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Archive for January 16th, 2010|Daily archive page

Banks should be prohibited from involvement in securities activities: economists

In Vietnam Banking Finance on January 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Commercial banks shouldn’t be allowed to provide loans to securities businesses and invest in stocks, said economists at a seminar on the Bill on Credit Organizations held by the National Assembly Economy Committee on January 15.

They said it is not the bank’s function, and is risky and unsafe for the credit organization system.

The prohibition is to ensure that banks are responsible for depositors, they added.

Investment banks and commercial banks should be fixed clearly since some investment banks have been established from securities firms in Vietnam.

However, commercial banks objected to the prohibition, saying that they should be limited, but not prohibited, in providing loans to stock businesses.

On the same day, at a conference on Vietnamese banks after the global crisis held by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s branch in Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Le Dang Doanh said local banks need to enhance their administrative abilities and healthy competitiveness.

Ly Xuan Hai, general director of Asia Commercial Bank, said the bank system has to be “thin” without many levels of management so it can operate quickly and consistently.

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Four composers take top honors at 2009 Music Awards

In Vietnam Culture on January 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

The Vietnam Musicians Association held the 2009 Music Award Ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on January 15, giving out five first prizes to artists in different categories.

Nguyen Ngoc Ky sings “Doi Do Ngan Nam” (One-Thousand-Year Relocated Capital) at the finale of the 2009 Music Awards Ceremony in HCMC. (Photo: Hanoimoi)


Composer Tran Manh Hung won two of the five prizes for his moving poetic symphony, Le Chi Vien (Le Chi Garden) and the song “Giac Mo Mua La” (Dream of Falling Leaves).

The other first prizes were given to Nguyen Tien of Hanoi for his song “Doi Do Ngan Nam” (One-Thousand-Year Relocated Capital); Ngo Quoc Tinh of Hanoi for his romantic ballad “Dong Trang lung lieng” (The stream of Moonlight); and Truong Dinh Quang of Da Nang for a compilation of bai choi folk singing.

According to a representative from the association, the award-winning composers were chosen based on the creativeness of their compositions. However, more composers should take an interest in children’s songs, folk music, traditional music, and community songs, he added.

This year, the association awarded more than 60 other prizes in various categories.

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Coconut Festival kicks off in Ben Tre

In Vietnam Culture on January 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm

The second annual Coconut Festival kicked off January 15 at the Dong Khoi monument park in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, marking the 50th Uprising anniversary (January 17).

The second annual Coconut Festival in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre features a trade fair and cooking contest among other activities. (Photo: VNA)

The event, titled “Ben Tre – Native land of coconut and the Uprising campaign,” includes a trade fair where businesses display products made from coconut trees, as well as advertise local tourism activities.

In addition, a culinary contest at the festival features many unique dishes made from coconuts.

The event also honors individuals and organizations that have performed strongly in the coconut goods production sector over the past decade, and who have led the way in local handicraft production.

The festival will wrap up at the end of the week on January 21.


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DPRK ends peace initiative toward RoK: analysts

In World on January 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm

A rare statement by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) top decision-making body may herald a deep freeze in inter-Korean ties and a further delay in resuming nuclear disarmament talks, analysts said Saturday.

South Korean trucks carrying relief goods drive past a heavily fortified checkpoint near the inter-Korean border in Paju, north of Seoul, 2007.

The DPRK threatened Friday to break off all dialogue with Republic of Korea (RoK) unless Seoul apologises for allegedly drawing up a contingency plan to handle regime collapse in the communist state.

The powerful National Defence Commission (NDC), which is headed by leader Kim Jong-Il, denounced the alleged plan as a “crime,” vowing to stage a “holy war” against those responsible for it, blaming Seoul’s presidential Blue House.

Unconfirmed RoK news reports say officials have a blueprint to administer the North in the event of regime collapse, a coup or a popular uprising there.

The NDC said the “Emergency Ruling Plan” is aimed at bringing down the North’s socialist regime and was worked out by RoK’s authorities to complement a joint US-RoK military operation to overthrow the regime.

Unless Seoul apologises, it will be “thoroughly excluded from any dialogue and negotiations aimed at improving inter-Korean ties and securing peace and stability,” it said.

The NDC statement perplexed RoK’s authorities, coming only hours after Pyongyang’s Red Cross authorities said they would accept food aid, which the North had shunned for two years as political tensions with the South rose.

“We find it deeply regretful that DPRK took a threatening stance toward us, based on some unconfirmed media reports,” Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung said.

The ministry’s deputy spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo downplayed the NDC statement, saying DPRK has “routinely protested” against contingency plans.

It was unclear from the NDC statement whether the North would participate in planned talks on Tuesday on revitalising a joint industrial estate, which would be a first inter-Korean contact this year.

The talks would serve as the first test to see “whether the latest warning would accompany real action,” according to Lee.

But analysts said the statement by the North’s most powerful body in effect reversed earlier peace offers made since last August when Pyongyang sent an envoy to mourn the death of former RoK’s President Kim Dae-Jung.

“The North believes the plan puts into a concrete form the scenario for reunification through absorption by the South,” Kim Yeon-Chul of the private Hankyoreh Peace Institute told AFP on Saturday.

“This statement marks an end” to DPRK’s peace initiatives taken following its second nuclear test in May last year, he said.

“The North will probably boycott all inter-Korean talks and relations will become worse. This will also have a negative impact on the six-party talks” on disarming DPRK, he added.

The North abandoned the six-party nuclear disarmament talks last April.

Pyongyang wants talks on a peace treaty with the United States and demands that sanctions be lifted before it returns to the six-party forum, grouping the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

The US State Department has rejected an end to sanctions at this stage.

Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of DPRK Studies in Seoul, said the rare NDC statement should be taken seriously as it carries “the very intent of Kim Jong-Il and it stands above all others.”

“Non-governmental contact between the two Koreas and international efforts led by China and the United States are required to calm the situation,” Yang said.


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Palestinians fight settlements with new planned suburb

In World on January 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Bulldozers are carving out a new suburb on a hilltop in the occupied West Bank. For once it isn’t a Jewish settlement but the first ever planned Palestinian suburb.

Israeli border police, left, and Palestinian demonstrators scuffle during a protest over a disputed water well in the West Bank village of Deir Netham near Ramallah, Friday, Jan. 15, 2010. (Photo: AFP)

The developers of Rawabi, as the community is known, hope it will one day provide much-needed housing for some 40,000 people and help cement Palestinian claims to the territory amid similar communities built by settlers.

“The city is not a settlement,” says Bashar al-Masri, head of the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, which is carrying out the 700-million-dollar (480-million-euro) project along with Qatar’s Diar Real Estate Company.

“Instead it can be considered a Palestinian attempt to keep Palestinians on their land in order to contain Israeli settlement,” he says.

The building of a modern suburb in the West Bank, which is governed by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and receives considerable international aid, is in sharp contrast to the lingering devastation in the Gaza Strip, which has been under strict closure since the Hamas movement seized power in 2007.

The first phase of the Rawabi project calls for the construction of some 22 residential buildings housing 20,000 people within three years. The second phase will double the occupancy over the following three years.

The city will include schools and hospitals, and the homes will be within the means of middle-class Palestinians, with units selling for 50,000 to 80,000 dollars (35,000 to 55,000 euros).

Covering some 630 hectares (1,500 acres), it will be one of the largest investment projects in the occupied territories, and has won the enthusiastic support of the Palestinian Authority.

“This project proves that there are opportunities for investment in Palestine,” Palestinian economy minister Hassan Abu Libdeh says.

Ironically, the hilltop suburb resembles the dozens of Israeli settlements scattered across the territory, which the Palestinians have condemned as “facts on the ground” aimed at thwarting the creation of an independent state.

“The sight of Palestinian bulldozers is strange, because we are used to seeing Israeli bulldozers stealing our land and digging it up to build settlements,” says Mohammed Khamis, 42, as he watches from a nearby village.

“There are some cynical comparisons that Palestinians are involved in this sad scene associated with Israeli settlement, but we hope that the project will be the beginning of an expansion of related investment,” Abu Libdeh says.

The project is being carried out in Area A, a part of the occupied West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority, but comes amid a general push to assert greater Palestinian control over the territory occupied by Israel in 1967.

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has vowed to construct housing and infrastructure in Area C, which is under complete Israeli military control, as part of his plan to build the institutions of a Palestinian state by 2011.

The Rawabi project nevertheless depends in part on Israel, which must open the main road between the new suburb and the nearby town of Ramallah and grant permission for the construction of new infrastructure, Masri says.

“We have not yet obtained Israeli approval, but there is no Israeli opposition to this,” he says. “We have approval in principle.”

As the Palestinians have accelerated projects aimed at generating economic growth following the devastating 2000 intifada, or uprising, they have demanded that Israel halt its own construction projects in the territory, which are considered illegal by the international community.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has refused US demands to relaunch peace talks suspended during last winter’s Gaza war until Israel halts all settlement activity, including in mostly-Arab east Jerusalem.

Israel in November enacted a 10-month moratorium on new building starts in the West Bank but excluded east Jerusalem, public buildings and projects already under way, prompting the Palestinians to slam the move as insufficient.

Nearly half a million Israelis live in more than 100 settlements scattered across the West Bank and east Jerusalem, many of which resemble Western-style suburbs and house thousands of people.

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UN considers moving 5,000 troops to Port-au-Prince

In World on January 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

The United Nations is considering redeploying some 5,000 peacekeepers, soldiers and police officers from across Haiti to the capital Port-au-Prince, a UN official in Mexico said Friday.

A photo provided by ECHO, shows an aerial view of houses flattened following a major earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12.

The United Nations is thinking about ordering “5,000 personnel who are not in Port-au-Prince” to move to the capital “and reinforce their colleagues,” said United Nations system coordinator Magdy Martinez during a press conference in Mexico City.

UN peacekeepers, often known as blue berets, are currently deployed throughout earthquake-stricken Haiti, but “the capital is the main source of concern over the issue of public order,” Martinez said.

He added that development assistance the United Nations had planned to send to Haiti could be “converted for the most part for use in accelerated reconstruction.”

The aid will go towards schools, hospitals, communication systems and telecommunication infrastructure, Martinez added.

The United Nations has some 12,000 personnel in Haiti, including blue berets and civilian representatives, he said.

The international organization suffered unprecedented losses in Tuesday’s 7.0 earthquake, which brought down the headquarters of its Haiti peacekeeping force MINUSTAH.

At least 37 UN staffers were killed in the disaster, and some 330 remain unaccounted for, a spokesman at UN headquarters in New York City said Friday.

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Aid has arrived but is badly coordinated: Haitian president

In World on January 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Haiti’s President Rene Preval Friday praised a massive international relief effort for his stricken country but warned that the aid operation remains uncoordinated.

A man holds a candle during a vigil for United Nations workers and other victims of Tuesday’s Haiti earthquake, at Dag Hammarskjold Park near the United Nations in New York January 15, 2010.

“We need international aid, but the problem is the coordination,” the Haitian president told AFP.

Preval said 74 planes from countries including the United States, France and Venezuela, had arrived at Port-au-Prince’s overwhelmed airport in a single day.

“For the government’s part, what we can do is to ask of the aid workers to work in committees that we have set up within the government to ensure the most effective distribution of the aid sent by the international community,” he said.

Haiti’s health ministry said Friday that the massive 7.0 quake that struck the Caribbean nation Tuesday afternoon has killed more than 50,000 people and injured some 250,000.

A preliminary estimate said 1.5 million people had been affected by the quake.

“We need international aid,” insisted Preval, who was forced to set up a makeshift seat of government at a police station near Port-au-Prince’s small airport after the earthquake destroyed the presidential palace and numerous government ministries.

The Haitian leader said his government has set out certain priorities for helping their devastated countrymen, beginning with the distribution of gas so vehicles can deliver much-needed aid and food throughout Port-au-Prince.


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Suicide attack wounds two in Pakistan Kashmir: police

In World on January 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

A suicide attack wounded two security personnel in Pakistani-administered Kashmir on Saturday, police said.

The attacker detonated his explosives near an army vehicle in Dothan, a town 145 kilometres (90 miles) south of Muzaffarabad, the region’s capital, police said.

“It was a suicide blast, the target was an army vehicle,” senior police official Sardar Khurshid told AFP by telephone.

“Two security personnel have been injured. The injured were immediately shifted to the nearby hospital,” Chaudry Raqeeb, a senior administrative official told AFP by telephone.

It was the fifth suicide bombing in Pakistani Kashmir since the first such attack in the zone last June. On December 27, a suicide bomber killed seven people outside a Shiite Muslim mosque in Muzaffarabad.

Attacks blamed mostly on the Taliban have killed more than 2,900 people across Pakistan since July 2007, concentrated in the northwest and major cities rather than the northern mountains and eastern border with India.

Kashmir was split in two in the bloody aftermath of independence from British rule over the subcontinent in 1947. Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan each control a part of the mountainous land but both claim the region in full.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a nearly 20-year revolt in Indian Kashmir, where Muslim militants have fought against New Delhi’s rule, but bomb attacks are rare in the Pakistani administered zone.


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As supplies begin to arrive, Haiti still lives in fear

In World on January 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

The crippled port of the Haitian capital has received its first supply ship since Tuesday’s killer earthquake — a boat carrying bananas and coal that was greeted with jubilation by desperate residents of the devastated city.

Army soldiers help the crew of a U.S. Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) unload food and supplies at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 15, 2010. (AFP Photo)

A swarm of small boats surrounded the ship at the entrance to the harbor late Friday as it approached a crumbled pier with supplies from Jeremie, a Haitian town about 200 kilometers (130 miles) from Port-au-Price.

Bananas will provide local residents with necessary food while coal can be used to boil water to avoid the spread of disease.

But the joyful event did little to change the overall grim situation.

The Haitian capital — insecure at the best of times — is now devoid of a functioning police force, bringing fears of a dystopian war of all against all in the wake of Tuesday’s huge earthquake.

“Men suddenly appeared with machetes to steal money” said Evelyne Buino, a young beautician, describing a long, sleepless night in a neighborhood not far from the ruined city center. “This is just the beginning.”

Buino’s immediate fear comes from a nearby prison, which contained “the worst gangsters in the city.”

When the earthquake unleashed its fury on Port-au-Prince’s two million inhabitants, it also let loose upon them the 4,000 convicts who escaped from the city’s collapsed jail.

The prison’s large blue iron gate remains closed, but its cell block was among the scores of buildings razed by the quake, allowing surviving prisoners to run free.

“All the bandits of the city are now on the streets,” a local police man said standing near the jail, rifle at the ready. “They are robbing people. It is a big problem.”

With President Rene Preval at the airport struggling to piece together the remains of the state, desperate citizens tried to fill the void.

“Organize neighborhood committees to avoid chaos!” radio Metropole urged residents, “to prevent people looting shops and houses.”

The station also appealed for volunteers to protect a company distributing badly-needed drinking water.

“People are hungry, thirsty. They are left on their own,” said Leon Meleste, an Adventist sporting a white “New York” baseball cap.

“It is increasingly dangerous. The police doesn’t exist, people are doing what they want.”

Patricia Etique, a Swiss citizen who divides her time between Europe and Haiti, explained the dire predicament now facing many Haitians.

“People had reserves for a few days, but now they are dwindling. They are afraid to go downtown in search of food because it has become too dangerous.”

“There is a lot of tension” in the center, she said, near the National Palace, where thousands gathered to flee their devastated homes.

Kassana-Jean Chilove, a young mechanic who lost her daughter in the earthquake, expressed fury at the government.

“The government is bluffing us,” she said. “There are millions of dollars pouring into Haiti but we see nothing.

“At the head of the country a group of friends is divvying up the money. We are going to be in the shit for a long time.”

Before the earthquake, “we had bottled water or boiled it for ourselves,” said nurse Marie-Jose Carneli, whose son Bryan-Michael began screaming from under the rubble a few hours ago. “But now we have no gas or coal and you can not sterilize it.

“I can not buy anything because my money is stuck in the rubble of my house,” she said, throwing a plastic bottle angrily at an area were pigs were scavenging for food.

With the presidential palace and several other key government guildings destroyed, the Haitian government is now working from a police station close to the airport.

President Preval works in an office protected by two guards from his security detail.

In another office, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive was holding a meeting with several ministers. His original office now serves as a shelter for hundreds of families left without homes.

“The government has lost its capacity to function properly, but it has not collapsed,” said the president, who looked exhausted with dark pockets under the eyes.

Out in the city, an old lady sold plates of pasta. One portion costs 100 gourds, around 2.5 dollars, 10 times more than before the quake.

For many facing desolation, there is only one option, said Carneli, “people who have relatives in the provinces are fleeing the city.”

But thousands of others there have no such choice.

In the bustling Marche en Fer, or Iron Market, one of the Haitian capital’s poorest neighborhoods, teenage looters Friday were scuttling over the twisted concrete debris, as crowds ignored piles of dead bodies on the street in their desperate bid to dig out supplies.


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Ministry honors education sector contributors

In Vietnam Education on January 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

A ceremony honoring entrepreneurs and benefactors who have made outstanding contributions to the development of the country’s education system was held January 15 by the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) in Hanoi.

An English class in Tran Khai Nguyen high school. Investment in the educational sector is limited because the country is still poor, says President Nguyen Minh Triet (Photo: U. Phuong)

Since 2007, domestic and overseas contributors have donated over VND1.293 billion (US$ 101,000); US$17.856 million, EUR 276,828; and 167,127 square meters of land for the construction of educational institutes.

The ceremony also praised Phan Thanh Hung from the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu who offered over 23,000 square meters of land; and Tran Van Thua and Phan Le Thu from the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap who provided 2,802 and 2,000 square meters of land respectively.

Nguyen Thi Tuyet from the southern province of Soc Trang has offered land for schools three times and also called on her relatives, who lived on viable school land, to exchange properties with her. She then donated this land for schools.

In addition, seven ethnic minority families in the highland province of Kon Tum provided 19,500 square meters of land for schools, and six farmers in the central province of Hue agreed to donate 10,000 square meters.

Speaking at the ceremony, President Nguyen Minh Triet stressed that investment in the educational sector is limited because the country is still poor. Both local enterprises and overseas benefactors have relieved much of the burden in this crucial area of development, however, as they believe in the benefits of improving Vietnam’s education system.

The education sector thus ought to manage itself well out of respect for such benefactors, he added.

Mr. Triet also expected the sector would grow and improve thanks to the efforts of all other sectors in the country.

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