Khamis, 17 April 2014

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Six killed in Everest avalanche

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 09:47 PM PDT

Kathmandu (AFP) - At least six climbers have been killed after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told AFP.

"Rescuers have already retrieved four bodies and they are now trying to pull out two more bodies that are buried under snow," Ang Tshering Sherpa president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP.

The avalanche occurred at around 6:45 am (0100 GMT) at an altitude of about 5,800 metres (19,000 feet) in an area known as the "popcorn field" which lies on the route into the treacherous Khumbu icefall, Sherpa said.

He said that many other climbers had also suffered injuries, but could not give exact numbers.

A tourism ministry official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the climbers were all of Nepalese origin and were preparing the route to the summit ahead of the main climbing season which kicks off later this month.

"So far, we know that 14 Nepali climbers were taking equipment and baggage up to the area, it is unclear how many have been hit," the official said.

An executive at a US climbing company told CNN that the avalanche had struck while guides were preparing the route for mountaineers. - AFP

Captain not at helm of capsized Korean ferry

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 09:29 PM PDT

Jindo (South Korea) (AFP) - The captain was not at the helm of the South Korean ferry that capsized two days ago, investigators said Friday, as anger spread over stalled rescue efforts for hundreds of missing passengers trapped by the submerged vessel.

More than 48 hours after the 6,825-tonne Sewol suddenly listed and then sank, a small of army of more than 500 exhausted divers -- battling powerful currents in almost zero visibility -- have yet to obtain any access to the ferry's interior.

The confirmed death toll rose overnight to 25, but the focus of concern remained the 271 people still unaccounted for -- hundreds of them children on a high school outing to the southern resort island of Jeju.

The newly recovered bodies were all floating in the water, coastguard officials said, as the dive teams worked in shifts to find a way inside the submerged vessel in the increasingly slim hope of finding survivors trapped in air pockets.

Unable to secure an entry point for now, they bored holes in the keel -- a small section of which was still visible above the water -- for oxygen lines.

"Two divers are currently injecting oxygen into the ship," a coastguard official told AFP.

The weather conditions were extremely challenging, with rain, fog and strong sea swells

Of the 452 people on board the Sewol when it capsized Wednesday morning, 179 were rescued, but no new survivors have been found since Wednesday.

Three giant, floating cranes had arrived at the disaster site, but coastguard officials said they could not begin lifting the multi-layered ferry until they were sure there were no survivors inside.

Among the relatives of the missing, especially parents of the 352 students who were on board , there was growing resentment over what they see as the inadequacy of the rescue response.

- 'The government lied' -

In an appeal broadcast live on television Friday morning, a self-appointed spokesman for the relatives accused the authorities of indifference and deception.

"The government lied yesterday," he said, speaking at a podium in a gymnasium on Jindo island where hundreds of blanket-wrapped relatives have been sleeping on the floor since the tragedy unfolded.

Disputing the official figures of hundreds of divers, vessels and aircraft being deployed, he said he and other relatives had visited the rescue site and seen only a dozen ships and helicopters.

"Everyone, is this the reality of South Korea? We plead once more, please save our children," he said.

The initial public backlash has centred on the captain, Lee Joon-Seok, and his 28 crew, most of whom survived the disaster.

State prosecutors said preliminary investigations showed the third officer was at the helm of the ferry.

"The captain was not in command when the accident took place," prosecutor Park Jae-Eok told a press briefing.

The captain was "in the back" he added, without elaborating.

The captain apologised Thursday to the victims and their relatives, but offered no clear explanation for what caused the Sewol to capsize.

"I feel really sorry for the passengers, victims and families," Lee said. "I feel ashamed."

Tracking data from the Maritime Ministry showed that the ferry made a sharp turn just before sending its first distress signal.

Some experts believe such a tight turn could have dislodged the heavy cargo manifest -- including more than 150 vehicles -- and destabilised the vessel, causing it to list heavily and then capsize.

But others suggested the turn might have been caused by a collision with a rock or other submerged object.

"Whether or not they took a drastic turnaround ... is under investigation," prosecutor Park said, adding that they were also looking at the possibility of steering or other mechanical failure.

As well the cause of the disaster, investigators will be looking at why passengers were ordered to stay in their cabins and seats for up to 40 minutes after the ferry ran into trouble.

- 'I believe they are alive' -

Furious relatives believe many more people would have escaped if they had reached evacuation points before the ship listed sharply and water started flooding in.

Lee Yong-Gi, whose son Lee Ho-Jin was among the missing students, said he and other parents felt bitterly let down by the rescue operation.

"It's been two days but no one has been brought out alive," Lee told AFP.

"I firmly believe that the kids are alive. We need to rescue them as soon as possible. But officials are dragging their feet," he said.

Newspaper editorials were equally scathing with the Dong-A Ilbo daily calling the rescue response "ludicrous".

"We have the world's finest shipbuilding industry in the 21st century, but our mindset is in the 19th century," the newspaper said.

In a tense meeting with parents in the Jindo gymnasium on Thursday, President Park Geun-Hye was repeatedly interrupted by angry shouts from the crowd.

"What are you doing when people are dying? Time is running out!" one woman screamed. - AFP

China court jails four anti-graft activists for protests

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 08:43 PM PDT

BEIJING, April 18, 2014 (AFP) - A Chinese court Friday sentenced four anti-corruption protestors to between two and three-and-a-half years in jail over their role in small-scale demonstrations, furthering a crackdown on rights activists.

The four were associated with the New Citizens Movement, a loose-knit network whose members held peaceful protests in Beijing last year, carrying banners calling for officials to disclose their assets as a measure against graft.

They were sentenced for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order", Beijing's Haidian district court said on an official microblog.

Ding Jiaxi, a well-known human rights lawyer, was jailed for three-and-a-half years, while veteran activist Zhao Changqing was jailed for two-and-a-half years, the court said.

Fellow protesters Zhang Baocheng and Li Wei both received two-year sentences.

The verdicts come days after Beijing's high court upheld a four-year sentence for Xu Zhiyong, a founder of the movement. Ten New Citizens Movement members have faced trial this year.

"The ruling is a warning and a threat," Ge Yongxi, a lawyer for Zhang Baocheng told AFP, adding that his client complied with police requests to hand over his banners when the protests, involving a handful of activists, were curtailed.

"We think he's completely innocent, there is no legal basis for the court's ruling, and the punishment is too heavy," Ge added.

China's ruling Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to combat rampant corruption, with President Xi Jinping threatening to target high-ranking "tigers" and low-level "flies" in the face of public anger over the issue.

But the party has cracked down on activists pursuing the same goals, viewing independently organised anti-corruption protests as a challenge to its tight grip on power. - AFP


The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Pierce Brosnan gets a 'horrible feeling' watching himself as James Bond

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 10:15 PM PDT

The former Agent 007 star is currently promoting his new film, A Long Way Down.

Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan recognises the role as a "gift that keeps on giving", but he doesn't particularly enjoy watching himself order martinis shaken, not stirred.

"I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond, because it's just never good enough – it's a horrible feeling," Brosnan told The Telegraph.

Brosnan played Agent 007 in four films released between 1995 and 2002: Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. "I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger and Sean. It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me," the 60-year-old actor said.

"The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable. It was quite tame, and the characterisation didn't have a follow-through of reality, it was surface. But then that might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him as well."

As insecure as Brosnan may be about his Bond legacy, he recognises that the opportunity to play Ian Fleming's creation secured him the means to make passion projects like 2005's The Matador or his upcoming comedy How To Make Love Like An Englishman.

"It's the gift that keeps on giving, that allowed me to create my own production company and make my own movies," Brosnan said.

Brosnan is currently promoting his film A Long Way Down with actress Toni Collette and will soon be seen opposite Emma Thompson in The Love Punch,"a comedy about a happily divorced couple who scheme to recover the retirement money that was stolen from them. — Reuters

Harrison Ford talks 'Blade Runner' sequel

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 10:05 PM PDT

The actor also shares stories on his Star Wars and Indiana Jones days.        

Star Wars and Blade Runner actor Harrisson Ford conducted an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit over the weekend and answered a few choice questions about his past career and future aspirations.

Blade Runner

"The set for Blade Runner was maybe the hardest set I've ever worked on because I think we worked 50 nights in a row, and it was always raining," he recalled.

That said, Ford still retains interest in a rumoured sequel. "I'm quite curious and excited about seeing a new script for Blade Runner if in fact the opportunity would exist to do another," he revealed.

"If it's a good script I would be very anxious to work with Ridley Scott again, he's a very talented and passionate filmmaker. And I think it would be very interesting to revisit the character."

A young Harrison Ford in Blade Runner.

Star Wars

Speaking of collaborations, Ford confirmed that his famous Star Wars ad lib, saying "I know" in response to Princess Leia's "I love you", was what he preferred to think of as a suggestion.

"Movie making's a real collaborative process at its best. You don't ad lib it, you suggest it and then you try something in rehearsal and then you agree," he said.

"So it was my suggestion, because I thought it was more of a character line than what was written, but the director and Carrie and I all thought it was a good idea at the time so we did it."

Indiana Jones

That willingness to work new angles helped him out of a tough spot on ths set of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, when Ford was suffering from dysentery on the first of a three day fight scene – a face-off against an accomplished swordsman.

"When I got to set I proposed to Steven that we just shoot (him)," Ford related.

"The poor guy was a wonderful British stuntman who had practiced his sword skills for months in order to do this job, and was quite surprised by the idea that we would dispatch him in five minutes. But he flourished his sword, I pulled out my gun and shot him, and then we went back to England." — AFP Relaxnews

Actress Emma Stone makes smart wardrobe choices

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 08:25 PM PDT

The star of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and her wonderful red carpet looks.

Emma Stone, who will grace the big screens again later this month with co-star and real-life boyfriend Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, has been busy promoting the movie across the globe.

In the past few days, 25-year-old Stone has been walking the red carpet in Britain, France and Italy in eye-catching outfits by major fashion designers.

On April 11 in London, Stone wore a gorgeous canary yellow dress by Atelier Versace. Later that same day, the actress showed up in a black PVC Lanvin dress at the Paris premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Emma Stone in a gorgeous Atelier Versace at the London premiere of her movie. -- AFP

Yesterday in Rome, Stone wore a two-piece ivory lace number by Dolce & Gabbana. It wasn't, perhaps, her best look but since she wore the outfit for press interviews and not for a premiere, we forgive her.

That same night, also in Rome, Stone attended the movie's Italy premiere in a two-piece Valentino creation.

Directed by Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in Malaysia on May 1. Stone plays Gwen Stacy to Garfield's Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Others in the movie include Jamie Foxx (Electro), Dane DeHaan (Green Goblin) and Paul Giamatti (The Rhino).


The Star Online: World Updates

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Captain of stricken Korean ferry may not have been on bridge - investigator

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 09:15 PM PDT

MOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korea's coastguard denied that divers had entered a capsized ferry on Friday in a bid to locate any survivors from an accident that appears to have claimed the lives of hundreds of passengers, many of them schoolchildren.

YTN television, South Korea's main cable news station, had reported that eight divers were taking it in turns to search the vessel, but the coastguard said that divers had not yet been deployed inside the stricken vessel.

The coastguard also denied television reports that the ship had been fully submerged, over 48 hours after the accident.

Experts say it is now unlikely that any of the 268 missing passengers, many of them children from a school on the outskirts of the capital Seoul, will be found alive.

So far, 28 of the 475 passengers and crew on the Sewol ferry have been officially declared dead and 179 have been rescued.

Rescuers were pumping air into the dining hall of the vessel, where many of the passengers were expected to be.

An investigation into the sinking, South Korea's worst maritime accident in 21 years in terms of potential loss of life, has focused on the role of the 69-year old captain and the crew of the ship.

"He (the captain) may have been off the bridge.. And the person at the helm at the time was the third officer," Park Jae-eok, an official investigating the accident, told a news conference in Mokpo, a city close to the port where rescue operations are being conducted.

It is normal for junior officers to take the helm and the 400 km (300 mile) journey from the mainland port of Incheon to the resort island of Jeju was a regular trip in familiar waters.

The accident happened in calm, shallow waters and investigators have focused on the role of the crew as the vessel appeared to have a clean safety record.

Parents of the missing schoolchildren blamed the ship's captain for the tragedy after he and shipping company officials made emotional apologies for the loss of life.

Witnesses have said that the captain and some of the crew left the vessel while others instructed passengers to remain in place as it began to sink.

Theories about the cause of the accident swirled and investigators declined to comment on reports the vessel had turned before it listed to port and capsized.

Coastguard officials have said the investigation was focused on possible crew negligence, problems with cargo stowage and structural defects of the vessel, although the ship appears to have passed all of its safety and insurance checks.

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, faces criminal investigation, which is standard procedure in South Korea.

Both 69-year-old Lee and the company that owns the ship have apologised for the loss of life, although neither has admitted responsibility.

Relatives were in mourning overnight in a hospital in the city of Mokpo, close to the port city of Jindo, which is acting as a rescue centre. Some of them spoke bitterly of the captain.

"How could he tell those young kids to stay there and jump from the sinking ship himself?" said Ham Young-ho, grandfather of 17-year-old Lee Da-woon, one of the dead.

Lee has not made any public statement on whether or why he may have left the vessel before many of the passengers.

(This story has been corrected to show coastguard says ship not fully submerged)

(Writing by David Chance; Editing by James Pearson and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

China sentences activists for urging asset disclosure - lawyer

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 08:51 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China sentenced four activists to jail for up to three-and-a-half years on Friday for urging officials to reveal their assets, a lawyer said, the latest convictions in a crackdown on dissent that has drawn international criticism.

The sentences mark China's latest rebuff of the West's condemnation of what it calls the suppression of free expression that some rights groups say is the worst in recent years.

Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, Zhao Changqing got a two-and-a-half year sentence and Li Wei and Zhang Baocheng got two-year terms, the Haidian court in Beijing said on its microblog. They were charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order", which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

But Sui Muqing, a lawyer representing Ding, said the real reason for the convictions was that the activists had pressed for government officials to disclose their assets.

"It's nothing but an announcement to the world that we can't mention asset disclosure and that calling on officials to disclose their assets is a crime," Sui told Reuters by telephone.

Sui said Ding would appeal. On Thursday, court officials told Sui he was not allowed to represent Ding and attend the sentencing, which Sui said was illegal.

Court officials were not available for comment.

The Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping has been pushing efforts against pervasive corruption, which Xi has warned could undermine Communist Party rule.

But at the same time, the government is wary of any challenge to its rule, which is how authorities apparently see calls from activists for officials to declare their wealth.

The convictions came a week after a court upheld a four-year jail sentence against prominent rights activist Xu Zhiyong, on the same charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order", sparking criticism from the United States, European Union and rights groups.


The government has waged a year-long drive against Xu's "New Citizens' Movement" of which the four activists sentenced on Friday were members. The group advocates working within the system for change, including urging officials to reveal assets.

Diplomats were shut out of Friday's sentencing, one said. Policemen surrounded the court and bundled about 20 group supporters into a van.

Raphael Droszewski, a first secretary at the European Union delegation to China, said the EU was concerned about Friday's sentencings and people were "being prosecuted in relation with their work for advocacy for the rule of law, social justice and fight against corruption".

"We ask for all people detained for expressing peaceful views to be released," he told Reuters by telephone.

Authorities have shown no sign of agreeing to demands for asset disclosures and at least 20 anti-graft activists have been detained or jailed.

Xi's administration has ratcheted up pressure on dissent, clamping down on critics on the Internet and tightening curbs on journalists.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry told the United States to stop "gesticulating" in its criticism of China's treatment of dissidents.

Police accused the four activists of organising and carrying out "street political activities", from displaying banners to making speeches urging declaration of assets, according to a copy of Li's arrest notice.

Ding, a lawyer based in Beijing, was in charge of "overall coordination" while Li, who is unemployed, was responsible for collecting information and organising activists, the notice said.

Zhao, who has been jailed three times for pro-democracy activities, was said to have organised dinner gatherings where citizens discussed the disclosure campaign.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Campbell; Editing by Robert Birsel)

South Korea coastguard denies divers have entered capsized ship

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 08:50 PM PDT

JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korea's coastguard said on Friday divers have not yet entered the hull of the capsized ferry where more than 270 people, most of them school children on a field trip, are missing.

South Korea's YTN television earlier said divers had entered the hull and were searching the dining hall and cafeteria of the Sewol ferry where many of the passengers were believed to be at the time of Wednesday's accident.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, writing by Jack Kim)


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

New action-packed channel for the boys

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The RTL CBS Extreme channel is now available in Malaysia via HyppTV.

Listen up, boys! There is a new TV channel especially for you. The RTL CBS Extreme is targetted at those who prefer their channel with a good dose of action-packed content.

"RTL CBS Extreme's unique channel positioning and compelling mix of action series, extreme sports, action reality programmes and masters of illusion is a very strong programming proposition for our target audience," says chief executive officer of RTL CBS Asia Entertainment Network Jonas Engwall at the launch of the channel in Singapore recently.

Commenting on the new channel addition to HyppTV, executive vice president of New Media, TM Jeremy Kung says: "With the latest addition of RTL CBS Extreme HD on HyppTV, we now have among the best action packed content for our subscribers."

The channel will air the new series Criss Angel BeLIEve beginning in June and will be home to master illusionists Troy and the International Magician of the Year 2013, Cosentino.

> RTL CBS Extreme is available on HyppTV Ch 617. In conjunction with the launch, the channel can be viewed for free until April 30, 2014.

Big on fun: Kids' TV shows a hit among adults

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 07:20 PM PDT

Who said that only young 'uns get to enjoy all the jolly kid-friendly television shows?

If you find yourself knowing all the words to the Sesame Street theme song and are able to notice the subtle differences between B1 and B2 of Bananas In Pyjamas, don't be embarrassed.

Well, perhaps you shouldn't admit to it in public but nevertheless, there is no need to be ashamed of it because you are not alone – there are many people who do exactly what you do in secret.

Somewhere right now, in front of a television, is an adult who is thoroughly enjoying a kids programme. Not only do they know the theme song by heart, they are also emotionally invested in the fictional characters featured in the shows, developed to bring happiness to children around the world.

But hey, who are we to judge?

To add more happiness to the many lives of Malaysian adults – as well as, like it was originally intended, kids – is the Bahasa Malaysia version of the popular international children's television show Hi-5.

Plans are under way for KRU Studios to co-produce the second Asian adaptation of Hi-5 in Bahasa Malaysia and the production is slated to start in July. There are 25 episodes in the first season, which is set to air later this year.

Hi-5 features five dynamic performers entertaining children aged two to seven with music, dance, skits and plays. The Hi-5 (Malaysia) will begin with a nationwide search to find the five new Hi-5 stars, and with the localised show and cast, the producers hope to reach out to a much bigger fan base to include the Bahasa Malaysia speaking households in Malaysia.

"We are really excited to embark on the Malaysian format with KRU. We hope to bring all the fun and energy of Hi-5 to the broader audience showcasing an exciting new line-up of young Malaysian talent as the new Hi-5 cast. We can't wait to add this new show to the Hi-5 family," said Australian Hi-5 executive creative director and producer Julie Greene.

KRU Studios executive president Norman Abdul Halim said, "We are very excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to be part of the Hi-5 team in Malaysia. Hi-5 is an established brand and with the adaptation into Bahasa Malaysia, the TV series and brand will reach an even wider audience in Malaysia. We are confident that we can play a strong role for Hi-5 in the areas of production, marketing and distribution in Malaysia".

Jared Lim, charmain of Hi-5 World, added: "Hi-5 has universal themes such as exploration, friendship, creativity and learning. These qualities make the show accessible to almost any culture. Through Bahasa Malaysia, I believe many children will continue to love and enjoy the Hi-5 brand and its offerings. This also gives rise to many more opportunities for growth and expansion in Malaysia, which we are really excited about."

We don't know about the children but parents, and other adults who love to dance and sing along to Hi-5, must be jumping up and down with that tidbit. Now, do you know what would make that piece of news even more exciting? If there were hints that some of the other kid-friendly, adult-loved television shows were also given a Malaysian treatment.

Here are some of the much loved children-based television series that not only kids would enjoy, but grown up secretly adore and wouldn't mind watching now and again ... or, let's be honest, all the time.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse

Well, the man who plays the titular character – Paul Reubens – may look a little creepy and may have been arrested for indecent exposure in 1991 but that doesn't change the fact that he did have one of the biggest TV shows in the 1980s. 

Reubens played Pee-Wee Herman who had an epic time at the "playhouse" in the fantastic Puppetland which was filled with toys and gadgets, and hung around a number of interesting characters.

Sesame Street

Come on, who doesn't know how to get to Sesame Street where it's always a sunny day and the air is sweet? It is where Elmo, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and many other lovable characters live. 

The American show premiered in 1969 and is still a staple series among children and adults who want to learn new words everyday, brush up on their arithmetic and pick up basic good manners. Although there is no Malaysian version of this show, numerous episodes have been dubbed into Bahasa Malaysia.


Okay, they are not exactly the most good looking ... "things" on television. One look at them from a wrong angle could give you a nightmare for days but still, what is not to love about these weird creatures? Laa-Laa, Po, Dipsy and Tinky Winky are the characters on the show, which some argue has no educational value. 

However, Teletubbies did win the Best Pre-School Live Action Series award at the 2002 Children's BAFTA Awards and the characters have captured the hearts of millions of people around the world.

Bananas In Pyjamas

Ever looked at bananas and wished for a good time? (No pun intended, folks.) Well, with Bananas In Pyjamas, you could. The bananas, named B1 and B2 (if we could only name our children in that manner), are two fun loving bananas – yes, we acknowledge just how weird that sounds – who live by sea as beach patrols. 

Together with their teddy bear friends Amy, Lulu, Morgan and rat buddy Rat in a Hat, the bananas are always up for an adventure, which must be easy to plan since they always know what the other one wants and their catchphrase "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, B1?", "I think I am, B2!" is testament to that.

Yo Gabba Gabba!

What is better than one brightly coloured, loud, dance freak? Five of them. Yo Gabba Gabba is an American children's television series which features five animated toys and their buddy DJ Lance Rock who dance and sing their way through life. 

Before you say the show seems a tad too kiddie for you, just know that it is well-known for its slew of celebrity guest stars including Snoop Lion... er, Snoop Dogg or whatever he is known as now, Jack Black, Sarah Silverman and more.


The Star Online: Business

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Japan Inc resilient in face of sales tax, so far

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 07:10 PM PDT

TOKYO: Japanese companies have weathered the first days of a rise in the country's consumption tax, with sales resilient and pricing power little damaged, a Reuters poll showed on Friday, in an early sign the tax hike may not derail the economy.

This good news for "Abenomics" bolsters the Bank of Japan's view that it does not need to ease policy further to cushion the impact from the tax, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government raised on April 1 to help curb the nation's mountain of public debt.

The increase in the national sales tax – to 8% from 5% – has sparked worries that consumers will tighten their wallets, threatening the economic recovery Abe has engineered with 16 months of loose monetary policy and government spending.

But about 40% of the firms in the Reuters Corporate Survey, conducted April 2-14, said sales were steady after the tax increase compared with year-earlier levels. And more than a quarter were able to increase sales in the face of the hike.

The longer-term sustainability of sales growth will also depend on wage increases. So far, salary raises at many companies have not been enough to cover the 3-percentage-point tax hike, and the poll shows that some firms remain reluctant to increase wages significantly.

"The transfer of the tax to consumers could be viewed as a positive development, a success for Abenomics, so long as consumers are able to absorb the pain and it doesn't lead to stalling economic growth," said Takuji Okubo, chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors, who reviewed the poll results.

The survey also showed that nearly half of the roughly 250 respondents, senior managers who are identified only by industry, said they were able to pass on the full cost of the tax increase to customers.

A few managed to raise prices more than the scale of the hike.


The monthly survey of companies capitalised at more than 1 billion yen (US$9.8 mil), conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research, adds to evidence that the sales tax hike will not be as severe as the last increase, in 1997, which ushered in a punishing recession.

"While we estimate a small proportion of consumption to fall, we're not anticipating an extreme reduction," said an executive at a chemicals maker.

The Reuters Tankan, run in conjunction with the corporate survey, on Thursday showed that manufacturers grew more confident in April for the first time in three months. Confidence at non-manufacturers hit a record.

Also this week, BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the impact from the sales tax rise would be short-lived, while Finance Minister Taro Aso said the post-tax-hike downturn in consumption was smaller than he had expected.

Yet while the early signs point to the recovery surviving the tax hike, the survey suggests some companies are still hesitant to raise salaries – despite pleas from Abe for higher wages to help drive a durable expansion and sustain inflation.

Raising wages is a lower priority for manufacturers in the survey than increasing labour productivity, improving workplace conditions for women, expanding overseas operations and postponing retirement, as strategies to combat Japan's falling labour population.

Last month, some major companies like Toyota Motor Corp offered workers their most generous pay increases in years, but raises at many other firms were not enough to cover the 3-percentage-point increase in the sales tax.

"The real target is to have moderate sustained inflation, stable inflation, and from that perspective, inflation won't be sustainable unless wages start to rise at the same pace," Japan Macro's Okubo said. – Reuters

KLCI falls in early trade, CIMB drags

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 06:23 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI fell in early Friday trade, dragged by mild selling of IHH and CIMB, though key regional markets gained.

At 9.11am, the KLCI was down 2.93 points to 1,847.61. Turnover was 155.69 million shares valued at RM77.98mil. The broader market was firmer, with 149 gainers, 82 decliners and 175 counters unchanged.

BIMB Securities Research said in a note the market will continue to see some local support despite overall buying being rather muted.

It expects the index to hang around the 1,845-1,850 levels today

Reuters said stocks ended a holiday-shortened week with mostly modest gains on Thursday, though the S&P 500 notched its biggest weekly advance since July as Morgan Stanley and General Electric rallied after strong results.

"The two were the latest to post earnings that topped expectations, helping to lift the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to their fourth straight daily advance.

"Tech bellwethers Google and IBM fell on disappointing figures and limited the broader market's gain. IBM's slide pushed the Dow into slightly negative territory at the close," it said.

At Bursa Malaysia, CIMB fell five sen to RM7.35 and IHH six sen to RM3.90.

Gamuda fell four sen to RM4.54 and Dialog four sen to RM3.56.

Gainers were Pintaras, up eight sen to RM3.87, MISC six sen to RM6.80 and Datasonic 12 sen to RM3.24.

Ford, IBM to face renewed US lawsuit over apartheid-era abuses

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 05:56 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Ford Motor Co and IBM Corp will again have to face a U.S. lawsuit claiming they encouraged race-based human rights abuses in apartheid-era South Africa, despite a series of recent court decisions limiting the right to pursue such cases.

Reviving a 12-year-old lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan accepted an argument from a group of plaintiffs that corporations may be held liable under a 1789 law, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), that lets non-U.S. citizens pursue some cases in U.S. courts over alleged violations of international law.

"No principle of domestic or international law supports the conclusion that the norms enforceable through the ATS ... apply only to natural persons and not to corporations," Scheindlin wrote.

Her decision came in a case that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, also in Manhattan, in August had said should be dismissed.

"Obviously we're thrilled," said Diane Sammons, a partner at Nagel Rice law firm in Roseland, New Jersey, representing some plaintiffs. "Judge Scheindlin is not taking the word of the defendants that corporations are not liable for human rights abuses under the ATS."

Sammons said she plans to file an amended complaint.

Jonathan Hacker, an O'Melveny & Myers partner who represents Ford, did not respond immediately to requests for comment. Keith Hummel, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore who represents IBM, did not respond immediately to similar requests.

The plaintiffs contended that by having made military vehicles and computers for South African security forces, several companies during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s had aided and abetted South Africa's former apartheid government in perpetrating abuses, such as killings and torture.

The litigation seeks class action status, with potential damages in the billions of dollars.


Last April, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the sweep of the Alien Tort Statute, in the case Kiobel et al v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co et al.

In a decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court held that the 1789 law was presumed to cover only violations of international law occurring in the United States, and that violations elsewhere must "touch and concern" U.S. territory "with sufficient force to displace the presumption."

Four months later, Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes wrote for the 2nd Circuit that these findings meant the case against Ford and IBM should be dismissed, having "plainly bar<red> common-law suits, like this one, alleging violations of customary international law based solely on conduct occurring abroad."

The plaintiffs, however, said Cabranes' ruling was based on arguments made before the Supreme Court's decision in the Kiobel case, and sought a chance to meet the new, tighter standard set by that court.

Thursday's decision provides that chance, and Scheindlin set a May 15 deadline to file a new complaint against Ford and IBM, whose full name is International Business Machines Corp.

Germany's Daimler AG <DAIGn.DE> and Rheinmetall AG <RHMG.DE>

had also been defendants, but Scheindlin agreed in December that the Kiobel decision barred claims against them.

General Motors Corp had also been among the defendants, but Sammons said claims against it were discharged during that automaker's 2009 bankruptcy.

Apartheid ended in 1994 when South Africa held its first all-race elections, bringing Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress to power.

The case is In re: South African Apartheid Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 02-md-01499.- Reuters


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Harrison Ford talks &#39;Blade Runner&#39; sequel

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 10:05 PM PDT

The actor also shares stories on his Star Wars and Indiana Jones days.        

Star Wars and Blade Runner actor Harrisson Ford conducted an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit over the weekend and answered a few choice questions about his past career and future aspirations.

Blade Runner

"The set for Blade Runner was maybe the hardest set I've ever worked on because I think we worked 50 nights in a row, and it was always raining," he recalled.

That said, Ford still retains interest in a rumoured sequel. "I'm quite curious and excited about seeing a new script for Blade Runner if in fact the opportunity would exist to do another," he revealed.

"If it's a good script I would be very anxious to work with Ridley Scott again, he's a very talented and passionate filmmaker. And I think it would be very interesting to revisit the character."

A young Harrison Ford in Blade Runner.

Star Wars

Speaking of collaborations, Ford confirmed that his famous Star Wars ad lib, saying "I know" in response to Princess Leia's "I love you", was what he preferred to think of as a suggestion.

"Movie making's a real collaborative process at its best. You don't ad lib it, you suggest it and then you try something in rehearsal and then you agree," he said.

"So it was my suggestion, because I thought it was more of a character line than what was written, but the director and Carrie and I all thought it was a good idea at the time so we did it."

Indiana Jones

That willingness to work new angles helped him out of a tough spot on ths set of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, when Ford was suffering from dysentery on the first of a three day fight scene – a face-off against an accomplished swordsman.

"When I got to set I proposed to Steven that we just shoot (him)," Ford related.

"The poor guy was a wonderful British stuntman who had practiced his sword skills for months in order to do this job, and was quite surprised by the idea that we would dispatch him in five minutes. But he flourished his sword, I pulled out my gun and shot him, and then we went back to England." — AFP Relaxnews


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Malaysia and Turkey ink free trade agreement

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 08:39 AM PDT

ANKARA: International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Turkish Economic Minister Nihat Zekbejci signed the Free Trade Agreement between the two nations here this Thursday.

According to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who spoke in a joint press conference after the signing, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan will ratify the FTA in the Turkish parliament in June for it to come into effect.

"The FTA has been successfully concluded to bring bilateral ties between Turkey and Malaysia to a new era," said Najib.

He added both countries had realised that their combined ecomnomic potential had not been fully achieved.

According to Najib, an economic corporation meeting will soon be held to discuss common goals that can be realised with the signing of the FTA.

"As you all know, Malaysia and Turkey share the same goals as we both want to transform our economies to high economies - Malaysia in 2020 and Turkey in 2023," he said.

Najib also said both countries supported each other in securing seats in the UN Security Council.

Negotiations for the FTA between Malaysia and Turkey started in May 2010 and was concluded on Jan 17 this year.

Under the FTA signed between the two countries, Turkey will bind and eliminate import duties on 68.70 % of products.

This will cover 67.8 % or USD 247.38 mil of Malaysia's exports to Turkey.

Under the provisions of the FTA, Malaysia and Turkey will corporate in areas encompassing small and medium entreprises, halal related areas, agriculture and food industry, research development and innovation, health, energy, electronic commerce as well as automation.

Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor left for home late last night after attending a dinner hosted by Erdogan in his official residence.

Tags / Keywords: Malaysia, Turkey, free trade agreement

Paloh assemblyman involved in road accident, wife killed

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 07:18 AM PDT

IPOH: Paloh assemblyman Datuk Nozula Mat Diah lost his wife in a road accident on Thursday.

Datin Maziah Din was killed when the car they were in skidded and crashed into the side of a hill along KM23 of Jalan Cameron Highlands-Simpang Pulai, near here.

Perak police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said Maziah passed away at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital after the 6.30pm accident.

SDCP Acryl Sani said Nozula, who was driving, was believed to have lost control of the vehicle due to slippery road conditions.

"He sustained light injuries and is in stable condition," he said.

Malaysia to push for increased Asean aviation security, says Hisham

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 07:11 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will push for Asean nations to re-examine their military and civil aviation security capabilities when Malaysia assumes chairmanship of the 10-member bloc next year.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia's chairmanship next year would be a good opportunity to look at the military and civil aviation capabilities of Asean countries.

"I have shared with some of my colleagues in Asean that there are systems out there that we can look in a regional manner.

"I think it is a great opportunity to look at the Asean capability not just militarily but also on the civil aviation side to look for a more constructive, effective and cost saving way to look at future threats," he told a press conference after closing the Defence Services Asia (DSA) Exhibition and Conference on Thursday.

Hishammuddin said looking back at this year's DSA, there was a change of mindset in those involved.

"There is a shift in thinking they cannot work alone," he said.

Linking it to the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight, MH370, Hishamuddin said the incident has shown cooperation was needed between countries.

"If you are talking about military radar, primary and secondary, without looking at satellite data or without working with sophisticated assets with the cooperation between countries, it is impossible to find a commercial aircraft," said Hishammuddin.

"The MH370 incident has actually given us some hope that we can cooperate but at the same time we need to cooperate in landscape that is much more complex," Hishammuddin added.

Hishammuddin said DSA was an opportunity to look at Malaysia's defence strengths and weaknesses.

"We do not need completely new equipment, we have got some upgrades. Basically at the end of the day we have to leave it to the air force as the end user to advise me what is the best way to upgrade and whatever we have disclosed because of the MH370 incident can be overcome," he added.

Hishammuddin added that the four-day biennial DSA was a highly successful event in the total number of exhibitors, visitors, commercial deals inked and the issues discussed.

"In the first three days, DSA 2014 received more than 30,000 trade visitors from more than 70 countries even with the total figure of the last four days tabulated. The figure indicates an upward trend in terms of visitors from last year," said Hishammuddin.

Hishammuddin pointed out that DSA 2013 had received 26,980 trade visitors from 66 countries, adding that throughout the week, he received 13 courtesy calls from counterparts.

"Pertinent issues related to defence and security were discussed in the meetings especially with greater bilateral cooperation and regional commitment," Hishamuddin added.


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Kakiseni and MyTeksi work together to bring people to art

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 07:05 PM PDT

Art lovers get discount on taxi rides to selected performing arts centres in the Klang Valley.

Performing arts enthusiasts have a reason to celebrate as Kakiseni and MyTeksi are offering a deal for users of the local taxi-booking smartphone application. Passengers will get an RM15 discount off their taxi fare if they wish to go to any of the pre-selected performing arts centres in the Klang Valley from now until April 27.

These locations are: Kakiseni Free Space, PJ Live Arts, Sparky Dawg Studio and DPAC in Petaling Jaya as well as KLPAC, Aswara and Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.

Additionally, the public will also get to enjoy the discount for their ride to Stadium Negara, KL on April 27 – the 11th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards will be held there that day.

Kakiseni and MyTeksi are working together to bring people to art.

Kakiseni and MyTeksi are working together to bring people to art.

Founded by Kakiseni in 2002, Boh Cameronian Arts Awards is the only awards which judges "live" music, dance, theatre and musical theatre in Malaysia. The awards is dedicated to raising the profile of the arts in Malaysia and to recognise the contribution of artists in various areas of the performing arts and a total of 35 awards will be given out during the event.

"We're fully supportive of Kakiseni's initiatives. For two weeks, MyTeksi users will get RM15 discount on their rides to any of the shows' venues. It's practically free as our data shows the average KL city ride costs that much," said MyTeksi marketing regional head Cheryl Goh.

She added: "We're lowering the barrier to entry for our customers to make the arts accessible to everyone. No one should miss the many exciting shows lined up during these two weeks. This is Kakiseni and the Cammies after all."

However, Goh is aware that there may be unscrupulous folks who would take advantage of the offer and use the discount for purposes other than to catch a show at one of the performing arts centre.

"That thought did cross our mind but we are looking at the bigger picture here. We want to drive people to these places to appreciate the art," she said.

To use the discounts, passengers are required to download the MyTeksi application and use the #kakiseni hashtag when making the booking. If you wish to be part of the Boh Cameronian Arts Awards 2014, send your details to

Local Broadway-inspired musical &#39;The Rising Son&#39; is high on values

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Here comes a local Broadway-inspired musical to inspire and entertain.

Tales of love, hope and forgiveness make good material for stage productions and come this weekend, these themes will be explored further in a Broadway-style musical called The Rising Son.

The musical, to be presented at the Grace Convention Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, features composer and scriptwriter Paul Baker in his first full-length musical.

"There is no formula for musical theatre success but there is a formula for failure. In any musical, there needs to be a relationship triangle, intrigue, romance, comedy and a happy ending to attract audiences," he says in a recent interview.

Baker points out that The Rising Son is not a Christian or Easter-based musical. On the contrary, the 70-member cast includes many non-Christians. However, the idea surfaced after the church produced a small-scale musical in 2012.

'In any musical, there needs to be a relationship triangle, intrigue, romance, comedy and a happy ending to attract audiences,' says Paul Baker, The Rising Son scriptwriter and composer.

'In any musical, there needs to be a relationship triangle, intrigue, romance, comedy and a happy ending to attract audiences,' says Paul Baker, The Rising Son scriptwriter and composer.

"Some of the church entertainment intimidates me because they tend to force things down your throat. This is not that type of show. It is very approachable and highly entertaining. There will be no preaching at the end of the performance."

"There is a vacuum globally for plays with a moral," he states. "My niece in England who is a stage manager says there is little demand for such plays. If the play has nudity, foul language, stripping, etc, it sells."

After discussions with church member Kelvin Ooi to produce a bigger musical with a theme, Baker wrote the script in three weeks, along with 16 songs and lyrics.

The synopsis revolves around three childhood friends who travel from China to Perak in the 1920s and set up a coffee shop. As their dreams materialise, greed sets in, and a deceitful plan is crafted.

Money suddenly goes missing; one man runs away and the other two blame each other for the losses. Hatred and rivalry sets in. But aha, their kids fall in love and are faced with an impossible union … the rest is up to you to uncover.

"I wanted to bring in the macho pride, believing the worst in somebody without even finding out why. Personally, I've been through a tumultuous period these past few years so I know what it is like to hate someone and how liberating it is to forgive."

Directed by Nell Ng, who is the artistic director of Pan Productions, this musical is a unique collaboration of local and international acting/singing talents, accompanied by a full orchestra under Baker's batonship.

Led by violin virtuoso Maya Musaeva, the former leader of the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra, according to Baker, is "the finest 25-piece orchestra ever assembled for a new show, comprising professionals and senior music students."

"I don't like everything Nell's done but she's brought depth to the musical that I couldn't have done. However, musically, it's my way or the highway!" he says acknowledging that he has altered the music for certain scenes due to practicality and necessity.

Brought up in a theatrical family in north London in England, Baker started acting at the tender age of four.

His early musical life, however, started at the Barnet Parish Church Choir, which he joined at the age of seven and left at 14 having obtained the Royal School of Church Music's most prestigious prize – The Saint Nicholas Award.

He went on to study the piano and eventually specialised in the french horn, performing with some of the leading orchestras and West End productions. Within the contemporary scene, his credits also include working with George Michael, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey.

After marrying a local, Baker has made Malaysia his home since 2004. He is currently business development manager and performing arts consultant for the acoustic and theatre consulting division of global engineering group ARUP.

Locally, he has worked with artists such as Zainal Abidin and Sheila Majid, and has given a number of solo french horn recitals, performed with the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra and made his conducting debut with a rarely performed full-length production of Handel's Messiah in 2009.

He considers The Rising Son his most ambitious work to date.

"It's been tiring, especially with a full-time job," he adds with a sigh. "Initially, I was extremely protective over the production because it's my baby! It's like having your first child who grows up, matures and has its own characteristics. That emotion can be equated with the baby leaving the nest.

"What I originally envisioned has matured and gone beyond my expectations from the input of the crew and director. At the end of the two-hour show, I hope people can forgive each other, shake hands and be friends again. If even one marriage or family can be saved, I've done my job."

But he's most happy about one thing.

"My mum's flying from Britain just to see it!"

>> The Rising Son will be staged at 7pm on April 19 and 20 at Grace Convention Centre, Auditorium Level 3, Plaza Mayang, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Admission is free. For enquiries, please call Kim Frances at 03-7804 1994.

Singapore International Festival of Arts’ inaugural edition

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Singapore International Festival of Arts' inaugural edition will be held in August, with the theme "Legacy and the Expanded Classics'.

A 50-hour performance piece by celebrated Indian artist Nikhil Chopra about India's fight against colonialism, and a four-day journey through 20th century music by the London Sinfonietta and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra.

These are some of the dramatic finishing touches to the Singapore International Festival of Arts' inaugural edition from Aug 12 to Sept 21.

Festival director Ong Keng Sen, 50, announced last week in Singapore the final six productions of the S$6.5mil (RM16.9mil) festival.

Performance artist Chopra's sprawling piece, titled Give Me Your Blood And I Will Give You Freedom, will map out stark landscapes of black ink onto a white canvas, a metaphor for a dark and bloody battle.

Audience members are free to come and go throughout the length of this festival commission, a live installation which blends theatre and visual art.

Classical music lovers can take their pick of a series of concerts spread over four days that outline a musical journey from 19th-century composers, the likes of Claude Debussy, to present-day creators such as James MacMillan and Tom Ades. It is presented by London's Southbank Centre and will be performed by the London Sinfonietta and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra.

The festival's theme of Legacy and the Expanded Classic is perhaps most apparent in The Chorus; Oedipus – South Korean director Seo Jae-Hyung reinvents the myth of King Oedipus by putting a musical spin on the classic Greek tragedy. The song-filled adaptation was first performed to sell-out crowds in Seoul.

Some of the more intimate shows include Belgian artist Miet Warlop's Mystery Magnet, a psychedelic, surreal work at the intersection of visual art and theatre; a double-bill by South African artists Mamela Nyamza and Mojisola Adebayo tackling the violent proliferation of "corrective" hate rape in their country, as well as issues of gender identity; and young Iranian playwright Amir Reza Koohestani's theatre debut in Singapore, Amid The Clouds, which follows the lives of two Iranian asylum seekers who take on a dangerous journey in their desperation to begin a new life.

These shows round out a star-studded line-up of 12 productions in the main programme, heavy on big names such as the Berliner Ensemble, which will be staging J. M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan under the direction of American thespian Robert Wilson.

Famed French choreographer Jerome Bel will present his 2012 production Disabled Theatre, a collaboration with disabled professional actors of Zurich's Theater Hora.

The festival is bookended by two blockbuster shows: celebrated British composer Michael Nyman's opera, Facing Goya, and New York experimental theatre company The Wooster Group's postmodern take on Shakespeare's Troilus & Cressida. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

> More info on Singapore International Festival of Arts at


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&#39;Shouldn&#39;t we move?&#39; Ferry evacuation under scrutiny

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:33 PM PDT

SEOUL: National shock at a ferry disaster that may have claimed the lives of hundreds of South Korean schoolchildren was mixed with fury Thursday at growing evidence that many passengers were denied a proper chance to escape the sinking vessel.

Multiple survivor testimony highlighted the fact that passengers were repeatedly told to stay in their seats or cabins when the ferry first ran into trouble on Wednesday morning.

Those who obeyed found their possible escape route severely compromised after the vessel suddenly listed sharply to the port side, triggering total panic.

One survivor named Kim Sung-Mook said he had struggled to rescue around 30 high school students unable to escape from a large, open hall on the fourth level of the ship.

"I couldn't even get into the hall because the whole thing was leaning over so badly," Kim said.

"The ship was going underwater and there was nothing for them to hold on to with their hands. They couldn't crawl up the floor, because it was wet and at such a sharp angle," he said.

Using a fire hose he managed to pull a few to safety, "but there were so many of them ... I couldn't help them all."

One student who was rescued said most passengers had remained in their seat for "30 to 40 minutes" after the ferry first foundered, in line with instructions they received from crew members and over the internal tannoy system.

"The message was repeated again and again: 'Stay put. Don't move'," said another survivor Huh Young-Ki.

"We we're asking ourselves: 'Shouldn't we move? Shouldn't we try and get out?' But the announcement was saying help would be there in 10 minutes," Huh told the News Y television channel. 

'Most stayed put as they were told'

Discipline is strict in the South Korean education system and authority rarely flouted, leaving observers to conclude that most of the 375 high school students on the ferry, in their late teens, would have probably obeyed any official commands without question.

"If only we had been told to get out earlier, then more of us would have been able to jump into the sea," one student who managed to escape told the MBC TV channel.

"But most people just stayed put as they were told," she added.

Once the 6,825-tonne vessel Sewol had begun to list, it soon ended up at a 90 degree angle to the water, before inverting completely and sinking with only a small section of the keel showing above water.

With only 179 rescued so far, the fear is that most of the 287 still unaccounted for were trapped inside the ship as it submerged.

The suggestion that many more should have been able to escape has added to the anguish of the relatives of the missing, and fuelled public anger in a country unused to a disaster of this scale, especially involving its efficient, modern transport infrastructure.

Most South Koreans believe they have left the sort of accidents that regularly blight developing countries behind.

With the exception of a subway station fire in 2003 that claimed 192 lives, there have been no large-scale disasters in the past nearly two decades.

A Seoul department store collapsed in 1995, killing more than 500 people, while nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the west coast in 1993. 

'One man was screaming for help'

The captain of the Sewol, Lee Joon-Seok, was among those who escaped the ferry before it sank and was being questioned by investigators on Thursday.

Surrounded by TV cameras and reporters as he waited in the coastguard's southern headquarters in Mokpo, Lee pulled a hood over his head and face, and mumbled incoherently in response to persistent questions to explain what happened.

One 61-year-old woman escaped after ignoring the advice to stay in her cabin which she said was still being relayed as it filled with water.

"I swam for a while and then managed to crawl to an upper deck and then to a window where other people were clinging on," she told reporters in a hospital where she was recovering.

"One man was slamming on the window screaming for help, and then a rescue boat came up and they smashed the window in and pulled us out," she said.

Jin Kyo-Joong, the former chief of the South Korean Navy's ship salvage unit, said there were emergency situations where keeping passengers from moving was crucial.

"But if the ship is listing so dramatically to the point where people can't even move around, then ordering them to stay put is obviously the wrong order," Jin told the YTN television channel. -AFP

More dead pigs found in China river

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:20 PM PDT

BEIJING, April 17, 2014 (AFP) - At least 170 dead pigs have been found in a Chinese river, state media reported Thursday - the latest in a string of similar incidents that have raised fears over food safety.

The animals were found floating in a tributary of China's second-longest waterway, the Yellow River, in northwestern Qinghai province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The grim discovery follows a series of scandals involving dead pigs in Chinese rivers. Last year 16,000 carcasses were found drifting through the main waterway of the commercial hub of Shanghai.

In Qinghai - the furthest west such an incident has been reported - "the source of the dead pigs is still under investigation," Xinhua said, citing local authorities.

Industry analysts say sick pigs are sometimes dumped in rivers by farmers hoping to avoid paying the costs of disposing of the animals by other means.

Around 500 dead pigs are recovered every month from a Chinese reservoir in the southwestern province of Sichuan, state-run media reported in March.

Authorities also found 157 dead pigs last month in a river in central Jiangxi province.

China is a major producer of pork, which surveys have found to be the country's most popular meat.


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