The wRap


Your World in 10 - January 18, 2013 Edition

Algerian hostages

1. Bloody rescue



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A dramatic rescue operation at a gas field in Algeria left 34 hostages dead January 17, according to reports, prompting foreign governments to raise alarm over the crisis. After a tense stand-off in Amenas plant that lasted all day and sent shockwaves across the world, Algerian troops ended their assault on the complex where hundreds of foreign and local workers were held. Algeria's Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia said the attackers had come from Libya, citing intelligence reports. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who cancelled a key speech to the European Union, citing the unfolding crisis, described a "very bad situation" at the compound, where a number of British citizens had been taken hostage. Islamists raided the site on January 16 in retaliation for a French offensive against Islamists in neighboring Mali.

Read the full story on Rappler





Filipino workers

2. PH checking reports of 20 hostages in Algeria



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The Philippine government has received reports that more than 20 Filipinos were among the foreign hostages seized by Islamist gunmen in Algeria. Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said a Filipino hostage, along with a Japanese national, had escaped the area before Algerian forces launched a rescue operation, although he had suffered slight injuries. Hernandez added that the Filipino bolted the compound before the Algerian soldiers attacked it. He said a brother and a wife of two Filipino workers had separately called the department to say that their relatives and 19 other Filipino co-workers had been in the gas field at the time. Manila was still trying to determine how many Filipinos were in the plant, a task that was complicated by the many foreign companies and contractors operating in the area.

Read the full story on Rappler





Economy

3. China economy grows 7.8%



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The Chinese economy expanded 7.8% in 2012, the government said on January 18, as annual growth slowed for a second straight year in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets. But gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.9% in the final 3 months of the year, as it snapped 7 straight quarters of slowing growth. China's GDP reached 51.9 trillion yuan ($8.28 trillion) in 2012, cementing its position as the world's second-largest economy after the United States. The official GDP figures come as optimism has grown among analysts that the economy will pick up steam in 2013 after two years of relative weakness.

Read the full story on Rappler





Syrian conflict

4. 100 killed in new massacre - watchdog



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More than 100 civilians have been killed in a new massacre in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The deaths came when the army on January 15 swept through farmlands north of Homs city, where it said around 1,000 people had sought refuge from fighting in the central Syria metropolis. Witnesses said several members of the same family were among those killed, some in fires that raged through their homes and others stabbed or hacked to death. Among the dead were 32 members of the same clan. Homs, dubbed "the capital of the revolution" by Syria's opposition, is the most strategic city in the country's largest province, lying on key trade routes near the borders with Lebanon and Iraq, and with its southwestern areas not far from Damascus.

Read the full story on Rappler





#PHVote

5. Sixto Brillantes Jr and the May 13 elections



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He fought the fiercest, even dirtiest battles over election results. But as the May 13 elections near, Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr now has to prove his critics wrong. After all, in 2011, 8 groups signed a petition opposing Brillantes' confirmation. They said the veteran election lawyer may have "accumulated favors to return, debts to settle, and accounts to collect." For the past two years, however, his critics say Brillantes' familiarity with the system proved to be an advantage. The Comelec's past 3 leaders came from politics or the judiciary, not the election community. Former critics say Brillantes knows how to slay the monster in the election process. Under his term, the Comelec has made an unprecedented purge of the party-list system and the anomalous voters' list in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Read Brillantes' profile on Rappler





Business

6. MVP group awaits gov't nod on Recto bank



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The business group caught in the middle of the territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is waiting for the government's approval on the request to extend deadlines on its drilling and survey activities. In a disclosure to the stock exchange on January 18, Philex Petroleum Corp said its unit, Forum Energy plc, the UK-registered oil and gas exploration and production company, has yet to receive a go-signal from the Department of Energy (DOE) that it could miss some of the deadlines in the previously approved work program. A work program details investment commitments as well as scheduled phases of exploration and drilling activities. The Philippine government granted Service Contract 72 (SC-72) covering the Recto Bank in the disputed sea in 2010. Philex chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told a briefing on January 17 that their group is in talks with the state-owned Chinese oil company CNOOC for possible commercial deal over the SC72 project.

Read the full story on Rappler





Vatican

7. Pope's ex-butler has new job



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The Pope's former butler Paolo Gabriele, who served jail time for leaking secret papers, has been offered a job at a Vatican hospital in Rome, religious media sources have said. Gabriele, who served less than three months of an 18-month prison sentence for stealing secret papal memos, was pardoned by Pope Benedict XVI in December but banished from the Vatican. According to the German Catholic press agency KNA and the Vatican news agency i.media, Gabriele has been offered a job at the Vatican's "Bambino Gesu" hospital in the Italian capital, though it is not yet clear what his role there would be. Observers say the Vatican has been looking for a way -- such as a Vatican contract -- to keep Gabriele from speaking out about the leaks episode.

Read the full story on Rappler





Thought Leaders

8. Lawyer or liar?



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At least 3,000 lawyers gathered in Davao City for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national convention, where they were told to change mindsets, stop being parochial and help change the image of the Philippine judiciary. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno urged the lawyers to “reverse” the image of the legal profession and improve levels of confidence in the judicial profession. Sen Edgardo Angara told colleagues that lawyering is undergoing a dramatic change in the context of the modern world powered by technology and globalization. By 2015, he said, the ASEAN will be one economic market, yet the Philippines is one of the few countries in the region where borders remain closed to foreign lawyers. The most daring challenge came from the newest and youngest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Marvic Leonen, who asked the lawyers to “criticize” the Court on the substance of its decisions and how these relate to law.

Read the full story on Rappler





Technology

9. Google takes down 'racist' app



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Google has taken down a "Make me Asian" app on the Google Play store after public outcry against its continued stay. The app first gained public attention after the author of the Angry Asian Man blog brought attention to it in November 2012. Made by Google Play user KimberyDeiss, the Make Me Asian app is a picture-altering app for Android devices. After putting up a picture of your face for editing on the app, the user can add stereotypical asian features or props to capture a stereotypical Asian look. The author also appeared to have made similar apps, such as Make me Russian," "Make me fat," and "Make me Irish." As of this writing, the KimberyDeiss account on Google Play no longer exists. Peter Chin, a pastor from Washington, D.C., started a petition on Change.org against the "Make me Asian" and "Make me Indian" apps that helped bring eyes on the issue of perpetuating racist stereotypes.

Read the full story on Rappler





Movies

10. 'Zero Dark Thirty' endorses torture?



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"Zero Dark Thirty" is not for the faint of heart. Clocking in at two and a half hours, it shows us the protracted, near-decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden and then culminates in a 30-minute real-time re-enactment of the op. It begins with a long, excruciating torture sequence, illustrating how enemy combatants are brutally and systematically worn down until they divulge whatever information is wanted. The question has been: Is "Zero Dark Thirty" an endorsement of torture? Some people have said yes, because of the graphic, realistic ways in which torture has been depicted, and how the information from that torture led to actionable intel.

Read the full story on Rappler