Isnin, 3 Februari 2014

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro


Horses fight in Chinese New Year battles

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

TIANTOU VILLAGE: In southern China, many ushered in the Year of the Horse with hooves clashing in mid-air and stallions biting opponents as cheers rang in the air.

For the residents of Tiantou, a remote village in the Guangxi region, the 500-year-old tradition which pits male horses against each other in a fight over a female was the only way to kick off the Lunar New Year.

"Without horse fighting it wouldn't feel like a new year," said Pan Jianming, whose horse Little Black reared-up on its hind legs and bit its opponent's neck to scoop victory in a competition this weekend.

"He stood up and hit the other horse straight away," Pan, a 31-year-old air conditioner repairman, said.

"If he likes the female horse, it doesn't matter how much pain he's in, he won't run away," he added, his black and white shirt stained with blood which dripped from a gash on his horse's nose.

"We have medicine to treat his injuries, and he will gradually get better," added Pan, who claimed a champion's prize of 500 yuan (RM276).

Fifteen animals fought in bouts, which saw horses jump into the air with their front hooves spinning before crashing down on their opponents and biting their head or neck, sometimes drawing hair and blood.

Horse fighting competitions held by the Miao – an ethnic group living in mountain areas of Southern China and South-East Asia – date back more than five centuries, according to locals.

The first battle is said to have been held to settle a dispute between two brothers who both hoped to marry the same woman.

But the fights, held in small mountain villages in Southern China every year with prizes of up to 10,000 yuan (RM5,520), have been condemned by animal rights groups.

In 2010, Hong-Kong based Ani­mals Asia called horse-fighting a "horrific spectacle", accusing the scraps of causing "abuse and suffering to animals in the name of entertainment".

The stallions are encouraged to fight by the presence of a female horse, who is kept metres away from the clashing pairs by a villager armed with little more than a stick.

The horse which successfully defends its position close to the female is declared the winner.

Animals Asia has said that the female horses are sometimes "induced into season through the injection of hormones".

In Tiantou, hundreds of spectators gathered just metres away from the battling equines – without any barriers separating them from the action.

Onlookers scramble to escape when pairs of bucking mares periodically galloped towards them.

Others shouted: "Fight, Fight!" as the animals clashed but most insisted the contest was not cruel. — AFP

At least four killed in grenade attack on cinema

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

PESHAWAR: At least four people were killed and 31 wounded when unidentified attackers hurled two grenades at a cinema in northwest Pakistan, police and medics said.

The attack on the Picture House cinema in Peshawar, the region's main city, took place as some 90 people were watching a late night show of the film Ziddi Pakhtun (Stubborn Pushtun), police said.

"Attackers hurled two grenades and fled the scene," Faisal Mukhtar, a senior police official said.

A stampede following the blasts was responsible for many of the injuries, Mukhtar added.

Jamil Shah, a spokesman for Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital said three dead bodies and 31 injured people had so far been taken to his hospital.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but police said that cinema houses in the city were already under threat.

"We had informed the cinema owner about the possible threats," Najeeb-ur-Rahman, a senior police officer said.

Peshawar is a frontline city in Pakistan's battle against Islamist insurgents, who regard films as sinful. The Taliban closed down cinemas in the scenic Swat valley in the country's northwest which they controlled from 2007-2009.

The decline of cinema houses in Peshawar has also been accelerated by the advent of videos, DVDs and the Internet and today only seven remain. — AFP

‘Sharing economy’ gaining traction in the republic

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

INSTEAD of leaving the stuff in his storeroom to gather dust, media and events company owner Lyndon Yeo has found a way to make money from it.

Using the online platform renttycoons.com, the 46-year-old rented out items from tentages to air pum­ps, which he used only occasionally, and earned more than S$1,000 (RM2,600).

For David Thomson, renting Yeo's tents for an event last September saved him the hassle of storing and maintaining an item which he needed to use only once.

This is the sharing economy – a marketplace where ordinary people rent and share anything from plastic stools to homes and cars. And going by the figures, Singaporeans are taking a healthy interest in this new form of consumption.

Renttycoons.com, which lets people rent anything from drills to flipcharts, has picked up 1,700 users since it was launched in January last year.

Meanwhile, BlockPooling.sg, a similar service which allows people to rent their neighbours' tools or even pay them for services such as computer repair, now has about 3,500 users since launching last March. iCarsclub, a website where people rent out their cars, has 220 cars available and about 6,500 registered users. Sharetransport.sg, a carpooling service, has about 16,000 users.

Since around 2010, about 20 co-working spaces have also mushroomed, enabling people to share workspaces with each other instead of having to bear the full cost of renting an office.

Said Eugene Tay, 36, who runs a co-working space called Ecosystem: "When you buy a drill, what you want is the hole, and not the drill. The old model is buy and throw away, but if you use it once, why not rent it from a neighbour who has it?"

Despite the benefits of the sharing economy, it still faces challenges in Singapore. The worry that strangers might ruin your stuff is a common one. "But in practice, that rarely happens," said Fenni Wang, 28, co-founder of renttycoons.com.

The former civil servant recalls only two cases of damage since her site started. In one case, a customer forgot to return the box of a popcorn machine, and her deposit was forfeited as compensation. In another case, a customer left the deep fryer on the bus, but the owner did not mind as she rarely used the machine anyway.

"In most cases, customers can settle things between themselves," she said.

Sharing economy companies also have measures such as deposits and additional insurance. Most sharing economy platforms also allow users to rate each other.

Singapore University of Techno­logy and Design's Professor Saif Benjaafar, an expert in the sharing economy, believes it may be time for governments to tweak some of their policies in a way that encourages sharing.

"They need to recognise the emergence of new businesses models and new ways people are consuming and sharing goods and services." — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz


Philip Seymour Hoffman's standout performances

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Oscar-winner Philip Seymour, who was found dead in his New York apartment on Feb 2, was a celebrated "actor's actor". Here are some of his most notable roles and awards.            

Capote (2005, as Truman Capote)

Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar for his mesmerising performance playing the title role of author Truman Capote. The film was also nominated for Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Achievement in Directing and Best Writing for Adapted Screenplay. He also won a Best Actor award at the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards in Britain and Screen Actors Guild Awards among others.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, as Plutarch Heavensbee)

In one of his most recent roles, Hoffman was seen in the second instalment of the blockbuster The Hunger Games franchise. He had also been cast in two more instalments of the series set for release in Nov 2014 and Nov 2015, respectively.               

Jack Goes Boating

(2010, in title role as Jack)

The drama-comedy marked Hoffman's cinematic directorial debut, and he scored a Best Actor win from the Chlotrudis Awards for independent film.

The Master

(2012, as Lancaster Dodd)

Hoffman's perfomance as a charistmatic cult leader opposite a troubled World War II veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix landed him his fourth Oscar nomination.

The Ides Of March

(2011, as Paul Zara)

Hoffman's performance as senior Democratic presidential campaign manager Paul Zara earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Britain's Bafta Awards. The film was nominated for Best Writing at the Oscars and got four Golden Globes nods.        

Synecdoche, New York

(2008, in lead role as Caden Cotard)

In this critically acclaimed film, Hoffman stars as a struggling theatre director who mounts an ambitious production: a life-sized replica of New York City inside a warehouse.        

Doubt

(2008, as Father Brendan Flynn)

Hoffman starred alongside Meryl Streep in an Oscar-nominated role as an anguished Catholic priest suspected of molesting a teenage boy, earning an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor. Based on John Patrick Shanley's successful stage play, the film is celebrated for scenes in which Hoffman's character wages verbal warfare with his accuser, Streep's Sister Aloysius.

Charlie Wilson's War

(2007, as Gust Avrakotos)

Hoffman is compelling in his Oscar-nominated role as a foul-mouthed CIA

agent. The film, which also stars Tom Hanks, was also nominated five times at the Golden Globes, including one nod for Hoffman.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007, in lead role as Andy)

In an unlikable turn, Hoffman plays a character who organises with his brother the robbery of their parents' jewelry store. But the job goes horribly wrong.

Magnolia (1999, as Phil Pharma)

Hoffman plays a nurse who finds a dying show producer's estranged son in the film, nominated three times for an Academy Award.

The Talented Mr Ripley (1999, as Freddie Miles)

Although cast alongside A-list favourites Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, Hoffman steals the show in a supporting role as the duplicitous preppie Freddie Miles.               

The Big Lebowski

(1998, as Brandt)

In a rare comedy appearance, Hoffman plays mediator between an unemployed Los Angeles slacker and a millionaire of the same name for whom he is mistaken.               

Boogie Nights

(1997, as Scotty J)

In his breakout performance, Hoffman plays an insecure gay boom operator who has a crush on a porn star, played by Mark Wahlberg. – AFP      

Related story:
Inner turmoil

Philip Seymour Hoffman vehicle 'Happyish' unlikely to continue

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 06:45 PM PST

Actor was in lead role.

THE loss of the Oscar-winning actor, who was found dead in his New York apartment on Feb 2, translates into an uncertain future for the comedy in development at Showtime.

The premium cable channel has yet to officially decide the future of Happyish, a series in development with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role. Nonetheless, rumours in the Hollywood trade press indicate that Showtime is likely to drop the series following the death of the actor, who earned an Oscar in 2006 for his performance in Capote.

Showtime had high hopes for Happyish, which had been in development for over two years. The network did not order a pilot until the summer of 2013, when Philip Seymour Hoffman agreed to take on the title role. In the test episode, Hoffman played Thom Payne, an ageing advertising executive whose firm has been bought out, and who is being upstaged by young talent.

The actor's death is not expected to have an impact on the next installment of The Hunger Games. In the role of the head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire, Hoffman was slated to return in The Mockingjay, which will be released in two parts. The actor had already filmed the majority of his scenes and was scheduled to spend just seven more days on the set. Lionsgate has not made any announcements on the matter, but excepting any surprises, the next two Hunger Games films should still arrive in theatres in the fall of 2014 and 2015 as initially announced.

On the other hand, the film Ezekiel Moss will need to find a new director. Hoffman had planned to helm his second feature in 2014, four years after Jack Goes Boating. Over the weekend, just before the actor's death, the trade press announced that Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams would star in the Prohibition-era drama.

Audiences will be able to see the actor in his last roles during 2014. The actor will appear in theaters in Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man alongside Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright and in John Slattery's God's Pocket with Christina Hendricks and John Turturro. – AFP Relaxnews

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The real Phyllis Logan

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Phyllis Logan is nothing like her Downton Abbey character, Mrs Hughes.

Despite 36 years in show business, it seems that actress Phyllis Logan has never quite escaped domestic service. Her first paying role was that of a maid, for which she earned £37.

Here she is again, as the starchy Mrs Hughes in service at Downton Abbey, which returns for its new season on DIVA Universal tonight.

When Logan first read the part, she thought she'd have to assume a strange English accent. After all, as Mrs Hughes is the senior housekeeper of the estate, and all the "downstairs" people come from the blue collar area of northern England.

But Logan is a Scot with a thick Scottish brogue, rolling her R's and stretching out her vowels. And a revolutionary thought occurred to her: Why not make Mrs Hughes a Scot?

"So I read the part and looked at the scenes and I thought, 'Oh, this would also work quite well as a Scottish character," she says, looking nothing like Mrs Hughes in gray chiffon with sequins and extinguishing an electronic cigarette.

"So when I was there I went in and spoke to (the producer) and he said, 'Oh, you've got such a nice accent, maybe we should try Mrs Hughes as Scottish.' I said, 'Well, funnily enough that you should say that, I was going through and thinking that the syntax of what she said, the type of person she was – I thought this could really work as a Scottish woman.' They were delighted and said, 'Yes, that's fine.'"

While she may be deft with serving trays and choosing the proper linen, her first meaty role was that of a lady of England's aristocracy in the detective series, Lovejoy with Ian McShane. That followed with roles in almost every popular British crime series there is, including Wallander, Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies and, of course, Downton Abbey.

Though she participated in school plays and joined the film club as a teen, the idea of acting for a living never occurred to her until a friend suggested she try out for drama school.

"Because I came from a small town outside Glasgow nobody from my school had ever gone into the acting profession. It was just something you didn't do," she shrugs.

"You joined the bank or became a teacher or whatever you did. I suggested it to my careers adviser who said, 'No' – basically, 'Why would you want to do that, you'll never get the grades?' He was talking about being a drama teacher and that's not what I was talking about."

She ignored him, sent for a prospectus to drama school in Glasgow and auditioned her way in. Her parents thought she was a bit loony, she says.

"Not so my mum, but I think my dad just thought, 'That's not a job.' Sadly my father died before I graduated so he didn't see any of the success, at all. And my mum, bless her, who just died two years ago, she was very happy. I think she was proud of me."

Logan's Scottish accent first intruded when she was studying drama. "We were always told we had to get rid of our Scottish accent. You need to start off with what they call RP – Received Pronunciation, that's what they do on the BBC ... I didn't really buy that idea at all. So when I first did Lovejoy and was playing a very upper-class lady, I went to the interview and spoke like that and they gave me the part and I thought, 'When am I going to break it to them that THIS is how I sound?'

Except for a very brief stint working for tips as a hat-check girl, Logan has never had another job, nor has she ever wanted to quit acting. "It's true as a woman particularly, the older you get the parts get thinner on the ground and not quite as interesting, that's for sure," she sighs.

"People are trying and I think maybe the industry is waking up to the fact that women can be funny in comedies and can be in hit films."

The death of her father when she was 20 affected her profoundly early in her career, she says.

"He was only 59 and I hadn't even graduated, and my sister had only just left university. My brother was out in the world. But it was a terrible time, actually. I often think, I wonder what would've happened if my dad had survived. It's a bit like Sliding Doors, you don't know how much your path would've shifted. I just don't know. But I often wonder if there would've been a different shift. It affected us all, and my mother was widowed longer than she was married."

Wed to actor Kevin McNally (The Pirates Of The Caribbean series), Logan says she never intended to marry an actor, and they took their time about it.

"I'm the first to say I would never have had one in the house," she says. "But you can't legislate love. We've been together for 20 years. We met on a job, some television thing years ago. But we didn't really get together on the job, at all. We'd known each other, but I thought he was a bit of an arrogant twit, but there's so much more to him," she smiles.

They have a 17-year-old son, David. Motherhood at 40 changed her, she says. "When somebody's calling you mommy it's a wonderful thing. But also to have that responsibility and to know that you and your partner have this little thing that's totally relying on you – and it made me, I suppose, less selfish. Not that I was mega-selfish to start with, but it's lovely having that responsibility. It's scary, but it's great when you get used to the idea of having that responsibility and having that child that you have unadulterated love for and will do throughout their lives." – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Season 4 of Downton Abbey premieres on Feb 6 on DIVA Universal (Astro Ch702) at 8pm.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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Philip Seymour Hoffman's standout performances

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Oscar-winner Philip Seymour, who was found dead in his New York apartment on Feb 2, was a celebrated "actor's actor". Here are some of his most notable roles and awards.            

Capote (2005, as Truman Capote)

Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar for his mesmerising performance playing the title role of author Truman Capote. The film was also nominated for Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Achievement in Directing and Best Writing for Adapted Screenplay. He also won a Best Actor award at the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards in Britain and Screen Actors Guild Awards among others.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, as Plutarch Heavensbee)

In one of his most recent roles, Hoffman was seen in the second instalment of the blockbuster The Hunger Games franchise. He had also been cast in two more instalments of the series set for release in Nov 2014 and Nov 2015, respectively.               

Jack Goes Boating

(2010, in title role as Jack)

The drama-comedy marked Hoffman's cinematic directorial debut, and he scored a Best Actor win from the Chlotrudis Awards for independent film.

The Master

(2012, as Lancaster Dodd)

Hoffman's perfomance as a charistmatic cult leader opposite a troubled World War II veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix landed him his fourth Oscar nomination.

The Ides Of March

(2011, as Paul Zara)

Hoffman's performance as senior Democratic presidential campaign manager Paul Zara earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Britain's Bafta Awards. The film was nominated for Best Writing at the Oscars and got four Golden Globes nods.        

Synecdoche, New York

(2008, in lead role as Caden Cotard)

In this critically acclaimed film, Hoffman stars as a struggling theatre director who mounts an ambitious production: a life-sized replica of New York City inside a warehouse.        

Doubt

(2008, as Father Brendan Flynn)

Hoffman starred alongside Meryl Streep in an Oscar-nominated role as an anguished Catholic priest suspected of molesting a teenage boy, earning an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor. Based on John Patrick Shanley's successful stage play, the film is celebrated for scenes in which Hoffman's character wages verbal warfare with his accuser, Streep's Sister Aloysius.

Charlie Wilson's War

(2007, as Gust Avrakotos)

Hoffman is compelling in his Oscar-nominated role as a foul-mouthed CIA

agent. The film, which also stars Tom Hanks, was also nominated five times at the Golden Globes, including one nod for Hoffman.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007, in lead role as Andy)

In an unlikable turn, Hoffman plays a character who organises with his brother the robbery of their parents' jewelry store. But the job goes horribly wrong.

Magnolia (1999, as Phil Pharma)

Hoffman plays a nurse who finds a dying show producer's estranged son in the film, nominated three times for an Academy Award.

The Talented Mr Ripley (1999, as Freddie Miles)

Although cast alongside A-list favourites Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, Hoffman steals the show in a supporting role as the duplicitous preppie Freddie Miles.               

The Big Lebowski

(1998, as Brandt)

In a rare comedy appearance, Hoffman plays mediator between an unemployed Los Angeles slacker and a millionaire of the same name for whom he is mistaken.               

Boogie Nights

(1997, as Scotty J)

In his breakout performance, Hoffman plays an insecure gay boom operator who has a crush on a porn star, played by Mark Wahlberg. – AFP      

Related story:
Inner turmoil

Philip Seymour Hoffman vehicle 'Happyish' unlikely to continue

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 06:45 PM PST

Actor was in lead role.

THE loss of the Oscar-winning actor, who was found dead in his New York apartment on Feb 2, translates into an uncertain future for the comedy in development at Showtime.

The premium cable channel has yet to officially decide the future of Happyish, a series in development with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role. Nonetheless, rumours in the Hollywood trade press indicate that Showtime is likely to drop the series following the death of the actor, who earned an Oscar in 2006 for his performance in Capote.

Showtime had high hopes for Happyish, which had been in development for over two years. The network did not order a pilot until the summer of 2013, when Philip Seymour Hoffman agreed to take on the title role. In the test episode, Hoffman played Thom Payne, an ageing advertising executive whose firm has been bought out, and who is being upstaged by young talent.

The actor's death is not expected to have an impact on the next installment of The Hunger Games. In the role of the head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire, Hoffman was slated to return in The Mockingjay, which will be released in two parts. The actor had already filmed the majority of his scenes and was scheduled to spend just seven more days on the set. Lionsgate has not made any announcements on the matter, but excepting any surprises, the next two Hunger Games films should still arrive in theatres in the fall of 2014 and 2015 as initially announced.

On the other hand, the film Ezekiel Moss will need to find a new director. Hoffman had planned to helm his second feature in 2014, four years after Jack Goes Boating. Over the weekend, just before the actor's death, the trade press announced that Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams would star in the Prohibition-era drama.

Audiences will be able to see the actor in his last roles during 2014. The actor will appear in theaters in Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man alongside Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright and in John Slattery's God's Pocket with Christina Hendricks and John Turturro. – AFP Relaxnews

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business


Merger and acquisitions on the cards for Brahim's in H1?

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: This year may see Datuk Ibrahim Ahmad Badawi (pic), who holds an indirect 54.89% stake in Brahim's Holdings Bhd, injecting more assets via privately held Dewina Holdings Sdn Bhd into the listed in-flight caterer-cum-restaurant operator.

Analysts who cover the stock believed Ibrahim would be injecting several assets into the company this year, with one saying the exercise could happen in the next few months.

"What I've heard is that the paperwork has been done, it just needs to be confirmed. I'm confident this exercise will happen in the first-half of the year," she said.

Another analyst said it did make sense that a merger and acquisition could be in the offing, as the recent announcements on the tie-up with Labuan Halal Hub Sdn Bhd (announced on Jan 16) and Japanese airline ANA Holdings Inc (announced on Jan 7) involved the provision of halal meals. Dewina Food Industries Sdn Bhd, a Dewina subsidiary, provides Brahim's ready-to-eat meals and sauces.

"I'm not sure of the timeline, but these announcements could hasten the asset injection exercise," he noted.

Ibrahim, who helms both Brahim's and Dewina as executive chairman, declined to comment further on the matter.

"My privately held entities are not as big as Brahim's. Several of the more recent projects announced need to be nurtured, but these projects have potential to be injected later on," he told StarBiz.

He also did not discount a separate listing for Desatera Sdn Bhd, a joint venture (JV) between Dewina and Koperasi Angkatan Tentera Malaysia Bhd, which has been awarded a contract to operate military cookhouses up till 2026.

"Desatera has potential; it's injectable but it can also stand on its own," he said, adding that this venture, which operates 67 cookhouses, needed to be nurtured before any move to list or inject it into Brahim's could be initiated.

Other ventures under Dewina, which Ibrahim said might be potentially acquired by Brahim's, were Dewina Food; a plant manufacturing meals in Jordan in a 50:50 JV with a Jordanian government agency, an upcoming plant in Saudi Arabia, and a plant with a farm, including an abattoir and facilities for value-added products, in Ningxia, China, in which Dewina has a 49% stake.

While not new, the speculation, along with news of recent ventures, has attracted interest in the company's stock, with the share price having risen about 132% since the beginning of July to RM2.21 on Jan 30, 2014.

Early last October, Koperasi Permodalan Felda Malaysia Bhd (KPF) emerged as a substantial shareholder in Brahim's with a 5.2% stake, while pilgrimage fund Lembaga Tabung Haji, already a major shareholder with a 5.3% stake, acquired another 366,500 shares in early January.

KPF has a 20% stake in MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd, which operates a sugar duopoly in the peninsula together with Central Refinery Sdn Bhd, part of the Tradewinds group.

Ibrahim said Brahim's RM150mil sugar refinery near Kuching would be completed by the end of next year. The company plans to initially provide 180,000 tonnes of refined sugar in Sabah and Sarawak, where annual demand has been estimated to be around 300,000 tonnes.

Facebook plans low-key birthday bash

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 07:30 PM PST

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook has grown into an Internet giant over the last decade, but it is celebrating its birthday with a low-key, belated party and an eye toward the future.

While the arrival of its 10th anniversary on Tuesday has pundits analyzing the social network's past and theorizing about its future, the Internet juggernaut is trying to stay focused on the job at hand.

"Just as we do every year, we will have an internal party on Friday afternoon," Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah told AFP in response to a query regarding the company's birthday celebration plans.

It remained to be seen whether the Menlo Park, California-based social network, which now boasts over a billion users, had something playful planned for its actual anniversary on Tuesday.

In an earnings call last week to discuss stellar quarterly results, Facebook chief and co-found Mark Zuckerberg gave a nod to the growth seen during the past decade but focused on the future.

Zuckerberg spoke of making "apps" for showcasing Facebook features on smartphones or tablets to stay in synch with mobile Internet lifestyles.

Long-range goals included using artificial intelligence to figure out how pictures, videos, comments and more shared at Facebook are related and of shooting toward helping people share anything they want, with anyone they want, whenever they want.

Facebook broke ground late last year on an expansion to its campus in former Sun Microsystem digs in the Silicon Valley city of Menlo Park.

The new West Campus was designed by respected architect Frank Gehry.

As Facebook celebrates its 10th anniversary, the world's biggest social network is finding its path as a maturing company, adapting to an aging user base.

Zuckerberg has repeatedly described Facebook's mission as "making the world more open and connected," and some say he has accomplished just that.

The company created in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 has established itself as a phenomenon, securing its place in the world of the technology giants.

"Facebook has made the world much smaller, much more interactive," said Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry.

In its short history, Facebook has become a part of daily life for more than a billion people around the globe.

"More than 20 percent of all time spent on the Internet is spent on Facebook," says Lou Kerner, founder of the Social Internet Fund.

Facebook says it has a global total of 1.23 billion monthly active users, including 945 million who use the social network on a mobile device.

And, a Pew Research Center survey released Monday suggests no slowing momentum for the network, even though more than half of US Facebook users said they are turned off by oversharing and didn't like the fact that they showed up in pictures without giving permission.

After a calamitous initial public offering in May 2012 plagued by technical glitches, Facebook saw its share price slump by half.

But the company has been on a roll for the past year, with its stock hitting record highs.

According to the research firm eMarketer, Facebook has become the second-largest recipient of digital advertising spending behind Google, and is particularly strong in mobile ads.

"Facebook appears the best way to play the social Internet," Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note to clients, preferring Facebook to the up-and-coming network Twitter.
- AFP

Maybank to offer ringgit Trade Financing in China

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 07:27 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Maybank is offering trade financing in ringgit across China through branches in Beijing in Shanghai, which includes letters of credit, financing of imports, exports and currency swaps.

In a statement on Tuesday, Maybank said other Chinese banks may also apply to be Maybank's appointed agent to offer ringgit financing to any of their customers across China.

Global head of transaction banking John Wong said the trade financing facility provides a new liquid currency with hedging options, helps minimises foreign exchange exposures and enabling both parties to benefit from better trade terms and a reduced supply chain costs.

"The ringgit Trade Financing service further reinforces Maybank's position as the key go-to Malaysian bank for businesses in China as it was the only Malaysian bank appointed by People's Bank of China as a market maker for ringgit/renminbi, and since 2012, Chinese customers have been allowed to maintain ringgit accounts at Maybank Shanghai branch," he said.

Wong said the bank is focusing on Supply Chain Financing that supports open account trades, which are the dominant form of trade in Asia.
Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies


Russell Crowe trails legends

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Russell Crowe's Noah buoys an unsinkable career arc.

WHETHER because of deep personal ambition or a sense of having come to American cinema as an outsider, the New Zealand-born Russell Crowe's role choices have often suggested a desire to belong to great Hollywood traditions.

Gladiator looked back to historical blockbusters such as Cleopatra and Ben-Hur, Cinderella Man joined the line of boxing movies that includes Raging Bull, and Robin Hood directly overlapped with one of the signature performances of an earlier leading man from the Antipodes, Errol Flynn. Even Crowe's recent cameo in Man Of Steel – as Superman's dad – happened to take on a part formerly played by a cinematic legend, Marlon Brando.

And now the history man seems to be at it again. His big 2014 release, Noah, channels Charlton Heston and the biblical extravaganzas such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, that were popular in the 1940s and 1950s. By striking coincidence, Crowe as Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky, will be going head to head with Christian Bale as Moses in Ridley Scott's Exodus, another retro-religious film.

As these movies follow the 10-hour American series The Bible, it's clear that Christianity is hot in US culture for reasons that may combine the current cultural power of the religious right, the cheapness of the material (scripture is out of copyright) and the fact that many of the set pieces in the good book – floods, plagues, sieges at walled cities – happily parallel the plots of disaster movies.

Revealingly, the marketing line on Noah, in posters and an early trailer, presents the bearded boat-builder as "a man trying to protect his family", and one of the clips released so far shows Crowe delivering the line, "It begins!", which traditionally cues the unleashing of the special effects in apocalyptic films. The biblical story of the Flood is essentially The Day After Tomorrow with a bit of a theological subplot about divine intervention.

Actors like to talk about their character's "arc" and, in playing someone who has an ark as well, Crowe has selected a figure with many contemporary resonances. The raging elements against which the rain-lashed father fights can surely be taken – if members of the audience so choose – as metaphors for terrorism, the economy or, indeed, in these environmentally conscious times, the weather.

For Crowe, Noah feels like a canny choice. It is a role in which for an actor suddenly to look older – Crowe will reach 50 next year – will be regarded as realism rather than deterioration; it would look odd if he hadn't gone grey and whiskery. And Noah's arc requires him to be tremendously brave and macho, while also demonstrating notable kindness to animals: a crowd-pleasing combination of attitudes that would be hard to bring off in, for example, a film about a dad protecting his kids against terrorists in modern Detroit, Michigan.

Ever since Robin Hood, the accent has been on the performer's vocal choices, and the trailer suggests that Crowe has gone for a throaty rumble that might well be the speaking voice of a man who has spent a lot of time persuading large and dangerous animals to walk up a plank in pairs.

And, for Crowe, the performances continue to come in two-by-two: walking by the side of Flynn in Robin Hood, Richard Burton in Gladiator, Brando in Man Of Steel and, now, Charlton Heston in Noah. – Guardian News & Media

Sienna Miller: I burnt a lot of bridges

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

British actress says she sabotaged herself.

SIENNA Miller had looks, talent and a succession of steamy affairs with the likes of Jude Law and Daniel Craig.

Yet the English stunner's tabloid infamy didn't catapult her to stardom and Miller admits in a new interview with Esquire UK that her rocky off-camera life got in the way of her career.

"I sabotaged things," Miller tells the magazine. "I burnt a lot of bridges. On set, I was first to arrive, last to leave, best friends with the crew, totally professional, no (messing) around," she adds.

"But when I wasn't at work, I wasn't behaving the way you should. I'm very lucky to have a second chance in that town."

Miller hasn't been in a mainstream film since 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, but in the ensuing years she did manage to bring some personal stability to her life, marrying actor Tom Sturridge and giving birth to a daughter, Marlowe, in 2012.

She also has a series of interesting roles in the works that she hopes will return her to the limelight – including the wrestling drama Foxcatcher opposite Channing Tatum and the comedy Business Trip alongside Vince Vaughn.

Miller has even made peace with Law, with whom she had an on again, off again relationship.

"I'm great friends with him and with his children," Miller told Esquire. "I love them, madly. Just huge love and respect for all of them."

It's not all soul-searching. Miller shows her newfound maturity and professional contrition by being photographed topless. – Reuters

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Travelling - the best form of education

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

SHAH ALAM: Jamalulail Ismail left his comfortable job in England and decided to travel with his family of six in a motor home.

Their 155-day journey took them across 26 countries before arriving at Bukit Kayu Hitam last month.

The 45-year-old mechanical engineer from Perak said he made the decision on a whim to travel by road from Sunderland, England, and back to Malaysia.

He was accompanied by his wife Sofinee Harun, 38, and their children, Puteri Sabeera, 17, Muhammad Syameem, 16, Sumrah, 13, and Ahmad Seif, 10, during the whole trip.

"Travelling is the best form of education. Besides, a family that travels together sticks together," he said when met here yesterday.

He went to Britain for further studies in 1999 and obtained a doctorate before joining an engineering company there.

The confined living quarters proved challenging at times.

The confined living quarters proved challenging at times.

He moved to another company before resigning to pursue his dream to travel home to Malaysia in a motor home.

Jamalulail said he and his wife carried out home-schooling for their children during the long journey on their 1998 Mercedes Splinter Caravan.

"We also learned more about the countries that we visited. Such thin­gs are a priceless experience. We also managed to learn a few foreign languages along the way," he added.

Their biggest challenge during the cross-continent journey was to stay together in a confined cabin during different weather conditions.

"Money was also a problem as we spent almost £60,000 (RM330,000). The weather was something we really had a tough time dealing with too," he said.

Jamalulail said China was quite expensive to travel by road.

"We had to obtain a new vehicle licence and a driving licence when we got to China.

"The petrol price there was RM7 per litre at that time and we spent almost US$1,000 (RM3,300) on toll," he added.

On his plans here in Malaysia, Jamalulail said he had yet to travel to Sabah and Sarawak, which might be where he will go next.

Iranian: More needs to be done against rogue taximen

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: An Iranian student who claimed to have been abused by taxi drivers for refusing to pay their exorbitant fares said not enough is being done by the authorities against rogue cabbies.

Mohammad Hariri said his face-off with three taxi drivers took place outside a major shopping mall in Jalan Bukit Bintang on Dec 10.

Desperate for a taxi because it was raining, Mohammad and his cousin approached drivers waiting for passengers outside the mall at about 3pm.

"The first wanted to charge us RM56 while the second wanted RM42, which we knew was too much," he said.

The 29-year-old, who is pursuing a postgraduate programme at a local private university, pointed out to the drivers that the usual metered fare to Sentul was just RM12.

"The moment I refused to use their taxis, a third driver started to swear at me," he said.

Mohammad said an auxiliary policeman tried to intervene but this did not stop the driver from continuing his abuse.

"He kept repeating 'This is my county, Malaysia, who are you?'" said Mohammad.

The policeman escorted him to the mall's information desk where he was advised to call the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) immediately. However, SPAD wanted specific details about the taxis and the drivers in order to investigate the case.

Mohammad went back outside to get the number plates of the taxis when the drivers confronted him.

He claimed that one threatened him with an umbrella while another started pushing him.

"I was calm and tried to walk away, but the third driver took out two big sticks from his car and rushed towards me," he said.

Fortunately, someone called the police, who arrived in time to diffuse the situation. He lodged a police report at the Dang Wangi station the following day.

Mohammad, who has been in Malaysia since 2006, said he had three previous encounters with rogue taxi drivers who overcharged him.

When contacted, an SPAD spokesman said they were investigating the incident.

Related stories:

Move against errant cabbies Taxi drivers who flout the law to pay heavy price

Behaviour of drivers only part of the problem

Commuters fed up with attitudes of some drivers

Penang island taxi fares to be increased

Puteri Umno: Give MCA chance to make comeback

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

KAJANG: Puteri Umno is backing the idea that MCA should be given a chance to make a comeback and contest in the by-election for the Kajang state seat.

Puteri chief Mas Ermieyati Shamsuddin said the Kajang state seat was traditionally MCA's and gave an assurance that the wing would give its full support to any candidate picked by the Barisan Nasional leadership.

"There have been many suggestions that perhaps an Umno candidate should be fielded in Kajang, but if we look at it, Kajang has been an MCA seat and they should contest in the by-election.

"However, we will let the Barisan leadership decide and the wisdom of the Prime Minister to make the final call on who should stand for the by-election," she told a press conference before chairing a special meeting with Puteri's Hulu Langat election machinery officers here yesterday.

The Kajang seat fell vacant following the resignation of Lee Chin Cheh from PKR on Jan 27.

The Election Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the vacancy.

Mas Ermieyati, who is also an Umno supreme council member, said Puteri members have been mobilised at all 16 district polling stations, aimed at wooing young voters during the by-election.

She also criticised the Opposition for dragging its internal problem out in the open just to accommodate certain leaders to take over the Selangor state government.

In George Town, Penang MCA adviser Datuk Dr Loh Hock Hun said the seat should be contested by an MCA candidate.

"In my opinion, it's better for MCA to contest the seat but if there are other suggestions, MCA is open to further discussions," he said when asked by the media about suggestions that the seat should be contested by an Umno candidate.

"It's like, if you want to go to someone's house, you should ask the owner for permission. This is a kind of respect."

Dr Loh said discussions could be carried out among Barisan component parties to reach an understanding.

"If they come up with reasonable suggestions to put in another candidate, we will accept the decision.

"Some people, especially the Chinese, think that MCA will agree with any suggestion by Umno, but the fact is, we will carry out discussions before any decision is made.

"We want harmony among the component parties and also the country," he said.

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Separatist rebel shot dead in Indonesia's Papua

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 04:37 PM PST

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesian security forces have shot dead a separatist rebel in the restive eastern province of Papua, police said on Sunday.

Acting on a tip-off, police and the military raided a gathering of members of the rebel Free Papua Movement (OPM) near a beach in the Yapen Waropen district on Saturday, Papua police spokesman Pudjo Sulistyo told AFP.

"They were involved in shooting incidents against police before and had caused unrest in the area," he said.

"We told them to surrender but they retaliated by shooting at us first. A firefight took place and we shot one of them dead," he added.

Eleven members were arrested and firearms were seized along with outlawed pro-independence Morning Star flags.

Three security officers were wounded in the gunbattle, Sulistyo said.

The OPM has since 1964 waged a low-level insurgency -- often using bows and arrows rather than guns -- against Indonesian rule over the resource-rich, ethnically Melanesian region.

Limbo looms for Thailand after protest-hit polls

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 05:28 AM PST

BANGKOK: Thailand's protest-plagued elections have ushered in a new chapter of political uncertainty that experts say leaves the embattled government increasingly vulnerable to court intervention or a military coup.

Millions were denied the opportunity to cast ballots on Sunday, with blockades by protesters seeking to prevent the re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra causing the closure of some 10 percent of polling stations.

Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets again on Monday for a new protest march through the capital although their numbers were down sharply compared with before the election.

Election officials said that nearly 46 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots in an election boycotted by the main opposition party. But facing possible vote reruns in nearly a fifth of constituencies, they dampened expectations of a quick result.

That has raised the spectre of weeks of uncertainty in a country where the military and the judiciary have a history of reshaping the political landscape.

Without enough MPs to convene the legislature, even if Yingluck wins she will remain in a caretaker role with limited power over government policy until elections are held in the problem areas.

"She will be untenable as a caretaker who doesn't have the authority to really run the country," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, adding that Yingluck would become "more vulnerable to some kind of ouster".

"The longer Yingluck is a weakening caretaker prime minister the greater the likelihood that we will see a decision from the independent agencies to break the deadlock," he said.

Such bodies include the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is investigating Yingluck for possible neglect of duty over a controversial rice subsidy scheme. If found guilty she could face impeachment.

Loved and loathed

Thailand has appeared trapped in a feedback loop of street unrest and political upheaval since a military coup deposed Yingluck's brother Thaksin from power more than seven years ago.

The billionaire tycoon-turned-politician has lived abroad to avoid a jail term for graft since 2008, but his absence has failed to heal the nation's divisions.

The former premier and his allies have won every democratic vote since 2001, riding a wave of popularity in his north and northeastern heartlands for policies like cheap healthcare and rice subsidy schemes.

But Thaksin's electoral strength and leadership style has been decried as tyrannical and corrupt by his foes, backed by the kingdom's powerful establishment forces.

Yingluck's Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung predicted Monday that Puea Thai would claim at least 265 out of 500 seats in the lower house.

The main opposition Democrat Party - which has not won an elected majority in some two decades - refused to take part in Sunday's election, instead throwing its support behind protesters largely made up of the Bangkok middle classes and southerners.

The party on Sunday said it was preparing to petition the Constitutional Court to annul the election.

Such a move "could prolong the protests on the streets of Bangkok and create a situation leading to intervention from the military or the judges," said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Japan's Kyoto University.

Fears of protracted civil violence

The political uncertainty hanging over one of Southeast Asia's biggest economies, coupled with recent political violence that has left at least 10 dead, have dented investor confidence and caused tourists to shy away.

"Foreign investors are increasingly worried about the mounting political risks in Thailand, with no political solution in sight," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight, which has cut its Thai economic growth forecast to 3.2 percent for 2014, from 3.9 percent previously.

He said the seemingly intractable political divisions heightened fears over "protracted violent civil unrest" coupled with "a gradual erosion of Thailand's previously sound macroeconomic environment".

The unrest is the worst since mass protests by the largely pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" against a Democrat-led government in 2010 sparked clashes and a bloody military crackdown that left more than 90 people dead.

The latest rallies were initially sparked by an attempted amnesty that could have allowed Thaksin to return.

But they morphed into an attempt to replace the government with an unelected "people's council" to run the country and implement vaguely-defined reforms before elections in a year or more.

Thailand-based scholar and author David Streckfuss said the opposition missed an opportunity to demonstrate the level of support for their campaign with a tally of 'no' votes.

He said demonstrators were aiming to help create the pretext for the military to step in to remove Yingluck, but were likely to "underestimate" the backlash from the Red Shirts.

"Sooner or later there is going to be a very sharp response." -AFP

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'Girl with a Pearl Earring' creates stir in Italy

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 06:00 PM PST

Already 100,000 tickets sold in advance.

DUTCH Master Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is going on show in the city of Bologna in Italy in February but the arrival of the celebrated painting of a young beauty is already causing a stir.

"There is an incredible fever surrounding this painting," the director of the exhibition, Marco Goldin, told AFP-TV at a press presentation.

"Clearly we are expecting a big success. In just a few weeks we have already sold 100,000 tickets," he said – for an exhibition opening on Feb 8.

The masterpiece is considered one of the most famous paintings in the world along with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch's The Scream.

The show on the Golden Age of Dutch painting at Palazzo Fava in Bologna is being organised together with the Mauritshuis museum in the Hague and runs until May 25.

Mauritshuis, which is under restoration, is also loaning Vermeer's Diana and Her Companions and works by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Ter Borch and Claesz.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is finishing up a world tour after being taken to Japan in 2012 and the United States in 2013. Bologna will be its only stop in Europe, before it is returned to the Mauritshuis.

"This is the first time it comes to Italy," Goldin said.

He explained that thanks to his relationship with Mauritshuis he had "managed to capture the painting against competition from many other museums".

The painting's fame has grown in recent years after it inspired a book and a film starring Scarlett Johansson.

Goldin warned it should not be seen as a "pop icon" but as "a sublime representation of beauty in art". – AFP Relaxnews

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5 pick-me-ups

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 11:35 PM PST

One date, eaten with a dab of peanut butter, delivers a reasonable dose of sugar and of healthy unsaturated fats. - Photos shutterstock.com/AFP

One date, eaten with a dab of peanut butter, delivers a reasonable dose of sugar and of healthy unsaturated fats. - Photos shutterstock.com/AFP

Fight fatigue from weight loss with these booster foods.

EFFORTS to slim down are almost always accompanied by a few moments of weakness, most of which are brought on by fatigue or frustration in the early stages of a weight loss plan. But that doesn't mean you have to give into the temptation of a muffin or a croissant. Here is a list of five small snacks that can deliver a boost of energy and calm cravings without undermining your calorie-cutting efforts.

Dark chocolate

As long as you can limit your intake to one or two squares (less than 10g), there is no need to fear for your waistline, especially if you opt for dark chocolate with a cacao content of at least 70%. Rich in flavonoids and magnesium, dark chocolate can provide a much-needed energy boost and a welcome treat. French nutritionist Jean-Michel Cohen recommends dark chocolate as a way to treat yourself while restricting calories during the rest of the day. He suggests eating a square with a small amount of bread. Doctor Raphaƫl Gruman, meanwhile, another French authority on weight loss, recommends eating dark chocolate during the stabilization phase, later in a weight loss plan, in moderation.

A date with a dab of peanut butter

Nutrition consultant Charlotte Debeugny insists that there is no reason to shun peanut butter during a weight loss programme. Stigmatised because of its high fat content, peanut butter contains mainly unsaturated or "good" fats, which our body requires even when the goal is in weight loss mode. And with peanut butter, as with nuts and other nut-based products, a small amount can go a long way to calm a craving. Debeugny suggests spreading a tiny bit of peanut butter on the inside of a date for a satisfying mini snack.

A rice cake with low-fat spreadable cheese

To tide you over until the next meal, protein is key, and a few teaspoons of spreadable low-fat cheese can provide just the right amount for an afternoon or mid-morning snack. Enjoy cheese on a puffed rice cake for the satisfying crunch, popcorn-like taste and – of course – low calorie count.

Filename : shutterstock_69.4116d150849.original.jpg - To go with

A handful of berries

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable low calorie foods around, berries are among the best ways to quell a rampant craving for sugar. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are low in sugar but deliver the sweet taste you crave, along with antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.

Filename : shutterstock_63.ecb3d150624.original.jpg - To go with

A citrus fruit

According to Doctor Jean-Michel Cohen, a reasonable quantity of caffeinated beverages can provide a way around fatigue during a weight loss programme, so tea and coffee are allowed. But coffee breaks can be challenging for those who usually enjoy cookies and cakes with their java. To satisfy your sweet tooth without overdoing it, opt for an orange, half a grapefruit or a few clementines. In addition to providing a reasonable amount of natural sugar, citrus fruits deliver a dose of vitamin C and fibre. – AFP Relaxnews

Tags / Keywords: Health, Detox, pick-me-up, chocolate, date, rice cake, berries, oranges

When it comes to stress, two minds are better than one

Posted: 02 Feb 2014 08:25 PM PST

Talking to others is good coping mechanism.

NERVOUS about an upcoming presentation or a major work project? New research shows that sharing your anxieties with people who may be feeling the same way can be an effective coping mechanism for dealing with the stress.

For the study, published jointly out of the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Leuven, Belgium, a group of 52 female students were paired up and asked to give a speech while being video-recorded.

But before delivering their speech, students were encouraged to discuss how they felt about the task. Researchers also measured levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol before, during and after the speeches.

The researchers then created an index of each pair's emotional similarity as well as how threatening participants perceived the speech task to be, and found that: "... sharing a threatening situation with a person who is in a similar emotional state, in terms of her overall emotional profile, buffers individuals from experiencing the heightened levels of stress that typically accompany threat."

The findings were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

But performance-related stage fright or stress isn't always bad. Another study published last spring found that shaky hands, a pounding heart, and sweaty palms can actually help improve both physical and mental performance. It's just a matter of reinterpreting these responses as natural and helpful reactions.

"The body is marshalling resources, pumping more blood to our major muscle groups and delivering more oxygen to our brains," said Jeremy Jamieson of the University of Rochester. – AFP Relaxnews

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