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Archive for December 13th, 2009|Daily archive page

Australia offers grants to young artists in HCMC

In Vietnam Culture on December 13, 2009 at 4:09 am








Some pictures of Mac Hoang Thuong, who won the prize in 2007
The city of Melbourne and the Australian Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City December 10 launched the 2010 Young Artist Grants Program in HCM City. 

The project is an initiative of Melbourne aimed at supporting young emerging visual artists living and working in HCM City.

The Australian city will provide a total of AUD$5,000 with 10 local artists each receiving a grant of AUD$500.

Australian Consul General Mr. Graeme Swift said, “Programs such as this are extremely valuable. The grants capture the most creative and ambitious work by emerging artists who have had little exposure.”

The 2007 winner of the first young artists program included two students from the HCM City University of Fine Arts, three photographers, and five artists. Their works were displayed in the Galery of Melbourne.

The 2010 Young Artist Grants program began receiving applications on December 14.  Requests for grants will be accepted until February 26, 2010 and following this, an exhibition of young artists’ works will be organized in HCM City.

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Awards buzz follows Vietnam Film Festival

In Vietnam Culture on December 13, 2009 at 4:09 am

Speculation about future award nominees is swirling ahead of the closing ceremony of the 16th Vietnam Film Festival on December 12. Festivities will begin at 8:30 pm at Ho Chi Minh City’s Hoa Binh Theatre to wrap up the five-day event.








Actress Kathy Uyen (R) could be in contention to win a Best Leading Actress award this year for her role in the movie Chuyen tinh xa xu (Photo: SGGP)

Several films shown during the week created excitement amongst both audiences and festival jury members.


For celluloid feature films, in possible contention for Vietnam’s prestigious Gold Lotus Prize is “Dung dot” (Don’t Burn), a war movie featuring a female martyr and doctor who wrote welknown Dang Thuy Tram dairies.


The film takes a fresh look at the Vietnam War from several angles while highlighting the struggle of those affected by it.


Outstanding films being considered for Silver Lotus award nominations include “Choi voi” (Solitary), “Rung den” (Black Jungle), “Trai tim be bong” (Little, Tender Heart), “Trang noi day gieng” (The Moon at the Bottom of the Well), and “Huyen thoai bat tu” (Immortal Legend).


The film Choi voi has been praised by critics in particular for the creativeness shown by young director Bui Thac Chuyen.


Rung den which contains many violent scenes, has garnered somewhat less attention.


Audiences lauded Trai Tim be bong’s director Nguyen Thanh Van for imbuing the film with raw humanity. However, some viewers felt it was derivative of another feature which won at the Cannes Film Festival in the 1980s.


Two candidates expected to compete for best director prizes are Bui Thac Chuyen of Choi Voi and Nguyen Vinh Son of Trang noi day gieng.


Best leading actress nominations, meanwhile, could go to Lan Ha for her role as Mai in Trang noi day gieng, Kathy Uyen as Tiffiany in Chuyen tinh xa xu, and Nguyen Thi Thu as Huong in Duoc song.


Hong Anh is also expected to be a strong competitor for best leading actress for her role as Hanh in Trang noi day gieng, and also for best supporting actress as the mother in Trai tim be bong.


Dustin Nguyen is anticipated to be nominated for his leading role as the son in Huyen thoai bat tu along with Nguyen Van Bau, the father in Duoc song, and Thach Kim Long in Rung den.


For video feature films, Director Xuan Son, chairman of the judging panel at the film festival, said jury members were in complete agreement about some movies while opinions were split over others.


Films praised for technological achievements were Duong dua (Race-track) and 13 ben nuoc (13 Shores).


Others were admired for showcasing the strong work ethic of the producers and directors including “Con duong sang” (Light Path), and “Cay ban menh” (Fate Tree).


For documentary films, writer Duong Cam Thuy said that two genres, celluloid and video films, were presented for consideration.


She added that selecting winners would be a difficult decision this year.


The celluloid genre has seen prominent films like “Dam may khong dung lai” (The Clouds do not Stop Moving), “Nhung hy sinh tham lang” (Silent Sacrifices), and “Dat lanh” (Cold Soil).


While “Chat xam” (Intelligence), “Dat to que cha” (Fatherland), and “Me, con da ve” (Mom, I Already Came Back) from the video genre could win the awards.


Artist Nguyen Thanh Tai, a member of the judging panel for the animated genre, said: “3D technology has taken Vietnamese films to a new height. However, the story lines are often tired, lacking substance, and repetitive.”


The film festival jury said they will honor films that show creativity, skillful execution, solid plot lines, and fresh ideas.


Audiences will also get to vote on their preferred films with celluloids Dung dot, Huyen Thoai Bat Tu, Trang noi day gieng and Trai tim be bong standing out as potential favorites.


Related article:
16th Vietnam film festival opens in HCMC


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Disabled ‘perform miracles’

In Vietnam Lifestyle on December 13, 2009 at 4:08 am

“Despite being unlucky in life, they have been doing their utmost to gain victory over their destinies to become helpful citizens in society. They have performed miracles,” said Nguyen Van Chi, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Relief Association for Handicapped Children, at a ceremony to praise the disabled for overcoming their hardships.


Disabled but not discouraged


When Huynh Anh was just over a year old, she came down with a sever illness that left her unable to walk.


Many nights, her poverty-stricken mother hugged her and cried. But she was determined to do anything she had to in order to pay for Anh’s schooling.


“Being unlucky with a disabled body, only knowledge can ensure a good life for her in the future,” Anh’s mother thought.








Caption: From right to left: Ngo Thanh Phuong, Huynh Anh and Dinh Thi Ly at a ceremony held to praise the disabled for striving to overcome their destinies.

Not wanting to let her mother down, Anh tried her best to study and during high school, she realized many outstanding achievements.


Her mother had also worked with Anh since she was young to help her stand on her own.


“What I can do I will try my best to do, I am determined not to rely on others,” Anh said.


The first miracle came when she passed three university entrance exams at once. Reading the letters of acceptance from the universities, tears of joy rolled down her mother’s cheeks.


Anh chose to study at the Ho Chi Minh University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology as it was close to her house. That way, she could go to school by herself in her wheelchair.


To earn money for tuition, Anh sold lottery tickets after school.


At present, she is an administrator of a website for the District 1 Youth Union. Sympathizing with people facing the same plight, she and her husband established www.sanphamcuanguoikhuyettat.com in 2008, in a bid to introduce products made by the disabled.


They also set up a scholarship fund named “Hope candles” in early 2009 to encourage disabled students and pupils to study hard.


Growing up disabled, Anh always told herself “to accept life and confront difficulties in order to have the opportunity to live well in the present and better in the future.”


Strength through knowledge


Dinh Thi Ly, a freshman of the HCMC University of Science’s Information Technology Faculty, has the body of a five-year-old child. But while she is physically weak and small, her courageous spirit is anything but.


Ly has to make regular visits to her doctor, yet she has remained an excellent student all through her school years.


The young student was recently dealt another blow, however, when she learned she had a bone weakening disease known as osteogenesis imperfecta. Desperately wanting to be independent, she has to rely on her mother for help with daily activities.


“I think as an unlucky person, the only thing that can make me confident in life is being a master of knowledge. Due to my poor health, I chose to study information technology, which is also my favorite subject,” Ly said.


Courage through adversity


Born into a poor family, Ngo Phuong Nam contracted a disease at a very early age that left his hands permanently contorted. He couldn’t even hold a pen.


While others may have become frustrated or angry, Nam saw his condition as a challenge. When his family couldn’t afford for him to go to school, he tried to work to earn money himself. 


Many year later, Nam has proved that it is indeed possible to triumph over adversity and achieve great success. He now works as a handicraft and painting teacher, and also an acupuncture technician.


Anh, Ly and Nam are only three of thousands of disabled individuals who have suffered extreme hardships but found the will and energy to dedicate themselves to society. They have accomplished feats that many able-bodied people might never be able to.


“They are living flowers and precious models for us to learn from and strive to emulate,” said Mai Thi Hoa, head of the HCMC Labor, War Invalids and Social Welfare’s Social Sponsorship Department.


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Zelaya says will stay in Honduras until end January

In World on December 13, 2009 at 4:08 am

Deposed Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya said he would remain at the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa until January 27, 2010 at the latest, when his term formally ends.








Supporters wave a flag with a large image of deposed Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya on it. (AFP Photo)

“However, I would like to leave as soon as possible, obviously with the support of the Brazilian government,” Zelaya told Brazil’s Globo television.


The cowboy-hatted ousted president, exiled in a military-backed coup in June, secretly slipped back into Honduras in September and has remained at the heavily fortified Brazilian embassy ever since.


“He is absolutely aware that when his mandate ends, he will need to go elsewhere,” said the Brazilian embassy’s charge d’ affaires Francisco Catunda.


The de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti on Friday demanded that Brazil clarify its reasons for allowing Zelaya to remain inside its embassy.


“The Honduran government, once again, calls on the government of Brazil to define the legal status under which Jose Manuel Zelaya remains in its facilities,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.


On Thursday, Zelaya, who has steadfastly insisted he be returned to power, rejected a Mexican offer for safe passage after Micheletti imposed the condition he be granted political asylum, which, he said, would invalidate his claim to the presidency.


The chances of his return to power were eroded by successful November 29 elections that were recognized by a number of nations, including the United States and Costa Rica.


The winner, Porfirio Lobo, is set to take office after Zelaya’s term expires next month.


Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez on Friday said he would meet Zelaya on Sunday and Lobo on Monday in Santo Domingo, in his bid to mediate in the Honduras crisis.


Fernandez, who said he already spoke with both men in the past, said he hoped the de facto regime would not stifle this new attempt at negotiations and allow Zelaya to travel to the Dominican Republic.


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Blair defends Iraq war, even without WMD

In World on December 13, 2009 at 4:07 am

Britain would have backed the invasion of Iraq even if it had been known that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), former prime minister Tony Blair said Saturday.








Supporters wave a flag with a large image of deposed Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya on it. (AFP Photo)

Blair, who is to appear before a long-awaited official Iraq war inquiry early next year, said London would have used other ways to justify its support for the 2003 US-led war to oust Saddam.


“I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat,” he told the BBC.


“I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons still in charge but it’s incredibly difficult,” he added, according to comments released before the programme was broadcast.


He added: “It was the notion of him as a threat to the region, of which the development of WMD was obviously one, and because you’d had 12 years of United Nations to and fro on this subject, he used chemical weapons on his own people – so this was obviously the thing that was upper most in my mind.”


Blair, who controversially backed then US president George W. Bush in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, accepted that families of those who died blamed him, but insisted relatives of soldiers could be proud of their sacrifice.


“You know there are parents who feel very very deeply angry and resentful and believe that the war was not worth it,” he said.


But he added: “It’s also important to understand that many of those who are in the armed forces .. they are very often proud of what their child has done and proud of the cause they fought in, so you’ve got to be.”


The former PM also stressed the importance of his Christian faith — and justified why he did not convert to Catholicism until after he left office in 2007.


“There would have been endless hassle,” he said.


“Maybe I should just have done it but, to be frank, you have got so much going on as prime minister and there are so many issues you are having to deal with, that you really wonder whether it’s a great idea to put the whole Catholic versus the established church thing into it.


“I had enough controversy to deal with.”


Blair is expected to appear before the so-called Chilcott inquiry into the Iraq war — which opened last month, after almost all British forces left the country — early in the new year, possibly in January.


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US House passes historic financial sector overhaul

In World on December 13, 2009 at 4:06 am

The US House of Representatives approved the most sweeping regulatory overhaul of the financial sector since the Great Depression of the 1930s, one of President Barack Obama’s key goals.


Lawmakers voted 223-202 to pass the 1,300-page legislation, a package of measures Obama’s Democratic allies crafted in response to the global financial meltdown of 2008, which has left the US economy still sputtering.


The US Senate was expected to take up the plan — which faces stiff opposition from the financial industry and its Republicans allies, not one of whom voted in favor of the plan — in 2010.


Obama hailed the vote in a statement, adding: “I urge both houses of Congress to pass this necessary reform as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. I look forward to signing a strong bill.”


“The crisis from which we are still recovering was born not only of failure on Wall Street, but also in Washington. We have a responsibility to learn from it,” said the US president.


Obama has hit out at Wall Street “fat cats,” expressing anger that banks bailed out by the government again plan huge bonuses as millions of Americans battle poverty and unemployment.


“I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” Obama said Friday in excerpts of an interview with CBS television to be aired on Sunday.


With unemployment still hovering at around 10 percent, amid a recession triggered in part by the excesses of financial institutions, Obama voiced frustration that “some people on Wall Street still don’t get it.”


Obama told CBS he believed some banks had paid back all the bailout funds in order to escape government controls regulating such things as bonuses.


“They’re still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down 10, 20 million dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year… in decades and you guys caused the problem.


“These same banks who benefited from taxpayer assistance who are fighting tooth and nail with their lobbyists… up on Capitol Hill, fighting against financial regulatory control,” Obama added.


Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has described the measure, a centerpiece of Obama’s response to the 2008 global financial meltdown, as a clear warning to Wall Street that “the party is over.”


“American families will no longer be at the mercy of Wall Street in terms of their jobs, their homes, their pension security, the education of their children,” Pelosi said Thursday.


Lawmakers had faced votes on several amendments, defeating one that would have scrapped a central provision, the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) to oversee mortgages and credit cards.


The bill, which may help Democrats harness simmering voter anger ahead of the 2010 mid-term elections, has drawn fierce opposition from the financial sector and its Republican allies as stifling innovation with weighty new rules.


The number two House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor, said the legislation “frightens people and creates uncertainty in the American economy, preventing job growth.”


The bill notably tackles the issue of firms deemed “too big to fail,” which received hundreds of billions of dollars in US government “bailout” cash because their collapse would have dealt crippling blows to the economy.


The legislation gives regulators the power to dismantle such giants, and lays out a systematic way to unwind them in case of collapse that ensures shareholders and unsecured creditors, not taxpayers, bear the losses.


It also reinforces the powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission to detect irregularities that could provide an early warning of fraudulent investment schemes, like the fraud perpetrated by Wall Street swindler Bernie Madoff.


The measure also includes a first-of-its-kind plan to regulate the vast market in arcane financial products called derivatives.


It would give the Federal Reserve broader powers to oversee large at-risk firms, but also give the Government Accountability Office — the investigative arm of the US Congress — more oversight power over the Fed itself.


Amid US public anger at lavish bonuses paid out at firms the government saved from collapse, the measure provides for shareholders to hold non-binding annual votes on executive compensation, including severance packages known as “golden parachutes.”


The House and Senate must approve identical legislation in order to send it to Obama to sign into law.


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Venezuela, Cuba engage in joint projects worth over $3 bln

In World on December 13, 2009 at 4:06 am

Venezuela and Cuba will sign agreements on 285 joint projects totaling about $3.2 billion at an upcoming summit of the regional ALBA trade bloc, RIA-Novosti quoted Venezuelan Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez as saying.


According to Ramirez, the documents were agreed during the work of the 10th Cuban-Venezuelan intergovernmental commission prior to the ALBA summit in the Cuban capital, Havana, on December 13-14.


“In 2000, we started the work of the intergovernmental commission with 17 projects worth $30.5 million…and now we will sign 285 joint deals totaling $3.185 billion,” the Venezuelan minister said.


He added that the trade between Venezuela and Cuba has reached $8.7 billion, mainly in the health, education, agriculture and energy sectors.


Over 40,000 Cuban experts are working in Venezuela to help the poverty-stricken Latin American country improve its health care and education systems, Ramirez said.


ALBA, or the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, was founded by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005 and now comprises nine members — Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda.


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Thousands march globally calling for climate action

In World on December 13, 2009 at 4:05 am

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets or were preparing to march on Saturday calling for climate negotiators in Copenhagen to strike a deal to prevent global warming.








Climate change activists march through Sydney. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets or were preparing to march on Saturday calling for climate negotiators in Copenhagen to strike a deal to prevent global warming. (AFP Photo)

The Danish capital was described as looking like a military zone as authorities prepared for the arrival of activists from all over the world.


Hours before the demonstration in Copenhagen was due to kick off, protesters were out in force around Asia, waving banners and chanting slogans urging action from the climate conference.


In Australia organisers said around 50,000 people had taken to the streets nationwide, wearing sky-blue shoelaces in a call for a strong and binding agreement in Copenhagen.


One organiser, James Dannenberg, said: “We want (world leaders) to bring home a treaty, we want them to stand by the Pacific and our neighbours there. And we want them to deliver and ensure a safe climate future for us all.”


Thousands of activists gathered in front of the parliament house in Canberra, while 10,000-strong crowds marched through Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities.


In Hong Kong men, women and children marched, some dressed as pandas, while others held life rings bearing the slogan “Climate Change Kills. Act Now. Save Lives.”


Indonesians rallied in front of the US embassy in Jakarta calling for help for developing nations in reducing greenhouse gases.


A crowd chanted “US is the biggest emitter” and unfurled banners that read “US is the carbon mafia leader” and “Be a part of a legally binding agreement”.


And in the Philippines students staged a three-hour demonstration outside Manila’s City Hall.


Protests are planned from Kabul to the Arctic Circle, with Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu and former Irish President Mary Robinson to preside over a special vigil in Copenhagen.


Organisers in Denmark forecast 60,000 to 80,000 to march, while police drawn from across the country braced for crowds they estimate will be at about 50,000.


On Friday, authorities rounded up dozens of anti-capitalist demonstrators in a bid to forestall possible violence.Related article: Arrests as police brace for demo


Protesters were still arriving late Friday by bus, train, plane and boat from Berlin, Bremen, London, Leeds, Amsterdam, Milan and a dozen other European cities.


Helicopters buzzed in the skies while armoured police vans and canine squads patrolled the streets, amid fears Saturday’s march could be joined by violent far-left groups.


“It looks like a military zone, the police are everywhere,” said Gerardo Gambirazio, an American geography researcher who was checking out the goings-on in the city.


The six-kilometre (four-mile) march, masterminded by 515 organisations from 67 countries, will depart at 1300 GMT from the Christiansborg Castle, crossing the city to end up at the Bella Centre where the summit will be underway.


Police beefed up security at Denmark’s land and sea borders to prevent troublemakers from entering the country amid fears of the march being joined by violent far-left groups.


Shop keepers and businesses were warned of possible violence.


One of the march’s main organisers, Oxfam, has lined up celebrities to join in a rally before the protests sets out, including Danish-Peruvian model Helena Christensen and Bollywood actor Rahul Bose.


At the conference the previous day developing nations rejected as “insignificant” an EU pledge of 7.2 billion euros (10.6 billion dollars) to help them tackle global warming.Related article: EU cash


The accord, which would see the money paid over three years, came a week before 110 heads of state and government convene in Copenhagen for the finale of the 12-day conference.


“The fact that Europe is going to put a figure on the table will, I think, be hugely encouraging to the process,” said UN climate chief Yvo de Boer. “We will then have to see what other rich countries are going to put on the table.”


But in Copenhagen, the Group of 77 developing nations — actually a caucus of 130 states that includes China — said the proposal fails to address the issue of setting up long-term financing mechanisms.


“I believe they are not only insignificant, they actually breed even more distrust on the intentions of European leaders on climate change,” said Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-Ping of Sudan.


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VTF announces 100 US scholarships

In Vietnam Education on December 13, 2009 at 4:05 am


The University of Economics and Finance in Ho Chi Minh City and the Vietnam Talent Fund (VTF) said they will offer 100 scholarships to students to study in the US.


VTF, set up in 2006 by Thanh Nien newspaper, Truong Hai Auto Group and the G7 Trading and Service Co., is seeking young talent in the fields of economics, finance, hotel service management, information system management, nursing and computer science.


The scholarships will cover the cost of a four-year study program in the US, valued at a total of around US$760,000.


The criteria for candidates include possessing outstanding academic records, proven leadership ability, mastery of a foreign language, and computer skills. In addition, scholarship receivers must pledge to return to Vietnam when they complete the course.


Students can apply to the University of Economics at 214- 216 Pasteur, District 3, HCM City. The deadline is January 8, 2010.


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Inquiry launched into toxic watermelon seeds

In Vietnam Society on December 13, 2009 at 4:04 am

Officials from the Binh Thuan Province Department of Health conducted a surprise inspection December 11 of the Tan Phat Company to investigate claims it was selling toxic watermelon seeds.








Health officials inspect Tan Phat Company’s watermelon seeds in the central province of Binh Thuan December 11 (Photo: nguoilaodong)

Earlier, the Danang Department of Health reported it had found the company’s watermelon seeds soaked with Rhodamine, a toxic substance which can cause cancer and is prohibited for use in food.


The health department together with representatives from the Sub-department of Food Hygiene and Safety and Market Management Sub-Department in Binh Thuan, took samples and sent them to the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Hygiene and Public Health for tests.


Inspectors sealed off more than 80 tons of watermelon seeds in the company’s warehouse with 79 tons from China, and asked the company to temporarily halt business while waiting for the test results and a final decision from authorities.



 


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