June 13, 2006
June 13, 2006
|Posted on Mon, Jun. 05, 2006|
ECONOMIC INTEGRATION WILL FURTHER FREEDOMS WHILE HELPING WORKERS, FIRMS IN BOTH NATIONS
A new trade deal between the two countries signed last week in Ho Chi Minh City paves the way for America's former enemy to join the World Trade Organization and complete its integration into the world economy. It's a step that will benefit the people of Vietnam and the United States. Congress must move quickly to ratify the agreement and grant Vietnam so-called “permanent normal trading relations'' so it can gain full membership in the WTO.
Since the 2001 accord, trade between the two countries has soared from under $1 billion a year to $7.8 billion in 2005, helping to heal old wounds and bringing the two countries closer together. That first trade agreement allowed U.S. businesses large and small to tap Vietnam's talented pool of workers. Tech companies were among the trailblazers. This year, Intel announced plans to build a $300 million chip assembly plant in Vietnam, and Microsoft chief Bill Gates visited the country for the first time.
Vietnamese-American entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley have further bridged the gap, leveraging their language skills and cultural know-how to establish tech businesses that span the two countries. In Ho Chi Minh City alone there are an estimated 100 software companies with at least 50 employees, and Vietnam's middle class is growing rapidly.
The latest agreement will accelerate this process, by eliminating remaining trade barriers and ending both U.S. quotas on Vietnamese textiles and Vietnam's subsidies to its garment and textile industries. The agreement also would give U.S. companies greater access to Vietnam's market in key sectors such as telecommunications, financial services and energy.
But Vietnam's accession to the WTO would put it on the fast track to the kind of modernization that has transformed China since its entry into the global trade body in 2001.
Like the relationship with Beijing, Washington's rapport with Hanoi will not always be all handshakes and smiles. Issues such as official corruption and especially human rights will remain an irritant — and rightly so — until Vietnam embraces greater political freedoms.
But people-to-people contacts and the exchange of goods between the two nations is the best way to cement Vietnam's budding liberalization, while benefiting workers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific Rim.
June 13, 2006
|Roman holiday: A creation by Minh Hanh will be presented during a fashion show in Rome. — Photo Courtesy of Italian Embassy|
Residents of Italy’s capital city will have a chance to learn about the modern and traditional expressions of Vietnamese culture during a festival set to kick off this month.
Scheduled to begin on June 16, the month-long celebration entitled The Dragon and Butterfly: Vietnamese Culture in Rome will depict various special cultural events, including art exhibitions, fashion performances, culinary shows and movie programmes.
The festival will commence with the inauguration of an art exhibit titled The Vietnamese Contemporary Painting at the Museum of Vittoriano, one of Rome’s most prestigious museums, where 80 selected works of 20 popular Vietnamese painters, including Thanh Chuong, Le Thiet Cuong, Do Quang Em, Quach Dong Phuong, Khuc Thanh Binh and Ngo Ba Hoang, will be presented.
A photo exhibit by the Italian Ambassador to Viet Nam, Alfredo Matacotta, will present 40 images of Viet Nam’s people and landscapes, which have fascinated the ambassador since he arrived in 2004.
According to the ambassador, the exhibition will present the beauty and value of Viet Nam and its culture to Italian people who have only studied Viet Nam through its war history.
In addition, a fashion performance presenting 60 creations by Vietnamese designer Minh Hanh will take place at the city’s Palazzo Valentini.
"Words cannot describe my happiness to present my creations in Rome, one of the world’s fashion capitals. I hope the collection, which is created from Vietnamese materials and will be presented by Vietnamese models, will contribute to promoting our unique culture," she said.
Costumes of 16 ethnic minorities in northern Viet Nam, which are selected from the 286-costume collection at the Viet Nam Fine Arts Museum, will be presented in order to reveal the living and cultural customs of ethnic people in Viet Nam to Italians.
Four lacquer and two oil-on-canvas works, which are considered the honour of Vietnamese painting, have also been selected from the collection of the museum to present, including Hoc Nghe (Apprenticeship, 1967) by Le Ngoc Hieu, Lao Dong Vi Mien Nam (Labouring for the South, 1966) by Nguyen Trong Cap and Nguyen Thanh Ngoc, Nang Chieu (Sunset, 1994) by Cao Trong Thiem, Nho Mot Chieu Tay Bac (Remembering an Afternoon in the Northwestern Region, 1955) by Phan Ke An, Dem Binh Lang (Night in Binh Lang, 1975) by Do Dong and Chuan Bi Vuot Song (Prepare Passing the River, 2000) by Nguyen Hoang.
A live broadcast food show also will be organised to display Vietnamese culinary creations that a large number of Europeans are not familiar with. Gourmet-lovers will not only have a chance to taste Vietnamese cuisine, but also to observe cooking methods while Vietnamese chefs prepare the dishes in an open kitchen.
Some award-winning movies will be screened during a Vietnamese movie festival entitled Nights of Cinematography being held at Vittorio Gardens. Movies include Chuyen Cua Pao (Pao’s Story) by director Ngo Quang Hai, Thung Lung Hoang Vang (Deserted Valley) by director Pham Nhue Giang, Ba Mua (Three Seasons) by Vietnamese-American director Tony Bui, Mui Du Du Xanh (Scent of Green Papaya), Xich Lo (The Cyclo) and Mua He Chieu Thang Dung (Vertical Rays of Sun) by Vietnamese-French director Tran Anh Hung.
Workshops on tourism and economic co-operation between Viet Nam and Italy will also be organised during the festival. — VNS
June 13, 2006
StoryCorpsWhat: Oral-history project recording interviews with regular Americans.
When: Thursday-through July 2. Times vary.
Admission: Free, but donations are requested; must have a reservation.
Where: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Oakland.
Details: 800-850-4456 or www.storycorps.net.
By Michael Machosky
Monday, June 5, 2006
Who will remember you when you're gone?That's easy to answer if you're a president or a Beatle or Barry Bonds — but less so for the rest of us. Family and friends, of course. But what about 100 or 200 years in the future?
It's impossible to say with certainty. But if the StoryCorps project is successful, it may not be that hard to get to know distant ancestors fairly well.
StoryCorps, partnered with the Library of Congress and National Public Radio, wants to record the stories of everyday people all over America. The goal is to get at least 250,000 Americans throughout the next decade to sign up to interview a friend, parent or spouse in one of StoryCorps' soundproof recording booths.One of their two mobile booths — in a shiny silver Airstream trailer — is coming to Pittsburgh Thursday and staying through July 2 in front of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
"It's a pretty powerful way of honoring someone, by saying 'Your story matters, and I want to preserve it,'" StoryCorps coordinator Matt Ozug says.In other parts of the country, Eric Givens interviewed his 100-year-old grandfather, Arthur Winston, about his work ethic. Winston worked for 72 years at the LA Metropolitan Transit Authority, missing only one day on the job. Friends Gregg Goins and Steve Nelms interviewed each other about their lives as fast-talking North Carolina tobacco auctioneers.
Alissa Magrum, of Austin, Texas, interviewed her life partner, Tammy Stanley, for the future benefit of their 1-year-old daughter, Ella.
"It turned out to be sort of humorous, because we had child care arranged to meet us there to watch the baby while we did our interview — but that person didn't show up in time," Magrum says. "So we had Ella in there with us in the tiny StoryCorps booth. She's a very verbal child, so you can hear her in our interview babbling away."
All recordings will be filed in the Library of Congress. Participants will take home one copy of the interview on CD, and, for the first time, a local library — the Carnegie — will get a copy for its archives.
Short StoryCorps segments from around the country can be heard between 5 and 9 a.m. Fridays during NPR's "Morning Edition," which airs locally on WDUQ-FM (90.5). WDUQ also will air additional selected local stories throughout the summer.
"We have no idea how valuable these recordings will be in the future," Ozug says. "Our touchstone is the recordings made in the '30s by the Works Progress Administration, which were incredibly valuable (to historians). And certainly, for the family, it's incredibly valuable to have someone's voice on tape.
"These stories of 'ordinary people' are so much more valuable and important (to historians) than the stories of celebrities — the Donald Trumps and Paris Hiltons that we're barraged with everyday," Ozug says.
Magrum simply wanted her daughter to know how much thought and care went into bringing her into the world.
"We wanted to be, on some level, a really great example of a same-sex couple starting a family in a very supportive environment," she says. "We both work; we have supportive family; we volunteer in the community; we mow our grass. Our child is surrounded by so much love — and that's not always the story that gets told."
The StoryCorps mobile recording booths are designed to shut off the outside world. Participants get to have a 40-minute conversation with no distractions — rare these days, given the pace of modern life.
"The idea is a pretty simple one," Ozug says. "Basically, the founder of StoryCorps had pioneered this form of citizen-recorded documentaries, where he would give the microphone over to the participants, and allow them to do a lot of the recording. He found there's a great power in giving a mike to somebody and allowing them to ask the questions they've always wanted to ask."
Of course, people can say whatever they want — StoryCorps doesn't have a staff large enough for rigorous fact-checking.
"No, there's no mechanism for checking," Ozug says. "In all honesty, you'd be lying to your daughter. Maybe there are some embellishments — stories get remembered differently than they actually occurred. But that's the case with any kind of history."
If you're nervous about how you'll react when the door shuts and the microphones click on, don't be, Ozug says.
"Often, grandma or grandpa says 'I don't have anything interesting to say,' or 'Oh, don't waste your time on me,'" Ozug says. "Then the door closes; the mikes go on; and 40 minutes later, they're holding on for dear life, and don't want it to end."
It costs the organizers about $200 to do each interview, so those who participate are asked to contribute at least $10, or more, if they can afford it. Reservations fill up quickly, so interested parties are advised to sign up as quickly as possible.
• What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
• What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?
• How has your life been different from what you've imagined?
• What is your first memory of me?
• Was there a time when you didn't like me?
• Is there anything you've always wanted to tell me but haven't?
• What was your childhood like?
• What was my mom/dad like growing up?
• What's the worst thing she/he ever did?
• Do you remember any songs you used to sing to him/her? Can you sing them now?
• How did you choose my name?
• If you could do everything again, would you raise me differently?
• What advice would you give me about raising my own kids?
• What is your earliest memory?
• Did you have a nickname? How did you get it?
• How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?
• What kind of student were you?
• What would you do for fun?
• Are you still friends with anyone from that time in your life?
• What was your first serious relationship?
• How did you meet your wife/husband?
• Do you like your job?
• What did you want to be when you grew up?
• What lessons has your work life taught you?
• What role does religion play in your life?
• Have you experienced any miracles?
Michael Machosky can be reached at email@example.com or (412) 320-7901.
June 13, 2006
|17:07' 05/06/2006 (GMT+7)|
VietNamNet – An exhibition by two Vietnamese painters is being held in the city hall of Vic Fezensac, 1,000km southwest of Paris, where Vietnam is the main theme of the local three-day annual Pentecost festival.
Nearly 50 oil, lacquer and silk paintings by Le Tan Loc and Thai Hong Van, a French citizen of Vietnamese origin, are displayed in the exhibition from June 2, featuring Vietnamese culture. Lacquer paintings portraying Vietnamese women, countryside and old streets have drawn special attention from visitors.
Speaking at the exhibition's opening ceremony, Vic Fezensac mayor San Roma stressed that by holding a Vietnamese painting exhibition, the festival organisers want to introduce French people and especially the town's residents to the country and the people of Vietnam as well as its culture and art, in an effort to foster the two nations' friendship and cooperation.
The Vietnamese Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) highlighted Vietnam's cultural characteristics. He said Vietnamese people have not only preserved and developed the nation's traditional culture, but have also adopted the best elements of foreign cultures.
More than 30 old Vietnamese postcards printed in the 19th and early 20th centuries were also displayed in this exhibition.
They are part of the postcard collection of Andres Nguyen, a French woman married to a Vietnamese man. As a "Vietnamese daughter in-law", she has supported many Vietnamese painters.
Few cultural events will be able to top the extravagance and scope of Festival Hue 2006, running from June 3-11 in the ancient imperial city. Cam Giang reports from Hue.
Hue is in the midst of summer. Although the June sunshine has made the air a little bit heavy, it enhances the splendid sights of the festival city and fills the hearts of visitors with a feeling of excitement.
The opening day of Festival Hue 2006 is rapidly approaching, and the Purple Citadel’s picturesque courtyards and the city’s streets are the scene of countless rehearsals and preparations for the big event. Even the hotels are packed: as of May 9, the 44 standard hotels in the city were already filled to 78 per cent.
Like a phoenix, reborn even more powerful and brilliant in a new life cycle, Hue is breaking out after two years of hiding behind its tranquillity.
Following the success of the previous Festival Hue 2000, 2002, 2004, Festival Hue 2006 aims to transform the city into a festival destination in Viet Nam.
The number of visitors flocking to Hue rapidly increases every two years. Thus, according to Ngo Hoa, the Head of the Festival Hue Organisation Committee, one of the secrets to keeping the tourists coming is to "always keep the festival new".
The detailed festival schedule, featuring hundreds of programmes over nine days, would win the heart of any travel and culture lover. Apart from the common theme of every Festival Hue – celebrating cultural heritage along with integration and development – Festival Hue 2006 highlights the 700th anniversary of Thuan Hoa – Phu Xuan – Thua Thien-Hue. And to commemorate this anniversary, three key events are planned: the Nam Giao Ritual, Truyen Lo festivities and the Hue Royal Palace by Night ceremony.
The full Nam Giao Procession will be revived and will draw the participation of over 500 people with elephants, horses, flags and palanquins, boasting the majestic beauty of the grand event as it winds along city streets. Also, this is the first time the Truyen Lo festivities includes a symbolic procession ceremony of successful royal exam winners to their hometowns reappears as a part of the festival.
Hue by candlelight
Above all, the centrepiece of Festival Hue 2006 is the Hue Royal Palace by Night event, organised at the Royal Palace on three nights: June 3, 6 and 9. An art programme aimed at reviving the glistening beauty of the Royal Night, the programme introduces numerous cultural activities such as Hue royal court music, Hue royal dance, and Hue royal games.
The six most popular activities from the Hue Royal Court will be recreated for visitors, including Hue tea drinking, poem recitals, poetry calligraphy on lanterns, and Hue music.
Against the timeless structure of the ancient Royal Citadel, the beauty of the lantern-lit festivities promises to be something that visitors will never forget. The contrast of the eternal and the ephemeral of these magical nights will leave an indelible mark on those who are lucky enough to witness them.
Way of the water
The preparation for the festival is not only taking place on land but also on the river. The most striking sight awaiting visitors are the two gigantic garish-coloured dragon statues flying majestically above the poetic Huong River. Dubbed Two Dragons Playing With The Lotus, the three-dimensional work of art is a stunning attraction, awakening the traditional soul of the ancient capital.
A floating platform in the shape of a lotus leave will be built beneath the Trang Tien Bridge for a special ao dai performance. The ao dai designs will be inspired by Hue architecture, the curving images of dragon and phoenix, traditional ceramic patterns, and various picturesque landscapes. Ten collections with 300 designs will be featured in a performance set to the glittering light of candles and lanterns floating along the river. At the same time, on the bridge, the sky will be illuminated by a breathtaking fireworks display by French artist Pierre Alain Hubert.
Asked about the interesting combination of the two performances, Nguyen Xuan Hoa, the deputy head of the Festival Hue 2006 Organisation Board confided, "when we first made an ao dai performance on Trang Tien Bridge in 2000, Lai Van Sam, the director of a programme on VTV3, the entertainment channel of Viet Nam Television Co. regarded it as ‘extravagant’.
"However, we decided to make this vision a reality and the result will be a remarkable performance."
Undoubtedly, the cultural festival has grown into a major event on the country’s entertainment calendar. To date, 19 countries have sent thousands of artists to the festival, among which France is the main contributor.
The highlight of all the programmes could be a concert that brings together Hue royal court music; Aak, the Korean royal court music; and Japanese royal court music, Gagaku. This is the first time Vietnamese and foreign audiences will have the chance to participate in an event that brings these three unique royal music traditions under one roof.
A stay of nine days in one place may seem a bit long, but not considering all of the activities happening around the city of Hue on this occasion. All day, exhibitions of every kind will take place on the streets and in exhibition houses, while late night visitors can enjoy French video art and dance, Chinese classic operas, Argentina’s Folk-Tango Sensations Troupe, classical Thai dance, Royal court music, and numerous other outdoor activities like the lantern competition on Huong River.
Tourists looking for a change of pace can travel to the Lang Co Legendary Beach Festival 2006, taking place 60km south of the city. The festivities, part of Festival Hue 2006, are a great way to enjoy a special summer vacation. Visitors can take part in different water sports or join in the first-ever beer festival, where one can drink or even take a bath in beer.
Described both as a masterpiece and as poetic, the city of Hue is trying its best to reach the ultimate status of being designated an Asian festival city by 2010 and in the world by 2020. Under the motto of "always new", will Festival Hue 2006 bring the city one step closer to this goal? Whatever the answer, the whole affair will be wrapped in a shroud of mystery until opening day. — VNS
In her air-conditioned shop in the downtown of Hanoi capital, Nguyen Thuy Ha zealously received a group of U.S visitors who were gluing their eyes on shelves loaded with Vietnamese traditional silk dresses, scarves, ties and bags in gay colors – red, pink, blue, yellow, green and purple.
"The United States is no longer Vietnam's foe. We are now friends, good friends. Our customers are mainly foreigners, including many Americans," said the shop owner who was born when American bombs rained down in the city in 1972.
Since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, and the country's focus shifted to developing economy, it has looked forward to better relations with the United States.
Now, American symbols can be seen in every corners of Vietnamese big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hai Phong, showing great influences of the United States on the country. Giant billboards in streets or stadiums feature logos of American Express Co. and MasterCard International Inc. credit cards. It is also easy to catch sights of U.S businessmen and tourists, huddling to chat at cafs with live music or relaxing at laid-back sunbeds of five-star seaside resorts.
The two countries, formerly enemies, have healed wounds of the war and forged the multi-faceted cooperation since their ties' normalization in 1995. Following the trips to the United States by Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in 2005, and Vietnamese National Defense Minister Pham Van Tra in 2003, the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started his three-day visit to Vietnam on Sunday, to discuss with Vietnamese leaders on measures to boost the two countries' military cooperation.
Vietnam is looking forward to the visit of the U.S. President George W. Bush when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit slated for November in Hanoi. The visit, the second one to the Southeast Asian nation by a U.S. president, following the trip by Bill Clinton in 2000, is believed to create a new milestone for the bilateral relations.
And the new bilateral deal on Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) officially inked by the two sides in Ho Chi Minh City last week, which paves the way for the country joining the global trading club late this year, is a concrete evidence for the two countries' blossoming relations, especially in the economic field.
U.S. firms are striving to persuade for the U.S. Congressional approval for Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam, expressing their desire of further penetrating into the Vietnamese market, which contributes to the development of the two countries' economic and trade cooperation. The two-way trade between Vietnam and the United States stood at 7.6 billion U.S. dollars last year, up from 6.4 billion dollars in the previous year, according to the Vietnamese Trade Ministry.
Many U.S. enterprises are also interested in investment in Vietnam. Late April, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates visited Hanoi, putting hope for the country's information technology industry on enhancing cooperation with the world's biggest software maker. Two months earlier, Intel, the world's chip biggest maker, announced it will invest 300 million U.S. dollars to construct a semiconductor assembly and test facility in the Ho Chi Minh City, the first of its kind in Vietnam.
Spokesman of Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, Le Dung, said that the war has passed for over 30 years, and it is time to "close the past and orient to the future."
Not only the government, but also almost ordinary Vietnamese people, even those who participated in the fight against the Americans in one of the 20th century's bloodiest conflicts at a cost of millions of deaths, are looking forwards to the closer relations with the foreign country, and their war memories have really faded.
"I have no more hated the United States. I think it's better if we have more friends, and fewer enemies. Moreover, having good relations with powerful countries can help improve our economy," said 67-year-old veteran Nguyen Duc Toan who lost his leg in a battle in central Quang Tri province 34 years ago.
For majority of Vietnam's population born after the war ended, who know it and its aftermath through historical lessons at schools and stories told by parents and grandparents, they want the ties between their country and the United States to develop faster.
American-invested enterprises in the country with high salary offers are attractive to many youths, while the United States is considered an educational heaven by a number of others. "Some of my friends have left for studying in the United States. They are so lucky. If the relations between the two countries get better, maybe we will have more opportunities to learn at U.S. universities," said economics student Nguyen Thi Huong aged 20.
However, a handful of older people who have been still obsessed by pains of the war have mixed feelings on developing the relations with the foreign country. "I know making friends with the United States is good. It can help improve our economy. But I can't forget the war which deprived my sole son," said 70-year-old widow Nguyen Thi Lien.
Despite different viewpoints of local people, the ties between Vietnam and the United States have been enhanced. Vietnam has cooperated with the United States in such fields as searching U.S. soldiers missing in action, some other-war related issues, and fighting bird flu and HIV/AIDS.