Russia grants a one year asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in defiance of the United States. The “temporary asylum” is renewable and allows him to live, work and travel in Russia. The 30 year old ex-CIA has finally left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport where he was left in limbo for months. The Wall Street Journal quotes White House spokesman Jay Carney as saying “We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful request [to have him expelled]". Legislators call it a slap in the face of the Obama administration and called for retaliatory moves. The WSJ says Carney directly acknowledged for the first time that the White House may back out of a September summit meeting in Moscow between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Carney said, "We are evaluating the utility of a summit." His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena says "Seeing as he is the most wanted person on earth, he today will also be focusing on questions of his own security." The WSJ also quotes a US official saying the risk of Snowden “bartering” more confidential information is real. "What does he have to trade to stay there?"
Read the full story on Rappler and WSJ
A new Guardian report explains a National Security Agency tool called XKeyScore collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'. Training materials for XKeyScore says the tool gives NSA the ability to intercept and collect data on an individual's online activity.
A "simple on-screen form" and a "broad justification for the search" is all that is needed for an analyst to mine the NSA databases
XKeyScore monitors email, chat messages, browsing history, and social media activity of a targeted individual
XKeyScore and other NSA systems intercept “real-time” internet activity
Snowden told the Guardian in June "I, sitting at my desk... could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email". The NSA in a reply to The Guardian, said "NSA's activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets.” It added: "Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA's analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks."
US stocks close at record highs on the first day of August, ahead of a widely-anticipated government job report on Friday. The S&P 500 ends above 1,700 after soaring 21.14 points or 1.25%, while the Nasdaq ends above 3,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average goes up 128.48 points, or 0.83%, to finish at 15,628.02. CNBC reports the rising asset prices will help propel a cycle of confidence in the market. Among positive signs for the US economy is the drop in the number of filing new claims for unemployment, the lowest in nearly 6 years. The pace of growth in the manufacturing sector also speeds up in July to its highest level in two years.
Read the full story on CNBC.
Tax chief Kim Henares denies news reports quoting her as saying 90% of professionals evade taxes. In a Rappler interview Thursday, Henares says the story came out after the Bureau of Internal Revenue published an ad encouraging professionals to pay their taxes. She says she does not have exact statistics on non-compliance, but corrects reports quoting her as saying the bureau should be collecting an annual average of P100,000 from professionals.Malacañang says the ad is part of Tax Watch, "a campaign by the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue [which] publishes weekly lists of individual and non-individual taxpayers." The tax chief earns a reputation for heading a name-and-shame campaign against tax evaders. Credit rating agencies also cite improved collections under her term. Henares says the bureau increased its revenue last year by 14%, but missed their target by P8 billion.
Read more on Rappler and watch Talk Thursday.
For the 6th straight year, businessman Henry Sy Sr is once again the richest Filipino in the country. In Forbes magazine’s rich list, the 88-year-old Sy tops the Philippine list with a wealth estimated at $12 billion. Forbes reports the collective wealth of the 50 richest people in the Philippines reaches $65.8 billion in 2013, more than a quarter of the country's total gross domestic product. The 88-year-old Sy operates the Philippines’ biggest shopping mall network-- SM, the most valuable real estate firm, SM Prime Holdings, and the biggest bank by assets, BDO Unibank.
Read full story here and here.
Convicted US kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro told a court Thursday, he had captured and tormented 3 young women because he was addicted to sex. Catro pleaded, "I'm not a monster. I'm sick." Castro pleaded guilty to 977 charges related to his victims' brutal decade-long ordeal, including many rapes and the murder of a fetus by beating up its mother. Castro claimed that he had himself been sexually abused as a child and had grown up obsessed with sex, addicted to pornography and a compulsive masturbator. Judge Michael Russo was unimpressed, pointing out that Castro had admitted to the violent crimes. "You pled guilty to that and by virtue of your plea, when you rape someone, that's what it means." One of his 3 victims, 32-year-old Michelle Knight testified about her ordeal of beatings and rapes. Investigators also images of the chains in which the women were held.
Read full story on Rappler and CNN.
Italy's top court convicts former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud, confirming his prison sentence and shaking up the country's fragile political scene. In an emotional video message broadcast on Italian television, Berlusconi says the verdict was "based on nothing at all." He adds, "In exchange for all my commitment, I have been rewarded with accusations...This is a country that does not know how to be just". The court upholds a sentence for tax fraud of four years in prison of which three are covered by an amnesty. Berlusconi is charged with avoiding taxes from his business empire Mediaset, which bought rights to broadcast movies through a series of offshore companies. The court also orders an appeals court to consider a possible temporary ban from holding public office for Berlusconi, which would eject him from the Senate. Thursday's verdict was Berlusconi's second and final appeal in the case, which first went to trial in 2006. He is also appealing convictions in other cases for having sex with an underage prostitute, abusing his prime ministerial powers and leaking a police wiretap to damage a political rival.
Read more on Rappler and NY Times.
US President Barack Obama praises Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for their leadership in agreeing to resume peace talks. He also noted that "the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead." The negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority meet in Washington Monday for talks they hope will lead to an agreement within nine months. The Obama administration's last foray into the Arab-Israeli conflict ended in failure, when talks launched in September 2010 collapsed weeks later over continued Israeli settlement building. US State Secretary John Kerry persuaded the two sides to meet for nine months to try to resolve the conflict. The latest effort is met with skepticism, as Israel and the Palestinians remain divided over the so-called "final status" issues that plagued negotiators for two decades. These include Jerusalem -- claimed as a capital by both sides -- the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
Read more on Rappler.
At 22 – while still a student and her parents' last known source of income was government contracts gone bad – Jeane Napoles bought a posh Los Angeles apartment worth $1.85 million (around P80 million). An exclusive Rappler report revealed details of Jeane’s luxurious unit at the Ritz Carlton Residences. It’s the latest addition to revelations about Jeane’s lavish lifestyle, after her mother Janet is tagged as the brains behind an alleged multi-million pork barrel scam involving several lawmakers. The online scene was immediately abuzz with mostly incredulous reactions. Rappler asked netizens: What did you own #at22? The topic trended on July 31 – top 3 on Twitter – during the conversation initiated by Rappler.
Rappler launches #BalikBayan, a new project that attempts to engage Filipinos all over the world in collectively rediscovering and redefining the Filipino identity in a modern world. The project is born out of the idea that identity and a sense of home are not confined by any country's national borders. But we recognize it’s important to look back to our roots for a clearer picture of where we’re headed in the future. #BalikBayan is three words in one: "balik" to return; "bayan" nation. Combine these two, and you form the third: "balikbayan" -- which means someone who returns home, or the act of returning home. What ‘home’ is would not be the same for any two people. The Filipino has changed the world in more ways than we can begin to imagine—from Silicon Valley trailblazer Dado Banatao to the Davao-born Jasmine Lee and countless other Filipinos. The Filipino doesn't just belong to the Philippines anymore but to the world.
Read more about #BalikBayan here. Giselle Tongi writes about her decisions and search for meaning in Third World Celebrity. Read impressions about the Philippines from Fil-Am Rachelle Ocampo and see the journey of tech innovator Dado Banatao. For more stories, visit our landing page.
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