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Coal prices, electric rates to stay stable, vows ministry

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:30 am




Coal prices, electric rates to stay stable, vows ministry


QĐND – Monday, December 20, 2010, 21:26 (GMT+7)

Coal and power prices would not go up in the first quarter of 2011, said the head of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) Price Management Department, Nguyen Tien Thoa.


The ministry had taken the decision because prices of these two utilities often had a knock-on effect on other goods and services, which could lead to an unwanted general price rise, said Thoa at a press conference on Friday.


“Price fluctuations often occur at the end of the year owing to increased demand. Therefore, from now until early next year, MoF will focus on resolving difficulties in production. We want to balance supply and demand and to avoid any shortages, essentially in underprivileged areas.”


According to the General Statistics Office, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is likely to hit 11 percent this year. Thoa said weaknesses of the economy had played a part in the increase.


”Growth depends mainly on increased investment but investment remains inefficient and competitiveness is low,” said Thoa at the press conference.


He added that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) had taken numerous steps to help stabilise prices.


“For example, MoF has instructed localities to use local standby budgets to provide non-interest capital for enterprises that trade reserved commodities; this will allow them to sell items at prices 5-10 percent lower than the usual market price,” Thoa said.


Thoa added that MoF had informed localities to delay the purchase of non-essential items to minimise demand-pull inflation.


“These classic solutions are significant if we want price stabilisation.”


MoF’s recent inspections in HCM City and several other southern provinces revealed that these localities had already stockpiled enough essential goods to meet local needs. Localities had also set up sales and distribution networks to better service underprivileged areas.


Thoa added the MoF had provided financial support to help regions facing severe weather to recover short-term vegetable crops and had urged local farmers not to export pigs, which were essential for the New Year holiday.


Forecasts predicted further economic recovery next year, which would lead to the increased demand for production inputs, and have an impact on prices.


“To that end, MoF will continue reforming the market-oriented pricing management mechanism, and respect enterprise and trader’s rights to set their own prices and forms of competition by replacing Pricing Ordinance by Pricing Law,” said Thoa.


“Next year, implementation of the market price scheme should be incorporated into the completion of the goods and service logistics system. We should also strive to reduce production costs and implement policies which ensure underprivileged households have access to basic social services including education, healthcare, and housing.”


Ensuring supplies


Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa discussed measures aimed at market stability and ensuring adequate supplies of essential goods during Tet in meeting with officials from the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade last Thursday.


Department deputy director, Le Anh Dao, said firms had stockpiled 15,800 tonnes of rice and sticky rice, almost twice the quantity originally planned for. They had also put aside 9,800 tonnes of sugar (233 percent of the plan), 14,500 tonnes of meat, 5,200 tonnes of fruits and vegetables; and 55 million eggs.


At present, the Co.op Mart supermarket chain has stocks valued at 30 percent more than their planned value.


And it isn’t just firms that have signed up for a city price stabilisation programme that are stocking up; other companies are preparing for the year’s biggest festival which falls in early February this time.


German supermarket chain Metro has food stocks worth 1.1 trillion VND (56.4 million USD).


French supermarket Big C also has large stocks and has promised to keep prices and supply relatively stable for the next two months.


The MoIT has instructed the Department to continue working closely with firms to keep prices of goods like petrol, cement, and food stable during Tet.


Besides the eight essential goods targeted under the programme, authorities should also ensure adequate supply of cakes, candies, and jams for the Lunar New Year, Thoa said.


He said cities needed to ensure that all markets sell goods covered by the price stabilisation programme.


The Department of Transport should also give rush hour priority to vehicles delivering to supermarkets and shopping malls.


Source: VNA


Source: QDND

Assange vows WikiLeaks to stay strong despite new blow

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the site will stay strong despite another blow to its funding and the publication Sunday of new details of the sex crime allegations against him

 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the site will stay strong despite another blow to its funding and the publication Sunday of new details of the sex crime allegations against him.


The Australian began his third full day under “mansion arrest” at a friend’s house while he fights extradition to Sweden, vowing that the whistleblowing website would continue to publish more secre US diplomatic cables.


Assange on Saturday denounced Bank of America, the largest US bank, for becoming the latest institution to halt financial transactions for Wikileaks after MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others.


The bank said its decision was “based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”


“It’s a new type of business McCarthyism in the US to deprive this organisation of the funds that it needs to survive, to deprive me personally of the funds that my lawyers need to protect me against extradition to the US or to Sweden,” Assange told AFP.


The term was coined to describe the anti-communist pursuits of former US senator Joseph McCarthy from the late 1940s to the 1950s.


Assange is staying at Ellingham Hall, the mansion in eastern England of journalist friend Vaughan Smith, as part of the conditions of bail, which he was granted by London’s High Court on Thursday.


He must also report daily to a nearby police station and wear an electronic tag.


Several British newspapers published lurid new details of the allegations of sexual assault against two women, over which Swedish prosecutors want to question him. The 39-year-old denies the charges.


The Guardian newspaper — which has cooperated with WikiLeaks on the publication of the US documents — and the Mail on Sunday both reported that the two women with whom he had sex in Sweden had gone to police after he refused to take an HIV test.


Assange hit out at Swedish handling of the case, accusing authorities there of leaking fresh details about the case that even he and his defence lawyers have not had access to.


The former computer hacker also reiterated that there were threats against his life and those of the website’s staff, but he vowed that WikiLeaks would continue publishing the cables.


“We are a robust organisation. During my time in solitary confinement we continued to publish every day and its not going to change,” he said.


Assange claimed earlier in an interview with Forbes magazine that a “megaleak” by the website will target a major US bank “early next year”.


WikiLeaks has enraged Washington with its release of thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables and confidential military documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.


Assange said Friday it looked “increasingly likely” the US would try to extradite him on charges related to the leaked cables as he savoured his first day on bail.


He said his lawyers believed a secret US grand jury investigation had been started into his role in the release.


Media reports suggest that US prosecutors are trying to build a case against Assange on the grounds that he encouraged a US soldier, Bradley Manning, to steal US cables from a government computer and pass them to WikiLeaks.

A report by congressional researchers said the Espionage Act and other US laws could be used to prosecute Assange, but there is no known precedent for prosecuting publishers in such a case.

The latest US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks indicated that the United Nations offered Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe a retirement package and safe haven overseas if he agreed to stand down.

The offer was made by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general at the time in 2000, said the memo, which was drawn up by US officials and cited the then-opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Source: SGGP

WikiLeaks’ Assange free on bail, vows to clear name

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 5:26 am

LONDON (AFP) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed to clear his name and pursue his work releasing secret documents, as he enjoyed his first day of freedom Friday after being released on bail by a British court.


“I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it — which we have not yet — the evidence from these allegations,” Assange said Thursday on the steps of the High Court where he was greeted by a media scrum.


Assange and his lawyers insist that moves to extradite him from Britain to Sweden to face questioning over allegations he sexually assaulted two women are politically motivated.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange celebrates as he prepares to address the media outside the High Court in central London. AFP

Amid a hail of camera flashes outside the London court, Assange thanked “all the people around the world who have had faith in me, who have supported my team while I have been away.”


His website has rocked Washington by releasing hundreds of classified US diplomatic cables, and his supporters have linked his detention to the massive leak.


The 39-year-old Australian arrived later at a country mansion in eastern England, where he will stay while on bail, and spoke of his joy at being released.


“It is very nice to be free for Christmas and to smell the fresh air,” he told reporters, outside the manor house which is a marked difference from the cell in London’s Wandsworth prison where he had spent the past nine days.


But he criticised his stringent bail conditions, which include wearing a security tag and being under the curfew, telling the BBC: “It is a very Orwellian situation when you are under hi-tech house arrest.”


He is staying at Ellingham Hall, a mansion on the 600-acre country estate of Vaughan Smith, an ex-British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, the media club in London that is the British base of WikiLeaks’ operations.


Assange will stay there during the ongoing extradition proceedings, which may take months.


The WikiLeaks chief also voiced fears over US attempts to pursue him, saying that he had heard rumours the United States was preparing an indictment for espionage.


“We have also heard today from one of my US lawyers, yet to be confirmed… that there may be a US indictment for espionage for me coming from a secret US grand jury investigation,” he told Sky News.


He expressed fears that the extradition proceedings to Sweden may actually be “an attempt to get me into a jurisdiction which will then make it easier to extradite me to the US.”


Swedish prosecutors have denied the case has anything to do with WikiLeaks.


Earlier Thursday, Assange’s release was delayed by several hours, apparently by haggling over the availability of the 240,000-pound (283,000-euro, 374,000-dollar) surety which has been put up by supporters including film director Michael Moore.


A senior judge had earlier rejected an appeal by lawyers working on behalf of Sweden to keep him in jail pending extradition.


Assange’s mother, Christine, and supporters including campaigning journalist John Pilger, had packed into the courtroom for the hour-and-a-half hearing along with hordes of journalists.


“I’m very, very happy with the decision. I can’t wait to see my son and to hold him close,” Christine Assange said.


Assange, a former computer hacker, was in court to hear the senior judge reject an appeal against a ruling Tuesday by a lower court that he be bailed.


Judge Duncan Ouseley rejected the prosecution’s argument that Assange was a flight risk, saying: “The court does not approach this case on the basis that this is a fugitive from justice who seeks to avoid interrogation and prosecution.”


In arguing the accusations are unfounded, Assange’s supporters cite the timing of his arrest, which coincided with the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.


The latest US cables to be released by WikiLeaks on Friday show that American officials had evidence of torture by Indian security forces and were briefed by Red Cross staff about the abuse of detainees in Kashmir.


The International Committee of the Red Cross briefed diplomats in Delhi in 2005 about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against detainees, according to the cables, revealed in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

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Source: SGGP

APEC meeting vows to seek higher-quality economic growth

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2010 at 11:21 am

 Asian and Pacific countries agreed Sunday to improve the “quality” of their growth and help put the global economy back on track from its crisis.

Beppu City

The accord was reached at a meeting of ministerial-level officials as well as industrial and academic leaders from the 21 countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.


International institutions including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank were also represented at the two-day meeting, which ended Sunday in the Japanese resort of Beppu.


It was aimed at paving the ground for APEC leaders to work out an unprecedented “growth strategy” for the region at the forum’s annual summit in November in the Japanese port city of Yokohama.


“As the world’s leading growth centre, the APEC region has a great responsibility for the future course of the global economy,” said a statement from the co-chairmen of the meeting.


“APEC should contribute to improving the quality of growth in the global economy as well through its growth strategy, as envisaged by the APEC economic leaders last year,” said the statement posted APEC’s official website.


APEC leaders agreed at last year’s summit in Singapore to formulate the strategy in 2010 to “shape the region’s growth following the financial and economic crisis,” said the statement.


APEC was launched in 1989 to promote trade and strengthen economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, which now accounts for more than half the world’s economic output and 40 percent of its population.


The grouping includes Australia, China, Japan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


“Countries in the region are exploring ways to shift their emphasis on economic development from exports to domestic demand,” Japanese trade minister Masayuki Naoshima told a news conference after co-chairing the meeting.


“Japan wants to cooperate in economic development by backing infrastructure projects,” said Naoshima. The other co-chairman was Satoshi Arai, the Japanese minister of state for economic and fiscal policy.


The meeting confirmed that APEC aims to achieve economic growth that is “balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure,” the statement said.


Balanced growth should be led by “structural reforms” while inclusive growth features job creation — especially for women — human resources development and better access to finance, it added.


Energy efficiency will be the core of sustainable growth while innovative growth will be driven by an improvement in the research and development environment, the statement said.


The members of APEC can contribute to secure growth by working together in such areas as counter-terrorism, prevention of pandemic diseases and food security, the statement added.


 

Source: SGGP

Sarkozy vows revenge after Al-Qaeda kills French hostage

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 7:18 am

President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Monday to avenge the murder of a 78-year-old French aid worker killed in the Sahara desert by Al-Qaeda’s North African wing.


Sarkozy spoke after Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) declared it had killed hostage Michel Germaneau as revenge after French and Mauritanian soldiers stormed one of the group’s camps in Mali and killed six militants.


“Dear compatriots, this crime committed against Michel Germaneau will not go unpunished,” Sarkozy said, warning French nationals to avoid the arid Sahel region running through Mauritania, Mali, Niger and southern Algeria.


Sarkozy did not reveal what France planned to do in response to the killing, but experts and military officers told AFP to expect an increased use of spies and special forces to target militant groups in the Sahel.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks to the presse at the Elysee Palace in Paris

Defence Minister Herve Morin cut short an Asian tour to fly back to France and help prepare the military response, aides said.


“We’re faced with a totally determined group, a phalanx waging a holy war that refused to negotiate with us by direct or indirect means,” Morin said.


“The Mauritanians were informed about an imminent attack by 150 Al-Qaeda fighters based in Mali,” he told France Inter radio.


“We decided to help out in part of their operation, which was to intervene in one Al-Qaeda camp.”


Morin said Al-Qaeda has around 500 militants in armed groups scattered around the Sahel.


Mauritanian and French forces killed at least six AQIM fighters on Thursday, but failed to find any trace of Germaneau.


In Mali, a local elected official told AFP that Germaneau had been beheaded after the raid, in the presence of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, the leader of an AQIM cell that has been blamed for killing a Briton in 2009.


“He was still alive when the raid took place, but hidden in a mountainous region in Kidal, near the Algerian border,” the local official said.


“The area is an impregnable fortress, where Islamists have planted mines and constructed bomb shelters,” he warned.


Morin was speaking after an emergency meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris between Sarkozy, Fillon, key ministers, military top brass and the heads of France’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.


Later Monday Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who attended the same meeting, flew to Mauritania for talks with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.


Afterwards he said that the two countries would continue their joint fight against the insurgents.


“The Sahel-Saharan strip will not be left to bands of terrorists, to arms arms and drugs traffickers,” he said.


France already has military cooperation agreements with its former West African colonies, and helps to train and coordinate local anti-terror forces, in an area which receives around 30,000 French tourists per year.

Spain, which has two of its nationals held in Mali by a different AQIM cell, condemned the killing of Germaneau as a “brutal crime.”

It said it would continue its efforts to negotiate the freedom of aid workers Albert Vilalta, 35, and 50-year-old Roque Pascual, kidnapped eight months ago.

Privately, Spanish officials expressed concern that the more robust French tactics might have endangered the Spanish captives.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned Germaneau’s killing as a “reprehensible act”, and European Union foreign ministers denounced the “foul assassination.”

In Washington, the US State Department described the killing as a “heinous and cowardly act… We stand ready to assist the French government in any way that we can.”

AQIM took responsibility for the killing in an audio message broadcast by the Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera at the weekend.

Some French officials have suggested that contrary to what the group had claimed, the hostage might have been killed several weeks ago.

Germaneau was seized on April 19 in Niger where he had been building a school. On May 14 his abductors issued a photo of an exhausted-looking hostage and a taped message in which he appealed to Sarkozy to work for his release.

Source: SGGP

Obama vows to cut HIV cases with new AIDS strategy

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that any new case of HIV/AIDS was one too many, as he rolled out a new national strategy to cut infections and improve care for those with the disease.

The White House displays a large red ribbon for World AIDS day in 2009. (AFP file)

Thirty years after the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) burst to global attention, the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy will demand action from federal, state and tribal governments and medical and scientific communities.


It envisages cutting the annual number of new domestic infections by 25 percent over five years.


“The question is not whether we know what to do, but whether we will do it?” Obama said, as he officially unveiled the new strategy at a reception for HIV/AIDS activists at the White House.


“We are here because we believe that while HIV transmission rates in this country are not as high as they once were, every new case is one case too many.


“We are here because we believe in an America where those living with HIV/AIDS are not viewed with suspicion but treated with respect, where they are provided the medications and the healthcare they need.”


In a vision statement, Obama’s strategy says “the United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare.”


Those who are infected, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic level, will get “unfettered access to high-quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”


The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States has claimed nearly 600,000 lives, although the disease has faded from the headlines in recent years, as new life-extending anti-retroviral drug therapies have emerged.


But around 56,000 people still become infected with HIV every year.


There are currently 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, according to US government figures.


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the new strategy represented a turning point for US government policy.


“Either we could chose to get used to HIV and AIDS and accept that it was a permanent feature of US society … or we could chose to double down and refocus our efforts,” she said.


“We refuse to accept a stalemate — to dig in and just hold the disease at bay.”


The new Obama strategy has three goals: to reduce the number of new infections; to increase access to care for those with HIV; and to reduce HIV-related health disparities.


The new strategy recognizes the tight fiscal straitjacket under which the administration is operating, after the worst financial crisis in decades.


It states that better results should be possible to achieve within existing funding levels and says the case for additional investments where they are required should be highlighted.


The plan includes more than 100 specific directives to federal agencies to develop standards for prevention programs and other steps to meet the new goals.


The plan is designed to intensify HIV prevention efforts in most at risk communities, including gay and bisexual men, African-American men and women, the Latino community, addicts and drug users.


It also envisages improving the education of all Americans about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent the spread of the disease.


The administration also plans to use the new Obama health care reform plan passed this year as a platform for expanding treatment of HIV/AIDS for the most vulnerable communities.


During the event, in the ornate East Room of the White House, Obama was interrupted by one guest who shouted “Mr President!”


Obama closed down the man’s protest by saying he would chat to the man after his speech: “That’s why I invited you here, right? So you don’t have to yell.”


Obama’s plan drew mainly praise from groups fighting AIDS. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the new strategy “a lifesaving public health intervention.”


Jennifer Kates of the Kaiser Family Foundation said more efforts are needed to fight AIDS.


“People are just not as concerned about HIV,” Kates said. “There is a sense we have treatments, that HIV doesn’t seem as bad as it used to. … There is more complacency.”


Obama announced in October that his administration would end a ban on people with HIV/AIDS traveling to the United States, which rights groups had branded discriminatory and harmful.


The measure came into force in January.


The United States has also contributed tens of billions of dollars for HIV/AIDS relief around the world, with the President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — one of the most lauded legacy achievements of former president George W. Bush.

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Source: SGGP

Clinton vows support for Georgia, slams Russian “occupation”

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reassured Georgia on Monday with a pledge of continued support and criticised Russia’s “occupation” of two breakaway Georgian regions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the Georgian Women Leaders Association members at the Georgian National Library in Tbilisi on Monday, July 5, 2010

On her first visit to the ex-Soviet country as secretary of state, Clinton told a group of women leaders that Washington would also keep pushing for further democratic reforms in Georgia.


“We continue to object to and criticise actions by Russia which we believe are wrong and on the top of the list is the invasion and occupation of Georgia,” Clinton said shortly after arriving in the capital Tbilisi as part of a regional tour.


“The United States supports the Georgian people, we support Georgian democracy,” she said.


Clinton was due to meet later with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who will be looking for reassurances Washington has not abandoned support for his country amid a “reset” in relations with Moscow.


Tbilisi is hoping Clinton will take a hard line on Russia’s military presence in the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and that she will reiterate US support for Georgia’s hopes of joining the NATO military alliance.


Clinton urged further reforms in Georgia, saying a vibrant democracy and economy were key for it to regain control of the rebel territories.


“The more vibrant, effective a democracy and economy Georgia becomes, a greater contrast there will be between South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia,” she said.


Clinton was on the final stop of a tour of eastern European and Caucasus region countries that has also taken her to Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan and Armenia.


She is also due to meet opposition leaders in Georgia, who have accused Saakashvili of stepping back from democratic reforms after coming to power in the country’s 2003 pro-Western Rose Revolution.


Saakashvili enjoyed extremely close ties with former US president George W. Bush, who famously declared the country a “beacon of liberty” in a 2005 speech to thousands of cheering Georgians in central Tbilisi.


Georgia has even named a main road from the airport after Bush.


Relations have cooled under President Barack Obama, however, after Saakashvili’s international reputation was damaged by a 2007 crackdown on opposition protesters and by his handling of Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia.


Georgia has downplayed the cooling in relations and contributed nearly 1,000 troops to fight alongside US forces in Afghanistan in a bid to build closer ties with the new administration.


US officials have repeatedly voiced support for Georgia’s territorial integrity after the 2008 war, which saw Russian forces pour into the country to repel a Georgian military assault on Moscow-backed South Ossetia.


Russia after the war recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, a move that has been followed by only a handful of countries. Russia has since established permanent military bases and deployed hundreds of troops and border guards in the regions.


During a visit to Tbilisi a year ago, US Vice President Joe Biden said Washington continued to back Georgia’s territorial integrity and its bid to join NATO but also called for progress on democratic reforms.


 

Source: SGGP

State Bank vows to slash VND interest rates

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:42 am

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) will continue reducing deposit and lending interest rates in VND to around 10 percent and 12 percent per annum, respectively, said Deputy Governor Nguyen Dong Tien.

Transaction conducted at an Asia Commercial Bank branch in Ho Chi Minh City.

At a working session between the SBV, the Vietnam Banking Association and commercial banks’ general directors in Hanoi on June 11, Mr. Tien said that the SBV will flexibly use monetary policies to assist commercial banks in cutting the interest rates and increasing liquidity for the economy.


Commercial banks’ executives said they agreed with the Government’s policy on interest rates and were actively implementing this policy.


They also expressed their belief in the success of the policy given the macro-economic stability, the Government’s drastic instructions and the SBV’s assistance.

Source: SGGP

Obama vows help as BP sees oil spill progress

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Louisiana, June 5, 2010 (AFP) – US President Barack Obama promised Saturday to use “every resource” to help oil spill-stricken Gulf of Mexico residents recover from the worst environmental disaster in US history.

The pledge came as energy giant BP offered the first indications that a cap placed over a ruptured undersea well would finally bring the catastrophe under control, more than six weeks after the leak started.

AFP/Getty Images – A laughing gull coated in heavy oil wallows in the surf on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.

“So we will continue to leverage every resource at our disposal to protect coastlines, to clean up the oil, to hold BP and other companies accountable for damages,” Obama said in his weekly radio address.


In remarks broadcast from Grand Isle, a Louisiana coastal community bearing the brunt of the spill, he also promised to do all he could to “to begin to restore the bounty and beauty of this region — and to aid the hardworking people of the Gulf as they rebuild their businesses and communities.”


An estimated 20 million gallons of crude has poured into the Gulf since an April 20 explosion tore through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, 50 miles (80 kilometers) off Louisiana.


Eleven workers were killed in the blast, and Obama, who toured the disaster area Friday, will meet their families in a White House ceremony next week.


The president said the spill had “upended whole communities,” and local residents were angry not just about the money they had lost, but because of “the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.”


The scale of the disaster has forced the president to postpone a trip to Australia and Indonesia for the second time.


Shocking images of pelicans and seabirds writhing in oil along the Louisiana coast broadcast on US television networks and splashed on the front pages of newspapers underscored the rising environmental costs.


Spreading in oily ribbons, the slick is now threatening Alabama, Mississippi and Florida after contaminating more than 125 miles (200 kilometers) of Louisiana coastline.


But Obama said the cap that BP placed over the well late Thursday appeared to be “making progress” in trying to pump oil to the surface.


BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the cap — an upside-down, funnel-shaped container — would capture the “vast majority” of the oil.


The official in charge of the US government response to the spill, Admiral Thad Allen, said the cap was collecting about 1,000 barrels a day of oil.


But that is far short of the 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day that have been spewing into the sea and a live video feed showed clouds of oil still gushing from the pipe.


Obama acknowledged that “regardless of the outcome of this attempt, there will still continue to be some spillage until the relief wells are completed.”


He noted that his administration had ordered BP to pay economic injury claims and sent the company a preliminary bill for 69 million dollars to pay back some of the costs of the clean-up.


And he promised to do everything necessary to prevent such environmental disasters from happening again, adding: “If laws are inadequate – laws will be changed.”


US authorities reopened a section of more than 16,000 square miles (41,000 square kilometers) of previously closed fishing area off the Florida coast, closed on June 2 as a precaution.


At the same time, BP chief executive Tony Hayward announced the formation of a team to work with locals and officials in the aftermath of the cleanup, led by one of the oil giant’s managing directors, Bob Dudley, a US citizen.


The appointment is a sign that the cleanup and looming legal battles will likely last for years. The CEO has faced growing anger about a series of blunders.


BP said it will be sending a second advance payment during June to individuals and businesses along the Gulf Coast to compensate for the loss of income, bringing its total to 84 million dollars.

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Source: SGGP

Japan’s PM vows to fight on despite pressure to quit

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

TOKYO, June 1, 2010 (AFP) – Japan’s embattled prime minister insisted Tuesday he would stay in his job despite press speculation he may step down ahead of upper house elections next month.


Centre-left leader Yukio Hatoyama, who took power in a landslide election last August, has seen his approval ratings slide below 20 percent amid a row over a US military airbase on the southern island of Okinawa.


His U-turn decision to keep the unpopular base on Okinawa despite strong local opposition has caused a split in his three-party coalition, with the small, pacifist Social Democrats bolting the government on Sunday.


Newspaper front-pages Tuesday said Hatoyama faced growing calls from within his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to quit.


The premier on Monday night met with political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, the DPJ secretary general who is often described as the party kingmaker and power behind the prime minister’s throne.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (C) answers questions from journalists when he visits Miyazaki prefecture government offices to talk about measures to contain foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki, southern Japan, on June 1, 2010. AFP photo

Hatoyama, who was expected to meet Ozawa again later Tuesday, signalled that he wanted to stay on in his post, telling reporters: “I want to cooperate with him (Ozawa) to tackle national challenges.”


Local media, quoting party sources, said the two would discuss whether Hatoyama should resign ahead of an election for the upper house of parliament expected on July 11.


“I really work hard but I have yet to gain the people’s understanding,” the premier said Tuesday while visiting cattle farmers hit by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in southern Japan.


“Reflecting on that, I want to have firm talks with the secretary general.”


The premier’s right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, ruled out Hatoyama’s resignation.


“I think it is unreasonable in the first place that people should talk about whether the prime minister should stay or leave,” Hirano told reporters.


But many analysts say Hatoyama is in a tough spot.


“His resignation is a matter of time,” said Koji Nakakita, professor of politics at Rikkyo University in Tokyo.


“He has lacked leadership. The DPJ needs coalition partners, but no party wants to join under Hatoyama. Since the approval rate has plunged to such levels, he has no option but to step down.”


Cabinet ministers professed their loyalty, even as they spoke about the government’s deep troubles.


Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Naoto Kan — seen as among the likely contenders for Hatoyama’s post — said: “I have been saying I want the prime minister to fulfil his duties for the full four-year tenure and my thinking hasn’t changed.”


But Kan also said Hatoyama’s handling of the Okinawa issue had damaged the government, telling journalists: “I believe almost everyone in the DPJ shares the view that we are in a very severe situation.”


Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said: “The support rate for the DPJ has declined, and both the secretary general and I feel the wind blowing against us.


“But I think it would be wrong to think the party would be alright if we changed the leader.”


Transport Minister Seiji Maehara, another possible contender for the premier’s job, said support for the DPJ had diminished in part because both Hatoyama and Ozawa have been embroiled in political funding scandals.


But he also stressed the need for continuity in leadership. “It’s problematic if the prime minister is replaced frequently, so I want the prime minister to reflect on his past conduct and work hard.”


Hatoyama is Japan’s fourth premier in four years.


Shizuka Kamei, the minister of financial affairs who is leader of the DPJ’s remaining coalition partner, the tiny People’s New Party, said: “I’ll support him (Hatoyama) with my utmost efforts.”

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Source: SGGP