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No end in sight for Haiti rebuild: minister

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:11 am

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 6, 2011 (AFP) – It’s not clear when Haiti will be fully rebuilt, with five years needed just to rehouse the government, a top minister told AFP as the anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake approached.

The grim assessment by Jacques Gabriel, minister for public works, transport and communication, reflects how Haiti is struggling a year after the January 12 earthquake killed more than 220,000 and left some two million people homeless — about 20 percent of the population.

Kettely Gadet, one of many disabled by the earthquake that devastated Haiti nearly one year ago, is seated on a concrete bench January 6, 2011 in Port-au-Prijnce. AFP

“The task will be very heavy, not just in the city, but in the provinces that were concerned and perhaps nationally,” Gabriel told AFP in an interview at his temporary office in the once picturesque, now squalid and half-ruined capital Port-au-Prince.

“It’s hard to give a time-frame, to say ‘two, three, five years.'”

Gabriel, a trained engineer, said even rehousing the government of this stricken nation, where the presidential palace lies in ruins, is not imminent.

“The state should be able to finance the construction of the administrative complex in the next five years,” he said in the interview Wednesday.

Haitians living in fetid tent camps are furious that a year after the disaster they are no closer to moving back into real houses. About 1.3 million people had to take shelter in camps, with another 600,000 cramming in with relatives and other hosts.

Aid groups estimate that only five percent of the rubble has been cleared, impeding attempts to rebuild. Officials say that only 40 percent of the rubble will have gone by August, a year and a half after the tragedy.

Former US president Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate relief efforts, called that performance “totally unacceptable,” while Oxfam says “indecision” is to blame for the lack of progress.

Gabriel admitted that of 390,500 buildings surveyed, less than 1,000 have been repaired by the Haitian authorities.

But he said that rebuilding on such a large scale simply can’t be done quickly.

“We have made an evaluation of the damage caused by the quake and we are working on a reconstruction plan for the city center in Port-au-Prince,” he said.

“Before rebuilding, you need studies, a global approach, a vision of how to rebuild, what to rebuild, in what conditions and in what ways, taking into account the seismic hazard.”

Defending himself against widespread accusations of going too slow, he said, “you also need to educate people, train technicians and build in a new way to avoid new catastrophes.”

A first big rehousing project is due to be launched on Wednesday, the anniversary, with a planned construction of 3,000 apartments in a neighborhood near the flattened presidential palace.

“It is a project for public housing with high-rises, but respecting the seismic norms, and housing hundreds of families,” he said.

Source: SGGP

No letup in carbon emissions, scientists warn

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

Boat sinks in central province, no injured reported

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

Emirates says no plans to ground A380 jets

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

Qantas drama: Lufthansa has no plans to ground A380 jets

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 10:55 am

No survivors from French helicopter crash in Antarctica

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 11:41 am

SYDNEY, Oct 30, 2010 (AFP) – Australian rescuers on Saturday confirmed there were no survivors from a helicopter crash involving four Frenchmen in Antarctica.

“They have confirmed that all four on board didn’t survive the impact of the crash and the French team are currently conducting recovery operations,” an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman told AFP.

The AS350 Squirrel helicopter went missing Thursday after taking off from the French research ship Astrolabe, carrying a pilot, a mechanic and two staff from the Dumont d’Urville French Antarctic research base.

A distress beacon was activated but heavy weather hampered search efforts. An Australian air force plane eventually spotted the wreckage on Friday, with three bodies sighted among the debris.

The AMSA spokeswoman said a French helicopter touched down at the crash site, 100 kilometres from the French base, on Saturday afternoon and an onboard doctor confirmed there had been no survivors.

Australian and American officials from McMurdo Base were assisting with the recovery of the bodies and wreckage, she added. Responsibility for the matter was expected to be transferred to the French authorities by evening.

Officials had held little hope for the men, with rescuers spying three bodies strewn among a large field of debris when the wreckage was first spotted Friday. AMSA had described it as an “unsurvivable” incident.

The helicopter was last observed at an altitude of just 29 feet (10 metres), travelling at only 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour), sparking initial hopes that it had decided to land due to the extremely low visibility.

Dumont d’Urville, the main French Antarctic base, is situated on an island close to the magnetic south pole and is frequently buffeted by hurricane-strength katabatic winds, the force of which can prevent helicopters from landing.

The east Antarctic is known as the “home of the blizzard”.

The icebreaking Astrolabe carries out regular round trips between the southern Australian port of Hobart and the base from November through to March, carrying both supplies and personnel.

It is currently icebound several hundred kilometres from the Dumont d’Urville base.

A vast colony of emperor penguins live near to the base, which was the backdrop for the hugely popular 2005 movie “March of the Penguins”.

Subjects under research at the base include earth sciences, atmospheric studies and biology.

Source: SGGP

‘No risk’ of currency war: Geithner

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

There is “no risk” of a global currency war erupting, despite recent currency interventions by nations ranging from Japan to Colombia, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said.

Geithner acknowledged in an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show” broadcast on Bloomberg TV that Brazil has made reference to the possibility, but he brushed aside fears.

“They used that phrase,” Geithner said. However “there is no risk of that.” Geithner’s comments came despite a failure this weekend by the world’s top finance officials meeting in Washington to reach a consensus on measures that could head off a potential currency battle.

A Chinese bank worker counts US dollar notes alongside stacks of 100-yuan notes in central China’s Anhui province

In a statement, the International Monetary and Financial Committee — the policy arm of the IMF — on Saturday stopped short of any specific call on China or others to change policies of using a low currency and accumulation of reserves to boost exports.

The International Monetary Fund steering committee, which has been struggling to address friction among key economies including China and the United States, noted “tensions and vulnerabilities” due to “widening global imbalances” but said the organization should continue to study the situation

Geithner on Saturday said the IMF “must strengthen its surveillance of exchange rate policies and reserve accumulation practices,” adding that “excess reserve accumulation on a global scale is leading to serious distortions in the international monetary and financial system.”

Recent IMF figures showed Beijing had currency reserves of 2.447 trillion dollars, the largest in the world and nearly 30 percent of the global total.

Washington maintains that China purchases large amounts of dollars to keep the yuan artificially low, which distorts global trade by boosting Chinese exports.

Source: SGGP

No tax on farmers for agricultural land

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 3:52 am

No tax on farmers for agricultural land

QĐND – Thursday, September 09, 2010, 21:34 (GMT+7)

The ministries of Finance and Agriculture and Rural Development are asking the Government to retain its tax-free policy for agricultural land from 2011 to 2020.

The policy, effective since 2003, has helped around 11.2 million farmer households save a total of 2 million tonnes of rice, according to the ministries. Each farmer has saved 50,000 VND (3 USD) annually.

The ministries have targeted to not collect this tax after 2020.

In other news, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs will not begin a national survey on poor households until the Government approves new standards.

During the 2006-10 period, households with an average income under 260,000 VND (14 USD) a month for each member in urban areas and under 200,000 VND (11 USD) a month in rural areas, were considered poor.

But in 2011-15, standards would rise up to 500,000 VND and 400,000 VND for urban and rural residents, respectively. Under the new standard, there would be 3.3 million households, or 16.5 million poor people.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

No injury reported in two accidents inside Hai Van Tunnel

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

No injury was reported in a lorry flame and a truck turnover as they went through the Hai Van Tunnel between Hue and Danang City Wednesday.

Entrance to Hai Van Tunnel (Photo: Q. Vu)

A lorry while going through the tunnel at 7AM blazed inside the tunnel. Hai Van Road Tunnel Management and Developing Company and firefighters of the central city of Da Nang arrived on the scene to extinguish the fire but the incident has caused traffic congestion in 20 minutes in the tunnel.

According to police, the accident happened may be due to electric fire risk.

Before the accident, a truck transporting over 30 tons beers from Hue to Da Nang had turned over suddenly when it passed through the tunnel, barricading the entrance into the tunnel.

It resulted in an enormous traffic jam all along the tunnel in 14 hours.

The truck was at last moved away the tunnel by the rescue crews and traffic flow again.

Source: SGGP

Pentagon says no to ‘sanitized’ WikiLeaks release

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 at 7:22 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Pentagon has contacted a lawyer purporting to represent WikiLeaks but said it would not negotiate a “sanitized” release of a huge cache of classified documents held by the whistleblower’s website, a recently released letter has shown.

The Pentagon released the letter from its general counsel after WikiLeaks said the US military was willing to discuss the removal of sensitive data from the 15,000 unreleased Afghan war documents in the website’s possession.

(AFP file) The headquarters of the Pentagon are seen in Washington, DC.

WikiLeaks has already released nearly 77,000 leaked US military documents about the war and is preparing to publish the remaining ones despite criticism that doing so could endanger lives of informants or others named in the documents.

Jeh Charles Johnson, the Defense Department general counsel, sent the letter dated August 16 to a post office box in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in the name of Timothy J Matusheski.

In the letter, Johnson says he understood WikiLeaks wanted a conversation with someone at the Pentagon about “harm minimization” in reference to the documents, but that he had been unable to reach Matusheski at an agreed upon time to convey the Pentagon’s position.

“Thus, the Department of Defense will not negotiate some ‘minimized’ or ‘sanitized’ version of a release by WikiLeaks of additional US government classified documents. The Department demands that nothing further be released by WikiLeaks,” the letter said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Pentagon had had no direct contact with either Matusheski or WikiLeaks, and had released Johnson’s letter in response to “misrepresentations” by the website.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic spokesman for WikiLeaks, earlier said the US military had a change of heart this week and told the website it was prepared to talk about helping to remove sensitive details from the files.

“I am aware that (the US military) has expressed the willingness to open a dialogue on that,” Hrafnsson told AFP. “It is obviously not the intention of WikiLeaks to put anybody in direct harm so these documents are being reviewed and this process is ongoing.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said the second batch of documents was set aside because they were “more likely to contain personal identifying information,” and therefore required line by line review.

The website says it has repeatedly asked the Pentagon for help analyzing the remaining documents, and Assange said at the weekend he wanted to avoid publishing the “names of innocent parties that are under reasonable threat,” but needed help.

Earlier this month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates pronounced WikiLeaks “guilty” on moral grounds for releasing the documents and accused the website of recklessness.

General David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, blasted the release on Sunday as “reprehensible” and said they placed people working with the international forces at risk.

“As we have looked through it more and more, there are source names and in some cases there are actual names of individuals with whom we have partnered in difficult missions in difficult places,” he said in an interview Sunday.

The documents were raw data and not top secret, but their release was “beyond unfortunate” and a “betrayal of trust,” added Petraeus, who said he had no knowledge of what might be in the next batch.

Assange, an Australian former computer hacker, had pledged on Saturday to go ahead with the release of the 15,000 new documents, insisting WikiLeaks “will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group.”

The first installment included allegations that Pakistani spies met with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up.

But the documents also included names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives.

WikiLeaks has never identified the source of the Afghan files but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst under arrest for allegedly leaking video of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Baghdad in which civilians died.

Source: SGGP