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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR THE 24th WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2016
[The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on 11 February 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).]

Dear Brothers and Sisters, The twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick offers me an opportunity to draw particularly close to you, dear friends who are ill, and to those who care for you. This year, since the Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, I wish to propose a meditation on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2: 1-11), where Jesus performed his first miracle through the intervention of his Mother. The theme chosen - Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) is quite fitting in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on 11 February 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). In Nazareth, Jesus began his salvific mission, applying to himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah, as we are told by the Evangelist Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19). Illness, above all grave illness, always places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions that dig deep. Our first response may at times be one of rebellion: Why has this happened to me? We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaning… CONTINUE READING IN FULL...

ALSO: CHRONOLOGY OF COVERAGE - News about South China Sea, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times. 
[Including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.]


PHOTO by Yomiuri Shimbun, Via Agence France-Presse Getty Images -JAN. 21, 2016 Vietnamese officials condemn installation of Chinese oil rig in disputed region of South China Sea, recalling similar standoff over same rig, leading to fatal 2014 riot; complaint, which China denies, comes after series of Chinese incursions into Vietnamese territory, and coincides with transfer of power within Vietnam's ruling Communist Party.JAN. 20, 2016 Vietnam warns China to stop any drilling and remove oil rig out of disputed waters in South China Sea.JAN. 13, 2016 Philippine Supreme Court votes, 10-4, to allow American military to station troops and weapons at bases in Philippines; decision will likely heighten tensions between United States and China, which is seeking to establish itself as dominant power in region by building military facilities in South China Sea.
DEC. 16, 2015 Navy Vice Adm Scott H Swift implicitly criticizes China’s actions in South China Sea, declaring that 'so-called military zones' are eroding security in one of world's busiest waterways.NOV. 21, 2015 Editorial underscores importance of peaceful resolution in dispute between China and other Asian nations about free flow of navigation through South China Sea; calls on Asian leaders participating in summit meeting in Malaysia to endorse case brought by Philippines against China at international court of arbitration. NOV. 19, 2015 Pres Obama urges China to stop military activities in South China Sea and calls for arbitration to settle differences between Beijing and its neighbors in Southeast Asia; demand is made at opening of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, trade conference for regional leaders to discuss Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade and commerce issues. NOV. 18, 2015 Destroyer Stethem, sister ship of destroyer that sailed in October in waters claimed by China, is docked in Shanghai for weeklong visit; move indicates United States disapproves of China's assertiveness in South China Sea, but navies remain on good terms. CONTINUE READING...RELATED, THE DEBATE: The Philippines’ Dubious Claims in South China Sea Arbitration...

ALSO: NORTH KOREA 'BEGINS FUELING ROCKET'


FEBRUARY 4 -North Korea's planned rocket launch is aimed at developing an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland, according to South Korea' AFP TOKYO (AFP)
- US satellite data suggests North Korea may have already begun fuelling a rocket it plans to launch this month in the face of international opposition, a Japanese newspaper reported Friday, citing a US defence official.
Pyongyang has announced it will launch a satellite-bearing rocket sometime between February 8-25, which is around the time of the birthday on February 16 of late leader Kim Jong-Il, father of current supremo Kim Jong-Un. The North insists its space programme is purely scientific in nature, but the United States and allies, including South Korea, say its rocket launches are aimed at developing an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland. North Korea "will finish preparations for the launch as soon as the next several days", the unidentified US Defense Department official told the Asahi Shimbun. Since Thursday, satellite images have shown increased movement of people and equipment around the launch pad and a fuel storehouse at North Korea's Sohae satellite launch complex in the country's northwest, the official said, according to the Washington-datelined report. The United States judged that fuelling appears to have started as it has been monitoring Pyongyang's movements via military intelligence satellites which can analyse objects as small as 30 centimetres (12 inches), the official was quoted as saying. READ MORE...RELATED, Seoul: North Korea fires rocket seen as covert missile test...

ALSO: Hundreds of distressed OFWs to be repatriated


FEBRUARY 6 -Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz yesterday said the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in 18 countries are processing the repatriation of the distressed OFWs who have sought refuge in government-operated halfway homes .Philstar.com/File photo
Hundreds of distressed overseas Filipino workers are awaiting repatriation from various countries.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz yesterday said the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in 18 countries are processing the repatriation of the distressed OFWs who have sought refuge in government-operated halfway homes. She directed all POLOs to double their efforts in repatriating those housed in their halfway homes, which shall be turned into training centers for OFWs, she added. Last year, POLOs repatriated 480 OFWs. Meanwhile, members of Migrante yesterday marched to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration main office in Pasay City to seek the removal of the mandatory $25 per contract contribution. OWWA must adopt a policy allowing lifetime membership for OFWs and their families, Migrante said. READ MORE...RELATED, 14 Filipinos among dead in Iraq hotel fire ...

ALSO: W.H.O. warns against blood donations from people returning from Zika regions


FEBRUARY 4 -razilian army soldiers inspect for mosquito breeding sites at a home on 27 January 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images World Health Organisation issues advisory after Brazilian authorities disclosed two cases of viral transmission linked to blood transfusions zika virus mosquito Authorities say that transmission of Zika virus through blood transfusions are rare and that the focus should remain on eliminating Aedes aegypti mosquitos.  The World Health Organisation has advised countries against accepting blood donations from people who have travelled to regions affected by the Zika virus, as Spain announced Europe’s first known case of the disease in a pregnant woman. The announcement came as authorities in Brazil disclosed two cases of transmission tied to blood transfusions, adding a new dimension to efforts to limit Zika’s impact. With dozens of cases emerging in Europeans and North Americans returning from Zika-affected areas, the WHO stressed the potential link between Zika and microcephaly – which causes children to be born with abnormally small heads – and urged health authorities to take precautions. “With the risk of incidence of new infections of Zika virus in many countries, and the potential linkage of the Zika virus infection with microcephaly and other clinical consequence, it is estimated as an appropriate precautionary measures to defer [blood] donors who return from areas with Zika virus outbreak,” the WHO told AFP in a statement on Thursday. READ MORE...RELATED, DOH: Philippines remains free of Zika (The Philippine Star) Updated January 30, 2016 ...

ALSO: Welcome the Year of the Monkey with creativity, high energy


FEBRUARY 7 -For countries on this side of the ocean, today is equally awaited, as it is the eve of the Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, the most important celebration of the year. The festival is generally marked by feasting, family reunions, fireworks and dragon and lion dances. Philstar.com/File
It’s a red-letter day on both sides of the Pacific today, with Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, the most awaited sporting event in the US.
For countries on this side of the ocean, today is equally awaited, as it is the eve of the Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, the most important celebration of the year. The festival is generally marked by feasting, family reunions, fireworks and dragon and lion dances. The holiday is often referred to as Chinese New Year, as Chinese Emperor Huangdi is generally credited with introducing the lunar calendar around 2600 BCE. The Chou period saw the addition of 12 animals associated with each year merely as symbols and as an aid in counting, but numerous folktales and beliefs have been linked to this zodiac. The most popular of these is that Lord Buddha on his deathbed summoned all the animals to come to him, and the first 12 that made it were honored with a year: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Each year in the cycle takes on the attributes of the animal, as do those born in that year. READ MORE...related, Grand celebration of Chinese New Year to unfold in Manila ...

ALSO: WATCH - Zuckerberg speaks in Mandarin, reveals daughter’s Chinese name


FEBRUARY 7 -Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Chinese seems to be getting better by the day. Watch video below as he and family greets FACEBOOK, ' Happy Lunar New year' in Mandarin. In fact, he's getting so good in the language he spoke entirely in Chinese during his meeting with President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday. FACEBOOK FILE Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke in Mandarin in a one-and-a-half minute video where he and wife Priscilla Chan revealed the Chinese name of their daughter, Max. Zuckerberg said that their daughter’s Chinese name is Chen Mingyu. The surname came from Chan’s family name while Mengyu “represents our hope for a brighter tomorrow for the world.” The couple also greeted Facebook users a Happy Chinese New Year. “Priscilla and I are very excited to celebrate our first Lunar New Year with Max. We hope on this holiday, you are also spending it with your family and friends,” the couple said in the video.Zuckerberg and Chan were married in 2012. Max, their first child, was born last November. The Facebook founder decided to learn Mandarin in 2010. In 2014, he first spoke in Mandarin before students at Tsinghua University in a question-and-answer event. WATCH EMBEDDED VIDEO BOTTOM OF THE PAGE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR THE 24th WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2016
[The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on 11 February 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).]

VATICAN, FEBRUARY 8, 2016 - Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick offers me an opportunity to draw particularly close to you, dear friends who are ill, and to those who care for you.

This year, since the Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, I wish to propose a meditation on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2: 1-11), where Jesus performed his first miracle through the intervention of his Mother. The theme chosen - Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) is quite fitting in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on 11 February 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).

In Nazareth, Jesus began his salvific mission, applying to himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah, as we are told by the Evangelist Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).


Pope: “illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus”

Illness, above all grave illness, always places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions that dig deep. Our first response may at times be one of rebellion: Why has this happened to me? We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaning…

In these situations, faith in God is on the one hand tested, yet at the same time can reveal all of its positive resources. Not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions which they raise, disappear, but because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross.

And this key is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.

At the wedding feast of Cana, Mary is the thoughtful woman who sees a serious problem for the spouses: the wine, the symbol of the joy of the feast, has run out. Mary recognizes the difficulty, in some way makes it her own, and acts swiftly and discreetly.

She does not simply look on, much less spend time in finding fault, but rather, she turns to Jesus and presents him with the concrete problem: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).

And when Jesus tells her that it is not yet the time for him to reveal himself (cf. v. 4), she says to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5). Jesus then performs the miracle, turning water into wine, a wine that immediately appears to be the best of the whole celebration.

What teaching can we draw from this mystery of the wedding feast of Cana for the World Day of the Sick?

The wedding feast of Cana is an image of the Church: at the centre there is Jesus who in his mercy performs a sign; around him are the disciples, the first fruits of the new community; and beside Jesus and the disciples is Mary, the provident and prayerful Mother.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says faith is a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross. In a message for the World Day of the Sick, celebrated each year on Febuary 11, the Pope points out that it offers him an opportunity to draw close to those who are ill and to their carers. The theme of his message is “Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary”. In it he says that on this World Day of the Sick.

Mary partakes of the joy of ordinary people and helps it to increase; she intercedes with her Son on behalf of the spouses and all the invited guests. Nor does Jesus refuse the request of his Mother. How much hope there is in that event for all of us!

We have a Mother with benevolent and watchful eyes, like her Son; a heart that is maternal and full of mercy, like him; hands that want to help, like the hands of Jesus who broke bread for those who were hungry, touched the sick and healed them.

All this fills us with trust and opens our hearts to the grace and mercy of Christ. Mary’s intercession makes us experience the consolation for which the apostle Paul blesses God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow” (2 Cor 1:3-5). Mary is the “comforted” Mother who comforts her children.

At Cana the distinctive features of Jesus and his mission are clearly seen: he comes to the help of those in difficulty and need. Indeed, in the course of his messianic ministry he would heal many people of illnesses, infirmities and evil spirits, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, restore health and dignity to lepers, raise the dead, and proclaim the good news to the poor (cf. Lk 7:21-22).


Although Jesus said, ‘woman my time hasn’t yet come’, Mary yet knew that her son would not disregard her request. She goes on to tell the servants "do whatever he asks of you". The first miracle of Jesus is carried out on Mary’s request. A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus said to his mother, "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time hasn’t yet come”  Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.

Mary’s request at the wedding feast, suggested by the Holy Spirit to her maternal heart, clearly shows not only Jesus’ messianic power but also his mercy.

In Mary’s concern we see reflected the tenderness of God. This same tenderness is present in the lives of all those persons who attend the sick and understand their needs, even the most imperceptible ones, because they look upon them with eyes full of love.

How many times has a mother at the bedside of her sick child, or a child caring for an elderly parent, or a grandchild concerned for a grandparent, placed his or her prayer in the hands of Our Lady!

For our loved ones who suffer because of illness we ask first for their health. Jesus himself showed the presence of the Kingdom of God specifically through his healings: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Mt 11:4-5).

But love animated by faith makes us ask for them something greater than physical health: we ask for peace, a serenity in life that comes from the heart and is God’s gift, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift which the Father never denies to those who ask him for it with trust.


"The twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick offers me an opportunity to draw particularly close to you, dear friends who are ill, and to those who care for you". Francis

In the scene of Cana, in addition to Jesus and his Mother, there are the “servants”, whom she tells: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Naturally, the miracle takes place as the work of Christ; however, he wants to employ human assistance in performing this miracle. He could have made the wine appear directly in the jars. But he wants to rely upon human cooperation, and so he asks the servants to fill them with water.

How wonderful and pleasing to God it is to be servants of others! This more than anything else makes us like Jesus, who “did not come to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45). These unnamed people in the Gospel teach us a great deal.

Not only do they obey, but they obey generously: they fill the jars to the brim (cf. Jn 2:7). They trust the Mother and carry out immediately and well what they are asked to do, without complaining, without second thoughts.

On this World Day of the Sick let us ask Jesus in his mercy, through the intercession of Mary, his Mother and ours, to grant to all of us this same readiness to be serve those in need, and, in particular, our infirm brothers and sisters.

At times this service can be tiring and burdensome, yet we are certain that the Lord will surely turn our human efforts into something divine. We too can be hands, arms and hearts which help God to perform his miracles, so often hidden.

We too, whether healthy or sick, can offer up our toil and sufferings like the water which filled the jars at the wedding feast of Cana and was turned into the finest wine.

By quietly helping those who suffer, as in illness itself, we take our daily cross upon our shoulders and follow the Master (cf. Lk 9:23). Even though the experience of suffering will always remain a mystery, Jesus helps us to reveal its meaning.


Praying for a loved one's health and healing, tenderly caring for them and asking very human questions about why people suffer are experiences Christians, Muslims and Jews all share, Pope Francis said. In his message for the World Day of the Sick, celebrated Feb. 11, the pope expressed his hope that the day of prayer -- and the entire Year of Mercy -- would promote an encounter of people of different religions and lead to greater understanding among them.

If we can learn to obey the words of Mary, who says: “Do whatever he tells you”, Jesus will always change the water of our lives into precious wine.

Thus this World Day of the Sick, solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, will help fulfill the hope which I expressed in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy: ‘I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with [Judaism and Islam] and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination’ (Misericordiae Vultus, 23).

Every hospital and nursing home can be a visible sign and setting in which to promote the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of illness and suffering, along with professional and fraternal assistance, helps to overcome every limitation and division.

For this we are set an example by the two Religious Sisters who were canonized last May: Saint Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas and Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, both daughters of the Holy Land. The first was a witness to meekness and unity, who bore clear witness to the importance of being responsible for one another other, living in service to one another. The second, a humble and illiterate woman, was docile to the Holy Spirit and became an instrument of encounter with the Muslim world.


POPE FRANCIS' MESSAGE ON THE 24TH WORLD DAY OF THE SICK: What is the Christian attitude towards physical illness?

To all those who assist the sick and the suffering I express my confident hope that they will draw inspiration from Mary, the Mother of Mercy.

“May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness” (ibid., 24), allow it to dwell in our hearts and express it in our actions!

Let us entrust to the Virgin Mary our trials and tribulations, together with our joys and consolations. Let us beg her to turn her eyes of mercy towards us, especially in times of pain, and make us worthy of beholding, today and always, the merciful face of her Son Jesus!

With this prayer for all of you, I send my Apostolic Blessing.
FRANCIS

From the Vatican, 15 September 2015
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows 
© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


INTERNATIONAL NEW YORK TIMES

CHRONOLOGY OF COVERAGE: News about South China Sea, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.


 PHOTO by Yomiuri Shimbun, Via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images -

JAN. 21, 2016 Vietnamese officials condemn installation of Chinese oil rig in disputed region of South China Sea, recalling similar standoff over same rig, leading to fatal 2014 riot; complaint, which China denies, comes after series of Chinese incursions into Vietnamese territory, and coincides with transfer of power within Vietnam's ruling Communist Party.

JAN. 20, 2016 Vietnam warns China to stop any drilling and remove oil rig out of disputed waters in South China Sea.

JAN. 13, 2016 Philippine Supreme Court votes, 10-4, to allow American military to station troops and weapons at bases in Philippines; decision will likely heighten tensions between United States and China, which is seeking to establish itself as dominant power in region by building military facilities in South China Sea.

DEC. 16, 2015 Navy Vice Adm Scott H Swift implicitly criticizes China’s actions in South China Sea, declaring that 'so-called military zones' are eroding security in one of world's busiest waterways.

NOV. 21, 2015 Editorial underscores importance of peaceful resolution in dispute between China and other Asian nations about free flow of navigation through South China Sea; calls on Asian leaders participating in summit meeting in Malaysia to endorse case brought by Philippines against China at international court of arbitration.

NOV. 19, 2015 Pres Obama urges China to stop military activities in South China Sea and calls for arbitration to settle differences between Beijing and its neighbors in Southeast Asia; demand is made at opening of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, trade conference for regional leaders to discuss Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade and commerce issues.

NOV. 18, 2015 Destroyer Stethem, sister ship of destroyer that sailed in October in waters claimed by China, is docked in Shanghai for weeklong visit; move indicates United States disapproves of China's assertiveness in South China Sea, but navies remain on good terms.

CONTINUE READING...

NOV. 7, 2015 Op-Ed article by Simon Winchester details how China's actions in South China Sea are part of decades-long strategy meant to establish its dominance in Pacific Ocean; calls on United States to exercise prudence in response.

NOV. 6, 2015
Defense Sec Ashton B Carter lands on American aircraft carrier in South China Sea, sending clear political signal to China, involved in territorial dispute with several Asian nations over waters.

NOV. 4, 2015 Association of Southeast Asian Nations fails to issue joint declaration following disagreement over South China Sea; China wants no mention of strategic waterway in statement.

OCT. 31, 2015 Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague says it will hold hearings on case brought by Philippines against China over disputed sections of South China Sea; China has boycotted proceedings since Philippines filed suit in 2013, but ruling is blow to China as it had hoped court would find it did not have jurisdiction to rule on case.

OCT. 30, 2015 Editorial contends China's attempts to claim territory in South China Sea stand in violation of 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which guarantees all nations free passage on ocean; supports United States challenge to China's claims by sending naval patrol to area and Permanent Court of Arbitration's investigation into matter.

OCT. 29, 2015
Memo From Beijing; tension over United States' decision to send destroyer into South China Sea reflects heightened concerns over China's long-term ambitions in region; China's claim to small string of man-made islands belies larger intentions related to control of trade routes, increased diplomatic clout and edging out American military presence.

OCT. 28, 2015 News Analysis; Obama administration seeks to play down implications of move by guided missile destroyer into Chinese territorial waters in South China Sea; action is intended to reassure allies that United States will counter moves by China to build artificial islands in Spratly Islands.


The Pentagon has accused China of speeding up its land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea, where it is engaged in territorial disputes with several of its neighbours. Photo: SCMP Pictures

OCT. 27, 2015 Pentagon confirms American naval vessel navigated disputed area in South China Sea; maneuver was meant to assert freedom of navigation in waters China controversially claims sovereignty over; United States' action represents general international consensus that waters remain open to flow of essential commerce.

OCT. 13, 2015 United States briefs its Asian allies on plans to send ships through waters near man-made Chinese islands in South China Sea; so-called freedom of navigation patrols could be seen as aggressive response to Chinese claims on disputed area and escalate tensions between China and US; allies and experts express mixed enthusiasm and urge caution.

SEP. 26, 2015 Editorial welcomes progress made by Pres Obama and Chinese Pres Xi Jinping during meeting, particularly on China's commitment to implement cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions; notes their joint endorsement of United Nations accord regarding cyberattacks was also promising; laments further progress on tensions in South China Sea was not made.

SEP. 23, 2015 Chinese Pres Xi Jinping's visit to United States underscores challenges facing Obama administration as it confronts forceful actions by Chinese on range of issues; complexity of negotiations over issues ranging from territorial disputes in South China Sea to cyber-espionage have necessitated frustrating mix of both confrontation and cooperation with China.

SEP. 20, 2015 Filipino government is debating how to defend country against China’s encroachment on West Philippines Sea; options include inviting United States Navy back to Subic Bay naval base, from which it was expelled 25 years earlier; nation has been alarmed by Beijing’s aggressive transformation of South China Sea reefs into military bases, as well as ramming of Filipino vessels and new territory claims.

SEP. 16, 2015 Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington releases satellite images that show China is constructing airfield on third South China Sea artificial island; actions in South China Sea are major area of disagreement between United States and China and will likely be discussed during Pres Xi Jinping’s upcoming Washington visit.

AUG. 6, 2015 Sec of State John Kerry meets with foreign ministers of China and Turkey to discuss specific issues at Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; discussion topics will include Beijing’s creation of artificial reefs in South China Sea and Turkey’s removal of Islamic State militants from strip of Syrian land near Turkish border.

JUL. 31, 2015 Chinese Col Yang Yujun blames United States military actions for rising tensions in South China Sea, where China and several other countries are engaged in territorial disputes.

JUL. 27, 2015 Shocking number of migrant mariners are living in a state of slavery, especially in South China Sea, which faces labor shortfall as demand rises for dwindling seafood supplies; men and boys are bought and sold, suffering horrific brutality and risking execution if they attempt to escape; suffering is yet another example of abuses that proliferate far out at sea where maritime law remains nebulous and outside intervention is rare (Series: The Outlaw Ocean).

JUL. 17, 2015 Editorial supports Philippines in its decision to bring case before Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, against China, over territorial dispute regarding South China Sea; urges China to participate in tribunal process as it would reaffirm its status as leader in world and its commitment to resolve such disputes within framework of international law.

JUL. 15, 2015 Complaints were raised after the Internet giant dropped Scarborough Shoal, a longstanding name taken from a ship that smashed against it in 1784, and described the island as part of China’s Zhongsha chain.

JUN. 17, 2015 China declares it will soon end its contentious program of building artificial islands in South China Sea as tensions with United States grow.

JUN. 1, 2015 Adm Sun Jianguo of China, speaking at security forum in Singapore, says Beijing could create air defense zone above disputed areas of South China if it assessed large enough threat; action, if carried out, would further cement China's military presence in the waters, and be perceived by United States and Southeast Asian countries as major provocation.

MAY. 31, 2015 Chinese officer Senior Col Zhou Bo, at annual security meeting in Singapore, stridently defends China's island-building efforts in South China Sea and rebukes Defense Sec Ashton B Carter's criticisms before adopting more conciliatory tone toward relations with United States; American officials say dispute over islands will not hinder military or economic cooperation with China.

MAY. 30, 2015
United States officials say that pair of mobile artillery vehicles have been spotted on artificial island China is building in South China Sea.

MAY. 30, 2015 Editorial supports United States in pushing back against China's power grab in South China Sea; contends America's role in policing Pacific Ocean and ensuring balance of powers there continues to be necessary; holds unchecked Chinese aggression poses dangers for stability and prosperity of all nations in region.

MAY. 28, 2015
Secretary of Defense Ashton B Carter criticizes China for building military structures on reefs and outcroppings in South China Sea; warns actions will bring regional countries together and increase demand for American engagement in effort to maintain security in Asia-Pacific region.

MAY. 27, 2015 Chinese military issues strategy paper indicating it will extend its naval forces into disputed waters in South China Sea and not just defend its coast.

MAY. 23, 2015 China orders United States military surveillance plane repeatedly to stop flights over contested territory in South China Sea, escalation of dispute between two countries over artificial islands China is building in region.

MAY. 17, 2015 Chinese Foreign Min Wang Yi, after meeting with Sec of State John Kerry, says China intends to continue island-building efforts in South China Sea that have aggravated tensions with neighboring governments; Wang calls activities necessary to China's security.

MAY. 16, 2015 State Dept officials say Sec of State John Kerry will issue warning to China during his visit to country about its island-building campaign in South China Sea, which is raising tensions in region.

APR. 17, 2015 Satellite images show concrete runway being built by China in South China Sea's contested waters that will enable country to land military aircraft there.

APR. 14, 2015 Philippine officials say 300 acres of coral reef have been destroyed by China's island-building activities in South China Sea, endangering area's ecology as well as livelihood of many people in surrounding areas.

APR. 12, 2015 Editorial notes alarmingly aggressive actions taken by Chinese government to establish sphere of influence in South China Sea; argues that United States must remain vigilant in discouraging China from simply exerting its power over weaker Asian nations rather than working toward resolution of territorial disputes through joint development efforts and international treaties.

APR. 11, 2015 United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence reports that China's navy is undergoing rapid growth and modernization, having launched more new ships in 2013 and 2014 than any other country; China has largest Coast Guard, used primarily for patrolling disputed areas of South China Sea.

APR. 10, 2015 Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says island-building in contested South China Sea is for maritime purposes.

APR. 9, 2015 Satellite photographs show China has been literally gaining ground in South China Sea by building land mass from dredged white sand piled atop coral reef; at least three other countries, including American ally Philippines, claim ownership of archipelago, and China's aggressive move to build artificial islands within Philippines territory draws criticism from United States officials.

FEB. 22, 2015 Ian Urbina travel article on taking Coral Explorer daylong adventure tour of four Malaysian islands in South China Sea.

NOV. 24, 2014 Satellite imagery reported by IHS Jane's shows China is building new island on tiny reef in Spratly Islands 500 miles from mainland; project will enable country to land military aircraft and dock warships on island and extend its reach into contested South China Sea.

SEP. 30, 2014 Joint military exercises between United States Navy and its Philippine counterpart kick off in Palawan, island closest to contested areas of South China Sea; exercises are being conducted amid tense dispute with China.


US-Philippines Hold War Games In South China Sea

SEP. 24, 2014
Philippine Pres Benigno S Aquino III expresses public concern about mixed messages from China amid ongoing territorial dispute over the South China Sea; describes how disputes have created tense backdrop to relations between the Philippines and China while entangling growing number of foreign parties.

SEP. 14, 2014 Military analysts say that Malaysia will risk intensifying China's anger if it follows through on offer to allow United States to fly spy planes from within its territory; agreement would give the US greater proximity to the South China Sea.

AUG. 10, 2014
Two-and-a-half month standoff over Chinese oil rig illustrates the long reach of China’s nautical ambitions, but broader issues over sovereignty in South China Sea, and who has rights to extract oil and gas in the region, remain far from resolved.

AUG. 6, 2014
Twelve Chinese fishermen are found guilty of illegal fishing in Philippine waters and are sentenced to 6 to 12 years in jail; convictions are first since tension between two nations flared over rival claims in South China Sea.

JUL. 10, 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry urges China to follow maritime law in nearby South China and East China Seas to reduce regional tensions.

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RELATED FROM THE DIPLOMAT

THE DEBATE: The Philippines’ Dubious Claims in South China Sea Arbitration
[Manila is undermining its own efforts to resolve South China Sea disputes.]

By Kuan-Hsiung Wang January 26, 2016


Taiping Island Image Credit: Google Earth

Rising tensions in the South China Sea are threatening peace and stability in the region, one of the world’s most important shipping channels. In recent months, amid growing concern in the international community, there has been considerable media coverage of the arbitration filed by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) concerning the legality of mainland China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Thus far, two hearings have been held by the Arbitral Tribunal – one concerning jurisdiction and admissibility in July 2015, with the Tribunal subsequently ruling on October 29 that it had the power to hear the case, and another on the merits in the last week of November 2015.

In the arbitration, the Philippines challenged the status of Taiping Island (Itu Aba), which is part of the sovereign territory of the Republic of China (Taiwan). By claiming that Taiping Island constitutes a rock rather than an island, the Philippines is undermining efforts to resolve disputes and promote stability.

Taiping Island

In 1946, the Republic of China (Taiwan) recovered islands and geological features in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands from Japan, including the largest naturally formed island – Taiping Island.

According to transcripts from the two hearings, the Philippines attempted to characterize Taiping Island as a rock by indicating that it has an area of less than 0.43 square kilometers, no permanent population, no potable water, and is capable of generating limited quantities of agricultural produce.

Contrary to Philippine statements, however, Taiping Island possesses an adequate water supply. There are several groundwater wells on the island, some of which were in use long before Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration took over management of Taiping Island in 2000 from the ROC military.

Taiping Island, which in fact has a land area of 0.50 square kilometers, has consistently sustained more than 100 people, and is home to a functioning farm that produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including corn, sweet potatoes, mangoes and guavas.

It also has a hospital to provide emergency medical treatment to the personnel stationed there as well as foreign fishermen operating in the area.

It is evident that Taiping Island qualifies as an island in accordance with Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). So why then does the Philippines argue that it is a rock?

Exclusive Economic Zones

The distance between Taiping Island and the Philippine island of Palawan is about 199.6 nautical miles. As each is entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles, this would create a wide area of overlap.

Furthermore, if Taiping Island is deemed capable of generating a 200-nautical mile EEZ and a continental shelf, a delimitation of maritime boundaries would need to be conducted for the entire overlapping area, which is not within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

Obviously, the claim that Taiping Island is a rock is fallacious. The Philippines raises the issue so it can contend that the EEZ around Palawan does not overlap with any maritime zone that could be generated by other maritime features.

Under this claim, the Philippines argues that Taiping Island’s maritime area should be confined to 12 nautical miles by citing judgments from Nicaragua v. Columbia (2012), as well as St. Martin’s Island and Abu Musa (Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar, 2012), jumping to conclusions on the definition of the maritime area for Taiping Island. The Philippines deliberately ignores the fact that these cases are concerning maritime delimitation.

The Philippines’ argument regarding Taiping Island is simply a legal tactic that does not contribute to the practical resolution of disputes in the South China Sea. Indeed, its position might further escalate tensions.

Misleading Assertions

In its statement to the Tribunal, the Philippines also misrepresents quotes by ROC President Ma Ying-jeou. In one case, it alleges that the president wrote the ROC government claimed sovereignty over islands south of the Shisha (Paracel) Islands for the first time in 1935.

In fact, in the source for these quotes, the President states that the ROC issued a map of the islands in 1935 that for the first time divided them into four different groups. In the same passage, Ma clearly states that the ROC government defended its sovereignty over the islands through diplomatic means in the early 20th century.

By challenging the legal status of Taiping Island, the Philippines is in fact undermining its own case for the fair and just application of UNCLOS. In order to ensure long-term stability in the region, all parties concerned must respect the principles and spirit of international law and pursue peaceful cooperation for mutual benefit, as outlined in President Ma’s South China Sea Peace Initiative.

Kuan-Hsiung Wang is a professor at the Graduate Institute of Political Science, National Taiwan Normal University.


North Korea 'begins fuelling rocket'


North Korea's planned rocket launch is aimed at developing an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland, according to South Korea' AFP

YAHOO NEWS ASIA - US satellite data suggests North Korea may have already begun fuelling a rocket it plans to launch this month in the face of international opposition, a Japanese newspaper reported Friday, citing a US defence official.

Pyongyang has announced it will launch a satellite-bearing rocket sometime between February 8-25, which is around the time of the birthday on February 16 of late leader Kim Jong-Il, father of current supremo Kim Jong-Un.

The North insists its space programme is purely scientific in nature, but the United States and allies, including South Korea, say its rocket launches are aimed at developing an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.

North Korea "will finish preparations for the launch as soon as the next several days", the unidentified US Defense Department official told the Asahi Shimbun.

Since Thursday, satellite images have shown increased movement of people and equipment around the launch pad and a fuel storehouse at North Korea's Sohae satellite launch complex in the country's northwest, the official said, according to the Washington-datelined report.

The United States judged that fuelling appears to have started as it has been monitoring Pyongyang's movements via military intelligence satellites which can analyse objects as small as 30 centimetres (12 inches), the official was quoted as saying.

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Given the difficulty in stopping the process once fuelling begins, preparation work normally finishes within several days of that, the official told the Asahi.

UN sanctions prohibit North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, and the imminent launch would amount to another major violation of UN Security Council resolutions following Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test last month

In its formal notification sent to UN agencies, North Korea provided flight coordinates similar to its last successful launch of a three-stage Unha-3 rocket in December 2012.

The separated first stage was predicted to fall in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of South Korea, followed by a second stage splashdown in the Philippine Sea.

In order to avoid any possible collision, Japanese and South Korean airlines will be rerouting a number of flights during the launch window period.

Japan's two biggest airlines -- All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines -- said they would be diverting planes that fly over waters off the Philippines.

The change will affect three ANA flights -- from Tokyo's Haneda airport to Manila, from Manila to Tokyo's Narita International Airport, and from Jakarta in Indonesia to Narita, the airline said.

Two JAL flights -- one from Jakarta to Narita and another from Narita to Manila -- will also be rerouted.

South Korea's Transport Ministry said a total of 39 flights to and from the southern resort island of Jeju would be re-routed, involving the country's two main carriers Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, as well some Chinese carriers.

Another 36 flights from Korean Air and Asiana will adjust routes to avoid waters off the Philippines, the ministry said, adding that the changes would cause an additional average flight time of six minutes.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Seoul: North Korea fires rocket seen as covert missile test By Foster Klug (Associated Press) | Updated February 7, 2016 - 9:25am 4 102 googleplus0 0


South Koreans watch a TV news program with a file footage about North Korea's rocket launch plans, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. South Korea warned on Wednesday of "searing" consequences if North Korea doesn't abandon plans to launch a long-range rocket that critics call a banned test of ballistic missile technology. The headline on the screen reads "North Korea plans to launch a missile." AP/Ahn Young-joon

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday defied international warnings and launched a long-range rocket that the United Nations and others call a cover for a banned test of technology for a missile that could strike the U.S. mainland.

The launch, which South Korean officials confirmed about two hours after an eight-day launch window opened Sunday morning, follows North Korea's widely disputed claim last month to have tested a hydrogen bomb. It will be considered a further provocation by Washington and its allies and likely draw more sanctions and condemnation from the United Nations.

North Korean rocket and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward the North's ultimate goal of a nuclear armed long-range missile arsenal. North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are necessary to defend itself against what it calls decades of U.S. hostility.

Leader Kim Jong Un has overseen two of the North's four nuclear tests and three long-range rocket tests since taking over after the death of his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. North Korea says its rocket launches are satellite missions, but the U.S., South Korea and others say they are a covert test of ballistic missile technology. The U.N. Security Council prohibits North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

The Jan. 6 nuclear test has led to another push in the U.N. to tighten sanctions. North Korea in 2013 also did a nuclear test and then unnerved the international community by orchestrating an escalating campaign of bombast, including threats to fire nuclear missiles at the U.S. and Seoul.

The Korean border is the world's most heavily armed and the rivals' navies occasionally trade gunfire near a disputed boundary in the Yellow Sea.

North Korea has spent decades trying to develop operational nuclear weapons.

It is thought to have a small arsenal of atomic bombs and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles. But it has yet to demonstrate that it can produce nuclear bombs small enough to place on a missile, or missiles that can reliably deliver their bombs to faraway targets.

Still, the North's nuclear tests and steadily improving long-range rocket launches push its nuclear aims further along.

North Korea has said that plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex are in operation. Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.


PHILSTAR

Hundreds of OFWs to be repatriated By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 6, 2016 - 12:00am 0 5 googleplus0 0


Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz yesterday said the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in 18 countries are processing the repatriation of the distressed OFWs who have sought refuge in government-operated halfway homes .Philstar.com/File photo

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of distressed overseas Filipino workers are awaiting repatriation from various countries.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz yesterday said the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in 18 countries are processing the repatriation of the distressed OFWs who have sought refuge in government-operated halfway homes.

She directed all POLOs to double their efforts in repatriating those housed in their halfway homes, which shall be turned into training centers for OFWs, she added.

Last year, POLOs repatriated 480 OFWs.

Meanwhile, members of Migrante yesterday marched to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration main office in Pasay City to seek the removal of the mandatory $25 per contract contribution.

OWWA must adopt a policy allowing lifetime membership for OFWs and their families, Migrante said.

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Under the current policy, failure to pay and renew the $25 mandatory contribution per contract (usually every two years) disqualifies an OFW from enjoying the programs and welfare services of OWWA.

Garry Martinez, Migrante official, said OWWA’s services discriminated against irregular or undocumented OFWs, which constitute a majority of those in distress.

He cited the case of Eugenia Bayer Perez, a domestic worker who was paralyzed after she fell off the rooftop of her workplace in the United Arab Emirates.

Last Sept. 10, Perez, along with at least 100 other OFWs, filed claims at the OWWA but was told that she does not qualify for full disability because she still has use of her eyes and both her arms.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

14 Filipinos among dead in Iraq hotel fire (philstar.com) | Updated February 6, 2016 - 11:01am 6 128 googleplus1 0


A police officer walks towards the scene of a fire in a hotel and adjacent massage parlor which has killed several people and injured others Frida, Feb. 5, 2016, in Irbil, capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Irbil, said the fire broke out in the sauna of the Hotel Capitol at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. AP/Bram Janssen

MANILA, Philippines — A fire that broke out in a hotel in Irbil, capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq killed 17 people, 14 of which were Filipinos, according to embassy official.

“We will be taking the earliest flight tomorrow to allow us to coordinate closely with authorities of the Kurdistan Regional Government in identifying and repatriating the remains of our kababayans,” said embassy charge d'affaires Elmer Cato.

“We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims and will do everything we can to bring them home as soon as possible,” he added.

Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Irbil, said the fire broke out in the sauna of the Hotel Capitol at 4 p.m. on Friday.

The victims died after being trapped in a room at the massage center, where firefighters on the scene said had taken them around an hour to enter because of the strength of blaze.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. There were no early indications that the incident was a terrorist attack.

The Philippine government has repeatedly warned Filipinos in Iraq to exercise extreme caution and to limit movements due to bombings and other violent incidents.

The deployment of new Filipino workers to the country was also stopped because of the prevailing security. – Kristine Bersamina, with reports from the Associated Press


THE GUARDIAN, UK FEBRUARY 4, 2016

WHO warns against blood donations from people returning from Zika regions


Brazilian army soldiers inspect for mosquito breeding sites at a home on 27 January 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

World Health Organisation issues advisory after Brazilian authorities disclosed two cases of viral transmission linked to blood transfusions zika virus mosquito Authorities say that transmission of Zika virus through blood transfusions are rare and that the focus should remain on eliminating Aedes aegypti mosquitos.

 The World Health Organisation has advised countries against accepting blood donations from people who have travelled to regions affected by the Zika virus, as Spain announced Europe’s first known case of the disease in a pregnant woman.

The announcement came as authorities in Brazil disclosed two cases of transmission tied to blood transfusions, adding a new dimension to efforts to limit Zika’s impact.

With dozens of cases emerging in Europeans and North Americans returning from Zika-affected areas, the WHO stressed the potential link between Zika and microcephaly – which causes children to be born with abnormally small heads – and urged health authorities to take precautions.

“With the risk of incidence of new infections of Zika virus in many countries, and the potential linkage of the Zika virus infection with microcephaly and other clinical consequence, it is estimated as an appropriate precautionary measures to defer [blood] donors who return from areas with Zika virus outbreak,” the WHO told AFP in a statement on Thursday.

READ MORE...

The virus, which has spread quickly across Latin America and the Caribbean, is usually transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, although health authorities in Texas this week reported a case which had been transmitted through sexual contact.


Authorities say that transmission of Zika virus through blood transfusions are rare and that the focus should remain on eliminating Aedes aegypti mosquitos. Photograph: Josue Decavele/Reuters

Marcelo Addas Carvalho, the doctor who is the director of the blood center at the University of Campinas near Sao Paulo, said genetic testing confirmed that a man who received a blood transfusion using blood donated by another man infected with Zika in March 2015 became infected with the virus, although he did not develop symptoms.

Carvalho said another man, who had suffered gunshot wounds, also became infected with Zika after receiving multiple blood transfusions that included blood donated by an infected person in April 2015.

Carvalho said that infection probably was caused by the transfusion but genetic tests have not yet been conducted to confirm it. He said it was very unlikely the infection was caused by a mosquito bite because the patient was in a hospital intensive care unit for three months. The patient later died from his gunshot wounds and not the Zika infection, health officials and Carvalho said.

“Transmission of the virus through blood transfusion is very rare and not an important factor in the epidemic. Governments and society in general should focus on eliminating the mosquito, which is the main form of transmission,” Carvalho said. Meanwhile, in the first case of its kind in Europe, Spain’s health ministry said a pregnant woman who had returned from Colombia had been diagnosed with the virus.

“One of the patients diagnosed in (the north-eastern region of) Catalonia is a pregnant woman, who showed symptoms after having travelled to Colombia,” the ministry announced, adding that she was one of seven cases in Spain.

The mosquito-borne virus has so far spread to 26 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean and health authorities have warned it could infect up to four million people on the continent and spread worldwide.


Public health workers participate in a day of fumigation to stop spread of the Zika virus in Venezuela. HEADLINE -Zika virus: Colombia warns of spike in patients with related paralysis disorder. Rare syndrome that causes immune system to damage nerve cells seen increasingly in patients with Zika virus, health minister announces. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

The disease starts with a mosquito bite and normally causes little more than a fever and rash.

But since October, Brazil has reported 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly – up from 147 in 2014 – plus 3,670 suspected cases.

The timing has fuelled strong suspicions that Zika is causing the birth defect.

Zika virus: Colombia warns of spike in patients with related paralysis disorder Read more The virus has also been linked to a potentially paralysing nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome in some patients.

Spain’s health ministry sought to ease concerns over the spread of the virus, pointing out that all seven cases in the country had caught the disease abroad.

“Up to now, the diagnosed cases of Zika virus in Spain ... don’t risk spreading the virus in our country as they are imported cases,” it said.

The news comes a day after South American health ministers held an emergency meeting in Uruguay on the disease.

The meeting focused on ways to control the mosquito population spreading the virus, though reports of a US patient catching the disease by having sex fuelled fears that it will not be easy to contain.

WHO earlier this week declared the spike in serious birth defects an international emergency and launched a global Zika response unit.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and the US territory of Puerto Rico have all warned women not to get pregnant.

The WHO warning on blood donations follows moves by Canada and Britain to protect their blood supplies.

Canadian blood agencies on Wednesday announced that anyone who had travelled to a Zika-risk area would be ineligible to give blood for three weeks upon their return.

The 21-day waiting period also applies to cord blood and stem cell donors who have travelled to Zika-affected areas.

In Britain, the National Health Service Blood and Transplant agency has said that from Thursday, anyone returning from Zika-affected countries would be made to wait 28 days before being allowed to donate blood, as a “precautionary measure”. This report contains material from the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

DOH: Philippines remains free of Zika (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 30, 2016 - 12:00am 1 125 googleplus0 2


The World Health Organization (WHO) website describes the Zika virus as a mosquito-borne disease that was first detected among rhesus monkeys in Uganda in 1947. AP/Felipe Dana

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines remains free of the Zika virus, but the public should remain vigilant, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

Lyndon Lee Suy, spokesman for the DOH, said a case of Zika virus was documented in Cebu City in 2012 but no other case has since been reported.

“We don’t want to be alarmist, but it is not enough that people become aware of what is happening. We should always be on guard because it’s happening in other countries and it can also happen here,” Lee Suy told reporters.

The World Health Organization (WHO) website describes the Zika virus as a mosquito-borne disease that was first detected among rhesus monkeys in Uganda in 1947.

In 1952, it was detected among humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case and the disease has since spread to 22 other countries and territories in the region.

Zika virus is similar to dengue as the disease is caused by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Symptoms include mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis, which could last for two to seven days.

Zika virus has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a poorly understood condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, sometimes resulting in paralysis.

WHO will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika Virus on Monday to determine if the outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Lee Suy said the best way to fight Zika virus is to observe personal hygiene and sanitation as well as eliminate possible breeding sites of mosquitoes.

“We have been advising the public to keep their surroundings clean. Get rid of anything that may collect water because mosquitoes could breed in them. We talk here of the same mosquitoes that can spread dengue,” he said.

Meanwhile, health authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are on alert to prevent the entry of Zika virus.

Doctors at the NAIA said mosquito-carrying virus from Brazil could not reach airports and seaports in the country.

Brazil has no direct flight to the Philippines and passengers will have to take a connecting flight to able to land at the airport. – With Rudy Santos, Roel Pareno


PHILSTAR

Welcome Year of the Monkey with creativity, high energy By Doreen Yu (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 7, 2016 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


For countries on this side of the ocean, today is equally awaited, as it is the eve of the Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, the most important celebration of the year. The festival is generally marked by feasting, family reunions, fireworks and dragon and lion dances. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - It’s a red-letter day on both sides of the Pacific today, with Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, the most awaited sporting event in the US.

For countries on this side of the ocean, today is equally awaited, as it is the eve of the Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, the most important celebration of the year. The festival is generally marked by feasting, family reunions, fireworks and dragon and lion dances.

The holiday is often referred to as Chinese New Year, as Chinese Emperor Huangdi is generally credited with introducing the lunar calendar around 2600 BCE.

The Chou period saw the addition of 12 animals associated with each year merely as symbols and as an aid in counting, but numerous folktales and beliefs have been linked to this zodiac. The most popular of these is that Lord Buddha on his deathbed summoned all the animals to come to him, and the first 12 that made it were honored with a year: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Each year in the cycle takes on the attributes of the animal, as do those born in that year.

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In addition, five elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – exert their influence.

The Year of the Fire Monkey begins tomorrow, and expect the year ahead to be marked by creativity and inventiveness, but also high energy and volatility, as monkeys are rambunctious and hardly stay put. The first manned space mission to orbit the moon (Apollo 8 in 1968) and the launching of Facebook (2004) happened on monkey years, and US bases left the Philippines (2004) after nearly a century. The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed over 200,000 also happened under the monkey sign (2004).

The year ahead will surely be eventful and an exciting time – especially with national elections – full of challenges but also of opportunities, and it is up to us – whatever animal sign we may be born under – to, like the Monkey, respond creatively and make the most of things.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETI

Grand celebration of Chinese New Year to unfold in Manila by Jenny F. Manongdo February 5, 2016 Share2 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share19


Celebrating Chinese New Year 2016: The Year of The Fire Monkey in Manila

With about a million revelers last year, Manila officials are expecting to see the same crowd turnout on Monday’s Chinese New Year celebration.

Manila’s 3rd District Councilor Bernardito Ang said the occasion also marks the second time officials were able to unite various Chinese organizations in the city to work on a single set of activities leading to the February 8 celebration.

“We are even expecting more to come. When the mayor (Joseph Estrada) took over, he said there will only be one big celebration,” Ang, also the vice chairman of the Manila Chinatown Development Council, told the Manila Bulletin.

“The Chinese organizations will be solid and will not be doing isolated activities on their own. Here, within two square meters, there are about a thousand Chinese organizations. The mayor said that under his administration, he wants a solid Chinese community,” he said.

Ang explained that in the past, city officials would only serve as guests to the activities organized by the various Chinese organizations in Binondo. But beginning 2013, the city government bridged gaps in the Chinese community, urged them to work together and insisted that the mayor will only attend the festivities if it was just one united event for all to celebrate.

Last Wednesday, various Chinese organizations attended the solidarity dinner and pledged their contributions for next week’s celebrations that amounted to P4 million.

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The business and socio-civic organizations that came to the solidarity dinner hosted by Mayor Estrada and other local officials are the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FFCCCI), the Philippine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PCCCII), the Philippine-Chinese Charitable Association (PCCA), the Chinese-Filipino Business Club (CFBC), the Philippine Amity Club, Inc. (PACI), the Filipino Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (FCGCC);

The Federation of Filipino-Chinese Association of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. (FFCAPFI), the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (HKCCPI), the Overseas Chinese Alumni Association of the Philippines (OCAAP), the Philippine, Chinese Education Research Center Incorporated (PCERCI), the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Athletic Association, Inc. (FFCAAI);

The Association of Fire Chief’s Firefighters of the Philippines, Inc. (AFCFPI), the Filipino-Chinese Shin Lian Association, Inc. (FCSLAI), the Fil-Chinese 168 Shopping Mall United Friendship Association, the Philippine Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, and the Philippine Jinjiang General Association, Inc.

Ang said the city government is not spending a single centavo for the Chinese New Year celebration and that the donations are enough to cover expenditures for the activities including the public concerts and the fireworks display activity before midnight of February 7.


INQUIRER

WATCH: Zuckerberg speaks in Mandarin, reveals daughter’s Chinese name SHARES: 1833 VIEW COMMENTS @inquirerdotnet INQUIRER.net 05:19 PM February 7th, 2016


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Chinese seems to be getting better by the day. Watch video below as he and family greets the world Happy Lunar New year in Mandarin. In fact, he's getting so good in the language he spoke entirely in Chinese during his meeting with President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday. FACEBOOK FILE

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke in Mandarin in a one-and-a-half minute video where he and wife Priscilla Chan revealed the Chinese name of their daughter, Max.

Zuckerberg said that their daughter’s Chinese name is Chen Mingyu. The surname came from Chan’s family name while Mengyu “represents our hope for a brighter tomorrow for the world.”

The couple also greeted Facebook users a Happy Chinese New Year.

“Priscilla and I are very excited to celebrate our first Lunar New Year with Max. We hope on this holiday, you are also spending it with your family and friends,” the couple said in the video.

Zuckerberg and Chan were married in 2012. Max, their first child, was born last November.

The Facebook founder decided to learn Mandarin in 2010.

In 2014, he first spoke in Mandarin before students at Tsinghua University in a question-and-answer event.

 
Mark Zuckerberg Wishes Happy Lunar New Year in Chinese
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