Thursday, December 22, 2011

National Assembly represents the people, members reminded

Mass organisations in Laos have urged National Assembly members to work harder in representing the benefits of multi-ethnic people at the NA, acting on their behalf to address their concerns.

Vice President of the Lao Front for National Construction Mr Tong Yerthor, on behalf of various public organisations in Laos, reported the observations and opinions of many Lao people at the ongoing NA session about the performance of NA members.

This is the first time the Lao Front has been given the opportunity to report on the performance of NA members, and it encouraged them to work harder in their role as representatives of the people.

Mr Tong said some NA members have neglected to report the difficulties encountered by ethnic peoples, while others do not meet their constituents regularly as they did during the election campaign.

“Villagers in some rural areas see only a photo of their representatives at the village office after the election, but they are rarely there in person,” he said. He also urged NA members to monitor the compensation process for villagers who are negatively affected by development projects.

Some projects related to mining, hydropower and rubber plantations have encroached on natural forest areas and villagers' farmland, but the compensation awarded has been insufficient to enable them to relocate, get the same amount of land or benefit from the project in any way.

Mr Tong explained that some government officials abused their power of authority over local people for their own benefit and urged the NA to monitor their conduct and give warnings to those officials to change their ways.

He also spoke about the hardship of communities who relocated but did not receive enough facilities to make a living.

The Lao Front for National Construction observed that the establishment of development village clusters has seen some success but often too few land plots were allocated to enable villagers to sustain their livelihood.

Some families moved to a new village as part of a development village cluster, but often had little choice but to return to farm in their former village due to a lack of productive land near their new home.

Mr Tong said villagers affected by flooding this year commented that they saw a lot of stories in the media about donations being given, but not all of the donations actually reached the people they were intended for – those worst hit by the flooding.

He asked NA members to help monitor projects concerning large land concessions and the use of natural resources, as in past years these kinds of projects had created a lot of problems for villagers, as well as causing deforestation.

He said many villagers were also concerned about forestry management in Laos. Despite the fact that laws to protect forests have been legislated, they are not being sufficiently enforced.

Mr Tong also touched upon education issues that have been brought to his attention, saying that many university graduates are unable to find employment.

He talked about the weakness in terms of cooperation and coordination between the relevant sectors in Vientiane and the provinces in working to address problems affecting the people and the country as a whole.

Many Lao people reported their problems not only to NA members but also to an NA telephone hotline established for the duration of the debate session. Members of the public were left wondering whether the problems they had reported to government sectors have been or will be resolved.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update December 21, 2011)

Monday, November 7, 2011

NUOL celebrates 15 years of progress

The National University of Laos (NUOL) on Friday marked the 15th anniversary of its founding, taking the occasion to review its significant progress and achievements.
Dr Phankham Viphavanh ( right ) awards a medal to the National University of Laos.
Minister of Education and Sports Dr Phankham Viphavanh, Minister to the Government Office and President of the University Council Prof. Dr Bountiem Phissamai, local officials, foreign ambassadors and international guests were in attendance at the event.
On behalf of the university and its staff, NUOL President Prof. Dr Soukkongseng Saignaleuth described the development of the university since 1996.
At that time, the university comprised eight faculties, a school of foundation studies, seven offices, and a central library.
Now it has grown to 11 faculties, two institutes, five centres, 10 offices, one central library and a school for gifted students and ethnic groups.
The university employs a total staff of 1,788 people, of whom 1,096 are lecturers.
Among the teaching staff, 70 lecturers hold PhDs, 513 have master's degrees, 856 have bachelor degrees, seven are professors and 167 are associate professors.
There are currently 40,731 students enrolled at the university, including 786 overseas nationals.
“Since the university was founded, all levels of leadership have proactively worked to formulate and implement policy and plans for NUOL's development,” Dr Soukkongseng said.
The plans are in line with the government's policy on socio-economic development and the NUOL's 4th five-year strategic plan for 2011-15 is taking shape, he added.
The university aims to train students to become disciplined academicians and professionals with a certain level of knowledge and skills.
Graduates are expected to become specialists and experts in their field, and make a committed contribution to the country's socio-economic development, in line with regional and international norms and standards of development.
NUOL is set to become a fully-fledged university with the necessary infrastructure, facilities and resources.
Over the past 15 years, NUOL has closely cooperated with regional and international universities. A total of 164 foreign universities and institutes from 25 countries have signed cooperative agreements with NUOL.
Through this fruitful cooperation, the university has become a member of several regional and international organisations, including the Asean University Network and Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie.
Ho wever, the university still needs more development in terms of training in political thought and academic practices, while many students are lacking in commitment to their studies, Dr Soukkongseng noted.
Improved facilities, infrastructure and resources are needed for higher quality teaching. More cooperation and contributions are needed from various faculties and bodies within the university to implement the strategic plan.
Prompt coordination and communication between the university's campuses is required, with much improvement needed for greater efficiency and outcomes.
NUOL has identified six priority development areas in its strategic plan, including the d evelopment of personnel, academic staff and students, management system, quality of academic training, research and academic services, facilities and infrastructure, and internal and international relations and cooperation.
By Bounfaeng Phaymanivong (Latest Update November 07, 2011)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NUOL prepares to celebrate 15th anniversary

Over the last 15 years, the National University of Laos (NUOL) has awarded more than 50,000 diplomas and bachelor and master's degrees to people who went on to contribute to the development of their country.

This achievement is the result of the efforts of staff, teachers and students, university President Prof. Dr Soukkongseng Saignaleuth said in a statement he delivered on Monday.

In attendance at the reading of the statement were Minister to the Government Office Prof. Dr Bountiem Phissamay, university vice presidents, faculty deans and representatives of various institutes at the university.

The statement comes in advance of the university's 15th anniversary on November 5.

The event will celebrate the university's achievements and highlight the contribution of staff and teachers, Prof. Dr Soukkongseng said.

The anniversary will feature seminars on teacher skill development and national socio-economic development, an exhibition from each faculty on their area of specialisation, and will also highlight cooperation with international organisations.

Attendees can also enjoy a cultural show, student contests and a friendly sports competition between students, teachers and other organisations.

The National University of Laos, founded in 1996, includes departments incorporated from other colleges. NUOL accepts students from Laos and a small number of other countries.

The university collaborates with other universities internationally on human resource development and exchange programmes, Prof. Dr Soukkongseng said.

University administrators, staff and teachers have paid particular attention to improving the curriculum and organisational structure with a focus on societal development.

“We are particular about the students that we accept and, on average, admit about 7,000 students a year, Prof. Dr Soukkongseng reported.

To celebrate the anniversary, he urged companies and other organisations to help offset the university's limited budget.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The democracy bomb

Among the stupidest platitudes that one all too often hears from U.S. and western hypocrites, the worst is how they portray their own countries as beacons or paragons of freedom and democracy when a quick look, and especially an extended one, will demonstrate otherwise.
When something is built on dishonesty, all else begins to unravel. NATO exposes their evil intentions by their extensive use of lies and trickery. Once again, however, they have overestimated themselves and underestimated the Libyan people. The lies and trickery do not work.
Force and coercion are not considered examples of either freedom or democracy. The term "democracy" has been distorted now to mean only one thing: a democracy does what it is told to do, usually by Washington.
Should the country refuse, then it becomes a "dictatorship" even though the leader may have been elected, such as in the case of Venezuela, or should they have the purest form, such as the Jamahiriya. Next thing you know, the democracy bombs are falling...
This pseudo freedom and democracy they are trying to force down the throats of the Libyan people. What does western style freedom and democracy mean to the Libyan people?
It means thousands of Libyans lying dead in their homes, schools, hospitals, streets...
It means because you have the audacity to support your government and not do what you are told by the almighty Empire, that you will be gunned down by a helicopter.
Or mutilated, executed, beheaded, maimed, burned.

Or pounded with depleted uranium, or white phosphorous.
Or even poison a truckload of that was captured before it could be used. Anything to meet the objective of regime change.

What does "regime change" mean in Libya?
Simply stated, it means taking the country away from the people of Libya, because they are the ones who run the place in reality in their People's Congresses.
It's not a war against Colonel Gaddafi only, but he has been made a symbol by the evil ones of NATO and the west, a symbol of defiance against them.
The democracy bomb. 45401.jpegThe terrorist murderous filthy crud of the NTC has already on numerous occasions declined peace talks, a ceasefire or elections. Their only solution is "Gaddafi must go." It is their intention, given the chance, to murder the Brother Leader, them and their ugly, smelly Nazi NATO masters.
Some people may be fooled by this freedom and democracy nonsense. No one who sees the democracy bomb in action doubts that it's all about theft of Libyan resources: gold, oil, water, the reestablishment of colonial rule in Africa and using Libya for imperialist military bases.
The behavior of NATO during the assault and aggression on Libya has been shocking to say the least. We knew they were cold-blooded evil killers, sick perverts and torturers. We saw them in action in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, but they have taken things to a level unprecedented, highly reminiscent of the Nazis, the SS and Hitler. In fact, they are beginning to make Nazis look like humanitarians compared to NATO.
Congratulations Ban Ki-Loon and the UN genocide loving, look the other way, see and hear no evil but speak every evil inSecurity Council. Both have betrayed everything the UN is purported to stand for.
Listening to Moon (or NATO garbage) speak is dangerous to the digestive system, one might lose one's last meal.
As for the Libyan Army...I cannot help but be reminded of Stalingrad and Kursk and the Great Patriotic War...the manner in which these heroic defenders conduct the war, their courage, strength, humanity, pure determination and ability to carry out their mission, these Libyan heroes seem to be more of what you would expect from the descendents / children / grandchildren of Stalingrad and Kursk defenders.
One cannot but have total admiration for them and stand in awe at their courageous determination and self sacrifice. Theirs is not an easy task. But they have inspired great hope in the hearts and minds of the defenseless and the oppressed everywhere.
Africa, previously known as the "Dark Continent," has become of beacon of light because of this heroic struggle against imperialism.
Therefore, taking all things into consideration, I expect and firmly believe we will see a similar outcome: the total defeat of fascism.
The sickening display by Sarkozy, Cameron and NTC during their recent visit to Libya exposed the reality on the ground. They are afraid to go anywhere in the country and rightly so. Their pathetic weakness was obvious and exactly the opposite of the perception they were hoping to create for their dutiful, obedient media.
That murderous, genocidal criminal terrorist gang of thugs known as the NTC...Why are the terrorists attempting to sell 29 tons of Libyan gold, when in the very worst of times, Muammar Gaddafi didn't find it necessary to lay a hand on the assets of the Libyan people?
Besides being ugly, murderous racists of shocking savagery and barbarity, the NTC is a bottomless pit.
I guess they are necessary for the NATO Nazis to transform Libya from a completely self sufficient, debt-free, prosperous country into a third world beggar debtor country. Libya must be thrusted backwards, back centuries where the western NATO Nazis wish to push the people of Libya.
NATO uses force, coercion and violence, in total disregard to the will of the people of Libya. They use lies and trickery. They rain death and destruction on an innocent country. They violate the very resolutions that were used to commence their genocidal conquest. They violate international law. They have faciliated and enabled the practice of ethnic cleansing.
The Libyan Jamahiriya, under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi, has struggled harder than any western leader or country to champion the rights of the poor and abolish racism against black people.
The "no-fly" zone in reality is the "no-live" zone, life is not permitted for anyone not bowing down to the almighty Empire, including and especially the civilians they lied about protecting.
In their greed and desperation, they have forced this fight on Libya. In their inability to manage their own countries and economies, they seek the spoils of war, nowhere men making nowhere plans for nobody.
On the 19th of this month, the question of Libya is going to come up before the United Nations. There is no room for neutrality, for abstentions or for not taking a firm and principled stand. The fences are being shaken. Nations will fall on one side or the other.
The behavior of the UN and the countries therein are going to show us all, they are going to be sifted into wheat and chaff, the honest from the corrupt, the courageous from the cowards.
We shall see exactly what they are made of. They shall place themselves on either side of the fence, either good or evil. Once they are on either side of the fence, there is no turning back, no jumping to the other side and above all, no sitting on the fence. It is decision time.
History will deal harshly with those who took the side of demons, murderers, terrorists, savages, they shall fall in similar fashion into perdition and eternal damnation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

'Bush lied about 9/11 terror attacks'

Mahathir Mohamad says it is not unthinkable for former US President George W. Bush to lie about who was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks on the American soil.

In a post published in his personal blog chedet on Friday, former Malaysian prime minister said that the attacks on the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, could not have been carried out by Muslims. The acts of violence could have rather been the work of other groups.

The Malaysian politician pointed out that “for some Americans, the deaths of nearly 3,000 people was not the scariest thing about 9/11. It was realizing who carried out the attack: yes, the American Government.”

Mohamad said although Arab Muslims are angry enough to sacrifice their lives and become bombers, they are not capable of planning and strategizing attacks similar to the 9/11 ones.

“The planning [for the 9/11 attacks] must have taken a considerable length of time. The candidates had to learn to fly in tiny aircrafts…. Planning to hijack four aircraft simultaneously would require great precision in timing and logistics. One aircraft maybe. But four simultaneously!! I don't think extremists from Saudi Arabia can carry out this highly sophisticated operation with such success,” former Malaysian prime minister commented.

Turning to the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers, he said, “They came down nicely upon themselves without toppling against the other buildings close by. It looks more like planned demolition of buildings than collapse consequent upon being hit by aircraft.”

Mohamad stated, “A third building also collapsed in the same fashion; although it was not hit by any aircraft. What is the explanation for this untouched building, which collapsed upon itself and did not damage other buildings nearby?”

He also questioned the total disappearance of the aircraft, which hit the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia. “There was no debris of any kind, no broken parts of the aircraft, no black box, and no human bodies flung into the surroundings. Is it possible for an aircraft to vaporize totally after a crash?” former Malaysian prime minister said.

Mohamad further raised questions over the loss of the fourth aircraft, which was supposed to have crashed in an open field. “Again no sign of any debris. No big crater. Did it vaporize into nothingness? Did the innocent passengers also vaporize?” he stated.

The Malaysian politician noted that the American press was strangely silent about 9/11 attacks.

He also emphasized that Bush is the one that lied about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. “The legacy of the former US president is that two countries (Iraq and Afghanistan) have been devastated, and fratricidal wars have become endemic. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and a few thousand of young American soldiers have died. Thousands more are wounded, maimed for life, and suffering from mental breakdowns,” Mohamad pointed out.

Former Malaysian prime minister also said that human lives do not seem to mean much to the former US president.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Choosing English as working language ensured S'pore's survival: Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE: Singapore's former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, has spoken of how the choice of English as the country's working language has ensured the country's survival.

Launching the English Language Institute of Singapore on Tuesday afternoon, he said that had the nation not chosen English as a working language, it would have been left behind.

Mr Lee said: "When Singapore became independent in 1965, we had a population that spoke a range of different dialects and languages. This was a result of the colonial education system which favoured the English-speaking, but allowed vernacular schools with different mediums of instruction to co-exist.

"Political and economic realities led us to choose English as our working language. 75 per cent of the population then was Chinese, speaking a range of dialects; 14 per cent Malays; and eight per cent Indians. Making Chinese the official language of Singapore was out of the question as the 25 per cent who were non-Chinese would revolt.

"In addition, the geographical reality was and remains today, that Singapore would be economically isolated from the wider world if Chinese was chosen. And China then could not be of much help to our economic development."

He explained that the choice of English as Singapore's "lingua franca" gave all races equal opportunities through a common language to learn, communicate and work in.

Mr Lee added: "We kept our original languages by our policy of bilingualism, allowing opportunities for people to study their respective mother tongues. This built a sense of belonging to their original roots and increased their self-confidence and self-respect. Thus, a united multi-ethnic, multi-lingual people ensured Singapore's survival. Had we not chosen English, we would have been left behind.

"We are the only country in the region that uses English as our working language, the main medium of instruction in our schools. This has given our young a strong advantage of growing up in a multi-cultural multi-lingual society, all speaking the international language of commerce and trade, English, and their mother tongues, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and others as their second languages."

Mr Lee added that it has also benefited Singapore economically. As an English-speaking society, Singapore has drawn foreign talent to its shores as they found it easier to work and live in the country and remain plugged into the global economy.

He said: "There is an intense worldwide competition for talent, especially for English-speaking skilled professionals, managers and executives. Our English-speaking environment is one reason why Singapore has managed to attract a number of these talented individuals to complement our own talent pool.

"They find it easy to work and live in Singapore, and remain plugged into the global economy. Singapore is a popular educational choice for many young Asians who want to learn English, and they get a quality education. This has kept our city vibrant."

Mr Lee said one of the challenges ahead is to decide whether to adopt British English or American English.

He said: "I think the increasing dominance of the American media means that increasingly our people, teachers and students will be hearing the American version, whether it is 'potatoes' or 'tomatoes'. They will be the dominant force through sheer numbers and the dominance of their economy.

"I believe we will be exposed more and more to American English and so it might be as well to accept it as inevitable and to teach our students to recognise and maybe, to even speak American English."

Turning to the future, Mr Lee stressed that communication skills are one of the most important competencies needed in the 21st century workforce.

He said Singapore has built a good English language foundation for its students, with achievements in international benchmark tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Progress in International Reading Study (PIRLS) being well documented.

But he felt that Singapore can do better and must help every child to attain higher standards in English. Singapore's best students must also be able to hold their own internationally.

For this, Mr Lee added that the home background played an important role in developing good English language skills.

So to maintain the high standards of English competency in Singapore, he said there is a need to ensure that from the time a child steps into kindergarten, he is exposed to good English.

Mr Lee said: "Our schools must provide a rich language environment. There must be a strong reading culture where children can access and enjoy good books. There must be a culture of oracy. Opportunities must be given to students to speak in English. Students must present information and ideas, to clarify and to debate robustly with each other in English."

Also, developing a high level of English language competency in students cannot be the work of the English teacher alone.

Mr Lee said that it is the responsibility of every teacher who teaches subjects in English. They must use good English when they question, speak and write in the classroom and they are the best role models for children, if the young are to be effective communicators.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ມະຕິກອງປະຊຸມໃຫ່ຍຄັ້ງທີ່9ຂອງ ພັກ ປປລ

ກອງປະຊຸມໃຫຍ່ຄັ້ງທີ IX ຂອງພັກໄດ້ກຳນົດ 4 ບາດກ້າວບຸກທະລຸດັ່ງນີ້:
- ຫນຶ່ງ: ແມ່ນຕ້ອງບຸກທະລຸໃຫ້ໄດ້ທາງດ້ານຈິນຕະນາການ,ກ້ໄຂທັດສະນະແນວຄິດແບບ ຄຳພີຕາຍຕົວ, ຮັກສາເດີມ, ຂີ້ຄ້ານມັກງ່າຍ, ຊ້າຍຈັດຂວາໂພດ.

- ສອງ: ບຸກທະລຸລະບຽບການ, ກົນໄກເຮັດໃຫ້ການບໍລິຫານລັດ, ການຄຸ້ມຄອງເສດຖະກິດ-ສັງຄົມມີຄວາມສະດວກ, ວ່ອງໄວ ແລະ ໂປ່ງໃສ.

- ສາມ: ແມ່ນຕ້ອງບຸກທະລຸຢ່າງແຂງແຮງດ້ານການພັດທະນາຊັບພະຍາກອນມະນຸດ, ໂດຍສະເພາະດ້ານການກໍ່ສ້າງ ແລະ ບຳລຸງຍົກລະດັບຄວາມຮູ້ຄວາມສາມາດໃນດ້ານຕ່າງໆຂອງພະນັກງານໃຫ້ສົມຄູ່ ກັບຄວາມຮຽກຮ້ອງຕ້ອງການຂອງການພັດທະນາ.

- ສີ່: ບຸກທະລຸໃຫ້ໄດ້ໃນດ້ານການແກ້ໄຂຄວາມທຸກຍາກຂອງປະຊາຊົນດ້ວຍການຂຸດຄົ້ນແຫລ່ງທຶນຕ່າງໆ ແລະ ດ້ວຍນະໂຍບາຍສົ່ງເສີມເປັນພິເສດ, ສ້າງພື້ນຖານໂຄງລ່າງທາງດ້ານເສດຖະກິດ-ສັງຄົມ ຢ່າງມີຈຸດສຸມເພື່ອເປັນກຳລັງແຮງຊຸກດັນໃຫ້ການພັດທະນາໃນຂົງເຂດອື່ນໆຢ່າງແຂງແຮງ.
ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຂໍຊົມເຊີຍແລະສະໜັບສະໜູນໃຫ້ປະສົບຜົນສຳເລັດທັງສີ່ຄາດໝາຍ ແຕ່ໃນທີ່ນີ້ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຢາກໃຫ້ປັບປຸງກ່ອນໝູ່ແມ່ນຂໍ້ທີ່ສອງເນື່ອງຈາກວ່າປະຈຸບັນຍັງມີຫຼາຍກົມກອງ ແລະພະນັກງານລັດກວມເອົາ ເກືອບ90%ທີ່ເຮັດໜ້າທີ່ບໍລິການ ແລະເປັນຜູ້ອອກອະນຸຍາດຕ່າງໆຍັງຖືຕົນເອງເປັນອາດຍາສິດ ກົດໜ່ວງຖ່ວງດຶງເພື່ອຮຽກຮ້ອງຜົນປະໂຫຽດ(ເງີນ)ໄດ້ເທົ່າໃດກໍ່ບໍ່ພໍໄດ້ແລ້ວຢາກໄດ້ອີກ ເກັບກັນທຸກຈຸດ ທຸກໜ່ວຍງານ ນັບແຕ່ຜູ້ຮັບເອກະສານຮອດຫົວໜ້າພະແນກ ເຊັ່ນ: ພະແນກອຸດສາຫະກຳ ແລະການຄ້ານະຄອນຫຼວງ, ດ່ານພາສີຂົວມິດຕະພາບ1

ແມ່ນໜັກກ່ວາໝູ່ສີນຄ້າສົ່ງອອກທີ່ເປັນນະໂຍບາຍສົ່ງເສີມຂອງລັດຖະບານກໍ່ຖືກຄັດ ຂວາງມື້ໃດອາລົມດີກໍ່ປ່ອຍໄປມື້ໃດອາລົມຮ້າຍກໍ່ກັກໄວ້ເຮັດໃຫ້ນັກທຸລະກິດເກີດຄວາມທໍ້ຖອຍໃຈ ພວກທ່ານຄິດແນວໃດ?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mining, logging to face government scrutiny

President Choummaly Sayasone has requested that the government examine future approval s of mineral extraction projects, rubber plantations, timber exportation and secondhand vehicle imports to determine whether they are in the best interests of the country.

President Choummaly Sayasone.

The president said he is very concerned about environmental issues in Laos, including the recent flooding, as natural disasters and excessive resource extraction are severely impacting on the livelihoods of Lao people.

Speaking at the first new government meeting in Vientiane earlier this week, the president said the country must be wary of diminishing its mining resources. “If we exhaust our mineral resources, it will be a sin against our children,” he said.

“The projects that we have already approved also need to be reviewed to assess their effectiveness. Those in breach of the law or found to be ineffective need to be brought to a halt.”

Mr Choummaly said investment in the mining industry needs to be beneficial to the country. “If we only get minor benefits from a mining project, we should not do it.”

Foreign businesspeople are also investing heavily in rubber plantations, many Lao people end up being labourers for the projects.

“I want the government to review the effectiveness of rubber plantation projects. If possible, we should stop approving these kinds of projects,” he said. “I think that there will not be enough Lao labourers to tap the rubber if we continue to approve rubber plantations at the current rate, unless we import labourers from other countries.”

The president said there are many problems with rubber plantations, particularly in relation to allocating leasehold land to foreign investors, which creates conflict with local villagers. Authorities are having trouble dealing with villagers being displaced from their traditional homes and then resettled in other areas.

“I want the government to stop the approval of rubber plantations and encourage villagers to grow crops which have a more immediate benefit,” Mr Choummaly said.

He said rubber is an industrial tree that takes seven years to tap and uses up valuable cultivatable land but does not feed anyone. Crops like sweetcorn, cassava and sugar can be more profitable for villagers as they can be harvested every season, giving villagers a more regular and reliable income.

“We want the government to review land usage in the country, to ensure Lao villagers have land to grow crops and help themselves out of poverty.”

The president said he is also deeply concerned about the logging industry. The government has already banned the exportation of timber, but illegal logging continues to be a problem. He said that any timber logged in Laos should be milled and processed here, so that the country reaps the full benefits of its own resources rather than seeing them flow overseas.

He said there also needs to be a review of policies in relation to the importation of secondhand vehicles, as the number of vehicles on the roads has now exceeded the road capacity of Laos, creating traffic jams and air pollution in the capital. “Should we stop importing these kinds of vehicles?” he asked the new government.

He said the Ministry of Industry and Commerce needs to increase its efforts to inspect vehicle imports and try to stop people taking advantage of this process.
“Secondhand vehicles are flooding into our country, and big roads have become small due to the rising number of vehicles travelling on them,” he said. “In the next few years, we may not have space to park them all. The more cars we have means the more fuel we have to import and we will have to pay for that.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nuts, greens lower 'bad' cholesterol

Researchers say following a cholesterol-lowering diet based on soy, nuts, and green vegetables is more likely to reduce bad cholesterol than a low fat diet.

A new study of 351 Canadians with high cholesterol showed that the cholesterol-lowering foods decreased participants' low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by about 13 percent after six months, reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke over the next 10 years by about 11 percent on average.

Those who followed a traditional diet low in saturated fat experienced only 3 percent reduction in LDL level.

according to the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), participants who were on cholesterol-lowering diet consumed food that included plant-based sterols supplied by a special margarine, soy protein from tofu, soy milk, and soy-based meat substitutes, as well as viscous fiber from oats, barley, and psyllium, and nuts.

"Each one of these ingredients will help you, but when they all work together, you'll get the strongest results," said study author Peter Jones of the University of Toronto. "Plant-based sterols alone can lower your cholesterol by 5 percent. When you add in fiber and nuts and soy, the story just keeps getting better.”

"The main takeaway here is that people can lower their cholesterol with diet if they put their minds to it," he added. "These can be small changes. We're not asking people to live behind bars."

Researchers emphasized that the key point for taking benefits of the cholesterol-lowering diet is to replace choices high in saturated fat with healthier, plant-based options and make smart swaps throughout the day rather than measuring out specific amounts of each ingredient.

High salt, low activity bad for brain

People who consume high amounts of salt and are inactive are not only at a higher risk of heart disease but are more likely to develop cognitive problems.

A team of Canadian researchers followed the sodium consumption and physical activity levels of 1,262 healthy men and women aged 67 to 84 over a period of three years.

Their findings showed that those who used to take highest levels of sodium and had the lowest levels of exercise were more likely to have poorer cognitive performance than those with a low sodium intake and an active lifestyle.

“We have generated important evidence that sodium intake not only impacts heart health, but brain health as well,” said senior researcher, Dr Alexandra Fiocco, of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.

“The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,

“But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake.”

Participants had a daily sodium intake ranging from 2,263 milligrams to 8,098 milligrams, researchers wrote in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

High sodium intake was considered 3,091 mg per day or greater while low and medium intake were defined as not exceeding 2,263 and 3,090 milligrams respectively.

Health Canada, however, recommends people who are more than 14 years old consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day. One teaspoon of salt is equal to 2,000 milligrams.

No need to mention that daily sodium intake includes what an individual gets through all dietary sources including food and drinks and not just the salt we add to our meal at the table.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A little bit of alcohol staves off memory problems

Moderate alcohol consumption may help stave off memory problems and/or Alzheimer's disease, a study shows.

Researchers reviewed 143 studies comprising more than 365,000 participants from 19 countries. Their analysis is published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men. A standard drink is defined as 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer, according to WebMD.

Moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of "cognitive impairment," a phrase used to describe a decline in thinking skills. Moderate drinking is generally defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

On the other hand, heavy drinking (more than three to five drinks per day) was associated with a higher risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, but the researchers said this finding was not statistically significant.

"We don't recommend that nondrinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking -- if it is truly moderate -- can be beneficial," study co-author Edward J. Neafsey, a professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics, said in a Loyola University Medical Center news release.

Wine appeared more beneficial than beer or spirits, but that finding was based on a relatively small number of studies, the study authors noted, informs U.S. News & World Report.

For people who drink responsibly and in moderation, there's probably no reason to quit. But because of the potential for alcohol to be abused, Neafsey and Collins do not recommend that abstainers begin drinking.

The researchers note that there are other things besides moderate drinking that can reduce the risk of dementia, including exercise, education and a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds. Even gardening has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia, the release pointed out, says

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Higher pay threshold for entry & mid-level foreign execs

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Manpower Ministry (MOM) is tightening the criteria for Employment Passes (EP) to foreigners from 1 January 2012.

It said the move is to ensure that as the salary of local workers rise, they won't be disadvantaged by Employment Pass holders coming in at lower wages.

Deputy Prime Minister and Manpower Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, also assured businesses that the move is "not dramatic", and would translate to a 1-2 per cent increase in their remuneration bill, as the measures are phased in.

The announcement comes in the wake of the PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech where he spoke of the need to protect Singaporean workers, especially at the lower end of the job spectrum.

At the same time, Mr Lee also touched on the requirements of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who often need foreign workers the most.

The demand for Employment Passes has increased rapidly since the economic recovery in 2010.

From June 2010 to June 2011, the numbers doubled from 14 to 28 per cent.

At the end of last year, there were nearly 142,000 Employment Pass holders.

So the MOM is tightening eligibility requirements for those entering the lower and mid-level professional and skilled jobs.

Mr Tharman said: "If we don't make adjustments like this from time to time, what will be happening is we are opening up a wider gulf between Employment Pass holders' salaries and local salaries, and that is not good for an efficient labour market.

"There is no perfect time to implement measures for the long term. We have to move ahead now, reinforce the measures we have already taken and make sure we are not leaving big gaps in place."

So from January next year, educational qualifying requirements for Q1 Pass applicants will be tightened.

The ministry will also move away from the single qualifying salary of $2,800.

Applicants must now earn at least $3,000, with the ministry assessing qualification and experience.

Older applicants must command higher salaries and have commensurate experience and quality.

For P2 Pass holders, the qualifying salary will be $4,500, up from the current $4,000.

There will be no change in the qualifying salary for P1 Pass holders, which will remain as $8,000.

Mr Tharman said: "The policy shift really has to do with the older Employment Pass holders, those who are beyond their late 20s and early 30s, where if they are all going to be paid the same amount as the starting salaries, then we have a problem, because you get a wider and wider gap between the salaries of locals, whose salaries do move up as they gain experience and skills and track record, and the Employment Pass holders.

"That's where we are tightening up. Most Employment Pass holders will be able to fit in the new framework."

The new criteria will also affect existing Employment Pass holders. The MOM said it will phase in the new criteria for them over the next one to two years.

Those whose EPs expire before 1 January 2012 will receive a one-time renewal of up to two years, based on the criteria before July this year.

If their Employment Pass expires between 1 January 2012 and 30 June 2012, they will get a one-time renewal of up to a year, while those whose Employment Pass expire on or after 1 July 2012 will be subject to the new Employment Pass criteria.

Mr Tharman said: "At the end of the day, it is not going to mean a cutback in the overall size of the EP pass pool. It is not going to mean zero growth either. It will mean continued growth because the growing economy needs a growth in Employment Pass holders, but it will be slower growth than what we have seen.

"Make no mistake about it, we got to keep attracting bright, capable people into Singapore, young and middle aged, and the steps we are taking here are not going to impact our ability to attract good young people."

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) said it is reassured by the government's emphasis that Singaporeans should remain at the core of a diverse and globally competitive workforce.

Foreign workers make up one-third of Singapore's total workforce.

Laos builds legal system but awareness remains low

The Lao PDR has enacted many laws and regulations since the national constitution was adopted but citizen's awareness of the law remains low.

Minister of Justice Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher spoke on the issue yesterday at a lecture to mark the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the national constitution.
“Even after 20 years, it remains difficult to strictly and effectively enforce the laws we have enacted,” Dr Chaleun said.

Since the national constitution came into force on August 15, 1991 along with 22 news laws, around 68 additional laws have been enacted.

Among the many reasons for the challenges in enforcing laws in Laos, Dr Chaleun said the main reason that enforcement is still based on traditional methods is that the country lacks a history of the rule of law and many offenders are poor, which limits their ability to make reparations and so judgments are not enforced.

As it stated in the preamble, the constitution is the fruit of the process of the people's discussion throughout the country which reflects the long-term aspirations and determination of the national community to strive together to fulfil the objectives of building Laos into a country of peace, independence, democracy, unity and prosperity.

The constitution recognises the great achievement of the Lao people in the course of their struggle for national liberation, and their protection and construction of the country. It defines the political regime, the socio-economic system, the regime of national security, defence, foreign affairs, the rights and obligations of citizens and a system of organisation of state apparatus in the new period.

Dr Chaleun, who was a member of the committee responsible for drafting the constitution, said that the date of the announcement of the constitution was also the date the country transitioned from one governed by decrees and decisions to a state governed by laws and regulations.

In addition to national laws, Laos is also bound by the rules of more than 150 UN treaties and last year ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Dr Chaleun called on all ministries and organisations to recognise the important role of the Ministry of Justice in society, to participate in legal awareness building by educating citizens about the law and to create crime-free villages. He added that the ministry has supplied legal handbooks and personnel to all villages to help with informing the public of their legal rights and obligations.

“We will certainly become more strict and efficient in law enforcement, but this will take time because training is needed as the foundation of enforcement,” Dr Chaleun noted.

President urges new govt to concentrate on quality not quantity

The new government needs to face up to its responsibilities with honesty and integrity, and focus on the quality not quantity of results to honour the trust that the Lao people have placed in them, according to President Choummaly Sayasone.
Preident Choummaly Sayasone ( second left ) speaks to new cabinet members in Vientiane on Monday.
He was speaking at the opening of the first government meeting in Vientiane on Monday, which was attended by cabinet members and Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong.

He expressed his confidence in the new government successfully implementing the Resolution of the 9th Party Congress and Seventh Socio-Economic Development Plan until 2015.

He observed that despite many achievements, much needs to be done to respond to the needs of national development. “Our development is lagging behind that of other countries,” said Mr Choummaly, who is also Secretary General of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

“Our society is waiting for us to address our shortcomings, including autocracy, corruption, slow development and weak administration of the state, which have not been addressed in a timely manner. In addition, social problems are rising and we still don't have real measures to address them or reduce their prevalence. All these things have affected the leadership of our Party and management of our State,” he said.

He advised the new government to focus on the quality of its work, ensuring that it matches the reality of the nation and the real needs of the Lao people.

“In the past we sometimes conducted work without paying attention to the real needs, resulting in low quality output. At certain times, work should have been done but it was delayed or not done at all, which suggests our performance did not match with the reality,” he said.

“Concerning corruption, we have talked about this for a long time so I want all sectors to study and go in-depth to address it. Corruption can mean dishonesty and disloyalty of officials towards the nation and Lao people by using their position of authority for their own benefit.”

Mr Choummaly said corruption began when Laos opened itself up as a market economy and many people thought only of how to earn money rather than of how to benefit the nation.

He called on the new government to be a model for society and to address social problems, including corruption and inappropriate procedures in state administration.

The new government also needs to focus on minimising gaps in revenue collection and using the budget in line with the real needs of poverty reduction and national development, he said.
The president said Laos is rich in natural resources, but Lao people remain poor due to a lack of knowledge on how to earn a living and produce crops to meet market demand.

Therefore, assigning officials to work in remote areas is vitally important in order to boost development.

Mr Choummaly said local authorities often tell him their annual rice production figures without going into the quality of the produce, while others speak of GDP growth and increased income per capita without giving the exact amounts that poor people earn.

He urged the new government to work hard to accomplish the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, and ensure national economic growth of at least 8 percent and annual income per capita of US$1,700.

Since the first session of the new NA in June, the new government has focused on improving the structure of its sectors and organising an official ceremony for the cabinet reshuffle.

During yesterday's meeting, Mr Thongsing highlighted the key areas and goals that the government will focus on over the next five years to boost national development.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Even little exercise reduces heart risk

Being engaged in even small amounts of aerobic exercise and physical activity is effective in lowering the risk of developing heart disease, a new study says.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers did a meta-analysis on 33 previous studies to find the amount of physical activity and exercise needed to lower the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in inactive individuals.

The study found that people engaged in as low as 2.5 hours or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week have a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease.

Moreover, increasing the time of weekly physical activity to 300 minutes reduces the risk of CHD by 20 percent, according to the report published in Circulation.

The findings also showed that being engaged in higher levels of physical activity is associated with modestly lower relative risks of heart disease.

The study results supported the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for the Americans, which recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise for health benefits.

"The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines -- even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better," said lead author Jacob Sattelmair.

"Early studies broke people into groups such as active and sedentary," he noted. "More recent studies have begun to assess the actual amount of physical activity people are getting and how that relates to the risk of heart disease."

"The biggest health benefits we saw were for those who went from doing nothing to those doing something small," he noted. "Even a little bit of activity makes a significant difference," Jacob concluded.

ASEAN turns 44 on August 8

SINGAPORE: Singapore will mark the 44th anniversary of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with a flag-raising ceremony at the Indonesian Embassy on 8 August.

Indonesia is the current Chairman of ASEAN.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said this year's celebrations are particularly significant.

It said this will be the first time that the ASEAN flag will be flown at all ASEAN member states' diplomatic and consular missions in ASEAN countries and ASEAN's dialogue partners and ASEAN Member States' Missions where UN headquarters and offices are located.

MFA said this is a symbol of ASEAN's commitment to its community building efforts.

It added that Singapore supports such efforts and will be raising the ASEAN flags at its relevant overseas Missions.

Singpore's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, will be the Guest of Honour at the event.

Representatives from ASEAN Embassies and High Commissions in Singapore, as well as senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore have been invited to attend the ceremony.

Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam will be the Guest of Honour at a reception on 25 August 2011 to celebrate ASEAN Day.

MFA said ASEAN remains a cornerstone of Singapore's foreign policy and an important institution to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Every year, ASEAN member states celebrate ASEAN Day to promote greater awareness, consciousness, and understanding of ASEAN among its peoples and communities.

MFA said this is in line with efforts to build a strong, credible and people-centred ASEAN and realise the shared vision of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

PE: President constitutionally obliged to act on advice of Cabinet: President Nathan

SINGAPORE: Amid ongoing public discussion on the role of the Elected Presidency, President S R Nathan has reiterated that the office has its constitutional obligations.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr Nathan said these include acting on the advice of the Cabinet and of the Council of Presidential Advisers on matters under the Constitution.

In his 12 years in office, Mr Nathan said there was never any occasion in which he had to demand information from the government.

He said: "I have absolute access. Every Cabinet meeting, every Cabinet paper has been sent to me so that have opportunity to look at them beforehand. And when I have questions and when I meet the Prime Minister or the Senior Minister periodically, we do exchange views. What I have in mind, I'll raise with him, and what they have in mind they'll raise with us, beyond the formal exchange of information."

The President has to consult the Council of Presidential Advisers when exercising his custodial and discretionary powers.

In 2009, with a global crisis in the horizon, Mr Nathan and the Council requested to be briefed by the Ministry of Finance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and relevant agencies on the potential impact on Singapore.

Mr Nathan later approved the use of past reserves to fund measures to fight the recession.

He said: "We knew that we were in a state where inevitably we had to do something. So at that stage, the government came up with the proposal of the Jobs Credit Scheme and the bank guarantees. We in our judgement and the Council of the Presidential Advisers in their judgement, felt that we had to respond and that's when the process worked. We had a formal letter from the government explaining what they wanted, and also what it was to do with the way to alleviate the consequences of this downturn. That was the stage when the Council recommended that I approved it and I did it."

The President also does not act independently when asked to grant pardons on the death penalty.

Mr Nathan said: "One would like us to and like me to exercise it freely but I've got to act on the advice of the Cabinet as provided by the Constitution. However sympathetic you may be, one has to think of the overall good of the community as against an individual. I know it is a painful exercise."

Mr Nathan said he understands the expectations that people may have of the President but he said it is not his place to comment on their views.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Poor sleep ruins marriages, study says

For the study, presented today at Sleep 2011, the 25th anniversary meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis, 35 healthy, married couples wore actigraphs -- bracelets that measured the time it took each partner to fall asleep after going to bed and the total time each slept over 10 days. The couples also kept a diary in which they recorded positive and negative interactions with their spouse, says ABC News.

Women have a new reason to get help with their insomnia - poor sleep might be damaging their marriages.

After a bad night's sleep women - but not men - tend to have more negative interactions with their spouses, a new study shows.

"Other research has shown that sleep disturbance and deprivation has profound effects on mood, irritability and frustration tolerance," said the study's lead author, Wendy Troxel, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. "And the person you're most likely to take it out on is not your boss or some random person, but your spouse", reports

Cell phones and cancer link

Youths using cell phones do not face a higher risk of brain cancer, a new study says. However, two California scientists who have looked at the report say that's not the whole story, according to Public News Service.

Scientists say the study is important, because it is the first of its kind to focus on children.
The study's authors compared the cellphone habits of nearly 1,000 children in Western Europe, including 352 with brain tumors and 646 without. Kids who used cellphones were no more likely to develop a brain tumor than others, according to the study of children ages 7 to 19, published online Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, says USA Today.

In the past two decades, cellphone use has soared among children in developed countries, with one study suggesting that most youths start to use mobile phones by age 9 or 10. Children have a developing nervous system, and cellphone emissions penetrate deeper into their brains. Studies have indicated that the outer brain tissue of children ages 5 to 8 may absorb twice the amount of cellphone energy absorbed by adult brains.

Public health data indicate no increase in brain tumors among children in the U.S. and many parts of Europe, whether from cellphone usage or any other cause. The latest research "shows that a large and immediate risk of cellphones causing brain tumors in children can be excluded," said Martin Roosli, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, reports

Friday, July 29, 2011

Secondhand smoke, hearing loss linked

Compared to teens with non-smoking parents, adolescents who are exposed to secondhand smoke are two times more likely to develop levels of hearing loss in the long run.

New York University School of Medicine researchers studied any possible relationship between exposure to tobacco smoke at home and the risk of developing hearing loss in 11,533 US teenagers.

The teens with higher blood levels of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, were more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss -- a condition most often caused by problems with the cochlea, the snail-shaped hearing organ in the inner ear.

About 12 percent of the exposed kids had mild to severe hearing loss in one ear, compared to less than eight percent of kids without smoke exposure, according to the findings published in the Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

"More than half of all children in the U.S. are exposed to secondhand smoke, so our finding that it can lead to hearing loss in teenagers has huge public health implications," said study co-author Anil Lalwani.

Researchers believe children may need to be screened more regularly for hearing problems because more than 80 percent of the affected teens in the study were not aware of having any hearing problems.

Further studies are needed to determine how exactly exposure to tobacco smoke causes hearing difficulties, the scientists added.

Vegetarian diet prevents diverticulitis

People who follow a high-fiber and meat-free diet are in much lower risk of common bowel disorder called diverticular disease, a new study says.

Oxford University researchers found that those who follow vegetarian diets are about 30 percent less likely to develop diverticular disease than their meat-eating peers.

Diverticular disease occurs due to development of pouches or diverticula in the intestine, usually the large intestine or colon. The condition is more common in countries such as the US and the UK where people's diet is generally low in fiber.

Diverticula usually cause no symptoms but when becoming inflamed, they are called diverticulitis and may cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, fever, irregular bowel habits, and bloating.

Dr. Francesca Crowe and his colleagues recorded dietary habits of more than 47,000 adults, and followed them for 12 years to detect those who might develop diverticular disease.

According to the new findings published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), individuals who consumed around 25 grams of dietary fiber each day were less likely to be admitted to hospital or die from diverticular disease than people whose daily meals included less than 14 grams of fiber.

However, the researchers did not recommend people to adopt a solely vegetarian diet to lower their risk of diverticular disease but urged them to follow a healthier diet including more fiber and less meat.

"Overall the opportunity for preventing the occurrence of diverticular disease and other conditions, such as colorectal cancer, probably lies in the modification of diet, at either a population or an individual level," the researchers suggested.

The new research adds new evidence to previous findings about possible benefits of vegetarian or high fiber and less meat diets.

However, it is not strong enough to show a cause and effect relation between the studied dietary choices and lower risk of diverticular disease, which needs more sophisticate studies.

MOSCOW, July 29 (Itar-Tass) — Russian media writes about possibility of worsening of relations between Russia and the USA. Features of a possible coolness in the Russian-American relations are emerging, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. After the information about the sanctions against officials on the Magnisky list, American media spoke about possible involvement of Russia’s special services in explosions in Georgia. Russia’s permanent representative at NATO Dmitry Rogozin made it clear on Thursday that the anti-missile system in Europe is aimed against Russia. Experts warn about an attempt of the USA’s conservative circles to go back to the times of the Cold War.

MOSCOW, July 29 (Itar-Tass) — Russian media writes about possibility of worsening of relations between Russia and the USA. Features of a possible coolness in the Russian-American relations are emerging, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. After the information about the sanctions against officials on the Magnisky list, American media spoke about possible involvement of Russia’s special services in explosions in Georgia. Russia’s permanent representative at NATO Dmitry Rogozin made it clear on Thursday that the anti-missile system in Europe is aimed against Russia. Experts warn about an attempt of the USA’s conservative circles to go back to the times of the Cold War.

Commenting on the situation around the Magnitsky list, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that the Russian side will not leave without a response “the unfriendly steps” of the USA and “will undertake adequate measures to protect sovereignty of the country and rights of Russian citizens against illegal actions of foreign states.”

The Washington Times newspaper launched another sensation. Officials of the presidential administration told reporters anonymously about the CIS secret report, where the Russian intelligent service /GRU/ is claimed as involved in organisation of the explosion by the USA’s Embassy in Tbilisi in September of 2010 and in several other similar incidents.

The newspaper addressed Director of the Institute of USA and Canada of Russia’s Academy of Sciences Sergei Rogov for comments on the present Russian-American relations. He said that the political situation in America is changing and, following the victory in the Congress elections last November, the republicans – opposing the rebooting – undertook a counterattack.

“They start saying that it is time to finish the rebooting and to start pressing Russia regarding human rights, democracy and other issues of home policy. At the same time, they demand from the administration reconsidering of the START and refusing from any cooperation on anti-missile systems,” the expert explained. He added that there are circles in the USA, which are still adamant that Russia remains the major enemy and that it is necessary to build up pressure on it, and not to reach agreements.

Sergei Rogov said that absence of further progress in the Russian-American relations will emerge the situation, where there are forces seeking to ruin all achievements.

This comment, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports, confirms Dmitry Rogozin’s words, published on Thursday, about his meetings in the USA with representatives of the Republican Party. For example, he named Senator Kail as “monster of the Cold War” and warns that if such people come to power, it will end the “rebooting.”

The Novye Izvestia, in its turn, stress that Moscow’s response to America’s Magnitsky list turned out to be tough.

“I can confirm that at the order of the president the foreign ministry is working out measures against the USA citizens, which are analogous to those announced by the Department of State,” the newspaper quotes Russia’s presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova as saying. “The Russian side is bewildered at the Department of State’ s decision to undertake unusual functions, to actually announce guilt and to introduce any measures against Russian citizens before the investigation is over and a verdict is announced by the Russian justice.”

At the same time, Chairman of the presidential Permanent Chamber on human rights Valery Borshchev doubts the foreign ministry will be able to make up a list of the kind. “I do not think that it will be so easy to spot people in the USA, who are accused of serious crimes and at the same time travel across the world without problems,” he said.

S'pore cannot do without foreign talent

SINGAPORE: Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said Singapore would not be able to punch above its own weight if it were to depend on talent from its own population.

He was speaking at a dialogue to wrap up the two-day South Asian Diaspora convention in Singapore on Friday.

DBS Bank's CEO Piyush Gupta posted a question to Mr Lee, asking just how big the issue of attracting foreign talent in Singapore is, having noted that it was a hot topic during the recent General Election.

Mr Lee felt it was an issue among Singaporeans even before the election.

Mr Lee said: "For some time, the Singaporean has felt the competition from talented foreigners. But these are people who have come here to become our citizens and I am a firm believer that the more talent that you have in a society, the better the society will grow.

"If Singapore depends on the talent it can produce out of three million people, it's not going to punch above its weight.

"It's because we have been drawing talent from across the globe - South Asia, Northeast Asia, China, India and beyond that - you have a vibrant economy which is way beyond what three million Singaporeans with the talent they can produce can do.

"So you've got to accept the discomfort, which the local citizens fear that they are competing unequally for jobs. (It) cannot be helped.

"But without them, the jobs will not be there to begin with. So welcome talent and we'll continue to welcome talent."

When asked how the political problem associated with the foreign talent issue could be managed, Mr Lee said: "You just have to assuage it.

"What is the choice - slow growth with no input of talent or faster growth with input of talent and the feeling that some of the top jobs are going to the foreigners? You may get no jobs at all if there were no growth."

Several participants at the convention also took the opportunity to tap Mr Lee's views on the importance of governance and meritocracy for the success of a country. One common question raised during the dialogue was how Mr Lee would have governed India, if the country was handed to him.

Mr Lee replied: "First, what sort of Indian would I be? A northern Indian? A southern Indian? That identifies you with the interest of a particular group.

"Or a Bombay Indian, which is the most cosmopolitan of all. But it may well be that a Bombay Indian doesn't represent Indians at all, so it's a problem India has to face.

"It is important whoever leads India should find acceptance with the widest group of Indians possible. But I think it is very difficult for any Indian leader to find more than 40 per cent of Indians believing he represents them."

Mr Lee also noted that Indians speak nearly 300 different languages, but in China, 90 per cent of the people speak the same language and that makes it a much easier country to lead than India.

- CNA/ck

Asean visa free travel moves closer

Asean has reaffirmed its commitment to accelerate the easing of visa requirements for Asean nationals traveling within the region, as outlined in the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity.

The commitment to relax visa conditions in the region was stipulated in the Joint Communiqué of the 44th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali, Indonesia recently.

Changing entry require-ments for Asean nationals will allow more freedom of movement within the region, allowing people to travel more easily whether for business or pleasure. Over time this can only enhance the understanding and solidarity that people within the region feel towards neighbouring states and peoples.

Asean leaders agreed to task a Senior Official Meeting (SOM) with the relevant immigration authorities and foreign affairs officials from the respective countries to study the implementation of a progressive visa relaxation.

They will also discuss the possible establishment of an Asean common visa for non-Asean nationals and report to the 19th Asean Summit. The leaders also noted the Asean Tourism Ministers' discussions in January 2011, which included talks on a single visa being included in the Asean Tourism Strategic Plan for 2011-2015.

Director General of the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Asean Department Dr Khiane Phansourivong told Vientiane Times this week that bearers of diplomatic passports and official passports don't need visas when traveling to other Asean nations.

Currently, Lao citizens still require a visa to visit Indonesia but are exempt for the remaining nine Asean countries. However, when the bilateral agreement takes effect Lao citizens will be exempted from visa requirements in Indonesia.

Dr Khiane said if the Asean visa free area and the Asean common visa for non-Asean nationals eventuate it will attract more trade, investment, and international tourists to the region; as well as strengthen business investment and cross-border relations within the region itself.

However Dr Khiane said that the timeframe for the implementation of the visa free project was far from clear, as officials have to examine the laws and regulations of each member-state, and consider the possible ramifications it could have on the different countries in the region.

Asean nations aim to establish an Asean Community by 2015, with the concept based on three separate pillars which will help to integrate the region – an Asean Security Community (ASC), an Asean Economic Community (AEC) and an Asean Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).

The ASC aims to maintain regional peace and stability by developing a cooperative framework to deal with both conventional and unconventional security threats.

The AEC is aimed at enhancing regional economic cooperation to ensure Asean's prosperity and well-being.

The ASCC promotes harmonious regional relationship and cultural understanding.
Asean is home to nearly 600 million people and its aggregate GDP was US$1.9 trillion in 2010.
The Asean member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
By Times Reporters (Latest Update July 29, 2011)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

back to pre-war condition of 1939

NATO is significantly increasing its military presence in the Black Sea basin. According to the head of the European Command of the Armed Forces U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Marine Corps will expand its activities in the Black Sea region. According to the official version of Stavridis, who, incidentally, at the same time holds the position of Supreme Allied Commander (OER) of NATO in Europe, the increase in the number of U.S. Marines is due to the need for training of the allied forces for their further deployment to Afghanistan. According to Stavridis, in 2011 the U.S. has planned various kinds of interaction with as many as 14 Black Sea region countries, to include the preparation of the Armies of partner states for deployment to Afghanistan and training their sergeant staff. However, he did not specify which countries he had in mind. Even if we were to include Moldavia in the list of the countries of the Black Sea region, there would not be as many as 14 states. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia have full access to the Black Sea. The interaction with the Russian side is obviously not planned. Perhaps, Stavridis had in mind the countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation that include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Serbia and Albania? In this case we have only 11 potential partners of America in the region. Moreover, Armenia and Serbia are reluctant to send their troops to the Afghan war. Stavridis may have included Poland to the list of the Black Sea region countries. According to his confession, along with two Georgian battalions, his subordinates have prepared a couple of Polish brigades. Given the old dream of the Polish elite to be stretching "from one sea to another," it is clearly not opposed to be among the Black Sea region countries. Yet, this does not give an exhaustive answer about Washington's plans in the region. Even more questions arise concerning the preparation for the Afghan operation. First, the Georgian military will be prepared for operations against the Taliban not in Afghanistan but at home, although the terrains of the two countries differ markedly. Second, according to Stavridis, the parties have already commenced joint exercises. In the course of the exercise the forces of the U.S. Navy practiced the use of unmanned aerial vehicles that ran on board the ships, and other maneuvers. A key role was played by warships that clearly practiced strikes at the coast. It also seems a bit strange, because even if they wanted, they would not be able to send the fleet to Afghanistan. At the same time, the Royal Marines of the British Royal Navy are conducting strange trainings with their Ukrainian counterparts near the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The trainings are held in the Old Crimea, at the base of the Black Sea Marine Corps training center of coastal defense troops of the Ukrainian Navy. According to the legend of the maneuvers, they represent "workshops to share experiences in carrying out peacekeeping missions." What are the real objectives pursued by NATO countries in the region? A captain of 1st rank, 1st Vice-President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issued answered this question for "The Americans, in addition to the preparation of cannon meat from the satellite countries for participation in the punitive operations against Afghanistan, are preparing for combat action in the Black Sea area. This time it will no longer be a local conflict like the war of 2008, but a large-scale war. It suffices to recall the statement made by head of the Academy of Military Sciences Gareev on March 26 where he touched upon this topic. In addition, this same conclusion can be drawn from the available data on building groups of NATO in the Black Sea basin and at Russia's western borders. The U.S. is starting to deploy new military bases in Poland and upgrade existing ones to receive a much larger number of troops. The military buildup of NATO to Russian borders clearly indicates that the preparation for aggression is in full swing. We must pay tribute to U.S. troops by saying that the preparation for a strike against a possible military adversary is in all respects conducted at the highest professional level. The fact that the British, with the approval of our Ukrainian brothers, are honing the skills of warfare in the Crimea near Sevastopol, too, speaks volumes. These are the links of one chain, because since the establishment of the Rockefeller, International oligarchic capital has adopted a common policy of aggression against other countries. In fact, if we draw historical parallels, the world is in a state of 1939, i.e., before the start of a global war, whose precursor is the aggression of the U.S. and its satellites against Iraq and Afghanistan, and this time against Libya. The only question is when this "Black Sea Libya" happens. It is not that the Americans and their European satellites are the bad guys, it's just that the prosperity of their economies depends on the control of the world's raw materials resources. In a crisis, they have no other choice. With regard to the outbreak of the conflict with Russia, there are more than enough reasons for it." For example, the Georgian scenario may be played out again, or the Libyan scenario may be attempted as well. The West is very sensitive to terrorist groups operating in the North Caucasus. A look at the western press is sufficient to understand how these events are covered. After another successful raid carried out against militants, NATO can submit a voice in defense of the "revolutionaries and guerrillas," and further continue to operate under the planned scenario.