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- UN vows to sanction North Korea over latest rocket launch
The UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s rocket launch on Sunday, February 7, and agreed to move quickly to impose new sanctions that will punish Pyongyang for “these dangerous and serious violations.” With backing from China, Pyongyang’s ally, the council again called for “significant measures” during an emergency meeting held after North Korea said it had put a satellite into orbit with a rocket launch. The launch, which violated multiple UN resolutions, was widely seen as an act of open defiance just weeks after Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test. A draft sanctions resolution prepared by Japan, South Korea and the United States has been in negotiations for weeks, but Beijing has been reluctant to back tougher measures that would take aim at North Korea’s already weak economy. China is seen as crucial in sanctions talks. Beijing, a member of the UN Security Council, can use its veto power to block any UN resolution that would significantly scale up sanctions by, for instance, barring North Korean ships from ports or restricting oil deliveries. Following the launch, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing regretted the launch, and called on all sides to show restraint and resume negotiations with Pyongyang. China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin had lodged a formal diplomatic protest with North Korea’s ambassador to Beijing, Ji Jae Ryong, she added. Read more through the links below.
- Taiwan quake: tin cans found inside concrete beams of collapsed building
As rescuers raced to save 118 missing in Taiwan quake, an investigation has been launched into the construction of a Taiwanese apartment complex toppled by Saturday’s earthquake. Most of the 32 confirmed to have died after the quake were in the Weiguan Jinlong building in Tainan City. Tainan Mayor William Lai said survivors and relatives had reported legal “violations” but gave no further details. BBC reports that the collapse of the building exposed blue and white cooking oil cans which appear to have been used as fillers inside some of the concrete beams. Read more.
- Roy Señeres dies after withdrawing from the presidential race
Just days after withdrawing his candidacy for president, former ambassador Roy Señeres died Monday morning, February 8. He was 68. In an interview with dzRH, the younger Señeres said that his father has been suffering from diabetes for a long time, and was confined at the hospital just last month. A former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and currently OFW party list representative, Señeres filed his certificate of candidacy for president in October 2015. He withdrew from the presidential race just last Friday, February 5.
- PH embassy identifying Filipino victims of Iraq hotel fire
The Philippine embassy in Baghdad clarified on Sunday, February 7, that there are 13 Filipino fatalities in last Friday’s hotel fire, not 14 as earlier reported. A team from the Philippine embassy, led by chargé d’affaires Elmer Cato, is in Erbil to identify the Filipino victims and bring their remains home. Cato said the victims, all females, were suffocated by the smoke while trying to find their way out. The fire, which struck the basement of the Capitol Hotel in Erbil – capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, also left 6 others dead.
- ‘Robotic’ Marco Rubio suffers setback in Hampshire Republican debate
Surging Republican hopeful Marco Rubio wilts under sustained attack in the latest US presidential debate, denting his stature going into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. The telegenic, 44-year-old Florida senator – who polls suggest has the best chance of winning the White House for the Republicans – was savaged by his rivals late Saturday, February 6, for his lack of experience, floundering on a debate stage where he often shines. The most sustained attack was waged by New Jersey governor Christie, a no-nonsense former federal prosecutor who has campaigned hard in New Hampshire. Christie attacked Rubio for repeating the same “memorized 25-second speech” almost verbatim.
Watch the 2-minute video of ‘robotic-sounding’ Rubio saying the same thing over and over again on Washington Post.
- China forex reserves down to $3.2 trillion in January
China’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen to their lowest level in more than 3 years, the central bank said Sunday, February 7, as Beijing sells dollars to stop the yuan from depreciating further. The world’s largest currency hoard shrank by $99.5 billion in January to some $3.2 trillion, the People’s Bank of China said on its website, the lowest since May 2012. Worries about China’s economy have pushed the yuan to a 5-year low. The country saw its first-ever annual decline in foreign exchange reserves last year as Beijing tried to prevent a more drastic devaluation. The PBoC is selling dollars to buy yuan amid a capital flight spurred by the slowing growth in the world’s second largest economy. But some analysts predict a more drastic weakening of the yuan this year and question China’s ability to continue rapidly shedding the reserves.
- Cagayan Valley towns in poll violence watchlist
Several towns in Cagayan Valley are on the police watchlist for possible eruption of election-related violence, local authorities said recently. In a joint meeting with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday, February 2, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said the areas were included in the list based on incidents of violence in past elections. The regional police told Rappler later on that the towns are in two provinces: Isabela and Cagayan. The 3 other provinces – Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Batanes – are generally peaceful during elections, said PNP-Cagayan Valley spokesperson Chevalier Iringan. This is not the first time Cagayan province is getting featured for election-related violence. In the 2013 elections, Cagayan province was also an election hot spot. In 2014 and 2015 elections, a spate of killings was reported in Tuguegarao City, the provincial capital.
- Obama wants to double US funds for clean energy research
President Barack Obama on Saturday, February 6, proposed doubling US funding over the next 5 years for clean energy research and development, as part of his ongoing effort to tackle climate change. In his weekly media address, Obama announced that he will send a budget to Congress on Tuesday which hits twice the current spending levels for clean energy research and development by 2020, declaring that “rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.” The president next week sends to Congress the final spending blueprint of his presidency – a guidepost to his policy priorities – including proposals in the coming fiscal year to raise taxes and boost spending.
- Canada’s Trudeau remains popular amid economy, security woes
One hundred days after Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government was sworn in, the still-popular Canadian prime minister faces mounting criticism, against the backdrop of a floundering economy and terror fears. The 44-year-old Trudeau – a former schoolteacher and the son of a popular prime minister – immediately saw his international profile rise upon taking office on November 4, and he still enjoys strong support at home. He has touted a multilateral foreign policy, and a more transparent governing style than his predecessor Stephen Harper, who was seen as prickly, awkward and more at home plowing through economic theory than glad-handing voters. The economy, however, has cast a pall over Trudeau’s self-professed “sunny ways.” Canada emerged from a mild recession in September in the middle of the election campaign, but consumer confidence soon faded as oil prices and the Canadian dollar sank to new recent lows, leading to thousands of job losses in the country’s oil and gas sector. Attacks in Jakarta and in Burkina Faso in January that left 7 Canadians dead, meanwhile, raised fresh security concerns. The new government was forced to backpedal on its pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 and on its fiscal plans, while taking heat over its climate and counterterrorism strategies. Despite criticism, polls show a majority of Canadians are satisfied with Trudeau’s performance in office. Nanos weekly surveys show a 15 percentage point bump in support since the election, to 50%.
- Iñarritu wins DGA best director prize for ‘The Revenant’
Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñàrritu’s bid for Oscars glory was boosted Saturday, February 6 as he took top prize at the Directors Guild of America awards – seen as a bellwether for the Academy Awards. Iñàrritu was crowned best director for revenge and survival epic The Revenant, three weeks ahead of the glittering culmination of Hollywood’s annual awards season.