January 7, 2014 Edition

Valerie Castro

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

  1. ‘Kickbacks on Haiyan bunkhouses at 30%’

    File photo by Odd Andersen/AFP

    Since December 13, rehabilitation czar Ping Lacson said he has been “quietly investigating” reports that a local politician is colluding with contractors to get commissions of 30 to 35% from the bunkhouses being built for victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson denied the reports, saying the government has not yet paid any contractor. Singson also promised to resign if the allegations of overpricing are proven true. In a report, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said a 24-room bunkhouse is being constructed at a cost below P200,000, although it was priced at more than P900,000. The report also cited the Camp Coordination and Camp Management as saying the bunkhouses are noncompliant with international standards. But Singson said the quality of the bunkhouse and the allegations of overpricing should be differentiated. The Department of Public Works and Highways aims to build 222 bunkhouses. 126 have already been built. The government’s rehabilitation blueprint for Yolanda-hit areas allocates P360.9 billion in a span of 4 years.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  2. Enrile says PDAF charges baseless

    File photo from Senate website

    Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said the plunder charges against him are “baseless” and “an urban legend,” adding there is no testimonial or documentary evidence showing he received P172 million in kickbacks in the pork barrel scam. Enrile filed his counter-affidavit before the Office of the Ombudsman last December 20. Enrile dismissed the documents that the whistleblowers and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) presented against him. He is accused of siphoning his pork barrel through 6 fake NGOs of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. While Enrile also said he “never personally endorsed” any Napoles NGOs, he wrote the COA confirming he authorized his resigned chief of staff Gigi Reyes and his deputy chief of staff to sign documents on his behalf.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  3. DOH: Measles upsurge due to kids missing vaccination

    Photo by Michael Bueza/Rappler

    The Department of Health (DOH) said the recent recent upsurge of measles cases in certain areas of the country was due to children missing crucial vaccinations at an early age. Babies aged 6 to 11 months should be administered their first vaccine shot. At 12 to 18 months, they should get vaccination a second time. Vaccination is free in health centers nationwide. The DOH said it recorded 1,724 cases nationwide from January 1 to December 14, 2013, with 43% or 744 cases recorded in Metro Manila alone. Of the 417 cases of measles recorded in the national capital region 2013, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said 88% didn’t have any history of vaccination. Measles is a viral, highly-contagious respiratory disease. Symptoms include high fever, red eyes, runny nose and cough. Rashes would appear throughout the body after two days.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  4. German chancellor injured while skiing

    INJURED. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (center), fractures her pelvis in a skiing accident. File photo by AFP/John Macdougall

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel was injured in a fall while cross-country skiing in Switzerland, forcing her to cancel meetings and cut back her schedule for 3 weeks to recover. The 59-year-old chancellor, who was recently sworn in for a third term last December, suffered a fractured pelvis from a fall while skiing in the southeastern Swiss region of Engadin over the Christmas holidays. The injury was initially thought to be just painful bruising, but after her return to Berlin, doctors diagnosed a fracture in the pelvic area. Merkel’s spokesman said the chancellor will “concentrate on a few appointments at the chancellery and in Berlin and otherwise do her work at home,” adding Merkel will lead the first cabinet meeting of 2014 for her new “grand coalition” government.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  5. Iraq PM urges Fallujah to expel militants

    AFP file photo

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged Fallujah residents to expel “terrorists” holding the city to avoid an assault by security forces. A senior official told Agence France-Presse that Iraq is preparing a “major attack” to retake Fallujah, which has been outside government control for days. Parts of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi are also held by Al-Qaeda-linked fighters. State television reported Maliki called on “the people of Fallujah and its tribes to expel the terrorists” so “their areas are not subjected to the danger of armed clashes.” Security forces are also ordered not to strike residential areas in Fallujah. It is the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  6. Coldest in 20 years in many US states

    Joshua Lott/Getty Images/AFP

    Many areas in the United States plunge into a deep freeze as a polar vortex sweeps through two dozen states from the Midwest to the Southeast and Northeast. CNN reports it’s the coldest in 20 years in many areas. The wind chill from the rare “polar vortex” could make it feel as cold as -51ºC in places. Officials blame the extreme cold for 13 deaths so far. More than 3,800 flights were canceled Monday afternoon. In a report, CNN said the distorted polar vortex could be a side effect of global warming. CNN international senior meteorologist Brandon Miller explained the polar vortex, which is a “circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the North Pole,” can lead to major cold air outbreaks in North America, Europe, and Asia.

    Read the full story on CNN.

  7. Yellen becomes first woman to lead the US Fed

    16 December 2013. Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

    Federal Reserve vice chair Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to lead the US Fed, after the Senate confirmed her appointment Monday. Yellen earned bipartisan support in the chamber, earning 56 votes. She replaces Ben Bernanke, who steps down on January 31 after eight years in the job. Yellen, a 67-year-old academic economist, has a long-term interest in the impact of joblessness on the economy, and has helped keep Fed policy focused on bringing down the unemployment rate. But Yellen encountered resistance from several Republicans concerned with what they described as the Fed’s policy of “easy money.”

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  8. Japan hits back at China for ‘Lord Voldemort’ comment

    Japan’s ambassador to Britain hits back at China, a week after a Chinese envoy compared Japan to the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort. In an opinion piece published in the Daily Telegraph, Keiichi Hayashi accused Beijing of raising tensions in the East China Sea, where both countries have staked claims over disputed islands. Hayashi added, “There are two paths open to China. One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions.” The comment was a response to a piece by Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming, who criticized the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Yasukuni Shrine. The controversial WWII shrine honors the war dead, including some class A war criminals. Liu accused Abe of “raising the specter of militarism” with his visit. He added, “If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul.”

    Read the full story on The Guardian.

  9. Malware attack hit Yahoo users

    An Internet security company said a malware attack hit Yahoo’s advertising server, affecting tens of thousands of users per hour. In a blog post dated January 3, Fox-IT said users visiting yahoo.com received advertisements served by ads.yahoo.com. Some of the advertisements are malicious. It also said Yahoo’s servers released a kit that installed malware. Fox-IT said the countries most affected by the exploit kit are Romania, Great Britain, and France. In a statement, Yahoo confirmed advertisements that spread malware appeared from December 31 to January 3 on its European sites, but were quickly removed. The company also added the attacks did not affect North America, Latin America, the Asia Pacific region, and users on Macs and mobile devices.

    Read the full story on CNN.

  10. Astronomers: Earth appears to be an oddity

    Image courtesy NASA

    NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered planets the size of Earth since its launch in 2009, but astronomers said these new planets bear little resemblance to our own home planet. In a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Monday, experts said Earth appears to be the odd one out. Yoram Lithwick of Northwestern University said super-Earths and mini-Neptunes that are more than two and a half times the radius of Earth “must be covered with lots and lots of gas.” Having a huge amount of gas covering their rocky core would result in extreme atmospheric pressure. David Kipping, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, also described his team’s latest discovery of a planet called KOI-314C. The planet is one of three in a mini solar system, in which the cohabitants “perturb each other frequently.” Another prospect for further research is the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b, some 40 light years away, which is believed to be covered with clouds, but lacks water, methane or carbon dioxide.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

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