June 19, 2014 Edition

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  1. Iraq seeks US air strikes against ISIS

    Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP

    Will the US grant this request that Pentagon leaders said is fraught with complications? Iraq asked the United States June 18 to carry out air strikes on Sunni jihadists, who attacked the country’s main oil refinery and seized more territory in the north. Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were pressing a week-long offensive that has brought them close to the capital. Washington has already deployed an aircraft carrier to the Gulf and sent marines to bolster security at its embassy in Baghdad, but President Barack Obama has insisted a return to combat in Iraq for US soldiers is not on the cards. However, Secretary of State John Kerry has said drone strikes could be used.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

    Read what Pentagon leaders think about the request on the Washington Post.

  2. Shut up, China tells Vietnam in high-level talks

    Photo from Agence-France Presse

    In talks aimed at pulling relations back from their lowest point in decades, China’s top foreign policy official told Vietnam to stop “hyping up the relevant issue.” State Councilor Yang Jiechi met on June 18 Vietnam’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi for the first high-level talks between the neighbors since early May, when vessels from both sides collided near a Chinese oil rig anchored in contested seas. Yang told Vietnam that it had to “stop its disturbances against China’s operations, stop hyping up the relevant issue,” and deal with the fallout from riots targeting foreign businesses. There was no immediate reaction from Vietnam but analysts said the hard line taken by Yang means the talks are highly unlikely to yield a breakthrough.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  3. Senators get day in court

    Are the plunder and graft charges against opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada sufficiently firm to stand trial? Starting Thursday, June 19, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan will hear oral arguments of the senators and the Ombudsman prosecutors on the issue. The court will hear Revilla’s motion first. On Friday, June 20, the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd and 5th divisions will hear arguments of Enrile and Estrada, respectively. Observers say this would prolong the issuance of the arrest warrants against the 3. The court is missing one justice following the failure of President Benigno Aquino III to replace one who had retired.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  4. Court freezes bank accounts of ex-Enrile aide

    File photo by Rappler

    Saying the accounts had been used as conduits to launder funds or proceeds from the pork barrel scam, a Manila court stopped Lucila “Gigi” Reyes and 9 others from doing any transactions in their select bank accounts. However, court records showed that in the case of Reyes, former chief of staff and rumored girlfriend of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, her 2 bank accounts now just contain just half a million pesos (about $12,000) and P6,700 (about $153), respectively. The Anti-Money Laundering Council reviewed the ledger of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy and found that significant deposits were made in the bank accounts on the day or a few days after cash rebates were released by a corporation owned and controlled by alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  5. Forest fires part of a scam?

    Photo by Mel Prince

    Those forest fires were not caused by the summer heat. Bulacan residents are saying that reforestation sites are being deliberately burned to allow the release of more funds into the same pockets. There is big money in reforestation. The National Greening Program, government’s huge reforestation program, received P6.2 billion ($141.3 million) for 2014, the lion’s share of the budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. If the government were to reforest the 60 to 70% of denuded forest in the Ipo watershed’s 6,600 hectares, it would cost more than P45 million ($1.02 million). These funds are easy pickings for people who know how to work around the system.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  6. PH court punishes 12 Vietnamese with 6-month jail term

    A Philippine court sentenced 12 Vietnamese men to 6 months in jail and fined them $100,000 for illegal fishing. Arrested on March 21 with a boatload of sharks just off the western island of Palawan, the fishermen pleaded guilty last week. If the 12 cannot pay the fine, the equivalent of more than $8,000 each and a huge sum for such fishermen, the judge could add more time to their sentence. But in similar cases in the past, foreign fishermen caught in Philippine waters were allowed to go free after serving their sentences without paying the fine, he said.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  7. Thousands of Cambodian workers flee Thailand

    Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

    The number of Cambodian laborers fleeing Thailand soared to 220,000 on June 18, as Phnom Penh accused Thailand’s new military rulers of sparking the flight of migrant workers. There has been no comparable exodus reported on Thailand’s borders with Myanmar or Laos, neighboring countries whose migrant workers also fill many of the kingdom’s manual labour vacancies. This has led some analysts to suggest the Cambodian exodus may be linked to the sensitive nature of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia. Panicking Cambodians – who help keep major Thai industries afloat but often lack official work permits – have streamed across the border since the junta warned last week that illegal foreign workers face arrest and deportation.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  8. BIR shames provinces for poor tax base

    The shaming continues as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) called the provinces’ attention, this time, for not fully developing their local revenue base and instead relying on the national government’s allocation. In its latest Tax Watch ad, BIR said that locally sourced income (LSI) of 56 of 80 provinces accounted for less than 15% of their regular income in 2013. BIR said that since the Local Government Code has been enacted, local government units have been given the power to generate local income to fund basis services. Despite 20 years of fiscal decentralization, however, locally sourced income still share very little  to the annual regular income of provinces, according to the BIR. Sulu generated the lowest LSI at only 0.1% of its regular income, while Aklan had the highest LSI at 45.3% of its regular income.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  9. Meet Amazon’s Fire Phone

    Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

    Amazon has made its own smartphone. CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the Fire Phone at an event in Seattle on June 19 stressing that his company has been in the hardware business for 10 years now. The Fire Phone joins Amazon’s lineup of devices including the Kindle e-book reader, Kindle Fire tablet, and the FireTV set-top box. The new phone sports a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display, a 2.2GHz quad-core processor, Adreno 330 graphics, 2GB of RAM and a 13MP camera with an f/2.0 lens with optical image stabilization. Among the Fire Phone’s features is a Firefly, which automatically recognizes everything that the phone looks at and hears. Bezos had a great demo of the new gadget, but whether or not it clicks in real life remains to be seen.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

    Read more about the Fire Phone on the Verge.

  10. Spain out of World Cup

    Photo by Oliver Weiken/EPA

    Chile cheered as it sent Spain packing with a 2-0 win in Rio de Janeiro on June 18, ending Spain’s six-year reign as the world’s pre-eminent team. Spain had been seeking a fourth consecutive major title, but instead they became only the fifth defending champions – after Italy in 1950 and 2010, Brazil in 1966 and France in 2002 – to go out in the World Cup’s first round. First-half goals from Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz took Chile into the last 16 and condemned Spain to become the first team with Australia to be eliminated from the 2014 tournament. The defeat came after a 5-1 humiliation by Netherlands in their opening game.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

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