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Ministry moves to prevent drop-outs

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:03 am

Ministry moves to prevent drop-outs

QĐND – Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 21:34 (GMT+7)

The Department of Student Activities has asked teachers to keep a close watch on students in danger of dropping out of school after Lunar New Year Festival, which falls on early February this year.

Every year as many as 30 per cent of students across the country drop out of school at this time, the start of Spring, according to Nguyen Dinh Manh, deputy director of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Department of Students Activities.

“Our policy is not to let students leave schools because they lack money or books,” he said.

Schools with poor students must report to district departments so that support can be given in the form of school fees, books or free lunches.

“If district authorities do not have enough funds, they can ask the Department of Students Activities for support,” said Manh, adding that People’s Committees in wards have the responsibility of getting students back to class.

“If students get bad marks in the first term, school managing boards can consider letting them do the test again,” he said.

Manh added that local authorities could also arrange for some students to continue their studies in vocational training schools.

Educational experts say that the number of students dropping out of schools generally increases after Lunar New Year Festival.

By the end of November, more than 7 percent of students nationwide had already left.

The provinces with most dropouts include Long An, An Giang, Dong Thap, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu.

“In the North, Thanh Hoa province has the highest number of students dropping out of schools,” said Manh.

Last school year more than 1,000 of students in the province left after Tet.

Nguyen Tai Hiep, principal of the Cam Ba Thuoc High School in Thuong Xuan district in Thanh Hoa, said that last school year, 130 students in his school dropped out after the first term.

“They were from poor, remote communes and found it beyond their means to rent accommodation,” he said.

Hiep said some students also found it difficult to learn – 9th, 10th or 11th graders who wanted to find jobs and earn money to help their parents.

“This school year, families in central provinces have little money after the storms destroyed their livelihoods and found it difficult to pay for schooling” he said.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

Citing deficit, Gates moves to cut US defense budget

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:10 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Citing “dire” fiscal pressures, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed deeper cuts than planned in US military programs, scaling back ground forces for the first time since the 1990s.

Gates, in a compromise with the White House, said the 78 billion dollars in cuts and other measures would result in a slower pace of growth in defense budgets over the next five years, despite earlier plans to keep spending at a higher rate.

The proposed cuts will require reducing the size of the Army and the Marine Corps in 2015-16, with the Army reducing its force by 27,000 troops and the Marines by 15-20,000, he told a news conference.

The US Army and Marines have not faced reductions since the post-Cold War cuts in defense spending in the 1990s, and the size of the ground force — unlike the Air Force and Navy — has expanded since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

AFP file – A US soldier gets a hand to climb a wall during a patrol in Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan.

The decision reflected the shifting political climate in Washington, with the spotlight on the government’s deficit overshadowing a long-running focus on national security after 2001.

The Pentagon chief said he would have preferred to avoid such cuts, “but this country’s dire fiscal situation and the threat it poses to American influence and credibility around the world will only get worse unless the US government gets its finances in order.”

As a major portion of the US budget, “the Pentagon cannot presume to exempt itself from the scrutiny and pressure faced by the rest of our government” to scale back spending, he said.

Some Republican leaders in Congress promptly criticized the proposed budget as a threat to the military’s health, while some budget hawks have argued for much deeper cuts in defense spending.

Gates said the Pentagon needed to steer a middle course without dramatic cuts, but insisted the bureaucracy had to change the way it operated.

“This department simply cannot risk continuing down the same path — where our investment priorities, bureaucratic habits, and lax attitudes towards costs are increasingly divorced from the real threats of today, the growing perils of tomorrow, and the nation’s grim financial outlook,” he said.

Despite talk of fiscal constraints, the vast American defense budget still far exceeds other countries and comes as European allies face drastic cutbacks to core military programs.

Gates had hoped to avoid any cuts that directly affected the fighting force but said the reductions in the Army and Marine Corps will not come until 2015 — when Washington hopes Afghan forces will take over responsibility for their country’s security.

The Army is currently at 569,000 troops, after a temporary increase of an additional 22,000 troops, and the Marine Corps has about 202,000 personnel.

The proposed defense budget for fiscal year 2012 will reach 553 billion dollars, growing at a modest rate of three percent, he said. But future budgets will gradually be scaled back to zero real growth in 2015 and 2016, Gates said.

Gates, mindful of a growing push to rein in the country’s deficit and national debt, has for months signaled plans to find tens of billions in savings in the defense budget with the aim of preserving key military programs.

The department found 150 billion dollars in savings that were meant to be plowed back into the defense budget, but the White House demanded a cut of 78 billion in military spending over the next five years.

The Pentagon used savings in overhead costs of 54 billion dollars to meet the White House request, but Gates still had to find an additional 24 billion.

The additional savings were found by adjusting economic forecasts for budgets in coming years, streamlining plans for the F-35 fighter and cutting the Army and Marine Corps, he said.

Gates confirmed that the cuts included cancelling an amphibious landing craft favored by the US Marine Corps, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which he said had been plagued by repeated delays and rising costs.

Apart from cancelling the amphibious craft, Gates also proposed changes in the costly F-35 fighter jet program, putting the troubled Marine version of the aircraft on a two-year “probation” to resolve persistent technical problems.

For more cost savings, Gates proposed streamlining the Defense Department’s “sprawling intelligence apparatus,” maintaining a freeze on hiring civilians for three years, eliminating more than 100 general and senior officer positions and scrapping nearly 400 internal reports.

Source: SGGP

Storm that smacked Northwest moves to Utah, Idaho

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:51 am

A ferocious storm that crippled much of the Pacific Northwest barreled into the Rockies on Tuesday, causing whiteout conditions on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Utah, where Interstate 84 and Interstate 15 were temporarily shut down in northern Utah because of windy, snowy conditions that led two tractor-trailers to jackknife and block traffic. Even once the roads were reopened, visibility was still very limited there and elsewhere in the state as many commuters made their way home on snow-covered roads.

Numerous schools, governments and businesses in Utah closed hours earlier than normal Tuesday because of the storm, with state traffic officials warning the evening commute could take four times longer than usual.

U.S. Army Spc. Ron Washington walks from his Humvee and past stuck cars on the Alaskan Way Viaduct to check on the gridlock on the highway Monday, Nov. 22, 2010,

Of nearly 300 flights scheduled to take off from Salt Lake City International Airport Tuesday evening, nine had been canceled, although it wasn’t immediately clear if all of those were caused by the storm.

Highway officials told holiday travelers earlier in the day to get out of town now or risk being stranded on Thanksgiving.

In the western part of Utah, empty eastbound semitrailers on Interstate 80 were being held near the Nevada line to prevent them from tipping over in the windy salt flats.

At least three deaths in Washington state have been blamed on the storm, including a man struck and killed outside his car Monday night on snowy Interstate 5 in Tacoma. Officials in Portland, Ore., also were investigating whether a man whose body was found along the Willamette River died from the cold.

Thanksgiving travel was dicey throughout the region, with many highways too dangerous to drive. In Seattle, icy roads kept airline crews from getting to the airport, and people who missed their flights because of the dangerous drive were trying to rebook on already crowded planes.

The weather service said 2.5 inches of snow fell at the airport Monday, breaking the old record for the date of 1.5 inches in 1977.

The tiny central Washington town of Waterville became a refuge when the blizzard blasted across the scattered wheat fields and sagebrush along U.S. Highway 2.

“We got sideways snow. We’ve got snow that’s going up, stuck up under things. Snow is everywhere, because it’s been so windy,” Dave Lundgren, owner of the Waterville Historic Hotel, said Tuesday. “We’re definitely going to be looking for inside things to do.”

Even cold-hardened Alaskans were complaining about the weather, with freezing rain making travel hazardous if not impossible. Fairbanks was among the hardest-hit; schools closed and most government agencies and military bases told nonessential workers to stay home.

“I don’t think the roads can get much worse,” said David Gibbs, emergency operations director for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Andy Haner, a weather service meteorologist in Seattle, said the storm blew down from Alaska before turning toward the Northern Rockies.

“Sometimes we call them ‘inside sliders’ because they slide down the Inside Passage from Alaska,” he said.

Citrus growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley prepared to fight off crop-damaging frost as a cold front moves into the region.

The storm reached the Salt Lake City area during the evening commute.

That’s what happened Monday night in Washington. Slick roads, blowing snow and temperatures in the mid-20s turned rush hour in Seattle and nearby cities into an hours-long crawl. Some motorists gave up after being stuck for five hours or more and returned to their offices or just left their cars at the side of the road.

Winds gusting to 65 mph made matters worse by cutting off power for tens of thousands of utility customers in Western Washington. Puget Sound Energy said it was doing all it can to restore electricity to tens of thousands of customers who lost power in the Monday night storm, but some could still be in the cold and dark on Thanksgiving.

Spokane and Eastern Washington were hit with even stronger winds and colder temperatures, staying well below zero overnight.

Tuesday dawned bright, sunny and cold over much of the state as crews hurried to plow and deice roads. Most schools closed, including the University of Washington’s three campuses.

Annie Wicken, an employee at a Seattle supermarket, said her boss practically begged her to make the hours-long, multi-bus journey to work.

“I hope people will still try to shop and get their Thanksgiving stuff,” she said while waiting at a bus stop.

Emergency shelters opened throughout the region to warm the homeless. In Olympia, the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties scrambled to find people with four-wheel-drive vehicles to deliver more than 400 Thanksgiving meals to homebound seniors.

“We feel like these people get shortchanged enough in life. We’re bringing them a meal no matter what happens,” said the center’s Emma Margraf.

Two people were killed Monday when their car slid on a snowy road at Cowiche near Yakima and collided with another car, the Washington State Patrol said. Another man died when he was struck outside his car Monday night on snowy Interstate 5 in Tacoma.

The patrol Tuesday launched a plane equipped with a heat-seeking camera to look for stranded motorists from Seattle south to Olympia. It said that in the 24 hours ending at 10 a.m., troopers had responded to 1,557 collisions and 1,274 disabled motorists statewide.

Much of Northwest will get a cold but brief break to dig out and maybe brave travel for the Thanksgiving holiday before more snow that could arrive by Wednesday night.

Source: SGGP

VN-Index moves backward due to investors’ hesitation

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Movements of VN-Index on September 29. (Photo:’s benchmark VN-Index stepped backwards on September 29 as investors hesitated to buy. Most investors did not participate the trading session before having oriented its trend.

The measure of 259 companies and five mutual funds listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange shed 0.48 percent, or 2.19 points, to finish at 452.94 points.

Trading volume fell to the lowest level since August 24 as just around 33.1 million shares worth VND897 billion changed hands.

Among the index members, 42 advanced, 173 declined, while 49 remained unchanged.

Ocean Group Joint Stock Company (OGC) had 1.01 million shares traded to become the most active share in volume. It also was the only share whose trading volume was above 1 million shares today.

Logistics company Vinafco Joint Stock Corporation (VFC) followed with 940,150 shares.

Vietnam Export Import Commercial Joint Stock Bank (EIB) came in third with 919,550 shares.

Power Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Company 1 (TV1) slumped 24.15 percent to VND15,700. The company will issue 2 million shares to pay dividends for the year 2009 in cash at a ratio of 20 percent. Moreover, it will also issue 5.4 million additional shares to its current shareholders at a ratio of 10:5.4, and at a price of VND10,000 per share.

Cuu Long Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Corporation (DCL) and Sacombank Securities Joint Stock Company (SBS) both slashed 5 percent to VND47,500, and VND24,700 respectively.

Quoc Cuong Gia Lai Joint Stock Company (QCG) sank the first time in eleven days, erasing 4.92 percent to trade at VND30,900.

DESCON Construction Corporation (DCC) soared 4.8 percent to VND26,200.

National Seed Joint Stock Company (NSC) rose 4.72 percent to VND37,700.

Southern Seed Corporation (SSC) added up 4.59 percent to trade at VND31,900.

The smaller bourse in the north failed to maintain rising momentum due to poor demand. The Hanoi’s HNX-Index reduced 2.76 points, or 2.12 percent, to 127.41 points. Trading volume was at 33.5 million shares, a value of VND842.7 billion.

The UPCoM-Index lost 0.09 points to 46.98 points as of 11:20 am local time. Around 0.5 million shares changed hands at VND7.1 billion.

Source: SGGP

Haiti moves towards first post-quake election

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 31, 2010 (AFP) – Election candidates in Haiti are jockeying this week ahead of a registration deadline for key November polls, the first since January’s deadly earthquake.

Haitian President Rene Preval (C) and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez (L) place the first stone for the construction of a university campus on July 31, 2010 in Ouanaminthe, 346 km north of Pört-au-Prince. AFP

The vote is seen as a key step towards rebuilding the country and its political institution, and has attracted speculation that hip hop star Wyclef Jean may make a run for president.

The UN meanwhile said it would guaranteeing security for the vote and other international bodies also promised a strong monitoring presence.

“Everything is ready. We are perfectly capable of giving the necessary assistance to Haitian authorities,” Edmond Mulet, the UN secretary general’s representative in Haiti, said ahead of the August 7 registration deadline

Some 70 political parties and coalitions have registered so far for the national elections, originally scheduled for February 28 and March 3, to choose a successor to President Rene Preval, along with all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the members of the Senate.

The vote was postponed after the devastating January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.

Among potential candidates is Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean, who has been coy about whether he intends to stand.

A statement released by his family Friday said Jean, who grew up and lives in the United States, would make a public announcement later in the week.

“At this time, (Jean) remains committed to helping people in his homeland of Haiti and has not made a final decision on whether to seek elected office,” the statement said.

A UN Goodwill Ambassador for Haiti, Jean has worked since January to bring much-needed attention to the poverty-stricken nation, holding fundraisers in the United States and escorting Hollywood stars on visits around the ravaged capital Port-au-Prince.

Six months ahead of the end of his term in February 2011, some here are calling for the incumbent Preval to step down early, accusing him of trying to hold onto power or manipulating the electoral council.

Preval, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

On Thursday, the Organization of American States (OAS) and regional umbrella group for Caribbean nations (CARICOM) promised a thorough observer mission to monitor the electoral process, from candidate registration until the proclamation of results.

“This is the largest, longest and most expensive mission ever undertaken by both organizations,” OAS and CARICOM diplomats said.

The elections are being held as Haiti — which has suffered political turmoil for decades — tries to recover from the chaos caused by the January earthquake.

The Caribbean nation — the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — has had a long history of dictatorship followed by years of political turmoil and civil unrest.

In 2004, some 1,000 US Marines followed by thousands of UN peacekeepers brought order to Haiti after a bloody rebellion against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rule. A provisional government was then installed.

Quake survivors say poor governance, corruption and shoddy construction magnified the effects of the 7.0-magnitude January quake, which was much less powerful than an 8.8-magnitude quake in Chile in February, but cause far more damage and loss of life.

Source: SGGP

Mekong moves against use of cholera-tainted river water

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 8:35 am

The cholera-causing bacterium has contaminated Mekong Delta rivers, medical workers say, prompting local authorities to move against the use of river water for household activities, which is common in delta provinces.

Although the virulent vibrio cholera virus is usually found in mollusks living in brackish water, the bacterium has also been found living in fresh river water in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, where over 30,000 households still use unclean water from rivers for cooking and washing.

Residents in the Mekong Delta have the habit of using river water for cooking and washing (Photo: SGGP)

Experts have warned that the outbreak could become pandemic in Ben Tre.

Ben Tre provincial authorities have reported scattered occurrences of cholera in Mo Cay Nam, Mo Cay Bac, Thanh Phu, Chau Thanh and Giong Trom districts recently.

Local medical clinics have sent sanitization teams to affected areas to disinfect homes and workplaces and to distribute chloramines that can clean tainted water of the bacterium.

The Ben Tre Province People’s Committee has ordered all ice manufacturers in the districts of Mo Cay Bac, Mo Cay Nam and Giong Trom to halt operations for ten days.

Ice makers are known for freezing unclean river water for sale. The order would be extended to the whole province if the outbreak of the disease is not curbed, local officials said.

Medical workers have cautioned that a vast outbreak of cholera could plague the Mekong delta if residents don’t stop cooking and washing with tainted water.

Recent outbreaks stand as a stern warning.

The Mekong provinces of Ben Tre, Tien Giang, An Giang and City Can Tho have reported over 50 people infected with cholera and over 500 persons suffering from acute diarrhea.

After a three month hiatus, medical workers in An Giang province confirmed four cholera cases in the city of Long Xuyen and the neighboring district of Cho Moi. An Giang has had a total of 18 cholera cases since the beginning of 2010, but local experts have yet to track the cause of the infections.

Source: SGGP

Israel moves to ease four-year siege on Gaza

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:29 am

United Nations trucks carry supplies into Rafah town after crossing the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on June 16

Israel approved on Thursday a plan to ease its blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after weeks of international pressure, but provided few details on what new goods would be allowed in.

The security cabinet’s decision was a response to mounting calls to ease the four-year blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory following a deadly May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships.

Under the plan, Israel would “liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza (and) expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision,” a brief government statement said.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would maintain its naval blockade and inspect all goods entering by land.

“The intention is to ensure that more goods can enter, but always after an Israeli check, which will ensure that there is no weaponry, no arms and no materials which could be used for warfare,” he said in a statement.

Hamas swiftly rejected the move, which senior leader Ismail Radwan dismissed as an attempt to “relieve the pressure” on Israel after the flotilla incident.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority also rejected the move, with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat calling it a “public relations ploy.”

“President Mahmud Abbas demands the complete lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip,” he told AFP. “He believes there are no partial solutions.”

The plan is reportedly based on understandings reached by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair that call for switching from a list of allowed items to a list of banned goods.

It would also allow the entry of more construction materials for UN projects to rebuild homes and infrastructure destroyed during a devastating 22-day war Israel launched on Gaza in December 2008 to halt rocket attacks.

Blair called the decision an “important step” and said in the coming days he would help thrash out the details on behalf of the Quartet, which consists of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

The United States and the United Nations also welcomed the move.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the easing “a step in the right direction.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was “encouraged” by the decision but wanted a fundamental change in the Jewish state’s posture, his spokesman said.

Currently thousands of products — some as banal as toilet paper and ginger — are listed by Israel as constituting a “security” risk and prevented from reaching the territory’s 1.5 million residents.

The list also includes construction materials, such as metal pipes and cement, which Israel fears could be used for building rockets and constructing underground bunkers and tunnels.

Raed Fatuh, a Palestinian official who coordinates shipments, said he had been told Israel would allow in kitchen and office supplies, toys, mattresses and towels starting on Tuesday.

Israeli authorities had already expanded the list of permitted goods in recent weeks, allowing in snack foods, condiments and other household items.

Until now most such goods have been brought into Gaza through smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Egypt and sold at inflated prices, while Gaza’s own private sector and factories have almost completely shut down.

An Israeli group that has closely tracked the closures said it was unclear whether the new plan would allow the kind of regular commerce needed to revive the economy in Gaza, where 80 percent of residents rely on foreign aid.

“I am definitely underwhelmed. Our concern is that Gaza residents have a right not just to consume but to produce and to travel,” Sari Bashi, the director of the Gisha Centre for Legal Aid, told AFP.

“We don’t need cosmetic changes, we need to allow the free passage of goods and persons into and out of Gaza, subject only to reasonable security checks.”

The border closures came under renewed criticism after Israel’s deadly commando raid on ships trying to run the blockade, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead.

Israel has argued the closures — imposed when one of its soldiers was seized by Gaza militants in a deadly June 2006 raid and tightened a year later when Hamas took over — are needed to contain the Islamist movement.

In the cabinet decision, Israel said it “expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” now 23, who is believed to be held by Hamas at a secret location in Gaza.

Source: SGGP

Government moves to upgrade IT infrastructure

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Government moves to upgrade IT infrastructure

QĐND – Tuesday, June 08, 2010, 20:59 (GMT+7)

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has requested the Ministry of Information and Communications to complete submissions for a Government strategy to upgrade the country’s information technology (IT) infrastructure by 2020 by this Thursday.

The Ministry of Science and Technology will co-ordinate with the Ministry of Justice and other relevant agencies to draft further submissions to the Prime Minister before June 25.

If successful, the project, designed by the Ministry of Information and Communications, will transform Vietnam into a ‘strong IT nation’ by 2015, lift the country’s information technology rank on the list of the International Telecommunication Union to 70th or higher, and increase total revenue of the IT sector as a percentage of GDP from between 17 to 20 percent.

Longer term, the strategy aims to lift Vietnam to a ranking of 60th or higher in the Union’s list and increase the information communication sector’s contribution to GDP to between 20 and 23 percent.

In response to the strategy, the ministry has outlined six phases of implementation:

To continue developing and improving telecommunications infrastructure; to extend access to telephones, audio-visual equipment and computer systems nationwide; to develop IT applications in State-run agencies; to develop IT solutions that serve the daily needs of the people: to develop an IT-skills base in the labour market: and to support international IT cooperation.

Highlighting the importance of IT in the public sector, Dung emphasised in April: “In this era, the development of IT application for the operation of State-run agencies is a matter of urgency for our country.”

IT applications will enable the smooth and uniform operation of State agencies. This is essential to maintain a harmonious relationship between the people, the business community and state agencies. It is also a necessary component of reforming the Government and State agencies to ensure democracy and transparency, improve effectiveness, and increase efficiency of public administration.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

Israel moves to expel Rachel Corrie activists, crew

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2010 at 10:18 am

JERUSALEM (AFP) – All activists and crew on board the Rachel Corrie aid ship which tried to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza would be expelled from Israel on Sunday, an Israeli immigration official told AFP.

“Everyone on board the boat will be expelled on Sunday after they signed a waiver renouncing their right to appeal to an Israeli judge,” said Sabine Haddad.

She said six Malaysian nationals and a Cuban would leave Israel through the Allenby crossing into Jordan, while the remaining 11 people would fly out of Israel from Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv.

An Israeli flag flutters in the foreground as the Rachel Corrie aid ship enters the military port of Ashdod in southern Israel. AFP photo

Immigration officials earlier said the process had been delayed after the five Irish nationals, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, had initially refused to sign the waiver.

Israeli forces intercepted and seized control of the Rachel Corrie on Saturday as it tried to reach the Gaza Strip, in a peaceful operation which had a radically different outcome from an earlier raid on an aid flotilla that left nine dead.

The Irish-owned 1,200-tonne vessel was escorted into the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, and the activists and crew were taken to the Holon immigration centre near Tel Aviv for questioning.

Israel said its forces boarded the Rachel Corrie — named after a US activist killed in 2003 as she tried to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from razing a Palestinian home — “with the agreement” of those on board.

“Our forces boarded the boat and took control without meeting any resistance from the crew or the passengers. Everything took place without violence,” a military spokeswoman told AFP.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation.

“We saw today the difference between a ship of peace activists, with whom we don’t agree but respect their right to a different opinion from ours, and between a ship of hate organised by violent Turkish terror extremists,” he said.

Saturday’s outcome stood in stark contrast to a botched navy operation against a six-ship flotilla on Monday, which ended in the deaths of nine activists — eight Turks and a US-Turkish citizen.

But the latest takeover prompted a furious response from the Dublin-based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

“For the second time in less then a week, Israeli forces stormed and hijacked an unarmed aid ship, kidnapping its passengers and forcing the ship toward Ashdod port,” it said.

The Rachel Corrie was carrying around 1,000 tonnes of aid and supplies, half of which was reportedly cement which is barred by Israel which fears it could be used by the Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip to build fortifications.

Saturday’s operation came at a sensitive time, with Israel diplomatically isolated after Monday’s deadly raid.

The bloody end to that humanitarian mission unleashed fury, with several thousand people protesting across Europe on Saturday, including an estimated 10,000 in Istanbul.

Turkish prosecutors are reportedly examining the possibility of prosecuting Israeli leaders over the raid.

Angry protesters chanting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Palestinian and Turkish flags also took to the streets of Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Paris as well as other French cities on Saturday.

In Lebanon, two pro-Palestinian groups launched a fund-raising campaign to buy a ship which they hoped to sail to Gaza next week.

A senior UN official on Sunday said the botched raid should be used as a reason for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“We very much want to see what’s happened, or use what’s happened, tragic as it is, as an opportunity to try to… persuade Israel to change policy,” the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Holmes told AFP in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Britain said on Sunday it was giving 19 million pounds (27 million dollars, 23 million euros) for refugees in Gaza and repeated calls for Israel to lift its blockade of the territory, which has been in place since 2006 when the Islamist Hamas movement formed a government after sweeping parliamentary elections.

Source: SGGP

Rival Thai ‘Yellows’ discuss moves as ‘Reds’ rally on

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

BANGKOK, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Thailand’s pro-establishment “Yellow Shirt” movement gathered in their thousands on Sunday to discuss their response to month-long anti-government protests that left 23 dead in clashes last weekend.

The country is split between “Red Shirts”, who largely support ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and their yellow-clad rivals who hit the streets ahead of a 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin and again to see off his allies in 2008.

Red Shirt anti-government protesters rest during an on going rally in the main shopping district in Bangkok on April 18, 2010. AFP photo

The yellow protest group, backed by the country’s elite, has kept a low profile since the Reds’ mass rallies began in mid-March but began a meeting early Sunday to discuss the kingdom’s troubles.

“We are having a meeting today because we know that now the country is in crisis,” said Parnthep Pourpongpan, a spokesman for the group formally known as the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

“We have the PAD representatives from different provinces coming to analyse the situation and lay out the structure for long-term solutions. There are 3,000 to 5,000 people joining the meeting today,” he said.

The Yellows’ protests in 2008 culminated with a damaging blockade of the capital’s main airports that stranded thousands of travellers.

As they met at a Bangkok university Sunday, the Reds were also meeting to discuss their next move, eights days on from deadly clashes with security forces that left 23 people dead and more than 800 injured.

The Reds, who are demanding snap elections, have since abandoned their rally spot close to where the violence took place to instead reinforce numbers in a Bangkok district which is home to luxury hotels and shopping malls.

Leaders of the Reds have said they would hand themselves in to police next month as they brace themselves for a new army push to disperse them from the key district.

They have so far ignored repeated calls by authorities to disperse from the commercial heartland, despite arrest warrants outstanding against core leaders.

“On May 15, 24 of us will surrender. All of the leaders,” said one of the top Reds, Nattawut Saikuar, on Saturday. “For now the 24 of us will keep rallying to show sincerely that we won’t run away,” he said.

“I’m sure the order to suppress us will come out soon.”

He said the plan was designed to avoid another attempt by security forces to forcibly arrest them, but added they would seek bail.

The mostly poor Reds accuse the government of elitism and being illegitimate as it came to power after a parliamentary vote that followed a controversial court verdict ousting Thaksin’s allies.

The military has said it will make a renewed attempt to disperse the protesters but has given no further details of its plans.

Late Friday embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva handed broader powers to his army chief Anupong Paojinda, after a bungled operation to arrest some protest leaders at a hotel in Bangkok’s northern outskirts.

Earlier Friday commandos stormed a hotel where several Red Shirt leaders were hiding, but the mission ended in dramatic failure after the suspects fled, with one climbing down an electric cable from a third floor balcony.

The setback to the authorities came almost a week after the army tried in vain to clear an area of the capital of anti-government demonstrators, triggering the country’s deadliest civil unrest in 18 years.

The government has asked the police’s special investigation unit to probe the bloodshed, blaming “terrorists” for inciting violence and accusing Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft, of stoking the unrest.

Source: SGGP