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- Sean Penn interview helps authorities capture ‘El Chapo’
American Actor Sean Penn’s interview of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman has attracted some criticized for being ‘grotesque’ and ‘maddening’ by some quarters. But Mexican authorities say it helped lead to the capture of ‘El Chapo’ on Friday, January 8. Rolling Stone magazine published the interview online on Saturday, the day after the drug lord was captured. Entitled, ‘El Chapo Speaks,’ the interview published on rollingstone.com includes a video of the interview with El Chapo. One of the more controversial statements the drug lord told Penn: ‘I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.’ This is not the first time authorities captured El Chapo. He was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 but broke from prison in 2001. With the help of US Drug Enforcement, marines recaptured him in February 2014, but he escaped from prison in July 2014. Mexican prosecutors announced that they would seek Guzman’s extradition to the United States, a reversal from President Enrique Pena Nieto’s refusal to send him across the border.
Watch the interview and Read Sean Penn’s article on the El Chapo on Rolling Stone:
- Commissioner accuses Comelec chief of ‘showing partisanship’
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon slammed Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista on Sunday, January 10, for “showing partisanship” as he addresses the petitions filed by Senator Grace Poe against the poll body. Guanzon also said she doubts if Bautista wants the Comelec to win against Poe, who leads presidential preference surveys, in the petitions she filed before the Supreme Court (SC). This comes after Bautista, in an internal memo, asked Guanzon and the head of the Comelec’s law department, Maria Norina Tangaro Casingal, to explain why they filed an unauthorized comment against Poe before the SC. Guanzon told Rappler: “It is Chair Bautista who is showing partisanship, not me. He voted in favor of Grace Poe; now he wants to shoot down our comment. And Grace Poe urged Bautista to probe the commissioners. Wow.” Rappler reached Bautista for a reaction on Sunday, but the elections chief said he refuses “to comment any further.”
- Video shows Philippine extremist groups consolidating and pledging allegiance to ISIS
The Islamic State in Syria & Iraq, also known as ISIS, IS, ISIL, or Da’esch, its loose Arabic acronym, may soon declare a wilayat or province in the southern Philippines. If so, it would be the first recognized satellite extension of the caliphate in Southeast Asia.
A new video released on January 4, 2016 shows consolidation of extremist groups pledging allegiance to ISIS in the Philippines. The video from Mindanao, which began circulating on the dark web jihadi forum Shumukh al-Islam on January 4, 2016, shows Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon marching with other extremist leaders from Sulu and Basilan, including Abu Sharifa, the leader of Ansar al-Khilafa, among the most aggressive and targeted Filipino groups linked to ISIS. In the video, the groups pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “The ISIS-initiated merger of the fighting formations and unifications of the leaders will present an unprecedented challenge to the Manila government,” terror expert Rohan Gunaratna told Rappler. Gunaratna is the author of Inside al-Qaeda and the head of the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research in Singapore.
- Customs misses yearly revenue target for the 5th time
Despite an increase in revenue collection, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been consistent in missing its annual target. BOC data show that the revenue-generating agency failed to attain its P436-billion ($9.24 billion) revenue goal in 2015 after it only collected P366 billion ($7.76 billion) – a shortfall of P70.56 billion ($1.45 billion) for the year. Last year’s deficit was the 5th time in a row that the BOC missed its target. The BOC’s collection report also showed that 11 of the country’s 17 ports missed their targets. The oil ports of Batangas and Limay posted the highest collection shortage during the period.
- WESM sets permanent price cap on PH power trade
To continuously shield consumers from sudden price spikes, energy regulators have made the P32 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) price ceiling on power traded at the spot market permanent. The Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) tripartite committee, which includes the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC), decided to retain the P32 price ceiling – a far cry from the original P62 per kilowatt-hour. WESM was created following the restructuring of the energy sector under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, with the objective of bringing power costs down in Luzon and Visayas regions by providing a centralized venue for buying and selling electricity. Prices at WESM are determined by supply and demand. When supply becomes tight and demand goes up, prices rise. The PEMC facilitates the trading at WESM.
- Black Nazarene devotees leave behind 30 truckloads of garbage
As with most big public events, the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Saturday, January 9, left a trail of trash. The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, denounced the littering during the 20-hour procession, which was attended by more than 1.5 million Filipinos. The coalition’s earlier plea for a “trash-less” Traslacion proved to be fruitless, as the sea of devotees left 30 truckloads of garbage, according to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The procession began at the Quirino Grandstand, where piles of trash were found – cigarette butts, styrofoam, wrappers, plastic bags, bottles, newspapers, and carton boxes – despite Rizal Park’s “no smoking and no littering” policy. On the upside, EcoWaste praised the so-called “Basura Patrollers” – workers and volunteers who cleaned up after the 7-kilometer procession. These sweepers were deployed by the Manila city government and the MMDA. Some volunteers came from parishes and schools.
- Show of force: US flies heavy bomber in response to North’s nuke tests
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un insisted his country’s latest nuclear test was carried out in self-defense, the United States on Sunday, January 10, briefly flew a heavy bomber over South Korea as show of force against North. The B52 Stratofortress, which is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, briefly roared over the Osan Air Base, some 72 kilometers (45 miles) south of the inter-Korean border. The mission was conducted “in response to recent provocative action by North Korea”, US Forces Korea said in a statement. On Wednesday, January 6, North Korea tested what it claimed was its first hydrogen bomb. The test sparked international alarm and raised tensions along the inter-Korean frontier, with Seoul reviving cross-border propaganda broadcasts.
More about this story: US bomber flies over South Korea as show of force against North
- Increasing number of US women say they have sexual conduct with other women
Women are about 3 times as likely as men to say they are bisexual, and increasing numbers of US women say they have had sexual contact with other females, new data showed Thursday, January 7. More than 9,100 adults aged 18–44 took part in the 2011–2013 National Survey of Family Growth. Respondents entered their answers on a computer instead of directly telling an interviewer. Among women, 5.5% said they are bisexual, compared to 2% of men. Fewer people said they were bisexual in the last survey of its kind. In 2006-2010, 3.9% of women and 1.2% of men described themselves as bisexual. Compared to the same survey taken from 2006-2010, researchers found “significantly higher percentages of women in the 2011–2013” reporting that they had had same-sex sexual contact.
- Veloso family fly to Indonesia for Mary Jane’s 31st birthday
A day after her birthday, Mary Jane Veloso’s family flew to Indonesia to visit the Filipina on death row. Mary Jane turned 31 on Sunday, January 10. Set to be executed by firing squad in April 2015 for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the predominantly Muslim country, Veloso was granted an 11th hour reprieve by the Indonesian government after a last minute plea by President Benigno Aquino III as well as the surrender of her alleged recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio. Mary Jane’s lawyer Edre Olalia and a representative from Migrante will accompany the Velosos from January 11 until January 16 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where Mary Jane is currently imprisoned.
- ‘The Revenant’ may be Leonardo DiCaprio’s ticket the Oscar winners’ list
After 25 years of acting and 5 Academy Award nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio has yet to win an Oscar. He might finally get one for his new movie, ‘The Revenant,’ a harrowing tale of revenge and survival in a frigid setting of the American Old West. ‘The Revenant,’ gets a thumbs-up from 81 percent of film critics who see it, according to Rottentomatoes.com. It seems set to be a box-office success as well: its first-weekend revenue is forecast at around $35-40 million. In the movie, DiCaprio plays a fur trapper named Hugh Glass out on the frontier of 1820s America. Glass is betrayed by colleagues who rob him, leave him for dead – buried alive – and kill his half-Indian son. Glass must then survive on his own, without a weapon, in a harsh, frozen landscape, with just one thing on his mind: revenge. In the film, DiCaprio eats a piece of real bison liver. He was supposed to bite into a simulated organ but DiCaprio rejected the plan, as it looked fake.