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‘French troops may begin Afghan withdrawal in 2011’

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

French and some allied NATO armies could begin to withdraw some of their forces from the conflict in Afghanistan as early as 2011, Defence Minister Herve Morin said Thursday.

French soldiers patrol in Surobi district in September 2010.

“There’s a fixed date for NATO in the framework of its new strategy, that’s the start of 2011, because in 2011 we’re going to transfer a whole series of districts to the Afghans,” he told RTL radio.


“At that moment, there could be the first movements, or first withdrawals of Allied forces from Afghanistan. In any case, that’s the calendar set by Barack Obama, that in 2011 the first American troops could quit Afghanistan.


“And that’s what a certain number of European countries have started to say,” he explained, insisting that this has nothing to do with a threat issued against France on Thursday by Islamist militant chief Osama bin Laden.

Source: SGGP

Environmental inspectors begin work on Hanoi’s golf courses

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 11:19 am

Dong Mo Golf Course. (Photo: Hanoi Moi)

Inspectors from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment started their examinations of several golf course projects in Hanoi on August 4.


They will check and adjust the environmental, land, and water resource protection of the firms, which manage 19 golf courses in Hanoi.


The ministry will also inspect golf course projects in Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Ninh Binh, and Hoa Binh provinces.

Source: SGGP

Young intellectuals begin volunteer season

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 11:20 am

Around 100 young intellectuals from schools and research institutes in Ho Chi Minh City have joined the volunteer program to help farmers and workers from July 17 to August 20.

Volunteers of  Rad Vacation provide gratis examination to the disadvantaged people in the Mekong delta province of Long An’s  Can Duoc district (Photo: SGGP)

This is the first time the month-long volunteer campaign for educated persons has been launched by the Youth Scientific and Technological Promotion Center, part of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union. 


Volunteers offered flowers to the statue of Ho Chi Minh president in front of the city People’s Committee on July 17.


Afterward, they will give consultancies on administrative reform to young people in district 11, transfer techniques on dying cloths to workers and engineers of Gia Dinh Textile Company and instruct farmers in Can Gio district on breeding aquatic animals.


In a related news report, on July 17 another volunteer campaign, “Ky nghi hong” (Red Vacation), held by the city’s Committee of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, revisited an old wartime base in Can Duoc district of the Mekong delta province of Long An.


Volunteers there provided free medical exams and medications to 1,500 locals as well as donated 3,000 notebooks to poor pupils, one house to a family that served the revolutionary cause and 100 gifts to meager income families.


Meanwhile, nearly 150 members of the Communist Youth Union and young workers from industrial parks, Vietnam Electricity Construction Joint Stock Corporation and the National Academy of Politics and Public Administration, are building concrete alleys and helping repair residents’ houses in Da Nang.

Source: SGGP

Southern youth begin summer voluntary campaigns

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

Over 2,000 students gathered June 6 at Le Van Tam Park to attend a ceremony commencing a voluntary campaign titled, Hoa Phuong do (red flamboyant), to take place this summer.

Volunteer HCMC youths participate in the 2010 Hoa Phuong Do Campaign

This year, nearly 15,000 youths will participate in practical activities like propagandizing to become more enlightened about social and environmental issues, organizing summer activities for children at compassion houses.


The youth will also provide bicycles, schoolbooks and school supplies to poor students, visit and give gifts to families under State preferential treatment policies as well as to the elderly who live alone.


The same day, Vinh Long Province Committee of HCM Communist Youth Union hosted a ceremony to begin 2010 summer voluntary campaign with the attendance of over 1,000 youths.


With the theme “The youth together with poor communes to overcome difficulties,” the campaign will focus on activities for social security, assisting families under preferential treatment policy, aiding the poor and protecting environment.


Over 3,000 of the Communist Youth Union members in Can Tho City gathered to begin the 2010 voluntary summer campaign including helping students due to take the upcoming the national university exam.


The voluntary campaign has also begun in Dong Thap Province, featuring activities like building compassion houses, offering gifts and taking care of families under preferential treatment policy.


From June 4-6, the Saigontourist Travel Services coordinated with Ca Mau Province Committee of HCM Communist Youth Union and Department of Natural Resources and Environment, to organize a tree growing festival at the U Minh Ha National Park.


At the festival, the park staff instructed the youth to choose which varieties of flora to plant, urging them to clean up the environment, prevent forest fires and find out about environmental protection.

Source: SGGP

Farmers begin final round of football tourney in September

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm




Farmers begin final round of football tourney in September


QĐND – Thursday, May 20, 2010, 20:58 (GMT+7)

Amateur footballers will compete in the final round of the National Farmers Football Championship in the southern province of Long An from September 15-25, organizers announced on May 19.


The event, organised by Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper, will see 28 teams from around the nation competing in seven groups at the qualifiers in Tien Giang’s My Tho Stadium in August.


Hosts Long An and the seven other qualifying teams will battle for their spot in the final round, which will see the winners walk away with a 100 million VND (5,100 USD) cash-prize.


Source: VNA


Source: QDND

Aquino seen as favorite as Filipinos begin voting

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 at 4:50 am

After a decade of corruption-tainted politics, Filipinos stood in long lines Monday to elect a new leader, and surveys indicated they’re pinning their hopes on the son of democracy icons who has electrified masses with his clean image and Aquino family name.


Sen. Benigno Aquino III — whose father was assassinated while opposing a dictatorship and whose late mother led the “people power” revolt that restored freedoms and swept her into power — had a large lead in the last pre-election polls.


The Philippine election has been marred by violence, with more than 30 killed in political attacks and reports of deadly violence the morning of the election. And a software glitch in optical scanning machines that for the first time will count and transmit votes in 17,600 precincts was discovered just days ago, almost derailing the vote.

An elderly Filipino woman reviews her ballot at a voting center in San Juan, east of Manila, Philippines on Monday May 10, 2010.

Aquino himself was unable to immediately cast his ballot Monday after a vote-counting machine broke down in his precinct.


“This is a new system of voting. We have a longer ballot, so I hope all the people can vote and not be delayed and I hope there will be no long lines of people outside when the voting ends,” he told reporters while waiting for the machine to be fixed.


In the past, manual counts in the world’s second-biggest archipelago delayed results for weeks and were prone to fraud. Officials are now expecting early tallies just hours after polls close. About 50 million registered voters in this country of 90 million will elect politicians for posts from the presidency to municipal councils.


Still, Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento warned there might be “some flaws and glitches.”


A former election commission chairman, Christian Monsod, said the long lines of voters represent “a celebration of democracy.”


“I was with the Indonesian delegation yesterday and they are here to learn from us because they are also going to automate. I told them you just watch, you watch how our people in elections are going to be disciplined,” he said.


However, violence has long been a feature of Philippine elections, and police said more than 30 people have been killed in campaign-related attacks, including three on Sunday. Police were still trying to determine whether a shootout that left three gunmen dead in southern Zamboanga Sibugay province Monday was election-related.


The official campaign-deaths figure does not include the country’s worst election-related massacre, in which 57 people died last November. Even when those horrific deaths are counted, though, election attacks appear to be down: 130 deaths preceded the 2007 vote.


A restive and politicized military, weak central government, private armies and political dynasties have stymied democratic institutions for generations.


The next leader also will face multiple insurgencies. Muslim and communist rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants have long staged terrorist attacks and hostage raids from jungle hide-outs in the south, where U.S. troops have been training Filipino soldiers.


The next leader also faces entrenched corruption: Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been accused of vote-rigging in 2004 and implicated in several scandals that led to coup attempts and moves to impeach her. Calls for her prosecution have been an important campaign issue. She denies any wrongdoing and is in running for a seat in the House of Representatives.


Accompanied by her son, Arroyo was among the first voters in her hometown in Pampanga province, north of Manila. Wearing glasses, she held the 25-inch (63- centimeter) -long ballot and picked her choices by shading ovals across the candidates’ names.


In an indication that Filipinos are looking for a fresh face to combat this old problem, Aquino has surged ahead of his two main rivals, according to recent independent presidential surveys.


Despite lacking their experience, Aquino rode on a family name that has revived poignant memories of the 1986 “people power” revolt his late mother led to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restore democracy.


Former President Corazon Aquino had inherited the mantle of her husband, an opposition senator gunned down by soldiers at Manila’s airport in 1983 upon return from U.S. exile to challenge Marcos.

It was only after she died of cancer last August that her son, a quiet 50-year-old lawmaker and bachelor, decided to run, spurred by the massive outpouring of national grief and yearning for a kind of inspirational leadership his mother had provided despite her shortcomings.

In an Associated Press interview last week, Aquino said he would start prosecuting corrupt officials within weeks if he’s elected, sending a signal to investors and the public. He said he would create a commission to investigate Arroyo.

Aquino’s two rivals carry the taint of scandal, all too common in the Philippines. The ratings of real estate tycoon Manny Villar, who was neck-and-neck with Aquino in early surveys, took a plunge after

rivals accused him of using his position to enrich himself and avoid a Senate ethics probe.

Meanwhile, ousted President Joseph Estrada, who largely draws support from the poor, has jumped to overtake Villar as No. 2. The former action movie star was removed from office in 2001 and subsequently convicted on corruption charges. He was later pardoned by his nemesis, Arroyo.

Esmael Mangudadatu, whose entourage was targeted in the November massacre, is running for provincial governor of Maguindanao province, undeterred by the attack that claimed the lives of relatives and supporters. He is trying to unseat the rival Ampatuan clan — the principal murder suspects.

Although under arrest, some of the Ampatuans are running in Maguindanao, legally allowed unless they are convicted. They have denied the murder charges.

In a country where celebrities commonly seek office and political dynasties are myriad, the jewel-studded former first lady Imelda Marcos is running for a House seat, as is boxing star Manny Pacquiao in his second congressional bid.

Source: SGGP

Banks to begin offering lower loan interest rates

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

Following the State Bank of Vietnam’s directive to lower negotiable interest rates on loans, many joint stock commercial banks April 12 said they would offer loans at less than 15 percent per year to borrowers.


Le Xuan Nghia, deputy chairman of the National Finance Supervision Committee, said, “Since the Government ceased interest subsidies and monetary policies were tightened, credit growth has slowed.”


In the first quarter, credit growth was just 2.95 percent, of which credit growth in VND was only 0.57 percent, he said.

Customers perform transactions at an ACB bank in Da Nang City. The bank April 12 announced it would earmark VND20 trillion to make loans available to businesses at around 14 percent per year. (Photo: danang.gov.vn)

Although the negotiable lending interest policy has been carried out for over one month, the credit balance at commercial banks has remained almost unchanged, since many businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said they could not afford loans at high lending rates of 16-18 percent.


In addition, SMEs have also faced another impediment to borrowing capital – they have no mortgage to secure bank loans.


Since late 2009, the Vietnam Development Bank (VDB) has issued guarantee deeds to a number of borrowers wanting bank loans, but the amount they actually received from banks was modest, since banks tended to give priority to borrowers with mortgages.


Nguyen Chi Nguyen, general secretary of the HCMC Business Association, said commercial banks should assist SMEs in preparing feasible plans for use of lending capital to make them eligible for loans.


Many banks said they incurred higher expenses in mobilizing deposits in the first quarter, so they could not lower lending interest rates rapidly while they have yet to restrain input costs.


In recent days, most large commercial banks have lowered deposit interest rates to reduce overall operating expenses. One joint stock bank said it had reduced its average interest rate of 12 percent per year to 10.8 percent.


Ly Xuan Hai, general director of the Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), said both deposit and lending rates would decline in the near future. 


Based on the predicted inflation rate of 7 percent and also on exchange rates, lending rates are likely to reduce reasonably to benefit borrowers, he said.


Currently, the lending rates have been decreased from the previous 16-18 percent to 14-16 percent per year, equal to those in 2006 and 2007, Mr. Hai said.


On April 12, ACB announced it would earmark VND20 trillion (US$1.05 billion) to offer loans to businesses at around 14 percent per year.


Sacombank also said its loans would be offered at about 14 percent for businesses and exporters, and 13.8 percent for farmers.


Meanwhile, several other banks are giving priority to exporters, with loans offered at 12 percent.


A number of commercial banks have recently cooperated with foreign financial organizations, such as Japan International Cooperation Bank, the European Community, and Swiss Green Credit Fund, to launch soft credit projects to help businesses, especially SMEs.


In order to access loans easier, SMEs must also gain the confidence of lenders by improving their business capabilities, ensuring transparency of their business practices, and carrying out audits every year, banking experts have said.

Source: SGGP

Afghan offensive in Kandahar to begin in June: US

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2010 at 9:18 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – NATO forces will begin their offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in June, a US military official said, to regain ground against the fierce insurgency in their spiritual homeland.


The offensive in the region “has already begun,” the official told AFP late Monday on condition of anonymity, saying that in Kandahar “operations will begin (in June).”


NATO and US forces that earlier this year launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province, near Kandahar, have already announced plans to begin operations in the insurgent stronghold this summer, but without giving specific dates.

AFP file photo shows an armored NATO vehicle on patrol in Kandahar.

US President Barack Obama in a surprise visit to Afghanistan at the weekend defended his sweeping new push to flush out Taliban strongholds in Helmand and future targets in the south where the insurgency is concentrated.


“Our strategy includes a military effort that takes the fight to the Taliban while creating the conditions for greater security and a transition to the Afghans,” he told US and NATO troops gathered at Bagram Airfield outside Kabul.


The United States and NATO are boosting their military effort to 150,000 troops in Afghanistan in coming months as efforts to eradicate militant strongholds intensify. Related article: Progress too slow in Afghanistan: Obama


US General Stanley McChrystal said earlier this month he would take on Taliban militants in their Kandahar this summer when enough reinforcements are on the ground.


McChrystal, the US war commander, told President Barack Obama by video conference at a war cabinet meeting that the military was on course to pour thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan in the coming months, while he reported “continued progress” in the offensive against the Taliban in Marjah.


A US combat brigade of 4,000 men was already deployed in Kandahar in the summer of 2009 to secure lines of communication leading to the capital of southern Afghanistan, historic stronghold of the Taliban movement.


Upon his return Monday Obama also stressed the immediate need for progress in the country, torn by decades of conflict and over eight years of US-led intervention.


“I think he is listening,” Obama said, referring to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.


“But I think that the progress is too slow, and what we’ve been trying to emphasize is the fierce urgency of now,” Obama said in an interview with NBC, set to air on US television early Tuesday.


He pressed Karzai, returned for a second five-year term in fraud-riddled elections last year, to step up the fight against corruption and the drugs trade, and invited the Afghan leader to visit Washington on May 12.

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Source: SGGP

As supplies begin to arrive, Haiti still lives in fear

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

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








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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


But thousands of others there have no such choice.


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


 


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Qantas to begin restoring flights dumped in financial crisis

In World on December 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm









SYDNEY, Dec 21, 2009 (AFP) – Australian airline Qantas on Monday said it would begin increasing its domestic flight capacity to meet improving demand, restoring services cut during the economic downturn.


Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline would add more than 340,000 seats starting in March on routes including Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville, Perth, Ayers Rock, Cairns, Adelaide and Brisbane.


“We are seeing some improvements in domestic demand and so the time is right to begin restoring capacity to ensure we are well placed to meet that demand,” Joyce said.


“The changes will see the addition of a total 19 return services across selected routes, while capacity will be restored on others by upgrading from Boeing 737 to larger Boeing 767 aircraft.”


Qantas slashed capacity in 2008 as a result of soaring fuel prices and dampened passenger demand.


The airline cut capacity by five percent in May of that year, later further reducing capacity by the equivalent of grounding 10 aircraft to cope with the slump in passenger demand caused by the global financial slowdown.


“We will continue to monitor demand with a view to restoring further capacity at the appropriate time,” Joyce added.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share