The wRap


Your World in 10 - February 1, 2013 Edition

Oil Giant

1. 14 dead in Mexico skyscraper blast



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The death toll in the explosion at the headquarters of Mexico's oil giant Pemex rose to 25 on February 1 (Manila time). One person has been pulled from the rubble, but it was hard to know whether anybody else was trapped, some 7 hours after the blast. Mexico's interior minister said the cause of the blast was under investigation and remained unknown. Smoke billowed skyward as people fled the 54-floor skyscraper with some of those hurt in the blast being carried out on stretchers and office chairs, as witnesses recalled how a huge rumble shook the floor like an earthquake. Pemex is the world's fourth-largest crude producer with around 2.5 million barrels per day. The company has experienced deadly accidents at its oil and gas facilities in the past. Last year, a huge explosion killed 30 people at a gas plant near the northern city of Reynosa, close to the US border.


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#PHVote

2. 3 months before polls, 2 commissioners retire



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Two commissioners of the Commission on Elections - Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco - are retiring on February 2, leaving behind crucial vacancies in the poll body as it prepares for the May elections. President Benigno Aquino III has yet to name their replacement. The two have managed to remain unscathed from the scandals that rocked the poll body under previous leaderships. One was appointed when the reputation of the poll body was at its lowest; the other, when the poll body was trying to recover from a bribery scandal involving its former chairman.


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Syria

3. Iran stepping up support for Assad



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Iran is stepping up its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Russia is continuing to send money and arms to the regime, outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in her last interview as secretary of state. "The Iranians have made it clear for some time that keeping Assad in power was one of their highest priorities. We believe they have acted on that by sending in more personnel, not only to help Assad, but to support and advise military security forces," Clinton said. She also said that despite US efforts to bring Moscow on board to work for an international solution to the 22-month war in Syria that has claimed some 60,000 lives, Russia was continuing to prop up the regime.


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Economy

4. Peso to hit P37.50 in 2013?



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Already strong, the peso can further appreciate to P37.50 against the US dollar in the next 12 months, according to Singapore-based Goldman Sachs ASEAN economist Mark Tan.He cited the influx of portfolio investments in the capital markets, the continuing weakness of the US dollar, and the robust growth of ASEAN countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia. The peso has been trading near P40 in recent weeks, worrying dollar earners like exporters and business process outsourcing firms, as well as Filipinos who depend on remittances sent by loved ones working or living abroad. In 2014, Goldman Sachs expects the peso to reach P35 to the dollar before it depreciates to P40 in 2015 and P41 in 2016.


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Peace and Order

5. Police OK guns in malls



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Mall security guards in the Philippines will be required to carry firearms after recent attacks at shopping centers, despite growing anger over the huge number of guns in the country. Opposition to the widespread presence of guns has been sparked by a recent series of fatal shootings, many involving children. Director General Alan Purisima, the national police chief, said it would be "mandatory" for mall guards to carry firearms and they could do so whether it was the policy of the individual mall or not. The move came in response to recent attacks in popular Manila shopping malls, including the ransacking of a mall jewelry store on January 26.


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Media

6. Chinese hackers attack New York Times



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Chinese hackers have been attacking the New York Times, the newspaper revealed in an article posted on its web site. They have been allegedly attacking the publication's computer systems and acquiring passwords used by reporters and employees. The report said the attacks coincided with the publication's report on former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Published online on Oct. 25, 2012, the story reported how relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings. Security experts discovered the Chinese hackers "using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times’s network, the report added.


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Southeast Asia

7. Lavish funeral for Cambodia's Sihanouk



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The lavish funeral of Cambodia's revered former king Norodom Sihanouk began February 1, with officials expecting more than a million mourners to throng Phnom Penh's streets. The body of the late monarch, who died of a heart attack in Beijing in October, aged 89, will be paraded through the city atop a golden float shaped like a mythological bird, from the Royal Palace to an ornate, custom-built crematorium in a city park. A father of 14 children over 6 marriages, Sihanouk abdicated in 2004 after steering Cambodia through 6 decades, which were marked by independence from France, civil war, the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, his own exile and finally peace.


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Politics

8. When do private lives become public?



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Should private relationships in public office matter? This question is again hotly debated following a Senate war that triggered the resignation of the chief of staff of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. In a stinging privilege speech, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano narrated the supposed influence and power of Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile's longtime chief of staff. It is easy to read between the lines and conclude that Enrile and Gigi enjoy a close, if not special, relationship. Despite the denials then and today of Enrile and his chief of staff, their personal relationship is very much in the public domain. And it does matter.


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Sports

9. Beckham to donate Paris income to charity



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Soccer star David Beckham is moving back to Europe after the French club Paris Saint-Germain confirmed he has signed a 5-month contract with them. His Paris destination ends a 6-year stint with the U.S. MLS team Los Angeles Galaxy. Beckham says he will donate his earnings from this new contract to a children's charity in Paris. The 37-year-old player ad been linked with a host of clubs around the world but, in the twilight of his career, has decided to join a team on the rise thanks to the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars by its Qatari owners.


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Life and Style

10. Businessman buys golden shirt for $240,000



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India is a country known for its love of gold, but for one businessman, a ring or chain was not enough. Datta Phuge is now the proud owner of a golden shirt worth US$240,000, made up of 14,000 pieces of 22-carat gold and put together by 15 craftsmen over 16 days. The 42-year-old, who lives in the Pune district of western Maharashtra state, hatched the plan late last year with a local jeweller friend. At 3.32 kilograms, the end product is so hefty Phuge said he had asked Guinness World Record to recognize his shirt as being the heaviest.


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