Friday night, August 16. At least 26 were confirmed dead. The St Thomas Aquinas ferry was carrying 870 passengers and crew when it collided with a cargo ship. While 629 people had been rescued by early Saturday, August 17, 217 were still unaccounted for and 26 bodies had been retrieved. Fifty-eight babies were among the passengers on board the ferry, and it was unclear how many of them survived.
Read the full story on Rappler
The Commission on Audit (COA)'s special audit on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, found 12 senators and 180 representatives channeling their PDAF to nongovernment organizations (NGOs), which misused the funds, if not totally left them unaccounted for. COA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan said this shocked her. "Ako ay napahagulgol (I bawled)." The years covered the last 3 full years under the administration of President Gloria Arroyo – from 2007, when the mid-term elections were conducted, to 2009, before the presidential elections that Benigno Aquino III won. Ten of the dubious NGOs are linked to fugitive Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind.
Read the full story on Rappler
Islamists in Cairo called for a "Friday of anger" after a crackdown on supporters of ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi killed 578 people. A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman sent out a call via Twitter, "Anti-coup rallies will depart from all mosques of Cairo and head towards Ramsis square after (traditional Friday) prayer in 'Friday of Anger'”. The call raised fears of fresh violence as the death toll rose, making it Egypt's bloodiest day in decades. With the country under a state of emergency, the interior ministry ordered police to use live fire if government buildings are attacked. International criticism of the bloodshed poured in. The UN Security Council urged all parties in Egypt to exercise "maximum restraint", "deplored the loss of lives" and called for an end to the violence. President Barack Obama led the international outrage at the bloody crackdown, announcing the cancellation of a joint US-Egyptian military exercise but stopped short of suspending Washington's annual $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt. The United States has carefully avoided calling Morsi's ouster a coup, a designation that would require the United States to cut assistance.
Read more on Rappler.
Read other related stories: UN probe, Obama cancels US exercises and Death toll on Egypt protest.
SEC records show legitimate businesses owned by pork barrel queen Janet Napoles earned a little more than half a million pesos the past 8 years. The records also show she does not have the means to acquire and maintain her properties, a stark contrast to her family’s lavish lifestyle, their US properties totalling 495 million pesos, at least 10 residential houses in the Philippines and 30 cars. Napoles says her family’s wealth came from legitimate sources-- including inheritance from her parents and a profitable coal mining business. But official filings show the net profits her registered businesses last reported total a little more than half a million pesos-- P577,807.47 to be exact from 2004 to 2012.
Rappler checked with the Securities and Exchange Commission for businesses registered under Napoles family members. We found 24 companies, formed over the last 16 years. Half of the companies have stopped operations. Of the 12 still operational, only 3 complied with the SEC requirement to file annual Financial Statements. People who worked with Napoles say she started as a vendor before becoming a military supplier. Sources say the changes in the Napoleses’ lifestyle became evident around 2003. Napoles attributes this to her coal mining business in Indonesia. But among the registered businesses in the Philippines, only two have something to do with mining and coal trading.
Read more on Rappler.
3 victims of the sex-for-flight scam in the Middle East face their alleged abuser, Riyadh labor attaché Antonio Villafuerte, during a Senate probe.
In a dramatic gesture, one victim removes her mask to face her alleged abuser. The victim “Michelle”, not her real name, asks Villafuerte, “Now, Mr Villafuerte, do you remember me, what you did to me?” Villafuerte confirms he knew Michelle but denies he tried to rape her. Senate labor committee chair Jinggoy Estrada accused Villafuerte of sexually molesting Michelle and other distressed overseas Filipino workers. Estrada also narrates an event when Michelle, who ran away from an abusive employer with only the clothes on her back, requested items such as underwear from Villafuerte. Villafuerte allegedly sent Michelle a text message containing offensive Filipino words seldom used in everyday conversation. Michelle, Villafuerte, and other embassy and labor officials will return to the Senate on August 22 as the sex-for-flight probe continues.
Read the full story on Rappler.
The United Nations sends a team to Syria to investigate claims of chemical weapons use. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government agreed to allow inspectors to go to 3 sites where the use of chemical weapons has been reported.
Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom leads the team. They will try to establish whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them. The Syrian government and rebel forces have accused each other of using the weapons, but both sides have denied it. In June, the United States concludes government forces used the weapons against the rebels.
Read the full story on Reuters.
The Washington Post website falls to hackers from a Syrian group that supports the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. On Thursday, the publication says readers of its online news stories were redirected to the website of the Syrian Electronic Army. The group claims responsibility for web attacks on other media targets like the Twitter feeds of The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera English and the BBC. The Washington Post says the hacking incident comes after a phishing attack. The Syrian group says it gained access to a part of the paper’s website by hacking one of its business partners, Outbrain. The Post says it has "taken defensive measures," which include removing the module affected by the hacking.
Read full story on Big Story.
US Army private Bradley Manning apologizes for leaking secret intelligence files to WikiLeaks. At a sentencing hearing, Manning says, “I'm sorry that my actions have hurt people and have hurt the United States.” The 25-year-old soldier faces up to 90 years in prison for his offenses, which include espionage and computer fraud. He was convicted last month for his massive leak of classified US battlefield reports and diplomatic cables. Some consider Manning a whistleblower lifting the lid on America's foreign policy. But the US government says he put his fellow soldiers in danger when he handed over 700,000 documents while deployed in Iraq. Manning’s defense team argued his superiors ignored signs of his emotional distress and should never have deployed him to Iraq. At the hearing, experts say Manning struggled over his sexual identity in a “hostile” military environment. As part of the trial, his lawyers also release a photograph showing Manning in a blonde wig and wearing makeup. Manning’s therapist says the young soldier attached the photo to an email where he discussed his gender identity.
Read full story on Rappler.
Read more on Gawker.
Google is gearing up to become an intelligent personal assistant.
The search company adds personalized voice searches that answer your questions about yourself. Ask Google to look up where you’re having lunch, your hotel reservations, flight details, or photos from a particular day. The answers will be pulled in from your Google accounts -- Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google+. The voice feature recognizes natural language, so you can talk to Google the way you would for an actual personal assistant. The company will be rolling out the new features to users in the United States. The new features will work on any desktop or mobile version of Google.
Read more on CNN
A mechanic in Toronto loses his job -- and gets an unexpected reply from police -- after posting a message on Twitter asking for marijuana. Posting under the user name Sunith Baheerathan, he wrote on Tuesday: "Any dealers in Vaughan wanna make a 20sac chop? Come to Keele/Langstaff Mr. Lube, need a spliff or two to help me last this open to close (shift)." Police spotted the post and replied: "Awesome! Can we come too?" The exchange goes viral, with netizens retweeting the post more than 3,000 times. Constable Blair McQuillan, the officer who sent the message, says the police wanted people to know they monitor the Internet and people can be held accountable for what they say on Twitter.
Read more story on Rappler.
man being fired image from shutterstock
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