The wRap


Your World in 10 - June 17, 2013

Peace Talks

1. MILF 'frustrated, angry' over stalled peace talks



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Talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front deadlocks, 8 months after the signing of a framework agreement. The impasse: wealth and power sharing. MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says the government proposed changes to "30-40%" of the document. Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer Ferrer says the two most contentious issues are the formula for wealth-sharing and finding a guaranteed source of block grants for the proposed Bangsamoro region. Ferrer says the government wants the comprehensive agreement to find a "fixed and guaranteed source" such as the internal revenue allotment for local government units. But the MILF does not want "to be treated like another government agency that is part of the General Appropriations Act." The MILF has also been adamant in stressing that the Bangsamoro region should not have lesser powers than what the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) enjoys, since the MILF believes the ARMM is powerless in the first place. Iqbal says, "We are really pressed for time." It says the Transition Commission tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law needs up to two years to finish its work. That gives lawmakers only one year to pass the law in the 16th Congress before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office in June 2016. Once the law is approved by Congress, the Bangsamoro people will approve or reject it through a plebiscite.


Read the full article on Rappler.




Corruption Scandal

2. Czech Prime Minister resigns in corruption scandal



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Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said Sunday he would step down after a corruption scandal in which his top aide was indicted for bribery. Necas says, “I will step down as prime minister tomorrow. I am aware of my political responsibility.” Czech media reports deputy party chairman Martin Kuba is tipped as a candidate for new prime minister. The graft scandal erupted last week after police raided the cabinet office, defense ministry, villas and a bank. On Friday, Necas's chief of staff Jana Nagyova was charged with complicity in the "abuse of power and with bribery" and was placed in custody Saturday.
Seven other people -- including military intelligence heads and former lawmakers -- are also indicted for corruption among other alleged crimes. The 48-year-old Nagyova is charged with bribery after allegedly promising three former lawmakers lucrative jobs in state-run companies on condition they quit the parliament.


Read the full article on Rappler.




Ceasefire?

3. Pope urges G8 to push immediate ceasefire in Syria



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On the eve of a two-day G8 summit in Northern Ireland, Pope Francis calls on the leaders of the world's top industrialized nations to push for an immediate ceasefire in Syria. In a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Francis says, "I earnestly hope that the summit will help to obtain an immediate and lasting ceasefire and to bring all parties in the conflict to the negotiating table." The West is at odds with Russia over what action to take to end the civil war that has killed at least 93,000 people since March 2011. The United States vows to send military aid to rebel forces against President Bashar al-Assad after saying it had proof the regime used chemical weapons. The US plans for military aid to rebels is backed by allies Britain and France. But Russia, the Assad regime's staunchest ally during the conflict, opposes Washington's plans.


Read the full article on Rappler.


Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.




From Bad to Worse

4. Egypt cuts ties with Syria



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Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi announces it is cutting ties with war-torn Syria.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in a Cairo stadium Saturday, Morsi says Egypt "decided today to definitively break off relations with the current regime in Syria."
Morsi says the Syrian embassy in Cairo will be closed down and the government will recall Egypt's charge d'affaires from Damascus. Calling on the international community to impose a "no-fly zone" over Syria, Morsi says he contacted Arab and Muslim states to organize an emergency support meeting for the Syrian people.He also denounces the intervention of the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which helped government troops to win the the central Syrian town of Qusayr. The Egyptian government has long called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Egypt is Sunni Muslim, as are the vast majority of rebels fighting to overthrow al-Assad.


Read the full article on Rappler.




Spies & Leaks

5. As G8 Summit opens, leak that Britain monitored allied leaders at G20 summits



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The British government ordered the monitoring of computer activity and phone calls of foreign officials attending two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009. A Guardian exclusive report says the systematic spying included British intelligence setting up internet cafes to read email traffic, bypassing security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor email and calls, live round-the-clock summary to 45 analysts, and getting reports from American agency NSA in its attempt to eavesdrop on the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev. The disclosure raises concerns about Britain’s center of signal intelligence, GCHQ and its American counterpart, the National Security Agency. NSA defends its access to phone and internet data as crucial in the fight against terrorism and organized crime but the G20 spying seemed to have been done to secure an advantage in meetings. Targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey. The operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of then prime minister, Gordon Brown, with documents explicitly referring to the intelligence being passed on to "ministers". The evidence comes from top secret documents uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The expose comes as Britain prepares to host another summit Monday for the G8 nations. It is likely to lead to tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain.


Read the full exclusive article on The Guardian.




Big Data

6. On Snowden: protesters rally, politicians defend, more info released



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Over the weekend, the aftermath of the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden continued. In Hong Kong, Snowden said he was essentially throwing himself at the mercy of its people and government. That’s key because Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the United States. He seems to be gaining some support as a Saturday rally in Hong Kong backing him showed. More details emerged about the NSA programs and Prism: Facebook says it received between 9,000 to 10,000 requests while in a white paper the NSA says it conducted investigations on about 300 phone numbers culled from metadata. It added that dozens of terrorist plots were foiled because of its surveillance programs, including a 2009 plot to attack the New York City subway system. On Saturday, US President Barack Obama says he didn’t think the privacy of American citizens were violated. On Sunday, former US vice president Dick Cheney defends the US monitoring program saying that Snowden may be a Chinese spy.


Read the full article on Rappler here and here.


Read the full article on The Big Story.




Digital Exhaust

7. Your cellphone 'digital exhaust' - how big data surveillance works



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The era of big data hits world news - except people still aren’t quite sure how it works. Technology is now so powerful that it pushes us out of the world of causation, answering the question “why” which human beings are built for, to the world of correlation, which gives us “what” - where the law of large numbers and patterns give greater insights. Like the cellphones which shadow the trail of robberies in Chevy Chase, Maryland in the United States. The April robbery of the Cartier store was one of a dozen similar heists. By culling for that data, police found the robbers and bolstered a court case against them, especially since the trail of their cellphones matched the police chase! Location data is a potent tool for investigators. It’s not the only data available. Research shows a smartphone can give “a total of nearly 100 pieces of highly technical data through calls, texts and other activities” including the time the signal hits cellphone towers. Taken on their own, each of this metadata is meaningless, but when put together and with the help of the right algorithms, patterns emerge and intelligence is gathered.


Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.




Talks

8. North Korea proposes talks with US



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North Korea proposes high-level talks with the US on denuclearization and easing tensions on the Korean peninsula, just days after it abruptly cancelled a meeting with the South. Tension has been high on the Korean peninsula in recent months, with Pyongyang threatening nuclear attacks on Seoul and Washington. A rare high-level meeting between two Koreas scheduled for June 12 and 13 -- the first between the two sides for six years -- was cancelled June 11 because of disagreement over protocol. In a statement, North Korea's National Defense Commission says it is willing to have "broad and in-depth discussions" on issues such as the building of "a world without nuclear weapons" being promoted by US President Barack Obama. North Korea adds, "If the US has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the US mainland and the region, it should not raise preconditions for dialogue and contact." Analysts says Washington is unlikely to accept the proposal without any concrete action from Pyongyang to move towards denuclearization -- a pre-condition for any talks with the communist state.


Read the full article on Rappler.




Moderate Iran

9. Moderate cleric Rowhani is new president in Iran



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Moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani is Iran's new president, in a victory cheered in the streets and cautiously welcomed by world powers. On Saturday, the 64-year-old Rowhani is declared outright winner with 50.68 percent of votes cast in the June 14 polls. In his first statement after his win was confirmed, he calls on world powers to treat Iran with respect and recognize its rights, an apparent allusion to its controversial nuclear policy. Rowhani is a former top nuclear negotiator who championed more constructive engagement with world powers. The United States says it is prepared to engage Iran directly over its disputed nuclear program, adding it wants to reach a "diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."The West suspects Iran's nuclear program is aimed at building nuclear weapons, but Iran insists it is for peaceful purposes like generating energy. Rowhani campaigned for reinvigorating an economy badly hit by the European Union and US sanctions targeting the key oil and banking sectors because of its nuclear program. He also vowed to restore diplomatic ties with the US and end Iran's international isolation. American and European officials say they want to test if Rowhani's victory could pressure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei into softening his position on the nuclear issue. Iran's nuclear policy is believed to be under Khamenei’s control.


Read the full article on Rappler.


Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.






WiFi Balloons

10. Google's Project Loon beams Internet through balloons



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Google reveals top-secret plans to beam Internet to two-thirds of the global population using balloons sent to the edge of space. On Saturday, scientists release up to 30 helium-filled test balloons flying 20 kilometers above Christchurch in New Zealand, carrying antennae linked to ground base stations. Project Loon hopes to provide Internet to remote parts of the world, allowing more than 4 billion people with no access to get online. It could also be used to help after natural disasters, when existing communication infrastructure is affected. The company says the balloons, which can be carried at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, can beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to 3G networks or faster. It works by ground stations connecting to the local Internet infrastructure and beaming signals to the balloons, which are self-powered by solar panels. Some 50 people were chosen to take part in the trial and were able to link to the Internet. The project is still in the early stages, but Google says its ultimate goal is to have a ring of balloons circling the Earth and providing Internet access worldwide. Google says, "The idea may sound a bit crazy — and that's part of the reason we're calling it Project Loon — but there's solid science behind it. This is still highly experimental technology and we have a long way to go."


Read the full article on Rappler.