Vietnamese Paintings – Past, Present And Future

Vietnamese paintings are a rising force in the Asian art arena. They also enjoy a very unique position in the world of Asian art. According to several art commentators, compared to other Asian countries, Vietnamese art showed the earliest signs of a successful merging into the main stream of modern art, as defined by the West, both form-wise and content-wise. This is corroborated by the fact that Vietnam was the seat for Ecole Des Beaux Arts (Indochina’s School of Fine Art) in the early 1930s, with the presence of professors from France.

Manifestation of a strong influence by Western techniques and their use of color marked the first generation of artists to emerge from this school. Thematically, their work was closer to their homeland. It embodied a strong Asian thematic essence, especially the freedom and generosity of an Asian soul. A gradual exposure to the international market took Vietnamese paintings to a global audience. It spawned such great, and now immortal names in Vietnamese modem art as To Ngoc Van, Nguyen Phan Chanh, Nguyen Gia Tri, Bui Xuan Phai, Le Pho, Tran Van Can, Nguyen Do Cung, Nguyen ‘I’ien Chung, Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Duong Bich Lien, and so on.

Vietnamese paintings took a new direction during the country’s struggles with colonialists and the U.S. imperialists. Differences cam to be noticed in the art works of North and South Vietnam. The fierce struggles and people’s fighting spirits were reflected on the one hand in the North whereas realism-criticism, romanticism, and escapism into the dream of peace pervaded the art landscape of the occupied South.

Since then, however, Vietnamese fine art has undergone a successful merging in style and theme and has only grown from strength to strength with every passing year. A closer look at this phenomenon reveals that it is not just the profile and status of the nation’s art and artists that have grown in strength. The change is also evident in the quality of the art and in the scope of its representation through local, regional, and international galleries and museums. Instrumental to this have been such significant events as the exchanges between the Queensland College of Art, Brisbane, and the University of Fine Art, Ha Noi, and the visionary Indochina Arts Projects spearheaded by David Thomas in the United States.

Local galleries and museums have a major role to play in the growing popularity of Vietnamese paintings. They are the main driving factor behind the increasing popular enthusiasm and the commercial success of fine art in Vietnam. Such galleries are virtually countless in cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue. Some are nothing more than mere shops selling paintings. In the major cities, about 50 galleries can be deemed professional. They deal in a wide variety of local art, ranging from highly popular landscape and figurative work to abstract and experimental work in lacquer and other mediums.

Vietnam has been significantly instrumental in finding Asian art a truly global audience and a more widespread awareness and recognition. It has broken free from its provincial shackles and has emancipated itself for an international presence.

China’s Battle For African Uranium

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Sunday night’s revelations that China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) may strengthen its ties to UraMin could represent a broader picture than an ordinary acquisition of a near-term uranium producer.

There is an ongoing global war for energy security, which appears to be politically inspired. China and Russia are the main opponents, especially in Africa, but have rivaled each other, over the past several years, in Central Asia. The goal for both nations is not only energy security but political influence and alliance over their targeted territories.

On May 12th, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a declaration to upgrade and expand transport pipelines along the Caspian Sea coast directly to Russia. The project relies mainly upon the vast Turkmen gas reserves. This is part of Russia’s growing monopoly of Central Asian gas. Although Europe was shocked by Vladimir Putin’s new arrangement, the Chinese were flabbergasted.

We’ve been following developments in Central Asia, and had reported upon milestone events in both of our uranium publications, and again (with far greater details) in our soon-to-be-released investing in China’s Energy Crisis.

After more than two decades in power, Turkmen strongman Saparmurat Niyazov passed away this past December. In April 2006, Niyazov had signed a framework agreement on oil and gas cooperation. By August, Niyazov had announced a pipeline, designed to pump gas to China, would be opened in 2009. The deal died with the dictator, it appears.

A few weeks ago, a spokesman for China’s National Reform and Development Committee announced China was unlikely to reach its natural gas target of a 10-percent portion of the country’s energy portfolio by 2010. Increasingly, Russia has shut China out of Central Asia in obtaining long-term, multiple energy sources.

Aside from South America, where China has strengthened the country’s ties with Venezuela and others, Africa is a prime hunting ground for China’s future energy security. China has established a strong foothold in the Sudan for petroleum. But, Africa is rich in uranium deposits.

According to a report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005, Africa has 18 percent of the world’s known recoverable uranium resources – about six percent less than Australia and one percent more than Kazakhstan. We began coverage on both Namibia and Niger, after Russia sent a delegation to Egypt to discuss the nuclear renaissance. At the time, our research pointed to Africa, particularly those countries, as ripe for future uranium production. Chinese prospectors raced to Niger within weeks after our initial coverage.

During 2006, Namibia became saturated with numerous exploration plays hoping to capitalize on the country’s uranium resources and relaxed environment. Consequently, the Namibian Minister of Mines and Energy closed the country’s exploration window. Since then, Niger has become a new hunting ground. We expect this country to become just as saturated as Namibia has been.

China is eager to capitalize upon the continent’s uranium resources before Russia outmaneuvers them as has been accomplished in Central Asia.

According to an email we received from TradeTech’s Gene Clark, after presenting at the China Power & Alternative Energy Summit on May 18th, he told us China’s official target for nuclear power capacity was ‘40 GWe by 2020 and another 18 GWe in the following five-year plan.’ This confirms China’s aggressive plans to acquire sufficient uranium to reach this capacity, and would be foolish to rely on just Australia.

Typically, China has built its energy portfolio through numerous deals across multiple regions. This past October, Yang Changli, vice president of China National Nuclear, said it would seek uranium not only from Australia, but from Canada, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Namibia. In an interview Yang gave during the 15th Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference, he said, “China won’t rely on any single supplier of uranium because of energy security considerations.

Namibia is the First African Focus of Uranium Politiques

On May 14th, Russia’s second-largest bank Vneshtorgbank and Russia’s state-run nuclear exporter Tekhsnabexport announced they were considered a joint venture to operate in Namibia through licenses they directly hold and through investments in other companies which have obtained licenses in Namibia.

In March Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov announced his country was prepared to building nuclear plants in Namibia. Neighboring South Africa had previously warned Namibia to expect reductions in energy supplies. Namibia is dependent upon South Africa for electricity and has forecast an energy deficit of 300 megawatts within the next three years.

On May 10th, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to set up the International Uranium Enrichment Center, anticipated to come onstream by 2013. As part of this announcement, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, said, “Any country can become a member of the center by signing an intergovernmental agreement granting it guaranteed access to uranium enrichment services.” We conclude Namibia may wish to participate in this arrangement.

Enter CNNC on Sunday night. The Chinese company’s deputy general manager for uranium procurement announced to Bloomberg News that CNNC and UraMin will start ‘more formal’ talks this week.

UraMin is a prime acquisition candidate for the Chinese because of its uranium prospects in both Namibia and Niger. The company also has holdings in South Africa and the Central African Republic.

We are now facing a new era of uranium politics or rather ‘Uranium Politiques.’ And there is good reason for this to escalate. Yesterday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration issued ‘International Energy Outlook 2007.’ The report announced, “World marketed energy is expected to grow by 57 percent between 2004 and 2030.”

The most rapid growth in energy demand is anticipated in non-OECD Asia. The majority of this energy demand growth would come from China and India. This was the reference case – the middle ground of growth.

Also on Monday, leading Russian nuclear expert Yevgeny Velikhov, head of the Kurchatov Institute, told reporters at a news conference that the recent surge in uranium prices “may still grow by another order of magnitude.” He believes the uranium price will continue to rise as global uranium demand soars while supplies remain tight. “The global energy market is very turbulent,” Velikhov said. “The uranium price can hit any mark at a time of crisis.” Ironically, both crisis and turbulence have come about because of the Asian and Russian scramble to lock-up the uranium resources of entire countries.

The energy battle in Africa is good news for the two front-runners in Namibia: UraMin and Forsys Metals. We’ve called this a horse race, over the past several months. Both endeavor to become the ‘next miner’ following Paladin Resources in this country.

Yet, both companies are vulnerable to acquisition efforts by Russian or Chinese companies. Or either could be acquired by one or more majors hoping to build up their uranium reserves. In the case of Rio Tinto, acquiring one or both could mean expanding uranium operations in this country.

Acquisition Candidates

Just as the announcement by Energy Metals Corp, regarding a potential sale of the company, fueled weekend speculation as to the ‘next’ takeover candidates, the same could occur this week with African acquisition candidates.

One might be misled into believing China would focus on Niger, where the company has built a foundation, and Russia’s focus would remain in Namibia. However, in a state visit to China this week, Namibian Defense force chief exchanged views with Guo Boxiong, Central Military Commission vice chairman, on promoting relations between the two countries.

In February, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Namibia to sign an economic deal with Namibia giving the country a grant of US$4.3 million and an interest-free loan of the same amount. Reportedly, some of the money would be used to boost group tourism from China to Namibia. This is the same tactic China has utilized in courting relationships in South America to help develop natural resource deals.

With US$1.2 trillion in foreign currency reserves, China is exercising its financial biceps. In March, the country formed the Huijin Fund as the state’s investment arm. Up to US$400 billion have reportedly been placed in this fund for investment purposes. On Sunday night, the Huijin Fund invested US$3 billion to purchase a stake in about 9.9 percent of the Blackstone private equity firm. Our research suggests the fund is likely to strongly invest in natural resources.

On this basis, we can not rule out a simple carving of Africa. We don’t believe China will quietly step back and focus the country’s uranium acquisition efforts in Niger, permitting Russia to concentrate on Namibia and South African uranium.

In Niger, we covered two ‘early days’ prospective uranium juniors over a year ago. North Atlantic Resources acquired a uranium permit in the 1900-square kilometer Abelajouad in this country. This past April, the company increased its holdings to nearly 3,000 square kilometers. In late April, Northwestern Mineral Ventures announced uranium mineralization in assays from rock samples after a first-pass reconnaissance on its In Gall and Irhazer uranium properties. Both would need to further explore their properties before attracting serious interest from the Chinese.

However, in Namibia both UraMin and Forsys Metals are actively progressing toward mining uranium on their properties. Either could be the first, but we believe both should become winners in the uranium bull market. Because China has carefully aligned with UraMin, or at least shown an inkling to do so, we suspect Russia might begin to look more carefully at Forsys Metals. This is purely speculation based upon our premise of ‘uranium Politiques.’ We do not have any ‘inside track’ on this matter.

Fortunately, we had the opportunity to chat with Forsys chief executive Duane Parnham late last week. His company had announced the completion of the pre-feasibility study on the company’s Valencia uranium deposit in Namibia. We missed the company’s conference call, but were allowed the opportunity to discuss his company’s prospects and future plans during a telephone call.

The company’s pre-feasibility study was prepared by Australia-based Snowden Mining, which used the guidelines of Australia’s JORC code. Subsequently, the Valencia uranium mineral reserve was classified as Probable Reserves. These were calculated at 24 million pounds U3O8.

We asked about production. “We are now modeling 2.4 million pounds per year,” Parnham told us. He expects to payback in less than two years. With Forsys as with all near-term producers, some early conversations have begun about pre-selling the company’s uranium production after production has commenced.

His company’s news release talked about six month of stripping during the initial part of the operation so we started there. “We’ll start when we get a mining license and then looking at production.” When will the company complete its ongoing environmental assessment? “We are hoping to have an environmental decision by year end,” Parnham told us. “We are hoping to have enough data to apply for a mining license in early 2008. If that’s successful, then obviously the decision to go forward will be made at that time.”

For the time being, the company plans to expand its resource. “The pre-feasibility is just the first snapshot of the situation,” he said. “We are finding the pit optimization study is only looking at a very small portion of the overall resource.” Does that mean the resource is actually larger, then? “It’s a heck of a lot bigger,” he told us. “It’s just a function of how much data you have available to punch into the model. Then, how much does the model give you back? The evaluation process is ongoing. You’ll probably see a change in the pit design very shortly because we have the ability to move more resource into the reserve category.”

We talked about his company’s horse race with UraMin. How does it look? “Neck and neck, toe to toe,” Parnham said. “I think it shows there’s opportunity in Namibia, and that’s good that there are a number of us working for a common goal.”

Finally, we asked what has emerged as the key question: Is Forsys a ripe plum for the picking. He offered both sides of the coin. “Where the real opportunity lies is putting a property into production,” he responded. “The operation isn’t all that difficult so it’s not a deposit that our expanding team couldn’t put into production.” And then Parnham left the door open. “Anything can happen. It’s an open market, and we are a public company. But, we are certainly geared toward putting this into production.”

And from what we’ve seen among the recent, significant consolidations, those companies who have commenced production, and those closest to production, are the prime acquisition candidates. Why should companies developing projects in Africa become the exception instead of the rule? Especially when two super powers are both eagerly trying to establish stronger uranium footholds in this continent.

Fta To Accelerate Indo-vietnam Trade

Vu Quang Diem, ambassador of Vietnam to India, recently revealed that bilateral trade between India and Vietnam is expected to receive a major impetus due to the inking of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Vietnam in 2009 has also given a boost to the trade volumes between both countries. With agreements such as these being inked between officials of the two countries, both Indian and Vietnamese SMEs can reap major benefits.

Currently, trade between India and Vietnam is growing at the rate of 20% on a year-on-year basis and is likely to increase in the near-term. According to the official estimates, trade volumes in 2009 amounted to US$2.055 billion between both countries in which India occupied an export share worth US$1.635 billion.

Mobile phones, electronic components, spare parts, computers, coffee, ores and other minerals form some of the chief items of export from Vietnam, while its import basket includes pharmaceuticals, steel, spare parts and tobacco ingredients, among others. Keeping in mind their import requirements, Indian SMEs can cater to the Vietnamese market and further contribute in strengthening bilateral trade ties.

During a meeting organised by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, Mr Diem revealed that investments to the tune of US$201.4 million via 41 projects have been made by Indian companies in Vietnam in 2009.

India-asean To Resume Negotiations Over Open Service Trade

With a view to enhance the scope of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between both sides as well as open service trade, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are likely to initiate second round of negotiations very soon. This was revealed by the Union commerce and industry minister, Anand Sharma in a function organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

Resumption of talks between Indian and ASEAN representatives over opening of trade in services will give a further fillip to Indian SMEs engaged in sectors such as steel, apparel, sugar and tobacco. Small businesses in these sectors were hugely benefited when a significant trade pact was inked between India and ASEAN in August 2009 after 6 years of negotiations for duty-free export and import of 4,000 products.

Opening up of service trade with ASEAN and widening of the FTA scope presents immense scope and lucrative opportunities for Indian SMEs as the ASEAN bloc is a net importer of India-manufactured products and services.

Goji: The Asian Weight Loss Secret

In an Asian anti-obesity research, patients were given goji each morning and each afternoon. Results were exceptional with most patients losing significant weight.
Researchers at UCLA and elsewhere have demonstrated conclusively the interconnection between stress and high cortisol levels. If you can reduce stress, you will minimize or eliminate the harmful effects of cortisol.

In an animal study, it was shown that goji’s master molecule polysaccharides improved the conversion of food into energy, and reduced body weight.

Reducing stress may be difficult but for more than a thousand years, traditional Asian medicine has been successfully addressing the problem by the use of adaptogens. The term refers to certain herbs that help the body to adapt to stress. No adaptogenic herb is more renowned than the goji berry for reducing mental and emotional stress.

Beat Stress with Goji

In valleys of Tibet and Mongolia there is a special berry that the locals use and cherish so much that they honor it in special celebrations that last two weeks each year. The Tibetan variety of Lycium now known as ‘Goji’ is considered to be the Mother of all Lyciums! It grows in very remote unpolluted hills and valleys of Tibet and Mongolia, in soil so rich in nutrients that the berries are exploding with this special nurturing vitality.

Goji is the name that refers only to this Tibetan variety of Lycium berry that is indigenous to the Tibetan and Mongolian regions. Local harvesters are cautious to distinguish the Goji berry from its distantly related offspring, the Chinese Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum), pointing out that whilst the later evolved over centuries from the Tibetan Lycium berry variety, its nutrient makeup differs considerably, as do the regions and conditions within which these two different berries are growing.

Goji provides the energy reserves to help one handle just about any difficulty. In Asia, it is said that constant consumption of goji brings a cheerful attitude, and nothing beats good cheer for overcoming stress! It has been suggested that goji’s unique stress-lowering ability can help to normalize cortisol levels. If you can end the cortisol cascade, you’ll soon be on your way to a lower Body Mass Index and a healthier weight. You’ll also notice an impressive array of benefits for whole body good health, including:

-Increased fat burning
-Less fat storage
-Reduction of food cravings
-More energy
-Less fatigue after eating
-Increased fat burning
-Normal secretion of HGH, the body’s growth hormone
-Lower cholesterol and blood lipids
-Improved insulin utilization and blood sugar management
-Reduction of inflammation
-Improved immune function
-Better sleep

Almost two-thirds of Americans aged 20 years and older are overweight. More than 3 of every 10 American adults are significantly overweight – a condition termed obesity. Both overweight and obesity are associated with increased health risk for a host of chronic diseases.

The problem is not purely American. In 1995, a survey by the World Health Organization anticipated the global number of obese adults to be 200 million. A mere five years later, the number had jumped incredibly to 300 million. Justifiably alarmed, the organization has given a name to this seemingly unstoppable worldwide epidemic – globesity.

The excess weight does not necessarily come from fat. If you’re a bodybuilder, professional athlete, or just someone with “big bones,” you may be overweight but not obese.

Being obese refers particularly to those individuals whose excess body weight is a result of a high percentage of body fat. Although experts had long debated the threshold points separating normal weight, overweight, and obesity, there is now near-unanimous agreement thanks to the development of a statistical tool known as the Body Mass Index or BMI.

Fat Distribution – Comparing Apples to Pears

Healthcare providers are anxious not only with how much fat a person has, but also where the fat is located on the body. If you carry fat mainly around your waist (apple-type obesity), you are more likely to result to obesity-related health difficulty than if you carry fat mainly around the hips or buttocks (pear-type obesity).

Causes of Obesity

In scientific terms, obesity arises when you consume more calories than you burn. What causes this imbalance between calories in and calories out may differ from one person to another. Genetic, environmental, psychological, and other factors may all play a part.

Obesity tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic cause. Yet families also share diet and lifestyle habits that may contribute to obesity. Separating these from genetic factors is often difficult. And science shows that heredity is linked to obesity.

Lifestyle behaviors such as what you eat and your level of physical activity are affecting factors. Many people eat in answer to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that 10 percent of mildly obese people suffer from binge eating disorder. This disorder is even more common in people who are severely obese.

Probably the most important cause of obesity is something that we all face – the everyday stress of modern life. When under chronic stress, your adrenal glands overproduce the hormone cortisol. Although cortisol is essential in normal amounts, an excess of this stress hormone can create a cascade of detrimental side effects, many of which can cause weight gain – no matter how vigilantly you diet or exercise!

Cortisol causes:

– Instigation of fat-storage and enzymes
– Alteration of protein in the body into unwanted sugar
-Halt in secretion of fat-burning human growth hormone (hGH)
– Stocking of harmful ‘apple-type’ abdominal fat
-increase in appetite and cravings for sweet and fatty foods
-progressive insulin resistance, which leads to type II diabetes, hypertension,
-cardiovascular disease, and the other health risks associated with obesity.