Archive | October, 2011

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Major Makeover for Queen Mary 2

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

By Rachel Klein
Fodor’s Editor

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2—one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships—will have its furnishings redesigned and a complete overhaul of its iconic Golden Lion Pub next month.

Plans for the upgrade include new textiles and furniture in cabins as well as carpeting for the ship’s popular Canyon Ranch spa and Veuve Clicquot champagne bar. The Golden Lion Pub’s transformation will keep the bar’s traditional English feel while adding plush seating and a warm color palette similar to the same venues aboard sister ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

The eight-year-old vessel carries 2,620 passengers and while it no longer hold title as the largest passenger ship in the world it’s still one of the biggest at sea. Work on the ship is due to take place from Nov. 24 to Dec. 7 in Germany. USA Today

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Photo credit: STC4blues / flickr

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DC’s Popular Tour Buses End Service

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

By Rachel Klein
Fodor’s Editor

The familiar blue sightseeing buses that have run on streets in the nation’s capital for more than four decades will end service tomorrow.

The open-air buses, operated by Tourmobile and run by the National Park Service, stop at many of the city’s major attractions including the Mall and Arlington National Cemetery, giving visitors an on-off narrated tour for $32 per person.

Service is being suspended due to Tourmobile’s financial issues, according to park service officials. The park service has had an exclusive contract with Tourmobile since 1969, and hopes to find a new company within two weeks.[USA Today]

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Photo credit: courtesy Brian Auer / flickr

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Japan to name 49 remote EEZ islets

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

The Japanese government has decided to name 49 remote small islands that have so far been nameless to safeguard the integrity of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the face of bids by China and other countries to expand their influence over maritime affairs, it has been learned.

The islets will be named by the end of this fiscal year, according to officials.

Uninhabited islands are of importance within the 200-nautical-mile EEZ, where a country’s sovereignty prevails in the use, exploration and development of marine resources under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, they said.

This is because remote islets can serve as starting points geographically in the demarcation of its EEZ, the officials added.

Given the increasing assertiveness of China and other countries to beef up maritime influence, the Japanese government considers it necessary to further clarify its position to put remote islets under its control, according to the officials.

The government approved a basic policy in December 2009 to bolster efforts to conserve and manage remote islets that can be used as base points in demarcating Japan’s EEZ.

About 100 islets were subsequently selected for EEZ base point demarcation, but 49 were found to be nameless according to Geospatial Information Authority of Japan or Japan Coast Guard maps, the officials said.

Last November, Japan surveyed local governments and fishermen’s unions in areas where the islets are located, about their preferred names for the islets.

Following the survey, six prefectures, including Hokkaido, gave names to 10 relevant islets, such as Kamomejima (gull islet) in waters off Kinkazan, Miyagi Prefecture; and Todouchi-noshima (shooting sea lions islet) near Rebun Island, Hokkaido.

The government will quickly name the remaining 39 islets after consulting with the local entities concerned, officials said.

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Dhaka elects first woman mayor

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

Clinching the first-ever Narayanganj City Corporation mayoral poll in Dhaka, Selina Hayat Ivy said she as always will serve the people regardless of their party affiliations and differences of opinions to build a beautiful and peaceful Narayanganj.

Talking to the reporters at her Narayanganj home Sunday evening, she termed her win people’s victory.

“I will hold on to my principles and ideologies,” said Ivy, also a vice-president of the city unit of Awami League, adding, “I have always been with Awami League and will be with it in future.”

“I dedicate this victory to the people of Narayanganj and my father who had always inspired me to work for the people,” Ivy said.

“It is unimaginable,” Ivy evaluated the support she got from the voters and people.

On this joyous occasion, she did not forget to recall the influence of her father Ali Ahmed Chunka had on her.

“I came back to Bangladesh only to serve the people. My father was a peoples’ leader and he always inspired me to serve the people. I have secured today’s win thanks to his inspiration,” Ivy said.

Chunka, a popular labour leader, won the Narayanganj municipality chairman polls in 1974 and without the support of his own party, the then ruling Awami League.

Ivy did not get her party [AL] backing for the mayoral race although she had earlier served as a mayor in the now defunct Narayanganj municipality. She became popular among the people for her development work in the city.

“I know the demands of Narayanganj people. So, I will fulfil those on priority basis. I will not let them indulge in such dreams which I will not be able to implement. I have experience and I know how to work for people. So, bringing back the heritage and development of Narayanganj and fulfilling the people’s demands will not be a big challenge for me,” confident Ivy said.

“I express my gratitude to the mothers and sisters [women] of Narayanganj and others for bestowing me such honour. I want to work for the people till my last breath,” she said.

She also narrated her achievement as the victory of truth, beauty, and peace and thanked the Election Commission, the government, the media and the people.

Overwhelmed with joy she said, “This victory proved that the people always win as they did in 1952, ’69, ’71 and ’91. The victory of the people is inevitable since they never make wrong decision.”

About the government decision not to deploy the army before the polls which she had been demanding for long, Ivy said, “1A good example has been set that fair elections can be held without engaging the army. The Election Commission has proved it.”

Before the polls, tension prevailed in Narayanganj but people have given their verdict overcoming all fear and secured the victory for the people, she said.

Since the Election Commission announced the schedule for the polls, Ivy lobbied the AL high command for party backing but failed to obtain its support. After weeks of confusion and drama, AL finally decided to back another mayoral aspirant Shamim Osman who came out second in the polls.

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Bali becomes Indonesia’s domestic tourism promotional hub

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

Bali is gaining a reputation as the nationâ€�¢s primary promotional hub for other parts of Indonesia that are trying to attract more domestic tourists to their respective regions.

Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economic Ministry senior official for domestic promotion Fachri Rachman said on Saturday than an increasing number of promotional events were being held in Bali, including those organised by the ministry.

“For years, Bali has assumed the role as the icon of Indonesian tourism. We expect that this resort island can play an important role in distributing tourists to other parts of the country, thus boosting tourism development in many of the nation’s regions,� he said.

Geographically, he pointed out, the island lies in a strategic spot in the archipelago.

“The island lies right in the middle of the archipelago, connecting the eastern part with the western part,�¢â‚�� he said.

The island also has an advanced tourism infrastructure, in particular an airport that offers direct flights to various corners of Indonesia.

�¢â‚�œThe availability of such direct flights and the fact that hundreds of international flights land in the airport each year means that the eastern islands could lure domestic and international visitors by organising excellent promotions in Bali,â€� he said on the sideline of the promotional event entitled “Direct Promotion East Nusa Tenggaraâ€�.

He disclosed that, since 2008, the ministry had intensified its efforts to increase the number of domestic tourists. The country’s massive population of 230 million people is a hugely untapped pool for domestic tourism revenue.

“The preferred strategy is conducting direct promotions to prospective regions that have large populations of domestic tourists or have developed into well-known destinations. For instance, East Nusa Tenggara conducted a direct promotion here in Bali,� he said.

During the promotional event, the organiser distributed CDs, flyers and brochures on the region’s primary attractions, destinations, boarding facilities and the costs the tourists could expect to spend.

“Thatâ���™s why the event not only involves government officials and artists but also representatives from hotels and tour operators,â€� he added.

Similar direct promotional events have also been organised in Batam, Jakarta, Surabaya, Lampung, Medan and several cities in Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

East Nusa Tenggara tourism agency head Abraham Lake admitted that visitors who travelled to East Nusa Tenggara from Bali have played a significant role in developing the province’s tourism sector.

“Each month we organise approximately 20 trips to East Nusa Tenggara that originated in Bali. Most tourists are foreign visitors from the US and Europe,� Floressa Bali Tours staff member Heribertus Ajo said.

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Chao Phraya River hits record level of 2.53m

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

The Chimplee, Taling Chan and Bang Lamat subdistricts of Taling Chan, Bangkok were declared “surveillance areas” on Sunday after the Chao Phraya River reached a record high of 2.53 metres and some parts of the floodwall leaked.

“Evacuations may be ordered,” Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said.

The permanent embankment stretching along most of the Chao Phraya in the capital stands just 2.5 metres high. The overflow reached Samsen Sois 21 and 23 and many more zones.

Besides the spillover from the swollen river, the capital has also been swamped by runoff from upstream provinces in several districts, including Sai Mai and Thawee Watthana.

On Saturday night, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) told Bangkok residents along the Lat Phrao, Bang Khen, Thanon, Bang Bua and Prem Prachakorn canals in Don Muang district to prepare to move to evacuation centres.

Already 10,343 flood victims are staying at BMA-run evacuation centres. Recently 10 were closed because floodwaters rose to a dangerous level. These 10 centres are schools in Thawee Watthana, Sai Mai, Khlong Sam Wa and Don Muang districts.

Sukhumbhand said almost all of Don Muang was now submerged.

“We’re trying to solve the problem,” he said.

The main problem was that there was nothing to block the water flowing down Paholyothin Road from the Rangsit Prayoonsak Canal.

“The BMA has already informed the Flood Relief Operations Centre about this many times,” Sukhumbhand said in a thinly veiled attack on the body established by the central government.

Weera Wongsaengnak, chief of Water Management in the Disaster Zone, still saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

The inner city of Bangkok would remain under a serious threat of flooding only for three more days.

“The high tides peaked today and will continue to drop. If we can control the situation till Tuesday, Bangkok will be saved. After that, we just need to prevent the embankment and dykes from crumbling down,” he said.

“There is no longer any big bulge of water. There is only the water that has already arrived. The water that has caused Thammasat and Rangsit to be flooded comes from the Prem Prachakorn Canal overflowing to the Chulalongkorn sluice gate. When there is sea intrusion, the water rises but only for three hours,” he said.

The water on Asia Road and in Canals 1 and 9 was no longer rising.

However, authorities could assess the flood situation in Bangkok only after tomorrow.

The floodwaters in Don Muang and Sai Mai would be drained out on Friday or the following Tuesday when the tide would be at its lowest. The tide will peak again from November 12-13 but then there will be no monstrous mass of water meandering down from the north, he added.

Still, it remains to be seen how long the floodwall can stave off the massive runoff. Cracks have been reported almost daily.

The latest appeared on some spots of the embankment along the Phra Khanong Canal, flooding Phra Khanong district.

“We are trying to fix it,” said Wiparat Chaiyanukij, director of the Khlong Toei District Office.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called a meeting of agencies and ministers to discuss changes to the flood rehabilitation plan.

Yingluck posted a message on Facebook saying Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao phoned her to express his condolences to the Thai people and his confidence that the Thai government can overcome the disaster and enact a speedy rehabilitation.

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Mekong nations, S. Korea discuss future cooperation

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

The Republic of Korea and Southeast Asia’s five Mekong River nations agreed on new priority areas of cooperation to boost economic development, at the first-ever ministerial meeting in Seoul on Friday.

The priority areas ran ge from infrastructure development to information and communications technology, green development, water resource management, agri-culture, rural development and human resource development.

Korea has already pledged to double its Official Development Assistance to Asean by 2015, most of which will be channeled into the Mekong region. In addition, annual trade between Korea and the five Mekong nations jumped from an average of US$1.5 billion in the 1990s to US$25 billion last year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Thongloun Sisoulith led the Lao delegation attending the event, and met with his counterparts from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-Hwan and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

The participants endorsed the Han-River Declaration establishing the Mekong-Republic of Korea Comprehensive Partnership for Mutual Prosperity, which sets out future cooperation between the countries concerned.

The meeting comes as Korea, which is Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has been seeking to tap more business opportunities in the Mekong region, jointly exploring development projects suited to the region.

Kim said at the opening of the meeting that the Mekong region is blessed with abundant natural resources and a vast labour force, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

He added that the rapid economic development the region has achieved in recent years shows how it can turn such growth potential into reality.

Meeting participants agreed to establish a cooperation mechanism between the Mekong countries and Korea at the foreign ministry and senior official level. Laos will co-chair with Korea after this meeting until the next meeting in 2012.

Thongloun visited Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and held bilateral talks with his counterpart Kim. The two sides discussed ways to deepen their cooperation, according to a press release from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thongloun also informed Lee and Kim about Laos’ preparations to host the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in November next year.

In the wake of the recent devastating floods in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Kim extended his sympathies, pledging his country’s support “in every possible way”.

Regarding the politics of the region, the six nations discussed crime fighting cooperation, joint drills for disaster relief, and the Mekong region’s support for Seoul’s hosting of the Nuclear Security Summit next year.

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Find out where to go for one of DC’s best views

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

Travel Tip of the Day

October 31, 2011

Find out where to go for one of DC’s best views

Check out the view of the White House from the steps of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC—it’s one of the best. Jefferson was the second president to live in the White House, but the first full-term occupant.

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Chinese President starts key trip to Europe

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

Chinese President Hu Jintao left for Vienna on Sunday (October 30) as China’s role in helping the debt-ridden eurozone comes under the global spotlight.

The visit to Austria, from October 30 to November 2, is the first by a Chinese president in 12 years.

Hu will also attend the Cannes G20 meeting on November 3-4, when world leaders will address the global economic situation and the EU debt crisis.

Talks will be held with his Austrian counterpart, President Heinz Fischer, as well as with the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and the Speaker of the Parliament Barbara Prammer.

China’s ambassador to Austria, Shi Mingde, told China Daily that Austria has arranged “unusual protocol” engagements for Hu, with both presidents leaving the capital Vienna to visit the world-famous city of culture, Salzburg.

“The visit is significant in the context of the worsening European debt crisis,” Shi said. “It will have a profound impact on China-Europe relations.”

Hu’s visit to Europe, including the G20 summit, has raised hopes that China might make a firmer commitment to the European bailout fund, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday.

China and Austria will sign seven intergovernmental framework agreements on economic and trade matters, the environment, water conservation, education and culture during Hu’s visit, according to Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying.

Austria has advanced technology in environmental protection, new energies and materials, which are high on China’s development agenda.

“So the two countries share many possibilities to cooperate, and can achieve win-win results,” Shi said.

China “hopes that the green economy will become a new growth point”, Fu said, adding that China is also interested in green transport, eco-agriculture and life sciences.

China is Austria’s largest trading partner outside the EU, with trade worth $6.1 billion last year, a 26-per-cent increase from 2009.

Trade in the first eight months of this year reached $4.6 billion, up 18.4 per cent year-on-year. During the past three years, bilateral trade has been growing by an average of 30 per cent each year.

Thanks to its robust manufacturing sectors and flourishing small- and medium-sized enterprises, Austria is relatively unscathed in the EU debt crisis.

Austria plays an important role in boosting other European economies, said Lu Yonghua, who served as ambassador to Austria from 2000 to 2዇.

Among the deals to be signed will be one between an Austrian art company and the China Arts and Entertainment Group to boost Chinese arts in Austria and other parts of Europe.

It will be signed against the backdrop of the Chinese leadership recently deciding to boost its cultural sector in line with the country’s standing as the world’s second-largest economy.

Lu said Hu’s schedule reflects the spirit of the recent high-profile Party meeting that emphasised the rising significance of culture in boosting soft power.

China and Austria have maintained close cultural exchanges. More than 200 cultural events have been organised in Austria and China this year as Austria hosts the “Year of China”.

Austria, seen as a haven of art and music, has been a key attraction for Chinese tourists, with 23,000 visiting the country last year.

After Austria, Hu will fly to Cannes, France, to attend the G20 summit.
Eurozone leaders reached a deal to tackle their crisis on Wednesday but finding sufficient funding to recapitalise debt-ridden European banks remains a headache.

Some European leaders have been looking for China to help bail out the EU, according to media reports.

China has ruled out any specific buying plan for the EU financial stability fund.

Some analyst have warned that it is not reasonable to rely on emerging economies to solve Europe’s difficulties.

Neither is it realistic for Europe to pin too much hopes on China since the debt problem will only be solved by European countries themselves, said Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies.

Zheng Yangpeng and He Mengying contributed to this story.

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3 killed in southern Philippines bomb run

Posted on 31 October 2011 by admin

A military bomb run in an area of Indanan town in Sulu (southern Philippines) against the Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf and its allies from the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) early on Sunday morning resulted in the death of three rebels, according to Armed Forces officials.

Chief Supt. Bienvenido Latag, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said OV-10 planes rained bombs on Mt. Tukay in Barangay Karawan starting at 6:30 a.m.
As of presstime, sporadic ground clashes were reportedly still going on.

“The target was the group of Akmadul Jumdail, alias Doc Abu, and JI members Marwan and Mauwiyah,” Latag said by phone.

The JI, believed to have links to the international al-Qaida terror network, is known to operate in Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Thailand, among other areas in the region.

Marwan is a US-trained Malaysian engineer long hunted by US and Filipino authorities for his alleged role in past bombings and other terror attacks.

Washington has offered a $5-million reward for the capture or killing of Marwan.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, deputy commander for Marine operations of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao, said Marines on the ground recovered the bodies of slain Abu Sayyaf members from the area where the bombs were dropped.

He said four assorted firearms were also recovered from the same area. These consisted of two M-16 rifles, an M-14 rifle and a rocket launcher.

Sporadic clashes

Cenabre said sporadic clashes were ongoing and details were scant.
Latag said the Sulu police force had been placed on high alert due to the clashes in Karawan.

The Karawan air strike took place three days after the military ended a similar campaign in Zamboanga Sibugay, which resulted in the fall of an alleged camp of suspected kidnap leader Waning Abdusalam.
During a visit here last week, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban said the military’s campaign against lawlessness would continue.

Sibugay campaign

The Sibugay campaign was conducted after a series of ambushes that Moro gunmen staged in Alicia and Payao towns, which killed four soldiers and three policemen, and the clash in Al-Barka, Basilan, in which 19 soldiers died.

Both the Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay incidents had raised concerns about the future of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been waging a secessionist war in Mindanao for more than three decades.

The MILF admitted its forces were involved in the Al-Barka clash, explaining that the government troops had breached a ceasefire zone and did not coordinate their police actions with them.

Jesuit priest Albert Alejo, a well-known peace advocate here, said there was a need for the military and the MILF to review recent incidents to ensure that government soldiers and Moro guerrillas had a clear grasp of the terms of the ceasefire.

“It is possible that only those in the higher levels know that there are mechanisms in place. It is possible that ordinary troops are not aware of them,” Alejo said.

He said a crash course on the mechanisms of the ceasefire and the peace negotiations being facilitated by Malaysia might actually be needed by those in the lower levels of both organizations.

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