The wRap


Your World in 10 - January 21, 2013 Edition

Tubbataha Reef

1. US Navy ship did not heed warnings



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Rangers of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park radioed the USS Guardian to warn it was nearing the protected area early Thursday morning, January 17, but the ship captain ignored them. Marine park superintendent Angelique Songco said the captain insisted they complain with the US embassy instead. Shortly after the warning, the vessel ran aground on part of the reef, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As such, it is supposed to be off-limits to navigation. Earlier, the US Navy apologized for damage that might have been caused by the grounding of the ship. In a statement, US Pacific Fleet commander Vice Admiral Scott Swift said, “As a protector of the sea and a sailor myself, I greatly regret any damage this incident has caused to the Tubbataha Reef.” It is one of world’s best dive sites and is home to a diverse marine life. Government investigators have yet to assess the damage caused by the USS Guardian, which is still awaiting extrication.


Read the full story on Rappler.

A related story on how the US naval vessel could have caused more damage is on Rappler.

A related story on the USS Guardian’s running aground on January 17 is also on Rappler.




Bloodbath in Algeria

2. 6 Pinoys among those killed, 4 missing



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Six Filipinos have been confirmed dead by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in the Algeria gas plant hostage-taking incident. Four others remain missing, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said on Monday, January 21. The deaths were a “direct result of the hostage-taking incident in the area and mostly by gunshot wounds and the effects of the explosions,” he added. Previously, the bodies of 25 foreigners were found by security forces on Sunday, January 20, after they sought to secure a gas plant in the Sahara that Islamists took over. Among the dead were 9 Japanese hostages. More are feared dead after special forces on Saturday swooped on the gas plant owned by the British BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s Sonatrac to end a siege that started Wednesday, January 16. Members of the “Signatories in Blood” descended on the gas plant located in In Amenas, demanding an end to French military intervention in Mali.


Read the full story on Rappler.

A related story on the bodies earlier found is also on Rappler.

Additional information on the hostage takers is on the BBC.




Business

3. Aquino okays NLEX-SLEX link



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The infrastructure project that President Benigno Aquino III said he wanted completed before he steps down in 2016 will finally get going. He gave his nod on two road projects that will link the expressways north and south of Metro Manila, paving the way for the start of construction. Conditionally approved in November 2012, the P25.55-billion NLEX-SLEX Connector Road project hit a snag over cost issues. The common alignment road, a 5-kilometer stretch shared by the two connector roads, will be funded by government. Previously, the two contractors which operate the expressways – San Miguel Corp and Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp, and rival Metro Pacific Tollways Corp – came up with separate connector road proposals. The connector roads are expected to cut travel time between NLEX and SLEX to 20 minutes, an improvement compared to the current 60 minutes. Road construction starts this January.

Read the full story on Rappler.




US Presidency

4. Obama sworn in for 2nd term



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Barack Obama took his oath of office in a low-key White House ceremony, marking his second term as 44th president of the US. As they did 4 years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr administered the 35-word oath, but this time without error, in the White House Blue Room. Obama and Roberts will repeat the process on Monday in a public celebration at the Capitol. Presidential terms, according to the US Constitution, should begin on January 20, but when it falls on a Sunday, the public ceremony should take place the following day, Monday. Senior aide David Plouffe said Obama will use his second inaugural address to say the American political system “does not require us to resolve all of our differences or settle all of our disputes, but it is absolutely imperative that our leaders try and seek common ground.”

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Other details are also in Rappler.




Science

5. Quadruple helix seen in human cells



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More than the double helix in the molecule of life, scientists have seen for the first time a quadruple-stranded DNA at work in human cells. The finding is significant because it could suggest novel ways to fight cancer. Cambridge University’s Shankar Balasubramanian told BBC News, targeting cells in a dysfunctional state with “synthetic molecules could be an interesting way of selectively targeting those cells that have this dysfunction.” If the guanine or G-quadruplex is found to be related to the development of some cancers, it might be possible to make synthetic molecules that contained the structure and blocked the runaway cell proliferation at the root of tumors, the BBC reported. Pharmaceutical companies can study this and determine whether quadruplexes are “therapeutically viable targets,” Prof Balasubramanian said.

Read the full story on BBC.




Health and Environment

6. 140 countries agree to sign treaty on mercury use



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140 countries agreed to adopt a treaty limiting the production and use of the health-hazardous mercury, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Saturday, January 19. These countries will be asked to sign the treaty next October in Minamata, Japan, in honor of its residents who have suffered the consequences of mercury contamination. Poisoning from mercury affects the body’s immune system and can lead to psychological disorders, loss of teeth, and problems with the digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory tracts. It likewise affects development of the brain and nervous system. Mercury is used in thermometers, light bulbs, amalgam dental fillings, and is released from small-scale gold mining, among others. Switzerland and Norway had pushed for a treaty on mercury a decade ago, recognizing the risks it posed to health and the environment.

Read the full story on Rappler.




Technology

7. Dotcom launches new file-sharing site



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Kim Dotcom, the indicted Megaupload founder, launched a new file-sharing website in defiance of US prosecutors who accuse him of facilitating massive online piracy. On Sunday night at his New Zealand mansion, the German-born Dotcom unveiled the “Mega” site, which he described as unstoppable and huge. He said that half a million users registered for Mega in its first 14 hours, suggesting it could be the fastest growing start-up in history. Replacing Megaupload, the mega.co.nz website went live exactly a year after police stormed his mansion and arrested him in the world’s biggest online piracy case. Prosecutors say Dotcom made tens of millions of dollars compared to the $500 million in copyright revenue that filmmakers and songwriters lost. Originally named Kim Schmitz, the Mega founder changed his name to Dotcom. US prosecutors want him extradited.

Read the full story on The Huffington Post.

More details are on Rappler.




Media

8. Barbara Walters hurts forehead in fall



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Journalism icon and 83-year-old Barbara Walters fell on a stair while visiting the British ambassador’s residence on Sunday, January 20, and went to a hospital to have a cut on her forehead tended to. “Out of an abundance of caution,” ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider said, Walters went to have a full examination and remains there for observation. “Barbara is alert – and telling everyone what to do – which we all take as a very positive sign.” Co-host of ABC’s popular daytime talk show “The View,” Walters was the first American woman to co-host network news in the 1970s when it was still a field dominated by men. She also spent two decades as co-host and correspondent for ABC’s popular news magazine how “20/20.”

Read the full story on Rappler.




Language

9. Top 10 words to use in 2013



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The Washington Post released last week Wayne State University’s list of words that “deserve to be used more often in conversation and prose.” Quoting the 5th annual “Wayne State’s Word Warriors” list, the Post said the words on the list are “most expressive yet regrettably neglected.” The 10 words include: buncombe or rubbish; cerulean or sky blue; chelonian or turtle-like; dragoon or to compel by coercion; fantods or extreme anxiety; mawkish or sappy; natter or converse aimlessly at great length; persiflage or frivolous talk; troglodyte or mentally sluggish person; winkle or extract something. Using some of these words in a sentence will yield the following: Elections, a festival of buncombe, can also be a period of persiflage, fantods and nattering.

Read the full story in The Washington Post.




Entertainment

10. Batman’s first mobile fetches $4.2-M



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The Batmobile used by Adam West in the original TV series of Batman was sold for $4.2 million to a logistics company owner from Phoenix, Arizona. It was a “dream come true” for Rick Champagne who was only 10 years old when the TV series began in 1966. The car’s design was based on a 1955 Lincoln Futura built in Italy by Ford Motor Company. The newer Batmobiles have had a much darker color and more brutal machines. It was the first time the Batmobile was auctioned since it was first purchased in 1965 by a car customizer, George Barris, who transformed it into Batman’s famous vehicle. At the auction, Barris said, “The car had to be a star on its own. And it became one.”

Read the full story on BBC.