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Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

20-year-old wins ‘Miss Charming TV’ contest

In Vietnam Culture on December 29, 2009 at 11:15 am

At just 20 years old, broadcaster Nguyen Thi Trang Phuong from Hau Giang TV in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang has won first prize in the 4th Miss Charming TV contest.

Trang Phuong receives her award at a ceremony on December 28 to crown the new Miss Charming TV (Photo: Courtesy of Cat Tien Sa)

She was among 13 contestants from 12 TV stations nationwide vying for the title on December 28.

Phuong was the youngest competitor and had just six months experience as a broadcaster at Hau Giang TV. Audiences also voted her most popular.

The young winner received VND33 million for both prizes while Hau Giang TV came first in the contest for the second year in a row. Ms. Nguyen Thi Chuc Anh of Hau Giang won first place last year.

Tran Quynh Mai, 23, from Hanoi TV, captured the second prize and won the most beautiful ASEAN costume category.

Pham Thi Dieu Huong, 22, from Hai Phong TV in the northern province of Hai Phong secured third prize.

Huynh Thi Quynh Giang from Dong Nai TV and Do Hoang Ngoc Diem from Can Tho TV rounded out the top fourth and fifth spots respectively.

The competition also gave out six consolation prizes worth VND8 million (US$350) each.

Winners of the four categories were:

Most beautiful Ao Dai: Do Hoang Ngoc Diem from Can Tho TV.
Most Photogenic: Dao Thi Thanh Ha from Ho Chi Minh City TV.
Most beautiful regional costume: Bui Thanh Quy from Gia Lai TV in Ba Na ethnic minority.
Miss Talent:  Hoang Thi Nga from Ba Ria-Vung Tau TV.

Related article:
Viewers treated to 4th ‘Miss Charming TV’

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Ministry reviews 2009 culture, sports and tourism

In Vietnam Culture on December 29, 2009 at 11:15 am

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism held a year-end conference in Da Nang City on December 28 to evaluate the sectors’ 2009 performance and discuss plans for 2010.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan attends the year-end meeting held by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism in Da Nang on December 28.

Minister Hoang Anh Tuan said culture, sport and tourism industries have made significant achievements this year in promoting images of the country abroad. Mr. Tuan added that it was commendable Vietnam ranked second at the 25th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 25) in Laos.

This year also saw amendments and supplementary articles added to the Cultural Heritage Law, Intellectual Property Law, Cinema Law, and the Cultural Development Strategy until 2020 among others.

The report said there were 3.8 million foreign visitors to the country this year, a decrease of 11.5 percent over last year. Domestic tourist numbers were up 19 percent, however, to 25 million.

Vietnam’s tourism sector earned around VND68,000-70,000 billion (US$3.6-3.7billion), an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

The country hopes to welcome about 4.6 million foreign visitors and 28 million domestic tourists in 2010.

Ho Chi Minh City received only 2.52 million international tourists, accounting for 84 percent of the year’s target. The city expects to attract around 3.5 million foreign visitors and 10 million local tourists in 2010.

Culture, sports and tourism plans for next year include working with relevant departments to celebrate the 1,000th Thang Long-Hanoi Anniversary, taking part in the 16th Asian Games (ASIAD 16) in Guangzhou, China, promoting tourism and organizing other events in the country.

The Ministry also announced on December 27 Vietnam’s 10 most outstanding cultural, sports and tourism achievements of 2009:

1. The NA promulgated and amended laws relating to the Law on Cultural Heritages, Intellectual Property, and Cinema. The PM issued Decision 581/QĐ-TTg approving the Cultural Development Strategy to 2020 and Decision 1272/QĐ-TTg on listing 10 special national cultural and historical sites (stage 1).

2. Quan ho Bac Ninh singing (Bac Ninh folk love duets) and Ca tru (ceremonial songs) recently received recognition as “an intangible world heritage” by the United Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Ca tru has been listed as a “cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding”. UNESCO will also send representatives to attend the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi.

3. Diplomatic cultural activities held in the “Year of Cultural Diplomacy” including Vietnamese Week in Russia, the UK, Laos, South Africa, Venezuela and Brazil; Vietnam’s cultural and artistic activities in China, Spain, Sweden and Italy; the “Meet Vietnam” Program in San Francisco, US; the Republic of Korea’s Cultural Week and Cambodia’s Cultural Week in Vietnam; establishment of the Vietnam traditional music orchestra and its performance in Laos.

The New York Philharmonic, the US’ oldest orchestra and one of the best-known orchestras in the world, traveled to Vietnam for performances at the Hanoi Opera House October 16-17.

4. A series of cultural and artistic activities marked the nation’s most prominent events including the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Ho Chi Minh Trail; 55th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu Victory; and the Quang Nam Culture-Tourism Week ahead of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi.

5. Special commemorative days were celebrated including April 19, which was named Culture Day of Vietnam Ethnic Groups; the International Gongs Festival 2009 held in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai; the 1st Việt Nam Rice Festival in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang; Mekong-Japan Culture and Tourism Days in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho; and the Mrs. World Pageant 2009 in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

6. The locally made movie Dung dot (Don’t Burn) won the Fukuoka Audience Award at the Fukuoka International Film Festival in Japan. Vietnam won four first prizes out of seven awards at the international competition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

7. Vietnam hosted the 3rd Asian Indoor Games (AI Games 3) and ranked second overall. 

8. Vietnamese athletes pocketed 215 medals with 83 golds and ranked second at the 25th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Laos.

9. The ASEAN Tourism Forum 2009 (ATF-09) was held along with the tourism stimulus program “Vietnam Impression.”

10. Hạ Long Bay was listed in the final round of voting for 7 World Natural Wonders while Lang Co Bay in Thua Thien-Hue Province was recognized as a world Beautiful Bay.

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Renowned Chinese book to be translated into Vietnamese

In Vietnam Culture on December 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

Famous Chinese author Mo Yan has given the translation rights for his most recent book “Frog” to the Le Chi Information and Culture Company (Chibooks).

                   The book “Frog” by Mo Yan

It is the Chinese writer’s latest novel to be translated into Vietnamese following “Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out” released in 2006.

In the new book, the protagonist is based on Mo’s aunt, a countryside doctor who delivered Mo and thousands of others and carried out a family planning policy. Critics have said “Frog” reflects the bizarre realities of materialistic Chinese society.

Born in 1955 in Shandong province, Mo Yan (originally named Guan Moye) is one of the most renowned modern Chinese writers.
He joined the People’s Liberation Army at age 20 and began writing while he was still a soldier in 1981. Three years later, he was given a teaching position at the Department of Literature in the Army’s Cultural Academy.

Mo Yan has received several awards including the Kiriyama Prize for Notable Books in 2005 for his novel “Big Breasts and Wide Hips,” the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize XVII in 2006, and the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature for the book “Soaring” in 2009.

His other works include “Red Sorghum,” “The Garlic Ballads, Explosions and Other Stories,” and “The Republic of Wine.” Several of them have been translated into more than a dozen languages, including English, German and French.

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Nha Trang eco-group releases thousands of sea creatures

In Vietnam Environment on December 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

The Management Board of the Sea Preservation Zone in Nha Trang Bay released thousands of sea species at Mun Islet on December 28 in an effort to repopulate the marine ecosystem.

An expert of the Nha Trang Sea Preservation Zone releases marine species on Hon Mun Islet on December 28. (Photo: Dat Viet Newspaper)

The creatures included 2,000 sea horses, 1,000 trochidaes, 300 holothurians, and khoang co fish (amphiprion and premnas).

The sea horses and khoang co fish were bred using artificial insemination at the Nha Trang Oceanography Institute.

The event was held as part of activities to celebrate Vietnam Biological Diversification Day (December 29).

The natural ecosystem of Hon Mun Islet has improved significantly thanks to recent protection efforts and breeding programs initiated by the Sea Preservation Zone and the Nha Trang Oceanography Institute.

Eco-tourism has also improved in the area along with the population of fish available to local fishermen.

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Russian oil transit through Ukraine to continue

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

Russian oil shipments to Europe through Ukraine will continue without disruption as the two countries renegotiate their transit agreement, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Tuesday.

“We expect that there will be no problems with the transit,” Sechin was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Ukraine said Monday it wanted to change the terms of the deal, signed in 2004, under which Russia ships oil through Ukrainian territory to the EU.

Ukraine had sought and obtained an increase in the tariffs Russia pays to transit its oil through Ukrainian pipelines, but the two sides had still not agreed on how much oil — subject to those tariffs — Russia would “guarantee” to pump through Ukraine, officials said.

File photo of a Russian oil well outside Nefteyugansk, western Siberia

Sechin said Russia was still negotiating with Ukraine on the final terms of the new deal.

Disputes between Russia and Ukraine on pricing and transit of Russian natural gas shipped to EU clients have caused serious supply disruptions in recent years, but Ukrainian officials gave assurances that transit would continue even if talks were not concluded by the end of the year.

EU sources in Brussels also played down fears of another looming energy dispute between Russia and Ukraine that could have an impact on EU energy supplies.

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Nufarm China deal over, Japan’s Sumitomo move in

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

Australian agrichemical firm Nufarm on Tuesday said it had stopped discussions with China’s Sinochem on a possible takeover, and would instead seek a strategic investment from Japan’s Sumitomo.

The development comes after state-owned Sinochem last week unexpectedly dropped its bid for Nufarm to around 2.62 billion dollars (2.32 billion US) from the 2.84 billion dollars proposed in September.

“The Nufarm Board has carefully considered Sinochem’s proposal and has decided that it is not in the best interests of Nufarm shareholders to pursue Sinochem’s proposal,” the company said in a statement.

The Melbourne-based company said a proposed strategic investment from the Sumitomo Chemical Company provided better certainty for shareholders.

Glass jars hold chemicals for analysis in a laboratory.

It said its board would unanimously recommend that Sumitomo acquire 20 percent of its shares for 14 dollars cash per share via a tender offer.

Nufarm would then undertake a 250 million dollar equity capital raising, the global crop chemical company said.

Nufarm and Sumitomo will also enter into an agreement to co-operate across a number of business areas, it said, including research and development.

“This investment and the resulting benefits to the business are expected to provide Nufarm with access to additional new products and increased opportunities to expand and strengthen Nufarm’s position in various crop segments and geographic markets,” chairman Kerry Hoggard said.

Under the original Sinochem proposal, the China state-owned company would have paid 13 dollars per share to acquire all of the issued ordinary shares in the company. But it revised the price down to 12 dollars on December 21.

Nufarm said the lower offer undervalued the company while the proposal remained subject to numerous conditions, some of which it said were unacceptable.

Nufarm shareholders will vote on the Japanese company’s offer, which is subject to final approval by the Sumitomo board, at a meeting in March.

The development follows Nufarm’s conditional support, in late 2007, for a 3.0 billion dollar takeover from a private equity consortium, which included China’s state-owned ChemChina. That takeover was derailed by the global financial crisis.

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China executes Briton over drugs; Brown slams decision

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

 China on Tuesday executed a British citizen caught smuggling heroin, the British Foreign Office said, in a move quickly condemned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Akmal Shaikh‘s family and the British government had appealed for clemency, arguing the former businessman suffered from bipolar disorder. The Chinese supreme court rejected the appeal saying there was insufficient grounds.

“I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted,” Brown said in a statement issued by the British Foreign Office.

“I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken.”

China had yet to publicly confirm Shaikh had been executed in the western city of Urumqi at the time Brown made the statement. Shaikh had been due to be executed on Tuesday morning.

Shaikh was still “hopeful” when relatives met him in Urumqi this weekend, his cousin Soohail Shaikh told reporters at Beijing airport late on Monday night.

“We beg the Chinese authorities for mercy and clemency to help reunite the heartbroken family,” Soohail Shaikh had said.

Brown last week asked China not to execute Shaikh, who was born in Pakistan and moved to Britain as a boy. While not leading to any diplomatic rift, the case could harden public opinion in Britain against China, and also rile Chinese public opinion.

The two countries recently traded accusations over the troubled Copenhagen climate change negotiations.

Shaikh’s defenders, including British rights group Reprieve which lobbies against the death penalty, say he was tricked into smuggling the heroin by a gang who promised to make him a pop star. Arrested in 2007, a Chinese court rejected his final appeal on December 21.

Reprieve posted on the Internet a recording Shaikh made of a song, “Come Little Rabbit”, which it described as “dreadful” but which Shaikh believed would be an international hit and help bring about world peace.

He would be the first European citizen to be executed in China since 1951, Western rights groups say.

Shaikh’s family says he suffered from bipolar disorder, and was tricked into becoming a mule by a smuggling gang who promised him a music recording contract.

“This is not about how much we hate the drug trade. Britain as well as China are completely committed to take it on,” the British Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, said in a statement emailed to reporters. “The issue is whether Mr. Shaikh has become an additional victim of it.”

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Suicide attack on Pakistani Shiites kills 33

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

The death toll from an overnight suicide attack on a Shiite Muslim procession in Pakistan‘s biggest city rose Tuesday to 33, in violence blamed on extremists trying to hamper the fight against militants by sparking a sectarian war.

Angered over Monday’s attack, Shiites set fire to buildings and dozens of vehicles in Karachi, a sign of frustration by the minority sect, which has suffered frequent attacks by Sunni extremist groups who regard them as heretical.

TV footage showed firefighters struggling to extinguish blazes Tuesday. Sagheer Ahmed, the provincial health minister, said the death toll from the attack had risen to 33. Pakistani television stations said that three people who were hospitalized died overnight of their injuries.

People walk in a market area burned by angry protesters after a suicide attack on aShiite Muslims mourning procession, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 in Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistani authorities say sectarian groups have teamed up with Taliban and al-Qaida militants waging war against the government in a joint effort to destabilize Pakistan. More than 500 people have been killed in attacks since mid-October when the army launched a major anti-Taliban offensive in the country’s northwest.

“A deliberate attempt seems to be afoot by the extremists to turn the fight against militants into a sectarian clash and make the people fight against one another,” said President Asif Ali Zardari in a statement.

Karachi has largely been spared the Taliban-linked violence that has struck much of the rest of the country, a fact that analysts believe is driven by the group’s tendency to use the teeming metropolis as a place to rest and raise money. But the city has been the scene of frequent sectarian, ethnic and political violence.

The suicide bomber who struck Monday targeted thousands of Shiites marching through the streets to observe Ashoura, the most important day of a monthlong mourning period for the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein.

“I fell down when the bomb went off with a big bang,” said Naseem Raza, a 26-year-old who was marching in the procession. “I saw walls stained with blood and splashed with human flesh.”

Residents in apartments near the blast site tossed down body parts that had been cast into their homes from the explosion, while birds dove down to pick at the flesh amid damaged vehicles and motorbikes.

Authorities found the intact head and torso of the suicide bomber on the third floor of a nearby office building, where it had crashed through a window, said bomb disposal squad official Munir Sheikh. Some 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of high explosive were used in the bombing, he said.

No group claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, but Interior Minister Rehman Malik pointed his finger at a cluster of militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad, that he said have a joint goal to destabilize Pakistan.

“These are people who are against democracy, against our religion, against our Pakistan,” said Malik.

Malik appealed to the Shiite community to cancel processions for the next two days.

Monday’s bombing was the third explosion in as many days to hit Karachi, although authorities attributed a blast that wounded 30 on Sunday to a buildup of gas in a sewage pipe.

Protests broke out after that blast too, with Shiites torching at least three vehicles.

On Saturday, another blast near a Shiite procession wounded 19 people. Authorities attributed that explosion to a firecracker that was so powerful it left a crater in the road.

A suicide bomber struck a Shiite procession Sunday in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, killing eight people and wounding another 80. The bombing was a rare sectarian attack in an area police say has little history of militant violence.

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Dollar gains in Asia on US economic optimism

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

The dollar rose in Asian trade Monday, supported by optimism about the outlook for the US economy, dealers said.The dollar gained to 91.57 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade from 91.47 in late Asian trade on Friday, when markets in New York and London were closed for the Christmas holiday.

The euro slipped to 1.4382 dollars from 1.4385 but edged up to 131.70 yen from 131.45.

The dollar’s strength reflected investors’ expectations that the United States will recover from recession more quickly than other major economies, said Marito Ueda, a currency trader at FX Prime.

US data issued last week showed that orders for manufactured durable goods rose in November, while weekly claims for jobless benefits dropped to the lowest level since September 2008.

Markets were looking ahead to the next batch of US indicators due this week, including the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index and housing prices, analysts said.

“Both data should be consistent with a gradual recovery remaining on track,” predicted Calyon economist Sebastien Barbe.

But markets may be getting ahead of themselves in betting on early interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve, he added.

“The Fed will not raise rates soon. In addition, fiscal worries are also very much present in the US. In our view, those fears should limit the dollar’s upside at some point,” Barbe said.

The yen failed to get much of a boost from the latest economic data out of Japan. Markets were also unmoved by news that Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, 77, was hospitalised for tests due to high blood pressure and fatigue.

Factory output rose for a ninth straight month in November, extending the longest unbroken expansion since 1997 on the back of a recovery in exports, but retail sales remained weak, the government said.

“It’s hard to buy the yen at the moment due to uncertainty over the political and economic outlook,” Ueda said.

Recent voter surveys have shown a sharp drop in support for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is embroiled in a political funding scandal.

Against Asian currencies, the dollar fell to 1.4063 Singapore dollars from 1.4064 on Friday, to 1,169.80 South Korean won from 1,174.60, and to 46.40 Philippine pesos from 46.51.

The greenback firmed to 9,490 Indonesian rupiah from 9,480, while holding steady at 32.25 Taiwan dollars and at 33.38 Thai baht.

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Asian markets mixed in light holiday trade

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

Asian stocks markets were narrowly mixed in dwindling holiday trade Tuesday after Wall Street posted muted gains. The dollar was moderately higher against the euro and yen. Australian shares led the region, its resource-heavy market powered by stronger prices for oil, gold and other commodities in recent days.

Trade was sluggish and thin across much of the region with many investors out for the holidays and unwilling to place bets toward the end of a year marked by tremendous gains in stocks around the world.

The markets seemed to find little inspiration in figures showing holiday sales in the U.S., crucial for Asia’s big export companies, ticked up slightly from last year. The news helped push Wall Street stocks to their sixth straight gain.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average rose 6.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 10,641.20. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 12.99 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,467.23.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in this September 16, 2009 file photo.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.3 percent to 1,663.47 and China’s Shanghai index lost 0.3 percent to 3,177.82.

Elsewhere, Australia‘s key index rose 1.1 percent to 4,845.1. India’s Sensex gained 0.2 percent and Singapore’s market added 0.2 percent.

Monday in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.98, or 0.3 percent, to 10,547.08, its highest close since Oct. 1, 2008. The Dow transportation average fell 24.37, or 0.6 percent, to 4,163.49.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.3, or 0.1 percent, to 1,127.78, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 5.39, or 0.2 percent, to 2,291.08.

Oil prices hung below $79 a barrel in Asia, with benchmark crude for February delivery down 11 cents to $78.66. The contract settled up 72 cents at $78.77 on Monday after surging above $79 as an extended cold snap in the U.S. triggered an end-of-year rally in energy futures.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 91.69 yen from 91.62 yen. The euro was lower at $1.4373 from $1.4376.

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