Aquino signs budget
President Benigno Aquino III yesterday signed into law a 2.005 trillion peso (US$49 billion) budget for next year, vowing to use higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol to boost programs to reduce poverty. Education, health, agriculture and a cash-transfer scheme for the poor are the key priorities of the appropriations, which are 10.5 percent higher than this year’s national budget, he said during the signing ceremony. “We designed this budget as an instrument to give the common man the power to control and improve his life,” Aquino said. He thanked congress for passing earlier this month an increase in “sin taxes” on tobacco and alcohol products, which is expected to bring in more than US$800 million in extra revenues next year.
Migrants find refuge
Local authorities have allowed 40 migrants from Myanmar into the country two weeks after their vessel sank in the Bay of Bengal, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said yesterday. Singapore did not let the migrants enter despite an appeal by the UNHCR after they were rescued by a Vietnamese cargo when their vessel sank on Dec. 5. It was not immediately clear if they were Rohingyas, Muslim people from northwest Myanmar. Many Rohingyas, facing violence and persecution, have left Myanmar in rickety boats bound for Southeast Asia in search of better lives.
Talabani’s health improving
President Jalal Talabani’s health condition was improving yesterday and he responded well to treatment in a Baghdad hospital two days after suffering a stroke, his medical team coordinator said. Talabani’s sudden illness prompted questions about his exit from politics where he has been a key mediator amoung Shiite, Sunni and Kurds, and helped ease tensions in the growing dispute over oil between Baghdad and the country’s autonomous Kurdistan. The Kurdish statesman was admitted to hospital on Monday night after suffering a form of stroke and was in intensive care with a team of specialists.
Obesity-bacteria link found
Researchers in Shanghai’s Jiatong University have identified a bacterium that may cause obesity, according to a new paper suggesting diets that alter the presence of microbes in humans could combat the condition. They found that mice bred to be resistant to obesity even when fed high-fat foods became excessively overweight when injected with a kind of human bacterium and subjected to a rich diet. The bacterium — known as Enterobacter — had been linked with obesity after being found in high quantities in the gut of a morbidly obese human volunteer, the report said.
Jackie Chan under probe?
Police yesterday said they would investigate comments made by action star Jackie Chan (成龍) that he had used guns and grenades to confront triad gang members. Chan told the Guangzhou-based Southern People Weekly magazine that he had been “bullied” by triads. “In the past, when they bullied me. I hid in the United States. They opened fire at me once I got off the airplane,” Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted him as saying in the magazine interview published last week. “Later on, I confronted them with two guns and six grenades,” he said. A police spokeswoman said they would probe Chan’s comments, but stopped short of saying whether they would question him.