The wRap


Your World in 10 - December 4, 2012 Edition

Severe Weather

1. ‘Pablo’ leaves at least 7 dead



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The strongest storm to hit the country this year, Typhoon “Pablo” (international codename: Bhopa) forced more than 50,000 to evacuate, even as it left at least 7 dead. Rescue officials said among those who were killed was an elderly woman crushed by a tree that fell on her house. No details on how the others who died were made available. Pablo made landfall on early Tuesday, December 4, over Banganga in Davao Oriental. Carrying maximum sustained winds of 175 km/h and gusts of up to 210 km/h, the super typhoon caused public storm signal No. 3 to be raised in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said the storm altered its course and was expected to hit Bohol, Negros and Cebu, popular tourist destinations. On Monday evening, before Pablo’s landfall, President Benigno Aquino III led the call to prepare for the super typhoon and urged affected residents to evacuate as soon as possible.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Disaster Preparedness

2. Evacuation centers swell in CDO



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The city that suffered from the ravage of Tropical Storm “Sendong” in December 2011 is not taking second chances. Around 36 evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro City swelled with evacuees late Monday night (December 3), as residents braced themselves for the fury of Typhoon “Pablo.” Those able to afford it sought refuge in hotels and inns. In other parts of Mindanao, at least 7,000 residents in Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Surigao del Sur have been evacuated to safer ground, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported. Local government units had set up by Monday night 972 evacuation centers. In Cagayan de Oro, evacuation centers able to take in 80,000 residents from danger zones were prepared by the city’s disaster team. In 2011, the damage caused by Sendong was estimated by the NDRRMC at close to P1 billion, with damage to infrastructure accounting for the bulk. It affected close to 350,000 people in 13 provinces, leaving over a thousand dead.


Read the full story on Rappler.

A related story on the extent of Sendong’s damage is on Rappler.




RH bill

3. House tackles RH bill after 5-hour delay



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Anti-RH legislators in the House of Representatives tried their best to stall the Reproductive Health bill until late Monday evening, December 3 until advocates managed to push it forward to the period of amendments. The antis proposed amendments line by line, even as it took a long 5 hours for the House to tackle just the first sentence of Section 2, page 2 of the consolidated bill. While the antis vowed to introduce “killer amendments,” RH advocates said they would block them. Before reaching the period of amendments, oppositors to the bill delivered privilege speeches which are allotted an hour during Monday sessions. Palawan Rep Dennis Socrates managed to delay deliberations when he sought to deliver a 10-minute privilege speech questioning a previous approval of the substitute RH bill and the early termination of debates. But the whole process that eventually led to the disapproval of what would have been a 10-minute speech took much longer: 1 hour. By a vote of 99-91 and 1 abstention, Socrates’ bid to deliver a privilege speech was denied, as the period of debates had ended last week. It could very well have been a preview of actual voting on the RH bill.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Economy

4. Aquino: ‘I’m salesman-in-chief’



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Speaking before a group of businessmen, investors, government officials and corporate governance advocates on Monday, December 3, President Benigno Aquino III said, “In many ways I am the salesman-in-chief of the Philippines.” At the anniversary thanksgiving dinner of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), he thanked trading officials and participants for their efforts to make his “salesman” role easier. “I must congratulate you on being a part of why it is so much easier to invite investments to our shores. Being bullish on the Philippines is increasingly contagious because our success is based on real fundamentals and not merely snake-oil salesman fantasies,” he said. The President cited the case of Norway which has invested in blue chip stocks here, and whose Prime Minister he invited to invest more. Norway has a Government Pension Fund Global which, according to Aquino, actively seeks places to invest in. The blue chip stocks have been performing well. The President likewise acknowledged the reforms that PSE officials have pushed and implemented, including the Capital Markets Integrity Corp, which monitors trading activities and detects anomalies and insider trading.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Royalty

5. Kate Middleton pregnant



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Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton are expecting a baby. A spokesman said the duchess was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London after she had acute morning sickness. She is expected to be confined for several days. When born, the baby will be third in line and in direct succession to the throne, the BBC reported. The royal couple was married at Westminster Abbey in April 2011. St James’ Palace refused to say when exactly they became aware of the pregnancy, only saying “recently.” On Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote he was “delighted by the news,” adding that “they will make wonderful parents.” In a statement, St James’ Palace said, “The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both familiesare delighted with the news.”


Read the full story on Rappler.

More details are available on BBC News.




Syrian Crisis

6. Obama warns Assad not to use chemical weapons



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“The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable,” US President Barack Obama warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, even as the United Nations said it was pulling out “all non-essential international staff.” Speaking before the National Defense University in Fort McNair, Obama declared, “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and anyone who is under his command…if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.” The statement was in apparent reaction to information that Syrian forces were preparing to use chemical weapons. According to intelligence reports, there were “signs of activity at chemical weapons sites,” the New York Times said. A Syrian foreign ministry spokesman has insisted however that it would “never, under any circumstances, use chemical weapons against its own people, if such weapons exist.” The crisis has worsened in Syria where about 40,000 have been killed in close to two years of conflict that has spilled over to neighboring countries.


Read the full story in the New York Times.

Additional detais are on BBC News.




Regional Security

7. North Korea rocket may hit close to PH



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A rocket that North Korea plans to launch this December may land close to Philippine territory. The rocket is expected to launch between 8 am to 1 pm, Philippine time on a date between December 10 and 22. A memorandum from the North Korean embassy in London sent to the International Maritime Organization indicated a rocket path similar to that of the failed rocket launch in April. While the first stage of the rocket will drop near southwest of South Korea, the second stage is expected to drop near the eastern part of Cagayan Valley. The drop zone is east of the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, and north of Camarines Sur and Catanduanes. The US, along with its allies South Korea and Japan, have tagged the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates resolutions of the United Nations.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Middle East

8. Netanyahu defiant on new settler homes



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Ignoring international pressure to stop plans of building new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will continue to protect “vital interests.” The US had earlier called on Israel to rethink its decision on the settlements, while European countries United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark and Sweden had relayed their objections to Israel’s plans, as had Germany, Russia and the United Nations. Israel authorized the construction of new settlements after the UN upgraded Palestine’s status from non-member to observer state. It saw the move as a “gross violation” of previous agreements, while Palestinians saw the planned settlements as a threat to its future state. Palestinians say the new houses will bisect the West Bank and cut them off from Jerusalem, thereby preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state, the BBC reported. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that Israel’s plans represent an “almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution.”


Read the full story on BBC News.




Referendum on Facebook

9. Facebook puts privacy policies to a vote



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Even Facebook has resorted to voting. After severe criticism from privacy activists over how it manages users’ data, the social media giant said it would ask its one billion members to vote on an overhaul of its privacy policies. Referendum results will be binding only if 30% of its members, equivalent to 300 million, respond. Among the proposed changes is the sharing of information with Instagram, Facebook’s newly-acquired photo-sharing service. The changes will also make it easier for advertisers to send messages via Facebook, limiting control by users, privacy activists pointed out. Elliot Schrage, vice president for communications, said Facebook revised one aspect of its data-sharing policy to make sure it does not violate applicable laws. “Where additional consent of our users is required, we will obtain it,” Schrage said. The voting system which Facebook started early morning Tuesday, Manila time, will end in a week on December 10. If voter turnout is less than 30%, the vote results will be merely advisory; if more, the results will be binding. The privacy issue highlights the social network’s dilemma over how to monetize data from its users worldwide by sharing information without compromising privacy.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Media Ethics

10. Journalists still struggle with gray areas



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Many Filipino journalists still find themselves caught in ethical dilemmas where rules are less clear, discussions among practitioners in the recently concluded Media Nation 9 forum showed. Among the tricky situations are when food and freebies are offered while no demands are made, or when free products or gadgets are given to reporters for review. Veteran journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug said that in small group discussions during the forum, journalists also cited cases of colleagues asking government officials to become sponsors in their weddings or in their children’s baptism. With Christmas around the corner, journalists are likely to be invited to parties where expensive prizes are raffled to those who attend. As a guide to making ethical choices, Vitug said, “Disclosure is a must in many areas of the gray zone.” The paradox of the profession, according to her, is that while journalists should care about issues and people to report effectively, they should also have “hearts and minds of steel – so that we do not succumb to temptation and accept payoffs, favors and live lifestyles similar to the powerful people we write about.”


Read the full story on Rappler.