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Archive for September 13th, 2009|Daily archive page

Charity fund for Truong Son road launched

In Vietnam Culture on September 13, 2009 at 3:19 am

A charity program, “Nghia tinh Truong Son” (Sentimental Attachment for Truong Son Road,) by Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper was officially launched at a press conference September 11.

Addressing the press conference, SGGP Editor-in-chief Tran The Tuyen said: “The program launched by SGGP will keep running until 2012. This is to commemorate the 35th anniversary of southern liberation and national unity, and also to celebrate the upcoming eleventh Vietnam Communist Party Congress in 2011.

“The program aims to build social houses and local cultural works to improve living conditions of residents who live on the Truong Son road (also known as the Ho Chi Minh trail). We will also use the fund to build sanctuaries and shrines along the trail, and also the border separating Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia, to remind people of the route of our soldiers to liberate the South.”

At the Nghia tinh Truong Son” (Sentimental Attachment for Truong Son Road) press conference September 11.
Earlier, from July 27, the program called on people to enrich the fund for poor families whose members contributed much to ensure the country’s peace.

The fund will be used in many ways, including building social houses for war veteran poor families, offer scholarships to their children, building clinical offices and examining and treating patients in remote areas free-of-charge.

The highlight of the program is a gala concert on September 15 at Hoa Binh Theatre, HCM City, to officially launch the fund.

The concert director, Tran Vi My, will bring back the memorable portrait of the legendary Truong Son road with a medley of various immortal songs, like Dat nuoc (Nation), Mau hoa do (Pink flower), Bai ca Truong Son (Truong Son Mountain’s song), Truong Son Dong – Truong Son Tay (West and east of Truong Son Mountain) and Me (Mama).

The confirmed artistes are “Meritorious Artiste” Quang Ly, Dam Vinh Hung, Phuong Thanh, Cao Minh, Thanh Thuy, Cao Thai Son, Huong Giang, Dong Quan and the three bands of Ao Linh, VCB and Giai Dieu Xanh.

At the concert, audiences will have an opportunity to ask Major General Phan Khac Hy and SGGP staff questions about their recent charity activities on the Truong Son road.

All donations are welcomed at SGGP’s main office: 432-438 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, or can be paid into to the fund’s bank account: 0071005154702, Vietcombank – Ho Chi Minh Branch.

Besides the main sponsorship by Vietcombank – Ho Chi Minh Branch, for the whole program, the fund also received a recent donation of VND5 billion (US$270,000) from Pepsico.

Source: SGGP

Phong Nha-Ke Bang Park reapplies for UNESCO recognition

In Vietnam Travel on September 13, 2009 at 3:18 am

The Management Board of Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park September 11 sent a proposal to UNESCO in Paris, France, for recognition of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park’s bio-diversification and to remain included on the World Heritage List, said Luu Minh Thanh, director of the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.

Ha Tinh vooc (Ha Tinh langur) at Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Quang Binh Province. (Photo: SGGP)

As the park’s recognition must be resubmitted every five years, the board has coordinated with local experts for the last two years to write the proposal in order to fulfill the new biological diversification criteria required by UNESCO.

The profile also showed a cypress-tree forest in Limestone Mountain, it is 400 years old and 500 meters high.

In July, 2003, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, central province of Quang Binh, was placed on the World Heritage List for its geomorphologic and geological features.

Apart from the outstanding karst formations, Phong Nha-Ke Bang has been proved to have global specific values for biological diversification.

It was assessed to be one of 200 world centers of biological diversification, and two of 60 important bird habitations in Vietnam. It has a unique beauty which cannot be found in anywhere else in the world.

Of the many species in the park, 116 plants and 129 animals have been listed in Vietnam’s Red Book. Twenty-eight of the plants have high economic and scientific values and are in danger of extinction at the global level.

Vietnamese and international scientists said that biological diversification, as well as hidden values of the national park, will become valuable scientific tools for natural preservation, tourism promotion and socio-economic development.


Source: SGGP

In shift, US offers to talk directly to NKorea

In World on September 13, 2009 at 3:18 am

In a policy shift, the Obama administration said it is prepared to hold direct talks with North Korea in a bid to bring Pyongyang back to six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations.

The administration — which has conditioned talks with North Korea on Pyongyang’s agreeing to return to a nuclear deal it quit in April — made the offer after consulting partners China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, on Friday.

“We had consultations with our partners in the six-party process,” Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley told reporters at the daily news briefing.

“We are prepared to enter into a bilateral discussion with North Korea, but it’s important to characterize it properly,” Crowley added.

“It’s a bilateral discussion that (is) hopefully… within the six-party context, and it’s designed to convince North Korea to come back to the six-party process and to take affirmative steps towards denuclearization,” he said.

This undated picture, released from NKorea’s official Korean Central News Agency on September 4, shows NKorean leader Kim Jong Il (center) visiting the Songjin Steel Complex.

Crowley denied the move amounted to a significant policy change, but suggested it amounted to a tactical shift when he called it a “short-term” measure to bring the reclusive Stalinist state back to talks.

He said it is too early to say when and where envoys such as Stephen Bosworth, the pointman for North Korea in President Barack Obama’s administration, and his deputy Sung Kim would meet their North Korean counterparts.

“Given the consultations that we have, given the invitation that was extended (from North Korea for direct talks), we’ll make some decisions, you know, in the next couple of weeks,” Crowley said.

He was referring to consultations that Bosworth had with his counterparts from China, South Korea and Japan during a tour of Asia in the last week. Kim stayed on in Asia to consult with his Russian counterpart.

Bosworth gave no hint of a change in plan when he spoke in Tokyo on Tuesday.

On August 25, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States would sit down with the North Koreans only if they agreed to return to six-party disarmament talks.

North Korea quit the six-way talks grouping in April in protest at UN censure of a rocket launch. The UN Security Council then tightened sanctions on North Korea after it staged an underground nuclear weapons test in May.

The United States has long said that any bilateral talks would come only within the framework of six-party talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The six-party consultations came after North Korea began to soften its posture recently and sought bilateral talks with Washington, while attempting to scrap the six-way talks aimed at ending its nuclear ambitions.

But Pyongyang said last week it had reached the final stages of enriching uranium and was also building more plutonium-based atomic weapons.

A senior State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that “it will probably be Ambassador Bosworth” who meets with the North Koreans.

“I wouldn’t say it’s imminent, probably not before UNGA,” the official added.

He was referring to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York at the end of September in New York. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama are expected to discuss North Korea there with their international partners.

Source: SGGP

Afghan officials to announce 99 pcnt of vote count

In World on September 13, 2009 at 3:17 am

Afghan electoral authorities said Saturday they would announce up to 99 percent of votes counted in the country’s fraud-tainted presidential polls.

Afghans voted on August 20 in their second presidential election, marred by low turnout and allegations of widespread fraud.

“We will announce around 99 percent today,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

One percent is not processed, it has not been entered into the system,” he said.

The IEC had hoped to announced preliminary results in early September, but its timetable has been pushed back by the need to investigate allegations of ballot-stuffing and for some votes to be recounted.

An Afghan walks in front of a billboard with a photo of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

The winner, who needs 50 percent of the total vote plus one vote, will not be officially declared until all irregularities are resolved.

The final results had been scheduled for September 17, but with the IEC warning that up to 500,000 ballots could be quarantined and investigated, the process could yet drag on for some weeks.

The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has already ordered thousands of votes thrown out from 83 polling stations in three provinces, but there is no timescale for investigations in the rest of the country.

With ballots from more than 91 percent of polling stations already counted, incumbent Hamid Karzai leads, with about 54 percent. His main challenger Abdullah Abdullah has less that 30 percent.

Source: SGGP

Space shuttle Discovery lands safely in California

In World on September 13, 2009 at 3:17 am

The Discovery astronauts found sunny skies in California on Friday as they descended to a weather-delayed landing at Edwards Air Force Base to end a demanding two-week mission to the International Space Station.

Earlier in the day, thunderstorms twice prevented the seven astronauts from landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a replay of the foul conditions on Thursday that kept the shuttle orbiting for an extra day.

Discovery discharged a pair of sonic booms as it soared across the California coast at the end of a high speed descent over the Pacific Ocean and touched down at the air base north of Los Angeles at 7:53 pm (0253 GMT Saturday).

“Welcome home, Discovery,” Mission Control radioed shuttle commander C.J. “Rick” Sturckow. “Congratulations on an extremely successful mission.”

Discovery will be hoisted atop a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and flown back to Kennedy late next week as a result of the stormy Florida weather, said Mike Moses, who chairs NASA’s mission management team. The cost of the cross country trip is about 1.8 million dollars.

The US space shuttle Discovery touches down in the Mojave Desert on September 11, at Edwards Air Force Base near Rosamond, California.

Discovery dropped off more than 18,000 pounds (8.1 tons) of supplies, life support gear and scientific equipment at the space station, leaving the space outpost better equipped to house crews of six astronauts as NASA prepares to retire its aging space shuttle fleet by early 2011.

A half-dozen shuttle missions remain, each intended to gradually bring the assembly of the 15-nation space station to an end.

“We’re pretty fat on supplies now, thanks to you,” space station resident Mike Barratt told the shuttle astronauts as they departed earlier this week. “We’re in better shape to carry out our work.”

Fellow American Tim Kopra, who ended a 58-day mission to the space station, was among those aboard Discovery.

“This experience has completely exceeded anything I thought it would it would be like, just in sights and sounds, the experiences,” said Kopra. “It’s been absolutely phenomenal.”

He was replaced on the station by Discovery astronaut Nicole Stott. She joins five Russian, European and Canadian astronauts. She will return aboard shuttle Atlantis, which is tentatively scheduled to launch on November 9 with a load of major external spare parts for the orbital base.

A first time space voyager, Stott has trained to capture Japan’s new HTV cargo capsule with the station’s robot arm as the unmanned supply ship coasts within 30 feet of the station.

The HTV was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on Thursday.

The Japanese supply craft, loaded with food, science experiments and other hardware, is expected to reach the station on September 17.

“That will be exciting for us,” Stott said this week. “The vehicle flies up, and we go to work with the big robot arm to pick it out of space — grab it! — bring it in and dock it to the station.”

The HTV is expected to lay a vital roll in the station’s future. As NASA retires the shuttle, it plans to turn to a pair of American commercial rocket companies to haul supplies to the orbital outpost. Both will rely on the same robot arm berthing technique that Japan’s HTV will initiate.

Discovery delivered a pair of major new science experiments that will enable the astronauts to study the behavior of metals, glasses and ceramics as they are heated and cooled in the absence of gravity.

A third new experiment enclosure, a refrigerator, will store blood and other medical specimens collected from the astronauts for studies on how they adapt physically to weightlessness.

During three spacewalks, Discovery’s crew upgraded an external cooling system. Spacewalkers also collected samples of materials that could be included in the fabrication of future spacecraft including a replacement for the shuttle.

The samples were left outside the station a year ago to determine how they would react to the space vacuum, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and a reactive form of oxygen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

During the final outing, astronauts stretched power and data cables to prepare the outpost for one of its last habitable modules. The American furnished “Tranquility” module is scheduled for launching in early 2010.

Inside the outpost, the astronauts installed a new bedroom, replaced a failed piece of life support equipment that removes carbon dioxide from the breathing air and delivered an exercise treadmill named for Stephen Colbert, an American late night television host and satirist.

Source: SGGP

Obama to impose tariffs on Chinese tires

In World on September 13, 2009 at 3:17 am

 President Barack Obama on Friday slapped punitive tariffs on all car and light truck tires entering the United States from China in a decision that could anger the strategically important Asian powerhouse but placate union supporters important to his health care push at home.

Obama had until Sept. 17 — next week — to accept, reject or modify a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that a rising tide of Chinese tires into the U.S. hurts American producers. A powerful union, United Steelworkers, blames the increase for the loss of thousands of American jobs.

The federal trade panel recommended a 55 percent tariff in the first year, 45 percent in the second year and 35 percent in the third year. Obama settled on slightly lower penalties — an extra 35 percent in the first year, 30 percent in the second, and 25 percent in the third, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said

“The president decided to remedy the clear disruption to the U.S. tire industry based on the facts and the law in this case,” Gibbs said.

A Chinese worker moves large tires at an assembly line for buses made by Chinese auto manufacturer Foton Motor Group in Beijing, China.

Beijing issued a statement Saturday sharply condemning the U.S. move.

“China strongly opposes this serious act of trade protectionism by the U.S.,” the statement on the Ministry of Commerce Web site said. “This act not only violates the rules of the World Trade Organization but also violates the relevant commitments made by the U.S. government at the G-20 financial summit.”

By taking “this unprecedented action, the Obama administration is now at odds with its own public statements about refraining from increasing tariffs above current levels,” said Vic DeIorio, executive vice president, GITI Tire (U.S.), the largest manufacturer of tires in China.

The decision comes as U.S. officials are working with the Chinese and other nations to plan an economic summit of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations in Pittsburgh, to be held Sept. 24-25. China will be a major presence at the meeting, and the United States will be eager to show it supports free trade.

Many of the nearly two dozen world leaders Obama is hosting have made strong statements critical of countries that protect their key industries. Obama, too, has spoken out strongly against protectionism, and other countries will view his decision on tires as a test of that stance.

Governments around the world have suggested the United States talks tough against protectionism only when its own industries are not threatened. U.S. rhetoric on free trade also has been questioned because of a “Buy American” provision in the U.S. stimulus package.

The decision could have ramifications in other high-priority areas, too.

The White House badly needs Chinese help to confront climate change, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea and global economic turmoil. China is the world’s third-largest economy and a veto-holding member of the United Nations Security Council.

Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association, which opposes the tariff, said it would not save American jobs but only cause tire manufacturers to move production to another country with less strict environmental and safety controls, less active unions and lower costs than the United States.

At the same time, Obama needs support from unions — also a key backer of the Democratic Party in elections — as he makes a high-stakes push for national health care legislation.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Rules Committee, said that although the 35 percent levy was less than the 55 percent recommended in July by the ITC, it was still a significant statement of administration support for organized labor.

To reach a compromise on health care, Obama may need concessions from pro-labor Democrats who support a strong stand against China.

The steelworkers union brought the original case in April, accusing China of making a recent push to unload more tires ahead of Obama’s expected action. The union says more than 5,000 tire workers have lost jobs since 2004, as Chinese tire overwhelmed the U.S. market.

The U.S. trade representative’s office said four tire plants closed in 2006 and 2007 and three more are closing this year. During that time, just one new plant opened. U.S. imports of Chinese tires more than tripled from 2004 to 2008 and China’s market share in the U.S. went from 4.7 percent of tires purchased in 2004 to 16.7 percent in 2008, the office said.

“When China came in to the (World Trade Organization), the U.S. negotiated the ability to impose remedies in situations just like this one,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said. “This administration is doing what is necessary to enforce trade agreements on behalf of American workers and manufacturers. Enforcing trade laws is key to maintaining an open and free trading system.”

The new tariffs, on top of an existing 4 percent tariff on all tire imports, take effect Sept. 26.

Obama’s action marks a shift from the Bush administration, which was routinely criticized for being too delicate in confronting Beijing‘s alleged trade violations. Obama promised during his presidential campaign that he would do it differently.

For the Chinese government, the tire dispute threatens an economic relationship crucial to China’s economic growth. There was speculation before the decision that new tariffs could produce public pressure on Beijing to retaliate, potentially sparking a dangerous trade war.

Soaring Chinese imports of American chicken meat already have been mentioned by Chinese state media as a possible target. Beijing also could sell some of its extensive holdings of U.S. Treasury debt, which could unsettle markets.

The decision was announced by the White House late Friday evening, a time when significant news often gets less attention because of the hour and the upcoming weekend. Administration officials had to wait until it was morning in China so that they could notify Chinese officials before publicizing the decision.

Source: SGGP

Warhol’s sports superstars stolen from LA home

In World on September 13, 2009 at 3:16 am

A multimillion dollar collection of Andy Warhol portraits of Muhammad Ali and other sports superstars was stolen from a Los Angeles home, police said Friday.

The 11 color screenprints were taken from businessman Richard Weisman’s home sometime between Sept. 2 and 3, said Detective Mark Sommer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s art theft detail.

Ten of the 40-inch-square portraits feature famous athletes of the 1970s, including golfer Jack Nicklaus, soccer star Pele and figure skater Dorothy Hamill. The other is of Weisman, likely a commissioned portrait.

A $1 million reward was being offered for information leading to the return of the artwork.

The original prints were on display in Weisman’s dining room and his house was locked up. It wasn’t clear exactly when the silk screen paintings were taken or how the thieves got into the home.

This image provided by the Los Angeles Police Department on Friday Sept. 11, 2009 shows a reward poster issued for stolen works of art by Andy Warhol in Los Angeles

The theft was discovered by the family’s longtime nanny who arrived at the home to find the large prints missing from the walls. She immediately went to a neighbor’s to call police, Sommer said.

“This was a very clean crime,” Sommer said. “(The home) wasn’t ransacked.”

It wasn’t known exactly how much the prints were worth but Weisman tried to sell the collection in 2002 for $3 million.

Weisman’s home contained other valuable artwork but the rest of his collection was untouched.

“The theft of Warhol‘s ‘Athlete Series’ represents a profoundly personal loss to me and my family,” Weisman said in a statement. Weisman, who published a book about his art collection called, “From Picasso to Pop,” declined to comment further, saying he did not want to interfere with the investigation.

A neighbor saw a maroon van in the driveway of Weisman’s home around the time of the robbery, and police are seeking more information about that, Sommer said.

Warhol became internationally famous in the 60s for his iconic image of a Campbell’s soup can, his avant-garde films and his parties that mixed celebrities, artists, intellectuals and other beautiful people at his New York studio called “The Factory.”

According to a catalog of Warhol’s work, Weisman commissioned the artist in 1977 to create portraits of sports figures, including Chris Evert, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Nicklaus, Pele, Hamill, and Ali, said Brenda Klippel, the director of Martin Lawrence Galleries in Los Angeles, which has a large collection of Warhols.

“Warhol was always a portraitist and fascinated with anyone of fame or fortune, anyone in the public eye,” Klippel said. “He wanted all of his imagery to be instantly recognizable. If Weisman was in his circle and had the money, he could commission what he wanted.”

Detective Don Hrycyk said the weeklong delay in announcing the theft was to allow detectives to confirm the reward and gather descriptions and photographs of the missing artworks.

Source: SGGP

India, Pakistan investigate border rocket blasts

In World on September 13, 2009 at 3:16 am

India said that three rockets were fired into the country from Pakistan overnight, but Pakistani officials said Saturday they were launched from India. No one was injured in the blasts.

The rockets struck near the border villages of Dhoni Khurd and Modey in India’s Punjab state, said Himmat Singh, an inspector general of India’s Border Security Force.

While shooting incidents are quite common on the archrival countries’ shared border in Kashmir, they are more rare along the frontier in the Punjab. Still, there was no sign the incident would spark any major diplomatic tensions.

An Indian soldier collects the remains of a rocket at the site of a blast at Dhoni khurd village in the Wagah sector of the India-Pakistan border.

Singh said it was not immediately clear who had fired the rockets, but they came from the other side of the border and Indian soldiers returned fire.

“We have lodged a protest with the Pakistan Rangers and are trying to ascertain who is responsible for the rocket attacks,” Singh told reporters Saturday.

Nadeem Raza, a spokesman for Pakistan’s paramilitary Pakistan Rangers (Punjab), said their commander met early Saturday with his Indian counterpart to discuss the incident.

He denied that the rockets were fired from Pakistan, but said an investigation was under way.

“We are confident that the rockets were fired from India and they landed on the Indian side,” Raza told The Associated Press.

The rockets fell in empty fields and did not cause any damage.

The Indian army accused Pakistan earlier this month of shooting across the border into Kashmir in an incident that killed an Indian soldier. Brig. Gopala Krishnan Murali, a senior army officer, at the time could not say whether the Indian post was targeted by the Pakistan army or suspected Islamic insurgents inside Pakistani territory.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, having fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Source: SGGP


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