Saturday, February 27, 2010

Massive Earthquake strikes Chile

Tsunami warning to every nation around the Pacific after massive 8.8 earthquake strikes Chile

By Wil Longbottom
Last updated at 2:41 PM on 27th February 2010

Vehicles that were driving along a highway that collapsed during the earthquake near Santiago are seen overturned
A devastating magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, shattering buildings and bridges, killing at least 78 people and setting off a tsunami that threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean - roughly a quarter of the globe.
Chilean TV showed devastating images of the most powerful quake to hit the country in a half-century.
In the second city of Concepcion trucks plunged into the fractured earth, homes fell, bridges collapsed and buildings were engulfed in flames. Injured people lay in the streets or on stretchers.
Many roads were destroyed and electricity and water were cut to many areas.
There was still no word of death or damage from many outlying areas that were cut off by the quake that struck at 3.34am 200 miles southwest of Santiago.
Experts warned that a tsunami could strike anywhere in the Pacific, and Hawaii could face its largest waves since 1964 starting at 11.19am, according to Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earthquake. The U.S. West Coast and Alaska, too, were threatened.
A huge wave swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles ff the Chilean coast, President Michele Bachelet said, but there were no immediate reports of major damage there.
Bachelet said the death toll was at 78 and rising, but officials had no information on the number of people injured.
She declared a 'state of catastrophe' in central Chile.
'We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks,' Bachelet said from an emergency response centre. She urged Chileans not to panic.
'Despite this, the system is functioning. People should remain calm. We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately,' she said.
Powerful aftershocks rattled Chile's coast - 21 of them magnitude 5 or greater and one reaching magnitude 6.9 - the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
A woman sits in front a quake-damaged house in Talca, Chile, after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake
A resident takes photos of a building damaged in Talca, Chile
Bachelet urged people to avoid travelling, since traffic lights are down, to avoid causing more fatalities.
The airport for Chile's capital of Santiago airport was shut down and will remain closed for at least the next 24 hours, airport director Eduardo del Canto said.
The passenger terminal suffered major damage, he told Chilean television in a telephone interview.
TV images show smashed windows, partially collapsed ceilings and pedestrian walkways destroyed.
In Concepcion, nurses and residents pushed some of the injured through the streets on stretchers. Others walked around in a daze wrapped in blankets, some carrying infants in their arms.
The epicenter was just 70 miles from Concepcion, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.
The quake also shook buildings in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires, 900 miles away on the Atlantic side of South America.
A resident sits on the debris of a collapsed house in the city of Talca, some 150 miles south of Santiago
Marco Vidal - a program director for Grand Circle Travel who was traveling with a group of 34 Americans - was on the 19th floor of the Crown Plaza Santiago hotel when the quake struck.
'All the things start to fall. The lamps, everything, was going on the floor. And it was moving like from south to north, oscillated. I felt terrified,' he said.
Cynthia Iocono, from Linwood, Pennsylvania, said she first thought the quake was a train.
'But then I thought, oh, there's no train here. And then the lamps flew off the dresser and my TV flew off onto the floor and crashed.'
'It was scary, but there really wasn't any panic. Everybody kind of stayed orderly and looked after one another,' Iocono said.
The tsunami travel time following the quake
In Santiago, modern buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, but many older ones were heavily damaged, including the Nuestra Senora de la Providencia church, whose bell tower collapsed.
An apartment building's two-level parking lot also flattened onto the ground floor, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms and horns rang incessantly. A bridge just outside the capital also collapsed, and at least one car flipped upside down.
The quake struck after concert-goers had left South America's leading music festival in the coastal city of Vina del Mar, but it caught partiers leaving a disco.
'It was very bad, people were screaming, some people were running, others appeared paralysed. I was one of them,' ulio Alvarez told Radio Cooperativa in Santiago.
Bachelet said she was declaring a 'state of catastrophe' in three central regions of the country.
She said Chile has not asked for assistance from other countries.
Several hospitals were evacuated due to earthquake damage, she said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre called for 'urgent action to protect lives and property' in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings.
'Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts,' the warning center said.
It did not expect a tsunami along the west of the U.S. or Canada but was continuing to monitor the situation.
chile earthquake
Debris: A man surveys the damage at the entrace of Santiago de Chile University in the capital
Aid organisations in Britain have been quick to respond to today's earthquake in Chile.
Oxfam is sending a team of water engineers and logisticians from Colombia to the stricken country today, along with its lead humanitarian co-ordinator for Latin America.
The charity is also contacting partner organisations in Chile so that the humanitarian response is as fast as possible.
Jeremy Loveless, Oxfam's deputy humanitarian director, said: 'Even though the severity of the situation is unclear, Oxfam is preparing for the worst and will be sending five staff out to Chile today to assess and consider how best to help the thousands of people affected by the disaster.
'The team flying in have years of experience in responding to earthquakes and Oxfam also has partners in the country who can begin to help immediately.
'Chile is a developed country with a very capable government and while it is unlikely that this disaster will be as severe as what we saw last month in Haiti, we want to be in place to help as soon as possible.'
Save the Children today launched an emergency appeal for Chile.
Chile earthquake
Toppled: A building in Santa Cruz, Chile, lies flattened after the massive 8.8 earthquake this morning

A police officer controls the traffic aside of an elevated highway that collapsed in Santiago
Donations to the Childrens Emergency Fund can be made through the charity's website
A spokesman said: 'We are assessing the situation and preparing to mobilise teams to support our partners working on the ground.'
ShelterBox is also preparing to send a response team made up of two people from the UK and one from the United States.
ShelterBox general manager Lasse Petersen said: 'ShelterBox will respond quickly where needed, as the unfolding news becomes clearer and the scale of need is confirmed.
'A ShelterBox team is preparing to mobilise at the earliest opportunity.
Our thoughts go out to the people who have been affected by this disaster.'
The British Red Cross released £50,000 from its Disaster Fund to support the response of the Chilean Red Cross.
A pickup truck sits in a hole caused by a major earthquake in Concepcion in this video grab

An old bridge is seen collapsed into the river Biobio after a major earthquake struck in Concepcion
Pete Garratt, British Red Cross disaster relief manager, said: 'We are already receiving reports of damage and an increasing death toll from areas 156 miles from the epicentre.
'We anticipate the situation in the worst affected areas closer to the epicentre to be much more serious.
'Our fear is that this quake will have had large scale impact.
'The Chilean Red Cross are experienced in reacting to natural disasters and we are making this immediate release of funds to support their relief efforts.'
Donations to the British Red Cross disaster relief fund can be made at
The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless. The tsunami that it caused killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines and caused damage to the west coast of the United States.
It was the strongest quake to hit Chile since a magnitude-9.5 temblor rocked southern Chile in 1960. Together with an ensuing tsunami, it killed at least 1,716 people.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Even Malays leaving Tanah Melayu

Ku Li: ‘Sebab orang Melayu kecewa, tinggalkan Tanah Melayu’

Oleh Neville Spykerman
KUALA LUMPUR, 26 Feb — Pemimpin veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (gambar), kini menjadi tumpuan dalam arena politik tempatan khususnya di kalangan orang Umno ekoran pendiriannya dalam isu royalti kepada Kelantan, melahirkan kebimbangan beliau dengan perasaan kecewa orang-orang Melayu, malah ada yang mengambil keputusan keluar negara.
“Ada sesuatu yang tidak kena dengan bumi yang dikenali sebagai Tanah Melayu apabila mereka (orang Melayu) mula meninggalkan (negara),” kata Ketua Umno Bahagian Gua Musang ini dalam pertemuan dengan The Malaysian Insider.
Dengan memberikan contoh-contoh khususnya, Ahli Parlimen Gua Musang ini berkata, khususnya golongan generasi muda juga merasakan tidak senang dengan perkembangan dalam negara.
“Ada orang Melayu di London yang profesional, memperolehi pendapatan yang baik, yang tidak akan kembali kerana persekitaran tidak sesuai di Malaysia,” katanya.
Malah menurut beliau publisiti negatif yang dijana ekoran hukuman sebatan terhadap tiga wanita Islam baru-baru dan isu kontroversi berkisar kalimah “Allah” juga tidak akan membantu negara.
Walaupun hukuman merotan selaras dengan undang-undang syariah, Tengku Razaleigh berkata pendekatan itu membawa impak negatif kepada negara apabila ia menjadi tajuk utama media di seluruh dunia atas sebab-sebab yang tidak wajar.
“Pelabur-pelabur dan pelancong tertanya-tanya apa yang berlaku di Malaysia, ketika kita memerlukan pelaburan, modal dan pekerjaan bagi golongan muda yang terus merasakan ia sesuatu yang sukar.” katanya.
Bekas Naib Presiden Umno ini memberitahu, bukan Islam pula ditangkap kerana berpegangan tangan di khalayak ramai, malah beliau merujuk kepada satu kes di mana pihak berkuasa agama menceroboh bilik hotel dihuni warga asing beberapa tahun lalu.
Malah beliau juga risau dengan hubungan kaum yang semakin buruk disebabkan dasar pecah belah.
Kata beliau, kerajaan boleh mangadakan sebanyak mungkin rumah terbuka tetapi hakikatnya tiada elemen “kemesraan”.
“Sudah tentu orang akan datang jika adanya hidangan makanan percuma tetapi ia bukan sesuatu yang tulen,” kata Tengku Razaleigh, anggota kerabat diraja Kelantan.
Beliau menambah walaupun ada jaminan bahawa kadar jenayah semakin menurun rakyat masih belum merasakan keselamatan mereka terjamin.
“Malah isteri saya takut untuk keluar. Mengapa kita harus takut di negara kita sendiri?” katanya.
Tengku Razaleigh membidas amalan rasuah sambil mengutarakan bagaimana enjin jet pejuang milik Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia boleh “hlang” dan kemudian dijual ke negara lain dan insiden kapal selam yang menelan berbilion ringgit tidak boleh beroperasi dengan baik.
“Sekarang ia boleh berselam. Kita tidak pasti sama ada ia boleh muncul semula,” kata beliau sambil menambah, ia kelihatan seperti gurau senda tetapi sebenarnya sesuatu yang membimbangkan.
Sehubungan itu kata beliau amalan rasuah turut menyebabkan dadah boleh dibawa masuk dengan mudah ke negara ini.
“Malaysia hanya pasaran kecil berbanding dengan New York tetapi disebabkan ada yang rasuah mereka membenarkan dadah menyalur masuk,” kata beliau sambil menambah ia merosakkan minda golongan muda dan meragut banyak nyawa.
“Ini tanda-tanda kemerosotan yang tidak kita alami sebelum ini,” jelas beliau.

Ku Li: Even Malays leaving Tanah Melayu

Umno veteran and Gua Musang MP, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah laments the state of affairs in the country. - Picture by Choo Choy May
By Neville Spykerman KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is concerned that even Malays are getting disillusioned with the state of the nation and leaving the country.
“Something must be wrong in this so-called Malay Land (Tanah Melayu) when they (Malays) are leaving.” said the Kelantan prince during an interview with The Malaysian Insider.
The Umno veteran and Gua Musang MP said people, especially the young, are feeling uneasy over developments in the country and didn’t mince his words when he pointed out that there are signs of decline everywhere.
“There are many Malays in London who are professionals, making good money, who will not return because the environment is not right in Malaysia.”
He added that the negative publicity generated by the caning of three Muslim women and controversy surrounding the use of the word “Allah” is not helping the country.
While the caning may have been in accordance to Syariah laws, Razaleigh said it still negatively impacts the country when it makes headlines around the world for the wrong reasons.
“Investors and tourists are wondering what’s happening in Malaysia, at a time when we need investments, capital and jobs for our young who are also increasingly finding it difficult...”
He said even the non-Muslims are being hauled up for holding hands and cited a case where Islamic authorities barged into a room where a foreign couple was staying.
Razaleigh also decried that race relations are getting increasingly strained because of divisive policies.
He said the government can stage as many open houses as they like but there’s no warmth.
“Of course people will come if there’s free food but it’s not genuine.”
He pointed out that despite the recent assurances on the crime rate coming down, people are still insecure about their safety.
“Even my wife is afraid to go out. Why should we be afraid in our own country?”
He lamented the corruption in the country and how Air Force jet engines that weigh a ton can go “missing” or how the nation’s first submarine, which cost billions, could not initially dive.
“Now that it can dive, we’re not sure if it can come up again.” he said, adding that it may sound comical but it is alarming.
On the streets, he said, corruption have allowed drugs to flow in.
“Malaysia is only a small market compared to New York, but because people are corrupt they allow drugs to flow in.” he said, adding that young minds and lives are lost because of it.
“These are signs of decline which were never here before,” he concluded.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Pas sudah lama hayati 1Malaysia
Sofi Wahab Feb 22, 10 10:15am
Umno dan BN baru sedar akan pentingnya 1Malaysia. Setelah lebih 50 tahun merdeka pada zaman pemerintahan Datuk Seri Najib Razak Umno/BN sedar bahawa masyarakat mesti disatukan dengan semangat 1Malaysia. Sebelum ini Umno/BN menghentam DAP kerana konsep Malaysian Malaysianya tetapi sekarang cuba menirunya pula.

Namun begitu PAS sudah lama menghayati konsep ini malah ianya diselaraskan dengan Islam yang sememangnya menuntut perpaduan dari semua segi. Sebelum merdeka lagi PAS menggunakan perkataan SeTanahMelayu dan selepas Malaysia ditubuhkan PAS menggunakan perkataan SeMalaysia pada namanya.

Sedarkah kita bahawa nama PAS iaitu Parti Islam SeMalaysia bermaksud Parti Islam SatuMalaysia. Semua rakyat patut bernaung di bawah parti Islam ini yang mengutamakan konsep perpaduan Semalaysia atau SatuMalaysia.

Begitulah hebatnya pimpinan PAS yang lebih awal memahami akan kepentingan SatuMalaysia dalam kerangka yang jauh lebih besar iaitu Islam.
Pimpinan PAS sebenarnya jauh lebih hebat dan terkehadapan dalam mendepani isu-isu semasa termasuk isu kepentingan negara dan kedaulatan rakyat lebih-lebih lagi dalam isu Islam. Sudah sampai masanya rakyat membezakan karisma dan kebijaksanaan pimpinan PAS dalam semua segi jika dibandingkan dengan pimpinan Umno/BN.

Maka sewajibnya rakyat menilai semula sokongan kepada Umno/BN jika mahu negara ini maju dan rakyat diselamatkan dari kemelut yang hebat sekarang. Rakyat sepatutnya memilih dan mengangkat pemimpin -pemimpin yang hebat dan berkarisma seperti ini agar mereka dapat membawa kita keluar dari sebarang masalah dan kemelut yang melanda negara sekarang.

Sofi Wahab
Ketua Penerangan PAS Negeri Melaka )

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mudslides kill Madeira

British woman, 50, feared dead after floods and mudslides kill at least 42 on island of Madeira

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 11:28 PM on 21st February 2010
Cristiano Ronaldo marks his goal against Villarreal by making clear his solidarity with his home island, wracked by floods

A British holidaymaker is feared dead in flash floods on the island of Madeira which have claimed at least 42 lives.
Another 120 people were injured and many more are missing.
Pamela Gaines, 50, was travelling between hotels with her husband George, 54, and two British friends when their taxi was hit by a torrent of water from a swollen river.

Scroll down for video report

Rescue team members take a dead body from the mud in Ribeira Brava after heavy rains and strong winds hit Madeira Island
Rescue team members take a dead body from the mud in Ribeira Brava after heavy rains and strong winds hit Madeira Island

People view a street in Funchal where cars lay buried under debris after heavy flooding
People view a street in Funchal where cars lay buried under debris after heavy flooding
Mrs Gaines and the taxi driver were swept away and both were later found dead.
Her husband and his friend Roger Wilson escaped with minor injuries but Mr Wilson's wife Gillian was in hospital last night with multiple injuries to her chest, abdomen and legs. Her condition was said to be serious but not life-threatening.
Mr Gaines is a director of two agricultural companies, Woldvale Agronomy and Prodar Surveys and the family home is a large detached house near Driffield in East Yorkshire.
Madeira is popular with UK holidaymakers, but the Foreign Office said last night it had received no other reports of Britons being hurt by the floods and mudslides on Saturday, which followed hours of torrential rain.
The two British couples, who were holidaying together, were travelling in the hills above the Madeiran capital, Funchal.
People walk along a flooded street in downtown Funchal,
People walk along a flooded street in downtown Funchal, Madeira in the aftermath of the floods
Madeira mud slide
A man is pulled from the flood in Madeira: At least 40 people have died in the mudslides caused by torrential rain
A local boy died at the same spot after trying to flee with his mother when their car was caught up in the flood.
His father Norberto Castro told how he saw his five-year-old son Rui Norberto and wife Eulalia swept away. She is still missing. He said: 'The car began to slide and I couldn't control it. I told my wife to make a run for it with our child.
'I saw them fighting against the water and I saw a man trying to help them. Then they were swept away by the water and I didn't see them again.'
Portuguese officials said they expected the death toll to rise. Hundreds of people have been left homeless by the worst tragedy to hit Madeira for a century.
Parts of Funchal resembled the aftermath of a tsunami. Cars were piled on top of one another in streets covered in mud, rocks and stones.

The debris of a taxi is seen lodged between the roofs of two buildings after heavy flooding in Funchal, Madeira
The debris of a taxi is seen lodged between the roofs of two buildings after heavy flooding in Funchal, Madeira
Flood water rushes towards a harbour: The Portuguese government is considering whether to declare a state of emergency in the region
Flood water rushes towards Funchal harbour: The Portuguese government is considering whether to declare a state of emergency in the region
Military personnel look for flood survivors in a building along the streets of downtown Funchal, Madeira
Military personnel look for flood survivors in a building along the streets of downtown Funchal
German tourist Andreas Hoisser said: 'It was horrible, there were cars on rooftops, there were vans and trucks that had been totally crushed'.
Hotels in the main tourist area of Funchal escaped the worst flooding and were getting-back to normal last night. Madeira's most famous son, former Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, spoke of his devastation and offered to help victims.
Most of his immediate family were in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where his sister has given just birth. Ronaldo said: 'No-one, especially me as I was born and grew up in Madeira, can remain indifferent to this calamity. I am ready to help out in any way I can.'
A submerged car on a destroyed downtown Funchal street
A submerged car on a destroyed downtown Funchal street
People look at cars carried down a hillside by floodwaters outside Funchal People look at cars carried down a hillside by floodwaters outside Funchal: Local authorities called in employees to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers to clear roads and remove debris
British holidaymaker Cathy Sayers said Funchal was like a ghost town and that the infrastructure had been wrecked.
She told the BBC: 'The drains just cannot cope with the water that's coming down from the mountains - they are just overfilled with sludge.
'There wasn't really any warning, particularly any warning that it would be quite so bad because it is exceptional for this island.'
Ricardo Macedo, a rep for Bournemouth tour operator Palmair, said: ‘There’s a Dunkirk spirit in Funchal. As far as I know all 93 of my clients are safe. Most of Funchal is without fresh water.’

A man and a dog walk by as people recover their belongings from a taxi damaged by heavy flooding in the streets of downtown Funchal
A man and a dog walk by as people recover their belongings from a taxi damaged by the heavy flooding
People look on as a street with vehicles is engulfed by heavy flooding in Funchal
People look on as a street with vehicles is engulfed by heavy flooding in Funchal
Aftermath: Swept-away cars and debris piled up to first-floor balconies
Aftermath: Swept-away cars and debris piled up to first-floor balconies
TV footage showed torrents of fast-moving, mud-filled water tearing through the streets of the capital Funchal, dragging cars and nearly sweeping away two policemen.
Parts of the island were isolated by blocked roads and downed bridges as winds reached 70mph early yesterday. Electricity and phone links were also cut.
The Portuguese government is considering whether to declare a state of emergency in the region.
'We're overwhelmed by calls from people asking for help after the torrential rains,' a duty officer at the civil protection service said.

Homes have been destroyed by the floods and electricity and phone links have also been cut, forcing emergency rescue services to appeal over local radio stations for off-duty doctors and nurses to report for duty.
The island’s government said it was finding temporary accommodation for hundreds left homeless by the flooding.
Local authorities called in employees to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers to clear roads and remove debris.
People in low-lying areas of Funchal fled as flood waters rose, state-run Lusa news agency said.
In Funchal, the airport has been closed and the city's mayor advised residents to stay at home.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates expressed his 'profound shock' at the size of the calamity affecting Madeira.
Madeira regional president Alberto Joao Jardim spoke to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who is Portuguese, to appeal for emergency aid from the European Union.
Mr Socrates promised that help would be sent from the Portuguese mainland.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

'We deserved our punishment'

'We deserved our punishment': What three Muslim Malaysian women said after being caned for having sex outside marriage

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 2:34 AM on 20th February 2010

Three Muslim women who were the first in Malaysia to be caned for having sex outside marraige this morning claimed the punishment was an opportunity for them to repent.
Prison authorities caned the women last week after an Islamic Shariah court issued the penalty.
The caning has outraged rights groups and revived speculation that conservative Islamists, who advocate harsh punishment, are gaining influence in the country.
The three women, aged 17-25, said they turned themselves in after feeling guilty for sleeping with their boyfriends before marriage and getting pregnant.
sex caning
Malaysian justice: Prison staff demonstrate to the media how the caning process was done at the Kajang prison outside Kuala Lumpur
The 17-year-old told reporters that she surrendered to Islamic authorities after her prematurely born child died.
She is now serving a six-month prison sentence.
'I know I have sinned, and I have to be punished. Strangely however, I felt that the caning was not a form of punishment but was an opportunity for me to repent and return to the right path,' she said.
She has already married her boyfriend, who has also been caned and jailed over the offence.
The other women, who have one young child each, are planning to marry their partners after they are released.
The men were also caned for having sex.
One woman, aged 25, said she was scared before the caning but knew she deserved the punishment.
All three women called on others not to make the same mistake and abstain from sex before marriage.
sex caning
Journalists interview three women who were caned for having sex out of wedlock, at a prison in Kajang . They are first to be caned under the country's Islamic laws
A Prison Department official confirmed the women's comments, made at a news conference at the women's prison outside Kuala Lumpur to local, government-linked media under the watch of authorities.
He said they were reluctant to speak to other media.
It could not be confirmed whether they were speaking voluntarily.
A request with the department for interviews is pending.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin defended the caning this morning, saying it was 'far lighter' than what some people might imagine.
'The punishment is legitimate and in accordance with the law,' Muhyiddin said.
Human rights groups have slammed the caning, saying it is a cruel and degrading punishment and discriminates against Muslim women because Malaysian civil law - which applies to non-Muslims - bans the caning of women.
The women, who were fully clothed and sitting on a stool, received between four and six strokes with a thin rattan stick on the back, lasting a few minutes.
Another woman, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, is still waiting to be caned for drinking beer in public.
Her case received international attention last year when she became the first woman slated to receive a caning penalty.
But the punishment was deferred indefinitely amid a public outcry.
Caning of men for such offenses as rape, drug smuggling and staying illegally in the country is common.
It is administered with a thick rattan stick on bare buttocks, causing severe pain and leaving scars.
Malaysia has a two-tier justice system.
Shariah courts deal with personal matters for Muslims, who account for about two-thirds of the country's 28 million people, while non-Muslims - many of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indians - go to civil courts.

Weirdo Wonderland

Alice's very weird wonderland: Why a behind-the-scenes row might see Tim Burton's most fantastical film yet disappear from cinemas as fast as the Cheshire Cat

By Alison Boshoff
Last updated at 3:22 PM on 19th February 2010

The word is that watching Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland is the closest you can come to falling down the rabbit hole yourself and into Lewis Carroll's fantasy world.
Those who have seen the film, or clips of it, say that it is utterly breathtaking, a hallucinatory alternate universe completely realised in every detail, from the sun streaming in through the gills of the mushrooms to the light falling on the individual fuzzy hairs on the caterpillar's back.
It cost £158million to make and, with computer graphics mixed with live action and animation, it is more technically ambitious than anything Burton has done before. And it is in 3-D, putting it head-to-head with the sci-fi phenomenon that is Avatar.
Scroll down to watch the trailer...
Alice in Wonderland
Fantasy: Alice In Wonderland is said to be Burton's most beautiful and most perfectly imagined world yet
But far more significantly, it is said to be simply Burton's most beautiful and most perfectly imagined fantasy world.
The casting also has critical expectations rising. Who else but Matt Lucas could play the twin grotesques of Tweedledum and Tweedledee? And Johnny Depp, with green fluorescent contact lenses, rouged cheeks and a frizzy orange wig, makes the most extraordinary Mad Hatter.
With typical attention to detail, Burton has enhanced Depp's eyes with camera trickery, making them 15 per cent larger; so it's still Johnny Depp, but Through The Looking-Glass.
Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood has created a look for Depp which sees his clothes change colour as his moods come and go. He is like a human mood ring, hung with ribbons and hatpins and thimbles which dangle from his fingertips.
The Cheshire Cat, who can appear and disappear at will and has what Burton calls a creepy quality, is voiced by Stephen Fry and taps into Burton's hatred of cats.
Michael Sheen voices the White Rabbit, Alan Rickman is the caterpillar and Barbara Windsor the dormouse, Christopher Lee surfaces as the monstrous Jabberwock, Timothy Spall is a lugubrious bloodhound, Frances de la Tour is Alice's Aunt Imogene, Michael Gough the Dodo and Paul Whitehouse the March Hare.
Alice in Wonderland
Forget special effects, as one of the few live action characters, Mia Wasikowska - who plays Alice in Tim Burton's new movie - had to stand on a box to appear taller
Alice in Wonderland
Tim Burton says the Red Queen - played by wife Helena Bonham Carter - reminds him of the infamous New York property millionaire Leona Hemsley, known as the 'queen of mean', who, ironically, was a hatter's daughter
Burton's partner, Helena Bonham Carter, plays the Queen of Hearts as the acme of royal rage, with a plucked hairline, red wig, geisha-white face and uncontrollable 'Off with her head!' aggression.
On screen, her head has been enlarged to three times its size and the end result is quite grotesque. 'I can't rely on Tim to make me pretty,' sighs Helena. 
Alice In Wonderland  -  created in the 1860s by Charles Dodgson, a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll  -  is surely the literary masterpiece which Burton was born to interpret.
He has even worked in the studio once used by the English illustrator Arthur Rackham, whose illustrations for the 1907 edition ' produced the most iconic pictures of Alice that anyone has ever seen'.
'I read the Alice stories when I was eight, and I've seen the various TV and cinema versions, including the 1951 Disney cartoon. But, to be honest, I've never liked any of them,' Burton says.
'There was always a silly girl wandering around from one crazy character to another, and I never felt a real emotional connection to that, so it was an attempt to try and give it some framework and emotional grounding that I felt I hadn't seen in any version before.
White Queen: Anne Hathaway says: 'I wanted her to have the punk spirit of Debbie Harry, the etherealness of American artists Dan Flavin and the grace of Greta Garbo.' The Mad Hatter: Before filming, Johnny Depp painted pictures of his character, which later proved almost identical to Tim Burton's vision

'I think all of those characters serve to indicate some type of mental weirdness that everybody goes through.'
Burton says he wanted an Alice 'with gravity' rather than the usual little girl skipping through the grass in her white socks and a blue pinafore dress.
Eventually, he settled on Mia Wasikowska, a young Australian actress. 'She had that emotional toughness; standing her ground in a way which makes her kind of an older person but with a younger person's mentality,' the director says.
Having previously portrayed the equally weird and wonderful Edward Scissorhands and Willy Wonka for Burton, Johnny Depp was a shoo-in for the Mad Hatter.
'I read the Lewis Carroll stories over and over again, and I learned everything I could about Victorian times,' Depp says.
'It would have been too easy, and not very believable, to have played the Mad Hatter as just a straightforward crazy guy.
Alice in Wonderland
New chapter: Tim Burton says he isn't trying to tell the old story in the film which will 'infuriate the purists'
'But I knew Tim would be wanting more than that  -  there had to be a reason why he was like that, because something had tipped him over the edge.'
Depp's research revealed that the term 'mad as a hatter' came from a truth  -  that hatters in Victorian times suffered from mercury poisoning, a side-effect of the hat- manufacturing process which would affect the mind.
'So now we knew why he's mad, and after that, anything went,' Depp says.
'The mercury would have also shown through his skin and his hair, so the Hatter would have looked as mad as he behaved.'
For screenwriter Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast), the positive early reaction has been a vindication of her vision.
'I wasn't trying to re-tell the old story; I was toying with the thought: what if Alice was older and she went back into Wonderland?
Alice in Wonderland
Alice In Wonderland  -  created in the 1860s by Charles Dodgson, a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll  -  is surely the literary masterpiece Burton was born to interpret
Alice in Wonderland
Double-trouble: Matt Lucas plays the twin grotesques of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Tim Burton's inspiration for them came from the creepy twins in the Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining
'I had this mental picture of her standing at a very crucial moment in her life and having to make an important decision, but being distracted by the White Rabbit.'
In the film, Alice's turning point comes as she receives an unexpected and unwelcome very public marriage proposal in a Victorian garden.
Seeing the White Rabbit  -  with his trademark waistcoat and watch, of course  -  she runs after him, stumbles and falls down a hole into Wonderland, which is in decline, overgrown and rather haunted.
She is taken to the hookah-smoking caterpillar, who tells her that according to ancient prophecy, she has returned to slay the Red Queen's dreaded Jabberwock and bring about the end of her reign.
'There's a lot that Lewis Carroll didn't write, but I've based other scenes on things he did', Woolverton says.
'It will infuriate the purists, but this was never meant to be a remake. This is Alice as a young woman.'
Breathtaking: The film shows Alice as a young woman. And, right, the Red Queen's head has been enlarged to three times the size. 'I can't rely on Tim to make me look pretty,' actress Helena says
But despite all this nurturing of Burton's vision, his movie is under threat of being smothered at birth. Quite extraordinarily, the UK's three largest cinema chains  -  Odeon, Vue and Cineworld  -  are threatening not to show it.
They account for 65 per cent of the UK's cinemas, and 90 per cent of the 3-D screens, so the threat is a serious one.
Given that the premiere is next Thursday and the movie opens on March 5, it's a disaster.
The cause of the angst is that Disney wants to release the film on DVD and Blu-ray only three months after it opens at the cinema, rather than the standard 17 weeks.
It wants to get the DVD into the shops before the midsummer doldrums, and to capitalise on the marketing of the movie while it is still fresh in people's minds.
But the cinemas are afraid that people will just wait to buy the film on DVD rather than spend money on going to the pictures. They aren't alone: four big cinema chains in Holland are boycotting the film and the Italians are rebelling, too.
White Rabbit: Animators visited a shelter for abandoned rabbits to observe their characteristics
Disney, which stands to lose upwards of £40million because of this row, says that 97 per cent of box office takings happen within eight weeks, and argues that it is only asking for this flexibility in the case of perhaps two movies a year.
Last week the company sent two executives from Hollywood to try to find a solution.
Burton himself transferred filming from Cornwall, where a lot of exterior scenes were shot, to Los Angeles, where the technology would be brought into play. Scenes were filmed in front of all-green backgrounds which were then overlaid digitally.
'The novelty of the green wears off very quickly,' Depp complained during filming. 'It's exhausting actually  -  we can't see what we are doing.'
Burton had lavender lenses fitted into his glasses to counter-balance the colour. This way of working brought the director great freedoms, particularly when it came to playing with scale.
Glover's Knave Of Hearts is half real, half digital. In the film he is 71/2ft tall, so on set Glover wore a green suit and a pair of green stilts. For the final film, his entire body, costume and cape were computer-generated  -  only his face was real.
The Cheshire cat, which can appear and disappear at will, is voiced by Stephen Fry
Special effects: £158million was spent making the new Alice In Wonderland film
Depp is lost in admiration for Burton. He says: 'He couldn't have bitten off anything bigger to chew. This is almost lunatic time. To choose to grab Alice In Wonderland, that in itself is one thing, and then to do it to the Tim Burton level is madness.'
Burton, stuck between a rock and a hard place over the distribution row, is keeping his own counsel. But there is no doubt he will be deeply disappointed if the film over which he has taken such care is available to only a fraction of its potential audience.
As he says: 'When Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice stories nearly 150 years ago, he was taking a big chance that people would understand and appreciate that he was trying to do something unusual.
'Now, it's our turn to take our own chances  -  and I don't think we've let him down.'
• Alice In Wonderland has its charity premiere in London next Thursday and is released on March 5.
Alice: Mia Wasikowska
Carroll's vision: Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Alice: Mia Wasikowska
Carroll's vision: Tweedledums and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen

The White Rabbit, left, and the Red Queen
Carroll's vision: The White Rabbit, left, and the Red Queen

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sleeping Beauties

Shhhhh, we sleeping beauties are trying to get some shut eye! The amazing pictures of snoozing newborns

By Laura Powell
Last updated at 10:20 PM on 17th February 2010

With their snowy skin, plump cheeks, teeny fingers and toes, and pouty rosebud lips, these newborn babies really do deserve their Sleeping Beauties nickname.
It was coined by sisters Tracy Raver and Kelley Ryden, who took most of the photographs at their studio in Nebraska - which can be seen in a new book - when the babies were fewer than 10 days old.
A budding Buddah: I'm taking 40 winks on the path to enlightenment
A budding Buddah: I'm taking 40 winks on the path to enlightenment

Meet my silent partner, we like to get our heads together
Meet my silent partner, we like to get our heads together
Some are swaddled in knitted scarves, others are snuggled up in hammocks, snoozing on a fluffy rug or curled up in a wicker basket - but they all have in common their unique, gently-contorted poses.
To curl the babies into these positions, Tracy, Kelley and a third Canadian photographer, Stephanie Robin, have a simple trick: they photograph the babies when they are between five and 10 days old.
Crib sheet - and this hatbox beats my cradle any day
Crib sheet - and this hatbox beats my cradle any day

Frown in the mouth: My afternoon nap is a serious business
Frown in the mouth: My afternoon nap is a serious business
At that age, they sleep soundly and they are malleable to be moved into 'curly' poses, as Kelley calls them.
It also helps that Stephanie is a physiotherapist, which helps her understand their joints and reflexes.
Out on the floor: It's no struggle to snuggle up to a warm rug
Out on the floor: It's no struggle to snuggle up to a warm rug

Getting back to nature: Who says caterpillars can't hibernate?
Getting back to nature: Who says caterpillars can't hibernate?
The photo shoots usually last between three and four hours at a studio (with nice natural light, a good temperature gauge and lots of props). The babies either wear white clothes or nothing at all.
It takes around a fortnight for the photographs to be processed before they're presented to the besotted parents.
It's a wrap: Lulled to sleep with a swaddling song
It's a wrap: Lulled to sleep with a swaddling song

Prize guys: They came first in the bonnet baby contest
Prize guys: They came first in the bonnet baby contest
What's their first reaction when they first see the snaps of their snuggled-up baby, all fuzzy-haired with scrunched-up eyes?
Surprise, surprise, many of them burst into tears.
As Stephanie says: 'How could they not love these adorable little subjects?'
If the cap fits... I'll be sure of a good night's rest
If the cap fits... I'll be sure of a good night's rest

Yawn free: I love crashing out in my mum's knitting!
Yawn free: I love crashing out in my mum's knitting!

Suspended animation: But at least I've got a posy for my toes
Suspended animation: But at least I've got a posy for my toes