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Thursday, February 25, 2016

[HAR issue falls short; MNT hits new low; EU pledges support to ASEM 11; 3rd TV Forum starts today; and UB residents urged to leave during ASEM]

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Wednesday, February 25, 2016

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Int'l Market

HAR closed flat Wednesday at A$0.004

Haranga Partially Underwritten Rights Issue – 88.5% Shortfall

February 24 -- Haranga Resources Limited ('the Company') advises that its partially underwritten non-renounceable rights issue of 1 new share for every 1 share held, at an issue price of $0.004 per share ('Rights Issue') closed on 19 February 2016.

In accordance with Appendix 7A of the ASX Listing Rules, the Company advises that it received valid acceptances for 39,236,239 new shares with a shortfall of 302,609,589 shares.

The Rights Issue is partially underwritten by Golden Rain Holdings Limited who is presently attending to placing a portion of the shortfall shares.

The total funds raised from the 39,236,239 new shares is approximately $156,945 before costs.

Link to release

 

Centerra Gold Reports Fourth Quarter and 2015 Year-End Results

To view Management's Discussion and Analysis and the Audited Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes for the year ended December 31, 2015, please visit the following link: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/cg0224-mdafs.pdf

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - February 24, 2016) - Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX: CG) today reported a net loss of $2.9 million or $0.01 per common share (basic) in the fourth quarter of 2015 which includes a $27.2 million or $0.11 per share (basic) inventory impairment at the Kumtor mine. This compares to a net loss of $11.3 million or $0.05 per common share (basic) in the fourth quarter of 2014 which included a non-cash impairment charge of $111 million or $0.47 per share (basic) of goodwill related to the Kyrgyz reporting segment.

For 2015, the Company recorded net earnings of $41.6 million or $0.18 per share (basic), which includes an inventory impairment of $27.2 million ($0.11 per share (basic)) at the Kumtor mine and an $18.7 million ($0.08 per share (basic)) non-cash impairment charge of Kumtor goodwill. This compares to a net loss of $44.1 million or $0.19 per share (basic) in 2014 which included a non-cash impairment charge of $111 million or $0.47 per share (basic) for goodwill related to the Kyrgyz reporting segment. Results in 2015 were also impacted by fewer ounces produced and sold (ounces sold decreased 13% over 2014) and 6% lower average realized gold prices1 ($1,162 per ounce vs. $1,241 per ounce in 2014).

2015 Fourth Quarter and Full Year Highlights

Mongolia (Boroo/Gatsuurt)

The Gatsuurt Project remained under care and maintenance in the fourth quarter of 2015. Gatsuurt was designated as a mineral deposit of strategic importance by the Mongolian Parliament in January 2015. The Company continued to engage in discussions with the Mongolian Government regarding the development of the Gatsuurt Project and potential ownership of the Government. In mid-October 2015, the Company and the Government agreed to a 3% special royalty in place of the Government acquiring a 34% ownership interest in the project, subject to Parliamentary approval. On February 4, 2016, the Mongolian Parliament approved the level of state ownership in the project at 34%. Under the Minerals Law, the Government is able to substitute the state ownership with a special royalty. In this regard, the Government can now implement the previously agreed upon 3% special royalty in place of a 34% state ownership interest in Gatsuurt. See the Company's news releases of February 4, 2016, October 27, 2015 and January 23, 2015. The Company expects to proceed with negotiating definitive agreements and to carry out additional exploration, technical and hydrogeological drilling in support of eventual project development. See "Other Corporate Developments - Mongolia".

Link to release

Related:

Centerra Gold Announces Quarterly Dividend of C$0.04 per Share – February 24

 

Gatsuurt mine will destroy ancient tombs and springs claims movement

February 24 (news.mn) "Noyon Uulaa Avaray" (Let's Save Mount Noyon) is a campaign opposing the development of the Gatsuurt gold deposit. In the autumn session of Parliament it was decided to go ahead with Gatsuurt. In its battle for the mountain, "Noyon Uulaa Avaray" has been joined by the "Gal Undesten" Federation". Yesterday, at a meeting with journalists, Ts.Munkhbayar, the leader of the Federation, said the following:

"Preliminary results of research carried out in 2010, indicate that the damage already caused to the environment, including harm caused by chemical leaching (using arsenic) equals MNT 10 billion. Money is needed to repair the damage. If the work on the mine goes ahead, not only will ancient tombs be destroyed but fresh water springs will be obliterated. This is even more serious! Therefore, we strongly oppose any further development of Gatsuurt".

The campaign to save Mount Noyon is raising questions and may cause a rethink regarding going ahead with the controversial gold mine.

Link to article

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report: Top 20 +0.28%, ALL +0.01%, Turnover 11.3 Million Shares

February 24 (MSE) --

Link to report

 

MSE Offering 12 Billion 39-Week 14.915% Discounted T-Bills, 10 Billion 2-Year Bonds at 15.5%

February 24 (MSE) Buy order of 39 weeks /9 months/ Government bonds with 14.915% annual coupon rate and 104 weeks /2 years/ Government bonds with 15.5% annual coupon rate have started through brokerage companies and buy order will end on 29 February 2016.

Click here to see the detailed information of Government retail bonds /9 months/.

Click here to see the detailed information of Government retail bonds /2 years/.

Link to release

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Economy

Historic low ₮2,021.72/USD set February 16, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time

BoM MNT Rates: Wednesday, February 24 Close

2/24

2/23

2/22

2/19

2/18

2/17

2/16

2/15

2/12

2/8

2/5

2/4

2/3

2/2

2/1

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USD

2,034.32

2,033.45

2,029.17

2,029.30

2,026.75

2,022.11

2,021.72

2,020.45

2,019.42

2,018.82

2,018.53

2,017.42

2,014.43

2,013.38

2,010.73

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EUR

2,236.94

2,245.13

2,249.74

2,255.97

2,254.76

2,258.80

2,255.03

2,265.33

2,279.93

2,248.56

2,260.45

2,235.50

2,197.24

2,195.29

2,180.84

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JPY

18.14

18.16

17.97

17.96

17.80

17.82

17.66

17.77

17.98

17.20

17.29

17.11

16.79

16.69

16.59

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GBP

2,845.00

2,869.20

2,882.33

2,904.03

2,894.40

2,886.76

2,920.07

2,929.96

2,932.00

2,930.92

2,931.41

2,939.08

2,901.79

2,899.07

2,868.51

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RUB

26.65

26.86

26.70

26.56

26.91

26.10

26.49

25.95

25.41

26.25

26.11

26.36

25.49

25.89

26.36

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CNY

311.42

311.49

311.26

311.25

310.92

309.89

310.54

311.12

307.19

307.10

307.26

306.69

306.19

306.01

305.65

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KRW

1.65

1.65

1.64

1.65

1.65

1.65

1.66

1.67

1.67

1.67

1.69

1.68

1.65

1.67

1.67

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SGD

1,447.91

1,446.68

1,446.20

1,442.75

1,444.07

1,437.89

1,442.13

1,444.88

1,447.56

1,435.96

1,444.13

1,427.10

1,408.40

1,413.84

1,411.98

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CAD

1,475.53

1,480.27

1,476.57

1,474.73

1,482.19

1,457.59

1,471.25

1,461.87

1,450.52

1,454.38

1,469.36

1,464.45

1,434.88

1,437.20

1,433.57

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AUD

1,461.15

1,469.68

1,459.07

1,443.34

1,447.40

1,436.20

1,449.98

1,444.52

1,432.07

1,432.45

1,449.30

1,445.38

1,420.98

1,425.37

1,421.39

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HKD

261.83

261.77

261.14

260.93

260.45

259.63

259.62

259.56

259.32

259.27

259.03

259.03

258.34

258.85

258.33

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CHF

2,045.06

2,046.03

2,044.19

2,044.74

2,042.07

2,049.89

2,047.42

2,059.58

2,069.93

2,031.72

2,031.12

2,004.59

1,976.29

1,974.58

1,967.45

Bank USD rates at time of sending: TDB (Buy ₮2,028 Sell ₮2,036), Khan (Buy ₮2,028 Sell ₮2,036), Golomt (Buy ₮2,028 Sell ₮2,036), XacBank (Buy ₮2,030 Sell ₮2,037), State Bank (Buy ₮2,027 Sell ₮2,037)

MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:

Link to rates

 

BoM issues 137 billion 1-week bills at 12%, total outstanding +21% to ₮720.15 billion

February 24 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 137 billion at a weighted interest rate of 12.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

20 Billion 39-Week 14.92% Discounted T-Bills Sold with 33 Billion Bids

February 24 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 39 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 20.0 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 20.0 billion /out of 33.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 14.92%.

Link to release

 

0.5 Billion 2-Year GoM Bonds Sold at 15.5% from Announced 15 Billion

February 24 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 2 years maturity Government Bond was announced at face value of 15 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 0.5 billion /out of 0.5 billion bid/ Government bond was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 15.5% and a coupon of 15.5%

Link to release

 

Mongolia's home-owning dream could become a nightmare

By Terrence Edwards in Ulaanbaatar 

February 23, 2016 (bne IntelliNews) Three months away from parliamentary elections, Mongolia's leaders are making some bold and expensive promises to turn the Mongolian dream of home ownership into reality.

At the hustings at the end of June, politicians from the ruling Democrat Party-led coalition will have a tough time trying to persuade voters that life is better than four years ago, when they took power. The economy today is no longer an investors' darling —economic growth has fallen from a world topping 12.3% to probably less than 3% this year, and the once booming coal industry is earning a third less than what it did a year ago amid falling prices and weak demand from China.

Rather than making the politicians exercise restraint, the country's economic problems have only encouraged the government to promise even more subsidies to enable Mongolians to buy their own homes.

The promise reflects the housing crisis in the capital Ulaanbaatar.  The population of the city has tripled to 1.3mn over the past 30 years, but only 40% of residents are living in formal apartments, while the rest live in traditional yurts, called gers, and simple houses without access to city utilities.

Damdin Gantugs, a board member for the state-backed Mongolian Mortgage Company (MIK) that buys up mortgage portfolios from commercial banks, remembers back when Mongolia's capital was a sleepy city of about 400,000 people.

Growing up, she lived in a modest government-owned apartment block (built and financed by the Soviet Union) that her parents had moved into in 1967. "It wasn't easy getting a home back then, and it was done through a distribution system," she says. "They had to wait 10-15 years for approval."

In 2013, a year after the Democrat-led coalition took power, the government began providing commercial banks with funds at 4.5% annual interest. The banks then lent the money to homebuyers at 8%, with a 30% downpayment. Since then, the number of mortgages has grown 58.5% to 76,583, up from less than 5,000 in 2005.

This programme has kept the real estate and home-building industries alive and boosted home ownership to an all-time high. According to bankers in Ulaanbaatar, a mortgage outside the programme might cost between 18% and 20% in interest a year.

But even with interest on mortgages four percentage points below the 12% policy rate set by the central bank, most of those who could afford to buy homes have already done so and many Mongolians still can't afford to.

So, to reinvigorate the programme, the government has guaranteed to cut upfront downpayments by two thirds to 10%. They've also made the hasty promise to spend millions more a month to cut the annual rate on the subsidised mortgages by three additional points to 5% by March.

A growing city

MIK, which is 20% owned by the government's Development Bank of Mongolia and nearly 80% by the commercial banks, underpins the current programme by buying mortgage packages from the banks. "It is their choice, but usually banks want to sell those mortgages to us because for them it is profitable," says Gantugs.

MIK's portfolio has grown from 16 billion to 2.16 trillion tugrik (€966mn) since 2013 from the mortgage packages it's purchased. "In 10 years this portfolio increased 1,500%," boasts Gantugs. She says MIK plans to expand its portfolio by 1.32 trillion tugrik by 2019.

MIK is shielded from the first 10% of the default risk with junior bonds the banks agreed to buy when selling their mortgage packages. "There is a swap agreement," says Gantugs.

The junior bonds are paid out on a quarterly basis on top of fees paid to the banks for their services in lending and verifying the finances of borrowers (MIK paid out 5 billion tugrik to banks last year), which makes a nice deal for the banks, which are currently starved of liquidity. Mongolia's banks are responsible for about 90% of all financing in the country, but funds are hard (and expensive) to come by while the economy is stagnating.

The government secures the remainder of the portfolio through senior bonds bought by the Ministry of Finance at 4.5% interest.

The recent thinly veiled attempts at keeping the electorate happy before the election now have some bankers privately worrying about the risk, given that there is no sign that Mongolia's economy will improve dramatically any time soon.

If the economy deteriorates further, given the backlog of property built in the lead up to and during the mining boom, property prices could fall sharply, while defaults could climb. The commercial banks securing the first 10% of defaults through the junior bonds would then be most at risk. As one banker stated, "It's a time bomb ticking, with the way things are going."

Gantugs, however, plays down the danger, given that only 2.5% of MIK's mortgages are currently in arrears, with only 48 defaults. 

Recalling her own humble beginning and parents' struggles in getting their home, Gantugs says Mongolians have a strong appreciation for the responsibility they have for paying back their mortgage and they won't risk losing their homes.

"For the Mongolian people who used to live in nomadic-style gers, buying an apartment is the dream," says Gantugs.

Link to article

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Politics & Legal

Chairman of Legal Standing Committee Reviews Autumn Session

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Head of the parliamentary Standing committee on justice D.Ganbat gave a report Wednesday about the works done in the 2015/2016 autumn session.

The committee discussed 55 issues, 257 bills and 12 draft resolutions of parliament at its 19 meetings, which continued for 60 hours and 16 minutes in overall. It also issued 29 proposals and conclusions, five presentations and 324 formulations of principally different opinions.

By resolutions of this committee, 15 working groups were set up who met 35 times to prepare draft documents for plenary meetings. The Standing committee also received 59 petitions and complaints and 134 official letters from organizations and entities, said Ganbat.

The committee had parliament adopt three independent laws--on crime, on conflicts, and on adjudication of administrative cases. plus draft amendments to 254 laws, the annulments of 13 laws and 13 parliamentary resolutions.

The State Great Khural discussed 24 issues at its latest irregular session, 13 of them belonged to the Standing committee on justice, Ganbat underlined.

Link to article

 

EU pledges support to Mongolia in hosting 11th ASEM Summit

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) The European Union (EU) is grateful to Mongolia for hosting the 11th ASEM Summit this July, "Mongolia has vast experience in strengthening the democracy, and this Summit is to coincide with its 20th anniversary, so the EU will support Mongolia in hosting this grand event". .

A chief consultant to the European Union's External Relations Division on ASEM affairs Mr Michael Metissen said it at a meeting with B.Boldbaatar, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Office of Mongolia, in the State House Wednesday.

Boldbaatar expressed a satisfaction with meeting the EU delegation ansd said that Mongolia's joining the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is an expression of its aim to contribute to strengthening of the democracy in its region and to actively participate in worldwide and regional actions.

He said Mongolia successfully organized last year's September the OSCE parliamentary autumn session, and thanked the EU for collaborating with Mongolia in ensuring a preparation for the forthcoming ASEM Summit. He pointed out that Mongolia had sent official letters to legislative bodies' leaders of ASEM countries to the 9th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP9) Meeting, which will run here this April 21-22.

After this, Mr Metissen introduced to Boldbaatar the delegates, who came together with him, noting that some of them will work here until a conclusion of the ASEM Summit.

Link to article

 

ASEM organizers call on residents to leave on vacation during the summit

February 24 (gogo.mn) ASEM Office Deputy Head B.Bayasgalan gave statement on the progress of ASEM preparations. 

-How did you solve the issue related to the cars will be served for ASEM guests and delegations? Also 100 buses has planned to be imported. Could you give more information on this, please? 

-According to the preliminary study of ASEM, more than 350 vehicles is expected to be served. We are making contract with automobile distributor and dealer companies operating in Mongolia. These companies will import the 250 cars. Draft law on exempting those 250 cars from taxes were approved by the State Great Hural. The Government will not pay money. According to the contract, we will use the cars during the ASEM for free and will give them back. 

As 100 buses issue, we are working on project to import more than 300 buses by the soft loan of Korean Eximbank and will use them for both domestic and international transportation. We proposed Korea to export 50 buses before the ASEM. Korean side agreed the proposal and the first 50 buses will be imported soon.  

-How to regulate the traffic? There is a rumor that the ASEM organizers to call for residents to go on vacation and leave the city.  

-Routes of ASEM have planned and the police and defense departments are working in scope of the route. The main event of ASEM will be held on July 15 and 16, which has planned to limit the traffic these days. Also citizens will be asked to go on a trip and leave the city during these days. Moreover the tourists come through tourist companies have planned to go to the countryside from July 14th in order to decrease the traffic load. 

-How about the ASEM preparation process? 

-It is hard to express the preparation process in percentage. Currently it is going successfully in accordance with the plan. 

-What cultural events will be showed for guests and delegations from 53 countries during ASEM? It is said that guests will be welcomed by camel train. Is this possible? 

-During ASEM, total of ten main events will be held. During that time, we will perform cultural concert which promote and advertise Mongolia. Moreover, this year marks the 20th anniversary of ASEM. We have planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ASEM at Chinggis square. Cultural events will be organized by the affiliated authorities led by the City Mayor E.Bat-Uul. We have not said to welcome the guests with camel train. This is false information. 

-Heads of ten countries will come with their own aircrafts. If so, how about the capacity of the Chinggis Khan international airport? 

-Aircrafts of foreign guests and delegations will be landed in Chinggis Khan international airport. MIAT, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Chinggis Khaan airport authorities jointly completed many tasks including expansion of capacity. They have already ensured more than 90 percent of ASEM preparation work. Currently parking lots for 34 aircrafts are ready. Previously, the airport has parking lots for 20 aircrafts. According to the countries organized ASEM, 20-30 aircrafts are landed. If we face issue related to the aircraft parking lots, we are negotiating to lease the airports of Inner Mongolia, Hohhot, Buryata and Ulan-Ude. But we have not set up the lease fee. 

-How about the construction of ASEM village?

-Construction of ASEM village is nearing completion. Now it is working on the interior and decoration. The contractor companies will finish the village on May 01.

Link to interview

 

Day of ASEM to be celebrated in Mongolia on March 1

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) The Day of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) will be celebrated this March 1 in Mongolia for the first time.

Such a decision was made during the Annual Foreign Ministerial Meeting of ASEM held last year in Luxembourg. As the host of the 11th ASEM Summit and the organizer of the 20th anniversary of the ASEM, a working group for the ASEM preparation on media and propaganda decided at its meeting on Tuesday to celebrate the event with a key purpose of providing domestic and foreign media with information about the ASEM's history, prospects and characteristics.

In frames of this celebration, a ceremony will run to open an information center at the MONTSAME news agency that will deliver information to the domestic media and people about the Summit's preparation. Moreover, a video lesson will be given to pupils, and a TV discussion will run themed "ASEM in Mongolia".

Some countries also intend to organize events on the occasion of the ASEM's anniversary, for example, Thailand will mount an exhibition March 1-6, and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs--a discussion dedicated to the jubilee.

Link to article

 

Private sector will take part in importing vehicles for ASEM Summit

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) To be used for the upcoming 11th ASEM Summit, 250 cars out of necessary 350 will be imported, together with the city's private companies.

A related contract has been inked, the Bloomberg TV Mongolia website published Wednesday. Moreover, 50 buses out of necessary 100 will be supplied from a reserve of the vehicles that were supposed to be used in localities.

It is expected that the ASEM Summit will significantly contribute to the country's tourism industry as well.

Link to article

 

Alleged assault victim of Bayanzurkh governor demands review of security camera footage

February 23 (UB Post) D.Oyuntuya, who allegedly witnessed Bayanzurkh District Mayor D.Purevdavaa's assault on his pregnant staff member N.Erdene, held a press conference on February 23 demanding a release of the January 28 security camera footage of Soyombo Hall, where she claims N.Erdene was attacked.

At the beginning of the conference, D.Oyuntuya showed a video recording of N.Erdene at a hospital, as she suspected that the assault by D.Purevdavaa caused damage to her womb. On February 19, D.Purevdavaa said that N.Erdene was still working.

"N.Erdene was beaten in Soyombo Hall in Bayanzurkh Mayor's Office at 4:10 p.m. on January 18. N.Erdene went to Soyombo Hall to meet the mayor, but she suddenly screamed. I entered the hall shortly after. When I came in, the mayor looked back, pushed me and scratched my hand.

"The mayor is defending himself with a recording of his office hall. We filed a complaint with the First Unit of the Bayanzurkh Police Department, and got my injury checked at the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) that night. But I don't understand if the police are working for citizens or those in power," said D.Oyuntuya.

"[The police] has done nothing about my complaint. But I had to be interrogated at the Second Unit of the Bayazurkh Police Department for defaming a mayor. I requested the Head of the First Unit, Batmunkh, to seize the security camera footage of Soyombo Hall, mayor's office room, and his secretary Oyumaa's office, as evidence.

"I don't know what dangers it might pose to my health, and life, so I contacted the Takhar Department. The National Human Rights Commission stated that D.Purevdavaa violated four clauses by carrying out the attack, and sent an official claim to Ulaanbaatar Mayor E.Bat-Uul, but no actions have been taken," D.Oyuntuya added.

According to D.Oyuntuya, D.Purevdavaa's personal black notebook is with N.Erdene.

"She said she picked it up when the mayor threw some documents at her. The NIFS and the Police Department will check if it's Purevdavaa's writings in the black notebook. Then based on the notes in the black book, we want to prove that he's guilty with the help of other witnesses," said lawyer G.Batbayar.

"Many complaints related to D.Purevdavaa have been filed. He abused his power and sued many broadcasters for reporting on the issue. Bayanzurkh District law enforcement, the Mayor's Office, and the Police Department are protecting him," G.Batbayar added.

According to the lawyer, police officers broke into N.Erdene's office on Monday at 4:00 p.m. and had conducted a search without a permit from the prosecutor. G.Batbayar said that he suspects the police carried out the search at the order of D.Purevdavaa.

News outlets reported last week that D.Purevdavaa was accused of beating the former head of Bayanzurkh's Child and Family Development Center, N.Erdene. They reported that he grabbed N.Erdene by the collar, and strangled and beat her.

D.Purevdavaa held a press conference on February 19, accusing N.Erdene of organized defamation, and showed a recording of himself and N.Erdene at the Bayanzurkh's Office hall on January 28.
"The video proves I didn't strangle or beat her, and the Bayanzurkh Police Department didn't receive a complaint that N.Erdene was beaten by the district mayor," he said.

D.Purevdavaa said that he demoted her due to her poor performance and violations of the moral standards of an administrator.

"Also, I didn't hit her in the stomach, or ram her into the wall. I didn't verbally insult her either. I have never even hit a woman in my life. I have a younger sister and three children. My wife will give birth next May. This information is hitting my family the hardest. I am saddened," Mayor D.Purevdavaa said.

The Bayanzurkh Mayor said that he believes N.Erdene started a "drama" as part of an election scheme, as she didn't openly make allegations before Tsagaan Sar holiday. He also announced that he will be suing N.Erdene for defamation and libel.

Link to article

 

Mongolia's reports on CEDAW reviewed

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) The 8th and 9th periodic reports of Mongolia have been reviewed on realization of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This happened at a meeting of the 63rd committee of the CEDAW on this February 19 in Geneva of Switzerland.

Mongolia was represented at the meeting by G.Narangerel, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Population Development and Social Welfare; officials from Ministries of Justice, of Health and Sport, of Labor, and of the National Committee of Gender.

Within the discussion of the reports, they highlighted Mongolian government's policy and actions for promoting women's role and their participation in political and social-economic life, for upgrading the legal landscape of women's employment, education and health, and for resolving urgent problems.

Members of the Convention committee applauded works done in Mongolia for renovating/refining the legal landscape for protecting women's rights, and asked Mongolia to keep efforts to implement all laws and resolutions on women's rights, to improve women's status, and to maintain recommendations issued by the Convention committee.

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Mining Governance in Mongolia: In the Eyes of 2016 Graduates

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan

February 18 (Mongolia Focus) Let's put ourselves in the shoes of 2016 graduates from universities and postgraduate schools either abroad or domestic alike.  All graduates have invested their energy, time, and money to attempt to learn everything that would equip them to become good professionals and public servants. Here I would like to talk about the ones who are dreaming to become the best public servant in Mongolia's mining governance.  These are the ones who disliked the naming of their homeland as Minegolia, are irritated with the prevailing corruption, and saddened with irresponsible mining activities.  They departed for learning at the beginning  of the 'mining bust' but they made their choices as a result of the 'mining boom' when almost all Mongolians became mining policy makers and professionals.

Although excited for upcoming graduation ceremonies, they are much more concerned with the fear of being unable to pursue their dreams of making the country's mining governance better. All they hear are unpromising, negative news and rumours about economic decline, crisis, loss of investors, drawdown of personnel, mothballing operations, likelihood of bankruptcy, and political instability.  Reaching to organizations like the Ministry of Mining and its agencies (mineral resources and petroluem), where they would love to contribute their newly attained knowledge, are difficult unless you know somebody – the insider.  What can the graduate do?

For one, the graduate can follow the formal path of following the ads of the Civil Service Council and taking the annual exam for public servants.  But, you will probably not hear back from them; even if you hear back from them – the news is always discouraging. Even if fortune smiles on you because of your merit, you will have to crawl through the minefield since you have no connections.

The second path is investing into the political party. Your options are very limited since there are two major parties and three minor ones that are competing for a share of the ministries and agencies. Also, there are already so many previous graduates who have  taken this path and are still fighting their battles. Once inside the party, you need to make your bet carefully depending on factions and charismatic leaders.  If you're lucky, you can get appointed to some junior entry jobs or senior political posts – but it is likely that you will be branded with that political party.

The third option is joining your 'homeland' councils – these are becoming important political organizations in contemporary Mongolian politics.  As the trust declines in the society, informal institutions like this one provides more certainty.  You need to establish your ties with the homeland organization and influential people within those organizations.  You do not necessarily have to be born in that locality, but you can pursue either of your parents' lineages. Then you need to make some investment into the homeland councils, ranging from fund-raising to organizing/attending any of their activities.

The final option is to invest into the public service with actual money.  If you're the princeling of new capitalists, you do not need to worry so much about getting public service jobs. Or if you are in the horse-racing associations, you can probably get a helping hand from the wealthy horse-racing politicians.  But, if you are not either, then you better look for connections – then ask them to pull the strings for you to land the public service job – where you can devote your time and energy to implement things you've learned at the undergraduate and graduate schools.

A smart graduate will probably check out all these options or employ them simultaneously. If you are already on the inside through one of these methods, you need to help to put the system back on track by reducing the other non-merit based paths.  Because non-merit options will never provide certainty for you and the country and it will never help you fix mining governance. Otherwise, you will be contributing to this decaying system. Hopefully, you and the majority of political and economic elites could put back the first option as the entry for all new graduates.

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Amnesty International Report 2015/2016: Mongolia

In December, a new Criminal Code was passed, fully abolishing the death penalty once it goes into effect in September 2016. Impunity for torture and other ill-treatment, particularly by law enforcement officials during interrogations to obtain "confessions", remained widespread. Residents of urban areas continued to be at risk of forced eviction. Discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people remained of concern. Journalists often practised self-censorship for fear of prosecution. Human rights defenders and journalists continued to raise increased difficulties in carrying out human rights work.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Impunity persisted for many allegations of torture and other ill-treatment committed by law enforcement officials. Since the closure in 2014 of the Special Investigation Unit, complaints of torture against law enforcement officers were investigated by police themselves and not an independent body, raising concerns regarding impartiality. Only certain officials tasked with investigation within the justice system were considered liable under Article 251 of the Criminal Code, thereby potentially allowing others suspected of extracting forced testimonies to escape accountability. Complaints of mental torture were dropped more often than those of physical ill-treatment because of alleged difficulties in establishing the facts.

Unfair trials

Regular instances of denial of pre-trial rights continued to be reported, such as the right to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, as well as the rights to access health care, families and lawyers. Instances were reported of police and prosecutors using deception and intimidation against suspects and their family members.

Housing rights – forced evictions

Residents of ger districts (areas without adequate access to essential services) of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, claimed that they were under constant fear of forcible eviction from their homes. Problems were exacerbated by the lack of transparency in city development plans and lack of clear prohibition against forced evictions in law or policy. Some residents of Bayanzurkh district in Ulaanbaatar claimed they were harassed and threatened into signing development plans and contracts to turn over their land.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

LGBTI people continued to face widespread discrimination. According to an LGBTI rights organization, police officers were often reluctant to intervene. Their responses to LGBTI people alleging discrimination revealed deeply discriminatory attitudes, and they often became abusers themselves by further harassing individuals.

Freedom of expression – journalists

Defamation laws, as outlined in Mongolia's criminal and civil laws, were used against journalists reporting content deemed offensive, including corruption and the activities of legislators. Many journalists and independent publications practised a degree of self-censorship due to fear of legal reprisals.

Death penalty

In December a new Criminal Code removing the death penalty for all crimes was adopted by the State Great Hural (Parliament). At least two individuals were sentenced to death, including one who was reported to have been 17 years old when the crime was committed. One of the sentences was commuted to 25 years' imprisonment on appeal.

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CEN and CENELEC welcome the Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia  

February 24 (CEN/CENELEC) A high-level delegation from the Mongolian Parliament, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Tserendash Oyunbaatar, visited the CEN-CENELEC Management Centre in Brussels on 19 February 2016.

This meeting was organised in the context of the ongoing revision of the Mongolian Law on Consumer Protection which should include the introduction of EU principles on consumer protection so that the Mongolian legal infrastructure is compatible with that of the EU.

This event was part of a one-week study visit aimed at meeting with key stakeholders of the European consumer protection and product safety system in order to understand its effects on citizens, society and business.

While at CEN-CENELEC, the Mongolian delegation learnt about the role of standards in support of EU legislation, more specifically the importance of European standards in consumer safety.

The Mongolian delegation also received detailed information on how CEN and CENELEC collaborate with the international standardization organizations (ISO and IEC) to promote the adoption of international standards, as well as how CEN and CENELEC strongly support a level playing field in the global trade landscape. The last part of this fruitful exchange was dedicated to the concept of Partner Standardization Body (PSB) status with CEN and CENELEC, and the ongoing cooperation between CEN and MASM (Mongolian national standardization body) which is a CEN PSB since 2013.

For more information about CEN and CENELEC's international cooperation agreements with National Standardization Bodies (NSBs)/National Committee (NCs) of non EU/EFTA countries, see our International Cooperation section.

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Business

3rd Annual Mongolian Television Forum to be held Feb 25-26

February 24 (gogo.mn) The third annual Mongolian Television Forum (MTF) will be held at The Tuushin Best Western Hotel in Ulaanbaatar on Feb 25 and 26, 2015. 

This year the forum is aimed at the Mongolian Television Industry member of the Association of Broadcasters in Mongolia in order to continue to encourage the development of the best practices in working within the global television landscape by reducing piracy, buying programs and creating their own intellectual property. 

Topics covered will be related to this year`s theme "Content value in Mongolia" 

  • Creativity and productivity 
  • Broadcasting rules and regulations 
  • Program acquisitions 
  • World trends
  • Broadcast journalism and ethics with Media Council of Mongolia 

Day 1 - Feb 25

Conference and panel discussions by Mongolian broadcaster and IPTVs International Conference Speakers and International Press. 

Day 2 - Feb 26

TV program and market pre-arranged meetings 

If you want more information on this event, click HERE.

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Mogi: buy Mongolian, problem solved.

Is your sweater REALLY 100% cashmere? Chinese factories are accused of blending goat's wool with rat's fur and other cheaper fabrics 

·         Luxury cashmere jumpers may contain alternative - cheaper - materials

·         Campaigners claim goat's wool and rat's fur are being blended together 

·         Edinburgh Woollen Mill facing court over claims it mislabelled scarves

·         Retailer denies the allegations and will be vigorously defending the case 

February 21 (Daily Mail) Luxury cashmere jumpers may not be what they seem with evidence of fraud and fakery.

Cheap alternative materials - even rat fur in one case - are being woven into garments, according to campaigners including former TV presenter Selina Scott.

One famous name producer, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, will be taken to court this week following allegations that it mislabelled scarves as '100 per cent cashmere'.

Trading standards chiefs claim the products were actually a mix of cashmere and other materials.

The company denies the allegations and has made clear it will vigorously defend the case.

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Cabinet Secretary addresses Developmental Data Forum

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government S.Bayartsogt made the opening remarks at the "Developmental Data" forum, which kicked off Wednesday in the State House.

Bayartsogt said the government has established a financing agreement with the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) on realizing the "Smart government" project in 2015-2020. It has been aiming to back civil role in the state actions, to create a general system of state IT as well as an open area for providing data of state actions. As a result, activities of state bodies will become more transparent, the correlation between state bodies will improve, the general data of state activities will be made, said Bayartsogt.

Mongolia was the 65th in 2014 by its index of state services through IT, among UN members, Bayartsogt reminded. All provinces, soums and big settlements have been connected to the Internet after a fundamental infrastructure of IT has been developed throughout the country, moreover, a united center of state services was established this year in the UB city to deliver 204 types of services, he said.

As of 2015, a number of active cell phones reached 165 per 100 people, "in other words, some three million Mongolians use four million 971 thousand such phones, plus, a permanent users of the Internet has surpassed one million, he added.

Co-organized by the Cabinet Secretariat and the WB, the forum has brought together some 80 representatives of Ministries, agencies, international organizations and the private sector.

Within the forum, reports will be delivered on a present situation of open data of the registration and statistics, utilizing big data for urban infrastructure, experiences of South Korea, health big data. Discussions will also run with related themes.

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Ulaanbaatar

18 cultural events planned in 2016 under "Friendly Ulaanbaatar" program

February 23 (UB Post) Within the framework of the Friendly Ulaanbaatar Program, 18 entertainment events are scheduled to take place in Ulaanbaatar. Deputy Mayor Ts.Enkhtsengel, Head of the Ulaanbaatar Arts and Culture Department B.Battsengel and CEO of the Mongolian State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet Ch.Munkhzul held a conference about the events.

In 2015, Ulaanbaatar hosted 15 entertainment events with participation for 500 backstage staff and 1,500 artist, which were viewed by more than 460,000 people.

Below is the list of entertainment events set for this year.

Event

Organizer

Co-organizer

Date

1

World Circus in Mongolia

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Mongolian Circus Development Center

March 26 to April 10

2

Ulaanbaatar Book Fair

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department and the Central Library of Ulaanbaatar

Nomyn Soyolyn NGO

May 20 and 21

3

Saint Muse Festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The Mongolian State Academic Theater of Drama

May 15 to 21

4

Viennese Waltz

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department and the Ulaanbaatar Ensemble

The State University of Arts and Culture, the State Philharmonic, and the Dance Sport Federation of Ulaanbaatar

June 11

5

Ulaanbaatar Dance Festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The State University of Arts and Culture and the Mongolian Dance Sport Federation

June 18

6

Play Time live music festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Hi-Fi Records

June 24 to 26

7

Best of Classic concert

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet

July 2

8

"Uchirtai Gurvan Tolgoi" opera

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet

July 10

9

Silence White Party

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Mongol Mix Project LLC

July 12

10

Dance of Steppe Mongolian ethnic groups festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The Central Cultural Palace, the State Philharmonic, the State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, and the National Song and Dance Ensemble

July 12

11

Best of Morin Khuur International festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The State University of Arts and Culture, the Music and Dance College, and Jamiyan Foundation NGO

July 14

12

Ulaanbaatar Swing Night jazz concert

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Giant Steppe of Jazz NGO

July 14

13

Star of Fame Ceremony

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Khonkht Duu NGO

July 30

14

Danshig Festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Gandantegchenlin Monastery, Dashchoilon Monastery, and Mamba Datsan Monastery

August 6 and 7

15

Myth of Mountain and River contortion festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

The Ulaanbaatar Ensemble and New Circus Center

August 6

16

Contemporary ethnic musical night

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

August 7

17

International Mono Drama Festival

The Ulaanbaatar City Arts and Culture Department

Mongolian Mono Drama Center NGO

August 15 to 20

18

Ulaanbaatar International Film Festival

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Ger areas to be relocated for Selbe, Bayankhoshuu sub-center development

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) The UB city Mayor E.Bat-Uul issued February 24 a direction on forming organizatory committee and working group on implementing the "Relocation Plan".

The committee is to manage relocating of ger-area households, who are occupying the land where the engineering infrastructure and roads of Selbe and Bayankhoshuu UB sub-center will be constructed. The city's sub-centers are being financed on the non-refundable aid provided by the Programme on Developing Ger Areas and Promoting Investment (Phase I)". 

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13 UB streets to be redeveloped for ASEM Summit

February 24 (gogo.mn) Mayor of UB has issued a decree to organize and develop road works, city planning, green areas, engineering line maintenance, cleaning and investment activities in coordination with ASEM Summit preparation works.

The decree approved "Joint Plan" for ASEM Summit preparation, and instructed B.Badral, General Manager of UB to oversee implementation process of these activities.

Individuals and entities with permit to start/continue construction, engineering line works that is not reflected on "Joint Plan" must submit their information to "Prompt administration and planning" office, and any individuals or legal bodies who operate on Capital's General Plan ground with no permit will be stopped and charged responsibility by UB Police Department and Specialized Investigation office.

Below is the list of 13 streets/avenues which will be fully developed in preparation for ASEM Summit.

1.    Peace Avenue

2.    Ikh Toiruu street

3.    Chinggius Avenue

4.    Niislel Khuree Avenue

5.    Zaisan street

6.    Naadam road

7.    University street

8.    Sukhbaatar street

9.    Olymp street

10.  Great Mongol street

11.  Genden street

12.  Jamiyan Gun street

13.  Namyanju street

Capital's General Planning office and Project Street have finished developing the design drawing.

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Diplomacy

Japanese Ambassador talks about trade cooperation and relations with Mongolia

February 23 (UB Post) In 2015, Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe signed an economic partnership agreement (EPA).

Through the EPA, Mongolia and Japan agreed to directly or gradually lift 90 percent of import taxes within 10 years. In particular, Mongolia will decrease import tariffs on 5,700 goods in 97 categories, while Japan will decrease tariffs on 9,300 goods in 97 categories. Ninety percent of Mongolian export to Japan is cashmere, cashmere products, spar, and coking coal, while 70 percent of Mongolia's imported goods from Japan are cars and equipment.

Gogo.mn spoke with Japanese Ambassador to Mongolia Takenori Shimizu regarding the EPA's implementation. 

When will the implementation of the EPA signed last year begin? 

In addition to developing economic cooperation between the two countries, the most important thing is collaboration between our private sectors. We agreed that we need to develop trade relations, and the governments of Japan and Mongolia approved the economic partnership agreement. We hope that the EPA will become effective soon. We are placing a high priority on it and hope that the trade relations between the two countries will greatly develop in the near future.

Because it is a trade agreement, the first thing will probably be customs tax exemption. This will provide opportunities for Mongolian products to compete in the Japanese market. The majority of cashmere imported to Japan is from China.  As cashmere customs tax will be lowered to zero percent, well designed, high quality Mongolian cashmere will become able to succeed in the big Japanese market.

There are many advantages to the trade agreement. The EPA also consists of a part for mutual cooperation. It says that Japan will cooperate in developing Mongolia's agricultural and industrial sectors. We will strive to develop the nation's industrial sector in the future.

Since 1990, Japan has been providing support for developing Mongolia. The support continues today. What kind of support do you plan to provide in 2016? 

We are now becoming limited with providing non-refundable assistance to Mongolia, as GDP per capita has reached over 6,000 USD. That's why we plan to contribute to the nation's development by utilizing concessional loans. Non-refundable assistance will mainly be provided to the education sector. The Japanese government implemented many projects for building schools in the past. A total of 55 schools were built in Mongolia. Also, 380 school maintenance projects were conducted under the Grassroots project. We are planning to build more schools. A research team from Japan will come to Mongolia this year, and we will focus on this issue.

In addition, a groundbreaking ceremony for a hospital under the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences will be held in April. This means that construction of the hospital will commence this spring.

By the end of this year, a new airport being built in Khushigiin Khundii through a concessional loan from Japan will be commissioned. The Grassroots project's implementation will continue this year, and over 20 other projects will be implemented in 2016.

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Minister Erdene wants to establish ties between Ankara's Kecioren and UB's Bayangol districts

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Minister of Population Development and Social Welfare S.Erdene, during his visit to the Republic of Turkey, visited Kecioren district of Ankara on February 22 to get au fait with the social services. He was welcomed by the district governor Mustafa Ak.

S.Erdene mentioned that he had been working as the governor of Bayangol district of Ulaanbaatar, and was elected to parliament twice from this constituency. He said he wants to establish direct ties between Ankara's Keciorena and Ulaanbaatar's Bayangol.

Mustafa Ak appreciated the proposal and expressed a readiness to share practices.

Present at the meeting was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Turkey B.Batkhishig.

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Mongolia and Turkey to cooperate in social welfare

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) While in Turkey with the working visit, the Mongolian Minister of Population Development and Social Welfare S.Erdene Tuesday met with Mr Suleyman Soylu, Turkey's Minister of Labor and Social Security.

After this, the Ministers ran expanded talks with a participation of the delegates from the two sides. Mr Soylu spoke about reforms his country has made in its social welfare sector, and said they are  ready to share its experiences with Mongolia.

Mr Erdene proposed establishing a cooperation contract between the two Ministries "because our bilateral ties are expanding and peoples' mutual visits are increasing", and formulating the contract's draft in near future after holding a meeting od a working group.

He thanked his Turkish colleague for giving him an opportunity to witness big achievements Turkey gained in the social welfare system, and expressed condolences over deaths of many people due to a terrorist attack in Ankara.

The Turkish Minister supported the proposal and expressed a willingness to exchange the two Ministries' experts and know-how and to realize methods of the cooperation.

Present at the meeting were Mr B.Batkhishig, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Turkey, and others.

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First Resident Ambassador of the Emirates presents credentials to President of Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Newly accredited to Mongolia the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Arab Emirates Mr Abdullah Abdulrahman Abdullabin Rabia Al Tinij presented the letter of credence to Mongolia's President Ts.Elbegdorj on February 24.

He is the first resident ambassador of this country to Mongolia. After the ceremony, the President received Mr Abdullah Al Tinij. The latter said he is honored to be the first resident Ambassador in Ulaanbaatar from the UAE, and conveyed warm greetings from the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

"I will put all my efforts to enhance ties and cooperation in politics, economy and all other sectors," he said. 

The President thanked him and congratulated on becoming the Ambassador to Mongolia, "this is an important historic milestone". He asked the Ambassador to convey his heartfelt greetings to the President of UAE.

"Role of the ambassador is invaluable for expanding relations in politics, economy and other spheres," he said and wished the diplomat a success in his mission.  

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1991: Live-blogging Mongolia's 25 year partnership with the World Bank, one year each day

February 23 (World Bank) As part of our series of 25 years in 25 days, we start with 1991, the year Mongolia joined the World Bank, IFC, and IDA.  The Articles of Agreement were signed on February 14, 1991 on the eve of the Mongolian lunar new year, Tsagaan Sar. Mongolia greeted the year of the female iron sheep as the 155th member of the World Bank.

Mongolia's first Country Economic Memorandum was titled "Toward a Market Economy", and it wrestled with the immediate macroeconomic challenges of runaway inflation and falling output.  The official exchange rate was 40 MNT per US$.  Price reform was among the most crucial elements of a reform program aimed at stabilizing the economy.  While noting economic risks, the report also noted that "Mongolia's medium-term development prospects include its well educated labor force, abundant agricultural and natural resources and the basic resilience of the rural economy."

By the end of the year, Mongolia's first World Bank credits had been signed.  The $30 million Economic Rehabilitation Project sought "to help rehabilitate, maintain and operate priority sectors of Mongolia's economy. Together with complementary assistance already committed or planned by other donors (Germany, Japan, USA, ADB, IMF), it constitutes part of an immediate response by the international community to the country's short-term economic difficulties." The project financed equipment, materials, spare parts, vehicles and other inputs needed for the key agriculture, energy (electric power, coal mining and petroleum products), and transport sectors, to help sustain economic performance and output.

The impact of the collapse of socialist bloc trading arrangements was clear in the project document which noted "the increasing likelihood that the 1991 $400 million USSR/Mongolia barter trade agreement (accounting for 80 percent of import needs) may not in practice be fully realized." 

An accompanying $5 million Technical Assistance Project was the first of many collaborations with Japan and UNDP.  In later years the project financed the preparation of a successful oil/gas and mining sector investors' conference held in June 1997 and cosponsored by the Government and the World Bank. This marked the first time these sectors were opened to investors. As a result, the Government signed twenty-five contracts with investors. Building on the success of the first conference, a second conference, focusing on the agro-industry and tourism held in June 1998, was prepared under the Japanese Population and Human Resources Development Fund (PHRD) grant.Tomorrow we continue our journey with 1992, the year Mongolia joined MIGA….

*Prepared in collaboration with Ulziimaa Erdene.

(Please follow our 25 years in 25 days journey at http://www.worldbank.org/mongolia and on twitter @WorldBankMGL with the hashtag #WBG_Mongolia25th)

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Health, Education

Majority of flu patients in UB are children aged 0-9

February 24 (gogo.mn) This year 84 percent of the flu patients were kids in 0-9 age groups in Ulaanbaatar city, reported by the City Health Department.

According to the 79625 ambulatory examination conducted in UB city, 6531 new cases of influenza-like illness were detected. It has decreased by 3.3 percent compared with the last week while it increased by 0.6 percent compared with the same period of the last year. 

Total of 2466 ambulance calls were received, 50.5 of which was due to influenza-like illness. 

According to the large outbreak of Influenza, family health care centers started to run overtime and children`s ambulance service is available for 24 hours. 

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Harvard hosts Mongolian Development Forum

February 24 (news.mn) Last Wednesday (17th February), a Mongolian Development Forum took place at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The event was attended by the Mongolian Ambassador to the United States, B.Altangerel, the Ambassador at the United Nations, S.Sukhbold, Consul B.Munkhjargal, the director of Mongolian Investment Authority MrJavkhlanbaatar and the secretary of the Ulaanbaatar City Assembly, Mr B.Enkhbold.

During the forum, various senior Harvard professors, including Ricardo Hausmann, David C.King and representatives of the Millennium Challenge Corporation made presentations and organized discussions. Professor R.Hausmann presented research on Mongolian development, indicating that this kind of event is very useful and should be organized annually.

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New Children's Encyclopedia: "Every school should have a copy" - Elbedgorj

February 24 (news.mn) On 23rd February, President Ts.Elbegdorj met the team, which has been working over the last five years to create an "Encyclopedia for Children and Young People". The project team is headed by M.Bold who is the project initiator and director of "Selenge Press" Ltd. Also present was Mongolian People's Teacher, Academician, Doctor Ch.Avdai, who is the general editor of the work. They both presented the three-volume encyclopedia to the President.

The first volume of the encyclopedia is named "Mongolia Our Motherland" and includes the history, from the times when the first humans came to our land and the ancient Mongolian tribes, which formed the first states such as the Hunnu, Syanbi, Jujan, Tureg, Uighur and the Hirgis. The first volume includes information about of the empires of Chinggis Khaan and his descendants, including the Yuan, the Golden Hord and the Khukh Hord. The description of Mongolian history continues until the present time, covering the Manchurian period and life following the 1921 Revolution. This volume also provides information about Mongolian nature, geography, the weather and other traditional and cultural information which every Mongolian child should know.

The second volume is called "Mongolian Historical Traditions, Culture and Science". It presents information about the Mongolian ger, national dress, the family and relatives, family trees, the location of national and ethnic groups, religion, food and drink and traditional methods of forecasting the weather using the sky. It also presents the modern sciences.

The third volume is entitled "The World, Countries, and People". It presents information about ancient peoples and the world - its size, shape, movements and structure. In addition to physical geography, there is material about human geography – population growth and the movement of peoples. The last volume goes on to describe international organizations, world famous universities, libraries, museums, theatres, buildings, cities, the Seven Wonders of the World and famous people.

During the meeting, the project team said that a similar "Encyclopedia for Children and Young People" existed in the Soviet Union some 30 years ago.  The three volumes are called "Mongolian Our Motherland", "Great Unity", and "People of the World". The new Mongolian encyclopedia provides totally updated information.

The President expressed his gratitude to the team which had created the encyclopedia and said that every school library in the country should have a copy. Mr Elbegdorj added by saying that said that the encyclopedia should be updated every 30 years.

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Teachers in Bermuda and Mongolia score big court victories

February 11 (Education International) Amid an increasingly anti-union climate around the world, two Education International affiliates, from Bermuda and Mongolia, have recently won significant court victories in defense of their rights.

Legal action against the Bermuda Union of Teachers

Court maintains check-off system for Mongolian education union

The Federation of Mongolian Education and Science Unions (FMESU) secured a significant victory in defense of its union rights on 17 December 2015 after several court trials. The Appeal court dismissed a directive that would have cancelled the automatic deduction of union dues from its members' wages.

The directive was announced in February 2015 by the Deputy City Governor of Ulan-Bator, Ts. Enkhtsengel, in clear violation of ILO Conventions 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. The FMESU leadership defines this measure as an attempt to weaken the union and cut its livelihood. Enkhtsengel argued that as an independent non-profit organisation the teacher union should make its own arrangements to collect membership dues. The appeal court eventually dismissed the directive as being irrelevant.

The Deputy City Governor has rejected the court ruling and has re-appealed the case. Education International continues to follow the case and support its affiliate.

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Culture, Society

Disaster looms for nomadic herders in Mongolia

February 23 (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) On the vast Mongolian grasslands, livestock are dying in the thousands due to an ever worsening winter 'Dzud'. Extreme temperatures, snow storms and heavy snowfall, and in many areas a thick layer of ice are preventing livestock from grazing efficiently. These current conditions have been compounded by the effects of last summer's drought which has left pastures in a very bad condition. Millions of animals are likely to die from starvation in the coming weeks and months, depriving vulnerable herder families of their only livelihood.

"The situation is becoming truly alarming, and Red Cross is planning to launch an emergency appeal this month to attract international support so that we can help the most vulnerable herders," says Madame Nordov Bolormaa, Secretary General of the Mongolian Red Cross Society. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)  has already released funds from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and is now preparing the distribution of food parcels and cash to more than 1,500 vulnerable herder families. The planned emergency appeal will be targeting several thousand households.

"The temperatures have dropped to -55 degrees and some of our animals froze to death where they stood," recounted Oyanbat, an elderly herder in Teshig Soum, Bulgan Province when he was visited by a Red Cross assessment team.  He still owns 20 animals but that is all he has to support himself and his sister. If he loses what is left of his livestock he will have no livelihood at all. Finally the elderly siblings may have no choice but to abandon their home on the grasslands in order to survive.

The prospect of losing all his animals and being forced to leave is truly daunting for Oyanbat, who has not visited his own district centre for 10 years, even if it is only 30 km away. He pointed towards his sister who is physically and mentally disabled and in need of constant care.

"I cannot leave her alone in the house except for a few hours at the time, which makes it difficult for me even to take proper care of the animals, not to speak of going to the district centre," he said.

"One of the biggest problems is the extremely low market prices for any animal products," said Madame Bolormaa. "This is because many families with small herds are forced to sell their animals for next to nothing, either because they desperately need cash to buy vital necessities, or because they know that their animals will die in the Dzud".

As so many other poor herders facing this terrifying dilemma, Oyanbat has no other choice but to wait for spring and hope that a part of his little herd will survive and that he will still have a livelihood in the summer. "Without our animals we have no life on the grasslands," he said as he reflected on his impossible situation. He is grateful for the food that the Red Cross team gave him, but realizes all too well that it is no substitute for a steady income.

While food and cash will ensure the immediate survival of the most affected herders, thousands of families are expected to lose their livelihood in this year's Dzud. Some will be able to get a job herding other people's animals for a minimum salary, but others will have to rebuild their lives from scratch, which usually means moving to the so-called "Ger districts." These are big slums in the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and other urban centres where people still live in traditional herder tents, mostly in extreme poverty.  

"For former herders who have no professional skills it is very hard to earn a living in the city, and without assistance many families will be doomed to extreme poverty," said IFRC Programme Manager Dr Enkhjin Garid. "This is why vocational training and small business development are such an important part of our emergency appeal. It is not enough just to keep people alive for a few months, we also need to ensure that the herders have a secure livelihood in the future."

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2016 Sony World Photography Awards provide snapshot of world's diverse cultures

February 23 (news.com.au) FROM Hindus bathing in Bengal to Tibetan monks wrapped in rich red capes sprinkled with snow flakes and kids riding reindeers in Mongolia, this year's entries in the Sony World Photo awards provide the ultimate snapshot of the world's diverse cultures and traditions.

There is a strong sense of empathy in the entries, many of which are centred around the major news stories of 2015 including the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the European refugee crisis.

Reindeer farmer kids in Mongolia. Picture: Peter Voss, Germany/ 2016 Sony World Photography Awards. Source: Supplied

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The Ancient Mongolian Method Of Cooking A Goat Inside Of Itself

February 11 (Digg) Mongolian cuisine was born of the country's nomadic past, and many of its dishes still remain as cultural mainstays — among them, bodog, a goat preparation that's as clever as it is gruesome.

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Best Job Ever: Living With Mongolian Nomads

February 18 (National Geographic) What's it like to live among Mongolian nomads when you've spent most of your life in New York City? As host of the National Geographic Channel show Bridge the Gap: Mongolia, Chris Bashinelli in on a quest to find out. During his one-month, thousand-mile journey across Mongolia, the National Geographic grantee hoped to learn how nomadic culture is adapting to an ever changing and modernizing world. "Mongolia is one of the oldest, if not the older, nomadic cultures on Earth. The idea of a nomad is changing by the minute and might be completely different in ten or twenty years from now, if it even still exists," he says.

Bashinelli also sought to immerse himself in a culture he believed to be fiercely community-oriented, as he sees his own culture becoming more and more plugged-in, which makes it easier to isolate oneself inside what he calls a "technology bubble." Bashinelli elaborates: "Technology has done wonders for us, but it's a double-edged sword. It is very easy for us to become completely absorbed in our own world. The average human being looks at their phone more than a 150 times a day. It's easy to be disconnected from other human beings. I had this idea that in Mongolia, that just in the way that society is structured, it brings out some really wonderful qualities in the human spirit. People are, in a way, forced to work together to survive."

Upon his arrival in Mongolia, Bashinelli's hosts spared no time introducing him to the arduous and physical work that a nomadic lifestyle necessitates, leaving Bashinelli with little doubt that he's hardly cut out for nomadic living in the long term. But just what constitutes difficult work is all a matter of perspective, as Bashinelli soon realized.

"A moment that stuck out to me very strongly was when I was working with a nomad named Nara. We were cleaning cow dung, and Nara asked what I do. I said, 'I travel, I make films, I explore, but I actually sit in front of a computer for maybe six or seven hours a day.' Nara's like, 'Wow, that's hard work. I could never do that.'"

Bashinelli continues, "Meanwhile, we had gotten up at seven in the morning and were working until sundown. People work incredibly hard, but I don't even think they would define it in those terms as hard or difficult. It was just life."

In fact, after their long hours of physical labor, many nomads engage in yet another physically trying activity: traditional Mongolian wrestling. True to his goal of throwing himself into the culture, Bashinelli also threw himself into the wrestling ring, against an opponent aptly nicknamed "the elephant," no less.

"I was horrified. I was contemplating walking away and how that would look. But needless to say the other wrestlers took it easy on me, because if they hadn't, I would have had limbs spread all across the room," Bashinelli recalls.

As memorable as fighting a 300-pound, highly trained Mongolian wrestler may be, what Bashinelli remembers most are the conversations he had after the match with his wrestling trainer, Esay. "The most magical part about the wrestling, what made it special, was that at the end of that whole day, I had this man speaking to me in Mongolian and sharing his philosophies of life. And in the midst of all of his words, I heard him say 'Bruce Lee.' I was shocked because I am a huge Bruce Lee fan—I study Bruce Lee's philosophies almost every day. When Esay came at me with a line from Bruce Lee, saying, 'The first victory that we must achieve is victory over ourselves,' I was shocked, realizing that here I am, born maybe 10,000 miles away from this person, and we have a mutual connection. That is the humanity that bridged the gap."

While Bashinelli enjoys sharing those unexpected gems of commonality with someone from across the globe, he doesn't want to understate just how beautiful the vast differences between cultures can be; he just wants to make an effort to better understand those differences. "Every challenge that we face as a global society comes from one thing in my opinion, which is a lack of compassion. The easiest way to increase compassion for different people and different cultures is to understand what it's like to walk in their shoes. My goal in traveling to Mongolia—in traveling everywhere that I do—is to get just a glimpse into their experience."

To share in that glimpse, check out the video. To see another one of Bashinelli's humbling experiences in Mongolia, watch his earnest yet hilariously unproductive attempt to milk a cow. Learn more about Bashinelli's other work on his website.

Be sure to check out the entire Best Job Ever series.

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How can we encourage wealthy Mongolians at home and abroad to support Mongolia's cultural institutions?

By Ann Altman, Ph.D

February 17 -- All over the western world, cultural and educational institutions are supported by the wealthy (and the not so wealthy) because they realize how important such  institutions are to their cities and their countries.  In addition, there is a long tradition of recognizing such support with plaques of the type shown above and with "naming privileges."  Naming privileges encourage people to contribute funds for items as small as a single seat in an auditorium or as grand as a university or hospital.  Their names are inscribed on plaques or even entire buildings.

For example, in my college at the University of Cambridge, there is a lecture theater with two seats that I funded: one seat has my name on it and one seat has the name of my college roommate - so we sit together in perpetuity!  In the auditorium of my children's high school here in Connecticut, there are similar seats for my two children and their favorite teachers, side by side, so that they sit together for ever!

Big donors get bigger signs and bigger recognition.  These signs and this recognition are accepted as appropriate in all western countries. 

Another example of naming privileges is associated with scholarships for young people and such scholarships also memorialize someone in perpetuity.

For example, when my father died, I set up a scholarship in his name at my college, "Murray Edwards College at present offers one annual Stephan K√∂rnerGraduate Scholarship for a graduate who selects Murray Edwards as her College of first choice and is embarking on an MPhil or a PhD course in Philosophy, Classics or Law." (My father was a philosopher who was trained, first, in the classics and as a lawyer.)

The new Museum of Paleontology in Ulaanbaatar needs sponsors.  Would you like to see YOUR NAME on the wall there?  Would you like a hall in the museum named after YOU?  Please get in touch with me if you would like to see YOUR NAME displayed because YOU became a donor and understood the importance of Mongolia's magnificent paleontological heritage.  Would YOU like to endow a fellowship so that a young Mongolian paleontologist can study abroad?  This is a great way for Mongolian individuals and companies to get good publicity and to do good at the same time!!

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Nature, Environment

UN highlights Mongolia's dzud disaster in weekly humanitarian snapshot

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs highlighted the dzud in Mongolia and five other social and natural instabilities in Fiji, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Phillippines and Indonesia, in the Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (this February 16-22).

Since 20 January of this year, 211 out of a total of 339 districts in Mongolia have been affected by dzud (combination of summer drought followed by an extremely cold and snowy winter) or near-dzud conditions. An estimated, 225,800 people (62,719 herder households or 41 percent of the total herder population) are in a high-risk zone. This includes 28,290 children under five and 3,340 expectant mothers.

As of 15 February, 115,733 animals perished as a result of the heavy snow fall, severe storms and cold weather, some 225 people are at high-risk, reports the UNOCHA. 

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This Mongolia festival is helping save the majestic camel population

February 22 (Mashable News) Welcome to the 14th annual Bayankhongor Camel Festival. Around 1,000 herders and 300 Bactrian camels gathered in Mongolia's Gobi desert for the event. It was started by the Gobi Revival Fund due to a dramatic decrease in camel population.

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The Frozen Land of Chinggis Khan

February 16 (GoGo Mongolia) Winters here are long and harsh, with temperatures here typically ranging from -20°C to -45°C degrees. Most tourists flock here in summer to enjoy the comfortable temperatures and see the vast landscapes of wide open country and nomadic culture.

Mongolia's winters are home to incredible landscapes for those who are prepared for the harsh winter adventures.

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Sports

Mongolia to compete at 2016 Extreme Memory Tournament in San Diego

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Mind athletes at the Intelligence Academy of Mongolia will take part in the Extreme Memory Tournament-2016 to be held this June in San Diego, the USA.

With a prize fund of USD 75 thousand, the tournament will run among 24 top athletes who have been qualified from a competition online, and six Mongolians have gained the right to compete in the tournament.

During the qualification tournament online, an international grand master E.Purevjav has set the world record in the "Numbers" contest. He remembered 80 digits in 18.06 seconds. Apart from him, Mongolia will be represented at the tournament by O.Sengesamdan IGM, B.Shijir-Erdene GM, T.Enkhjin, Z.Tsetsegzul and A.Anudari IMs.

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Hold on a Mo! Bonhill runner Maurice spends nine hours lost in -34C after wrong turn in Ice Marathon

February 19 (Dumbarton Reporter) BONHILL runner Maurice Donohue has described the final stages of the inaugural Outer Mongolian Ice Marathon as the "longest nine of hours of his life" after taking a wrong turn and becoming detached from the rest of the group.

In fading daylight and as temperatures dipped to -34C, Maurice was eventually reunited with the other runners and the event staff after a search party was sent out for him.

A team of 10 runners made up part of a 20-strong team that took on the 26.2 mile race across the frozen River Tuul.

The conditions and terrain were brutal and risk of frostbite very high. Mongolia also has the lowest density of human habitation on earth and wolves are more prevalent then people. Fortunately for the group they had a team of husky dogs to pull supplies, their scent was enough to keep the wolves at bay.

Despite his ordeal Maurice, 52, insists it was all worth it for the exposure and money raised for Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the Riding for the Disabled Association charities.

He said: "With beautiful scenery and landscape covered in snow, running on a river of ice with temperatures of -34c along with the camaraderie of fellow participants, it certainly was an event that I will not forget.

"My Mongolian Ice marathon did have an added bit of adventure as I took a wrong turning near the end of the race and ended up lost in the Mongolian countryside.

"With temperatures dropping and daylight fading, it certainly was a cause for concern in order to make myself safe and re-unite with the rest of the team and event staff. Having run a wee bit more than I should have, the good news was that after a search party was put together, Police and local personnel helping out, I was re-united with the event organisers and fellow participants.

"It was the longest nine hours I had ever experienced.

"I must say a big thank you to everyone for their support and good wishes surrounding my participation in the Mongolian Ice Marathon as it has made it all worthwhile especially for the profile and fundraising that has been given to the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the Riding for the Disabled Association charities.

"Although this was an extreme challenge for myself, the message is still clear to promote sport and be physical for the benefit of mental and physical health and wellbeing, even if it just means going out and doing a little more waking."

First place in the race went to seasoned endurance athlete, Doctor Andrew Murray, who added the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon title to wins in the North Pole Marathon, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon.

Murray, 35, of Scotland won in a blistering time of 3hrs 7minutes, with Douglas Wilson of Australia second in 3hrs 42mins, and Paul Dunstan of England third in 4hrs 12mins.

The women's race was won by Lucja Leonard (Australia/ UK) in 4hrs 19 minutes, with Lenka Istvanova (Slovakia), and Marina Ranger (England) sharing second place. Third place went to Shona Thomson (Scotland) came third.

If you would like to donate please visit: tinyurl.com/gqcy58hhe expedition is raising money and awareness for Charities Riding for the Disabled Association and the Scottish Association for Mental Health, whilst legacy work in Mongolia will see the building of gers (homes) for needy families, and the provision of scholarships.

Fundraising link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/GhengisKhanIceMarathon.

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A biting finish in an icy Mongolian marathonMilngavie and Bearsden Herald, February 16

 

Newcastle University students mount horseback trek across Mongolia

Expedition to Mongolia takes Newcastle University students through wild to the country's giant lake

February 20 (Newcastle Chronicle) Having planned an expedition to Mongolia, three friends were chomping at the bit to start their adventure.

And, given the country's horse culture, when plotting their journey to one of Mongolia's biggest lakes there was only one way to travel.

Reaching what they describe as a Mongolian "frontier town", they bought five horses - two to use as pack animals.

Newcastle University students Tomos Davies, Jack Morphet and Joshua Hosford, all 21, spent three days riding from the town of Murun to reach Lake Khosvgol Nuur - the 14th largest lake in the world.

There followed another two weeks in the saddle as they rode the length of the lake, covering a total of 250 miles.

Their expedition, which took 28 days in total, was supported by the Mark Evison Foundation, which provided a grant of £5,000 towards its cost, with the students themselves raising an equal amount.

The charity's mission is to promote mental and physical development in young people through the undertaking of challenges.

It was set up in memory of Lt Mark Evison, who died in 2009 from a gunshot wound while serving as a British army officer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was attempting to get his platoon to safety following an ambush.

One of the aims of the expedition was to raise funds for the foundation.

Tomos, who is studying Agriculture with Animal Production Science at Newcastle, said: "The experience has benefited us hugely. We had some difficult moments surviving on less than 1,000 calories a day, staying up all night to ensure no one stole our horses and the difficulty with the language barrier, but all of these really encapsulated what this was all about – an old fashioned adventure."

Jack, from Cumbria, a Politics and Sociology student, said: ''Going through an alien wilderness on horseback is something so far detached from modern day lives. To tread alongside Mongolian nomadic footsteps and live under conditions they do is something of a dream come true.

''Riding horseback on temperamental Mongolian horses did not come without its twists, turns and hidden dangers. Ever since we told the natives about what we wanted to do, we were told that we would have our horses stolen from us. This, alongside a limited time to reach our goal, deemed the trip to become an endurance adventure.

"Lack of food and night watches took it out of all three of us, with an average of four hours sleep a night in freezing temperatures, which contrasted so heavily to the drought like conditions we faced during the day.

''I wouldn't change anything that happened on the trip. Exploring the untamed natural world with friends is something that cannot be beaten."

Joshua, an Agriculture with Animal Production Science student, said: "I enjoyed the trip hugely and learned a lot about the skills needed to survive in the wild and about how to travel long distances on horseback. What also made a big impact on me, as I'm sure it did the others, was the insight it gave us into the nomadic way of life.

"For these people what we were doing seemed crazy, So many aspects of our trip, most notably the independence of not having a guide and buying our own horses, made our task a lot more difficult. This was the point for us as we wanted a challenge.

"It seemed mad to them because their way of life is incredibly difficult, and requires so much hardiness, that doing things to make it harder is understandably difficult for them to fathom.

"The sheer resilience of these people to make a living on these plains was amazing when especially considering their geniality and generosity. I would love to go back and explore more of what is an awe-inspiring country in every way."

The trio flew to the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, and then took a three-hour flight by small plane to Murun.

"It was like a dusty, frontier town with no roads. It was completely different from anything we had seen before and we struggled with the language barrier as virtually nobody spoke English."

After finding a woman with some English who helped them buy their horses. the students set off for the lake and encounters with nomadic Mongolians along the way.

"They couldn't understand why we were putting ourselves in that situation. But their whole culture is that they accommodate travellers and they would invite us in for tea and food. Every family without fail would do that," said Tomos.

"They were confused as to why we were there, but we never felt threatened at all."

They enjoyed food like dumplings but the practice of serving animal heads was more difficult, as was curd which tasted like bitter cheese.

Tomos said: "When we reached the lake, it was like a sea - the water just went on to the horizon. We realised in what a remote place we were."

The friends became attached to their horses - naming one Maximus the War Horse and another Steady Eddie - and even took them swimming.

So it was a wrench to sell them to local farmers when they reached the top of the lake at a settlement near the Russian border where, pressed for time, they travelled back the way they had come via a Soviet-style truck.

They have now made a short documentary of the trip which can be found at https://vimeo.com/chompingatthebit

Dr Margaret Evison, executive trustee of the Mark Evison Foundation said: "The team have done amazingly well with their project, especially considering all the early challenges they faced at the start. They have come back with not only a new set of practical skills but also a sense of real adventure which is something the charity encourages wholeheartedly."

To support the effort of Tomos, Jack and Joshua visit www.justgiving.com/Chomping-at-the-bit

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Mental Toughness: The Key To A 10,000-Mile Expedition From Siberia To Australia — By Foot

Editor's note: Sarah Marquis is a National Geographic Explorer and author of Wild By Nature, the story of her 10,000-mile, three year-long expedition through Siberia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, and Australia — by foot. This was no ordinary journey. With water scarce and food a luxury, Marquis faced resistance each day; her mind and body telling her to give up. Each day, we're faced with our own set of challenges that inspire us to charge ahead toward our goals or fall back.

Being aware of these forces at play in our minds — one of resistance and one of encouragement — gives us the strength to deal with these everyday situations, she says. And at the core of this strength is mental toughness, a set of four psychological traits that push us to achieve our goals no matter the circumstances that arise: hope, optimism, perseverance, and resilience.

Marquis says the key to building it is being curious, stepping out of your comfort zone, and taking it a step at a time. "What you have to achieve is the best you can every day." Being positive about attaining your goals, telling yourself you will get "there," meditating, and being as prepared as possible will help you build mental toughness. The more you do it, the stronger, and more confident in yourselfhandling situations, you will get. Research has shown the benefits of mental toughness include a longer, happier life — presumably by having less stress and stress-related illness — and a lower risk for mental health disorders like depression.

That said, here's a slightly adapted excerpt from Wild by Nature to give you an idea of the challenges Marquis faced.

February 21 (Medical Daily) I approach the camp at the end of the day. Debris is flying everywhere, it's been devastated. The yurts situated on the butte escaped the flood, but the previous night's storm got the better of the three others. The proprietor is on the roof of a yurt, trying to stabilize the whole thing with some straps. I put down my things and run to give him a hand. The wind has kicked up again, which makes each maneuver delicate. Once the last yurt is reinforced with the help of the straps, he invites me inside and offers me some tea. He tells me about the storm, the lightning, and the hail.

"The entire region's been flooded, you can't go anywhere. Cars can't get through from the other side, the road is closed," he explains. He's quiet and sad. So I tell him about my adventure, the crossing on horseback, my choice between the toad and the young man. He immediately starts laughing so hard that it makes him forget his bad luck. Then he adds, "Welcome to Mongolia!"

I stay with him for three days waiting for my temporary replacement tent. The weather is not good, there will be more rain, more storms. He suggests another route where he knows there are never floods: travel due west to a mini pass, and from there progress toward the south. After a few miles, I'll meet up with a new trail that should take me to Kharkhorin. Looking at my maps, he explains how far the flood has reached and offers to drop me off at the pass. Up there, I'll be out of harm's way, but I'll have to wait for the water to recede a little so that his car, a lifted four-wheel drive vehicle, can pass. After scrutinizing my maps, I conclude that it's my only option. I don't want to be stuck here for three months! The new route is thirty miles longer, but at least I'll be able to get out of here. In the meantime, my Mongolian contact hasn't found a single mode of transport going in my direction.

"People aren't crazy, no one wants to go where there's flooding!" he said. But he took the initiative of sending one of his guys by car to personally drop off a replacement tent that he normally uses for the tours he organizes. Things are coming together beautifully.

Two days later, early in the morning, my Mongolian friend asks me for money in order to fill up the car he's going to use to take me up to the pass. He has to travel east, to a tiny town, then once the gas tank is full, come back. Only then will departure be possible.

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Art, Entertainment

Mongolian Rock Keeps its Roots in "Live From UB" at the Asia House Film Festival

February 23 (Blouin Artinfo) Kiss once sang "God gave rock'n'roll to everyone," and according to the director Lauren Knapp's documentary "Live from UB," even the Mongolians received the gift. In a UK Premiere screening set to take place 24 February as part of the 8th edition of the Asia House Film Festival, her film depicts a new generation of rock musicians in Ulaanbaatar, who are bridging the divide between their local cultural identity and the globalized world they live in.

Young musicians in Mongolia's capital started to listen to Western-style pop and rock back in the 1970s, but with a communist regime keen to prevent revolt, it wasn't until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that a new generation was able to express itself. Knapp, a multimedia storyteller from Washington D.C., follows one modern indie act, Mohanik, in her depiction of the modern music scene looking to define its identity.

"I was first drawn to Mongolia in 2007, while living in China," says Knapp. I took an overnight train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar for a 3 week-long trek. I was not prepared for what I found. Culturally, Mongolia is far from its neighbors, China and Russia. The landscape and can-do-anything attitude in the countryside give it a Wild West feel. And the music is evocative of the ancient and vast land."

Knapp returned in the winter of 2011 to immerse herself in the music scene, working as videographer, producer, director, and editor as for 10 months she met musicians, learned the Mongolian language, and filming dozens of interviews.

"I was a one-man band [but] countless people helped me throughout my project. I'd like to offer a special thanks to those who volunteered their time to translate, operate a second camera, and organize interviews in the Land of the Blue Sky," she says.

The result is the best insight most of us will ever get to the rock scene in Mongolia, a huge country with a tiny population. And while that might not seem like a huge miss, the depiction is perhaps more an important reminder of the power of music and how the art form can inspire, challenge and give voice to local communities, than it is about Mongolia itself. Rock music is considered to have been a catalyst for the democratic revolution of the late 1980s and early 1990s in the country, and today's bands, having grown up on MTV, are keen to explore modern sounds while retaining their own unique heritage.

Expect then to discover "traditional methods of instrumentation such as overtone singing and horse-head fiddle-playing" in the documentary, as the bands seek to broaden their audience far from within their own borders.

The Asia House Film Festival opened with Kazakhstan's official submission at the 2016 Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film, Yermek Tursunov's "Stranger (Zhat)," and takes place from February 22 through March 5 in London.

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Travel

Traveling for a Cause: 3 Trips That Give Back

February 15 (The Cheat Sheet) The tourism industry is booming, and adventure travel is at the helm of it all. People seem to be more interested in traveling with a purpose now than ever before. Not only do these three trips allow travelers to experience a new destination, they afford them the opportunity to give back as well.

1. Ecoventura, Galapagos Islands

2. JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, Peru

3. Nomadic Expeditions, Mongolia

Mongolia is a nation as stunning as it is expansive, and the folks at Nomadic Expeditions offer travelers a first-hand look into the local culture of the nomadic people with their Ultimate Gobi trip. On this incredible journey, travelers will experience the land as the Mongolians do, sharing it with two-humped camels and Argali mountain sheep, snow leopards, and Gobi bears in the sprawling land of canyons, valleys and dunes. On this trip, guests will spend five nights at the Three Camel Lodge, the award-winning eco-lodge in the Gobi. Founder, CEO and President Jalsa Urubshurow, who is also the founder, CEO and president of Nomadic Expeditions, envisioned this property as a means of using controlled tourism to bolster the local community, thus preserving and protecting the Gobi Desert.

What began in the late 1990s remains a successful, luxurious, and sustainable eco-lodge that pays homage to the preservation of the region's precious ecosystems and nomadic culture today. Locally sourced materials, a traditional Buddhist temple-style design, and traditional Mongolian felt ger tents contribute to the unmistakable authenticity of the lodge. Furthermore, the Lodge was the first of its kind in Mongolia to sign a contract with the National Park and local government to protect the surrounding area from poaching and other non-environmentally sound activities. The Lodge has initiated cultural celebrations such as the Camel and Horse Festivals, built greenhouses and constructed small family-run farms, and guests who visit will contribute first-hand to this important piece of land, history, preservation and culture.

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