S.Korea’s Lotte takes over retail, apartment complex in Vietnam

Diamond Plaza in the center of Ho Chi Minh City. File photo South Korean retail giant Lotte has officially taken over Diamond Plaza, a retail and residential building in the center of Ho Chi Minh City, after an undisclosed deal with major investor Posco, local media reported. Lotte has reportedly replaced Posco, also from South Korea, to own 70 percent in a joint venture with a Vietnamese company that runs the 22-story multipurpose building, located at the expensive corner of Le Duan and Pham Ngoc Thach in District 1. The acquisition of the property, which includes an office tower and serviced apartments, is seen by local media as a strategic move that can help Lotte strengthen its presence in Vietnam. Last April, the group also bought a majority stake in five-star hotel Legend Saigon from Japan's Kotobuki. The South Korean giant currently has a number of mixed-use projects in development, including the Lotte Center in Hanoi and an urban project in Thu Thiem. Sources said it … [Read more...]

Saudi executions set ‘unprecedented’ pace

Saudi police cars are parked in central Riyadh on March 11, 2011 Saudi Arabia has beheaded dozens of convicts, including foreign drug traffickers, since the start of the year in what Amnesty International calls an unprecedented pace of executions. Those put to the sword have included five Pakistanis, an Indian, two Jordanians, two Syrians and a Yemeni, with few foreign governments willing to publicly appeal for clemency from the wealthy Gulf state. Three beheadings in a single day on Tuesday -- one for rape and two for murder -- took the total so far this year to 38, according to an AFP tally. That is about three times the number over the same period in 2014, but observers disagree about the reasons. There was also a surge in the latter months of last year, towards the end of King Abdullah's reign. He died on January 23 and was succeeded by King Salman. "It began before Salman," a diplomatic source said. "The Saudi authorities want to show everyone they are strong, people can … [Read more...]

In photo exhibit ‘Precious Heritage’, cultures of Vietnam’s ethnic groups shine

A M'Nong ethnic girl with her elephant featured in one of the photos on display at Rehahn Croquevielle's debut exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. A French photographer has launched an exhibit in Ho Chi Minh City featuring daily life images of Vietnamese minority ethnic communities. Rehahn Croquevielle said he wants to show the world another side of Vietnam and the colorful cultures of different ethnic groups across the country. His debut exhibition, "Precious Heritage," uses 35 of his favorite images from "Vietnam, a Mosaic of Contrasts", a photo book he published last year. The highlight is the world-famous series of photos portraying 6-year-old Kim Luan from the M’Nong ethnic group with her pet elephant in Buon Ma Thuot in the Central Highlands. Croquevielle said he captured the scenes by chance and was mesmerized by the fact that the happy little girl was not intimidated by the giant animal. He said the photos tell a lot about the old custom of raising elephants as pets … [Read more...]

Former China leader not implicated in aide’s investigation, official says

Ling Jihua is another "big tiger" to be targeted by President Xi Jinping's Retired Chinese President Hu Jintao is not being implicated in a corruption probe into a former top aide, a senior government spokesman said on Friday, adding that the official was being investigated more over financial issues than political ones. Ling Jihua was demoted in September 2012 without explanation. Sources told Reuters that the move happened after his son was involved in a deadly crash involving a luxury sports car in Beijing. Ling was dropped from his post as head of the party's General Office of the Central Committee, a powerful job similar to cabinet secretary in Westminster-style governments. He was then appointed as minister for the less influential United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting non-Communists, religious groups and ethnic minorities, until being sacked last year when his graft probe was announced. Lu Xinhua, spokesman for the high-profile but largely ceremonial … [Read more...]

Vietnamese man high on drugs survives electrocution after utility pole climb

Police in northern Vietnam on Thursday saved a young man who climbed up a utility pole and fell down after an apparent electric shock. The Hai Phong native, who police said was high on meth, was reportedly climbing the pole at around 11 a.m. When he was almost halfway to the top, around six meters above the ground, he was electrocuted and got stuck on a metal horizontal crossarm. Police arrived at the scene minutes after locals gathered around the pole. They laid a rescue cushion on the ground, just in time for his fall. He was seen hitting his head on another metal bar on the way down. They rushed him to a local hospital in stable condition. His identity has not been released. … [Read more...]

Hongkong Land, Sumitomo back out of Vietnam ‘golden’ property project: reports

A "golden" land on Dong Khoi Street, where a US$331.3 million plus project was planned. Photo credit: Nguoi Lao Dong Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have allowed UK-owned Hongkong Land and Japan's Sumitomo Realty & Development to withdraw from a coveted property project at one of the best locations in the city downtown. Local media reported Thursday that it is unclear why the companies wanted to quit the US$331.3-million-plus project, less than two years after securing land rights in July 2013 following a competitive bidding process. Upon the land assignment, the city's authorities said if the investors failed to carry out the development without justifications, they would lose their deposits and would be banned from bidding for other projects within three years, news website VnExpress said. They were not allowed to transfer their contracts to another investor either, it added. In the meantime, authorities said they will to organize a tender to choose new investors. The … [Read more...]

Vietnam opposes China’s illegal construction works on Truong Sa

Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesperson Pham Thu Hang. Photo credit: VNA A Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesperson said Thursday that Vietnam opposes China’s illegal construction and expansion of structures on Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands and has requested China to immediately stop these wrongful actions, Vietnam News Agency reported. Pham Thu Hang said at a regular press briefing the fact that China has illegally built and expanded structures and changed the status quo in Truong Sa archipelago does not only violate Vietnam’s sovereignty, but also defies the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, signed by China and the ASEAN member nations. She reiterated Vietnam has sufficient legal and historical evidence to affirm its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa archipelagoes. When asked to comment on China’s increase of its defense budget in 2015, she said Vietnam hopes that, as a permanent member of the … [Read more...]

Turkish duo nabbed for stealing cash with bogus bank cards in Vietnam

Cicek Hakan (L) and Igdi Emrah at a Ho Chi Minh City police station. Ho Chi Minh City police said Thursday that they have taken into custody two Turkish men caught withdrawing money from a local ATM with fake bank cards. Cicek Hakan, 31, and Igdi Emrah, 29, will be detained for four months while the investigation continues, HCMC Police newspaper reported. At around 9 p.m. on February 13, two Vietnamese men, only identified as Viet and Quan, spotted the pair withdrawing money from an ATM on Pham Ngu Lao Street in District 1. As they found the two foreigners suspicious, they called the bank that runs the cash machine and followed the pair themselves. The bank called back and said the cards that the Turkish pair had just used were fake. After Viet and Quan shadowed the pair to another ATM booth on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, they asked some security guards to apprehend the Turkish men. The two were then taken to a police station. Police seized 15 fake bank cards from Emrah, hidden … [Read more...]

Apple lets companies fine-tune apps before watch debut: Bloomberg

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands in front of a screen displaying apps available for the Apple Watch at a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 16, 2014. Apple Inc has allowed some companies to test their apps on its yet-to-be-launched Apple Watch and adjust the tools to the watch's design, Bloomberg reported. Facebook Inc, United Continental Holdings Inc, BMW AG and others have spent weeks at Apple's headquarters, working with the smartwatch to test and fine-tune apps that will debut alongside the device, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the process. The watch, which will let consumers check their email, pay for goods at retail stores and monitor personal health information, will be Apple's first major product launch since the iPad in 2010. The company has scheduled a special event in San Fransisco on March 9 where it is expected to showcase Apple Watch, which will be launched in April. Apple uses extreme measures to keep its work secret - … [Read more...]

‘Made in China’ nuclear reactors a tough sell in global market

As China signs global deals to export its nuclear power technology, it faces a huge obstacle: it still needs to show it can build and safely operate these reactors at home. Aided by foreign technology acquired during three decades of development, China has the highest number of reactors being built and ambitions to export its home-grown models to an overseas market worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Premier Li Keqiang told an annual parliamentary meeting this week that the China aimed to increase its share of global sales in a range of advanced industries, including implementing major projects in nuclear power. And in a sign of progress on exporting its own nuclear technology, China signed a preliminary agreement last month to sell its flagship Hualong 1 reactor to Argentina. But despite state media describing the deal as the model's "maiden voyage", China has not yet built Hualong 1, raising questions about the country's capacity to deliver reactors for the global … [Read more...]

Gout may lessen Alzheimer risk

The same uric acid that can crystallise to cause gout, a form of arthritis, may protect against Alzheimer's, researchers say People who suffer from gout can take comfort in one thing: they may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, researchers said Wednesday. The same uric acid that can crystallise to cause gout, a form of arthritis, may protect against Alzheimer's, they wrote in the online journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Testing a theory that antioxidant properties in uric acid may protect the brain, experts from the United States and Canada looked at the records of 3.7 million people over the age of 40 in a British database of medical charts. Researchers compared data on people with gout, and those without, who developed Alzheimer's disease in a followup period of about five years. The researchers identified 309 new cases of Alzheimer's among 59,224 gout sufferers with an average age of 65, and 1,942 cases among 238,805 non-sufferers. This amounted to a 24 … [Read more...]

Coffee farmers in Vietnam seen reaping record crop

A worker harvests coffee on a farm in the main coffee-growing area of Dak Lak province in central Vietnam. The harvest in Vietnam almost doubled in the past decade while Indonesian production rose about 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agri Coffee farmers in Vietnam, the top grower of robusta beans used by Nestle SA, will probably gather a record crop next season as yields recover. Output in the year starting October may jump 13 percent to 1.8 million metric tons assuming normal weather, according to the median of nine trader and analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Output fell to 1.6 million tons this year from 1.72 million tons in 2013-2014, the most ever, the survey shows. Futures lost 10 percent in the past 12 months, slumping to a one-year low in London on Wednesday, as crop prospects improved in Brazil. The South American nation is the second-biggest producer of robusta and the top grower of arabica beans favored by Starbucks Corp. The global coffee harvest … [Read more...]

Vietnam’s power prices to surge 7.5 percent this month

Electricians at work in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang Vietnam’s prime minister has finally approved a power price hike of 7.5 percent starting March 16, after several official warnings that such an increase is inevitable. The average power price will be raised to VND1,622 a kWh, according to a decision announced after a meeting on Thursday between PM Nguyen Tan Dung and officials from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Officials said input costs, including coal prices, have been rising sharply and the upcoming increase will save the state power giant Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) from a possible loss of VND12 trillion (US$562 million) in 2015. They said the hike is also to help the economy meet the inflation target of 5 percent. Inflation has been negative for several months, an unusual trend for Vietnam. The monopoly supplier EVN earlier proposed a price hike of 9.5 percent. Vietnam sets different price levels for household electricity consumption. Prices increase once … [Read more...]

Chinese lawmakers hide cigarettes and alcohol as Xi clamps down

China's Premier Li Keqiang promised to "eradicate the breeding grounds of corruption." A big box painted bright red will be the first thing many delegates notice as they check into their hotels for the annual session of China’s national legislature this week and next. The piece of furniture is there for people to drop reports on any lawmakers and policy advisers deemed to violate President Xi Jinping’s guide for official conduct. The only people with keys are inspectors deployed for the sessions of the National People’s Congress and its advisory body to catch out misbehavior such as boozy banquets or lighting up in hotel conference rooms. Those opinion boxes, installed for the first time this year, reflect the new degree of scrutiny Chinese delegates face as Xi presses ahead with campaigns against corruption and extravagance that already snared a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, retired high-ranking generals and hundreds of lower-level officials. … [Read more...]

Lego seeks a little help from elf friends to reignite franchise

An attendee has her picture taken with life-size models to introduce the LEGO Elves fantasy theme at the American International Toy Fair. Lego A/S’s latest attempt to introduce girls to a world dominated by boys has taken the Danish toymaker to Elvendale, where a magical bakery pumps out sweet treats with a lava-fired oven deep in a forest of purple trees. Lego finally cracked the market for girls’ toys three years ago with Lego Friends, which quickly became one of its best-selling sets as girls embraced its pastel hues and doll-like figures. Lego followed that success up with a Disney Princess line last year, and this year it’s placed a big bet on elves. Girl-focused toys "is a growth area for us going forward," Chief Executive Officer Joergen Vig Knudstorp said in a Feb. 25 interview at Lego’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark, after the toymaker delivered its 10th straight year of sales growth. "It’s not just about adding something new, it’s … [Read more...]

Coca-Cola, McDonald’s wage unhealthy ‘war’ on Russia: PM aide

People eat in a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow on November 19, 2014 Russian officials sharply criticised US fast-food giants Coca-Cola and McDonald's on Thursday for their "unhealthy" products, comparing aggressive advertising campaigns to a war on citizens. An aide to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took aim at the companies for their "super-calorific" products in a sideswipe at the United States at a time of high tension between the countries over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. "The aggressive marketing they carry out -- which has nothing to do with our culinary traditions -- is comparable to a war against our people," said Gennady Onishchenko, speaking to radio station Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei. Onishchenko was previously Russia's chief sanitation doctor, notorious for imposing sweeping bans on food imports from countries that were Moscow's political foes for alleged hygiene breaches. Last year he said Coca-Cola and Pepsi were "chemical weapons", lamenting that they were not … [Read more...]

Vietnam Taekwondo player faces fine for entering beauty pageant in Thailand

Nguyen Van Son, 21, competes in the Mister Global contest in Thailand. Photo courtesy of Mister Global. Authorities on Friday said they have never granted any permission for Nguyen Van Son, a member of the national Taekwondo team, to compete in an ongoing male beauty contest in Thailand. The 21-year-old athlete will face a fine of up to VND30 million (US$1,500) for the violation, local media reported. Over the past two years, nearly a dozen of Vietnamese women have entered beauty pageants without any official endorsements and then faced penalties soon after their homecomings. Under a rule, those who want to compete in a beauty contest abroad must have at least one national title before being selected by the culture ministry to represent the country. Son, who has won 15 medals at national and regional Taekwondo tournaments, did not have any beauty title. Mister Global Nguyen Van Son poses in an army uniform for the Mister Global contest. Despite the pending fine, Son is still … [Read more...]

Forthcoming Vietnam War novel asks us all for a little sympathy

For all The Sympathizer's spies, murders and explosions, it seems an unlikely candidate for a Hollywood adaptation. As we near the 40th Anniversary of the "Fall of Saigon," big time directors like Clint Eastwood are probably thumbing through novels like "Abandoned in Hell," the latest addition to the cannon of books that tracks a young green beret captain and his outgunned team of "Montagnards" as they struggle to hold a hill in the Central Highlands against an onslaught of advancing North Vietnamese soldiers. "The Sympathizer," on the other hand, contains far too many Vietnamese characters whose alliances, thoughts and feelings wouldn't lend themselves too well to film. Too many communists, compromised idealists and not enough purring prostitutes or pretty snipers. And they're all too funny. Instead of a brash, blue-eyed American soldier, the book follows a communist spy embedded in the Republic of Vietnam's leadership as it flees to southern California in April of 1975. He and … [Read more...]

Australia complains over Indonesia’s treatment of death row prisoners

Australians Andrew Chan (L) and Myuran Sukumaran wait in a temporary cell for their appeal hearing in Denpasar District Court in Indonesia's resort island of Bali in this September 21, 2010 file photo Australia has complained about the treatment of two drug smugglers, who face execution in Indonesia, and wants to lodge a formal protest after photographs were published of a smiling police chief with the men, officials said on Friday. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ramped up diplomatic tension between Australia and Indonesia after repeated pleas for mercy on their behalf. They are among a group of up to 11 convicts, mostly foreigners, due to be executed soon on the prison island of Nusakambangan. The pair were moved from their prison in Bali on Wednesday, shackled and under heavy guard and taken by armored vehicle, first to board a flight to Java and then a short ferry to the island. Photos of a senior police officer posing with the two men … [Read more...]

Disney’s princesses get a little live action

Cinderella is projected to make $68 million in its opening weekend. For Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, Snow White and the Huntsman was like a bite out of a poison apple. It was the kind of story Walt Disney built his company around, but the 2012 film was released by rival Universal Studios, and the characters were played by live actors. "Why aren’t we doing that?" Horn recalls asking. March 13 will bring the release of Cinderella, a live-action version of the 1950 Disney animated classic. It will be followed next year by a similar Disney redo of The Jungle Book. Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo remakes are in the works. (The studio hasn’t announced who will play Dumbo.) Hollywood makes lots of films for kids, but the Disney reboots may be one of the few safe bets. They revive classic characters for a new generation of kids, and their already smitten parents may be especially willing to shell out for related merchandise. (Think glass slippers.) With DVD sales … [Read more...]