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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Local Rotary gets $300K grant for Cambodia project

By Christopher Curry
Staff writer

Since 2005, the Rotary Club of Gainesville and locally run nonprofit organization Sustainable Cambodia have worked together to improve the quality of life in impoverished villages of rural central Cambodia's Pursat province.

They have established a school for children, funded the construction of wells for clean drinking water supplies and crop irrigation and helped bolster the area's sustainable food supply with gardens and the donation of livestock to village families.

But their past ventures together have never had the one-time infusion of funds the groups just received - a $300,000 grant from Rotary International.

Richard Allen, the president and co-founder of Sustainable Cambodia and a member of the Rotary Club of Gainesville, said the majority of the money will go toward additional water wells in the dry region, where drought lasts some five months a year.

Drinking supplies, crops and the survival of livestock all depend on those wells, Allen said.

"Water, over there, is the linchpin of everything that takes place," Allen said.

To date, Sustainable Cambodia has funded more than 100 water wells in the Pursat province.

The grant money will fund 80 additional wells and 8,000 water filters to supply clean water to the region.

It will also fund construction of 800 new latrines, 20 community ponds for farming fish, raised gardens able to withstand floods, and road repairs in the Pursat's Kravanh district, according to a press release from the Rotary Club of Gainesville.

In addition to the infrastructure projects in Cambodia, the Gainesville groups have helped establish a partner organization in Cambodia - the Rotary Club of Pursat.

Elena Casson, chair of the Rotary Club of Gainesville's Cambodia committee, said that, working with the club in Cambodia, planning has already started on the projects the grant will fund so construction work will be able to begin by the end of the year.

The Rotary Club of Gainesville was one of 15 worldwide recipients of the rotary International grant. The local group had to pledge $30,000 in matching funds.

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Author Attacks Price Cutting Retailers

Here is anothner news about criminal activities in Thailand about Human Right abuse and killing their foreign workers, especially those who came from Cambodia and Vietnam, most cases washed to shores from fishing boats.

By P.J. Gladnick

Your humble correspondent always checks out NeverPayRetailAgain very carefully every morning. That site often provides information about sales bargains that sometimes defy belief. In fact, yesterday at Publix I was able to purchase 2 packages of Ball Park Franks plus a large seedless watermelon for a total cost of just $4.98. $3.99 BOGO (Buy One Get One free) on the hot dogs minus a $1.00 Ball Park coupon so my cost was just $2.99. The watermelon was $4.99 but there was a $3.00 discount coupon if you bought two packages of Ball Park Franks so the watermelon only cost me $1.99. Total cost of everything was $4.98 rather than the regular full price of $12.97. A savings of over 60%.

However, according to Ellen Ruppel Shell, I was guilty of not only bargain shopping but also aiding and abetting in despoiling the environment and taking advantage of cheap labor. Here is Ruppel Shell's assertion in her book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, as covered in the New York Times:

Ms. Ruppel Shell, a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and a journalism professor at Boston University, is disgusted with retailers who she says have abandoned their principles in pursuit of rock-bottom prices. And she is angry with the rest of us for supporting them.

Ms. Ruppel Shell argues that our national obsession with bargains has lowered our standard of living and hurt the environment and the quality of American products.

Are you looking for bargains? Shame on you! You have incurred the wrath of one Ms. Rupple Shell. Of course, discount retailer Wal-Mart comes in for its share of slams from the outraged author:

“Cheap” has plenty of targets, and many are usual ones. Ms. Ruppel Shell lambastes Wal-Mart, saying it underpays its workers and enables other retailers to do the same. She criticizes China as tolerating sweatshops with dangerous working conditions. And if you have a weak stomach, you may not get past the chapter entitled “Cheap Eats.” The author goes into wrenching detail about the foul and environmentally noxious conditions at some of the world’s largest factory farms, suppliers to the fast-food industry.

You like eating shrimp at low prices? Ms. Ruppel Shell is not happy with you either and even blames you for the devestation caused by the 2004 South Asia tsunami:

She castigates Red Lobster, saying it patronizes Thailand’s shrimp farms. The Thai shrimp industry has been accused of environmental, child labor and human rights abuses; it attracts migrant workers from Vietnam and Cambodia who labor for next to nothing, Ms. Ruppel Smith writes.

She also writes that Thai shrimp farmers have clear-cut the country’s coastal mangrove forests — a protective wall between land and sea — to make way for more breeding grounds. She cites a United Nations report that says their disappearance exacerbated the effects of the Southern Asian tsunami in 2004 that killed more than 5,300 people in Thailand alone. In other words, many have paid a terrible price so Americans can feast on cheap crustaceans.

Yes, Ms. Ruppel Shell really dislikes those retailers who provide us with steep discounts but, ultimately, she blames YOU for taking advantage of those bargains:

But most of all, Ms. Ruppel Shell indicts all of us for supporting these discounters — particularly those of us who consider ourselves politically and socially aware.

“We rail against exploitation of low-paid workers in Asia” but still drive long distances to save a little money on tube socks, she writes. “We fume over the mistreatment of animals by agribusiness but freak out at an uptick in food prices. We lecture our kids on social responsibility and then buy them toys assembled by destitute child workers on some far-flung foreign shore.”

One of the inadvertently funniest observations made by Ms. Ruppel Shell is her assertion that the shopping cart has "fooled" consumers into buying too much. I kid you not:

...She infers that Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket company, introduced the shopping cart in 1937 to fool his consumers into buying more goods. But how many of us can stand in the checkout line with a week’s worth of groceries in our arms? Mr. Goldman deserves gratitude, not scorn, for his consumer-friendly innovation.

Yeah, something we would really look forward to in the bizzaro Ruppel Shell world; lugging around heavy bags of groceries in the supermarket. Oh, and in her alternate universe, she actually thinks consumers could revolt in favor of being charged higher prices:

In the end, she calls for a consumer revolution. She says that we must spend in a way that is consistent with our principles.

And now I see that NeverPayRetailAgain has listed a "Daily Steal" bargain for FREE insect repellent picnic tablecloths. Should I risk the wrath of Ms. Ruppel Shell for taking advantage of this?

UPDATE: Amazon now has her $25.95 book on (gasp!) sale at $17.13. A savings of $8.82. So how many more trees will be killed due to the extra books sold due to this price cut? Where is the OUTRAGE at your own price cutting book sale, Ms. Ruppel Shell?
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Japanese language proficiency test to be held in Myanmar

YANGON, July 5 (Xinhua) -- A Japanese language proficiency test for Myanmar citizens will be held in the former capital of Yangon in late this year to boost language communication between peoples of Myanmar and Japan, according to Myanmar Association of Japan Alumni (MAJA) Sunday.

Sponsored by the Japanese Embassy and the MAJA, the 11th Japanese language proficiency test will take place on December 6 at the Japanese Embassy here, the sources said, adding that the test will cover four levels.

Meanwhile, the 10th Japanese speech contest was held in Myanmar under the title of "Together Toward the Future, Mekong and Japan" in last May and four winners were produced out of 15 contestants.

Myanmar and Japan have been cooperating closely in the culture sector. Some Japanese film festivals were held over the last few months in Myanmar, while a special piano and flute concert by famous Japanese artists Hiroshi Matsushima and Yoshimi Matsushima is to take place in Myanmar's Yangon and Mandalay in August this year under the Japan-Mekong exchange year program.

The program has introduced music concert, film festival, get-together party, and Japanese speech contest every month since January this year.

Other programs to be added include Karatedo contest, Ekabana flower decoration show, Japanese fashion show, Japanese singing contest, Judo contest and film festivals respectively.

In March this year, a music concert by a 20-member Myanmar Gitamate Music Band, involving Myanmar and Japanese artists, had taken place in Yangon under the program to showcase the cooperation and friendship between Japan and Myanmar.

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)-Economic Cooperation has worked out a plan for development of tourism as part of its economic cooperation in the subregion, designating the year 2009-2010 as GMS tourism year.

The Mekong River is shared by six countries -- China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
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