Items filtered by date: Thursday, 27 April 2017

How PhilDev Plans to Eradicate Poverty in the Philippines

After I arrived on time to visit Dado Banatao, I got lost.

Instead of calling from the lobby as I was instructed, I somehow found my way to his floor. The doors opened into an all white utility area that led to continuous concrete, an outdoor patio, and a cluster of solar panels. There was no hint of a path to any office let alone to one that housed one of the most prominent Filipinos in Silicon Valley. I finally gave up and called to be fetched.

When I am old and my memories have blended into the fictions in my mind, I will remember winding through a labyrinth of hidden pipes and electrical boxes, the din of computational spin and a secret elevator door that expanded into private posh offices revealed, as if through parted mists, with a quick hydraulic hiss.

Dado took my meeting without even requesting my agenda, which was to donate Sunpreme solar panels to the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev). A plug for Sunpreme: our glass-on-glass panels are much more robust in harsh environments, salty air, and signal 3 storms. The start of the discussion lingered on a thin client solution for schools (computer terminals in which computing is performed remotely, in centralized servers or the cloud). Internet speeds are snail-mail slow, I protested. And he went on to explain a solution—a different WiFi router that separated the operating planes, lifting one of them into the cloud and leaving behind a low cost box. It is a world-class engineering solution meant only for the Philippines, our Philippines, just because.

For twenty years, starting with my early career at Hambrecht & Quist’s research department, I had known of Dado as a prime mover in the semiconductor industry. I knew that he had founded S3, developed the PC chipset and a graphics accelerator, and wisely invested in Marvell. What I had not known was how his story started.

Born to a rural family in Cagayan (not to be confused with Cagayan de Oro), Dado was sent off to school at the age of 11 where, as an antidote to his isolation, he immersed himself in studies that started with math and ultimately led to an intense romance with engineering at the Mapua Institute. It is an unusual story. A single sentence couldn’t do it justice. But it begs a pressing question: about 42 million Filipinos live on less than $2 a day with 21 million of them student-aged or younger. How many potential Dados are in this pool of kids who didn’t get the chance to fall in love with math, go to Mapua, work for Boeing and finally study solid-state physics at Stanford? What if one of them, dazed by the heat on her sun-struck neck, had the key to the grand unifying theory locked in her brain? Or a cure to cancer? Or, most important, eternal youth? A lot of potential genius is left un-mined (about 31,500 geniuses, more precisely, if the bell curve applies).

With the methodical approach of an engineer, Dado has done something about it. Many of us ask the same questions and guess at answers. Many of us have untested solutions and the passive will to discuss these problems over long meals in manicured places. PhilDev has done a lot more than talk and tinker. From its scholarship fund to its school computer program to an entrepreneurial mentorship program, the organization has thoughtfully chosen to


Donald Trump warns of 'major, major conflict' with North Korea

Donald Trump has said that a “major conflict” was possible with North Korea though he would prefer to solve the standoff over the country’s nuclear and missile programme through diplomacy.

Trump’s warning on Thursday came towards the end of a week where the administration has made a concerted effort to restrain Pyongyang from carrying out major new weapons tests.

'We are a target': South Korean village wakes up on frontline with North
Read more
At the same time, US officials sought to clarify US policy after a variety of mixed signals in the administration’s first 100 days.

Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, said that the US would be prepared to enter into direct talks with the regime of Kim Jong-un, but that it would have to prepare to negotiate getting rid of all its nuclear weapons.

The opening to diplomacy came as the head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris told the Senate that the standoff with North Korea was the worst he had seen. It was an assessment echoed by the president.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” the president added.

A brief history of nuclear near-misses
Trump suggested there had been a breakthrough in Chinese readiness to help apply pressure on Kim since Xi Jinping visited the US president in Florida earlier this month.

“I believe he [the Chinese president] is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well,” Trump said.

“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t.”

Tillerson had earlier said the Chinese had warned Pyongyang, an increasingly unruly client in recent years, that it would impose punitive measures if North Korea carried out provocative tests.

“We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang,” he told Fox News. “They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test.”

According to Tillerson, the Chinese told the regime “that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own”.

The secretary of state said that the North Korean regime viewed its nuclear weapons and missile programmes as a guarantee of survival, and that the Trump administration sought to change that mindset.

“We want to change that calculus of theirs and we have said to them: your pathway to survival and security is to eliminate your nuclear weapons and we and other countries will help you on the way to economic development,” Tillerson said. He assured Pyongyang that the US objective was ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, not toppling Kim Jong-un.

“We do not seek a regime change in North Korea. We are not seeking the collapse of the regime.”

Tillerson said that the US administration would “wait as long as it takes” for talks to start providing North Korea conducted no new nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

The secretary of state did not directly reply to a question on whether this policy was very similar to the “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration, which Tillerson had earlier said had come to an end.

In his Oval Office interview with Reuters, Trump offered an assessment of Kim.

Asked if he considered the North Korean leader to be rational he noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.

“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” he said.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a sign that North Korea’s regional neighbours are taking the threat of a conflict seriously, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that Pyongyang could launch a nuclear attack on nations and claimed China has not applied enough pressure on the regime.

“There is the possibility and the risk that North Korea could launch an attack on its neighbours,” Turnbull said on 3AW radio.

“That is the reason why there is so much effort being put into seeking to stop this reckless and dangerous conduct by the North Korean regime. They are a real threat to the peace and stability in the region and to the whole world.”

Turnbull said while North Korea was often a subject of satire, the country had nuclear weapons and regularly threatened to use them.

“Their threats can appear sometimes to be theatrical and over the top and they have been the subject of satire but I can assure you that my government takes ... the threat of North Korea very seriously,” he said.

On Friday morning Tillerson will chair a special ministerial session of the UN security council on North Korea, aimed at convincing other members to impose existing sanctions on Pyongyang more rigorously.

In Washington, the head of the Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball, welcomed the Trump administration’s readiness for direct talks with North Korea.

“There are some new things here. They are making clear that regime change is not the goal. There is a recognition that North Korea has security concerns,” Kimball said. “I think what we hearing the evening is more of the engagement part of the maximum pressure engagement policy that they are slowly rolling out.”

He added: “It’s going to require persistence and patience.”

The Guardian Julian Borger in Washington and Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong

  • Published in U.S.

Hard National Security Choices (Commentary)

By Rachel Bercovitz(Lawfare)
The United States will pursue a strategy of enhanced regional diplomacy and economic sanctions to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a Joint Statement released yesterday by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Reuters reports that Tillerson will chair a special meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea this Friday in New York, where he is expected to discuss the implementation of more robust sanctions.

The release of the Joint Statement followed a White House briefing of Senators led by Tillerson, Mattis, and Coats and headlined briefly by President Trump. According to lawmakers, the briefing delivered no new intelligence regarding the U.S.’s strategy toward North Korea. President Trump’s unusual decision to conduct the briefing in the White House rather than on Capitol Hill, which maintains secure facilities that can accommodate disclosure of classified information, puzzled lawmakers and led many to suggest that the decision was primarily one of optics as President Trump approaches his one-hundredth day in office on Saturday.

The Washington Post assesses that North Korea may launch an assault against South Korea or U.S. installations through its Special Operations Force (SOF) that is believed capable of deploying chemical or biological weapons—and not through its ballistic missiles or artillery. A 2015 U.S. Defense Department report to Congress on the North Korean military estimated that the North’s SOF comprised at a minimum 180,000 commandos, equivalent to the current number of U.S. active duty Marines. According to the Report, the SOF is subdivided into specialized units including reconnaissance, airborne and seaborne insertion, and commandos that each emphasize “speed of movement and surprise attack.”

The THAAD missile defense system deployed by the United States to South Korea is nearly operational, the New York Times reports. China has objected to the antimissile system, fearing that it could be deployed against Chinese forces as well. South Korea’s Defense Ministry stated that THAAD will allow Seoul to “cope with North Korea’s provocatons.”

Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, accepted full responsibility for the confusion concerning the whereabouts of the USS Carl Vinson, the Times writes.

Military maneuvers and rhetoric notwithstanding, the Times clarifies that the risk of an imminent military showdown between the U.S. and North Korea remains very low. The United States has likely carried out the recent spate of diplomatic and military moves to dissuade Kim Jong Un from conducting further nuclear or ballistic missile tests, and not to prepare for a preemptive strike.

Documents released by House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings show that the inspector general for the Department of Defense has opened an investigation into whether former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn violated federal law in failing to request permission for accepting payments from the Russian and Turkish governments. The Wall Street Journal tells us that the inspector general’s office confirmed the existence of the investigation. The documents released by Cummings also include a letter from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which Flynn previously directed, informing the Committee that the Department has no records of Flynn’s seeking permission for payments.

President Trump has delegated authority over the Force Management Level (FML) system, which sets troop levels in Iraq and Syria, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, BuzzFeed News reports. President Obama’s use of the FML system to set and adjust troop levels drew criticism from military commanders who maintained that the system inhibited swift deployment of troops and accurate reporting of the number of troops deployed. In a memo sent yesterday to the Pentagon, Mattis called for a review of FML’s system of force accounting and releases to the public.

Two U.S. servicemembers were killed during an operation targeting ISIS forces in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, the Times writes. The United States previously deployed the so-called “mother of all bombs” against the Islamic State in the province two weeks ago.

Both Syrian government and rebel forces are blaming Israel for a series of explosions at warehouses near the Damascus airport this morning. Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz appeared to acknowledge Israel’s involvement in a statement that the attack was “completely conforms to Israel’s policy” of preventing Hezbollah from obtaining “advanced weapons,” as Israeli media reported that the warehouses contained weapons set to be shipped to Hezbollah. The Times has more.

U.S. military officials condemned Turkey’s use of airstrikes against U.S. partner forces in Iraq and Syria that led to the deaths of an estimated 20 Kurdish fighters in Syria and five peshmerga fighters in Iraq, the Washington Post reports. U.S. military officials were alerted less than one hour in advance of the strikes and were not informed of the strikes’ precise targets, hampering the ability of officials to reposition U.S. troops or to alert partner Kurdish groups. Turkey defended its conduct in a statement issued by its embassy in Washington, affirming that Russia and the U.S. were “duly informed through both military and diplomatic channels.”

The strikes followed President Trump’s April 18 congratulatory call to President Erdogan on the results of the referendum vote augmenting the powers of the Turkish presidency. Some officials had hoped the call might impel Turkey’s accommodation of U.S. military efforts to bolster the capabilities of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.’s principal Syrian ally in the fight against ISIS. The referendum has faced scrutiny over widespread allegations of voter fraud and most recently, concerns regarding the independence and credibility of judges at the helm of the Turkish electoral commission known as the YSK. President Erdogan appointed the majority of YSK members last September following a purge of the judiciary in the wake of July’s attempted coup.

Turkey detained more than 1,000 members of the Turkish police force on suspicion of their allegiance to the Gulen movement led by Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the foiled coup in July 2016. More than 9,000 police personnel were additionally suspended from their posts.

Yesterday’s early morning raids in Barcelona and its environs led to the arrest of nine men suspected of having been involved in the March 2016 terrorist attacks at a Brussels subway station and airport that resulted in 32 dead and 300 wounded. The arrests followed an eight-month investigation that entailed coordination with Belgian police. Eight of the nine detainees are Moroccan, while one is Spanish.

During telephone calls yesterday evening, President Trump assured Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the U.S. would not soon withdraw from, but rather seek to negotiate the terms of NAFTA, the Times shares. The calls came just hours after administration officials announced that President Trump would soon issue an executive order to set in motion the U.S.’s withdrawal from the trade agreement.

  • Published in U.S.

Death penalty bill already 'dead' in Senate – Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – The death penalty bill is already "dead" in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Wednesday, April 26, that at least 13 senators are expected to vote against the measure seeking to restore capital punishment in the country.
“By my own estimate, there are at least 13 senators who will block the passage of the death penalty bill, including the 6-member minority group and 7 from the majority block,” Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It’s dead and the chances of resurrecting it before we even bring it to a vote are very slim, if not zero, at least in this [17th] Congress,” Drilon added.
Aside from Drilon, the Senate minority bloc includes Liberal Party Senators Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima; and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Risa Hontiveros.
“Personally, I shudder at the thought that an imperfect justice system is confronted with a situation where the death penalty would have to be imposed. You cannot correct once it’s imposed,” Drilon, a former justice secretary, said in a news conference.
Drilon said that even the lone LP in the majority bloc, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, is also against the controversial measure. Senators Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, and Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier expressed opposition on the bill.
“We are ready to lead the fight against the death penalty bill. We believe that a death penalty law was not and will never be an effective deterrence against crime,” he said.
“It will be detrimental to the poor who will be made victims of this cruel and inhumane punishment due to the inefficiencies of our judicial system,” he added. (READ: Why the death penalty is unnecessary, anti-poor, error-prone)
Drilon said there are only 5 senators who have so far openly expressed support for the bill – Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senators Manny Pacquiao, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Cynthia Villar.
“It does not appear to have the votes it needed. It is the end of the road for the proposal,” Drilon said.
But Sotto earlier said there would be more senators voting for the measure if the version passed is limited to high-level drug trafficking.
The death penalty bill is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte. The House of Representatives earlier passed the bill on third and final reading in March. –


Will Ombudsman's Davao Death Squad probe affect ICC complaint?

MANILA, Philippines – The ongoing investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman on the claims of self-confessed "Davao Death Squad" (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato may render moot a similar complaint filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This was the assessment of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Tuesday, April 25, during a news conference.
"The ICC can only complement Philippine laws, so if they believe that the Philippine government is doing something to control or act upon the complaint, or the subject of the complaint of Matobato, then probably the ICC will not move because it's supposed to complement only," Morales said.
Morales was asked whether a report, or findings coming from them, can be taken as proof of the Philippines' "willingness to investigate" the complaint, and be taken as reason to take the ICC out of the picture.
By principle, the ICC will act only when it believes that the country of origin has ignored a complaint and that chances of an investigation, more so a prosecution, are nil.
In a Rappler IQ piece by law professor Perfecto Caparas, he said that the "ICC can step in, pursuant to the principle of complementarity, if the Philippines is shown to be unwilling or unable to investigate, prosecute, and try in good faith."
Morales, however, clarified that it's still the discretion of the ICC whether or not to proceed with the complaint lodged before it.
"It's up to the ICC to determine if the requirements for filing a case to the ICC have been met. It's up to them to determine," Morales said.
Matobato's complaint, filed in December before the Ombudsman, seeks to charge President Rodrigo Duterte with murder, kidnapping, torture, and crimes against humanity in connection with alleged summary killings in Davao City when Duterte was still mayor.
"Matobato, I think, has been summoned and he had showed up in the office. So his testimony has been recorded. It's still pending investigation," Morales said.
It was unclear when Matobato went to the Ombudsman. He was ordered arrested last March by a Manila court and consequently posted a P200,000-bail.
On Monday, April 24, Matobato's laywer Jude Sabio submitted his complaint to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Before Matobato's complaint in December, the Ombudsman had once terminated investigations into the alleged existence of the DDS.
In 2012, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a resolution which found "probable cause" and referred to the Ombudsman the investigation into Duterte's possible liabilities.
Rappler's investigative team obtained a letter sent to the CHR by the Ombudsman dated January 15, 2016, which said the investigation had been "closed and terminated."
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang said then that "no evidence was gathered to support the killings attributed or attributable to the DDS." –


Calida wants Sabio disbarred over ICC complaint

MANILA – Solicitor General Jose Calida wants lawyer Jude Sabio disbarred for filing "baseless suits" before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Rodrigo Duterte and other administration officials.
"Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, the government’s top lawyer, today said he will initiate the filing of a disbarment charge against Jude Jose Sabio, the lawyer for self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, for filing baseless suits," the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said in a statement issued on Wednesday, April 26.
Calida, who is among those named in the complaint, noted that Sabio was once sanctioned by the Supreme Court (SC) for filing a bribery complaint against a trial court judge which the SC found as baseless.
The High Court fined Sabio in 2008 and warned him that "a repetition of the same or similar questioned act will be dealt with more severely."
For Calida, Sabio's complaint is another baseless suit that violates the SC's warning and therefore, a ground for disbarment.
“It appears that this lawyer is in the business of maliciously filing baseless suits based only on hearsays and unfounded suspicions,” Calida said.
Calida is one of the 11 individuals named by Sabio in his ICC complaint as liable for supposedly enabling Duterte's "mass murders" in the government's war on drugs.
Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato.

'See you in court'
In his 78-page complaint submitted to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Sabio said Calida must also be held accountable for "promising to defend policemen accused of summary killings if the killings were committed as part of the war on drugs, knowing fully well that the duty of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to defend public officials begins at the appellate level, and not at the local courts."
Calida said that his statements were taken out of context and that he merely promised the Philippine National Police (PNP) that he will defend them before the Senate if the investigation in the upper chamber turns out to be "not in aid of legislation."
Calida has always reiterated that as "tribune of the people," he can "defend whoever I want to defend."
He said his inclusion in the ICC complaint was malicious and gave a stern warning to Sabio: "We will see you in court."
He described the lawyer as a "compliant stooge of the yellow cult" and linked the move to an alleged ouster plot against Duterte.
Calida said that following the principle of complementarity, the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the complaint because "there are adequate laws and remedies available in the Philippines to address the issue of alleged extrajudicial killings." (READ: Things to know about Duterte's pet peeve ICC)
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has the same assessment although she clarified that it will be the ICC that will decide whether Sabio's complaint merits the attention of the international court. –


Intel ops ongoing to locate foreign sympathizers of PH terror groups

MANILA –Efforts are ongoing to detect foreigners or Arab-looking personalities out to support local terrorists groups in Lanao Del Sur and other parts of the country.
This was the response of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año when asked if there are any sightings of Arab personalities in areas where lawless bands like the Maute Group are known to operate.
"Yes, there are some sightings of Arab personalities, but as I said before there are Arabs going there on the pretext of building foundation or to teach religious teaching so we are not really sure (if they are really sympathizers or not) but of course, it is part of the intelligence tasking to look for foreigners who are inclined to support or to be affiliated with our local terror groups even including those of (Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon) Hapilon," he added in Filipino.
Earlier, Año said that around 37 Maute Group members, including three Indonesian and one Malaysian, were reported killed during military operations in Lanao Del Sur last April 21 to 24.
These operations are designed to degrade the capability of the Maute Group.
The AFP chief said that of the 37 killed, 14 were already identified and the remaining fatalities still unidentified as of this posting. –PNA


Protections Against Hate Crimes and Immigrant Injustices Board of Supervisors Meeting

San Jose, CA -- Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the Board of Supervisor, and advocates for immigrants and hate crime victims held a media conference on April 25 and discussed a wide range issues within the community.

Some of the issues included the need to have safe, shelter beds for transgender members of the community, and providing more services to help families with emergency planning in regards to deportation, 

The Board of Supervisors also discussed the issues regarding the county behavioral health contractors providing services for some immigrant clients who are afraid to show up for their appointments.

They are also considering adding an ordinance prohibiting the county from participating in any type of government identity registry based on religion or national origin.  
By Truth Esguerra

One third of U.S. millennials live with and rely on parents: survey

WASHINGTON –Around one third of all U.S. millennials live with and rely financially on their parents, putting off adulthood milestones like marriage, having a child and home-buying, according to a new report from U.S. Census Bureau on Monday.
That's a shift from four decades ago, when more Americans viewed marriage and child-rearing as gateways to adulthood, U.S. Census Bureau demographer Jonathan Vespa says.
Among younger Americans, women are much more likely to attain a college degree and a full-time job nowadays than they were in 1976.
Meanwhile, young men are only slightly more likely to have attained a higher education and slightly less likely to be employed, the report says.
The number of young Americans living independently of their parents stands at 40.7 percent, down more than 10 percentage points from a decade ago, according to the report
Today, more people between the ages of 18 and 34 live with their parents, 22.9 million, than live with a spouse, 19.9 million. In 1975, more than twice as many people in the same age group lived with a spouse (31.9 million) than with their parents (14.7 million).
Home ownership rates have plummeted, too: In 1975, almost 52 percent of those between 25 and 34 owned their own home. Today, just 28.8 percent do.
The percentage of both men and women who marry at a young age has fallen precipitously in recent years: In 1976, 85 percent of women and 75 percent of men had been married by age 29. Today, only 46 percent of women and 32 percent of men said they were married before they turned 30.
Overall, the number of men and women marrying by older ages has remained virtually unchanged. That shows the average American's chances of getting married remain almost the same, though their chances of marrying while young are dramatically smaller.
"Young adults are not necessarily giving up on marriage. They are waiting longer," Vespa wrote.
Data from the 2012 General Social Survey shows 62 percent of Americans believe completing formal schooling is an extremely important experience necessary to become an adult, and 50 percent say the same about landing a full-time job.
Only 12 percent say getting married is an extremely important step toward becoming an adult, and 10 percent say that about having a child, according to the report. (PNA-Xinhua)

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