The latest news stories from the major news organizations in Cebu and Manila in the Philippines, the US and other countries.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 27, 2011 Major News Stories

January 27, 2011 Major News Stories
January 27, 2011 Major News Stories

Cebu city mulls state of calamity declaration

by dr_tangarorang

CEBU CITY -- Mandaue City's officials are studying a recommendation to declare the entire city a calamity area, so funds can be quickly released to buy boats and suction pumps to deal with the next flood.

Preparations are also underway for Cebu and Mandaue to work together in dredging Mahiga Creek, one of three creeks that overflowed during 90 minutes of heavy rain last Tuesday.

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Central Visayas reported 13 barangays in Metro Cebu, eight of them in Cebu City, were hit by the floods that triggered massive traffic jams.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he plans to lease heavy equipment to dredge rivers and asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to help relocate hundreds of families living on the banks of rivers and creeks.

So far, one fatality has been confirmed. An eight-year-old boy died after being swept away in the Kamputhaw River in Cebu City.

Among the proposed solutions is a food-for-work program where residents will receive rice, noodles and canned goods, in exchange for declogging their canals and drainage systems.

Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias, who chairs the committee on infrastructure in the Cebu City Council, met Wednesday with stakeholders. Barangay Tejero and Mambaling are the pilot areas.

Forty residents in Mambaling and 30 in Tejero are needed to clean up the communities' canals and drainage system.

Officials of both Cebu and Mandaue have yet to figure out how much damage, in terms of property and business disruptions, last Tuesday's flood caused. What's clear is that no single solution will do, and that communities and cities will have to work together.

Two cities

Alvin Santillana, executive director of the Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council, met with Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes on Wednesday to discuss how both cities can dredge Mahiga Creek.

The waterway flows through interior portions of both cities, before going out to Mactan Channel.

Santillana officials of both cities, together with representatives from SM City Cebu, will inspect the creek today, Thursday.

In an emergency meeting Wednesday, the Mandaue City Disaster Coordinating Council (CDCC) passed a resolution recommending the declaration of a calamity in the whole city.

The City Council may hold a special session before the weekend to act on the recommendation.

"Salamat sa Diyos adlawan nahitabo ang pagbaha, ug dili gabii (Thank God the flood happened in daytime, instead of at night)," Mayor Cortes said.

He said City Hall intends to buy four fiberglass boats and at least one suction pump for each of the city's 27 barangays, using the calamity funds.

"A lot of things will happen between now and March," said Cortes, adding he expects everybody to be prepared the next time. The La Niña season, which is associated with more frequent rains, is forecast to last until March.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said improving the drainage system in the city is among his administration's priorities, but that he can't solve the flooding problem alone.


Mayor Rama also said he is willing to clear the three-meter easements of the riverbanks, but wants the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to contribute.

He challenged the DENR to provide funds, in addition to that of City Hall and the Department of Public Works and Highways, so that the banks of rivers and creeks can be cleared of informal settlers.

He assured the agency he has the political will to relocate the informal settlers, if DENR will help.

For Mandaue's part, Cortes said all members of barangay disaster brigades will need to undergo training again in disaster preparedness and rescue operations.

The City will also buy portable radio communication sets for disaster brigade members.

"Kada usa naa ta'y responsibilidad. Ang abuso sa tao mopauli sa atong lawas (We all have responsibilities. We suffer the consequences of our abusive behavior)," said Cortes, who pointed out that the uncontrolled disposal of waste contributed to the flood.

The City will clear waterways of illegal structures, de-clog drainage pipes and strictly enforce an ordinance banning plastic bags.


At the height of the floods, 254 passengers, who were stranded at the North Reclamation Area, were ferried by fire trucks from Cebu City to Mandaue City, the civil defense office said.

In Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue, 341 families were evacuated and transferred to a hinterland portion of the barangay. Niel Sanchez, OCD operations chief, said majority of the families have gone back to their houses.

In Cebu City, the flooded barangays were Kasambagan, specifically in Panagdait, T. Padila, Mahiga Creek in Mabolo, Mambaling, Kamputhaw, Apas, Tinago and Kamagayan.

In Mandaue City, the barangays of Tipolo, Subangdaku and Guizo were greatly affected. Barangay Basak in Mandaue was also affected, Sanchez said.

Minimal flooding also hit Poblacion, Lapu-Lapu City, the OCD said.

The OCD, though, is still waiting for the official report from the local disaster councils in the cities hit by the flood.

The OCD recognized the agencies that immediately responded in the rescue and evacuation operations.

These are the Central Command, Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine Coast Guard, Talisay Rescue Team, Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation, the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, and the local disaster centers.


Sanchez hopes the flood last Tuesday has reminded local government officials about the need to properly monitor high-risk areas.

"We have been calling on the LGUs to monitor high-risk areas. There should have been the proper pre-positioning of equipment," he said.

In Talisay City, councilors are studying a proposal to ban the use of plastic bags in malls, stores and public markets, as one way to prevent flooding.

Councilor Rodolfo Cabigas said a committee will study the proposal to use paper bags, instead of non-biodegradable plastic products.

"This is one solution that we are eyeing to prevent flooding. But we have to discuss it thoroughly for its strict implementation," he said.

In the meantime, City Hall will conduct a clean-up drive and declog all canals and waterways in Talisay.

Cabigas, chairman of the committee on public infrastructure, observed that plastic bags containing residents' refuse have clogged up the city's waterways and drainage, causing runoff water to overflow.

The City Disaster Coordinating Council (CDCC) and the local rescue team were advised to stay alert in case of emergencies.

The CDCC will also monitor shorelines, riverbanks and other areas that are prone to flooding and landslides, so they can evacuate the residents immediately, when necessary.

Local governments urged: Don't ban plastics, build recycling facilities

The Federation of Philippine Industries is urging the local and national governments to focus on improving the garbage collection system and on building recycling facilities, instead of creating laws and ordinances banning the use of plastic bags and other plastic products.

FPI chair Jesus Arranza said plastic bags, by themselves, were not the cause of drainage problems that have been causing floods.

"It is a wrong argument to say that plastics should be banned because the sewers are getting clogged. Plastics are not the problem but the waste recovery and recycling system. That is the area where we should focus our attention on and not on the use of plastics per se,'' he said.

Plastics, if used wisely and disposed properly, he said, would actually be environment-friendly and less costly. However, to prevent plastics from just being thrown anywhere, local and national governments should improve waste collection activities and put up recyling plants.

"What we need to do is to improve our waste recovery and recycling programs from the barangay level up to the national government. In England, for example, they managed to put up the world's largest recycling facility out of the proceeds from the sale of the recovered wastes,'' he related.

He said industry players would be ready and willing to buy plastic wastes to prevent these from being thrown just anywhere. The buying, however, would have to be done at the barangay level, which meant collection efforts should be spearheaded by village officials.

This scheme would provide the barangay with an additional revenue stream and prevent the clogging of the drainage systems. Industry players, on the other hand, would have local access to raw materials, effectively reducing the volume of resins that they would have to import, he said.

The plastics industry has also been employing 175,000 people, most of whom would end up jobless if all local governments, and even the national government, banned the use of plastic bags.

The Muntinlupa City government has started implementing an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags in commercial establishments within the city.

A number of bills, advocating either a ban on the use of plastics or an increase in levies on the product, have been pending in Congress.

5T persons to take part in dengue vaccine trial

by cebuweb

AN anti-dengue vaccine developed abroad will be tested for the first time in the country in May this year, a process that will involve 5,000 individuals from Barangay Guadalupe in Cebu City.

A Department of Health (DOH) official said Guadalupe was chosen as the pilot area for the trial because of the high mosquito index, or the concentration of mosquitoes, in the barangay.

If proven effective, the vaccine would provide immunity against the vector-borne disease, said Dr. Jocelyn Abellana, DOH 7 dengue program coordinator.

In its latest dengue report, DOH 7 recorded 87 dengue fever cases and one death from Jan. 1 to 22, 2011, with 1.1 percent case fatality rate (CFR).

The number is 87 percent lower compared to the same period last year, when 673 cases and nine deaths were recorded, with a CFR of 1.3 percent.

Abellana noted that for the first time in three years, Cebu City, with nine cases and one death, did not rank first in the list of localities with dengue cases in the region.

Lapu-Lapu ranked first with 15 cases, Cebu City ranked second, while Mandaue City ranked third with nine cases.

Amid price hikes, Aquino open to amending Oil Deregulation Law


MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is open to amending the Oil Deregulation Law amid the almost weekly price increases by most oil companies.

“I think it was in my first term [that] I first mention that I really was wondering, how come they all increase their prices to the same level and roughly at the same time?" he told reporters on Jan. 26.

"There should have been different efficiencies that would have produced the price factors. So that is, I guess, an aspect that I want to really study further,” Aquino said after attending the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Council of Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas (ICUSTA) at the University of Santo Tomas campus.

He also said he is open to a suggestion for the Palace to sit down with private oil firms for a possible 30-day 'waiting period' before implementing a price hike.

"That seems to be a good suggestion. We will have to consult the oil companies. As you know, [the] price of oil in the world market -- by information -- keeps on increasing. So perhaps that can be a formula that can meet their needs and also meet our desire to keep the prices more reasonable," President Aquino told reporters

In a statement on Jan. 25, Sen. Ralph Recto said the 30-day 'waiting period' "would give motorists and other oil-dependent sectors some breathing space before another price shock hits them."

“The weekly price increases are now taxing the patience and wallets of the public. The government could temper the accumulating national outrage by appealing to oil companies to do their increases every 30 days,” wrote the Senate ways and means chair and energy panel senior member.

The senator also noted that the waiting period coincides with the first-in-first-out policy in accounting for oil inventory. This means that oil stocks bought at lower prices or before any upward global price movement should be the first stocks to be sold to the public.

Analysts have warned that continuous oil price hikes will soon impact cost of goods and servicesin the country.

The oil price hikes hit consumers after the Aquino administration gave its nod to other transportation-related increases, such as toll rates and train fares.

The government targets an inflation rate within the 3% and 5% range in 2011.

Energy, trade chiefs hurdle CA

by By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - After three hearings, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras has finally hurdled the Commission on Appointments.

Camotes needs diesel, faces risk of losing power

by cebuweb

THE island of Camotes faces the possibility of a blackout if there’s no delivery of diesel to its power plant by Jan. 31.

Camotes Electric Coope-rative’s General Manager Rolando Camaso said the diesel supplied by the National Power Corp. (NPC) is enough to last only until the last day of this month. The contractor’s latest delivery of 12,000 liters was last Jan. 24.

53 taxi units undergo calibration

by By Rene U. Borromeo/JMO

Operators might still be on “wait-and-see” mode, LTFRB7 chief says

Only 53 of the 6,000 taxi units operating in Metro Cebu have had their meters calibrated as of yesterday, the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board said.

LTFRB-7 Director Ahmed Cuizon said six taxi units have been subjected to calibration last Monday, nine other units on Tuesday, and 38 more had their meters calibrated as of 3 pm yesterday.

Having their meters calibrated would allow the taxis to collect the new fare rates – P40 as a flag down rate and P3.50 after every 250 meters.

Most of the taxi units are still collecting the P30 flag down rate and P2.50 for every succeeding 250 succeeding meters.

Cuizon attributed the low turnout to weather and a possible “wait-and-see attitude” on the part of drivers and operators.

“Aside from the continuous rains, drivers and operators are probably still in a wait-and-see attitude since passengers are definitely not in favor of the increase,” he said.

But their self-imposed delay will not last long, Cuizon said, because the operators will be fined P5,000 after three months from the start of the implementation of the new rates last January 24 and another P150 for every week thereafter.

Cuizon once again reminded the public not to pay the new rates if the taxi unit they are riding in does not have a calibrated meter or cannot issue an official receipt.

Taxis that have undergone calibration had their meters tested and resealed by LTFRB-accredited technicians. They should have the orange LTFRB logo marked with the words “tested and resealed” on their windshield. Drivers and operators are prohibited from destroying the gold colored wire used as seal of the meter.

Land Transportation Office (LTO)-7 Director Raul Aguilos instructed taxi drivers to always wear their uniforms and to always follow proper driving guidelines.

New traffic scheme for Ban-Tal draws praises, criticisms from motorists

by cebuweb

CITOM received both praise and criticism during the first day of the implementation of the three-lane, one-lane traffic scheme in the Banilad-Talamban area.

Motorists going to Talamban complained about heavy traffic as this only have one lane.

Bridge climber goes free

by cebuweb

THE man who created a stir among residents and motorists when he camped out on one of the towers of Marcelo Fernan bridge for 43 hours was released at 5:40 p.m last Tuesday.

This, after the court ruled that the case against Jesus Mollena, 20, falls under summary procedure.

This means the accused will be answering illegal possession of deadly weapon and alarm and scandal cases while out of detention.

But yesterday morning, the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) filed another case of special malicious mischief against Mollena through its legal officer Agustino Hermoso.

Ecleo tells court his wife was with her brother last

by By Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon/JMO

Dinagat Representative Ruben Ecleo, Jr., the prime suspect in the death of his wife Alona, testified in court yesterday that Alona’s brother, Ben Bacolod, was the last person to be with his wife before she went missing eight years ago.

Ecleo finishes court testimony in parricide case against him

by cebuweb

LAWYERS representing Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. hope to finish presenting their witnesses within the first quarter of the year.

Defense lawyer Orlando Salatandre, Ecleo’s counsel, said with the prosecution finally wrapping up its cross-examination of Ecleo yesterday, they have yet to decide whether to conduct a direct re-examination.

Ecleo, head of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), is being tried for allegedly murdering his wife Alona Bacolod and throwing her body in a ravine in Dalaguete town in 2002.

Non-payment costs Compostela ambulance

by By Gregg M. Rubio/WAB

The ambulance given to the municipality of Compostela by a partylist group was taken away by the car supplier for non-payment of the unit for almost a year now.

KIA Motors in Mandaue City took back the Panoramic van used as ambulance from the municipality three days ago.

But mayor-elect Joel Quiño said the ambulance was taken last Friday for failure of the then administration of Mayor Ritchie Wagas to pay for it.

TUCP Partylist Raymond Democrito Mendoza appropriated P1 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund last year for the purchase of the ambulance for Compostela.

Quiño said that the fund was released by the Department of Budget and Management to the Municipality of Compostela for the ambulance’s payment.

The ambulance was released by KIA Motors in April 2010 before the May 10, 2010 elections.

But a staff of KIA Motors told The FREEMAN they have sent demand letters to the municipality at least three times already but got no response.

Municipal treasurer Lorenzo Almodiel said they checked in the unit for regular tune-up but it was held by KIA Motors.

Almodiel explained the fund is intact and is deposited in the bank, there is just delay in the processing of papers.

He pointed out the recent circular of the Commission on Audit which requires the pre-auditing before the agency could pay the unit purchased.

Manila bus bomb similar to devices used in restive south

by By John Mair, Reuters

MANILA - A deadly bomb on a Manila bus appears similar to devices used recently on Mindanao island, a troubled region where Muslim separatists and Maoists guerrillas are active, the Philippine government said on Wednesday.

Abu Sayyaf behind Makati bus attack?


MANILA, Philippines - The Abu Sayyaf may be behind the fresh terrorist act on Tuesday because of the incident’s close similarity to the Valentine’s Day bombing in 2005, a Philippine security official said told ABS-CBN News Channel.

Bus blast probers center investigation on 2 suspects

(Updated 10:10 p.m.) Police investigators are searching for two suspects in the bombing of a passenger bus that killed 5 passengers and are trying to determine whether the explosive pointed to the notorious Abu Sayyaf group. Witnesses told investigators that two got off the bus minutes before the explosion, and that they had sat in the same area where the bomb went off.

Defense chief admits bus bombing 'slipped' by him

Inamin ni Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin na nalusutan ang mga awtoridad ng mga nasa likod ng EDSA bus bombing. Nagbabala naman si Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile na magpapatuloy ang "crime wave" hangga't walang direktang may kontrol sa PNP.

Bus blast revives call to regulate sale of SIM cards


MANILA, Philippines - A proposal to register all subscriber identity modules (SIM) for cellphones has been revived after police said an explosive that killed 5 people inside an EDSA bus was triggered using a mobile phone.

House minority says Aquino ignored terror warnings

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Allies of Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the House of Representatives on Wednesday scored President Aquino’s apparent failure  to prevent Tuesday’s bombing in Makati City.

Crime wave, bombings to test Aquino’s leadership—Enrile

MANILA, Philippines—Will he flinch or will he rise to the occasion?

Aquino pledges justice, aid to bus blast victims

President Benigno Aquino has promised to extend financial assistance to victims of Tuesday’s bomb attack on a passenger bus in Makati City, while pursuing justice for the casualties.

SC affirms conviction of 3 Abu Sayyaf men in Valentine's Day bombing

The Supreme Court has affirmed the decision convicting three members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf for bombing a bus on Feb. 14, 2005 in Makati. The decision was promulgated Jan. 10, 2011 but was made available to the media only on Wednesday, a day after another passenger bus was bombed while it was cruising along the EDSA in Makati.

US retains travel advisory even with fresh attacks


MANILA, Philippines - The travel advisory that the United States issued against the Philippines will remain unchanged amid a fresh attack against the country on Tuesday.

Trillanes's plea for amnesty approved


MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense has approved the amnesty application filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

Police kill wrong carjack suspect


MANILA, Philippines - The family of Carlos de Leon lambasted the police for killing him in an alleged shootout in Pampanga province on Tuesday after being mistaken for a carjacker.

Robredo: 7 officials being probed for carjacking links


MANILA, Philippines - Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said 7 active and retired law enforcement officials are being investigated for their possible involvement in carjacking incidents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in Luzon.

37 cops linked to various crimes: PNP

by By David Dizon,

MANILA, Philippines - A total of 37 police officers are facing investigation for allegedly participating in 26 criminal cases, the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership said on Wednesday.

AFP proposes P42.13-B budget for upgrades, new equipment

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) proposed a P42.13 billion budget before the House Committee on National Defense and Security yesterday in a hearing at Camp Aguinaldo. It aims to upgrade and purchase additional equipment during the current administration.

Hong Kong judge inhibits from Singson case

by By Henry Omaga Diaz, ABS-CBN News

HONG KONG - The arraignment of Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson has been reset to January 31, 2011 after Tsuen Wan Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin decided to inhibit himself from the case.

Ronald Singson admits to drug use

Nakahanda si Ilocos Sur Representative Ronald Singson na umamin sa kasong drug trafficking sa Hong Kong. Ayon naman sa abugadong ni Singson, igigiit nilang gagamitin ng mambabatas ang bitbit na cocaine at hindi nya ibebenta.

Former Palawan administrator, 4 others suspect in journalist murder

Philippine police said Wednesday they suspected a former government official and at least four others were involved in the murder of a crusading journalist to stop him from exposing environmental crimes.

Gerardo Ortega, 47, was shot dead on Monday while shopping shortly after finishing a daily morning radio broadcast, which he regularly used to rail against illegal mining and other environment abuses on Palawan island.

"This was apparently a hired killing. Dr Ortega was well known for his campaign for environmental protection," Superintendent Rolando Amurao told AFP from Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan where the murder occurred.

The gunman was caught immediately after the murder but Amurao said police believed at least four other people were involved, including a former administrator of Palawan who owned the weapon used in the killing.

The official, Romeo Seratubias, surrendered and police intend to charge him with murder, Amurao said.

"The gun was registered to him, that's why we intend to charge him," Amurao said of Seratubias, who was the administrator of resource-rich Palawan until last year and had since been working as a lawyer.

Aside from the gunman and Seratubias, three other people had also been linked to the killing and police had launched a manhunt for them, Amurao added.

They include a man who allegedly acted as the gunman's lookout and two middlemen including one who handed the contract killers’ part of the agreed 150,000 pesos ($3,370) payment to murder Ortega, Amurao said.

Ortega, a veterinarian-turned journalist, who once headed a crocodile conservation park that became a tourist attraction, unsuccessfully contested 2004 elections to become Palawan governor on a platform of tackling illegal mining on the island.

Friends say his advocacy earned him many enemies.

Media and rights groups say the Philippines is one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists.

They say a culture of impunity pervades the country, where powerful figures often act above the law and guns are easily available.

Ortega was the 142nd journalist killed since the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the restoration of democracy in 1986, according to Filipino media groups.

Bill allows media to vote early during elections


MANILA, Philippines - A lawmaker has revived a bill seeking to allow members of the media to vote ahead of the scheduled elections.

Essay-type tests still matter in bar exams

MANILA, Philippines— Good news for aspiring lawyers.

Since it’s the first time the Supreme Court will conduct a multiple-choice-question (MCQ) type in the 2011 bar examinations, the students’ essay-type tests or part two of the exams regardless of the MCQ score will still be corrected. This is to clear the high court's earlier pronouncement that the essays of those who got a failing mark in the MCQ will no longer be corrected.

High court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez earlier explained that the change in the type of tests given in the bar examination will test the student’s knowledge of the law. The MCQ will focus on provisions of the law while the essay will test the student’s capability in applying the law.

In Bar Matters 2265 dated January 18, 2011, the high court said since it has no historical data yet for computing the passing grade in MCQ kind of tests, the essay type will be corrected regardless of the result of the student’s MCQ exams. Bar Matters are like memorandum circulars regularly released by the high court to law schools and concerned offices.

“In the interest of establishing needed data, the answers of all candidates in the essay-type examination in the year 2011 shall be corrected irrespective of the results of their MCQ examinations, which are sooner known because they are electronically corrected,” the high court said.

But the high court pointed that “in future bar examinations, the bar chairperson shall recommend to the court the disqualification of those whose grades in the MCQ are so low that it would serve no useful purpose to correct their answers in the essay-type examinations.”

At the same time, the high court ordered future bar exam chairpersons to study the feasibility of the following:

(a) Holding in the interest of convenience and economy bar examinations simultaneously in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; and

(b) Allowing those who pass the MCQ examinations but fail the essay-type tests to take removal examinations in the following year.

This year’s bar exams will be held in November at the University of Santo Tomas. Marquez said this is the first time in two decades that the bar examination has been moved to another month.

Bar exams are traditionally essay-type although there are a few MCQ.

The examination is composed of eight subjects: political law, remedial law, taxation, criminal law, civil law, mercantile law, labor law, and legal ethics and practical exercises.

Pirates seize German cargo ship with Pinoys

by Agence France-Presse

BRUSSELS  - Pirates hijacked a German cargo ship north of the Seychelles in an attack over the weekend, the EU's naval mission confirmed Wednesday, as the nearest Navfor vessel was too far away to help.

Heavy rains worry stranded OFWs in Jeddah


MANILA, Philippines - Stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) living under the Kandara Bridge are appealing for help after heavy rains flooded the roads in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Peso up anew on news of rising economic activities in PH, Asia

The peso climbed anew on Wednesday amid favorable news reports that spoke of rising economic activities in the Philippines and other emerging Asian countries.

$1: 44.345

$1: 44.345 (P44.47)

Euro 1: 60.8835

6.1-magnitude quake hits Sumatra—USGS

JAKARTA—A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra province on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, but there were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning was issued.

Putin vows revenge for Moscow suicide bombing

by By Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman, Reuters

MOSCOW, Russia - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed revenge on Tuesday for a suicide bombing that killed at least 35 people at Russia's busiest airport and underscored the Kremlin's failure to stem a rising tide of attacks.

Tunisia issues warrant for ousted president

by by Kaouther Larbi and Mohamed Hasni, Agence France-Presse

TUNIS, Tunisia - Tunisia said Wednesday it had issued an international arrest warrant for ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as anti-government protesters clashed with riot police in the capital.

Pope embraces social media

In a move sure to be welcomed by the social-network-savvy -and largely Roman Catholic- Philippine population, Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the use of social media in an age of "vast cultural transformation."

Number of Internet users worldwide reaches two billion—UN

GENEVA—The number of Internet users worldwide has reached the two billion mark, the head of the UN's telecommunications agency, Hamadoun Toure, said on Wednesday.

China world's third most visited country—UNWTO

MADRID—China has replaced Spain as the world's third most visited country, behind France and the United States, figures from the UN World Tourism Organization showed Wednesday.

PBA: Texters beat San Mig in 2nd game of championship series

Talk 'N Text held on to beat San Miguel, 110-102, to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship series at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.

Senate panel talks about football, sports funding


MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Jose Miguel Zubiri called for a hearing of the Senate Committee on Sports and Youth to discuss the current state of Philippine football and sports funding from the government.

Sports officials want a dialogue with President Noynoy

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ricardo Garcia and other sports officials want to meet with President Noynoy Aquino to discuss the government agency's main problem - finances.

Pinoy reaches quarters of Aussie Open juniors


MANILA, Philippines – Filipino tennis sensation Jeson Patrombon has reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open junior's singles division in Melbourne.

Ferrer ends Nadal's Slam bid in upset

by Agence France-Presse

MELBOURNE -- Injury-hit world number one Rafael Nadal was sensationally dumped from the Australian Open quarter-finals 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 by Spanish compatriot David Ferrer on Wednesday.

Ruffa confirms receiving 2am phone call from Shaina


MANILA, Philippines – It seems that the Ruffa Gutierrez-John Lloyd Cruz-Shaina Magdayao brouhaha is still far from over.

DOH: Don’t fall for ‘cure all’ crystal bangles, magnetic bracelets

Warning to health and sports buffs who swear by crystal bangles and beads and those trendy magnetic bracelets and pendants: They’re not proven to be as "powerful" as they’re touted to be.

Italian wants divorce after honeymoon with mother-in-law

ROME—A furious 36-year-old Italian woman has filed for divorce just a month after her wedding because her husband brought his mother on their honeymoon, ANSA news agency reported Wednesday.

As the couple set off for their honeymoon to France in December, the newly-wed was shocked to find her new mother-in-law at Rome's Fiumicino airport, all set to come on the trip, the agency cited her lawyers as saying.

When she protested, her husband of two days said he couldn't leave his mother alone for health reasons.

The three spent the honeymoon together, but as soon as they returned from France the woman filed for divorce, citing an "excessive emotional attachment" between her future ex-husband and his mother.

Astronomers claim earliest galaxy yet

WASHINGTON - An international team of astronomers say they have glimpsed the earliest galaxy yet, a smudge of light from nearly 13.2 billion years ago - a time when the cosmos was a far lonelier place.

The research has not been confirmed, and some astronomers are skeptical. The new findings are based on an image from the Hubble Space Telescope and are published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. The scientists calculate the new-found galaxy dates to just 480 million years after the Big Bang.


That would trump last year's announcement by a French team who said they found a galaxy from about 600 million years after the Big Bang. That discovery also is not universally accepted and one of the skeptics is the co-author of the latest paper.


Even more interesting than the advanced age of the newly discovered galaxy is the absence of other similarly aged bright galaxies. That indicates that star formation during that point in the universe's early childhood was happening at a rate 10 times slower than it was millions of years later, said study co-author Garth Illingworth of the University of California Santa Cruz.


Illingworth described what the cosmos might look like at that time period when the universe was smaller and the stars bluer and dimmer.


"It wouldn't be nearly as interesting — a blob here, a blob there," he said in a phone interview.


But other astronomers have their doubts about this discovery.


Richard Ellis at the California Institute of Technology is troubled because Illingworth's team originally found three 13.2 billion-year-old galaxies and then withdrew their original study. The authors then came up with an entirely different galaxy, so all that switching "makes it difficult to believe," he said.


Illingworth said originally he and colleagues confused what may have been real light from billions of years ago and background "noise" from the process of looking so far away, so they re-did the study. He said they then found the new galaxy and saw that it was more likely to be real than the previous ones.


"We made a mistake and luckily we had ways to catch it before we went out and it was formally published," said Illingworth whose co-authors included astronomers from the Netherlands and Switzerland.


Ellis and Henry Ferguson of the Space Telescope Science Institute said they were also worried that the Illingworth team only used one of several telescope filters to find this galaxy. They speculated that they might have found an object that's much nearer.


Illingworth acknowledged in his paper that there is a 20 percent chance that the smudge they found is contamination, but "we're pretty sure it's a real object."


Ferguson said Illingworth did "a very good job of making that detection convincing."


The vaunted 20-year-old Hubble telescope has progressively produced images of older and more distant objects. Peering earlier into space will require the more advanced cameras of NASA's new James Webb Space Telescope, Illingworth said. However, it isn't likely to launch until at least 2015.


The farther away a galaxy, the longer it takes for light from it to travel, so seeing the most distant galaxies is like looking back in time. If the new research is correct, light from the newly found galaxy would have traveled 13.2 billion light years to be seen by Hubble.

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