Philippines presidential candidate slammed for jokes about rape, murder of Australian missionary

A leading candidate to become president of the Philippines is under fire for apparently joking about the rape of a murdered Australian missionary.

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Rodrigo Duterte, who has been mayor of the southern city of Davao since 1988, made the remarks at a campaign rally, a video of which was posted on YouTube and widely shared on social networking sites.

In the video, he recalled his reaction to a riot by inmates at the Davao jail in 1989, when five missionaries were murdered by the detainees before troops stormed the facility.

One of the missionaries assaulted by the prisoners was 36-year-old Australian Jacqueline Hamil, who Duterte recalled as being beautiful.

“There was this Australian lay minister … I saw her face and I thought: Son of a bitch. What a pity … they raped her, they all lined up. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first,” he told the crowd.

Senator Grace Poe, a close contender in the presidential elections set for May 9, said Duterte’s comments were “distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women.”

“No one, whoever she is and whatever her looks may be, deserves to be raped and abused,” she added.

“Rape is a crime and no laughing matter. We should all be outraged at abuses against women.”

Many online commentators condemned the comments, while some expressed disappointment after throwing their support behind the 71-year-old mayor, who vowed to rid the country of crime within six months if elected.

Duterte said his remarks were not a joke, but a narrative of his “utter anger” during the time of the crime.

“Do not make me apologise for something which I did not do. It’s a matter of honour … I said it in the heat of anger,” he told local media.

“I am even willing to lose the presidency.”

Duterte surged in the last public opinion survey on who Filipinos will vote for as president in the elections, overtaking Poe who was the early frontrunner in the contest.

Now, power’s just a wee way away

Researchers have developed a miniature fuel cell costing as little as STG1 ($A1.

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86) that can generate electricity from urine.

The device, a microbial fuel cell, could be used to create a renewable and carbon-neutral way of generating power to remote areas at very little cost.

Each of the fuel cells, developed by researchers at the University of Bath, Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Bioenergy Centre, costs STG1 to STG2.

Microbial fuel cells use natural biological processes of “electric” bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity.

Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for this reaction to happen, with the bacteria then generating electricity.

This can be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo, lecturer at the University of Bath’s department of chemical engineering, said: “If we can harness the potential power of this human waste, we could revolutionise how electricity is generated.

“Microbial fuel cells can play an important role in addressing the triple challenge of finding solutions that support secure, affordable and environmentally sensitive energy, known as the ‘energy trilemma’.

“There is no single solution to this ‘energy trilemma’ apart from taking full advantage of available indigenous resources, which include urine.”

The researchers worked on the cell’s design to maximise the power that could be generated.

By increasing the cell’s electrodes from 4mm to 8mm, the power output was increased tenfold.

The power was proportionally increased when the researchers stacked multiple units together.

Currently, a single microbial fuel cell can generate two watts per cubic metre, enough to power a device such as a mobile phone.

Research team members are now looking at ways of improving the power output of the microbial fuel cells and believe they will be able to increase the cell’s performance by optimising its design.

PhD student Jon Chouler, the lead author of the study, said: “Microbial fuel cells could be a great source of energy in developing countries, particularly in impoverished and rural areas.

Dr Tim Mays, head of the department of chemical engineering and co-director of the university’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, added: “Renewable ‘pee-power’ is a brilliant idea and its use in developing countries will have huge positive impact on people’s lives in areas of energy poverty.

Details of the research are published in the journal Electrochimica Acta.

Cholesterol drug tackles prostate cancer

An experimental drug designed to lower cholesterol may turn out to be an effective weapon against prostate cancer, research has shown.

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Tumour cells need cholesterol to construct their cell membranes. By cutting their cholesterol production, the new molecule, known as RO 48-8071, causes the cells to fall apart and die.

It could also have the added benefit of preventing prostate cancer developing resistance to hormone therapies.

Professor Salman Hyder, from the University of Missouri in the US, said: “Cholesterol is a molecule found in animal cells that serves as a structural component of cell membranes. When tumour cells grow, they synthesise more cholesterol.

“Often, cancer patients are treated with toxic chemotherapies; however, in our study, we focused on reducing the production of cholesterol in cancer cells, which could kill cancer cells and reduce the need for toxic chemotherapy.”

The compound was originally developed by the drug company Roche for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Prof Hyder’s team found that human prostate cancer cells exposed to the drug in the laboratory died.

When the drug was injected into mice with human prostate cancer, tumour growth was curbed.

Importantly, the drug appeared to be effective against prostate cancer cells that had become resistant to hormone treatments.

Prostate cancer is initially tackled by preventing its growth being fuelled by the male hormone testosterone. But over time, the cancer stops responding to this treatment.

One way tumours ensure their survival is by manufacturing their own testosterone through a process that relies on cholesterol.

“Cholesterol … can contribute to the development of anti-hormone resistance because cholesterol is converted into hormones in tumour cells,” said Prof Hyder. “Therefore, these cholesterol-forming pathways are attractive therapeutic targets for the treatment of prostate cancer.”

Desperate search for survivors in Japan as manufacturers count cost

A 7.

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3 magnitude tremor struck early on Saturday, killing at least 32 people, injuring about a thousand and causing widespread damage to houses, roads and bridges, with at least one mountain highway severed in two, concrete tumbling into the valley below.

In the village of Minamiaso, 11 people were “out of contact”, said public broadcaster NHK. Rescuers pulled 10 students out of a collapsed university apartment in the same settlement on Saturday.

“In Minamiaso, where the damage is concentrated, there may still be people trapped under collapsed buildings, so we are focusing our attention and rescue and search efforts in this area,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

It was the second major quake to hit Kumamoto province on the island of Kyushu in just over 24 hours. The first, late on Thursday, killed nine people. Of more than 470 quakes hitting Kyushu since Thursday, 78 have been at least a four on Japan’s intensity scale, strong enough to shake buildings.

Quakes are common in Japan, part of the seismically active “Ring of Fire” which sweeps from the South Pacific islands, up through Indonesia, Japan, across to Alaska and down the west coast of the United States and Central and South America.

At the other end of the ring this weekend, Ecuador’s biggest earthquake in decades killed at least 235 people, caused devastation in coastal towns and left an unknown number trapped in ruins. A 6.1 magnitude quake also struck southeast of the Pacific island nation of Tonga, with no immediate reports of damage.

Three nuclear plants in the southern Japanese region were unaffected by the second quake, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will hold an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the disaster.

A massive 9 magnitude quake and tsunami in northern Japan in March 2011 caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, shutting down the nuclear industry for safety checks and sending radiation spewing across the countryside. The first reactor to restart was Kyushu Electric’s Sendai No. 1, which is at one of the plants in the region hit on Saturday.

Nearly 20,000 people were killed in the 2011 tsunami.

The Kumamoto region is an important manufacturing hub.

Toyota Motor Corp said it would suspend production at plants across Japan after the quakes disrupted its supply chain.

Electronics giant Sony Corp said its Kumamoto image sensors plant would remain suspended. One of the company’s major customers for the sensors is Apple. Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. said production at its motorcycle plant in southern Japan would remain suspended through Friday.

Suga said the government may seek a supplementary budget to cover the cost of the quakes.

“We will do all that we can,” Kyodo News quoted Suga as telling a press briefing.

Digging with bare hands

All commercial flights to the damaged Kumamoto airport were canceled and Japan’s bullet train to the region suspended. Expressways are closed in wide areas because of landslides and cracks in road surfaces, hindering efforts to get supplies of water and food to survivors.

Overnight, rescuers digging with their bare hands dragged some elderly survivors, still in their pyjamas, out of the rubble and onto makeshift stretchers made of tatami mats.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would boost the number of troops helping to 25,000 and had accepted a U.S offer of help with air transportation.

Heavy rains fueled worries of more landslides and with hundreds of aftershocks and fears of more quakes, thousands spent the night in evacuation centers.

“It’s full in there. There’s not a inch to sleep or even walk about in there. It’s impossible in there,” a resident of Mashiki town said outside an evacuation center.

Firefighters handed out tarpaulins to residents so they could cover damaged roofs, but many homes were simply deserted.

Around 62,700 households were without electricity, water supplies had been disrupted to more than 300,000 homes and some areas had lost their gas supply, said NHK.

More than 110,000 people have been evacuated from the Kumamoto area, said Kyodo.

Troops set up tents for evacuees and water trucks were being sent to the area while television footage showed people stranded after the fall of a bridge being rescued by helicopters.

Police said 32 people had been confirmed dead in Saturday’s quake. The government said about 190 of the injured were in a serious condition.

The epicenter of Saturday’s quake was near the city of Kumamoto and measured at a shallow depth of 10 km (six miles), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said. The shallower a quake, the more likely it is to cause damage.

The city’s 400-year-old Kumamoto Castle was badly damaged, with its walls breached after having withstood bombardment and fire in its four centuries of existence.

The USGS, a science organization that provides information on ecosystems and the environment, estimated there was a 72 percent likelihood of economic damage exceeding $10 billion, adding that it was too early to be specific. Major insurers are yet to release estimates.

 

NBL Bullets sign Jervis, Petrie

The Brisbane Bullets have secured the services of experienced NBL campaigners and former Boomers Tom Jervis and Anthony Petrie for their comeback season.

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Towering centre Jervis, a two-time NBL championship winner with the Perth Wildcats who has recorded more blocked shots (108) than any other player in the last three seasons, has signed a three-year deal.

“I have observed Tom’s outstanding growth and development since coming into the NBL as a mature age rookie with great interest. He is a significant signing for us,” said Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis, who will also guide the Boomers at this year’s Rio Olympics.

“Tom has played a key role in Perth’s success in recent seasons and he brings a quality skill set to the Bullets.

“He will fit exceptionally well into both the offence and defensive structures we’ll run.”

Forward Petrie, 33, is a veteran of the NBL, having had stints with the West Sydney Razorbacks, Gold Coast Blaze and most recently the Adelaide 36ers.

The 203cm forward has played a staggering 151 NBL cames in a row – the second-longest consecutive games streak in the competition.

“Anthony is a savvy player that provides a great all-round package. Everyone who plays against him knows hell always aim up physically,” Lemanis said of Petrie, who has signed a two-year contract.

Jervis and Petrie join inaugural Bullets signings Adam Gibson and Daniel Kickert on Brisbane’s playing roster as the team’s starting five begins to take shape ahead of their return to the NBL following a nine-year absence.

It also reunites Petrie and Gibson, who have played on the same NBL team for the past seven seasons.

Rafa’s belief returns with Monte Carlo win

Spain’s Rafael Nadal will take an extra jolt of confidence into his Roland Garros run-up after lifting a record ninth title at the Monte Carlo Masters with a 7-5 5-7 6-0 win over Gael Monfils in the final.

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The fifth-seeded winner prevailed in nearly three hours of battle on Sunday against the first Frenchman to reach the final since Cedric Pioline won the title in 2000.

Nadal was playing his 100th career final and 10th in Monaco. His victory drew him alongside Novak Djokovic with an ATP-leading 28 Masters 1000 trophies.

The Spaniard claimed his first title in the Principality since 2012 and first of any kind since Hamburg last summer. His last Masters honour came at Madrid nearly two years ago.

“I hope this week will help me a lot,” Nadal said.

“It’s great to win a Masters title again, I had a tough season last year.

“This victory means a lot to me. I hope it helps my season with confidence for the next few tournaments.

I’ve been able to play well for two events in a row (Indian Wells and Monaco) and I’m very happy about that.”

Nadal escaped to victory with a runaway final set where he dominated after being pushed to one-and-a-quarter hours in the first set and fighting off a run of break points in the second as both men tested the clay limits.

“The defence in the first two sets was just unbelievable,” Nadal said.

“In the third I told myself I had to hit my forehand harder. I went for winners, but at times it was tough to find the right feeling.

“This is a great victory for me and a very emotional one.

Nadal still made 36 unforced errors while the colourful Monfils struck in excess of 50. Break point conversions were spotty: Nadal converted on eight of 21; Monfils five from 13.

Nadal now boasts 68 titles including 48 on clay and stands an impressive 58-4 at the tournament which he has now dominated like no other. The 29-year-old won eight straight editions from 2005-2012, but had gone dry for the past four years.

Ipsos poll: Turnbull takes hit, Coalition-Labor 50-50

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Coalition and Labor are 50-50% on the two-party vote, a fall for the government of three points since March and a 3.

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5% swing against it since the 2013 election.

Turnbull’s net approval is down ten points since March, while his still-big lead over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister has narrowed.

Turnbull has a significant margin over Shorten on seven of 11 personal attributes that the poll asked about. But the strength of his ratings has weakened since October, just after he became leader. Turnbull’s biggest falls are in the ability to make things happen, being a “strong leader”, having a clear vision for Australia, and having his party’s confidence.

The poll reinforces the point that the government is on the defensive over the issue of whether there should be a royal commission into the banks’ behaviour, with 65% favouring one and 26% against. Labor has promised a royal commission, which has also been urged by some government MPs. Even a majority of Coalition voters (53%) believes there should be a royal commission.

The period since the last Ipsos poll has seen continued confusion over the government’s tax policy, the banks’ issues, and signs of disunity in government ranks.

The poll comes as parliament on Monday commences its special sitting with the Senate considering the government’s industrial relations legislation. Turnbull has said that if the Senate does not pass the bills to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and to toughen union governance there will be a July 2 double dissolution.

Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed on Sunday that the Senate would have to pass all the industrial relations bills to avoid a double dissolution. There is a general expectation this will not happen and there will be a July 2 election.

Monday will start with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove opening the session. The Registered Organisations bill, defeated three times and already a double-dissolution trigger, has to be reintroduced. The ABCC bills are before parliament.

The session will also see legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, for which the government believes it has the Senate numbers. Its fallback position, if it cannot get enough crossbenchers, is to move for a recent pay decision from the tribunal to be put on hold.

Turnbull addressed a rally of owner operators in Canberra on Sunday, saying “we’re the parties of truck drivers. We’re the parties of people that get on and have a go and that’s why we’re here”. Shorten said Turnbull probably had the crossbench numbers to secure abolition.

In the Ipsos poll, the Coalition’s primary vote is down three points since March to 42%, Labor is up two points to 33%, while the Greens, on 14%, are unchanged. The poll of 1402 was taken Thursday to Saturday.

Turnbull’s approval has fallen four points to 51%; his disapproval is up six points to 38%, for a net approval of plus 13, a ten-point fall. Shorten’s approval is unchanged (33%); his disapproval has risen by three points to 55%, to given him a net approval of minus 22, a worsening of three points.

Turnbull’s rating as preferred prime minister is down seven points to 54%; Shorten’s rating has risen five points to 27%.

While there has been little change in people’s thinking about Shorten’s attributes, the poll shows that voters have reassessed what they think of Turnbull, although they put him ahead of his opponent on most measures.

The Turnbull-versus-Shorten ratings are:

competent (Turnbull 70%, Shorten 49%);has a firm grasp of economic policy (66-38%);open to ideas (63-59%);has a firm grasp of foreign policy (61-36%);strong leader (55-31%);has a clear vision for Australia’s future 51-34%;trustworthy (51-36%);has the confidence of his party (50-58%);has the ability to make things happen (49-32%);has a firm grasp of social policy (47-54%); andis easily influenced by minority groups (34-50%).

The falls in Turnbull’s ratings since October are:

competent, 13 points;has a firm grasp of economic policy, 14 points;open to ideas, 12 points;has a firm grasp of foreign policy, four points;strong leader, 20 points;has a clear vision for Australia’s future, 19 points;trustworthy, seven points;has the confidence of his party, 17 points;has the ability to make things happen, 25 points; andhas a firm grasp of social policy, 13 points.

On one measure his rating has risen, but it is not good news. In October 27% saw him as easily influenced by minority groups. Now 34% see him as open to this influence.

Meanwhile, on Saturday former speaker Bronwyn Bishop, 73, failed in her bid to get preselected for her seat of Mackellar, which she has held since 1994, after being a senator from 1987 to 1994. She was defeated 51 votes to the 39 on the third ballot by Jason Falinski, a former Liberal staffer.

Falinski, a moderate, had the support of Turnbull. Hard-right candidate Walter Villatora, who had the backing of former prime minister Tony Abbott, got only a handful of votes. But when he dropped out it appears his nine votes, except for one, went to Falinski, lifting him from 43 to 51, while Bishop stayed on 39, and there was one informal.

Abbott and Bishop, previously long-time allies, fell out in the wake of the row over her infamous A$5000 helicopter trip between Melbourne and Geelong. She voted against him in the leadership ballot.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Vaccine objectors not on the rise: data

The number of Australian parents refusing to have their children vaccinated hardly changed from 2002 to 2013, say researchers.

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Registered vaccination objection affecting children aged one to six years increased from 1.1 per cent in 2002 to two per cent in 2012 and no vaccinations were recorded for them.

But the increase was offset by a decrease in the number of partially vaccinated children whose parents had not recorded an official objection.

Vaccination coverage overall remained relatively high and stable.

Dr Frank Beard and colleagues from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance and the University of Sydney examined trends in registered vaccination objection.

The study, in the Medical Journal of Australia, estimated the contribution of unregistered objection to incomplete vaccination among children in Australia.

“Most areas with high levels of recorded objection were in regional zones, with marked clustering in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland,” they said.

Objections were more common in affluent areas, while the number of children not fully vaccinated – but with no recorded objection – was higher among local socioeconomic areas.

This may be due to problems of access to health services, missed opportunities and logistical difficulties, suggest the authors.

Just over half of the 2.4 per cent of children with no vaccinations and no recorded objection were born overseas.

Most are likely to have been vaccinated but the information has not been recorded on the Australian Childhood Immunisation (ACIR) Register, suggest the authors.

“We recommend that primary care clinicians pay close attention to ensuring that the vaccination history of overseas-born children is correctly recorded in the ACIR,” they said.

Data on registered objection is no longer collected, however, the ACIR collects data on children who are fully registered.

From January, philosophical and religious beliefs are no longer legally valid reasons for exemption from vaccination requirements for those receiving family assistance payments.

Still mountain to climb: Labor cautious

Labor is claiming underdog status as two new opinion polls show voters evenly divided in their support for the Turnbull government and the opposition.

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Despite clawing itself back into the game, senior frontbencher Penny Wong says Labor faces the challenge of defeating a first-term government.

“We all know how high that mountain is to climb,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

Senator Wong was responding to the findings of two polls – Newspoll and Ipsos/Fairfax – that both show a dramatic slide in support for the coalition and its leader since Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott seven months ago.

The key findings of the two polls reveal:

* Newspoll has Labor leading the coalition 51-49 per cent; Ipsos has them tied at 50-50.

* Malcolm Turnbull maintains his lead – 27 per cent in Ipsos and 19 per cent in Newspoll – over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister.

* Dissatisfaction with Mr Turnbull is up 18 points this year to 49 per cent in Newspoll.

Senator Wong said the high hopes Australians had for Mr Turnbull have been dashed.

“I think people are responding to the fact that we’ve got a prime minister who doesn’t have a plan for government,” she said.

That view is borne out in the Ipsos poll which shows voters now doubt Mr Turnbull’s ability to make things happen.

A little over half think he has a clear vision for Australia’s future.

However seven out of 10 see him as a competent leader, while nearly as many believe he has a firm grasp of economic policy.

Cabinet minister Simon Birmingham believes those qualities will stand the coalition in good stead on polling day.

“I have no doubt that Malcolm’s capabilities and economic leadership will ultimately be the deciding matter in this election,” he told Sky News.

Colleague George Brandis said margins narrowed as you enter the “home stretch”.

“These polls are pretty much where we would have expected them to be at this stage in the cycle,” he told ABC radio.

The Ipsos poll shows 65 per cent back Labor’s call for a royal commission into the banking an financial services sectors.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the polls show a huge wave of disappointment in Mr Turnbull’s leadership.

“He has failed to show any leadership on issues like global warming, marriage equality and a little more decency towards people seeking refuge in this country,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Ecuador quake toll continues to rise

More than 1500 people are also believed injured in the 7.

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8 magnitude quake, which caused buildings and roads to collapse in a number of western towns.

The quake struck Ecuador off the Pacific coast on Saturday and was felt around the nation of 16 million people, and in parts of neighbouring Colombia.

The full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed and an initial tsunami warning has been lifted, although residents have still been warned to seek higher ground.

The government says about 13,500 security personnel are keeping order around the country and almost AU$800 million in credit from multilateral lenders has been immediately activated for the emergency.

President Rafael Correa rushed home from a trip to Italy while the Vice-President, Jorge Glas, has called for calm, saying the rescue effort has been boosted by international help.

“I am very grateful for the solidarity and rapid response of friends – Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Spain, the European Union – at this time, as well as others that have committed to provide specialized rescuers in working with tools and technology and nutrition during this kind of situation.”

Coastal areas nearest the epicentre have been worst affected, especially Pedernales, a tourist spot which appears to have been largely flattened.

Authorities say there have been more than 160 aftershocks so far, mainly in the Pedernales area, and a state of emergency has been declared in six provinces.

In the municipality of Chamanga, resident Nely Intriago lost everything in the earthquake but is grateful she and her family survived.

“I was in Atacames shopping, my daughter was home and she was almost trapped but her husband managed to get to her and get her out. Once they managed to get out, the house came down. I found my house like this. What am I going to do? Cry, that’s all. Now we are on the street left with nothing.”

More than 800 volunteers and staff of the Ecuador Red Cross are also in the affected communities providing first aid as well as search and rescue activities.

The Ecuador Red Cross has also organised health teams and hospital units, deploying a National Disaster Response Team to carry out assessments of the humanitarian needs following the earthquake.

Diego Castallanos is with the Red Cross in Ecuador.

He’s told Al Jazeera the team is working in challenging conditions.

“It is difficult because we can’t get to these communities by road, because some of the roads collapsed too so it is only possible by helicopter in some parts of these areas. We have some hospital units in these areas but obviously in some parts of these areas some of the patients we are now taking to the hospitals and some we are taking to safe shelters.”

The quake has come at at time when Ecuador is reeling from low oil prices, and economic growth forecasts projected at near-zero in 2016.

The government has called it the worst quake in the country since 1979.

In that disaster, the US Geological Survey records that 600 people were killed and 20,000 injured.