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Posts Tagged ‘tough’

Two Koreas take tough stance as think-tank warns of war

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

The two Koreas are still talking tough one month after the North’s artillery bombardment sent tensions soaring, with Pyongyang threatening nuclear war and Seoul vowing strong retaliation for any new attack.

One day after deploying tanks, artillery and jet fighters in a military show of force, Seoul’s defence ministry said Friday that a giant Christmas tree near the North Korean border would stay lit up till January 8.

The move is likely to anger Pyongyang since the date marks the birthday of its heir apparent Kim Jong-Un. The communist North sees the tree topped with a glowing cross as a provocative propaganda symbol.

The ministry said it hoped to send “a message of peace to the North” and the timing was just a coincidence.

South Korean Army K-9 155mm self-propelled Howitzers fire live rounds during joint air and ground military exercises on the Seungjin Fire Training Field, in mountainous Pocheon.

An international think-tank urged the two Koreas to accept international arbitration to redraw the flashpoint disputed Yellow Sea border.

“Measures must urgently be adopted to reduce the possibility of all-out war”, the International Crisis Group said in a report.

The North said Thursday it was ready for a “sacred war” using its nuclear weapons, as the South held its second live-fire drill in a week.

Pyongyang’s armed forces minister Kim Yong-Chun said the South’s firing drill Monday, on Yeonpyeong island near the Yellow Sea border, was a preparation for a new Korean war.

“The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK (North Korea) are getting fully prepared to launch a sacred war of justice of Korean style based on the nuclear deterrent at any time necessary to cope with the enemies’ actions deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war,” Kim said.

The North on November 23 bombarded Yeonpyeong, killing four people including civilians. Pyongyang said it was retaliating for a South Korean firing drill that dropped shells into waters that it claims are North Korean territory.

The South’s military, accused of a perceived feeble response to last month’s bombardment, has been stressing it will hit back harder next time, using air power.

President Lee Myung-Bak, visiting a frontline army unit Thursday, warned of severe retaliation for any new attack.

“We’ve endured for long enough. We thought we could maintain peace on this land if we endured, but that was not the case,” Lee said. “Now we need to strongly retaliate to maintain peace, deter provocations and prevent war.”

People in the North, the president said, “are almost starving to death, and with the money spent to make atomic bombs, people could live”.

The United States has firmly backed its ally the South and urged China to do more to restrain its own ally, the North.

The North’s latest comments prompted the US State Department to chide it for its “belligerent tricks”.

“We need constructive actions, not heated rhetoric,” spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Despite earlier strong threats, the North did not retaliate for Monday’s firing drill on Yeonpyeong. It also offered nuclear concessions, according to US politician Bill Richardson, who ended a visit to Pyongyang this week.

Richardson said the North agreed to readmit UN atomic inspectors and negotiate the sale of nuclear fuel rods to a third party.

The New Mexico governor, who has longstanding contacts with North Korea, said Thursday the United States should consider resuming talks with the North.

Richardson said a resumption of six-nation talks — under which the North earlier agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in return for aid — could help prevent a new escalation of tensions.

If “they don’t react militarily again to this recent drill, then maybe the time has come for the six-party talks,” he told CNN, referring to the South Korean exercise staged Thursday.

Source: SGGP

US gets tough on shark fins

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

The US Senate toughened laws against shark finning, hoping to save the ancient fish which experts fear is on the brink of extinction due to growing demand in Chinese restaurants.

Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year by fishermen who slice off their fins — a delicacy in Chinese cuisine — and leave them to die in the water. Sharks live long and have few offspring, compounding risks to their survival.

The United States banned finning in 2000 and has enforced restrictions in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The new rules close a loophole that permitted trade in the Pacific so long as sharks were not finned onboard the vessel, triggering a booming clandestine industry.

The legislation cruised through the House of Representatives in early 2009 but had languished in the Senate, which approved the measure without objection on one of the last days of its session.

Fishermen transporting a load of harvested shark fins

“Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans,” said Senator John Kerry, who championed the bill.

“Finally we’ve come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life,” the Democrat from Massachusetts said.

The bill does not ban the sale of shark fin, which is readily available in many upscale Chinese restaurants in the United States.

But conservationists welcomed the bill, saying it would curb a burgeoning but largely undocumented US trade in shark fins.

“This legislation will help address not only an unspeakably cruel practice of removing fins from live animals and then releasing them to suffer a slow death,” said Nancy Perry, vice president for government affairs at The Humane Society of the United States.

“It will also help address on the macro level the rapid decline of shark populations,” she said.

Environmental groups estimate that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year around the world for fins, leading to declines of up to 90 percent of some species of sharks — which have swum the oceans since the age of the dinosaurs.

Despite campaigns from activists, demand for shark fins is seen as growing as China becomes increasingly prosperous.

Matt Rand, director of the shark conservation campaign at the Pew Environmental Group, said he recently heard of shark fins selling in California for an unprecedented 800 dollars a pound, or about 1,750 dollars a kilogram.

“The United States is a major shark exporter,” Rand said. “I think this legislation sends a big signal that the United States is concerned about the decline of shark populations, not just in its own waters but in international waters as well.”

Sharks are caught almost exclusively for fins. While the law does not ban the killing of sharks, all fins entering the United States must have an accompanying carcass.

In one notable incident in 2002, the US Coast Guard seized a Hong Kong-chartered, Hawaii-registered ship that was hauling nearly 65,000 pounds (30,000 kilograms) of just fins — meaning tens of thousands of sharks died.

While closing loopholes, the Senate bill also opened one. To win support from North Carolina’s senators, the law makes an exception for one shark — the smooth dogfish.

Fishermen in the southeastern US state kill the shark for all of its meat instead of just the fins, but objected to the ban because they cut off fins in their ships.

“We had hoped they would adjust their practices so there wouldn’t be any loophole,” Perry of the Humane Society said. “But that was done to get the legislation over the finish-line.”

Source: SGGP

Badminton: Top seeds faces tough task at Asian Games

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Spanish government approves tough austerity plan

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

MADRID, May 20, 2010 (AFP) – The Spanish government Thursday approved a 15-billion-euro (18.8-billion-dollar) austerity plan aimed at reining in the huge public deficit, as thousands of workers protested against the measure.

The plan was approved at a cabinet meeting as public sector workers took to the streets to vent their fury at the measures, which include a five percent pay cut for civil servants.

Unions have also called a strike of civil servants for June 8.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez De la Vega acknowledged that approving the measures, which must still be passed by parliament, “has not been an easy decision to take” but the government “is also aware that it is not easy to accept.”

“We are confident of the understanding of all because these are necessary and essential measures which a responsible government had to face while thinking of the future of all,” she told a news conference after the cabinet meeting.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, under pressure from both Spain’s EU partners and the markets, announced the austerity measures last week in a bid to shore up Spain’s public finances after fears it could follow Greece into a debt crisis.

The cuts are on top of a 50-billion-euro austerity package announced in January designed to slash public deficit to the eurozone limit of three percent of gross domestic product by 2013 from 11.2 percent last year.

The latest measures include an average five-percent pay cut for public sector workers from June, and a pay freeze from 2011. Pensions except for the poorest will also be frozen in 2011.

The government also plans to scrap a 2,500-euro payout to parents for the birth of children, a key part of Zapatero’s social platform to boost Spain’s flagging birth rate.

The salaries of Zapatero and government ministers will also be cut by 15 percent and those of secretaries of state by 10 percent.

“It is a great effort thanks to which we will undoubtedly return to the path of growth,” de la Vega said.

Finance Minister Elena Salgado said the pay cuts would lead to savings of 2.3 billion euros in 2010 and 2.2 billion in 2011.

The pensions freeze will save some 1.5 billion euros in 2011 and the birth payment around 1.25 billion.

She said the cuts also mean the government has lowered its 2011 growth forecast from 1.8 percent to 1.3 percent.

Spain entered recession in the second quarter of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded a crisis in the property market, which had been a major driver for growth in the preceding years.

Official data Wednesday showed the economy scraped out of recession in the first quarter, boosted by a rise in exports and household spending, but analysts have warned that any pick-up could be short lived.

The recession has sent the unemployment rate soaring to more than 20 percent in the first quarter.

Migrant workers perform during a protest marking the 24-hours general strike against the austerity measures in central Athens, Greece on May 20, 2010. AFP photo

Source: SGGP

Tough US measures needed to beat climate change: experts

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2010 (AFP) – The United States has to lead the global fight on climate change by breaking with business-as-usual and setting tough standards for the amount of greenhouse gases it emits into the atmosphere, US scientists said Wednesday.

In one of three multi-hundred-page reports on climate change by the National Research Council, scientists said the United States should set a budget that would limit greenhouse gas emissions to a total of between 170 and 200 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2012 and 2050.

(Indonesia) Workers of PT. Belayan River Timber work in the forest in Long Hubung on March 30, 2010, part of its 97,500-hectare concession near Samarinda on southeastern Borneo. AFP photo

That limit would correspond to a reduction of US emissions from 1990 levels by 80 to 50 percent, depending whether the upper or lower “budgetary level” is chosen, and would require “a major departure from business-as-usual emission trends,” the report said.

US emissions have been rising at a rate of one percent per year for the past three decades, and in 2008 reached around seven gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Even if emissions stuck at the 2008 rate and if the higher budget target of 200 gigatons was chosen, the US would exceed its emissions budget by 2041.

The NRC report urged the US to lead the way on reducing emissions so that other nations will follow, the scientists said.

“Although limiting emissions must be a global effort to be effective, strong US actions to reduce emissions will help encourage other countries to do the same,” they said.

The cap-and-trade system — where a total level of allowable domestic emissions is set, companies are given emissions quotas, and the small polluters can sell their surplus to firms that exceed theirs — was one of the most effective ways of reducing emissions, the report said.

Cap-and-trade was declared dead by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham two months ago, but a climate bill proposed this month by Democratic Senator John Kerry and Independent Joe Lieberman proposed setting up just such a system, even though it did not call it by name.

The senators’ plan would cut US carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, going up to 83 percent by 2050.

The scientists warned, though, that putting a price on carbon would only work if the United States also improves energy efficiency, speeds up the development of renewable energy sources, develops new-generation nuclear power, and retrofits, decommissions or replaces facilities that belch greenhouse gases into the air.

One of the other reports issued as part of what the NRC calls its most comprehensive climate change study to date reaffirms US scientists’ strong belief that climate change is occurring and is caused largely by human activities.

Climate change skeptics last year seized on a leak of thousands of emails and other documents from researchers at the University of East Anglia in Britain, which appeared to show scientists saying global warming was not as serious as previously thought.

A few months later, another scandal rocked the world of climate science, when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was accused of basing a report about ice disappearing from the world’s mountain peaks on a student essay and an article in a mountaineering magazine.

The third report released Wednesday urges US policymakers to take steps to reduce the country’s vulnerability to climate change impacts that cannot be avoided, while stressing that adapting to climate change was not an alternative to limiting it.

The trilogy of reports were released as the US and more than 190 other nations continue to hammer out the details of a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which set a target of industrialized nations cutting emissions blamed for global warming by an average of five percent by the end of 2012 from 1990 levels.

The United States was the only major nation to reject the treaty, arguing it was unfair because it made no demands of fast-growing economies such as China, now the world’s top carbon emitter.

Source: SGGP

US pushes tough Iran sanctions draft at UN

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2010 at 5:05 am

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (centre) alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen (left) and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (right) in Washington, DC.

The United States has introduced a draft resolution at the UN to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, fast on the heels of what it cast as Iran’s bid to stall efforts by signing a nuclear swap deal.

The draft resolution would expand an arms embargo and measures against Iran’s banking sector and ban it from sensitive overseas activities like uranium mining and developing ballistic missiles, a US official said.

“The resolution would establish a comprehensive new framework for cargo inspections, both in states’ ports and on the high seas,” the official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

The draft, which was being debated by the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, had received the blessing of all the veto-wielding permanent members, including the usual standouts China and Russia, the US said.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

“This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington.

She was referring to Monday’s deal, brokered by emerging powers Brazil and Turkey, in which Tehran agreed to swap much of its stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey in exchange for fuel for a research reactor.

Beijing’s apparent backing of a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear activities came despite its earlier support for the swap deal.

“We attach importance to and support this agreement,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

Western powers fear that Iran‘s atomic program is a cover for a nuclear weapons drive. Tehran denies this, saying the program is aimed at peaceful energy use, which it insists it has the right to pursue.

Clinton reiterated that Washington had raised “a number of unanswered questions” about the tripartite deal struck on Monday, but welcomed what she called the “sincere efforts of both Turkey and Brazil.”

For Washington, the core issue was that Iran intended to continue enriching uranium.

US President Barack Obama meanwhile met for 90 minutes with Jewish lawmakers in Congress to discuss the draft resolution and brief them on the Iran nuclear issue, as well as on Israel’s security situation and prospects for Mideast peace.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran and it was unclear what effect the draft resolution would have on Monday’s accord which commits Iran to deposit 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of LEU in Turkey in return for fuel for a Tehran research reactor.

Turkey and Brazil are both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim insisted in Brasilia that the new agreement “creates an opportunity for a peaceful negotiated settlement.”

Amorim did not discuss the US move explicitly but warned that ignoring the new situation “could lead people to grave situations, and trigger escalating reactions.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the world community on Tuesday to support the deal, which his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, warned could be spoiled by talk of sanctions.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country along with Britain rounds out the Security Council‘s permanent membership, said that while it was a “positive step,” the deal must be accompanied by a halt of Iran’s uranium enrichment.

Tehran said Tuesday that it expects a swift response from world powers on the accord, which a government-owned newspaper boasted had “checkmated” US efforts for new sanctions.

Iran would notify the International Atomic Energy Agency of the accord “in writing, through the usual channels, within a week,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

In October, the Vienna Group made an offer for Iran to ship most of its LEU out of the country in return for higher grade reactor fuel to be supplied by Russia and France.

Iran stalled on the deal, insisting it wanted a simultaneous swap on its own soil, a proposal world powers rejected.

Tehran, already under three sets of UN sanctions over its defiant nuclear drive, touted the agreement as a goodwill gesture that paves the way for a resumption of talks with world powers.

Iran’s enemy Israel — the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state — is weighing a formal response to the deal, although a senior official accused Iran of trickery shortly after it was signed.

Source: SGGP

Drug watchdog orders tough action against HCMC drugstore chain

In Vietnam Health on January 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

HCM City Market management inspectors check drugs at an outlet of My  Chau at 338 Le Van Sy Street, district 3 on Jan. 8, 2009 ( Photo: Tuoi tre)

The Drug Administrations of Vietnam has ordered the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health impose severe punishment on the My Chau drugstore chain for possessing hundreds of containers of expired and unregistered drugs and food supplements.

In a dispatch January 12, Nguyen Viet Hung, deputy head of the administration told the DoH to also review its certification of My Chau for Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) and report back.

Tran Quang Trung, chief of Ministry of Health (MoH) inspector, ordered the DoH to liaise with the city Market Management Bureau to find out My Chau’s violations and report to the ministry.

During routine checks in the last two years, ministry inspectors detected several wrongdoings by My Chai but did not investigate further, instead ordering the drugstore itself to fix them since it had just been awarded a GPP certification.

They also admitted they failed to discover the violations uncovered recently by the Market Management Bureau because they were unable to enter warehouses during their inspection.

Mr. Trung said the DoH must be held accountable for the violations because it had certified that seven out of My Chau’s 18 outlets conform to GPP standards.

Le Dinh Bach, manager of Minh Phuc Pharmacy, who owns  My Chau drugstore chain, wrote to Sai Gon Giai Phong January 12 claiming it has reported wrongly about his company’s activities.

His company bought 10 outlets and a warehouse from Y Duc last April and discovered some expired drugs in stock. They remained in storage until documents for their destruction could be made, he claimed. Unfortunately, at that time, his boss and director, Le Thi My Chau, went abroad for six months, causing a delay in drafting the documents, he said.

He also claimed his company did not pay much attention to the origins of the drugs that were in stock when it bought the operations. 

Related article:
Health department under scanner as drugstore chain caught with expired drugs
HCMC drugstore chain faces closure for violations

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Tough times force OPEC members to close ranks

In World on December 7, 2009 at 3:52 am

 Divisions within OPEC have eased as the dual threat of the global economic crisis and climate change talks force oil producers to be pragmatic and unified, analysts said on Sunday.

Two years ago, when oil prices soared to nearly 100 dollars a barrel, the oil exporters cartel, which includes both allies and foes of the United States, was severely tested.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries was then torn between price hawks like Algeria, Iran, Libya and Venezuela on one side and nations like Saudi Arabia which wanted moderate prices in the interests of consumers.

But the stance of the price hawks has since lost support, leading to a convergence of positions within the bloc.

OAPEC Secretary General Abbas Ali Naqi (L) and Egyptian Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi attend the 83rd meeting of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) in Cairo on December 5.

Less than three weeks ahead of the next OPEC meeting in Luanda, Angola, the group’s oil ministers agree that quotas must remain at their current level of 24.84 million barrels per day (bpd).

Even US arch-foes Iran and Venezuela support that view.

Although the price of oil is trading at around 75 dollars a barrel, nobody is daring to ask for 100 dollars.

Observers say this unity has come about largely thanks to pragmatism instilled into producers by the events of 2008: an unprecedented price surge to 147.50 dollars a barrel, followed by a plunge to 32.40 dollars in December.

“What happened makes you think. An oil price of 75 dollars is higher than they could have hoped for. Even the most hawkish nations are finding it hard to ask for more,” said Francis Perrin of the Oil and Gas Journal.

This turnaround came about because producers were afraid of another price collapse, according to Julian Lee, analyst at the Centre For Global Energy Studies in London.

“They still have a big fear of oil (prices) falling … They haven’t entirely lost that fear,” said Lee.

Another reason for the appeasement of the hawks was that the countries which traditionally call for high prices have proved less than effective in implementing decisions taken by OPEC.

At a meeting in Oran, Algeria in December 2008, OPEC pledged to withdraw 4.2 million bpd from production from the start of 2009 in order to stabilise the market.

However, the bulk of the sacrifice was provided by Saudi Arabia, while Iran did not implement the agreed cut in production.

“The influence of the hawks is limited” because “if somebody raises the issue of higher prices … he will be told to comply more,” said David Wech, an analyst at JBC Energy.

Finally, while the impact of the global recession is still being felt on oil demand, another key challenge for producers looms in the shape of measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Such a deal could be signed this week in Copenhagen during landmark UN-led talks on tackling global warming.

“When you see in the OPEC bulletins the rising concern linked to climate change, you can see that producers are closing ranks,” said Perrin. “In the hardest times in its history, OPEC tends to stick together.”

Measures to reduce the share of fossil fuels in total energy consumption directly threaten the interests of oil producers.

OPEC’s decision last December to cut production by 4.2 million bpd officially brought down the total output of the 12-member cartel — excluding Iraq — to 24.84 million bpd.

On Friday, crude prices tumbled in volatile trade, succumbing to a stronger dollar following an improved US jobs report picture.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for January delivery, fell 99 cents to 75.47 dollars a barrel. In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January dropped 84 cents to settle at 77.52 dollars a barrel.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

PM takes a tough stance against corruption

In Politics-Society on October 14, 2009 at 4:26 am

PM takes a tough stance against corruption

QĐND – Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 21:4 (GMT+7)

Legal documents on combating corruption in areas such as taxation, land management, public spending and investments should be finalised to improve the efficiency of the fight.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung emphasized this when assigning the task to the Central Steering Committee for Corruption Prevention and Control at its 11th session in Hanoi on October 13.

He asked relevant agencies and localities to pay special attention to certain areas which are often sensitive and conductive to corruptive behaviour.

He acknowledged practical results from combating corruption in recent months, which have significantly contributed to the implementation of the country’s socio-economic development tasks. 

The PM emphasised the importance of both preventing and combating corruption, saying the fight should be carried out in a determined, synchronous and lawful manner. 

He spoke of the need to enhance communications, train those involved in the fight, compliment exemplary role models and deal harshly with individuals and organisations that break the law or show irresponsibility towards the fight.

He asked provincial and municipal anti-corruption committees to make a list of graft scandals in their localities and to closely monitor and strictly prosecute corruption cases by law.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND Bookmark & Share

Thailand approves tough laws for Thaksin coup rally

In World on September 15, 2009 at 5:14 pm

BANGKOK, Sept 15, 2009 (AFP) – Thailand’s cabinet agreed Tuesday to invoke harsh security laws allowing the deployment of troops for protests this weekend on the third anniversary of a coup against former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai soldiers patrol a check security at Government House in Bangkok on September 15, 2009 (AFP photo)

The move raises tensions ahead of the planned mass rally on Saturday in Bangkok by the “Red Shirt” movement, which wants current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to quit and call fresh elections.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Internal Security Act would be in force from Friday until Tuesday in the centre of the capital “as the demonstration is likely to turn into political chaos.”

“This law will both ensure the safety of protesters and allow us to control the situation. Police will be the core force with the military acting as assistants, but the number of forces depends on the situation,” he said.

The act will effectively ban protests in Bangkok’s historic Dusit district, which is home to several potential flashpoint locations including Parliament and Government House, where the cabinet offices are located.

The protest comes a day before Abhisit is due to leave for the United States for the UN General Assembly and the G20 summit. Thaksin was toppled by the military in 2006 while he was away at the UN.

The Red Shirts have twice called off previous rallies in recent weeks after the government invoked the act, but they vowed to go ahead with this weekend’s demonstration.

“Unarmed and peaceful protest is guaranteed under the constitution. The government has no need to be afraid of this demonstration,” Jatuporn Prompan, one of the movement’s senior leaders, told AFP.

In April similar Red Shirt protests spiralled into riots which forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit and led to mass unrest in Bangkok, leaving two people dead and 123 injured.

The Red Shirts backed down on that occasion after troops threatened to use force, but they have recently reignited their campaign by lodging a petition with the king last week for a royal pardon for Thaksin.

Thaksin fled the country a year ago to escape a two-year jail term for corruption, but the divide between his supporters and his foes continues to cause turmoil in the kingdom.

Source: SGGP