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Monday, December 19, 2016

[BREAKING: BoM lowers policy rate by 1% to 14% citing success of hike]

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- BREAKING NEWS -

Monday, December 19, 2016

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Bank of Mongolia lowers policy rate by 1 percentage to 14% effective December 20

December 19 (Cover Mongolia) Summary of the statement (in Mongolian only) on Bank of Mongolia (BoM):

Bank of Mongolia’s Monetary Policy Council met on December 19 and decided to lower the policy rate by 1 percentage point to 14%.

The decision in August to hike interest rate has done its job of preventing currency instability, protecting foreign exchange reserves, and maintaining financial stability.

BoM expects inflation to be below the target in 2017 and demand-side inflation pressures to be low. Better than expected foreign trade environment will positively affect foreign currency inflow, trade balance, and budget revenue.

Therefore, in order to support private sector investment, the policy rate has been lowered. The effect of this decision will depend on the government policy to support FDI, fiscal discipline, foreign debt payment.

Link to BoM statement (in Mongolian)

 

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[KCC increases placement; 12-week auction gets no bids; MNT sets 15th straight low; US approves 2nd compact; and Bela wins MW talent]

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Monday, December 19, 2016

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Turquoise Hill announces 2017 production and financial guidance

·         Kincora increases private placement to C$600,000

·         Government answers questions regarding Tavan Tolgoi negotiations

Local Market

·         MSE Trading, Dec 16: Top 20 +0.72%, ALL +0.55%, Turnover ₮737.1 Million Shares, Mongol Post ₮681.3 Million

·         MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +7.42%, ALL +4.81%, Turnover ₮983.7 Million Shares, ₮13.9 Billion T-Bills

·         ₮40 Billion 12-Week Treasury Action Fails to Attract Any Bids

·         ₮26 Billion 28-Week T-Bills Sold at 17.29% Discount from Available ₮50 Billion

·         GoM offering ₮25 billion 12-week, ₮20 billion 28-week T-bills at 17%, 17.288% discounts on MSE

·         MSE registers ₮100 billion 3rd term GoM treasury notes

Economy

·         MNT sets 15th straight historic low vs USD; USD/MNT up 0.43% last week to ₮2,489.30

·         BoM issues ₮30 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +6.1% to ₮314.3 billion

·         Budget deficit reaches ₮2.6 trillion in first 11 months

·         Mongolian population aging

·         Mongolia adjusting to lower economic growth

Politics & Legal

·         Defacto Review, December 18: Party Leadership, OT,  India, Dual Citizenship, GOOP Features Gers

·         Cabinet reviews diplomatic affairs and economic development projects

·         National council on science and technology meets

·         Stricter punishments to be inflicted for bribery and white-collar crimes

·         Other cabinet decisions in brief

·         Police arrest fake tugrik gang

·         New Year holidays to start from Dec 29

·         Trial postponed for suspects in the murder of S.Zorig

·         OSCE/ODIHR experts discuss electoral recommendations in Mongolia

·         Mongolia - Capacity Building for MNAO through Establishing a Continuing Professional Development Strategy and Program

·         China border crossings identified as human trafficking hotspots

Business

·         De Facto: Keeping warm is worth 1,000 taels

Ulaanbaatar

·         Air pollution in Bayanhoshuu reaches dangerous levels

·         New ski resort in Hui Doloon Hudag opens

Diplomacy

·         Mongolia approved for second compact agreement with USA

·         Embassies in Brazil and Indonesia to close, new consulate to open in Shanghai

·         Speaker of Mongolian Parliament continues visit in Russia

·         The controversy surrounding the Dalai Lama's visit

·         When China bullies its neighbors, India gets more muscular

·         China slams India over invite to the Dalai Lama

·         Mongolia-German intergovernmental working group meets in Berlin

·         Foreign Minister of Mongolia Visiting Nepal on December 18-20

Health & Education

·         Infant and under-five mortality rates stabilized in November

·         Mongolia - E-Health Project : P131290 - Implementation Status Results Report : Sequence 05 (English)

·         China border town schools provide free education for students from Mongolia across the border

Culture & Society

·         Herding Reindeer Isn't Just Child's Play For One Little Girl

·         These Nomads From Mongolia Live With Real Reindeer

·         Video: Union Bible Theological College Mongolia

Nature & Environment

·         International organizations to aid livestock herders this winter

·         Transforming Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia from a "Paper Park" to a Model Protected Area

·         The Circle of Life: News from Anu

·         'Green dream' realized in Mongolia

Sports

·         N.Sodbilegt becomes U7 world chess champion

·         Khangarid FC striker wins Golden Ball award

·         National Olympic Committees of Mongolia and Chinese Taipei sign co-operation agreement

Art & Entertainment

·         Mongolia's Bayartsetseg Altangerel wins Talent round at Miss World 2016, advances to Top 20

·         The Eagle Huntress review – suspiciously uplifting

Travel

·         Do Something Completely Different - Experience Mongolia In the Winter

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

TRQ closed -1.92% Friday on the announcement to US$3.32

Turquoise Hill announces 2017 production and financial guidance

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - December 16, 2016) - Turquoise Hill Resources today announced 2017 production and financial guidance.

Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 130,000 to 160,000 tonnes of copper and 100,000 to 140,000 ounces of gold in concentrates for 2017. Open-pit operations are expected to mine in Phase 6 during the year as well as continue the stripping of Phase 4. In addition, stockpiled ore will be processed during the year. The lower production compared to 2016 is primarily the result of approximately one-quarter less copper head grade and approximately one-half less gold head grade. During 2016, the mine plan for Phase 4 was divided into two parts, 4A and 4B, in expectation of reaching the high-grade gold zone of Phase 4 around mid-2018. Accordingly, mine stripping for 2017 will focus on Phase 4A.

Operating cash costs for 2017 are expected to be approximately $720 million. The reduction compared to expected 2016 operating cash costs reflects cost improvements and the impact of lower logistics costs from decreased production.

Capital expenditures for 2017 on a cash-basis are expected to be approximately $100 million for open-pit operations and $825 million to $925 million for underground development.

Open-pit capital includes approximately $40 million of deferred stripping and reflects lower maintenance costs, reduced deferred stripping costs due to optimization and improved tailings storage costs.

Underground development capital includes both expansion capital and VAT. In an effort to encourage bidding by Mongolian suppliers, Oyu Tolgoi has incorporated longer tendering periods resulting in a slightly longer capital deployment process. The Company continues to expect production from the first underground draw bell in mid-2020 and first sustainable production beginning in early 2021.

Link to release

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KCC closed -2.27% Friday to C$0.43

Kincora increases private placement to C$600,000

Mongolia-focused metals explorer Kincora Copper Ltd is increasing the size of its private placement to C$600,000 from a previous ceiling of $500,00, after receiving high demand, the company said

December 16 (Proactive Investors) Mongolia-focused metals explorer Kincora Copper Ltd (CVE:KCC) is increasing the size of its private placement to C$600,000 from a previous ceiling of $500,00, after receiving high demand, the company said.

All other details remain the same. Read more.

The company has previously said that if the funding is oversubscribed this private placement will close on or around December 19.

Link to article

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Government answers questions regarding Tavan Tolgoi negotiations

By B. Chintushig

December 18 (UB Post) Cabinet's Head of Public Relations G.Otgonbayar issued a public statement regarding details and concerns surrounding the Tavan Tolgoi project following a meeting held last week with the mega project's Chinese investors.

A Cabinet working group tasked with restarting the Tavan Tolgoi project met with representatives from Shenhua Group last week. News of the meeting led to many questions regarding the involvement of other companies in the project, namely Mongolian Mining Corporation, Energy Resources LLC, and Sumitomo Corp. Many observers wondered if the Mongolian and Japanese companies had been cut out of the project, and if the government had developed a consortium with Shenhua Group.

"The beginning of the meeting with Shenhua Group was open to the press. After the meeting, there were concerns about why the working group only met with Shenhua Group and not MMC, Energy Resources, or Sumitomo. I will provide more information regarding this issue. After the working group led by Minister of Mining Ts.Dashdorj met with Shenhua Group, they met with representatives  from domestic companies involved in the Tavan Tolgoi project. During their meeting, the domestic companies agreed to take a unified position and work as a team on the project. They agreed to meet the working group at a later date," G.Otgonbayar told the press and the public.

G.Otgonbayar also went into detail about the specific arrangements of the project and how it will be implemented. He said, "In order to implement the Tavan Tolgoi project as soon as possible, Prime Minister J.Erdenbat tasked the working group with negotiating and improving the contract with the winners of the tender under the previous contract. This is detailed specifically in the decree. Since project development is based on the previous contract, Sumitomo and MMC will be involved in the project."

The Cabinet representative went on to highlight four key principles of the decree issued by the Prime Minister.

1. At least 51 percent of the company implementing the Tavan Tolgoi project must be owned by Mongolian interests, with Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi having a sufficient role in it.

2. At least 51 percent of the company building, using, and operating the Tavan Tolgoi-Gashuunsukhait railroad must be managed by Mongolian Railway.

3. Tavan Tolgoi coal must be processed in Mongolia before being exported. In order to do this, improvements must be made to the capacity of the existing processing factory and a new concentrate factory must be built.

4. The executors of the Tavan Tolgoi project should prioritize the involvement of Mongolian companies in supplying the project through all stages of its development.

Link to article

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Local Market

MSE Trading, Dec 16: Top 20 +0.72%, ALL +0.55%, Turnover 737.1 Million Shares, Mongol Post 681.3 Million

December 16 (MSE) --

Link to report

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MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +7.42%, ALL +4.81%, Turnover 983.7 Million Shares, 13.9 Billion T-Bills

December 16 (MSE) --

Link to report

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₮40 Billion 12-Week Treasury Action Fails to Attract Any Bids

December 16 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 40.0 billion MNT. Government Treasury bill was not sold due to absence of both competitive and non-competitive bids.

Link to release

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26 Billion 28-Week T-Bills Sold at 17.29% Discount from Available 50 Billion

December 16 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 28 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 50.0 billion MNT. Face value of 26.0 billion /out of 26.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 17.290 %.

Link to release

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GoM offering 25 billion 12-week, 20 billion 28-week T-bills at 17%, 17.288% discounts on MSE

December 16 (MSE) Buy order of 12 weeks Government bonds with annual interest of 17.00% and 28 weeks Government bonds with annual interest of 17.288% starts from 16 December 2016 until 20  December 2016 through brokerage companies.

Click here to see detailed information of 12 weeks Government bonds.

Click here to see detailed information of 28 weeks Government bonds.

Link to release

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MSE registers 100 billion 3rd term GoM treasury notes

December 16 (MSE) According to the request of Financial Regulatory Commission, MSE registered 3rd term Government bonds worth MNT100.00 billion at its securities listing.

In 2016, Government bonds worth MNT203.8 billion were traded on the primary market in 29 trading sessions organized by the Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Link to release

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Friday, December 16 Close

 

12/16

12/15

12/14

12/13

12/12

12/9

12/8

12/7

12/6

12/5

High

Date

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USD

2,489.30

2,488.17

2,487.58

2,483.00

2,480.65

2,478.64

2,475.65

2,474.86

2,472.63

2,470.03

2,489.30

12/16/2016

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EUR

2,601.69

2,610.21

2,649.15

2,642.91

2,623.66

2,632.32

2,664.54

2,651.57

2,661.29

2,618.60

2,681.43

11/10/2016

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JPY

21.06

21.15

21.63

21.54

21.41

21.66

21.79

21.64

21.72

21.68

23.49

11/09/2016

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GBP

3,097.44

3,121.28

3,151.27

3,147.33

3,125.87

3,113.79

3,129.47

3,126.00

3,153.96

3,134.72

3,183.26

8/13/2014

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RUB

40.29

40.36

40.89

40.63

40.52

39.12

39.03

38.73

38.75

38.59

54.32

6/27/2014

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CNY

358.24

358.79

360.29

359.83

358.71

359.23

359.82

359.17

359.64

358.57

361.23

11/10/2016

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KRW

2.10

2.11

2.13

2.13

2.12

2.12

2.13

2.12

2.11

2.11

2.14

12/08/2016

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SGD

1,725.80

1,728.32

1,745.67

1,741.11

1,733.57

1,740.50

1,745.94

1,739.06

1,742.64

1,733.84

1,752.48

11/10/2016

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CAD

1,867.86

1,870.59

1,896.38

1,891.09

1,890.38

1,879.11

1,872.30

1,862.69

1,865.08

1,852.99

1,896.38

12/14/2016

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AUD

1,829.64

1,843.86

1,865.56

1,859.27

1,849.82

1,851.92

1,853.89

1,836.22

1,841.24

1,836.34

1,886.29

11/10/2016

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HKD

320.64

320.66

320.72

320.00

319.70

319.48

319.19

319.10

318.82

318.51

320.72

12/14/2016

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CHF

2,421.26

2,430.33

2,459.18

2,450.53

2,438.70

2,439.01

2,460.03

2,450.11

2,458.00

2,437.49

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,480 Sell ₮2,490), TDB (Buy ₮2,480 Sell ₮2,490), Golomt (Buy ₮2,480 Sell ₮2,490), XacBank (Buy ₮2,482 Sell ₮2,492), State Bank (Buy ₮2,480 Sell ₮2,490)

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

Link to rates

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BoM issues 30 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +6.1% to 314.3 billion

December 16 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 30 billion at a weighted interest rate of 15.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/-

Link to release

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Budget deficit reaches 2.6 trillion in first 11 months

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) In the first 11 months of 2016, total equilibrated revenue and grants of the General Government Budget amounted to MNT 5,059.4 billion and total expenditure and net lending amounted to MNT 7,736.7 billion, representing a deficit of MNT 2677.3 billion in the balance.

Total expenditure and net lending of the General Government Budget reached MNT 7,736.7 billion, which indicates an increase by MNT 1,604.3 billion (26.2%) compared to the same period in 2015.

Tax revenue reached MNT 4,413.8 billion which showed an increase by MNT 73.8 billion (1.7%) compared to the same period of the previous year. This growth was mainly due to increases in social contributions by MNT 118.6 billion (13.0%), value added tax – MNT 80.8 billion (8.8%), in excise tax –MNT 50.9 billion(9.5%), in income tax—MNT 20.4 billion(2.3%), while other taxes and non tax revenue decreased by MNT 214.8 billion (30.1%).

Link to article

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Mongolian population aging

December 17 (news.mn) The number of people aged 60 and above has  grown dramatically over the past decade. According to the Mongolian Census Bureau, the population in this age group increased from 151.2 thousand in 2010 to 170.3 thousand in 2013. In total, the Mongolian population increased by 16.1% over the past decade; the number of people age 60 and above grew by 21.9%.

The National Statistics Bureau reported that number of Mongolians aged 60 and above will double over the next 20 years.

Link to article

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Mongolia adjusting to lower economic growth

By: Robert L. Wallack

December 17 (American Journal of Transportation) Mongolia's economic prospects are brightening despite the difficult conditions in global markets.

Mongolia's economic growth prospects are brightening by the recent Oyu Tolgoi $5.3 billion underground copper mine investment and from more diversification to the agriculture sector. Despite the grim macroeconomic environment, numerous infrastructure projects in transportation and cross-border trade logistics will spur future investments. These projects include a new international airport, a northern rail connecting China to Europe and a cross-border economic zone with China.

In 2011, Mongolia was on top of the world benefiting from its abundant natural resources. Higher prices of copper, gold and iron ore along with bond investor enthusiasm helped boost its gross domestic product (GDP) to 17%.  Since the drop in commodity prices worldwide and slower China demand, Mongolia is paying for the debt incurred during the boom years by a severe drop in foreign exchange reserves and a depreciating Mongolian Tugrik by 17% to 2,452 to the United States dollar.  There is also investor abandonment of this once high flying frontier economy. As a result, government leaders are inviting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for debt relief plans and to repay over $1 billion by January 2018 and securing currency swap programs from its southern border neighbor, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). According to reports, Mongolia's debt is 78% of GDP and total debt owed to foreign creditors at $22.6 billion is nearly twice the size of the economy itself ($11.8 billion). 

Even though Mongolia trades with 155 countries, this massive, fiercely independent central Asian country with a sparse population of 3 million depends on China and to a lesser extent Russia on the northern border for a vast majority of its trade and investment. Through September 2016, Mongolia's total trade turnover was $5.78 billion which shows a drop of 9.6% or $616.9 million overall, or a 5.9% drop in exports by $208 million of which copper concentrates are a large factor and a drop in imports by 14.3% by $408.8 million from 2015, according to Mongolia news reports. "Economic fundamentals remain weak and unlikely to improve this year. I am not expecting any real upturn until 2017," commented S.J. Potter, Managing Director, Wagner Asia Equipment LLC, a Caterpillar (CAT) mining equipment distributor in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in a recent e-mail to this reporter. 

Link to article

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Politics & Legal

Defacto Review, December 18

December 18 (VTV) Today topics:

-       Political Parties Choose Leadership

Mongolian People's Party and Democrats to choose new leadership

-       Oyu Tolgoi Shipments Resume

Oyu Tolgoi resumes shipments after resolving spat with Chinese border officials

-       India to Finance Oil Refinery

Mongolia plans to build oil refinery with $1 billion credit line from India

-       Bill for Dual Citizenship

Parliament to debate bill to grant dual citizenship to Mongolians born in United States, Canada and Britain

-       Magazine Features Gers

Ger featured as gift for the wealthy and adventurous in Hollywood Actress Gweneth Paltrow's lifestyle magazine

Link to FB video

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Cabinet reviews diplomatic affairs and economic development projects

December 16 (UB Post) During Cabinet's weekly Wednesday meeting, its ministers discussed the closure and opening of diplomatic missions, agriculture programs, traffic regulations, and establishing a petroleum refinery.

Cabinet members approved Parliament's resolution to close the Mongolian embassies in Brazil and Indonesia; the general consulate in Osaka, Japan; and the consular office in Hulunbuir, China. A final review of the closure of the diplomatic missions will be discussed in Parliament.

During the meeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil stated that there are 27 Mongolian citizens living in Brazil and 25 Mongolians living in Indonesia. Foreign trade of two million USD takes place between Mongolia and Brazil, and trade of 12 million USD takes place between Mongolia and Indonesia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is putting forward the proposal to close the embassies as part of the government's spending cuts.

Cabinet members also approved a proposal to transition Mongolia's general consulate in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to an embassy; to open a new consular office in Shanghai, China, relocating Hulunbuir's consular staff; to extend the three-year missions for Mongolian diplomats working abroad to four-year missions; and to review the salary structure for diplomats working abroad once every three years.

Prime Minister J.Erdenebat instructed the ministers to prepare a draft on making the Khalkh Gol region an environmentally friendly, export promoting, intensive agricultural zone. Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry P.Sergelen has been instructed to repeal orders concerning illegal land granting issues in the proposed Khalkh Gol trade zone that are currently under legislative review.

Amendments to the Traffic Code were reviewed by Cabinet, and the ministers agreed to revisit a section stating that an individual who is found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol without a valid driver's license will be fined 384,000 MNT to 768,000 MNT and required to serve a seven to 30-day prison sentence.

The Prime Minister instructed state authorities to improve and expedite the implementation of foreign loans and aid. The 2017 state budget outlines 117 projects and programs being funded by over 857 billion MNT in foreign loans and aid.

Cabinet approved kicking off projects and programs with feasibility studies and blueprints completed, focusing on effectively implementing projects and monitoring their progress.

Prime Minister J.Erdenebat instructed the Minister of Finance and other ministers to negotiate with Export-Import Bank of India to finance the establishment of a petroleum refining factory funded by the one billion USD loan facility being offered by India to Mongolia. According to preliminary studies, after the factory is completed, net income of 43 million USD per year is expected to be generated to recoup investment expenditure in eight to ten years.

Link to article

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National council on science and technology meets

By N. Khaliun

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) A meeting of the National council on science and technology chaired by  the Prime Minister of Mongolia held in Ulaanbaatar on December 15.

The meeting discussed issues related to the activities in the scientific and technological spheres. The agenda also included a report of the Foundation for Science and Technology and draft state innovation policy. Afterwards, the members of National council adopted a working plan for 2017.

Minister of education, culture, science and sports J.Batsuuri was obliged to develop a policy document - the state innovation policy draft in compliance with relevant legislation of Mongolia. The documents are to be submitted to the cabinet in 2017.

Link to article

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Stricter punishments to be inflicted for bribery and white-collar crimes

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) At its regular meeting held on Wednesday, the cabinet considered the draft amendments to the Criminal Code and decided to submit them to the Parliament.

The draft amendments suggest important changes to the Law, such as imposing compulsory criminal liability on sentenced with bribery; revising the punishment policy reflected in the General Party of the Criminal Code of Mongolia and ruling that the minimum period for imprisonment sentence to be 6 months; recognizing the purchase of "properties" at higher costs than the average market prices a crime and the scope of violation to contain not only "properties" but also "goods and services"; changing that all crimes included in the Special Part of the Criminal Code were punishable by imprisonment and broader utilization of punishment by forced labor; to lengthen the period for deprivation of rights to hold public and elected offices from two years to five years; and many others.

A bill on amending the new wording of the Criminal Code of Mongolia was passed on August 30 of 2016, and was regulated to take force on July 1 of 2017.

Link to article

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Other cabinet decisions in brief

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) At its regular meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet considered to withdraw a draft law on ratification a general credit agreement between the Mongolian Government and Indian Exim bank. The Finance Minister of Mongolia was tasked to negotiate with Indian officials on altering designation of the agreement to make it possible to finance infrastructural and processing industry projects.

-The cabinet discussed a concept of revising the law on auto road and decided to reflect  proposals from Ministers. Afterwards, related Ministers were tasked to present the draft at the next cabinet meeting.

-In reviewing results of a Consultative meeting between the Government of Mongolia and its development partners, the cabinet  decided to give certain tasks to related Ministers to organize an Intersectoral Consultative meeting and to improve results of implementation of some projects financed with credit loans and assistance in the framework of an action program of Mongolia's  Government. Also, Minister of Finance of Mongolia B.Choijilsuren was obliged to improve the effectiveness of Official development assistance (ODA), and to intensify cooperation with development partners.

-The cabinet backed a concept of the law on medical aid and services risk insurance. Then related Ministers were tasked to submit it to the next cabinet meeting.

Link to article

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Police arrest fake tugrik gang

December 17 (news.mn) The Mongolian police have arrested a group of people who forged fake tugriks to the value of MNT 15 million. The men aged 35 and under, used their computer graphic skills to design the fake money. The case is currently under investigation by the prosecutors' office.

A conviction for producing counterfeit currency carries a maximum sentence of 10-15 years imprisonment.

Link to article

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New Year holidays to start from Dec 29

By N. Khaliun

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) Due to the outbreak of influenza and influenza-like illnesses and severe weather conditions, working day of December 30th is announced a day off, and thus New Year holidays will start from Dec 29, 2016 and last till January 1 , 2017.

According to the Law on public holidays, the working day of December 30th of 2016 will be moved to the next Saturday (January 7, 2017).

This decision was made at the regular cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Link to article

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Trial postponed for suspects in the murder of S.Zorig

By B. Khash-Erdene

December 16 (UB Post) On a chilly night in October 1998, Minister of Infrastructure S.Zorig was brutally murdered in his home. Two assailants allegedly broke into his apartment and tied up his wife, murdering Zorig when he arrived home from work.

The thirty-six-year-old hero of the democratic revolution suffered 16 stab wounds, three to his heart.

Eighteen years after S.Zorig's assassination, three people, Ts.Amgalanbaatar, B.Sodnomdarjaa, and T.Chimgee, were scheduled to be tried for his murder at the 461st Prison Camp on Thursday, but their trial is being postponed by a week upon request of the defendants' attorneys to "conduct further research".

The violent crime, considered to be the most shocking event in Mongolia's recent history, sent shockwaves of fear throughout the nation for months, with thousands of mourners crowding Sukhbaatar Square for candlelight vigils days after his demise, and all television and media devoted to the rising political star.

According to Zorig's wife D.Bulgan, there were two assailants, a man around 170 cm tall and a taller woman, both of whom looked to be around 40 years old.

Ikon.mn reported that Ts.Amgalanbaatar would have been 16 at the time of the murder, and B.Sodnomdarjaa – who is 180 cm tall according to his mother – would have been 23 when the murder occurred. T.Chimgee would have been in her teens or early twenties in 1998.

According to officials, the trial is being held in a closed courtroom due to the involvement of domestic intelligence organizations and state secrets. Reporters were allowed into the courtroom after a rigorous security check but were abruptly instructed by police officers to leave after only a few minutes.

Ts.Amgalanbaatar's sister, M.Gansuren, confirmed that they are both adopted children who lived in Orkhon Province and that they had not been to Ulaanbaatar before the year 2000.

B.Sodnomdarjaa's mother, L.Javzmaa, said they were Ts.Amganalanbaatar's neighbors. L.Javmaa said that her family farms in Orkhon Province and claimed that her son never left her side.

According to B.Sodnomdarjaa's family, he and T.Chimgee are being dragged into the case by Ts.Amgalanbaatar, who received a 25-year sentence for his involvement in a murder in Choir.

The trial's defense attorneys and prosecutors have asked to bring witnesses to the courtroom. As the sole witness to the crime, D.Bulgan is expected to unravel the mystery of her husband's murder. Many have asked on social media whether she will recognize her husband's killers after 18 years. D.Bulgan was arrested in November 2015 and released last September in relation to the murder investigation, with no charges made against her and no official statement made about her detention.

Former legislator, democratic revolutionary, and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar E.Bat-Uul was taken into police custody as a suspect in the murder shortly after the June 2016 election. E.Bat-Uul claimed that his arrest was politically motivated. He was interrogated, but no charges were made against him.

It was reported that a hat owned by E.Bat-Uul was found at the scene of the crime. He explained that he and President Ts.Elbegdorj were notified by the Chief of Police of Zorig's death on the night of the incident, and that they were allowed inside his home, where no barriers were put in place. E.Bat-Uul said that in shock from the terrible scene, he left his hat in Zorig's apartment. Ts.Elbegdorj, E.Bat-Uul, and S.Zorig were the key leaders of the 1989 democratic revolution in Mongolia.

It was reported that Zorig was being considered by his party to be nominated for the position of prime minister on the day of his death. Two months after the murder, J.Narantsatsralt, the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, was named the new prime minister in December 1998.

Zorig's sister and former legislator S.Oyun said at the time, that she believed her brother was murdered to prevent him from mounting an anti-corruption campaign as prime minister. S.Oyun was elected to Parliament after her brother's death and later served as Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Minister of Environment and Green Development.

Coverage of the trial by local media has reflected the public's skepticism concerning the resolution of the case. The case has been brought to the attention of the public many times since the murder occurred. Many believe it has been brought up with political motives or to serve as a distraction. After the rescheduling of the trial, a prominent Mongolian Twitter user asked, "Are we to believe that teenagers ordered and committed a politically charged killing?"

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OSCE/ODIHR experts discuss electoral recommendations in Mongolia

December 16 (OSCE) Elections experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) met with electoral stakeholders in Ulaanbaatar on 13 and 14 December 2016 to present recommendations from the final report on the 29 June parliamentary elections in Mongolia.

The report's findings and recommendations were presented to officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Election Commission, the Supreme Court and other government officials, as well as to representatives of parliamentary committees, political parties and civil society.

Priority recommendations in the report focused on the legal framework, election administration, campaign finance, the complaints and appeals process, the separation of the roles of the state and political parties during electoral campaigns, and the role of the media supervisory body.

"We appreciate the commitment at the highest level in Mongolia to address the recommendations and regard it as a signal of the importance attached to making further improvements to the electoral process," said Ambassador Audrey Glover, who led the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission deployed to observe the parliamentary elections. "The Mongolian authorities can always rely on the support and the expertise of the OSCE/ODIHR as they move forward in following up on electoral recommendations."

During the visit, ODIHR emphasized the importance of addressing recommendations made in the final report in an inclusive and open manner. The experts also noted the importance of focusing on recommendations of a more technical and procedural character ahead of the upcoming presidential election in June 2017, and leaving wider and more comprehensive recommendations until the next phase of the electoral cycle.

The visit follows an official invitation by Mongolia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present the 2016 final report. All OSCE participating States have committed themselves to follow up on ODIHR's election assessments and recommendations.

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MNAO: Mongolian National Audit Office

Mongolia - Capacity Building for MNAO through Establishing a Continuing Professional Development Strategy and Program : P155305 - Implementation Status Results Report : Sequence 02 (English)

December 16 (World Bank) --

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China border crossings identified as human trafficking hotspots

By Casey-Ann Seaniger

December 16 (UB Post) Gashuun Sukhait and Zamiin-Uud border crossings with China have been identified as two of the major hotspots with an increased human trafficking risk due to recently boosted mining activity in the region, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Ahead of International Migrants Day (IMD) held on December 18, IOM Mongolia has warned that the recent development of Mongolia's mining industry in the Gobi has led to an increase in internal and international migration toward the mining sites, intensifying the risk of cross-border human trafficking.

New figures show IOM Mongolia assisted 160 victims of human trafficking between 2012 and November 2016, with 32 cases reported in 2016. IOM said 92 percent of the victims were women and 19 percent were underage.

IOM Mongolia Programme Officer Emanuela Muscara said while the majority of cases were internal trafficking within Mongolia, many victims were also trafficked internationally.

"The human trafficking we have been witnessing lately is mostly of Mongolian girls and women being trafficked abroad, mainly to China where they are exploited and forced into sex work," Muscara said.

"We also see cases in Hong Kong and Macau as well as cases of men and women subjected to forced labor in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Norway and Sweden."

In January 2016, IOM Mongolia launched a two-year EU funded project focusing on the Gobi region to combat domestic and international human trafficking and risky sexual behavior.

"The increase in the mining in the area and the massive movements of people across the border in Zamiin-Uud and through Gashuun Sukhait of truck drivers carrying coal means there's an increased risk of human trafficking," Muscara said.

These towns often just have two banks, one shop and are almost empty. But it's places like these that prove a high risk.

Women from low socioeconomic backgrounds are most at risk and while they are often recruited in Ulaanbaatar, victims come from all over Mongolia. Human trafficking referral cases come from law enforcement officials at border points, Mongolian consulates overseas, a hotline, and from families and friends.

IOM Mongolia National Programme Officer R.Oyunbileg explained that while some women willingly choose to be sex workers, human trafficking becomes a crime when women are transported or hired and then coerced, underpaid or exploited.

"Some of the victims that we have seen have accepted going into sex work as they are promised better pay, but then of course they're not paid – they're exploited and their passport is seized by the trafficker. From China, some victims escape and some are rescued by police.

"In many cases they're not knowingly taken so there's a element of coercion and exploitation of their vulnerability. They might be poor and think they're getting a job in a hotel as waitress so they go under false conditions and that's when they are harbored and forced to be a prostitute."

The IOM team recently conducted a capacity building training with law enforcement officials including police and immigration staff so they can better identify and assess cases of human trafficking.

A memorandum of understanding between police officers of China and Mongolia to tackle human trafficking was recently renewed.

In partnership with the Mongolian Gender Equality Center (MGEC), IOM has provided comprehensive support services to trafficking victims including livelihood and vocational training and medical, psychological and legal assistance. The MGEC also runs a drop-in center in Zamiin-Uud.

IOM programmes have focused on awareness-raising to truck drivers who might witness trafficking as well as high schools where vulnerable young girls may be targeted.

Head of the Law and Policy Department at the Mongolian Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs Enkhtuya has previously stated that human trafficking is a priority for the ministry and the government is promoting cooperation to support the prevention of human trafficking crimes.

One of the messages on IMD is to stop counting the number of migrants and start protecting them, many of whom do not know their legal rights. IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and last year assisted an estimated 20 million migrants worldwide.

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Business

De Facto: Keeping warm is worth 1,000 taels

By Jargal "De Facto" Dambadarjaa

December 18 (UB Post) The key difference between Mongolian and German buildings is neither design nor appearance, but heat loss. If our buildings are built with greater regard for required standards, they would lose three times less heat than the current average. Even if construction standards were nearly met, our buildings would still be losing twice as much as the average German building. We can cut our heating costs in half if we replace the roofs, windows, and doors of our old buildings. One report suggests that such maintenance reduces heating costs for 50 to 60-year-old schools, kindergartens, and brick buildings significantly, and has resulted in a 35 percent decrease in the number of days students were out sick.

THE COSTS OF COLD BUILDINGS

Since 2014, a project named "Energy Efficiency" has been implemented with aid from the German and Swiss governments. This project has improved heating in public buildings such as schools, kindergartens, and hospitals in some soums in Khovd and Zavkhan provinces. Approximately three billion MNT has been spent on retrofitting heating and water piping systems covering 10,000 square meters, including Kindergartens No. 3 and 5 in Jargalant soum of Khovd province; School No. 2, with a capacity for 920 students; a hospital for infectious diseases; a health center in Duut soum; and a kindergarten in Chandmani soum.

One of the outcomes of the project has been a decrease in the amount of heat energy required for one square meter, dropping the requirement from 550 kilowatts per hour to 120 kilowatts per hour. In other words, one fifth of the cost to construct a new building was spent on retrofitting work that extended the use of the buildings by 30 to 40 years.

A non-governmental organization called Chuluut Uul has published a report on their study of energy efficiency, comparing retrofitted buildings to those that have not seen any improvements. The report suggests that the improvements made to heating systems and heat retention made the learning environment nicer for students, reduced cases of infectious disease, improved parent and teacher satisfaction, helped household budgets, as less medication was purchased and students had fewer sick days. With the savings made available from improved heating efficiency at one kindergarten, new toys were bought and the quality of food served has been enhanced.

When Chuluut Uul NGO did a study of 348 state-owned kindergartens and schools in Ulaanbaatar in 2012, the average temperature in kindergarten rooms during winter was 15 degrees Celsius. The study also revealed that children were sleeping in rooms with mold on the ceilings exacerbated by cold temperatures. Although newer kindergarten buildings are warmer, the temperatures in rooms still fail to reach the standard, which is 22 to 250C. Children spend more time at kindergartens and schools than they do in their homes. Therefore, creating an environment that meets health and safety requirements is essential, and it keeps children from getting sick. 'LOST' BUILDINGS

Mongolians know well how much energy their cars expend. However, we are not as aware of how heating works in our offices, and homes, or in the schools and kindergartens of our children.

Examples of the work that was done in Khovd and Zavkhan provinces show us that reducing and eliminating heat loss in all of our buildings could bring about significant savings and positive change in our society. So, what is stopping us from checking the heating systems in our buildings, fixing what needs to be fixed, improving our energy efficiency, and seeing savings?

First of all, a database needs to be created, so that all buildings are registered with information on ownership, the building's age, engineering design, infrastructure, heating, and its monthly utility and maintenance costs. Without such a database, it is impossible to make an effective investment in any building.

This has already started in Zavkhan Province, with information on 1,036 state-owned buildings in 24 soums already recorded in their database. We cannot ignore the "lost" buildings that have no registration or record in our system. Therefore, we must set up this database at the province and soum levels. If all cities, provinces, and soums have a database, we will have a great opportunity to make optimal investments that meet the needs of people, and to make mid and long-term plans more effectively.

The Energy Efficiency Project team has expressed their willingness to promote the database and energy efficiency projects to all city, province, and soum officials, and to provide support.

By decreasing heat loss in offices and homes, Mongolian people can contribute to reducing air pollution, creating a better environment, and fighting global warming. Given that it contributes to global visions for sustainable development, there are good opportunities to attract investment from abroad.

This project shows that we can register all buildings in one database, regardless of whether they are state-owned or private. Currently, only 200 entities account for 50 percent of our total energy expenditure, while they run deficits in energy use and make air pollution worse.

Mongolians say, "Keeping warm is worth 1,000 taels" (one tael is 37.3 grams of silver, nearly one ounce).  We need to improve our energy efficiency and work hard to make it happen.

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Ulaanbaatar

Air pollution in Bayanhoshuu reaches dangerous levels

By A. Odontuya

December 16 (gogo.mn) As of today at 9AM, (Dec 16th), levels of PM2.5 particulates reaches 3054 micrograms per cubic meter in Bayanhoshuu, 1660 micrograms per cubic meter in Tolgoit and 1469 micrograms per cubic meter at an area nearby Mongolian National Public Television, according to the agaar.mn, an air quality monitoring website.

Levels of PM2.5 particulates, which are the most hazardous to health, in the most polluted areas of Ulaanbaatar city exceeds 120 times above the recommended levels, as compared with the World Health Organization safe level of 25. 

According to the PM2.5 health effects statement, hazardous levels of air pollution can cause serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.

Thus, households should close the window during the most polluted periods (from 6AM to 10AM and5PM to 9PM) and residents should wear PM2.5 pollution mask regularly when go outside. Also, use of air conditioning is effective way to improve indoor air quality.

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New ski resort in Hui Doloon Hudag opens

By R. Adiyasuren

December 16 (gogo.mn) UB resort, a new ski resort with 500-800 meters length skiing and sledding areas has started its operation in Hui Doloon Hudag, which locates 35 km away from the city center.

The ski resort has a capacity to receive 150 people besides offering warm ger and hot meal. 

Moreover, visitors are able to enjoy the ice rink, archery ice field, horse-sled and many other services.

For more info, please visit their Facebook page. 

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New ski resort opens at Khui Doloon Khudagnews.mn, December 17

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Diplomacy

Mongolia approved for second compact agreement with USA

By N. Khaliun

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) On December 14, Ms. Fatema Z. Sumar, Regional Deputy Vice President for Europe, Asia, Pacific and Latin America of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the U.S.A. informed the Foreign Minister of Mongolia, Mr Ts. Munkh-Orgil over the phone of the MCC's Board of Directors decision to include Mongolia in a list of countries eligible to sign the Second Compact Agreement.

Through its Second Compact Agreement, the MCC aims at providing a sustainable and comprehensive solution to a major developmental issue facing Mongolia. Sharing this commitment, the parties are closely cooperating to define the target areas of investment, which are, as of today, identified as increasing bulk water supply of Ulaanbaatar, and improving water supply and sanitation in ger areas.
Following the MCC's Board of Directors decision to select Mongolia as a Second Compact Agreement eligible country in 2014, by Resolution of the Prime Minister of Mongolia, the Working Group to provide leadership and direction for the development of the Second Mongolia Compact Agreement between the Government of Mongolia and the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the USA, headed by the Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil was established. The following year, the National Secretariat was set up. The preparations for the signing of the Second compact are underway. While, in general, Mongolia passes the Compact eligibility requirements, the Board noted that it expects Mongolia to demonstrate improved performance in combatting corruption.

The sides are working towards signing the agreement in 2017.

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Mongolia to sign compact agreement with USAMontsame, December 16

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Embassies in Brazil and Indonesia to close, new consulate to open in Shanghai

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) Taking into consideration that the government and other services can be conducted through internet for the Mongolian national residing in those countries and that the following countries and regions have relatively weaker ties with Mongolia in political and humanitarian fields, the draft of parliamentary resolution on dissolving embassies in Brazil and Indonesia, the general consulate in Osaka of Japan and the consulate in Hailar city of China was backed by the cabinet on Wednesday.

The ministers resolved to present the draft resolution to the State Great Khural. Total of 27 Mongolian nationals permanently reside in the Republic of Brazil, the number is 25 in Indonesia. The annual trade turnover, according to the latest statistics, totals to USD 2,000 with Brazil and USD 12,000 with Indonesia.

The functions of the consulate in Hailar will be transferred to other diplomatic missions in China, whereas the functions of the General Consulate in Osaka can be conducted by the Embassy in Tokyo.

Taking the larger number of Mongolians working and studying in Shanghai and Bishkek cities into account, a new consulate is opening in Shanghai, while Bishkek consulate is being reformed as an Embassy.

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Speaker of Mongolian Parliament continues visit in Russia

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) The Chairman of the State Great Khural M.Enkhbold started his official visit to our neighbor in the north on Wednesday. The visiting delegation was welcomed at the Shremetievo International Airport by the Mongolian diplomatic mission staff to Russia and representatives of the United Russia.

In frames of his visit, Mr Enkhbold, chairman of the ruling power – the Mongolian People's Party, along with his delegation met representatives of the United Russia, the ruling party in the State Duma of Russia.

The MPP Chairman, Mr M.Enkhbold and the chairman of the Supreme Council of the United Russia, Mr B.V.Gryzlov officiated the renewal of the cooperation agreement, established in 2010.

Speaker M.Enkhbold handed the Polar Star Order, awarded in accordance with a Presidential decree, to the Moscow Power Engineering Institute.

Executive Director of the Development Bank of Mongolia B.Batbayar discussed with Director for Trade Funding and Interbank Relations of Sberbank of Russia A.Ivanov about the scope of cooperation and potential joint project awaiting the two banks. The sides inked cooperation MoU.

Present were also, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Russia, Ms B.Delgermaa, head of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on State Structure N.Enkhbold MP, Minister of Environment and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol MP, Minister of Energy P.Gankhuu and other members of the State Great Khural.

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Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold on a working visit to RussiaUB Post, December 16

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The controversy surrounding the Dalai Lama's visit

By B. Chintushig

December 18 (UB Post) The controversy surrounding the 14th Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia has been well documented by both domestic and foreign media. The story has been headline grabbing simply due to the major international players involved. As we all know by now, the visit has caused unforeseen problems for Mongolia. China has expressed their displeasure for previous visits of the Dalai Lama, yet the actions taken by the Chinese government following the most recent visit have been unprecedented. Knowing what we know now, should the government have done more to distance itself from the visit, or even taken a further step to deny the Dalai Lama entry?

China closed its border when the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia in 2002. It also temporarily canceled flights from Beijing to Mongolia when the Dalai Lama visited in 2006. With the Dalai Lama's most recent visit in November, the Chinese government reacted by postponing all governmental meetings and hiking up fees at a vital border crossing. This move is reflective of the re-emergence of China as a global superpower, able to influence economic and political affairs on a global scale. China has be- come a superpower to be reckoned with in relative haste over the last thirty years. With that, they have been eager to show that they have arrived as a superpower capable of countering anybody. This has been evidenced by the recent South China Sea island dispute, where China has been claiming land and making clear their influence in the area. This is seen as a trend for their increasingly aggressive foreign policy. With China eager to throw its weight around, Mongolia has been cautious not to provoke its largest trading partner, until now.

In theory and ideally, as a sovereign country, Mongolia should be able to allow entry to the spiritual leader of the largest religion in the country. Also, bearing in mind that the 14th Dalai Lama officially announced his retirement from politics in 2011, it is clear that the visit was strictly spiritual and religious. Mongolia's Foreign Affairs Ministry has stated that the visit had no political affiliations and that the government was not involved in its planning, nor did it invite the Dalai Lama. The Mongolian government has always stated their firm adherence to the One China policy, which has been seen as a vital component of bilateral relations with China. Based on all of that information, one would think that this would not be a problem, and that Mongolia is right for standing up to China. It is even seen as hypocritical of China to condemn Mongolia when it does not react the same way to India, the country that has granted the Dalai Lama asylum. In essence, the Mongolian government is correct in not succumbing to the demands of a foreign government. Mongolia is a fully sovereign country that has the right to grant entry to any individual applying to enter the country.

However, in international relations, "correct" is not always the correct approach. Realistically speaking, Mongolia is economically dependent on China, with more than 90 percent of its imports and exports linked to China. Further, the country is experiencing a myriad of problems contributing to its current state of economic hardship. In the past, Mongolia could look to Russia to help balance relations. However, due to a number of reasons (including Western sanctions), Russia has been developing a growing strategic relationship with China. This has led to closer Sino-Russian cooperation on a number of large global and regional issues. Due to this, if push comes to shove and, for instance, if China imposes sanctions on Mongolia, Russia would be less incentivized to step in. This is not to say that Mongolia should follow China's every word. It is important for the government to be sensitive to China's stances, especially regarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. What might seem like a harmless visit by a spiritual leader could be interpreted as a statement of tolerance toward Tibet's separatist movement. Mongolia has had no territorial disputes or any other major long-standing issue with the Government of China. The main thing that seems to have the potential to jeopardize the friendly bilateral relations the two countries have maintained seems to be the Dalai Lama.

Visits from the Dalai Lama visit are not a priority for Mongolia, the revival of the economy is. The visit has arguably had no real concrete positive effects, but has had a plethora of negative consequences. There is also something to be said about the way that the Foreign Affairs Ministry handled the situation. There were no public statements regarding the visit, only unofficial interviews with local media. We do not know whether or not the Foreign Affairs Ministry sent any diplomatic communications reassuring the Chinese government, but it is clear that the situation could and should have been handled better. Asking for India's support in the aftermath has done nothing to alleviate the situation, and only further irritates the conflict. India and Mongolia had already started the dialogue for the one billion USD loan, and dragging India into the dispute with China has only further complicated it.

Whether or not the Dalai Lama should have been grated entry is not the issue. What's done is done, and the disputes stemming from the visit have seemed to calm down somewhat. What's important is to learn from this situation and to handle situations such as this more carefully in the future. Mongolia would be better suited to not get involved in disputes such as this one, especially ones that could violate the vital national interests of the country.

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When China bullies its neighbors, India gets more muscular

by Ilaria Maria Sala

December 16 (Quartz India) China's increasingly rough-handed and assertive foreign policy towards its neighbors is raising India's diplomatic and economic clout in the region.

In recent weeks, Mongolia and Vietnam have provided striking examples of India's new assertiveness.

Mongolia, China's northern neighbor, a predominantly Buddhist country that follows the Tibetan form of the doctrine has once more received the Dalai Lama, sparking yet again China's fury. In response, as the Dalai Lama was giving lectures in Ulaanbaatar's temples in November, Beijing hiked tariffs on Mongolian trucks moving through Chinese territory, slowing transport so severely that it has effectively turned into a blockade.

With its vehicles stopped at the border and winter temperatures already at -25 degrees Celsius, Mongolia may soon face shortages of essential goods. The Mongolian ambassador to Delhi, Gonchig Ganbold, is calling on India to act as an intermediary: "India should come out with clear support against the difficulties that have been imposed on Mongolia by China, which is an overreaction to the religious visit by His Holiness Dalai Lama. We have not changed our 'One China' policy, so Beijing's response to Mongolia hosting the spiritual leader is really not justifiable," he said on Dec. 7.

This latest spat comes just as Mongolia, which has been suffering from an economic downturn since the boom in commodities turned into a bust, was negotiating a $4.2 billion loan from Beijing. After the Dalai Lama's visit to Ulaanbaator, China has suspended all diplomatic talks indefinitely, and Mongolia has decided to shift to a discussion with the IMF and Delhi to obtain the needed cash. Vikas Swarup, of India's ministry of external affairs, has pledged that India is "ready to work with Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty."

Swarup also referred to the visit by India's prime minister Narendra Modi to Mongolia in 2015—a first by an Indian head-of-state—during which a credit line of $1 billion was announced that Mongolia may now draw on.

Mongolia has long tried to counter the tyranny of its geography (the small landlocked nation is squashed between Russia and China) with what it terms the "Third Neighbor" foreign policy, an active pursuit of steady exchanges with countries other than Russia and China implemented since the 1990s, and India is shaping up to be one of these. That does not sit very well with China, which described Ulaanbaatar's calling on India for assistance "politically hare-brained", in a typically aggressive editorial in one of its national newspapers.

The ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, meanwhile, has pitted China against all its maritime neighbors as Beijing attempts to claim all the islands and waters that sit inside the highly controversial "nine-dash line."

Here India is intervening by providing military assistance.

When Narendra Modi visited Vietnam in September, he announced a $500 million credit line to Hanoi for "defense cooperation" and said India would "upgrade our strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership," which would deepen education and support ties between the two countries' military forces.

When Vietnam's defense minister General Ngo Xuan Lich visited India this month, more contracts were signed directly with the Indian Ministry of Defense. Indian Air Force pilots will train Vietnam's People Army Air Force pilots to operate "multirole" combat aircraft, which are used in air to air and air to ground fighting, and construct patrol boatsthat will presumably counter China's ambitions in the South China Sea.

Beijing's inability to deal with its neighbors in anything but an aggressive, ill-tempered manner is making it easy for India to put its "Look East" policy into action.

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Related:

Dance of the Dragon: Why India is in urgent need of a new China policyFirst Post, December 17

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China slams India over invite to the Dalai Lama

It was a non-political event organised by Nobel laureates dedicated to the welfare of children, says New Delhi

December 17 (The Hindu) China has slammed India for inviting the Dalai Lama for a function in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and urged New Delhi to respect China's "core interest" in order to avoid "any disturbance" in ties between the two nations.

In a strongly worded response to a question, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "Recently in disregard of China's solemn representation and strong opposition, the Indian side insisted on arranging for the 14th Dalai Lama's visit to the Indian presidential palace, [and] participation in the event with the Indian President and meeting with President [Pranab] Mukherjee."

The spokesman asserted that Beijing was "strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to that". The Dalai Lama was present in the opening session of the "Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit", organised by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi's Children's Foundation on December 10.

Mr. Geng said the "Dalai Lama is in political exile and has been engaged in anti-China separatist activities with the attempt of separating Tibet away from China under the cloak of religion". He added that China was firmly opposed "to any form of contact between officials of the other countries with him".

"We urge the Indian side to see through the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai Lama clique, fully respect China's core interest and major concerns, take effective means to remove the negative impact caused by the incident so as to avoid any disturbance to China-India relationship," he said.

India's stand

The Government of India sought to play down the comments, saying the event the Dalai Lama had attended was not a "political" one. "His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a respected and revered spiritual leader. It was a non-political event organised by Nobel laureates dedicated to the welfare of children," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Friday. India has always resisted Chinese criticism of the Dalai Lama's movements, and maintains that he does not undertake any political activity in India.

This is the fifth time that China has expressed its annoyance in the past few months. Earlier, Chinese government spokespersons objected to the Dalai Lama's visits to Arunachal Pradesh, Mongolia and the U.S., as well as the government's permission to the Karmapa Lama to travel to Arunachal as well.

China's strong objections towards the perceived promotion of Tibetan separatism coincide with its rejection of remarks by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump questioning Washington's unqualified endorsement of Beijing's sovereignty over Taiwan.

Global Times, the daily affiliated with the Communist Party of China, took exception to the statement by Mongolian Ambassador to India Gonchig Ganhold seeking New Delhi's financial support to override Ulan Bator's economic difficulties. Mongolia's crisis followed its reception of the Dalai Lama last month, apparently triggering a slew of economic measures by Beijing against Ulan Bator.

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Related:

India says Dalai Lama's meet with President was non-politicalIANS, December 16

China protests Pranab Mukherjee's meeting with Dalai Lama, warns of disturbancePress Trust of India, December 16

India rejects China's objection to President-Dalai Lama meetTNN, December 16

Is India playing the Tibet card?India Today, December 15

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Mongolia-German intergovernmental working group meets in Berlin

By N. Khaliun

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) The 5th meeting of the Mongolia-German intergovernmental working group serving to control over the implementation of an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the fields of natural resources, industry and technology from 2011  was held in Berlin on  December 13.  

The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of Energy of Mongolia P.Gankhuu and Director of Department of industrial policy of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy W. Shcremet.

At the meeting, the parties agreed to ensure the implementation of the agreement through fostering bilateral cooperation in the areas of mining, energy and small and medium-sized enterprises and introducing European standards in Mongolia. Then, sides exchanged views on ways for achieving progress in and on further actions.

After this, the working group reviewed the results of the 6th meeting of the Mongolia-German economic committee which was held on December 12 and focused on some joint projects and programs to be implemented in the nearest future.

This meeting was attended by over 20 representatives from some Mongolian companies such as the Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi LLC, the Development bank, the Mongolian railway, and MAK group and by above 50 reps of German companies such as Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bahn, and Thyssenkrupp. The participants discussed about 20 potential projects and programs for implementing in Mongolia.

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Press Release on the official visit of Foreign Minister of Mongolia to Nepal

December 16 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal) His Excellency Mr. Tsend MUNKH-ORGIL, Foreign Minister of Mongolia is paying official visit to Nepal from December 18 to 20, 2016 leading a high-level delegation of the Government of Mongolia. The Mongolian delegation consists of Members of Parliament, non-resident Ambassador of Mongolia to Nepal, and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia.

On 19 December 2016, H.E. Mr. Tsend MUNKH- ORGIL will hold bilateral talks with Hon. Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, at the latter's office in Singh Durbar.

The Mongolian Foreign Minister is also scheduled to pay courtesy calls on the Rt. Honourable President Mrs. Bidya Devi Bhandari, the Rt. Hon'ble Prime Minister Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and the Rt. Hon'ble Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament, Mrs. Onsari Gharti on December 19, 2016.

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Health & Education

Infant and under-five mortality rates stabilized in November

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) In the first 11 months of 2016, 71,843 women gave birth to 72,200 babies. It represent a decrease in the number of maternity by 1,887 (2.6%) and live births -- by 1,937 (2.6%) compared to the same period of the previous year. In November, there were 6,262 maternities and 6,305 live births, showing decline of 277 maternities (4.2%) and 270 live births (4.1%) compared with October.

Within the first 11 months of this year, 1,222 infant and 1,508 child mortalities were recorded. Compared to the same period in 2015, infant and child mortality increased by 118 (10.7%) and by 186 (14.1%) respectively. The main causes of infant mortality were diseases of the respiratory system and measles.

In November, 80 and 102 cases of infant and under-five mortalities were registered. Compared to the previous month, infant mortality grew by 1 case (1.3%) and under-five mortality rate went down by 7 cases (6.4%).

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Mongolia - E-Health Project : P131290 - Implementation Status Results Report : Sequence 05 (English)

December 16 (World Bank) --

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China border town schools provide free education for students from Mongolia across the border

December 13 (WuWu) --

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Culture & Society

Herding Reindeer Isn't Just Child's Play For One Little Girl

Her nomadic family still depends on reindeer for food, clothing, shelter and transportation.

December 15 (Huffington Post) Santa's reindeer may work only once a year, but in real life, reindeer herding is a never-ending task.

Filmmaker Joel Santos saw that firsthand when he went deep into Northern Mongolia to visit a tiny Tsaatan community, one of the few left who still pursue the ancient tradition of nomadic reindeer herding.

The people of Zyyn Taiga depend on reindeer for meat, milk and cheese, as well as transportation and clothing. Reindeer hides also serve as the covering for teepees, which are heated by burning the animal's dung, according to Barcroft TV.

Zyyn Taiga's people have access to horses, but prefer to ride reindeer for reasons that Santos grew to understand during his time at their camp. 

"I've interacted both with horses and reindeer, and the latter almost behave like a dog, in the sense that they are extremely docile. They smell your hands out of curiosity. They even lick them, always in a gentle way," he told Barcroft TV.

Fewer than 40 Tsaatan families are herding reindeer nomadically these days, in part because of restrictions on hunting and economic pressures that make it a difficult life to pursue.

The global reindeer population is also shrinking. Scientists say that climate change makes it harder for reindeer to feed by covering the lichens and moss they eat with hard sheets of ice rather than softer snow.

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These Nomads From Mongolia Live With Real Reindeer

ON AIR: Weekdays 3PM-8PM

December 16 (106.7 Lite FM) As a kid, Rich Kaminski's life was similar to the life of many other suburban Jersey boys "kind of ordinary" summers working in the snack bar at the local pool, weekends at the deli counter slicing meat and the time in-between, just trying to get through High School. But throughout his early life, there was one constant: music. From Jimmy Buffett to Hall & Oates to Bob Marley, Rich's musical taste ran rampant then as they do now. At some point between High School and graduation from William Paterson University, a light (LITE) bulb went off in his head and the idea to pursue on-air broadcasting was born.

Upon graduation from college, Rich ignited his broadcast career with on-air shifts across the northeast landing in various markets including: Philadelphia and New Jersey, and ultimately the biggest radio market of them: New York. Lucky for us, Rich's home, besides the one he shares with his wife, daughter and their Basset Hound in New Jersey, is 106.7 Lite fm. After a long day at work, Rich helps make the afternoon/evening commute (weekdays 3p-8p) a little easier.

Rich ran The New York City Marathon three times: 2007-3:54:14, 2008-3:37:33, 2009-4:06:36

When Rich isn't being heard over the airwaves, you'll likely find him with his daughter at the park or playground. Rich Kaminski is like the brother you always want to have around: and thankfully for us, he's here to stay.

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Video: Union Bible Theological College Mongolia

By Overseas Council Australia

After the Communist regime, Mongolians are searching for their roots and identity by studying the religious rites and the traditional lifestyle of their ancestors. This has led to a rise in traditional religions including Mahayana Buddhism and Shamanism.

OCA has partnered with Union Bible College, the leading Theological College in Mongolia, and continues to support the growth of the College.

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Nature & Environment

International organizations to aid livestock herders this winter

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 16 (MONTSAME) Deputy PM U.Khurelsukh received Thursday representatives of donor organizations operating in Mongolia. They exchanged opinions on the ways to overcome the difficulties caused by harsh winter with minimum losses and aid to livestock herders.

The government has decided to cooperate with the international organizations for helping herders in the provinces with higher tendency to face harsh winter and difficult wintering conditions.

According to the results of the studies in localities, the emergency departments require off-road vehicles suitable for winter road conditions of Mongolia. More vehicles are also needed for hospitals and police force. Moreover, it is indispensable to prepare additional reserve of hay and animal fodder, to procure fire starting and oil materials for piling off snow from the mountain passes and roads, to reserve more medicines and bio-preparations for prevention of contagious diseases of livestock, to cover costs for heating, fuel and maintenance, and provide the Eastern Region Diagnostic and Medical Center with computer tomography machine.

Ms Beate Trankmann said she was grateful to the emergency commission of the government of Mongolia for calling for an early meeting avoiding further risks. The requests from the Deputy Premier will be considered by the UN representative office next week with insight to possible ways of helping the livestock herder in provinces with dzud-like conditions.

Some 110 soums of 13 provinces and two districts of Ulaanbaatar are expecting tough wintering.

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Transforming Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia from a "Paper Park" to a Model Protected Area

by Richard P. Reading

December 15 (IUCN) Sitting on the northern edge of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Ikh Nart Nature Reserve was established to protect a fascinating area of rocky outcrops and a globally important population of argali sheep (Ovis ammon).  Yet, the >66,000 ha of Ikh Nart protects much more. Because the reserve lies within the transition between steppe and desert habitats, it contains a relatively high diversity of plants and animals, including 41 species of mammals. Almost 200 species of birds have been recorded in Ikh Nart, most during migration, as Ikh Nart contains perennial fresh water springs, but it is also an Important Bird Area because of the nesting sites it provides for many species of global concern. For example, large populations and a diverse array of nesting raptors, especially Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) and Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanni), are attracted to the reserve's rocky outcrops and few trees for use as nesting sites.

Ikh Nart also protects culture resources, such as historic ruins, artifacts, burial sites, and petroglyphs. An amazing variety of archaeological sites that stretch back thousands of years are scattered throughout the reserve, with hundreds of sites from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Ghengis Khan Era, the repression of religion during the Stalinist Era, and much more.Photo: Richard Reading

Despite its importance, Ikh Nart remained no more than a "paper park" (one that existed only on paper, without any management) following its creation in 1996 due to resource constraints and lack of capacity. Major threats to the protected areas included wildlife poaching, theft and destruction of cultural resources, illegal mining for fluorspar and quartz crystals, and over-grazing and competition between livestock and wildlife. In addition, lack of resources and training rendered the local governments charged with managing Ikh Nart in a poor position to address these threats.

A team of conservationists began work in 2000 with the objective to transform Ikh Nart into a well-managed protected area that could serve as a model for other nature reserves and parks in Mongolia and elsewhere. They quickly recruited park managers, archaeologists, educators and ecotourism specialists to assist in the efforts to transform Ikh Nart.

The process included five overlapping and complementary aspects: 1) rigorous research; 2) a management structure, plan and process; 3) building local capacity among students and professionals; 4) cultivating local support; and 5) creating sustainable administrative policies and funding. The interdisciplinary team conducted research on the flora, fauna, human attitudes and values, land use practices, and archaeological resources to help improve management. Simultaneously, team members initiated reserve management activities, including law enforcement, education and outreach programs, livelihood enhancement, cultural resource protection, and nature-based tourism.

The team's efforts resulted in several successes, including 1) a significant decrease in the threats listed above, 2) creation of local protected areas almost completely surrounding Ikh Nart that effectively function as a Buffer Zone and over double the size of the area protected, 3) establishment of parks zones, including a Core Zone that eliminated most livestock grazing, 4) increases in wildlife populations and expansion in their ranges, 5) a cadre of well-trained professionals, including rangers, park managers, researchers, and students who have gone on to positions in academia, government, consulting, and the non-profit sector, and 6) strong local support, including the creation of women's cooperatives and tourism to enhance livelihoods. 

The lessons learned in Ikh Nart may offer guidance for protected area development in other areas of Mongolia and the world. First, strong, collaborative partnerships are essential. An inclusive atmosphere fostered new, diverse, and creative perspectives on how best to manage and conserve the region. Second, focusing on the initial work on flagship and umbrella species that occurred within the reserve (e.g., argali sheep, Cinereous Vultures) proved effective and helped generate support among stakeholders. Third, the sister-park agreement between Ikh Nart and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park brought new, positive dimensions to the project, quickly strengthened management, and provided a sense of 'pride to the local community. Finally, all partners committed to the project with a long-term commitment. Conservation success rarely occurs rapidly.Photo: Richard Reading

Looking ahead, Ikh Nart will soon enter a new phase of management focused on fundraising and developing tools to help the decision-making process. Ikh Nart faces increasingly complex management challenges (e.g., mitigating climate change impacts) that require effective decision-making that benefits the biological and cultural resources of the reserve in ways that ensure continued support from the local community.

Read the full paper From "Paper Park" To Model Protected Area: The Transformation Of Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia  in PARKS Journal 22.2

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The Circle of Life: News from Anu

The saga of Anu continues. This snow leopard mother living in Mongolia's Tost mountains not only keeps surprising us - she also provides a powerful example of nature's perseverance!

December 16 (Snow Leopard Trust) Anu is a bit of a snow leopard celebrity. In 2011, she became one of the first female snow leopards to be tracked with a GPS collar. When she became a mother a year later, her cub was the first ever wild snow leopard baby to be filmed in its den. In 2014, after the first cub had grown up and dispersed, Anu gave birth to a litter of three. That summer, one of our camera traps captured incredible images of the family near a watering hole.

Since then, Anu has added several new chapters to her incredible life story – some of them sad, others joyful!

A Search for Answers

Unless they're wearing a GPS collar, wild snow leopards are tough to keep track of – and Anu is no exception. After taking the famous family photos at the watering hole in the summer of 2014, she avoided our cameras for almost an entire year.

When we received the 2015 camera trap photos from Mongolia, we immediately started searching for Anu and her offspring. We wanted to see if they had made it through the hard Mongolian winter.

We skipped through the photos, but didn't spot them. Soon, it became clear that there was no group of three young adults with their mother anywhere on these new pictures.

What had happened to Anu and her cubs? Could they really have successfully avoided the 35 cameras we had set up in their habitat? It's not impossible, but not very likely either.

To find out, we looked again, more closely, picture for picture, until we finally got our answer – and it was one we had not thought of in any of our scenarios.

It was just a single photo, but it told an incredible story. The time stamp said July 2015. In the center, we saw Anu, her fur pattern clearly visible, identified beyond any doubt… and she was being trailed by three tiny cubs – only one year after she had been photographed at the watering hole with a litter of newborn kittens!

These new cubs couldn't be older than a few months – but the ones from the previous year would not even have dispersed yet.

It's not impossible that Anu could have had two overlapping litters, but that would have been a first for snow leopards, and really goes against everything we know.

Another possibility is unfortunately much more likely: it appears as if the 2014 cubs died sometime in the second half of that year, though we have no clue as to why.

With one photo, Anu managed to break our hearts – but at the same time fill us with hope. Nature once again proved to find a way! One litter of cubs dies, and the mother immediately reproduces again. From a human perspective, it may seem tough, but for wildlife, it's the circle of life!

A Happy Ending?

That said, even scientists can't look at these cats and their lives entirely without emotions – so when we finally received the 2016 photos from the Tost Mountains a few weeks ago, we looked through them breathlessly! How would Anu's tale continue?

Just a few days ago, we found out!

During the summer, two different cameras had captured photos of a group of snow leopards – a mother and her almost fully grown cubs. Full of hope, we looked for Anu's familiar fur pattern… and finally found her! There she was, a proud mother, followed by three handsome, healthy-looking young cats! They've made it! The circle of life continues.

Soon, the young ones will disperse and find their own home ranges. And Anu? There's a good chance she'll have another litter of cubs. Time will tell!

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'Green dream' realized in Mongolia

December 15 (Korea.net) Once deserted areas of Mongolia have sprung back to life with the growth of dense forest.

The Korea Forest Service has carried out the "Mongolian Greenbelt Forestation Project" over a span of 10 years and, as a result, approximately 3,046 hectares, equal to the size of roughly 3,000 soccer fields, have been colored in green.

The forested sites cover the area of Lun soum, a district about 125 kilometers to the west of Ulaanbaatar, Dalanzadgad, which lies 580 kilometers to the south from the capital city and Bayanzag, located approximately 100 kilometers to the west. Species adapted to survive in desert conditions such as dwarf elms, tamarix and haloxylon, have been planted in these locations.

Additionally, educational programs are being run as part of the project, so as to help the plants to flourish. More than 200 Mongolian public servants, as well as experts involved in afforestation and forest industries, took part in the programs and learned about technologies pertaining to cultivating young trees and afforestation. Through the programs, they also developed their capabilities with regards to plantation management.

This project was launched, following the 2016 signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the cooperation on the prevention of yellow dust and desertification. Next year, the Korea Forest Service plans to share its ability to keep plantations intact in a stable manner with the Mongolian government.

"This project which we've put our time and energy into over a decade has certainly made a significant contribution to the prevention of desertification not only across Mongolia, but across Northeast Asia, as a whole," said an official from the Korea Forest Service. "We plan to expand this kind of project, reaching out to Latin American, African and Central Asian regions, in line with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)."

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Sports

N.Sodbilegt becomes U7 world chess champion

December 15 (UB Post) Mongolian chess player N.Sodbilegt won a gold medal in the boys' U7 category of the 16th World School Chess Championships. which took place from December 2 to 12 in Sochi, Russia.

The World School Chess Championships attracted 458 competitors from 35 countries. Mongolia was represented by 21 chess players.

Mongolian chess players A.Enkhtuul, B.Baasansuren, Ye.Tugstumur, D.Amartuvshin and

Ts.Lkhagvasuren won gold medals from previous World School Championships.

The Mongolian team returned home on December 14. Vice president of the Mongolian Chess Federation T.Sumiya and executive director of the federation B.Naranbaatar welcomed them at Chinggis Khaan International Airport.

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Khangarid FC striker wins Golden Ball award

December 17 (news.mn) The Golden Ball award ceremony organised by the Mongolian Football Federation took place at the Shangri-La Hotel in Ulaanbaatar on December 12.

Forward of Khangarid FC, O.Mijiddorj,  won the Golden Ball award. The twenty year-old did not miss any matches during the Khurkhree National League 2016, and scored 29 goals in 18 matches. He also won the best forward award of the Khurkhree National League in 2016.

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National Olympic Committees of Mongolia and Chinese Taipei sign co-operation agreement

December 17 (Inside the Games) The Presidents of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee (MNOC) and the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) have signed a bilateral co-operation agreement in Taipei.

MNOC head Demchigjav Zagdsuren was joined by CTOC counterpart Hong-Dow Lin at the signing ceremony.

Also in attendance were members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and Mongolian Trade and Economic Representative Office in Taipei.

Through the agreement, the UB Post reports that both Committees will exchange athletes, coaches and researchers and organise joint training.

The MNOC started cooperating with Chinese Taipei in 1994, with Mongolian boxing and freestyle wrestling coaches having previously worked in Taipei.

Mongolia won two medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August, while Chinese Taipei claimed three, including one gold.

Judoka Dorjs├╝rengiin Sumiyaa won silver for Mongolia in the women's 57 kilograms category before compatriot Dorjnyambuugiin Otgondalai secured bronze in men's lightweight boxing.

Weightlifter Hsu Shu-ching won top honours for Chinese Taipei in the women's 53kg category on the same day that fellow countrywomen Le Chien-ying, Lin Shih-chia and Tan Ya-ting secured women's team archery bronze.

Completing their medal haul was a bronze for weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun in the women's 58kg category.

Chinese Taipei is due to host the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei and the 2019 East Asian Youth Games in Taichung.

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Art & Entertainment

Mongolia's Bayartsetseg Altangerel wins Talent round at Miss World 2016, advances to Top 20

December 17 (The Great Pageant Community) After a very tough competition between Miss Philippines and Miss Mongolia, Bayartsetseg Altangerel of Mongolia won the fast track 'Talent Round'. Miss Mongolia did magical art of clothe changing with calligraphy. It was one of the very unique talents we have see in years and winning this title gives Mongolia a guaranteed spot in Top 20 of the contest in finale.

Also Read: Miss Mongolia World 2016 is a Breathe of Fresh Air.

Bayartsetseg Altangerel will now also get a chance to perform her talent live in finale. She is also one of the most eyed delegate this year as many believe she might just win the contest. She was also our No. 1 pick to win the contest in our 3rd Hotpicks for Miss World 2016.

Picture Credits: Miss World Facebook Page

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The Eagle Huntress review – suspiciously uplifting

The story of a young Mongolian girl who takes up a traditionally male role in her nomadic community is heartwarming, but perhaps too good to be true

December 18 (The Guardian) The savage drama of the remote Altai mountains in central and east Asia makes for an arresting backdrop to this life-affirming, stunningly photographed documentary. The story focuses on one little girl's battle against the hidebound traditions of her patriarchal community. Aisholpan, 13, is the daughter of nomadic people. Her father, like his father before him, hunts with a majestic golden eagle, and Aisholpan dreams of carrying on the family tradition. But although her father supports her, to the extent that he dangles his daughter on a rope over a windswept cliff to snatch a three-month-old eagle chick from its nest, some of the other men disapprove. The woman's role is to make tea, one grizzled old-timer sniffs. Another adds that women would get too cold to hunt on the exposed, icy mountains. But through passion and sheer force of will, Aisholpan goes on to be the first eagle huntress in her community. A suitably exalting score soars alongside Aisholpan's bird.

Well that's what the film tells us anyway. There have been suggestions that the audience has been misled for dramatic purposes: Aisholpan is not the first eagle huntress in her community; and it is alleged that the "opposition" to her vocation might not have been as vociferous as we are led to believe. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a documentary maker has glossed over the facts for a heartwarming punchline. Whether or not the storytelling here is disingenuous, there remains a manipulative quality to the film-making that is, in the end, off-putting.

Link to article

Similar:

The Eagle Huntress review: Kes meets Spellbound in MongoliaiNews, December 16

FILM: Beautiful Mongolian tale of the Eagle HuntressIslington Tribune, December 16

The Eagle Huntress: first among eagles?New Statesman, December 16

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Travel

Do Something Completely Different - Experience Mongolia In the Winter

December 18 (Eternal Landscapes) Today (December 18th) is the EL Party. It's something Turuu and I arrange for our small Mongolian team as a thank you. A thank you to them for their loyalty and hard work, for their care of our guests and for their genuine love for Eternal Landscapes. Even Jako, our brilliant Kazakh translator,  has come all the way from Bayan Ulgii to Ulaanbaatar to be part of it. As I write this, they are currently enjoying a private meal, washed down with some alcohol and finishing off with some karaoke. A very Mongolian celebration.

This is some of my great team on a previous winter picnic.

Why hold it in winter? It's low season in Mongolia and I like to arrange events for our team throughout the low period so they have an opportunity to come together and meet -  to enjoy each others company away from the structure of work.

People who know me, know that I am passionate about Mongolia. And that passion also focuses on making sure that our form of tourism is a positive force. That it has a positive impact - on Mongolia's environment, people, their local communities and the culture. Although, as we are a  micro business we take small steps rather than world-dominating ones!

That's one reason I promote winter travel in Mongolia. Rather than focusing on how much money can be made in peak season (July), I try to spread our support throughout the whole year - providing a more sustainable income for those we work with. 

Also, I genuinely love winter in Mongolia. As anyone that reads the EL Blog regularly (thank you!) knows … I often bring it up. 

But, I didn't want you to only hear my voice. That gets a little dull. So, here, in their own words, are why some of my brilliant female Mongolian trip assistants like winter in Mongolia.

Chimgee

'It's a challenging time of year. It makes us stronger people - facing the harshness of winter. Also, I like snow and think that winter in Mongolia will be good for tourism.'

Oyuha

'Winter in Mongolia makes my country look even more vast. It seems endless. With the mountains and mountain steppe all covered with snow, it is like an infinite milk sea. The beauty of it makes you catch your breath.'

Khaliuna

'Every season is completely different in Mongolia. If you want to know what winter is like in Mongolia, then really, you have to come and experience it yourself. Our Mongolian winter really has its own taste - especially our Lunar New Year celebration.'

Selenge

'The weather is really unique. It can be so harsh and also so mild. No two days are ever the same. It's a very real time of year - with our people and our livestock battling the changing weather conditions.'

Enkhee

'I like the snow in winter. Also, our winter holiday which is Lunar New Year - Tsagaan Sar - is very special for us. We meet with out relatives and celebrate. Although winter is a very cold season, Tsgaaan Sar celebrates the warm season - the coming of spring and the warmth of being together with our relatives and family.'

Ariunaa

'During the winter time we can sledge with our children - after the fresh snow. It is wonderful in the mountains - with nothing else except snow. It is just WOW.
And the challenge of the winter makes me admire my ancestors and my country makes me think about who I am and where I am from. How Mongolians  have always faced the challenges of the winter.
And of course, there is our new year celebration - Tsagaan Sar.'

Tuya

'One reason I like winter in Mongolia is because of Tsagaan Sar - our traditional New Year. It is an important time to be with family and this means I get to travel to my home in the countryside and meet with my relatives.'

As our website is currently down, I can't direct you to it. However,  if you would like to experience winter in Mongolia, then here are the details of a few trips you might be interested in. All are guaranteed departures.

Hunting With Eagles - March 14th 2017 - 10 Days   * two places remaining
Khovsgol On Ice - February 25th 2017 -  12 Days * six places remaining. Includes Mongolian Lunar New Year and Ice Festival
Tsagaan Sar Insight (Mongolian Lunar New Year) - Feb 25th 2017 - 13 Days  * four places remaining. 
Tsagaan Sar Insight (Mongolian Lunar New Year) - Feb 25th 2017 - 5 Days * four places remaining

We can offer either a small group experience (maximum group size of six for that more personal experience) or a private tailor made trip. If you want, bring your family as we offer family trips as well. We offer a 15% discount per person on all of our winter trips as a way of promoting tourism in Mongolia outside of the main season.

Finger's crossed we'll have our website back by this week coming. For now, thanks for being here.

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