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Archive for July 2nd, 2010|Daily archive page

Airbus sees no change to state support for A350: report

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm

PARIS, July 2, 2010 (AFP) – European aerospace giant Airbus will “take into account” a WTO ruling that it had received illegal state support but this will not affect aid for its new A350 model, a report said on Friday.

The Financial Times quoted the chief executive of Airbus’s mother company EADS, Louis Gallois, as saying France, Germany and Britain had nearly finished negotiations to help fund the long-haul A350, set to rival Boeing’s 787.

He said this should not be affected by a World Trade Organization report on Wednesday which said some European state subsidies to Airbus for its A380 superjumbo were illegal.

“We certainly have to take into account what the WTO is saying but so far knowing the conditions of the future probable support for the A350, I don’t see any reason to change this,” the newspaper quoted Gallois as saying.

The WTO ruling followed a six-year dispute with Airbus’s US rival Boeing, which had complained the subsidies were unfair.

Source: SGGP

Thai PM says no plan for elections this year

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

BANGKOK, July 2, 2010 (AFP) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday he had no plans to hold elections this year because more time was needed for reconciliation following the deadliest political unrest in decades.

“The government is not ruling out dissolution (of the lower house of parliament) or early elections but the atmosphere must be more reconciliatory,” he said live on television.

“I am not intending to dissolve the House before the end of the year because at the moment my government has stability to pursue policies which benefit people,” he said, adding that it would be better to hold the vote in 2011.

Abhisit had proposed November polls in a bid to end two months of crippling protests in Bangkok by the “Red Shirts” movement, but he shelved the plan because demonstrators refused to disperse until the army quashed the rally.

The British-born, Oxford-educated head of the establishment Democrat Party does not have to go to the polls until the end of next year.

His Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said last month on a trip to Brussels that elections could be held in early 2011.

The mass protests by the Reds, who were campaigning for immediate elections, sparked outbreaks of violence that left 90 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured, ending with a deadly army crackdown on May 19.

Abhisit launched a hotline on Thursday for people to ring in with their suggestions for national reconciliation after the kingdom’s political crisis.

Source: SGGP

Australia backs down in tax row with miners

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave in to miners’ demands Friday that the government slash a hefty 40 percent super tax on the industry, as she braces for elections as early as next month.

(AFP file) A reclaimer loads a conveyor with high grade iron ore at a Rio Tinto mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The Labor government has dramatically overhauled the so-called “super profits” tax in a compromise that will see the country’s most valuable exports, coal and iron ore, along with gas and oil projects, subject to the levy.

“There will be a negotiated profit-based tax regime but there will be no resources super profits tax,” Gillard said after days of intense talks with major miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.

The tax rate for coal and iron ore profits is to be reduced to 30 percent, from 40 percent, and the rate at which the tax will kick in is to be lifted from about five percent to some 12 percent.

Land-based oil and coal seam gas will be drawn into the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax regime, which already applies to offshore oil and gas resources, and taxed at 40 percent.

Gillard said the iron ore and coal tax, renamed the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), was a significant breakthrough agreement that would ensure all Australians would receive their fair share of the country’s mineral resources.

“This will deliver better returns on resources that all Australians own and that can only be dug up once,” she said. “It moves our mining industry forward with certainty.

“We’ve been stuck on this question as a nation for too long, today we are moving forward together.”

Major miners said they were encouraged by the deal struck late Thursday after Gillard took on the issue as her first priority following a lightning party coup last week in which she ousted her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Rudd had refused to negotiate on the 40 percent rate of the tax or at what point it would kick in and the issue had embroiled his government in a damaging war of words with the wealthy and influential mining sector.

The mining tax helped prompt the centre-left Labor Party last week to dump Rudd, who was falling dramatically in opinion polls, in favour of Gillard, formerly his deputy.

The development was largely welcomed by the industry, with the Minerals Council of Australia describing it as a “positive outcome” for the country.

BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata — which announced it would resume a copper project suspended in the wake of the tax — said the development was encouraging, while stocks in major resources companies rose in early trade.

The agreement means the government will lose about 1.5 billion dollars (1.3 billion US) in revenue in the first few years, and only be able to fund a one percent cut in company tax rather than a hoped-for two percent.

Asked whether the government had been bullied by the deep-pocketed mining industry and its intensive advertising campaign against the tax, Gillard said she had engaged in “hard, frank, respectful discussion”.

The new prime minister said she was placing her consultative stamp on the government, adding that she believed you can “work best if you can get people around a table and have open, frank discussions”.

The government wants to introduce the tax from July 2012 but it must still be passed by the parliament, where it will face stiff opposition from the Liberal/National coalition, which has vowed to oppose or rescind it.

Meanwhile, a prominent economist who supported the original tax, said the compromise deal was a worrying sign of corporate influence on policy.

“This is quite a scary development for democracy,” the University of Melbourne’s Professor John Freebairn told ABC radio.

The compromise, the finer details of which are still to be determined in consultations between government and industry, is likely to prompt Gillard to call an election, due this year, in a matter of weeks.

Source: SGGP

US recovery faces litmus test

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The patchy US economic recovery faces a crucial litmus test Friday when fresh unemployment figures are released, but few expect positive results.

(AFP file) A trader reacts during trading at the New York Stock Exchange.

Most analysts say the ranks of jobless Americans are likely to have swollen to more than 15 million, pushing the unemployment rate from 9.7 percent to 9.8 percent.

That would be bad news for President Barack Obama, who is running out of time to put the economy back on track before Congressional elections in November.

Although the White House has repeatedly warned that unemployment will remain high for the rest of the year, polls show it is still a crucial issue with voters.

The drop would also be bad news for markets, which have been convulsed by worry about a double dip recession in recent weeks.

The last quarter has been tortuous for the top 30 US companies, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing more than ten percent of its value, in large part over fears about the fate of the US economy.

“This Friday’s employment report will provide an important gauge on the robustness of the recovery underway,” Goldman Sachs analysts warned.

Goldman predicts that payrolls shrunk by 100,000 last month, the first negative figure this year.

One reason for the skepticism is the continued weakness of the private sector, which created just 41,000 jobs in May.

Faced with an uncertain outlook and poor access to credit, US firms have been reluctant to rehire workers.

Analysts fear the June figures will also see the evaporation of hiring for the 2010 Census, which accounted for 95 percent of new jobs in May.

And on Thursday the Labor Department reported yet more people claimed unemployment benefits last week, when new jobless claims rose to 472,000, an increase of 13,000 from the week before.

“Claims drifted higher still over the course of June… suggesting the labor market has not regained the traction that appeared to be building in the first four months of the year,” said Deutsche Bank analysts.

The weakness has sparked calls for Obama to provide more government spending to restart the recovery.

But proponents of this plan admit it is nearly impossible as Washington zeroes in on elections in which the national debt is also likely to feature prominently.

Congress is currently locked in a bitter debate over extending unemployment insurance for over one million workers and is likely to balk at a wider spending package.

The US House of Representatives extended federal unemployment benefits through November 30 on Thursday, but now the Senate has to take up the controversial measure.

Without the extension, some 1.7 million unemployed would be unable to receive their benefits after July 3, according to the House Financial Services Committee.

A new vote on the measure is not expected until Congress returns from its week-long July 4 Independence Day holiday recess.

“I think this report will show that really we need to do more,” said Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank. “The private sector is not yet poised to takeover and sustain a robust recovery.”

With state governments cutting jobs to balance their books, Shierholz said there was a strong case for extending unemployment benefits and aid to states, despite the political difficulties.

“This is one of those cases where the political realities are completely at odds with economic sense,” she said advocating fresh stimulus of around 400 billion dollars.

“I don’t know what is going on in the heads of these people, the economic case is so cut and dry, it is so clear what needs to be done.”

Source: SGGP

Eurozone unemployment rate stuck at 10 percent: EU

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

BRUSSELS, July 2, 2010 (AFP) – Unemployment across the 16 countries which share the euro stuck at a record 10 percent in May for the third month running, European Union data showed on Friday.

Almost 16 million people were out of work in the common currency area as the unemployment rate in the crisis-hit eurozone remained at its highest level since the euro’s creation in 1999, seasonally-adjusted Eurostat figures showed.

The official statistics agency had initially estimated an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent for April, but it revised the figure down to 10 percent.

The unemployment rate in the wider, 27-nation European Union stood at 9.6 percent in May, also unchanged from the previous month, for a total of 23.13 million people without jobs.

Among the eurozone’s biggest economies, unemployment fell slightly in Germany to 7.0 percent in May from 7.1 percent the previous month. It stood still in France at 9.9 percent and in Italy at 8.7 percent.

In Spain, the unemployment rate rose to 19.9 percent compared to 19.7 percent in April.

Source: SGGP

Gulf oil clean-up stalled by rough weather

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, July 2, 2010 (AFP) – Choppy seas and high winds will delay deployment of a third containment vessel over the ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well until next week, a US official warned.

National Incident Coordinator Thad Allen said the Helix Producer ship had been delayed by the effects of Hurricane Alex, which struck northeastern Mexico but was downgraded to a tropical depression on Friday.

“We will need about three days after the weather calms… for that vessel to be able to hook up to the flexible coupling that it would be required to do,” Allen said Thursday.

“So we’re looking at somewhere around midweek next week to bring the third production vessel on-line.” The vessel had originally been due on station by the end of June.

Once operational, the Helix Producer should be able to double the amount of oil being captured to around 53,000 barrels per day.

This May 2, 2010 file photo shows a sign telling people of a turtle nesting area on Dauphin Island, Alabama, off the coast of Mobile, as the oil spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster approaches the Gulf Coast. AFP

An estimated 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day has been gushing out of the ruptured well since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank on April 22 some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana.

Two other containment ships were still operational despite seven-foot (two-meter) swells, capturing a portion of the escaping oil at a rate of about 25,000 barrels per day.

US Coast Guard Commander Charles Diorio said that the thousands of ships hired to skim oil, lay boom, carry out controlled burns and move equipment will not resume work until waves were less than four feet (one meter) high — unlikely to happen until Saturday.

Cleanup crews are also waiting for the deployment of a super tanker from Taiwan retrofitted as a giant skimmer dubbed the “whale.”

“That vessel is currently in New Orleans,” Diorio said, “and it’s being inspected by a team of personnel, both Coast Guard and BP and other agencies trying to figure out the best way to employ it, (or) if we can employ it at all.”

The giant ship is some 300 yards (275 meters) long and can suck up 21 million gallons of oily water a day, he said.

Allen also said that progress was slightly ahead of schedule on the operation to drill two relief wells which will eventually be used to seal the ruptured Deepwater Horizon gusher.

But the target date is still in August, said Allen, who appeared at the White House in a civilian suit, one day after officially retiring from the US Coast Guard as an admiral.

Around 428 miles (689 kilometers) of US shorelines have now been oiled as crude spews into the sea at an alarming rate, 10 weeks into the worst environmental disaster in US history.

The news comes as the White House said it would announce a decision on a revised six-month moratorium on offshore drilling within days.

The White House vowed last week to issue a fresh moratorium on deepwater oil drilling after district judge Martin Feldman said it would cause irreparable economic harm.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said new moratorium terms from the Interior Department would likely come out “in the next few days,” most likely after the long July 4 Independence Day weekend.

Obama first imposed the six-month moratorium in late May, after the true extent of the disaster became clear.

He and Vice President Joe Biden, who visited the southern Gulf Coast disaster zone earlier this week, meanwhile met senior officials involved in the clean-up operation in the secure White House Situation Room.

The briefing, Gibbs later said, also covered hurricane projections for the expected stormy summer season and their potential impacts on the response.

Late Wednesday, Obama directed Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whom he has put in charge of the restoration of the Gulf Coast, to come up with a long-term recovery plan “as soon as possible.”

On Capitol Hill, the focus turned again to the bill for clean-up and restoration.

“It will take billions of dollars — even trillions,” Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee told reporters, citing “a presentation by the president’s team on the BP oil spill” early in the day.

Source: SGGP

Two Vietnamese students to compete for Microsoft Championship

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Two students will travel to the US this August to vie for the “Microsoft Office World Champion 2010.”

Candidates of the competition do tests in Vietnam (Filed)

Le Nguyen Anh Duong and Nguyen Tran Duy Phuong out-performed 350 contestants from 40 universities and colleges in Vietnam to win the Microsoft Office World Champion 2010 in Vietnam.

The competition was launched by the Department of Testing and Accreditation, part of the Ministry of Education and Training, and International Investment Group (IIG) Vietnam, to elevate the computer savvy of Vietnamese students, who still lag behinds their counterparts in other countries. It also aims to promote Microsoft office software.

Nguyen Tran Duy Phuong from Ho Chi Minh City University for Foreign Language and Informatics captured the first prize as he achieved the maximum 1000 points for using Word 2003. While Le Nguyen Anh Duong from HCMC Banking University won the first prize with a score of 964 points for Excel 2003.
For Word 2003, Nguyen Quang Thien from the Aviation Institute and Nguyen Thanh Tuan Anh from the Maritime University both had 971 points but Thien was presented the second prize for fulfilling the exam in a shorter time while Tuan Anh took third prize.

For Excel 2003, Nguyen Hoang Duy from HCM City University of Technology and Huynh Phuoc Tho from HCM City Foreign Trade University followed after Le Nguyen Anh Duong.
Most of the 20 top contestants came from HCMC universities. Only two northern universities – Hanoi Trade University and Maritime University – had students who placed in the top 20.
The first, second and third prizewinners received Microsoft MOS certificates and certificates of merit from the Ministry of Education and Training. First-place winners will go to the US next month for final test where they will test their skills against those of rivals from 60 countries.
Though this was the first time the competition took place in Vietnam, it attracted thousands of students from colleges and universities throughout the country.

IIG Vietnam will cover the expense of sending the winners to the US. The winner of the final contest will receive US$6,500 and other prizes.

Source: SGGP

Merkel on the ropes after presidential humiliation

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 6:30 am

BERLIN, July 1, 2010 (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel was left licking her wounds Thursday after rebels in her coalition turned a routine presidential vote into a damaging debacle that left her bruised and weakened.

It took nine hours and three rounds of voting by a special assembly of MPs and public figures on Wednesday for Merkel’s candidate Christian Wulff to be elected to the largely ceremonial post of head of state.

Christian Wulff and his wife Bettina Wulff leave the Reichstag building after he was elected German President on June 30, 2010 in Berlin. AFP

With Merkel’s coalition holding a majority in the assembly, the election should have been a shoo-in in the first round, but a handful of rebels voted against Wulff in the secret ballot in a blow to the chancellor’s authority.

Following embarrassing and dramatic first two rounds, the nail-biting third became in effect a battle for the political future of Merkel, four times named the world’s most powerful woman by Forbes Magazine.

“The double failure of Christian Wulff in the presidential vote has brought the Merkel government to the brink of collapse,” wrote the left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau daily.

Influential mass circulation Bild daily said the vote debacle “could be the beginning of a gradual process of capitulation by the government”, and questioned Merkel’s leadership ability.

“Wulff’s election is Merkel’s defeat,” said the daily Berliner Zeitung while Der Spiegel magazine said on its website it was her “biggest failure.”

In his acceptance speech, the 51-year-old Wulff, a former leader of Lower Saxony, home to carmaker Volkswagen, made an appeal for unity after what the Tagesspiegel daily dubbed “the day of the long knives” for Merkel.

“We all need to take responsibility for our country,” said Wulff, after a rousing standing ovation from Merkel’s supporters in which the sense of relief was palpable.

A relieved but sombre Merkel appeared briefly before the cameras to say that Wulff would be a “wonderful” representative for Germany but made no mention of the rebellion within the ranks.

The stakes for Merkel could hardly have been higher. A recent poll in Bild showed that 48 percent of Germans wanted her to throw in the towel if her man did not get elected.

Wulff’s rival for the job, former pastor and East German dissident Joachim Gauck, 70, enjoyed more popular support, polls showed.

Political expert Juergen Falter hinted the bitter rebellion in Merkel’s ranks could spell the beginning of the end of her second term at the helm of Europe’s top economy.

“The fact it went to a third round of voting means the seed of mistrust that has already been planted could begin to bloom … in any case, the mistrust in this government that is already there will continue,” he told Tagesspiegel.

The fiasco capped a rough few months for Merkel, 55, after she won a second term in September at the head of a new-look coalition more to her liking than her previous tie-up with the Social Democrats.

She has seen her popularity nosedive over her handling of the eurozone crisis and has come under fire for plans to slash government spending by more than 80 billion euros (100 billion dollars) over the next four years.

The left-leaning paper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said: “Merkel was not standing for election, but she is the loser of the day … she has been exposed, and this vote is the writing on the wall.”

The Financial Times Deutschland demanded a change in her style, often criticised for being too hesitant.

The presidential vote was “the last warning,” said the paper. “Merkel must now reinvent herself and her chancellorship … show a clear will for political leadership and a clear position on what projects are close to her heart.”

“One could perhaps expect her to explain why she wants to govern.”

Source: SGGP

Obama signs toughest-ever US sanctions on Iran

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 6:29 am

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2010 (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law the toughest ever US sanctions on Iran, which he said would strike at Tehran’s capacity to finance its nuclear program and deepen its isolation.

US President Barack Obama arrives to sign the Iran Sanctions Bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, July 1, 2010. AFP

The measures, on top of new UN Security Council and European sanctions, aim to choke off Iran’s access to imports of refined petroleum products like gasoline and jet fuel and curb its access to the international banking system.

“With these sanctions — along with others — we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear programs,” Obama said at a White House ceremony, before signing the sanctions into law.

“We are showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences, and if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen.

“There should be no doubt — the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The US Senate and House of Representatives approved the legislation — which backers described as the toughest ever unilateral US sanctions against the Islamic republic — by crushing 99-0 and 408-8 margins last week.

The United States spent months assembling an international coalition for new United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran, which passed last month.

The measures, the fourth such set of UN penalties levied on Iran, are meant to punish Tehran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment work, the most sensitive part of its atomic drive.

In response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday he would postpone nuclear talks as a “penalty” to world powers as a result of the latest UN sanctions.

The new US sanctions are effectively designed to force foreign firms to chose whether to do business with Iran or the United States.

The law shuts US markets to firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum products that the oil-rich nation must import to meet demand because of a weak domestic refining capability.

It also takes aim at firms that invest in Iran’s energy sector, including non-US companies that provide financing, insurance, or shipping services.

It could also see non-US banks doing business with certain blacklisted Iranian entities — including Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and several banks — shut out of the US financial system.

Some foreign companies have already begun to sever ties with Iran because of the new law.

But observers, though, have questioned how successful the new law, and similar measures being adopted in Europe, and by other close US allies will be, given that Iran has been looking for other sources of supplies.

Obama noted that Iran had spurned the offer of dialogue that he had made last year on coming to office.

“To date, Iran has chosen the path of defiance,” he said.

“That is why we have steadily built a broader and deeper coalition of nations to pressure the Iranian government.”

World powers led by Washington have accused the Islamic Republic of seeking to build nuclear weapons and are demanding it freeze its uranium enrichment activity, which can be a key step towards developing an atomic arsenal.

Iran denies its nuclear program has a military use.

“The government of Iran still has a choice,” Obama said in the prepared remarks.

“The door to diplomacy remains open. Iran can prove that its intentions are peaceful. It can meet its obligations under the (Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty) and achieve the security and prosperity worthy of a great nation.”

Source: SGGP

Toyota to recall 270,000 cars over engine fault

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 6:29 am

TOKYO (AFP) – Toyota Motor said Friday it will recall 270,000 vehicles worldwide because of an engine fault affecting cars including its luxury Lexus range and Crown sedans, in the latest blow to its reputation.

A Lexus model is seen in Toyota Motor’s showroom in Tokyo on July 1, 2010. AFP

Toyota said faulty valve springs in certain engines could potentially lead to affected vehicles stopping while in operation.

The automaker said it would submit its recall notice to Japan’s transport ministry on Monday, with the latest action affecting 90,000 units in Japan and 180,000 overseas.

“We will go ahead with the overseas recall according to the regulations of each country involved,” said Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi, adding that details of affected countries would be made available later.

“The recall is due to defective parts of valve springs, which may result in abnormal noise or idling. In a worst case, the engine could stop,” Takeuchi said.

The world’s largest automaker has been hit by a series of safety recalls and has pulled around 10 million vehicles worldwide since late last year.

Toyota’s announcement comes as the company looks to improve its recall process following heavy criticism of the way it handled safety issues in the United States that have been blamed for more than 80 deaths.

The company said that the defective 4.6-litre V8 and 3.5-litre V6 engines had been installed in eight top line models including some hybrids — the Lexus GS350, GS450h, GS460, IS350, LS460, LS600h and LS600hL as well as Crown sedans. Toyota said it had not received any reports of accidents or injuries related to the issue.

While smaller than earlier recalls, the fact that the latest problem affects Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand is a serious blow to the company’s already battered reputation, said Tatsuya Mizuno, auto analyst at Mizuno Credit Advisory.

“It has renewed uncertainties surrounding the company,” he said.

“The recall may bring a psychological impact as this has happened to its most luxurious models, which Toyota offered to customers with full confidence.”

He added that the recall “may dampen consumer sentiment on its cars at a time when Toyota is still struggling to recover while it faces class action lawsuits in the United States.”

Toyota paid a record 16.4-million-dollar fine to settle claims it had hidden gas pedal defects in the United States, and US officials have refused to rule out the possibility of more fines as they review thousands of internal papers.

More than 200 federal and around 100 state cases have been filed against the carmaker for alleged design flaws dating back to 2002 when a computerised system was installed to manage acceleration.

The federal cases have been consolidated into one class action case.

Toyota has moved to reshape its global operations as part of efforts to regain consumer confidence, boost quality control and speed up its detection of potential problems involving its products.

The automaker returned to the black in the fiscal year ended March and forecast surging profits despite the millions of recalls that it estimated would cost 180 billion yen (two billion dollars) for the period.

Toyota shares were flat in Tokyo trade Friday.

Source: SGGP