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Archive for October 3rd, 2009|Daily archive page

New typhoon heads for East Sea, Vietnam

In Vietnam Weather on October 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

According to the US Naval Marine Forecast Center, after going through Palaui Island in the Philippines on October 3, Typhoon Parma will change direction and move toward the East Sea and Vietnam, Le Thanh Hai, deputy director of the National Hydro Meteorological Forecast Center said October 2.

Typhoon Parma seen from a satellite on October 1 (Photo: NEA, Singapore)

Typhoon Parma is currently at levels 15 to 16 and is expected to intensify into level 17, 202 to 221 kilometers an hour.

It is currently moving northwest.

Parma will be more powerful than the recent Typhoon Ketsana, which killed over a hundred people and caused damage estimated to cost hundreds of millions of US dollars in Vietnam alone, he warned.

Fishing boats should not move to northern and southern parts of the East Sea and should keep watch for strong winds.

Source: SGGP

Indonesian disaster leaves whole villages buried

In World on October 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

 Whole villages in Indonesia’s quake zone were found obliterated by landslides Saturday, as rescuers searched desperately for up to 4,000 people believed still trapped in the disaster area.

The extent of the damage from Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake widened as attention turned to the hundreds of villages in the hills outside the Padang, a devastated city of one million which was worst-hit.

AFP journalists travelling from the coastal area on Sumatra island to the surrounding mountains encountered dozens of devastated houses on the steep roads, and then four villages buried by landslides.

A search and rescue officer from the local government named Topan said that up to 400 people could have perished in the four hillside villages alone.

“The difficulty in this rescue operation is that the houses are buried under the soil as much as four metres deep,” he told AFP. “So far we have been using our hands to dig up the soil.”

Indonesian Red Cross staff load kitchen equipment onto a truck at Minangkabau international airport in Padang

One body was seen lying in a stream nearby, but Topan said he expected to find many more. A 100-strong rescue team arrived on the scene but was unable to bring in heavy machinery because of the broken, narrow roads.

Bob McKerrow, head of the Indonesia delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, said aerial photos showed the extent of the damage in the rocky, mountainous outlying regions. Related article: Aid efforts

He said hundreds of villages were in the disaster zone, and that the few which had been visited all reported deaths and serious injuries that were in need of treatment.

“Typically in every village, there’s an old woman with a broken back with a gash on her arm and she’s not moving. That’s why we’re sending in helicopters with medical teams,” he told AFP.

In Padang, where hardly a single building has been left undamaged, rescuers were racing against time to haul any survivors from schools, hotels and homes that have been reduced to tangles of concrete and rubble.

Foreign rescue teams with sniffer dogs and infra-red equipment were being deployed to help overwhelmed and underequipped Indonesian emergency crews.

“We estimate about 3,000 to 4,000 people are still trapped or buried under the rubble,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Indonesia El-Mostafa Benlamlih told AFP.

The United Nations has said that at least 1,100 people have died in the disaster while the government toll, which has not been revised since Thursday, stands at 777 but it has said it expects the figure to go much higher.

“I think the death toll is going to rise dramatically, the current figure of 1,200 is going to be very low from listening to people working at the scene. There will certainly be more than 2,000,” McKerrow said.

Indonesia appealed for foreign aid Friday as the stench of decomposing bodies indicated that many trapped in the wreckage have already perished.

Experts said that with specialised crews now arriving, there was some chances of still finding survivors providing their injuries were not too serious.

“I’ve worked on big earthquake disasters and if you’ve got an air pocket you’re ok,” McKerrow said. “It’s hot outside but cool inside. There’s still hope if people have got air.”

Specialist teams from Japan and Switzerland with infra-red equipment were working Saturday in Padang, he said, adding that he had heard reports of three or four people being pulled to safety early Saturday.

But the UN’s Benlamlih said that the window of opportunity was closing fast.

“Generally there is a maximum of five days from the time the quake strikes for the buried or trapped victims to survive. We only have one or two days left to save them,” he said.

One lucky survivor was 20-year-old Ratna Kurnia Sari, who was pulled limp and covered in dust from the ruins of a college on Friday after spending more than 40 hours buried beneath rubble.

The quake struck off Sumatra‘s west coast northwest of Padang on Wednesday, on a major faultline on the volatile “Ring of Fire” that scientists have long warned was a disaster waiting to happen. Facts: Earthquake pointers

Source: SGGP

UN atomic chief due in Iran as pressure mounts

In World on October 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

The head of the UN atomic watchdog was expected to arrive in Tehran at the weekend after Washington and its allies demanded quick progress from Tehran in revived talks on the nuclear standoff.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei will meet Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, an Iranian official said in Geneva on Friday.

The visit will take place at the start of the Iranian week, which begins on Saturday, he added.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday demanded swift and “constructive” action from Iran following the crucial nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, and warned that his patience for dialogue was limited.

But Obama conceded the meeting between six world powers and Tehran, which included the highest-level direct talks between the United States and Iran in three decades, marked a “constructive” start to defusing the nuclear standoff.

Director General of the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei delivers a speech during the International Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy 2009 in New Delhi

The talks were the first for 15 months, and Western officials in Geneva acknowledged that it marked Iran’s “engagement” on its nuclear programme after they said Iran refused to talk about it since July 2008.

France said the talks were a “step in the right direction” but added it would judge results through Iran’s actions, while Russia voiced “cautious optimism” so long as the agreements were respected within the set timeframe.

Senior US officials in Geneva said part of the outcome might temper more immediate fears, especially in the Middle East, that Iran had accumulated enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.

Iran insists it has a right to civilian nuclear energy, but the partly covert buildup of its nuclear programme in recent years, especially uranium enrichment, has fulled suspicions in the West and Israel that Tehran is hiding a nuclear weapons programme.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator who led Tehran’s delegation at the Geneva talks reiterated late Friday upon his return that enriching uranium was his country’s “legal” right.

“The right of (uranium) enrichment is part of Iran’s absolute right. One of the legal rights of Iran is to continue enriching activity for peaceful purpose,” Saeed Jalili told reporters at Tehran airport minutes after he arrived from Geneva.

Iranian newspapers on Saturday praised Tehran’s delegation and said the Islamic republic held the upper hand during the Geneva talks.

“Iran holds upper hand in Geneva talks,” read the front-page headline of the government-run Iran newspaper.

“Iran’s solid logic, innovation and resistance were the key elements on which Tehran presented its argument,” said the newspaper.

Some Tehran dailies put the emphasis on the direct US-Iran talks which also took place in Geneva.

“Nuclear talks in Geneva held through the channel of Iran-US dialogue,” was the front-page headline of a conservative daily, Jomhuri Eslami.

Iran’s leading hardline daily, Kayhan, was cautiously optimistic.

Calling Tehran the “role model of resistance”, the newspaper’s editorial said it would be “hasty to make a judgement on the continuation of the negotiations at this stage.”

Iran agreed to cooperate “fully and immediately” on a second enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the Geneva talks on Thursday.

But the six powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — expected IAEA inspections to be allowed within two weeks, he added.

A senior US administration official said ElBaradei’s visit would deal with the issue, following an outcry over Iran’s belated disclosure last week of construction of the underground uranium enrichment plant.

Iran also struck a tentative agreement with the six powers to ship some of its stocks of low enriched uranium abroad for reprocessing into fuel for an internationally-supervised research reactor in Tehran.

A senior US official said in Geneva that the move was a key confidence building measure that might remove “most” of the enriched uranium that could potentially be used to make a bomb in the more immediate future.

“If Iran agrees to send most of its stockpile of LEU (low enriched uranium) to Russia to be further enriched to provide this fuel, it will reduce that source of anxiety,” the official told journalists, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Experts estimated that in recent months, Iran had exceeded the amount of low energy uranium needed to produce enough higher grade uranium to make a bomb, he explained.

Iran had first approached the IAEA several months to a year ago because its fuel for the reactor would end its lifespan within a year to 18 months, according to US officials.

The arrangement was then hatched through the IAEA after it approached several of the UN Security Council powers.

Under the deal, the uranium stocks would be shipped to Russia for further enrichment and to France for reprocessing into fuel suitable for the Tehran reactor, which was supplied by the United States several decades ago.

However, the agreement is only “in principle” and the technical details need to be worked out at a meeting of the IAEA in Vienna on October 18.

Source: SGGP

2nd typhoon lashes northern Philippines

In World on October 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

 Powerful winds toppled power poles and trees Saturday in the northern Philippines as the second typhoon in eight days bore down on the country. Farther north, Taiwan began evacuating villages also in the path of the storm.

The Philippines is still reeling from a Sept. 26 typhoon that caused the worst flooding in 40 years and killed 288 people. Officials said Typhoon Parma, was no longer headed for the same heavily populated regions devastated by the earlier storm.

But heavy rain was falling across a swath of the main island of Luzon that is still flooded, and violent winds were battering far-north provinces.

Trees were uprooted and power pylons toppled in the provincial capital of Tuguegarao, local government official Bonifacio Cuarteros told The Associated Press by telephone. In neighboring Isabella, gusting winds knocked a rider off his motorcycle in the street, and trees and billboards were also blown down.

“We pray that we won’t have a worse outcome, but with this kind of situation, we cannot really say,” Cuarteros said.

Residents go on with their normal life amidst floodwaters in Taytay township, Rizal province, east of Manila, Philippines Friday Oct. 2, 2009

Parma was due to strike the Philippines’ northeastern tip sometime after dark Saturday, packing sustained winds that had weakened slightly overnight to 108 mph (175 kph), the national weather bureau said.

Senior forecaster Prisco Nilo warned that heavy rains could trigger landslides and flooding, and strong winds could also create tidal surges “similar to a tsunami” along the eastern coast.

Earlier, chief forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said the risk of a new deluge in Manila had lessened because the storm had changed course, but said it was still dangerous in the north.

“It is good news, especially for those whose houses are still under water,” Cruz said. “But 175 (kph winds) can still uproot trees and destroy houses and blown down roofs.”

Taiwan issued a storm warning and began moving people out of villages in the southern county of Kaohsiung, said local official Lin Chun-chieh. Flash flooding from the last typhoon to hit the Kaohsiung killed about 700 people in August.

“The typhoon could bring torrential rain and trigger flash flooding, so government agencies should be prepared,” Vice Premier Eric Chu was quoted as saying by the government-owned Central News Agency.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said in a statement that the military would be on standby to help relief efforts if necessary.

Typhoon Ketsana last month damaged the homes of more than 3 million people in the Philippines. It went on to hit other Southeast Asian countries, killing 99 in Vietnam, 14 in Cambodia and 16 in Laos.

It was part of more than a week of destruction in the Asia-Pacific region that has claimed more than 1,500 lives so far: an earthquake Wednesday in Indonesia; a tsunami Tuesday in the Samoan islands; and Typhoon Ketsana across Southeast Asia.

Source: SGGP

For Brazil, Olympics mean the future finally has arrived

In World on October 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

For the longest time, a joke about Brazil made the rounds in the halls of international financial organizations: Latin America‘s largest and most populous nation had a great future — and always would.

No one’s laughing anymore, as Brazil joined the ranks of the big-boy countries after Rio de Janeiro , a city known for sun and sin, was named the host of the 2016 Olympic Games on Friday.

The win, on top of an earlier award to host soccer’s 2014 World Cup, recognizes Brazil as one of the pillars of the global economy. It’s an amazing transformation, considering that just eight years ago it elected Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva , a fiery former union leader who critics warned would lead his nation into socialism, or, worse, communism.

It didn’t happen. Instead, Lula has become a global figure, aided by Brazil’s booming economy and recent discoveries of vast offshore oil deposits.

“It’s sort of a recognition that Brazil has arrived. That it is a global player, that it is a regional power, and it reflects a very impressive performance and progress in the country,” said Michael Shifter, the vice president of policy for the Inter-American Dialogue, a research center that specializes in hemispheric politics. “This is just a measure of its increasing stature and protagonism on the world stage.”

People celebrate after Rio de Janeiro was announced host of the 2016 Olympics at the Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro.

Indeed, Brazil was front and center earlier in the decade when developing nations stormed out of global trade talks in the Mexican resort Cancun , drawing a line in the sand for emerging markets, which demanded that rich nations take their concerns seriously.

That effort culminated last month at a meeting of the Group of 20, composed of the world’s most developed economies. Leaders meeting in Pittsburgh agreed to do away with the old Group of Eight structure dominated by the United States , Japan and Europe , and instead create a new, larger mechanism that brings in big developing economies.

“No country has done so much, with so much, in such a short period of time,” said Jerry Haar , associate dean of the Florida International University College of Business in Miami . ” Brazil has really matured. It now has crossed the line and is a middle-class country.”

All the more remarkable given Brazil’s troubled recent past, which included a long and tortured rule by successive generals.

“This is one of the great stories in the world, of a country that had 21 years of military dictatorship, economic disorder, and today for all of its problems seems to be pursuing a productive course,” Shifter said.

Hosting the Olympic Games also will put Brazil and Rio under greater scrutiny, both for their long-standing crime problems in the mountainside slums, called favelas, and for their stewardship of the Amazon region, vital for the globe’s environmental health.

” Brazil has always responded well to external pressure, so I believe issues related to Amazon, to safety, to governance, people in Brazil know we will be under not a microscope but more attention,” said Paulo Sotero , a Brazilian who runs the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars , a research organization in Washington .

The Olympics are likely also to cement a long legacy for Lula, who helped bring down the dictatorship in the late 1980s and may go down as its most important contemporary leader.

“It seems almost like it is Brazil’s decade. Lula keeps saying it is Brazil’s century. … It sure as hell is a good start of a last year in office for Lula,” said Douglas Engle , a photographer and cameraman from Hendersonville, N.C. , who’s spent more than a decade working in Rio. “It really makes his legacy. Even people who complained about him must admit this is pretty good.”

Source: SGGP

Pakistan: Troops kill 27 militants in northwest

In World on October 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

 Pakistan‘s paramilitary forces say they have killed 27 militants, including two important commanders, in an ongoing operation in the northwestern Khyber tribal region.

Pakistani tribal families of South Waziristan area fleeing their hometown, arrive in Miran Shah, capital of Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.

A statement from the Frontier Corps said the troops also destroyed two militant hideouts in Friday’s operations. An explosives-laden vehicle and 18 other vehicles also were destroyed.

It was not possible to independently confirm the statements. Access to Khyber is restricted.

Under pressure from the U.S., Pakistan launched the operation weeks ago after insurgents stepped up attacks on trucks carrying supplies to American and NATO forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Source: SGGP

Lack of students forces universities shut down faculties

In Vietnam Education on October 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

Many universities in HCM City announced October 2 they would close a series of faculties and departments due to a serious lack of students.

Students sit the 2009 university entrance exam. Many HCMC-based universities have to close some faculties due to a lack of students. (Photo: nhansuvietnam) 

Such closures were made after various universities and colleges across the country announced the qualification scores for the third-phase university admissions, which are underway.

Van Hien Private University in HCM City said it decided to shut down five departments – social studies, civilization studies, Vietnamese studies, business English and electronics-telecommunications – after it could not get enough students.

The head of the Training Department of Van Hien, Nguyen Quoc Hop, said the small number of students admitted into those departments would be transferred to other faculties and departments.

The same situation is seen at Hung Vuong Private University, where the Japanese language faculty has been closed as it has only four students.

The school’s post-harvest technology department has only 20 students, so they will be transferred to other faculties and departments, the school said.

Similarly, the Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology (HUFLIT) decided to suspend the Chinese studies and Chinese language departments as they have only two students.

Some other departments at HUFLIT have a higher number of students, but whether they remain open depends on the actual number of students who will go to school.

Source: SGGP

Aquatic exports reach $3bn in nine months

In Vietnam Economy on October 3, 2009 at 10:42 am

Vietnam’s aquatic export turnover reached US$3 billion over the last nine months, a decrease of five percent of export value compared to the same period last year, said Nguyen Thanh Bien, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.

Mr. Bien said if Vietnam can better exploit the market, aquatic products can bring home more $1.75 billion in the last months of the year, raising aquatic export turnover to the reach the year target of $4.4 billion.

The target is less than last year’s turnover, $4.5 billion, but was based on the international economic downturn.

Vietnam exported aquatic products to Japan and the US to the tune of $574 million and $530 million respectively.

US market is recovering

The US was for a long time Vietnam’s biggest aquatic importer but after two anti-dumping lawsuits of tra and basa fish and sugpo prawn in 2000, exports to the US fell. However, Vietnam’s aquatic export to US have recently begun rising again.

Processing tra fish for export at Nam Viet Joint Stock Company, An Giang Province. (Photo: SGGP)

Many aquatic products were imported to the US over the past few months, such as tilapia, crab, tra and basa fish and oyster.

Vietnamese aquatic export companies have more opportunities to export to US, with US’s import demand of sugpo prawn increasing sharply due to supply falling from other countries, except India, Mr. Bien said.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), overall the US became the fifth largest importer of Vietnam’s sea product market, with an increase of 337 percent in volume and more than 560 percent in value.

The US became the fourth largest market from March, after Japan, Korea and the EU. Other markets have fluctuated while US demand has continued to grow over the past few months.

Many aquatic export companies said that demand of octopus in many countries has been increasing in the year’s closing months and basa and tra fish exports to the US receiving the best prices.

Strengthen, exploit and expand the market

Export to traditional markets like Japan, the EU and the US have been on the rise, and will be helped by the Japan-Vietnam Economic Partnership Agreement, which comes into effect on October 1.

The agreement slashes tariffs by up to 86 percent on Vietnamese farm, forestry and aquatic products.

The import tariff of Vietnam’s shrimp will be lowered to one to two percent, offering exporters a prime opportunity to get a bigger slice of the market.

Japan’s aquatic product imports are expected to rise from September to December and the price for tuna, salmon, surimi, crab, octopus and frozen prawn likely to rise due to limited supply.

Spain, the biggest consumer of Vietnam’s tra and basa fish in the EU (400,000 tons per year) recognized that Vietnam’s seafood products can meet EU’s requirements on food hygiene.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, in the year’s end months Vietnam’s aquatic export companies need to continue to exploit big markets, such as South Korea which consumes 7,300 tons shrimp per year, Russia which mainly imports tra fish, Japan which consumes tra and basa fish and the Middle-East.

Government needs to give more help

According to VASEP, to exploit markets effectively, companies need to have enough materials to process.

There are some 700 seafood processing companies nationwide while the domestic source can provide only 50 percent of the total materials demanded. In addition, aquatic exploitation is decreasing, as many fishermen have given up their careers due to increasing expenses, limited supply and poor profits.

Some companies in Binh Thuan, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Kien Giang said they just meet 40-50 percent of octopus export orders.

To enhance aquatic export turnover in the last three months, companies need to join trade exhibitions in the EU, Russia, South Korea and Japan to seek new partners and the Government needs to consider cutting import tax of aquatic materials, said VASEP.

Zero import tax of aquatic materials has been applied in other regional countries, it added.


Source: SGGP

Vietnam has worked well to reduce poverty, says MOLISA

In Vietnam Society on October 3, 2009 at 10:42 am

After three years of a national poverty reduction program, for the phase 2006 to 2010, Vietnam has achieved its targets, the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Welfare (MOLISA) said October 2.

A poverty reduction program helps Tran Van Phan (R), a disadvantaged resident in District 11, HCMC, open a business to buy waste materials to recycle (Photo: Phap Luat)

At a conference in Hanoi, the ministry and the UNDP in Vietnam said that the initial goal of an annual two percent fall in the number of poor households has been surpassed. The current figure stands at a 2.6 percent annual reduction.

By the end of 2008, the ratio of poor households in Vietnam was 12 percent while it was 18 percent in 2005.

They believed that Vietnam could achieve its target in poverty reduction by 2010.

They did, however, note some problems, such as an overlap between the program and other Government poverty reduction projects and, therefore, causing waste.

Some people who are not poor have also accessed social services from the program while some actual poor people have missed out.

To better carry out the program for the remaining year, some experts proposed to set up an overall and comprehensive social welfare system to assist poverty reduction.

The Government approved the program in the early second half of 2007 to mobilize resources to for eliminating hunger and reducing poverty.

The program, including projects to support production and increase income for the poor, helps disadvantaged people access social services and enhances their work skills.

Source: SGGP