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- WHO declares Zika virus global health emergency
The World Health Organization said the surge in serious birth defects in South America suspected to be caused by the Zika virus constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.” WHO warned last week that the mosquito-borne virus was “spreading explosively” in the Americas, and predicted the region could see up to four million Zika cases this year. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain. Aside from the birth disorder, Zika is also linked to a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. The worst affected country, Brazil has some 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly of which 270 are confirmed. Colombia, has reported more than 20,000 Zika infections, including 2,100 pregnant women. Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have warned women to delay conceiving until the Zika outbreak is brought under control. WHO on Monday stressed the need to improve diagnostics and develop a vaccine for Zika. The WHO is under pressure to move swiftly to tackle Zika, after admitting it was slow to respond to the recent Ebola outbreak.
Read more on the global health emergency.
- Roxas, Robredo differ on same-sex unions, agree on divorce
Administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas and Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo might be running mates but they’re not on the same page when it comes to same-sex marriage. Roxas says he’s not in favor of same sex marriages as public policy while Robredo says the government should consider legalizing same-sex unions. Both, however, reject divorce. Roxas says the family should be kept intact while Robredo wants grounds for annulment in the country revised.
Read more on LP tandem on divorce & same-sex marriage.
- Arrest warrant for Trillanes
A warrant of arrest will soon come out for Senator Antonio Trillanes, which stems from a libel case filed by dismissed Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. Makati Regional Trial Court lawyer Maricel Cairo said there’s an order of probable cause and that the warrant of arrest will follow soon after. Binay filed the libel complaint in 2015 after Trillanes accused the Binay family of paying off Court of Appeals justices to issue resolutions in their favor. Trillanes has yet to receive the warrant but says he is unfazed. He says he will “not let thieves rule this country.” Trillanes is also part of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that investigated the corruption allegations against the Binays.
Read more on Trillanes vs Junjun Binay.
- Roxas: Duterte ‘struggling to stay relevant’
Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II dismissed rival Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s newest tirades against him, calling them a “desperate attempt to regain public attention and political mileage.” This comes after Duterte’s recent statements calling him incompetent, based on his actions in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the strongest storms to make landfall. Roxas then was interior secretary, among the key government officials who handled relief operations for Eastern Samar. Roxas said Duterte’s “desperation” was clear and that he was “struggling to stay relevant.” In recent surveys, Roxas and Duterte are statistically tied for 3rd in the presidential race. The two trail behind Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe – Roxas with 21 percentage points and Duterte with 20 percentage points.
Read more on Roxas vs Duterte.
- Esguerra appointed acting NEDA chief
Malacañang officially appointed Emmanuel Esguerra as Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Acting Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Monday. His appointment comes after former NEDA Director-General Arsenio Balisacan accepted an appointment to head the newly-formed Philippine Competition Commission. Before this new post, Esguerra served as Deputy Director-General of the NEDA and headed the National Development Office for Policy and Planning. He was also the chairperson of the University of the Philippines School of Economics – the latest in a string of socioeconomic planning secretaries coming from the UP economics faculty.
Read more on the acting NEDA chief.
- Starving farmers in Mindanao’s food basket
The province of Bukidnon is known as a “highland paradise” and Northern Mindanao’s “food basket.” It is among the country’s top producers of sugar, rice, corn, banana, coffee, pineapple, and other fruits and vegetables. Ironically, some of Bukidnon’s top food producers have themselves fallen off the food basket. Many of them belong to the indigenous group, the Manobo, who are among the poorest groups in the country. Their food security, livelihoods, and culture are threatened every day not only by a declining agriculture, but also by big plantations hungry for more and more land.
- Iowa caucuses begin
Iowa votes Monday in the first test of the US presidential race, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump looking to capitalize on his stunning campaign success and Hillary Clinton defending her status as the Democratic favorite. But the race was tight as voters across the Midwestern state prepared to head to caucuses – meetings held to select candidates for each party that take the place of primaries. At most, a few hundred thousand people are expected to attend, but success in Iowa can be the bedrock to a candidate’s long-term success. Political upsets are commonplace in Iowa: Will an establishment Republican – Senator Marco Rubio, perhaps – confound the polls and make it a three-way race?
Read more on the Iowa caucuses.
- Addressing the intellectual gap in the automation age
How could the Philippines prepare for the age of automation? In a Rappler Talk interview, tech executive Winston Damarillo says addressing the intellectual gap is key to keeping abreast of the latest technology. Damarillo talks about the challenges the country will face as it embraces the 4th industrial revolution – the main discussion in the the recently concluded 2016 World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.
Watch Rappler Talk with Damarillo.
- First-ever ‘robot-run’ farm to open in Japan
Japanese firm Spread on Monday said it would open the world’s first fully automated farm with robots handling almost every step of the process, from watering seedlings to harvesting crops. Spread said the indoor grow house will start operating by the middle of 2017 and produce 30,000 heads of lettuce a day. Seed planting will still be done by people, but the rest of the process, including harvesting, will be done by robots. A Spread official said robot labor would chop personnel costs by about half and knock energy expenses down by nearly one third. Robot-obsessed Japan has repeatedly turned to automated workers to fill labor shortages that are projected to get worse as the country rapidly ages.
Read more on Japan’s robot-run farm.
- Touring North Korea
What is it like to travel to North Korea? From rigorous gadget inspections at the Chinese border to taking stolen shots of military activities in Pyongyang, backpacker Bla Aguinaldo tells his story about touring one of the world’s most isolated places. From language barrier issues to dealing with a highly-suspicious authoritarian state, Aguinaldo’s narrative gives an exciting, first-person account of the challenges and fears of being a tourist in NoKor.
Read more on traveling to North Korea.