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Posts Tagged ‘Fresh’

Europe throws euro fresh lifeline

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 8:56 am

BRUSSELS, Dec 17, 2010 (AFP) – European leaders signalled a willingness to grant troubled nations a fresh financial lifeline, ring-fencing the euro in a bid to fend off market vultures once and for all.

With Portugal and even Spain predicted to need aid like Greece and Ireland, European Union president Herman Van Rompuy said they were “ready to do whatever is required to ensure the financial stability of the eurozone.”

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates (L) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy talk prior to a working session of the EU summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels. AFP

While a Brussels summit stopped short of meeting myriad calls for a new injection of rescue funding, the “political will” of the 27 national leaders is “beyond doubt,” Van Rompuy insisted.

“It’s their way of saying they are prepared to put lots of money on the table,” explained a senior EU diplomat.

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme also spoke of “a joint will to put in as much money as needed,” while a French governmental source said Paris certainly “is absolutely inclined to increase the size of the fund as much as necessary,” in a significant change of mood.

The moment had not yet come to talk of specific figures, with Ireland having tapped less than four percent of existing capacity put up by euro partners, but European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet appeared less than excited.

After shelling out more than 72 billion euros since May on iffy eurozone bonds, Trichet said pointedly: “I relayed my messages.”

He has recently agitated for governments to take back the initiative after heavy criticism they were being enslaved by markets — echoed on Thursday by International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

A permanent emergency rescue fund will be established from mid-2013, to replace an existing trillion-dollar joint EU-IMF facility, with a rewrite of the EU rule-book ordered by 31 December 2012.

The latest EU stance is intended to draw a line under a year in which the bloc looked like being torn apart by wolves on international money markets after Greece secured a 110-billion-euro bailout in May.

Used to seeing trillions of dollars change hands in the blink of an eye, traders and analysts — less than impressed — simply mounted pressure on other weak points in the euro chain.

Nevertheless, the deal on the new permanent umbrella comes amid hopes the holiday season will offer respite similar to that leaders experienced during the World Cup.

The EU stressed that new loans and guarantees will only be made available if judged “indispensable” by peers, and as with Greece or Ireland, in exchange for painful cuts and other changes.

That tweak came at Germany’s insistence, although Europe’s paymaster made no discernible progress in a similar push for future bailouts to need unanimous backing — which many oppose as it would grant Berlin an absolute veto.

“Euro countries need to coordinate economic policy” more, Chancellor Angela Merkel said afterwards, describing that process as an “interesting but difficult task.”

Pending any fresh assault from Berlin, aid will be activated “by mutual agreement,” after choreographed legal manoeuvres by the 27 states over the next two years.

Thursday’s stance represents the birth pangs of shared cross-border governance 12 years after experts said the creation of the euro was flawed due to the absence of a central government to control economic policy.

However, a call to debate the introduction of E-bonds — pooled financial guarantees allowing each and every euro nation to borrow funds for national use at common rates — was left for another day.

Merkel insisted the plan “would not rid Europe of its weaknesses, it would simply transmit them across the board.” 

Source: SGGP

Japan issues fresh apology for colonial rule of Korea

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2010 at 11:20 am

TOKYO, Aug 10, 2010 (AFP) – Japan’s government on Tuesday issued a fresh apology for the country’s past colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, ahead of the August 29 centenary of the annexation as Tokyo eyes stronger Seoul ties.

In a statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressed deep regret over what he referred to as the “suffering” inflicted during Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan listens to questions during a press conference beside the national flag at his official residence in Tokyo on August 10, 2010. AFP

The apology, approved by Kan’s centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) at a cabinet meeting Tuesday, was timed also to precede South Korea’s celebration of its 1945 liberation on August 15.

In a statement, Kan expressed his “feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for the tremendous damage and suffering brought by the colonial rule”.

Kan said: “Through the colonial rule that was against their will… the people of Korea were deprived of their nation and culture and their ethnic pride was deeply hurt.”

He added that Japan would “in the near future” hand over precious cultural artifacts originating from the peninsula that South Korea has been demanding, including some royal records of the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910).

The premier held a telephone conversation with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak after the release of a statement to which South Korea gave a guarded welcome, saying it hoped the apology would herald closer ties between the two.

“We expect all Japanese people to share this view,” South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-Sun said.

“We recognise prime minister Kan’s statement as his and the Japanese government’s volition to overcome the unfortunate past between Korea and Japan and to develop a bright future in their relations,” he added.

Kan said on Tuesday that he sought to “build a future-oriented relationship” with South Korea. Tokyo is looking to strengthen cooperation in addressing the North’s nuclear ambitions and abductions of foreign nationals.

“While I hope that the ties between Japan and South Korea will become deeper and stronger… I express my determination not to spare any efforts to open the future of the two countries,” said Kan.

Japanese prime ministers in recent decades have expressed regret for the country’s wartime aggression in Asia, including a landmark 1995 statement from then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama.

But such sentiments have been dismissed as insincere by Asian neighbours, partly because of comments made by some conservative lawmakers who refuse to admit to Japan’s past aggression.

Some Japanese lawmakers have argued that such statements set a precedent for Japan to continue a “diplomacy of apology”. One DPJ member, Jin Matsubara, lashed out against Tuesday’s move as “extremely disgraceful”.

But Masao Okonogi, professor of Korean studies at Keio University, welcomed the statement.

“This is Japan’s first official recognition that the colonial rule was against (specifically) Korean people’s will and that it deprived them of their country.”

At a press conference later Tuesday, Kan reiterated that he would not make a controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on the August 15 anniversary of Japan’s 1945 surrender, in honour of its war dead.

The shrine in Tokyo honours Japan’s 2.5 million World War II dead, including 14 top war criminals, and visits there by past Japanese premiers angered Chinese and Korean leaders.

Kan added that issues of reparation for individuals and their right to demand state compensation were “fully settled” when the two countries normalised ties in 1965.

Japan colonised Korea from 1910, signing an annexation treaty on August 22 which took effect on August 29 that year.

The annexation ended on August 15, 1945, when Japan surrendered to the US-led allies in World War II. The Korean peninsula was then divided into a communist North and a capitalist South.

Japan and South Korea normalised relations in 1965, with Tokyo extending massive economic aid to Seoul, which agreed not to demand reparations for the colonial rule.

Source: SGGP

BP’s Hayward ignites fresh US anger as he heads for the exit

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 3:17 am

LONDON, July 28, 2010 (AFP) – BP’s outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward was the target of fresh US anger Wednesday after claiming he had been “demonised and vilified,” threatening efforts to draw a line under the Gulf oil spill.

The comments by Hayward, who resigned Tuesday following his heavily criticised handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, drew renewed criticism from Washington as BP struggles to restore its reputation after the spillage.

Ships assist in clean up and containment near the source of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill July 27, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. AFP

“I don’t think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Hayward’s departure was a drastic move by the oil giant to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the spill that is set to cost the British group 32 billion dollars.

He will be succeeded by Bob Dudley, who is in charge of BP’s Gulf clean-up operations and who has vowed to “change the culture” of how the company tackles safety issues.

BP also said Tuesday it had made a record 16.9-billion-dollar loss in the second quarter, and will sell 30 billion dollars of assets over the next 18 months as it seeks to return to profitability.

“This is a very sad day for me personally,” Hayward told a conference call.

“Whether it is fair or unfair is not the point. I became the public face and was demonised and vilified. BP cannot move on in the US with me as its leader.”

But Gibbs hit back: “What’s not fair is what has happened on the Gulf, what is not fair is that the actions of some have caused the greatest environmental disaster that our country has ever seen.”

Hayward was also the target of fresh anger in the United States over a separate matter — his decision to snub a US Senate hearing into BP’s alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said the hearing, originally scheduled to take place Thursday, had been postponed after key witnesses, including Hayward, had refused to attend.

He accused the BP executive of only being interested in his “multi-million-dollar golden parachute.”

Under his contract, Hayward will receive one year’s salary, worth 1.045 million pounds (1.245 million euros, 1.620 million dollars). He also has a pension pot totalling 11 million pounds.

In its results Tuesday, BP was pushed into the red by the 32.2 billion dollars set aside to pay for the costs of the spill — which was the worst environmental disaster in US history.

BP and Hayward have been mauled by Washington since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing millions of gallons of crude into the sea and onto the US Gulf coast.

It has taken more than three months to stem the Gulf of Mexico oil flow. Up to four million barrels (170 million gallons) of crude have escaped.

The catastrophe has destroyed vital tourism, fishing and oil industries in the five US Gulf coast states and left BP facing soaring clean-up and compensation costs.

Hayward will step down on October 1, and will remain a BP board member until November 30, but has meanwhile been nominated as a non-executive director of Russian joint venture TNK-BP.

Dudley will become BP’s first American chief executive following the resignation.

“I think sometimes events like this shake you to the core, the foundation, and you have two responses,” Dudley said in an TV interview with ABC News, in reference to the oil disaster.

“One is to run away and hide, the other is to respond and really change the culture of the company and make sure all the checks and balances are there, just to make sure this does not happen again.”

Dudley added that his top priority was to permanently seal the Gulf well, contain the crude spill and to clean up and restore the area’s beaches. The group finally capped the leak on July 15.

BP’s share price has plunged about 40 percent since the explosion — wiping tens of billions of dollars off the group’s market value. BP shares closed down 2.63 percent at 406 pence in London.

Hayward, 53, had already handed over day-to-day management of the crisis in June to Dudley, as criticism mounted over his gaffe-prone handling of the disaster.

Hayward enraged Gulf residents when he said in a May 18 interview that the environmental impact of the spill would be “very, very modest.”

Then on May 30 he was seen as insensitive to the families of the dead rig workers when he said he wanted the disaster over with so he could have his “life back”.

Source: SGGP

Scientists discover fresh water beneath ocean floor

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2010 at 8:51 am

Scientists discover fresh water beneath ocean floor

QĐND – Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 20:56 (GMT+7)

Scientists from the Division for Water Resources Planning and Investigation for southern Vietnam have discovered an underwater source of fresh water using a two-dimensional (2D) electrical imaging method.

The discovery came out of the first research project conducted to look for undersea fresh water called “Study and application of complex geophysical, geological and hydrogeological methods for finding fresh water aquifers in coastal zones (up to 3m sea water depth) and experiments in Bac Lieu province coastal zones”, said Dr Nguyen Hong Bang, the project manager.

The 1 billion VND (52,000 USD) project was funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

The fresh water was discovered during a two-year survey at a depth ranging from 48-106 metres, 3kilometres off the coast of Bac Lieu.

The division has submitted a new proposal to the ministry that would help identify the volume of water available and design an exploitation scheme to help meet domestic fresh water needs, Bang said.

He said the completed study also served as a model for the application of science and technology to successfully implement the National Ocean Strategies which were approved by the Prime Minister four years ago.

Bang proposed two more projects to explore other potential undersea fresh water resources. One region is Hai Hau-Nghia Hung in northern Nam Dinh province and the other is the coastal area spreading from Long Toan district in the Mekong Delta’s Tra Vinh province to Dam Doi district in southernmost Ca Mau province.

A 2D electrical imaging machine which collected highly accurate data was chosen for its accuracy and for the fact that it helps ensure environmentally friendly exploration.

The 2D imagery showed a cross-section of the area with clear differentiation between high and low resistivity zones, said Dr Bang.

Scientists chose a location three kilometres offshore to bury electrodes in the sea bed every 20 meters to a depth of 200 metres. The electrodes transmitted signals to receptors and data were saved to a computer. Information was analysed by specialised software.

“After analysing, interpreting and predicting the existence of a layer of fresh water under the sea, we drilled a borehole to pump and obtain water samples for confirmation” said Bang.

Dr Tran Binh Trong, an expert from the Department of Science and Technology at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that in the past, while carrying out natural resource exploration projects, scientists had to drill lots of boreholes, which damaged the geological environment. Thanks to the 2D electrical imaging method, natural resources exploration has become less harmful to the environment.

Trong also said that with further development, the method would help investigators explore other natural resources and minerals on the sea floor.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

Fresh violence in Kyrgyzstan as humanitarian crisis grows

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:31 am

OSH, Kyrgyzstan (AFP) – Fresh violence including artillery fire flared in Kyrgyzstan Tuesday as thousands desperate to flee ethnic clashes pleaded in vain to pass through the sealed border into Uzbekistan.

Despite earlier claims from the country’s government that clashes were “on the wane,” an AFP reporter witnessed more than a dozen rounds of artillery fire lobbed over the centre of the southern city of Osh and heard numerous explosions.

An ethnic Uzbek mother holds her son as they wait at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border outside a village of Suratash some 15 km to the south of Osh. AFP photo

It was not immediately clear from where the rounds were fired or where they hit. The artillery fire continued for about 45 minutes and was followed by the sounds of sporadic gunfire and armoured vehicles rolling through the city.

The continued violence came as Kyrgyzstan’s authorities withdrew a request for foreign peacekeepers, saying unrest between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the cities of Jalalabad and Osh was abating after clashes that claimed at least 178 lives.

The humanitarian crisis engulfing the country meanwhile continued to grow as refugees started to reveal the full horror of atrocities — including rape and torture — committed in the five days of fighting.

Several thousand ethnic Uzbeks were waiting in desperate conditions to cross the border into Uzbekistan, following the Uzbek authorities’ decision to close the frontier after accepting tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees.

Babies wailed under the beating sun, their mothers unable to evacuate them out of the country to the relative safety of Uzbekistan, an AFP correspondent at the barbed wire border post reported.

One woman in the crowd pleaded: “What do we have to do to get out of here?”

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic said 200,000 people had been displaced within the country in addition to the 75,000 who sought safety in Uzbekistan.

“The humanitarian situation in the conflict zone is worsening. There are many refugees in need of help and attention,” said Kazakh diplomat Zhanibek Karibzhanov, the special envoy of the transatlantic OSCE security group.

Among those who made it across the border into Uzbekistan were three sisters, aged between 16 and 23, who had been raped in front of each other by a mob of ethnic Kyrgyz men and were rendered speechless, said Mukaddas Majidova, a doctor in the Uzbek town of Khoja-Obod.

“These girls were raped recently and by a lot of men and for several hours, according to their injuries,” she told AFP. Another man was tortured with scalding water and knife wounds to the neck.

The fighting turned much of the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad into smoking wrecks and raised fears over the future viability of the country of 5.3 million where Uzbeks make up 14 percent of the population.

Osh has now essentially been split along ethnic lines, with ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz hunkering down in their own districts and not venturing outside.

But the leader of the interim government that came to power when president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April appeared to drop a demand for foreign peacekeepers to calm the situation.

“There is not a need to send peacekeeping forces,” interim leader Roza Otunbayeva told a news conference.

“We hope to deal with this situation with our own forces,” she added, saying the clashes were now “on the wane”.

According to the latest toll from the Kyrgyz health ministry, 178 people have been killed in the violence in Osh and Jalalabad and 1,866 wounded.

However the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that the toll was likely considerably higher and that “several hundred people have been killed in the fighting.”

Both the United States and Russia maintain vital military facilities in Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet republic of pivotal strategic importance in the volatile Central Asia region, notably to NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Source: SGGP

Fresh protests at World Cup as Mandela family mourns

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:27 am

Fresh protests by stadium workers erupted Thursday, adding to a sombre tone at the World Cup as Nelson Mandela mourned his great-granddaughter and the host reeled from a stunning defeat.

Hundreds of mourners joined the Mandela family at the funeral for 13-year-old Zenani Mandela, who died in a car accident on the eve of the World Cup after a concert in Soweto.

Heart-broken, 91-year-old Mandela pulled out of the the World Cup opener. The funeral was his first public appearance since February, when he went to parliament to mark the 20th anniversary of his release from an apartheid prison.

The service at a private school in Johannesburg was filled with song, tears and sometimes laughter at memories of the young girl, who beamed with delight at meeting Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo on her birthday two days before her death.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela arrives for the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela at St Stithian’s College Chapel in Sandton, north of Johannesburg

But across the country in Cape Town, frustrations again boiled over among stadium security guards who clashed with police for the second time this week in a dispute over their pay.

Police fired a stun grenade and rubber bullets to break up the protest by 200 security guards outside the office of Stallion Security, according to the company contracted to provide stewards at four World Cup stadiums.

“They were warned that it’s an illegal gathering. They were given time to disperse and they didn’t. After several attempts we used a stun grenade and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” said police spokesman Andre Traut.

“A number of security guards were then arrested for illegal gathering.”

Police were forced to take over security at four World Cup stadiums after wildcat strikes by stewards.

“If anybody else disrupts any other stadium we are ready, in the shortest possible time, to take over that stadium,” police chief Bheki Cele said.

“There shall be no disruption of 2010 FIFA World Cup matches here in South Africa.”

World Cup boss Danny Jordaan said he was satisfied that the strike disturbances were under control, as police had quickly stepped in.

“I think they’ve done an incredible job. In Cape town within three hours, everything was in place and the game started on time,” he said.

“We just had another meeting with police yesterday and we’re satisfied everything is in place.”

After winning its World Cup bid six years ago, South Africa has fended off accusations about its ability to host the tournament with problems mounting after a triumphant opening.

Bus drivers also staged a brief wildcat strike Monday, while protesters marched Wednesday in Durban against government spending on the tournament.

Stallion Security’s security contracts were cancelled after the steward strikes spread, but the company said the local organising committee had played a role in setting wages.

“The Psira (Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority) linked rates were determined at the LOC’s insistence,” said chief executive Clive Zulberg, the Sapa news agency reported.

The national spirit also dampened after South Africa’s 3-0 thrashing from Uruguay, heightening fears that the host might become the first in World Cup history not make it to the second round.

But Jordaan said supporters will hope again and return to blowing vuvuzelas, the controversial trumpets whose loud buzz has been the trade-mark of the tournament.

“For first time in this tournament, the vuvuzelas were silent yesterday. This nation was silent, this is significant,” Jordaan said.

As cold wintery weather gripped the tournament, motorists were warned on Thursday to take care on roads after heavy snowfalls in parts of the country.

The government has pushed fans to avoid road congestion by using public transport, which received a 40-billion-rand (5.3-billion-dollar, 4.3-billion-euro) upgrade ahead of the tournament.

But a power outage that crippled commuter rail locomotives stranded 2,000 World Cup fans until early Thursday morning after trains were forced to switch from electric to steam locomotives.

Authorities were also accused of scoring an own goal by charging two Dutch women with ambush marketing over a stunt featuring dozens of fans wearing orange mini-dresses.

Source: SGGP

Europe faces fresh flight disruptions from ash cloud

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

LISBON, May 10, 2010 (AFP) – The return of a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland was expected to force the cancellation of hundreds of flights Monday but airports reopened in Portugal on the eve of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

About 500 fewer flights would take to the skies in Europe on Monday because of the ash cloud, which would also force transatlantic planes to fly lengthy detours, European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said in a statement.

A plane takes off from Vienna Airport on May 10, 2010 in Schwechat some 25 kilometer east from Vienna. AFP photo

Lisbon airport, where Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive on Tuesday for the start of a four-day visit, reopened Monday at 9:00 am, four hours ahead of schedule because the ash cloud had moved away “more quickly than expected”, civil aviation authority NAV spokeswoman Sofia Azevedo told AFP.

The airport in the northern city of Oporto also reopened as did all seven airports in neighbouring Spain, including at Bilbao and Santander, which were closed on Sunday because of the risk posed to engines by the ash.

But Eurocontrol warned that during Monday afternoon “areas of higher ash concentration could move in a north-easterly direction from the Atlantic into the Iberian Peninsula”, leading to fresh flight disruption in Spain and Portugal.

Elsewhere airports reopened in Austria, England, Germany, Ireland and Scotland, except for the airport at Barra island in the west.

But transatlantic flights were suffering delays, especially those departing from London’s Gatwick airport.

A Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Orlando in Florida that should have departed at 11:15 am was delayed until 4:15 pm while another flight to Las Vegas was pushed back to 5:45 pm from 11:25 am.

Flights to Canada and the Caribbean were also suffering delays.

No airports were closed in Bulgaria on Monday but officials in the country said there was a risk that the ash would affect its skies later on Monday.

The eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano on April caused travel chaos worldwide, with airspace closed over several European nations for a week last month because of fears the ash would damage aircraft engines with fatal results.

It was the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers affected.

Recent images have shown activity in the volcano intensifying.

Experts at Britain’s Met Office said Sunday it was sending ash up to heights of 30,000 feet (9,100 metres). 

Source: SGGP

Greek unions call fresh protests ahead of austerity vote

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Greek unions mobilised Thursday for new demonstrations against draconian austerity cuts as the government raced to push the unprecedented measures through parliament a day after deadly rioting.

A protest near the Parliament building in the center of Athens.

The main unions called their members to new protests from 6 pm (1500 GMT) undeterred by the deaths of three people, reportedly including a pregnant woman, in a firebombed Athens bank the previous day when demonstrations degenerated.

Condemning “the fires, blind violence, vandalism”, the million-member GSEE private sector union said in a statement “we are determined to pursue and extend our struggle to meet our fair demands.”

As the government insisted it would not back down on the austerity drive, eurozone leaders scrambled to keep Greece’s debt crisis from spreading to other highly indebted countries like Spain and Portugal

The European Central Bank held one of its most crucial meetings ever in Lisbon to rein in the Greek debt crisis while eurozone leaders prepared to meet on Friday in Brussels to contemplate the future of their embattled bloc.

As unions prepared for a fresh round of demonstrations, Greek lawmakers were debating the government spending cuts and tax hikes with voting on the legislation due to begin in the afternoon.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told parliament the austerity drive, which eurozone countries and the IMF have demanded in return for a bailout, was the only option.

“The only way to escape bankruptcy is to accept the aid money, which reaches 110 billion euros… and the precondition is to agree on the three-year austerity plan,” Papaconstantinou said during the debate.

Average Greeks voiced sadness and bitterness in the streets of central Athens as the nation was still reeling from the shock killing of the bank workers.

“I’m sad and I’m angry because those people who threw the Molotov cocktails don’t respect the lives of other people,” said Chris, a 30-year-old who works for a small private company and who participated in the demonstrations.

Anita, who works in a bank not far from the bank that caught fire, said that the firebombing blamed on young hooligans was “the saddest thing that could ever happen to Greece”

“I was working in my bank, we saw the fire, it could have happened to me”,” she said. “This has nothing to do with the protests, the demonstration was peaceful.”

As protestors marched on Wednesday against the government’s plans to avert national bankruptcy and the strike shut down much of the country, some demonstrations turned violent.

Demonstrators tried to storm the parliament and hooded youths hurled petrol bombs at stores and businesses in central Athens, prompting police to respond with tear gas and charges.

Police said two women and one man died at a branch of the Marfin bank which caught fire after rioters broke a window and threw Molotov cocktails inside.

One of the women who died was four months pregnant, according to doctors quoted by the Greek press.

At least two other buildings — the Athens prefecture and one used by tax officials — caught fire after other firebomb attacks on the margins of the protests.

The general strike was the first major test of the Socialist government’s resolve to push through unprecedented measures since agreeing to a 110 billion euro (143 billion dollar) EU and IMF debt bailout at the weekend.

Officers arrested at least 12 people in Athens and another 37 in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where protestors also targeted stores and banks in the city centre before riot police dispersed them.

The violence in Athens sparked concerns on global financial markets that Greece’s huge bailout could veer off course and that its debt crisis could engulf other countries.

The euro dived to the lowest level for more than one year as the deadly protests in debt-plagued Greece cast a shadow over the future of the eurozone and the single currency, dealers said.

Moody’s ratings agency on Thursday warned that the fallout from the Greek debt crisis presented a risk of “contagion” for the credit rating of banks in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Spain helped investors immediate fears of contagion after the government successfully raised 2.345 billion euros in the country’s first debt sale since its credit rating was cut last week.


Source: SGGP

Fresh bird flu outbreak hits Bac Kan

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

The Department of Health has confirmed two more cases of bird flu in patients from the northern province of Bac Kan’s Cho Moi District, a health official reported April 15.

People should not contact with ill poultry to prevent contract bird flu ( Photo: WHO)

The two people were taken to hospital in the province in serious condition, said Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga of the Preventive Health and Environment Department.

The patients are from the same village where several other cases of avian influenza were reported earlier, causing concern that the area has become a hotspot for the illness and that human-to-human transmission could potentially occur.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tran Nhu Duong, deputy director of the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said the institute recently appointed two groups to conduct an epidemiological investigation of the village.

The groups found that the two latest cases became infected after  coming into contact with infected poultry, adding there was no evidence to suggest the patients had contracted the flu from other infected individuals.

Bird flu has claimed two lives in Vietnam so far this year.

In related news, Dr. Nga said four provinces have recently reported cases of cholera. He expressed concern that a large outbreak of the disease could soon occur as the prolonged sweltering weather that Vietnam is experiencing is conducive to development of the cholera bacteria, which causes acute diarrhea and can be fatal if left untreated.

The hot weather has also reduced water levels in lakes and rivers in southern provinces, forcing people to resort to using dirty water sources where the Vibrio cholera bacterium thrives.

In addition, food is more prone to spoilage in hot weather, which can create favorable conditions for cholera to develop.

Health officials advise people to practice good personal hygiene and keep food preparation areas clean. Food should be cooked well and water should be boiled before drinking. People should also wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating or handling food.

Source: SGGP

Mekong Delta faces forest fire threats, fresh water shortage

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 5:36 am

Many forests are under the threat of wildfires and thousands of households lack fresh water in Mekong Delta provinces as the hot weather persists, local reports say.

Deeper seawater intrusion into the mainland is also making things more difficult for delta residents.

Two farmers in Soc Trang Province pump water from a canal into their field. Saltwater from the sea has entered rivers and gone upstream into most provinces in Mekong Delta, causing a severe shortage of fresh water for farming and daily use.

In Kien Giang Province, more than 26,000 hectares of cajuput forest in An Minh, Hon Dat and Kien Luong districts are affected by drought and facing a high risk of fire, officials say.

The Kien Giang Forest Management Department says it has coordinated with local authorities to implement many measures to protect the forests, including having rescue teams and vehicles on the ready.

Thousands of hectares of forests in An Giang, Long An and Ca Mau provinces are also facing a fresh water shortage and the risk of forest fires.

In the delta’s coastal areas, seawater intrusion poses a serious threat to land and freshwater sources.

In Tien Giang Province, seawater has penetrated 30 kilometers inland, and officials say the Van Giong canal has to be closed soon.

The Tien Giang Irrigation Department is worried about 6,000 hectares of winter-spring rice crop that are threatened by seawater intrusion.

In Ben Tre Province, seawater has penetrated 22 kilometers inland, and fresh water shortage is occurring on a large scale in coastal communes such as Thach Phuoc, Thua Duc and Thoi Thuan in Binh Dai district.

The Chairman of Thach Phuoc Commune People’s Committee, Ngo Van Thu, said a severe shortage of fresh water has affected 10,400 households who are having to buy it at VND2,000 for 40 liters.

Irrigation experts have forecast that seawater intrusion and shortage of fresh water will become more serious over the next several months, and might only ease off after May.

Some believe it is necessary for local governments to have strategic water resource management plans, including building works to control the volume, quality and movement of water bodies in the region.

They also need to have viable schemes to promote agriculture and aquaculture in order to help farmers avoid making huge losses, the experts say.


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share