Ahad, 2 Mac 2014

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Three generation homes on the rise

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

WHEN their first child was born three weeks premature, financial services director Royce Lee and his wife, Sarah May, felt ill-prepared to care for the infant.

So his parents moved in to help. That was eight years ago. The senior couple stayed on as Lee and his wife had two more children.

There are now eight people living under one roof in the family's four-bedroom condominium apartment in Bukit Timah: the couple, both 41, Christabelle, eight, Oliver, three, and Annabeth, two, as well as Lee's father Henry Lee, 73, a retired human resources officer, and mother Jessie Lim, 66, a housewife, and a maid.

Lee said: "Nothing beats having your mother to care for your children, as children are so precious."

Like the Lees, more couples are choosing to live with their parents to get help with childcare, said Alice Tan, head of research at property consultancy firm Knight Frank Singapore.

The latest data shows a slight increase in the proportion of resident households with six or more people – the largest number listed under household sizes in the Population Trends 2013 report.

Such large households inched upwards from 9.3% of all households in 2002 to 10.6% in 2012. Resident households are those headed by a Singaporean or permanent resident.

This rise comes even as the average household size dipped from 3.55 persons in 2002 to 3.53 in 2012.

Aside from having parents live in to help care for the grandchildren, the red-hot property market in recent years may have contributed to the rise in large households, property analysts say.

Some seniors may have rented out or sold their flats to cash in and moved in with their children, said Nicholas Mak, head of consultancy and research at property consultancy SLP International.

Some seniors used their rental earnings or profits from the sale of their property as retirement income or to help their children upgrade to a bigger home, he said.

For the Lees, three-generational living has worked out well so far – with a lot of give and take.

For example, he worries that his parents are spoiling his children. His father allows the children to eat on the bed and watch television at the same time, while his mother feeds the younger two instead of letting them feed themselves.

But there are advantages in living with the parents, said his wife, the youngest of seven children.

"We can go for date nights once a week and go for holidays without the children as we know there are two trusted people at home," said Lee, who helps with the accounts in her husband's business. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

The alone in Singapore are not alone

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

MORE Singaporeans who are single, widowed or divorced are living alone.

The proportion of one-person resident households has doubled from 4.6% of all households in 1992 to 9.5% in 2012.

The Population Trends 2013 report of the Department of Statistics showed there were 109,500 such households in 2012 – more than triple the 32,400 in 1992.

Professor Jean Yeung, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore (NUS), described the increase as very significant and said: "The trend is just starting will increase rapidly in the next two to three decades."

In fact, one-person households are the fastest-growing household type in Asia, especially East Asia, said Prof Yeung, who organised the NUS Asia Research Institute's conference on the subject last December.

It was the first conference to examine the trend in Asia, with countries like South Korea and Taiwan also seeing a surge in the number of people living alone.

For example, the proportion of one-person households shot up from 9% in 1990 to 23.9% in 2010 in South Korea and from 13.4% in 1990 to 22% in 2010 in Taiwan.

Singapore's figures are lower given the relatively lower percentage of singles and the elderly, coupled with high housing costs, Prof Yeung said.

But the rising trend also reflects changing values and the desire for greater personal space and privacy, sociologists said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Reforms slow in Bangladesh’s toxic tanneries

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

DHAKA: Standing knee deep in toxic chemicals, Mokter Hossain loads animal hides into huge drums filled with still more dangerous liquids at a tannery in the Bangladesh capital.

Barefoot and sick with fever, Hossain stops every now and then to cough, a legacy of the job that his doctors warn could one day kill him.

"Some days I am too ill to work," said Hossain, 25, who has spent years inhaling fumes from the hexavalent chromium and other chemicals used to turn the raw hides into soft leather.

"I take medicine to control my skin diseases. If I don't, it gets worse," Hossain adds, gesturing to his arms and legs which are covered in rashes and black spots.

Hossain's tannery is one of 200 in Hazaribagh in Dhaka, where some 25,000 workers toil for as little as US$50 (RM163) a month to produce leather for shoes and other goods for stores in Europe and the United States.

Ten months ago, Western retailers were forced into action after a garment factory complex collapsed killing 1,135 people, one of a string of tragedies that have shone a global spotlight on that sector's shocking labour and safety conditions.

But there are few signs of reform at Bangladesh's leather industry, where conditions are equally atrocious and business is booming thanks to the West's growing demand for cheap, leather items.

Top local activist Rizwana Hasan blames a lack of headline grabbing disasters in the industry that could make consumers think twice about where their shoes and bags are made.

"In these tanneries, death comes slowly," said Hasan, referring to respiratory problems, cancers, skin diseases and other illnesses that doctors blame on long hours and few safety precautions.

"(So) While Bangladesh garment disasters make headlines across the world, the even more terrible conditions at the tanneries don't.

"These tanneries remind us of factories in the 19th century," she added.

Activists are also frustrated by murky supply chains in Hazaribagh that make it difficult to link specific tanneries to individual top Western retailers, and possibly shame them into action.

In Hazaribagh, the environmental and public health costs of the growing industry are on full display.

Every day, the tanneries collectively dump 22,000 cubic litres of toxic waste, including cancer-causing chromium, into the Buriganga – Dhaka's main river and a key water supply – according to the environment ministry. — AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

At least 10 killed in attack on Pakistan court

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 09:55 PM PST

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - At least 10 people, including a judge, were killed in a bomb attack on a court in the centre of the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Monday, police and witnesses said.

A loud explosion was heard in Islamabad followed by bursts of gunfire in a busy central district. Police said at least 30 were wounded.

(Reporting by Maria Golovnina and Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Obama warns of 'fallout' for Israel if peace effort fails

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 09:40 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, issuing a veiled warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of talks, said in an interview published on Sunday it would be harder for Washington to defend Israel against efforts to isolate it internationally if U.S.-led Middle East peace talks fail.

Obama, speaking to Bloomberg View, also made clear that he would press Netanyahu to allow him the time needed to test Iran's willingness to curb its nuclear ambitions, despite the Israeli leader's deep skepticism of the West's diplomatic engagement with Tehran.

Responding to the interview, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said the Netanyahu government was serious about peace but would not be pressured into endangering the Jewish state.

Obama said the "the window is closing" for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and called on Netanyahu to "seize the moment" to help achieve a framework agreement that Secretary John Kerry is trying to forge to extend peace talks.

Obama said his message to Netanyahu in a White House meeting scheduled for Monday would be: "If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?"

Obama said if peace talks fail and Israel presses ahead with expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land in the West Bank, then Washington would have limited ability to protect it from "international fallout."

Though he did not specify what kind of actions Israel might face, Palestinians have threatened to try to join international tribunals where they could make their case against Israel.

The Jewish state is also facing a boycott and divestiture movement that has made some inroads in Europe but has had little impact in the United States.

"What I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction and ... if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited," Obama said.


Kerry's recent warning that failure to resolve the Palestinian issue could fuel anti-Israel boycotts stirred controversy in Israel, where he was accused of trying to pressure for concessions.

Obama's comments, made in an interview on Thursday, were published shortly before an Oval Office meeting in which Iran is expected to be the thorniest issue. The two leaders have a history of sometimes testy relations.

The Obama interview was received coolly by Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a Netanyahu confidant who accompanied the prime minister to the United States.

"I didn't like all of the remarks. I think there is no reason to put pressure on Israel," he told Israel's Army Radio.

"Netanyahu will, I think, give a clear answer: 'We are ready for peace. We want to advance a diplomatic accord. But we, rightly, worry about and fear for our national security.'"

In the interview, Obama repeated his opposition to any congressional move to impose further sanctions on Iran while it is engaged in talks with Washington and other world powers.

"It is profoundly in all of our interests to let this process play itself out," Obama said. " Let us test whether or not Iran can move far enough to give us assurances that their program is peaceful."

Saying that new sanctions would derail diplomacy, Obama said: "You don't start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations."

However, Obama did not touch on the main point of contention - Netanyahu's demand that Iran be forced, in a final nuclear deal, to dismantle all of its uranium enrichment centrifuges, compared to the president's suggestion that Tehran could be allowed a small program for civilian purposes.

Steinitz said the current course of the diplomacy could turn Iran into a "nuclear threshold state" - with the required infrastructure to get the bomb in short order.

Obama insisted that, contrary to Netanyahu's assertions, existing sanctions on Iran are largely holding. He also expressed confidence that Tehran was convinced he was keeping all options on the table, including military action, should diplomacy fail and Iran seek to develop a nuclear weapon.

"I know they take it seriously," Obama said.

Iran says it is not seeking a nuclear bomb and that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful civilian purposes.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Mark Felsenthal and Dan Williams; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Russia's Lavrov to meet U.N.'s Ban, Brahimi in Geneva - agencies

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 09:31 PM PST

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva on Monday at a human rights council session, Russian agencies reported.

They gave no further details, but since the last round of talks on Syria, Brahimi has been trying to bridge the gap between the main negotiators.

(reporting by Lidia Kelly, editing by Elizabeth Piper) nL5N0LG1E7

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Foreign directors win over Hollywood

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Why do so many non-American directors win Oscars?

WHEN the best director Oscar winner is announced on March 3, chances are it will once again be a non-American – highlighting Hollywood's focus more than ever on global markets vital for box-office success.

Over the last 20 years, 11 winners of the best director Academy Award – arguably second in prestige to best picture at Tinsel-town's biggest annual show – have been from outside the United States.

And if Mexican Alfonso Cuarón wins the coveted prize for space thriller Gravity, as many predict, he will be the fourth non-American in a row to win in the category.

The same would be true for fellow front-runner Steve McQueen, the British filmmaker behind 12 Years A Slave, a best picture front-runner.

They would follow Briton Tom Hooper for The King's Speech in 2011, Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist in 2012 and Taiwan-born Ang Lee for Life Of Pi last year.

The success of foreign directors in Tinseltown is in fact nothing new – it's been a constant since the 1920s, when Germans Ernst Lubitsch and F.W. Murnau settled in the United States.

Life Of Pi won Ang Lee the Best Director award at the Oscar last year.

Life Of Pi won Ang Lee the Best Director award at the Oscar last year.

"We've always had lots of British directors. Alfred Hitchcock is just one of many and there's always been an exchange between British cinema and American cinema," film historian Jonathan Kuntz told AFP.

"And then of course, depending on world circumstances, we had a lot of filmmakers driven to the US. Of course the Nazis drove most of the good filmmakers out of Europe."

Kuntz, an associate professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), added: "Then, Eastern Europe during the 60s and 70s – a lot of filmmakers fled from there essentially, (Milos) Forman, (Roman) Polanski and many ended up in Hollywood."

But experts say the wave of foreign filmmakers pouring into Hollywood since the turn of the millennium is above all motivated by the changing economic model of movie studios.

"Fifty years ago, the industry was making roughly 70% of its revenue on domestic sales. Now, 80% is coming on foreign sales and only 20% is domestic sales," said history professor Steve Ross.

"So part of the reason, I think, they are going for foreign directors is also to appeal to their new base, who is a foreign base," the University of Southern California (USC) academic told AFP.        

Laura Isabel Serna, assistant professor at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, added: "This is part of Hollywood's global marketing strategy that encourages audience identification with 'their' directors or actors.

"What is interesting is that, whereas in the past Hollywood has turned to Europe, studios are increasingly turning to other parts of the world as well, which is a testament to the vibrancy of film production in places like Latin America."

But while European, Asian or Latin American filmmakers are welcomed here for their "sensibility," studios don't want them to bring too much of their own national perspective to the screen.

"American directors know what American audiences want, but a foreign director coming in is going to have a sensibility that has to appeal to a larger audience," said Ross.

In most cases it works fine: Gravity, written by Cuarón and his son Jonas, has made over US$700mil (RM2.3bil) at the global box office. His compatriot Guillermo Del Toro earned nearly US$410mil (RM1.3bil) last year with sci-fi blockbuster Pacific Rim.

"Del Toro is an amazing guy," said Kuntz.

"He's Mexican through and through and at the same time he grew up on American pop culture, he's obsessed with it, clearly. He knows American pop culture better than almost any American.

"And the kind of filmmaking he does – horror, science-fiction and genre – that's something Hollywood loves also. He seems to fit right into the system."

Cuaron "is a great artist," he added. "This is one of the great cinema masters of the world right now. You have to admire his accomplishment."

Ultimately though, the only real common denominator between filmmakers who succeeded in Hollywood in cinema's golden age, the 1970s and those of the 21st century, is commercial success, said Ross.

"The bottom line in Hollywood is always the bottom line, the profit," he said, stressing, "The ultimate aim of the studios is to bring in personnel who can expand their markets and increase their profits."

"Now if these foreign directors were making films that didn't make money, believe me, they'd go back to American directors again," he added. – AFP

French arthouse filmmaker Alain Resnais dies aged 91

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 06:25 PM PST

He was much-loved figure of French film world.

FRENCH arthouse filmmaker Alain Resnais, a star of the New Wave movement with close to 50 movies to his name, has died aged 91, his producer told AFP on March 2.

Resnais, whose play-within-a-film Life of Riley (Aimer, boire et chanter) won a prize for innovation at the Berlin Film Festival last month, died in Paris late on March 1 "surrounded by his family," said his producer Jean-Louis Livi.

With a shock of wiry white hair and trademark dark shades, Resnais was a much-loved figure of the French film world and a regular presence at top festivals from Cannes to Berlin.

France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, paid tribute to "a very great talent, universally known".

Resnais's first slot at the Cannes Film Festival was for the New Wave classic Hiroshima Mon Amour, screened out of competition in 1959.

Still making movies as he reached 90 – with recurring themes of love, memory and mortality – he told Cannes two years ago he made films "for myself, like DIY".

"It's like a laboratory experiment in which you mix things without knowing what the result will be."

At the time of his death, he was working on the script for a new film, according to Livi, who produced his most recent works.

Born on June 3, 1922 in the western city of Vannes, Resnais made a short film on the storybook villain Fantomas at the tender age of 13.

Riding the crest of the French New Wave of the 1960s, he stood slightly apart from his contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut.

While they filmed young Parisians in the streets with hand-held cameras, Resnais played with narrative "flash-ins" that mingled past and present.

His early features like Hiroshima mon Amour and L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad (1961) drew on the work of modernist French authors Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet.

From the 1970s onwards, Resnais' films became lighter and more accessible, and his quasi-musical On Connait la Chanson (The Same Old Song, 1998) was a huge commercial and critical success.

But he remained one of the most experimental French filmmakers, with often-present themes on fractured time and parallel worlds.

The Cannes festival awarded him a lifetime achievement award in 2009.

Resnais married twice, and is survived by his second wife, Sabine Azema. – AFP Relaxnews

What a coup for Bradley Cooper

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Life's good for former hotel doorman Bradley Cooper.

Whoa, double take. In his latest movie, the 1970s crime caper American Hustle, Bradley Cooper is near-unrecognisable, his matinee idol looks sacrificed on the altar of character acting. He's a veritable refugee from Studio 54 in double-wide lapels, flared trousers, a Robin Gibb beard and Toni-home-permanent pin curls.

It's the latest step in a midcareer makeover that has catapulted Cooper, 38, from throwaway films like The A-Team to the A-list, front and centre in the vanguard of a new generation of leading men.

Cooper's dashing good looks led to years of typecasting as cocky cads (notably the conceited, adulterous hothead in Wedding Crashers) and generic boyfriends. Remember him in He's Just Not That Into You? Neither does anyone else. The Hangover series earned hundreds of millions of dollars and made Cooper a bona fide megastar, but it was not much of a showcase for his abilities.

"It wasn't even until Silver Linings Playbook that I realised how many people didn't think I was an actor," Cooper said in a recent phone interview. "Maybe I, like Richie DiMaso," the befuddled FBI man he plays in Hustle, "was in a bit of a delusion."

More likely, the people who underestimated Cooper were wrong. In 2012's Silver Linings Playbook he played a manic depressive who assaults his wife's lover, then moves in with his parents after months in a mental hospital. His performance, which turned this borderline psycho into a lovable romantic mutt, earned Cooper a best actor Oscar nomination.

In Hustle, Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Robert De Niro play schemers double-crossing their way through a back-stabby scheme inspired by the Abscam scandal. In that 1978 sting operation, federal agents busted politicians who accepted bribes from an actor playing a Mideast sheik.

Cooper's character is an FBI operative who cons two con artists into working for him. The gullible lawman soon finds himself in over his head strategically, ethically and romantically. Cooper and Russell made it their main goal to demolish the stock character of the FBI antagonist in their delirious crime story.

"We wanted to reinvent that archetype completely," Cooper said. "We wanted Richie to be almost as colourful as the Irving character" – a whiny, tubby swindler played by Christian Bale, wearing a Donald Trump comb-over and packing a Santa Claus paunch. Irving's scams include keeping a fake-English mistress (Adams) under the radar of his wife (Lawrence). For a while, anyway. The film morphs into a screwball love story, with the conniving players switching sides faster than a flipped coin.

Cooper calls Russell, who co-wrote the script, an "idiosyncratic," hard-charging filmmaker who treats his projects like all-in sports contests. Every aspect of the characters was thought out in detail, down to the point that the boyish Richie is never seen with his tie properly tied until a smoother character gives him a makeover.

"It was very fun to dive into these characters and see who could they be," Cooper said. "My heart goes out to all of them, especially Richie. There's nothing like watching somebody lose their innocence. It's my job as an actor to make that fresh and personal."

Boyfriend material: Bradley Cooper's dashing good looks led to years of typecasting as cocky cads and
generic boyfriends.

Russell favours colourful, contradictory characters over clear-cut plot lines, and shouted on-the-spot brainwaves to his cast in mid-scene.

"He was rewriting while the cameras were rolling, a process that's unique," Cooper said. "No one really knows what's happening but him. I love it because it gets you out of your head. It makes things easier, because it just forces you to react."

Cooper's father, a Philadelphia stockbroker, wasn't convinced that an acting career was a sound business plan for his son. Cooper had his own moments of doubt.

In 1999, when he was 23, he worked as a doorman on the graveyard shift at the fashionable Morgan Hotel in New York City.

"One of the guys I took to their rooms was Leonardo DiCaprio," fresh off his superstar turn in Titanic, Cooper said.

"I remember riding down on the elevator after I showed him and about seven of his friends their room. I was wearing the uniform, not a hip look. I remembered reading recently that he and I were exactly the same age. I went down in the elevator thinking I had been four feet from the guy and we couldn't be in two more different worlds. He was my age and he had accomplished so much."

Flash forward: Now DiCaprio and Cooper are good friends, attending last year's Super Bowl together. "It's a crazy business," Cooper said.

It sure is. Next year, Cooper will become a figure in the Marvel superhero universe, but with a lunatic twist.

In Guardians Of The Galaxy, he plays pint-size Rocket Raccoon, a gun-slinging, genetically manipulated critter with an advanced intellect and humanoid properties. He's working with director James Gunn to perfect the militant little furball's sound. (A tough Cockney accent is under consideration.) Cooper is also working out the digitally rendered creature's body language, acting out his scenes in a bodysuit as motion-capture cameras record his performance.

"We're right in the middle of it, but I can say he's a pretty volatile guy." Playing a wisecracking extraterrestrial ringtail might seem like a pretty big stretch, but so far underestimating Cooper has been a bad bet. – Star Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

American Hustle is currently playing in selected cinemas nationwide.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star eCentral: TV Tracks

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The Weinstein Company sets camp in Malaysia

Posted: 28 Feb 2014 03:52 PM PST

An epic series on the life of Marco Polo is set to be shot in Malaysia.

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5 ways 'True Detective' can blow it

Posted: 28 Feb 2014 07:47 AM PST

The crime thriller may be one of today's hottest shows, but how it might end still worries fans.

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