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Archive for November 27th, 2009|Daily archive page

Central bank raises rates

In Vietnam Banking Finance on November 27, 2009 at 6:14 am

The State Bank of Vietnam has hiked several key interest rates but narrowed the daily foreign exchange trading band.


With effect from December 1, the prime rate and recapitalization interest rate will go up to 8 percent from 7 percent and the discount interest rate to 6 percent from 5 percent.








Customers at an ACB branch in Ho Chi Minh City. The State Bank of Vietnam has decided to increase the prime rate and other interest rates along with other measures it hopes will stabilize the market and sustain economic growth. (Photo: SGGP)

The forex band has been reduced to ±3 percent from ±5 percent with effect from November 26.


These measures are meant to cope with the volatility in gold prices and rise in the dollar rate, SBV governor Nguyen Van Giau explained.


Following the changes, the greenback fell by 3.44 percent to stand around VND18,500, he said.


But this does not mean the central bank wants to weaken the dong and it is only a measure to strengthen control over credit growth and enable commercial banks to raise capital, he said.


Other measures under consideration include a hike in import tariffs on some items, limiting import of some non-essential goods to contain the trade deficit, and requesting for some large economic groups to sell foreign currencies to the central bank, he said.


Besides approving these measures, the Prime Minister also agreed that the interest subsidy for short-term loans would cease as planned with effect from December 31 and not be extended to the end of March 2010, he said.


Asked about the recent slowdown in the stock markets amidst a fear of a devaluation of the dong, Mr. Giau said the ultimate goal monetary policy changes is not to serve any single market but to boost economic growth, stabilize the economy, create more jobs, and increase the income of all sections of people. 


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Namibia set to begin voting in general election

In World on November 27, 2009 at 6:14 am

 Namibians were set to begin Friday two days of voting in general elections expected to see the ruling South West Africa People‘s Organisation (SWAPO) return to power, despite a tough challenge from a new breakaway party.


President Hifikepunye Pohamba is seeking a second term in office, with his main competition posed by the upstart Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).


Former foreign minister Hidipo Hamutenya launched the new party two years ago, after he lost his bid to take over SWAPO following the retirement of liberation leader Sam Nujoma in 2004.


The two are the biggest of the 12 parties contesting the presidency, with RDP claiming about 250,000 supporters from an estimated 1.1 million voters.








People walk under an election poster for the ruling South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), showing incumbent President Hifikepunye Pohamba outside Windhoek

Hamutenya was a popular figure within SWAPO, and he hopes to tap into dissatisfaction with the ruling party, which has ruled since independence in 1990.


“Everything is ready, the ballot boxes and election staff have been dispatched to all thirteen regions of Namibia,” Rukkie Tjingaete, spokesman for the Electoral Commission of Namibia told reporters Thursday.


No major organisational or logistic hiccups had been encountered in the preparations for the country’s fourth elections since independence, he added.


Five years ago SWAPO took three-fourths of the vote for both president and parliament — the same result as the 1999 polls. The RDP doesn’t expect to win, but does hope to become the main opposition party.


Tensions between the two parties have occasionally turned to stonings and intimidation against the RDP, with some SWAPO loyalists declaring some meeting spaces as “no go areas” for the breakaway.


But overall the election campaign has not been very energetic, with SWAPO praising roads, clinics and classrooms built in the past five years by its own government, but being vague about future targets.


Most opposition parties promise free education, appealing to the poorest Namibians whose children often drop out because they cannot afford the much-hated “school development fees”.


The opposition also say they will fight corruption and nepotism in government.


Voters receive one ballot to select a party for parliament and one to vote directly for presidential candidates.


For the first time, counting will start directly after voting and results will be posted on the outside of each polling station. However, verified and final results will officially be announced several days later.


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UFO-obsessed Briton loses bid to block US extradition

In World on November 27, 2009 at 6:13 am

A Briton accused of hacking into US military and NASA computers faces extradition to the United States after the British government rejected last-ditch requests to block the move.


Home Secretary Alan Johnson concluded that sending Gary McKinnon to the United States would not breach his human rights, and said he has no general discretionary powers to stop the extradition.


“If Mr McKinnon’s human rights would be breached, I must stop the extradition. If they would not be breached, the extradition must go ahead,” Johnson said in a statement.


“As the courts have affirmed, I have no general discretion,” he said.








Briton Gary McKinnon leaves the High Court in central London in January 2009.

McKinnon, who suffers from a form of autism, could spend life in prison if convicted by a US court of gaining access to 97 computers in 2001 and 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.


His family and lawyers have warned throughout the long-running case that McKinnon, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, could commit suicide or suffer psychosis if the extradition went ahead.


McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, slammed the decision as “devastating” and “barbaric,” adding that her son was terrified of extradition.


“To force a peaceful, vulnerable, misguided UFO fanatic like Gary thousands of miles away from his much-needed support network is barbaric,” she said.


“This is a cruel and miserable decision,” she told the BBC, adding that the government, should “hang their heads in shame.”


“If the severity of Gary’s medical condition isn’t sufficient to prevent his extradition, I can’t imagine what is. God help others facing a similar fate.”


McKinnon, 43, says he was only looking for evidence of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) when he hacked into the US Navy and NASA space agency computers.


US authorities allege he stole passwords and deleted files, leading to the shutdown of computer systems, with repairs costing around 800,000 dollars (486,000 pounds, 534,000 euros).


His cause has drawn high-profile support, including from Trudie Styler, wife of rock star Sting, who urged mothers to write to the Home Secretary.


Last month, the High Court in London refused McKinnon leave to appeal to Britain’s new Supreme Court against his extradition.


The Home Office agreed to study new medical evidence about McKinnon before deciding on his extradition.


But Johnson told McKinnon’s family in a letter that he could not block the move on medical grounds.


He said he had received guarantees from US authorities that McKinnon’s medical needs would be met once extradited, and if convicted he would not serve any time in a “supermax” prison.


“Due to legitimate concerns over Mr McKinnon’s health, we have sought and received assurances from the United States authorities that his needs will be met,” Johnson said.

“Finally, should Mr McKinnon be extradited, charged and convicted in the US and seek repatriation to the UK to serve a custodial sentence, the government will, of course, progress his application at the very earliest opportunity.”

McKinnon’s solicitor said she would seek a judicial review of Johnson’s decision, and lodge an application before the High Court within seven days.

“We are certainly coming to the end of the road, but we are just hoping that at some point, someone sees sense and steps in,” Karen Todner told the BBC.

“In some ways it’s like dealing with a death row case, we genuinely believe Gary’s life is at stake here.”

His lawyers say he could easily be prosecuted in Britain, where he would face a less severe sentence. But the Crown Prosecution Service ruled in February that the case was best brought in the United States.


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One dead, three wounded in Hungary college shooting

In World on November 27, 2009 at 6:13 am

A student opened fire at a university in the southern Hungarian city of Pecs Thursday, killing one student and wounding three other people, a university spokesman said.


Zoltan Gyorffy, press chief of Pecs University, told Reuters the shooting happened at the biophysics research institute and the attacker was a pharmacology student.


He said the student opened fire and killed another student. Another student, a teacher and a cleaner were seriously hurt.


“Both the attacker and the victim were Hungarians,” Gyorffy said.


Ambulance spokesman Pal Gyorfi confirmed that one person died in the attack and said three more were severely injured.


National news agency MTI said the police had caught the 23-year-old attacker, whose motives were unknown.


Police declined to comment and said they would hold a news conference.


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IAEA chief: Iran investigation at ‘dead end’

In World on November 27, 2009 at 6:12 am

The outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday his probe of Iran’s nuclear program is at “a dead end” and that trust in Tehran‘s credibility is shrinking after its belated revelation that it was secretly building a nuclear facility.


Mohamed ElBaradei‘s blunt criticism of the Islamic Republic — four days before he leaves office — was notable in representing a broad convergence with Washington’s opinion, which for years was critical of the IAEA chief for what it perceived as his softness on Iran.


Iran also came in for censure from another quarter at the opening session of the IAEA’s 35-nation board, with the introduction of a resolution taking Tehran to task on a broad range of issues linked to international concerns that it may be seeking to make nuclear weapons. Significantly, diplomats at the meeting said the resolution was endorsed not only by Western powers — the U.S., Britain, France and Germany — but also by Russia and China.








Outgoing Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei waits for the start of the IAEA’s 35-nation board meeting at Vienna’s International Center, in Vienna, on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009

For strategic and economic reasons, Moscow and Beijing have sided with Tehran in the past. They have prevented several Western attempts to slap new U.N. sanctions on Iran for its nuclear defiance or succeeded in watering down their severity.


They did not formally endorse the last IAEA resolution critical of Iran in 2006. Their backing for the document at the Vienna meeting Thursday thus reflected broad international disenchantment with Tehran.


It also appeared to signal possible support for any new Western push for a fourth set of Security Council sanctions, should Tehran continue shunning international overtures meant to reach agreements that reduce concerns about its nuclear ambitions.


In Tehran, state TV quoted Iran’s envoy to the U.N. agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as saying, “The Western countries should not spoil the positive atmosphere. They should allow cooperation between Iran and the agency to continue its positive trend.”


The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment — the source of both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads.


It also censured it for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility; noted that ElBaradei cannot confirm that Tehran’s nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed “serious concern” that Iranian stonewalling of an IAEA probe means “the possibility of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” cannot be excluded.


Western diplomats said they expected about two-thirds of the board to support the resolution in a vote, likely Friday.


While the board cannot enforce any of its resolutions, they do get referred to the Security Council, giving any later move to impose new U.N. sanctions on Iran additional weight.


In his comments, ElBaradei touched on the same criticisms expressed in the resolution.


“There has been no movement on remaining issues of concern which need to be clarified for the agency to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” he told the board session. “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.”


“Issues of concern” is the IAEA term for indications that Tehran has experimented with nuclear weapons programs, including missile-delivery systems and tests of explosives that could serve as nuclear-bomb detonators.


ElBaradei has emphasized the need for talks instead of threats in engaging Iran. He has criticized the U.S. for invading Iraq on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program, which has never been proven. That — and perceived softness on the Iran issue — has drawn criticism from the U.S. and its allies that he was overstepping his mandate.


But ElBaradei’s comments Thursday left little doubt that he was most unhappy with Tehran.


“I am disappointed that Iran has not so far agreed” to a proposal involving removal of most of Iran’s enriched stockpile, ElBaradei told the meeting.


The plan approved by the six world powers negotiating with Iran over the past few months would commit Tehran to ship out 70 percent of its enriched uranium for processing into fuel rods for its research reactor in Tehran. That would help allay international fears by removing most of the material that Iran could use to make a nuclear weapon.

It would take more than a year for Tehran to replace the enriched material, meaning it would not be able to make a weapon for at least that long.

Iran says it is enriching only to power a future network of nuclear reactors. But enrichment can also produce fissile warhead material. Iran continues enriching, despite three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions meant to make it freeze that activity and has built an enriched stockpile that could arm two nuclear warheads.

Initially, Tehran appeared to favor the plan. But in recent weeks it has offered modifications that have one thing in common — its refusal to ship out most of its enriched stockpile. That effectively kills the plan, with the West refusing to accept anything else than an Iranian commitment to export the material.

In another reflection of a tougher Russian line, Moscow on Thursday urged Tehran to accept the uranium proposal and abide by other agreements reached at a meeting with six world powers last month. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Iran’s ambassador to Moscow that such cooperation would “significantly move forward the process of restoring the international community’s trust in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” the ministry said.

Impatience with Iran has been fueled by Tehran’s September revelation that it had secretly been building a new enrichment facility. In a possible pre-emptive move, Iran notified the IAEA in a confidential letter only days before the leaders of the U.S., Britain and France went public with the project.

Iran says it did not violate IAEA statutes by waiting with its notification. But ElBaradei has said Tehran was “outside the law” in not telling his agency about the facility much earlier. On Thursday, he said that Iran’s late reporting on the facility reduced “confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction in Iran which have not been declared to the agency.”

Ruediger Luedeking, Germany’s chief IAEA representative, called the questions about the facility “a major issue which again gives rise to serious questions and concerns regarding the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

A perusal of IAEA records shows that Tehran’s chief envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the agency’s board last year that his country “has repeatedly declared that there is no undeclared nuclear material and activity in Iran” — at the time when construction of the secret nuclear facility was in full force.


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Two million Muslims prepare to stone devil at haj

In World on November 27, 2009 at 6:12 am

Some two million Muslims headed to Muzdalifa on Thursday after spending the day at the plain of Arafat to prepare to cast stones at the devil in the most dangerous part of the annual haj pilgrimage.


Bright weather greeted the pilgrims after heavy rain hit the nearby city of Jeddah, gateway to Mecca, on Wednesday. Some 77 people were killed, none of them pilgrims, most of whom were swept away by currents and drowned, state television said.


At Muzdalifa, the pilgrims will collect pebbles to throw at walls at the Jamarat Bridge on three occasions over the next three days in an act that symbolizes the rejection of the devil’s temptations.


The bridge has been the scene of a number of deadly stampedes — 362 people were crushed to death there in 2006 in the worst haj tragedy since 1990.








A Muslim pilgrim prays on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat outside the holy city of Mecca, November 26, 2009

Saudi authorities have made renovations to ease the flow of pilgrims at the bridge, adding an extra level so that pilgrims have four platforms from which to throw stones.


The fittest chose to walk the distance of about 3 km (2 miles) to Muzdalifa on a special highway joining the sites while others clung to any form of transportation they could find.


Young Saudis sped around on motorbikes looking for customers in a hurry and seeking to avoid the congested traffic.


Aisha Mennan, 63, from Morocco, managed a smile as she sat against a wall waiting for a bus. “I just cried and cried while I stood and prayed in Mount Arafat. You really feel something special as if you are standing before the Almighty,” she said.


“Now I can die in peace. My two sons and three daughters have been saving for years to send me here and when the money was ready I had to wait another three years before I got picked by a ballot. I’m very lucky to be here,” said Mennan.


In Mecca, pilgrims flocked to Arafat to pray until sunset. They set up tents on a plain, squatted on the side of the road in shelters or stayed at the nearby Namira mosque.


About 1.6 million pilgrims have come from abroad for the haj, the world’s largest regular religious gathering and a duty for all Muslims to perform at least once if possible. Many wait for years to get a visa under a strict quota system.


The haj marks sites that Islamic tradition says Prophet Ibrahim — biblical patriarch Abraham — visited in Mecca and that Prophet Mohammad established as a pilgrim route 14 centuries ago after removing pagan idols from Mecca.


Islam is now embraced by a quarter of the world’s population.


Wednesday’s rainfall, the heaviest the desert country has seen in years, prevented thousands of people from getting to Mecca from Jeddah, Saudi haj organizers said.


“God gave us a reprieve from the rainfall on the most important day of haj. It shows his immense clemency,” Indonesian pilgrim Abdulwadood Asegaf said.


“We are going to avoid going up the Mount Arafat this time because it is too muddy,” he added.


“The rain was a blessing from God. We are now going to pray to beg for God’s forgiveness and mercy, for the good of our children and of all Muslims,” said Egyptian pilgrim Nasser Abu Ahmed.


Nigerian businessman Mustafa Abu Bakr said Muslims from different parts of the world and different walks of life renew their allegiance to God in Arafat.

“We will pray for world peace,” he said.

Authorities have reported none of the problems that have marred the haj in previous years such as fires, hotel collapses, police clashes with protesters and stampedes.


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Japan worries yen surge will hurt budding recovery

In World on November 27, 2009 at 6:11 am

 A fall in Japan‘s jobless rate pointed at recovery in the world’s number two economy Friday, but the government fretted that the surging yen could again derail the export-reliant economy.


Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii did not signal imminent plans to intervene in currency markets but stressed that Tokyo was watching closely and could take steps for the first time in five years if the situation worsens.


Fujii was speaking as the dollar traded around 85 yen, its lowest level since the mid-1990s, raising fears that Japanese exporters such as Toyota, Honda and Sony will lose competitiveness in overseas markets.


Using more strident language than usual, the minister said the yen’s rapid rise was “harmful”, a day after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said the government must take measures to avoid a double-dip recession.


“If this kind of situation is sustained, I think that it would be something abnormal … it would be possible for us to take” steps under such conditions, Fujii said, according to Dow Jones Newswires.


“We should take appropriate action against disorderly movements in order to stabilise international financial markets,” Fujii said, adding however that he needed time to “look at the situation a bit more”.


Japanese shares fell 1.81 percent in the morning as traders worried the strong yen would hurt Japanese exporters.


Commenting on the Japanese currency’s rise against the dollar, Fujio Mitarai, the head of main business lobby Keidanren, warned that amid the gradual recovery “this could throw cold water on the economy”.


Japan, Asia’s biggest economy, sank into its worst post-war recession in the second quarter of 2008 as the global downturn devastated demand for its cars, electronics and other exports.


It gradually recovered this year, boosted by rebounding exports and stimulus measures, expanding in the July-September quarter by 4.8 percent on an annualised basis, the best growth in more than two years.


New jobs data Friday showed that the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in October from 5.3 percent in September, improving for a third consecutive month and beating market expectations of a 5.4 percent rate.


Another survey, by the labour ministry, showed there were 44 job offers for every 100 jobseekers in October, slightly up from 43 in the previous month. Related article: Japan‘s jobless rate falls to 5.1pct


In other data suggesting a gradual rebound, average monthly household spending rose by a price-adjusted 1.6 percent in October from a year earlier, well above a rise of 0.6 percent the market had expected.


Renewed deflation, however, is still seen as a threat to the recovery, because falling prices hurt corporate earnings and dampen consumption as people delay spending in hopes of further price drops.








Shoppers pass through Tokyo’s Ginza district.

Japan’s core consumer prices fell 2.2 percent in October from a year earlier, marking the eighth straight month of drops, government data showed.


The drop in core prices, which exclude volatile fresh food, was slightly less than September’s 2.3 percent drop and in line with market expectations.


“Deflationary pressure remains,” even if the speed of price drops has slowed, said Hiroshi Watanabe, an economist at Daiwa Institute of Research.


“The economy has picked up since February thanks to an upturn in exports and production. The effect is now belatedly felt on prices and employment.”

But hhe warned: “If the yen rises further, it would dampen exports, which are the main driving force of the Japanese economy. It would weigh down the Japanese economy as its recovery is feeble.”


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Central bank raises rates

In Vietnam Banking Finance on November 27, 2009 at 2:29 am

The State Bank of Vietnam has hiked several key interest rates but narrowed the daily foreign exchange trading band.


With effect from December 1, the prime rate and recapitalization interest rate will go up to 8 percent from 7 percent and the discount interest rate to 6 percent from 5 percent.








Customers at an ACB branch in Ho Chi Minh City. The State Bank of Vietnam has decided to increase the prime rate and other interest rates along with other measures it hopes will stabilize the market and sustain economic growth. (Photo: SGGP)

The forex band has been reduced to ±3 percent from ±5 percent with effect from November 26.


These measures are meant to cope with the volatility in gold prices and rise in the dollar rate, SBV governor Nguyen Van Giau explained.


Following the changes, the greenback fell by 3.44 percent to stand around VND18,500, he said.


But this does not mean the central bank wants to weaken the dong and it is only a measure to strengthen control over credit growth and enable commercial banks to raise capital, he said.


Other measures under consideration include a hike in import tariffs on some items, limiting import of some non-essential goods to contain the trade deficit, and requesting for some large economic groups to sell foreign currencies to the central bank, he said.


Besides approving these measures, the Prime Minister also agreed that the interest subsidy for short-term loans would cease as planned with effect from December 31 and not be extended to the end of March 2010, he said.


Asked about the recent slowdown in the stock markets amidst a fear of a devaluation of the dong, Mr. Giau said the ultimate goal monetary policy changes is not to serve any single market but to boost economic growth, stabilize the economy, create more jobs, and increase the income of all sections of people. 


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Mrs. World 2009 meets with Russians in HCMC

In Vietnam Culture on November 27, 2009 at 2:28 am

Mrs. World 2009 Victoria Radochinskaya on November 25 paid a visit to her compatriots at the Russian Federation Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. During the meeting, she told Sai Gon Giai Phong that she was very impressed with Vietnam and its people.








Mrs. World 2009 Victoria Radochinskaya holds a baby in her arms at the Russian Federation Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City on November 25. (Photo: SGGP)

The 30-year-old former public relations director met with 20 Russian children and their parents in a small room at the consulate where she was showered with flowers and toys from the families. 


A boy read a poem about a mother and child, which the pageant winner said made her miss her own young son back in Russia.


Speaking at the meeting, Russian Consul General Nikolai D. Ubushiev congratulated Radochinskaya on her recent win of the Mrs. World title in Vung Tau city and presented her with souvenirs.


Radochinskaya said that Vietnam is a wonderful country with many attractions and that Vietnamese people are very friendly. Everyone made her feel at home during her month-long stay here, she added. 


Moreover, Vietnam organized a very successful Mrs. World 2009 Pageant, said Radochinskaya.


Vietnamese women are beautiful and intelligent, she said, adding that Vietnamese women in particular and Asian women in general sacrifice much for their families.


Radochinskaya said she doesn’t think it’s bad for women to want to be beautiful, however, natural beauty is better and women should develop their self-confidence.


Her husband was hesitant about the pageant at first, said Radochinskaya, but he soon changed his mind and supported her fully. Her son would call often to encourage her during her trip to Vietnam, she added.


If she ever has the chance to come back, Radochinskaya says she would bring along her family.


Asked about her daily schedule, Radochinskaya said that she starts working at 9 am and finishes at 6 pm. She spends the remainder of the day with her family.


By winning the Mrs. World title, Radochinskaya says she will now have the chance to help more poor people.

Related news:


Russia wins Mrs. World 2009


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Heritage exhibition opens in HCMC

In Vietnam Culture on November 27, 2009 at 2:28 am

An exhibition of Vietnamese documents written using Chinese characters and other artifacts opened November 25 at the Ho Chi Minh City General Sciences Library on the occasion of Vietnam’s Cultural Heritage Day (November 23).


Around 100 objects and paper, silk, bronze, and terracotta documents will be on display until November 27.


On the same day, the exhibition organizers held a workshop titled “Sino-Nom documents – Conservation and expansion of the cultural heritage” which was attended by more than 100 researchers and collectors.


The exhibition is being organized by the Library Department in association with the National Library and HCMC General Sciences Library.


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