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Posts Tagged ‘Govt’

Gov’t ups education budget, support for ethnic minorities

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:08 am

Gov’t ups education budget, support for ethnic minorities

QĐND – Tuesday, January 04, 2011, 20:42 (GMT+7)

The education budget will be 2.9 percent higher this year at 5 trillion VND (256 million USD), according to the Ministry of Education and Training.

Nguyen Van Ngu, head of the Ministry’s Finance and Planning Department, said it would fund 100 percent of normal expenses by high schools and pre-university training schools for ethnic minorities, which are free.

This includes 2.8 billion VND (143,600 USD) for scholarships and allowances for the students, according to Ngu.

While public universities and colleges offering economics and finance streams will be provided funds for all their normal as well as one-off expenses, those offering other streams will be subsidised in part.

The amount earmarked for regular expenses is around 4.2 trillion VND, an increase of 11.9 percent over 2010.

The amount to be spent on training a student will increase by at least 17 percent at the university and college levels and 52 percent at the doctoral level.

More than 99 billion VND will be earmarked for the Ministry’s advanced programmes.

The HCM City and Hanoi Open Universities , National Economics University , Hanoi University , Foreign Trade University , and the HCM City University of Economics will get a total of 38 billion VND (1.9 million USD) for buying equipment and building facilities.

Viet-Duc University and the University of Sciences and Technology in Hanoi will get 28 billion VND.

“Universities and colleges are in better financial shape now after tuition and enrollment fees were raised in 2010,” Ngu added.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

Gov’t to advance $3 mln equivalent to flood-hit provinces

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:29 am

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has directed the Ministry of Finance to advance VND61.6 billion (US$3 million) out of total VND335 billion from the central budget to eight central provinces which have been damaged by the recent floods. 

File photo of houses flooded in Ninh Hoa District, Phu Yen Province (Photo: SGGP)

The money is expected to help flood victims buy seeds, domestic animals, and restore production, which the floods have caused.

On December 3, PM Dung decided to extract VND335 billion (US$16.75 million) from the State budget and 8,600 tons of rice from the National reserve to support and assist the central provinces to recovered from the consequences of the recent flooding.

The chairperson of the eight provinces people’s committees will be responsible for the distribution of the money for the correct purpose.

The PM’ has decided to distributed the money to the following provinces: Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, Dak Lak and Gia Lai provinces.

In related news, Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang on December 7 worked with leaders of the Phu Yen Province. This was to ensure that water release from hydropower plants, and the price stabilization was in place, during the upcoming Lunar New Year Holiday Celebrations.

The Provincial People’s Committee asked the government to supply an extra of 2,000 tons of rice, 1,000 tons of seed, 10,000 litres of pesticides to help residents restore production and prevent environmental pollution.

The province also asked the government to support VND185 billion (US$9.2 billion) to upgrade irrigation works in the area.  Mr. Hoang said that he would send a report to the government about the province’s petitions.

Source: SGGP

City calls on Gov’t to halt 20 hydropower projects on Dong Nai River

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Iraqi leaders not following US advice on gov’t

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 7:53 am

American influence has so dwindled in Iraq over the last several months that Iraqi lawmakers and political leaders say they no longer follow Washington’s advice for forming a government.

Instead, Iraqis are turning to neighboring nations, and especially Iran, for guidance — casting doubt on the future of the American role in this strategic country after a grinding war that killed more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers.

“The Iraqi politicians are not responding to the U.S. like before. We don’t pay great attention to them,” Shiite lawmaker Sami al-Askari, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Thursday. “The weak American role has given the region’s countries a greater sense of influence on Iraqi affairs.”

In this Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010 file photo released by the Iraq Prime Minister’s office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, meets with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Baghdad, Iraq.

Vice President Joe Biden, the administration’s point man for Iraq, has doggedly lobbied Iraqi leaders, both on the phone and in six trips here over the past two years.

Iraqis, however, measure U.S. influence largely by its military presence, which dipped by threefold from the war’s peak to 50,000 troops in late August. As a result, Baghdad is now brushing off U.S. urgings to slow-walk a new government instead of rushing one through that might cater to Iran.

“The Iranian ambassador has a bigger role in Iraq than Biden,” said a prominent Kurdish lawmaker, Mahmoud Othman. He said the Americans “will leave Iraq with its problems, thus their influence has become weak.”

One problem which could worsen as a result is the sectarian divide — particularly if the secular but Sunni-backed Iraqiya political coalition, which won the most votes in the March election, is left out of a new Shiite-led government led by al-Maliki.

Many Iraqis, particularly minority Sunnis, would view such a government as “blessed by Iran and evidence of America’s relative weakness,” analyst Michael Knights wrote on the website of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This perception could lead to a surge in violence.

Washington, which has its hands full with the war in Afghanistan and the hunt in Pakistan for Osama bin Laden, sees Iraq as “the bane of everyone’s existence lately,” said one senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomatic issues.

But Iraq cannot afford to ignore completely what Washington wants. For one, that could bring the end of U.S. help and financial backing to broker $13 billion worth of contracts for military equipment.

It also would all but dash any hopes by Baghdad to re-negotiate a security agreement that is set to expire at the end of 2011 — a needed step to keeping some U.S. forces in Iraq to continue training its fledgling air force and protect its borders. A senior Iraqi military official predicted the new government, once it is settled, ultimately will ask U.S. troops to remain beyond next year.

U.S. alliances with Mideast nations to which Baghdad seeks to cozy up also cement American influence in Iraq, said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center think tank in Doha.

“In that, I think the U.S. is still pretty well positioned in terms of getting its voice heard in Iraq,” Shaikh said. But he agreed that the U.S. carries less sway in Baghdad than it used to: “If it was such an easy thing to exert influence, then wouldn’t Iraq have had a government by now?”

More than seven months have passed since March 7 parliamentary elections failed to produce clear winners, and Iraqi politicians say they will pick new leaders on their own timetable.

Othman said the lengthy impasse, despite heavy U.S. pressure to form a government that includes all of Iraq’s major political players, shows that Baghdad doesn’t really care what Washington wants.

“Yes, the Americans have their view on how to form an Iraqi government,” Askari agreed. “But it does not apply to the political powers on the ground and it is not effective.”

U.S. officials initially encouraged the Iraqis to form a government quickly, but recently started pushing for a slowdown after it became apparent that a party led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was poised to play a major role.

The U.S. clearly hopes to stall the formation of a new government long enough for the deal unravel between al-Maliki and al-Sadr, whose hardline Shiite followers are close to Iran.

But the days of the U.S. calling the shots in Iraq are long over — largely because of President Barack Obama’s intent to scale back America’s presence more than seven years after the invasion which ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime.

That’s led Iraqi leaders to reach out to Mideast neighbors for support and advice on brokering a new government. Leaders from rival political coalitions in the last several months have been to Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia on official visits. On Thursday, al-Maliki was in Ankara to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It is Iraq’s newly warmed alliance with Iran that worries the United States.

In a development that may have assured him a second term, al-Maliki this month won al-Sadr’s backing. And this week, top Iranian officials gave al-Maliki their clearest nod of support yet during his trip to Tehran.

“Our concerns about Iran and its meddling in Iraq’s affairs are long-standing,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington this week. “But that said, we would expect the Iraqi government to work on behalf of its own citizens and not on behalf of another country.”

In Cairo this week, al-Maliki predicted a new government will be formed soon. A senior Iraqi government official said that will happen regardless of whether the U.S. blesses it, though he acknowledged that Baghdad would be weak without American support. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

“There is U.S. influence in the political process and forming of the government, but less so than before,” said Sunni lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi. “As they (the Americans) begin to withdraw their military, the Iranians are taking advantage of the empty space, and are ready to fill the vacuum.”

Source: SGGP

One dead as Typhoon Megi hits Philippines: govt

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 6:24 am

MANILA, Oct 18, 2010 (AFP) – Typhoon Megi claimed its first victim in the Philippines on Monday with authorities reporting that a fisherman had drowned as the storm brought heavy rain and strong winds.

The man drowned in a river in the northern city of Tuguegarao on Monday morning as Megi approached the area, the nation’s civil defence chief, Benito Ramos, told reporters.

Military rescuers and volunteers prepare life-saving equipments at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila on October 17, 2010. AFP

The northeastern provinces of Cagayan, in which Tuguegarao is situated, and Isabela, were the first to feel the impacts of the typhoon.

Megi, dubbed a “super-typhoon” by government relief agencies, was just off the northeastern coast of the Philippines at 11:30 (0330 GMT), packing wind gusts of up to 260 kilometres per hour, the government weather station said.

Megi was expected to cut across the northern part of Luzon throughout Monday, then exit out towards Vietnam on Tuesday, the weather station said.

The highest level of a four-step storm alert was raised over Isabela and surrounding provinces while lower alerts were in effect over most of Luzon.

Isabela and other provinces in Megi’s direct path are mostly agricultural and fishing areas, with a few million residents who are well-drilled in preparing for the many storms that hit each year.

Over 3,000 people had already been moved from their homes in the northern provinces as part of a “pre-emptive evacuation” of threatened areas, the civil defence office said.

Flights to and from northern Luzon were also suspended and ships there were told not to leave port.

Military, police and relief agencies had positioned supplies and rescue units to provide swift assistance to any affected areas, the civil defence office reported.

Rubber boats, large trucks, heavy equipment and rescue divers were all on standby, ready to be dispatched to areas hit by floods or blocked by landslides, the office said.

The US military and UN representatives were also due to meet with President Benigno Aquino to see how they could help, GMA television reported.

The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons a year, some of them deadly.

More than 1,100 people were killed when tropical storm Ketsana and typhoon Parma struck Luzon within a week of each other in September and October last year, triggering the worst flooding in recent history.

Source: SGGP

11 killed, dozens missing in Indonesia boat sinking: govt

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 11:21 am

KUPANG, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – At least 11 people were killed and more than 30 are missing after a passenger boat went down in waters off eastern Indonesia on Monday, the country’s search and rescue agency said.

“We have found 11 dead bodies and still look for about 32 people that went missing,” National Search and Rescue Agency spokesman Gagah Prakoso told AFP.

At least 11 people were killed and dozens are missing after a passenger boat went down in waters off eastern Indonesia (AFP photo)

The boat set sail carrying about 60 passengers at 07.30 am (2330 GMT on Sunday) and capsized two hours later off Flores island, in East Nusa Tenggara province, he said.

Local police chief Abdul Rahma Aba said that the inter-island vessel was struck by high waves which caused panic among passengers before it capsized about two miles from shore.

Prakoso said that 17 passengers were found alive and searchers including local fishermen continued to hunt for survivors.

The Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is heavily dependent on maritime services but its safety record is poor, and fatal accidents are common.

Up to 335 people were killed when a heavily overloaded ferry sank off Sulawesi island in January last year. In December 2006 a ferry went down in a storm off the coast of Java, killing more than 500 people.

Source: SGGP

Japan hangs two in first executions under centre-left govt

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 3:18 am

TOKYO, July 28, 2010 (AFP) – Japan hanged two men for murder on Wednesday in the first state executions since the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan took power last September, officials said.

One of the convicts, Kazuo Shinozawa, 59, killed six people by setting fire to a jewellery store northeast of Tokyo, and the other, Hidenori Ogata, 33, injured or killed four people north of Tokyo, reports said.

Japan last executed prisoners when it put to death three inmates, including one Chinese national, for multiple murder in July last year when the conservative Liberal Democratic Party ruled the country.

Capital punishment is overwhelmingly supported by the public in Japan, which has one of the world’s lowest crime rates, although the DPJ has in the past said it favoured public discussion on the topic.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International in a report last September accused Japan of keeping death row convicts in conditions that are “cruel, inhuman and degrading” and were tipping many into insanity.

The group said that at the time 97 inmates were awaiting death by hanging in Japan, with no idea if or when they would be put to death, leading to a state of uncertainty that creates enormous mental stress.

Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who is known as an opponent of the death penalty, said she attended Wednesday’s executions herself, and also announced that she planned to release more details about the process in future.

Source: SGGP

Afghan gov’t: Soldier shot Americans amid argument

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm

An Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. civilian trainers at an army base in northern Afghanistan, killing two Americans before being shot dead, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

An argument started during a weapons-training exercise and the Afghan soldier turned his gun on the Americans on Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement. Another Afghan soldier was killed in the resulting crossfire, and the shooter was later gunned down.

NATO previously said two Americans and two Afghan soldiers were killed by gunfire at a firing range outside Mazar-e-Sharif, but it did not provide details on how the incident occurred.

A U.S. Army soldier from the 1-320th Alpha Battery, 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division searches an Afghan villager during a foot patrol towards COP Nolen, in the volatile Arghandab Valley, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The shooter was a “group leader” — an Afghan soldier selected to train other soldiers on the base, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.

Intentional shootings by Afghans against coalition partners have occurred previously. Earlier this month, an Afghan soldier killed three British service members with gunfire and a rocket-propelled grenade in the dead of night.

The soldier fled after that attack, leaving his motive unclear. But the Taliban claimed he was a militant sympathizer taken in by insurgents after the assault.

In November, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand.

The attacks come as the international coalition ramps up training of Afghan soldiers and police so they can take responsibility for securing the nation. U.S. civilian contractors — many of them retired police or soldiers — often work on Afghan army bases as trainers.

The allies set an interim goal of expanding the Afghan army from 85,000 in 2009 to 134,000 troops by October 2011. The speed with which Afghan security forces are growing has raised concerns about infiltration by the Taliban and the professionalism of the forces.

Source: SGGP

BP, US govt search for new fix to oil spill

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Oil is seen on the surface of the water in Gulf of Mexico. AFP photo

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – BP officials desperately searched Monday for a new way to stop an enormous Gulf of Mexico oil spill after efforts to cap a gushing leak with a containment dome hit a snag.

British energy giant BP, which owns the lion’s share of the leaking oil and has accepted responsibility for the clean-up, was facing the possibility that, failing a swift fix with the containment dome, the crisis could spiral into an even worse environmental calamity

The White House also was scrambling to contain fallout from the disaster threatening to take a toll on President Barack Obama’s political and energy agenda.

In Washington Obama on Monday would meet with Cabinet members and senior staff “to review BP efforts to stop the oil leak, as well as to decide on next steps to ensure all is being done to contain the spread, mitigate the environmental impact and provide assistance to affected states,” a White House statement said.

The Minerals Management Service also said it “continues to work with BP to explore all options that could stop or mitigate oil leaks from the damaged well.”

The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank some 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

The riser pipe that had connected the rig to the wellhead lies fractured on the seabed a mile below, spewing out oil at a rate at some 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day.

Sheen from the leading edge of the slick has surrounded island nature reserves off the coast of Louisiana and tar balls have reached as far as the Alabama coast, threatening tourist beaches further east.

Sea life has been affected in a low-lying region that contains vital spawning grounds for fish, shrimp and crabs and is a major migratory stop for many species of rare birds.

The 2.4-billion-dollar Louisiana fishing industry has been slapped with a temporary ban in certain areas due to health concerns about polluted fish.

BP, facing a barrage of lawsuits and clean-up costs soaring above 10 million dollars a day, had pinned its hopes on a 98-ton concrete and steel containment box that it successfully lowered 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) down over the main leak.

But the contraption lay idle on the seabed as engineers furiously tried to figure out how to stop it clogging with ice crystals.

BP officials were said to be considering using a smaller container that might be less prone to clogging.

Capping the leak with a smaller box would ensure the oil and seawater mixture inside the container is warm enough to prevent the formation of a slush that had clogged the larger container, according to geochemist David Valentine of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Untold damage is already being done by the 3.5 million gallons estimated to be in the sea so far, but the extent of that harm will rise exponentially if the only solution is a relief well that takes months to drill.

Admiral Thad Allen, head of the US Coast Guard, suggested a “junk shot” was being considered to plug the main leak.

“They’re actually going to take a bunch of debris, shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that and under very high pressure shoot it into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up and stop the leak,” Allen, who is leading the US government’s response, told CBS television.

But experts have warned that excessive tinkering with the blowout preventer — a huge 450-ton valve system that should have shut off the oil — could see crude shoot out unchecked at 12 times the current rate.

There are also fears the slick, which covers an area of about 2,000 square miles (5,200 square kilometers), could be carried around the Florida peninsula if it spreads far enough south to be picked up by a special Gulf current.

“You are talking about massive economic loss to our tourism, our beaches, to our fisheries, very possibly disruption of our military testing and training, which is in the Gulf of Mexico,” Florida Senator Bill Nelson told CNN.

BP began drilling a first relief well one week ago, but that will take up to three months to drill — by which time some 20 million gallons of crude could have streamed into the sea and ruined the fragile ecology of the Gulf.

Source: SGGP

British parties report ‘progress’ in govt talks

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm

The front door of 10 Downing Street in London. AFP photo

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s main opposition parties voiced hope Monday they could soon strike a deal on forming a new government to break a four-day post-election deadlock.

Negotiating teams from David Cameron’s centre-right Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s centrist Liberal Democrats held an hour-and-a-half of talks before coming out to consult with their leaders.

William Hague, one of the four Conservative negotiators, said there had been “further progress” in the talks. “The negotiating teams are working really well together.”

Lib Dem negotiator Danny Alexander echoed these comments, saying “further progress has been made” and that he was going to report to Clegg and fellow lawmakers.

Earlier, Clegg told reporters that politicians were “working flat out, around the clock” to secure a deal, promising an announcement “as soon as is possible.”

If the two parties do strike a deal, it would likely pave the way for Cameron to become prime minister, taking over from Gordon Brown who is still in office despite his Labour party falling to second in Thursday’s polls.

Brown’s centre-left Labour has been putting pressure on the two opposition parties to announce an accord or admit failure in the hope that the Lib Dems could still do a deal with his party.

Finance Minister Alistair Darling urged the Conservatives and Lib Dems to strike an accord within hours to reassure financial markets and the country as a whole.

“I don’t think it will do any good to let this process drag on,” he told BBC radio. “I hope by the end of today they can decide whether they can do a deal or not.”

Fears that London’s stocks would be hit by the political uncertainty Monday proved unfounded as it surged over five percent, largely on the European Union agreement for a huge rescue deal for eurozone countries.

Whether or not the Conservatives and Lib Dems agree a deal, Brown — who remains prime minister due to a constitutional quirk — is expected to have to resign within days.

Even if there is no Tory/Lib Dem deal which would force him out of office, there are suggestions he could stand aside to make any subsequent talks on a deal between Labour and the Lib Dems easier.

Thursday’s general election delivered a hung parliament — where no one party has overall control — for the first time since 1974.

The Conservatives won the most seats and pushed the ruling Labour party into second.

But under Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system, it was not enough to for them to govern alone and they are trying to win the extra support needed to rule by working with the Lib Dems, who came third.

Besides the main power-sharing talks, a series of other meetings involving the parties were scheduled throughout the day.

Cameron met Clegg Sunday for the second time in 24 hours, a further sign the two sides could be inching towards a deal, and the pair spoke again by telephone Monday.

Brown also met Clegg at the weekend, in a meeting described by sources as “amicable” — and on Monday Sky News television reported that they had met for a second time.

One key potential stumbling block the Tories and Lib Dems face is reaching agreement on reforming the voting system. This is one of the Lib Dems’ key policies but is opposed by the Conservatives.

Clegg has hinted he may compromise on electoral reform but the goal is cherished by many Lib Dem activists.

Any alliance involving the Lib Dems which threatens their “independence of political action” has to be approved by party lawmakers, the ruling executive and potentially the full membership in a complex system known as the “triple lock”.

If a deal cannot be done, Cameron could try to rule as leader of a minority Conservative government, relying on ad hoc support from smaller parties.

Source: SGGP