December 17, 2013 Edition

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

  1. US court: NSA snooping ‘likely unconstitutional’

    INTEL HQ. The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, as seen from the air, January 29, 2010. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP

    A US judge ruled the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records breaches citizens’ privacy to a degree that is probably unconstitutional. Judge Richard Leon said, “I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen.” If upheld, the ruling could bar the NSA from indiscriminately gathering metadata on millions of private calls. Documents provided by fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programs. Obama’s administration criticized the leaks and said the NSA programs are not unconstitutional. Security officials also said the spying programs kept America safe from terrorist threats.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  2. 60 Minutes comes under fire for NSA story

    “60 Minutes” came under fire on Twitter for airing the side of the National Security Agency (NSA). The piece was opened by reporter John Miller, who told viewers, “Full disclosure: I once worked in the office of the director of National Intelligence…” Miller said the NSA agreed to speak to “60 Minutes” because it believes it has “not told its story well.” The 25-minute segment showed NSA officials belying fears the surveillance violated people’s privacy and showing off their equipment to CBS cameras. The Huffington Post described the online reactions as “hard and fast.”  Critics on Twitter called it a “NSA whitewash,” and an “embarrassing puff piece.” Guardian journalist Glen Greenwald (@ggreenwald) called the story a “propaganda piece,” and the “uncritical reverence for access” a “new low” for the show. The comments said there was “not a single skeptical voice” in the story. 60 Minutes recently apologized for a Lara Logan story on a 2012 Benghazi siege that quoted a flawed source.

    Read the full story on Huffington Post.

  3. Opinion piece: new highs of brutality

    DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA, Pyongyang : (FILES) This file picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 9, 2013 and received on September 10, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (3rd R), accompanied by senior party, state and army officials, including his uncle Jang Song-Thaek (5th R), inspecting a mass parade of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards at Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang to mark the 65th anniversary of the national foundation day. North Korea has executed the uncle of its leader Kim Jong-Un after a shock purge, state news agency KCNA said on December 13, 2013, branding the once-powerful Jang Song-Thaek

    A CNN opinion piece said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has taken power politics to new levels of brutality. CNN columnist Bruce Klingner said the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the second most powerful man in the country and uncle to the North Korean leader is “highly unusual, even by North Korean standards.” He says in past purges, the accused simply stopped appearing in media. Jang was publicly humiliated and erased from the records in a move reminiscent of the Stalin-era Soviet Union. Jang called by state media as the “despicable human scum who was worse than a dog” was accused of plotting a coup to “overthrow the state.” Klingner noted “if Jang wanted to grab the ring of power he would have had more success immediately after Kim’s father’s death.” He said the litany of accusations — gambling, drugs, womanizing, pornography, and drinking — were meant to undermine Jang’s reputation and justify the execution. Klingner also theorized, the young Kim is using Jang as the scapegoat for the country’s economic problems. He concluded, Kim Jong Un is “just as dangerous as his father — and less predictable.”

    Read the full story on CNN.

  4. Too much democracy?

     THAILAND, Bangkok : A Thai anti government protester (C) walks past protest placards as he attends a rally near Government House in Bangkok on December 16, 2013. The protests -- aimed at toppling Yingluck Shinawatra and curbing the influence of her older brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- have left five dead and more than 200 wounded in street violence, although tensions have abated in recent days. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL

    A New York Times opinion piece said the street protests that raged for over a month in Bangkok aims to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra — and replace it with a less democratic form of government. The Times’ Thomas Fuller said the Bangkok protests are peculiar because protesters are amassing in the streets demanding less democracy, in the form of a “people’s council” composed of members selected from various professions instead of being elected by voters. Fuller added Thailand’s anti-democracy movement is surprising, because the country was one of the first in Asia to adopt democracy. The street protests seem to be a classic power struggle between a dominant majority and an unheard minority. But one important factor is added to the mix: the Thais’ reverence for their King. Demonstrators said Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, undermined the king and the institution of monarchy. One protester said, “This is a war between Thaksin and the king… Thaksin has been insulting the king for far too long.”

    Read the full story on NY Times.

  5. Rios positive for drugs

    POSITIVE. Brandon Rios, who recently lost to Manny Pacquiao for the WBO International Welterweight title, tested positive for a banned stimulant. Photo by Team Pacquiao / Mike Young

    American boxer Brandon Rios failed his post-fight drug test following his loss to Manny Pacquiao last November. reported Rios tested positive for a banned stimulant called methylhexaneamine. It is a dietary supplement and a performance-enhancing drug. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Rios was also suspended by the Macau Commission, which was set up by the WBO to oversee the fight. Arum also said the banned stimulant was not a “steroid-related substance” but something taken for weight loss. He also blamed Rios’ strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza. Arum adds, “It is not the fighter’s fault. It’s the people who are conditioning him. He is following orders on what to eat and drink, so I don’t blame him.” Pacquiao also went through the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association program and passed it. Rios lost to Pacquiao via unanimous decision.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  6. DOJ to probe Meralco rate hike

    PROBE. Justice Secretary De Lima orders probe on possible market abuse by power firms amid Meralco price hike. Photo by Buena Bernal/Rappler

    The Department of Justice or DOJ will investigate possible violations by power firms that may have led to the 4 pesos and 15 centavos-per-kilowatt-hour price hike of the Manila Electric Company or Meralco. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the DOJ Office for Competition will file a report on the probe by January 2014. This came on the same day activists and lawmakers filed a letter asking the DOJ to investigate the price hike. The rate increase is the highest ever to be imposed by the power company – a move resulting from the shutdown of the Malampaya gas field. The increase raises fears of a possible collusion among power producers whose plants have simultaneously shut down for maintenance. In the letter addressed to De Lima, petitioners said the shutdown may have caused the price hike to be 3 times higher than expected. The energy department also promised to investigate Meralco’s formula for the price increase and the simultaneous outages in different power plants.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  7. Nutrition facts: there’s a different kind of hunger

    HIDDEN HUNGER. Micronutrient deficiencies account for a certain type of hunger not easily seen. Graphic by Raffy De Guzman

    Aside from the usual image of emaciated bodies, hunger can also have a different face — one that’s not easily seen. Hidden hunger is a form of malnutrition that strikes both undernourished and overnourished individuals, and affects close to 2 billion people worldwide. It is caused by micronutrient deficiencies, or the lack of vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and vitamin A that are essential to growth and development.

    Children and mothers from developing countries are among the most vulnerable to suffering from hidden hunger. The World Health Organization says micronutrient deficiencies are among the Top 10 causes of death due to disease in developing countries. Ensuring a well-balanced diet is essential to preventing hidden hunger. Check out Rappler’s nutrition infographic to learn about the roles micronutrients play in health and development.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  8. The colleague we all love to hate

    In every office, there’s always that one colleague that seems to have that unfair advantage giving them that competitive edge. Using question-and-answer site Quora, BBC asked: what’s the biggest innate skill someone could have that gives him an unfair advantage at work? Most of the answers seem to be related to genetic disposition, such as being productive even on little sleep, being optimistic, having higher natural levels of energy and having a great memory. Author Aman Anand says most of the answers relate to “first world advantages” like access to enough food and resources.

    Read the full story on BBC.

  9. Beyonce album breaks iTunes records

    THE QUEEN OF iTUNES. Beyonce during her concert in Houston, Texas, part of the Mrs Carter World Tour, 11 December 2013. Photo courtesy of the official Beyonce page on Facebook

    Beyonce’s new self-titled album broke iTunes records, selling more than 800,000 copies in just three days. On Monday, Apple announced the album, released exclusively on the iTunes store, became a top seller in 104 countries. Beyonce surprised fans Friday by releasing a previously unannounced fifth solo album on iTunes, bypassing customary record roll-outs and creating a sensation on the Internet. Despite the lack of prior publicity, the “visual album” is an elaborate production, including videos shot around the world. The pop diva returns to the feminist themes of her earlier works and, in some of her ballads, performs with her husband and daughter.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  10. Christmas gift hunting? Best smartphones of 2013

    2013 was a great year for smartphones. TechRap’s Josh Villanueva picked 10 favorites. The $179 dollar Moto G is the best budget smartphone, the Xperia Z1 is the best waterproof smartphone, the Starmobile Knight is the best smartphone from a Philippine manufacturer, the HTC One has the best low light camera, the Nexus 5 the best mid range smartphone, the Apple iPhone 5S has the best smartphone design, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the best phablet, the Lumia 1020 has the best smartphone camera, and tied for best all-around smartphone are the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

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