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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yoo Ah In has tense discussion with ‘Hong Kong Heiress’ Maxine Koo

Actor Yoo Ah In embarrassed ‘Hong Kong Heiress’ Maxine Koo, who apparently majored in economics at Cornell University.
On the March 24th episode of Mnet’s ‘Yoo Ah In’s Launch My Life‘ (which was the first episode), Yoo Ah In goes to L.A. to do a photoshoot for casual clothing brand ‘Jack and Jill‘ and meets Maxine Koo for the first time.
Their first meeting was not too wonderful though, as Yoo Ah In asked Maxine Koo, who only spoke in English while maintaining a haughty look on her face, “Don’t you know how to speak Korean?
Maxine Koo asked, “What have you worked on?“, to which Yoo Ah In simply responded, “Just type in Yoo Ah In and you’ll know what I worked on.” Yoo Ah In apparently did not like Koo’s conceitedness and would not back down from the battle for pride.
Yoo Ah In, bewildered by her haughty attitude, finally asked the Hong Kong heiress, “Are you always like this, or are you acting?” Koo bluntly replied, “Always what?” Yoo Ah In responded by saying she was impolite, making the atmosphere even tenser.
Meanwhile, Yoo Ah In, who is known for being stylish, was praised by the staff for his unique style.
Source: Hankyung News via Nate


Tin Pei Lin vs Chen Show Mao – and a very scary thought

The following is an excerpt of an article posted today on blog onesingaporean.

Despite what Lim Boon Heng, that minister who has been without a portfolio for some 15 years, has said, the PAP’s slate of new candidates are a dud. At least as far as I am concerned. I can’t remember any time in the past where the scraping of the barrel by the PAP was so pathetic.
And the signs are already there. Of course, the media is sugar-coating the dud candidates the PAP is selling. Desmond Choo? Desmond Lee? Tin Pei Lin? Seriously? When one starts to talk about one’s own sob story in order to gain sympathy, you can be sure the barrel is really empty.
But there is a serious issue here which Singaporeans must consider and consider very seriously indeed.
To read on, click here.


Ellenborough Market Cafe

Like every other post exam activity I've had, my classmates and I decided to celebrate the end of our exams with a buffet lunch at Ellenborough Market Cafe - Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel.

Ellenborough Market Cafe
20 Merchant Road, GF Swissotel Merchant Court, Singapore
Tel: +65 6239 1847

Opening Hours
Daily: 7am–10.30am, 12pm–2.30pm, 6.30pm–10pm
Sat–Sun & PH: 3.30pm–5.30pm [Buffet High Tea)

I've had a couple of dinner buffets here before and I do like their wide variety of food, especially their desserts. But this was my first time trying out their lunch buffet and I must say I wasn't too impressed. Don't get me wrong. It's still good, but not as good as their dinner menu in my opinion.

Regardless of the food, it was nice to be found in the company of friends - chit chatting, laughing, poking fun at each other and having a good time. I guess with exams off our shoulders, it just seems so much easier to smile, laugh, and be happy.

And though I know moments like these are short-lived, I am just going to enjoy every moment of my restored sanity, joy, freedom, and sleep before my next term's exams in July.

Ahhh.. it feels darn good indeed.



Students looking to explore their educational and career interests can now tap into a new online resource——Singapore’s first interactive web-based Education and Career Guidance (ECG) portal for students. This portal is a welcomed aid for teachers and counselors in Singapore.
Using various profiling instruments available on the portal, students are able to clarify their interests and aptitudes, and are provided with a range of suitable career possibilities. One such instrument is the Personal Globe Inventory, which allows students to gauge their interest and confidence levels in a range of activities. Base on their interest patterns, the portal surfaces a list of occupation choices and information on the nature of these occupations. It also directs students to a list of relevant courses offered by local and overseas tertiary institutions, hence helping students take steps towards realizing their career aspirations. All profiling results and education and career information are eventually captured in individual e-portfolios, which students can retrieve and review over time.
In addition to guiding students on career choices and courses in tertiary institutions, also gives students a head start in essential job-seeking skills. This is done through online training modules aimed at sharpening students resume-writing, interview and decision-making skills, among others.
As a web-based portal in Singapore, is easily accessible in school, at home or even in public places through the country. Teachers, career guidance coordinators and school counselors can use it to help students clarify their goals, identify their strengths and career opportunities, and then guide them toward their career aspirations. Parents can also play a more active role in their children’s education and career development process.


Lim Boon Heng unconvinced about Tin Pei Ling’s abilities

Earlier on, I’ve given my observations on Tin Pei Ling on this forum.
Next, I will give my observation, as an experienced HR staff interviewing thousands of candidates ranging from lowest level to highest level, on our Minister LBH.
When he introduced TPL, watched for his mannerism and eye contact. It shows the lack of commitment and conviction from LBH that TPL is the right candidate. As a matter of fact, from his statements, it’s very clear that LBH does not know her at all. Compounded with his body language, it was so obvious that he was uncomfortable with her as a candidate as he cannot articulate with ease about her uniqueness or why she should stand for election. His introduction is so superficial with many “if”, “i don’t know” and “I think”.
It could be seen from his speech that she was chosen by LHL and not endorsed by the cabinet team. Hence, LBH also failed as a mentor. He shouldn’t take on the stage to introduce her when he’s not convince himself. Actually, it’s very surprising that PAP is not stringent in their selection criteria this time round.
Darriel Lim


Military top brass to ‘defend’ SM Goh’s Marine Parade GRC

A former military top brass will be assisting Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to “defend” his Marine Parade GRC stronghold in the coming General Election.
In a post on the Marine Parade PAP branch’s Facebook page, SM Goh said that the People’s Action Party team will usher in one of the two former military top brass – outgoing army chief 41 year-old Major-General Chan Chun Sing and Brigadier-General Tan Chuan Jin, as a new candidate in Marine Parade GRC.
According to the posting, MP Dr Ong Seh Hong will be retiring from politics to make way for one of the two outgoing Generals to understudy SM Goh.
Quoting party sources, the Straits Times had earlier reported that the likely new candidate is 42 year-old Brigadier-General Tan Chuan Jin who will be introduced to residents this weekend.
SM Goh had asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to send him a ’strong candidate who has the potential to be part of the fourth-generation core team.’
Apparently SM Goh has gotten his wish with the “backing of the entire army”, literally.


PAP kindergartens mark 25th year

SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party's Community Foundation (PCF), which runs kindergartens island wide, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Speaking at the celebrations in Ang Mo Kio GRC, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it is very important that children have good quality, affordable pre-school education, so that when they get to school, they will be ready.

PCF may be 25 years old but the Party's been running kindergartens for more than 50 years, Mr Lee said.

"We've been doing this for a long time. The PCF is only 25 years old, but in fact, the PAP has been running kindergartens since... the early 1960s," he said.

"Because in every constituency, the community leaders and the volunteers would set up kindergartens in every available space which they could find -- it could be shophouses, it could even be a wayang stage -- and parents would bring their children.

"And as the centres became popular and enrolment increased, we set up more centres, so that by the time we created the PAP Community Foundation 25 years ago in 1986, we had this big place of kindergartens which we could convert to PCF kindergartens.

"And we improved on them, from there. The standards, the curriculum, the teachers' quality, the training of the teachers, the facilities in the centres, to reach where we are today".

As a result, nearly one million children have gone through the doors of PCF so far.

"The PCF is a key priority for the PAP still, and will be for many years to come," Mr Lee said.

"We go out of our way to make sure that nobody is missed, that we cover all the children in our constituencies.

"We work with grassroots leaders to encourage poorer families to send their children to school, and we do our best to keep the fees affordable.

"So the government has schemes like the Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme, and the PCF has its own headstart fund.

"Any needy student can tap on these schemes, and the burden on the parents is very, very low.

"In fact, low-income families can pay less than $10 a month for their children to be in kindergarten."

Meanwhile, a pilot programmed called the Psychological education@Geyland Serai (PEGS) has been set up to address the psychological needs of children.

MP for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef said: "What we are going to do, is we are going to have sessions and seminars for educators at PCF so that they can identify psychological disturbances and symptoms early in our children and youth, and bring them forward for counselling, and we can make the necessary referrals.

"This is necessary because we have one in 10 children in the ages ranging from 6 to 16 who has been identified to have psychological disturbances of some kind.

"That would put the number at 50,000 in Singapore currently.

"Out of this 50,000, 5,000 are serious enough to need counselling and also referrals to psychiatrists".

Meanwhile, the PCF anniversary event was a hive of activity for another reason.

With Singapore's next General Election around the corner, the PCF 25th anniversary carnival was an apt occasion for some new faces from the People's Action Party, to familiarise themselves with the ground and the various constituency activities.

Twenty-seven-year-old Tin Pei Ling has been understudying MacPherson's incumbent MP Matthias Yao, who will be stepping down.

Mr Yao said: "Pei Ling is already familiar with grassroots work, having been active in Buona Vista for a long time already.

"What I will be briefing her about, is more to do with campaign period activities -- that part, she is not so familiar with.

"Wherever she goes to, including MacPherson, I think those points will be useful for her.

"I hope I have done enough to building and upgrading the estate and building the community into a more cohesive one.

"At the same time, there are new challenges to be met. The estate is ageing quite rapidly, in terms of the population profile and working together with the various government departments, Pei Ling would have to bring MacPherson into a new phase for an active ageing estate.

"At the same time, there is a turnover of younger families coming through the estate, so one must not neglect them at all.

"One must work equally hard to look after the aspirations of the new families. In that case, Pei Ling's challanges are quite big, but I am sure she can meet the challenge".

Ms Tin ,a business consultant, is also on the executive committee of Young PAP.

"Despite being young, I am keen to learn and help the elderly because, the elderly, when I look at them, I am reminded of my parents and grandparents, so there is instant connection and affinity there already," Ms Tin said.

"But with time, as I understand more of them, I would be better able to come up with meaningful solutions and initiatives to help them better.

"At the end of the day, the energy and youth is on my side and I have the potential to help them more."

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong -- who has on the Marine Parade Facebook page welcomed reports that the National Solidarity Party and the Democratic Progressive Party intend to contest in the Marine Parade GRC -- also revealed that Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who is an MP in Marine Parade GRC, has been moved to Nee Soon GRC.


Monday, March 28, 2011

UPDATE: VCU to welcome team home at midnight

Tonight, VCU will welcome the Rams' men's basketball team home at the Siegel Center.
The Siegel Center will open its doors at midnight. According to VCU, the welcome back celebration will be brief and is open to the public. The team is expected to arrive between 1:15 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, offered his congratulations to the Rams, saying in a statement: "Congratulations to the VCU Rams for their amazing victory over the Kansas Jayhawks. This is one of the biggest victories in tournament history and Coach Shaka Smart and his players deserve tremendous credit for their inspiring Cinderella run. It's great for the Commonwealth to be represented in the Final Four in Houston. Go Rams!"

From earlier reports
Streets in downtown Richmond around Virginia Commonwealth University's Monroe Campus are flooded with students and fans headed toward Monroe Park for a postgame celebration.
Thousands of gleeful VCU fans -- mostly students --  are jamming Broad Street, just west of Belvidere, cheering on the 11th-seeded Rams for achieving what once seemed the impossible -- taking down No. 1 seed Kansas to earn a berth in the NCAA men's Final Four.  
Fans standing on top of storefronts and atop parked vans are waving flags, signs and pom-poms in an exuberant tribute. Fans are improvising ways to make noise -- one banged on a pot.
Morris Street and Floyd Avenue are flooded with people headed toward the VCU campus, and Broad Street east from Hancock is blocked and inaccessible to traffic as people move toward Monroe Park.
Richmond police are monitoring the procession.
At the Jefferson Hotel, in the midst of a birthday celebration/afternoon tea, groups of women left their tables to gather around a large-screen TV at the bar to watch VCU's historic win.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell offered his congratulations, saying, "Virginians are celebrating their victory all across the commonwealth.  VCU is a great university with a well-deserved reputation for academic and athletic excellence.  We all look forward to cheering them on in the Final Four next weekend. I know they’ve got two more big wins left in them. Head Coach Shaka Smart and this group of talented student athletes are doing a tremendous job representing their school and community. Go Rams!”
(This has been a breaking news update; check back for more details as they become available.)


Mike Figgis to Direct SECONDS OF HAPPINESS; Christina Hendricks, Julia Stiles, and Matt Dillon Join Cast

Director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) has stepped in to replace Neil LaBute in an adaptation of LaBute’s collection of short stories, Seconds of Happiness.  The frame of the narrative takes place on an airplane and examines the interconnecting lives of various passengers through vignettes.  Clearly, this will be just like LostDeadline also reports that Brendan Fraser and Kristen Scott Thomas will be joined by Christina Hendricks, Julia Stiles, and Matt Dillon.  Hendricks will play a woman who catches her husband (Fraser) in a “compromising position.”  Because I’ve never read LaBute’s book but have seen every episode of Lost, I imagine Fraser’s position has something to do with pushing a button every 108 minutes.  LaBute is still on board to produce and shooting is expected to begin this summer.
Hendricks recently signed on to star in the ensemble comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It while Dillon is attached to co-star in Roman Polanski’s God of Carnage and Matthew Weiner’s You Are Here.  Stiles recently co-starred on Showtime’s Dexter.   Hit the jump for the synopsis of Seconds of Pleasure.

Here’s the synopsis for Neil LaBute’s Seconds of Pleasure [via Amazon]:
Neil LaBute is best known for his controversial films In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, and his plays The Mercy Seat and The Shape of Things—which he also adapted for the screen. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar, among others. Now, in his debut collection of stories, he brings to the page his cutting humor and compelling take on the shadowy terrain of the human heart. Seductive and disturbing, the stories in Seconds of Pleasure are not for the faint of heart. Each potent and pithy tale finds men and women exploiting—or at the mercy of—the hidden fault lines that separate them: a woman leaves her family at their vacation home after discovering her husband in a compromising situation in “Time Share”; a middle-aged man obsesses over a scab on the calf of a pretty young girl in “Boo-Boo”; and a vain Hollywood actor gets his comeuppance in “Soft Target.” Infused with LaBute’s trademark wit and black humor, Seconds of Pleasure unleashes his imagination in stories that offer unflinching insight into our very human shortcomings and impure urges with shocking candor.


Dane Cook-Julia Stiles Broadway play 'Fat Pig' postponed

Dane Cook's 'Fat Pig' postponed "Fat Pig," the Neil LaButeplay starring comedian Dane Cook and Julia Stiles, has been postponed to the 2011-2012 Broadway season.
The play was scheduled to open at the Belasco Theatre this spring, but its producers cited the "last-minute fallout of a key investment" as the reason for the delay.
"This did not leave the producers enough time to reacquire the necessary capital and begin rehearsals on schedule to open prior to the Tony Awards cutoff date," a spokesman said in a statement.
"It's our dream to keep this terrific cast and stunning creative team intact as we work to reschedule 'Fat Pig' for next season," added producers Aldo Scrofani and Heather Provost. "The current financial situation did not leave adequate time to maintain the integrity of the show and its marketing campaign. This play deserves to be seen on Broadway and we remain very much committed to that goal."
Josh Hamilton and HeatherJane Rolff were also set to star in the LaBute-written and -directed play.
The blunt-force comedy revolves around a man who falls for an obese woman, which causes a backlash against her among his friends. It was performed off-Broadway in 2004 in a production that starred Jeremy Piven, Andrew McCarthy, Keri Russell and Ashlie Atkinson. In 2007, the Geffen Playhouse mounted a production with a cast that included Scott Wolf and Chris Pine.
Cook's polarizing brand of comedy aimed at the college crowd and LaBute's productions, with their controversial subject matter and colorful language, had been seen as a perfect match. Earlier reports said Ashton Kutcher was in talks for the play.
But fans will have to wait a little bit longer for this show to go on. Previews for the Broadway show were set to begin April 12, with the official opening April 26. Ticket holders are being allowed to get a full refund or exchange their tickets for a different date.


Julia Stiles - Julia Stiles Celebrates 30Th Birthday

Julia Stiles
Caption: Julia Stiles (Picture) The 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG Awards 2011) held at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Center - Arrivals Los Angeles, California ....

Julia Stiles Celebrates 30Th Birthda

Julia Stiles is celebrating her 30th birthday today (28th March 2011). Julia Stiles, the American actress and star of 'Mona Lisa Smile', turns 30-years-old today, reports the Los Angeles Times. The actress first rose to prominence after starring alongside the late Heath Ledger in '10 Things I Hate About You' and her film career has since included a number of commercial and critical successes, most notably 'Mona Lisa Smile' and 'Save the Last Dance'. In recent years, she has guest starred as 'Lumen Pierce' in the fifth season of 'Dexter', a role that earned her a Golden Globe award nomination. Stiles was scheduled to appear alongside the comedian Dane Cook in the Broadway play 'Fat Pig', but the show's producers have decided to postpone the spring opening. A spokesman for the production cited the "last minute fallout of a key investment" as the reason for the delay, adding, "This did not leave the producers enough time to reacquire the necessary capital and begin rehearsals on schedule to open prior to the Tony Awards cutoff date".
Julia Stiles recently completed work on a movie adaptation of Sylvia Plath's classic novel 'The Bell Jar'. The actress will star as 'Esther Greenwood', the book editor who is slowly taken over by mental illness.


Amy Adams will play Lois Lane; Reese Witherspoon weds; DJ Megatron killed

Amy Adams has been cast as Lois Lane in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie. She’ll star o
Meet the new Lois Lane. (Lucy Nicholson - REUTERS)
pposite the previously cast Henry Cavill, who will play Superman/Clark Kent. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Reese Witherspoon married CAA agent Jim Toth on Saturday at her six-acre ranch in Ojai, Calif. She wore a Monique Lhullier gown and exchanged vows with her new husband in front of 100 guests, including celebs Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Renee Zellweger and Alyssa Milano and husband David Bugliari, also a CAA rep. No, Ryan Phillippe did not attend. Neither did Jake Gyllenhaal. (Us)
DJ Megatron, host of BET’s “What’s Good” portion of the show “106 & Park,” was shot and killed Sunday near his home in Staten Island.Police are investigating. (E! Online)
Mariah Carey was briefly hospitalized on Sunday after having early contractions. She and husband Nick Cannon are expecting the birth of their twins in a few weeks. (People)
Charlie Sheen is available now at bargain basement prices. And there’s some fresh Snow White casting news. It’s all after the jump.

By the way, turns out Charlie Sheen’s “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour is hardly sold out. Secondary sellers apparently bought many of the tickets and are now selling them far below their face value. (CNBC, via Deadline)
Armie Hammerhas been cast as the prince in Relativity’s Snow White movie, the one with Julia Roberts as the Queen. Saoirse Ronan is also in the mix as a possible Snow White in the film. Meanwhile, Viggo Mortensen has reportedly dropped out of Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” (Popeater) (Slashfilm)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” tops the box office, beats “Sucker Punch.” (LA Times)
EW has a first look at the images from Pixar’s upcoming “Brave,” the studio’s first film to focus on a female protagonist. (Entertainment Weekly)
Tom Hanks will guest star on “30 Rock.” Please tell us this will involve him dressing up in drag and that, perhaps, Peter Scolari also will show up. (Vulture)


Amy Adams offered Rock Of Ages role

Celebrities arrive at The 83rd Academy Awards Oscar ceremony at the Kodak Theater, Los Angeles, California. - Russ Einhorn / Splash NewsCelebrities arrive at The 83rd Academy Awards Oscar ceremony at the Kodak Theater, Los Angeles, California. - Russ Einhorn / Splash News
By Vicky Allison Mar 25, 2011, 17:32 GMT
Actress Amy Adams might play the female lead in Tom Cruise's big screen musical Rock Of Ages.
According to, Adams is reportedly being 'heavily courted' by director Adam Shankman for the movie.
If the 36-year-old signed on for the flick, she would play a journalist who is intending to write an expose on rock star Stacee Jax [Tom Cruise], but ends up sleeping with him instead.
??Anne Hathaway was allegedly originally offered the role, but her commitment to The Dark Knight Rises meant she couldn't do it.


Maki Kaji: Man behind the Sudoku phenomenon


In Sudoku, Maki Kaji created a puzzle that everybody can solve and enjoy.
SUDOKU has been described in numerous ways, from easy and extreme to fiendish and diabolical, even poisonous, dangerous and evil!
“What are the strategies of solving the diabolical ones?”
“How do you get over the high wall separating ‘very hard’ from ‘advanced’ levels?”
“Does it mean that the fewer clues are given, the harder the puzzle will be?”
Stress relief: ‘Sudoku is like a mountain; some like to ascend on foot one step at a time; others prefer to scale the sheerest cliffs, while another might enjoy a quick ride up in a car!’ says Maki Kaji.
The 150 participants of the National Sudoku Seminar held recently in Selangor had many questions, including how these brain-teasing puzzles are created. One woman wanted to know about the “world’s most difficult Sudoku ever created”.
This passion for a puzzle that borders on being an obsession for some can be contradictory to what the godfather of Sudoku had intended. Maki Kaji, 60, the unassuming Japanese man who introduced Sudoku to the world in 1984, looks baffled as he fields questions during his visit here as guest speaker.
“I don’t know about the world’s most difficult Sudoku,” he replies haltingly in English interspersed with Japanese.
“But I don’t see the point of making such a difficult puzzle that nobody can solve or enjoy. I have always desired to create one puzzle that can be enjoyed by many people around the world so that they can have a break from daily stress. This has been my company’s goal for 30 years.”
Kaji’s simple objective sums up his affable, laidback personality. It’s vastly different from the hordes of Sudoku fans who are fanatical about this puzzle that is today being solved by thousands of people from five- to 90-year-olds in over 70 countries, and available in over 600 national newspapers. In 2006, 20 nations faced off in the first Sudoku world championship in Italy with more competitions following.
Sudoku appeals to young and old alike.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine Sudoku would have such far-reaching appeal,” says Kaji, his eyes widening during our interview.
“I travel four times a year giving talks and meeting fans from Sudoku societies that have been formed around the world. It is a real privilege.”
Puzzling phenomenon
Born in 1951 in Sapporo, on Hokkaido island, Kaji moved to Tokyo when he was three months old with his father, a telecommunications engineer, and his mother.
As a kid, he had wanted to be a pilot; as a teenager he liked automobiles so he wanted to be a tour bus driver. In high school, Kaji excelled only in table tennis. He was not scholarly, he says with a smile.
A Sudoku challenge in progress. These days, the puzzles are being solved by thousands of people in over 70 countries.
“I didn’t like studying. But I liked learning as much as I could, and I enjoyed reading magazines because I was attracted to the mix of content, be it essays, pictorials, news, fashion or food. I wanted to be in the business where I could publish my own magazine.”
Kaji did try a conventional path initially. Influenced by his mother, he enrolled in a literature course at Keio University, one of Japan’s most prestigious institutions. Within a year, he dropped out due to boredom from routine.
He enjoyed gambling and spent hours at the racecourse betting on horses. That was in between jobs as a construction worker and waiter to earn his keep before he started a small publishing firm called Nikoli Inc, after an Irish racehorse that won the 1980 Irish 2,000 Guineas.
In the early 1980s, friends brought him American puzzle magazine Dell Pencil Puzzles And Word Games. Kaji got excited instantly. In one of the magazines was a puzzle called the Number Place created by Howard Garnes, which was to become a precursor to Sudoku.
“In those days there weren’t such magazines in Japan, so I felt there was potential for it,” recalls Kaji. “I started working on the puzzles. When I managed to solve the puzzle by filling in all the empty boxes with digits, I felt very satisfied!”
He managed to obtain the magazine’s back issues and worked every puzzle until he could thoroughly understand the technique behind it. He began to experiment with his own version of a simpler and more refined numeral puzzle. After six months, he was confident he had the right mix for a mind-boggling puzzle.
Kaji named it Suji wa dokushin ni kagiru, abbreviated as Sudoku, which means “bachelor or single numbers” as only lone figures from one to nine could be filled in the grid of nine-by-nine boxes without being repeated in each box or line. The puzzles had varying degrees of difficulty.
Kaji introduced the puzzle in Japan in 1984. Readers sent in 100 of their own version, and he published a selection in his next edition.
“It became better and better until it reached a developed stage,” says Kaji. “A good puzzle stimulates the mind and evokes emotions – you feel happy when you solve it, and frustrated when you can’t. Sudoku is like a mountain; some like to ascend on foot one step at a time, others prefer to scale the sheerest cliffs, while another might enjoy a quick ride up in a car!”
Kaji had to ask friends to promote it overseas and he begged publishers to release it to the United States and Britain but there was no demand.
It took nearly two more decades before Sudoku became a hit that reverberated around the world from Asia to South America. In 1997 a retired Hong Kong judge, New Zealander Wayne Gould, came across Sudoku in a Japanese bookshop and began developing a computer program to generate the puzzles. He succeeded in getting The Times newspaper to publish his puzzle on Nov 12, 2004. Within months, other newspapers began producing their own version of Sudoku.
America caught the craze in the summer of 2005 when major dailies started offering Sudoku. In Malaysia, the Sudoku fad took off in 2005 when The Star published the puzzle nationwide in its StarTwo pullout, says Malaysia Sudoku Society secretary Lee Yee Dian, adding that Sunday Star’s “diabolical” Sudoku remains the benchmark for difficulty.
Big business
A New York Times research estimates that some US$250mil (RM750mil) has been generated by global Sudoku businesses, including over 200 books that have been published on it that sold some 20 million copies worldwide.
Kaji’s Nikoli Inc has become a prolific producer of puzzles, having continued churning over 300 original puzzles. But none could capture public imagination the way Sudoku has, and still does today.
“I think perhaps it’s because numbers are universal and can be understood by everyone no matter where they live,” Kaji says thoughtfully.
“Sudoku is not mathematical; rather, it requires simple logic to solve it. And it crosses borders because all genders and ages can work it out. And Sudoku is not the steak or main dish in a meal, it is an appetiser or a salad, so you can consume more of it at one go every day.
“It is a light puzzle. And you have the freedom to do it or not, unlike a mathematical equation. Sudoku is cheap and easy to carry around.”
But as Sudoku fans would attest, the puzzle can become very addictive. The satisfying feeling of having successfully solved a puzzle will compel you to move on to the next puzzle, and then the next. Before you know it, it’s been hours!
A lady in England reportedly said she felt suicidal if she did not do a Sudoku puzzle each day.
Lee, from the Malaysia Sudoku Society, says he can take up to three days to work out a particularly challenging puzzle.
“I have always loved mental challenges of the recreational kind, so it was natural that I took a liking for Sudoku,” he explains. “I first came across Sudoku in the mid-1990s while visiting Japan.
“The harder it is, the more I’d enjoy it! I love it when my brain is stretched to its limits. The feeling of satisfaction when I solve a difficult Sudoku is beyond words. On and off, I’d work at it, making some progress each time, until the final obstacle comes crashing down, followed by a feeling of euphoria!”
Despite Sudoku’s worldwide appeal, Kaji does not earn royalties because he has not copyrighted the puzzle outside Japan, and commands about 5% of the Sudoku global market. It is a similar situation for his fellow Japanese, Daisuke Inoue, who created the hugely popular karaoke machine but did not patent his work.
“But it is OK because that has helped to spread Sudoku all over the world,” says Kaji. “When I visited Chile, the immigration officer who stamped my passport was furtively solving a Sudoku puzzle on his table. During a Sudoku tournament in Spain, a husband and wife were squaring it off. And on the beautiful beaches, a lady complained to me that her boyfriend was too busy solving the puzzles to go sightseeing.
“I was amused to see an elderly businessman grabbing armloads of newspapers upon boarding our plane, just to pull out all the Sudoku sections when he was seated! I am delighted that Sudoku has the power to appeal to everyone. It can be entertaining, challenging or therapeutic to different people.
“If I’d copyrighted Sudoku, then versions of it might have appeared under different names. And it would not have caught on in so many countries. Somebody once said that Maki Kaji made a brilliant mistake. I agree! Because I don’t need to be rich to be happy.”
Copyright or not, Nikoli Inc has done well despite having never advertised. A 2007 New York Times interview with Kaji revealed that Nikoli Inc has an annual turnover of US$4mil (RM12mil). Currently, he employs some 30 workers to help create new puzzles.
The grey-haired, twinkle-eyed Kaji gives no hint of the global phenomenon he’d created; he is relaxed and cheerful, wearing a red polo shirt with a cardigan, jeans and black canvas shoes during our meeting.
Kaji says he remains a man who enjoys the simple pleasures in life. Asked about his secret to good health, he replies laughing: “I enjoy smoking, drinking and betting on racehorses occasionally!”
He still enjoys heading out to the racecourse because it’s exciting, he explains.
“In a puzzle, you use logic to find answers. In life, business or family, there are no quick solutions. But in betting, throw the dice and you will get an instant result. So it’s exciting to me, and is a break from everyday life.”
A pivotal incident that took place when he was 23, marked the start of a new chapter in Kaji’s life. He was out with a female friend, when he was suddenly stricken by severe stomach ache and passed out. When he woke up in a hospital, he realised how concerned his friend had been, which gave him confidence to pursue her. They married two years later and now have two daughters, aged 26 and 34. His elder child works in a bookstore while his younger daughter is a jewellery and apparel designer. All three women in Kaji’s life do not do Sudoku.
“My life has turned out unexpectedly,” says Kaji.
“Young people should venture outside to observe life, meet people and learn new things,” he advises.
“I wanted to produce puzzles, to create an exercise for the human brain. I hope people will continue to enjoy solving these puzzles, and instead of picking up a weapon, they’d pick up a pencil instead.”


Dr. Sudoku Prescribes: Median Link

Thomas Snyder (aka Dr. Sudoku) is a two-time World Sudoku Champion and five-time US Puzzle Champion, as well as the author of several books of puzzles. His puzzles are hand-crafted, with artistic themes, serving as a kind of “cure for the common sudoku.” Each week he posts a new puzzle on his blog, The Art of Puzzles. This week Doctor Sudoku starts to experiment with a new loop-drawing puzzle from Japan.
I really like simple loop puzzle types and ran into this fairly novel idea recently in some of Nikoli’s magazines (first debuting in #126). As I do with new designs in that magazine where I can’t read the Japanese instructions, I tried for awhile to look at example puzzles to figure out what was going on. This time Doctor Sudoku couldn’t prescribe the rules, and I reluctantly turned to a translation to get a sense for what was happening. I discovered a puzzle type that — while generally easy — has an interesting feel as far as loop puzzles go. This week I figured I’d explore the construction of the basic type as presented in Nikoli’s magazines before I take some steps to vary the formula and change the rules to make a more interesting solve space in the future. I find slight coloring of the grid helps emphasize the different tiles so this is the only change in formatting that I’ve made to Nikoli’s style.
Nikoli’s title メジリンク roughly translates to Median Link which is the name I’ll be using for it.
Rules: Draw a single closed loop that does not intersect itself using just the dotted lines of the grid. Each (colored) tile of area N must have a total length of unused dotted segments of exactly N.

Puzzle 1:

Puzzle 2:


NeNe Leakes In A Bikini (PHOTOS)

“The Celebrity Apprentice,” Star Jones’ stopped by the “Wendy Williams” show yesterday and had a few words to say about Nene Leakes calling her names!

Star addressed the drama with Nene Leakes that is unfolding on “Celebrity Apprentice” between these two strong and very opinionated women.
Although Star was there to promote her new book, “Satan’s Sisters” and to raise awareness about heart disease, she did take the opportunity to have her say about Nene Leakes revelations on “Ellen”
Star’s cast mate on “Celebrity Apprentice” appeared on the “Ellen” show last week and she had a few - not so very nice things to say about Star to Ellen DeGeneres. Nene Leakes bashed Star Jones, calling her “manipulative, conniving, and a “disaster” to a bit of a taken back Ellen DeGeneres.
Star has not said a word about Nene Leakes until now, she tells Wendy Williams that “she will not be engaging in a public spat with Nene.” “I am an educated African American woman I am not going to lower myself. Period. Bar none,” said the very serious Star Jones.
Star continued on by saying, “did I ever sleep with her and forget to call her the next day? Because I am starting to feel that way. Have you ever had and experience where someone talks about you again and again and again?”
The only thing that Wendy Williams could get Star to say about Nene Leakes was “she is not lady like.” That was it. What a difference between the two ladies forked tongues!
Star Jones’ new book is called “Satan’s Sisters” and it centers around five women and their tales of backstabbing and deception on their daily talk show. Star did not mention where she got the material for this novel, but all of America can take a guess?
This new book, “Satan’s Sisters” sounds like an interesting read, and chances are it is ready to dish out some behind the scenes dealings about “The View.” Although it is a novel, many of the incidents may just come from real life experiences of Star Jones on “The View.” It will be interesting to see if the ladies of “The View” see themselves in Star Jone’s new novel, “Satan’s Sisters.”
This could open a new can of worms for Star Jones. Barbara Walters and her crew do not take kindly to talking about themselves, they would rather rake over other peoples short comings. Prediction: Star Jones’ “Satan’s Sisters” becomes a best seller.


Star Jones Talks "Celebrity Apprentice," Calls NeNe Leakes "Unladylike"

It's been a busy week for Star Jones. The "Celebrity Apprentice" star stopped by "The Wendy Williams Show" yesterday to address her drama with NeNe Leakes, promote her new novel Satan's Sisters and raise awareness about heart disease.

With NeNe Leakes bashing Star Jones even moment she gets, it's about time we got a response from the Queen Bee herself. During a stop by the "Wendy" show yesterday she told Wendy she will not be engaging in a public spat with NeNe.

"I am an educated African American woman I am not going to lower myself. Period. Bar none."

She continued,

"Did I sleep with her and forget to call the next day? Because I am starting to feel that way. Have you ever had an experience where someone talks about you again and again and again?"

Star also talked about the open heart surgery she had one year ago. She has raised a lot of money for the American Heart Association both on "Celebrity Apprentice" and in her personal time.


Anna Chapman's new Russian TV Show 'Secrets of the World' exposes 'mysteries,' just not hers

Russian spy Anna Chapman gave a rare English-language interview to the BBC on Sunday.
Russian spy Anna Chapman gave a rare English-language interview to the BBC on Sunday.
Anna Chapman's hosts Russian TV series, 'Secrets of the World.' CLICK PHOTO TO SEE MORE PICS OF RUSSIAN SPY.
Anna Chapman's hosts Russian TV series, 'Secrets of the World.' CLICK PHOTO TO SEE MORE PICS OF RUSSIAN SPY.
The red-headed Russian booted from the U.S. for spying says her new TV show is all about spilling secrets, but swears hers won't be among them.
Anna Chapman, the sexy spy busted in Manhattan along with several others last year for espionage, hosts a new series on Russian TV called "Secrets of the World."
"Everyone is interested in mysteries because they are secrets, they are unsolved," she said in a rare English-language interview with the BBC in Moscow on Sunday.
Her TV show boasts episodes such as "Astrology" and "Wizards of the 21st Century."
But don't look to see a segment about her secret agent exploits.
"Absolutely not," the 28-year-old said with a laugh. "No comments."
In fact, Chapman refuses to admit she was a spy - but she's not denying it either.
"Who told you I was an agent?" she asked the interviewer with a coy smile. "As I said before, numerous times, I will never deny and I will never confirm the fact."
Chapman recently launched her own Russian-language website,, and is reportedly plotting a run for political office as a member of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.
But she remained firm in her refusal to share personal information.
"All I'm going to say is I'm interested in helping other people," she told the BBC. "That's all."


Henry Cavill Lifting Weights and Fight Training for "Superman" Reboot

Henry Cavill Lifting Weights and Fight Training for Superman Reboot
In an interview with ScreenRant, director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) revealed that Henry Cavill is putting on muscle and learning to fight for the upcoming "Superman" reboot.

"Henry is gonna be hitting the iron pretty hard," he said. Producer Deborah Snyder added: "They've put him on a plan. He has started in England and as of April 1st we have him full time with us for all that training."

Cavill is getting in shape with the help of Mark Twight, who trained all the actors in "300." Meanwhile, Damon Caro ("300" fight choreographer) will be teaching the actor how to fight.


Zack Snyder Explains Choosing Henry Cavill For Superman Role

'I think Henry just has this innocence,' filmmaker said of his choice for 'Man of Steel.'

 ne drawback in making comic book movies, particularly those that involve one of the most recognizable characters of all time, is that no matter how excited fans are about the project, the people involved with the film aren't allowed to talk about it.

Case in point, Zack Snyder's super (pun intended) highly-anticipated "Superman" reboot, tentatively titled "Man of Steel." When MTV News caught up with the director during the press day for his epic action fantasy "Sucker Punch" on Friday (March 18), we did our best to squeeze some information out of him about the direction in which he plans to take the film. But try as we might, Snyder's lips were mostly sealed.

"It's a super-secret thing!" he said after a few failed attempts at getting some scoop. "It's like building a stealth bomber."
That said, despite our seemingly stealthy line of questioning, we were only able to eke out a few thoughts from Snyder regarding his choice for the film's lead actor, Henry Cavill, versus his second choice, "True Blood" actor Joe Manganiello.
"Henry's just ... I love Joe too, by the way," Snyder said. "Really he was the only other guy I was thinking of, to be honest, other than Henry. But in the end, I think Henry just has this innocence too [in addition to the look and physicality required for the role], he has both, which is tricky," he explained. "Superman needs the teeniest bit of that. Not to be overt, but you like it to be there ever so slightly. I mean, he grew up in Kansas, that's just true, so you need a little of that [innocence]."
Regarding Snyder's rumored plans to make his new Superman more physical, the "300" director once again laughed at our detail-oriented line of questioning.
"I can't answer that!" he exclaimed, and then complimented our detail-digging efforts. "Because if I say, that is what will be the thing [that everyone will run with]."




They almost played superheroes

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Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were eyeing the part of Superman.
Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were eyeing the part of Superman.
HOLLYWOOD -- Look! Up in the Sky! It's Christopher Reeve! It's Brandon Routh! It's ... who the heck is that guy, anyway?
Welcome to the ever-changing world of superhero movie casting, where one minute you're flying high and the next, you've been given the reboot.
By now you might have heard that one Henry Cavill will be donning the blue tights when Superman: Man of Steel begins shooting in Vancouver this summer.
Unless you're an avid viewer of The Tudors, in which Cavill plays the part of Charles Brandon, first duke of Suffolk, you may not yet be familiar with the handsome 27 year old, which is just how the movie's producers prefer it.
They're following in the Superman tradition of casting non-marquee names to sport the mighty S shield, but that doesn't mean a slew of A-listers weren't clamouring for the part.
Such as?
Such as Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Jenner.
Back in the mid-'70s they were all considered as the guy most likely to leap tall buildings before a 24-year-old TV soap opera actor called Christopher Reeve ultimately flew off with the coveted role.
Also in the running -- we kid you not -- were Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone, hot off the smash success of Rocky.
When it came time for the 2006 Bryan Singer relaunch, Superman Returns, Routh, whose previous experience including being an extra in Christina Aguilera's What A Girl Wants video, was chosen over a bunch of bigger names that had been making the rounds.
They included Nicolas Cage, Josh Hartnett, Keanu Reeves, Paul Walker, Ashton Kutcher, Brendan Fraser, Jim Caviezel and Will Smith.
Prior to the announcement of Cavill (the first non-American to be cast in the role) for the Zack Snyder-directed, re-reboot, other names being floated included Jon Hamm, John Cena, True Blood's Joe Manganiello and Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder.
From the Man of Steel to the Caped Crusader, when they were casting the lead of 1989's Batman, there was a little tug of war going on.
The studio wanted an action star while director Tim Burton preferred to go with an unknown.
They settled on the inspired choice of Michael Keaton, whom Burton previously directed in Beetlejuice, but along the lengthy road to development, those names being bandied about included Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Tom Selleck, Pierce Brosnan and even Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray.
Cut to the 2005 Christopher Nolan reinvention, Batman Begins.
Before they landed on Christian Bale to play The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. was eyeing the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson, Cillian Murphy and Billy Crudup to go the cape-and-cowl route.
So there you go -- despite the many muck-ups that have taken place in the painstakingly protracted comic book-to-big screen process, Hollywood has occasionally managed to actually get it right, with Keaton and Bale being among the smarter choices.
And while it remains to be seen whether or not the incoming Cavill has the right stuff, and the jury's still out on the late Christopher Reeve, just remember, at one point in time it could've been Stallone going up, up and away.
"Yo, Lois!"
Michael Rechtshaffen, a Canadian entertainment writer based in Los Angeles, appears Wednesdays and Sundays


Adams is Superman's new Lois Lane

Oscar nominee Amy Adams will steal the heart of new Superman Henry Cavill after landing the role of Lois Lane in the upcoming reboot of the comic book franchise.

The Fighter star learned on Sunday she would be putting on her reporter's hat on after receiving the good news from director Zack Snyder.

The filmmaker admits it was no easy task casting the highly-coveted part - but he knew Adams was the one from the moment he saw her.

"There was a big, giant search for Lois. For us it was a big thing and obviously a really important role," he tells the Los Angeles Times.

"We did a lot of auditioning but we had this meeting with Amy Adams and after that I just felt she was perfect for it."

The actress is the latest big name to join Snyder's new project - Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were recently confirmed to play Superman's parents.



Anna Chapman Lingerie (VIDEO, PHOTO) Launches 3D Production Company

Real-life "femme fatale" Anna Chapman, who is known for her sexy spy allegations in the media, has revealed to BBC that she plans to launch her own production company in the very near future. Anna Chapman, now living in Moscow, was a Russian national who was recently convicted in America of conspiracy to act as a secret agent gathering intelligence for a foreign government. Chapman was deported back to Russia along with nine other individuals in the July Russia-United States Prisoner Swap.
Since her arrest became public, Chapman, a rather beautiful woman, became known in the US tabloids as a "femme fatale". She left the United States a spy, and entered back into Russia a sex symbol. Scantily-clad in a blue top and panties, Anna posed brandishing a deadly weapon and killer sex-appeal for Maxim Magazine last year. Her fiery red hair and pale green eyes landed her on Maxim's list of Russia's 100 sexiest women.


Anna Chapman: Agent provocateur

When she was arrested in an FBI sting in a Manhattan coffee shop last June on charges of espionage, it looked like Anna Chapman would disappear into obscurity in Russia. Less than a year later she's the darling of the country's media, has her own TV show and is tipped as a rising star of the political right

Anna Chapman on TV
State secret: among her many new roles, Chapman now presents a weekly “investigative” TV show called Mysteries of the World with Anna Chapman. Photograph: Photoshot
Anna Chapman, the "sultry Russian secret agent" who hit the headlines last year after being exposed as a deep-cover operative in the United States, says she bears no ill will towards the man who betrayed her. And why should she? Since being freed as part of a dramatic spy swap deal in Vienna in July 2010, the flame-haired daughter of a Russian career diplomat has rarely been out of the limelight, taking up a number of lucrative job offers and positioning herself for a move into big-time politics. "It was the start of something great and beautiful," Chapman gushed on a recent Russian TV show. Or, as she puts it on her newly launched website: "The day I returned to Moscow was my second birthday."
It wasn't hard to predict that only good things awaited Chapman once she was safely back in Russia. The country's all-powerful premier, Vladimir Putin, had said that Chapman and her former comrades would "work in worthy places" and have "bright, interesting lives".
"Every single one of these people has gone through a difficult time… in the interests of their homeland," said Putin, the ex-KGB officer. And while a number of her former colleagues have reportedly been rewarded with cushy posts at state-run companies, it is Chapman's star that has risen by far the highest.
A month after their deportation, Putin joined up with the failed spies for a karaoke-type evening, where they crooned together the Soviet-era song – and unofficial Russian intelligence service anthem – "From Where the Motherland Begins". After that cosy night out, things moved fast for Chapman. She was awarded a top state honour by President Dmitry Medvedev, posed for erotic – and lucrative – photos for men's magazines, and was handed her own primetime TV show. She did, however, turn down a role in a porn film, despite being offered a "substantial" fee by the Vivid Entertainment adult-film company.
Chapman has also been made the face of the ruling United Russia party's youth movement and has been tipped to win a seat in parliament in upcoming elections. On top of all this, she has registered her surname as a trademark; has brought out a poker app and a slew of Chapman-own products, including perfume, watches and vodka, is expected to hit the shops soon. The 29-year-old provincial Russian also has a Max Clifford-type agent to handle "commercial projects", which include highly paid interviews and photo shoots.
The irony is, of course, that Anna Chapman is being rewarded for doing her job badly. Not only was she duped by the FBI into blowing her cover, but she apparently failed to turn up any useful information for Moscow. Espionage charges were not brought against a single member of the spy ring, as there was no indication that any classified information had been accessed. Prosecutors instead had to settle for charges of "failure to declare foreign agent status" and money laundering. Chapman and the other nine agents were exchanged for just four American spies. As US vice president Joe Biden put it: "We got back four really good ones. And the 10, they've been here a long time, but they hadn't done much."
Unlike Britain, with its traditional fondness for incompetence, Russia has never been known for its willingness to celebrate defeat. Is Chapman's unlikely fame an indication of a startling new Russian mindset? Not quite. In an Orwellian feat of reinterpretation, dominant state-run media outlets have portrayed the Chapman saga as a feelgood story, her life held up as something to be envied, aspired to. Over New Year, the Channel One TV station ran a This is Your Life-style tribute to Chapman, described by the host as "without any exaggeration, the woman of the year". The programme kicked off with shaky home-video footage of the spy-to-be as a Soviet schoolgirl reciting poetry and giggling into the camera before Chapman herself, dressed in a figure-hugging green outfit, strode into the studio to warm applause from the audience. "I have to say, you look even better than in your photos," the host enthused. During the hour-long programme, Chapman's childhood friends, grandmother and "first love" were all rolled out to pay tribute, and Chapman had the good grace to blush a red as deep as her hair. "She is worthy of applause because she worked abroad for our nation," a celebrity guest – Soviet-era TV star Anna Shatilova – exclaimed.
Chapman didn't give much away during the show, sticking to cliché and aphorism for the most part. When asked about her deportation from the US, she replied: "I believe that everything that happens is for the best." She did, however, drop a hint about a possible new television role. "Watch your screens next year," she advised viewers. "I'll reveal all the secrets."
This turned out to be her catchphrase as presenter of Mysteries of the World with Anna Chapman, a weekly "investigative" show that launched in January. "The most mysterious woman in Russia presents the most mysterious show," the programme's producer Mikhail Tukmachev promised in promo ads.
In the first episode Chapman looked into claims that verses from the Koran had been appearing on the skin of a young boy from Russia's North Caucasus republic of Dagestan. Not that Chapman actually visited the volatile region, home to more than 50% of terrorist attacks in Russia in 2010. For that a – presumably expendable – male reporter was dispatched, leaving Chapman to pop up on the screen every now and then in an eye-catching red and black outfit. Subsequent shows have seen similar studio-based investigations by Chapman into topics including demonic possession and the fate of St Petersburg's famous lost Amber Room, which disappeared after being looted by Nazi troops in the Second World War. In case you were wondering, she didn't find it.
Ren TV, one of the few non state-run television companies left in Russia, screens the show. But producer Tukmachev denies that the appearance of a figure with obvious Kremlin connections is a sign that the channel is slowly losing whatever modicum of independence it may enjoy. "Nothing has changed at the channel since the arrival of Chapman," he tells me. "As you can see, there is nothing political about the programme at all.
"The idea for the show came about quite spontaneously," Tukmachev adds. "I was having a meeting with Chapman, and we came up with the theme of mysteries – one that both of us find interesting. She had no previous experience, of course, but she learns quicker than most."
But why did the show's glamorous presenter not get out and about and try to uncover the truth herself? Why was she largely confined to a sterile Moscow studio?
  Promoting her poker app. Photograph: Splash News "Well, she can't do everything," Tukmachev says.
And yet, not CONTENT with conquering the world of show business, Chapman is also carving out a career for herself as a politician. In late 2010 she joined the leadership of Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guard), the youth wing of Putin's United Russia. The movement – along with a similar group called Nashi (Ours) – is widely viewed as a potential Kremlin weapon against what officials here nervously call the "orange scenario", a reference to the street protest-inspired revolution that swept pro-western politician Viktor Yushchenko to power in neighbouring Ukraine in 2004. In 2005 the then-Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko announced that if such a thing were ever to occur in Russia he would make one call to his "colleagues in the Spartak Moscow FC fan movement", and they would "assemble 5,000 of their supporters to chase away those who came out on the streets in support of western-backed politicians".
Moscow remains nervous about the possibility of an Egypt-style uprising. Young Guard was recently instructed by Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov to get ready for the 2011 parliamentary and 2012 presidential polls. "Prepare yourselves for the elections, and train your brains and your muscles," he told group members at a meeting in Moscow in December. "The polls must be won by Medvedev, Putin and United Russia." Surkov's pep talk came shortly after Young Guard had posted images of a number of "traitor" journalists on its website with the words "Will Be Punished" stamped on them.
One of the journalists, Oleg Kashin, who had written extensively about pro-Kremlin and United Russia youth groups, was later beaten almost to death outside his home by unidentified assailants. Young Guard denied any involvement and took Kashin's photo off its site.
Naturally this unpleasantness was missing from Chapman's debut speech at a Young Guard congress late last year. A wisp of hair hanging over one eye, a smiling Chapman urged some 2,000 delegates to "transform the future, starting with ourselves". "If all of us were joyful, we could do something useful and new," she continued over the low-level buzz of chatter. "There would," she revealed, "be less negativity in society if every single one of us woke up with a smile on our face." Chapman declined to reveal how Russians were to put aside the country's most crippling problems – corruption, alcoholism and rampant police brutality, to name just three – and start the day with a ready-made grin. She made a speedy exit, avoiding waiting journalists with the "deftness of a former secret agent", as one blogger put it. The speech was much played on Russian TV.
Like her political message, Chapman's role in the Young Guard movement has so far been unclearly defined. One week she is helping to "educate the youth of Russia" and "increase patriotism", while the next she is advising on "business issues" or "modernisation". Young Guard leader Timur Prokopenko dubbed his newest recruit "a hero of her generation". I call him to clarify. "Well, her biography and everything that has been written about her has made her very popular – a hero – among students and young girls," he tells me. But did he share their attitude? "As the leader of a youth organisation," he replies tactfully, "I am obliged to support their opinion."
Chapman may not be confined to youth politics for long. United Russia has pencilled her in as a candidate for December's parliamentary polls, and she is expected to stand – and win – in her hometown of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. "The party needs young beautiful girls," senior United Russia official Frants Klintsevich commented. "She can bring more supporters with her. She's a smart, sharp person." Or as former newsreader and political analyst Samir Shakhbaz told me: "She's kind of a role model, and she has lots of fans. She lived the dream of many young people here to be a 007-type figure, or at least the Russian version of it."
United Russia's ranks are already swelling with celebrities, from footballers Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko to a host of domestic pop and rock stars. One famous face Chapman will not be meeting at rallies, however, is former Bolshoi Theatre prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, who angrily quit the party last month. "They weren't interested in any projects I suggested," she explained. "They just used me to advertise the party. And I have no desire to prostitute myself." In Chapman – dubbed "Agent 90-60-90" by Russian tabloids because of her centimetre figure measurements – United Russia has a ready-made replacement for the glamorous Volochkova. And one that – for now at least – has no objections to being used solely for her looks and fame.
But despite her ubiquity, it's arguable whether Chapman is popular among ordinary Russians. As ever in this country, it's the internet where people's true feelings find a voice. And Russia's assorted bloggers and message-board users seem to be unequivocal in their disdain.
"Citizen of the world Anna Chapman is undoubtedly the major hero of our vast country," writes one user on Live Journal – Russia's most popular blogging platform. "We all also dream of dropping our knickers abroad and stealing enemy secrets." "A true symbol of our time!" offers another. "How we need such people! Those ready to join whatever they are told to! To sleep with whomever they are told to!" Other comments are more explicit, involving combinations of the words "Putin" and "whore".
Ex-spies are supposed to disappear quietly, and Chapman's lust for publicity has upset many former members of the Russian intelligence community. "No real professional would act like this. It's a disgrace to see how she is cashing in on her past," an ex-operative said on the day of her television debut. "After all," he added, after insisting on anonymity, "it's not like she did anything she should be proud of."
It can seem that Chapman has been thrust upon the Russians. But it's not so easy to fathom why. Is she simply a sharp operator who has skilfully turned disaster into triumph? Or is she being manipulated, willingly or otherwise, by the powers that be? For now Chapman is giving almost nothing away. Not for free, anyhow.
Marc Bennetts is the author of Football Dynamo (Virgin Books) and is now writing a book about Russia's fascination with the occult


Russia's ex-spy Anna Chapman launches website amid rumors of political run

The former secret agent has launched a flashy website to promote a sprouting career. Anna Chapman's potential bid for Russian parliament is rumored to have backing from Vladimir Putin's political party.

Former Russian spy Anna Chapman, seen in this Dec. 14, 2010 file photo, has launched a flashy website to promote her sprouting new careers in television, modeling, charity and – if the rumors are true – a political run for the State Duma this December as a candidate for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.
Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters/File


Anna Chapman Goes Online

Anna Chapman, the bombshell Russian spy, has a new website. It's only in Russian... but as a Russian speaker who spent 15 years as a reporter in Russia, I can try to translate this curious little glimpse into Chapman's world.
Anyone can sign on to and enjoy a multitude of official photos, no matter what any language you speak. Check out the "personal photos" section, on the bottom left of the home page, for a slide show of Chapman looking sultry and sporty.
But the part you need Russian to understand is the contacts section. It lists five, count 'em, five different press people to keep the Anna Chapman juggernaut moving along:

  • One for "charities, orphans and volunteer groups."
  • One for questions of "joint projects, investments and innovations."
  • One for "questions about her show on the Russian tv network Ren-TV."
  • One for advertising and "product placement" for her show, which is called "Secrets of the World."
  • And one for "questions of a commercial nature and PR."
Note that not one of those five press officers seems to be the point person for interview requests that don't involve commerce or public relations -- say, ones from ordinary journalists. It's all about making money.
That seems at odds with the rather humble personal message Chapman gives on the home page of the site. "Before I returned to Moscow in July 2010, I strove to achieve personal harmony and was more concerned with my own happiness," she writes. "But in time my ideology changed. I understand that we grasp the fullness and meaning of life in our desire and efforts to help those around us."
Anna's already somewhat overexposed in Russia ...pun intended. She posed nearly nude for the Russian version of Maxim, and has been working as eye candy for a Russian bank.
What's really much more interesting and telling is how Chapman been embraced by officialdom since returning to Russia in last summer's Soviet-style spy swap. She's become the poster girl for patriotism.
When I was in Moscow for New Year's, I was awestruck to see that Anna was invited on national television to give a toast to her countrymen just minutes before the Russian president himself came on to usher in the New Year. You don't get that kind of place of honor unless the men in the Kremlin approve.
And now those same officials have asked Chapman to run for the Russian parliament when elections are next held in December. Since the Russian system works off party lists rather than by the kind of direct elections we have for Congress in America, she'll be a shoo-in as long as President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin put her towards the top of the slate. Chapman has already been working for the youth wing of their political party, which is getting her another big shot of publicity.
Anna might have been a bush-league spy, but she has certainly learned how to be a first-rate self-promoter. And her new site shows she's now got a big team to help.
Check it out...or if espionage is not your thing, then go to, which is the site for a Florida doll maker. That website sells some lovely hand-sculpted dolls but, surprisingly, not one of them looks Russian.
For more information on my guidebook for young journalists co-written with my CBS News colleague Mike Wallace, please go to


Udoedehe’s popularity soars amid plans for trial in Uyo

•Senior lawyers condemn arraignment
Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State Senator John Udoedehe is likely to be arraigned in Uyo this week over last week’s violence in the state.
Udoedehe was charged with treason at a Federal High Court in Abuja after accepting Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim’s invitation.
But senior lawyers have faulted Udoedehe’s arraignment as unsustainable. "They also argued that the candidate cannot be arraigned for treason when some people committed arson, adding that Udehedehe was not arrested at the scene of the crime.
Besides, they said it was wrong to arraign him in Abuja over an offence allegedly committed in Akwa Ibom.
Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) said: "We are going to the court tomorrow (today)."
He said the court would determine the propriety of Udoedehe’s arrest.
The court on Friday turned down the oral application for bail by his lawyers and requested for a written submission today.
The ACN candidate’s campaign team came under severe attack in Ikot Ekpene.
Nine ACN supporters were shot dead. Scores were injured. The campaign was aborted.
The assailants claimed that apart from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), no other party is allowed to campaign in Annang land, with headquarters in Ikot Ekpene. Governor Godswill Akpabio, the PDP candidate, is Annang.
After the attack on the AC N team, there was arson in Uyo for which Udoedehe was arrested. The ACN said his detention and arraignment is politically-motivated and called for his release,
Following his arrest, Udoedehe’s popularity has soared, even as the ACN has raised the alarm over an alleged plan to arrest his running mate Chief Ime Umana and the ACN state chair, Chief Aniekan Akpan.
The plan to arraign Udoedehe in Uyo may suffer a setback as a result of the two-month-old strike by judiciary workers in the state, it was gathered. But the state government, according to sources, is negotiating with the workers to ensure their return. Sources said the state government is now ready to meet their demands, so that they could return to work and facilitate the arraignment of the ACN candidate. Akpan described this move as another "act of desperation by the drowning Akpabio government".
Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) said the charge cannot stand because, to him, the facts do not amount to treason.
He said the ingredients of the charge are not treasonable, as the accused did not do anything that could be said to be a threat to the Federal Government or the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.
"What are the ingredients upon which they concluded that he committed treason? Did he make any attempt to take over power from Jonathan? From what we have read on the facts, the charge cannot stand," he said.
The eminent lawyer added that Udoedehe ought to have been charged in Akwa Ibom - if indeed he committed any offence.
Fagbohungbe said with the development, politics in Nigeria is being taken to a "ridiculous point".
"How did the police arrive at the conclusion that he committed treason? Have they concluded investigation? How many people did they interrogate in so short a time?
"I think it is politically-motivated. They charged him with treason, which is not bail-able, in order to keep him in detention. I don’t think the development is good for Nigerian politics," he said.
Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) said the charge against Udoedehe was purely politically motivated.
He said it was wrong to single out the accused for prosecution, as he could have been killed in the crisis.
Ngige said the riot escalated partly because Udoedehe’s supporters got false information that he had been killed.
According to him, it was, therefore, partisan on the part of the government to arraign him on a charge of treason when it was a clash between opposing political groups.
"It is wrong for the police to take sides in this type of dispute," he said.
Dr Joseph Nwobike (SAN) said Udoedehe’s arraignment is in bad taste. He urged President Goodluck Jonathan to order his immediate release.
He said: "It’s unfortunate that the ACN governorship candidate will be arrested and charged at this time when there is intense political electioneering.
"It is obvious that what happened was a battle between two political groups. So, why single out and arrest only the ACN candidate?
"It is settled law that it is where an alleged offence is committed that the accused will be charged and prosecuted. So, the entire scenario is suspect.
"President Jonathan must direct the immediate release of Udoedehe while the Inspector-General of Police should refrain from making hasty conclusions. He should, instead, conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.
"I think the ACN candidate’s arrest, charge of treason and detention in Abuja is in bad taste."--


Top Analyst Upgrades & Downgrades (ACN, ALU, ARMH, SID, CPX, BEN, MON, NOK, SIVB, TXN)

These are some of the top analyst upgrades, downgrades, and initiations seen from Wall Street research calls this Monday morning.
Accenture PLC (NYSE: ACN) Reiterated Buy with $62 target at Argus.
Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) Raised to Buy at Goldman Sachs; Raised target to $7 at BofA/ML.
ARM Holdings PLC (NASDAQ: ARMH) Started as Neutral at Cowen.
Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (NYSE: SID) Maintained Underperform as Bear of the Day at Zacks.
Complete Production Services, Inc. (NYSE: CPX) Cut to Neutral at Credit Suisse.
Franklin Resources, Inc. (NYSE: BEN) Raised to Outperform as Bull of the Day at Zacks.
Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) Reiterated Buy at Argus.
Nokia Corporation (NYSE: NOK) Raised to Buy at Goldman Sachs.
SVB Financial Group (NASDAQ: SIVB) Raised to Outperform and $61 target at Credit Suisse.
Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) Reiterated Buy at BofA/ML.
You can join our free daily email distribution list to hear more about analyst upgrades and downgrades, top day trader and active trader alerts, dividend trends, news on Buffett and other investment gurus, IPOs, secondary offerings, private equity, and more.


Reps candidate seeks equitable revenue allocation

AFUZE – The need for a fair and equitable revenue allocation formula which will ensure true federalism and enable federating states touch the lives of Nigerians through provision of infrastructural facilities has been stressed.

The immediate past Secretary to Edo State Government, Hon. Pally Iriase who is Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate for Owan Federal Constituency, emphasised this while addressing a crowded rally of party faithful in Owan East Local Government Area.

He vowed to champion a new revenue formula that will be friendly to other tiers of government if elected into the National Assembly.

The campaign tour of Action Congress of Nigeria, tagged “Operation total sweep”, recorded an impressive turn out of party supporters and former members of the Peoples Democratic Party, who defected to ACN.

In all the communities visited by the ACN campaign train, the rich cultural heritage of the Owan people were brought to the fore, as the various communities rolled out drums to accord the ACN campaign train a heroic reception.

Addressing the rallies at the various communities, Hon. Pally Iriase said the forthcoming general elections provides an opportunity to reward effective performance as demonstrated by the ACN administration in Edo State, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

The immediate past Secretary to Edo State Government told the enthusiastic crowd of party supporters at Ihievbe-Ogben, Igue-Oke, and Ikao that the state government is committed to the timely completion of the Ihievbe-Ogben-Otuo Road currently under construction.

The House of Representatives hopeful received more members of PDP from Uokha, and Ake where he assured that the endless water scarcity in the various communities will soon be a thing of the past as the state government has purchased two drilling rigs currently sinking water boreholes in Edo Central and other difficult areas.

Hon. Pally Iriase told party supporters at Afuze, Ojavun, Evbiamen, Eteye, Okpokhumi and Ogute of the present administration’s readiness to address infrastructural decay at Micheal Imoudu College of Physical Education, assuring that the 2011 budget has adequate provision for the facelift of the college.

Hon. Pally Iriase said the rural integration drive of the present administration is designed to open up rural roads neglected by the previous administration; to boost agricultural production and stimulate socio-economic development.

The indigenes of Otuo in wards eight and nine where the campaign train of Action Congress of Nigeria recorded an impressive outing, were full of praises for the Oshiomhole-led administration in view of the landmark projects being executed in various part of the state.

The House of Representatives candidate stressed the need for the electorate to guide their votes tenaciously, adding that the era of manipulation of elections by the PDP is gone.

Hon. Pally Iriase, Hon. Foly Ogedengbe who is seeking re-election to represent Owan East constituency at the State House of Assembly spoke on his mission.

The Chairman, Owan East Local Government Council, Alhaji Sufiyanu Igbafen, attended the rallies.