Ahad, 10 November 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Philippines struggles to help desperate typhoon victims


Tacloban: Philippines rescue workers struggled to bring aid to famished and destitute survivors Monday after a super typhoon that may have killed more than 10,000 people, in what is feared to be the country's worst natural disaster.

Relief teams appeared overwhelmed in their efforts to help those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by Haiyan, which sent tsunami-like waves and merciless winds rampaging across large swathes of the archipelago Friday.

In Vietnam, more than 600,000 people were evacuated as Haiyan, which moved out of the Philippines and into the South China Sea on Saturday, made landfall there early Monday morning.

Hundreds of Filipino police and soldiers were deployed to contain looters in Tacloban, the devastated provincial capital of Leyte, with gangs stealing consumer goods such as televisions.

A long snake-like queue formed in Tacloban's flattened airport as tired and hungry survivors, some who had trudged through mud and debris for several kilometres, sought the basic essentials for survival.

"We want water and medicines for the injured. So if you can organise it, please, for us, don't let anybody come here who will just watch us and see us suffer, because we don't want that," Joan Lumbre Wilson told AFP, adding that authorities were struggling to cope with the sheer numbers seeking help.

"They're trying to drive us away again, back to our places, where it's too far, and then do it again tomorrow (walk to reach the compound), and it's not fair on us," she said.

"We're already tired, emotionally drained, physically exhausted."

Witnesses Sunday reported seeing looting and violence with President Benigno Aquino admitting it was a major concern. Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP Monday 100 soldiers had been sent to help police restore law and order in Tacloban.
Residents stand under a shelter surrounded by pile of debris washed inland along a road in Tacloban, Leyte province, central Philippines on November 10, 2013

Threatening to further hamper relief efforts was a tropical depression approaching the southern and central Philippines. Government weather forecasters said the depression could bring fresh floods to typhoon-affected areas.

The depression is expected to hit land on the southern island of Mindanao late Tuesday and then move across the central islands of Bohol, Cebu, Negros and Panay, which all suffered typhoon damage, forecaster Connie Dadivas said.

It could bring "moderate to heavy" rains, or about five to 15 millimetres (0.2 to 0.6 inches) per hour, he said.

US meteorologists said Haiyan made landfall in Vietnam early Monday.

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) said in an update at 2100 GMT the storm "is currently making landfall" approximately 97 miles (156 kilometres) east south-east of the capital Hanoi, with sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometres) per hour.

The typhoon had lost force at sea, striking Vietnam as the equivalent of a category-one hurricane -- the weakest on the one-to-five Saffir-Simpson wind-speed scale.

It hit the Philippines as a category five storm with maximum sustained winds of 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour -- one of the most powerful ever recorded.

Despite the typhoon's weakened state, more than 600,000 people were evacuated in Vietnam, with flooding and heavy rain expected.

The Vietnamese government website said Sunday that five people had died while preparing for the storm.

Farther north, six members of a cargo boat were also missing off the Chinese province of Hainan, state media in China reported.

Up to four million children could be affected by the disaster in the Philippines, the United Nations Children's Fund warned.

"We are rushing to get critical supplies to children who are bearing the brunt of this crisis," said UNICEF Philippines representative Tomoo Hozumi.

"Reaching the worst-affected areas is very difficult," he said. "But we are working around the clock."

Authorities were struggling to calculate the sheer magnitude of the disaster, with the regional police chief for Leyte saying initial estimates showed 10,000 people were believed to have died in that province alone.

Witnesses in Tacloban recalled waves up to five metres (16 feet) high surging inland. Aerial photos showed entire neighbourhoods destroyed, with trees and buildings flattened by storm surge.

Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria told reporters in Tacloban that the typhoon destroyed up to 80 percent of the structures in its path.

Deadliest natural disaster

On the neighbouring island of Samar, a local disaster chief said 300 people were killed in the small town of Basey. He added another 2,000 were missing there and elsewhere on Samar, which was one of the first areas hit when Haiyan swept in from the Pacific.

Dozens more people were confirmed killed in other flattened towns and cities across a 600-kilometre stretch of islands through the central Philippines.

As the scale of the disaster began to emerge, an international aid effort ratcheted up with the United States, UN, European Commission and Britain among those pledging help.

Given its location along a typhoon belt and the so-called Ring of Fire, a Pacific zone of tectonic activity, the Philippines endures a seemingly never-ending pattern of deadly typhoons, earthquakes, volcano eruptions and other natural disasters.

But if the death toll of more than 10,000 is correct, Haiyan would be the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the country, worse than the 1976 Moro Gulf tsunami that killed between 5,000 and 8,000 people.- AFP

Typhoon Haiyan makes landfall in Vietnam: US meteorologists


HANOI: Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in Vietnam early Monday, meteorologists said, days after it left thousands feared dead and widespread devastation in the Philippines.

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) said in an update at 2100 GMT the storm "is currently making landfall" approximately 100 miles (160 kilometres) east south-east of the capital Hanoi.

The storm, which had weakened significantly since scything through the Philippines over the weekend, made landfall with sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometres) per hour, said the JTWC, a joint US Navy and Air Force task force located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

More than 600,000 people were evacuated on the weekend as Haiyan bore down on Vietnam.
Residents of Hanoi were braced for heavy rains and flooding, while tens of thousands of people in coastal areas were ordered to take shelter.

"We have evacuated more than 174,000 households, which is equivalent to more than 600,000 people," said an official report by Vietnam's flood and storm control department.

The storm changed course on Sunday, prompting further mass evacuations of about 52,000 people in northern provinces by the coast.

"People must bring enough food and necessities for three days.... Those who do not move voluntarily will be forced," online newspaper VNExpress said, adding all boats have been ordered back to shore.
The Red Cross said Haiyan's changed path meant that "the disaster area could be enlarged from nine provinces to as many as 15", stretching the country's resources.

Many of the capital's residents were rushing to stock up on food and water before the storm hit.
"I ran to the supermarket to buy instant noodles, vegetables and meat for the family," said office worker Nguyen Thi Uyen, 33.

"There was not much left on the shelves.... People are worried, buying food to last them for a few days."
All schools were ordered shut in the capital Monday and extra police were dispatched to redirect traffic in flood-prone areas.

In the northern port city of Hai Phong, also facing heavy rain and flooding, residents voiced frustration with official preparations.

"The city only warned us about the typhoon very late.... They were too slow in advising people to prepare," Nguyen Hung Nam, 70, told AFP.

Many of the estimated 200,000 people evacuated in four south-central provinces initially thought to be in the storm's path have been allowed to go back to their homes, according to the government's website.

Haiyan "has tracked north-northwestward at 15 knots (17 mph, 28 kph) over the past six hours," the JTWC said on its website.

The storm was forecast to continue moving north before turning northeast and dissipating rapidly.
The weather system - one of the most intense typhoons on record when it tore into the Philippines - weakened over the South China Sea.

In Vietnam, at least five people reportedly died while preparing to escape the typhoon, the Vietnamese government website said.

By lunchtime on Sunday the typhoon had swept across Vietnam's Con Co island, 30 kilometres off the coast of central Quang Tri province, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

"All 250 people on the island including residents and soldiers were evacuated to underground shelters where there is enough food for several days," it said, adding the storm brought three-metre (10-foot) waves.

Central Vietnam has recently been hit by two other typhoons - Wutip and Nari, both category-one storms - which flooded roads, damaged sea dykes and tore the roofs off hundreds of thousands of houses.- AFp

Haiyan death toll likely to climb


TACLOBAN: The death toll from a super typhoon that decimated entire towns in the Philippines could soar well over 10,000, authorities warned, making it the country's worst recorded natural disaster.

The horrifying estimates came as rescue workers appeared overwhelmed in their efforts to help countless survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which sent tsunami-like waves and merciless winds rampaging across a huge chunk of the archipelago on Friday.

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed to contain looters in Tacloban, the devastated provincial capital of Leyte, while the United States announced it had responded to a Philippine government appeal and would send military help.

"Tacloban is totally destroyed. Some people are losing their minds from hunger or from losing their families," high school teacher Andrew Pomeda, 36, said, warning of the increasing desperation of survivors.

"People are becoming violent. They are looting business establishments, the malls, just to find food, rice and milk ... I am afraid that in one week, people will be killing from hunger."

Authorities were struggling to even understand the sheer magnitude of the disaster, let alone react to it, with the regional police chief for Leyte saying 10,000 people were believed to have died in that province alone.

"We had a meeting last night with the governor and, based on the government's estimates, initially there are 10,000 casualties (dead)," Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria told reporters in Tacloban yesterday.

"About 70 to 80% of the houses and structures along the typhoon's path were destroyed."

On the neighbouring island of Samar, a local disaster chief said 300 people were killed in the small town of Basey.

He added that another 2,000 were missing there and elsewhere on Samar, which was one of the first areas to be hit when Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean with maximum sustained winds of 315kph.

Dozens more people were confirmed killed in other flattened towns and cities across a 600-kilometre stretch of islands through the central Philippines. — AFP

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Philippines storm kills estimated 10,000, destruction hampers rescue efforts


TACLOBAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Rescue workers struggled to reach ravaged towns and villages in the central Philippines on Monday while soldiers tried to quell looting in the chaotic aftermath of a powerful typhoon that killed an estimated 10,000 people and displaced more than 600,000.

The United Nations said some survivors had no food, water or medicine, and that local officials had reported a mass grave of 300-500 bodies in the devastated city of Tacloban. Relief operations were hampered because roads, airports and bridges had been destroyed or were covered in wreckage, it said.

Threatening to worsen the crisis in the impoverished area, a tropical depression carrying heavy rain was forecast to arrive in the region early on Tuesday.

President Benigno Aquino, facing one of the biggest challenges of his three-year rule, deployed soldiers to Tacloban to restore order and said he might impose martial law or a state of emergency.

But three days after it was hit by one of the strongest typhoons on record, the city of 220,000 residents was still relying almost entirely for supplies and evacuation on just three military transport planes flying from nearby Cebu city.

"I lost my house, I lost everything. I want to get out. My food supply will run out in two days," said Maria Elnos, a nurse at Tacloban's one main hospital, who was among hundreds pleading unsuccessfully to get on a military C-130 plane late on Sunday.

Super typhoon Haiyan is estimated to have destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of structures in its path as it tore into the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar on Friday. Most of the damage and deaths were caused by huge waves that inundated towns and swept away coastal villages in scenes that officials likened to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.


The Philippines government and disaster agency have not confirmed the latest estimate of the number of deaths from the storm, whose sustained winds reached 195 miles per hour (313 km per hour) with gusts of up to 235 mph (378 kph).

Police chief superintendent Elmer Soria, quoting local officials, said the estimated death toll so far was 10,000. That could climb once rescuers reach remote villages along the coast, such as Guiuan, a town in eastern Samar province with a population of 40,000 that was largely destroyed.

Images from an armed forces flight over the town showed apocalyptic scenes, with survivors wandering dazed among the shells of shattered buildings and splintered trees. No relief supplies have reached the remote town.

"The only reason why we have no reports of casualties up to now is that communications systems ... are down," said Colonel John Sanchez, posting on the Armed Forces Facebook page.

Terminal buildings at the Tacloban airport were largely destroyed although the runway was still operational.

About 300 people died in Samar province, said an official from the provincial disaster agency.

Baco, a city of 35,000 in Oriental Mindoro province, was 80 percent under water, the U.N. said.

Nearly 620,000 people were displaced and 9.5 million "affected" across nine regions, the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

Across Tacloban, men, women and children walked carefully over the remains of wooden houses, searching for missing loved ones and belongings. Not one building seems to have escaped damage in the coastal city, about 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila.

Witnesses and officials described chaotic scenes. The city and nearby villages were flooded, leaving floating bodies and roads choked with debris from fallen trees, tangled power lines and flattened homes.

Survivors queued in lines, waiting for handouts of rice and water. Some sat and stared, covering their faces with rags to keep out the smell of the dead from one of the worst disasters to hit the typhoon-prone Southeast Asian nation.

One woman, eight months pregnant, described through tears how her 11 family members had vanished, including two daughters. "I can't think right now," she said. "I am overwhelmed."


About 90 U.S. Marines and sailors headed to the Philippines in a first wave of promised military assistance for relief efforts, U.S. officials said. President Barack Obama said the United States was ready to provide additional aid.

U.S. aid groups also launched a multimillion-dollar relief campaign. One group, World Vision, said a shipment of blankets and plastic tarpaulins would arrive from Germany on Monday as a first step in its plan to help 400,000 people.

An official of World Vision based in Cebu Province said there were early reports that as much as 90 percent of northern Cebu had been destroyed.

An aid team from Oxfam reported "utter destruction" in the northern-most tip of Cebu, the charity said.

The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, said it was rushing emergency supplies to the Philippines.


Aquino said the government had deployed 300 soldiers and police to restore order in Tacloban.

Looters rampaged through several stores in the city, witnesses said. A TV station said ATM machines were broken open.

Mobs attacked trucks loaded with food, tents and water on Tanauan bridge in Leyte, said Philippines Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.

Aquino has shown exasperation at conflicting reports on damage and deaths. One TV network quoted him as telling the head of the disaster agency that he was running out of patience.

"How can you beat that typhoon?" said defence chief Voltaire Gazmin, when asked whether the government had been ill-prepared.

"It's the strongest on Earth. We've done everything we can, we had lots of preparation. It's a lesson for us."

The U.N.'s OCHA said aerial surveys showed significant damage to coastal areas with heavy ships thrown ashore, houses destroyed and vast tracts of agricultural land "decimated".

Thirteen people were killed and dozens hurt during heavy winds and storms in Vietnam as Haiyan approached the coast, state media reported, even though it had weakened substantially after hitting the Philippines.

Vietnam authorities have moved 883,000 people in 11 central provinces to safe zones, according to the government's website. A further 150,000 people were moved to safe areas in northern provinces, authorities said. ($1 = 43.1900 Philippine pesos)

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Karen Lema in Manila, Ho Binh Minh and Hanoi and Phil Stewart and Charles Abbott in Washington. Writing by Stuart Grudgings. Editing by Dean Yates)

U.S. Filipinos pray, seek word from loved ones in wake of deadly typhoon


(Reuters) - Filipinos across the United States sought word from loved ones in their Pacific island homeland and prayed for missing and displaced family on Sunday in the aftermath of a typhoon that devastated the central Philippines and killed at least 10,000 people.

In the San Francisco suburb of Pinole, about 150 Filipino parishioners prayed during mass at Saint Joseph Catholic Church for relatives and friends unaccounted for from typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 600,000 people homeless in the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Churchgoers lamented that the storm struck less than a month after a massive earthquake caused severe damage to parts of the central Philippines, flattening homes and businesses and leaving 222 people dead.

"This is like a double whammy," said Eddie Castanas, 32, a church vicar whose parents and sisters lost houses in the town of Calape, in the central province of Bohol, from the quake and whose fate after the typhoon remains unclear.

Castanas said it took two weeks to make contact with his family after the earthquake, and he is hopeful that they survived this calamity as well.

"I know my people are a very determined people," he said. "I just have to hold on to hope."

In the New York City borough of Queens, televisions in restaurants, bakeries and other shops along a 15-block thoroughfare dubbed Little Manila were tuned to news from the Philippines, with residents commiserating over frantic efforts to get in touch with missing loved ones.

Asuncion Hipe, a nursing assistant, said she had been unable to reach her three sisters and a nephew in the Philippines' remote Samar province, where the storm made its initial landfall and authorities said at least 300 people were dead.

"I keep on calling them and nobody answers me. It doesn't go through; it says 'out of coverage area,'" she said. "I don't care about the property. I just want them to be alive."

Even for many of those who had been able to reach family in their homeland, emotions ran high.

Angelina Flores, who was sending money to family in Cebu province, which was directly in the storm's path, said her uncle and other family were without water and power and in desperate need of supplies.

"My house, my brother's house, is gone," she said.

In Los Angeles, about 50 people attended services and a lunch on Sunday at the Filipino Christian Church that raised $200 for storm victims.

Marcelle Gossett, who immigrated to the United States 11 years ago, had tears in her eyes and placed her hands together in prayer as she recounted the plight of her two sons, their wives, and her 14 grandchildren, all of whom live in Cebu City.

Gossett said her sons told her by phone that they were without electricity and water and were low on food.

"Trees are falling down from the backyard onto the house," she said. "I told them to go to the rescue, but they're stuck and can't leave the house. And the rescues are already full."

Pastor Jeffrey Ilagan, 30, five months into a planned three-year stay in the United States, said his wife and three young children in Baguio City in the northern Philippines had weathered the storm after a harrowing night of strong winds beating against their windows.

"Being away from my family is very horrible," he said.

Ilagan said he advised his wife to keep the children home from school and indoors until authorities were able to clear much of the debris littering the area and restore power.

"If electrical wires fall, people will be electrocuted," he said.

Satellite likely incinerated after re-entering Earth's atmosphere -officials


ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A large science satellite that mapped Earth's gravity likely re-entered the atmosphere where most of it incinerated on Sunday, about three weeks after running out of fuel and beginning to lose altitude, officials said.

Ground tracking stations' last contact with Europe's Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, was at 5:42 p.m. (2242 BST) as it passed 75 miles (121 km) above Antarctica, Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency's space debris office, wrote in a status report posted on the European Space Agency's website.

The official designation of space is the Karman line, 62 miles (100 km) above Earth.

About 25 percent of the car-sized satellite was expected to have survived re-entry, with debris most likely falling into the ocean, European Space Agency officials said.

"By the time you read this, the spacecraft's amazing flight will, most likely, have come to an end," space agency spokesman Daniel Scuka wrote in an update posted around 6:45 p.m.

There was no immediate word on where and when any debris may have landed.

GOCE was launched in 2009 to map variations in Earth's gravity. Scientists assembled the data into the first detailed global maps of the boundary between the planet's crust and mantle, among other projects.

The satellite ran out of fuel on October 21 and had been steadily losing altitude since, tugged by Earth's gravity.

The 1.2-ton (1,100-kg) GOCE satellite is small in comparison to other spacecraft that recently crashed back into the atmosphere.

In January 2012, Russia's failed 14-ton (12,700-kg) Phobos-Grunt Mars probe returned. In 2011, NASA's 6.5-ton (5,900-kg) Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite and Germany's 2.4-ton (2,177-kg) X-ray ROSAT telescope re-entered the atmosphere.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Profit taking on Public Bank drags KLCI into the red


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips started the week in the red on Monday on some profit taking on stocks including Public Bank and SapuraKencana Petroleum which had a stellar performance in recent weeks.

At 9.01am, the FBM KLCI was down 1.35 points to 1,803.13. Turnover was 47.05 million shares valued at RM19.39mil. There were 129 gainers, 40 losers and 115 counters unchanged.

JF Apex Research said following the bullish performance in the US, it expects the KLCI to be positive on Monday with support from 1,800.

BAT fell the most, down 40 sen to RM62.70 with just 100 shares done while Petronas Gas lost 12 sen to RM23.76.

Public Bank fell 14 sen to RM18.18 while SapuraKencana losr five sen to RM4.26 and Genting Malaysia four sen lower at RM4.46.

However, Genting Bhd helped shore up the KLCI with a 12 sen gain to RM10.44. Boilermech added 11 sen to RM2.50 with the recent corporate exercise.

Recently listed Karex rose 10 sen to Rm2.85 while Barakah and its loan stocks added six sen each to RM1.16 and 92 sen.

China opens key meeting to set economic reform agenda


BEIJING: Chinese leaders began a four-day secret meeting on Saturday to set a reform agenda for the next decade as they try to push more sustainable growth after three decades of breakneck expansion.

However, analysts have cautioned against expectations for big changes as they say stability remains the watchword for the leadership.

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang must unleash new growth drivers as the world's second-largest economy loses steam, burdened by industrial overcapacity, piles of debt and soaring house prices.

The meeting - held under tight security at a Soviet-era hotel in western Beijing - will show just how committed the new leadership is to reform after formally taking power in March.

Economic reforms will dominate the meeting of the 205-member Central Committee of China's ruling Communist Party. Little if any news will be released during the event, but official news agency Xinhua traditionally issues a dispatch on the last day.

Xinhua confirmed in an English-language dispatch that the meeting had begun, with the agenda led by a discussion over a draft document on deepening reform, "which pools the wisdom of the whole Party and from all aspects".

It added: "Comprehensively deepening reform means the reform will be more systematic, integrated and coordinated." It gave no other details.

Some media reports have said top policymakers could take bold steps to deal with entrenched vested interests, such as state monopolies.

The Development Research Centre, a think-tank for China's cabinet, set out last month eight key areas for reform at the plenum - finance, taxation, land, state assets, social welfare, innovation, foreign investment and governance.

"These are just recommendations. There is still strong opposition" to the proposed reforms, a source with ties to the leadership told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

Powerful interest groups, including leftists or conservatives, local governments, state-owned enterprises and state banks, oppose some of the reforms such as freeing up interest rates, allowing private banks and turning Shanghai into a free trade zone, several sources say.

However, the party will put on a unified face once Xinhua issues its communique at the end of the plenum on Tuesday, pledging reform without providing too many details.

The People's Daily's influential tabloid, the Global Times, cautioned in an editorial on Saturday that the country's leaders would be unlikely to live up to the huge expectations.

"They can hardly be as ambitious as some sections of the public hope. The most ambitious government in terms of reforms would still be considered conservative when faced with these expectations," it wrote.

The government has pledged to let market forces play a bigger role in setting the price of capital, energy and land, and to cut red tape.

That suggests the biggest changes may be fresh measures to free up interest rates and fiscal changes to let local governments to manage their debt better and move away from reliance on land sales for revenues.


In a bid to end the debate between hawks and doves, Xi declared in January that the second 30 years of Communist rule, when reforms transformed China into an economic powerhouse, should not be used to "negate" the first 30 years under Mao Zedong when chaos, poverty and hunger prevailed.

Conservatives blame China's policy of reform during the second 30 years for a yawning wealth gap and other problems.

Liberals revile Mao not just for the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, but also for the tens of millions who died in a man-made famine in the years after the 1958 Great Leap Forward.

On the eve of the plenum, the party's history research office published a full-page article in the official People's Daily, repeating the warning against "negating" the two periods, a sign that debate still simmers.

Adding to Xi's troubles, the political fallout from the downfall of Bo Xilai, a former contender for a seat at the apex of power, still haunts the party.

Bo, disgraced party boss of the southwestern city of Chongqing, was jailed for life in September on charges of accepting bribes, corruption and abuse of power, but still has many supporters and sympathizers with his pro-Mao policies.

A party document circulated this week urged officials to toe the line and learn from Bo's mistakes, sources said. They were told to conform with the party's decision to expel and prosecute Bo, a second source said.

Underscoring the party's worries, supporters of Bo have set up a new political party, in a direct challenge to the de facto ban on new political groups.


The meeting may also decide to loosen the household registration system, which blocks migrant workers and their families from access to education and social welfare beyond their home villages.

The system is seen as a hurdle to attracting more people to urban areas, a social equality trend the government seeks to promote as it looks to boost domestic consumption.

The leaders may also push land reforms to allow farmers to sell land when they leave their villages. Currently, they cannot sell land freely and many do not leave their farms for fear local governments could grab them for development.

While some social and political issues could be tackled, such as corruption and pollution, Western-style political reform is certainly not on the agenda.

Historically, third plenums in China have served as a springboard for key economic reforms.

Former leader Deng Xiaoping launched reforms to open the economy to the outside world at a third plenum in 1978.

That was followed by a third plenum in 1993 that endorsed the "socialist" market economy, paving the way for sweeping reforms spearheaded by then Premier Zhu Rongji, which led to China's entry into the World Trade Organization.

But the third plenum in 2003, under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, predecessors of Xi and Li, failed to yield key reforms. In 2008, they unveiled a 4 trillion yuan ($656 billion) stimulus package, which fuelled a property frenzy and saddled local governments with debt of more than 10 trillion yuan the economy is still trying to absorb. - Reuters

Japan Display applies for up to $2 bln share listing


TOKYO: Japan Display, the world's largest maker of displays for smartphones and tablets, has applied for a share listing in Tokyo that it hopes will raise up to 200 billion yen ($2 billion), sources familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

The state-controlled company may face difficulty hitting its fund-raising target, however, after a sudden slowdown in its tablet screen business last month that could raise doubts over an expansion drive, industry sources have said.

Japan Display has nevertheless decided to push ahead with plans for an initial public offering (IPO) by March and proceed with its expansion, one of the sources said, confident of continued growth in smartphone and tablet demand and its ability to find additional customers.

Industry sources have said the capacity utilisation rate at its recently opened Mobara plant near Tokyo fell sharply in October, reflecting soft orders for tablets using its screens. This is likely to weigh on the company's earnings outlook and could dampen demand for the share offering, they added.

A Japan Display representative declined to comment.

The company, formed in April of last year from display units of Sony Corp, Hitachi Ltd and Toshiba Corp , is 70 percent owned by the Innovation Network Corp of Japan, a mostly government-funded body to support "next-generation" businesses.

Japan Display has committed $2 billion to investment in the Mobara plant, which it bought from Panasonic Corp and began operating in June of this year. The funds raised from the IPO would be used for additional expansion projects.

Japanese companies typically proceed with a share offering about three months after submitting an application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Although the company does not name its customers, industry sources widely confirm that it supplies screens for both Google Inc's Nexus7 tablet and Amazon.com Inc's Kindle Fire HDX, as well as Apple Inc's iPhone.

Japan Display chalked up sales of 450 billion yen in the latest year to March and an operating profit of several billion yen. At the start of the current financial year in April, Japan Display President Shuichi Otsuka said it was targeting sales of 700 billion to 800 billion yen and an operating profit margin around 5 percent.

Japan Display has tapped Goldman Sachs, Nomura Securities and Morgan Stanley as global coordinators for the IPO, sources with direct knowledge of the matter have told Reuters. - Reuters

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Migrating To Australia: Good Meh?


FOR potential emigrants who believe the grass is greener on the other side, the Soong brothers are here to prove that moving across borders is not exactly a bed of roses.

I recall devoting my Saturday afternoon to a seminar on immigration to Australia by a notable agency in Kuala Lumpur recently. I was not alone. Accompanied by close to over 30 other hopefuls, I paid close attention to the schematics and systems for successful immigrant visa application to the Land Down Under.

Motivated by a plethora of reasons, the other applicants and I were unified by one overarching factor: the possibility of a better life. "Better", being the problematic keyword.

Having this book handed to me just two days after the seminar turned out to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise. I was intrigued by the promising proclamations made on the back cover of the book indicating that the book offered a variety of noteworthy discussions and anecdotal accounts as opposed to the common one-size-fits-all instruction manual, as most immigration seminars tend to be.

Written by Ken and Michael Soong who continued their higher education in Australia and eventually emigrated to Melbourne, this book is a collection their thoughts and discussions regarding immigrant life Down Under.

As Australia is not all kangaroos and koala bears, the Soong brothers attempt to encourage readers to look beyond the postcard perfect idea of uprooting to the country through their bittersweet experiential accounts.

In the first half of the book, the duo take an educated stab at busting the common myths of living in Western society, such as Western society being more open-minded and tolerant towards multiculturalism, the depth of Western family and societal values, as well as the age old question, is Australia really the land of opportunities?

The second half of the book addresses the challenges a Malaysian would face in attempting to assimilate into Australian society, the conveniences of welfare state plans and principles, as well as employment and social issues.

Offering insight on starting a business, choosing a suburb to reside in and successful career growth in Australia, the chapters also comprise illustrative case studies of Malaysian immigrants living in Australian cities.

However, given that the Soong brothers are based in Melbourne, most of the tips and examples given are heavily focused around their particular residential city.

Although they cite various case studies to cover other locations, the book does not provide sufficient insight on other Aussie states to be considered truly holistic.

I admit I had to flip to the front cover twice to check if the title was actually Migrating To Melbourne rather than Migrating To Australia. Being specific is key, yet one should also be wary of being too narrow.

Though the intended audience for this book is stated to be all Malaysians, further reading gave me a strong vibe that this is more for potential Malaysian Chinese emigrants.

As the content comes from the personal perspectives and preferences of the Soong brothers who are Malaysian Chinese, you may need to make an effort to look past topics such as the deterioration of Mandarin, Chinese restaurant businesses, and the experiences of Malaysian Chinese immigrant families in order to relate objectively to the practical pointers provided.

The 144-page book also provides tips on how to overcome the difficulties of finding a job, choosing the right suburb to live in, when you should buy property, how to start a business, and driving in Australia.

Written within a rather academic, essay-like structure, complete with an elaborate bibliography, the book is sectioned for quick and easy reading.

As one reaches the final pages of the book, the question of whether to emigrate or not to emigrate is left to the reader to contemplate.

Despite the Soong brothers' reiteration that this decision is being solely left to the reader and they do not want to exert any influence, one cannot help but feel slightly prodded into the "yes, let's emigrate" camp after reaching the end of the book – which is natural, I suppose, as it is after all designed to help people seeking opportunities away from their birth place.

Of course, like all great journeys, each chapter in this book is designed to make one chuckle and gasp a little while pondering their great step forward. Or should I say, across.

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy


BRIDGET Jones – one of the most beloved characters in modern literature – is baaack!

Should we be amused ... or very, very afraid?

Well, for those who loved her, there's still a bit of the old Bridget to love in this third instalment. That's the v.g. (very good, for those who don't speak Bridget) news.

The bad news is, like most sequels, it suffers from the law of diminishing returns. For me, though it has a few laugh-out-loud moments, this outing is less enjoyable than the first two.

For the uninitiated, Bridget Jones's Diary made its debut way back in 1996. Its author Helen Fielding and her potty-mouthed, diary-keeping, calorie-counting heroine practically invented chick lit. Thirty-something Bridget became the poster girl for a generation, inventing terms such as smug marrieds, singletons and emotional f***wits.

I really dug the first book. I even liked the 1998 sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, although the plot – which finds Bridget in a Thai prison – veered from plausibility.

Both books were so successful, they were made into v.g. movies starring Renee Zellweger (as the title character), Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy has received a mixed reception from critics since its release last month. Reviews range from lukewarm to downright hostile. ("You're not dead yet, but you might as well be," sniffed one reviewer. Ouch.)

The novel drew particular ire from longtime fans after it was revealed that Bridget's love interest, Mark Darcy, had died several years before Mad began. At 51, Bridget is now a widow and mother of two.

Set in contemporary London, the book has Bridget negotiating a new phase in her life, including the challenges of maintaining sex appeal as the years roll by, and the nightmares of drunken texting, skinny jeans, total lack of Twitter followers and televisions that need 90 buttons and three remotes to simply turn on.

So, where is the character growth, you ask? At 51, shouldn't Bridget learn from past mistakes and be less foolish than her 30-something phase?

It doesn't help that her life is populated by well-meaning but seemingly immature friends. They pitch in with matchmaking and fashion advice ("You can't rely on your arse in jeans at our age.").

In one scene, Bridget and gang enter a dimly lit nightspot, and she has a panic attack, yelling "I'm too old!" "So?" retorts one of her buddies. "It's practically pitch black."

Bridget's obsession about her age, weight and sex life (or rather, the lack of one) is resolved when she meets a 29-year-old hottie. His name is Roxster, and boy oh boy, is he dreamy ... and there is a second suitor in the wings, one that's more age-appropriate.

Other pressing questions that Bridget faces in this book are:

What do you do when your girlfriend's 60th birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend's 30th?

Is it better to die of Botox or die of loneliness because you're so wrinkly?

Is it wrong to lie about your age at online dating sites?

Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has head lice? (The head lice bit becomes an annoying running joke.)

Is it normal to be too vain to put on your reading glasses when checking your toy boy for head lice?

Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is that his assistant?

Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet? (OK, I for one find Bridget's attempts at acquiring Twitter followers hilarious. After visiting her doctor, she blurts out, "Will you follow me on Twitter?")

Throughout Mad, Bridget faithfully chronicles her stumbles through the challenges of loss, single motherhood, technology, and rediscovering her sexuality in – Warning! Bad, outdated phrase approaching! – middle age.

If you're a Bridget fan, this is a timely read, as it is interspersed with touching, funny moments.

If you're not ... well, there's always the inevitable movie adaptation.

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Honeymooners being used to smuggle drugs overseas


PETALING JAYA: Drug syndicates are now using honeymooners and this tactic was exposed when a Malaysian couple was held for smuggling 6kg of heroin into Taiwan.

The syndicates, believed to be run by Nigerians, are smuggling drugs, including heroin and syabu, from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to other countries, especially Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Federal Narcotics Crime Inves­tigation Department director Comm Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said strict security at the KL International Airport had forced the syndicate to move their operations to Sabah.

"The Nigerians are using Malaysians to smuggle drugs overseas. They are even using newlyweds on honeymoon," he said.

The syndicates, said Comm Noor Rashid, had previously used Vietnamese and Cambodians as drug mules but the authorities were onto their modus operandi.

He said the authorities had detained three Malaysians, including a couple from Sabah, for attempting to smuggle drugs into Taiwan.

It is believed that the husband and wife, who were detained at the Taiwanese airport on Oct 15, were from Penampang and Tawau.

"We received information about the smuggling activity and quickly informed our counterparts in Taiwan. The two were detained upon arrival at the airport," he said.

A third suspect, he added, was later detained at the airport.

Comm Noor Rashid said the couple, believed to have married in September, were still being held by the Taiwanese police.

"We are working with Taiwanese police to ascertain whether the honeymooners were part of a syndicate or just victims.

"The husband claimed that at a job interview, his prospective employer had promised to recruit him if he helped send a suitcase to someone in Taiwan," he said.

Postgraduate student Ting is Perak’s youngest MCA Youth chief


KUALA LUMPUR: Ting Tai Fook, the new Perak MCA Youth chief, is the youngest to lead the wing in the state's history.

The 29-year-old postgraduate student defeated Liew Mun Hon, 37, by a 106-vote majority.

Ting, also Lumut MCA Youth chief, polled 262 votes while Liew, a businessman and Ipoh Timur Youth chief, bagged 156 votes.

In Selangor, Jessie Ooi, 34, failed in her bid to be the party's first woman to helm the state youth.

The businesswoman and mother of three bagged 228 votes while her male opponent Chong Sin Woon polled 396 votes.

This is the first time women are contesting in the Youth elections after the wing amended its con­stitution to accept women under 40.

Chong who attributed his victory to team spirit said his win had given him more confidence to vie for the national Youth chief's post in December.

In the Federal Territory, Tan Kok Eng is the new FT MCA Youth chief after defeating Soo Jing Wey.

Tan, who is the son of FT MCA chairman Datuk Seri Tan Chai Ho, got 160 votes while Soo bagged 121.

The state MCA Youth nationwide held their elections yesterday.

Other newly elected state Youth chiefs are Lee Beng Seng (Penang), Leaw Kok Chan (Negri Sembilan), Koo Choon Peng (Johor), Chong Swee Wee (Kelantan) and Chung Muh Sa (Perlis) and Tan Chee Hiong (Kedah).

The four state MCA Youth chiefs who won uncontested when nominations closed on Monday are Leong Kim Soon (Pahang), Tan Jia Wei (Terengganu) and Adrian Lee (Sabah) and Lim Swee Hu (Mal­acca).

Related story:
Call for more CCTVs to combat crime among motions tabled by state MCA Youth wings

Five in battle for three PAS veep posts


KUALA LUMPUR: The 59th PAS muktamar will see a five-way fight for the three vice-president posts, with incumbents Salahuddin Ayub, Datuk Husam Musa and Datuk Mahfuz Omar defending their posts against information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and central working committee member Datuk Abu Bakar Chik.

The polls, on Nov 21-22, will also see deputy president Mohamad Sabu facing Kelantan deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah.

Husam and Tuan Ibrahim received the highest number of nominations for deputy presidents but both pulled out, deciding instead to compete in the VP race.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, meanwhile, retained his post uncontested when nominations closed on Friday night.

The contest for the Youth chief's post will be a three-cornered fight among Youth exco member Suhaizan Kaiat, Federal Territory youth chief Kamarulzaman Mohamad and lawyer Zulhazmi Sharif.

The top posts in PAS Dewan Ulama remained unchanged with chief Datuk Harun Taib, deputy chief Datuk Ahmad Yakob, who is also Kelantan Mentri Besar, and vice-president Datuk Dr Mahfodz Mohamad keeping their seats.

There were not enough nominations for the posts of auditor and deputy permanent chairman. Datuk Abu Kassim Abdullah remains the permanent chairman.

PAS election committee chairman Asmuni Awi said the vacancies would be filled during the muktamar, as required by the party's constitution.

He urged all candidates to campaign "in a healthy manner" without attacking rivals or abusing official functions to promote candidates.

"Any candidate seen putting down another to make himself look better will be referred to the disciplinary board," he warned after announcing the final candidature list at the PAS headquarters here yesterday.

He said any winning candidate proven to have campaigned unethically would be dropped.

The final candidate list has 61 people competing for central committee seats.

However, Asmuni said, the list would be subjected to checks with the Malaysian Department of Insolvency to ensure they are all eligible.

About 1,300 delegates from across the country will take part in the party's 59th muktamar.

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A sidekick for Batman


TV star Adam Driver has been rumoured as top choice to play Nightwing.

Girls star Adam Driver has emerged as the frontrunner to play Batman's crime-fighting partner Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing (formerly Robin), in Zack Snyder's superhero sequel Batman vs. Superman, two individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap. Warner Bros had no comment.

Driver boasts a unique look that fits the rumoured description of Nightwing – Grayson's post-Robin alter-ego – as a "young John Hawkes", as first reported by Latino Review. At 1.9m, Driver could hold his own against 1.95m Ben Affleck, who will play an older and world-weary Batman.

A source tells TheWrap that at least two other actors may be in the mix to play Grayson, the Caped Crusader's former sidekick, who's been estranged from Bruce Wayne for years in the movie, according to Latino Review. Henry Cavill is set to reprise his role as Superman alongside his Man Of Steel co-stars Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne.

Driver – who did a stint in the US Marines after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks – is a new favourite on the Warner Bros lot, where he made a strong impression on the studio's Greg Silverman with his performance in WB's dysfunctional family comedy This Is Where I Leave You.

Shawn Levy directed the 2014 release, in which Driver plays the brother of Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Corey Stoll and the son of Jane Fonda. Warner Bros has been busy searching for Batman vs. Superman's female lead, who is expected to serve as a love interest for Batman. Olga Kurylenko is the frontrunner, though Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious) and Elodie Yung (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) have also tested for the part and remain in contention.

It's unclear whether the coveted role is that of Wonder Woman or her alter ego Diana Prince, who is expected to make a brief appearance along with fellow DC Comics character the Flash.

Warner Bros will release Batman vs. Superman on July 17, 2015.

Since his breakout, Emmy-nominated turn as Adam Sackler on Girls, Driver has worked with Clint Eastwood on J. Edgar, Steven Spielberg on Lincoln and the Coen brothers on Inside Llewyn Davis. Driver next stars opposite Mia Wasikowska in John Curran's Tracks and will soon be seen alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Mackenzie Davis in CBS Films' romantic comedy The F Word.

He has also reteamed with Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach on While We're Young. — Reuters

Game on for Harrison Ford


More than 30 years after Star Wars, Harrison Ford has returned to inter-stellar space battles in big-budget sci-fi spectacular Ender's Game.

But the 71-year-old insists it's the human relations rather than hi-tech wizardry that drew him to the project, developed from a novel by Orson Scott Card and directed by South African X-Men director Gavin Hood.

"It doesn't matter to me whether I go back into outer space or not," he told reporters in Beverly Hills.

"The job is the same and I don't have any sort of genre preferences.

"I'm just looking for a good story, a good character, whether Earth-bound or not."

In a film which will resonate with Star Wars fans recalling the young Luke Skywalker and the crusty Han Solo, Ford plays Colonel Graff, training a group of children and teenagers how to protect the Earth from an alien invasion.

The best bet to save the world is Ender, played by Britain's Asa Butterfield, who starred in Martin Scorsese's 2011 drama Hugo.

Timid, but with an exceptional gift for military strategy and tactics, he becomes the hero of a film in which inter-galactic battles are played out in space and in a simulated game world.

It is almost Ford's first sci-fi film since the last Star Wars movie, apart from a role in 2011's Cowboys And Aliens.

And science fiction has changed quite a bit since director George Lucas released the initial trilogy of the cult movie franchise in 1977 – as Ford explained as he presented his latest movie.

"When we were making Star Wars, they were putting together space ships out of plastic model kits of cars, boats and trains, and gluing them all together, and then putting them on a stick and flying them past the camera.

"And it worked. It was fine. Add a little music and you believed that big spaceship coming over your head," he said.

Dismisses the label "icon"

Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) can achieve incredible effects, but the veteran Hollywood actor warns they should not be abused.

"Often in those cases I feel you lose touch with the human characters and what it is that they would feel and how they might feel, and that's still the most important part.

Into his seventh decade, the actor is in fact busier than ever, with three other films released this year: 42, Paranoia and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

But the legendary Indiana Jones actor, while one of the most famous actors in the world, dismisses the label of "icon".

"An icon means nothing to me. I don't understand what it means to anybody, actually. It seems like a word of convenience.

"It seems to attend to the huge success of certain kinds of movies that I did, but ... I don't know what an icon does, except stand in a corner quietly accepting everyone's attention," he joked. — AFP Relaxnews

Coming Soon


Movies that are coming to Malaysian cinemas.

Free Birds The taglines for this film include "The greatest turkey movie of all time" and "Hang on to your nuggets". It revolves around two turkeys who travel back in time to change an important tradition – getting turkey off the holiday menu. Voice cast includes Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and Dan Fogler.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Katniss Everdeen has sparked a revolution among the people of Panem. This causes President Snow to panic, and he stages a new round of games to punish her. Jennifer Lawrence is back as the "girl on fire".

'Darn it! Of all the times to receive a psychic summons from Prof Xavier. And he should really learn to stop shouting!'

'Darn it! Of all the times to receive a psychic summons from Prof Xavier. And he should really learn to stop shouting!'

Kick-Ass Girls This action packed film features loads of beautiful people including Malaysian actresses Emily Lim and Chris Tong. Besides these two former beauty queens, there are also Hong Kong stars La Ying of the boy band Bro5, and model King Chu.

'Look, it's nothing personal ... since we're Kick-Ass Girls, someone's gotta get their @$$ kicked, and you drew the short straw.'

'Look, it's nothing personal ... since we're Kick-Ass Girls, someone's gotta get their @$$ kicked, and you drew the short straw.'

Battle Of The Year Based on a real-life event that has dancers from all over the world competing in a group dance competition. The American team is vying to win this year. Josh Holloway does not dance, but heads the cast (of real dancers) anyway.

'Wrong movie, Bub - we're not X-Men either.'

'Wrong movie, Bub – we're not X-Men either.'

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Decoding the cyber attacks


Hacktivism arrived in Singapore 10 days ago in the form of "the Messiah", who claimed to be a member of global cyber activism group Anonymous. He threatened to unleash a legion of hackers on the country and its infrastructure if the Government did not revoke its licensing regime for news websites. Should Singaporeans be afraid?

ON OCT 29, as ordinary Singaporeans went about their Tuesday, political protest took an unexpected turn.

This day marked the arrival of the hacktivist in Singapore – a new breed of protester who hacks into online sites to make a point. And that day, the Singapore Government was his declared target.

In a blurry YouTube video, a masked man threatened chaos on the country and its infrastructure if the licensing regime for news websites, instituted in June, was not lifted.

Identifying himself as a part of cyber activism group Anonymous, he declared: "For every single time you deprive a citizen his right to information, we will cost you financial loss by aggressive cyber-intrusion."

What preceded and followed the video message were defacements of several websites, from that of the Ang Mo Kio Town Council to The Straits Times' blog section, by a hacker calling himself "the Messiah".

Last Saturday, when several government websites went down for several hours, some Singaporeans wondered if it was the start of the threatened chaos.

Communications consultant Priscilla Wong, 36, says: "My first thought was, could this be 'the Messiah' carrying out his threats?"

But the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore, the local sector regulator, told the media that it was not a case of hacking, but of scheduled maintenance that took longer than expected due to technical glitches.

Then, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the authorities would spare no effort in finding the hackers, and that they would be dealt with severely.

Two days later, a page on both the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Istana websites were hacked in retaliation.

This move took the hostilities to a new level, say observers.

"If you presume it's the same guy or the same group, then this shows escalating tensions," says PAP MP Zaqy Mohamad, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communications.

"I suppose they took PM's words as a challenge, and to some extent, it showed their confidence and brazenness."

How significant is this emergence of local hacktivism, and what are the ramifications?

What happened?

While the website defacement left many wondering if the leaking of classified personal information was just a string of codes away, cyber experts say there is a gulf between the technical skills required for the two acts, and that the two activities tend to be carried out by different groups for different purposes.

Website defacements are generally considered "low-level" hacking jobs, says Paul Ducklin, a consultant at security software firm Sophos.

The next level up is DDoS attacks, short for Distributed Denial of Service.

In DDoS attacks, the attacker creates a network using thousands of infected computers worldwide, which are then made to overwhelm a targeted site with a huge spike in traffic.

The IDA revealed on Friday that there was an unusually high level of traffic to many government websites on Nov 5, the day of the Messiah's threatened attack, and that these indicated either attempts to scan for vulnerabilities or potential DDoS attempts.

While such attacks may cause inconveniences by slowing down website access for users, they do not usually result in a loss of data or information.

In the case of the PMO and Istana Web pages, the hackers exploited a vulnerability known as "cross-site scripting", which resides in an unpatched Google search bar embedded in a Web page on each of the two government websites.

Users had to type a specially crafted string of alpha-numeric search terms – understood to have been circulated on online forums – in the Google search bar before an image resembling a defaced page came on screen.

IDA assistant chief executive James Kang stressed that the integrity and operations of both sites were not affected.

"Data was not compromised, the site was not down and users were not affected," he said.

The most severe attacks, those resulting in personal information theft, are usually carried out in stealth by organised crime groups for financial gain, say experts.

They use computer programs such as keylogging software to harvest passwords and banking account details.

Foreign academics studying the Anonymous group note that the hacktivists do not have the financial wherewithal, nor desire, to perpetrate this level of cyber crime.

An expert on the Anonymous collective, Gabriella Coleman of Canada's McGill University, wrote in a recent academic paper: "It has neither the steady income nor the fiscal sponsorship to support a dedicated team tasked with recruiting individuals, coordinating activities and developing sophisticated software."

The Messiah's actions so far seem consistent with Anonymous' modus operandi of symbolic protest instead of real damage.

"The attacks so far were mainly targeted at government-linked organisations with the purpose of creating attention, rather than causing direct damage," says Alvin Tan, director for anti-virus software company McAfee Singapore and the Philippines.

The Internet Society's Singapore chapter president Harish Pillay emphasises that the websites that have been defaced by "the Messiah" are not high-security ones.

There is no reason to link the hacking of such websites to intrusion into classified government databases, he says. "That's like saying that since a shophouse next to Parliament House got burgled, then Parliament House is in danger of being burgled. The two are not the same."

Still, the threats have made an impact.

Last Saturday, the IDA took down some of the gov.sg websites for maintenance in an attempt to patch vulnerabilities.

A combination of Internet routing issues and hardware failures caused a glitch, which took the websites offline longer than expected that day, IDA said.

Plugging weaknesses

On Wednesday, PM Lee confirmed that the Government was beefing up its systems but cautioned that it was not possible to be "100% waterproof", as IT systems are complicated and "somewhere or other, there will be some weakness which could be exploited".

In the wake of the hacking of the PMO and Istana pages, the IDA said that it is continuing to strengthen all government websites. This includes the checking and fixing of vulnerabilities and software patching.

But bringing cyber security here up to a level that could deter elite "crackers" – the term for ill-intentioned hackers – will be challenging, say experts.

A major obstacle is the lack of security experts not just in Singapore but also worldwide.

Singaporean Freddy Tan, chairman of the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium – or (ISC)2, estimates the shortfall of infocomm security staff in Singapore to be at least 400. (ISC)2 is the world's largest not-for-profit body that educates and certifies IT security professionals.

Specifically, there is a severe shortage of security analysts and digital forensics workers who monitor Internet traffic patterns, says Tan.

Value of cyber protest

"The Messiah" and his colleagues have heralded a new age of digital protest here.

But observers are split on whether it is a valuable form of social and political activism.

"It gets people to sit up and ask, what's going on here?" notes Pillay.

When it comes to the issues, the Messiah and his colleagues seem to be interested in a gamut of them.

Experts say the overall agenda seems to concern equality, looking out for the underdog and a call for transparency.

The lynchpin demand, made in the YouTube video on Oct 29, was directed at the Government's licensing regime for news websites.

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 (RM130,000) bond and take down content against public interest or national harmony within 24 hours.

It is opposed by some for what they perceive as its intent to suppress online free speech, and a group of bloggers has mounted a "Free My Internet" campaign against it.

But the group has distanced itself from "the Messiah", and among prominent online commentators a rift has emerged over whether to denounce the hacking or accept it as another form of social and political activism that could effect change in its own way.

The hackers' threats spurred some Netizens to reject this method of seeking to change policies, arguing that it amounted to one group seeking to impose its views on others rather than arguing its case.

The Online Citizen, for example, said it did not condone Anonymous' tactics, saying it did not condone "intentional violations of the law which are calculated to sabotage and disrupt Internet services which innocent third parties rely on for data".

Some have likened hacking to the civil disobedience practised by Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan in the 1990s, when he argued that it was just to disobey an unjust law.

But if "the Messiah" wanted to add his heft to the campaign against the website licensing regime, observers were confused by his timing.

After all, it was announced in June, and the outcry and public protests against it took place later that month.

"Hacking Singapore sites for a law that was passed half a year ago is like laughing at a joke after everyone has left the party," notes Professor Ang Peng Hwa, director at the Singapore Internet Research Centre.

If and when the hackers are identified, the Singapore authorities are likely to bring a gamut of laws down to bear on them, say local lawyers.

"At least three of Singapore's broad laws might be invoked," says lawyer Gilbert Leong, partner at Rodyk & Davidson.

The first is the new Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, passed in Parliament in January. It was called the Computer Misuse Act before but was amended to allow the Minister for Home Affairs to order a person or organisation to act against any cyber attack even before it has begun.

For instance, telcos might have already been roped in to track the hacker.

The second is the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, which may be used against those who publish subversive materials that compromise public order.

The third law is the Sedition Act, for exciting disaffection against the Government.

Facing charges

Whoever was behind the YouTube video could also face charges under the Internal Security Act for threatening the security of the Internet, says lawyer Bryan Tan, a partner in Pinsent Masons MPillay.

If caught and proven guilty, "the Messiah" could face hefty fines and years in prison for his hacktivism.

Law enforcers' jobs would be made harder if "the Messiah" and his colleagues do not reside in Singapore.

However, another law – the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism) Measures Regulations – might be used to extradite the offender to Singapore.

This law might be used as "the Messiah" had threatened to attack Singapore's infrastructure, which could be deemed by the authorities as a terrorist act.

Whatever comes of "the Messiah" and Anonymous' arrival in Singapore, hacktivism looks to be a new fact of life in an inter-connected, politicised society.

It is however a tactic that many activists online have been quick to reject and Singaporeans on the whole have shown little interest in supporting. — The Straits Times/ANN

Transgender woman jailed two years for attacking boyfriend


A TRANSGENDER woman attacked her boyfriend with a knife, a pair of scissors and a fork after he "unfriended" her on Facebook and changed his status to "single".

William Hanz De Veyra Arriesgado, a 25-year-old Filipino who had a sex change but could not change her name under her country's laws, was sentenced to two years in jail yesterday for causing her Australian lover, 47-year-old bank worker Colin James Peady, grievous hurt.

Commenting on the 16 separate and serious injuries inflicted on Peady, District Judge Eugene Teo said: "The grievous assault – even if haphazard – was sustained and determined; persisting even after the victim had fallen over in a heap." — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

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