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Archive for December 15th, 2009|Daily archive page

ACB bank starts promotions for card holders

In Vietnam Banking Finance on December 15, 2009 at 10:01 am

Customers at an ACB branch in Ho Chi Minh City

The Asian Commercial Bank (ACB) launched Dec. 14 a promotional program for ACB card holders nationwide, with over VND500 million (about 27,000) for the prizes.

The program, which will last until March 13, 2010, is applied for all ACB cards such as Visa/MasterCard, Visa Business, Visa Prepaid, Visa Electron, ATM2+/Visa Debit, MasterCard Dynamic, and MasterCard Electronic. As for every VND3 million in a card account, the card holder gets a code for a lucky draw.

The first 500 card holders getting codes will be given VND100,000 each in their account.

On Nov. 30, Ho Chi Minh City-based ACB received a prize for Vietnam’s best bank in 2009 selected by the Euromoney Magazine of the UK.

This year, the bank has won six prizes for the title “Best Bank in Vietnam” selected by magazines Euromoney, Asiamoney, FinanceAsia, Euromoney, Global Finance, The Banker and The Asset.

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National investigation launched into toxic watermelon seeds

In Vietnam Health on December 15, 2009 at 10:00 am

Health authorities will test watermelon seeds for the presence of a cancer-causing chemical across the country

Following claims that some watermelon seeds sold in central Vietnam had been soaked in a toxic cancer-causing substance, health authorities said they would launch a nationwide investigation.

Le Thi Hong Hao, deputy head of the National Institute for Testing Food Safety, said the institute would work with inspectors from the Vietnam Food Administration (VFA) to collect samples of watermelon seeds for tests. The results will be announced shortly.

Earlier, the Danang Department of Health reported it had found watermelon seeds soaked with Rhodamine, a toxic substance prohibited for use in food, for sale in local markets.

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VN’s largest dragons to make splash at flower fest

In Vietnam Culture on December 15, 2009 at 9:59 am

The two largest dragon figures in Vietnam, created from hundreds of ornamental trees, will be unveiled at Xuan Huong Lake at the 2010 Da Lat Flower Festival January 1-4.

Two largest dragon figures created from ornamental trees at Xuan Huong Lake will be officially presented to the public in 2010 Da Lat Flower Festival.

The dragons, measuring 108m long and 3m high, will be recognized as the two longest flower dragons in the country by the Vietnam Record Book Center, said Mr. Nguyen Tao, director of the Lam Dong Province Trade-Investment and Tourism Promotion Center.

The creations are adorned with a carpet of brilliant flowers at their bottom, Mr. Tao added.

In related news, a promotional program themed “Da Lat-Lam Dong Impression 2009” will be launched by the Department of Industry and Trade of the Highland province of Lam Dong from December 15 to January 15, 2010.

The program aims to attract more visitors to central Da Lat City, especially for the upcoming Da Lat Flower Festival.

It will also introduce visitors to attractive local destinations including Mong Mo (Dreamlike) Hill, Love Valley and Than Tho lake. Travel companies, hotels and restaurants will take the opportunity to offer discounts of 30-50 percent to tourists.

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Local photographer wins int’l photo contest

In Vietnam Culture on December 15, 2009 at 9:59 am

Vietnamese photographer Le Chau Dao has won a gold medal at the 21st Singapore Photo Art Exhibition for a picture titled “Look at 4.”

“Look at 4” by Le Chau Dao

The winning photo is from a series of four works taken in a village in the Highland province of Gia Lai in November 2008.

Mr. Dao, from the south-central coastal province of Phu Yen, earlier won a gold medal at the 7th International Salon of Pictorial Color Prints in Hong Kong for a picture titled “Look at” in August.

The international photo exhibition in Singapore is organized every two years by the Photo Art Association of Singapore (PAS), which was established in 1965 to promote photography as an art and improve the picture-taking standards of its members.

Dao’s “Look at 4” is one of eight photos awarded gold medals at the Singapore event and among 208 pictures submitted by 102 photographers from 30 countries and territories around the world.

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Stop contentious Hanoi-HCMC air route: PM

In Vietnam Travel on December 15, 2009 at 9:57 am

Vietnam has five airline operators. Domestic flights play an important role in economic development and national security (Photo: H.Son)

In response to a proposal by the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Defense that the government should reject the controversial Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City air route, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung agreed to halt the project.

The project was conceived in 1983 by former military pilot Mai Trong Tuan who said a new, straight air route along the 106th meridian east would cut the flying distance and flight times between Hanoi and HCMC. This “Golden Air Route” would save a great deal of money, Tuan said.

But in an official statement November 30, the Ministry of Transport said the new route is just 60 km shorter than the current one and would take aircraft over the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos.

Airlines would have to pay fees to the other countries for use of their air space in addition to other international flight charges. The cost of flights would therefore increase by up to US$800 excluding passenger service charges, the statement said.
The PM also assigned the two ministries to work to improve the current Hanoi-HCM City air route to ensure economic growth and national security.

Related articles:
Gov’t should abandon aviation Golden Route: transport ministry

New Hanoi-HCMC air route not practicable: officials
VEA to hold series of debates on “Golden Air Route”
Proposal on new Hanoi-HCM City air route needs more thorough review: CAAV
CAAV turns away from ‘golden air route’
Discussions over new Hanoi-HCM City air route
Air authority accepts new flight route plans

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Vietnam mayors learn world-class urban management

In Vietnam Society on December 15, 2009 at 9:57 am

The Vietnam Mayors Executive Education Program, jointly organized by the Academy of Management for Cities and Construction (AMC) and the World Bank Institute, opened December 14 in Hanoi to provide city leaders insight into modern urban management.

The program, the first of its kind in the country, provides a two-day training seminar for leaders of 35 cities in Vietnam along with presentations from leading local and foreign experts.

Eminent lecturers including Professor John Thomas of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Professor Stanley Nollen of the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University; Professor Robert Cervero of the School of City and Regional Planning, University of California at Berkeley; and David Grossman, Director of International Programs of the International City/County Management Association, will participate.

City leaders will also exchange ideas on leadership and management through case discussions. The course will lead to the long-term development of the Vietnam Mayors Executive Education Program under the AMC with support from the World Bank Institute and in partnership with leading international universities and professional city management associations.

After finishing the course in Hanoi, participants will travel to the city of Incheon (Republic of Korea) to learn about its management innovations and competitiveness strategy.

The transition from a planned to a market economy is well known in Vietnam.  Equally impressive is the rural-urban transformation that is accompanying this transition. Attendant with the urbanization process has been a strong push for decentralization of service provision and urban management.

Managing the urbanization process in a way that will facilitate Vietnam’s socio-economic growth is emerging as a central pillar of the National Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011-2020.

For Vietnam, building the capacity of mayors to lead their cities and towns through this transformation process is critical to sustainable development because weak management and organizational performance undermine city competitiveness in the new global economy and the effective delivery of the public services that ultimately reduce poverty.    

Minister of Construction Nguyen Hong Quan and the World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Victoria Kwakwa, attended the program’s opening ceremony.

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Castro says US on offensive in LatAm despite Obama

In World on December 15, 2009 at 5:37 am

Fidel Castro says President Barack Obama‘s “friendly smile and African-American face” are hiding Washington’s sinister intentions for Latin America — more evidence of a new cooling in U.S.-Cuba relations after a thaw had seemed possible just months ago.

In a letter to Hugo Chavez that the Venezuelan president read at the close of a summit of leftist Latin American nations Monday, Castro said the U.S. “empire is on the offensive again” in the region.

He blamed Washington for a military coup that toppled leftist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in June and criticized a U.S. agreement with Colombia that allows U.S. troops greater access to seven of that country’s military bases.

“They are obviously the real intentions of the empire, this time under the friendly smile and African-American face of Barack Obama,” Castro said.

Cuba’s President Raul Castro, right, and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez

The 83-year-old former Cuban president heaped praise on Obama when he first took office, calling him intelligent, sincere, serene, courageous, honest and well-meaning. He later endorsed Obama’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Castro has turned on Obama, saying in an opinion piece in state media last week that the U.S. president’s acceptance of the Nobel prize after deciding to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan was “a cynical act.”

His letter to Chavez is the latest sign that reconciliation between the U.S. and the communist-governed island isn’t likely soon. That had seemed a possibility as recently as the spring, when the White House eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money to this country and Obama spoke of a possible new beginning in relations.

On Saturday, the U.S. State Department said Cuba detained an American citizen Dec. 5 who had been working in Cuba as a subcontractor for a Maryland-based economic development organization.

Cuba’s government has not commented, but word of the arrest came after both sides blamed each other for the postponement of meetings scheduled for this month to discuss immigration issues.

In November, the State Department denounced an assault — allegedly by plainclothes Cuban state security agents — on the island’s top dissident blogger, Yoani Sanchez. Obama later sent a lengthy message praising Sanchez and answering a series of questions from her.

Prominent American blacks recently denounced racism in Cuba, which is a touchy subject for this nation, and the Cuban military conducted war games against a U.S. invasion, which authorities here still insist is a real possibility.

The idea that Washington is turning up the heat on the leftist governments in Latin America dominated the two-day meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a regional trade group known as ALBA that was founded by Chavez as an alternative to U.S.-backed, free-trade consortiums.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said that if the U.S. threatened Latin America militarily, the region would rise up and create “a second Vietnam.” Chavez quipped that Obama was the winner of the “Nobel Prize of War.”

The Venezuelan leader also responded to recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who warned Latin American governments to “think twice” about building ties with Iran.

“It’s ridiculous, the threat of the secretary of state, and we aren’t afraid of her,” Chavez said.

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New NASA satellite blasts off on space-map mission

In World on December 15, 2009 at 5:37 am

 NASA launched Monday a new breed of satellite called WISE on a mission to orbit Earth and map the skies to find elusive cosmic objects, including potentially dangerous asteroids.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will use infrared rays to map the locations and sizes of roughly 200,000 asteroids and give scientists a clearer idea of how many space rocks loom and what danger they pose.

“When we find them, we will give the information to policy-makers to decide what to do to try to prevent these near-Earth asteroids colliding with our planet,” NASA public affairs officer J. D. Harrington told AFP.

This NASA handout photo shows the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, satellite as it launches

The launch, which had been delayed from Friday after problems were discovered in a rocket booster steering engine, went ahead flawlessly at 6:09 am (1409 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

WISE, which has been called “the most sensitive set of wide-angle infrared goggles ever,” will orbit 300 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth’s surface for 10 months as it hunts for and collects data on dim objects such as dust clouds, brown dwarf stars and asteroids in the dark spaces between planets and stars.

The satellite will map the cosmos in infrared light, covering the whole sky one-and-a-half times — one orbit of Earth will take six months — and snapping pictures of everything from near-Earth asteroids to faraway galaxies bursting with new stars.

“The last time we mapped the whole sky at these particular infrared wavelengths was 26 years ago,” Edward Wright of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), who is the principal investigator of the mission, said on NASA’s website.

Infrared technology has come a long way since then. The old all-sky infrared pictures were like impressionist paintings — now, we’ll have images that look like actual photographs.”

Harrington explained that previous infrared satellites had only 62 pixels per “camera”, while WISE has a pixel capacity of four million, which will make for much sharper images.

WISE is expected to detect infrared emissions from the most active star-forming regions, which would help scientists understand how rapidly stars are formed during galactic collisions.

It will map “failed stars” called brown dwarfs in the Milky Way, and help to improve understanding about the structure and evolution of Earth’s galaxy.

Scientists also expect the satellite to make some new discoveries.

“When you look at the sky with new sensitivity and a new wavelength band, like WISE is going to do, you’re going to find new things that you didn’t know were out there,” Wright said.

After a month during which scientists will check out and calibrate equipment on WISE, the satellite will begin in January snapping pictures every eight seconds as it orbits Earth.

It will pause four times a day to download the collected data to a processor.

The data will be sent to a depository and analyzed by scientists before any images are made public.

“We have to make sure… that the data is sound, before we release anything,” Harrington said, adding that NASA hopes to make the first pictures from WISE public in the spring.

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Report: Japan delays decision on future of US base

In World on December 15, 2009 at 5:36 am

Media reports Tuesday said Japan has delayed until next year a decision on the relocation of a major US military base on the southern island of Okinawa that’s at the center of a growing row between Tokyo and Washington.

Kyodo News Agency said Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had put off a decision on the future of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, attributing unnamed government sources, while the mass circulation newspaper Asahi Shimbun said the decision had been postponed until May.

Spokesmen from the prime minister’s office, Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry could not confirm the reports.

The dispute over Futenma has strained ties between the two allies and trading partners, and the U.S. had hoped for a decision by year-end.

According to a 2006 agreement between Japan and the U.S. to reorganize American troops in Japan, Futenma was to be moved to a less crowded part of northern Okinawa, but Hatoyama has said the relocation site could be changed — perhaps even off the island.

Okinawa residents complain about base-related noise, pollution and crime, and many want the airfield closed and its functions moved off the island entirely.

The 2006 reorganization plan, made under the previous conservative Tokyo government, was aimed at lightening the load on Okinawa, which hosts more than half the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan under a security pact.

Part of the plan involved moving about 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014, but the U.S. military says that plan cannot move forward until Futenma’s replacement facility is finalized.

Hatoyama, whose party came to power in a landslide election in August, has promised that Tokyo would adopt a less subservient relationship with Washington, but has also stressed that the U.S. security alliance was the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy.

His Cabinet is divided and has sent mixed signals on what to do about the future of Futenma. The leader of a left-leaning junior coalition partner has hinted her party would withdraw from the government if the base is moved to Nago.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa have said it would be difficult to find a site not on the island, and have suggested honoring the current agreement. Kitazawa visited Guam recently to check out other options, but warned that pushing for a major change in the plan would hurt trust between the two allies.


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Wells Fargo to repay all 25-billion-dollar US loan

In World on December 15, 2009 at 5:36 am

US banking giant Wells Fargo said Monday it had struck a deal to repay all of the 25-billion-dollar loan it received from the government last year during the financial meltdown.

As part of the deal to buy back the government held stock, the company will launch a 10.4-billion-dollar share offering.

The government had lent the money as part of the multi-billion-dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which aimed to prevent a banking sector collapse by bailing out key lenders.

“Now we’re ready to fully repay TARP in a way that serves the interests of the US taxpayer, as well as our customers, team members and investors,” the San Francisco-based firm’s CEO John Stumpf said.

The Citibank Building in New York. Citigroup and Wells Fargo struck deals to repay a total of 45 billion dollars in state aid, winding down a year-long US government effort to save the banking sector from wholesale collapse.

“TARP stabilized our country’s financial system when confidence in financial markets around the world was being tested unlike any other period in our history,” said Stumpf.

“Its success also generated financial returns for taxpayers, including 1.4 billion dollars in dividends paid to the US Treasury.”

The repurchase of TARP preferred stock will, in the fourth quarter, likely reduce common shareholders’ income available by two billion dollars, because “the book value of the preferred stock is less than the amount paid,” the banking giant said in a statement.

In October, however, Wells Fargo welcomed much better-than-expected third-quarter earnings of a record 3.2 billion dollars — a profit up 98 percent from a year earlier.

Fellow TARP beneficiary Citigroup announced earlier Monday that it too was repaying 20 billion dollars in state aid.

Citi said the repayment to the US Treasury Department would result in a loss of some eight billion dollars, but would save the firm 1.7 billion dollars a year in interest.

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