Thứ Sáu, 30 tháng 11, 2012

 Combating street robbery: “Street knight” model still a concern

VietNamNet Bridge - All people involved in crime prevention is the thing that must be encouraged. But it is a matter when people consider robbery hunting as a job and they play the role of police.

“Street knight” Nguyen Van Minh Tien of HCM City.

The problem of “street knight” model?

"Knights of the street" are the way people call men who voluntarily hunt robbers on the street. Some of them are members of social or government organizations but some of them do not belong to any organization, but all of them voluntarily do this dangerous task for the peace of society.

However, after 10 "knights" of the crime prevention club of Phu Hoa ward, Thu Dau Mot town, Binh Duong province were summoned by the Police Agency of District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, in early October, for suspicion of being related to a robbery, the skepticism about the weakness of the "street knight" model has appeared.

It is said that this model has been replicated throughout provinces, but it is not strictly controlled by local governments.

The “SBC Binh Duong" club (robber hunting club of Binh Duong province) with captain Nguyen Thanh Hai, is known as the first "street knight" club in the country.

Most of the members of this club are well-off and they consider hunting robbers as a passion. The club has significantly contributed to the reduction of crime in Binh Duong province.

Based on the model of this club, many crime prevention clubs have been established in Binh Duong and other provinces. These clubs are under the management of the local commune and ward authorities.

Regards to the case of "street knight" Nguyen Tang Tien, a member of the crime prevention club of An Binh ward, Di An Ward, Binh Duong province, who was attacked by a gangster gang, Colonel Nguyen Hoang Thao - Deputy Director of Binh Duong Police Agency, admitted that the "street knight" model has problems.

Thao said, in many cases, "knights" did not properly pursue the laws, but in the current situation, it is temporarily accepted and the local authorities would take measures to help "knights" understand the law and the limits of their job.

How is the authority of "street knights?"

Reporters of a provincial TV station said that whenever local “street knights" arrested robbers, they asked the local TV station to film and report before handing over the criminals to the police. Some "knights" have equipped themselves with cameras to take photos or film of their feat of arms to provide to reporters.

Just like that the media has taken up “street knights” as the social idols in the suppression of crime, which should belong to the police force.

The authorities of "knights" is still a controversy when the media sometimes reported that “street knights” raided an illegal gas producing enterprise or a prostitution network.

Lawyers said that if "knights" handle such illegal acts, they are considered to violate the law, because that is the job of the police.

"If knights are called in to support the police force, it is acceptable," a lawyer said.

In late August 2012, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court sentenced a group of three "knights" of 18-30 months in prison on charges of "consumption of assets obtained by criminal acts." In this case, three “street knights” arrested two robbers. But on the way to the police headquarters, two robbers suggested sharing half of VND120 million that they had robbed to the three "knights" to be released. The affair was discovered and the “knights” were sentenced.

Once the media reported that "knights" took a bribe. It is ridiculous because “knights” are not government officials or public servants to be called “taking a bribe.”

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court recently trialed a "knight" for chasing a robber, who died on the way.

“Knight” Nguyen Tang Tien’s younger brother was sentenced to four years in prison for robbery. This man used to be a "street knight."

It is time the authorities should have strict regulations for the operation of "street knights," to avoid the "unfortunate incidents."

The case related to 10 "street knights" of the SBC Binh Duong club

On the afternoon of August 17, captain Nguyen Thanh Hai of the SBC Binh Duong club received a phone call from a man named Dinh Dac Loc, a resident of Ho Chi Minh City, to ask for help. Loc said, more than a year ago he lent his car to a man named Toan but this man did not return the car. Loc denounced the case to the police but it was not solved yet.

In early October, Loc received a call of a stranger named Hiep asking him to redeem the car at VND240 million, otherwise Hiep would sell it to Cambodia. The meeting place was fixed in Binh Duong Province. Therefore, Loc asked the assistance of the SBC Binh Duong Club.

After listening to Loc’s explanation and checking the car registration documents, Hai mobilized 10 members in his club to help Loc.

On the night of August 17, the ten “knights” followed Loc to the meeting place where Loc gave money to Toan. “Knights” then pursued the two people (a man named Nguyen Van Hiep, from HCM City and his wife) who took Loc’s money.

After receiving Loc’s phone call, in which he said that his car was replaced with some faked spare parts, the “knights” arrested Hiep and his wife and took them to the office of HCM City’s District 12 police.

After that Hiep accused the “knights” of identifying themselves as policemen to take VND240 million from him.

The police of District 12, Ho Chi Minh City recently convened these “knights” for investigation.

Dam De
 People relocated for Vietnam dam prefer forest to new house 

A woman and her children use rainwater in a water hole to bathe since their relocation area in Quang Nam Province does not have water supply.

More and more families out of a group of people relocated in the central province of Quang Nam to build a large hydropower dam are moving to live in a nearby forest saying they have no farm land or drinking water.
Many of the 834 families who were displaced by the Song Tranh 2 dam in 2005 were never happy to live in the houses provided by the dam builder,Electricity of Vietnam.
Besides the two factors, they also fear that the houses cannot withstand earthquakes, hundreds of which have hit the area since the dam was finished late last year.
The dam has been built on a geological fault line.
The state-owned power monopoly earlier this week paid residents VND3.5 billion (US$167,870) to repair nearly 1,000 houses and public buildings besides roads and water supply systems in Bac Tra My District that were damaged by the quakes.
Ministry of Construction officials are in the district to help build quake-proof houses.
But many of the displaced people are not willing to wait.
Ho Thi Duong, 40, said: “People here have to walk nearly two hours every day to fetch water from a stream.”
Around 20 families left for the forest earlier this year to live in huts, and now the number has doubled.
Ho Van Loi, the chairman of a local commune, said: “Life in the relocation area has been too miserable due to the lack of land and water. If the condition persists, leaving for the jungle will become inevitable.
“The dam investor has promised to build roads and wells and provide more land. I hope it did not make empty promises.”
Local rangers have reported a rise in illegal logging in the area as people become desperate without lands.
Quang Nam has the largest number of hydropower plants in the region.
The province planned to build 44 but recently suspended work on 17 and canceled two other projects, stating that losses outweighed gains.
Seven plants are in operation and eight others are under construction. A total of more than 5,700 hectares of land has been taken over, including 2,000 ha of agriculture land, and 3,519 families have been relocated.

Hanoi school denies mistreating Filipino teacher

This image shows the screenshot of a report published November 19, 2012 on the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs' website that said a 32-year-old Filipina was forced to live and work in severe conditions in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A language school in Hanoi has said they did not lock in and force a Filipino female teacher to wear sexy clothes in class following a recent report from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The report published November 19 on DFA’s website said that a 32-year-old Filipina was driven 100 kilometers from Hanoi upon arriving at a local airport on November 4 to “check her prospects as an English language teacher at the Blue Ocean Language School”.
Her passport was confiscated, and she was immediately made to teach a class of about 20 students without a contract and a work permit, according to the website.
“I was not allowed to go anywhere. From the classroom, I had to return to my room and the building was locked. I was even asked to wear sexy clothes,” she was cited as telling the Philippine Embassy in the Vietnamese capital city.
She “escaped” on November 12 and managed to seek the Embassy’s help in retrieving her passport, the website claimed, quoting the Embassy as saying her case is not the first to suffer “severe working and living conditions” in Vietnam.
Tuoi Tre has identified the Filipina as Gazelle P.A., who did come to Hanoi on November 4 and was recruited by the Hanoi-based Ocean International Language school system (not the Blue Ocean Language School as said on DFA’s website).
The school then took her to Thai Binh Province, 110 km southeast of the city, for teaching English at its branch there.
She started teaching on November 6. But just 6 days later - on November 12 - she told the school that she wanted to go to a supermarket, but then traveled to Hanoi to call for help.
Inconvenience: yes, house custody: no
Nguyen Van Thuong, HR manager of the school system, confirmed that Gazelle P.A. had taught at the branch for one week before leaving without any prior notice.
Asked about the accusation of house arrest, Thuong said that the school does not rent houses for their expat teachers but instead allows them to stay and sleep inside the premises of its different branches.
He elaborated that there are only three keys to the door of the branch in Thai Binh Province where a manager and two groups of teachers stay, so three to four teachers have to share a key.
The HR chief admitted that this might cause inconvenience to the teachers but denied having “imprisoned” any of them.
He pointed out that nobody prevented Gazelle P.A. from going to the supermarket on November 12 (when the Filipina instead fled to the capital).
Several Filipino English teachers who intend to come to Vietnam for teaching have expressed worry over what was reported on DFA’s website.

A representative from a different language center, which is also named Ocean, said that a Filipino English teacher phoned them to check the accuracy of the news while some others were too worried to continue negotiating for future teaching jobs.
Thuong also explained that his Ocean school kept her passport in order to find the woman a B3 visa (issued to foreigners entering Vietnam for work) since she did not have one then.
“We needed her passport to covert her tourist visa into a B3 visa and then get her a work permit as well,” he said.
Thuong added that the teacher’s passport had already been handed to the Philippine Embassy in Hanoi.
No sexy clothes
Ocean showed Tuoi Tre reporters its dress code that requires female teachers to wear decent business clothes in the classroom.
They are not allowed to put on jeans, sport clothing, or even shirts that show their shoulders, according to the code.
“It is impossible that we asked any teacher to wear sexy because that would go against Vietnamese tradition,” Thuong protested.
Tuoi Tre has also learned that Ocean on September 26 emailed the Filipina a sample contract, detailing teaching hours (6 days a week), pay (US$1,200 per month), allowances, training fees, and accommodations.
The school did not sign an official contract with Gazelle P.A. since she did not have a work visa at that time.
In the meantime, a Filipino English teacher who has taught in the capital for years told Tuoi Tre that she has never been in any situation similar to what Gazelle P.A. claimed.
“I have not heard about any colleague suffering from such an ordeal,” she said.
Juliet, another Filipina who once taught English at the Thai Binh branch, also told the newspaper that she has never known anything like Gazelle P.A.'s accusations either.
The Philippine Embassy in Hanoi told Tuoi Tre on Wednesday that they would officially bring this issue to Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Education and Training to clear up some misunderstandings.

The mix-up arose when a language center, also named Ocean, complained to the Embassy that this incident could stain their reputation, as there are many schools labeled “Blue Ocean” or “Ocean” in the capital city.

Thứ Năm, 29 tháng 11, 2012

 Hospitals delay increasing fees

Residents pay hospital fees at Ha Noi's Bach Mai Hospital. An increase in fees will be postponed until the beginning of next year in 18 cities and provinces, including Ha Noi. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc

HA NOI (VNS) — Hospitals in 18 cities and provinces will postpone the application of new hospital fees up to five times higher than current levels until the first quarter of next year to ease the financial burden on patients and help to curb inflation. The cities and provinces include Ha Noi and HCM City.

The decision follows Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's requirement at the Government's monthly meeting in September that ministries should consider the economic effects of the new fees and prepare a detailed plan for their introduction.
The announcement of the new fees was blamed on the high consumer price index for the month, which rose 2.2 per cent over the previous month.
However, initial reports from localities where the new fees have been introduced, show that they have improved quality of treatment, waiting times have fallen, and better services are being provided by doctors and health staff.
Last February, the Ministry of Health issued Circular 04 stipulating new hospital fees for 447 health services. The fees were based on the maximum prices set by the Ministries of Health and Finance.
Since June, 45 cities and provinces have applied the new fees at between 60 and 80 per cent of the ceiling allowed by the two ministries.
Thirty four out of 38 public hospitals have also adjusted their fees.
However the huge increases have placed a burden on most poor people, especially farmers, and those in remote mountain areas without health insurance.
Those with chronic diseases have also been hit hard.
Nguyen Nam Lien, vice head of the ministry's Planning and Finance Department, said the 18 cities and provinces had been given approval to delay the fees until the first three months of next year.
Nguyen Van Son, director of central Binh Thuan Province's Department of Health, one of the localities that still charges the old fees, said 13 hospitals, seven health centres and 137 health clinics were still collecting the old fees.
He said these hospitals and health clinics would adjust new service fees to 66 per cent of the permissible limit from early next year.
Dang Thi Minh, director of northern Nam Dinh Province's Department of Health, said that most locals earned a low income from agricultural production, so 18 hospitals in the province would only increase fees to 70 per cent of the maximum level. — VNS
When SOEs are governed by 101 agencies

VietNamNet BridgeVietnam has 1,309 wholly state owned enterprises (SOEs) and they are managed by up to 101 stage bodies, according to Dr. Tran Tien Cuong, former head of the Enterprise Reform and Development Department of the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM).

State enterprises have too many "mothers" but it is very difficult to define which mother takes the responsibility for their children’s mistakes. This problem has been discussed in many forums and meetings, especially at the National Assembly sessions, when some state-owned groups, as the Vietnam Shipping Lines Group (Vinalines) and the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin) incurred losses of up to billions of USD.

The situation in which SOEs earn profit and their losses are suffered by the state budget and SOEs do not have to take responsibility for their losses is expected to gradually reduce along with the implementation of the SOE restructuring process, in which an important solution being disinvesting their capital from non-core business fields to focus on their core business.

However, according to Mr. Nguyen Dinh Cung, CIEM deputy director, the implementation of this plan seems to be reluctant, hesitant and not really aggressive. Some even "talked back" that this plan cannot be completed before 2015 as committed.

In the desire to create a turning point for the economy in 2012, specialists from the Vietnam Institute of Economics in a recent workshop invited Dr. Pham Duy Nghia, a lecturer of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program to present on the issue of ownership of SOEs.

This speaker said that the lack of a clear representative mechanism, the ownership right of state capital in SOEs is actually divided among many state agencies, by civil servants who are appointed as representatives, by the boards of management of groups and the holders of the operating rights in SOEs.

In the conflict between national interests, the interests of ministries and sectors, the interests of enterprises and the group of people who hold the ownership right at SOEs, the lack of counterpoise and continuous monitoring pressure--that representative power is more likely to be abused for private benefit." Nghia said.

The speaker also "lamented" that, in Vietnam ministries can be legal entities to manage state-owned groups, while in many countries, the change of a corporation's charter must be approved by the congress.

Going into management decentralization of SOEs at the economic forum with the topic "Innovating decentralization in institutional reform," held by the National Assembly’s Economic Committee in September, Dr. Tran Tien Cuong mentioned the fact that there are too many agencies representing the state ownership and managing SOEs.

Specifically, at the end of 2011, there were 101 state bodies involving in the management of 1,309 wholly state-owned enterprises (not mentioning the agencies that manage enterprises that are partly owned by the state), including: 17 ministries and ministerial-level agencies, government agencies with 355 SOEs; 63 provinces with 701 SOEs, 11 State economic groups with 147 SOEs and 10 corporations with 106 SOEs.

At the same time there are five agencies performing the role of the state owners at SOEs, including the four Ministries of Finance, Home Affairs, Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, Planning and Investment and the Government Office.

This form of management has led to the corollary that SOEs have low economic efficiency but nobody takes responsibility for that, causing public concerns.

In a report presented at the 11th session of the National Assembly Standing Committee, the National Assembly’s Finance and Budget Committee stated that "business performance of SOEs is not commensurate with the advantages of this type of business, does not guarantee the position and the role in the economy."

The committee also cited the audit report for 2010, which said that SOEs had high occupancy rate of capital; most of them invested in non-core business fields; more than 50% of them operated based on occupancy capital and borrowed capital; 70% of the total number of SOEs incurred losses (around $6.5 billion in 2010); after-tax profits of SOEs was about 9%, close to the consumer price index (CPI) (11.75%).

According to documents from the National Assembly's Economic Committee, SOEs accounted for about 70% of total bad loans of banks, in which economic groups, corporations accounted for 53% of the bad debts.

Defining the owners of SOEs has become crucial. To do this, Dr. Pham Duy Nghia said that it is necessary to have public property committee (being appointed by public entities owned by the central government or the local authorities) to usurp all ownership rights over SOEs, which are still scattered now.

"It is time to terminate the business management of ministries and allocate them to the public property management committees," Nghia suggested.

Dr. Tran Tien Cuong said that in the medium and long term, Vietnam needs to set up specialized agencies representing the state owner, which are under the government.

These agencies will perform the representative role over important SOEs and guide and monitor the implementation of the ownership function at ministries and provincial People's Committees.

Cuong also said that the provinces and cities that have many SOEs can establish specialized agencies to exercise the rights and obligations of the representative of the state ownership at SOEs in these localities.

Vinh An

More foreign companies vanishing from Vietnam

A rusty sign is seen inside the APL International Co Ltd, 100 percent invested by Malaysia, at the Go Dau Industrial Park, Dong Nai Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A number of owners of foreign-invested businesses in Ho Chi Minh City and the neighboring province of Dong Nai have suddenly disappeared, leaving behind empty manufacturing plants and a huge amount of unpaid wages to employees and taxes to the government.

The Dong Nai management board of the province’s industrial parks has recently revoked the investment licenses of 17 such businesses. Meanwhile the HCMC customs agency said 128 foreign invested businesses operating as outsourcers for other companies have also fled their locations, defaulting on VND400 billion worth of taxes.

Most of the business owners of the canceled projects in Dong Nai have returned to their home countries without completing the procedures to declare dissolution.

Some have even managed to secretly transport their machinery and equipment out of the plants, only leaving behind low-value machines that are not enough to cover the salary debts they owe to workers.

Similarly, the list of defaulting foreign-invested business owners in HCMC has repeatedly seen new names added to it.

Most have left behind enormous amounts of unsettled taxes, local authorities said.

The 100 percent South Korea-invested Silver Star Vietnam, for instance, still owes as much as VND29.6 billion worth of unpaid taxes, but all authorities found at its headquarters in Binh Tan District was a deserted land plot without a single piece of machinery.

Out of control

Doan Phi Van, deputy head of the agency that manages the investment sector under the HCMC Customs Agency, said authorities have trouble retrieving the unpaid taxes as they do not know where to find the defaulters.

Van said inspections of the businesses also face problems.

“Some businesses declare that their headquarters are in the city, but their manufacturing plants are located in other localities,” she said.

“Moreover, we have to inform them of the inspection before hand, which in fact gives them time prepare to pass the check.”

To deal with the issue, the Ministry of Planning and Investment has recently ruled that provinces and cities should withdraw the licenses of sluggish foreign investors.

“Any FDI projects that fail to proceed within 12 months of receiving the license without adequate reasons will be pulled out,” the ministry said in a statement.

 Dong Nai hydro projects should be stopped: UNESCO

A part of the green area where the Dong Nai 6 hydropower plant is planned to be built. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The National Committee for the Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) in Vietnam, under UNESCO, has proposed that the country stop two hydropower projects in Dong Nai Province; otherwise, it will go against its international commitments, said provincial authorities.

Nguyen Thanh Tri, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said the local authorities have received a statement from the MAB in which the agency asked the committee to request competent Vietnamese agencies to stop building the Dong Nai 6 and 6A hydropower plants in the core area of the Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve.

“If Vietnam goes ahead with these hydropower projects, it will not be in line with its international commitments,” MAB said in the statement.

The Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve was recognized by UNESCO as the world’s 580th biosphere reserve on June 28, 2011 and has been highly valued by local and foreign scientists in terms of biological diversity, historical tradition and cultural space. 

The recognition was partly based on the province’s prestige and commitments related to the reserve, 80 percent of which is located in the province and is under the management of the local government.

The development orientation of the biosphere reserve is based on the harmony between conservation and development, but the building of two hydropower plants there will have a negative impact on biological diversity, historical and cultural values, and the livelihoods of local people, MAB said.

While the Vietnamese Government and National Assembly are considering the impactthe two projects may have on the environment, the province should remind them of the international commitments to which Vietnam is a party.

The Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve is expected to contribute to building “a green economy and a green society” with a global scale, as recommended by UNESCO at its recent summit in Brazil.

Meanwhile, Vietnam is building the strategic framework for the 2011- 2021 MAB program. 

Therefore, if the hydropower projects are continued, this biosphere reserve will suffer the following impacts: the habitats of species will be divided and isolated, the landscape will be segmented, the ecological connectivity will be broken, and the ecological systems will be upset. 

And if this is the case, Vietnam will not be able to report to the network of international biosphere reserves about its decade of biological diversity (2010-2020) citing this world biosphere reserve as an example.

More harm than good

In talking with Tuoi Tre about the UNESCO recommendation, Tri said, “We entirely agree with their opinions. Right after receiving the statement from Unesco, we replied that we strongly object to the building the of two hydropower plants. We also sent them the copies of the proposals by the provincial Party Committee and People’s Committee to the Politburo and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dyung requesting a halt to these projects.” 

“The projects will give more electricity to the country, but they will cause unforeseen damage to the downstream areas, the environment, and the life of local residents,” Tri said.

“The short-term benefits from these projects are very small, while their negative impacts are large in the long run.” 

Le Hong Phuong, secretary of the provincial Party Committee, told Tuoi Tre that not only Dong Nai residents, but also millions of other people living downstream on the Dong Nai River want the projects to be stopped.

Meanwhile, the Environment General Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment yesterday said the ministry has requested that the projects’ owner review and perfect their environmental impact assessment report for the 6 and 6A hydropower plants before the ministry can verify and evaluate the report.
MAB Program 

As explained on UNESCO’s website, the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program is an Intergovernmental Scientific Program aimed at setting up a scientific basis for the improvement of the relationship between people and their environment globally.

Launched in the early 1970s, the MAB Program proposes an interdisciplinary research agenda and capacity building that targets the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and the reduction of this loss. Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently contains 610 biosphere reserves in 117 countries.

The main MAB governing body, the International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program, usually referred to as the MAB Council or ICC, consists of 34 Member States elected by UNESCO's biennial General Conference.
 Why holiday gifts get more ‘ughs’ than ‘oohs’ 

"For the holiday season, many of us focus too intensely on how other people will react to what we get them, when it may be the mere existence of the present, rather than exactly what it is, that most matters," writes Cass R. Sunstein.

Behavioral economists study human errors. People don’t always make the best choices for themselves, so there’s good reason to doubt whether they will always make the best choices for others.
If you’ve ever received a useless gadget, a horrendous tie or some kind of bowl, you’ll know that when people buy Christmas presents, they can blunder badly. Chances are pretty good that whatever you end up getting people this year, and however hard you try, some of your friends and family members aren’t going to think that the gift is worth what you paid for it.
University of Minnesota economist Joel Waldfogel, author of “Scroogenomics,” finds that Americans spend about $65 billion on winter holiday presents every year -- and that many of those billions are simply wasted, because a lot of people don’t much like what they get. Typically the value of a gift, to the recipient, is about 20 percent lower than its cost. He describes the holiday season as “an orgy of value destruction.”
Mis-giving is a big problem for givers as well as recipients. In a large survey, the average respondent was found to give 23 presents every holiday season. Gift-giving can also take an economic toll. Personal debts tend to jump after December. That isn’t ideal, especially in hard economic times and if recipients aren’t thrilled with what they get.
Egocentric bias
Here are some tips for gift-givers, building on six behavioral findings that bear directly on holiday-season mis-giving. They might help you get through December a little better.
-- Egocentric bias: If you are like most people, you have an exaggerated sense of how much other people are like you. You probably think their tastes and values are closer to yours than they actually are. Suppose you covet that new “Star Wars” limited-edition watch, or think your life would be immeasurably better with a fishing rod. Even if so, your spouse or your best friend might not much want those things. Beware of thinking that other people will like what you like.
-- Focusing illusion: When people focus on a product or an activity, or on a single feature of a situation, they tend to think that it matters a lot more than it does. For example, people in both California and Iowa have been found to think that people in California are happier than those in Iowa (which isn’t so). The reason for the mistake is that people focus on the most salient difference between California and Iowa, which is the weather, even though a warmer climate doesn’t much affect people’s happiness.
The same can be said about holiday gifts. People have a tendency to focus on an eye-catching object that produces an immediate “wow!” when it is given, but that goes promptly into the desk or the closet, never to emerge again. The solution? Give serious consideration to gifts that people will actually put to daily or at least weekly use.
-- Projection bias: When people are hungry, they tend to order a ton of food, even if they are not going to eat all or even most of it. People know, of course, that their tastes will change over time, but they project their current emotional state into the future and thus underestimate the magnitude of the change.
On frigid days, people buy clothing that is needed in cold weather, such as parkas and winter coats. That’s fine as far as it goes, but they sometimes buy more than they need. The return rate is unusually high for cold-weather products bought in low temperatures. For gift-givers, the lesson is clear: Don’t be unduly influenced by how you feel on the day that you happen to be shopping.
Unrealistic view
-- Optimistic bias: Human beings tend to be unrealistically optimistic. Most people think they are better than the average driver and less likely to be involved in a serious accident. When people give presents, unrealistic optimism goes off the charts. We are often amazed that people don’t love what we’ve selected. Please don’t be. (And please consider avoiding the optimistic exclamation, “You’re going to love it!”)
-- Cumulative-cost neglect: People often borrow too much because they neglect the cumulative costs of individual expenditures. If you use your credit card to purchase 20 sensible gifts, you might be alarmed by the total expense. When gift-givers don’t keep at least a rough running tab, they may find that they have spent a lot more than they expected, or even can easily afford.
-- Spotlight effect: If you are like most people, you think that people are watching you far more carefully than they actually are. In one experiment, students were asked to go into a classroom wearing a shirt with a picture of Barry Manilow on it (which is pretty embarrassing). Those who wore the shirt greatly exaggerated the number of people who actually noticed the picture. Most people didn’t.
For the holiday season, many of us focus too intensely on how other people will react to what we get them, when it may be the mere existence of the present, rather than exactly what it is, that most matters. Unless you are dealing with someone who really cares about what you get them, you should worry a lot less (and maybe spend less, too).
A few years ago, my sister declared a family moratorium on Christmas presents for anyone over 15 years old. We all celebrated. Other people, including Waldfogel himself, have suggested a different solution. Instead of giving people more gadgets, ties or bowls, tell them that this year, you’re going to make a donation in their name to a charity of their choice. Can you think of a better way to show the spirit of the season?

By Cass R. Sunstein
Cass R. Sunstein, the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard University, is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is the former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the co-author of “Nudge” and author of “Simpler: The Future of Government,” forthcoming in 2013. The opinions expressed are his own.

Thứ Tư, 28 tháng 11, 2012

 President boosts ties with Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah (left), receives President Truong Tan Sang yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang
BRUNEI (VNS)— Viet Nam and Brunei should further their co-operation in the oil and gas sector, as well as in labour and tourism, President Truong Tan Sang and Brunei's Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah agreed.

During talks following the welcome ceremony for the Vietnamese leader yesterday, the two sides planned to continue high-ranking and people-to-people exchanges and meetings, which they hope will increase mutual understanding and trust.
At the talks, the leaders expressed their pleasure at the two countries' developing bilateral relations and affirmed their support for each other at regional and international forums.
They agreed to promptly organise the first bilateral cooperation committee meeting to propose measures to strengthen co-operation in specific fields, especially in economics, trade and investment.
According to statistics, two-way trade reached approximately US$500 million in the first nine months of this year.
With 129 projects worth $4.9 billion, Brunei now ranks 12th of 92 countries and territories investing in Viet Nam.
The two leaders spoke highly of defence co-operation and agreed to consider establishing a hotline between their naval forces and signing a co-operation agreement on crime prevention.
Viet Nam and Brunei will promote co-operation in many areas, including agro-fishery, oil and gas, labour, tourism, education and transport.
The two leaders agreed to assign relevant ministries and branches to negotiate various co-operation agreements, including the Investment Encouragement and Protection Agreement, MoUs on Fisheries and Labour and Maritime Transport Agreement.
The leaders said Viet Nam and Brunei will continue to support each other at regional and international forums, especially ASEAN and the UN, and work with other ASEAN members to build an ASEAN Community by 2015.
President Sang affirmed that Viet Nam will wholeheartedly back Brunei as it seeks the role of the Chair of ASEAN and AIPA in 2013.
Brunei's Sultan stated that his country will support Viet Nam's hosting of the APEC Summit in 2017 and further co-operate with Viet Nam within the framework of the Trans Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP).
The two leaders agreed that ensuring peace and stability in the region, maritime freedom, safety and security in the East Sea, and the settlement of disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, are essential tasks for the coming years.
They welcomed ASEAN's Six-Point Principles on the East Sea and the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).
Both sides stressed the necessity to fully observe DOC and work towards the signing of a Code of Conduct (COC).
After the talks, President Sang and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah witnessed the signing of banking and petroleum cooperative documents. — VNS
Việt Nam News