Medical drugs eyed from ‘giant shipworm’ found in PH

Potential medical drugs that can be derived from the so-called “giant shipworm” recently discovered in the Philippines are being explored, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The scientific breakthrough provides researchers the first such live animal that they can study.

“We are amazed. This is the first time we saw a shipworm as large as this. Usually, shipworms are only as short as a matchstick and are white,” Filipino marine biologist Julie Albano told AFP.

Quoting Albano, the AFP said “its bacteria are now being studied for possible pharmaceutical use.”

The creature can reportedly grow up to five feet and relies rotten-egg-smelling gas hydrogen sulfide as its food.

It “survives on the remnants of noxious gases digested by bacteria,” AFP explains in its report.

The mollusk was found in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat, Southern Philippines, where it has been known to locals for some time and even eaten as an aphrodisiac reportedly tasting like an octopus.

Its scientific name is Kuphus Polythalamia.

“We suspected the giant shipworm was radically different from other wood-eating shipworms. Finding the animal confirmed that,” University of Utah research professor Margo Haygood was quoted as saying.

Somalia thanks UAE telethon for Dh165M in aid

The Somali government has extended its thanks to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the latter’s 5-hour telethon last April 21 that yielded DH165 million in aid to Somalia.

“The Somalian government extends its gratitude to the UAE for the humanitarian work they are carrying out in Somalia, including well digging in the central region of Somalia,” said Muhammad Ibrahim, first secretary of the Somalian embassy, in a report by The National.

The telethon is part of a month-long humanitarian drive for starving children and their families in Somalia dubbed “For You Somalia” ordered by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Under the directive, the UAE is gathering donations for the food, water, medicine and other such necessities for the victims of drought.

“I was in Somalia several months ago and I witnessed sad stories there,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying. “There has been a drought there for the past five years, which led to an exodus from the affected areas to Mogadishu.

“There are hundreds of children dying due to the lack of clean water and spread of diseases. Women and children are the most affected,” he added.

“Ten per cent are dying every three weeks due to diarrhea, especially in the southern and central regions,” he said.

According to the United Nations, around 360,000 Somalian children may be suffering from acute malnutrition with half of Somalia’s over 12 million population threatened by famine.

This is said to be the country’s third famine in 25 years.

Surigao del Sur hit by 5.1-magnitude quake

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit Surigao del Sur Sunday Morning, according to a Philippine government bulletin issued following the quake.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology of the Department of Science and Technology (PHILVOLCS-DOST) said the quake was tectonic in origin with a depth of focus of 28 kilometers.

It occurred at 9:19 am with Phivolcs reporting at 9:24 am.

The quake’s center was located around 9 kilometers to 22 kilometers northeast of Tandag in Surigao del Sur.

Aftershocks are expected in the area, said PHILVOLCS.

The US Geological Survey pegged the quake’s magnitude at 5.3 at the same time, with center located 90 kilometers from Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.

Overseas voter registration continues to set new record

The Department of Foreign Affairs – Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) announced that a new milestone has been established by garnering 105,333 new OV registrants, surpassing the previous high of 103,048 set over the same period during 2014-2015 registration drive.

The registration started last December 1, 2016 and will end on September 30, 2018.

The overseas voter registration in preparation for the 2016 elections netted a cumulative total of 1,376,067 active registered overseas voters. The 826,881 new registrants for the 2016 elections, was more than a 100 percent increase over the 398,554 new registrants for the 2013 elections.

Of the almost 1.4 million registered overseas voters, 590,440 were in the Middle East and Africa, 334,215 in the Asia Pacific, 263,316 in the Americas, 138,757 in Europe, and 49,339 were sea-based.

The attainable target for this registration period is 1.1 million OV registrants, which would net a cumulative total of 2,130,000 active registered voters for the coming national elections.

All Filipino citizens who expect to be abroad from April 13 – May 13, 2019 during the overseas voting period for the 2019 Elections, at least 18 years old on May 13, 2019, and not otherwise disqualified by law, may register as an overseas voter. Ffor an updated list please go to www.dfa-oavs.gov.ph or www.comelec.gov.ph.

Close to 9,000 EJK deaths is ‘false news’, Malacañang says

Malacañang on Friday dismissed persistent reports claiming that close to 9,000 have been killed in the government’s war against illegal drugs as “false news,” urging the US State Department not to rush to judgement over the number of alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs).

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Philippine government share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying that there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law.

On Thursday, Murphy reportedly said that the US government is deeply concerned by the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

He also urged the Philippines to follow up on its commitment to investigate EJKs, whether they are committed by law enforcement, or of a vigilante nature.

Abella pointed out that since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in July 1, 2016, the police has accounted for 6,011 homicide cases under investigation — formerly called deaths under investigation.

“Of this number, only 1,398 cases are found to be drug-related contrary to news reports that there are now close to 9,000 killed connected with the campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false news,” Abella said.

The Palace official also pointed out that law enforcers and local authorities always follow the rule of law and due process in the anti-drug war and has remained committed in investigating any and all alleged cases of EJK.

“Local authorities follow operational protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances. Those who breach procedures are made to answer before the law,” he said.

(With reports from PNA)

China to probe alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen in South China Sea

China said it will look into reports that Filipino fishermen have been driven away allegedly by the Chinese Coast Guard from Union Bank in the South China Sea, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.

”I honestly do not know anything about what you said. You yourself mentioned that the vessels are unidentified, and all sides are in the process of verifying the situation. China also needs to check on that,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a press conference.

The Philippines’ foreign affairs and national defense departments are still confirming media reports on the harassment of the Filipino fishermen.

Lu said China will continue to work with the Philippine side to “properly” resolve the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea maritime and territorial dispute under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.

”Our position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. We would go on working with the Philippine side to properly deal with relevant maritime issues and create favorable conditions for the sound and steady development of bilateral relations,” he said.

He reiterated that the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China have turned around and started to improve quickly “with all-around cooperation moving forward steadily”.

(With reports from PNA)

Review: From more screen to price tag

aP: Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 phone is stunning. But its $100 (Dh367) price hike is hard to swallow.

The S8 is for those who want elegance – and are willing to pay for it, with several refinements that, totalled up, are indeed worth more than $100.

SCREENS TO THE EDGES

After spontaneous fires that forced the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 , Samsung is playing it safe on the battery and subjecting the S8 to tighter inspections.

Instead, it’s pushing the boundaries on the phone’s display. Samsung minimized the phone frame and got rid of a physical home button to free up space for an “infinity display,” a screen that seems to flow right into the phone’s curved left and right sides.

The 5.8-inch S8 and the 6.2-inch S8 Plus both have nearly 15 per cent more display space than last year’s comparable models. But the phones themselves aren’t wider. In fact, the phones feel more comfortable thanks to sides that curve around to the back; last year’s curved S7 Edge model feels boxy by comparison.

ALL ABOUT THE BATTERY

The S8 and S8 Plus have more physical space inside, but Samsung used it to give the battery more breathing room while keeping its capacity roughly the same as last year.

Though a larger display drains the battery faster, my tests of streaming video found that the new phones consumed power more slowly than last year’s models. And even with constant use — taking photos, watching video and playing music and podcasts — the new phones still made it to bedtime with power to spare. Samsung credits software and chip improvements.

UNLOCKING THE PHONES

Like the doomed Note 7, the S8 has an iris scanner to let you unlock the phone by looking at it — at least in theory. But you have to swipe the screen first and position it from your face at just the right distance.

The fingerprint scanner was faster and more convenient for unlocking the phone. But you have to be careful not to smudge the adjacent camera lens by mistake now that the scanner has been moved to the back.

FIRE THE ASSISTANT

Samsung is introducing a digital assistant called Bixby, but voice features intended to rival Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri aren’t ready yet. A reminder feature works, but seems paralyzed without voice dictations. Bixby will highlight appointments, trending stories and app suggestions, much as existing features on iPhones and other Android phones already offer.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 hits stores

Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 went on sale over the counter in South Korea Friday as the world’s biggest smartphone maker seeks to move on from a disastrous handset recall that has hammered its once-stellar reputation.

The device, unveiled in New York last month and a challenge to Apple’s iPhone, is the firm’s first major launch since last year’s humiliating withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 over exploding batteries.

It also comes with vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong and other executives on trial for bribery over their alleged role in the graft scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-Hye.

But the company’s profits are rising and the new phones have received good reviews, with more than one million pre-orders for the S8 and the larger S8+ in South Korea alone.

Shares in Samsung Electronics jumped more than 2.5 percent Friday, adding around $7 billion to its market capitalisation.

“Market reactions to the release of the S8 series are somewhat positive,” said Lee Seung-Woo of IBK Investment Securities.

Samsung could break the record 48.5 million unit sales it achieved with its S7 series, he added.

“Barring the weakening of the US dollar, Samsung’s second-quarter operating profit would reach 12 trillion won,” Lee said.

Pre-order deliveries began earlier this week, and in-store sales begin in the US and Canada later Friday, with the device due to be rolled out to around 50 more countries next week.

(With reports from AFP)

Strong winds to blow over the weekend

Motorists are urged to exercise caution, reduce the speed and leave enough distance between vehicles because of the dust storm caused by active winds.

The National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) said in a statement today that the continued strong winds stir dust in open areas, and at times cause low visibility.

The lowest temperature recorded was 13.6 degree Celsius in Rakna and the highest was 41.3 degree Celsius in Fujairah Airport at 01:57 PM, the report read.

Hot weather to continue in UAE

Hot weather will continue to strike the country in the next few days, the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) reported.

“The weather on Friday was fair in general, hazy and relatively hot during the day and mild by the evening. Hot and hazy weather will continue in the UAE. The temperatures will be more of the same like it has been on Friday, with the maximum of 38.8°C and the minimum of 13.6°C,” said an official from the NCMS

Fresh to strong winds over scattered areas across the UAE will cause duststorm resulting into poor visibility.

“Light to moderate winds will help freshen up conditions over some areas on Sunday and Monday, but temperatures are expected to hit a high of 43°C, dipping to 16°C inland,” the report further explained.

On Sunday and Monday fog will cover parts of the UAE and will reduce visibility.