world news

Middle East Virus Is Potential Global Threat

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By Nicole Ann M. Aguila

A virus threat is something to be alarmed about, because it may not only occur in the Middle East, but also spread around the globe. Filipinos might think that we would not become susceptible to this kind of illness. But that is not true, because we are not superhuman.  Infection by the said virus is always possible, especially because migration from country to country happens on a regular basis.

These past few weeks, the MERS-CoV-related news doesn’t fail to pop up on the news headlines. This deadly virus, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, has already taken 27 lives out of 49 infected individuals.

Last August 29, 2013, a Pinay nurse who suffered from pneumonia, which is one of the severe indications of MERS-CoV, has been confirmed positive for the said virus. A male overseas Filipino worker who only just got back in Manila was also tested positive for the MERS-CoV.

DOH Secretary Enrique Ona believed that the OFW, who is also a nurse, had interaction with the infected person in the UAE. The male health worker was put on confinement.

“He has no symptoms.  He has the virus but he is not sick with it.  But he still can infect others so we put him in isolation.  We can say that he’s a carrier.  It means he was exposed to the virus,” Ona said.

The OFW was observed for five days to see if he still has the virus. Secretary Ona also added that there is a probability that he might get sick or can infect others in two weeks.

After repeating the examination by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the OFW was declared cleared from MERS-CoV virus, according to Ona.

They will also be tracing the seatmates on the plane and other people that the person interacted with so that they would be assessed, observed and quarantined if needed. This is to make sure that these people are not infected and had no symptoms. These are all preventive procedures. Government will also take up the expenditures of those who will get ill with MERS-CoV or get quarantined.

Undersecretary Eric Tayag said on Twitter that the Philippines became the 12th country and the first in Asia with confirmed cases of MERS-CoV. But there were reports that a Malaysian was the first person in Asia to capitulate to the said virus.

“To contain MERS-CoV spread, quarantine those who had contact with known infection and isolate those who became sick after contact with a known case,” Secretary Ona also tweeted.

This deadly virus can easily spread throughout the country and even become the next ‘SARS’ if it is not given sufficient attention. To be protected from it, Filipinos need to be educated about this virus threat. After all, prevention is better than cure.

(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)

 

Paper Tiger!

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Nothing much can be expected from US President Barack Obama in his April 28-29 official visit in Manila.While he is likely to reassure the Philippines of Americans’ commitment to defend the Philippines in its raging territorial dispute with China, it will not make a difference, given how the US has been badly treating its Asia-Pacific ally over the past decades.

Since both countries forged their so-called Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951, the US hardly cared about the poor state of the Philippines’ military capability.

Calls by Manila for increase in American military aid usually fell on deaf ears among policy makers in Washington. Whatever the Americans gave were nothing more than second-hand hardware – either of World War II vintage or their leftovers in the Vietnam war era.

Now that the geo-political situation has vastly changed, it’s time for both strategic allies to redraw their treaty or risk overtaken by new and bold challenges.

From what was once dubbed the “sleeping giant,” China has suddenly awaken, emerging as the biggest threat to the Philippines’ security interests as both have interlocking claims to the oil-rich Spratlys islands.

With superior naval assets patrolling the disputed chain of islands, China has bullied the Philippines, long perceived as militarily weak.

In the face of China’s aggressiveness in asserting its sovereign claims to the Sprawls, also referred to  as the west Philippine sea, Manila in not a few times wanted to invoke the MDT which many politicians label as a mere  paper tiger.

But thanks to cooler heads, the MDT remains as a last resort mechanism to avoid what’s likely to be a bigger problem – war.

Hopefully, Obama will use his two-day visit to assess the Philippines’ defense needs, especially in light that the two countries will enter into a new security alliance under the banner of the so-called enhanced defense security agreement.

An offshoot of months of hard bargaining, Filipino negotiators were hard put as they had to reckon with the Constitutional ban on the presence of foreign bases on Philippine soil.

In the end, they had to compromise as Manila agreed to allow US forces the use of Philippines-builtmilitary installations.

For both countries, it’s a win-win situation as they usher in a paradigm shift in their strategic ties, given China’s surging aggression in the hotly contested Spratlys.For the US, Manila’s nod to a new pact gives the Americans the leeway needed as they reposition their defense forces from theMiddle East to Asia.

Under Barack’s pivot policy, the Philippines plays a crucial role because of its strategic location in keeping peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

But more than the much-needed military materiel, the Philippines badly requires America’s political succor as its row with China has assumed complex dimensions.Neither has China eased up in its flexing its military muscle in the high seas nor has it showed signs of flexibility in its diplomatic rapport with the Philippines.

As the world’s policeman, the US is in the best position to cool the tensions between Manila and Beijing for the sake of regional peace and stability.

500m Year-Old Embryo of Unknown Animal Found

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A Cambrian embryo fossil exposed by acid etching on rock. The polygonal pattern suggests that the embryo was in the multicellular blastula stage of development. Tiny, spherical fossils found in southern China appear to be the embryos of a previously unknown animal.

The fossils come from the Cambrian, a period dating from 540 million to 485 million years ago and known for an explosion of diversity. Some of the organisms that appeared during the Cambrian, such as the bug-like trilobite, had exoskeletons and other hard parts that fossilized nicely. Others, including sponges and worms, were made of soft tissue that rarely preserves.

Researchers Jesse Broce of Virginia Tech, James Schiffbauer of the University of Missouri and their colleagues were searching for these rare soft-tissue fossils in limestone from the Hubei province of southern China when they found something even more rare: tiny spheres, including some with polygonal patterns on their surfaces. These itsy-bitsy fossils are most likely fossilized embryos, the researchers report in the March issue of the Journal of Paleontology. The fossils come from the third stage of the Cambrian, dating back to around 521 million to 541 million years ago. [See Images of a Giant Cambrian Creature]

“We found over 140 spherically shaped fossils, some of which include features that are reminiscent of division-stage embryos, essentially frozen in time,” Schiffbauer said in a statement.

The researchers began their investigation by attempting to dissolve fossils out of the limestone from China’s Shuijingtuo formation with acid, but that method seriously damaged or destroyed the spherical fossils. Researchers then hand-chiseled the rock into millimeter- or centimeter-sized chunks, exposing the fossil surfaces manually.

From there, the researchers investigated the spheres with a variety of techniques, including slicing them into thin sections, which can be viewed under a microscope. The scientists also imaged the fossils with X-ray and scanning electron microscopy and X-ray techniques.

The results showed specimens with a phosphate-rich envelope surrounding a ball of calcite. (The organic compounds that once made up the embryos have long since mineralized.) Some of the spheres had polygonal patterns that look very similar to those seen on fossilized embryos from Markuelia, a Cambrian worm-like creature. The researchers believe that these specimens are blastulas, which are an early, multicellular stage of embryonic development.

It remains a mystery what these embryos would have grown up to become. Fossilized embryos from a variety of species pop up occasionally in the fossil record, from a 380-million-year old fish with an embryo still in her belly to dinosaur embryos still curled up inside their eggs.

(Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer/ LiveScience.com)

Tech Industry Can Fight Climate Change

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The Internet can help fight climate change, says eco-group Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo. The current technology we are using have made high speed communication between continents possible. It has definitely made the delivery of breaking much faster than traditional media. It has helped advocacy groups pressure government to be more transparent. It has enabled countries like Egypt to facilitate social revolutions. Therefore, says Naidoo, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it can help solve the problem of climate change.

Each time someone posts a Facebook status, streams a favorite video on YouTube, and types a Twitter message, the information is contained in massive data centers which uses up a lot of electricity. Data centers are a major part of the online cloud system, and one can consume as much electricity as a medium-sized city.

If cloud computing were a country, according to Naidoo,who hails from South Africa and has been the group’s International Executive Director since 2009, it would rank sixth in the world on based on how much power it consumes.The amount of data going to and fro around the world is forecasted by experts to triple in the next few years, as more and more people use the Internet to connect with the rest of the world.

Naidoo, who is also known as a human rights activist, acknowledges that the internet has changed the world for the better. It has mobilized groups of people toask for more freedom, transparency & democracy from their governments. The Greenpeace director says it is only natural that it moves the world to a clean energy revolution that will last for generations to come.

Naidoo reminds people that the Internet that everyone finds useful, and the companies that run it, are at a crossroads in terms of where their energy comes from.  Several online-based companies are nowaiming for a green Internet and a sustainable future. Companies like Facebook, Apple and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy.They did this in response to advocates around the world who have asked them for a greener Internet. Other fast-growing technology companies, like Salesforce, Rackspace and Box, have joined the rest in making the same commitment, proving that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible for any company that has the will to implement it.

Naidoo adds, “In contrast, some popular online companies, including social media sites that people use every day like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, still power their platforms with fossil fuels and nuclear energy.” At the moment, the largest cloud-based company is Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon.com. It is the data host for some of the most popular Internet brands in the world. Unlike major online brands like Google and Apple, Amazon’s main source of power for its servers comes frompollution-causing sources of energy that threaten nearby communities and the climate. “Of course, Amazon doesn’t have to remain stuck in the energy sources of the 1800s. Energy sources like wind and solar made up for more than half of all the new electricity in the United States in 2012,” says Naidoo.

The Greenpeace director assures the public, though, that digital pioneers are making moves toward eco-friendly measures, both online and offline. For one, Apple is now operating the largest privately-owned solar installation in the U.S. at one of its data centers. Facebook persuaded a U.S. power company to supply its data center with 100 percent wind energy. Google followed suit by pioneering the use of clean power purchases, buying wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube, as well as the rest of the power grid.

Naidoo further comments, “If Amazon and others want to stay innovative and relevant, it’s high time they made the switch to the abundant, sustainable, renewable energy of today.Simply put, we need a greener online to preserve a greener offline.”

Indeed, the Internet has helped influence world policies in the direction of freedom, transparency and democracy. Naidoo is optimistic that the world’s move to a clean energy revolution will last for generations to come. He advises, “These companies can make that happen, but only if they hear from you.” Naidoo is actively inviting the public to join him in convincing Internet companies to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers.

Leading Smartphones In Today’s Market

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Carriers may claim to make it easier to upgrade the smartphones that they sell, most of us are going to use that gadget for at least two years. So the phone you buy needs to deliver the right mix of speed, features, ease of use and battery life. There is no such thing as a future-proof smartphone, but it is possible for the very best models to keep you very happy months and months down the road. To help you make an informed choice, wechose some of the leading smartphones in the market today.Whether you’re looking for a big-screen phone-tablet, the most advanced camera, or a compact powerhouse, there’s something to match your needs.

Best Overall Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Galaxy Note 3 is so powerful and long-lasting you may not need a tablet. This Android device packs a big and bright 5.7-inch display, and you can take notes with ease using the built-in S Pen. The Note 3 is also a multitasking maestro, thanks to its blazing Snapdragon 800 processor. With Samsung’s Multi Window feature, you can run two apps side by side and drag content between apps.

Best Android Phone: HTC One M8

The HTC One M8 is the sexiest Android phone ever, packing a 5-inch full HD display and a fast new Snapdragon 801 processor into a sleek metal body available in three colors. Photographers will have a blast with the dual-lens camera, which lets you focus on the foreground or background after you shoot.

Best Smartphone Features: Samsung Galaxy S5

 

Based on our hands-on time with the new Samsung Galaxy S5, shoppers have a lot to be excited about. In addition to a faster Snapdragon 801 processor, the new S5 sports a much faster 16-megapixel camera with real-time HDR capability. It has a built-in heart rate monitor will help you keep better tabs on your fitness. These features is wrapped up in a new water-resistant design.

Best Compact Smartphone: Apple iPhone 5s

Other than a new gold color option, the iPhone 5s doesn’t seem much different from its predecessor. However, the A7 chip inside this sleek beast blows the doors off of most Android phones, and there’s a growing number of games and apps that take advantage of its 64-bit architecture.

Best Value: Motorola Moto X

Say “OK, Google Now” to the Moto X, and you’ll unleash this smartphone’s greatest power. This device can answer all sorts of questions (“What’s the weather today?”) and execute commands (“Send text to John”) without you lifting a finger. The secret is the Moto X’s dedicated natural language processor. Although the camera could be better, the sub-$100 price of the Moto X makes it a fantastic value.

Best Advanced Camera: Nokia Lumia 1020

For photographers, the Nokia Lumia 1020 represents the pinnacle of smartphones. The 41-megapixel camera sensor not only takes breathtaking photos, but lets you zoom in after the shot to reframe your photo and still enjoy amazing detail. Shutterbugs will also appreciate the Lumia 1020’s sophisticated camera app, which lets you adjust white balance, shutter speed and focus on the fly. Plus, Windows Phone’s dynamic Live Tile interface really pops on this handset’s 4.5-inch AMOLED screen.

Best Off-Contract Phone: Google Nexus 5

It’s not just a device for Android purists. The Nexus 5 is simply one of the best smartphone values anywhere. For just $349 off-contract, you get cutting-edge specs such as a Snapdragon 800 processor and a 5-inch 1080p display. Android 4.4 KitKat brings some cool new features to the table, too, including the ability to perform searches, send text messages and more using just your voice from the home screen.

Best Innovative Phone Design: LG G Flex

The LG G Flex is the world’s first smartphone that’s not only curved but flexible. This makes the handset more comfortable when holding it up to your face to make calls, and you can literally apply up to 80 pounds of pressure to the back without worrying about breakage. The G Flex also has a self-healing chassis, so you can scratch the back with keys and the marks will start to disappear within minutes.

Paje: An Hour of Voluntary Darkness to Tame Climate Change

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Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has urged Filipinos to join millions around the world in marking Earth Hour by switching off the lights in support of a global campaign to combat climate change, which has been cited as possible culprit behind mega-storms like Yolanda.

Paje said the country’s experience with Yolanda gives every citizen more reason to take part in the observance of Earth Hour on March 29 from 8:30 to 9:30 in the evening.

“The overwhelming devastation wrought by super typhoon Yolanda serves to remind us that climate change is a serious issue that we can’t simply ignore and a global event such as Earth Hour is a valuable tool to raise awareness of climate change and environmental issues,” Paje said.

Dubbed as the single, largest, symbolic mass participation event in the world, Earth Hour is held every last Saturday of March on the initiative of the Washington-based environmental group World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).  Those participating in Earth Hour will shut off all lights and used appliances and electronics in support of efforts to solve the problems related to climate change and global warming.

“An hour of voluntary darkness will help us tame climate change,” Paje said.

Since it first joined the event in 2009, the Philippines has consistently registered the most number of participating towns and cities, earning the distinction as an “Earth Hour Hero Country.”

This year, the country was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the first ever “Earth Hour Blue,” an international crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing effort initiated by the WWF that aims to provide bancas for Yolanda victims.

Under the project, coastal communities affected by the super typhoon would be provided with resources to build new and efficient non-motorized boats with fiberglass-reinforced plastic hulls.  The construction of the first 60 boats is expected to be completed by mid-April.

Paje lauded the project for using a technology that is earth-friendly as it eliminates the need to use wood sourced from forests.

“The project will leave no carbon footprint and will encourage fisherfolk to engage in sustainable small-scale fishing,” he said.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million residents switch off the lights of their homes and offices in order to pledge their support to saving the environment. The trend soon caught on and several other countries participated across the globe in the initiative. At present, there are more than 150 countries that actively observe Earth Hour every year.

What Is China Doing?

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WHAT seems evident is that China is taking small but provocative steps to assert her sovereignty over what we call the West Philippine Sea by shooing away the fishermen and some of our naval vessels who were sent to resupply some of our troops. She knows that we are no match for her much more modern and fully equipped naval vessels and so when she pushed, we backed away. She is obviously testing the waters by escalating her control over the shoals and the sea.

It would seem that what we will likely see over the next several months will be more provocative actions from China but actions carefully calibrated not to produce a reaction from the US. China in all likelihood feels, and correctly, that the US for all of the rhetoric is not eager to engage China in these waters, what with the Crimean problem the US is also facing.

In this latter case, Crimea is at the border of Russia and it was easy for Russia to mobilize forces apart from the fact that it would seem there is much Crimean sympathy to reconnect with Russia. Of course, historically, Crimea was part of Russia until her recent collapse and dismemberment.

I frankly don’t believe Russia will give in at all for all the sanction threats and other actions that Obama might threaten Russia with from 10,000 miles away. But for the US to take military action seems far-fetched. Maybe many condemning speeches at the UN.  But they can’t even pass a resolution at the UN Security Council because Russia is a permanent member who will veto any such resolution.

So the carefully controlled actions of China in the South Asian seas will use minimum force, or no force at all, just threats and bluffs and sneaky moves which she has been doing anyway from quite a few years back. It will be more of simply establishing her presence because we are incapable of doing the same or resisting such efforts and our getting used to it.

Troops in small islets or shoals are ineffective if unable to move or realistically defend themselves when push comes to shove. All of these moves gain for China the dominion of the seas and the islets and shoals even if not overt total control which they have as an objective. This is the pragmatic element of China’s moves in the area. While the US appetite for confrontation is weak, China realizes that militarily they are still behind the US in rather important ways.

Furthermore, more military actions at this time can hasten the establishment of US forces here in the Far East which would make China’s objective, total South Asian hegemony a much more difficult objective. In sum, the conclusion for the moment seems to be one little step at a time while it is not yet easily quantifiable what the consequences of reckless action on China’s part might trigger. In other words, presently China has more to lose should a shooting war break out. But that will not always be the case. By 2020 or even a little earlier, the equation might be truly different. The Chinese economy will likely overtake the US by or before then, and the military equation might well be tipped more in China’s favor as the US downsizes her forces and China keeps on aggressively expanding her capabilities.

Can technology make up for a smaller military size so that the US can stay significantly ahead of China? Some Israeli senior cabinet member, obviously with the PM’s blessing said that the US is showing a weak posture to the world and many people are questioning the value of US commitments overseas.

Pres. Obama is supposed to come to our shores soon and we are shortly supposed to have some agreement about co-sharing our military bases with her. I am not sure exactly what it means. Co-sharing the bases is rather impractical to begin with and it would be very hard for our AFP to retain control of our military bases when used by two sovereign nations and one is much more competent and better equipped than the other.

Will the US flag fly under the Philippine flag or will the flags fly together? Will the situation be like in corporations, there will be two co-equal heads? It looks like a situation looking for trouble. Of course, others might argue and say what choice do we really have? We can’t play ball with China, she wants to eat us up. All the rhetoric about mutual respect and friendship is just that, rhetoric! Well, the outcome seems not too difficult to predict. The US will not risk a bloody confrontation with China.

I wish that cooler heads handled this problem with China without handing the seas to China without a whimper from the start and did not add to the heat of the day with ill considered if not bravado statements. If both sides end up boxed in a tight corner, everyone’s guess about the outcome will be just as good as any other! But I suggest this is time for some contingency planning on a rather wide level. We cannot see the problem as something only affecting the seas. We will see a few other areas regarding our domestic economy that need to truly plan ahead with wisdom and determination.