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Archive for May 28th, 2010|Daily archive page

Market finishes week on high note

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

The Vietnam’s benchmark VN-Index rose the most in four months on May 28, as investors regained confidence after receiving positive information about global markets.

VN-Index, a measure of 230 companies and 4 close-ended funds listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange, gained as much as 15.83 points, or 3.18 percent, to wrap week at 512.99.

Only 8 stocks fell among the index members, with 218 advancing, and 8 remaining unchanged. Trading volume improved as more than 58.9 million shares being traded, worth VND1.88 trillion.

Saigon Securities Inc. (SSI) held unto the top position of most active shares by volume, with more than 3 million shares changing hands at VND38,100, up 2.97 percent.

It was followed by Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Bank or Sacombank (STB) with 2.3 million shares.

Vietnam Electricity Construction Joint Stock Corporation (VNE) came third with 1.49 million shares. The company closed 4.69 percent higher.

Eight companies saw their share values increase to the daily maximum allowed limit of 5 percent today, including Viet Nhat Seafood Corporation (VNH), Vinpearlland Tourism Joint Stock Company (VPL), Domesco Medical Import Export Joint Stock Corporation (DMC), and Ha Tien Transport Joint Stock Company (HTV).

At the smaller bourse in the north, the HNX-Index climbed 6.88 points or 4.3 percent to 166.71. Trading volume was 44.8 million shares worth VND1.42 trillion.

After being net buyers for five straight sessions on Hanoi’s trading floor, foreign investors became net sellers this morning, selling a total worth VND2.11 billion.

Meanwhile, the UPCoM-Index of the unlisted stocks slid 0.23 points to 48.72. Around VND3.72 billion were spent on 230,428 shares.

Globally, the Down Jones industrial index rose 2.85 percent, or 284.54 points, to close at 10,258.99. The S&P 500 index gained 3.29 percent, or 35.11 points, to 1,103.06 while Nasdaq Composite index jumped 81.80 points, or 3.73 percent, to 2,277.68.

The UK’s FTSE 100 index and German DAX index added 3.1 percent while France’s CAC 40 index advanced 3.4 percent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and China’s Shanghai Composite also gained 1.2 percent.

Source: SGGP

Vietnam Airlines joins SkyTeam

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Leaders of ten major airlines will arrive in Hanoi on June 10, to welcome Vietnam Airlines to SkyTeam, a global alliance within the industry.

Vietnam Airlines aircraft (File photo)

In celebration, Vietnam Airlines also has announced a promotion campaign offering a 10 percent discount for all flight tickets purchased online ( from 9 pm, June 9 until 8:59 pm the next day.

Top representatives from Delta Airlines, Alitalia, Air France, China Southern Airlines and Korean Air will attend the signing ceremony.

Once joining SkyTeam, Vietnam Airlines said its customers will get more benefits such as access to the global products and services, an airline network of more than 850 destinations, departure lounges most notably lower fares.

SkyTeam is one of the world’s three airline alliances with ten official members and three associate members on four continents. It has a large airline network connecting 905 locations in 169 countries.

Source: SGGP

Russia to provide technology for Ninh Thuan nuclear power plant

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

The Vietnamese Government has chosen Russia as the foreign partner to provide technology for Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant project in Ninh Thuan Province, Dr. Vuong Huu Tan, director of the Vietnam Institute for Nuclear Energy Institute, has said.

The decision to go ahead with the project was based on longstanding assessments made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the Russian nuclear power technology as safe, Mr. Tan explained.

He was speaking Thursday at a bi-annual international nuclear power exhibition in Hanoi on May 27-29.

Visitors look at an artist’s impression of the nuclear power plant in Ninh Thuan Province, displayed at an exhibition in Hanoi May 27-29 (Photo: VNExpress)

The Russian technology, with a capacity of 2,000 MWh, has been offered at a price of US$8 billion, equivalent to that of other countries’ technologies of the same kind, he said.

Besides Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam will select 8-10 other locations to build more nuclear power plants from now to 2030, he added.

The Government will ask for opinions from the National Assembly about those additional nuclear power projects, Mr. Tan said.

Ministry of Education and Training has signed an agreement with the Russian Nuclear Power Group on human resource training for Vietnam’s nuclear power sector, he said.

Under the agreement, Russian nuclear engineers will train about 40 Electricity of Vietnam Group staff members this year, he said, adding that the Ministry of Science and Technology will also arrange for training some of its staff members.

“Many preparations are being made so that the construction of the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant will start in 2014 and the first turbine will be put into operation in 2020,” Mr. Tan said.

Source: SGGP

30 killed as train derails in India — Maoists suspected

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:24 am

An express train packed with sleeping passengers derailed in India Friday and slammed into a goods train, killing at least 30 people in an apparent attack by Maoist rebels, officials said.

More fatalities were feared in the mangled wreckage after 13 carriages of the Mumbai-bound express train careened off the tracks in the state of West Bengal and collided with the oncoming freight train.

Initial reports indicated the derailment may have been triggered by an act of sabotage, with officials pointing the finger at Maoist rebels who are active in the region of eastern India.

In this image taken from TV, Indian rescue workers and volunteers stand beside the wreckage of train carriages after an accident in the district of West Midnapore, some 135 kilometres (85 miles) west of the state capital Kolkata, on May 28

The official death toll stood at 15, but a doctor treating the injured at the site told the NDTV television network that at least 30 people had been killed.

West Bengal Relief Minister Mortaja Hussain said hundreds of people had yet to be rescued from the train, which was heading to India’s financial capital Mumbai from the West Bengal state capital Kolkata.

Railways Minister Mamata Bannerjee, who rushed to the site, said she had originally been told that the derailment had been caused by an explosion on the tracks.

However, several railway officials said it seemed a section of rail had been removed.

“The fear is that this was a Maoist attack,” Bannerjee told reporters.

“The railways are a soft target. They are a lifeline … which the Maoists have attacked in the past and, it seems, even now,” she added.

The incident occurred at around 1:30 am (2000 GMT Thursday) in the district of West Midnapore — a Maoist stronghold some 135 kilometres (85 miles) west of Kolkata.

Maoist fighters waging a bloody rebellion have been responsible for several train derailments in eastern India in recent months.

The government is reviewing its anti-Maoist strategy after a series of deadly attacks, including the bombing of a bus in the central state of Chhattisgarh earlier this month that killed 24 civilians and 11 police.

Until now, the government has resisted calls to deploy the military against the rebels, preferring instead to use regular and paramilitary police as the front-line force.

But Home Minister P. Chidambaram — who has borne the brunt of public criticism over the handling of the insurgency — recently acknowledged that changes were needed and said he would request wider powers.

The insurgency began in West Bengal state in 1967 in the name of defending the rights of tribal groups, and has since spread to 20 of India’s 28 states.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labelled the Maoists the biggest internal security threat to India.

Friday’s incident appeared to be the worst loss of life on India’s enormous rail network since 22 people were killed last October, when a Delhi-bound express ploughed into the back of another passenger train near the Taj Mahal town of Agra.

The railway system — the main form of long-distance travel in India despite fierce competition from private airlines — runs 14,000 passenger and freight trains a day, carrying 18.5 million people.

Past accidents have left hundreds dead.

In 2002, 100 were killed and 150 hurt when a carriage plunged into a river in the northeastern state of Bihar, while in 1995 more than 300 died in a collision near Ferozabad, near Agra.

Source: SGGP

BP pushes on with ‘top kill’ as true slick size emerges

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:22 am

BP pressed on with a risky bid to plug a ruptured oil well saying it was going to plan, with new data showing the huge Gulf of Mexico slick is now the worst spill in US history.

Amid the looming environmental catastrophe, there were growing fears for the health of clean-up workers, some of whom had to be helicoptered for treatment after falling sick while out at sea.

Even if BP’s “top kill” maneuver succeeds in capping the leak, millions of gallons of crude are sloshing about in the Gulf waters, and a visibly angered President Barack Obama moved to clamp down on the oil industry.

“If nothing else, this disaster should serve as a wakeup call,” Obama said at his first formal White House press conference in 10 months, called specifically to address the crisis triggered by an April 20 explosion on a BP-leased drilling rig off the Louisiana coast.

Oil floats ashore at the Grand Isle East State Park on Grand Isle, Louisiana.

The British energy giant said it had paused the “top kill” for some 16 hours on Thursday to monitor the results, before resuming it again as night fell.

“Nothing’s actually gone wrong or unanticipated,” BP chief operations officer Doug Suttles stressed at a press conference into the latest bid to cap the ruptured pipe laying on the ocean floor.

He said it was important for engineers to keep checking pressures as robotic submarines force-feed heavy drilling fluids into the broken pipe in order to stop the oil flow long enough to plug it with cement.

It should be known within 24 to 48 hours whether the operation had worked, Suttles told CNN, refusing to be drawn on whether it had been successful, saying only “we are very pleased with the performance of the equipment so far.”

The spill will have far reaching implications for the livelihoods of those living in the southern Gulf states, as well as the oil industry here.

Obama slammed past lax regulation as he laid out steps to bar any new deepwater oil exploration for six months and suspend some permits and lease sales off the vulnerable coasts of Alaska and Virginia.

“In this instance, the oil industry’s cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship with government regulators meant little or no regulation at all,” he said.

The president also lashed BP, suggesting it may have sought to downplay the true extent of the economic and ecological disaster now threatening Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi as well as Florida.

New data released by government scientists said the oil may have been flowing from the burst pipe at a rate up to four times higher than previously estimated by BP.

The new estimates put the flow rate at between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels (504,000 to 798,000 gallons) a day — much higher than the previous estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

Under such a scenario, that would mean between 18.6 million gallons and 29.5 million gallons of oil have seeped into the Gulf — far more than the roughly 11 million gallons of crude spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.

With 100 miles (160 kilometers) of Louisiana coastline already contaminated, there are fears US officials may order the burning of the state’s unique marshlands, home to a variety of endangered birds and mammals.

“If they do that they’ve killed everything,” Margaret Curole, a spokeswoman for a commercial fishermen’s association.

Obama dismissed charges the government response had been too slow, but said it was legitimate to question whether BP was “being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage.”

Earlier US Coast Guard chief Thad Allen, who is coordinating the government’s battle against the spill, said the “top kill” maneuver appeared to be having some success.

He clarified his comments later saying: “I want to be perfectly clear here. They are pumping mud into the well bore and as long as the mud is going down, the hydrocarbons are not coming up.”

In a new development all 125 commercial fishing boats helping to clean up the oil off Louisiana were recalled after four workers reported health problems.

It raised new questions about the risks of the thick gobs of oil washing up on shores here, as well as the toxicity of tens of thousands of gallons of chemical dispersants used to break up the slick.

Amid the desperate clean-up, there was more ominous news from US experts who warned the upcoming hurricane season could be one of the worst on record.

It is feared high winds could sweep huge oil-soaked waves onto the Gulf Coast, wreaking new havoc.

Source: SGGP

Oil floats ashore at the Grand Isle East State Park on Grand Isle, Louisiana.

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:21 am

US President Barack Obama dumped George W. Bush’s “war on terror” doctrine Thursday when he unveiled a national security strategy that calls for using America’s still “unmatched” power less overtly.

Obama also put new constraints on the former president’s concept of pre-emptive war and cited national security implications of economic meltdowns, global warming, cyberwarfare, nuclear proliferation, and ethnic conflict.

The strategy turns the page on Bush-era dreams of remaking the global order with American might and recognizes the increasing global engagement of Russia and the emergence of rising powers like China and India.

“To succeed, we must face the world as it is,” the document states.

In putting the first public face to the document, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confidently asserted American power but said it would be used more wisely and less directly than before.

“We are no less powerful,” the chief US diplomat told foreign policy experts at the Brookings Institution think tank, adding that US military and economic power remained “unmatched.”

But the United States is “shifting from mostly direct exercise and application of power to a more sophisticated and difficult mix of indirect power and influence,” Clinton said.

She cited powers ranging from its democratic values to technological innovation.

And she said the United States would harness its “comparative advantage” to “convene and connect broader coalitions of actors.”

Indeed, the new doctrine illustrates an evolution of Obama’s pro-engagement policies after 16 months in power, a period that brought the idealism of his election campaign into conflict with the harsh realities of geopolitics.

Clinton acknowledged that traditional “slow, patient diplomacy” was more difficult today than in the past.

But she said the United States — which she lists among a few nations having “the luxury” of viewing their national interests broadly — works to persuade other countries to focus less narrowly.

She cited Israel as an example, about how it needed to make peace with the Palestinians or end up running the risk of ruling over a non-Jewish majority in the future.

Echoing the document’s points on what she calls “smart power,” Clinton committed to using the sweeping range of foreign policy tools, including diplomacy, economic renewal, development aid, military might and education.

The doctrine calls for tough engagement “without illusion” with US foes like Iran and North Korea, but warns they face deepening isolation if they continue to spurn US advances and fail to throw open their nuclear programs.

The 52-page strategy also preserves the US right to launch unilateral military action, but does so in more restrictive terms than those used by the former Bush administration.

It also seeks to widen the scope of US foreign policy, which became dominated by a doctrinaire “war on terror” following the September 11 attacks in 2001, and led to the war in Iraq, after the invasion of Afghanistan.

“We will always seek to delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out,” said the document, the product of intense internal deliberations during the 16 months of the Obama administration.

“Yet this is not a global war against a tactic — terrorism — or a religion — Islam.

“We are at war with a specific network, Al-Qaeda, and its terrorist affiliates who support efforts to attack the United States, our allies, and partners.”

In his final national security strategy in 2006, Bush targeted terrorism as a concept more specifically, declaring boldly “the war on terror is not over.”

In a broader framework, the document sets out a platform for robust engagement, the maintenance of the US military edge and wide social diplomacy and development assistance.

“Our long-term security will not come from our ability to instill fear in other peoples but through our capacity to speak to their hopes,” Obama said in a message introducing the new strategy.

The strategy lists a set of comprehensive threats facing the United States, beginning with the most grave — the threat of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons.

For the first time, the new strategy makes combating homegrown extremists, “radicalized” on US soil, a key plank of security policy.

“Our best defenses against this threat are well informed and equipped families, local communities, and institutions,” the document said.

“The federal government will invest in intelligence to understand this threat and expand community engagement and development programs to empower local communities.”

National Security Adviser General James Jones said the new strategy marks two firsts, by highlighting the importance of cybersecurity and elevating the role of the G-20 in international economic cooperation.

Source: SGGP

Jamaica slum seethes as kingpin eludes assault

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:20 am

 Slum dwellers seethed with anger Thursday at Jamaica’s security forces waging a house-to-house search for a powerful druglord, with the death toll rising but no trace of the operation’s target.

Police said 73 bodies have been found in morgues, some in a state of decomposition, although several deaths may not have been linked to the four-day-old assault. Three security personnel have died.

Heaps of sometimes smoldering garbage littered streets of western Kingston, a world away from Jamaica’s world-famous beaches and the stronghold of gangster Christopher “Dudus” Coke — who is wanted by the United States on drug charges.

A Jamaican soldier speaks with a resident of Kingston’s Tivoli Gardens neighborhood. Slum dwellers seethed with anger Thursday at security forces waging a house-to-house search for a powerful druglord, as the death toll rose in Jamaica’s wave of violence without any sign of the operation’s target.

Outside one ramshackle apartment, a woman who said she been inside for two days pushed aside with a rake the rotting body of a cat she found at her doorstep.

“What we need is money and food,” said a middle-aged woman named Marlene. “Coke, he take care the community. Not the soldiers, they just shoot.”

Residents accused security forces of firing indiscriminately in recent days.

Joan, a 19-year-old student who said her brother was killed, vented fury as people around her tried to calm her down.

“Why so many deaths for one man? If Dudus had something to do with we, he’d have given himself up, not we getting massacred,” she said.

“And we, we starving to death since Sunday! He surely far away, outta Jamaica.”

Government officials have refused to discuss Coke’s whereabouts.

“Our best information is that he was not arrested. His whereabouts we cannot tell you,” Glenroy Hinds, deputy commissioner of police, told a news conference.

Information Minister Daryl Vaz said the government was “very concerned” about accusations of mistreatment of civilians and would post a public defender permanently in the affected area to hear complaints.

Hinds said the lines between civilians and combatants had become blurry, saying civilians were “sometimes also gunmen and gunwomen.”

Amnesty International appealed for a thorough investigation, saying that Jamaican police had a “dire” human rights record and had often carried out unlawful killings in the past.

US prosecutors accuse Coke and his “Shower Posse” gang of funneling cocaine and marijuana to New York and other eastern US cities, contributing to violence that has caused thousands of deaths in both countries.

But many poor Jamaicans look to Coke as a hero who provides a semblance of protection on some of the world’s most dangerous streets, along with small-time jobs and education.

Walls were covered with artwork depicting Coke’s father and don predecessor, Jim Brown, who died in a mysterious fire at a police jail in 1991.

One portrait read “Jim Brown: One Man Against the World,” next to images of other revered figures including reggae superstar Bob Marley and Ethiopia’s late emperor Haile Selaissie I, a demigod in the Rastafarian faith.

The relationships between the gangsters are government are complicated. At election time, Coke had mobilized for Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), while other dons have supported the opposition.

Near crumbling guesthouses and restaurants selling jerk chicken — businesses that according to locals were run with Coke — graffiti urges support for the JLP and, “We Want Bruce.”

Golding, who represents Tivoli Gardens in parliament, declared a state of emergency on Sunday after months of hesitation, vowing both to capture Coke and to battle Jamaica’s scourge of crime.

Despite the anger in the slums, the operation has enjoyed support among many wealthier Jamaicans who have rejoiced at a chance to break the island’s long relationship between crime and politics.

Life was returning to normal outside of the worst-hit area, with the US embassy reopening for the first time since the assault was launched.

The United States has strongly supported the operation and provided bulletproof vests to Jamaican security forces, concerned about the island’s role as a conduit for drugs.

In Washington, the United States pledged 45 million dollars for a new partnership called the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to work together to fight drug-traffickers and other transnational criminal gangs.

Source: SGGP

US economy weaker than estimated in first quarter

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:18 am

The fragile US recovery from recession was weaker than estimated in the first quarter, official data showed, suggesting tougher challenges from the European debt crisis.

The Commerce Department said gross domestic product in the first quarter increased at a 3.0 percent annual pace from the fourth quarter of 2009, lowering its original estimate of 3.2 percent.

The downward revision for the world’s largest economy surprised most analysts, who predicted GDP — a broad measure of the country’s goods and services output — expanded 3.3 percent.

“This is a fairly tepid recovery that is fighting a lot of headwinds,” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.

“It will be hard to grow rapidly when the economy has to overcome limited credit availability, a modest recovery in housing, high unemployment rates and, as a consequence, depressed consumer confidence… and uncertainty in Europe.”

A truck pulls out of a construction site in New York City where work has stopped because of the recession and the slowdown in the real estate market.

Several analysts said recent economic data pointed to stronger growth in the current second quarter.

Nigel Gault, chief US economist at IHS Global Insight, predicted growth of about 4.0 percent in the April-June period because of a surge in manufacturing output and a rise in home building spurred by an expiring homebuyers’ tax credit.

“But that pace cannot be maintained, especially given the renewed turmoil in the financial markets triggered by the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis, and we expect growth to fall back into the 2.5-3.0 percent region in the second half of the year,” Gault said.

The Commerce Department said it had shaved 0.2 percentage points from its first estimate on April 30 largely because of higher imports and lower consumer spending.

It was the third consecutive quarter of expansion since mid-2009, when the US economy ended a full year of contraction in a recovery driven by unprecedented government and Federal Reserve support measures.

GDP had increased at a robust 5.6 percent rate in the 2009 fourth quarter, after a 2.2 percent rise in the prior quarter.

The weaker first-quarter GDP estimate Thursday was “worrisome,” said Augustine Faucher at Moody’s

“With the unemployment rate at 9.9 percent in April, it will take sustained growth in real GDP well in excess of 3.0 percent to make a significant improvement in the labor market, and it looks like that is still a few quarters away,” Faucher said.

The US economy has lost more than eight million jobs since December 2007, when it entered the worst recession since the 1930s.

Job insecurity has weighed on consumer spending, which usually accounts for two thirds of economic output, and the latest weekly unemployment data showed a slowing decline in unemployment.

New claims for jobless insurance benefits fell by 14,000 to 460,000 in the week ending May 22, the Labor Department said Thursday, worse than the 455,000 consensus analyst forecast.

Ian Shepherdson at High Frequency Economics said the jobless claims data “reinforce our view that growth will slow in the second quarter and beyond,” noting that the first-quarter GDP downward revision came “thanks to slightly softer domestic final demand.”

Peter Newland at Barclays Capital, however, was upbeat.

Disposable income in the January-March period was revised higher and corporate profits showed a 5.5 percent monthly rise from the prior quarter, “the fifth consecutive quarter of robust growth,” he said.

“More timely indicators suggest that momentum is building into the second quarter, supported by healthy wage and profit growth.”

Source: SGGP

French protest as Europe implements austerity

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:12 am

European governments on Thursday pressed ahead with radical cost-cutting plans in a bid to tackle a debt crisis, as financial markets rallied and thousands protested in France against pension reforms.

The Spanish parliament passed by just one vote an unpopular raft of austerity measures to contain overspending, including a reduction in pay for civil servants, a freeze on most pensions in 2011 and a cut in child benefits.

It was feared that a government defeat could have forced new elections and added to jitters among investors over the poor state of public finances in Spain, which just scraped out of a long recession in the first quarter.

Meanwhile in France, tens of thousands of people turned up for rallies across the country called by trade unions in protest against the government’s plans to raise the official retirement age from 60 in a bid to cut debt.

A person holds a banner of CGT trade-union during a demonstration in Lille, during a nationwide day of strike called by unions to protest against the pension overhaul.

And during a visit to Germany on Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Europe should follow China’s lead and boost economic growth since US consumers can no longer support the global economy alone as in the past.

“If the world is going to grow at its potential then we are going to have a more balanced pattern of growth globally,” Geithner said, following talks with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Europe’s biggest economy.

Referring to the current debt crisis, he added: “We all understand and we all agree that part of global recovery… is to commit to clear objectives for reducing our fiscal positions to sustainable levels over the medium term.

“We are going to get there at somewhat different paces, the magnitude of adjustment will differ, as we all come to this from different positions, with different underlying growth rates, different overall debt burdens,” he added.

Alongside Greece, Portugal and Spain — all of whom have seen their borrowing costs rise sharply in recent months as investors fret over their solvency — other EU members like Italy and Britain are slashing spending.

Germany and France are preparing to follow suit. Plans announced by the French government to raise the official retirement age to 60 brought tens of thousands of people into the streets of Paris on Thursday.

On average French men retire even earlier at 58.7 years and women at 59.5 — lower than in other developed nations — and as France has one of the world’s longest life expectancies, workers can spend a quarter century in retirement.

Europe’s deficit-cutting drive had a visible effect on financial markets on Thursday, with London’s FTSE-100 index jumping up 3.12 percent, the Frankfurt Dax rocketing 3.11 percent and the Paris CAC rising 3.42 percent.

Market sentiment was also helped by optimistic US and a positive outlook for the world economy from the OECD, as well as China’s sharp rebuttal to a report that it might reduce its holdings of eurozone government debt.

But high deficits and debt in some of the weaker EU economies remained centre stage on the world economic map, with Padhraic Garvey, a debt analyst at Dutch bank ING, warning: “We remain in a very difficult set of circumstances.”

Also causing some concern was new data from the United States showing the US economy — the world’s largest — grew slightly less than initially estimated in the first three months of the year at 3.0 percent from the previous quarter.

The earlier estimated had put growth at 3.2 percent. The downward revision surprised most analysts, who predicted gross domestic product — a broad measure of the country’s goods and services output — had expanded 3.3 percent.

“This is a fairly tepid recovery that is fighting a lot of headwinds,” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.

“It will be hard to grow rapidly when the economy has to overcome limited credit availability, a modest recovery in housing, high unemployment rates and as a consequence depressed consumer confidence … and uncertainty in Europe.”

Source: SGGP

US, Japan to keep US military base in Okinawa

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2010 at 5:11 am

Washington and Tokyo agreed Friday to keep a contentious U.S. Marine base in the southern island of Okinawa, reaffirming the importance of their security alliance and the need to maintain American troops in Japan.

In a joint statement, the two allies agreed to move the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, in a less crowded, northern part of the island. The decision is broadly in line with a 2006 deal forged with the previous, conservative Tokyo government, but represents a broken campaign promise on the part of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Hatoyama came to office last September promising to create a “more equal” relationship with Washington and move the Marine base off the island, which hosts more than half the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan under a 50-year-old joint security pact.

But after months of searching and fruitless discussions with Washington and Okinawan officials, the prime minister acknowledged earlier this month that the base needed to stay in Okinawa.

His decision, which he had pledged to deliver by the end of May, has angered tens of thousand of island residents who complain about base-related noise, pollution and crime, and want Futenma moved off the island entirely.

U.S. military officials and security experts argued it is essential that Futenma remain on Okinawa because its helicopters and air assets support Marine infantry units based on the island. Moving the facility off the island could slow the Marines’ coordination and response in times of emergency.

Under a 1960 security pact, American armed forces are allowed broad use of Japanese land and facilities. In return, the U.S. is obliged to respond to attacks on Japan and protect the country under its nuclear umbrella.

The U.S. and Japan “recognized that a robust forward presence of U.S. military forces in japan, including in Okinawa, provides the deterrence and capabilities necessary for the defense of Japan and for the maintenance of regional stability,” said the statement, which was issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Reaffirming the 2006 deal comes as a relief for Washington. In a phone conversation with President Barack Obama Friday morning Japan time, Hatoyama said Obama “expressed appreciation that the two countries could reach an agreement.”

The Futenma move is part of a broader plan to reorganize American troops in Japan that includes moving 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014. But U.S. officials had said that the other pieces cannot move forward until the Futenma issue was resolved.

The two countries said an environmental impact assessment and construction of the replacement facility should proceed “without significant delay.” The statement called for a logistical study to be completed by the end of August.

The base, whose plans call for a 1,800-meter (5,900-feet) runway built partly on reclaimed land off the coast of Henoko, faces intense opposition from residents and environmentalists.

The joint statement called for sensitivity to Okinawans’ concerns.

“The Ministers recognized the importance of responding to the concerns of the people of Okinawa that they bear a disproportionate burden related to the presence of U.S. forces, and also recognized that the more equitable distribution of shared alliance responsibilities is essential for sustainable development of the alliance,” they said.

They said they would consider moving military training facilities off of Okinawa, possibly to nearby Tokunoshima, or out of Japan completely. The accord called for more environmental stewardship, through which U.S. bases in Japan might incorporate renewable energy technology.

Hatoyama faces some dissent to the plan in his Cabinet. Gender Equality Minister Mizuho Fukushima, leader of a junior coalition party, refuses to support it and has in the past threatened to leave the coalition over the matter.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said the Cabinet was meeting Friday morning. Hatoyama was scheduled to hold a news conference on Futenma late Friday afternoon.

“It was a difficult decision as we have to ask Okinawans to shoulder a burden, but overall when you look at the whole picture, we are able ease the burden,” Hirano said.

Source: SGGP