Selasa, 13 Mei 2014

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Qantas to lay off pilots in bid to revive profits

Posted: 13 May 2014 10:48 PM PDT

SYDNEY, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - Struggling Australian airline Qantas on Wednesday said it will make dozens of pilots redundant for the first time in 40 years as it looks to slash costs to contain massive losses.

The national carrier, which announced it would cut 5,000 jobs from its workforce in February, will call for voluntary redundancies among its Boeing 747 and 767 pilots.

A spokesman said the airline was not placing an exact number on the redundancies until the application process was complete but reports said up to 100 positions, or just under 20 percent of the 550 pilots for both fleets, were being targeted.

Qantas has around 2,000 pilots on its books.

The airline previously said it would retire both its ageing 747 and 767 fleets as part of a plan to save Aus$2 billion (US$1.8 billion) over the next three years, with chief executive Alan Joyce saying the airline was facing "some of the toughest conditions" it had ever seen.

Qantas chief pilot Dick Tobiano said in an internal message that plans to accelerate the retirement of the planes meant the airline was no longer able to manage the staff surplus through leave arrangements.

"It is anticipated that exits would be staggered corresponding with network and fleet reductions," he said.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) said the redundancies were "regrettable" but it would work with the company to "ensure the process was managed with as little pain to individual pilots as possible".

"Obviously from AIPA's perspective it is far better to see fleet reductions managed with older pilots stepping out on their own terms, rather than younger pilots being made redundant compulsorily," AIPA president Nathan Safe said.

While the cuts could see some of Qantas's most experienced pilots leave, Safe told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he did not "have any concerns about a lack of experience resulting from this - not at all".

"Many of the pilots who won't take the package or won't be targeted by the package are also some of our most experienced pilots."

Tobiano stressed to the pilots affected that the cuts did not reflect their contribution to Qantas but the "realities of our fleet plan and the realities we face".

Qantas has lobbied the government for support after it announced a Aus$235 million loss in the six months to December 31 as it grapples with competition from domestic rival Virgin Australia, which is majority-owned by state-run Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Air New Zealand.

Its plea for a debt guarantee, or a Aus$3 billion unsecured loan, was rejected, but the government said it would relax the Qantas Sale Act, which would remove restrictions limiting foreign ownership in the airline to 49 percent.

The bill passed the lower house of parliament in March but has yet to reach the upper house Senate.

Crocodile eats boy in PNG

Posted: 13 May 2014 10:46 PM PDT

SYDNEY, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - The limbs of an 11-year-old boy have been found inside a huge crocodile and his head discovered nearby after he was attacked in Papua New Guinea, a report said Wednesday.

The four-metre (13-foot) croc grabbed the boy, Melas Mero, as he was fishing with his parents on Thursday at the Siloura River in Gulf Province in the south of the Pacific nation, police commander Lincoln Gerari told PNG's National newspaper.

"The crocodile swept the boy with its tail and then attacked the defenceless child," Gerari said.

The provincial commander said police found two hands, two legs and a hipbone inside the crocodile after they tracked it down and killed it. The head was found later and taken to a morgue.

The attack is the second to take place in PNG this year, according to a global database managed by researchers at Australia's Charles Darwin University.

The CrocBITE database said a man, whose age was not given, was killed on January 1 by a saltwater crocodile at Rawa Bay in North Bougainville.

A total of 75 crocodile attacks, of which 65 were fatal, have been recorded in PNG by the database since 1958.

'Imminent' N. Korea nuclear test unlikely: US think-tank

Posted: 13 May 2014 07:39 PM PDT

SEOUL, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - Despite fears to the contrary, North Korea does not appear to be preparing an imminent nuclear test, a US think-tank said Wednesday in an analysis of recent satellite images of Pyongyang's main test site.

While the latest pictures dated May 9 do show high levels of activity at the Punggye-ri site, most of it seems to be of a mundane, routine nature that would not be consistent with an impending test, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said.

In an analysis posted on its closely-followed website 38North, the institute offered several scenarios, including the possibility that Pyongyang had been pushing towards a test but was warned off by its main ally and economic benefactor, China.

Based on available evidence... it appears that a nuclear test is not imminent," the analysis said.

"Indeed, given previous North Korean practices, one possible conclusion is that if the North is planning a test, it may still be weeks away," it added.

The international community has been on edge for a month after South Korea cited intelligence reports that the North was planning to conduct its fourth nuclear test - possibly to coincide with US President Barack Obama's visit to Seoul in April.

Subsequent satellite analysis by several think-tanks confirmed stepped-up activity at the Punggye-ri site, but most stopped short of predicting a detonation timeline.


The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

Gerard Butler drops out of 'Point Break' reboot; let's start re-casting

Posted: 08 May 2014 01:25 AM PDT

As the search for his replacement begins, check out our suggestions.

Gerard Butler is said to have dropped out of the highly-anticipated Point Break remake, citing "creative differences" and "scheduling conflict" as part of the reasons.

Butler was set to star as Bodhi, the surfer-turned-bank robber played by Patrick Swayze in the original 1991 hit, with Luke Bracey as undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah, originally played by Keanu Reeves.

The original Point Break with Keanu Reeves (left) and the late Patrick Swayze.

The reboot is helmed by director Ericson Core from a script by Kurt Wimmer, and is set for a 2015 release.

We're not sure if the studio or director has anyone in mind to replace Butler, but here are our top choices (and a few we hope will NOT be chosen).

Josh Holloway is a natural on the beach...  

Alex O'Loughlin is also used to being on the beach, but we're not sure if he can carry off playing someone named 'Bodhi' though. 

Josh Lucas, anyone?

Matthew McConaughey classic would've been perfect at Bodhi but Matthew McConaughey 2.0, the one who keeps winning awards, may no longer fit the bill. Still... THAT HAIR.

Apparently, Robert Downey Jr is starting to get sick of playing Tony Stark. Will he take on this challenge?  

Robert Pattinson? .... Just kidding.

Shia LaBeouf = NEVER. 

Heh. Just because.


The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Rebel Wilson to star in 'Private Benjamin' remake

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:50 PM PDT

The Aussie actress is set to star in an updated version of the classic film.

Rebel Wilson is ready for a new challenge – the Marines – as the popular comedienne is attached to star in New Line's reboot of the Goldie Hawn's 1980 comedy Private Benjamin, TheWrap has learned.

Private Benjamin will follow a redneck (Wilson) and a rich city girl who get more than they bargained for when they enlist in the Marines to escape their present situations.

Mark Gordon is producing the movie, which would seem to be a natural fit for Wilson's comedic sensibility. New Line is currently seeking a director for the modern day update.

The original Private Benjamin grossed nearly US$70mil at the domestic box office back in 1980, and its success spawned a short-lived TV series.

Wilson, who currently stars on the ABC sitcom Super Fun Night, will soon begin filming Universal's Pitch Perfect 2 with Anna Kendrick. She recently signed on for a supporting role in Night At The Museum 3. — Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

On The Air: Staying alive

Posted: 13 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

While the dead have come back to life on Resurrection, the show itself is struggling with its own identity.

I HATED Jason Mott's The Returned. I felt little for its characters, it chugged along at a snail's pace, and worst of all, it offered no resolution. So when I heard the 2013 novel was going to be adapted into a TV series, Resurrection, well, I was actually quite happy.

The premise – the dead coming back to life in the exact same form as the moment they died – is arresting enough to capture fickle-minded viewers and the novel's whiny disposition would have to be pacier to fit the small screen.

In the opening scene of the pilot, we meet eight-year-old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez, who oddly reminds me of a mini Taylor Swift) who wakes up in the middle of a paddy field in a province in China. Jacob drowned in a river in Arcadia, Missouri, 32 years ago, and with the help of Immigration agent Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), he is brought back to his hometown.

Henry (Kurtwood Smith) and Lucille Langston (Frances Fisher), now in their 60s, answer the doorbell only to find their son – conveniently labelled "the Returned" – not a day older or younger, wearing the same red baseball jersey, standing on their front porch with Agent Bellamy.

It is a pivotal scene and actors Smith and Fisher deliver a heartfelt, believable performance, emitting a sense of genuine excitement yet laced with cautious scepticism. It is a powerful moment that speaks to viewers universally, me included. Immediately, we are reminded of the loved ones we have lost and made to wonder what it would feel like should our dearest departed return one day.

Resurrection gets off to a strong start, thanks to its premise, but where does it go from here?

The first season of the series spans only eight episodes. Unfortunately, the first four are slow and cumbersome, albeit more bearable than the novel. They consist of flashbacks to the Langstons' past, medical examiners poking and prodding at Jacob (and dealing with the ethical dilemmas that come with that) plus more of the Returned are introduced, giving rise to more backstories.

The mysteries don't get answered here, and it gets more frustrating when the show dwells on its characters' petty conflicts and dramas (ugh!). I know, it's all in the name of character exploration, but it's hard to say whether the writers were actually adding more layers to the characters or merely trying to buy time.

If it's the latter, then a great way to buy time would be to introduce two attractive and very single characters and make them fall in love. Indeed, Bellamy and Arcadia's local doctor Maggie (Devin Kelley) have a little something going on but not enough to go anywhere really. The romance plotline is so thin here, it's almost pointless.

Thankfully, things get more interesting in the second half of the season. The same questions still remain largely unanswered but a supernatural element appears. It's not a lot, but enough to keep audiences hooked until the finale. It's also great to see how society responds to people and situations that don't make sense – or, as some might call them, miracles.

All in all, Resurrection struggles with two major issues. Firstly, there isn't a character in the show that viewers feel compelled to root for. Ideally, it should be the Langstons but at times, little Jacob gives me the impression that he is not as clueless as he seems and has a sinister agenda.

Lastly, the series, which has been picked up for a second season, has to decide if it wants to embrace its inherent supernatural element wholeheartedly, as there is a huge market for such tales should the show head in that direction.

> Resurrection airs every Monday at 10pm on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709).

'House' star Omar Epps talks zombies, Brad Pitt and 'Resurrection'

Posted: 11 May 2014 08:35 PM PDT

New TV series Resurrection is a matter of life and death, the actor tells The Star in an exclusive interview.

Actor Omar Epps doesn't dismiss the possibility of life after death.

Epps was in town recently to promote his latest work, Resurrection, an eight-episode series about the dead returning to life in the little town of Arcadia, Missouri.

"I feel that energy is eternal. Whatever any of our believes are, that's one thing that holds up," he said in a video interview with The Star's Entertainment editor Gordon Kho.

In Resurrection, Omar Epps (left) plays immigration agent Martin Bellamy who discovers there are dead people who have returned to life in the little town of Arcadia, Missouri.

In Resurrection, Omar Epps (left) plays immigration agent Martin Bellamy who discovers there are dead people who have returned to life in the little town of Arcadia, Missouri.

Epps plays immigration agent Martin Bellamy who is tasked to bring eight-year-old Jacob Langston, who was found in the middle of a paddy field in a Chinese province, back home to Arcadia.

There's only one problem. Jacob drowned in a river in Arcadia 32 years ago.

From here on, Bellamy leads an investigation to help the townspeople make sense of the boy's return.

"It's such a universal story, I felt it would translate to all the different cultures," the 40-year-old star shared on why he decided to sign up for the role.

"When you think of the loss of a loved one, which we've all experienced, we do what I call patchwork. You never fill that void, you just do that patchwork around your heart to enable you to keep going on."

Epps is best known for his role as Dr. Eric Foreman in the hit medical drama, House.

His work on Resurrection joins a a growing list of African American actors who are taking on lead roles such as Kerry Washington in Scandal and Don Cheadle in House Of Lies. "The world is changing. When it comes to the entertainment business, it is our job to reflect what society really looks. So this evolution of African Americans playing leads on major networks is just reflection of that."

Resurrection premieres tonight at 10pm on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709).

Related stories:

Resurrection: Sometimes they come back

Kurtwood Smith and his two memorable characters


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Philippines says China appears to be building airstrip on disputed reef

Posted: 13 May 2014 09:20 PM PDT

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines accused China on Wednesday of reclaiming land on a reef in disputed islands in the South China Sea, apparently to build an airstrip, only a day after Washington described Beijing's actions in the region as "provocative".

If confirmed, the airstrip would be the first built by China on any of the eight reefs and islands it occupies in the Spratly Islands and would mark a significant escalation in tensions involving several nations in the area.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, an area rich in energy deposits and an important passageway traversed each year by $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the area.

Philippine Foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose told Reuters that China had been moving earth and materials to Johnson South Reef, known by the Chinese as Chigua, in recent weeks. He said China was reclaiming land in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an informal code of conduct for the region.

"They're about to build an airstrip," Jose said.

He said evidence of the Chinese activity on the reef had been shown in aerial photographs taken by the Philippine Navy. The Philippines and Taiwan already have airstrips in the area.

The ministry had already lodged a protest with the Chinese and raised the issue behind closed doors at last weekend's summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Myanmar, Jose said.

Tensions in the South China Sea were already high after China moved a large oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. Beijing and Hanoi each accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands,

On Tuesday, Kerry said during a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China's introduction of the oil rig and numerous government vessels into the area disputed with Vietnam was "provocative", a State Department spokeswoman confirmed. [ID:nL3N0NZ37H]

China in turn said there had indeed been provocative action taken in the area but that it was not the guilty party, with the foreign ministry blaming the United States for encouraging such behaviour. The ministry said Wang had urged Kerry to "act and speak cautiously".

Beijing says the South China Sea issue should be resolved by direct talks between those involved and has bristled at what it sees as unwarranted U.S. interference.

It has also looked askance at the U.S. "pivot" back to Asia, especially Washington's efforts to boost existing military links with Tokyo and Manila.

The remote and otherwise unremarkable Johnson South Reef has been a catalyst for conflict in the past. In March 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval skirmish on and around the reef with up to 90 Vietnamese reported killed.

(Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Japan PM to pitch security change to divided voters, wary partner

Posted: 13 May 2014 08:55 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Would Japan send its military to defend the Philippines if it was attacked by China? That's the kind of question Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could well face as he pushes for a landmark change to security policy.

Abe's private advisers will on Thursday present him with a report urging a loosening of legal limits on Japan's military, including an end to a decades-old ban on helping allies under attack that has kept Japanese forces from fighting abroad since World War Two.

The report, a draft of which was obtained by Reuters, sets the stage for Abe to make a pitch for a historic change in a defence policy that has long been based on the principle that Japan has the right to defend itself with the minimum necessary force, but that combat abroad exceeds the limit.

A lifting of the ban on "collective self-defence" would be welcome to Japan's ally the United States, but would draw criticism from China, ties with which have been damaged by a territorial row and the legacy of Japan's past aggression.

Despite Abe's desire to loosen the limits of the U.S.-drafted charter, doubts remain about how far and how quickly he can go. His Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) junior partner, the New Komeito, is wary, voters are divided and the LDP's deputy leader is worried about the impact on local polls this year and next.

"This is not a simple matter that can just be pushed through," a senior LDP lawmaker told Reuters. "It's complex."

Previous governments have said Japan has the right of collective self-defence under international law, but that the constitution's pacifist Article 9 prohibited taking such action.

Abe's advisers argue that Japan's security environment, including an increasingly assertive China and volatile North Korea, requires a more flexible approach.

Tension in the region grew this month when China positioned an oil rig in an area of the South China Sea also claimed by Vietnam and spiked again when China demanded that the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat seized off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands, claimed by both countries.

Japan itself is locked in a feud with China over Japanese-controlled isles in the East China Sea.

"Looking at China's moves, everyone thinks that in broad terms, allowing the exercise of the right of collective self-defence can't be avoided. But when the debate gets specific, it gets difficult. The question is, what kind of limits should be set?" said a second senior LDP lawmaker who also declined to be identified.

"Could we say a clash between the Philippines and China has nothing to do with Japan? Some would say after the South China Sea comes the East China Sea. Others would say helping the Philippines is going too far," he told Reuters.


Given domestic and diplomatic dynamics, a blanket lifting of the ban soon appears unlikely - although critics say even small changes would open the door to more drastic moves later.

"There are some changes to which the New Komeito is strongly opposed," the first LDP lawmaker said.

Critics also say Abe is taking a stealthy approach by seeking to reinterpret the constitution instead of the more politically difficult step of formally revising the U.S.-drafted charter, which has never been altered since its adoption in 1947.

Abe would like to embody the change in a cabinet resolution next month, before the parliamentary session ends on June 22, or at the latest by September, to leave time to revise a slew of related laws in an extra session of parliament late in the year.

"The prime minister wants to act while his support rates are high and politics stable," the first LDP lawmaker said.

Supporters of the change also want it settled in time to be reflected in updated U.S.-Japan defence cooperation guidelines that Japan wants to finish by year-end.

Abe will unveil the government's response to the report on Thursday, outlining cases in which legal limits on the military could be loosened as a basis for talks inside the ruling bloc.

Examples in the report include protecting a U.S. warship under attack in waters near Japan; mine-sweeping in sea-lanes in a conflict zone; intercepting a ballistic missile headed for America; and inspecting vessels supplying arms to a country that has attacked the United States.

The advisers will also state there are no constitutional constraints on Japan's participation in U.N.-led collective security operations, in which nations join to repel an aggressor against one state, but the government is unlikely to push for that even more controversial change, political sources said.

The draft also recommends legal changes to facilitate action not directly tied to collective self-defence but where the military has to date been constrained by legal concerns, such as rescuing Japanese overseas, using weapons in U.N. peace-keeping operations and dispatching troops to low-intensity conflicts that fall short of a full-scale attack on Japan.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Turkey mine blast kills at least 201, hundreds trapped

Posted: 13 May 2014 08:30 PM PDT

SOMA, Turkey, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - At least 201 people were killed and hundreds more remained trapped underground after an explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey, the government said Wednesday, warning that rescue efforts faced a race against time.

The toll has risen rapidly since Tuesday's disaster in the province of Manisa, when a total of 787 mineworkers became trapped inside the mine.

Rescue operations continued overnight for the hundreds of people still underground. Of those rescued alive, 80 were injured, four of them seriously, said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

"We fear the number could rise even further because those who came to help out may be among the injured and affected by the smoke," he told reporters.

"As the time passes, we are very quickly heading to an unfavourable outcome," he added.

Earlier a security source told AFP that there were pockets in the mine, one of which was open so rescuers were able to reach the workers, but the second was blocked with workers trapped inside.

The explosion was believed to have been triggered by a faulty electrical transformer at around 1230 GMT Tuesday.

Hundreds of people gathered around the explosion site as rescuers brought out injured workers, who were coughing and struggling to breathe due to the dust.

Sena Isbiler, a mother of one of the miners, stood on top of piles of wood, craning her neck to see who was being led out of the mine.

"I have been waiting for my son since early afternoon," she told AFP.

"I haven't heard anything about him yet."

Arum Unzar, a colleague of the missing miners said he had lost a friend previously "but this is enormous."

"All the victims are our friends," he said as he wept.

"We are a family and today that family is devastated. We have had very little news and when it does come it's very bad," he added. 

Tragic accident

Fire officials were trying to pump clean air into the mine shaft for those who remained trapped some two kilometres (one mile) below the surface and four kilometres from the entrance.

Late Tuesday evening injured people were still emerging from the collapsed mine - some walking, others being carried by rescue workers while being given oxygen.

Nearby, security officers tried to keep ambulance routes clear to ensure help could reach the victims.

The mining company Soma Komur issued a statement saying the mine had maximum safety measures.

"Unfortunately, some of our workers have lost their lives in this tragic accident," the statement said.

"The accident happened despite maximum safety measures and inspections, but we have been able to take prompt action," it added.

Energy Minister Yildiz promised that if it was discovered that any negligence was to blame for the disaster "we will not turn a blind eye to it. We will do whatever necessary including all administrative and legal steps." 

Time isn't in our favour

Turkey's ministry of labour and social security said the mine was last inspected on March 17 and was found to be compliant with safety regulations.

But Oktay Berrin, a miner, said workers were not protected underground.

"There is no security in this mine," he told AFP.

"The unions are just puppets and our management only cares about money."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said he would arrive in Soma on Wednesday after cancelling a trip to Albania.

Speaking in Ankara, the leader expressed his "heartfelt condolences" to the families of those who died.
"Some of the workers have been rescued and I hope we will be able to rescue the others," Erdogan said.

Energy Minister Yildiz told journalists in Soma that a team of 400 people were involved in the rescue effort and that the main cause of the deaths was carbon monoxide and dioxide poisoning.

"Time isn't working in our favour. We need to get them out. We could be in a troubled situation," he said.

The miners are all thought to have gas masks, but it was not clear how long they would last.

Vedat Didari, a professor of mining, told AFP that the biggest risk was the lack of oxygen.

"If the ceiling fans are not working, the workers could die within an hour," said Didari, from the Bulent Ecevit University in the city of Zonguldak.

Explosions and cave-ins are common in Turkey, particularly in private mines where safety regulations are often flouted.

Turkey's worst mining accident happened in 1992 when 263 workers were killed in a gas explosion in a mine in Zonguldak.

Soma is one of the key centres for lignite coal mining in Turkey, a district with a population of around 100,000 where the mines and a lignite-fired thermal power plant are the main economic activity.


The Star Online: Business

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No final deal on TPP next week: US official

Posted: 13 May 2014 07:14 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: Pacific trading partners are not expecting to reach a final agreement on an ambitious free trade pact at a ministerial meeting in Singapore next week, a senior US official said on Tuesday.

A US-Japan summit last month had shaken the two countries free of a stalemate over access to Japan's farm and auto markets in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but more work was needed before a broad agreement could be reached, the official said.

The deadlock between Japan and the US, the biggest economies in the 12-nation TPP, has held up progress on the wider trade agreement in recent months as other countries awaited the outcome of the negotiations.

TPP negotiators, from countries including Canada, Australia, Mexico and Malaysia, are in Vietnam this week for another round of negotiations and ministers will meet on May 19-20 in Singapore.

"We will make sure we are on the same page and then give instructions to our teams to get back to work and work through the remaining issues," the senior official said.

"This is a check-in meeting. This is not a ministerial where we expect to reach a final agreement."

The senior US official, who asked not to be named, said the next stage of TPP negotiations involved other countries also sitting down to work out market access issues with Japan.

Once it was clear what each country could get from the deal in terms of exports, it would be time to focus on setting common rules on issues such as labor, the environment and intellectual property, he said at a briefing for journalists.

The US official also urged China to show leadership on an agreement to eliminate duties on billions of dollars of technology products, which will be under discussion at a meeting of Asia-Pacific trade ministers in China this weekend.

The US, China, the European Union and nearly two dozen other countries are negotiating an expansion of the World Trade Organization's Information Technology Agreement (ITA), a 16-year-old pact that eliminated duties on a long list of products including personal computers, laptops and telephones.

The US and Europe have blamed China, the world's biggest exporter of IT products, for derailing the technology talks by asking for too many exemptions from the deal.

A positive attitude from China toward the ITA could help convince critics of the merits of a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with the US.

"If you are China and you are interested in having a bilateral investment treaty, you want to have strong constituencies of support, and a positive outcome on ITA is a potential positive contributor to that outcome," the official said.

But there was still a long way to go on the investment treaty negotiations, given China's list of sectors it wanted to be exempt.

"Right now the negative list is enormous and they know that it's got to be shrunk to be meaningful," he said. – Reuters 

Berjaya Corp shares up on Vietnam lottery project

Posted: 13 May 2014 06:56 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Berjaya Corporation's shares rose in active trade on Wednesday on firmer investor interest after it had beaten five rivals to invest and undertake a computerised lottery system in Vietnam.

At 9.45am, it was up 1.5 sen to 50.5 sen. There were 20.34 million shares traded at prices ranging from 50 sen to 52 sen.

The FBM KLCI rose 9.87 points to 1,875.95. Turnover was 389.13 million shares valued at RM325.15 million shares. There were 338 gainers, 114 losers and 239 counters unchanged.

Last Monday, BCorp said the lottery system would be undertaken under a business cooperation contract with Vietnam Lottery Company.

"BCorp will undertake the Vietnam lottery business via Berjaya Gia Thinh Investment Technology Co. Lt (Berjaya GTI), a company incorporated in Vietnam," it said.

Berjaya GTI is 51% owned by Berjaya Lottery Vietnam Ltd and it is in turn 80% owned by BCorp and 20% by BToto.

KLCI surges nearly 10 points in early trade

Posted: 13 May 2014 06:17 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips index jumped nearly 10 points in early Wednesday when trading resumed on some fund buying of plantations, Petronas stocks and UMW but selling of Tenaga Nasional curbed its gains.

At 9.06am, the FBM KLCI rose 9.31 points to 1,875.39. Turnover over was 69.34 million shares valued at RM77.28mil. There were 207 gainers, 55 losers and 141 counters unchanged.

BIMB Securities Research expects the current market's high valuation to be the main impediment for the KLCI to move up and also because earnings for the first quarter so far have not been impressive.

However, it expected a firmer regional performance might see the index testing the 1,870 on Wednesday.

KL Kepong rose 28 sen to RM24.68 but with 100 shares done but PPB Group fell 18 sen to RM16.20 also with 100 units traded. Sawarak Plantations fell seven sen to RM2.44.

Petronas Gas rose 28 sen to RM23.76 and Petronas Dagangan 14 sen to RM27.16.  UMW, HL Industries and DiGi added 10 sen each to RM10.80, RM6.65 and RM5.65 respectively.

Daiman jumped 21 sen to RM3.66 in active trade.

Tenaga fell 14 sen to RM11.84, Dialog six sen to RM3.70 and Westports four sen lower to RM2.81.


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Crisis defused in Terengganu

Posted: 13 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

KUALA TERENGGANU: The constitutional crisis in Terengganu may have been averted after one of the three Barisan Nasional assemblymen who quit Umno retracted his resignation while another is close to being persuaded to return following intervention by top party leaders.

At press time, Bukit Besi assemblyman Roslee Daud is back in the fold and Ajil assemblyman Ghazali Taib was close to returning to Umno. Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim confirmed Roslee had retracted his resignation.

State executive councillor for Tourism and Culture Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee, who is Permaisuri assemblyman, said Roslee had done so after being advised by his Umno colleagues.

However, former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said, who ignited the crisis by refusing to go quietly, was still holding out.

It is understood that Commu­nications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek played a key role in the negotiations with Ahmad.

Both are from the Kemaman Umno division, of which Ahmad is chairman and Shabery the deputy.

Ahmad Said, who resigned from Umno on Monday, had taken along with him Ghazali and Roslee, hours after the new Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman (pic) was sworn in before the Sultan late that night.

It had been a dramatic day in Terengganu following Ahmad Said's resignation.

Terengganu had been rocked by rumours that more assemblymen would be jumping ship and even that the State Legislative Assembly would be dissolved.

However, it had been an anti-climax, now that one assemblyman has decided to stay with Umno and another is set to do the same. While the negotiations were going on in Terengganu, other Barisan Nasional assemblymen were hunkered down in Putrajaya and they are expected to meet the Prime Minister after the Cabinet meeting today.

Meanwhile, Pakatan wants fresh polls in the state.

Terengganu PAS commissioner Satiful Bahri Mamat claimed that the party was not interested in taking any ex-Umno assemblyman. PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has distanced himself from the controversy, saying the party was not interested in entering a rumah berhantu (haunted house).

Earlier, the palace and the state assembly building in the heart of this oil-rich state were quiet in contrast to the roller-coaster ride of its politics.

Reporters waiting at the entrance of the palace in Bukit Cendering and the state assembly building expecting these places to be a hub of activity yesterday left disappointed.

There was hardly any movement at the palace, except for members of the press milling about at the entrance waiting for the rumoured arrival of the state Speaker.

There were no signs of the state Speaker or Ahmad Razif asking for the Sultan's consent for the dissolution.

Kemasik assemblyman Rosli Othman, Pengkalan Berangan assemblyman A. Latiff Awang, Batu Rakit assemblymen Bazlan Abdul Rahman and Mohd Jidin were forced to deny rumours they would follow Ahmad Said.

At the Mentri Besar's official residence where Ahmad Said was said to be holed up, there was no sign of him vacating what has been his home for the past six years.

Pressmen were led on a cat-and-mouse game with local politicians as both Ahmads (Ahmad Razif and Ahmad Said) have been elusive over their activities.

While the political manoeuvring and negotiations are at an all-time high, state events, including the Terengganu Umno liaison meeting, have been cancelled or postponed.

Burnt alive in a locked container

Posted: 13 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: A five-year-old girl locked inside a modified container was burnt to death in a fire which also damaged six other similar structures used as workers' quarters.

Kabo Boreng was left inside the 6m container by her father Bernados Boro, 29, before he went to work at a nearby chicken farm in Bongawan, 84km south of the state capital.

It is learnt that Bernados and the other workers tried in vain to kick open the door when they saw smoke from the container at about 8.30am yesterday.

Kabo is believed to have accidentally locked herself inside the container. She was alone as her mother was out of town.

Relatives of the family who were at the scene said Bernados sometimes had to lock the door when he went to work or when his wife was not around as he was afraid that Kabo would roam around.

He was just being cautious and did not want his daughter to go missing, said a relative.

But a distraught Bernados told firemen that this time Kabo locked herself in.

Papar Fire station chief Dunstan Peter said: "We asked about the door, and he (Bernados) told us it was his daughter who locked it. However we will investigate further once he is in a better state of mind."

He said the seven containers, which were mainly wood with steel frames, were already 90% burnt when firemen arrived at 8.59am.

"We received the call at 8.34am and could only prevent the fire from spreading further when we arrived," Peter said.

The fire was brought under control at about 9.20am.

Kabo's body has been brought to the Papar district hospital for post-mortem.

Corporate responsibility spurs bid to end poverty

Posted: 13 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Petronas, General Electric, AirAsia and Astro are among the companies which had lent a helping hand to the Government's efforts to eradicate poverty in Malaysia through the Government Transformation Programme (GTP).

Through the Raising Living Standards of Low Income Households (LIH) NKRA, the Government sought the cooperation of NGOs and corporate partners to increase the reach and effectiveness of the initiative.

Last year, Astro constructed a school hostel in Ranau, which now houses over 120 students.

The three-block hostel is equipped with a multi-purpose hall and a warden room for students from 10 villages in the area.

Petronas, along with its NGO partner MyKasih Foundation, came up with a programme that benefited 13,500 poor families in Malaysia with "prepaid cards" which they could use to buy essential food items from supermarkets for a period of two years.

Since the start of the Sentuhan Harapan Programme in 2010, which encourages families to improve themselves and learn skills to break free from the poverty cycle, over 5,000 families have participated.

Non-profit group Yayasan Sejah­tera, tasked to help improve the lives of the poor, has been supporting the development of three villages in Pitas, Sabah, and has so far implemented several projects including a subsistence farming programme, a water access programme and a youth empowerment programme.

According to the GTP report released by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday, the collaboration was to leverage on each other's strengths, whether in terms of funding or expertise.

"The support and generosity of these parties accelerated the delivery of aid to key groups targeted in the GTP, thus accelerating our goal to reach all rakyat in need of aid," the report said.

Women, Family and Community Deve­lopment Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said 1AZAM, another project under the NKRA, had done an "excellent job" in eradicating almost all hardcore poverty in Malaysia.

An earlier report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) based on the National Household Income Survey in 2012 showed that poverty in Malaysia had fallen to 1.7%.

The GTP report stated that the achievement had come "much earlier" than expected as the NKRA team had set 2015 as its deadline to drop poverty rates to below 2%.


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Gold: The Race For The World’s Most Seductive Metal

Posted: 12 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

GOLD. That shiny, soft, alluring metal. Over the last 6,000 years of history, it has been responsible for slavery, war, peace, extinction, and mayhem. It has been a symbol of kingship and a sacred emblem for the gods. It has brought down entire economies and become an essential financial commodity.

No other metal is as universally venerated as is gold. Matthew Hart's Gold details the story of humanity's lust for it, giving the amateur economist, the armchair historian, and Joe Everyman a highly informative, vividly descriptive, and easy to understand look behind the shine of the world's most precious metal.

The book begins with a dramatic look at the activities, both legal and illegal, that surround the mining of gold in South Africa.

We learn of vast mining enterprises that have to fight the ever growing tides of pirate miners who form their own teams and carry out their own work down in the mines.

Hart tells us about the virtual townships that form underground, where an entire support system for these illegal miners is put in place with bars, food and brothels easily available, and all eager to share in the ill-gotten gains.

Hart then provides a quick history of gold and its meteoric rise from a sacred metal used for worship to the de facto standard for currency across the world.

He touches on the European expeditions to search for gold in South America, including the fateful meeting between the Incas and Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who kidnaps and murders Inca ruler Atahualpa, plunging the Inca empire into war and ruin and stealing their gold.

The ransom paid for Atahualpa alone was more than the entire yearly gold harvest of Europe combined.

Hart writes how the sudden increase in the amount of the metal in Europe led to the basis of a central banking system, where promissory notes could be sold in exchange for physical gold bullion.

He then goes on to explain the relationship between physical gold in vaults, exchange rates, and the adoption of the system of modern commerce, both private and personal. This eventually becomes what is known as the gold standard.

Hart also takes us through the excitement and the heady days of the American Gold Rush, detailing the horrors and the triumphs of that time.

Eventually, a decision is made in the highest echelons of power in the United States: the gold standard must go. Hart illustrates the resulting global turmoil in unaffected prose, reporting the events leading up to the abandonment of the standard by the rest of the world.

In today's world, the gold standard has been dead for some 40 years. But gold itself still holds sway over the financial imaginations of most people. It is what people want to invest in, without knowing exactly why or how. The next quarter of the book is where Hart explains the mysteries and the secrecy behind gold and its keepers. From America's presidential retreat Camp David to the hallowed halls of the London Bullion Market Association, we are given an insider's look at the mechanics of the gold market and how and why it fluctuates.

Hart ends the book with a sobering view of the life of the people who live and work on the periphery of gold discovery. Retrieving gold, as it turns out, is a hard, harsh life for the people at the bottom of the ladder.

In Africa, many gold deposits are mined using slave labour, forcibly recruited from whichever people happened to be handy when the latest militia rolled in. Even when the mining is legitimate, the miners are marginalised and most are kept living on the edge of poverty.

Gold is an extremely interesting read, thanks to Hart's talent for illustrating even abstract economics in a way that never becomes boring or confusing. For someone who doesn't always enjoy non-fiction, I found this book so fascinating that it was difficult to put it down.

For those looking to broaden their knowledge, combining lessons in economics, history and humanities, this book is highly recommended.

The Mysterious Underground Men

Posted: 12 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

A book that leaves much to the imagination.

IN A 1988 interview, Japanese cartoonist Osamu Tezuka was asked what his proudest contribution to manga was. He said he is most proud of introducing tragic elements to the medium.

That reminded me of Astro Boy where a grieving father realises that a robot child cannot not fill the painful void left by his dead son. Indeed, Tezuka has a knack for masking layers of soul-crushing sadness underneath the innocent appeal of highly expressive anime eyes.

Which brings us to his 1948 effort The Mysterious Underground Men, now available in English for the first time.

The story begins with a bang, literally. A plane crashes and we see a man being carried away from the wreckage. With his dying breath, he makes his son John promise to build "a safer means of transportation". As young John weeps beside his father's deathbed, he vows to make "a wonderful machine" that will do exactly what Dad wants. Just like that, we're introduced to the first tragic element in this manga.

Later we meet a rabbit who stuns a group of scientists with its almost human behaviour. The scientists decide that the rabbit should go for an operation that will make it more human. There is a disturbing panel where the rabbit is strapped to a bed with surgeons holding sharp objects around it. As it won't sit still, someone screams "bring the needle!" and another simply says "chloroform".

The rest of the procedure is left to your imagination.

Tezuka safeguards his readers' sensitivity by hiding the graphic details of the operation behind closed doors. Once you've started thinking about it, though, it's horrifying enough.

The rabbit emerges as a "practically human" anthropomorphic being. Now called Mimio, he is able to speak and solve complicated math problems. Later he runs away from the clutches of the scientists and finds himself exposed to the outside world which only makes things worse, as the "outsiders" question his sense of being. To them, he is an odd talking rabbit in human clothes. Horrified by their desire to kill and eat him, Mimio flees again.

Our unlucky rabbit bumps into John and finds himself in safe company. John shares his plans to dig a tunnel for a rocket-powered train to go through the centre of the Earth. He deems his Trans-Earth train as "the world's fastest and safest mode of transportation". The Trans-Earth train is John's way of fulfilling his late father's wishes. Intrigued by the idea, Mimio asks if there is anything he can do to help. Mimio didn't get an answer but he gets to tag along as John begins constructing his Trans-Earth tunnel.

After some time passes with no news from John, his worried friend Uncle Bill assembles a team to look for the pair and they encounter a group of underground beings. It turns out that John's Trans-Earth plan somehow fits the agenda of an alien queen looking to take back the surface of the Earth.

I was not particularly concerned about John's dreams as I found myself caring more for Mimio's character. Even when he tries to do the right thing, he ends up getting pushed away by John and Uncle Bill. In one scene, he walks away in tears as Uncle Bill shouts: "You wanna be forgiven? Then turn into human!" Damn you, Uncle Bill.

The story also focuses a lot on Uncle Bill and John's efforts to take down the alien queen. I just wish we were given more panels with Mimio.

Published under the Ten-Cent Manga series dedicated to bringing back forgotten works by famous artists, The Mysterious Underground Men comes in a bite-size hardcover book. A note from the publisher explains that it has been printed in the manga's original size and colour. The panels, in shades of black and orange, are printed on brown paper. Which makes me feel really nostalgic as it feels like I am holding an actual copy of the book and not the reprinted version.

Overall, The Mysterious Underground Men is an exciting story that will appeal to science fiction fans. The book also ends with notes and an essay detailing Tezuka's inspiration for the story.

At RM99.90 per copy, casual readers might think twice about splurging on this. Die-hard Osamu Tezuka fans, on the other hand, would be proud to have this in their collection.

> The Mysterious Underground Men and Unity Vol 1: To Kill A King are available at the graphic novel section of Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC. Call 03-2164 8133 or e-mail or visit

Pivot Point

Posted: 12 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Technically two stories in one, Pivot Point is a gripping blend of fantasy, romance, drama and action.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, / and sorry I could not travel both."

Imagine if Robert Frost's illustrious poem, The Road Not Taken, were adapted into a young adult fantasy thriller, and you'd get Kasie West's debut novel Pivot Point. A gripping read, West's novel feels like Sliding Doors crossed with X-Men crossed with Twilight: a bizarre mix, but one that works surprisingly well.

Pivot Point tells the story of teenager Addie Cole, who is a "Paranormal": a member of a group of people with psychic powers. She has the ability to "Search" – whenever she is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes.

For all her life, Addie has lived a peaceful life in the Compound, a secret facility where Paranormals hide themselves from "Normals", or the rest of the world.

But when her parents announce they are getting divorced, Addie is faced with a difficult dilemma. Does she stay with stay her mother in the Compound? Or go with her father, who plans to live with the Normals?

Addie's ability to Search both options, however, only complicates matters.

She discovers that if she stays with her mother, she will encounter Duke, a charming star quarterback.

If she goes with her father, she will meet Trevor, a sensitive former athlete with a heart of gold.

Which outcome – and which guy – will she choose?

Making matters worse is the involvement of a sinister killer, who features in both options. With her knowledge of facts from two separate timestreams, Addie is the only person who can stop him. But will she make the right choices to do so?

Yes, I know this sounds like your average Twilight-style romance. Rest assured, however, while romance is an important part of Pivot Point, West balances it with just enough suspense and action to delight everyone.

That said, however, I foresee a lot of Team Duke and Team Trevor T-shirts in future....

Pivot Point's greatest strength is its excellent plotting. West frames her story as alternating chapters, creatively prefacing each chapter with a word containing either "PARA" or "NORM" to remind readers which timestream we are seeing. This style sounds like it could be confusing, but remarkably, it is very easy to follow.

Indeed, each timestream is very well fleshed out, completely distinct yet featuring enough similarities with the other to keep it interesting. Ghostbusters may have taught us never to cross the streams, but West shows us that it can be done, and excellently to boot.

And while they were both well done, I have to say Addie's adventures in the Normal World were slightly more interesting, due to the inherent suspense of her constantly having to hide her abilities from her Normal friends.

West does a good job with world-building: Addie's Paranormal world is an engaging one, where perceptives and mood controllers and manipulators and erasers all run around. Certain famous figures in history are revealed to secretly have psychic powers.

Unscrupulous psychics use their powers to gain advantages in the normal world. And Addie, already struggling with the normal teenage problems, must cope with her father being able to detect lies and her mother's psychic persuasion powers. It's all very fascinating.

The novel's characters are also well drawn. Addie is a good protagonist: a selfless and loyal friend, who despite being quite intelligent, can be extremely socially oblivious. Her best friend, the flighty Laila, is fun to read about, and both love interests are drawn out realistically and charmingly.

The story does slow down in the middle, as Addie goes on dates and gets to know both her love interests better.

While some of the romance scenes seem a bit like filler, there are some genuinely sweet moments in Addie's interactions with both Duke and Trevor.

Pivot Point also suffers a few minor story holes: for one thing, I am still unclear about the mysterious killer's motivations. Why was he only attacking girls? Was it a personal quirk, or was there something intrinsic to their nature?

Also slightly hard to swallow was a subplot involving one character hiding their true powers from everyone else, including a school board, who would have their personal records! You'd think in a world populated by clairvoyants, lie detectors and mind readers, someone would have discovered the truth sooner.

A sequel to the book, Split Second, was published earlier this year. While I personally feel it's unnecessary (I thought Pivot Point ended in a fantastic place), I would most definitely check it out, if only just to return to West's interesting world of Normals and Paranormals.

This is a solid, well-crafted read that will satisfy both romance and fantasy fans.


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One tough mother: Don't mess with these momma bears

Posted: 10 May 2014 08:35 PM PDT

Fictional mums who prove that they can wipe, whip and kick some serious butts.

Mothers are some of the scariest people in the world ... and that is on a good day. Imagine catching them when they are at their craziest, most insane mood, which usually happens when someone threatens the safety of their family. Scary thought, huh?

Here we take a look at some of the memorable "momma bear" movie characters who would do anything for their cubs.

The movie: The Blind Side

The mother: Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock)

Why she is awesome: Leigh Anne is a tough-as-nails mother who isn't afraid to speak her mind and runs a super tight household. 

In the movie, Leigh Anne welcomes Michael Oher, a homeless high schooler, into her family and guides the troubled boy to become one of the most prominent players in the American National Football League.

The fact that the movie is based on a true story and to know that there really is a tough-talking, no-nonsense Leigh Anne out there just makes this character extra special. Leigh Anne is not only protective of her biological children, she is also very defensive of her adopted son Michael and proved that she would always fight for what's best for her babies.

The movie: Harry Potter series

The mother: Molly Weasley (Julie Walters)

Why she is awesome: *Spoiler alert* (but seriously, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows has been out for almost three years, why haven't you watched it?) Who can forget the moment Molly took on evil Bellatrix Lestrange, who tried to kill poor Ginny Weasley, and screamed: "Not my daughter, you b****!"? It was epic.

We always knew that Mrs Weasley was crazy overprotective of her seven children, as well as of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, but who knew that she had it in her to cast a killing curse on the lunatic Bellatrix? Obviously not the Death Eater.

the incredibles animated GIF

The movie: The Incredibles

The mother: Helen Parr aka Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter)

Why she is awesome: She washes, she cleans and she fights criminals with her superhero husband and children. How much more awesome can Helen Parr get?

While many mothers complain of being stretched too thin, Helen literally does that to keep world order and her family together. She may look tame with her soccer mum hairstyle and timid demeanour but if you mess with her family or threaten to hurt her babies, you will have to face her alter ego Elastigirl and her power to stretch like a rubberband that will snap you into submission.

The movie: The Fighter

The mother: Alice Ward (Melissa Leo)

Why she is awesome: Okay, some may say that she is more of a lunatic "ring" mum who makes money by letting her sons beat and get beaten to a bloody pulp, than a heroic mummy. However, Alice, the mother and manager of boxers Micky and Dicky Ward – played respectively by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale – is a calculative, animal-print fashion abuser who only wants to push her sons to do their best and try to make as much money while they can still fight.

The movie is based on a true story, and Alice really is the foul-mouthed, bleached-blonde iron lady in real life as she is portrayed in The Fighter.

The movie: Terminator

The mother: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton)

Why she is awesome: If there is one mother who has been to Hell and back just to keep her son safe, it has to be Sarah. From going into the seedy underworld to getting locked up in a mental institution to fighting seemingly indestructable robots, Sarah has done it all in the name of love.

In the original 1984 movie, famous for its "I'll be back" line uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger aka the Terminator, Sarah – wonder mama to John Connor – changed from a timid mousy woman to a butt-kicking fierce warrior in order to keep her son alive and teach him how to protect himself in a war between humans and cyborgs. Go humans!

The not-so-blushing Bride.

The movie: Kill Bill

The mother: Beatrix Kiddo aka The Bride (Uma Thurman)

Why she is awesome: Hell hath no fury like a mother who has lost her child. After waking up from a four-year coma, The Bride is out to seek revenge for the death of the members of her wedding party and kill her former "colleagues" (they were all assassins) who tried to murder her.

She kills them all, in the most painful way imaginable, and in the process learns that her baby is alive and well. But of course, she is not going to let the baby daddy (Bill), who was behind the kidnapping and countless murders, get away just like that.

The movie: Panic Room

The mother: Meg Altman (Jodie Foster)

Why she is awesome: She didn't once attempt to kill her annoying daughter (played by a young Kristen Stewart), so yes, she is awesome.


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