Wednesday, February 11, 2009


BANGKOK (AFP) - - The Thai government on Wednesday chastised US actress Angelina Jolie and the United Nations refugee agency for commenting on boat people from Myanmar, whom the Thai army stands accused of abusing.

Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt visited a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border last week, and the Hollywood actress urged the Thai government to respect the rights of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group from Myanmar.

Thailand's military has recently been accused of detaining and beating hundreds of Rohingya who fled abuse and poverty in Myanmar , before towing them back out to sea in ill-equipped boats with little food and water.

"Angelina was not focused on the Rohingya, but was visiting Myanmar refugee camps," said Virasakdi Futrakul, permanent secretary of the Thai foreign ministry.

"It was a coincidence that the Rohingya was a hot news issue at the time, therefore we must warn (UN refugee agency) UNHCR that they should not comment on this issue because they have no mandate on this issue."

Virasakdi also said that the UNHCR should not have brought Jolie, its goodwill ambassador, to one of the nine refugee camps stringing the Thai-Myanmar border which are run by Thailand's interior ministry.

"The Thai government will issue a reprimand letter to UNHCR asking why it allowed Angelina Jolie to visit the refugee camps," Virasakdi told reporters.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR spokeswoman in Bangkok, told AFP that both Jolie and Pitt had camp passes issued by the Ministry of Interior, and said the visit was arranged with the cooperation of the foreign ministry.

While touring the northern Ban Mai Nai Soi camp home to 18,000 refugees from Myanmar, Jolie said she hoped Thailand would be "just as generous to the Rohingya refugees who are now arriving on their shores."

Hundreds of Rohingya have been found adrift at sea off the coasts of India and Indonesia in the last few months, with many of the migrants giving similar accounts of mistreatment and abandonment at the hands of the Thais.

Thailand has denied the claims of cruelty, but has taken a harsh stance toward the boat people. They insist the Rohingya are economic migrants and say they will not be offered any refuge in the kingdom.

"We have the right to arrest them ... we will not set up holding centres for the Rohingya but will put them in prisons," said Virasakdi.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Golden retriever was found in 27-below weather in rural Montana

HELENA, Mont. - A golden retriever named Buck that darted from his owners last summer after being spooked by a train whistle and went missing for six months is back home in Washington state, thanks to several residents of rural north-central Montana.

The 7-year-old dog survived despite apparently spending most of the winter exposed to heavy snow and temperatures well below zero before he was found taking refuge under a collapsed building.

"I've never had a miracle happen to me, so I don't really know what to think," said Kim Halter of Bonney Lake, Wash.

Halter said she, her husband and two of their sons were on a family trip to Montana in August when they stopped at a rest stop along U.S. Highway 2 in the small town of Chester.

"The dog was normally never on a leash. Big mistake," Halter said Thursday. "But he was always next to my son. He never left his side, so we never really had a problem.

"We were under the trestle when the horn blew. When Buck heard the whistle, he took off like a shot. None of us even saw him."

Halter said Maxine Woods, who lives across the highway, was waving her arms and trying to tell them that their dog ran away.

"He just basically disappeared," Woods said Friday. "He was just going faster than any dog I've seen run."

Woods joined the search for the dog.

Town helped, but no Buck
"She got in her car and then she started calling people and before you knew it everybody around there was looking for our dog," Halter said. After two days of unsuccessful searching, the Halters, brokenhearted, resumed their travels.

"We went to the library and the librarian in Chester made us posters and wouldn't charge us a dime for them," Halter said. The family put up posters in banks and post offices in the small towns around the area.

"That was about all we could do," she said.

After a few false sightings, the family didn't hear anything for six months.

As fall turned into winter, heavy snow fell in the Chester area and temperatures occasionally fell into the 20-below-zero range.

"Every time we'd hear about the weather we would just cringe," Halter said. "I would just cry even harder, thinking 'Where is my Buck?' And of course I couldn't let my son (17-year-old Jason) know. I never let him see me cry because he kept the faith and kept the hope.

"He would tell me all the time that Buck's coming home," she said of her son, who had had the dog since it was a puppy. "He actually thought he was going to walk home like in (the movie) 'Homeward Bound.'"

27 below when Buck was spotted
It was about 27 degrees below zero early on Jan. 25, the day Jason Wanken spotted a stray dog on his family farm just north of Chester.

"We spotted this dog out here on the farm, just on and off, going through the creek and whatnot," Wanken said. "We just never had a prime opportunity to go over and get him."

Later in the week, Wanken used a snowmobile to bring some food to the dog, which had taken up residence under a collapsed building.

Wanken's mother had remembered the name of the golden retriever that had gone missing last summer and told Wanken to see if the dog would answer to the name Buck.

"The next day, I took the boys out with me and I had a full bag of food with me and I just rattled that bag," he said. "I started to feed it and could actually pet it then."

Wanken and his wife were able to use food to lure the dog into a kennel and took the dog to Wood's house.

"I thought it couldn't be this dog, though, it's been too long," Wanken said.

Woods called Halter on Saturday, Jan. 31.

"She e-mailed me three pictures and when I was on the phone with her I received the pictures, and we both started crying and I said that was him," Halter said.

Underbite confirmed find
Confirmation that the dog had an underbite sent the Halters on a 750-mile trip. "We drove all night," she said, arriving in Chester Sunday afternoon.

"When we got to the Wankens, he ran right up to us and it was absolutely without a doubt him," Halter said. "It was a miracle. He looked at us and we looked at him and we were all crying. It was beyond amazing."

No one seems to know where Buck had been between Aug. 13 and Jan. 25.

"From the time he left us until the time Jason Wanken found him, there is no clue where he's been or what he's done," Halter said. "Only he knows. I almost feel like taking him to a pet psychic to see if they could tell me. Only he knows his secret and he's keeping it to himself.

"I tell ya one thing, he hasn't stopped smiling since he got home and neither have we."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Besides Charice who is performing at the pre-inaugural ball for Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., presumably on Jan. 18, there’s another Filipino in the event and she’s none other than Cristeta Comerford who has been retained as executive chef of the White House.

This is pointed out by Funfare’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre (of The Filipino Reporter) who said that before the actual inauguration day on Jan. 20, “There will be a series of pre-inaugural and post-inaugural events like the Oscars, you know, pre-Oscar events and then several parties during the awards night itself, such as the Elton John party, Vanity Fair ball, etc.).”

Added Edmund, “If the Obamas will watch Charice’s pre-inaugural performance, big deal ito talaga kasi I heard hundreds of performers and their handlers (even those outside the US) are lobbying to be able to perform in any of these events. This is a historic event, first African American president kasi, eh. Many said this is the final nail in the coffin of racism in America.”

Ang saya! exclaimed Edmund.

“Also attending pala is another Filipino, Philippine Ambassador to the US Willy Gaa, along with the rest of the diplomatic community.”

Edmund sent to Funfare the following clipping of Jan. 8, 2009 issue of The New York Times carrying the story about Cristeta Comerford, titled “No Change Brewing in the White House Kitchen” bylined Rachel L. Swarns:

Some prominent foodies have been clamoring for change in the White House kitchen. But President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have decided that Cristeta Comerford, the executive chef at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, will stay put, a transition official said on Thursday.

Ms. Comerford, the first woman to hold the executive chef post, has been in the job since 2005. And some gourmands have argued that that is long enough. Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine, sent a letter to Mr. Obama, along with restaurateurs Alice Waters and Danny Meyer, offering to help him select someone new for the job. Ms. Reichl said the White House could use a chef who cooks local and organic foods and picks some of it from the presidential garden.

But a transition official said that First Lady Laura Bush spoke very highly of Ms. Comerford and that the Obamas, who have two young daughters, also liked the fact that Ms. Comerford is a mother herself. Mrs. Bush’s office has praised Ms. Comerford in the past for creating “original dishes with American flavor.”

“They had heard a great deal about her from Mrs. Bush,’’ said the transition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The Bushs just loved her. There’s no need for making a change.’’

Ms. Reichl said she still hoped that the Obamas would use the White House kitchen as “a bully pulpit” to publicize their healthy eating habits, irrespective of who is doing the cooking.

“I’m sure that Ms. Comerford is completely capable of serving fabulous food to them,” Ms. Reichl said. “I would just hope that they would take this opportunity to use this bully pulpit as a way of saying, ‘We eat healthy, nutritious, locally-grown food.’ I think it would be a really easy way to have an influence on this obesity crisis in this country. I would really hope they would broadcast what they’re eating to the rest of us.”

Ms. Comerford is a naturalized citizen who came to the United States from the Philippines when she was 23. She has a bachelor’s degree in food technology from the University of the Philippines and has studied classic French cooking and worked in Austria. She also worked as chef at two Washington hotels. She joined the White House as an assistant chef in 1995.

Her predecessor, Walter Scheib III, who was hired by Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, was fired by Mrs. Bush in 2005. He said at the time that he had been unable “to satisfy the first lady’s stylistic requirements.’’

On Friday, the Obama transition team released a statement from Mrs. Obama about the family’s decision:

“Cristeta Comerford brings such incredible talent to the White House operation and came very highly regarded from the Bush family. Also the mom of a young daughter, I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families. I look forward to working with her in the years to come.”


SYDNEY (AFP) - - An Australian state is offering internationally what it calls "the best job in the world" -- earning a top salary for lazing around a beautiful tropical island for six months.

The job pays 150,000 Australian dollars (105,000 US dollars) and includes free airfares from the winner's home country to Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland's state government announced on Tuesday.

In return, the "island caretaker" will be expected to stroll the white sands, snorkel the reef, take care of "a few minor tasks" -- and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.

The successful applicant, who will stay rent-free in a three-bedroom beach home complete with plunge pool and golf buggy, must be a good swimmer, excellent communicator and be able to speak and write English.

"They'll also have to talk to media from time to time about what they're doing so they can't be too shy and they'll have to love the sea, the sun, the outdoors," said acting state Premier Paul Lucas.

"The fact that they will be paid to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel and generally live the Queensland lifestyle makes this undoubtedly the best job in the world."

Lucas said the campaign was part of a drive to protect the state's 18 billion Australian dollar a year tourism industry during the tough economic climate caused by the global financial meltdown.

"Traditional tourism advertising just doesn't cut it sometimes and we are thinking outside the box by launching this campaign."

Queensland Tourism Minister Desley Boyle said some people might question whether it was risky to let an unknown person become an unofficial tourism spokesperson for the state.

"I think the biggest risk will be that the successful candidate won't want to go home at the end of the six months," she said.

"This is a legitimate job which is open to anyone and everyone."

Applications are open until February 22. Eleven shortlisted candidates will be flown to Hamilton Island in early May for the final selection process and the six month contract will commence on July 1.

Job-seekers can apply on



ALL ABOUT STEVE: Sandra Bullock's a crossword-puzzle creator on a road trip in pursuit of her soul mate.

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC: A journalist (Isla Fisher) finds romance as she pursues her retail addiction.

DUPLICITY: Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are spies carrying on an affair amid a dangerous assignment.

FAST AND FURIOUS: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead the original cast of "The Fast and the Furious" into a new racing thriller.

FRIDAY THE 13TH: The slasher franchise goes back to its beginning with an update of the horror tale about killer Jason Voorhees.

HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE: Miley Cyrus brings her dual life as an ordinary school girl and pop star from TV to the big-screen.

HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson lead the cast of this ensemble romance.

THE INTERNATIONAL: Clive Owen and Naomi Watts lead a probe into banks that finance terrorism.

JONAS BROTHERS: THE 3-D CONCERT EXPERIENCE: The Disney stars follow the hit "Hannah Montana" flick with their own concert movie.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS: Reese Witherspoon leads the voice cast in an animated comedy about mutants battling an alien robot.

OBSERVE AND REPORT: Seth Rogen stars in the tale of an overzealous mall cop aiming to get into the police academy.

THE PINK PANTHER 2: Steve Martin's Inspector Clouseau bumbles through an investigation of stolen treasures.

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN: Dwayne Johnson's a cabbie aiding fugitive teens with special powers in a remake of "Escape to Witch Mountain."

17 AGAIN: Zac Efron and Matthew Perry star in a comedy about a middle-aged loser transformed back to his teen years.

THE SOLOIST: Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. star in a drama about a music prodigy living on the streets.

STATE OF PLAY: Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck star in a murder mystery set among the elite of Washington, D.C.

STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI: The video-game sensation is adapted into an action tale of warriors in Bangkok.

THE UGLY TRUTH: Romance is in the air for a lovelorn TV producer (Katherine Heigl) and a tough on-air personality (Gerard Butler).

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS: The roots of an ancient feud between vampires and werewolves are explored in this prequel.

WATCHMEN: A superhero's murder casts his old associates into the investigation of a global conspiracy against their kind.


ANGELS & DEMONS: Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard follow up "The Da Vinci Code" with this showdown between the Vatican and a secret brotherhood.

BRUNO: "Borat" star Sacha Baron Cohen takes another of his alter egos, Austrian fashionista Bruno, on the road.

DRAG ME TO HELL: "Spider-Man" and "Evil Dead" director Sam Raimi returns to his horror roots with this tale of a cursed woman.

FUNNY PEOPLE: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and director Judd Apatow aim for laughs with a serious story about a dying comedian.

G-FORCE: Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz are among the voice cast of an action comedy about guinea pigs trained as covert operatives.

GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST: Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner star in the tale of a womanizer visited by the spirits of his jilted exes.

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA: The Hasbro toys go into action in this tale of military operatives hunting an arms dealer.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS: Ray Romano and his prehistoric pals return in part three of the animated franchise.

I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER: Hayden Panettiere stars in a romance about a teen geek who gets his shot with the school hottie.

IMAGINE THAT: Eddie Murphy's a dad whose daughter's imaginary world holds the key to solving his personal crises.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Brad Pitt stars in Quentin Tarantino's World War II epic that's a throwback to "Dirty Dozen"-style war action.

LAND OF THE LOST: Will Ferrell's a scientist hurled into a world of dinosaurs in this update of the TV show.

MY SISTER'S KEEPER: Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin star in a drama about a girl conceived as a donor for her ailing sister.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN: The national museum comes alive in Ben Stiller's comedy sequel.

THE PROPOSAL: Sandra Bullock's a book editor trying to avoid deportation by marrying her harried assistant (Ryan Reynolds).

PUBLIC ENEMIES: Johnny Depp and Christian Bale star in Michael Mann's saga of Depression-era gangster John Dillinger.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3: Denzel Washington and John Travolta star in the remake about crooks who hijack a subway train for ransom.

TERMINATOR: SALVATION: Christian Bale leads humanity's remnants against machine enemies in the franchise's first flick without Arnold Schwarzenegger.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN: Shia LaBeouf and his giant Autobot buddies team up for a rematch against the tyrannical Decepticons.

2012: John Cusack stars in an action epic about the end of the world and what comes after.

UP: The latest from Pixar Animation ("WALL-E") follows the balloon adventure of an old man and a boy stowaway.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE: Hugh Jackman goes solo in a prequel to the "X-Men" movies spelling out the back-story of his mysterious superhero.

YEAR ONE: Jack Black and Michael Cera are primitive outcasts on an epic romp through ancient history.


ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL: The talking chipmunks return for part two of their big-screen adventures.

AVATAR: "Titanic" director James Cameron spins a sci-fi epic about a human-alien hybrid fighting for his people's survival.

DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL: Jim Carrey does multiple roles as Scrooge and the holiday ghosts in Robert Zemeckis' animated Dickens adaptation.

FAME: Students sing, dance and dream of stardom in a new take on the hit film and TV show about a school for performing arts.

THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX: George Clooney's the mouthpiece for a sly fox stealing chickens from dopey farmers in this animated comedy.

THE INFORMANT: Matt Damon stars in Steven Soderbergh's tale of a corporate whistle-blower with secrets of his own.

THE LOVELY BONES: Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings") directs Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz in a drama about a slain girl playing guardian angel for her family.

NEW MOON: Young love between an awkward teenager and an ageless vampire continues in the "Twilight" sequel starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

OLD DOGS: A bachelor and a divorced man (John Travolta and Robin Williams) become the unexpected caretakers of 6-year-old twins.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: Disney returns to old-school hand-drawn animation with an update of the classic frog prince fairy tale.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: Robert Downey Jr. has the lead in this latest take on literature's most-famous detective.

SHUTTER ISLAND: Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese pair up again for a story of U.S. marshals on a case at an insane asylum.

TOOTH FAIRY: It's tutu time for Dwayne Johnson, who plays a hockey player magically sentenced to serving a week as the mythical Tooth Fairy.

UP IN THE AIR: George Clooney's a corporate hatchet man whose job is in jeopardy due to corporate downsizing.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Director Spike Jonze adapts the children's classic about a boy with a fantastical world as his personal playground.

THE WOLFMAN: Benicio Del Toro turns werewolf in this new take on the horror classic that co-stars Anthony Hopkins.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Charice to perform at People Asia gala

Yes, Charice is going to Washington D.C. to sing at US President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural on Jan. 20. But before that, she will regale her own countrymen with a performance on Jan. 15 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in a formal gala marking People Asia magazine’s ninth anniversary. It was reportedly Oprah Winfrey, said to be Charice’s manager, who got Charice included in the list of artists performing at the historic event. Oprah is close to the Obamas. She campaigned for Barack in last year’s US election.

Charice is one of People Asia’s “People of the Year 2008” awardees, the youngest ever to receive the prestigious award.

To quote from the magazine’s special anniversary issue, “Charice is the only Filipino who has guested on Oprah, Ellen and Good Morning America. She is also the only Filipino to have sung a duet with Celine Dion and among the few to have shared the stage with Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Alicia Keys and David Archuleta, among others.”

The other “People of the Year” awardees are the “Megastar” Sharon Cuneta, veteran actress and PNRC governor Rosa Rosal, Vice President Noli de Castro, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Sen. Manny Villar, Go Negosyo’s Joey Concepcion, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, fashion designer Rajo Laurel, Kuok Group CEO Andy Bautista, real estate magnate and special envoy Ambassador Joey Antonio and Virlanie Foundation Inc. founder Dominique Lemay. Former President Corazon Aquino is the magazine’s first special awardee.

To be hosted by the inimitable Johnny Litton and the bubbly Champagne Morales, this “strictly-by-invitation-only” formal event is expected to draw the leading lights of society, business, politics and show business.

This red-letter event is being presented by Stargate Media Corp. in cooperation with HSBC, Volvo, Thai Airways, Dockers San Francisco, Ever Bilena Gandang Pinay, International Container Terminal Services, Inc., Eurocopter, Margarita King, Havaianas and The Philippine STAR.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Malaysian police arrest 26 at New Year 'sex party'
Fri Jan 2, 12:06 am ET

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysian police arrested a female newsreader, an actress and 24 other revellers at a New Year's Eve "sex and drugs" party at a Kuala Lumpur hotel, reports said Friday.

The two high-profile women and seven others tested positive for drugs, police said, according to The New Straits Times, which reported that condoms, beer cans and half-eaten pizza were found strewn around the hotel room.

"When police arrived, many of the party goers were already high on drugs," The Star newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying, adding that various illegal substances, including cocaine, ketamine and amphetamines were seized.

It said that the party was organised through the social networking website Friendster.

Police acting on a tip-off raided the gathering at a downtown Kuala Lumpur hotel in the early hours of New Year's Day.

The raid came after rumours that a New Year's Eve sex party was being planned on a remote beach in southern Malaysia.

Tourism Minister Azalina Othman condemned the beach party as "against our culture and religion" and potentially damaging to the reputation of majority-Muslim Malaysia.

Police warned that the "no-underwear" event for the under-40s, advertised through a website that asked for 250 ringgit (72 dollars) as an entrance fee, could be a money-making scam.

Party organisers had reportedly said that male guests were banned from wearing briefs to the event, while women were permitted to wear only G-string underwear which had to be removed after midnight