Selasa, 3 Jun 2014

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syrians vote in wartime election set to extend Assad's rule

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 11:40 PM PDT

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syrians voted on Tuesday in an election expected to deliver an overwhelming victory to President Bashar al-Assad in the midst of a civil war that has fractured the country and killed more than 160,000 people.

Assad's opponents including rebel fighters, the political opposition in exile, Western powers and Gulf Arabs have dismissed the election as a charade, saying no credible vote can be held in a country where wide swathes of territory are outside state control and millions of people have been displaced.

Insurgents battling to overthrow Assad stepped up attacks in government-controlled areas in the buildup to the election, seeking to disrupt the vote.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) in parts of Syria where Assad continues to rule and state television broadcast footage of people queuing to cast their votes in several cities.

"We hope for security and stability," said Hussam al-Din al Aws, an Arabic teacher who was the first person to vote at a polling station at a Damascus secondary school. Asked who would win, he responded: "God willing, President Bashar al-Assad."

Assad is running against two relatively unknown challengers who were approved by a parliament packed with his supporters, the first time in half a century that Syrians have been offered any choice of candidates.

The last seven presidential votes were referenda to approve Bashar or his father, Hafez al-Assad. Hafez never scored less than 99 percent, while his son got 97.6 percent seven years ago.

Neither of Assad's rivals, former minister Hassan al-Nouri or parliamentarian Maher Hajjar, is expected to make major inroads into those levels of support.


Syrian officials confidently predicted a big turnout and said that a high level of participation would be as significant as the result itself.

"The size of the turnout is a political message," Information Minister Omran Zoabi told Reuters on Monday night.

"The armed terrorist groups have increased their threats because they fear (a high level of) participation," he said, referring to the rebels.

"If these terrorist groups had any popularity it would be enough to ensure the failure of the election," he said. "But they realise they have no popularity, so they want to affect the level of participation so they can say the turnout was low."

Tens of thousands of Syrian expatriates and refugees cast their ballots last week in an early round of voting, although the number was just a fraction of the nearly 3 million refugees and other Syrians living abroad.

The election took place three years after protests first broke out in Syria, calling for democratic reform in a country dominated since 1970 by the Assad family. Authorities responded with force and the uprising descended into civil war.

Assad's forces, backed by allies including Iran and Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah, have consolidated their control in central Syria but the insurgents and foreign jihadi fighters hold broad expanses of northern and eastern Syria.

Peace talks in Geneva between the government and the opposition National Coalition, which the opposition said must be based on the principle of Assad stepping aside in favour of a transitional government, collapsed in February.

Since then Assad's forces and Hezbollah fighters have seized back control of former rebel strongholds on the Lebanese border, cutting off supply lines for weapons and fighters, and the last rebels have retreated from the centre of the city of Homs.

The withdrawal from Homs has focused attention on the northern city of Aleppo, formerly Syria's commercial hub, where fighting has escalated in the last few weeks.

Rebel rocket fire on government-controlled areas of Aleppo killed 50 people over the weekend, while barrel bombs dropped by army helicopters on rebel-held areas of Aleppo have killed nearly 2,000 people this year, a monitoring group said.

State media said on Monday that a car bomb killed at least 10 people in Homs province.

(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Thai confidence jumps on hopes army will bring order after chaos

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 11:05 PM PDT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai consumer confidence jumped in May on hopes a new military government would impose order after months of political chaos that had threatened to tip the economy into recession.

The army toppled the remnants of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government on May 22 after sometimes deadly protests since November that had forced ministries to close, hurt business confidence and caused the economy to shrink.

The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military, old-money families and the bureaucracy, and the supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who are adored by the poor in the north and northeast.

Since then the ruling junta has moved to suppress criticism of its seizure of power and nip protests in the bud. Yingluck and prominent supporters of the Shinawatras have been briefly detained and warned against any anti-military activities.

But the crackdown does appear to have brought some stability for now, after months of paralysis under a caretaker government that lacked the power to make policy or approve new spending.

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday its May consumer confidence index hit its highest level since January, just before protesters disrupted a Feb. 2 election called by Yingluck in a failed bid to end the crisis.

The index rose to 70.7 in May from 67.8 in April, when it had fallen for the 13th month in a row and was at its lowest level in more than 12 years. Polling for the index was carried out last week, after the coup.

"The main factor boosting sentiment was confidence in the future due to political clarity. People were more confident the economy would get better," Thanavath Phonvichai, an economics professor at the university, told a news briefing.

University President Saowanee Thairungroj said an index on the political situation jumped to 59.6 in May from 37.3 in April. "It rose 22 points in a month, compared with just a few point changes previously, and that came in just one week," he said.


Yingluck herself was ordered to step down two weeks before the coup when a court found her guilty of abuse of power.

Her brother Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who was widely considered the power behind her government, had been ousted as prime minister in the last military coup in 2006. He has lived in self-imposed exile since fleeing a 2008 conviction for abuse of power.

The military council has been anxious to show it is moving swiftly to revive an economy that contracted 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

It has extended cuts to valued-added and corporate taxes and moved quickly to pay billions of dollars owed to rice farmers after a state rice-buying scheme collapsed when Yingluck's government was unable to raise funds.

It has also extended price caps on fuel to help consumers. Inflation hit a 14-month high of 2.62 percent in May, although the Commerce Ministry reckons it will be contained this year in a range of 2.0 to 2.8 percent.

The military is keen to fast-track foreign investment proposals plus some of the big infrastructure projects Yingluck was unable to push through, in part because a court rejected the funding methods.

Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, in charge of economic matters for the junta, said on Monday a backlog of investment applications worth about 700 billion baht ($21.3 billion) would be acted on within two months.

The Board of Investment says this includes applications from 10 global car makers for investments totalling about 139 billion baht related to plans to promote the production of more environmentally friendly vehicles.


Shares in industrial land developers Amata Corp and Hemaraj Land Development jumped on Tuesday on expectations they would benefit from new investment projects.

At 0540 GMT, Amata was up 2.4 percent and Hemaraj 4.4 percent. The main Thai index was 0.8 percent higher. On Monday, it jumped 1.8 percent to its highest level since Oct. 31, just before the protests against Yingluck flared up.

Prajin is also looking at longer-term projects such as the development of special economic zones on the borders with Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia, but 30 urgent proposals on the economy will be discussed with military leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha this week.

Prajin has told the Finance Ministry to look at a complete overhaul of the tax structure and report to him next week.

In a televised address on Friday, Prayuth said the military would need time to reconcile Thailand's antagonistic political forces and push through reforms, indicating there would be no general election for about 15 months.

The United States, European Union countries and others have called for the military to restore democracy quickly, release political detainees and end censorship.

The military has banned political gatherings of five or more people. On Sunday, 5,700 troops and police were sent into central Bangkok to stop anti-coup protests, which were mostly limited to small gatherings held around shopping malls.

(Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)

Clowning around in a time of war

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 10:35 PM PDT

JABINE Lebanon (Reuters) - Does aid work always have to be serious? Do you have to be a doctor working on the frontline or an aid worker distributing food to refugees? David Clay, a clown from Oregon, thinks not.

Once a construction worker, Clay now volunteers for Clowns Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation that uses laughter to relieve suffering among children in refugee camps, conflict zones and natural disaster areas.

On Monday, Clay dressed up in his navy blue suit, crooked black hat and a polka dot tie to entertain 200 Syrian refugee children who are now living in neighbouring Lebanon.

The tiny Mediterranean country hosts one million refugees, who have fled cluster bombs, chemical weapons and al Qaeda militants in a war that has killed more than 160,000 in three years. Lebanon has not allowed official refugee camps, so many families live in unfinished buildings and wooden shacks.

Clay, along with three other clowns - another American, a Chilean and Lebanese - juggled, played instruments and acted like buffoons for the children, who first appeared withdrawn but started to cheer and clap as the performance unfolded.

Describing himself a humanitarian, Clay has worked in Indonesia, the Philippines and Haiti. In Haiti, where a 2010 earthquake killed more than 250,000 people, Clay said other aid groups were originally suspicious of his work, dubious of the results in a high stress situation with limited resources.

"Doctors were cold to us. But their attitude changed distinctly," he said, preparing for the show at a school in central Lebanon, multi-coloured handkerchiefs hanging out of his back pocket.

"When the doctors heard those people laughing, especially in the children's ward, they saw that it was the first time some of the children had reacted to anything at all after the earthquake."

This trip is sponsored by Layan, a Kuwait-based aid group, and the team will take their stilts, Hula Hoops and blue trombone to camps over Lebanon during the next two weeks.

One million Syrian refugee children live in the region, millions are trapped by conflict inside Syria and public health researchers and aid workers say they are displaying symptoms of psychological trauma. Aid group Save the Children says one in three children it surveyed last year had seen a close friend or relative killed.

During the singing and the dancing on Monday, Clay pulled a young boy, Ahmed, from the audience up from the crowd and gave him a wooden mop to ride like a horse around the dusty playground.

The boy's teacher said Ahmed was exceptionally shy in class and had fled from the Syrian city of Raqqa to get to Lebanon.

Raqqa has been repeatedly bombed by Syrian air force jets and is also a focal point of fighting between Islamic insurgent groups. Al Qaeda-linked fighters have carried out public executions in Raqqa's main square.

Ahmed did not appear to like the attention as he followed Clay around the audience, but the other clowns asked the children to encourage him.

A broad smile slowly filled his face and he picked up speed as his friends shouted: "Ahmed! Ahmed! Ahmed!"

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)


The Star Online: Nation

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Swedish child abuse couple to be released in July and September

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 07:54 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian couple found guilty of beating their children in Sweden are to be freed in July and September respectively, said Ketereh MP Tan Sri Annuar Musa.

The announcement was made by Annuar via his official Facebook account as he travelled to Sweden.

In a visit to the Anstalten Hinseberg prison about 3 hours drive from the capital Stockholm, Musa met up with Shalwati Norshal, wife of Tourism Malaysia director in Stockholm Azizul Raheem Awalluddin.

According to Annuar, Shalwati was moved to Anstalten Hinseberg from the Stockholm prison.

"The prison officers were very polite but strict. Documentation and body inspection were quite strict. Only three people were allowed in. Alhamdulillah, at around 1.25pm we managed to meet Pn Shalwati and spent some time talking until 3pm," he said.

Annuar added that Shalwati was doing well and happy to hear news of her family and children in Kelantan.

Annuar also mentioned that the children are living under the parliamentary area of Ketereh.

"Insyallah, her husband will be released this July and Shalwati at the end of September," he added.

Annuar prayed for the couple to remain strong during in facing their sentence as the laws in Sweden are foreign and different from that of Malaysia.

On Feb 10, Shalwati and Azizul were charged with multiple counts of gross violation of a child's integrity, by hitting and abusing their children.

The alleged offences took place in the family's home in SpĆ„nga, a Stockholm suburb, between Sept 15, 2010 and Dec 17, 2013. Both  were arrested on Dec 18, 2013.

Shalwati, 46, was handed a 14-month prison sentence while Azizul, 38, was handed a sentence of 10 months prison.

It is understood that the early release is in accordance with a reduced sentence for good behaviour dating back to the original date of arrest.

The court also ordered Shalwati and Azizul to pay their children 67,200 SEK (RM33,900) and 36,400 SEK (RM18,362) respectively.

Ninety-one rape cases in Kelantan in first five months of 2014

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 07:14 AM PDT

KOTA BARU: Ninety-one rape cases were reported in the state in the first five months of 2014 of which, 88 have been solved, said Kelantan police.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Kelantan police chief Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said 90 individuals had been detained in connection with the cases.

He said that during the corresponding period last year, 92 rape cases were reported.

The latest incident that drew public attention was the case where two teenagers aged 15 and 17 were reportedly raped by a group of men in a vacant house which had been turned into a drug den in Ketereh on May 20.

Meanwhile, Jalaluddin pointed out that police had resolved 214 of the 225 rape cases throughout 2013 with the detention of 161 individuals. – Bernama

Health product company fined over non-compliance of minimum wage regulations

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 06:38 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: A company was fined by the Petaling Jaya Magistrate Court on Monday for violating minimum wage regulations which require full-time employees to be paid a minimum of RM900 a month.

The Petaling Jaya-based company, which manufactures health products, was held to have acted in contravention of the Minimum Wage Order 2012 under the National Wages Consultative Council Act 2011 and is the first company to be successfully prosecuted under the new law.

Magistrate K B Elena Hong Tze Lan recorded the defendant's guilty plea to three counts of failing to comply with the regulations and ordered fines of RM1000 for each offence.

Action was taken by the Selangor Labour Department's Special Enforcement Team after a complaint and subsequent investigation.

Under the Minimum Wage Order, a full time employee in Peninsula Malaysia must be paid not less than RM900 a month and an employee in East Malaysia, RM800 a month.

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Matisse hitting the big screen in Tate Modern’s first-ever live broadcast

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 07:30 PM PDT

Theatre-goers will get a behind-the-scenes look at 'The Cut-Outs' exhibition.

London's Tate Modern is broadcasting live into regional cinemas around Britain for the first time ever on June 3 as part of its ongoing "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs" exhibition.

The one-off screening of Matisse Live will take place in over 100 theatres, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the popular exhibition and the artist's world.

The HD film, presented by Francine Stock and Tate director Nick Serota, features performances by Royal Ballet principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky and jazz musician Courtney Pine.

Rare archive footage of the famous artist at work and interviews with his friends have also been incorporated into the film, with actor Simon Russell Beale bringing Matisse's own words to life.

"Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs" is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Henri Matisse's paper cut-outs. – AFP Relaxnews

Check out the Matisse Live trailer.

Haafiz Shahimi plays with pyrography and burns himself into his art

Posted: 31 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Haafiz Shahimi fires up the art scene through the scorching technique of pyrography.

Having your work called a joke is probably one of the most unpleasant things that can be experienced by an artist.

This, however, may not be the case for Haafiz Shahimi. The Kedahan from Sungai Petani is one of the few artists in the region practising pyrography: a unique printing process which involves heating up metal blocks to create artistic images.

As the story goes, he was meeting up with some friends one day when one of them made a joke about the fiery nature of his craft.

"Before this, I usually did geometric patterns," says Haafiz, 28, during an interview. "But one of my friends was joking around, and asked, 'Why don't you do a pattern of a fish?' Then it can be ikan bakar!"

"So it started from a funny thing! Later, I cut the shape of an ikan kembung out of a metal block, heated it, and printed it. And I was surprised the piece got a good response!"

Haafiz Shahimi's 'Nocturnal', oil on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz Shahimi's Nocturnal, oil on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz has his monotype pyrography works on display now at the Core Design Gallery in Subang Jaya, Selangor as part of his first solo exhibition, RAGE: Raising Awareness of Greater Existence.

Apart from his pyrographic works, the exhibition will also be showcasing his oil paintings and charcoal drawings. The show features 14 works. Many of his paintings, such as Kami Mudah Lupa and Kembali Bernafas, are brimming with bold strokes of movement, with Haafiz chanelling his background as a B-boy and silat practitioner into his art.

Some will remember him dancing or "action painting" on a canvas at the Nando's Peri-fy Your Art presentation in Kuala Lumpur back in 2012.

I met the artist for an interview in an outdoor studio in USJ, Selangor, where he was working on his exhibition. Long haired and jovial, his clothing speckled with paint, Haafiz seemed quite an animal lover, showing me some of the pet birds in the studio.

When it comes to art, however, fishes are one of his major themes. One piece, for example, features a school of fish, arranged to form a portrait of the artist. The title? Self-Fish.

Self-Fish, pyrography print, charcoal, spray paint and oil on canvas finished with 2K matte paint, 2014.

Self-Fish, pyrography print, charcoal, spray paint and oil on canvas, 2014.

"In Malay, selfish means sombong, but it's not a narcissistic thing! I just like the humour. I like that people will be wondering about it. I hope it encourages people to reflect about themselves," adds Haafiz with a chuckle.

Another piece, untitled at the time of the interview, will incorporate elements of wayang kulit. An image of a fish, done on a two-surface print through either pyrography or oils, will be illuminated, resulting in a unique double image formed through the interplay of light and shadow.

How did Haafiz get into pyrography? The same reason many people go into art to begin with: as a form of rebellion.

"I got into pyrography when I was doing my degree. I was majoring in print making at the time. There were all these conventional ways of printmaking: silkscreen, lithography, etchings, that sort of thing. But I was rebellious in those days. I liked to explore possibilities. I was seeking other ways of making visual art," explains Haafiz.

He graduated in early 2011 from UiTM in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Haafiz ShahimiĆ¢¿TMs 'Dance of the Unleashed Spirit II', oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz Shahimi's Dance of the Unleashed Spirit II, oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

The term "pyrography" is usually used to describe the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks, resulting from the controlled application of a heated object. Haafiz's methods, however, are slightly different: he cuts metal blocks into shapes with a plasma cutter, which he then heats up and presses onto a PVC canvas to create images.

The beauty of his method of pyrography, Haafiz says, is that it is a marriage of the arts and sciences.

"I was doing research about the art world. And I realised I had to push the boundaries, I had to look into other fields of knowledge. I tried combining the principles of physics with visual arts. Like the laws of thermodynamics. This printmaking works on the concept of the exchange of energy through heat," says Haafiz, adding his work had been influenced by Tokyo-born, Seattle-based artist Etsuko Ichigawa.

The challenge of pyrography, Haafiz says, is applying the precise amount of heat onto the metal blocks. Too much would burn the canvas, although this is not always a bad thing.

"The best thing is when the image you get is not like the one you were expecting. That's the accidental image! I like it when the fire 'eats' a little of the canvas. But not too much of course!" says Haafiz. "A little bit of destruction makes it more interesting."

Haafiz Shahimi's 'Kami Mudah Lupa', oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

Haafiz Shahimi's Kami Mudah Lupa, oil and charcoal on canvas, 2014.

As our mothers warned us, playing with fire can be dangerous, and Haafiz says he has had a few mishaps (non-serious!) in the course of his work.

"One time, I was cutting a metal block, and it fell out of my hands. It landed by my feet. If I hadn't been wearing shoes, it could have been real serious," says Haafiz.

"Another time, the metal split and hit my hands. But it's good to feel your heart beating. If you feel pain when creating something beautiful, it's all worth it."

Haafiz Shahimi's RAGE: Raising Awareness of Greater Existence will be showing at the Core Design Gallery at No. 87, Jalan SS15/2A, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor till June 27. Monday to Friday, 10am – 7pm. Saturday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. For more information, visit or contact 03-56121168.


The Star Online: Metro: Central

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China blocks Google sites amid Tiananmen security drive

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 04:04 AM PDT

BEIJING, June 3, 2014 (AFP) - Several Google websites have been blocked in China, a monitoring service said Tuesday, as authorities step up arrests and censorship before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A stepped-up police presence is visible on Beijing's streets, while dozens have been detained in the run-up to Wednesday's anniversary, when China moves to block any public commemoration.

"I've been ordered to stay close to my house... so I can't live or work normally," environmental activist Wu Lihong told AFP, adding that the restrictions were likely to last until June 10.

Police in Beijing on Sunday detained Chinese-Australian artist Guo Jian, who produced artwork about the crackdown.

The Tiananmen protests were crushed when soldiers killed hundreds - by some estimates more than 1,000 - unarmed civilians.

Amnesty International has denounced the detention as part of a "merciless campaign of repression", adding that "scores" of activists have been detained in recent weeks.

Seventeen activists have been detained on criminal charges, while more than 30 others are believed held under house arrest or other forms of detention, the group said.

Those criminally detained include celebrated human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, detained last month along with four others on a charge of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" after attending a private seminar about the crackdown.

Those detained are unlikely to be released until next week, effectively preventing them from marking the anniversary, Si Weijiang, a friend of Pu, told AFP.

Police on Tuesday were stationed at major overpasses in the city, though their numbers were also boosted as part of an anti-terror campaign following deadly attacks in recent months blamed on separatists from the far-western Xinjiang region.

Beijing authorities have recruited 850,000 citizen volunteers to act as informants in a year-long anti-terrorism campaign, state media reported last week.

China blocks access to a host of websites including YouTube and Twitter using a system known as the "Great Firewall," and restrictions are tightened before dates the government considers sensitive.

The ruling Communist Party blocks public discussion of the June 4 crackdown.

Overseas versions of Google, accessible in China after the technology giant partially withdrew from the mainland in 2010, have now been blocked, according to monitoring group

Affected products include - the world's most visited website - alongside country-specific versions of Google homepages.

"Because the block has lasted for 4 days, it's more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on," the website said.

"The 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident is coming. This highlights another fierce battle in the war between China censorship authority and information flow," it added.

Google stopped offering a search engine service within mainland China in 2010, citing censorship, but users were redirected to the Hong Kong version which was usually accessible, although sometimes blocked.

Google said it was not responsible for the shutdown.

"We've checked extensively and there's nothing wrong on our end," a spokesman told AFP, adding that some Google services are accessible in China.

Asked about the blockages, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular press briefing that China "manages the Internet according to the law".

Hong, queried about the Tiananmen crackdown, added: "China's position is clear and we have reached a conclusion. In more than 30 years of reform and opening up, we have achieved remarkable progress in social and economic development."

Regarding the detention of Guo Jian, the Chinese-Australian artist, Hong said China "is a country governed by the rule of law, and we will follow relevant laws in dealing with this incident".

Difficulties accessing Google are unlikely to affect most Internet users in China, where the US-based company's share of the online search market stood at just 1.2 percent in April, according to Chinese market research company CNZZ.

Censorship has also been stepped up on popular Chinese websites. Searches for the date "6.4" have been blocked by Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese alternative to Twitter.

A rival service, Tencent Weibo, is censoring searches for "Willow Silk", which sounds like "Six Four" in Chinese.

Thai curfew lifted in three tourist hotspots

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 03:24 AM PDT

BANGKOK, June 3, 2014 (AFP) - Thailand's junta said Tuesday that it was ending a curfew in the major tourist resorts of Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket imposed after last month's military coup.

The measure will be scrapped "to create a favourable climate for tourism", the military said in a televised announcement.

"The rest of the country remains under curfew," it added.

The curfew was initially introduced after the May 22 coup for the whole country for 10:00 pm until 5:00 am, to the dismay of the owners of bars and other late-night businesses.

The junta shortened it to midnight until 4:00 am late last month.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

New Brit invasion: Coldplay, Sam Smith set fastest-selling album sales of the year

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 01:00 AM PDT

British band Coldplay and singer songwriter Sam Smith top the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic, posting records for fastest-selling albums of the year so far.

Coldplay's new album topped the Billboard 200 album chart on May 28 in its opening week, notching the highest weekly sales by any artist so far this year and scoring the British rock group its fourth No 1 album on the chart.

Ghost Stories, the sixth studio album from the quartet fronted by Chris Martin, sold 383,000 copies in the US last week, according to figures compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. Downloads accounted for 64% of total sales for Ghost Stories, Billboard said.

Coldplay: The UK pop rock band scored its fourth No 1 on the US Billboard Album chart with its latest offering Ghost Stories (below). 

Michael Jackson's posthumous release Xscape fell to third from second, while the hit soundtrack to Disney's US$1.2bil (RM3.9bil) grossing animated film Frozen held at fourth place. Last week's top album, The Black Keys' Turn Blue, dropped to fifth.

Meanwhile, in the UK, British singer songwriter Sam Smith's debut album went straight to the top of the charts with his debut album In The Lonely Hour on June 1, the Official Charts Company said.

Sam Smith: The UK singer songwriter's R&B-tinged debut album In The Lonely Hour (below) went straight to the top of the UK's album chart in its first week of release, posting the year's fastest-selling figures for a debut album. 

The 22-year-old's album has sold 101,000 copies over the last seven days, making it the fastest-selling debut album of the year so far – and knocking Coldplay's Ghost Stories into second place after a week at No 1.

The album, which Smith has described as "all about unrequited love", was apparently inspired by "a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn't love me back."

The publicly out Smith also said that working on the album was a way to exorcise the emotional aftermath. "I think I'm over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn't felt love before."

Coincidentally, Smith's melancholy album draws thematic parallel with Coldplay's Ghost Stories which was apparently written and recorded during the year that bandleader Chris Martin grew apart from his actress wife Gwyneth Paltrow.

The couple, who married in 2003, announced their "conscious uncoupling" on her website Goop in March, just weeks before Coldplay released their new album, which critics have noted is more subdued and personal than their previous work. – Reuters

'Metal Knight': Christopher 'Saruman' Lee releases metal album at 92

Posted: 29 May 2014 01:05 AM PDT

Screen legend Christopher Lee celebrates his 92nd birthday by releasing a heavy metal mini-album entitled Metal Knight.

The actor, known to younger fans for his portrayal of Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, is a long-time devotee of heavy metal – a genre partly inspired by the horror films he starred in earlier in his career – and already has several album releases under his belt. He turned 92 on May 27. 

"I associate heavy metal with fantasy because of the tremendous power that the music delivers," explained Lee, who possesses a booming, classically-trained bass voice, and is probably the oldest metal performer in rock history.

Man of metal: Christopher Lee (above), best known to younger film fans as Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, is also a metal beast. Celebrating his 92nd birthday, the actor who was knighted by Prince Charles in 2009, released Metal Knight (below), a mini-album of covers from the Man Of La Mancha, Carmen and Frank Sinatra's My Way

Cementing his credentials within the rock community, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi presented the star with the Spirit of Metal prize at the Golden Gods Awards in 2010 for his services to metal music. In December last year, the actor became the oldest ever performer to place in the US Billboard singles chart with his record Jingle Hell.

Metal Knight features four tracks and three alternative edits. Two songs are from the Man of La Mancha musical: I, Don Quixote and The Impossible Dream. The others are The Toreador March from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, in its original French, and My Way, popularised by Frank Sinatra.

"As far as I am concerned, Don Quixote is the most metal fictional character that I know," said Lee. "Single handed, he is trying to change the world, regardless of any personal consequences. It is a wonderful character to sing". – AFP/RelaxNews


The Star eCentral: TV Tracks

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The Star eCentral: TV Tracks

Film to TV: Steven Spielberg steps up TV production presence

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 09:32 AM PDT

The filmmaker will be producing seven shows, becoming most active producer on the small screen.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now


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