African troops mass as Gambia deadline expires

BANJUL: Senegalese troops backed by other African forces were poised to move into The Gambia late Wednesday as President Yahya Jammeh’s army chief said his troops would not fight their entry into the country. “Our troops are on alert… The ultimatum takes effect at midnight,” Senegal army spokesman Colonel Abdou Ndiaye told AFP ahead of the deadline. “If a political solution fails, we will engage” in operations in The Gambia, he said, confirming that Senegalese troops were heading to the border. The Dutch travel firm TUI Nederland told AFP on Tuesday it would repatriate “about 800” clients. A source told AFP that patients at Banjul’s Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, which sits opposite Jammeh’s seat of power, were removed for security reasons.

January 19, 2017 03:29 UTC

Key rebel group to skip Syria peace talks

BEIRUT: Key Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham said on Wednesday it will not take part in peace talks between the regime and opposition factions in the Kazakh capital next week. Ahrar al-Sham was among rebel groups that signed the ceasefire deal brokered by regime supporter Russia and rebel backer Turkey last month. The truce has largely held across Syria although fighting has persisted in some areas, allowing Russia, Turkey and regime supporter Iran to organise the peace talks in Astana. Ahrar al-Sham said however that it would support decisions taken by other rebel groups represented at the Astana talks if they were “in the interest of the nation”. Russia started air strikes in support of Assad’s regime in 2015.

January 19, 2017 03:29 UTC

Earth breaks heat record for third year running

A separate analysis by the US space agency NASA also found that 2016 was the hottest on record. “Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016),” said NOAA. Unusual spikes in temperature were seen in Phalodi, India, which reached 124 F (51 C) on May 19 — marking India’s hottest temperature ever. In the Arctic, average annual sea ice extent was approximately 3.92 million square miles (10.2 million square kilometers), the smallest annual average in the record, NOAA said. Antarctic annual sea ice extent was the second smallest on record.

January 19, 2017 03:22 UTC

Men in granny headscarves hit Paris catwalk

The headscarf knotted under the chin — last seen worn over curlers by harassed housewives in the 1970s — is back on the Paris catwalk. And the good news this time is that men can wear versions of them too. The floral patterns in the granny scarves were picked up in hoodies for the boys which were worn rather menacingly with face masks. While Gvasalia seemed to play fast and loose with convention, the brothers Glemarec of Icosae made their Paris fashion week debut with a paeon to traditional tailoring. Valentino too took inspiration from British punk, with coats and sweatshirts printed with slogans reminiscent of Sex Pistols record sleeves.

January 19, 2017 03:09 UTC

Bad weather forces class suspensions in Mindanao

Some local government units in Mindanao have announced the suspension of classes in their respective areas on Thursday, Jan. 19, due to bad weather. In its 24-hour bulletin, the weather bureau said moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms which may trigger flashfloods and landslides will be experienced over the regions of Central Visayas, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula and the province of Southern Leyte. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on Thursday said a tail-end of a cold front is affecting the eastern section of Visayas and Mindanao, while the northeast monsoon is affecting Luzon. “Cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and isolated thunderstorms are expected over the rest of Visayas and Mindanao and the province of Palawan. Partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains will prevail over Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon,” Pagasa added.

January 19, 2017 02:19 UTC

Pangilinan seeks penalty vs social media for spread of fake news

To stop the alarming spread of misinformation online, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan is seeking a Senate inquiry into possible liabilities of social media platforms, particularly Facebook, for allowing fake news items to propagate on their pages. Pangilinan has filed Senate Resolution 271 directing appropriate committees in the Senate to conduct an inquiry on the proliferation of misinformation and fake news sites in social media to determine the necessity of amending Republic Act 10175, known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and other pertinent laws. “The proliferation of the false stories into major news topics in this era of post-truth politics has become a problematic phenomenon not only in the Philippines, but also in other parts of the world,” Pangilinan, president of Liberal Party, said in the resolution. The senator said the propagation of fake news stories has become an “effective weapon of several political operatives to influence public opinion and national discourse.”“As a result, the level and quality of public discourse have suffered,” he said. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has also filed a resolution seeking Senate inquiry into the proliferation of so-called “trolls” in social media.

January 19, 2017 01:32 UTC

Bribe probe roils Senate majority

But Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III made it clear that the majority remained “intact” despite a recent wrangling over which committee should investigate the bribery scandal involving gambling tycoon Jack Lam. Speaking to reporters, Sotto said he heard two or three senators saying they wanted the LP senators led by Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon to leave the majority. ADVERTISEMENT“That’s a brewing concern by some members in the Senate that if you are in the majority, you should not be stymieing the actions of the majority,” he said. ‘New majority’And if the LP senators leave the majority, Sotto said a “new majority” would emerge, but doubted that this would lead to a change in the chamber’s leadership. The majority is intact as far as the substance is concerned,” the Senate President said.

January 18, 2017 20:18 UTC

P977-M allowances for teachers in hardship posts

Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Wednesday approved the release of P977 million for the special allowance of teachers exposed to hardship in their area of assignment. The fund will cover the deficiency in last year’s Special Hardship Allowance (SHA) given to teachers in 14,896 schools and 2,395 school districts and community learning centers in all the regions, the secretary said. The Department of Education (DepEd) requested the additional amount of P977,405,080 based on the guidelines from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in November last year to add to the special compensation allotted for teachers exposed to hardship or difficulty in the place of work. ADVERTISEMENTIn late December, the DBM issued and released a special allotment release order for this amount, Briones said. For this year, Briones said the DepEd was already working with the DBM to review and update the SHA guidelines to make it more responsive to the current needs of teachers assigned in “hardship posts.”For teachers in “hardship posts,” the allowance is 15 to 25 percent of their basic salary.

January 18, 2017 20:17 UTC

Earth sets hottest year record for third-straight time

WASHINGTON — Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, with scientists mostly blaming man-made global warming with help from a natural El Niño that’s now gone. ADVERTISEMENTNOAA calculated that the average global temperature for 2016 was 14.84°C (58.69°F) — beating the previous year by 0.04 degrees (0.07 degrees). This is the fifth time in a dozen years that the globe has set a new annual heat record. Schmidt said his calculations show most of the record heat was from heat-trapping gases from the burning of oil, coal and gas. NASA has last year at 1.78 degrees (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than their mid-20th Century average and about 2 degrees warmer than the start of the industrial age in the late 19th Century.

January 18, 2017 19:39 UTC

Will Trump go to war with Russia and China?

In his first week as President of the United States after his inauguration at noon today, East Coast time, the most earth-shaking question he will ponder is: Do we go to war with Russia and China? Last year the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance moved four battle groups to Eastern Europe, closer to Russia. He raised that option after Beijing bristled over his phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, the first in decades between leaders of the two governments. On Monday, two leading state-run newspapers warned that China would take strong action if Trump continues his line on Taiwan after assuming office. As President Trump ponders whether to smile or snarl at Russia and China, Filipinos can breathe a small sigh of relief that President Rodrigo Duterte will hopefully end his predecessor’s suicidal policy of letting America use the Philippines as its military platform in Asia.

January 18, 2017 17:09 UTC

Taking Duterte seriously or literally

Those who take Duterte seriously but not literally. Those who take Duterte literally, but not seriously. Duterte talks, the press reportsThere is a real difference between taking Duterte seriously and taking him literally, and it is serious enough to have caused a current major argument between the administration and the press (national and foreign). (Nothing can stop me—no such thing as invasion, invasion. So yes, I say it is better to take President Duterte seriously in his ambitious initiatives, than to just dismiss him for his careless remarks.

January 18, 2017 17:09 UTC

Filipino people helpless against untrustworthiness of Comelec

Each VCM uses a digital card, the SD card, on which the voters’ entries are recorded. On Monday, January 23, the Comelec scheduled the decryption of the 127 SD cards. Chong revealed that of the 13 suspect SD cards that contained data, at least one, with Serial No. Smartmatic’s representative, he noted, confirmed that they used only the Linux operating system in formatting SD cards. The Windows OS left its visible telltale marks on this SD card for everybody to see,” Chong said.

January 18, 2017 17:09 UTC

Malaysia must ‘move on’ from 1MDB saga – minister

DAVOS, Switzerland: Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said his country must get beyond the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal that has embroiled top figures in the country’s political class and caused international embarrassment. Allegations that huge sums were misappropriated from the state backed 1MDB fund have triggered a scandal which has turned on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has denied any wrongdoing. Malaysia has been seized since 2015 by the scandal, which has sparked investigations in several countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States. “We’ve learned many lessons and we are moving forward,” Minister Mustapa told AFP on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The scandal has proven to be an embarrassment to Malaysia and drawn accusations that Malaysia failed in its response to the allegations.

January 18, 2017 17:06 UTC

NCR construction materials prices firmer in 2016

RETAIL prices of construction materials in the National Capital Region (NCR) picked up pace in 2016 as all commodity groups registered annual markups, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said on Wednesday. The PSA said the Construction Materials Retail Price Index (CMRPI) in the NCR grew by an annual average of 1.3 percent for all items in 2016, reversing the previous year’s slight decrease of 0.1 percent. All the commodity groups posted annual gains led by the masonry materials and plumbing materials indices at 2.0 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. It said the carpentry materials index inched up by 0.2 percent; tinsmithry materials rose by 0.3 percent; and miscellaneous construction materials added 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, electrical materials and plumbing materials registered flat growth during the month, according to the PSA.

January 18, 2017 17:06 UTC

Alterra prices follow-on offer at up to P6.75/share

This means the share offer would raise for the company about P1.625 billion to P3.375 billion in fresh funds. Alterra, the backdoor listing vehicle of Philab Industries Inc., also recently signed loan agreements with several banks that raised P437.1 million funds for the company. The Philab group earlier mentioned that it planned to use Alterra as a vehicle to construct a genomics BPO hub for Genomics Inc., also a subsidiary of Philab. Before the entrance of the Philab group, Alterra was formerly iRipple Inc. Alcantara and Anggala were the shareholders of 67 percent of Alterra that was transferred to the Philab group in August 2016.

January 18, 2017 17:06 UTC

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