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Archive for August 16th, 2010|Daily archive page

Tour guides show off their skills

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Tour guides show off their skills

QĐND – Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:33 (GMT+7)

Fifteen outstanding tour guides from travel agents across the country attended the final round of a contest held in Hanoi on August 15 by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism to honour the profession and set standards for tourism.

The participants, selected from more than 50 candidates from 14 key tourist cities and provinces, competed in many different fields of activity.

Saigontourist travel agency continued to assert its leading position among Vietnam’s travel companies with its candidates securing the highest awards at the contest.

First prize went to the company’s Huynh Cong Hieu, who also won the title for giving the most interesting narration in a video clip on Hoi An ancient town. Hieu received VND5 million in cash and a tourist package to the Republic of Korea for two people.

Another candidate from Saigontourist, Nguyen Quynh, came in second and also secured the talent event. Another second prize was presented to Nguyen Hong Nguyen from Hanoitourist.

This is the second time such a contest has been held by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism; the first one was held in 2000.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism prepared a bank of 150 thorny questions for the contest, one third of which were situational. The candidates need to be experienced and have a broad knowledge of cultural, social and economic affairs.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

Vietnam Airlines launches online check-in service

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Vietnam Airlines launches online check-in service

QĐND – Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:37 (GMT+7)

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines on August 16 officially launched a web check-in service for its outbound flights. 

Accordingly, passengers who take departure from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well as from Vientiane of Laos, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap of Cambodia, Seoul and Pusan of the Republic of Korea, Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia to Vietnam can check-in online with any computer connected internet and accessed to Vietnam Airlines website.

They can select their flights and seats and print boarding passes by themselves to complete check-in.

The service will be available from 20 to fours hours before flight departure time. Passengers have to be present at the check-in counter at least 45 minutes before the departure time to confirm their tickets.

Earlier, the flag carrier launched a similar web check-in service for domestic flights traveling from Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City.

The services have greatly benefited customers, contributing to reducing the pressure of the overload at peak time.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

“New life” in Son Dong craft village

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm

“New life” in Son Dong craft village

QĐND – Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:37 (GMT+7)

Son Dong craft village in Hoai Duc district, Hanoi, is Vietnam’s largest craft village making wood statues of Buddha and objects of worship.

The village has set many national records for the quantity and quality of its wooden products and the number of people involved in the profession.

Arriving in the village in early July, the first impression for tourists is the strange but interesting sound of people busing carving the wood. In every nook and cranny of the village, the workers are concentrating on different kinds of statues. Each worker has his own task; some saw the timber while others carve the wood and paint the statues.

After painstakingly painting a horizontal lacquered board, Nguyen Viet Da, an 85 year-old artisan in the village, tells visitors about his village‘s profession. According to Da, the imitation antique statues are often made from three different types of timber brought in from the central highlands, Hai Phong or even imported from Cambodia. Only jackfruit wood can be used to carve the reproduction antique Buddha statues, as it is soft, durable and easy to carve.

From the raw timber, the skillful workers easily carve statues of Amitabha (the Buddha of Infinite Light) and the God of Prosperity, or create horizontal lacquered boards with parallel sentences.

The workers must go through dozens of steps before finishing a product including selecting the wood, carving it, then painting it. This highly skilled work requires great patience and concentration.

“These wooden objects are for worship, therefore the maker must have a good heart and mind,” said Da.

Wood carving has existed in the village for more than 300 years and during some periods it seemed that the villagers could not maintain their handicraft. However, some of them secretly preserved their traditions and passed them on to the younger generations. Nguyen Duc Dau (1896-1988) is respected by the whole village for his outstanding skill. In 1986, he opened training courses for the villagers and worked with the Hanoi University of Industrial Fine Art to provide them with the necessary scientific knowledge and techniques for their work. Thanks to these courses, the traditional craft has been well preserved and today many villagers are owners of a traditional woodworking shop.

Sharing his point of view, Nguyen Viet Loi, another popular artisan in the village said the statutes can only be perfect if the workers put all their concentration into the work. This is why the statues made in Son Dong village are quite easily distinguished from others.

Sustainably preserving and developing the craft village and tourism is a concern of all the workers in Son Dong workers. To achieve that, the village has made considerable changes. Along with wooden statues, the villagers are now making objects that contain traditional and spiritual elements of the Vietnamese culture.

The familiar image of the areca nut, betel leaf, calabash and luffa can now be seen in many of the village’s unique products. Moreover, the statues of Buddha and fairies are now being made colourful and small enough to fit in a man’s hand.

Entering the shop of Nguyen Chi Thanh, is one of the trailblazers in making new products, and when visitors enter his shop they feel that they are in a mini museum displaying carefully designed wooden statues.

Thanh said that these new products have been very popular and preferred by the international markets. Foreign visitors are willing to pay high prices for these products, which helps generate work for most of the villagers.

However, the villagers still want their products to reach domestic customers and for their village to become more popular and attract more domestic tourists.

“I am considering a price frame for our products so that they will be appropriate for each particular market and also trying to fill a niche in the home market,” said Thanh.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

145 laureates honoured

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm

145 laureates honoured

QĐND – Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:33 (GMT+7)

The 120 top university graduates and the 25 students who recorded the highest grades on their university entrance exams were honoured at a programme held in Hanoi on August 15.

57 of the 120 laureates were party members who overcame difficulties during their academic years, won high prizes in national and international contests and devised ways to apply new scientific and technological advances in the cause of the city and national construction.

Addressing the programme, Pham Quang Nghi, Politbureau member and Secretary of the Hanoi City Party Committee, congratulated the laureates on their outstanding achievements, declaring that their achievements were admirable and they are the pride of their families, schools and the capital city. The top university graduates were urged to continue their efforts in the future to create a civilized and prosperous country.

He added that Hanoi is always willing to welcome the laureates’ contributions to the city.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

Youth Union to diversify voluntary activities

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Youth Union to diversify voluntary activities

QĐND – Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:37 (GMT+7)

The Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union (HCMYU) Central Committee will diversify voluntary methods so as to make them suitable for each targeted group and focus on the combination of domestic and international voluntary activities.

This is one of the orientations that the HCMYU Central Committee has set for the coming time at a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the voluntary youth movement held in HCM City on August 15.

Over the past ten years, young people nationwide have implemented 287 youth village projects with more than 1,000 young families being settled, over 11,000 bridges and nearly 2,000 km of rural roads being built and upgraded.

On the same day, the municipal HCMYU reviewed its summer voluntary campaigns in 2010, which took place from June 1 to August 15 in 322 wards and communes in Ho Chi Minh City, 11 Central Highlands and southeastern provinces and the two neighbouring countries of Laos and Cambodia .

More than 100,000 youths in the city set up 188 bookshelves with over 18,000 book titles and provided free check-ups and medicines for over 57,000 poor people as well as built 62 rural bridges worth 3.8 billion VND.

Through the summer voluntary campaigns, 58 youths have been admitted to the Communist Party of Vietnam.

During the fourth Festival of Volunteers 2010, the HCM City Youth Federation, the HCM City Students’ Association and the Youth newspaper jointly held a walk to raise funds for poor pupils. The walk, which drew the participation of more than 5,000 youths, collected over 3.2 billion VND.

Source: VNA
Photo: TT

Source: QDND

Pilot project to abrogate grassroots councils pays off

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Pilot project to abrogate grassroots councils pays off

QĐND – Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:37 (GMT+7)

The pilot project to abolish people’s councils at district- and commune-levels has reaped positive results after over a year of performance, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Launched in April 2009 in 67 suburban districts, 32 urban districts and 483 wards of 10 cities and provinces throughout the country, the pilot project has initially helped reduce intermediary levels, simplify the apparatus, shorten the time needed for procedures and cut budget spending for the organisation and operation of people’s councils.

For example, the number of councillors at all levels in the central city of Da Nang has dropped from 1,340 to 452, while its yearly expenses for operation of people’s councils were cut by 7 billion VND.

The project also helped enhance the power, responsibility and activeness of people’s committees at the district- and commune-levels in managing socio-economic development activities.

They can now take direct orders from provincial people’s committees instead of having to wait for the people’s councils to approve the orders first.

The jurisdiction and responsibility of chairpersons of people’s committees at all levels have been strengthened, especially in approving planning schemes as well as in administrative and personnel affairs.

It is important to note that the right to mastery of residents in the localities where there are no grassroots-level people’s councils has been guaranteed and promoted via activities of National Assembly deputies, councillors of the provincial and municipal People’s Councils and representatives of the Vietnam Fatherland Front and political-social organisations at all levels.

New and concrete rules have been put in place to ensure the public can access information and voice their opinions on local issues as well as exercise their right to democracy. The targeted localities have paid due attention to receiving people and dealing with their denouncements, complaints and proposals.

Such districts as Thuy Nguyen in the northern port city of Hai Phong and Binh Chanh in the southern largest hub of Ho Chi Minh City have the initiative to hold monthly dialogues between local authorities and people.

The preliminary survey shows socio-economic development in the targeted localities has kept growing, while the number of poor households has dropped rapidly.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

German NGO wants to stop funding for Phong Nha Ke Bang

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

KwF, a non-governmental organization from Germany, has said it wants to stop funding KwF pledged for the Phong Nha-Ke Bang nature conversation project because the project’s management board has infringed its commitments.

A view of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

The project was begun in October 2008 with aid from Germany worth EUR12.63 million.
On behalf of the German Government, KfW Entwicklungsbank and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation provides technical and financial assistance to the central province of Quang Binh, where Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is situated, and the Phong Nha Ke Bang park administration.
The poject, which would be implemented until 2016, is aimed to maintain the biological diversity in Quang Binh area, support the development of buffer zone, protect natural resources in the park, and reduce poverty for as many as possible of the 56,000 residents living there.
After nearly two years of implementation, many works of the project have become stagnant or yet to be developed.
Under the project, 4,250 hectares of forest have to be developed and over 11,000 hectares of existing forest have to be protected, of which total 600 hectares have to be developed and protected in 2010, but until now no tree has been planted.
KfW gave the management board over EUR350,000 for planting forest in July 2009, so far the board has disbursed only EUR114,000, but no tree has been grown.
The NGO has asked the board many times to provide records showing its disbursement in 2009, but the board has parried it.
On June 14, 2010, KfW sent a note to the province People’s Committee and Department of Planning and Investment, and the management board to ask the board to give it back the remaining EUR200,000 which has yet to be disbursed.
In the note, the bank said the province and the board have violated agreements signed between the province and the bank.
It said the board has not reacted effectively to clearance and burning of natural forest in the buffer zone, and taken the initiative in management of the project.
The bank also said that it doesn’t approve the board’s plans on activities and budget for 2010.
According to a survey by Sai Gon Giai Phong, seedlings cultivating farms in the province don’t meet required standards so about 30-50 percent of seedlings have died, but the board has failed to help farmers.
Under the project, farmers who join the project must be trained in cultivation, but many farmers said the training was very perfunctory and they couldn’t learn any things from it.

Source: SGGP

Gates, Petraeus differ over Afghanistan exit

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted Monday the July 2011 date to start withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan was set in stone, putting him at odds with his top Afghan war commander.

Gates and General David Petraeus were in lock-step on the need for a gradual withdrawal, but a series of interviews exposed discord over the flexibility of the start date given last November by US President Barack Obama.

AFP/File – US soldiers patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers in Kukaran in Kandahar province.

“There is no question in anybody’s mind that we are going to begin drawing down troops in July of 2011,” Gates told The Los Angeles Times.

But Petraeus, asked in a separate interview whether he could reach that juncture and have to recommend a delay to Obama because of the conditions on the ground, replied: “Certainly, yeah.

“I think the president has been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions-based,” he told NBC television’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday.

“The president and I sat down in the Oval Office and he expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best professional military advice.”

Afghanistan, with the help of its Western backers, is trying to build up its army and police so that they can take responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces by the end of 2014.

The Taliban, toppled in a 2001 US-led invasion, still control large swathes of the south and have put up stiff resistance to a surge of 30,000 more US troops due to swell American numbers to 100,000 in the coming weeks.

US public support for the near nine-year war and Obama’s handling of it are at an all-time low, according to opinion polls here, while the death toll for American troops hit a record monthly high in July of 66.

Both Gates, in the LA Times, and Petraeus, in a series of interviews with NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post, sought to reassure a skeptical public that the American-led coalition can succeed in its aims.

Petraeus told The New York Times he did not just want to preside over a “graceful exit,” while Gates suggested some security responsibilities could begin to be transferred to Afghan forces as early as early next year.

Obama’s mid-2011 deadline to begin a limited withdrawal has been strongly criticized by some who believe it sent out the message America is not in the fight for the long-term and boosted the Taliban’s resolve to wait it out.

Others attack him for not pulling out troops fast enough as they believe US and NATO forces are bogged down in an unwinnable conflict.

Petraeus, giving his first major interviews since assuming command of more than 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan last month, also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Taliban with “blood on their hands.”

The general, who helped turn around the Iraq war for Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — partly by wheeling and dealing with warring factions — said a new reconciliation and reintegration strategy aimed at persuading Afghan insurgents to change sides was “fairly imminent.”

There is “every possibility, I think, that there can be low- and mid-level reintegration and indeed some fracturing of the senior leadership that could be really defined as reconciliation.”

In his interview with The Washington Post, Petraeus said 365 insurgent leaders and 2,400 rank-and-file fighters have been killed or captured over the past three months.

The operations have led “some leaders of some elements” of the insurgency to begin reconciliation discussions with the Afghan government, he told the newspaper, characterizing the interactions as “meaningful.”

Petraeus formally took over command of the Afghan war in July after Obama dismissed General Stanley McChrystal after he and his staff made disparaging comments about senior US administration figures.

The interviews came hours before the website announced that the total number of foreign troops killed since the start of the Afghan war in 2001 had topped 2,000, including 1,226 Americans and 331 from Britain.

Last week, the United Nations said the number of civilian casualties in the Afghan war had risen sharply in the first six months of this year to reach 1,271 Afghans. Another 1,997 people were wounded.

Source: SGGP

Israel rejects ‘preconditions’ for direct peace talks

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli officials on Monday rejected any “preconditions” ahead of an expected international invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that would call for a complete settlement freeze.

Their remarks came as Washington appeared to be closing in on the relaunch of direct negotiations after months of shuttle diplomacy that have thus far failed to convince the Palestinians to enter face-to-face talks.

AFP/File – A man carries an injured child into Al-Shifa hospital following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City in July

“Israel is ready to start direct negotiations immediately, but without any preconditions,” an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The Palestinians, who have lost valuable time by refusing to revive these direct contacts, will present all the topics they want to discuss at the negotiating table,” he added.

The diplomatic Quartet — comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — was expected to issue a statement inviting both sides to relaunch direct talks which were suspended in late 2008.

The Palestinians have said it will be modelled on a Quartet statement issued in Moscow in March that called on Israel to halt settlement construction and for the direct talks to lead to a final peace deal in two years.

They have resisted months of US pressure to relaunch the talks, arguing that Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not serious about withdrawing from lands occupied by Israel in 1967.

Israeli media reported that a forum of seven top cabinet members have decided to reject the Quartet statement, which may call on Israel to extend a limited West Bank settlement freeze, set to expire in September, for another 10 months.

“The Quartet declaration should allow the Palestinians to descend the tree they have climbed by refusing negotiations, but it must not be binding on Israel,” several Israeli media outlets quoted an unnamed minister as saying.

The minister was quoted as saying that Netanyahu’s government would reject the appeal from the Quartet but accept a parallel invitation issued by Washington that would be “more balanced.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat charged that Netanyahu’s government was not serious about peace.

“The announcement by the Israeli government rejecting the statement of the international Quartet before it is even issued shows that Israel is persisting in its rejection of a serious peace process,” Erakat told AFP.

“(This) clearly proves that this government has other interests besides peace and stability in the region,” he added.

Erakat also rejected Israel’s decision on Sunday to deploy 23 caravans in eight West Bank settlements to serve as classrooms, saying it was “placing additional obstacles” in the way of US efforts to revive the peace process.

Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks but has refused to completely halt settlement activity, which it considers a “precondition,” but which the Palestinians say was part of previous agreements.

The presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, has been one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.

The Palestinians rejected the partial freeze on settlements as insufficient because it did not include mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The United States has been struggling for the past 18 months to relaunch the peace process, viewing it as a key foreign policy goal that would help improve relations with the Muslim world.

The two sides began indirect US-brokered talks in May, after the last round of direct talks collapsed when Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in December 2008 in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.

Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, has warned Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas against holding any negotiations with Israel, including in a weekend statement co-signed by 10 other hardline groups based in Syria.

Source: SGGP

UN chief pleads for world to aid flood-hit Pakistan

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

Pakistanis wade through a flooded town in Pathan Wala. AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the international community to step up aid for flood-ravaged Pakistan, warning the “heart-wrenching” disaster is far from over.

Ban held talks with Pakistani leaders and flew with President Asif Ali Zardari over some of the worst affected areas of the central province of Punjab on Sunday.

“I’m here to urge the world to step up their generous support for Pakistan,” he told a news conference with Zardari.

The UN secretary general said he would never forget the “heart-wrenching” scenes of destruction he had witnessed.

“Many have lost families and friends. Many more are afraid their children and loved ones will not survive in these conditions,” Ban said.

Aid agencies were monitoring the risk of “a second wave” of deaths in the shape of water-borne diseases.

Sami Abdul Malik, spokesman for the UN children’s fund UNICEF, said six million children were affected by the disaster.

“Children are always vulnerable. They cannot control their thirst, they will drink any type of water and may get watery diarrhoea, cholera, malaria and other diseases,” he told AFP.

The United Nations has confirmed at least one cholera case and said 36,000 people were reportedly suffering from acute diarrhoea.

Ban said a possible 20 million people were directly or indirectly affected by the floods and that one fifth of the country had been ravaged.

“This disaster is far from over. The rains are still falling and could continue for weeks.

“The United Nations and international community and international humanitarian community are moving as fast as we can to help the government deliver desperately needed humanitarian assistance,” Ban said.

The UN has appealed for 460 million dollars to deal with the immediate aftermath of the floods, but has warned that billions will be needed in the long term as villages, businesses, crops and infrastructure have been wiped out.

Pakistan’s weak civilian government has appealed to the global community to help it deal with the challenges of a crisis compared by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to the sub-continent’s 1947 partition.

Charities have complained that relief for those affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history is lagging far behind what is needed, with six to eight million people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive.

Ban announced a further 10 million dollars from the UN central emergency response fund, making a total of 27 million dollars since the beginning of the crisis. “As the waters recede, we must move quickly,” he said.

Zardari said it would take at least two years to restore the livelihoods of people affected by the floods.

“This is a long-term affair. It is a two years’ campaign,” Zardari said. “We have to consider and keep it in mind that for two years we have to give them crops, fertilisers, seeds, and look after them and feed them to take them to where they were.”

Fresh floods hit the southwestern province of Baluchistan at the weekend, devastating hundreds of villages and causing tens of thousands to flee, said Sher Khan Bazai, the commissioner in the town of Jaffarabad.

“The situation is grim. I saw people sheltering on the roofs of trucks and buses as bridges and roads have been washed away,” Bazai said, adding that authorities had only one helicopter and four boats for rescue missions.

The UN estimates that 1,600 have died in the floods, while the government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.

The nuclear-armed country of 167 million people is on the front line of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda. Western governments have traced overseas terror plots back to Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps in the lawless tribal mountains.

Source: SGGP