From The Sunday Times
September 27, 2009
Wrestling queen grabs Senate race by throat
Tony Allen-Mills in New York
As Steven Gerrard surveyed his surroundings in courtroom 4:1 he was sure of only one thing. Whatever happened, he would not come back here again.
No more mither, as he described it in Liverpool Crown Court, no more situations; change was the only answer.
Gerrard has never talked about the emotions surrounding the confrontation in a Southport bar that instigated a charge of affray and began an eight-month ordeal but, despite the exoneration of a not guilty verdict, it is clear the episode has left a mark on him.
The judge, Henry Globe, said that the accused could walk away with his reputation intact, and plainly this mattered greatly.
'I’m the sort of player who likes to keep it clean,' Gerrard told me, in a tiny ante-room at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground.
'I was always very decided about the way footballers should behave. I do think it is important. It is not about image, or putting on an act, but I know a lot of kids look up to me, I get a lot of fan mail from them and at the time I thought I’d let them and a lot of other people down, just by being in this position.
Mr Liverpool: Anfield captain Steven Gerrard has made an impression on Ferando Torres
'I was concerned that people wouldn’t think as much of me and that was why the verdict was so crucial. During the trial when the prosecution was having its say there were a couple of days when I was reading the reports and thinking ‘I hope people don’t think that is what I am like.'
Leading the way: Gerrard in training at Melwood with Dirk Kuyt (left) and Glen Johnson (right) on the eve of Liverpool's match against Hull City
The continued threat of civil action means Gerrard cannot talk about the incident itself, or the accusations made by Marcus McGee, a 34-year-old businessman. He admits that his policy throughout has been to immerse his mind in football, but that has not precluded thoughts on how to ensure this remains an isolated chapter in his life.
Stepping out of the shadows: Fernando Torres has immersed himself in Anfield culture
'The trial changed me,' he said.'I had to learn from it, learn from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What hour I am out, where I go out, I will be more careful in future.
'From now on, if we win 5-1, if I score two goals and we go top of the league, I won’t try to enjoy it in a bar with my mates anymore. I’ll go for a meal and be in my house by half past ten. We get paid very well and there have to be sacrifices.
'Throughout the trial I kept telling myself that whatever happened I would never be back in one of these rooms again. It was not a pleasant place to be, the whole experience was very frightening and intimidating.
'I have never been through anything like it. I kept thinking of my team-mates away in Thailand playing football, and me being so far from where I should be.
'Despite the verdict, there was not one minute that was enjoyable, not one moment that made me proud.
'I regret the situation, I regret not going home when I could have done and I accept that some people will always see this as a blemish on my character, even though I got the outcome I thought I deserved.
'What I would say is that I co-operated, I dealt with it and now I want to put it behind me. There is a balance between trying to be a model professional and living like a monk.
'You have to be able to let your hair down like anyone else but I have always tried to treat people as they treat me. I think I have had respect because I give respect back.
'There have been very few instances when I have had problems, but I will think about my spare time, even my holiday time, more carefully now. I reckon I have another six years as a professional footballer. It is not so long to make those choices.'
At home on the pitch: Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring at Bolton
Gerrard’s circumstances felt more extraordinary to those who are acquainted with the man. There are certain footballers – you know who they are – whose appearance accused of violent assault would not have raised an eyebrow. To have Gerrard in the dock was anomalous.
He remains not just one of the most talented footballers of his generation, but one of the most down-to-earth, too. He has dedicated the best years of his career to one club, Liverpool, at a time when the managers of the two most successful teams in the Premier League, Manchester United and Chelsea, would have walked on hot coals to sign him.
Testing time: Gerrard leaves Liverpool Crown Court after being found not guilty of affray
Sir Alex Ferguson eulogised him as the natural successor to Roy Keane, Jose Mourinho thought he had dragged a move to Chelsea over the finishing line four years ago, only for Gerrard to stay at Anfield at the eleventh hour.
He has recently signed a new contract but with each passing season the desperation to win a league championship medal grows more acute. Even with the memory of the most remarkable European Cup final in history, it would be a travesty if Gerrard was to end his career without knowing the feeling of playing for the best team in the land.
'If I never won the league title, there would be regrets and an empty space, I admit it,' he said.'Yet even if Liverpool were no longer challenging I would still find it difficult to leave. Icould win 90 per cent of my medals here and one league championship elsewhere and that last medal would not mean as much.
'I’ve been part of this club since I was eight. I remember my first final, the Worthington Cup against Birmingham City in Cardiff. Swarms of people around the coach, me looking out at their faces.
Training ground leaders: Gerrard (left) and Jamie Carragher (centre) share a joke with Glen Johnson at Melwood
'It was at that moment I felt I was part of something more than a football team. I would have been one of them, but I was just better at kicking a ball. That could have been me standing on the street. I felt responsible. I still do.
'If you get on our bus after a defeat and you see me and Jamie Carragher, it is not company you want to be in. The difference is I’ve learned to enjoy that pressure as I get older.
Turkish delight: Gerrard and fellow Liverpool veteran Jamie Carragher celebrate winning the European Cup in Istanbul four years ago
'Now we try to transmit that emotion to the foreign players. We try to explain to them what it means to take 6,000 away to Leeds United on a Tuesday in the Carling Cup, when everyone else says the competition does not matter.'
The other motivational force for Gerrard is his manager at Liverpool, Rafael Benitez. It has not always been a comfortable relationship, Gerrard’s tendency to positional indiscipline – a playground footballer is the most common criticism, always chasing the action – at first grated against Benitez’s equally instinctive desire for order.
The coach decided he could not trust Gerrard to occupy a position in central midfield and moved him wide. The player did not like it but continued to turn in stunning performances that kept Liverpool in contention for major trophies.
Full of optimism: Steven Gerrard is looking towards a successful World Cup
Over time, they developed mutual respect. Gerrard for Benitez’s meticulous attention to detail and his relentless drive for improvement: Benitez for Gerrard’s match-defining qualities.
It would be wrong to call Gerrard’s present role at Liverpool a compromise, because that would suggest weakness. But there is something about his placement in the centre, but high up the field where his defensive responsibilities are limited, that is the best of all possible worlds.
'Even after five years with Rafa, I still feel I want to please him, that I want to impress him in every game I play,' Gerrard added.'The great managers are like that. There are a handful operating on a different level and I am lucky enough to play for two of them, Benitez and Fabio Capello.
'It is when you see what they put in, some of the little things they spot, that you realise how hard they work. Rafa will make a point, and you’ll be thinking, "Has this guy not got a life?" because it seems so minor, but it is what sets him apart.
'I can have a good game – tell you what, I’ll be big-headed, say I’ve had a fantastic game – we’ve won 2-1 in the last minute and I’ve scored both.
'I come back into the dressing-room and I’m buzzing, bouncing off the walls, thinking "I feel good today", that is when Rafa comes up and starts talking about a throw-in when they changed the play and I pressed far too late. He’ll say: "If you want, we’ll go out there and I’ll show you".
White hot: Gerrard celebrates with Fernando Torres after the Spaniard's goal at West Ham
'Or you’ll have a run of 10 games when you’re in form and flying and he’ll pop you a DVD of your recent play and it’s broken up into sections good and bad. And you’re thinking, "Hang on, bad? I didn’t do anything wrong". But you’ll watch it and you’re out of position in one match, or you pressed late or you let a man go at a set-piece. You wonder when the guy sleeps.
'At first when he did things like that, I’d be asking, "Has he not watched my last 150 games for Liverpool?" There is a danger that you think he has it in for you because he pulls you so much.
'When he arrived, he would keep saying to me "Left foot, left foot" or I’d shoot and he would say "hit the target" and I’m thinking, "Look, mate, I’m trying to hit the f***ing target".
Listen and learn: Fabio Capello gives a piece of his mind to England players (left-right) Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and Frank Lampard
'I would say to people "I'm 26 – if he doesn’t think my left foot’s working now, it’s never going to work" but then a few weeks later I scored with my left and he came up with a little smile and said "lucky goal today, left foot and it hit the target" and then the penny dropped.
'Finally, I realised it was the way he helped push you on and as a player you either recognised it or fought it and, with these guys, if you fight it there is only one winner.
'I think that was why I adapted to Fabio Capello slightly better than some of the England players because his style was similar to what I had experienced with Rafa. He has that same way of keeping your feet on the ground in the moments when you’re thinking you are a bit good.
'I loved that after the win against Croatia in Zagreb, Capello’s first thoughts were what we could have done better. My mates who were watching the game were on a high about the performance, which is how it should be for fans, but he was already onto the next match.
'After we beat Slovenia in the friendly recently he was going round everybody during the warm down, telling them where they could improve and what they did right.
Kicking king: Gerrard lines up for England against Slovakia
'Everyone was tired, really players just want to relax after matches, but he was still looking to drive us on and, however you may feel about it at the time, when you take a step back from it, that energy is refreshing.
'You look at a guy like Capello and sense he can help you achieve something. He is a manager I’ve always liked. I’ve seen him on the sidelines for Juventus and Roma and thought he looked a class act, I’ve read his book and when he got the job I immediately felt it could be our turning point.
'I don’t want to retire and have the highlight of my England career a quarter-final lost on penalties. I want to look back on achievement, on a great team. I used to go down to England knowing it was not right, lying in my room for seven days with a tricky game ahead, driving myself mad.
Flying: Gerrard in trademark Roy of the Rovers pose
'Everyone was on our case and we had too much thinking time. I wasn’t sure I could run a game, I wasn't sure where I would be playing or what the manager really wanted from me.
'There was a lot of self-doubt. Now I lie in my room looking forward even to the team meetings and training just to be in Capello’s company, because you get so much from him.
'He won’t be inviting you to dinner or the pictures, and he is not the guy you want to cross if you’ve had a bad game, but he is not as stone-hard as he is made out to be. He does pat you on the back as well.
'People ask me what I would like to do after football and I’d love to be a manager, but then I wonder if I could ever be as good as those guys because it is 24/7, it’s their life, there is nothing else and I don’t think I could be crazy like that.
'I like to switch off after games. I’ve got two daughters. I like to play golf. I think of Rafa and in five years I have never had a conversation with him that was not about football; Capello the same. They fascinate me, those people.
'When I get talking to John Terry or Wayne Rooney, I am always asking about their managers, how they work, how they interact with the players. I’ll pull Gary Lewin, the England physiotherapist, and ask him about Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
'On Friday, I love getting home, sitting on the couch, turning Sky Sports News on and listening to all the interviews coming in from the training grounds, just to hear these characters talking about football. I don’t know if I could be that obsessed. Jamie Carragher, now he could, definitely.'
My princess: Gerrard collects his MBE at Buckingham Palace with wife Alex Curran
As if by magic, Carragher interrupts, mockingly telling his friend to make sure the article is about Liverpool,'not bloody England.'
We settle for a bit of both. Gerrard talks about his exceptional understanding with Wayne Rooney at international level, and reminisces about the first time they met, in a Merseyside derby.
'We had our hands around each other’s throats because of my tackle on Gary Naysmith,' Gerrard recalled.'He was 17, it was his first derby, he charged up, straight into the melee. I remember thinking, "Who the f***’s this? He’s a bit up for it."
'He was a man in a boy's body. At the end it was forgotten. The best players are like that. If someone cannot forget what has happened once the final whistle has gone, they are not man enough to play. I’ve kicked many people, been kicked by a few, too, and the best ones never mention it. Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira were brilliant like that. Boot you all day, then "all the best" and move on.'
And moving on is what Gerrard is about, too. He looks around the featureless little interview room and compares it to a cell or a police interrogation office.
'I think people now realise the truth of what happened,' he concludes,'apart from every away fan in the country.'
It is a nice line and he grins: but don’t be fooled into thinking Steven Gerrard will ever look back on this period in his life and laugh.
Oleh SHAHRIL ADZRIN
PENGACARA popular, Azwan Ali memang sudah sinonim dengan mulut 'laser' setiap kali berbicara. Malah dia juga sering dihimpit dengan pelbagai kontroversi yang membuatkan dirinya sentiasa dipandang negatif oleh sesetengah pihak.
Bagaimanapun, Azwan yang baru sahaja pulang dari mengerjakan umrah mengakui, dia dapat merasakan perubahan terhadap dirinya dan seboleh mungkin, dia tidak lagi mahu ada pihak yang ingin menyamakan Azwan Aliyang dahulu dan sekarang.
"Alhamdulillah, setelah saya selamat mengerjakan umrah, saya dapat rasakan ada perubahan pada diri saya dan moga-moga ini adalah Azwan Ali yang baru.
"Saya juga berharap supaya masyarakat dan juga orang-orang industri hiburan tidak lagi menyamakan Azwan Ali yang dahulu dan sekarang.
"Inya-Allah, saya berharap selepas ini jika masih ada pihak yang ingin memfitnah atau gosipkan saya, saya akan maafkan mereka awal-awal... malah saya akan terima dengan senyuman dan redha sahaja," kata Azwanketika dihubungi mStar Online.
Kata Azwan lagi, dia amat bersyukur ketika berada di hadapan Kaabah, dia dapat menyebut nama-nama musuhnya dengan jelas dan berulang kali.
"Saya bersyukur sangat apabila nama-nama yang saya anggap musuh saya, iaitu 10 orang wartawan yang pernah saya maki-hamun, saya dapat sebut dengan terang dan jelas berulang kali di hadapan Kaabah.
"Tapi tujuan saya sebut nama mereka bukanlah nak minta Tuhan turunkan bala kepada mereka. Sebaliknya saya minta Tuhan ampunkan dosa saya dan juga dosa mereka.
"Saya pun bukanlah nak bermusuh selama-lamanya, jadi dengan cara ini saya minta Tuhan boleh beri petunjuk kepada kami," jelasnya.
Ditanya mengenai pengalamannya ketika mengerjakan umrah pada 7 September sehingga 24 September lalu, Azwan mengatakan ia adalah satu perjalanan yang mengasyikkan dan satu nikmat yang tidak terhingga buatdirinya.
"Saya telah berada di sana selama 18 hari 16 malam, di mana lima hari saya berada di Madinah dan selebihnya di Kota Mekah.
"Saya merasa nikmat sangat kerana tidak ada berlaku sebarang musibah terhadap diri saya walaupun saya sering dicop dengan pelbagai gosip liar.
"Tetapi apabila saya sampai di sana saya rasa semua yang positif terhadap diri saya dan saya yakin semua itu adalah rezeki dari Allah s.w.t terhadap Azwan Ali," kata Azwan.
Menurut Azwan juga kejayaannya mengerjakan umrah adalah di atas berkat doa peminat-peminatnya dan juga rakan-rakan artis yang sering menyokongnya.
"Saya telah mendapat banyak doa restu dari ribuan peminat saya dan juga rakan-rakan artis yang sentiasa menyokong saya.
"Saya berterima kasih sangat kepada Aznil Hj Nawawi, Fauziah Ahmad Daud (Ogy), Amy Search, dan Rosyam Nor kerana banyak menyokong dan mendoakan saya.
"Saya tidak sangka walaupun saya dilanda dengan pelbagai kontroversi, tetapi masih ramai yang sayangkan saya," jelasnya.
Alami kejadian unik semasa umrah
Azwan turut menceritakan pengalaman yang dianggap unik baginya ketika mengerjakan umrah di mana dia telah dikelilingi rama-rama ketika sedang solat berjemaah.
"Di sana saya banyak mengalami kejadian yang unik di mana rama-rama Kaabah terbang keliling saya dan yang paling menyentuh hati saya pada pagi Syawal, ketika sedang sembahyang raya dengan para jemaah yanglain, rama-rama tersebut telah hinggap di dahi saya selama satu jam setengah.
"Saya amat tersentuh pada waktu itu dan saya anggap itu adalah nikmat dari Allah s.w.t untuk diri saya.
"Ketika saya bersama rombongan yang lain melawat sebuah bukit yang diberi nama Bukit Magnet di Madinah juga kami dapat lihat satu lagi nikmat Tuhan yang orang lain tidak dapat lihat.
"Saya jadi kagum, dengan kuasa Allah, bas yang kami naiki tersebut boleh berjalan 140 km sejam tanpa dihidupkan enjinnya.
"Ketika kami berhenti untuk mengambil gambar di sekitar bukit tersebut, kami dapat lihat bas yang kami naiki bergerak sendiri seperti ditarik dan ditolak sedangkan tiada sesiapa yang melakukannya," jelas Azwan yang menganggap semua itu adalah keajaiban kuasa Allah s.w.t.
Pengalaman mendebarkan di Masjid Nabawi
Selain mengalami kejadian unik, Azwan turut mengalami kejadian yang mendebarkan dan menginsafkan dirinya ketika berada di Masjid Nabawi, Madinah.
"Ketika berada di Masjib Nabawi, saya bersama dua orang lagi rakan ingin mengerjakan solat Zohor di satu kawasan yang bernama Raudhah di masjid ini.
"Raudhah merupakan satu kawasan yang sempit di mana ramai jemaah lain berebut-rebut untuk mengerjakan solat di kawasan ini.
"Pada ketika itulah saya mengalami satu pengalaman yang mendebarkan di mana saya terlah terpisah dengan dua orang rakan saya dan saya tersepit dan dihimpit oleh para jemaah yang lain.
"Saya telah dihimpit oleh jemaah yang badannya lebih besar dari saya dan ketika itu saya hanya fikirkan ajal sahaja.
"Selama 10 minit saya bertolak-tolak dalam rempuhan itu dan saya hanya tawakal sahaja, akhirnya saya selamat dan berjaya mengerjakan solat Zohor di Raudhah.
"Pengalaman itu banyak menginsafkan saya bahawa ajal boleh berlaku di mana sahaja dan biarpun saya berjaya selamat tetapi saya tahu itu adalah satu dugaan dari Tuhan," kata Azwan ketika menceritakan pengalamannya.
Azwan yang kini pastinya gembira setelah selamat mengerjakan umrah juga tidak sabar untuk menyaksikan telemovie muzikal komediterbitannya 'Cak Cak Raya 2009, Dodol Si Dol Dol' yang akan disiarkan pada 27 September ini pada jam 9 malam di saluran Astro Ria.
"Kepada peminat-peminat saya, boleh menyaksikan rancangan 'Cak Cak Raya 2009, Dodol Si Dol Dol' pada 27 September ini dan rancangan ini sebenarnya satu hadiah buat saya selepas mengerjakan umrah.
"Kebiasaannya, ranacngan saya akan ditayangkan pada awal raya, tetapi kali ini menjadi penutup pula, jadi saya anggap ia macam satu bonus bagi saya.
"Saya harap ratingnya akan tetap tinggi dan ketika di sana (umrah) saya juga banyak berdoa agar rating rancangan saya sentiasa tinggi," katanya mengakhiri perbualan
Malah, kedudukan Malaysia lebih buruk dari Israel yang dilabel sebagai entiti haram pengganas dan negara yang dianggap kurang membangun seperti Botswana dan Bhutan. Israel berada pada kedudukan ke-33, Botswana ke-36 manakala Bhutan berada pada kedudukan ke-45.
Paling mendukacitakan ialah apabila indeks yang dikelaurkan oleh TI itu menunjukkan negara-negara umat Islam tidak mengamalkan ajaran Islam yang memerangi rasuah.
Negara-negara seperti Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan dan Sudan berada di tangga paling bawah. Somalia berada di kedudukan tercorot iaitu ke-180, Iraq ke-178, Afghanistan ke-176 dan Sudan ke-173.
Negara yang berada di tempat teratas ialah Denmark diikuti oleh New Zealand, Sweden dan Singapura.
Di Malaysia, negara menanggung kerugian sebesar RM10 bilion setahun akibat rasuah - iaitu jumlah yang mencukupi untuk membina lebih dari 150,000 kos rendah jika diambilkira permohonan Persatuan Pemaju Hartanah dan Perumahan Malaysia (Rehda) kepada kerajaan untuk menaikkan harga rumah kos rendah kepada RM60,000.
Dalam laporannya, TI membangkitkan amalan keluar masuk yang berterusan di antara bidang politik dan perniagaan di mana pihak tertentu bertukar-tukar tempat dari kedudukan sebagai ahli politik kepada ahli perniagaan atau dari ahli perniagaan kepada ahli politik dan terus keluar masuk di antara kedua-dua bidang itu.
Keadaan itu, menurut TI, mengakibatkan pengaruh yang negatif kepada konsep semak dan imbang.
Laporan tersebut juga menyatakan bahawa hubungan serba kompleks antara politik, sektor awam dan sektor swasta itu mungkin mengakibatkan rasuah berlaku dengan bebas tanpa sebarang hukuman.
Presiden Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M), Datuk Paul Low berkata, usaha mencegah rasuah di negara ini tidak ubah seperti melepas batuk di tangga sahaja jika tidak dilaksanakan tindakan drastik untuk memisahkan hubungan selesa antara kerajaan, perniagaan dan politik.
Low berkata, Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) pula tidak memperlihatkan hasil yang diinginkan dan orang ramai menganggap suruhanjaya itu mengamalkan penyiasatan dan pendakwaan secara berpilih-pilih.
Satu-satunya sisi yang positif dari laporan tersebut mengenai Malaysia ialah pengiktirafan yang diberikan kepada kerajaan Pulau Pinang dalam memerangi rasuah.
Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang, Lim Guan Eng menyatakan pihaknya menerima pujian itu dengan rendah hati.
Beliau juga mengumumkan bahawa Pulau Pinang berjaya mengurangkan RM36 juta atau 12 peratus perbelanjaan operasi hasil usaha memerangi rasuah itu. _
Dank ... Steven and Kathryn in their bedroomAustin Hargrave
From PETE SAMSON
They have a neat, if compact kitchen, a furnished living area, and a bedroom complete with double bed, wardrobe and bookshelf featuring a wide selection including a Frank Sinatra biography and Spanish phrase book.
And they make their money in some of the biggest casinos in the world.
But their life is far from the ordinary.
Because, along with hundreds of others, the couple are part of a secret community living in the dark and dirty underground flood tunnels below the famous strip.
Rather than working in the bars or kitchens they "credit hustle", prowling the casinos searching the fruit machines for money or credits left by drunken gamblers.
Despite the risks from disease, highly venomous spiders and flooding washing them away, many of the tunnel people have put together elaborate camps with furniture, ornaments and shelves filled with belongings.
Steven and girlfriend Kathryn's base - under Caesar's Palace casino - is one of the most elaborate. They even have a kettle and a makeshift shower fabricated out of an office drinking water dispenser.But their bed and many of their belongings are on crates to keep them off the damp floor.
Despite it being hot and dry outside, their tunnel is wet from water being sent down from nearby construction work.
As he gives a guided tour of home, Steven Dommermuth explains: "We use our imagination a lot.
"Our bed came from a skip outside an apartment complex. It's mainly stuff people dump that we pick up. One man's junk is another man's gold.
"We get the stuff late at night so people don't see us because it's kind of embarrassing."
He later gives directions to the tunnels' own art gallery, a collection of graffiti by local artists and some by the underground residents.
Steven moved into the tunnels two years ago after he lost his hotel front-desk job due to a heroin problem he claims he kicked in January.
He now works the same hotels credit-hustling, and his life retains other similarities with the one he left behind.
He says: "We work our way down the strip. The most I've ever found is 997 dollars (£609) on one machine. I've found about $500 a few times. But normally $20 or so is enough to call it a night.
"We buy food and supplies like shampoo and soap. Last night I went and watched the new Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds up at the Palms Hotel."
Despite his established set-up, Steven claims he eventually wants to leave the tunnels but can't because of two outstanding arrest warrants from drug possession charges two years ago.It is estimated the population of the underground community could be as many as 700. As well as credit-hustling, they earn their money off the wildly excessive city above by begging and "dumpster diving" - raiding bins and skips.
There are around 350 miles of flood channels running under Las Vegas. Most inhabitants are in the area under the city's strip.Another couple, Amy and JR, have lived in the tunnels for two years, having moved to Las Vegas in search of work, wealth and a slice of the famous Sin City action.
Putting down the Twilight vampire book she is reading for the third time, Amy, 33, explains: "My husband and I have been down here two years this week.
"We were living with my mom in California but the house was full and we had to leave.
"I heard Las Vegas was a good place for jobs. It's the city that never sleeps, with all the bright lights, and I'd always wanted to come.
"But it was tough and we started living under the staircase outside the MGM casino. Then we met a guy who lived in the tunnels. We've been down here ever since.
"I have my books, my CD player, crossword puzzles, some clothes and my picture of our son Brady, who was killed 11 years ago at four months old. The main dangers are the floods and the Black Widow spiders. But it's not a terrible place to be if you're homeless.
"It's much cooler than on the streets, we get a breeze coming through and the cops don't really bother you. It's quiet and everyone helps each other out down here.
"I hope to get out one day. But I want to stay in Las Vegas - I love it here."
Amy and JR met 13 years ago and even got married in one of the city's popular wedding chapels on Valentine's Day last year.
Their wedding had some similarities with the 110,000 other couples who get hitched in the city each year.JR, 36, explains: "We got married in the Shalimar Chapel.
"We went to watch a show, then to McDonald's for dinner. We got a little bit drunk and did the other normal wedding day things - only we had to come back down here rather than go to a hotel room."Some of those living there have been forced into the network of tunnels by the recession and difficult job market.
The economic downturn has hit the underground residents in their pockets too.
Amy and JR's neighbour Jamie, showing off a wristband he found that gives him free food all day at a hotel buffet, explains: "I've been down here since May.
"I've worked at a lot of the hotels, mainly in building and construction, but not for a couple of years. The jobs are harder to come by now.
"Now I credit hustle but there are lots more people doing it these days. Hundreds and hundreds. You see little old ladies doing it."
As for other entertainment in the tunnels, the 45-year-old adds: "We're big talk radio fans. And a few of us are accomplished musicians and have instruments here.
"One guy down here has a full-time job. I don't think gambling is the cause of many people being down here. It's more alcohol and drugs. We all gamble a bit - we're in Vegas."
Local writer Matthew O'Brien, who has had a book published about the tunnel people, called Beneath The Neon, has been working with Steven and others to help get people housed. He recently founded the Shine A Light foundation to aid them.
He explains: "I guide social workers into the tunnels, show them the terrain and introduce them to people.
"They offer these people services like health and drug counselling.
"We have got 12 to 15 people into houses in the last six months.
"But a lot of the people are very resistant to help. Many don't want to give up their addictions.
"They like their freedom and that no one is telling them what to do.
"They are scared of what's out there.
"To come out of the tunnel and face the world is intimidating for some of the people. Some are very much entrenched down in that tunnel and comfortable. That's why the charity doesn't like to give out too much food, water and clothing.
"We don't want them to get too comfortable because it is really an illusion. It can be extremely dangerous.
"It doesn't rain much in Nevada but when it does the tunnels can fill very quickly. There have been 20 drownings in the last 20 years and a lot of those were people who were living in the tunnels.
"Steve and Kathryn can say they feel like they have a home. But when it pours down three inches of rain in two hours it's clear it's not a home. It's a flood channel."Pictures: AUSTIN HARGRAVE
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 11:44 AM on 24th September 2009
Dwarfing the infant next to him, his mouth open in an angry roar, this is the heaviest newborn ever recorded in Indonesia.
An Indonesian woman named only as Ani gave birth to the 19.2lb baby boy in Medan, North Sumatra yesterday.
Big baby: The heaviest newborn ever recorded in Indonesa (right) was born yesterday
That's my boy: The child's mother Ani smiles as she caresses him in the hospital yesterday
She named him Muhammad Akbar Risuddin after the local district chief. 'Akbar' means 'big' in Indonesian.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was delivered by Caesarean section.
Britain's heaviest newborn was delivered in Cumbria in 1992 weighing 15lb 8oz.
The heaviest baby ever born was produced by Anna Bates of Canada in 1879, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It weighed 23.12lb and died 11 hours after birth.
The record for a baby which survived, according to the Guinness record keepers, is held by a boy born weighing 22lb 8oz at Aversa, Italy in 1955.
More recently Francisca do Santos gave birth to a son weighing 16lb 11oz by Caesarean section in Brazil.
Taking measure: Muhammad Akbar Risuddin drinks from a bottle at the hospital. Staff say he is constantly feeding
British skydiver, 62, lands on Mount Everest to break world record
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 5:42 PM on 24th September 2009
Two British skydivers have set a new world record after successfully landing on Mount Everest 16,800 ft above sea level.
Leo Dickinson, 62, and Ralph Mitchell, 42, were joined by Indian Air Force officer Ramesh Tripathi, 45.
They are believed to have smashed the previous record for highest ever parachute landing.
Feat: Leo Dickinson plunges through the shadow of Everest to land at the world's highest drop zone
‘Last year some skydivers jumped to a drop zone in the same region at 12,350ft. We still have to get it verified by Guinness but we’re confident we’ve easily beaten the record,’ said Leo.
Fraught with danger, the daredevil team were in a stomach-churning race against time, with just five seconds freefall to safely open their parachutes after jumping out of a helicopter at the maximum 20,500ft altitude.
And after stabilising and safely opening their chutes, the peril was far from over as the team prepared to land near Everest base camp.
The thrill-seekers had to home in on Gorak Shep - a narrow lakebed covered with sand and the only safe landing spot for miles around.
Top of the world: Mr Dickinson, flanked by fellow Briton Ralph Mitchell (left) and Indian army officer Ramesh Tripathi, stand at the 16,800ft-high plateau after they all skydived on to it from a helicopter flying 4,000ft above
‘It was pretty hairy,’ said Leo. ‘If you missed that or even just overshot it you were either going to die or end up with something important broken.’
Fortunately both Leo and Ralph have nearly 10,000 jumps between them, with Air Commodore Tripathi having notched up over 3,000 jumps.
During his rapid 3,700ft fall between the helicopter and the landing zone - severely shorter than most dives - stunned Leo said he enjoyed an ‘unparalleled panorama of the Himalayas and magnificent Everest’.
He said: ‘What I wasn’t prepared for was the view.
‘In a very British way I shook the helicopter pilot by the hand and just jumped.
Sheer: One of the skydivers, plunging down close to a snow-covered mountainside, prepares to land at Gorakshep
‘Despite being nearly four miles from Everest itself, I felt like I could reach out and touch it. ‘Normally when you are looking at Everest it is obscured from view but up there, I could see the whole thing from top to bottom.
‘It was an unbelievable sight that I want everyone to see for themselves. Nothing can prepare you.’
After opening their parachutes Leo, Ralph and Ramesh enjoyed five minutes of floating down to the landing zone.
‘The view of the mountain range was beyond my wildest dreams,’ said Leo. ‘It’s not often a 62-year-old gets to experience an orgasm in freefall.’
A long way down: How the plateau they landed at looks from above
The amazing event was organised to boost tourism in Nepal, with the country’s government hoping to boost much-needed numbers of holiday-makers coming to the country.
By May next year Ralph and Leo hope to run organised trips for tourists to enjoy the mind-blowing jump near Everest themselves.
‘It will be for divers with some experience but we really want to open it up as one of the world’s choice drop-zones,’ said Leo.
All three jumpers are now waiting for Guinness to confirm the new record.
The previous record was made last year when skydivers jumped to a drop zone in the same region at 12,350ft.
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 7:37 PM on 15th September 2009
An Iraqi journalist who gained worldwide fame after hurling his shoes at George W. Bush today claimed he had been tortured while in prison.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi was freed to a hero's welcome after spending nine months behind bars for his extraordinary attack on the former US president.
Hundreds of people congregated to meet him, a phalanx of gun-toting men fired volleys into the air while women cried out and broke into traditional Iraqi dances.
Relief: Muntadhar al-Zeidi (centre) embraces his sister as he arrives at the offices of his employer Baghdadiyah TV after his release
Freed: Muntadhar al-Zeidi was jailed after throwing his shoes at George Bush during a press conference last December
Supporters around the world have offered him everything from a harem to a four-bedroom house while one Saudi man reportedly offered to pay $10 million for one of the shoes.
His editor Abdul Hamid al-Saij also revealed women were lining up with marriage offers.
'One Iraqi who lived in Morocco called to offer to send his daughter to be Muntadhar's wife,' he said.
'After the event, we had callers from Palestine and many women asking to marry him, but we didn't take their names.
'Many of their reactions were emotional. We will see what happens when he is freed.'
After leaving prison this morning, al-Zeidi was driven to the television station where he works, a scarf in the colours of the Iraqi flag draped around his neck.
Rather than being repentant, the outspoken television journalist immediately launched a fresh tirade against the States.
He claimed Iraqi police had subjected him to beatings, whippings and electric shocks during his first few days in custody and that he now feared for his life.
But despite all this al-Zeidi, 30, claims he has no regrets about his actions, stating while he was free his country was still captive because of the US occupation.
'Simply put, what incited me toward confrontation is the oppression that fell upon my people and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by placing it under its boots,' he said.
Celebration: Relatives gather to await al-Zeidi's arrival at his home in Baghdad
Durgham, the brother of jailed Iraqi television journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi (poster), waits with family members for the release of his brother in central Baghdad
Welcoming committe: Al-Zaidi is surrounded by gun-toting supporters as he arrives at the television station where he works
'These fearsome services, the US intelligence services and its affiliated services, will spare no efforts to track me as an insurgent revolutionary ... in a bid to kill me.
'And here I want to warn all my relatives and people close to me that these services will use all means to trap and try to kill and liquidate me either physically, socially or professionally.'
Al-Zeidi was at a news conference on December 14 last year when he abruptly leapt from his chair and hurled his shoes towards Bush.
'This is your farewell kiss, you dog!' he shouted at Bush in Arabic as he threw the footwear.
'This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.'
Bush was unhurt but was forced to duck twice to avoid being hit and his undignified actions got wall-to-wall coverage on for days.
Al-Zeidi, meanwhile, was bundled to the ground by security men and other journalists.
He was sentenced to three years in jail for his actions - later reduced to a year's term. Last month it was confirmed he would be released on the grounds of good behaviour.
The release has been an eagerly anticipated event with lavish preparations at his Baghdad home.
His relatives have been preparing for days to welcome him, hanging balloons and posters of the reporter.
VIP treatment: A housekeeper dusts al-Zeidi's desk and chair ahead of his arrival
Several children from the family gathered outside the home, carrying posters of al-Zeidi that said: 'Release the man who restored national unity.'
There were also about a dozen sheep and a butcher standing by to slaughter some of them upon al-Zeidi's return in a traditional practice on celebratory occasions.
His brother Uday was waiting with other relatives for his release.
'I congratulate the Iraqi people and the Muslim world and all free men across the world on the release of Muntadhar,' Uday told a crowd of dozens of journalists.
'Every time Bush turns a new page in his life he will find Muntadhar's shoes waiting for him.'
He said al-Zeidi would travel to Greece later this week for medical checkups and because he had concerns about his safety.
Al-Zeidi's protest stirred millions across the Arab world who have been captivated and angered by images of destruction and grieving since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Shocked: Footage of Muntadhar al-Zeidi's actions were replayed millions of times around the world
WASHINGTON: Pemimpin Al- Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, memberitahu Presiden Amerika Syarikat, Barack Obama, bahawa beliau 'tidak berupaya' menghentikan peperangan di Afghanistan dan Iraq, serta perlu memikir semula dasar beliau mengenai Israel.
Pesanan pertama Osama dalam tempoh tiga bulan itu, yang disiarkan dua hari selepas Amerika memperingati serangan 11 September, menuduh puak 'neo-konservatif' masih menguasai Rumah Putih.
Pita video sepanjang 11 minit itu disiarkan As-Sahab Ahad lalu memaparkan gambar diam Osama diiringi pita audio yang judulnya bermaksud 'Pesanan buat Rakyat Amerika', kata badan pemantau pengganasan, IntelCenter.
Menurut Osama, Al-Qaeda melancar serangan 11 September disebabkan 'ketidakadilan yang dilakukan Amerika' termasuk sokongan membabi buta terhadap Israel.
'Punca pertikaian kami dengan anda ialah sokongan anda terhadap Israel, yang menduduki tanah kami di Palestin,' kata Osama.
Menurutnya, peperangan di Iraq dan Afghanistan didorong kumpulan pelobi pro-Israel di Rumah Putih dan kepentingan korporat, bukan oleh kumpulan tegar Islam.
'Jika anda fikirkan masak-maska, anda akan tahu bahawa Rumah Putih diduduki kumpulan pendesak,' kata Osama.
'Daripada berperang untuk membebaskan Iraq - seperti yang didakwa (mantan presiden) Bush - Rumah Putih yang sepatutnya dibebaskan,' kata Osama.
Jika rakyat Amerika mahu menamatkan konfrontasi dengan Al-Qaeda, mereka mesti menimbang semula sikap mereka terhadap Israel dan hentikan peperangan di Afghanistan.
'Jika anda hentikan peperangan, itu bagus. Jika tidak, kami tak ada pilihan melainkan meneruskan peperangan di semua medan,' tegas Osama. / AP, AFP, Reuters
So what's the big deal, right? A few days late but the Astro bill still gets paid, right?
I guess it must be a really big deal to Astro, because they are now behaving like loan-sharks, calling customers up at their homes and threatening to take action against them if their subscription fee is not paid on time.
Even worse, Astro called my house using a phone recorded message to threaten and scare my 60 year-old mother into paying the Astro bill on time.
Astro didn't even have the courtesy to use a real customer service representative to make the call. Is this how Astro treats its loyal customers?
Astro, what exactly are you trying to accomplish with these loan-shark strong-arm tactics? In my case, all you did was frighten a 60 year-old lady just to make sure your subscription fee is paid.
This is unforgivable. Astro, you should be ashamed of yourself. Please fire the moron of a manager who is in charge of your billing practices.
Because of this experience, I have cancelled my Astro subscription and I will never again buy or subscribe to an Astro product. I urge all other Astro subscribers who have experienced this humiliating and outrageous behaviour from Astro to do the same.
I'm not missing anything by cancelling my Astro subscription and I also save RM100 a month. Why doesn't Astro inform their customers about raising rates before billing them, either?
Carry on like this Astro, and soon you will have no customers to make recorded phone calls to.
by ONG - 7 hours ago
"Carry on like this Astro, and soon you will have no customers to make recorded phone calls to." Wishful thinking, unfortunately. Maybe 1-2% may cancel their subscriptions but the remaining 98-99% (which includes my wife) are so addicted to wasting their time watching trash from Astro that they will tolerate whatever insults and inappropriate behaviour dished out by Astro.
Recently I did not get any signal at all from Astro for a week. Called them up & they sent a technician to repair the decoder. After several unsuccessful attempts to repair it including changing the motherboard, he said it wasn't the decoder's fault! Must be the cable. He called another service provider to come and checked the cable. This guy came the next day, wiggled the cable, changed the head and billed me RM90! I called up Astro to complain about the exorbitant charge but nothing happened to this day. Continue doing this & you'll lose another customer, Astro.
This is what happens when you have a monopoly. Complacency sets in and they are free to increase subscriptions knowing that little can be done by the public. That is why we get all the reruns after reruns.
My family canceled our Astro subscription for similar reasons a few years ago. We paid our bill at the post office on time on a Friday or Saturday, but Pos Malaysia transferred the money over to Astro the following Monday, which was after the deadline. They called up and demanded that we pay the late payment charges. We showed them that we paid before the deadline from the computer printout on the bill. They refused to acknowledge that, and gave a lame excuse that they did not receive the money on time since Pos Malaysia did not transfer the money to them before the deadline. Anyone with an iota of common sense would realise that this is the fault of Astro and not the customer. Unfortunately, common sense seems to be in short supply there. We canceled our subscription and refused to pay, and they have continued trying to intimidate us by sending warning letters from their lawyers.