August 15, 2014 Edition

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  1. Evacuation by sea ends for Filipinos in strife-torn Libya

    Photo by Ritchie Tongo/EPA

    Some 10,000 Filipinos who have decided to stay or hesitated about leaving strife-torn Libya will now have to flee only by land, as the Philippine government made its last sea evacuation of its citizens on Thursday, August 14. “I think the Filipinos are always confident that we will come back for them. But I think we announced that…there will be no ships after this. It’s difficult to get the ship, and we don’t have the numbers to be able to support another ship,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto del Rosario. The Philippine government paid P78.2 million ($1.8 million) to rent a 1,500-seater ship that came from Malta, but only 808 Filipinos signified their intention to to board the ship – around half its seating capacity. Evacuation by land, especially from Tripoli to Tunisia, will push through with the Philippines evacuating around 150 Filipinos every other day. Up to 1,625 Filipinos from Libya have returned to the Philippines as of Tuesday.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  2. They hear it in the news, but Filipinos don’t understand pork barrel scam

    It has become a household phrase: pork barrel scam, PDAF scam, but those who understand the illegal diversion of the billions of pesos in Philippine lawmakers’ discretionary funds to fake non-governmental organizations are just a third of those who say they are aware of it. A survey conducted by Pulse Asia in June showed that 90% of Filipinos have “heard, read, or watched something about the different lists of lawmakers and other personalities who benefitted from kickbacks coming from Janet Lim Napoles’ operations. However, only 32% of respondents say they have sufficient knowledge of the lists.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  3. Threats of probe, budget cuts vs PH judiciary continue

    After the Supreme Court struck down parts of Malacañang’s controversial spending program and the entirety of lawmakers’ discretionary funds, the judiciary continued to be under attack by the House of Representatives that is dominated by the President’s allies. Receiving another invitation to a “meeting” in relation to a congressional investigation that seeks to determine misuse of the judiciary’s fund, even its possible abolition. The Chief Justice told the House Speaker to spare the court from such invitations since it is deliberating on Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration of the spending program, which takes up points similar to what House critics are raising against the Judiciary Development Fund. At the same time, the budget department, the architect of the struck-down Disbursement Acceleration Program, cut down the judiciary’s proposed budget for 2015 by 30%.

    Read more about the House probe here, and the budget cut here.

  4. New military chief wants to turn West PH Sea into tourism site

    One month into his post, and fresh from his first command conference with the command that guards against intruders into Philippine waters off Palawan province, the armed forces chief of the Philippines said he dreams of turning the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) into a tourism destination. He wants a cruise ship that will tour the country’s islands near the disputed parts of the sea. China, the most aggressive claimant of the area, also has plans of having a cruise of disputed islands coming from Sansha City, an island it controls. The general broached the idea as he also revealed that up to 6 Chinese coast guard ships are currently patrolling the West Philippine Sea. That they are in the Ayungin Shoal and Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines has become the “regular” situation in the area, he said.

    Read about the tourism idea here, and the Chinese ships at West PH Sea here.

  5. Israel ready for legal war as UN forms probe body

    Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system protected millions of its citizens from rocket attacks from the jihadist Hamas. Now, it is assembling a “legal Iron Dome” to defend itself against potential allegations of war crimes in Gaza. The possibility of a court battle surfaced with the appointment of a United Nations committee to investigate “all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” in the occupied Palestinian territories since mid-June. The investigators are due to present their findings to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015 but Israel has already denounced its chairman, William Schabas, as anti-Israeli and its findings as inevitably biased. Israel had boycotted a previous UN committee which looked into Operation Cast Lead, a major 22-day operation over New Year 2009 which killed 1,440 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Published in autumn 2009, the so-called Goldstone Report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity.” Israel is ready this time, however. It has prepared its own committee that examined each operation ahead of time to prevent any legal fallout.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  6. US security depends of strengthened democracy, human rights in Asia

    “We will continue to promote human rights and democracy in Asia, without arrogance but also without apology.” US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China and other Asian countries to bolster democracy and human rights, saying “America’s security and prosperity are closely and increasingly linked to the Asia-Pacific.” The top American diplomat acknowledged “bright spots,” but also pointed to “backsliding” in places like Thailand, where the army seized power in May, and in Myanmar, which “still has a long way to go” toward full-fledged democracy. He said China, “by deepening its democracy, and preserving its traditions of tolerance…can be a model for how Asian values and democratic principles inform and strengthen one another.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  7. Malaysian teen probed for ‘sedition’ for liking pro-Israel post on Facebook

    A 17-year-old student in Malaysia is being investigated for sedition – which can result in a 3-year imprisonment – for clicking “Like” on a Facebook post that says “I love Israel” and features a picture of the Jewish state’s flag. Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel, but the Jewish state’s policies toward the Palestinians are fiercely criticized by Malaysian Muslims, sentiments that have been inflamed by the ongoing deadly conflict in Gaza. The teenager from northern state of Penang reportedly told the police that he only accidentally clicked the “Like” button. He has since deactivated his account on the social network. The episode is the latest in a series of incidents to stoke public fears in multi-ethnic, multi-faith Malaysia of mounting intolerance under the decades-old regime dominated by majority Muslim Malays.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  8. Plane crash kills Brazilian presidential candidate, 6 others

    The Cessna 560XL carrying Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos crashed into houses in Santos, Brazil, killing him and 6 others on board and igniting buildings. Campos, a 49-year-old socialist who had been running third in opinion polls for the October election, was flying to Sao Paulo to record a TV segment. Campos was married with 5 children, the youngest just 6 months old. He was a popular former governor of the northeastern state of Pernambuco. President Dilma Rousseff, who is standing for a second 4-year term, declared a state of national mourning and suspended her campaign for 3 days.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  9. Video of Michael Jackson’s posthumous song launched on microblogging site

    Five years after his death, Michael Jackson is back with a new video that breaks new ground by premiering on Twitter. The late King of Pop – who pioneered music videos in the 1980s with the advent of MTV – had written the song “A Place With No Name” with loose inspiration of the 1972 folk rock classic “A Horse With No Name” by the band America. Michael Jackson’s estate and Epic Records decided to premiere an accompanying video of the song, which was released in May on his posthumous album XSCAPE. The video features archival footage of a mid-career Jackson, dancing in a tight tank top against a black and white backdrop. He was an early enthusiast of matching videos to his songs, at a time that many musicians resented the commercial pressures created by MTV.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  10. New faces that will make you not miss Luis Suarez at Premier League

    The English Premier League has lost Luis Suarez following his move from Liverpool to Barcelona, but the 2014-2015 season, which opens August 16 and will run until May, won’t have a shortage of fresh faces to watch. At least 10 significant transfers have taken place over the course of the close season. Formed in 1992, the Premier League is contested by 20 men’s football clubs and is said to be among the most-watched football league globally.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

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