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Archive for April 18th, 2010|Daily archive page

Hanoi Gymnastic and Sports Festival wrapped up

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Hanoi Gymnastic and Sports Festival wrapped up

QĐND – Sunday, April 18, 2010, 21:19 (GMT+7)

The 7th Hanoi Gymnastic and Sports Festival closed at the Athletics Complex Centre on April 17.  

Ngo Thi Thanh Hang, Deputy Head of the Hanoi Municipal People’s Committee said that after one week of competition in the spirit of fair play, the festival has ended successfully with a total of 474 sets of medals for winners in 33 events. The festival has also provided an excellent chance for the capital city to find out talented athletics for the upcoming 6th National Gymnastic and Sports Festival.

The 45-minute closing ceremony, entitled Phu Dong’s Strength, was composed of three parts, namely Tracing Vietnamese Roots, Conquering the Peak and Hanoi Young Athletes Heading to the City’s Millennium Anniversary.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

World leaders cancel as Poles mass for funeral

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Late Polish president Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski (L), and daughter Marta attend a funeral mass at the St.John Cathedral in Warsaw on Saturday. AFP photo

KRAKOW, Poland (AFP) – Up to a million Poles were expected to fill the streets of Krakow Sunday for the funeral of president Lech Kaczynski, even as travel problems kept many international leaders away.

Poles were flocking to the historic city ahead of the ceremony, though US President Barack Obama and others were forced to abandon plans to attend because of the air travel chaos caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prince Charles and South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-Chan also announced overnight that they could not be able to attend for the same reason.

Sunday’s burial of Kaczynski and his wife will be the climax of an outpouring of grief since they and 94 other mostly senior figures died in an air crash in Russia on April 10.

Kaczynski, an often divisive nationalist in life, and his spouse Maria will be laid to rest in the cathedral crypt of Krakow’s hilltop Wawel castle where Poland’s past kings and national heroes already lie.

Krakow city spokesman Filip Szatanik told AFP it would be “one of the largest, if not the largest single event the city has seen over the last couple hundred years.”

The crash claimed the lives of much of Poland’s elite, including the country’s military chief, the heads of all three armed forces, the governor of the central bank and iconic opponents of Poland’s communist-era regime.

Kaczynski’s Tupolev Tu-154 jet slammed into a forest near Smolensk in western Russia.

Sunday’s funeral comes a day after more than 100,000 mourners, many waving red and white Polish flags, massed in Warsaw’s main Pilsudski square for an emotional public memorial service for all the victims of the crash.

Many of the more than 70 foreign dignitaries set to attend the funeral on Sunday had to cancel to avoid the disruption to air traffic caused by a cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano.

Leaders of countries close to Poland, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, took to the roads and railways to get to Krakow in time.

But Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Turkish President Abdullah Gul were among others who cancelled their trips.

Obama sent his regrets in a White House statement, adding that “Michelle and I continue to have the Polish people in our thoughts and prayers, and will support them in any way I can as they recover from this terrible tragedy.”

There will first be a mass at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) in Krakow’s Basilica of Our Lady. Only family, friends and Polish and foreign leaders will be allowed in but ordinary mourners will be able to watch on big screens.

The coffins will then be taken on gun carriages to Wawel cathedral for a funeral service and a 21 gun artillery salute.

Mourners were already preparing in Krakow over the weekend.

Source: SGGP

Japanese islanders rally against US base plan: media

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

TOKYO, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Thousands of people rallied on a remote Japanese island Sunday, protesting against a possible government move to relocate a major US air base there.

The issue centres around a decision by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to review a 2006 agreement with the United States to allow the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to be moved from an urban area to a quieter coastal part of Okinawa.

But media have since reported that the government is planning to transfer the base to Tokunoshima, a subtropical island in Kagoshima prefecture, 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Okinawa.

Hatoyama’s apparent indecision on the issue has become a thorn in Japan-US relations while he battles a slide in his popularity at home.

“Let us spread this protest movement to the end,” Hideki Takaoka, mayor of a town on Tokunoshima, told the rally, according to television footage.

“Down with the US base,” the protesters chanted at the rally on Tokunoshima, which has 27,000 islanders.” The sugar cane industry and dairy farming are major contributors to the island’s economy.

“We prepared 13,000 flyers and all of them were gone,” island official Osamu Minobe told AFP by telephone. Organisers estimated that 15,000 people turned out but police said they did not count the numbers.

“I believe we can change the government’s attitude by sending our message today,” another town mayor, Akira Okubo, told Japanese media.

Premier Hatoyama has told US President Barack Obama he will find a solution by the end of May.

The Okinawa chain, strategically located close to China and the Korean peninsula, hosts more than half of 47,000 US troops based in Japan.

The 1995 rape of a Okinawan school girl by three US servicemen prompted mass protests that led to the relocation plan, coupled with the transfer of 8,000 marines to the US Pacific territory of Guam.

But Hatoyama has yet to present a definite alternative plan while the Obama administration has repeatedly said the 2006 agreement is the best option.

Japanese media have speculated Hatoyama might have to resign if he fails to resolve the row before this self-imposed deadline expires.

Tokunoshima hosted a former Japanese military air base during World War II and was returned to Japanese rule in 1953 after US military occupation.

Source: SGGP

Rival Thai ‘Yellows’ discuss moves as ‘Reds’ rally on

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

BANGKOK, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Thailand’s pro-establishment “Yellow Shirt” movement gathered in their thousands on Sunday to discuss their response to month-long anti-government protests that left 23 dead in clashes last weekend.

The country is split between “Red Shirts”, who largely support ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and their yellow-clad rivals who hit the streets ahead of a 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin and again to see off his allies in 2008.

Red Shirt anti-government protesters rest during an on going rally in the main shopping district in Bangkok on April 18, 2010. AFP photo

The yellow protest group, backed by the country’s elite, has kept a low profile since the Reds’ mass rallies began in mid-March but began a meeting early Sunday to discuss the kingdom’s troubles.

“We are having a meeting today because we know that now the country is in crisis,” said Parnthep Pourpongpan, a spokesman for the group formally known as the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

“We have the PAD representatives from different provinces coming to analyse the situation and lay out the structure for long-term solutions. There are 3,000 to 5,000 people joining the meeting today,” he said.

The Yellows’ protests in 2008 culminated with a damaging blockade of the capital’s main airports that stranded thousands of travellers.

As they met at a Bangkok university Sunday, the Reds were also meeting to discuss their next move, eights days on from deadly clashes with security forces that left 23 people dead and more than 800 injured.

The Reds, who are demanding snap elections, have since abandoned their rally spot close to where the violence took place to instead reinforce numbers in a Bangkok district which is home to luxury hotels and shopping malls.

Leaders of the Reds have said they would hand themselves in to police next month as they brace themselves for a new army push to disperse them from the key district.

They have so far ignored repeated calls by authorities to disperse from the commercial heartland, despite arrest warrants outstanding against core leaders.

“On May 15, 24 of us will surrender. All of the leaders,” said one of the top Reds, Nattawut Saikuar, on Saturday. “For now the 24 of us will keep rallying to show sincerely that we won’t run away,” he said.

“I’m sure the order to suppress us will come out soon.”

He said the plan was designed to avoid another attempt by security forces to forcibly arrest them, but added they would seek bail.

The mostly poor Reds accuse the government of elitism and being illegitimate as it came to power after a parliamentary vote that followed a controversial court verdict ousting Thaksin’s allies.

The military has said it will make a renewed attempt to disperse the protesters but has given no further details of its plans.

Late Friday embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva handed broader powers to his army chief Anupong Paojinda, after a bungled operation to arrest some protest leaders at a hotel in Bangkok’s northern outskirts.

Earlier Friday commandos stormed a hotel where several Red Shirt leaders were hiding, but the mission ended in dramatic failure after the suspects fled, with one climbing down an electric cable from a third floor balcony.

The setback to the authorities came almost a week after the army tried in vain to clear an area of the capital of anti-government demonstrators, triggering the country’s deadliest civil unrest in 18 years.

The government has asked the police’s special investigation unit to probe the bloodshed, blaming “terrorists” for inciting violence and accusing Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft, of stoking the unrest.

Source: SGGP

Asian currencies to gain from yuan revaluation, say analysts

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm

TOKYO, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Speculation of an imminent yuan revaluation has boosted other Asian currencies against the dollar recently, reflecting the region’s world-leading recovery from recession, say analysts.

With a move by Beijing to let the yuan appreciate against the dollar seen as increasingly likely in the near future, emerging Asian economies that compete directly with China are in line to benefit the most, they say.

“A Chinese currency revaluation would boost the export industries of countries that have trade relations with China,” said Yunosuke Ikeda, senior forex strategist at Nomura Research Institute.

“Generally speaking it would help China’s neighbours, while having little negative impact on the Chinese economy.”

Despite rising against the euro, the dollar has fallen against a basket of Asian currencies this year. It is down 4 percent against the Australian dollar, linked to a commodity-rich economy driven by Chinese demand for raw materials.

The Korean won, the Malaysian ringgit and the Indian rupee in particular have rallied strongly. The dollar is down 6 percent against the ringgit, 5 percent against the won and 4 percent against the rupee.

Asian currencies are also likely to bounce from anticipation that other Asian central banks are moving to tighten their monetary policies, unlike their counterparts in more advanced economies, say analysts.

Singapore on Wednesday revalued its currency — the city-state’s principal monetary tool — prompting speculation that China and South Korea may be next in line.

“Given this expectation, firm risk appetite, and more follow-through from Singapore’s foreign exchange move, the outlook for other Asian currencies remains bullish,” Credit Agricole analysts said.

Pressure is now growing on Beijing to raise interest rates and loosen currency controls after official data showed Thursday that the economy grew at a red-hot 11.9 percent in the first three months of the year.

The yuan was effectively pegged at about 6.8 to the dollar in mid-2008 as the financial crisis sank its teeth into global trade, after the unit rose by more than 20 percent since 2005 as China’s export-driven economy soared.

Having recovered from the grip of recession, Asia is now “leading the global rebound,” a recent World Bank report said.

In comparison the dollar has been pressured by a series of false dawns, and markets have repeatedly seen their recovery hopes dashed by disappointing data, reducing the chances of an imminent US rate rise, economists say.

“A yuan revaluation will add to the conviction that Asia can appreciate against the dollar even in a stronger dollar environment versus the euro,” Royal Bank of Scotland analysts told Dow Jones Newswires.

However, who exactly stands to win and lose from a yuan revaluation is under debate with currencies affected differently by risk sentiment, exposure to commodities and how respective economies balance foreign reserves.

The yuan’s peg against the dollar forces other export-oriented Asian economies to smooth their currencies’ performance against the greenback and, therefore, the yuan as they struggle to remain competitive.

A yuan appreciation against the greenback would boost the strength of other Asian nations against China’s exporters, and reduce the need for Asian central banks to buy dollars to curb their currencies’ ascent, analysts say.

“The Malaysian ringgit and the Singapore dollar are likely to benefit most from the revaluation, ” said Ikeda, adding that the ascendant Australian dollar would be likely hit by profit-taking.

For the Japanese yen, however, the picture remains clouded.

Barclays Capital said in a recent report that the Japanese currency stands to gain the most because a yuan revaluation would increase investor concerns about China’s growth and demand for commodities.

Currencies with higher commodity exposure, notably Australia, would be hit while commodity-importing Japan would stand to gain.

However, the impact of a higher yen hitting the repatriated earnings of Japanese exporters obscures the issue. Japan’s mountainous public debt approaching 200 percent of GDP is also a potential driver against the yen.

“It does not necessarily follow that the Japanese authorities would be more tolerant of yen appreciation against the dollar,” said Julian Jessop of Capital Economics.

What is agreed is that any rate move by Beijing would be slow and gradual. The yuan would have to rise “20 to 30 percent” to have a major impact on the broader economy, said Nomura’s Ikeda. “We expect China to revalue its currency at around 5 percent on an annual basis.” 

Source: SGGP

Gates warns White House over ‘Iran nukes’ policy: report

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned the White House it does not have an effective policy for dealing with Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons push, The New York Times reported late Saturday.

Citing unnamed government officials, the newspaper said one senior official described the secret memorandum, which was written in January, as “a wake-up call.”

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates(AFP photo)

According to the report, the document sparked efforts in the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for President Barack Obama.

They included secret military operation against Iran if international sanctions failed to force the country to change its approach, the paper said.

Gates wrote in the memorandum about several of his concerns, including a scenario that many experts consider the most likely, The Times said.

Under this scenario, Iran would assemble all the major parts required but stop short of actually making a fully operational weapon.

In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what experts call a “virtual” nuclear weapons state, the report said.

The memorandum also urged the White House to think about how the United States might contain Iran if it decided to produce a weapon; and how to deal with the possibility that nuclear fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the militant groups Iran supports, the paper said.

Asked if the story was accurate, Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell told AFP that Secretary Gates believed “the president and his national security team have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort considering and preparing for the full range of contingencies with respect to Iran.”

Source: SGGP

Medvedev leaves by air for Kaczynski funeral: Kremlin

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:27 pm

MOSCOW, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday left Moscow for Krakow by air to attend the funeral of Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski, the Kremlin said, despite the Iceland volcano travel disruptions.

All Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova as confirming Medvedev’s departure. No further details were given and Kremlin officials could not be immediately reached for further comment.

Several world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have already cancelled their attendance at the funeral in Krakow of Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash in Russia on April 10.

Source: SGGP

Goldman fraud charges trigger prospect of wider crackdown

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:26 pm

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2010 (AFP) – Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs faced charges of financial fraud Saturday as US financial firms eyed the prospect of a wider crackdown on those that bet on the collapse of the housing market.

A civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday accused Goldman of “defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts” about a financial product based on subprime mortgage-backed securities.

Goldman Sachs booth is pictured on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as a television report airs about the company’s lowered stock price on April 16. AFP photo

The securities were a key contributor to the financial crisis that peaked in 2008 because many contained risky mortgages.

The charges are believed to be the first brought against a Wall Street firm for speculating on the collapse of the housing market, which is still struggling to emerge from the worst financial crisis in decades.

Underlining persistent concerns about the unfettered trade, US President Barack Obama said Friday he would veto a Wall Street reform bill that lacked tough rules for complex financial instruments.

“I will veto legislation that does not bring the derivatives market under control and some sort of regulatory framework assures that we don’t have the same sort of crisis we have seen in the past,” Obama said.

The SEC said Goldman failed to tell investors that a major hedge fund had helped put together the controversial financial product known as collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and was at the same time betting against it.

Paulson & Co, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, paid Goldman Sachs to structure a transaction in which it could take speculative positions against mortgage securities chosen by the fund, the commission said in a statement.

The deal, which took place during a massive mortgage meltdown in 2007 and as the country was about to fall into a brutal recession, was said to have cost investors around one billion dollars.

Goldman claimed that it lost 90 million dollars from its own investment in the security.

“We are disappointed that the SEC would bring this action related to a single transaction in the face of an extensive record which establishes that the accusations are unfounded in law and fact,” the company said.

Goldman said it would “vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation.”

Paulson & Co founder John Paulson said he had no role in choosing the mortgages. The 54-year-old fund manager was not named as a defendant in the suit, and Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC explained that, unlike Goldman, Paulson & Co had not made misrepresentations to investors buying the security.

The lawsuit also named Fabrice Tourre, then a vice-president at Goldman. He was said to be the creator and salesman of the product, which caused investors to lose about one billion dollars.

“The product was new and complex but the deception and conflicts are old and simple,” said Khuzami in a statement.

Analysts said a long courtroom battle could now be expected.

The authorities have not ruled out the possibility of others involved in the alleged fraud or other similar types of fraud.

“The SEC continues to investigate the practices of investment banks and others involved in the securitization of complex financial products tied to the US housing market as it was beginning to show signs of distress,” said Kenneth Lench, head of the SEC’s structured and new products unit.

It is not known whether the SEC might refer the case to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

“The fact that the only individual charged here, after what was presumably a very thorough investigation, was a vice president rather than a managing director or higher, is relatively reassuring news for Goldman,” said Bank of America-Merrill Lynch research analyst Guy Moszkowski.

He said it seemed most likely that the potential for more serious charges rose dramatically the higher up the management chain the charges went.

Among investors of Goldman’s controversial product were German commercial bank IKB.

Goldman shares dived 12.79 percent Friday to 160.70 dollars, after falling as much as 15 percent when news of the fraud charges first hit the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 125.91 points or 1.13 percent to end the week at 11,018.66 points, snapping a six-session winning streak that had driven the blue-chip index to a fresh 18-month high.

Oil prices also fell sharply, with New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, slipping 2.27 dollars to 83.24 dollars a barrel.

On Saturday, The New York Times suggested in an editorial the charges may be just the beginning of a broader government campaign against Wall Street.

“Goldman is not the only bank to have sold mortgage-backed securities and then bet against them,” the newspaper said. “We suspect that after Friday, others on Wall Street may have a harder time sleeping.”

Source: SGGP

Major economies to delve into climate impasse

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Representatives from the world’s leading economies were to meet here Sunday to see if they can find common ground on climate change, as wide gaps divide the United States, China and other key nations.

The US-led Major Economies Forum includes 17 countries responsible for the bulk of global emissions — and excludes smaller nations such as Sudan whose firebrand negotiators held up sessions at December’s much criticized Copenhagen summit.

(AFP file) Protestors shovel broken glass into a pile in Bonn, western Germany during a demonstration calling on leaders to pick up the pieces of the climate summit in Copenhagen in Dec. 2009.

The United States hopes that the closed-door talks, which start with a dinner, will let key nations quietly assess what, if anything, they can achieve heading into the next major climate summit in December in Cancun, Mexico.

“Clearly, there is still a gap between the views of the developing and developed world,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

“We’re going to see if we can, through the course of this discussion, narrow that down,” he said.

White House aide Michael Froman and US climate negotiator Todd Stern sent participants a set of questions for the discussions, starting simply with, “What is the outcome we are all seeking in Cancun?”

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which supports action against climate change, said it was “very difficult to close the deep gaps between countries such as the US and China.”

The Washington talks offer a chance to “see if there is any convergence on what these key countries want, because if there is, that will give us a sense that there might be some way forward to get progress in Cancun,” Meyer said.

China has surpassed the United States as the world’s top emitter of carbon, which UN scientists say is causing global warming that could put entire species at risk if unchecked.

China has announced plans to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions.

But China, India and other developing nations have resisted a legally binding climate treaty, arguing that wealthy nations bear primary responsibility for climate change.

The United States was the only major country to reject the Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations expire at the end of 2012, calling it unfair because it made no demands of emerging economies.

President Barack Obama is pushing for the first-ever nationwide plan to curb US emissions, with senators set to present long-delayed legislation later this month.

In a recent interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Obama said that while the United States needed to act on climate change, China and other emerging countries should not wait until their living standards improve as it was “not a sustainable, practical approach.”

But Ben Lieberman, an expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, doubted that the talks in Washington could bridge the divide, pointing to China’s heavy reliance on coal to power its economy.

“They get a lot of positive press about the wind power and solar power that they have and that they export, but that’s a trickle compared with their coal-fire generation,” Lieberman said.

“They’ve made it very clear they’re not going to jeopardize economic growth for global warming,” Lieberman said. “And even if they were to focus on the environment, they have more pressing problems.”

Still, some China watchers say that climate change could mark a turning point in the nation’s global role. Beijing, long a champion of the developing world, faced criticism both in wealthier and poorer nations for its position.

“Copenhagen, in this respect, may have been a watershed event,” said Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“For many developing countries, climate change has revealed China as less and less ‘one of us’ and more and more ‘one of them,'” she said.

The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) was launched in March 2009 with the purpose of facilitating dialogue among major developed and developing economies.

The 17 participants include Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.

Source: SGGP

China’s Hu visits quake zone

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:12 pm

JIEGU, China, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – President Hu Jintao travelled to remote quake-hit northwestern China Sunday to inspect relief efforts as rescuers struggled to cope with a disaster that has killed more than 1,400 people.

The Chinese leader, who cut short a trip to Latin America to oversee the emergency response, went to visit victims in Jiegu, the largest city in the shattered region, four days after it was hit by a 6.9-magnitude quake.

Hu on Saturday chaired a meeting of China’s top leaders, urging all-out efforts for the quake response, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

A young quake survivor uses a mobile phone in an attempt to reach relatives in Jiegu, Yushu County, on April 18, 2010. AFP photo

“As long as we have hope, we will put 100 percent into the rescue work,” Miao Chonggang, an emergency official at the China Earthquake Administration, told a news briefing.

More than 6,000 people have been pulled alive from the rubble of collapsed buildings, Miao said. The number of personnel aiding rescue and recovery operations on the Tibetan Plateau had risen to 15,000, he said.

On Jiegu’s streets, boxes of bottled water were dropped to help residents cope with water shortages as aid continued to pour in.

Infrastructure in Jiegu suffered major damage in the quake, with the water supply “basically paralysed”, Xia Xueping, spokesman for relief efforts, told a news briefing in the town.

Geng Yang, the head of the civil affairs bureau in Qinghai province, told reporters that essential items such as food, drinking water, cold-weather tents, quilts and clothing remained in short supply in the isolated area.

A 20-member Red Cross team from Taiwan was expected to arrive in the quake zone on Sunday, Xinhua reported, to help with surgery and public health work.

Officials have warned of a growing disease threat due to sanitation risks including damage to water supplies that could leave them polluted, although no such outbreaks had yet been reported.

Source: SGGP