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US probe shares out ‘systemic’ blame for oil spill

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:12 am

A US panel has spread blame for the deadly Gulf of Mexico oil spill beyond BP to Halliburton and Transocean, accusing all three of “systemic” management failures that could happen again.

The presidential commission’s assessment was part of its final report on the deadly April blowout of BP’s Macondo well, which killed 11 workers and spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over three months.

It said oil services giant Halliburton and offshore drilling group Transocean were also very much at fault in ignoring key warnings and failing to take the necessary precautions to avert the massive spill.

A dead sea turtle lies on a beach in Waveland, Mississippi at the height of the US Gulf oil spill

The blowout “was the product of several individual missteps and oversights by BP, Halliburton and Transocean, which government regulators lacked the authority, the necessary resources and the technical expertise to prevent,” read the advance chapter. The full report is due out next week.

Transocean owned the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon platform that sank in the accident. In October, Halliburton admitted skipping a key cement test before the blowout, but blamed BP for not testing the integrity of the job.

The root causes of the blowout were “systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur,” the report said.

“Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money).”

Saying it supported the presidential commission’s probe into the incident, BP stressed that preliminary findings concluded that “the accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple companies.”

The beleaguered firm said it was working with regulators and the industry “to ensure that the lessons learned from Macondo lead to improvements in operations and contractor services in deepwater drilling.”

It cited launching a new division devoted to safety and operational risk that reports directly to the firm’s CEO Bob Dudley and will provide “independent oversight” of safety-related operational decisions.

The findings “only compound our sense of tragedy because we know now that the blowout of the Macondo well was avoidable,” said former Florida senator Bob Graham, the commission’s co-chair.

“This disaster likely would not have happened had the companies involved been guided by an unrelenting commitment to safety first. And it likely would not have happened if the responsible governmental regulators had the capacity and will to demand world class safety standards.”

According to the report, the Macondo well blew out when a series of “separate risk factors, oversights and outright mistakes combined to overwhelm the safeguards” designed to prevent such an event.

“But most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure — a failure of management,” it added.

“Better management by BP, Halliburton and Transocean would almost certainly have prevented the blowout by improving the ability of individuals involved to identify the risks they faced, and to properly evaluate, communicate and address them.”

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator William Reilly, another co-chair of the commission, pointed to a “system-wide problem.”

The seven-member panel was set up by US President Barack Obama and tasked with finding out what caused the accident.

Source: SGGP

Diseases break out in southern region

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:59 am

The number of children and the elderly infected with respiratory diseases, dengue fever and cholera has soared in Ho Chi Minh City and southern provinces.

For a short period, there was a lull in these diseases, however, lately; they have come back in force.

Eating food from street vendors might be one of reasons why people develop diarrhea (Photo: SGGP)

At the HCMC Children Hospital No.1, the respiratory department has been overwhelmed with 200-230 children a day. There are only 100 sick beds in the hospital, and several children have been treated for pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma.

In addition, the number of children hospitalsed is also on the rise, and most of them come from the Mekong Delta.

Similarly, in the HCMC Children Hospital No.2, respiratory and digestion departments are overcrowded with sick children. The hospital has treated at least 3,000 children a day, several of them suffering from respiratory and digestion diseases.

A doctor said that on average, he treats about 60 to 70 children a day, but now it is over 100 children a day. 

The Pasteur Institute in the city said that since the beginning of the year, the southern region has been infected with over 64,800 patients suffering from dengue fever, with 65 people dying from this disease.

The dengue fever spread to 16 of 20 provinces and cities in the region. Furthermore, An Giang, Ben Tre, Binh Duong and Dong Thap provinces have seen an increase in the number of patient dying from the disease.

Every week in HCMC over 500 people are hospitalized due to dengue fever and that is an increase of 50 percent over the same period last year.

In addition, recently a child has died and two others hospitalized for cholera in the Binh Chanh District of HCMC.

Nguyen Dac Tho, deputy director of HCMC Preventive Medicine Center, said “that the polluted environment around accommodation areas have triggered the disease”.

To cope with the outbreak, the HCMC Department of Health has ordered relevant organizations to implement stricter health measures to prevent any more disease from spreading, especially cholera.

The department has also instructed the district authorities to warned residents about the dangers of poor food hygiene, particularly using water from contaminated sources, thereby contributing to water-born diseases.

Source: SGGP

HCM City to lift farmers out of poverty

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 at 2:21 am

Sweden says US has carried out secret surveillance

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

Sweden says US has carried out secret surveillance

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hospital rolls out blindness prevention plan

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 11:21 am

Yemen probes air parcels amid pressure to root out Qaeda

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

SANAA (AFP) – Yemen on Saturday launched a probe after explosives were found in air parcels sent to US synagogues from its territory by suspected Al-Qaeda militants whom it is under renewed pressure to eliminate.

With alarms bells going off across the world, US President Barack Obama said on Friday that the two packages which originated from Yemen were destined for Chicago synagogues and were a “credible terrorist threat.”

Obama blamed Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate of being responsible for the packages which were intercepted in Dubai and the East Midlands airport in Britain en route to the United States on board cargo planes.

Police in Dubai said on Saturday that the air parcel intercepted in the Gulf city-state “bears the hallmarks of those used by terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda.”

Yemen — the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — said it opened an investigation and would not let up its fight against global terrorism.

Security and civil aviation authorities “have begun an investigation” into the suspicious packages, a Yemeni government spokesman was quoted as saying Saturday by the state-run Saba news agency.

“This probe is being carried out in coordination with the competent authorities in the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States, and its results will be announced in due time,” the official said.

“Yemen will continue to conduct efforts to fight against terrorism in cooperation with the international community,” he said, adding: “Terrorism is a peril that threatens the entire world.”

The discovery of the packages sparked an international security alert on Friday.

Probes were underway in Britain to see if one of the packages intercepted at East Midlands airport was a “viable” bomb, British Home Secretary Theresa May said on Saturday.

In the United States investigators swept cargo planes for possible Al-Qaeda bombs.

US media reported the packages contained a wire-rigged ink toner cartridge and suspicious powder and may have contained the explosive PETN.

“We will continue to pursue additional protective measures as long as it takes to ensure the safety and security of our citizens,” Obama told a special news conference at the White House.

The two packages from Yemen contained explosive material and were a “credible terrorist threat,” the US president said, as the White House thanked Saudi Arabia for tipping it off.

Obama made it clear he suspected AQAP of being behind the plot.

“Although we are still pursuing all of the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen,” Obama said.

“We know that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies.”

Washington has pressed Yemen to track down US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to high-profile terror plots in the United States and believed to be hiding in the Arabian Peninsula country.

Awlaqi is accused by Washington of having had links with Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people in November 2009.

He is also suspected of having had ties to the September 11 hijackers, and with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day last year.

But analysts say that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is also under pressure from the country’s influential tribes, whose backing he needs for his political survival.

“Some tribes like the Hasheds who used to back Saleh are now… allying themselves with groups who support Al-Qaeda,” said Sanaa university professor Adel al-Shaeh.

Source: SGGP

China reaches out to tiny, resource-rich East Timor

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

A jade elephant rears majestically in the corner as patrons tuck into their burgers and fries at one of only three US-style fast-food joints in East Timor, all of which are Chinese owned and operated.

The currency might be the same — the greenback is the unit used in East Timor — and the food is generic, but Brothers Burger restaurant in the dusty capital Dili is not just a slavish copy of its US progenitors.

Part of it is set aside for a compact little toy store, stocked to the rafters with games, gadgets and stuffed animals imported, of course, from China.

Against another wall is a selection of plastic, made-in-China jewellery.

And just in case diners need to leave the country after their meals, they can get their passport photos taken at a Chinese-made booth beside the back door.

Construction work by a Chinese firm begins on the East Timor ministry of defence and military headquarters in Dili

Manager Priscilla Soh said the restaurant’s owners, China-based Brothers Enterprises, specialised in “general supply” so it was only natural to combine the two-year-old eatery with some other sidelines.

“If you dare to come and dare to take the risk then you can earn a profit. I really encourage my Western friends who want to come and invest here,” she said.

As for her Chinese fiends, she said: “It’s not easy because there are too many Chinese here already.”

The burger joints form a meaty new middle layer of Chinese investment in East Timor, a resource-rich country of only around one million people which broke free of Indonesia in 1998 and remains dependent on foreign aid.

At the bottom end of the scale are typical family-run, shophouse-style businesses. At the other is the munificent hand of the Chinese state.

Beijing has lavished millions of dollars on a new presidential palace, a cavernous foreign ministry worthy of a country twice East Timor’s size, and a yet-to-be completed military headquarters.

The buildings are the most impressive new structures in Dili, and have raised more than a few eyebrows across the Timor Strait in Australia, which regards East Timor as part of its regional sphere of influence.

Professor Hugh White, of Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, told ABC radio last month that China’s interest in East Timor is “something Australia needs to pay attention to”.

“Australians have always, going right back into the 18th century, been very sensitive to the idea of major powers projecting force into our part of the world … ” he said.

Sections of the Australian media have made much of East Timor’s purchase in 2008 of two 1960s-vintage Shanghai Class patrol vessels for 25 million dollars, with dark mutterings about “growing military links between Beijing and Dili”.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta is a friend of Australia’s, but he openly scoffs at such fears.

“I can assure Australians that the East Timorese and China are not going to set up a navy and airbase to invade Australia,” he joked during a recent interview with AFP.

Mocking the “idiots who pass for strategic analysts in Canberra”, he said: “Australia can continue to live in peace, they don’t have to rush to learn Mandarin.”

The Nobel laureate noted that his country’s chief military relationship was with Australia, and complained of double standards from those Down Under who worry about China’s influence in East Timor.

“Australians never worry too much when they sell everything to the Chinese… yet when we buy a few little things from China they get upset, like they’re jealous,” he said.

The president added that, if anything, the ledger was in China’s favour, after East Timor awarded a large commercial contract to a Chinese company to build an electricity plant outside Dili.

“This is a 400-million-dollar project paid for exclusively by ourselves, so any aid that China has given us in the last 10 years you can multiply by 10 and it wont even reach the business deal that we signed with them,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Al-Qaeda reaches out armed with English, Internet

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 6:25 am

AFP/SITE – A SITE Intelligence Group image shows a pubilcation by the Yemen based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

DUBAI, Oct. 18 (AFP) – Al-Qaeda has combined the global reach of both the English language and the Internet as cyber-terrorism tools to win over non-Arab sympathisers.

Al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing released the first edition of an online English-language magazine, Inspire, four months ago that included an article on how to build a bomb.

A second, 74-page edition made it to the World Wide Web last week instructing Muslims in Western countries on how to weld deadly steel blades onto SUV vehicles and then plough into civilian crowds.

With Inspire, edited by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group hopes to recruit young Westerners to the jihadi cause and to apparently encourage random attacks.

“This is by no doubt a new experiment” as it “is the first time Al-Qaeda issues an English-language publication,” a Paris-based expert on Middle East Islamist groups, Dominique Thomas, told AFP.

“These messages target Muslim communities living” outside the Arab world, Thomas said.

Philip Seib, a professor at the University of Southern California and co-author of “Global Terrorism and New Media,” believes the terror network has itself become a media organisation.

“It might be time to stop thinking of Al-Qaeda as the terrorist organisation that does media and more as the media organisation that does terror,” Seib said.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, video, audio and written Al-Qaeda statements have mushroomed on the Internet. Now, the network has a complete web-magazine in English.

“This is a shift” in Al-Qaeda’s strategies, said Mustafa Alani, security expert at the Dubai-based think-tank, the Gulf Research Centre.

“Previously, they never cared about non-Arabic readers. This is another dimension of a global war aiming at global recruitment,” he added.

Al-Qaeda “exported” militants, now it “imports” them, it used the Internet to “inform” people, now it’s using it to “recruit” them, Alani said.

Prime contenders for the authors of the new strategy are two Al-Qaeda-linked US citizens, Anwar al-Awlaqi and Samir Khan, both of whom are believed to be in Yemen.

Awlaqi, a 39-year-old American cleric of Yemeni origin, has been linked to US army Major Nidal Hasan who shot dead 13 people in Texas and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a US airliner on December 25.

Fluent in English, Awlaqi is bent on radicalising fellow US and Western citizens and publicly urged American Muslims to follow the example of Hasan in a video message last May.

US President Barack Obama’s administration has authorised his targeted killing, in a rare move against an American citizen.

The other American believed to be behind the strategy is Samir Khan, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, suspected by US intelligence to be an Internet militant who once operated out of his parents’ basement in New York.

“I’m proud to be a traitor to America,” Khan writes in Inspire’s second edition. “I’m proud to be a traitor in America’s eyes just as much as I’m proud to be a Muslim.

In a global campaign, Al-Qaeda has opted for a borderless means of communication to spread its message and encourage militants to join the “jihad” (holy war) from any part of the world.

Inspire lists a number of Al-Qaeda emails, including a Hotmail address.

But the group advises would-be recruits to download encryption software before sending messages in order to “avoid detection from the intelligence services.”

European governments regularly arrest Islamist forum members.

“Anyone, living in any part of the world can direct a jihadi forum from his home,” said Thomas.

Last year, France and Belgium launched a wave of arrests against “webmasters and members of three major forums which diffused jihadist information on the Internet,” said the Paris-based expert.

The forums have since been closed.

“They want to increase their visibility and the logical way to do that is in English. I think it’s successful, as they’re getting attention at very little cost to them … They’re expanding their audience base,” Seib said.

To curb the network’s growing threat, “governments need to make an effort to use the new media in as effective a way as the terrorist organisations have been,” he said. “You just have to fight their information with your own.”

Source: SGGP

PM spells out measures to stabilize prices in rest of 2010

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung October 11 ordered ministries, relevant agencies and people’s committees to adopt measures to stabilize prices and the market in the last months of the year.

Shoppers at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet (Photo: SGGP)

He said the rest of the year might see difficulties in production funds, power supply, demand and supply as well as prices of essential goods. 
To ensure this year’s economic growth rate of 6.5 percent and consumer price index of 8 percent, measures to stabilize the macro-economy and boost production have to be implemented drastically, he added.
He said ministries of Industry and Trade, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health, and Construction have to complete and announce their plans for developing production and distribution systems of staple goods including petrol, fertilizer, construction steel, cement, food, and medicine in the fourth quarter at the latest.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade was ordered to check production capacity and supply system to formulate concrete plans to ensure sufficient supplies of essential goods and services for production and consumption until the first quarter of 2011 and especially during Tet (lunar New Year) 2011.
The Ministry of Finance was asked to order relevant agencies to control pricing factors, determine prices of essential goods, and keep prices of power and coal sold to producers of cement, fertilizer and paper stable.
PM Dung ordered the State Bank of Vietnam to introduce appropriate policies to enable commercial banks to withdraw money from circulation quickly, thus it will help reduce pressure of price hikes, especially in the end of the year when big money will be needed for payment of projects and bonuses.   
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was asked to steer food companies to supply sufficient foods, keep prices stable, and organize distribution systems in industrial parks, and residential and flood-hit areas.  

Source: SGGP