The wRap


Your World in 10 - January 07, 2013 Edition

Security

1. US drone crashes off Masbate waters



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They first thought it was a bomb then later figured out it was a US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that crashed into the sea off Masbate on Sunday, January 6. Local fishermen were the first to recover the UAV, thinking it was a bomb but police later confirmed it was instead a drone. Senior Supt Heriberto Olitoquit, provincial police director, said the drone hit the waters of Masbate Sunday morning and will be turned over to the Philippine Navy. Naval officer Rommel Galang said, “We will first study this drone but initially it appears to be a UAV used largely in reconnaissance.” The US embassy had been informed about the discovery and local offiicals would eventually turn over the drone to them. The Philippine military has been trained by the US on how to use the drones against Muslim rebels in Mindanao. But Masbate is far from the Muslim-insurgency areas and is instead an area where communists are still active.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Economic Milestones

2. Stock Exchange breaches 6,000 level



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Two new records were broken by the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) Monday, January 7, as it breached the 6,000 level for the first time and hit a new record high 4 trading days in a row this 2013. Compared to Friday’s closing, the PSEi was up 1.23% on Monday’s closing. Only last December, PSE chairman Jose Pardo told President Benigno Aquino III the benchmark index will reach the 6,000 historic level “sooner rather than later.” This is the 65th record high under the Aquino administration, indicative of growing investor confidence in the country. Analysts said appetite for stocks was being fueled by the US “fiscal cliff” deal, the European Central Bank’s new bond-buying program, and a persistent positive outlook on the Philippine economy, one of the world’s fastest growing.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Wave of Violence

3. Police kill 13 in shootout



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It was the third incident of violence within just a week when police killed 13 members of a criminal gang in a shootout on Sunday, January 6. Gunmen in two vehicles tried to ram through a police checkpoint near the town of Atimonan in Quezon province. They were believed to be on their way to Manila to “make a major hit.” A “very reliable informer,” according to provincial police chief Senior Supt Val de Leon, tipped them off. This prompted the police to put up a road block with the assistance of the military. As soon as the police flagged down the first vehicle, the gunmen started shooting, wounding one senior police officer. 10 firearms were recovered from the gang members, including an M16 assault rifle. Days before, a drug-crazed man went on a shooting rampage, killing 7, including the gunman himself. On New Year’s eve, stray bullets killed two children. The incidents have prompted calls for stricter controls on gun ownership.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Business

4. Clark is country’s fastest growing airport



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Clark International Airport recorded a 71% increase in international and domestic passengers in 2012 compared to 2011, making it the country’s fastest growing airport. It accounted for 1.3 million passengers, many of them taking advantage of budget travel. Victor Jose Luciano, Clark International Corp president and CEO said the number of domestic passengers surged, recording a 613% increase in 2012 compared to 2011, when Air Asia, Airphil Express and Seair-Tiger flew to prime tourist destinations in the country. There were 299,883 passengers in 2012 compared to only 42,086 domestic passengers in 2011. Even international passengers accounted for 77% of total volume, recording over a million in 2012, compared to 725,023 in 2011. Luciano said growth is expected to be sustained in 2013 as connectivity to Metro Manila is improved.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Development Concerns

5. Hunger problem can be solved



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Hunger, ranked as No. 1 on the list of the world’s Top 10 health risks, is also “the world’s greatest solvable problem,” according to the World Food Program (WFP). The World Health Organization said hunger has killed more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. 870 million people around the world suffer from hunger yet the world produces sufficient food for all, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO director-general, said during a recently concluded meeting of the UN body’s governing council, “We cannot accept anything less than the eradication of hunger, food security and malnutrition.” The WFP has listed ways to solve hunger: 1) food relief in emergencies, 2) nutrition for under-twos, 3) meals for kids in school, 4) support to small holder farmers, 5) food for training, and 6) food vouchers.


Read the full story on Rappler.




Obama's Cabinet

6. Hagel expected to be nominated defense secretary



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President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Republican senator Chuck Hagel to be his defense secretary on Monday, January 7. Key members of Congress, according to the Washington Post, were being notified Sunday afternoon about the decision. The 66-year-old Republican, however faces a tough confirmation battle as his partymates have accused him of hostility toward Israel and naivete on Iran. A decorated war veteran, Hagel is known to be fiercely independent and a man who speaks bluntly. He had criticized former president George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war. The Senate is dominated by Democrats and if Republicans resort to filibustering to prevent a nomination from being voted on, Obama will need only a handful among them to ensure Hagel’s confirmation.


Read the full story on the Washington Post.
A related story is also on Rappler.




Violence

7. Men in Delhi gang-rape named, to appear in court



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The 5 men charged with the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student will appear in court for the first time on Monday, January 7. If convicted, they will face the death penalty and be charged with kidnap, robbery and conspiracy. A sixth accused, aged 17, will be tried in a court for juveniles. Police have said they have DNA evidence to link the 5, named as Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vijay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, and Pawan Gupta to the killing. The minor was not named. The student and her boyfriend were lured into taking a schoolbus where the assault happened. The men allegedly took turns in raping her and sexually assaulting her with an iron bar which they also used to attack her boyfriend. The police have promised “maximum security” during the hearing amid fears for the defendants’ safety.


Read the full story on Rappler.
A related story on what the victim’s boyfriend had to say is also on Rappler.
The BBC has the story about the father wanting his daughter to be named, only if a law was named after her.




Middle East

8. Defiant Assad spells out peace initiatives



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A defiant-sounding President Bashar al-Assad addressed Syrians in a rare public speech and proposed a new constitution and cabinet to resolve the country’s 21-month uprising. He ignored the opposition’s demand for him to step down and instead justified his military crackdown. “Everyone who comes to Syria knows that Syria accepts advice but not orders,” Assad said, following the visit the week before of United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who tried to push for a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict. More than 600,000 have died in protests and demonstrations that sought the removal of Assad from office. Assad has framed these protests as attacks by puppets of foreign supporters like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US. He made no apology for the arrest of peaceful activists or airstrikes that have destroyed neighborhoods. Neither was there mention of elections before his term ends in 2014.


Read the full story in the New York Times.
A related story is on Rappler.




South African Icon

9. Mandela has ‘recovered’ – doctors



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Nelson Mandela, regarded as the father of South Africa, has recovered from a lung infection and surgery to remove gallstones. The office of President Jacob Zuma said he has made steady progress and “continues to improve.” The 94-year-old Mandela, South Africa’s first black president who served for 5 years starting 1994, was confined in a hospital for close to 3 weeks in December. It was his longest since he left prison in 1990. After he was discharged, he stayed at home in Houghton (Johannesburg), receiving treatment. He was previously admitted to hospitals on 3 occasions in the past two years, raising concerns about his health. After retiring from public life in 2004, he has rarely been seen in public.


Read the full story on Rappler.
Other details are available on BBC News.




Science

10. Skies to be lit by rogue asteroids in 2013



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Two rogue asteroids and two comets are expected by astronomers to blaze across the skies this new year. The asteroid 99942 Apophis, named after the god of evil and darkness in Egyptian mythology, is huge enough to deliver more than 25,000 Hiroshima bombs if it ever smashed into Earth. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said there is a “tiny chance of an impact” on Earth on April 13, 2036. Another asteroid measuring 57 meters is 2012 DA14, which will fly by inside the orbit of geostationary satellites on February 15. It will be so close, amateur astronomers will be able to watch it. Comet 2011 L4 or PANSTARRS, will be at its brightest from Mach 8 to 12. Comet ISON, named after the International Scientific Optical Network, could become visible to the naked eye by late November and may linger brilliantly for months. It last returned to Earth about 10 million years ago.


Read the full story on Rappler.