December 19, 2013 Edition

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  1. Review panel curbs NSA snooping

    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 review panel appointed by US President Barack Obama drew up 46 recommendations as part of a sweeping overhaul of surveillance programs. Among the recommendations is putting an end to storage by the National Security Agency (NSA) of phone records (estimated to number more than 1 trillion). The panel is asking the US Congress to pass a law that will direct phone companies or a third party to maintain the data instead. Any number that the NSA wants to search on, based on reasonable suspicion of terrorism, will require a court order. These come on the heels of revelations by contractor Edward Snowden about NSA operations. The White House will announce in January which of the recommendations it will choose to adopt.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

    More details are on the Washington Post.

  2. Sandigan okays Arroyos spending holidays with GMA

    File photo of Former Presiden Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. AFP file

    The Sandiganbayan is allowing the family of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with her at her hospital suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. The anti-graft court ruled favorably on an urgent motion filed by the lawyers of the Pampanga representative on Friday, December 13. In that motion, the former president requested that the Sandiganbayan allow her visitors to stay in her hospital suite beyond 9:30 pm on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. She remains in detention on plunder charges.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  3. Disasters cause global economic losses of $130B

    DAMAGED. The devastation by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) had little insurance coverage. File photo by Rupert Ambil/Rappler

    At least US$130 billion in global economic losses were caused by disasters in 2013, a Zurich-based reinsurance group said. Swiss Re said on Wednesday, December 18, that the economic impact was down from $196 billion in 2012. The estimate however excludes the impact of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) whose insured losses are believed to be minimal. AIR Worldwide, an insurance and disaster-risk modeller however pegged economic losses for the Philippines at up to $14.5 billion and insurance coverage at up to $700 million.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  4. India passes historic ombudsman law

    CENTER OF POWER. A general view of the Parliament building in New Delhi, India, 17 December 2013. EPA/Stringer

    The Indian parliament approved the creation of a powerful anti-graft watchdog or a corruption ombudsman to prosecute erring public officials and civil servants. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised the Lokpal or ombudsman bill as “historic and landmark legislation.” The lower house approved what is known as the Lokpal bill after the upper house passed it on Tuesday, December 17. Approval ended a 9-day hunger strike by anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare. The president has to sign the bill into law, a mere formality.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

    More details are available on the BBC.

  5. Egypt’s Morsi charged with terrorism

    EGYPT, Cairo : Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's toppled president Mohamed Morsi (portrait) take part in a demonstration against the ouster of the former Islamist leader in the district of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, on August 23, 2013. Loyalists of the deposed president had called for 28 marches throughout the capital, though many appeared sparsely attended. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMED EL-SHAHED

    Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s ousted president, has been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. He has been accused of forming an alliance with two Islamist groups – the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. The charges, described by prosecutors as “the biggest case of conspiracy in the country’s history,” carry the death penalty. Morsi is being charged with 35 others who are either former aides or leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Ousted in July 2013, Morsi has also been accused of inciting murder and violence. His supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

    Read the full story on the BBC.

  6. Gay magazine names Pope Francis as person of the year

    COMPASSIONATE PONTIFF. Pope Francis holds a baby as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's Square on Dec 11, 2013 at the Vatican. Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

    The Advocate, a leading US-based magazine for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, named Pope Francis as its Person of the Year – “the single most influential person of 2013” on LGBTs. On Monday, December 16, it acknowledged that the Pope is “still not pro-gay by today’s standard,” but it recognized his contribution to a “change in rhetoric” on LGBTs. The Advocate said: “As Pope, he has not yet said the Catholic Church supports civil unions. But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his church. The moment that grabbed headlines was during a flight from Brazil to Rome. When asked about gay priests, Pope Francis told reporters, according to a translation from Italian, ‘If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?’”

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  7. Russia OKs amnesty for political prisoners

    Lawmakers in Russia approved an amnesty bill that could free 30 jailed Greenpeace members and members of the punk band Pussy Riot. The Duma lower house of parliament voted 446-0 for the amnesty Wednesday, which commemorates 20 years since Russia ratified its current constitution. The bill could go into effect as early as Thursday and may also see several anti-Vladimir Putin protesters, jailed after a May 2012 rally, walk out of prison.

    Read the full story on Al-Jazeera.

  8. Winnie Mandela denies family feud reports

    UNITED. The ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela Madikizela (L), and the widow of Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel (C), stand by the coffin of South African former president Nelson Mandela during his funeral ceremony in Qunu, South Africa, on 15 December 2013. EPA/Odd Andersen/Pool

    Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie denied there was a dynastic battle within his extensive family, amid reports of a renewed feud shortly after the peace icon’s death. According to various media reports, the family cut off Mandela’s eldest grandson Mandla and heir to the clan title since the icon’s died on December 5. But his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela slammed “mischievous innuendos” and “apartheid-style” tactics. According to local media, locks were changed at Mandela’s rural Eastern Cape house shortly after his eldest daughter, Makaziwe, arrived there on Thursday, December 12 – a week after her father’s death and 3 days before his funeral. Water and electricity were disconnected on the eve of Mandela’s state burial in Qunu on Sunday, December 15, at the end of a 10-day official mourning period followed by millions around the world.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  9. Lostprophets’ Ian Watkins gets 35 years for child sex offenses

    DANGEROUS, MANIPULATIVE. Judge Royce says 'the public and, in particular, young females need protection' from Watkins. Photo from Ian Watkins Supporters Facebook

    Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins has been sentenced to 35 years for a string of child sex offenses including the attempted rape of a baby. 36-year-old Watkins pleaded guilty last month to 13 child sex offenses. His two co-defendants, who are the mothers of children he abused, were jailed for 14 and 17 years. Watkins was sentenced to 29 years in prison with a further 6years on license, but he will be eligible for parole after serving two thirds of the prison term.

    Read the full story on Rappler.
    Read more on the BBC.
    Read an earlier story of his admission on Rappler.

  10. Tourist walks off pier while checking Facebook

    Photo from Shutterstock

    A Taiwanese tourist had to be rescued after accidentally walking off a pier in the Australian city of Melbourne while checking her Facebook page. The woman tumbled from St Kilda’s pier into Port Phillip Bay late on Monday night. Police rescued her in a speedboat 20 minutes after being alerted by a witness. The woman, who apologized, was taken to the hospital for observation but police said she was fine. Senior Constable Dean Kelly of the water police said, “She still had her mobile phone in her hand and initially she apologized… she said ‘I was checking my Facebook page on the phone and I’ve fallen in’.”

    Read the full story on the BBC.

    Photo of Pier and Woman using mobile phone from Shutterstock.

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