The wRap


Your World in 10 - January 14, 2013 Edition

Elections

1. Election period runs from January 13 to June 12



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It’s officially the election season in the Philippines. The election period began Sunday, January 13, with the implementation of a gun ban and the activation of at least 1,634 checkpoints across the country. The gun ban will be in place for 5 months, or until 30 days after the May 13 senatorial and local elections this year. Checkpoints will likewise be in effect in hot spot provinces and areas that are prone to violence or peace and order threats for the same length of time. The ban is being implemented amid the existence of private armed groups, 52 of which are believed to be active. Under Commission on Election rules, no individual is allowed to carry a licensed firearm outside the house or a business establishment unless he or she holds a written approval or permit from the poll body. The sale and transport of firearm spare parts are likewise prohibited. All in all, there are about 24 election-related prohibitions during the campaign period.

Read the full story on Rappler.

A related story on other election-related bans is also on Rappler.




Corruption In Gaming

2. FBI investigating casino deal



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Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are said to be in Manila investigating alleged bribe payments amounting to millions of US dollars for a Japanese company’s casino project at the Entertainment City in Pasay. The FBI agents, in coordination with agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, have been looking into the alleged illegal payments since last week. The investigations involve Universal Entertainment’s payment to Rodolfo Soriano, a former consultant of Philippine gaming regulator Pagcor or the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. The investigation focuses on US$40 million in payments transferred to Soriano at the time Universal Entertainment sought and won key concessions for its Manila Bay casino project in 2010. The FBI is looking into the alleged transfer of funds from Kazuo Okada’s gambling units in Nevada to Hong Kong and onto bank accounts of firms associated with Soriano.

Read the full story on Rappler.




Sexual Assault

3. 7 arrested in another India ‘bus rape’



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Seven men were arrested by the police after they allegedly gang-raped a 29-year-old woman on a bus in Punjab in the northern part of India. This is the second incident of sexual assault in just weeks, after a 23-year-old medical student died from injuries inflicted by her attackers also in a bus. The latest incident involved a woman travelling back to her village on Friday night. The bus driver and conductor reportedly refused to stop when she asked them to and instead, on a motorcycle, took her to a place close to the city of Amritsar. The two were allegedly joined by 5 others who took turns raping the woman. She was dropped off near her village the next morning where she recounted the horrific experience. The police said she came with her family to report the rape on Saturday. The first incident sparked protests in India which prompted the government to set up special courts to deal with rape cases and to consider strengthening sexual assault laws.

Read the full story on the Washington Post.




Technology

4. Internet activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide



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26-year-old Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment. His body was found Friday, January 11. At the age of 14, he co-authored an early version of RSS, which allows users to subscribe to online information, and then later became a co-owner of social news site Reddit. He was likewise advisory board director of Demand Progress, an organization that fights for Internet freedom. In July 2011, Swartz was charged with illegal access and data theft when he downloaded 4.8 million articles and documents from JSTOR or Journal Storage, the journal archiving service of literary and scientific journals. He faced potential penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $US1 million in fines. The New York Times reported that Swartz had spoken about having suicidal thoughts and had written about struggling with depression. His impending trial pushed him to exhaustion, friends said. His death sparked anger among supporters who questioned a criminal justice system fraught with intimidation.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Public reaction to Swartz’s death is on Rappler.




Urban Planning

5. Citizens oppose reclamation of Manila Bay



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Private developer Manila Gold Coast Corp will begin reclamation work on Manila Bay after it got the Manila City Council to reverse an earlier decision made in 1992. In April 2012, a consortium agreement was signed to reclaim 148 hectares of the bay, stretching from the Cultural Center of the Philippines to the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard. The area is 10 times larger than the Rockwell Power Plant Mall and twice the size of Rizal Park. Protesters are opposing the plan and are asking the city council to ban reclamation projects once and for all. They said the council did not consult residents before signing a contract with Gold Coast and neither was there public bidding. World Wildlife Fund chief executive officer Lory Tan said, “Reclamation is a risky technology for Manila because of rising sea levels and increased rainfall. The Philippines has one of the highest sea level rises in the world. Reclamation will only aggravate it.” To urban designer Paolo Alcazaren, it will mean destruction of a unique city landscape.

Read the full story on Rappler.




Middle East Turmoil

6. Egyptian court overturns Mubarak conviction



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The life sentence of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was overturned by an appeals court on Sunday, January 13. Mubarak was sentenced to life in 2012 for directing the killing of protesters who sought an end to his 3-decade rule. The judge who handed down the verdict said he was ruling on a conviction on the principle of presidential responsibility even as he saw no evidence of Mubarak personally ordering or directing the killings. More than 800 were killed in the 3 weeks of protests that preceded Mubarak’s ouster. His lawyer said ordering a new trial for the same crimes on the basis of the prosecution’s failure to produce evidence was tantamount to double jeopardy. The ruling by the appeals court could prolong the legal battle over the fate of the 84-year-old Mubarak who has been held in a military hospital for health reasons.

Read the full story in the New York Times.




Europe

7. French widen Mali attacks



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French jets pounded Islamist strongholds in northern Mali on Sunday, January 13, forcing insurgents to flee on Day 3 of what has been described as a game-changing intervention. The French used Rafale fighter planes to strike bases in Gao used by fighters with links to al-Qaeda. They also hit a large base in Kidal, targeting stockpiles of munition and fuel, AFP reported. Former colonial ruler of Mali, France was also allowed by Algeria to use its airspace to reach its targets. French intervention was welcomed by residents of the west African state who have been witness to Islamist abuses in the past 10 months. The Islamists imposed an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in areas they control, taking advantage of a power vacuum left by a military coup March last year.

Read the full story on Rappler.

More details are on the BBC.




Entertainment

8. Golden Globes: Affleck, Day-Lewis, Chastain are tops



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Ben Affleck won best director for “Argo,” Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor in a drama for “Lincoln,” and Jessica Chastain won best actress in a drama for “Zero Dark Thirty.” They were among the winners in the 70th Golden Globes Monday morning, January 14 (Manila time). Argo, a film set in 1979 about the Iranian hostage crisis, won best drama. British singer Adele won best song for the James Bond film “Skyfall.” Les Miserables won in the “Best Comedy or Musical” category, while Australian Hugh Jackman who starred as convict Jean Valjean also in Les Mis won as best actor. Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress for her role as Fantine in the same film. Meanwhile, Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecile B de Mille Lifetime Achievement Award, indirectly acknowledged she is gay as she thanked her ex-partner Cydney Bernard. “There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life…my most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard.”

Read the full story on Rappler.

A related story on Jodie Foster’s “coming out” is also on Rappler.




Religious Festivals

9. World’s biggest festival begins in India



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The world’s biggest religious festival, Kumbh Mela, opened on Monday, January 14, with hundreds of pilgrims flocking to the sacred river Ganges. Taking place only once every 12 years when pilgrims bathe where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers converge, the festival is the biggest gathering of humanity on earth. More than 100 million people are expected to visit the city of Allahabad for the 55-day festival. Hindus believe that taking a dip in the river will cleanse them of sin, bestow blessings, and help them achieve salvation. The festival has prompted health concerns however as the rivers are heavily polluted. Many pilgrims drink a few drops of the Ganges water and take filled bottles with them. Festival authorities have warned against discharging pollutants into the rivers and have declared the Kumbh Mela area a plastic-free zone.

Read the full story on the BBC.

More details are on Rappler.




Travel

10. Philippines is among ‘must-see’ countries in 2013



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The Philippines made it to the New York Times’ list of 46 places to see in 2013. Landing on No. 17, the country secured its spot through local luxury hotels and resorts, particularly in Siargao Island, a popular surfing destination. The Times also mentioned the private island resort of El Nido Pangulasian, in Palawan which will open this January. It said the resort will be right beside “some of the world’s most pristine diving spots.” Although the Philippines had been subject to US travel advisories in the past, these focused mostly on the island of Mindanao in the south. There are outfitters that can offer extra security and organize private transfers and arrange for local guides, the Times said. At the top of the list was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil which is preparing for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, China’s Oriental Morning Post also gave the country its “Best Tourist Destination” award, following poll results that showed it is still a sought-after destination among Chinese. The award comes 2 years after the tragic Manila hostage crisis.

Read the full story on Rappler.

A related story on the Philippines being a choice destination for Chinese is also on Rappler.