Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Repost From Ella Ide of AFP News

Fired-up pilgrims prepare for John Paul II ceremony

Thousands of excitable pilgrims swarmed into central Rome on the eve of a ceremony to mark late pope John Paul II's step towards sainthood, as the Vatican geared up for the show.

"I couldn't miss this, I had to be a part of such a historical moment. We've only just arrived but the atmosphere's great, it's really exciting," on Saturday said Patricia Wocial, 48, who had come from Britain with her young daughters.

"It's their first pilgrimage and will certainly be an experience to remember," she added, as they stood among the crowds, gazing up at a vast poster of John Paul II hanging from the stone columns outside the Vatican.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to descend on the Italian capital for Sunday's beatification, which will confer a "blessed" status on the charismatic pope, who died in 2005 after reigning for nearly 27 years.

In preparation, the late pope's coffin has been brought out of its resting place in a crypt under Saint Peter's basilica and a phial of John Paul's blood, taken from him during his illness, has been prepared as a relic for veneration.

At least 100,000 people are expected to attend a vigil on Saturday evening to hear those who were close to John Paul II speak. While some then head off to bed, others will take advantage of churches which are staying open all night.

Roguish peddlers have been hawking tacky souvenirs around the Vatican in the run-up to Sunday's ceremony including watches with the pope's face, snow globe paperweights and baseball hats and T-shirts reading "I Love JPII".

"We're planning to camp out at the vigil until midnight, then go from church to church to pray, before heading to the Vatican around 4:00 am (0200 GMT) to soak up the atmosphere and get the best seats possible," Wocial said.

While not all visitors to Rome have come for the ceremony -- "I didn't even know it was happening, just look at the crowds" muttered one disgruntled American -- upwards of 500,000 people are expected on Sunday.

The beatification period was fast-tracked by the Vatican as mourners at John Paul II's funeral clamoured for him to be made saint, drowning out critics who accused him of having ignored Church ills such as corruption and paeodophilia.

"The church hierarchy can avoid rubbing more salt into these wounds by slowing down their hasty drive to confer sainthood on the pontiff," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) group said in a statement.

"In more than 25 years as the most powerful religious figure on the planet, John Paul II did almost nothing to safeguard kids," it said, adding that "most" of the abuses happened during John Paul's long pontificate.

After Sunday's beatification mass, which will be led by Pope Benedict in front of Saint Peter's and shown on big screens in the surrounding area, pilgrims will be able to file past John Paul II's coffin in the basilica.

The devoted will also be able to go and see a bloodied vest worn by the ex-pontiff when he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981, which is set to go on show in the Daughter of Charity convent on the outskirts of Rome.

In order to set the late pope on the road to beatification, the Vatican had to confirm he had worked a miracle -- the healing, apparently unexplainable by science, of a French nun affected by Parkinson's who had prayed to be cured.

Another miracle is needed before John Paul II can be declared a saint. Some pilgrims who had travelled to Rome for the ceremony said they had come not only to show their affection for the late pope but also to ask for his help.

"My mother is ill, I want the pope to heal her. I have him always in my heart," said 25-year old Kate, who had come from Poland with her local priest, two nuns and 40 friends who broke into song as they stood in St. Peter's Square.

Reposted From Ella Ide of AFP News

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Repost From Mike Collet-White and Michael Holden of Reuters

Royal newly-weds kiss, cheered by a million fans

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton married at Westminster Abbey on Friday in a sumptuous show of British pageantry that attracted a huge world audience and breathed new life into the monarchy.

One million well-wishers watched military bands in black bearskin hats and household cavalrymen in shining breastplates escorting the beaming couple in a 1902 open-topped state landau carriage after the ceremony.

Queen Elizabeth's grandson and his bride then appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in central London where they sealed their union with two kisses before a jubilant, cheering crowd who waved flags and banners.

"The monarchy is like our Hollywood, the movies, for us," said Californian Diane Weltz, who flew in especially.

Middleton, who wore a laced ivory-colored dress with a train for the ceremony, became the first "commoner" to marry a prince close to the throne in more than 350 years.

"I am glad the weather held off. We had a great day," she said in her first public comments after the wedding.

The 29-year-old, whose mother's family has coal mining roots, has brought a sense of modernity to the monarchy and helped restore popularity to an institution tarnished by the death of William's hugely popular mother Princess Diana in 1997.

Charles Spencer, Diana's brother who famously excoriated the royals at her funeral in the same abbey, told the BBC the wedding was "very moving," before adding: "The only downside on a perfect day was Diana not being there."

Fans from Asia to the United States camped overnight outside the abbey to catch a glimpse of the future king and queen, whose marriage has fueled a feel-good factor that briefly lifted Britain from its economic gloom.

More than 8,000 journalists descended on London and the ceremony was streamed live on YouTube, ensuring what experts expect will be one of the biggest global audiences ever.


The crowd entered into the festive spirit on a day when threatened rain failed to materialize by wearing national flags, masks of the couple and even fake wedding dresses and tiaras.

"It should have been me!" shouted nurse Jo Newman, 27, dressed as a bride and clutching a bouquet of plastic roses.

Hundreds of police officers, some armed, dotted the royal routes in a major security operation. They made 55 arrests in London, mostly for minor offences.

A sea of supporters cheered as the couple sealed their marriage with one sheepish kiss, then another.

World War Two and modern warplanes flew over the waving royals before they went inside for a champagne reception for 650 guests in the palace's 19 opulent state rooms.

It was a day that mixed royal pomp with splashes of informality.

The couple made a surprise appearance in an open-top vintage Aston Martin owned by the prince's father with the license plate "JU5T WED," trailing balloons to travel the short journey to St. James's Palace in a light-hearted and crowd-pleasing gesture.

They returned to Buckingham Palace for a more intimate party for 300 close friends and family. Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip left the younger crowd to dance into the early hours, media reported.

The exuberance of royal fans was not shared throughout Britain. For some, the biggest royal wedding since Diana married Charles in 1981 was something to forget, reflecting divided opinion about the monarchy.

In the economically depressed northern city of Bradford, businessman Waheed Yunus said: "It's two young people getting married. It's as simple as that. It happens throughout the whole world every single day.

"There are much more pressing issues. There are much more important things going on in the world."

A series of scandals involving senior royals, Britain's economic problems and Diana's death after her divorce from Prince Charles led many to question the future of the monarchy.

Middleton's background, 28-year-old William's appeal, the enduring adoration for his mother and a media-savvy royal press team have restored their standing with the public.

A Daily Mail survey showed 51 percent of people believed the wedding would strengthen the monarchy in Britain, compared with 65 percent who said the marriage between Prince Charles and divorcee Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 would weaken it.

However, while Queen Elizabeth, 85, exercises limited power, and is largely a symbolic figurehead in Britain and its former colonies, critics question the privileges she and her family enjoy, particularly at a time when the economy is weak.

The monarchy officially costs the British taxpayer about 40 million pounds ($67 million) a year, while anti-royalists put the figure at closer to 180 million pounds.


Middleton's dress, the subject of fevered speculation for months in the fashion press, was a traditional ivory silk and satin outfit with a lace applique and flowing train.

It was designed by Sarah Burton of the Alexander McQueen label, named after the British designer who committed suicide. Burton also made her strapless evening gown.

For the wedding, the bride wore a tiara loaned by the queen and the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that belonged to Diana, who was divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, a year before her death in a car crash in Paris aged just 36.

The royals' cool reaction to Diana's death contrasted with an outpouring of public grief and marked a low point for the family.

Some questioned whether the institution, a vestige of imperial glory, had outlived its unifying role in a modern state divided by partisan politics and regional separatism.

About 5,500 street parties were held throughout Britain for the royal wedding, in keeping with tradition, and celebrations were held from Beijing and Sydney to New York and Dubai.

Bells pealed and trumpets blared as 1,900 guests earlier poured into the historic abbey, coronation site for the monarchy since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066.

The queen, other royals, Prime Minister David Cameron, David and Victoria Beckham, the footballer-pop star couple, and singer Elton John were among famous guests at the abbey.

They joined 50 heads of state as well as friends, charity workers and war veterans who know the prince from his military career in what commentators said was a more progressive snapshot of modern Britain than previous royal weddings.

After the abbey had emptied, a cassocked member of staff was caught on camera cartwheeling down the red carpeted aisle.

"It was a moment of exuberance. Like everyone else he was so pleased it had gone well," said an abbey spokeswoman.

Middleton has been given the title Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the queen made her grandson William the Duke of Cambridge to mark the marriage.

William could face a long wait for the throne. His grandmother Queen Elizabeth shows little sign of slowing down at 85 and his father Charles is a fit and active 62-year-old.

Reposted From Mike Collet-White and Michael Holden of Reuters

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Repost From Juan Castro Olivera of AFP

'Catastrophic' tornadoes ravage US south, 280 dead

Shocked Americans struggled Thursday to grasp the magnitude of the worst US tornadoes in decades, which carved a trail of destruction across the south, leaving 280 people dead and some communities virtually wiped off the map.

Disbelief and despair were written on the faces of residents of cities and towns in seven states crippled by the ferocious spring storms as they picked through the remains of destroyed homes, businesses and schools, in surreal scenes of devastation more common to war zones and massive earthquakes.

The severe weather killed at least 184 people and injured several hundred more on Wednesday in Alabama alone, authorities told AFP, and President Barack Obama said he would travel to the state Friday for a first-hand look at the devastation.

Scene: Deadly tornadoes rip apart life in southern US

"The loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama," Obama said Thursday at the White House, calling the destruction "nothing short of catastrophic" as he vowed to rush federal assistance to the Gulf Coast state battered by one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in US history.

The storms "took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors -- even entire communities," he said.

States of emergency were declared from the central state of Oklahoma to Georgia on the eastern seaboard, and governors called out the National Guard -- including 2,000 troops in hardest hit Alabama -- to help with rescue and cleanup operations.

"We had a major catastrophic event here in Alabama with the outbreak of numerous long-track tornadoes," said Governor Robert Bentley, who declared a major disaster for the state and estimated that up to a million people were without power.

Emergency responders were combing communities in a sprawling rescue and recovery effort, and experts said it would take days to get a true picture of the devastation.

Thousands of residents will spend the night in shelters, officials said.

By all accounts the destruction was severe, and John De Block, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist in Birmingham, Alabama, warned people to brace for nearly unprecedented damage.

"There were direct hits on two towns, Hackleburg and Dadeville," De Block told AFP, saying colleagues surveying the area reported that Hackleburg, population 1,500, was "90 percent destroyed."

Most of the homes there were built on slab foundations, and "the slabs have been swept clean in several locations," he said.

Across the region officials reported at least 284 deaths, but as the residents and emergency workers began to mop up and assess the damage the toll was likely to rise.

"In fact, we're sure it will," Bentley said, echoing concerns of officials across several states in what meteorologists described as the deadliest US tornadoes since 310 people were killed on April 3, 1974.

The NWS had preliminary reports of more than 300 tornadoes since storms began Friday, including more than 130 on Wednesday alone.

In the city of Tuscaloosa, Mayor Walter Maddox told CNN the tornado had "obliterated blocks and blocks" of his city, leaving 36 people dead there -- 21 more than officially reported by Alabama's government -- more than 600 wounded and several more missing.

"Infrastructure has been absolutely devastated," he said. "When you look at this path of destruction, likely five to seven miles (eight to 11 kilometers) long and half a mile to a mile wide, I don't know how anyone survived.

"There are parts of this city I don't recognize," he added.

It was also a dark day for Birmingham, Alabama's largest city with more than a million residents.

Mayor William Bell spoke of "whole neighborhoods of housing, just completely gone. Churches, gone. Businesses, gone."

The area, he told National Public Radio, "seems like a bomb has been dropped on it."

Incredulous Birmingham residents assessing the damage were counting their blessings at having survived, while others were distraught over the loss of their loved ones or homes.

"There were two-by-fours (wooden beams) falling out of the sky," convenience store manager Jack Welch said, adding "there were well over 30 homes destroyed" just behind his store.

State officials reported at least 33 dead in Tennessee, while in Mississippi storms killed 32 people.

Fourteen died in Georgia, 11 in Arkansas, eight in Virginia, and another two killed in severe flooding in Missouri, state officials said.

"Oh my God, our town is in pieces," said Tim Holt, a clerk at a local hotel in Ringgold, Georgia. "We saw the funnel cloud coming and I ran into the bathroom with my wife and daughter."

"It's an 80 percent loss in our town," he added.

The storms come after a wet spring and a winter of heavy snowfall which has left the ground saturated and rivers running high.

Several eastern states were on tornado and severe thunderstorm alert Thursday, while another major storm system is forecast to bring heavy rain and high winds on Saturday.

Reposted From Juan Castro Olivera of AFP

A Repost From AP (Associated Press)

Lovesick Indian man beheads woman at her school

Police say that a man armed with a large knife beheaded an 18-year-old woman at her school in front of her horrified classmates in eastern India.

The attacker later told police he was in love with the victim but her parents wouldn't allow them to marry.

Police official Pravin Kumar Singh said Thursday that officers arrested Bijendra Kumar on suspicion of killing Khushbu, who uses only one name. He allegedly attacked her a ceremonial curved weapon called a khukri as she was leaving her classroom Wednesday in the eastern city of Ranchi.

Authorities say the blade sliced her head off and she died instantly. Kumar was quickly mobbed by the other students and handed over to the police. Singh says Kumar told the police that he had also intended to kill himself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Repost From Emmanuel Louis Bacani of GMA News.TV

De Lima highest rated govt exec, Merci lowest

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima notched the highest performance rating among 17 Cabinet members and other government officials while embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez got the lowest score, a recent Pulse Asia survey said.

The results of the survey, conducted from Feb. 24 to March 6, 2011, among 1,200 respondents nationwide and posted on Pulse Asia website on April 26, showed De Lima as the most popular Cabinet member, garnering a 61-percent approval rating.

Her rating has increased from 60 percent in an October 2010 Pulse Asia survey.

On the other hand, Gutierrez, who got 25 percent, had the lowest rating among the 17 officials. Her approval ratings dipped by six percentage points from 31 percent in October 2010.

Gutierrez’s disapproval ratings also increased from 23 percent to 40 percent.

De Lima displaced Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky" Soliman who now ranks second with a 59 percent approval rating.

Soliman topped Pulse Asia’s October 2010 survey with a 65 percent approval rating.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. were tied in the third place with 43 percent.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., tied in fourth place with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Raul Bacalzo, got the most improved rating, jumping from 33 percent in October 2011 to 39 percent.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo ranked fifth, going up from 36 percent to 38 percent.

Tied with Robredo in fifth spot is former Armed Forces chief Ricardo David Jr., whose approval ratings dropped from 42 percent to 38 percent. His disapproval ratings also grew from 11 percent to 20 percent.

Other officials in the survey were:Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson (37 percent)

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (37 percent)

Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad (37)

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (37)

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo (36)

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang (36)

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (34)

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma (31)Gutierrez impeachment

Gutierrez had been put on the spotlight after she was accused of sitting on cases of graft corruption involving high government officials during the watch of former President Gloria Mcapagal Arroyo.

The Pulse Asia survey showing a growing disapproval rating for Gutierrez among the respondents were conducted weeks before the House of Representatives impeached her.

Early on March 22, the House of Representatives approved the articles of impeachment against the Ombudsman.

The six allegations against Gutierrez, which constitute the articles of impeachment, are:(1) the Office of the Ombudsman has performed dismally as shown by the low conviction rate achieved by the office;

(2) the unreasonable failure to take prompt and immediate action on complaints filed against various public officials, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and (husband) Jose Miguel Arroyo regarding the NBN-ZTE broadband project;

(3) the inexcusable delay of the Ombudsman in conducting and concluding its investigation into the wrongful death of Ensign Philip Andrew PestaƱo aboard a Philippine navy vessel;

(4) inaction in the matter of the Fertilizer Fund Scam;

(5) inaction in the matter of the Mega Pacific deal; and

(6) inaction in the matter of the “Euro Generals" issueGutierrez's impeachment trial is set to begin on May 9, with senators (sitting as judges) will resume their session. — Emmanuel Louis Bacani/LBG/KBK, GMA News

Reposted From Emmanuel Louis Bacani of GMA News.TV

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Repost From SPOT

Kenneth Cobonpue's bamboo and rattan car "a big hit" in Milan

Kenneth Cobonpue's Phoenix. Photo from Cobonpue's Facebook fan page.

( Filipino furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue told Manila Bulletin that his Phoenix, the world's first and only car made from bamboo and rattan, was a "big hit" in Milan, Italy. It was showcased at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile during the Milan Design Week earlier this month.

According to Manila Bulletin, the Phoenix does not have an engine yet but it has caught the eye of the car industry. Cobonpue's managing partner in the US, Christopher Reiter, told Manila Bulletin that a visitor from Mercedes Benz was "amazed" by the design.

Reiter said, "He found the whole concept of a car made of bamboo and rattan so raw and yet so rich in terms of design and sustainability. Two other leading car manufacturers are also interested to pursue a collaborative project with Kenneth." According to Manila Bulletin, Consul General Lourdes Soliman Tabamo lauded Cobonpue's work. In an intimate dinner she hosted in Milan for Cobonpue and his staff, she said, "This is a moment of national pride for all of us."

Manila Bulletin quoted Cobonpue as saying, "I am very pleased with the feedback from everyone who came to visit our booth and saw the intricacy of the craftsmanship and the genius of the Filipino design." likened the Phoenix to a sleek bird posed to take flight. "It has a (vertebra) or spine that runs to the rear where it forms into a splay of rattan bundled with LED (Light Emitting Diode) rods to emit light; that's the tail light. The rear is also the space for the car engine." It took months to design the Phoenix, and 10 days to build it in Cobonpue's factory in Cebu.

Reposted From SPOT

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Repost From Kimberly Jane Tan of GMA News

Lacson willing to serve in Aquino's Cabinet

Senator Panfilo Lacson will not refuse if President Benigno Aquino III offers him a Cabinet position at the end of his term in 2013.

"I’m one person who will not shy away from responsibility," Lacson told reporters during an ambush interview on Monday.

However, he was quick to dismiss rumors that he was being offered the post of secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

"That was not taken up during my meeting with the President," said Lacson, who met with Aquino last month shortly after he surfaced from more than a year of hiding to evade arrest in connection with a double murder case.

He likewise said that Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo should be given a chance to do his job. "I think he should stay there and perform his duty as DILG secretary."

Lacson was the chief of the Philippine National Police from November 1999 to January 2001. It was during this time that he allegedly masterminded the abduction and killing of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and Dacer's driver, Emmanuel Corbito.

The Court of Appeals has already junked the multiple murder cases filed against Lacson.

Lacson was first elected senator on 2001 and to another term in 2007, making him ineligible for reelection in the 2013 midterm elections. He was also an unsuccessful presidential candidate in the 2004 elections. - Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News

Reposted From Kimberly Jane Tan pf GMA News

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Repost From Rey Joble of GMA News.TV

Hontiveros, Taulava to join PHL 5 in FIBA Champs Cup

Philippine Basketball Association veteran stars Dondon Hontiveros of Air21 and Asi Taulava of Meralco are expected to join the Pilipinas-Smart Gilas squad in next month’s FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

Frankie Lim, team manager of Smart Gilas, confirmed this development to GMA News.

“It’s a pre-approved deal," said Lim in an interview Sunday night after his team lost to the Ginebra Gin Kings, 85-92, in Game 4 of their PBA best-of-five semifinals series.

“I don’t see any problem in getting their services. We really need them to reinforce our campaign in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Eventually, they will become members of the squad and play for the FIBA Asia Championship," added Lim.
Dondon Hontiveros of Air21 is expected to suit up for Smart Gilas in the coming FIBA Asia Champions Cup next month. GMA News

The Philippines will host the 10-nation FIBA Asia Champions Cup to be held at the Philsports Arena from May 28 to June 5.

National team coach Rajko Toroman added Hontiveros and Taulava will become key additions to their squad.

“We really need them. They’ve become more of a necessity for us right now with Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag of Talk N Text playing in the PBA Finals," said Toroman.

Air21 coach Bong Ramos said in a telephone interview that he was informed by the Express management of Smart Glas’ request to have Hontiveros joining the squad in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

“Hindi ko naman siya pipigilan dahil national team ‘yan," said Ramos.

Ryan Gregorio, Taulava’s coach at Meralco, said he will approve Taulava’s inclusion to Gilas as long as there is management’s approval.

“Yes, if it’s for the country, it’s non-negotiable and there’s no reason to disagree in loaning Asi to Gilas," said Gregorio in a text message. “But of course, it is subject to approval. If Meralco management agrees, I will not get in the way."

Hontiveros and Taulava were teammates in the all-pro national team to the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship in Tokushima. - Rey Joble, GMA News

Reposted From Rey Joble of GMA News.TV


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