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Archive for December 27th, 2009|Daily archive page

Free-milk-for-kids program to be revised: MoLISA

In Vietnam Health on December 27, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Students of Binh Khanh Primary School in HCMC’s district Can Gio drink milk supplied by the program. MoLISA asks  to rework the project to allow more disadvantaged children to benefit

The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) December 26 ordered its subdivision, the Administration for Protection and Care of Children, to set up a new project to provide free milk for young children.

Plans for the “Providing milk to pupils” project must then be quickly submitted to the government for approval, MoLISA added.

The project was formerly titled “Six Million Glasses of Milk for Vietnamese Kids Fund,” launched by the Vietnam Dairy Products Company, the National Fund for Vietnamese Children, the Ministry of Education and Training, and the National Institute of Nutrition.

Speaking at a meeting to review the Six Million Glasses program, MoLISA Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said the fund provided only around 50,000 servings of milk to students in 30 primary schools; and disadvantaged children including orphans, disabled and undernourished toddlers nationwide.

MoLISA has therefore asked its subdivision to rework the project to allow more disadvantaged children to benefit.

The program was first established in 2003 with investment of US$150 million aimed at providing free milk to primary children and first graders.

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Diary of female wartime doctor published in Lao

In Vietnam Culture on December 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

The cover of Lao version of Nhat ky Dang Thuy Tram. (Photo: SGGP)

Vietnamese publisher Van Hoc unveiled a Lao version of Nhat ky Dang Thuy Tram (The Diary of Doctor Dang Thuy Tram) in association with the Publishing Department on December 25 in Hanoi.

The book was translated by Dinh Van Hung over the course of three years as part of a cooperation program between the governments of Vietnam and Laos.

The translation has been praised for its similarity in both writing style and content to the original version.

The publisher will give 1,000 copies of the translated version to Laos’s governmental offices on December 28 in Vientiane.

On the occasion, representatives from each country will also launch a contest in which entrants will study the solidarity between Vietnam and Laos in wartime.

Dang Thuy Tram was a female Vietnamese military doctor who worked as a battlefield surgeon for North Vietnam during the war with the US. She was killed at the age of 27 by US forces while defending her hospital in Quang Ngai Province of south-central Vietnam. Her wartime diaries, which chronicle the last three years of her life, attracted international attention following their publication in 2005.

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Vietnamese circus wows French audiences

In Vietnam Culture on December 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Vietnamese circus troupes perform in France (Photo: SGGP)
The Ho Chí Minh City Circus Company has just wrapped up a successful 20-day tour in France.

The troupe, led by musician Ho Van Thanh, was invited by the Elles Production Company.

Twenty-four Vietnamese acrobats and artists performed 15 shows with 12 segments each.

The performances included a range of acts involving clowns and balancing feats. Some 16,000 French audience members came out to see the troupe.

Leader Thanh said the Vietnamese circus was well-received by the French and that the Elles Production Company would therefore invite them back to France next year.

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Nigerian charged with trying to blow up US airliner

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm

US investigators on Sunday tried to piece together terrorism connections of a Nigerian man who has been charged with attempting to blow up a US jetliner after reportedly confessing that he had been trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Airport security was stepped up worldwide after the botched Christmas Day terror attack as British police raided premises where the suspect, the son of a wealthy Nigerian businessman, was thought to have lived while studying at a London university.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arraigned Saturday at the US hospital where he was being treated for burns sustained while trying to bring down a Northwest Airlines plane with 290 people on board.

Judge Paul Borman read the charges against him during a 20-minute hearing. Reporters allowed to witness the event said Abdulmutallab was handcuffed to a wheelchair and sported bandages on both wrists and parts of his hands.

An Airport policeman and his bomb-sniffing dog Spencer patrol at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device Abdulmutallab used “contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive,” the charge sheet said.

The explosive material was allegedly sewn into Abdulmutallab’s underwear, and was not detected by airport security, ABC News reported.

Abdulmutallab confessed that he had mixed a syringe full of chemicals with powder taped to his leg to try to blow up the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight, according to senior officials quoted by US media.

Officials now believe tragedy was averted only because the makeshift detonator failed to work properly, ABC News said.

Other law enforcement officials quoted by ABC News and NBC said the suspect also said that Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen trained him, and told him on how to carry out the attack. Related article: Bomb suspect’s link to Yemen

The failed attack “shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

However, questions mounted whether security at major airports inside and outside the United States was adequate, despite all the recent upgrades. Related article: Airports step up security

The attack, which sparked alarm and fear among the 279 passengers and 11 crew aboard the Airbus A330, had echoes of British-born Richard Reid‘s botched “shoe-bomb” attempt almost eight years ago to the day.

British police searched addresses in London, including an upscale mansion flat where the suspect is believed to have lived while studying mechanical engineering at University College London (UCL) between 2005 and 2008. Related article: Suspect is linked to Britain

Abdulmutallab’s father, Umaru Mutallab, was so worried about his son’s religious extremism that he contacted the US embassy in Abuja to express his concern in November, a US official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said Abdulmutallab had been added to a broad terrorism watchlist, but was not flagged for mandatory secondary screening or put on a no-fly list. Profile: Flight terror suspect the scion of wealthy Nigerian

US Senator Joseph Lieberman questioned how Abdulmutallab could have still avoided US attention.

Meanwhile the hero of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Dutch video producer and director Jasper Schuringa, was achieving cult status on the Internet for tackling the would-be bomber and helping the crew to restrain him. Profile: Dutch hero

Schuringa told CNN he had jumped over the passenger next to him and lunged onto Abdulmutallab’s seat as the suspect held a burning object between his legs.

“I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands and threw it away,” said Schuringa, adding that he stripped off the suspect’s clothes to check for explosives before a crew member helped handcuff him.

“My hands are pretty burned. I am fine,” said Schuringa, who within a day of the attack already had four Facebook sites dedicated in his honor with new members signing up in droves.

The White House and US lawmakers called the incident a terror attack. President Barack Obama, vacationing in Hawaii with his family, ordered security measures to be increased at airports and held a conference call with his security team.

The Department of Homeland Security said it implemented additional flight screening measures, and urged holiday travelers to remain vigilant.

Dutch anti-terrorism officials stressed that proper procedures had been followed on their end of the Northwest Airlines flight, and that US authorities had cleared the flight for departure.

Checks were tightened Saturday at major world airports, including in Paris, Rome and London, but US officials said there were no immediate plans to elevate the nation’s aviation threat level from orange to red, its most severe status.

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Three dead in new Philippine ferry disaster

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm

 At least three people died while 22 others were missing after a small inter-island ferry sank in waters south of the Philippine capital, the coast guard said Sunday, the second sea disaster in three days.

The MV Baleno-9, carrying 88 passengers and crew, began listing and went down just before midnight near Batangas City, the coast guard said.

Ships in the area rescued 63 passengers but three bodies were later recovered by the coast guard and 22 are still unaccounted for, coast guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said.

Passengers told the coast guard that the roll-on ferry began taking on water from the bow ramp.

This “severely affected the stability of the vessel causing her to badly list and eventually sink,” the coast guard report said.

A Coast Guard diver prepares to search for bodies after a ferry capsized in 2008 in the Philippines

Search vessels and aircraft have been dispatched to locate any more survivors in the area where the ferry went down.

“Hopefully, their flights will not be fruitless and they may find a few more of the missing,” said coast guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.

He noted that the ferry had sufficient life vests and life rafts and that this may have allowed more of those on board to escape alive.

Tamayo said they could not give an exact reason why the ship apparently began to take on water, before eventually sinking.

“It did not hit anything. Our first finding is it ran into huge waves. This would have put pressure on the (bow) ramp but we still have to get more details. We are getting accounts from the survivors,” he told local radio.

Coast guard officials said the captain of the sunken ferry had been rescued and that maritime investigators had interviewed him, but no details had been released.

Sunday’s disaster comes barely three days after a wooden passenger boat Catalyn B was hit by a fishing vessel and sank near Manila on Thursday, leaving four dead and 23 missing.

The coast guard recalled staff who were on leave to carry out the two search and rescue operations, Balilo told AFP, adding that no more survivors from Thursday’s sinking had been found.

“Our suspicion is growing that they were trapped inside the ship,” which sank in seconds according to survivors’ accounts, he said.

A special diving team was searching for bodies inside the Catalyn B, he added.

Shipping accidents are common in the Philippines and usually involve poorly-maintained, overloaded ferries which form the backbone of travel between the archipelago’s islands.

Ferry passenger numbers in the Philippines usually surge over the Christmas period with many travelling home to visit relatives over the holidays.

The world’s deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred south of Manila in December 1987 when a ferry carrying Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,000 people.

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Iran anti-government clashes erupt on Shiite holy day

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Iranian riot police fired teargas in clashes with thousands of opposition supporters who shouted anti-government slogans during a Shiite mourning event on Saturday, witnesses said.

The skirmishes broke out in north Tehran despite authorities having warned of a crackdown on attempts to use processions marking the solemn Ashura rituals to stage more protests against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Police told them they have five minutes to leave and, when they were still shouting slogans and persisted, policemen on motorbikes drove through the crowds and fired teargas,” a witness said. opposition website said security officials cancelled an Ashura speech by reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami at Jamaran mosque, which was surrounded by police and security forces.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic republic, used to address people at the same location.

Iranian men use chains to flagellate themselves during a religious mourning event to mark Ashura in Tehran.

Protesters shouted “death to this dictatorship” and “if Khomeini was alive, he would sure be with us,” according to the witnesses.

Riot police and members of the Islamic Basij militia chased demonstrators into the nearby bustling Niavaran street and fired paintballs at them, witnesses said.

The security forces also arrested several protesters, the witnesses said.

Reformist website Salaamnews said “about 50 plainclothes forces broke into Jamaran” mosque and attacked people. also reported clashes between police and protesters near another north Tehran mosque, Dar al-Zahra, which is known to host reformist clerics.

Opponents of Ahmadinejad’s June 12 re-election have increasingly used a series of government-backed public events to mount protests, many of which have ended in clashes with police.

The 10-day Ashura ceremonies, which climax on Sunday, commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and one of the most revered figures of Shiite Islam.

The ceremonies are marked in Shiite majority countries such as Iran and Iraq by processions in which mainly young men flagellate their bare backs with chains.

At nightfall, streets appeared to be quiet in downtown Tehran as mourners went ahead with the traditional ceremonies of Ashura. reported earlier clashes at several points along Enghelab street, a main thoroughfare where hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters had staged protest marches after Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.

Security forces also chased protesters into a building housing the offices of the ISNA news agency, ISNA said, adding one of its reporters had been injured.

An elderly woman travelling on a city bus in the area was heard urging passengers to chant slogans such as “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein” in support of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, a witness said.

Former premier Mousavi ran in the June election, which he charged was massively rigged in favour of Ahmadinejad to keep the hardliner in power.

Chants of “Ya Hossein” are common during Ashura when the faithful congregate in mosques or march in street processions beating their chest in mourning for the martyred Shiite imam.

The witness said passengers on the packed bus also chanted “Our Neda is not dead, it is the government which is dead,” referring to protestor Neda Agha Soltan, who bled to death during a June 20 protest in shocking scenes caught on video and viewed by millions around the world.

But calm returned to central Tehran in the evening, an AFP correspondent said.

Iran police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam had issued a fresh warning earlier Saturday against attempts to use Shiite processions as a means to stage anti-government protests.

Tensions rose in Iran this week after the death of top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was a vocal backer of the opposition.

Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral, effectively turning the event into an opposition demonstration. Police clashed with his mourners in several cities as the authorities reportedly banned further memorials for the cleric.

Ashura culminates on Sunday in crowded ceremonies at mosques and in public places to mourn Imam Hussein, who died at the hands of the armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in 680 AD.


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Airports step up security after failed airliner attack

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Air travellers worldwide faced tightened security Sunday as authorities ramped up efforts to prevent attacks in the wake of a failed bid to blow up an airplane over the United States.

Amsterdam-Schipol airport was also investigating how a 23-year-old Nigerian with reported links to Al-Qaeda could smuggle onboard explosives that he allegedly tried to detonate as the flight approached Detroit.

The United States quickly asked airlines worldwide to tighten security and airport authorities said they were complying with extra screening and strict baggage limits that heaped hours onto check-in times.

Passengers stand in line to go through a security screening at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Singapore Airlines moved quickly to announce strict new rules for flights to the United States from the busy Asian hub.

“One hour before the plane lands in a US airport, all passengers must be seated, and should not have any baggage near them or be covered with any blanket. The inflight entertainment system would also be turned off,” said a company spokesman.

Extra measures, including frisking of passengers and searching hand baggage came into force on Saturday morning in The Netherlands, which received a formal request from the US authorities soon after Friday’s botched attack. Related article: Nigerian charged with bid to blow up airliner

Within the United States, the Department of Homeland Security tightened security checks for passengers on all domestic and international flights, putting additional screening measures into place.

“These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere,” the department’s statement said.

In London a British Airways spokesman said new rules were coming into force.

“This includes additional screening of all US-bound passengers and hand luggage before they board their flights,” he said. “Passengers travelling to the US will only be allowed to carry one item of hand luggage.”

At Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport passengers were told that all hand baggage had to be checked into the hold, except for women’s handbags, one traveller told AFP.

Items required during the flight had to be put into special plastic bags and passengers were frisked again just before boarding when their remaining hand luggage was reexamined, he said.

Rome and Stockholm also announced more stringent security for planes to the United States.

Hong Kong carrier Cathay said it was banning US-bound passengers from using cabin phones at any time during the flight.

Elsewhere, in Asia, New Zealand said passengers flying to the United States were being separated from other international travellers following routine screening for additional baggage checks and body searches.

Authorities in Japan urged passengers to allow more time at the airport amid warnings that tightened security would lead to delays.

Canada announced “immediate action” and also warned that stricter security could cause delays.

Meanwhile, Afghan authorities said they would not be beefing up already-tight security at Kabul’s international airport.

“Our security arrangements at Kabul international airport were already serious and we have good measures,” said Zamary Bashari, interior ministry spokesman.

The European Commission in Brussels said it was investigating if proper security measures had been followed in Amsterdam where would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had boarded the Northwest Airlines flight.

“This incident shows once again that vigilance is necessary at all times in the fight against terror,” a commission vice president, Jacques Barrot, said in a statement.

Abdulmutallab had been able to pass what US authorities have determined was the high explosive PETN through checks at Schiphol.

Since Al-Qaeda’s suicide attacks with hijacked airliners on New York and Washington in September 2001 and an attempted “shoe-bombing” on a Christmas week flight a few months later, airline security has been increasing.

In 2003, airlines reinforced cockpit doors to prevent terrorists from taking control of planes and in 2006 many countries introduced strict restrictions on liquids allowed in luggage.

In 2008, the European Parliament authorised the presence of armed air marshals on commercial flights, following the US example.

But experts point out that 100 percent terrorism-proof airports simply do not exist, as reporters have shown by smuggling weapons and explosives onto flights.

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Swiss bank secrecy emerges from 2009 with holes

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

 Switzerland’s finance minister acknowledges that he had a rough time this year after the Swiss bowed to international pressure on banking secrecy under the onslaught of US lawsuits and a crackdown on tax evasion.

Yet, the Swiss banking industry insists that it was stirred rather than shaken by a tumultuous year that holed their sacrosanct secrecy, threatened to sap billions from their vaults and left their battered flagship bank UBS wheezing.

“You could describe it as a challenging year,” James Nason, a spokesman for the Swiss Bankers Association, told AFP.

“Privacy remains the default setting,” he insisted nonetheless, as the chairman of the association, private banker Patrick Odier, toyed with “Rubik” — the buzzword for plans to anonymously retain tax on the savings revenues of foreign clients and discourage undeclared assets.

“The sector had already prepared itself mentally for the moment, sometime, when it could only take taxed money,” Julius Baer bank spokesman Jan Bielinski told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

The logo of UBS Swiss bank and Swiss flag are seen in Zurich.

The year started with a 780-million-dollar (543-million-euro) fine on the biggest bank, UBS, in the United States for aiding tax fraud, while the Swiss financial regulator FINMA swiftly ordered the bank to hand over about 250 customer names to the US Internal Revenue Service.

Yet, just as loss-ridden UBS — propped up by a 2008 state rescue package after it suffered heavily in the financial crisis — thought it had put the worst behind, US authorities launched another lawsuit.

By August, Washington and Bern came up with a settlement, obliging UBS to disclose details of up to 4,450 hidden offshore accounts of American clients but averting another financial penalty.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz grappled with a crackdown by the G20 leading economies, who blamed bank secrecy for encouraging fraud and evasion by their taxpayers.

After the OECD told Switzerland to face up to a “new, much harder climate,” it joined other offshore centres by falling into line with international standards.

To avoid being stigmatised, the Swiss signed new dual taxation deals with at least 12 nations, ending a decades-old practice by agreeing to exchange confidential information on some bank clients.

“My presidential year was, it has to be said, very hard,” Merz told the Swiss magazine L’Illustre.

Previously, banking secrecy could only be lifted for legally-sanctioned investigations into the criminal offences of tax fraud and money laundering, not evasion.

Now, specific requests from foreign tax authorities probing evasion will be allowed.

“This is certainly something that the Swiss banking sector didn’t like and would have liked to avoid,” said Manuel Ammann, director of the University of St Gallen’s Institute of Banking and Finance.

“The time when tax evaders could take advantage of Swiss financial services and feel safe about it is certainly over,” he told AFP.

Many observers believe that Swiss banks have lost a competitive advantage that had helped attract foreign customers.

Bankers are reluctant to put a figure on banking secrecy, but one valued it this year at half the industry’s 12 percent contribution to Swiss national income.

On Wednesday, Italian authorities said 80 billion euros (114 billion dollars) had been declared by taxpayers so far in an amnesty, a policy that dismayed bankers in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, bordering Italy.

Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore estimated that about 80 percent of the hidden deposits declared were in neighbouring Switzerland.

While Swiss bankers feared that they would lose deposits, an Italian tax lawyer told the Financial Times that most of the money was nonetheless likely to stay in Switzerland now that it was legalised.

Amman believes a more severe blow was delivered by the handing over of UBS customer data to the United States at the beginning of the year, a move that appeared to skip a few steps in the Swiss rulebook.

“I can imagine that this affected the trust of foreign customers in Switzerland and Swiss banking,” he said.

Nason acknowledged: “Legal certitude is important, clients like their financial centre to be steady.”

Meanwhile, the row over secrecy and taxation is still raging with France, and has even started to seep into Switzerland, where one canton, Jura, was set to introduce a tax amnesty in January.

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Israel kills 6 Palestinians in surge of violence

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Israeli troops blasted their way into the homes of three wanted Palestinians on Saturday, killing each in a hail of bullets and straining an uneasy security arrangement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s military said the three, affiliated with a violent offshoot of Abbas’ Fatah movement, were targeted for killing an Israeli settler in a roadside ambush earlier in the week and had turned down a chance to surrender.

In the Gaza Strip, three young men approaching Israel’s southern border were killed by shots from an Israeli helicopter gunship. Saturday’s deaths made it one of the deadliest days in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Israel waged war on Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers a year ago.

The violent Nablus raids, after months of relative quiet, embarrassed Western-backed Abbas, whose security forces have been coordinating some of their moves with their Israeli counterparts and share a common foe, Hamas.

Israeli soldiers are seen during an army operation in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009.

At the funeral for the slain men, Abbas’ security policy was denounced by thousands of mourners, who chanted: “Why the coordination while we are under the bullets of the army?”

Abbas’ prime minister, Salam Fayyad, rushed to Nablus in an apparent attempt at damage control, paying his respects at a large communal wake and condeming Israel. “This attack was a clear assassination, and I believe it is targeting our security and stability,” Fayyad told The Associated Press.

Israel did not let Abbas know of the raid in advance, said Maj. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman.

Saturday’s killings put to the test an often strained relationship between Israel’s military and Abbas’ security.

Since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, Abbas has gradually strengthened his control in West Bank towns to keep the Islamists there in check.

Palestinian leaders frequently complain that Israel is undermining these efforts by carrying out arrest raids in areas under Palestinian control. Israel counters that while the performance of the Palestinian security forces is improving, its military will step in when necessary.

The target of Saturday’s predawn raids were three longtime members of Fatah’s violent offshoot, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The army said the three — Anan Subeh, 36; Ghassan Abu Sharah, 40; and Raed Suragji, 40 — were involved in Thursday’s deadly roadside shooting of an Israeli settler, and that Israeli forces entered Nablus to try to arrest them.

Dozens of Israeli soldiers, some of wearing black masks, poured into Nablus’ casbah, or old city, at about 2 a.m. They were backed by sniffer dogs and dozens of jeeps, bulldozers and other military vehicles

The forces surrounded the homes of the three. Lerner, the army major, said all three turned down a chance to surrender. However, relatives of Abu Sharah and Suragji said they were killed without warning. Lerner confirmed that none of the wanted men returned fire, including Subeh, who had two pistols and two assault rifles on him.

Soldiers used explosives to blow open the door of the Abu Sharah’s three-story apartment building, said Ghassan Abu Sharah’s brother, Jihad. The brother said that when Ghassan came downstairs, one of the soldiers opened fire and killed him.

Troops also used explosives at the home of Raed Suragji, said his wife, Tehani.

She said her husband opened the bedroom door. “Suddenly, shots were fired at us,” she said. “He fell down. I started shouting. I held his head in my lap and sat on the ground.”

In the third raid, troops ordered everyone to come out of the Subeh home, said Subeh’s brother, Jamal. The family evacuated, but Anan Subeh stayed behind.

Lerner said Subeh was hiding in a small crawl space in his home when he was killed. He said soldiers heard him shout “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for God is great.

Asked why soldiers opened fire, Lerner said troops “had to operate under the assumption that they (the suspects) are dangerous.”

Subeh had recently been accepted in Israel’s amnesty program for Fatah gunmen, according to Nablus’ deputy governor, Anan Attireh. Subeh’s family said he had also joined the Preventive Security Service, a branch of the Palestinian security forces.

Suragji was released from an Israeli prison in January, after a seven-year term for involvement in shooting attacks. Abu Sharah was also held by Israel in the past, the military said.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades carried out scores of shooting attacks and suicide bombings during the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000. Since then, the militia has been largely dismantled.

In Israel, right-wing critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his policy of easing travel restrictions in the West Bank was to blame for the shooting attack. Lerner said Israel did not plan to set up new roadblocks.

Also Saturday, an Israeli helicopter gunship killed three Gazans, ages 19 and 20, as they approached the border barrier with Israel. The army said the three were hit after they ignored warning shots.

Relatives of the three had tried to sneak into Israel for work and were not affiliated with political groups.

Israel does not allow Palestinians to approach its border area with Gaza, fearing militants will stage attacks there.


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December sees highest monthly CPI increase

In Vietnam Economy on December 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

The national consumer price index (CPI) rose by 1.38 percent in December over the previous month, the highest monthly increase this year.

According to the General Statistics Office (GSO), the index has risen by 6.9 percent compared to the same period last year.

Experts say that the strong increase in the CPI two months before the Lunar New Year (Tet), which comes around in mid-February next year, is earlier than in previous years.

The main reason is probably because of the scarcity of certain goods, many of which are being stocked up for Tet and are pushing prices higher.

Of the ten commodities experiencing price increases, the cost of transportation has seen the highest rise of 2.47 percent due to rising oil prices. It is closely followed by food services at 2.06 percent, housing and construction materials 1.4 percent, drinks and cigarettes 0.97 percent and garments and footwear at 0.81 percent.

Meanwhile, postal services and telecoms are the only commodities to see a decrease of 0.11 percent.

On this basis, the GSO forecasts a yearly rise in CPI of 6.88 percent over last year, which meets the target set by the National Assembly.

Over the last 12 months, increases in the CPI have followed normal trends with strong rises in the first two months of the year due to the Tet holidays, and a sharp decrease the following month. Slight increases occur over the next seven months with larger increases following in the last two months of the year due to social investments and consumer spending. However the increases are under control, report financial commentators.

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