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Archive for December 3rd, 2009|Daily archive page

VN-Index down as investors rue loss of leverage

In Vietnam Stock Market on December 3, 2009 at 10:45 am

The VN-Index fell for the second straight day December 3 as sentiments remained low following news that the Government has called halt to the bank-loan subsidy program.

The index, which tracks 187 companies and four open-ended funds on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, lost 0.87 percent or 4.34 points to close at 494.80. Around 42.37 million shares worth VND1.68 trillion (US$214.8 million) changed hands.

Declines outnumbered gains by 103 to 55, while 33 remained unchanged.

The fall was, however, less steep than on Wednesday when the index was the biggest loser globally with a fall of 3.1 percent after the government said it would wind up the program intended to boost consumption and reduce manufacturing costs on December 31.

“The withdrawal of leverage in the market …created some downward pressure,” Adrian Cundy, head of research at the Ho Chi Minh City-based VinaSecurities Joint Stock Co., the brokerage unit of the VinaCapital Group, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

The declines were led by 620 – Chau Thoi Concrete Corp. (BT6) based in Binh Duong Province which dipped by the maximum allowed limit of 5 percent to VND57,000.

Long An Province-based construction and real estate player Hoang Long Group fell 4.93 percent to VND28,900 and the city-based Seafood Joint Stock Co. (TS4) slid 4.88 percent to VND37,000.

Saigon Commercial Bank or Sacombank (STB) which finished flat at VND25,300 was the most active stock in volume as having nearly 5.2 million shares changing hands.

Vietnam Export Import Bank or Eximbank (EIB) came next with nearly 5 million shares traded at a 2.47 percent increase or VND24,900, followed by Saigon Securities Inc. (SSI) with 1.7 million shares. The country’s largest brokerage added 1.29 percent to VND78,500.

Hanoi’s HNX-Index lost 0.64 percent, or 1.02 points, to close at 160.12. More than 18.76 million shares were traded at VND645 billion.

The UP-CoM Index gained 0.32 percent to 56.60.

On the global market, the Nasdaq rose on Wednesday as strong online holiday sales boosted shares of retailers, including, and relieved some concerns about the consumer. The Dow Jones edged lower as falling oil prices prompted investors to sell energy shares.

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Swine flu, bird flu viruses could form deadly cocktail: health official

In Vietnam Health on December 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

The reappearance of bird flu has opened up the threat of the virus combining with the swine flu virus to become more lethal and capable of human transmission, a health official warned at a meeting of the National Steering Board of Human Flu Prevention on December 2.

Health officials recommend washing hands with soap as an effective measure to protect against the A/H1N1 virus

Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga, chief of the Preventive Health and Environment Department, said the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu could combine with the H5N1 virus and become more deadly than the former and more capable of human-to-human transmission than the latter, especially in winter

He told delegates that two more people have died of swine flu, both from the Mekong delta province of An Giang — a 33-year-old man from who died on November 20, and a 17-year-old girl who died on November 29.

On November 28 bird flu claimed its fifth victim, a 23-year-old man in the northern province of Dien Bien. Many others have been hospitalized around the country with suspected bird flu.

Officials from the Vietnam Drug Administration said at the meeting that three drug suppliers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Sanoffi Aventis, and Pasteur have registered to sell swine-flu vaccines.

The administration has tested the vaccine made by GSK which would supply 1.2 million doses through the World Health Organization, they said.

They are meant for high risk groups like children aged six to 59 months, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions including asthma, diabetes, and immune system problems, and health-care personnel who provide direct patient care, the officials added.

Besides buying one million doses of Tamiflu, Vietnam has successfully made an antiviral drug for treatment of both flus called Arbidol (Fludon H1),

So far the country has reported 10,944 swine-flu cases with 46 deaths and five deaths from bird flu.

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Porridge shops fined for breaching health regulations

In Vietnam Health on December 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

Following media reports about chemical-laden porridge, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health has started issuing fines to several city businesses, said an official on December 2.

Chief investigator Nguyen Minh Hung said out of 55 businesses selling “nutritious” porridge, inspectors fined 27 shops and suspended operations of three others in districts 7, Go Vap and Hoc Mon. In total, porridge shop owners have now been fined over VND100 million.

Inspectors said they discovered several breaches of health and hygiene regulations including employees working without health certificates and unsafe food processing conditions.

The inspection team has taken more porridge samples for tests.

Related article:
City launches inquest into chemical-laden porridge

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Comedian passes away

In Vietnam Culture on December 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

Meritorious Artist and renowned comedian Trinh Mai passed away in Hanoi December 1 after a long struggle with cancer. He was 76.

                     Comedian Trinh Mai

He is remembered for his roles in plays like Buc tranh mua gat (Picture of the Harvest Season), Hoa va co (Flower and Grass), Tien tuyen goi (The call of the Front), and others.

The actor also became renowned for appearances in movies like So do (Fortunate), Khong phai chuyen cuoi (It’s No Laughing Matter) and more.

Mr. Mai, who was born in Hanoi, acted in dramas at his village in Chuong My District in his younger days, honing his dramatic talent.

His body is being kept at his house and will be moved to the Hanoi Funeral House on December 5 for people to pay their tributes. He will be buried in Chuong My.


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Mekong-Japan tourism, culture festival opens in Can Tho

In Vietnam Culture on December 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

Art performances, a tourism fair, a photo exhibition on tourism and culture are among the attractions at the Mekong-Japan Tourism and Culture Festival which opened December 2 in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

Can Tho City students go on a walk December 2 to raise funds for poor students in the Mekong sub-region that comprises Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar (Photo: SGGP)

The four-day festival will also feature volleyball and boat races, performances of southern music, a food festival, and a seminar on tourism development in the delta.

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, who is also a Politburo member and the secretary of the Central Party Committee, attended the opening ceremony along with other central and local authorities and delegations from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Japan.

The Mekong sub-region, a crowded area with a variety of ethnic groups and cultures, has rich natural resources and advantageous conditions for agriculture and forestry, Mr Trong said at the inauguration.

The same day, ministers from the five Mekong sub-region countries — Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar — and Japan held a meeting on tourism and cultural development.

Delegates concurred with a proposal by the Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism Hoang Anh Tuan to develop the Mekong sub-region into a safe and friendly destination and strengthen cooperation with Japan to promote tourism and train human resources.

More than 5,000 people, including foreigners, Government and Can Tho officials, and local residents, walked to raise funds for poor students in the sub-region.

The city People’s Committee donated US$10,000 each to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar for the purpose.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the city People’s Committee are organizing the event.

Related article:
Can Tho to hold Mekong-Japan culture fest in December

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City hosts photo exhibit honoring Irish writer

In Vietnam Culture on December 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

A photo exhibition featuring the life and career of Samuel Beckett, a renowned Irish writer, playwright and poet of the 20th century, is running at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities from December 1-11.

A picture of writer Samuel Beckett is on the display.

Beckett, (1906-1989), won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969 for his descriptions of transcendental meaning in the lives of modern-day people living in poverty.

He is most famous for the play Waiting for Godot.

John Minihan, known for his photos of the Nobel laureate winning writer, is in HCM City to attend the Beckett exhibition.


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Appreciating art outside the box

In Vietnam Culture on December 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

Public arts performances in Vietnam are often held during festivals, but in neighboring countries, they can be seen anytime, anywhere. The Mekong Arts and Media Festival 2009 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last week introduced many effective ways of encouraging cultural activities in the community.

Connecting through art

PPS artists perform on street during the opening ceremony of the Mekong Arts and Media Festival 2009 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Nov. 23-27, 2009. (Photo: Hoang Long)

After the Khmer Rough was ousted from Cambodia in 1979, many young people who had fled the brutal regime were living in refugee camps along the Thailand-Cambodian border. To help them cope with the psychological stress of their ordeal, painting courses were established in 1986 as a form of therapeutic expression.

In 1992, when many refugees returned home, they continued the idea of using art as creative therapy. Volunteers set up the Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), meaning “brightness of art.” They built three training schools and began organizing artistic performances.

Circus acts also featured prominently in the PPS. Khoun Det, the director and one of the founders of the group, said audiences love the circus performances, which incorporate drama, humor and music. The PPS even addresses topical issues like HIV/AIDS in their shows to raise public awareness in a comfortable atmosphere.

Community arts programs also allow youth to express themselves and work together to address their concerns.

Chinese dancer Zhang Yinzhong has developed a project for children to discover their cultural heritage through dance, theater and acting. According to Zhang, in today’s modern world, such culture and tradition are often lost or not taught to young people.

Zhang says the plays he creates are designed to be simple but effective. Often, experts are invited to speak on current issues related to the play.

Participants in our dancing courses often go on to earn a living through performance art, Zhang adds.

Khoun Det said that after children are selected for art training courses, the PPS encourages outstanding students to enter professional art schools and sends them to Vietnam for further training.

Besides public performances, they will have opportunities to work in professional theaters.

Experts say that in Vietnam, there is a belief that street performances and the artists who perform them are of a lower standard. With this idea, Vietnam has insulated its arts within the margins of the theater instead of opening them up to the community.

Four bold Vietnamese performers, however, are breaking the mold with their provocative play “Stereo Man.” Nhu Lai, Hoai Nam, Hoang Tung and Cong Dung say they overcame their initial hesitations and began performing at universities nationwide.

Their show has been warmly received and is proving a great success in raising public awareness about a host of topical issues.

Many are hopeful that in the near future, more Vietnamese will come to see the value of liberating art performances from the confines of the theater.

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Toxic chemicals found in a third of children’s toys: study

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

A third of the most popular children’s toys in the United States this year contain harmful chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury, a US consumer group said Wednesday.

A shopper checking out toys at a US store. (Photo: AFP)

The Ecology Center, which published its findings on the website, tested nearly 700 toys ahead of the Christmas shopping season and found that 32 percent contained one or more toxic chemical.

The number of products exceeding current federal limits for lead in toys has dropped by 67 percent since 2007, though the chemical, which can affect the nervous system, was still present in 18 percent of toys, according to the center.

Lead levels in toys varied, with seven percent containing more than 40 parts per million (ppm), the highest level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007.

Another three percent of the products tested had levels exceeding 300 ppm, the federally-mandated limit, the study said.

Among the toys with detectable lead levels were the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, the Dora the Explorer Activity Tote and the Kid’s Poncho sold by Wal-Mart stores, the Michigan-based Ecology Center said.

The study, which used a portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer, also found cadmium levels greater than 100 ppm in 3.3 percent — or 22 — of the products tested and arsenic levels over 100 ppm in 1.3 percent — or nine — of the toys.

The authors said they were also concerned after finding that 42 percent of the toys tested contained PVC.

“PVC is the worst plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards in its manufacture, product life and disposal, and can contain additives that are dangerous to human health,” the study said.

The center, which has tested some 4,000 children’s products over the past three years, has created an online database where consumers can check whether the toys they have purchased contain toxic chemicals.

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US says Afghan pullout date not fixed

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

President Barack Obama’s administration said that a July 2011 target date to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan was not set in stone, while stepping up warnings over corruption.

US Marines return to base in Helmand Province (AFP)

The day after Obama unveiled his new plan for turning around the war in Afghanistan with a surge of 30,000 more US soldiers, top officials stressed that any timetable for an eventual pullout was still flexible.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and the top uniformed US military officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, sought to sell the new approach under fire from Obama’s hawkish Republican foes.

During hours of questioning by two key committees, they made clear that his target date of starting a US troop withdrawal in 19 months’ time — a step some anti-escalation lawmakers, especially Democrats, had cheered — could slip.Related article: Training key to victory in Afghanistan

“I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving,” said Clinton, who added the goal was “to signal very clearly to all audiences that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan.”

Gates said the extra troops Obama had ordered to Afghanistan would be in place in July 2010, that a December 2010 review of the war effort would shape the pace of the withdrawal, and that the target date could change.

“I think the president, as commander in chief, always has the option to adjust his decisions,” he told Republican Senator John McCain, Obama’s defeated White House rival in 2008.

“Then it makes no sense for him to have announced the date,” said McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Meanwhile, the White House warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to fight corruption or see Washington bypass his cabinet and seek out lower level officials to provide essential services to Afghans.

The warning — coming a day after Obama said the US government would no longer give Afghanistan a “blank check” for US aid — turned up the pressure on Karzai to end the corruption seen as fueling the Taliban insurgency.Related article: Afghans welcome troop surge

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama talked “about the notion that it is time for a new chapter in Afghan governance” in conversations with Karzai, including a secure videoconference late Monday.

When he unveiled his new Afghan strategy in a speech on Tuesday, Obama made it clear he expected major changes from the Karzai government’s status quo, and outlined several steps he wanted them to take.

“The days of providing a blank check are over,” Obama said in the speech, noting that Karzai sent the “right message about moving in a new direction” when he was inaugurated last month as president for another term.

Gibbs on Wednesday took the warning a step further.

“If President Karzai is unable or unwilling to make changes in corruption or governance… we will identify people at a sub-cabinet level, at a district level that can implement the types of services and basic governance, without corruption, that Afghans need.”

In her testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Clinton said the administration has “real concerns about the influence of corrupt officials in the Afghan government, and we will continue to pursue them.”

She also recalled Karzai’s remarks at his inauguration, which she attended in Kabul, following his victory in the fraud-marred August elections.

“He (Karzai) pledged to combat corruption, improve governance, and deliver for the people of his country. His words were long in coming, but welcome. They must now be matched with action,” the chief US diplomat told senators.

Gates also strove to reassure war-weary Americans that the US presence was “not open-ended” and that “it is neither necessary, nor feasible, to create a modern, centralized, Western-style Afghan nation-state, the likes of which has never been seen in that country.”

He promised “a narrower focus” on routing Al-Qaeda, with “observable progress on clear objectives” but bluntly told lawmakers: “Quite frankly, I detest the phrase ‘exit strategy.'”

“What is essential is — for our national security — is that we have two long-term partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

On Thursday, Clinton, Mullen and Gates go before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Mullen and Gates were also due to appear before the House Armed Services Committee.

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Honduras Congress rejects return of ousted leader

In World on December 3, 2009 at 10:42 am

Honduran lawmakers rejected the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya during a heated debate which revisited details of the June 28 coup which polarized the nation.

Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya (AFP)

A simple majority of 65 lawmakers in the 128-member body had voted against Zelaya’s return to the presidency shortly before 730 pm (0130 GMT), after more than six hours of debate.

The decision came amid pressure to resolve the five-month crisis, and after many Latin American governments warned they would not restore broken ties unless Zelaya was allowed to finish his term, which ends January 27.

The vote, however, put an end to a US-brokered crisis deal between Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took over after the coup.

Micheletti, who stepped down briefly over the elections, said before the vote that Zelaya was “history.”

As the political drama played out in the Congress, dozens of security forces faced off outside with backers of Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since returning in September.

Despite angry speeches from several deputies who slammed both the coup and a military crackdown which followed, only nine lawmakers had backed Zelaya’s return when the majority against it was reached.

The same Congress, along with the Supreme Court, business leaders and the military, had backed Zelaya’s expulsion over his plans to change the constitution, which they saw as a bid to undo term limits.

Lawmakers had received advice from the attorney general and the Supreme Court, which has said that criminal charges against Zelaya still stand.

“As far as I know, the Congress does not have the capacity to make this decision,” Zelaya told local Radio Globo ahead of the vote.

Zelaya had suggested that he would not resume the presidency even if Congress voted him back in, saying a US pact which left the decision to Congress had failed.

Divisions in the Central American nation have remained wide since controversial weekend elections held under the de facto regime, in which conservative Porfirio Lobo claimed a solid victory.

Lobo, who backed the coup, has vowed to work for national reconciliation.

His National Party, with 55 seats in Congress, voted against Zelaya’s return.

Lobo, who lost to Zelaya in 2005 elections, has not spoken out on the issue, prefering to leave the decision to Congress.

Zelaya suffered from splits within his Liberal Party which has a majority in Congress but is deeply divided over his swing to the left under the influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The United States, a key business partner and donor, and the European Union, also a key donor, said they saw the weekend polls as an important first step forward out of the crisis, but many in Latin America, starting with powerhouse Brazil, said they served to whitewash the coup.

Rights groups said the elections were marred by the lack of international consensus, and slammed a military crackdown on journalists and activists since the coup.

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