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Larry Kramer Focused World’s Attention on AIDS Through Protests, Writing

Larry Kramer, the grandfather of fierce protests demanding action to fight the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, died Wednesday at age 84. The author and activist founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, known as ACT UP, in 1987.ACT UP mounted dramatic and angry demonstrations credited with raising awareness of the plight of those suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. They were also aimed at pressuring the U.S. government to devote resources to stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and to find an effective treatment for the disease. AIDS primarily struck gay men in America, an often-reviled group with little political clout before Kramer launched his unique brand of unapologetically confrontational activism.Tributes have poured in for Kramer, including from those with whom he had a stormy relationship, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as the first director of the U.S. government’s Office of AIDS Research.Kramer granted his last on-camera media interview to VOA’s Carolyn Presutti in April, when his health was failing. Here are selected clips, in Kramer’s words, recorded as he struggled to hold his cellphone to speak.Larry Kramer: The first cases included several of my friends who died. So I was involved then [from the beginning] with AIDS activism really since 1981.ACT UP was one of the most successful grassroots organizations that was ever founded. It was enormously successful. We never stopped working and fighting, and moving and doing all kinds of things to call the world’s attention to AIDS. You have to remember that Ronald Reagan, who was president, never even said the word AIDS. So we were operating “on our own” to bring the world the message that we were dying from this mysterious virus.Fauci was someone we were very angry with because he wasn’t doing anything.VOA: Larry, Fauci is actually quoted as saying, “You can divide medical research into before Larry and after Larry.”Kramer: I know he said that and that was very nice of him. I certainly had a lot of fights with him, as did ACT UP, to get him to the point where he paid attention to us. Now we are all buddy-buddy.VOA: Why was it so hard to get him and the government to pay attention?Kramer: Because it was happening mostly to gay people.VOA: Going back to the battles then, the battles of the ’90s, do you feel like you won that battle?Kramer: No. We still don’t have a cure. We have some drugs that keep us alive longer. They cost a good bit of money if you don’t have insurance. The fight is never, ever over.

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Trump to Sign Executive Order Aimed at Reining in Twitter

U.S. President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Thursday regarding social media platforms, after Twitter tagged a pair of his tweets with a fact-check warning.Sources close to the White House say the president’s executive order would require the Federal Communication Commission to clarify a section of the Communications Decency Act that largely exempts online companies like Twitter and Facebook from any legal liability from any content posted by their users.The order also directs the White House Office of Digital Strategy to redouble its efforts to collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.Trump Threatens Action Against TwitterPresident lashes out at social media platform after it put fact-check alert on pair of his tweets about mail-in ballotsTrump on Wednesday threatened to “strongly regulate” or shut down social media platforms.  He said that Republicans feel that “Social Media Platforms totally silence conservative voices.” He alleged that social media sites attempted — and failed — during the 2016 election to stifle conservatives’ voices. “We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again,” Trump wrote on Twitter.On Tuesday, an unprecedented alert on the @realDonaldTrump tweets about mail-in balloting prompted the president to accuse Twitter of interference in this year’s election and of “completely stifling” free speech.“I, as President, will not allow it to happen,” he concluded..@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020When those viewing Trump’s flagged tweets on Tuesday clicked on the warning placed by Twitter, they were taken to a notification titled: Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.The alert, linked to stories from CNN and The Washington Post, and also included a fact box:What you need to know- Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to “a Rigged Election.” However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud. – Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots. – Though Trump targeted California, mail-in ballots are already used in some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.”Social media companies have been struggling with the spread of misinformation and the need for fact checking for years, most prominently in the last presidential election,” said Marcus Messner, the director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.“Twitter is right to flag incorrect information even when it involves tweets by President Trump,” Messner told VOA.The journalism professor noted the action “walks the fine line between fact checking and being accused of censoring political speech through more drastic measures such as deleting posts and suspending accounts. But the question remains whether the fact tags with links to news articles will even be recognized by supporters of President Trump, who regularly dismiss all reporting from mainstream media. The effect of the fact tags in this heated partisan environment might be limited.”It is unclear what legal leverage Trump has over Twitter, which does not need any government licenses to operate as do radio or television stations.A Twitter spokesperson said the company took the unprecedented action, based on its new policy announced earlier this month, because Trump’s tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”Twitter has also been facing calls to remove Trump’s tweets that push an old conspiracy theory about the death of a congressional staffer.The president has stopped short of directly accusing Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, who hosts a morning program on the MSNBC cable channel of killing a woman in 2001 even though the politician was 1,300 kilometers away at the time and authorities ruled her death an accident.Scarborough was once friendly with Trump but has become a fierce on-air critic of the president.Timothy Klausutis, widower of Lori Klausutis, has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claiming the president has violated the social media company’s terms of service and “has taken something that does not belong to him-the memory of my dead wife-and perverted it for perceived political gain.”

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This Shared Fear Unites Us During Pandemic

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, recently called for mental health treatment to be given to millions of people around the world who are suffering from psychological distress triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not just about those who are sick – but for all of us, the fear of what might happen if we do get the virus. And it’s especially acute for caregivers. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias has this penetrating firsthand report.
Camera: Veronica Balderas Iglesias  Producer: Veronica Balderas Iglesias

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NASA Postpones 1st Commercial Space Flight

NASA postponed Wednesday’s scheduled launch of a Space X rocket ship, the first manned commercial space flight in history.NASA canceled the launch 16 minutes before takeoff because of the threat of lightning near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.NASA will try again Saturday to send the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.The launch will be the first time since the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011 that Americans will fly into space from U.S. soil. Astronauts have been using Russian Soyuz spacecraft to travel to the space station.Led by veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, the flight marks a new era in piloted space flight.Space X will join Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle in space aviation history. The difference is that those rockets were built by U.S. government contractors.Space X was built by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and is the first time any space agency anywhere in the world used a private commercial company to fly humans into space.“We’re doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “We’re transforming how we do space flight in the future.”Speaking on NASA’s livestream, Musk said, “This is a dream come true, I think for me and everyone at SpaceX. This is not something I ever thought would happen. When starting SpaceX in 2002, I really did not think this day would occur.”NASA’s aim is to have a cost-effective and safe system to send crews to space. Boeing also has a spacecraft in the testing phase for crewed missions. For cargo deliveries, both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have sent multiple spacecraft to the ISS in recent years. 

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Historic SpaceX Launch Postponed Because of Stormy Weather

The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit was called off with 16 minutes to go in the countdown Wednesday because of thunderclouds and the danger of lightning. Liftoff was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.The commercially designed, built and owned spacecraft was set to blast off in the afternoon for the International Space Station, ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight and putting NASA back in the business of launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade. But thunderstorms for much of the day threatened to force a postponement, and the word finally came down that the atmosphere was so electrically charged that the spacecraft with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard could get hit by a bolt of lightning.”No launch for today — safety for our crew members @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken is our top priority,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted, using a lightning emoji.The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.The two men were scheduled to ride into orbit aboard the SpaceX’s bullet-shaped Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, taking off from the same launch pad used during the Apollo moon missions a half-century ago. Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had arrived to watch.The flight — the long-held dream of SpaceX founder Elon Musk — would have marked the first time a private company sent humans into orbit.It would also have been the first time in nearly a decade that the United States launched astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil. Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.During the day, thunder could be heard as the astronauts made their way to the pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and a tornado warning was issued moments after they climbed into their capsule.The preparations took place in the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed an estimated 100,000 Americans.”We’re launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. We haven’t done this really since 2011, so this is a unique moment in time,” Bridenstine said.With this launch, he said, “everybody can look up and say, ‘Look, the future is so much brighter than the present.’ And I really hope that this is an inspiration to the world.”The mission would put Musk and SpaceX in the same league as only three spacefaring countries — Russia, the U.S. and China, all of which gave sent astronauts into orbit.”What today is about is reigniting the dream of space and getting people fired up about the future,” he said in a NASA interview before the flight was scrubbed.A solemn-sounding Musk said he felt his responsibilities most strongly when he saw the astronauts’ wives and sons just before launch. He said he told them: “We’ve done everything we can to make sure your dads come back OK.”President Donald Trump looks at an area on a piece of equipment to sign during tour of NASA facilities before viewing the SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 Launch at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.NASA pushed ahead with the launch despite the viral outbreak but kept the guest list at Kennedy extremely limited and asked spectators to stay at home. Still, beaches and parks along Florida’s Space Coast are open again, and hours before the launch, cars and RVs already were lining the causeway in Cape Canaveral.The space agency also estimated 1.7 million people were watching the launch preparations online during the afternoon.Among the sightseers was Erin Gatz, who came prepared for both rain and pandemic. 
Accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, she brought face masks and a small tent to protect against the elements. She said the children had faint memories of watching in person one of the last shuttle launches almost a decade ago when they were preschoolers. “I wanted them to see the flip side and get to see the next era of space travel,” said Gatz, who lives in Deltona, Florida. “It’s exciting and hopeful.”NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to transport astronauts to the space station in a new kind of public-private partnership. Development of SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner capsules took longer than expected, however. Boeing’s ship is not expected to fly astronauts into space until early 2021.”We’re doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before,” Bridenstine said. “We’re transforming how we do spaceflight in the future.”
 

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Hypocrisy Gone Viral? Officials Set Bad COVID-19 Examples

“Do as I say, but not as I do” was the message many British saw in the behavior of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s key aide, who traveled hundreds of miles with coronavirus symptoms during the country’s lockdown.
While  Dominic Cummings has faced calls for his firing  but support from his boss over his journey from London to the northern city of Durham in March, few countries seem immune to the perception that politicians and top officials are bending the rules that their own governments wrote during the pandemic.
From U.S. President Donald Trump to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, global decision-makers have frequently set bad examples, whether it’s refusing to wear masks or breaking confinement rules aimed at protecting their citizens from COVID-19.  
Some are punished when they’re caught, others publicly repent, while a few just shrug off the violations during a pandemic that has claimed more than 350,000 lives worldwide.
Here are some notable examples:New Zealand Health Minister Calls Himself An “Idiot”
In April, New Zealand’s health minister was stripped of some of his responsibilities after defying the country’s strict lockdown measures. David Clark drove 19 kilometers (12 miles) to the beach to take a walk with his family as the government was asking people to make historic sacrifices by staying at home.
“I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” Clark said. He also earlier acknowledged driving to a park near his home to go mountain biking.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said normally she would fire Clark but that the country couldn’t afford massive disruption in its health sector while it was fighting the virus. Instead, she stripped Clark of his role as associate finance minister and demoting him to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings.Mexico’s Leader Shakes Hands
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said it pained him not to embrace supporters during tours because of health risks, but he made a remarkable exception in March, shaking hands with the elderly mother of imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. Asked about shaking her hand when the government was urging citizens to practice social distancing, López Obrador said it would have been disrespectful not to.  
“It’s very difficult humanly,” he said. “I’m not a robot.”  America’s Pandemic Politics
The decision to wear a mask in public is becoming a political statement in the U.S. It’s been stoked by Trump — who didn’t wear a mask during an appearance at a facility making them — and some other Republicans, who have questioned the value of masks. This month, pandemic politics shadowed Trump’s trip to Michigan as he toured a factory making lifesaving medical devices. He did not publicly wear a face covering despite a warning from the state’s top law enforcement officer that refusing to do so might lead to a ban on his return.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, wore a mask along with his wife, Jill, as they laid a wreath Monday at a Delaware veterans’ memorial — his first public appearance since mid-March. Trump later retweeted Fox News analyst Brit Hume’s criticism of Biden for wearing a mask in public.
Vice President Mike Pence was criticized for not wearing a mask  while on a visit to the Mayo Clinic.Netanyahu’s Passover Holiday
While the rest of Israel was instructed not to gather with their extended families for traditional Passover Seder in April, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin hosted their adult children for the festive holiday meal, drawing fierce criticism on social media. Israeli television showed a photo of Avner Netanyahu, the premier’s younger son, attending the Seder at his father’s official residence.  
Benjamin Netanyahu later apologized in a televised address, saying he should have adhered more closely to the regulations.  The French Exception
French President Emmanuel Macron also has been inconsistent with masks, leaving the French public confused. Although Macron has sometimes appeared in a mask for visits at hospitals and schools, it’s a different story in the Elysee presidential palace and for speeches. During a visit to a Paris hospital on May 15, Macron initially wore a mask to chat with doctors but then removed it to talk with union workers.  
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also faced criticism this month for huddling with dozens of mask-makers in a factory for a photo where everyone removed their masks.  
Putin’s Different Approach
The only time Russian President Vladimir Putin wore protective gear in public was on March 24, when he visited a top coronavirus hospital in Moscow.  Before donning a hazmat suit, Putin shook hands with Dr. Denis Protsenko, the head of the hospital. Neither wore masks or gloves, and a week later, Protsenko tested positive for the virus. That raised questions about Putin’s health, but the Kremlin said he was fine.
Putin has since held at least seven face-to-face meetings, according to the Kremlin website. He and others didn’t wear masks during those meetings, and Putin also didn’t cover his face for events marking Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II.
When asked why Putin doesn’t wear a mask during public appearances, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin has a different approach to protecting the president’s health.
“When it comes to public events, we ask medical workers to test all the participants in advance,” Peskov told reporters.  Puerto Rico Official’s Inconsistent Message
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez was criticized for not always wearing a mask despite holding new conferences ordering people to cover their face outside their homes and inside businesses. A member of the opposition Popular Democratic Party also filed a police complaint last week against members of Vázquez’s New Progressive Party, alleging they violated a curfew by gathering to inaugurate the party’s new headquarters. Police are investigating the incident, which angered many Puerto Ricans.  Scottish Medical Official Takes The Low Road
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Catherine Calderwood, broke her own rules and traveled to her second home during lockdown in April. She faced blowback after photos emerged of her and her family visiting Earlsferry in Fife, which is more than an hour’s drive from her main home in Edinburgh. She apologized and resigned.
“I did not follow the advice I’m giving to others,” Calderwood said. “I am truly sorry for that. I’ve seen a lot of the comments from … people calling me a hypocrite.”  Japan’s Gambling Scandal
A top Japanese prosecutor was reprimanded and later resigned this month after defying a stay-at-home recommendation in a gambling scandal.
Hiromu Kurokawa, the country’s No. 2 prosecutor who headed the Tokyo High Prosecutors’ Office, acknowledged that he wasn’t social distancing when he played mahjong for money at a newspaper reporter’s home twice in May. Japan didn’t enforce a stay-at-home recommendation, but his case outraged the public because many were following social distancing measures.  Italian Press Conference Criticism
At a March news conference to open a COVID-19 field hospital in Milan’s old convention center, photographers and video journalists were pushed into corners that did not allow proper spacing. Only text reporters were given seating in line with regulations. The Codacons consumer protection group announced it would file a complaint with prosecutors in Milan.
“What should have been a moment of great happiness and pride for Lombardy and Italy was transformed into a surreal event, where in violation of the anti-gathering rules, groups of crowds formed,” Codacons said.  South Africa’s Rule-Breaking Dinner
In April, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on special leave for two months and forced to apologize by President Cyril Ramaphosa after she violated stay-at-home regulations. Ramaphosa directed police to investigate after a photo emerged on social media of Ndabeni-Abrahams and several others having a meal at the home of former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana.Spanish Hospital Ceremony Investigated
Madrid’s regional and city officials sparked controversy when they gathered on May 1 for a ceremony shuttering a massive field hospital at a convention center. Eager to appear in the final photo of a facility credited with treating nearly 4,000 mild COVID-19 patients, dozens of officials didn’t follow social distancing rules. Spain’s restrictions banned more than 10 people at events like the one that honored nurses and doctors. The central government opened an investigation, and Madrid regional chief Isabel Díaz Ayuso apologized. She said officials “got carried away by the uniqueness of the moment.”
Former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also defied strict stay-at-home orders, with a television station filming him power walking around in northern Madrid. The Spanish prosecutor’s office is investigating whether Rajoy, who was premier from 2011 to 2018, should be fined.Indian Cricket Game Criticized
In India, a top leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party drew flak last weekend after playing a game of cricket. Manoj Tiwari, also a member of India’s parliament, said he followed social distancing rules during the game. Videos circulating on social media showed Tiwati without a mask. He was also seen taking selfies with people.  Leaders Who Follow The Rules
Some leaders are setting a good example, including Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Media jokingly called him the most relaxed politician in the world after he was photographed queuing at a supermarket this month, wearing a mask and following social distancing measures. The photo was widely shared on social media.  
Another rule-follower is Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who did not visit his ill 96-year-old mother in a nursing home during the last eight weeks of her life because of coronavirus restrictions. He only came to her bedside during her final hours this month.  
“The prime minister has respected all guidelines,” according to a statement read by a spokesman. “The guidelines allow for family to say goodbye to dying family members in the final stage. And as such the prime minister was with her during her last night.” 

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France’s Virus Tracing App Ready to Go, Parliament to Vote

French lawmakers were set to vote Wednesday on whether to endorse a contact-tracing app designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid sharp debate over privacy concerns.
If approved, France’s StopCovid app will be made available to users on a voluntary basis starting Monday. The government committed to honoring the result of the non-binding parliamentary vote.  
French privacy watchdog CNIL backed the app this week, stating the technology “won’t lead to creating a list of infected people but only a list of contacts using pseudonymous data. It does respect the concept of data protection.”
The app uses Bluetooth signals on mobile phones to trace individuals that people infected with the virus had contact with and informs them of potential exposure so they can self-isolate. It will store anonymous data in a government-run centralized database for 14 days before erasing it.  How Contact Tracing Apps workSorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />CopyThe government says the app doesn’t involve location tracking and it guaranteed the privacy of users, but rights advocacy groups have raised concerns over the issue.
A public agency that monitors the respecting of human rights in France, the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights, said in a statement Tuesday that the app “affects in a disproportionate manner the rights and freedoms of all citizens.”  
An advocacy group for internet users’ rights, La Quadrature du Net, said that “deploying an app whose objectives, technology and usage carry significant risks for our society and our freedoms, for likely mediocre results (possibly even counter-productive ones), is not something we can consider acceptable.”
Initially meant to accompany the lifting of restrictions starting on May 11, the app’s release was delayed due to technical issues.
The junior minister in charge of the digital economy, Cedric O, said the app was tested on 100 smartphones representing 17 brands and will be available to work with Google and Apple’s operating systems.  
“It’s working well and doesn’t drain the battery,” he said.
European countries have chosen different approaches to developing their own tracing apps as part of their strategies to prevent a second wave of virus cases after national lockdowns end.  
Germany, Italy, Austria, Estonia, Switzerland, and Ireland have embraced a decentralized system, widely considered by privacy experts as better because because data is kept on devices only.  
France and the U.K. decided instead to send data to a central server, arguing this would help them react more quickly and aid decision-making.  
The French government refused to use the technology for pandemic apps released last week by Google and Apple, saying it lacked sufficient data privacy guarantees.  
“The government believes that health protection of the French is an exclusive mission for the state and not for private international actors,” it said in a statement.  
France, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries, has reported at least 28,530 coronavirus-related deaths. 

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Why Vietnam’s ‘Silicon Valley’ Won’t Be Like California’s

Vietnam’s financial hub is setting aside land to develop what locals call a new “Silicon Valley,” a reference to the area of California where a lot of new technology is developed, but with not-so-California characteristics, such as state planning and a lack of venture capital. The Home Affairs Department of Ho Chi Minh City filed a plan this month to the city’s Communist Party committee for merging three districts into a single zone for development as a tech center, domestic media outlet VnExpress International says. The plan followed a meeting May 8 between city officials and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the news outlet says.   City leaders had begun in 2017 planning a 22,000-hectare (54,300-acre) zone to monetize scientific and technical research, the news outlet says. More than 1 million people already live along the flat swathe of land along the Saigon River. The zone will appeal foremost to internet and software developers, including an estimated 40 financial technology firms, as well as their employees who hope to live near work, analysts on the ground say. The zone is taking shape as tech-educated Vietnamese in their 20s start companies. “Vietnamese are very entrepreneurial,” said Jack Nguyen, a partner at the business advisory firm Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City. “They see something work in other countries, or in the U.S., they’ll give it a shot here in Vietnam.” Vietnamese entrepreneurs, some educated overseas, are taking advantage of a largely “mobile” culture in the Southeast Asian country as well as low-paid local engineers to build up their bases in Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen added.   Ho Chi Minh City’s tech zone includes a slice of its financial center, modern apartment tracts and a nearby polytechnic university. Those perks should make the zone more attractive for techies, said Phuong Hong, a native of the city who lives in the zone.   “These three districts have the level of living, and transportation is also very, very convenient,” she said, referring to the three administrative tracts to be merged. Tech workers are likely to take advantage of that convenience, said Frederick Burke, Ho Chi Minh City-based partner with the law firm Baker McKenzie.    “The fact that they give extra incentives to locate there creates an ecosystem where some employees live in the neighborhood,” Burke said. “Therefore, an engineer can jump from one job to another more easily.”   Central government leaders have tried over the past decade to steer Vietnam’s export-led economy Electricity needs are rising as Vietnam’s economy grows, adding challenges for the state power utility, EVN, as it tries to balance free markets and central planning. (Ha Nguyen/VOA)National-level and city government planning will probably lead the tech zone’s formation – a key difference compared to the more organic development of Silicon Valley of California – analysts say. “What we’ll likely see as key differences between the two is the Ho Chi Minh City project will be a cluster that heavily recruits global and regional companies and (where) entrepreneurial behaviors are likely commissioned by the government, whereas Silicon Valley is more locally grown and has been driven by industry trends and technology innovations,” said Lam Nguyen, managing director with the tech market research firm IDC Indochina in Ho Chi Minh City.  State planning to date has offered internet bandwidth. Growth of the zone will require local officials to build out infrastructure, the IDC managing director said. The zone will need tax incentives, better business licensing processes and ideal locations to draw newcomers, he added.   Tech investors will favor Vietnam’s relatively lower costs, Lam Nguyen said. Vietnam’s tech zone will face a lack of venture capital, buyouts and failures followed by restarts, country observers say. A lot of startup founders have ideas but lack capital, Jack Nguyen said. They look overseas for funding, he said. The area south of San Francisco known as “Silicon Valley” first became a hub of technology development in the 1950s, when a dean of Stanford University’s engineering school encouraged faculty members to start their own companies. Silicon Valley output has been estimated at an unusually high $275 billion per year and it’s one of the most expensive parts of the United States. 

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