Vietnam Real Estate Billionaire Sentenced To Death In $12 Billion Fraud Case 

Real estate billionaire Truong My Lan was sentenced to death in a court in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam for organizing the nation’s largest financial fraud case. The punishment is being regarded as a pivotal moment in a decadelong anti-corruption campaign from the Vietnamese business community.


Vietnam Opens New ‘Kissing Bridge’ As A Selfie Hotspot 

Last week, a new hotspot opened in Vietnam called the “Kiss Bridge” to give couples a chance to share a romantic moment with the beautiful Vietnamese sunsets. 

The bridge itself is located in Vietnam’s southern Phu Quoc Island, which is famous for its spectacular beach views. The bridge itself was a collaborative project between luxury tourism developer Sun Group, and Italian architect Marco Casamonti. 

The bridge itself is half a mile long (800 meters) and is made up of two separate halves. 

According to reports, the design of the bridge was inspired by Michelangelo’s classic fresco painting ‘The Creation of Adam’ located at the Sistine Chapel. Casamonti cited that just like the pointing fingers in the painting, the two halves of the bridge aren’t quite touching. 

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The photo opportunity that the bridge provides shows the north and south sections of the bridge meeting with 12 inches of space between them, mimicking the space between the fingers in the painting. One kisser goes on each side, then lean in for the picture. 

The location and distance between these sections of the bridge were also meticulously built so that on January 1st every year, the sun will fall directly in the gap between the two halves, according to the Sun Group. 

The bridge was fully built with romance in mind, and is named “Cau Hon” which is Vietnamese for “proposing marriage,” just in case any visitors want to take the opportunity to get engaged.

Phu Quoc Island’s Sunset Town, where the bridge is located, is in Vietnam’s southern province of Kien Giang, and is known as one of Vietnam’s “best island getaway,” which is often taken advantage of by honeymooners. 

The Sun Group is known for various projects with spectacular views, including the well known “Golden Bridge” near Da Nang, where two giant statue hands “lift up” a shimmering structure; the bridge itself is about 493 feet long.

Vietnam Coronavirus

 CDC Adds Vietnam to List Of Highest-Risk Travel Destinations 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Vietnam to it’s Level 4 risk category for travel this week. Level 4 is the highest-risk level when it comes to traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

There are currently nearly 140 places within the Level 4 category of risk; which is more destinations than all other levels combined. In the beginning of 2022 about 80 places were on the list. 

The CDC places a location at “Level 4: Very High Covid-19 Risk” when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered within 28 days. 

Vietnam has become the only destination to be added to the list within recent weeks. Previously, the nation was listed at Level 3 for “high risk.” Global case numbers in general have been declining since peaking in late January, but experts are continuing to caution that the pandemic is nowhere near over. 

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New Zealand has had relatively few Covid cases due to strict pandemic protocol restrictions. Recently, however, the nation has recorded record numbers of cases in the past week. The country remains at “high risk” on Level 3 after moving up from Level 2 last week. 

The CDC advises avoiding all travel to countries deemed Level 4. The CDC does not include the US in its list of advisories, but the nation is currently coded at Level 4. Mexico, Canada, France, Peru, Singapore, and Spain are some of the other countries that have remained at Level 4 for over a month. The United Kingdom has remained there since July 2021. 

The Level 3 “high risk” category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents within 28 days. Comoros, Hong Kong, São Tomé and Príncipe were added to the category this week. 

Hong Kong went from Level 1 to Level 3 this week, it previously was on Level 1 since May 2021. Hong Kong is currently dealing with their worst Covid-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and is planning on testing its entire population in March. 

Destinations at a Level 2 are considered “Covid-19 moderate,” meaning they have around 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 residents within 28 days. 

This week, 10 destinations moved down to Level 2, including Uganda, Ghana, Republic Of Congo, Montserrat, Rwanda, Togo, Lesotho, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Liberia. 

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To be considered “Level 1: Covid Low” a destination must have less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over 28 days. Nigeria was the sole destination that moved to Level 1 this week. There are only 5 other locations considered Level 1, including China where the 2022 Winter Olympics were hosted. 

Finally, the CDC also has a risk level for “unknown” risk due to a lack of information and Covid data. These are typically smaller remote places, or places with ongoing warfare/civil unrest. 

Transmission rates are “one guidepost for travelers’ personal risk calculations,” according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase in the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said.

“You should interpret Level 4 to mean this is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go, there is a higher chance that you could contract the coronavirus,” said Wen.

“Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, other people will say, ‘Because I am vaccinated and boosted, I am willing to take on that risk. So this really needs to be a personal decision that people weigh understanding that right now the CDC is classifying the different levels based on community transmission rates, and basically only that. They’re not taking into account individual circumstances,” Wen explained. 

You can review the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on its travel recommendations page.

Vietnam Coronavirus

Vietnam Evacuating 80,000 Tourists From Da Nang After New Coronavirus Cases Appear

As the world continues to endure the coronavirus pandemic, many countries who were able to curve the spread and get their case numbers down after the initial wave of infections are now seeing a second wave of cases appear. These countries are not only immediately shutting down again to prevent an even worse rate of infection, but some are going as far as kicking out all outside visitors as well. 

Vietnam is currently set to evacuate more than 80,000 individuals from the central tourist region of Da Nang this week. Three local residents recently tested positive for Covid-19, prompting authorities to begin evacuations this past Monday (7/27). The Da Nang region of Vietnam is known for its beach resorts, and once the three cases were reported after an additional 11 cases appeared in a hospital in the region, the government began to take action. 

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The evacuations are ongoing but expected to be finished by the end of the week. Vietnamese airlines have been operating 100 flights out of Da Nang a day, all destinations are also located in Vietnam, and all travelers are required by authorities to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Social distancing measures and facial covering procedures have been reintroduced in Da Nang and those living in any residential area near a hospital are required to stay home at all times. Things that promote mass gatherings such as festivals, bars, restaurants, discos, and salons all closed down on Tuesday and will remain like that indefinitely. 

Vietnam’s borders closed down to foreign tourists at the beginning of the pandemic, and will remain closed. Domestic tourism saw a massive spike once Vietnam began reopening, and since the country as a whole was shut down and able to reduce their case numbers, they assumed reopening within the country would be fine. 

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Vietnamese travelers began taking advantage of all the reduced hotel and public transportation rates to travel throughout their country. Concerns rose after the first case in Da Nang came from a 57-year-old man who had no history of international travel and had been living in the town for at least one month. 

The case was unexpected, especially considering it was an individual who had been remaining diligent with following health and safety measures. This caused massive concerns to rise within the Vietnamese government, leading Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to call on authorities to increase contact tracing and testing among all citizens. 

Genome testing of all the positive cases within Vietnam showed that a majority of the new cases were a strain of the coronavirus that had not been detected in Vietnam before this point. This strain has been found in Bangladesh, Britain and Ireland and has been proven to be even more contagious than the previous strains present in Vietnam; hence why the first case appeared in someone who wasn’t breaking any guidelines. 

Before this point Vietnam had gone 100 days without any new Covid-19 cases, hence the serious response to these 14 new cases. So far the country has experienced a total of 431 cases and zero deaths overall.


Michelle Obama Comments on Impeachment Hearings in New Interview

The political world in the United States has been completely absorbed by the ongoing impeachment inquiry taking place in Congress, as President Trump stands accused of subverting the integrity of the upcoming 2020 presidential election by requesting election assistance from a foreign power. Today, the House Judiciary Committee is holding its second hearing, as Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman lays out the case against Trump before the committee and Republican members of Congress interrupt the hearing with process arguments and other objections. Tensions rose even further during this hearing, as a protestor in the audience heckled Chairman Jerrold Nadler as he began the event before quickly being removed by police.

As today’s hearing consists mainly of arguments and evidence that have previously been discussed in prior hearings, it is not likely to be as newsworthy as previous events. However, former First Lady Michelle Obama recently made news during an interview with Jenna Bush Hager on Today Monday, during which she described the proceedings as “surreal.” While the focus of the interview was on the former First Lady’s trip to Vietnam to discuss the importance of educating young girls, she was asked about the hearings, giving a rare insight into how current political events are affecting the Obamas, who have mostly resisted calls to give their opinions on news relating to the White House over the past few years.

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On the proceedings, Ms. Obama said, “I don’t think people know what to make of it. But do I think we can come back from it? Oh yeah.” She elaborated on her optimistic outlook, saying, “We’ve seen tough times in this country. You know we’ve gone through depressions and wars and bombings and terrorist attacks, and we’ve gone through Jim Crow, and we’ve always come out stronger. And that’s what we have to continue to believe because what’s our choice? To ball up in a corner and call it a day? Well that’s not fair to this next generation that’s coming before us that are counting on us to get this right.”

Ms. Obama’s comments echo a common refrain of the power of hope and optimism that the Obama’s have articulated throughout their political lives. Barack Obama successfully ran a campaign based on his belief in the power of having hope and the capacity of the country to change for the better, and when he left office in 2017, he again urged Americans to remain hopeful throughout the presidency of Donald Trump, which he astutely predicted would be divisive and potentially harmful to the country. Notably, in his farewell address, President Obama urged Americans that the Constitution is a powerful document but only when people abide by it, and that the United States government depends on the action of patriots who uphold and defend the principles of the Constitution in order to survive. Since then, Obama has upheld the tradition of former presidents withholding commentary on current presidents, despite the fact that the Trump administration has had an unprecedented impact on the US government.

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As such, Ms. Obama tried to keep the focus of the interview on the work that she’s currently involved in, which is raising awareness about the importance of girls’ education around the world and improving access to educational resources. For instance, she supports the “Room to Read” program, which helps girls in Vietnam stay in school, even though in this part of the world girls are often pressured to drop out of school and work instead. After leaving Vietnam, the Obamas will next visit Malaysia, where they will continue their work on this topic. Ms. Obama explained that now that her daughters are in college, she and Barack have the opportunity to travel together more often, as previously they worried about being away from the kids at the same time. In the full interview, which Today has not yet released, Ms. Obama will discuss the emotional experience of dropping her daughter off at college for her freshman year, among other topics.

Mouse Deer

“Mouse Deer” Thought To Be Extinct Photographed For The First Time In 30 Years

Southern Vietnam is making some wildlife history this week, as a tiny deer-like animal no bigger than a rabbit has been photographed and seen for the first time in almost three decades! The silver-backed chevrotain, more simply known as the Vietnamese mouse deer, was thought to be extinct by conservationists because the last recorded sighting of one was twenty five years ago. The last recording was made by Russian wildlife researchers who obtained a dead mouse deer from a local hunter who also believed the species was extinct. Ever since then the animals have remained completely off the radar. 

“For so long, this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination. Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it,” said Vietnamese biologist An Nguyen, an associate conservation scientist with Global Wildlife Conservation.

The Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) made the assumption thirty years ago that the chevrotain was yet another species that has fallen victim to intense deforestation/habitat loss as a result of climate change, or illegal poaching and trafficking. This was especially due to the fact that wire snares have become such an intense problem in the southern Vietnam region. Wire snares are homemade traps that hunters use to trap wildlife for trafficking purposes, more than anything, according to CNN. In fact, within the past five years patrol teams have seized over 200,000 of these illegal traps that were discovered in Vietnam alone. 

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The discovery was made near the beach city of Nha Trang after a team of researchers and scientists working for the Journal of Nature Ecology and Evolution interviewed a slew of local villagers and forest rangers who reported potential sightings of the then thought to be extinct creature. After the documented villager accounts for the sightings, scientists set up hidden camera traps in the various areas where the reports came from and waited. The traps were set up for five months and in that time the team was able to record over 275 pictures of the silver-backed chevrotain. 

The result was way more than any of them expected, so they set up twenty nine more cameras around the same area based on where the previous photos were captured. After that, they were able to capture almost 2,000 pictures of the chevrotain, all occurring over the course of five short months. That’s a staggering amount of recorded data for an animal that was previously thought to be extinct. While the re-discovery of a “mouse-deer” like animal may not seem like a huge deal to some, to conservationists, it’s like discovering that the dodo bird still exists. 

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The animals are quite adorable, weighing in at a maximum of ten pounds, they’re the world’s smallest hoofed mammals, and despite the nickname, they aren’t actually related to mice or deer. They are also no stranger to staying out of the spotlight. In the report covering the rediscovery, the team of researchers mention how the species was first discovered by scientists in 1910. After that initial discovery there were no more recorded verified records of chevrotain until 1990! Even then it was just one single animal which was seized from a hunter in Vietnam who captured it illegally.

“Before this we only had these two historical sightings separated by quite some distance—one in the southern part of Vietnam and the other much further north. But we knew that many people have camera-trapped in the wet evergreen forests and hadn’t seen it, so we thought we should look at the dry forest habitat that’s really different and where not many people have looked. To the scientific world this was a lost species, but local people had known about it. It was only by utilizing the local ecological knowledge that we were successful. That can be replicated for other species in other parts of the world,” said Andrew Tilker, Asian Species Officer at the GWC. 

Tilker along with the other researchers who participated in this amazing rediscovery made it a clear point that just because history shows that these animals survive under the radar, that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a massive threat to the remainder silver-backed chevrotains. Local citizens most likely never reported sightings as a means to protect them from illegal wildlife poachers/traffickers. 

Rising Sea Level

Rising Sea Levels Pose Greater Threat to Cities Than Previously Thought

Scientists have known for some time that global warming will lead to the melting of the ice caps, and in turn the rising of sea levels, threatening coastal cities. But scientists have disagreed over the timing and the extent of the impact of rising sea levels. New research, however, suggests that three times more people than previously thought could be affected by rising sea levels by 2050. The research was conducted by Climate Central, which is based in New Jersey, and was published in Nature Communications.

The new research, which uses advanced techniques based on satellite readings of land elevation, shows that previous predictions about the scope of rising sea levels were too optimistic. According to the new research, 150 million people currently live in areas that by 2050 will be below the high-tide line. Southern Vietnam, for instance, is at risk of disappearing almost entirely. Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s economic center, could collapse.

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Another country predicted to be strongly impacted by rising sea levels is Thailand, where the city of Bangkok is expected to be all but underwater in 2050. More than 10 percent of Thai residents live on land that will experience inundation in 2050, as do a quarter of Vietnamese residents, totaling more than 20 million people in those two countries alone.

Rising sea levels are expected to affect even those people who do not live in areas prone to flooding, as inundation of economic centers will have a drastic impact on the places that people work and live. Many of the world’s cities developed on coasts, putting them at particular risk for the effects of rising sea levels. Shanghai, for instance, is under direct threat of being consumed by water, as is much of the surrounding area. Mumbai, India’s financial capital and one of the world’s largest cities, is at high risk, as is the ancient city of Alexandria.

Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago.

While the reality of rising sea levels is all but confirmed, there are measures that cities can take to combat the effects of climate change. Already, 110 million people live in places below the high tide line, as seawalls and other barriers prevent flooding. In order to combat this particular threat of climate change, many of the world’s cities previously unaffected by flooding will have to invest in technologies like seawalls in order to survive the end of the 21st century. As these massive infrastructure projects can be costly and take a long time to complete, particularly vulnerable cities would be wise to make such investments as soon as possible.

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That being said, protective measures can only go so far and are prone to human error, as infamously occurred in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago. Unfortunately, these places are the least likely to be shielded by the effects of rising sea levels over the rest of this century, as the cost of doing so is great and offers little economic return.

Rising sea levels, of course, are not the only effects of climate change. Another major environmental consideration for cities as time progresses is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which pose a threat to both infrastructure and human life. Already, these effects are felt in the form of unprecedented, raging wildfires in California, which many experts believe to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Additionally, climate change has increased the intensity of hurricanes and other storms, as in the case of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas. While the reality of anthropogenic climate change is not in dispute among reputable scientists, ongoing research continues to reveal the various ways in which climate change affects and will continue to affect human life, oftentimes revealing that the impact will be more severe than previously thought.