesterday that Indonesian police helped nab Masyhadi, known here as Muham­mad Hanif Mas Selamat, after Singapore filed a request through Interpol.

"Hanif (Masyhadi) was on a wanted list from Singapore, in connection with terrorism," he told reporters at the Indonesian National Police headquarters.

Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry, in a statement yesterday, confirmed that Masyhadi is being investigated "to ascertain if he has been involved in activities that are inimical to the security of Singapore". — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Yingluck defends amnesty Bill


BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra defended a controversial political amnesty bill that has sparked mass anti-government protests, urging the country to "forgive" after years of civil strife.

Opponents fear the legislation would allow fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra – Yingluck's brother – to return from self-imposed exile.

Yingluck said the amnesty was needed to reunite the country after years of turmoil culminating in a bloody crackdown by the previous government on pro-Thaksin "Red Shirt" protests in 2010 that left dozens of civilians dead.

"Since this government took power it has focused on reconciliation," she said in a nationally televised address.

"An amnesty is not about forgetting our painful lessons but about learning so it does not happen again to our young generation," she said.

"If people learn how to forgive, the country will move forward."

There have been daily demonstrations in Bangkok since parliament began debating the bill last week.

More than 10,000 protesters marched through the capital on Monday, seeking to raise pressure on Yingluck's government over the controversial bill.

Small rallies were also held in several provincial towns.

The legislation has even angered some Red Shirts who want justice for the killing of more than 90 protesters on the streets of Bangkok in 2010.

Rights groups have warned the amnesty would "whitewash" past abuses.

Seven years after he was toppled by royalist generals in a bloodless coup, Thaksin remains a hugely divisive figure in Thailand.

The former telecoms tycoon lives in Dubai to avoid prison for a corruption conviction imposed in his absence in 2008 that he contends was politically motivated. — AFP


The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

Michelle Pfeiffer was in a cult


The actress talks about the early days of her career, in a magazine.

Little-known fact about Michelle Pfeiffer: She was in a cult, once.

The three-time Oscar nominee, who was most recently seen alongside Robert De Niro in Luc Besson's mob comedy The Family, told The Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine that she was manipulated by a "very controlling" couple of "kind of personal trainers" during her early days in Hollywood.

"They worked with weights and put people on diets. Their thing was vegetarianism," Pfeiffer said.

"They were very controlling. I wasn't living with them but I was there a lot and they were always telling me I needed to come more. I had to pay for all the time I was there, so it was financially very draining."

The actress said they were pushing her toward practicing "Breatharianism", which is a lifestyle based on the belief that absorbing energy from the sun trumps nourishment from food – a diet Pfeiffer said "nobody can adhere to".

Pfeiffer didn't realise she was in a cult until she was introduced to her first husband, Peter Horton, who had been cast in a film about Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Describing the religious group as a "cult", she said it was an ex-member – once commonly called a Moonie – that made her realise she too "was in one".

"We were talking with an ex-Moonie and he was describing the psychological manipulation and I just clicked," Pfeiffer said. — Reuters

Like father, like son


Father-and-son team Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan strike again with another blockbuster.

The latest instalment of the hit Indian science-fiction film franchise Krrish opened last week. But Krrish 3, in which Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan plays the titular superhero, has already been buzzing on YouTube way before the release date.

The actor, who is known for his slick dance moves, has had nearly four million views for a song from the movie, Raghupati Raghav. It is a classic Hrithik Roshan song-and-dance deal, complete with rippling biceps and nifty feet grooving to the beat of the catchy number.

In fact, he is so in control of the moves that Bollywood's It-girl Priyanka Chopra, his co-star in the movie, hardly matters in the song.

But making Krrish 3, one of India's most successful superhero series of films, has been hard work for him for the better part of three years. Most of the time was devoted to the scripting, pre-production and planning of the film, which was directed by Hrithik's father Rakesh.

Taking the risk: Hrithik Roshan, a commerce graduate, turned down a master¿s degree scholarship to the United States so that he could pursue his dream to be an actor.

Taking the risk: Hrithik Roshan, a commerce graduate, turned down a master's degree scholarship to the United States so that he could pursue his dream to be an actor.

Both father and son say they believe in "meticulous planning", so they do not lose a single day during their shoot.

Roshan senior conceptualised the lead character played by Hrithik as a "superhero with human powers". Krrish took off from his earlier film Koi... Mil Gaya (I Found Someone, 2003) – the first of the Krrish series – whose E.T.-like character called Jadoo turned out to be a huge hit among children.

When asked why the two earlier Krrish films have been so popular when other Indian science-fiction superhero films such as Ra.One (2011), starring Shah Rukh Khan, have had limited success, Rakesh Roshan says it was due to the franchise's slow build-up.

What helped, too, was the lack of any obvious reference point to make the film. "We did not have to fall back on comic books, so we were in a sense free to create our superhero the way we wanted to," says the senior Roshan, who directed all three Krrish films.

For Hrithik, the challenge was playing different roles in the film. "They have brought the best out of me as a person and as an actor. I play Rohit, who is mentally challenged, and then I am allowed to become a superhero. As an actor, you don't often get to be different people in the same film. It is so magical."

Director Rakesh says it is "uncanny" how alike their thoughts are. Whatever differences they had about approaching their films – they have worked on several films together and he launched his son's acting career with Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (Tell Me, You Love Him, 2000) – were during the scripting stage, never on set.

"When we discuss the script, we thrash out all our differences. On the set, there is no discussion. We are both on the same wavelength and that is very uncanny and surprising sometimes."

They are also candid when talking about Hrithik's acting career.

Rakesh, who was an actor, had reservations about his son entering the movie business and wanted him to finish his studies first.

But Hrithik, a commerce graduate, turned down a master's degree scholarship that could have taken him to the United States because he says he always "knew he wanted to be an actor".

"My father was very afraid. He knew the struggle an actor has to go through. He had struggled for 20 years. Our house had been mortgaged. I told him: If this is my destiny, I can and will do it."

And he did. He made his debut as a six-year-old in the 1980 film Asha (Hope). After finishing college, he worked as an assistant helping out his father on his films before moving in front of the camera as an adult.

This was "good training", he says. The on-the-job training clearly worked and he saw success in several blockbusters including Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness, 2001), thriller Dhoom 2 (2006), action thriller Agneepath (Path Of Fire, 2012) and the Krrish franchise.

Now, Rakesh is the all-proud father as he says of Hrithik's career: "You have just seen the beginning. I say this not because he is my son. I say this as a director. He has a lot of potential."

On his part, the actor is "extremely proud" of his father. "I was his assistant for five years and all my knowledge of cinema has come from him. We work without any ego. That is something which should be a template for anybody who is in the creative field. You have to always think of the final outcome. That is what makes us click on and off set."

Working with his dad on the Krrish series, he adds, has been a great journey.

"All special effects are done in India. I feel very happy we have taken on the challenge. Because if we don't, who will?"

Is Krrish 3 the end of the franchise? The quick-thinking actor is swift with his response: "It depends on what you have to say. If you tell us to do one more, we will."

These days, the actor – who has two children with wife Suzanne, daughter of actor Sanjay Khan – wears Krrish's symbol around his neck on a chain because it is a reminder to keep pressing on, with a "spirit to conquer". He says: "It does not matter what breaks me, what puts me down – I will keep rising back."

Hrithik as the hero in Krrish 3

He knows a thing or two about rising back. Through his acting career, he has had to deal with several injuries, including a slipped disc. Months before the Krrish 3 promotions, he underwent brain surgery in a Mumbai hospital. He had suffered a head injury while performing a stunt during the Krrish 3 shoot and did not attend to it immediately.

Four weeks after the surgery, he got back to his fitness routine.

But the poster boy for fitness and health harbours a secret: As a child, he hated drinking milk and poured it down the kitchen sink till he was caught by his mother – a fact buried in a newspaper story from sometime ago that showed up in a Google search.

When asked about it, he laughs out loud before saying: "How did you know that? I know being a symbol for healthy living and fitness, this may sound strange, but as a child, I could not stand the smell of milk. I had to run away. I can say now, every child must have his milk."

The buff actor is often called Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire, for his striking good looks, his light eyes and his chiselled features. But he ends all the parallels with this: "You know, I went to Greece. Nobody recognised me. I am not a Greek god at all." – The Straits Times/Singapore, Asia News Network

>Krrish 3 is now showing in cinemas nationwide.


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Bart Simpson says goodbye to Mrs Krabappel


The Simpsons salutes Marcia Wallace with poignant farewell from TV's favourite prankster.

The Simpsons paid Marcia Wallace, who died last week, the show's ultimate compliment at the opening of Sunday night's episode in the United States.

"We'll really miss you Mrs. K," scrawled Bart Simpson (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) on the chalkboard in the sequence that begins each episode of the long-running Fox animated hit. It was a reference to Edna Krabappel, Bart's oft-tormented teacher who was voiced for years by Wallace.

The Simpsons

Bart Simpson (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) and Mrs Edna Krabappel (Marcia Wallace) in one of their familiar scenes from The Simpsons

In addition, Fox aired a 1992 episode of the show for which Wallace won an Emmy as the lead-in to the new show.

In the classic episode Bart The Lover, after Edna gives Bart a month of detention, he gets his revenge on her by responding to her newspaper singles ad. Wallace, also known for her work on The Bob Newhart Show, died at age 70 from breast cancer last week. — Reuters

New animation on WWE stars as kids


WWE and Film Roman team up to make web series about young wrestling stars.

WWE Studios has partnered with Film Roman, The Simpsons animation studio, to co-finance and co-produce Camp WWE, a new animated web series imagining the WWE's biggest stars as kids, the companies announced Monday.

Mike Benson, a writer and co-executive producer for Entourage and The Bernie Mac Show, will write the series, which will consist of 13 three-minute episodes.

"With a combination of their unique personalities, distinctive characteristics and huge built-in loyal fan base, WWE Superstars make for ideal animation subjects in Camp WWE," Dana Booton, general manager for Film Roman, said in a statement.

"We are very pleased to be working with WWE Studios and hope that it will begin a mutually beneficial, long-term business relationship."

The show will envision WWE stars as a lot of rebellious kids who fight and claw their way through school. Their parents send them off to camp to reform their behaviour, a camp run by a strict counsellor named Mr McMahon – the name, of course, of WWE CEO Vince McMahon.

Bradley Buchanan negotiated the deal for WWE Studios while Marc Barson and Yvette Thomassian negotiated the deal for Film Roman. "Film Roman has been involved with some of the most well-known and humorous animated series," Michael Luisi, president WWE Studios, said in a statement.

"They are the perfect partners for WWE Studios to capture our Superstars in a truly unique and fun way." — Reuters

NCIS gets a new cast member


Actress Emily Wickersham is now a series regular in the hit programme.

I Am Number Four actress Emily Wickersham has been cast as a series regular on the CBS drama NCIS, starting with the Nov 19 episode that will air in the United States.

Wickersham, whose TV credits nclude The Sopranos, The Bridge and Gossip Girl, plays NSA analyst Eleanor "Ellie" Bishop, who's described by CBS as "a mysterious mixture of analytic brilliance, fierce determination and idealism who specialises in international threat assessment and global preparation."

Bishop will be introduced when it is discovered the Secretary of the Navy was bugged during a confidential briefing, a security breach Bishop described in exact detail two years ago in a threat analysis report.

Working side-by-side with Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the team, Bishop cross-examines the case file to help determine who is behind the crime. — Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Microsoft finalising CEO candidates


NEW YORK: Microsoft Corp has narrowed its list of external candidates to replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to about five people, including Ford Motor Co chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The world's largest software maker also has at least three internal candidates on its shortlist, including former Skype CEO Tony Bates, who is now responsible for Microsoft's business development, and Satya Nadella, the company's cloud and enterprise chief, the sources said.

Despite the shortlist, the process could still take a few more months, the sources said. In August, Ballmer said he would retire within 12 months.

The names of other candidates could not be learned, but the search committee is interviewing executives from a wide range of sectors, including life sciences and consumer, the sources said.

Microsoft declined to comment on the process and on behalf of the internal candidates. A Nokia representatives could not be reached immediately for comment late on Tuesday.

"There is no change from what we announced last November. Alan remains fully focused on continuing to make progress on our One Ford plan. We do not engage in speculation," Ford spokesman Jay Cooney said

Investors have pushed Microsoft's board in recent months to look for a turnaround expert, such as Mulally and Computer Sciences Corp CEO Mike Lawrie, to succeed Ballmer.

Some investors have also suggested to the board that co-founder Bill Gates should step down from his role as chairman, saying he stands in the way of radical reform at Microsoft, which has lost ground to Apple Inc and Google Inc in mobile computing.

Gates has not indicated any intention of stepping down.

Investors are concerned that, with both Gates and Ballmer up for re-election to Microsoft's board, they will retain their influence over the company.

Members of the CEO search committee have continued to speak with dissenting shareholders in trying to delicately balance their demands, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

Activist shareholder ValueAct Capital Management was offered a board seat by Microsoft in August. Several sources said the investor will also be given the same access as the board to the final five candidates – Reuters. 

Malaysian Resources Corp falls to lowest since April


KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd (MRCB) fell to the lowest since April 2013 in the absence of any strong re-rating catalysts, except the recent R32.5mil power installation project.

At 10.41am, it was down one sen to RM1.38. There were 728,7000 shares done at prices ranging from RM1.37 to RM1.38.

The FBM KLCI fell 3.65 points to 1,803.82. Turnover was 914.50 million shares valued at RM588.69mil. There were 233 gainers, 320 losers and 278 counters unchanged.

In late October, MRCB secured a RM32.5mil project to install an overhead electricity transmission line from Pantai Siring to Pulau Besar in Malacca.

Financed by the state government of Malacca and Tenaga Nasional, MRCB's subsidiary bagged the contract under its construction & engineering division, Transmission Technology Sdn Bhd with its JV partner, Ketara Teknik Sdn Bhd to build the unique transmission line.

Meltdown unresolved, Tepco wants to restart plants


TOKYO: Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear station, will propose restarting another of its atomic plants next July in a new business plan to be released in December, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The indefinite closure of the firm's Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's biggest nuclear plant, has saddled it with high fossil fuel costs as it flounders with a fraught clean-up at the Fukushima Daiichi station, which had three reactor meltdowns after a quake and tsunami in 2011.

The company, known as Tepco, is rewriting a business revival plan following US$27bil of losses from the disaster, which included restarting reactors at the Kashiwazaki station northwest of Tokyo as a central element.

But it faces an uncertain future as the government has threatened to split it up.

Tepco will outline to its creditors as early as mid-November projected incomes and expenditures based on the revised restart plan to get approval for a new loan worth 300 billion yen (US$3.04bil), the Yomiuri said, without citing sources.

The restructuring plan will list July 2014 as the target restart for the No 6 and No 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki, as well as plans to restart the No. 1 and No. 5 reactors at the plant, the Yomiuri said. In its earlier plan, Tepco had hoped to restart the first unit from April this year.

The utility in September filed an application to restart two of the plant's seven reactors.

But the regulator Nuclear Regulation Authority has said Tepco needs to prioritise cleanup efforts at the Fukushima plant before working to restart Kashiwazaki.

A Tepco spokesmen told Reuters that the company had not finalised the plan, adding that a restart date remained uncertain due to ongoing safety assessments and the need for local government backing.

Even if Tepco wins approval from regulators, it faces high hurdles as the local governor, who can block the restart, has said the utility must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster before restarting Kashiwazaki.

Japan plans to start up 14 new gas and coal-fired power plants by the end of 2014, allowing a switch away from pricey oil, as Tokyo struggles with the shutdown of nuclear reactors and energy imports drive a record trade deficit – Reuters.


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Skirmishes and heavy traffic mar polling day


YAN: Sporadic reports of skirmishes and massive traffic jams along the main roads marred an otherwise smooth polling day in Sungai Limau.

Tensions ran high in several locations in the constituency, such as Sungai Limau, Sungai Dedap and Ulu Sedaka, while traffic was reduced to a crawl for more than 20km, stretching from Sala to Dulang.

In Ulu Sedaka, a Wanita Umno member lodged a report at the Guar Chempedak police station, claiming that she was punched by a PAS supporter, following a dispute.

Norsidah Abu Bakar, 50, said she was standing with other Barisan Nasional workers near SK Ulu Sedaka at about 9am when a group of PAS supporters told them to move.

"We refused because we were there first. A policeman then came to help resolve the situation and gave us guidelines as to where we should stand.

"Suddenly, one of the PAS supporters threw a punch at me. I was hit on my right eye. I felt dizzy and fell down to the ground," said the Batu Umno committee member after receiving outpatient treatment at the Yan Hospital.

Kedah police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Ahmad Ibrahim said police had gathered information over the incident, adding that it was being investigated under Section 354 of the Penal Code for outraging modesty.

Police have detained a man in relation to the incident.

Later, Barisan Nasional candidate Dr Ahmad Sohaimi Lazim alleged that his Honda CRV was set upon by PAS supporters while it was parked not far from the SK Sungai Dedap polling station.

Sungai Dedap, one of 19 polling districts in Sungai Limau, is generally regarded as a PAS stronghold.

Tempers also flared in the Sungai Limau polling district where PAS won by a razor thin 12-vote majority in the last general election.

Police were quick to avert a brawl after Barisan and PAS supporters went into a shoving match outside SK Sungai Limau.

Affordable readers in the market to verify an applicant’s MyKad


PUTRAJAYA: Employers can now check if their job applicants are using genuine or fake documents by using MyKad readers that are now sold at affordable prices.

Many of these devices are already available in the market and buyers can check the list of devices endorsed by the National Registration Depart-ment (NRD) at its website.

An NRD official and several suppliers confirmed to The Star that businesses could purchase these reader devices directly from the suppliers without having to apply to the NRD.

The devices, also known as card acceptance devices, come in several forms, including fingerprint scanners, mobile card readers and key ring readers. Their prices range from as low as RM52 to RM2,800 each, depending on its functionality to match the requirements and needs of a business.

Most of these devices are capable of reading the MyKad, MyKid, or both.

As of yesterday, only four manufacturers were listed on the NRD website as suppliers of specific types of these devices: Iris Corporation Berhad, Tricubes Sdn Bhd, TMT Solutions Sdn Bhd and Yasmin Technology Sdn Bhd.

Concerns over the authenticity of MyKads presented by job applicants arose after two robbery incidents occurred over the span of one week involving security guards with fake MyKads.

The first was the killing of AmBank bank officer Norazita Abu Talib in Subang Jaya on Oct 23 and the other was a robbery at a jewellery store in Setapak on Oct 31.

The two incidents were carried out by their own security guards, both of whom were discovered to have possessed fake MyKads.

Asian Professional Security Association of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Mustapa Ali said that employers at security firms usually made the common error of assuming that applicants carried genuine MyKads.

He urged employers to go the extra mile to verify the authenticity of the identification documents by using the electronic verification devices.

Jessie Ooi hopes to be first female state MCA Youth chief


KUALA LUMPUR: Jessie Ooi is hoping to make history in MCA by being the party's first female state MCA Youth chief.

This is the first time, since its inception in 1958, that the wing has opened its door to females under 40 after amending its constitution.

Ooi, 34, is in a straight fight with Chong Sin Woon (male) for the Selangor MCA Youth chief's post after nominations closed at 8pm yesterday.

Asked if she thinks she could win, the businesswoman and mother of three, said: "I think I have a chance."

Elsewhere, six state Wanita chiefs — Datuk Lee Pit Chern (Negri Sembilan), Datuk Heng Seai Kie (Perak), Datuk Lim Nget Yoon (Pahang), Datuk Lim Bee Kau (Kedah), Lee Liew Loo (Kelantan) and Wang Kim Lian (Perlis) — have retained their seat uncontested.

The 62-year-old Lee, who is Negri Sembilan Wanita chief since 1986, is the longest serving chief.

The nominations for Wanita and Youth were held nationwide between 4pm and 8pm yesterday. The state elections for the Youth and Wanita will be on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

In Johor, it is a straight fight between lawyer Wong You Fong, 42, and Yap Swee Hua, 44, for the state Wanita chief's post.

Yap said she decided to go for the post after returning from China two days ago.

Many had expected Wong to win uncontested after she was made the state's acting Wanita chief, replacing Tan Ah Eng, who died recently.

In Selangor, the tussle for the Wanita chief's post is between Ng Siok Hwa and Ong Chong Swen.

Its incumbent chairman Chew Lee Giok, who recovered from a recent stroke, is going for the deputy chairman's post instead and she is in a straight fight with Lim Ah Yew.

In the Federal Territory, the fight for the Wanita chief's post is between Ooi Saw Choo and Chai Yat Chiew.

For the Youth, the tussle in Perak is between Ting Tai Fook and Liew Mun Hon; while Tan Kok Eng and and Soo Jing Wey are locking horns for the Federal Territory Youth chief's post.

Tan is the son of MCA veteran Datuk Seri Tan Chai Ho.

In Pahang, Leong Kim Soon, who is the former political secretary to Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, won the state chief's post uncontested.

The Negri Sembilan Youth chief's post will see a three-cornered fight between Leaw Kok Chan, Tan Tiong Lai and Lee Chun Fatt.

In Penang, incumbent Tan Cheng Liang will battle her predecessor Ooi Siew Kim for the state Wanita chief's post while for the Youth chief post, it will be a face- off between two new faces — Ong Tang Chuan and Lee Beng Seng — as the incumbent Tan Hing Teik has decided not to defend his post.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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From Hit-Girl to tormented teen


Self-assured young actress Chloë Grace Moretz turns into a lost girl in Carrie.

It's conceivable that at some point in the near future, Chloë Grace Moretz could conquer the world.

Perched on a sofa at a West Hollywood hot spot in slim black pants and a gray cardigan, the 16-year-old displays the same sort of unbridled moxie that she channeled as the pint-sized, foul-mouthed superhero Hit-Girl in the Kick-Ass movies.

Her girlishness still comes through – Moretz laughs easily and has a fondness for the word "dude," but when talking about her career path, she's all business, articulating her professional goals with the conviction of a savvy strategist plotting a corporate takeover. When she speaks, she looks you in the eye.

Even her Twitter bio offers a message of empowerment, advising her more than 725,000 followers to "live life to the fullest and never back down."

That innate confidence, however, nearly proved a stumbling block to her landing the lead role in the Carrie remake, a new take on the Stephen King novel first brought to the screen in 1976.

The actress auditioned for nearly 11 hours before she was cast as Carrie, the bullied girl who unleashes her telekinetic powers after being drenched in pig's blood at the high school prom.

"I've lived a lot of life at a young age," Moretz said on a recent September afternoon. "I'm close to the age of the character but that doesn't mean I'm the vulnerability of the character or that I have the virgin quality that Carrie has. I had to prove my worth, basically."

Directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry), the new Carrie contemporises King's tale for the age of CG effects and cyberbullying, and it arrives as a sort of commercial box office test for director and star.

It marks the first title role in a studio film for Moretz, though the actress has been steadily working to segue into more mature parts.

Her resume already includes supporting turns in Martin Scorsese's Hugo and Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, and such indie projects as Texas Killing Fields and (500) Days Of Summer.

Moretz said she was only 10 or 11 when she watched Brian DePalma's Carrie, which earned star Sissy Spacek her first Oscar nomination and ranks as one of the most thrilling movies in cinema history, according to the American Film Institute.

But the actress, who at the time was filming the moody vampire tale Let Me In, doesn't remember being especially unnerved by it.

"I was brought up in the era of Rob Zombie movies, which are terrifying," Moretz said, drawing out the syllables of "terr-i-fy-ing" to emphasise her point.

"DePalma movies are scary, but at the end of the day, it's slightly cheesy because they didn't quite have the money they have nowadays to make things look very realistic. I'm terrified of real psycho stories, not, like, I'm going to strangle you with my powers."

As in the original story, Carrie's powers in the new film arrive with the onset of menstruation.

The story opens with the shy teen – who is coping not only with a deranged single mother who routinely locks her in a prayer closet, but also the jeers of the popular crowd at school – getting her first period in the shower after gym class.

Rather than helping the sheltered girl, who has no idea what's happening to her, the other students pelt her with tampons.

Things devolve from there, leading to the prank at the prom that pushes Carrie to use her budding supernatural abilities for revenge.

To help Moretz tap into Carrie's fragile psyche, Peirce spoke to the actress for hours about her adolescent insecurities and even took her to women's shelters to talk with people who had experienced real-world hardship.

"I said to her, 'You've been working on red carpets, hanging out with Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese and that's great. You're wildly successful, but that is completely opposite of what we need,'" Peirce recalled. "'I don't want you to be the precocious girl. I want you to be the broken woman.'"

Peirce also scheduled a weeks-long intensive rehearsal period in Toronto last year just before filming began, during which time Moretz bonded with Julianne Moore, who plays Carrie's disturbed, deeply religious mother, Margaret.

"I look up to (Moore) like crazy," Moretz said. "She's a mentor to me now. There were moments where we'd just start laughing because we were doing the weirdest stuff we've ever done. We would have crazy conversations and then we'd be crying and killing each other."

Apart from Moore and actress Judy Greer, who plays Carrie's sympathetic gym teacher Miss Desjardin, the supporting cast is filled with relative newcomers including Portia Doubleday as chief mean girl Chris, British model Gabriella Wilde as the more kind-hearted Sue Snell and Ansel Elgort as her boyfriend, Tommy (Elgort already has roles booked in two anticipated adaptations of young adult novels, Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars, both set for release in 2014).

Though Moretz ranked as a veteran among the cast, she described the experience of shooting the movie as grueling and credits the presence of her mother and one of her four older brothers with helping her through the production.

"I would come home from the set just drained," Moretz said. "I would have to stay for 18 hours and just be in that mind-set of Carrie, which is the darkest, most suicidal area that you could be in. It's hard to stay there your entire day. I would look in the mirror and be, like, I don't know who I am right now."

"What was amazing to me was how much Chloë grew up," Peirce said. "I think that was extraordinary because that was my concern. I needed her to grow up, and I needed her to grow up on screen, and she just came to life."

Moretz has a theory on why she is attracted to characters who are out of the ordinary.

"I think the reason I do a lot of dark roles and I'm OK with getting to this dark stuff is because I don't have a dark life," Moretz said. "I have an incredibly normal life. I have a family that loves me. I've had an amazing childhood." – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

> Carrie opens in cinemas nationwide on Nov 7.

New 'Desolation Of Smaug' visuals


Filmmaker Peter Jackson reveals seven movie character posters on social media.

AS a run-up to the highly anticipated The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug "global fan event" happening later today, New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson revealed seven new character posters from the movie this morning.

The posters are of Thranduil, Thorin, Gandalf, Legolas, Bilbo, Tauriel and Bard and can be seen on Jackson's Facebook page

Comments from fans prove that the visuals are pretty well received, save for a few grouses. One of the biggest complaints is that Bilbo's face has been overly "photoshopped" .

"Everyone looks great but Bilbo ... such is his life!" said one fan. "Will Ferrell, is that you?" said another, suggesting that the image resembles that of the American comedian.

New Posters from The Hobbit

The collection of seven new character posters on Peter Jackson's Facebook page.

Jackson has not responded to any of the comments, most probably because he and his team are busy preparing for the live presentation, which is happening sometime on Nov 4 – the director has yet to reveal the times – in London, New York and Los Angeles (Nov 5 in Wellington, New Zealand).

"This is how it's going to work: The 4 host cinemas will all have members of the Desolation Of Smaug cast on stage, and we'll all be satellite-linked to allow everyone to participate in a simultaneous Q&A ... as well as present a few special surprises. Additional cinemas will be set up in select locations worldwide where fans can gather and watch the events unfold live. If you can't be there in person the event will also be streamed live on the Internet," said Jackson on his Facebook page.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug opens in cinemas nationwide next month. — Melody L. Goh


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Extinct 'Godzilla' platypus found in Australia


SYDNEY, Nov 05, 2013 (AFP) - A giant extinct species of the platypus with powerful teeth has been discovered in Australia, with a scientist on Tuesday describing the duck-billed water animal as a "Godzilla" like monster.

The new species, named Obdurodon tharalkooschild, was identified by a single but highly distinctive tooth found in Riversleigh in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland - a World Heritage site rich in fossil deposits.

"It pretty well blew our minds," University of New South Wales professor Mike Archer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. of the animal, which is estimated to be about twice the size of the modern platypus.

"And then bang out of the blue drops this monster. Platypus Godzilla."

Scientists had thought that the platypus, which combines bird, mammal and reptile characteristics, had gradually lost its teeth and become smaller over millions of years, but the latest find contradicts that theory.

"We didn't expect this. It's a huge platypus at the wrong time. But there it was," said Archer of the one-metre (three foot) species.

The modern platypus, a timid and nocturnal animal which lives in deep waterside burrows and is found only in eastern Australia, lacks any teeth as an adult and the scientists do not believe the new extinct species was an immediate ancestor.

"Discovery of this new species was a shock to us because prior to this, the fossil record suggested that the evolutionary tree of platypuses was a relatively linear one," Archer explained in a statement.

"Now we realize that there were unanticipated side branches on this tree, some of which became gigantic."

Archer said he was confident that the single tooth, which was discovered by Rebecca Pian, a PhD candidate at Columbia University in the United States, was sufficient evidence of a new species.

"We know it's a platypus, we also know it's very different from any other toothed platypus we've seen before," he said.

Pian, the lead author of the research published in the US-based Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology, said any new species, even though incomplete, was an important aid in understanding more about the fascinating mammals.

The extinct species is believed to have been a mostly aquatic animal like its modern descendant and would have lived in and around freshwater pools in the forests that covered the Riversleigh area millions of years ago.

It probably fed on crayfish and other freshwater crustaceans, as well as small vertebrates such as frogs and turtles, said Suzanne Hand of UNSW's School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Archer said scientists already had concerns about the long-term viability of the platypus and the discovery only added to these.

"It only says that there were more kinds of platypus that are now gone," he said.

Licking the sticky problem


THE sticky issue of illegal ads at MRT stations and along roads, on pillars and lamp posts, is set to be cut down in size further.

Having already found that anti-stick paint is effective in licking the problem, the Land Transport Autho­rity (LTA) has called a tender to apply the solution at 367 island-wide locations, where the advertisements are rife, by 2017.

The tender also calls for anti-stick clear coating with high transparency that can be applied to glass or plastic panels.

Aside from being against the law, these advertisements, which can range in size from Post-It note to A4, leave unsightly stains after being removed. This is especially when strong adhesives are used.

To fight this, the LTA in 2009 began a trial of anti-stick paint at a sheltered linkway leading to Jurong East MRT station. It proved a success.

Since then, the anti-stick paint has been applied at 252 locations. The LTA previously said that the move would help it save about S$100,000 (RM254,000) a year.

The latest tender will expand the coverage to most places here where complaints about illegal ads are common, said an LTA spokesman.

These locations, which include Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and Boon Lay Way, are selected based on the amount of feedback received about ads being stuck on street infrastructure, such as traffic lights, street lights, sign posts and columns at covered linkways and bus shelters.

Besides applying anti-stick paint, the LTA has, since 2010, also introduced 27 notice boards at 21 MRT stations with heavy pedestrian traffic to give people a better option.

It costs 50 cents (RM1.27) a day to put up an A5-size ad.

The spokesman said there were fewer illegal ads at areas which have notice boards and anti-stick paint. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Learning from the best


Local designers learning from the best thanks to Designers Weekend.

VISUAL artist Takora Kimiyoshi Futori made a huge impression on local art students during a workshop at the Dasein Academy of Art, Kuala Lumpur last week.

The renowned artist from Tokyo, Japan is known for his colourful, vibrant pop art work in the fashion and interior design industries. He has worked with big names like Commes des Garcon, Adidas and Google.

Called "Pattern In Space", the workshop was organised by Designers Weekend, a non-profit community and network that supports local artists and designers.

During the workshop, Takora talked participants through some of his work, all the while explaining the thought processes behind each design.

"I think it's very important to be able to feel what you're creating, and to feel for other people, so they will be able to understand the art you create," said Takora, 41. "It's about being sensitive, putting yourself in the shoes of others and seeking to match your art together with feelings."

Takora's interest with patterns has led him to fashion illustration and design concepts for fashion items.

Takora's interest with patterns has led him to doing fashion illustrations and design concepts for fashion items.

Takora also talked about his growth as an artist, and how he learned to implement his designs in fashion and furniture one project at a time, slowly making himself a more skilful creator.

Takora eventually made a name for himself by constantly submitting his work at exhibitions, which opened doors for new projects and collaborations.

"I didn't know anything when I first started. I had to learn a lot along the way. It was only through time and doing more projects with different people that I learnt the professional work of an artist," he said.

A group of graphic design students had travelled from Ipoh, Perak to hear Takora speak.

Lecturer Zeniph Lim of the Perak Institute of Arts said workshops like these give young designers exposure to different perspectives.

"Students need to know and learn different things, not just what they read from textbooks. The classroom can be anywhere," said Lim, who brings his students for trips at least once a month.

His student Tan Wei Xiang, 20, said the workshop taught him how to solve problems and to put "feeling" into his artwork. "What I like about Takora is that his work is very abstract. And I've learned how to put my feelings into design concepts."

Takora pointed out that with the Internet today, especially social media, young artists can easily display their work online to get exposure - but the practice has its downsides.

"It is so easy to put your work on the Internet and tell people about it, but I actually hate that," he said. "Sometimes people think it's enough putting your stuff online, but there's so much stuff online already.

"It's always better to exhibit your work, where people can go and see it for themselves and meet the person behind the work, face to face. That's how I think I got my opportunities and grew."

Brick by brick


Five Arts Centre's Walls is an intriguing study of alienation and identity in modern Malaysia.

A devised play explores alienation, identity and restriction with a tale of a woman cut off from the world by an invisible wall.

The story of Walls first began one year ago, on a very cold and lonely February winter in Berlin, Germany.

Director Hari Azizan had just watched The Wall, a film based on a German modern classic book by Marlen Haushofer. The show's heroine, played by Martina Gedeck, reminded her of acclaimed Malaysian actress Mislina Mustaffa, who she had always wanted to work with.

When she returned to her home country, the images from the film stuck with her.

"Back in Malaysia, being besieged by the political/election propaganda and apocalypse texts and images got me thinking about how great it would be if we could have a wall to cut off the nonsense or the 'ugly' parts of life, and start afresh by going back to basics," said Hari in an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

In Walls, Mislina Mustaffa plays The Woman, who she described as trapped in her own walls and later trapped in the invisible wall in Janda Baik, but who eventually makes peace with the invisible wall that cuts her off from all the noise outside.

"Seriously, why were we getting worked up about dogs, body tattoos, sexy clothes, K-pop stars, etc, when there were more important things to worry about like the global economy, war, global warming and even the 2012 Mayan apocalypse? Why were we wasting energy getting so offended and angry all the time? The world was going to end and we were all going to die."

Inspired, Hari joined forces with fellow director Wong Tay Sy. The duo devised Walls, an intriguing study of alienation and identity in modern Malaysia, where one's personal space is being constricted every day by moral guardians and political forces.

The show tells of a woman who wakes up in Janda Baik to find an invisible wall isolating her from the world.

With only a few animals for company, she tries to create a new landscape from what's left of the old world.

Through the interplay of text, sound, body and space, Walls aims to explore how man-made barriers divide us, and what they stand for when there is nothing left of humanity. The thought-provoking play will also take a hard look at (wo)man's relationship with the environment.

Speaking on the play's themes of restriction, both directors expressed they were firmly against the idea of censorship.

"It is affecting not only our imagination and creativity but also our ability to think critically about even the ordinary things in our daily life," added Hari.

"I am against anything that condenses imagination and innovation," said Wong.

"The scariest part of censorship in Malaysia is that we self-censor before we are even being censored."

Back to the play, Hari added they would be using the elements of text, image, body, sound, light and set to create a world where the audience can experience the different layers of walls and boundaries.

"We would like the audiences to experience an atmospheric sensation through the visuals, audio, acting and stage direction," added Wong. Hari said the most challenging part of the staging had been its tone.

"(We tried) not to lose ourselves in the bleakness and infuse some light and hope. But really, with tragedy and discomfort, right?" she said.

"Another challenge is how to present the animals, of course – our producer Mark Teh wouldn't let us have real animals!"

The show features only two actors, Mislina Mustaffa and visual/performance artist chi too. Mislina plays The Woman, who she described as "trapped in her own walls and later trapped in the invisible wall in Janda Baik, but who eventually makes peace with the invisible wall that cuts her off from all the 'noise' outside."

Asked if it was difficult to get into character, the actress was enigmatic.

"As Mislina Mustaffa, a Malay woman aged 42, born into a very religious family, bred and buttered in a patriarchal country and who later embarked, and still is, on her so called subversive project Homeless By Choice, who among many choices, declines the function of man as the provider of security and who herself owns several dogs, do you think she will have any problems getting into character? Maybe. Maybe not," quipped Mislina.

Mislina said she hoped the audience would be inspired to ask "Questions" after the show.

"Where exactly is the wall? Who said the wall has to be flat and smooth? If it's spiky or spongy or crooked or even colourful and round, wouldn't it be a wall too if you're stuck in it?" she asked.

"Are we inside or outside the wall? Are we in the safe zone or the danger zone? Why do we bother so much about the wall? Do walls even exist? Is it real? What exactly are the walls in our personal lives? Are we the victims or are we ourselves the wall, perhaps for others?"

Chi too, on the other hand, said getting into character was slightly challenging for him.

"I am both the husband and the dog of the protagonist. The problem is that I am a cat person. The husband behaves a bit like a cat, so that is easy to get into. The dog on the other hand ... well, is a dog, which is a real challenge for a non-actor like myself as there are so many little details that need to be taken care of," he said.

What then, were the biggest challenges of the performance?

"The original text of this play The Wall, which provides an inspiration for our performance, is a highly descriptive and visual novel. The story is about a woman stuck by herself, and that means that she has no one to talk to, hence there is very little dialogue, a medium commonly used in theatre to tell stories. The challenge for me has always been how to adapt such a highly-visual story onto a stage where we are stripped of the luxuries of the vehicles film and literature," he added.

"That, and acting as a dog," he quipped.

>Walls is playing at Black Box in Publika, Kuala Lumpur on Nov 9, 12–16 at 8.30pm and Nov 10 and 17 at 3pm. Tickets: RM55/RM25 (students and senior citizens).

Available at: Email: Hotline: 016-689 2485.

Rhythm of the game in 'SuperMokh'


Blending football and dance for SuperMokh The Musical was a challenging task for the show's dance choreographer.

FOOTBALL is not called the beautiful game for nothing. Sometimes, when you watch a brilliant player in action – the way he moves, the way he dribbles and controls the ball, leaping majestically into the air to head or kick a ball – it can be like watching the grace and artistry of a dancer going through a routine.

"Football is an art, just like dancing," declared Adzwadi Sani, choreographer of SuperMokh The Musical, the upcoming stage production based on the life of the late Mokhtar Dahari, who is regarded as the greatest Malaysian footballer of all time.

Produced by Tall Order Productions and Jugra Publication, the musical will be staged at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur from Wednesday to 18, and stars rock singer and actor Awie as the legendary footballer, as well as Maya Karin, Rashidi Ishak, Douglas Lim, Dina Nadzir, Phoon Chi Ho, Oliver Johanan and Clarence Kuna. The show is co-directed by Hans Issac and Harith Iskander, with Michael Veerapan as musical director.

Adzwadi, who used to play football competitively in his teens, relished the challenge of bringing to life a football match on the stage. "I don't think it's ever been done before! I used to play football when I was younger as well, so I knew how a football match should be like, but it was challenging to translate that onto the stage," he said.

¿Football is an art, just like dancing,¿ declared Adzwadi Sani, dance choreographer of SuperMokh The Musical, the upcoming stage production based on the life of the late Mokhtar Dahari, who is regarded as the greatest Malaysian footballer of all time. The musical will take stage at Istana Budaya from Nov 6-18. 

'Football is an art, just like dancing,' declared Adzwadi.

Although there are scenes that don't involve football, the hardest scenes to choreograph were the two football-related set-pieces – one in act two in which Malaysia takes on South Korea, and the second one involving Selangor and Johor – each with its own unique attributes and takes on the legendary footballer's skills and prowess.

According to him, it also wasn't a matter of just giving the cast a ball and asking them to dance with it. Adzwadi had to choreograph the football match in a way that would showcase the skills of the footballers while making it look and feel like a football match.

The first match, for example, involves a combination of dancers and freestyle trick footballers, and was probably the biggest challenge of this show.

"It was hard because it involved actors who were not dancers. The idea is to recreate a football match on stage, but with dance beats and rhythms. Hans (Isaac) was the one who suggested we use trick footballers, which was a good idea, but that also gave me another problem, because they didn't know how to dance!" Adzwadi said with a laugh.

"Many of the footballers can freestyle very well, but without music. The hardest part was getting them to follow the music and the beat. The set piece has to follow a certain rhythm, but that can be quite hard because most of the footballers follow their own moods and heart when juggling the ball. Sometimes, their energy levels might be higher and they might kick the ball a little harder than they are supposed to!"

There are 10 trick footballers in the production, and fortunately, they were very patient and willing to learn. Adzwadi reckons he has managed to train them into pretty decent dancers for now, though he still had to keep the moves simple and uncomplicated at times.

"I believe everyone can dance, but following the choreography is a different matter altogether," he said. "We didn't give them very complicated movements, but the impact they have on the football match was good enough."

Of course, there's little point in having real trick footballers in the show without showcasing their skills, so Adzwadi has also given them the chance to show off their skills during the set-piece.

Having played football himself, and after extensive research on YouTube studying Mokhtar Dahari's moves, he reckons he's managed to find the perfect way to highlight the legend's skills and talent on stage.

"The trick footballers are there to show off their dribbling and juggling skills, which Mokhtar Dahari was very famous for," he said, adding that the other football-related set piece is a Tron-esque depiction of a Selangor versus Johor match using mostly dancers and LED lights.

"Mokhtar was famous for his dribbling skills and speed, so during that match, we use LED lights and doubles to show how his No.10 jersey would seem to be everywhere at once," he said.

Ultimately, there is still one element that Adzwani is a little worried about – the footballs. "We really can't predict how and where the balls will go sometimes! During our preview show, the ball got lost once, but thankfully it wasn't noticeable because of all the movement on stage ... but still, that shouldn't be happening!" he said.

"All we can do is to keep training hard so that everyone gets their timing and cues right, and hope that the trick footballers don't get too excited and kick the ball into the audience! In the end, we can only try our best and hope for the best – the ball is round after all!"

Tickets for SuperMokh The Musical are priced at RM46, RM96, RM106, RM126, RM166, RM206, RM236 and RM306 for the night shows. Tickets for the matinee (Nov 9, 10, 16 and 17) are priced at RM38, RM78, RM96, RM102, RM134, RM166, RM190 and RM246. Tickets are available from


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A dose of HPV vaccine may be all you need


Early research shows that only one dose of the vaccine is needed to prevent cervical cancer.

A single dose – rather than the recommended three – of a vaccine against the sexually transmitted disease HPV may be enough to ward off cervical cancer, researchers said this week.

The findings may lead to simpler delivery and lower costs, possibly increasing the number of young people who get vaccinated, said the report in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys before they become sexually active, but US research from 2012 showed that only one third of US female teens and fewer than 7% of US boys got the recommended three doses.

"Our findings suggest promise for simplified vaccine administration schedules that might be cheaper, simpler, and more likely to be implemented around the world," said Mahboobeh Safaeian, an investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, the United States.

The study focused on a population of nearly 7,500 women aged 18-25 in Costa Rica. Although all were supposed to get the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine at different times, about 20% of participants did not.

So researchers analysed blood samples from a group of 78 who got one dose, compared to groups of 120 to 192 that received two or three doses as planned.

They found that all the women in all three groups had antibodies against virulent strains of HPV, known as 16 and 18.

These antibodies persisted in their blood for up to four years, which is about as long as researchers have expected the vaccine to be effective.

The levels of antibodies also appeared stable over time, even though they were slightly lower in the single dose group, suggesting "these are lasting responses", said the study.

The vaccine used in the study was Cervarix, made by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

"GSK is continuing to review findings from this trial and is committed to ensuring regulatory authorities and public health officials have access to this information," a company spokesman told AFP.

Study authors said antibody responses after a single dose have not been evaluated for Gardasil, the quadrivalent HPV vaccine made by Merck that is more widely used in the United States and many other countries.

More research is needed before any formal changes can be decided, but Safaeian said the findings could have far-reaching impact in low income nations.

"Vaccination with two doses, or even one dose, could simplify the logistics and reduce the cost of vaccination, which could be especially important in the developing world, where more than 85% of cervical cancers occur, and where cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths," she said.

HPV can cause oral, anal, and cervical cancer.

According to the World Health Organisation, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, and causes 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths each year. — AFP Relaxnews

Can baking make you happy?


While baking is not a cure for depression, it does help lift one's mood.

From chocolate brownies to cakes and cookies, baking is often associated with comfort foods – and now a new British movement claims that the simple act of baking could help lift you out of a depression.

The Independent in Britain reports that baking could emerge "as a form of pill-less Prozac", at least according to John Whaite, last year's winner of the television series The Great British Bake Off.

In a report issued last week for Real Bread Campaign, a non-profit organisation promoting artisan baking, Whaite calls for more people "suffering from mental health issues, or who are simply going through a tough time, to get the chance to try their hand at baking real bread to see how it could help them."

Whaite, who was diagnosed with manic depression eight years ago, told the BBC: "Baking helps lift my depression. It can't cure it but it helps.

"When I'm in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour, or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs – I am in control. That's really important as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control."

Bakeries are being set up all over Britain to help people cope with hard times. The Better Health Bakery in East London provides training placements for adults living with mental health issues, The Independent reports.

Plus, The Real Bread Campaign, which received a four-year grant in 2009 from the Big Lottery's Local Food programmes to bring real bread back to local communities, said the potential number of people who could benefit from baking "runs into the hundreds of thousands or even millions".

In London, The Depressed Cake Shop, a mental health charity initiative, ran a series of pop-up cake stalls around Britain earlier this summer (a similar initiative also took place in Kuala Lumpur), selling only grey cakes and baked goods. 

According to the BBC, the publicity stunt raised thousands of money for mental health charities and got people talking more about mental health issues and how baking can help.

Whaite has also recently introduced a cookbook called John Whaite Bakes: Recipes For Every Day And Every Mood, with a chapter devoted to lifting your spirits. 

British novelist Marian Keyes has also relied on baking to help her cope with major depression. In her book Saved By Cake, she writes how she uses baking to help her cope with depression: "Baking hasn't cured me. But it gets me through." — AFP Relaxnews


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