May 2, 2014 Edition

Valerie Castro

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

  1. Philippine-based syndicate engaged in online ‘sextortion’ busted

    Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

    The Interpol and Philippine authorities – with help of Facebook – tracked down and busted a syndicate that extorted from foreigners who had engaged in cybersex. At least 58 suspects involved in the scheme in various locations: Taguig City in the national capital region, Manila’s neighboring province of Laguna, and the Bicol region further down south of Manila. The international probe was prompted by the suicide of 17-year-old British national Daniel Perry in July 2013, after an online syndicate threatened to upload his sex video if he didn’t pay up. Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima said they seized 300 electronic devices during the raids conducted overnight from April 30-May 1. The scheme involved suspects creating fake accounts on Facebook, posing as “young attractive females” who invited foreigners to engage in cybersex with them, without informing the “clients” the Skype conversations were recorded. The suspects then threatened to upload the videos online unless a victim paid up anywhere between $500 and $2,000.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  2. US soldiers should be stationed at West PH Sea, says former senator

    A former senator – one of those who voted to renew the Philippines’ Military Bases Agreement with the United States in 1991 – proposes that Manila tests its ally’s supposed “ironclad commitment” to defend the Philippines. Given a new military deal that gives US troops unhampered access to Philippine military facilities for free, why not send them to Ayungin and Scarborough Shoals in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), where Chinese ships have harassed Filipinos several times. “It may be far out of the box, but the US can put itself where its mouth is by even agreeing to discuss that possibility. Why not basing rights in Ayungin and Scarborough because that can be developed by them faster than we [can]?” former Senator Rene Saguisag told Rappler in an interview. “The statements of Obama were provocative enough. So one can read into it any message he wants. So here, you want presence? Okay. So we’re offering you what we long believed is our territory,” he said on #TalkThursday. A rusty Navy ship called BRP Sierra Madre is grounded in Ayungin, serving as a naval detachment of the Philippine Marines and a symbol of Manila’s claim on the shoal. Saguisag has criticized the lack of transparency behind the crafting of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). He supports moves to question the process of entering into the deal before the Supreme Court.

    Read the full story here.

    Watch Saguisag’s interview on Rappler’s #TalkThursday.

  3. Al-Qaeda spawns behind increased attacks worldwide

    File photo by EPA

    The United States has warned against a new generation of global terrorists, citing the State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism that showed the number of attacks around the world rising by some 43% from 2012 – from 6,700 to more than 9,700. The US has “degraded” Al-Qaeda’s core leadership, but says “2013 saw the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups in the Middle East and Africa.”  But officials cautioned that even though some 17,800 people had been killed – up from 11,000 in 2012 – most of the attacks were smaller and more localized than in past years. Many governments are “becoming increasingly concerned that individuals with violent extremist ties and battlefield experience will return to their home countries or elsewhere to commit terrorist acts,” the report noted. The decline of the Al-Qaeda leadership and its inability to finance terror activities has encouraged groups to turn to alternative sources of income – including a lucrative spate of kidnappings. Extremist violence last year was also increasingly marked by “sectarian motives,” which the US said was a “worrisome trend.”

    Read the full story here.

  4. Report gives little clue on fate of missing Malaysian plane

    File photo by Mark Ralston/AFP

    Kuala Lumpur finally released a report on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, but the document did not offer any new or groundbreaking information on the missing plane. The 5-page document submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), was mostly a recap of information that had already been released over time – a chronicle of the government’s slow-footed response to the airliner’s disappearance. “Over a month after the aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport, its location is still unknown,” said the report, which was emailed to news organizations. But the information indicated it took authorities four hours from the time the Malaysia Airlines jet was first noticed missing at around 1:38 am on March 8 to initiate an official emergency response. The air force, meanwhile, took eight hours to formally notify civilian authorities that it had tracked a plane believed to be MH370 moving back across Malaysian airspace and out toward the Indian Ocean. On the same day the report was released to the media on May 1, the airline announced that it would be closing its family assistance centers worldwide starting May 7. Families of victims will be sent home from hotels, mostly in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

    Read the latest on MH370 here.

  5. These 10 countries send the biggest dollars to the Philippines

    On Labor Day, Rappler listed the 10 destination countries from where overseas Filipino workers made the biggest remittances in 2012, helping keep the Philippine economy afloat. Based on data from the Philippine overseas Employment Administration, the top 10 are composed of countries in the Middle East and Asia – one from Europe and the Americas. Saudi Arabia topped the list, with OFWs sending $1.73 billion back home in 2012. Interestingly, in some cases, bigger OFW population didn’t translate to higher dollar remittances to the Philippines.

    Explore the data here.

  6. New cases of infection recorded in Jordan

    Two new infections from the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus have been detected in Jordan – one a Saudi man and the other a Jordanian medic who was treating him – bringing to 7 the total cases in the country. Since 2012, when the virus emerged in Saudi Arabia, Jordan has reported 3 deaths from it. As of April 26, the World Health Organization reported 261 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections, 93 of which resulted in death, worldwide. Two Filipinos have died from the virus. The Philippines’ health department – which recently had to trace and examine around 400 returning workers from the United Arab Emirates for the MERS virus – says the country needs a national ID system to help authorities track possible carriers faster. MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003, infectig 8,273 people, 9% of whom died. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for MERS, a severe respiratory disease with a mortality rate of more than 40% that experts are still struggling to understand.

    Read the latest on Jordan’s cases here.

  7. US develops brain implant to fix wounded soldier’s memory

    Nearly 300,000 US military men and women who have sustained traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to benefit from a brain implant that US military researchers have developed to one restore a wounded soldier’s memory. “If you have been injured in the line of duty and you can’t remember your family, we want to be able to restore those kinds of functions,” said Justin Sanchez, program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  He said they “can develop neuroprosthetic devices” that can restore declarative memories – recollections of people, events, facts and figures.  However, the science – part of President Barack Obama’s $100 million initiative to better understand the human brain – has never been done before, and raises ethical questions. Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said: “When you fool around with the brain you are fooling around with personal identity. The cost of altering the mind is you risk losing sense of self, and that is a new kind of risk we never faced.” When it comes to soldiers, the potential for erasing memories or inserting new ones could interfere with combat techniques, make warriors more violent and less conscientious, or even thwart investigations into war crimes, he said.

    Read the full story here.

  8. World’s prominent men speak out against rape

    How far has society really come in terms respecting – and protecting – women? In seems much has left to be done. And so seven of the most powerful men in Washington DC and Hollywood appear in a minute-long video condemning the gruesome fact that women continue to deal with: sexual assault.

    Watch here United States President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, actors Benicio del Toro, Daniel Craig, Steve Carell, Dulé Hill, and Seth Meyers encourage other men to speak up as well.

  9. BPO industry confident of hitting $25-B revenue by 2016

     File photo by AFP

    The Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is confident it will hit its target of revenue of $25 billion and workforce of 1.3 million by 2016. This was after it generated $10 billion in revenues in 2013 – a 15% increase over 2012’s revenue of $8.7 billion – according to a Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) report. The sector eyes a compounded growth rate of 14% to 15% for both revenues and full-time employees in 2014 and 2015.  The Philippine contact center sector is still the largest in the world and continues to be the choice destination for customer relations management. In 2010, the Philippines overtook India as the leading destination for voice services. The United States remains the biggest market for contact center work done from the Philippines, with the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand as emerging markets, the CCAP said.

    Read the full report here.

  10. Rappler #Balikbayan asks: Is it still best to work abroad?

    Forty years since the Philippines started exporting labor, the government is still unable to provide jobs to lure overseas workers to return to the country, or even to provide jobs to the growing local workforce. Economies in other countries are not as good either, with citizens of a few countries resenting how skilled Filipinos have been taking jobs away from them. So is working abroad – leaving one’s family and familiar culture behind – still the best option for Filipinos? Are there alternatives?

    Rappler’s #Balikbayan section is holding a running conversation on this. Whether you are an OFW yourself or is related to one, or a resident of a country where Filipino workers are part of your daily affairs, share your thoughts in the live blog on this page, or tweet using the hashtag #Balikbayan.

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