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Archive for December 20th, 2009|Daily archive page

No reports of goat flu in VN: health official

In Vietnam Health on December 20, 2009 at 4:40 am

Vietnam has not yet seen any cases of goat flu, known as “Q-fever,” which recently struck the Netherlands, said a health official.

Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga, chief of the Preventive Health and Environment Department, said December 18 the World Health Organization had not made an announcement regarding the flu to its member countries.

Symptoms of the new variation of influenza resemble those of regular flu including severe headache, shivers and perspiration, aching muscles, nausea and diarrhea. The disease is transmitted through contact with infected animals.

Dr. Nga also said vaccination against the swine flu  (A/H1N1) would be carried out soon in certain provinces before a mass injection program is launched for pregnant women and healthcare workers at high risk of contracting the disease.

Vietnam has so far reported over 11,000 H1N1 cases with 50 fatalities. The number of new cases looks to be decreasing, however, the number of serious cases and deaths is still high, said Dr. Nga.

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HCMC-Hanoi flights nearly sold out for Tet

In Vietnam Travel on December 20, 2009 at 4:39 am

State-owned carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) said that despite adding 850 more flights between the country’s major cities from February 1-28, 2010, it failed to meet demand.

According to ticket agent En Viet, one of the biggest agents in Vietnam, there were only business-class seats left for the HCMC-Hanoi route during the popular Tet (Lunar New Year) travel period in February.

Tickets for flights from HCMC to Danang, Hue, and Quy Nhon sold out 4-5 months ago.

Flight bookings for the Tet holiday season saw a sharp rise this year, up 20 percent year on year, VNA said. 

With the 850 added flights, the carrier expects to increase its carrying capacity for the HCMC-Hanoi route by an additional 45 percent, and by 85 percent at peak times.

It will increase its carrying capacity for the HCMC-Danang route by as much as 65 percent, and by 120 percent at peak times.

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Passengers stranded in Channel Tunnel after cold halts trains

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:39 am

LONDON, Dec 19, 2009 (AFP) – More than 2,000 passengers spent a chilly and hungry night stranded in the Channel Tunnel linking France and Britain after cold weather caused five trains to break down.

Stranded passengers wait at London St Pancras Eurostar terminal in London on December, 19, 2009 (AFP photo)

The trains failed as they moved from the freezing air in northern France into the warmer temperatures of the tunnel on Friday evening, operator Eurostar said.

All Eurostar services were suspended until Sunday, causing pre-holiday chaos on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Some passengers complained they were left to fend for themselves when the trains were halted under the English Channel.

Lee Godfrey, who was travelling back to London from Disneyland Paris with his family, said: “We were without power. We ran out of water, we ran out of food and there was very very poor communication from the staff.

“We lost air-conditioning when we lost the power. We had to open the emergency doors ourselves.

“The evacuation procedure we followed was one that we set down ourselves,” he told BBC radio, adding that people were “very, very panicky”.

He added: “We have had children asleep on the floor, they have been sick. It has been a complete nightmare.”

Patrick Dussaut, who was with a group of 40 people from a French company hoping to visit Britain, complained they had been stuck in a Eurostar train since Friday evening and by Saturday lunchtime had still not reached London.

“People have been stuck in the train for 16 and a half hours non-stop, without being able to open the doors,” he told AFP by telephone.

“There have been heated arguments between Eurostar staff and passengers who were fed up of being shut inside the trains. On a human level, the management has been catastrophic.”

He said some of the passengers intended to refuse to leave the train when it arrived in London, in a protest at the compensation they had been offered — a new return ticket on Eurostar.

Eurostar said the cold weather had forced the suspension of services until Sunday, adding to problems for travellers trying to reach their families for Christmas.

“We have not had a situation like this in 15 years,” Eurostar executive Nicolas Petrovic told AFP.

“Five trains broke down in the tunnel between 8.30 pm and 11.30 pm (1930 GMT and 2230 GMT).”

Two thirds of the 2,000 passengers had reached London by mid-morning Saturday, he said.

The company said all the affected trains had been removed from the tunnel, denying reports that one was still stranded on Saturday.

Eurotunnel, which operates a drive-on train service for cars and lorries, said it was resuming services Saturday after it was forced to suspend its trains.

The disruption in the tunnel was the worst since a raging fire on a Eurotunnel train in September 2008 caused a two-day suspension of services.

The problems with the Eurostar trains added to an already difficult situation in Europe as temperatures dropped as low as minus seven degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit).

Eurostar’s British train drivers and staff had coincidentally begun a 48-hour strike on Friday.

Ferries between France and Britain were also heavily disrupted by the adverse weather conditions.

The motorway to the main British Channel port of Dover was partly reduced to little more than a parking area for trucks on Saturday.

Police introduced what they call “Operation Stack” to allow more than 2,300 lorries to be parked on sections of the M20 motorway to wait for ferries.

Air passengers also faced delays Saturday because of snow in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Dozens of flights in and out of Britain were cancelled on Thursday and Friday.

A statement on British Airways’ website said the disruption was “likely to continue into the weekend.”

Passengers were advised to check the status of their flights before travelling to airports.

A planned strike by British Airways cabin staff which would have caused widespread disruption over the Christmas period was avoided when a judge this week ruled the action illegal.

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World air travel falls record 3.1% in 2009

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:38 am

MONTREAL, Dec. 19 (AFP) – World airline passenger traffic fell 3.1 percent in 2009, the biggest drop in aviation industry history, fueled by the global financial downturn, the International Civil Aviation Organization said.

Passengers check flight schedules at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport (AFP file)

Preliminary figures for airline travel this year showed that international traffic declined by about 3.9 percent and domestic traffic by 1.8 percent, despite sharp growth in some regions.

Total passenger traffic — both domestic and international — fell in all regions except the Middle East, which posted 10 percent growth. All other regions recorded negative growth, with Africa hardest hit at minus 9.6 percent overall, the ICAO said.

The 3.1 percent drop in passenger traffic this year compared to 2008 was the largest on record for the industry and “reflects the one percent drop in the world gross domestic product for the year,” the organization said in a statement.

“The double-digit domestic passenger traffic growth in the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America, and the relative strong performance of low cost carriers in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific helped curtail the decline in total traffic.”

The ICAO predicted a moderate recovery of 3.3 percent growth for the airline industry next year, in line with improving economic conditions around the world.

For 2011, it forecast momentum to build to return to the traditional 5.5 percent yearly growth rate in airline passenger traffic.

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Pope Benedict XVI puts John Paul II on next step to sainthood

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

VATICAN CITY, Dec 19, 2009 (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday declared his predecessor John Paul II “venerable,” moving the long-serving Polish-born pope closer to sainthood, the Vatican said.

This file picture taken on June 14, 1987 shows Pope John Paul II (R) accompanied by Polish Premier General Wojciech Jaruzelski while listening to the Polish anthem at Warsaw`s Okecie airport at the end of the Pope third visit to Poland (AFP photo)

The decree bestowing the title is the first step towards beatification and eventual sainthood for the charismatic Pole who headed the Roman Catholic Church for nearly three decades.

Pope Benedict launched the lengthy process — which can take decades if not centuries — just two months after the death in 2005 of John Paul II, whose funeral was marked by calls of “Santo Subito” (Saint Now).

The final stage for beatification is providing evidence of a miracle, usually a medical cure with no scientific explanation which is reviewed by several commissions.

In John Paul II’s case, the miracle under consideration — and subject to another papal decree — involves a French nun who was cured of Parkinson’s disease in 2005.

Vatican watchers expect Benedict to approve the beatification, which could be celebrated next year, either on the April 2 anniversary of his death or in October on the anniversary of the start of John Paul II’s papacy in 1978.

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Denmark proud of efforts to secure climate pact: PM

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

COPENHAGEN, Dec 19, 2009 (AFP) – Denmark can be proud of its efforts to secure an agreement at the UN climate conference, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said on Saturday.

A view of the meeting (AFP photo)

“We made the difference. Denmark can be proud of itself for having built an historic bridge between the parties in the negotiations,” Rasmussen told the Danish news agency Ritzau.

“I don’t think you could find any example in history where you would have seen the leaders of the United States, Brazil, South Africa and India along with the heads of state from Europe and the small island states threatened by global warming all in the same room, working together as a group.”

The Danish premier came in for heavy criticism over his stewardship of the often rancorous 13-day meeting which was due to wrap up on Saturday after a deal was clinched by US President Barack Obama and other major leaders.

Rasmussen said that it was unrealistic to expect Denmark to deliver results on its own.

“I can’t just tell the Chinese or the Americans: ‘Do this or that’,” he said.

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Climate accord clears hurdle in Copenhagen

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – The UN climate conference agreed to “take note” Saturday of an accord between senior world leaders, a move that analysts said would allow the pact to take effect.

Picture of a globe part of the “Cool Globes” exhibition about combating global warming and climate change in the Kongens Nytorv area in the centre of Copenhagen (AFP file)

“The conference decides to take note of the Copenhagen Accord of December 18, 2009,” the chairman of the plenary session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) declared, swiftly banging down his gavel.

“My understanding is that it gives (the accord) enough legal status to become operational but without needing the parties’ approval,” said Alden Meyer from a US non-governmental organisation, the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“They found a way of giving official recognition to adopt the accord in such a way that those countries (who had been opposed to it) were persuaded not to object,” David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the US Natural Resources Defense Council, told AFP.

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Copenhagen deal passed amid condemnation, disappointment

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:36 am

COPENHAGEN, Dec 19, 2009 (AFP) – A UN conference on Saturday rammed through a battle plan against climate change forged by US President Barack Obama and other top leaders, sidelining smaller states which lashed the deal as a betrayal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon leaves after a press conference at the Bella Center of Copenhagen on December 19, 2009 at the end of the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference. (AFP photo)

After toxic exchanges through the night, the summit chair forced through a deal using a procedural tool that effectively dropped all obstacles to the Copenhagen Accord.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the agreement had failed to win global consensus and would disappointment many looking for stronger action against climate change.

But he voiced relief it had not been strangled at birth. “It may not be everything we hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is an essential beginning,” he said.

“Many will say that it lacks ambition,” Ban said. “Nonetheless, you have achieved much.”

Ed Miliband, Britain’s climate minister, said it was “an important start”.

“This is a very significant moment because it indicates developed and developing countries are both signing up to the notion that they should say what they are going to do in terms of cutting carbon emissions,” he told Sky television.

Obama earlier called the accord an “unprecedented breakthrough” after meetings with about two dozen presidents and prime ministers in Copenhagen.

But the deal was mauled when it was put to a full session of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Half a dozen developing countries led the charge, blasting the document as a cosy backdoor deal that violated UN democracy, excluded the poor and doomed the world to catastrophic climate change.

“It looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our people and our future,” said Ian Fry of Tuvalu, a tiny Pacific island whose very existence is threatened by rising seas.

In remarks that sparked immediate condemnation from Western nations, Sudan’s outspoken delegate, Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, who chairs a bloc of 130 poor nations, said the pact meant “incineration” for Africa and was comparable to the Holocaust.

The agreement was assembled in a frenzied game of climate poker among the leaders of the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa and major European countries.

The group had been chosen by conference chair Denmark after it became clear the summit was in danger of failure.

The draft is intended to be the kernel of a strategy to slash the fossil-fuel emissions that trap the Sun’s heat and are warming Earth’s surface, slowly but ruthlessly damaging our weather systems.

It set a commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), but did not spell out the important stepping stones — global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050 — for getting there.

It did not spell out a year by which emissions should peak, a demand made by rich countries that was fiercely opposed by China. And pledges were voluntary, without a tough compliance mechanism to ensure nations honoured promises.

It was more detailed on how poor countries should be financially aided to shore up their defences against rising seas, droughts, floods and storms.

Rich countries pledged 30 billion dollars in “fast-track” finance for the 2010-2012 period, including 11 billion from Japan, 10.6 billion from the European Union and 3.6 billion dollars from the United States.

They set an ambitious goal of “jointly mobilising” 100 billion dollars by 2020.

But to make the “fast-track” funds operational, the accord needed plenary approval.

The outcome in Copenhagen will deliver a boost to Obama’s efforts to secure legislation in the US Congress that would set his country on a path to lower emissions by around 17 percent by 2020 over a 2005 benchmark.

He described the deal as a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.”

“Going forward, we are going to have to build on the momentum we have achieved here in Copenhagen. We have come a long way but we have much further to go,” he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will host the next climate summit in mid-2010, said she viewed the result “with mixed emotions” but added that “the only alternative to the agreement would have been a failure.”

China had bristled at anything called “verification” of its plan to cut the intensity of its carbon emissions, seeing it as an infringement of sovereignty and saying rich nations bore primary responsibility for global warming.

Disagreements between the China and United States — the world’s top two carbon polluters — had been at the core of the divisions.

The Copenhagen Accord was met with dismay by campaigners, who said it was weak, non-binding and sold out the poor.

“Well-meant but half-hearted pledges to protect our planet from dangerous climate change are simply not sufficient to address a crisis that calls for completely new ways of collaboration across rich and poor countries,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

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Chelsea seek to consolidate lead at West Ham

In Vietnam Sports on December 20, 2009 at 4:36 am

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard (right) vies with Portsmouth’s Aaron Mokoena during their Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London, on December 16. (AFP photo)

LONDON, Dec. 19 (AFP) – Fresh from putting Chelsea’s Premier League title drive back on track, Frank Lampard returns to West Ham this weekend admitting he fears for the future of his relegation-threatened former club.

Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola was one of Chelsea’s greatest ever players but that will not stop Lampard and co. from trying to push his second-from-bottom squad a little closer to the drop as they seek to consolidate their three-point lead over Manchester United at the other end of the table.

By the time Chelsea kick off at Upton Park on Sunday, United could be level with them on points provided Sir Alex Ferguson’s injury-hit squad collect all three points from their trip to Fulham 24 hours earlier.

Lampard, whose penalty clinched a nervy 2-1 win over Portsmouth in midweek, said: “It’s difficult for West Ham at the moment. They have a lot of financial difficulties and have had to sell a lot of players.

“I don’t want to see them do badly at all — it is difficult but then it is a difficult league.”

The win over Portsmouth’s was Chelsea’s first in five matches in all competitions but did little to suggest Carlo Ancelotti’s side have fully recovered the composure and confidence that has deserted them over the last few weeks, notably in their defending of set pieces.

Chelsea are hopeful that Didier Drogba, whose absence with a back injury was felt on Wednesday, will be available on Sunday. But it must be a concern for Ancelotti that the striker will depart for the African Nations Cup next month at a time when United traditionally hit their stride.

Lampard is acutely aware it was a mid-winter cocktail of injuries and lost form that ensured Chelsea conceded last season’s title to their rivals in the north.

“We had a really bad time around this time last year but when Guus Hiddink came in (as temporary manager) we were in the best form by far of anyone in the League. We can do that again.

“We’re having a patch at the moment where we’re not pulling away from teams when we might do and every free kick and corner seems to drop to them in a funny way.

“We are being punished every time and it is just a phase we’re in. We’re going 1-0 up and then not pushing on like we were a few games ago. It’s a problem.”

Ferguson is expected to deploy Belgian youngster Ritchie de Laet at centreback at Fulham, having been left with Patrice Evra as his only fit first-team defender.

“We just have to get on with it,” the Scot acknowledged. “Ritchie has showed some promise and he will probably be there on Saturday.”

Arsenal’s title hopes were hit by a 1-1 draw at Burnley in midweek and Arsene Wenger’s side entertain Hull on Saturday without injured skipper Cesc Fabregas.

It will be the Gunners’ third match in seven days while Hull have had since last Saturday to recover from their goalless draw with Blackburn, an anomaly of the fixture list that has infuriated Wenger.

“The guy who organised the fixtures this season must have come out of a special school, because he is more intelligent than I am,” the Frenchman sniped.

Aston Villa will look to consolidate their position in the top four at home to Stoke on Saturday while Tottenham, two points back in fifth spot following their win over Manchester City in midweek, travel to Blackburn.

Liverpool’s ability to overhaul Villa and Spurs will be tested by a trip to Portsmouth for a lunchtime fixture in which the first goal will set a new record.

Nets have bulged 499 times in 167 matches so far this season and a goal at Fratton Park would see the 500 milestone reached with 17 matches to spare compared to the previous Premier League record, set in 1994/95.

High-flying Birmingham face a tough task if they are to keep their five-match winning run going at Everton on Sunday, and Wolves fans will find out if manager Mick McCarthy’s controversial decision to rest most of his first-choice players against Manchester United in midweek was the right one.

Wolves take on Burnley in the kind of fixture McCarthy believes they must start winning if they are to get out of the bottom three.

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Catholics Solidarity Committee celebrates Christmas

In Vietnam Society on December 20, 2009 at 4:35 am

The Vietnam Committee for Solidarity of Catholics (VCSC) held a solemn ceremony in Hanoi on December 18 to mark the upcoming Christmas.

Priest Nguyen Cong Danh, VCSC President cum Vice President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee (VFFCC), said that 2009 is the first year the VCSC has implemented the renewal resolution set out in the fifth Congress of representatives of Vietnamese Catholics.

Over the past year, Vietnamese Catholics have actively and effectively participated in the nation’s movements, especially charitable activities, he said.

The VCSC has been working hard to raise funds for disabled children to help them overcome difficulties in their lives, he added.

VFFCC Vice President Nguyen Trong Kim urged the VCSC to continue contributing to the country’s movements and mobilise Catholics nationwide to well implement the Party and State’s policies and action plans set by the 7th VFF Congress.

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