Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 10 May 2017

France’s First Lady, a Confidante and Coach, May Break the Mold


PARIS — If France’s president-elect has broken every rule in the political playbook, consider Brigitte Macron, the country’s next first lady.

She met her future husband, Emmanuel, when he was 15 and she was his 39-year-old drama teacher, married with three children. She and his parents at first tried to discourage him from pursuing her, and she has said they did not have a “carnal” relationship when he was in high school, but he eventually won her over.

By all accounts, she was present at every stage of his political evolution, coaching him on his speeches and public demeanor, and she is the one he turns to for an unsparing critique. He treats her as an equal partner and says she will define her future role.

France being France, this unusual couple is already stirring a lively and erudite debate about sexism, ageism, masculinity, contemporary marriage, political stagecraft and what a modern French first lady should actually be.

Continue reading the main story

“It’s like a breath of fresh air in this country,” said Natacha Henry, a writer on gender issues. “I think he won because he didn’t do any kind of macho performance, and that’s what we need. If she’s done that for him, great.”

Some women see the Macrons as breaking with a pattern of powerful men adorning themselves with younger women; others say French history is replete with examples of younger men seeking out older women, from Henri II’s affair with Diane de Poitiers in the 16th century on.

To some, Mr. Macron, 39, is a welcome antidote to past hypermasculine French politicians, and he surrounds himself with strong female advisers and models an egalitarian marriage. Others have mocked him as being under the thumb of a mother figure and even accused him of a gay affair, which he was driven to publicly deny.

The candidate he defeated, Marine Le Pen, could not resist a dig at the marriage during their final debate: “I can see you want to play this teacher and pupil game with me, but it’s not really my thing.”

In the days after the election, social media posts went viral criticizing the way the couple have sometimes been portrayed in the press: she as a predatory “cougar” and he as a “boy toy”; Ms. Macron, 64, has been called everything from a grandmother making his tea to a “cagole,” a French term for a bimbo. If the ages were reversed, her defenders pointed out, no one would have blinked an eye.

“Madame Macron’s age is a feminist issue here,” Ms. Henry said. “I was at the hairdresser’s at a very small town in Orléans the day he was appointed minister of economy, and all the ladies were so happy she was so much older than him. We’re so fed up with these older guys with young actresses.”

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The Macrons at the Louvre on Sunday after the results in France’s presidential runoff were in.CreditPool photo by Philippe Lopez 

The Macrons both grew up in the northern city of Amiens, Brigitte Macron as the sixth child of a family whose chocolate business was a local institution founded in 1872. She married a banker in 1974 when she was 21, had two daughters and a son, and taught French, Latin and drama in high school.

Like many schoolboys, Emmanuel Macron developed a crush on his teacher. Ms. Macron, during an interview she gave in 2016 to Paris Match magazine, described falling in love: “I felt that I was slipping, too,” she said. “I then asked him to go to Paris” to finish his education, and his parents were also eager to separate them.

While the age of sexual consent in France is 15, it is illegal for teachers to have sex with students under the age of 18; Ms. Macron told the authors of a book about the couple that they did not consummate the relationship while he was in high school. She declined a request for an interview.

In a documentary aired this week on French television, she said he had called her every day and had gradually worn down her resistance. “He assured me that he would return,” she told Paris Match. “At the age of 17, Emmanuel told me, ‘Whatever you do, I will marry you.’ Love took everything in its path and led me to divorce.”

They married in 2007, a year after she formally divorced. A video clip of their wedding shows him thanking her children for accepting him; her daughters were active in his campaign, and the documentary shows him hunting for Easter eggs with his seven stepgrandchildren.

Anne-Élisabeth Moutet, an analyst of French politics and culture, notes that the presentation of the Macron marriage, including Ms. Macron’s interviews, has been carefully staged to try to get out ahead of what might otherwise have been seen as a liability.

In this, she said, they have had the canny advice of Michèle Marchand, known as Mimi, one of France’s best-known celebrity handlers and the owner of a photo agency, who was often photographed at their side during the campaign.


  • Published in World

PH assault on extremists sends 24,000 fleeing

MANILA: More than 24,000 people fled their homes as the Philippine military used airstrikes and artillery against Muslim extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, authorities said Thursday.

Almost a week of attacks on members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the strife-torn southern island of Mindanao has displaced residents of six towns, said Jofelle Delicana, spokeswoman for the civil defence office.

About 24,300 villagers were forced to take refuge in schools, makeshift tents or with relatives after the military launched their assault on May 5, she told Agence France-Presse.

Local army spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas said that reports from civilians and intelligence sources indicate that as many as 31 BIFF guerrillas have been killed including the group’s leader, Commander Ismael Abubakar, also known as “Bungos”, as well as two of his aides.

“We believe they are among the dead considering our information that they were there in the location hit by airstrikes,” he told Agence France-Presse.

He said however that no bodies had been recovered and that the death toll could not be verified.

Seven soldiers have been slightly wounded in the fighting, he added.

“We used all available air assets and artillery assets and armour,” the captain said, declining to give details.

Six Indonesians from the Islamic State group who were training the BIFF in bomb-making were part of the remnants of the group that is being surrounded by the army, he added.

“Our assessment is they have less space to move while we are conducting our airstrikes because all our available troops have been deployed,” Encinas said.

The group of almost 100 BIFF were targeted after they were involved in the planting of make-shift bombs and a number of murders in recent months.

The BIFF split from main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008 after the MILF opened a peace process with the government.

Since then, its leaders have been seen in videos pledging allegiance to the IS movement that has taken control of vast swathes of the Middle East.

Encinas said Bungos had been trying to forge closer connections with IS so he could get more overseas assistance.

While the Philippines is largely Catholic, the southern third is home to a sizable Muslim minority and extremist groups and guerrillas like the BIFF who are fighting for a separate Islamic state.

The Manila Times


Philippines sends troops, supplies to disputed island

MANILA -- The Philippines has started transporting troops and supplies to a disputed island in the South China Sea in preparation for construction work that includes reinforcing and lengthening an airstrip and building a dock, an official said Thursday. China has protested the visit last month by the Philippine defense and military chiefs to Pag-asa Island, home to Filipino soldiers and fishermen for decades, but which is also claimed by Beijing. Lieutenant General Raul del Rosario, head of the Philippine military's Western Command, said troops and initial supplies arrived on Pag-asa island last week. About P1.6 billion ($32 million) has been earmarked for the construction that will also include a fish port, solar power, water desalination plant, refurbishment of housing for soldiers and facilities for marine research and tourists. China's construction of seven islands nearby in the Spratly archipelago has dwarfed similar activities by rival claimants, including the Philippines, whose frosty relations with Beijing have improved significantly under President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP)



Security tightened in Palawan amid US travel alert

The government has placed security forces on “heightened alert” in Palawan after the United States warned of potential kidnapping threats in the popular tourist destination.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the government is “on top of the situation” but also asked the public to remain calm yet vigilant.

“Public safety is everyone’s concern,” Abella said in a statement. “We assure everyone that the government is on top of the situation and authorities, particularly those in the Western Command (WESCOM) which covers the province of Palawan, are on heightened alert to prevent any untoward incidents,” he added.

Abella said the military, along with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as the local government of Palawan, are working closely together in enforcing law and order.

“All units and assets are being utilized to ensure maximum security to deny any terrorist group’s entry and access in the high seas and coastal areas,” he said.

While the government steps up security measures, Abella also called for public cooperation to help in keeping peace and order.

“We urge everyone’s cooperation, including residents and tourists, to be mindful and immediately report to law enforcement units any questionable individual or activity in the areas,” he said.

The embassy of the United States earlier advised its citizens about the threat of terror groups to kidnap foreigners in Palawan province, including Puerto Princesa. Similar travel alerts were issued by Canada and the United Kingdom.
By Genalyn Kabiling Manila Bulletin


Comelec to list costs of Marcos poll protest before PET


MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) expressed readiness on Wednesday, to comply with the order of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to submit itemized costs it may be required to pay concerning the poll protest filed against Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“That is simply the itemized cost of the election protest. If the Comelec is the proper party to issue that, I dont think there’s problem complying with it,” said Spokesman James Jimenez.
In its recent resolution, the Supreme Court, sitting as PET, required the Comelec to make a report on the actual amount it may incur in using the election machines in the recount of votes for Marcos and Robredo from the May 2016 elections.

Marcos lost to Robredo in the May 2016 polls by a slim margin of 263,473 votes.
This has prompted Marcos to file an election protest before the PET as he accused Robredo of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities.” By: Tina G. Santos - Reporter / @santostinaINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer


After a Monster IPO, Snapchat Fails to Impress


While millennials have clearly been won over by Snapchat, the company now faces its biggest test yet: trying not to be crushed by Facebook.

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, announced its earnings on Wednesday for the first quarter since the company's multibillion-dollar initial public offering in March, which was the largest tech offering since Facebook's. Wall Street wasn't impressed, prompting shares to fall as much as 25 percent during after-hours trading.

Revenue was $150 million, falling short of a $158 million Thomson Reuters consensus estimate. The company reported 166 million daily active users, a 5 percent increase from the 158 million it disclosed during its IPO filing this year.

Snap also reported net losses of $2.2 billion for the quarter, with $2 billion of that coming from stock-based compensation after the company's IPO.

However, Facebook has been hot on Snap's heels for the past few months, taking the company's hallmark features and adapting them to its own platforms.

Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said that "if you want to be a creative company" you're going to have to "enjoy the fact people are going to copy if you make great stuff."

When Google came along, he said, everyone felt they needed search strategies. With Facebook, he said, that became a social strategy. We're now at a moment, he said, when companies are searching for a camera strategy.

Facebook is already winning on that front. Instagram Stories — which debuted in August and followed the same format as Snapchat, allowing friends to view your "story" for 24 hours — crossed the 200 million daily active user mark last month, making it more popular than Snapchat.

Even the team at the Facebook-owned Instagram has acknowledged the inspiration it got from Snapchat, and using it to build on their own platform.

In March, weeks after Snap went public, Facebook also integrated some similar features into the social network, including stories and the ability to send direct, ephemeral photo messages, complete with fun doodles and masks, to friends.

"There is definitely an assault" on Snapchat, Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, told NBC News. "Can they survive? A lot of it is going to be about how they build a business around the camera."

He pointed to the suite of updates released Tuesday, including a new "infinity timer," allowing users to let friends view a Snap as long as they want until they close it, and a Magic Eraser that allows you to quickly remove something you don't want from your photo.

"There is going to be an arms race around these features," Munster said. "Their ability to survive and succeed will be dependent on how well they innovate."

There's also a question of when Snap will become profitable.

Snapchat has monetized that user base by running advertisements between some Snapchat stories. For the uninitiated, the stories feature allows any of a person's friends or followers to view a video and photo diary of their day.

Spiegel has also made it clear that he wants to take the company beyond being just Snapchat — and last year he renamed the business Snap and repositioned it as a camera company.

Part of that strategy included selling Snap's first product, a pair of cool camera glasses called Spectacles, allowing a user to send Snapchats literally from their own point of view.

However, it will be up to the company to prove its staying power in the coming quarters. A survey by Fluent, a data-driven marketing company, found that Snap users aren't sure whether they'll be using the platform in five years.

Fluent found that 65 percent said they think they'll still be on Snapchat. While decent, that's still short of the vote of confidence given to Facebook, 87 percent, and Instagram, 74 percent.

Imran Khan, Snap's chief strategist, touted the company's ability to help connect advertisers with hard-to-reach users. He said the company is seeing increased engagement, particularly from users who might not be reached by advertisers through traditional media channels.

Khan said 3 billion Snaps were made during the first quarter and that users spent an average of 30 minutes per day on Snapchat

NBC News

  • Published in Tech

Senate Intel Committee Subpoenas Michael Flynn in Russia Probe

President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, was subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. 

The committee, led by Sens. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said it requested documents that members believe to be relevant to its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. 

Image: Michael Flynn
Michael Flynn arrives to deliver a statement during the daily briefing at the White House in February. Carlos Barria / Reuters file

The committee initially requested the documents from Flynn in a letter on April 28, but he declined to comply if he wasn't offered immunity. The Intelligence Committee declined the deal and has now followed up with an official subpoena. 

Burr and Warner have said they considered their committee's subpoena power as an available recourse. 

"I think all options are on the table, and I think you can envision what those options are," Burr told reporters on Tuesday, a day ahead of the announcement. 

"I think the most severe would be a subpoena," he said. "I think that the vice chairman and I have, from the beginning, believed that we would make more progress faster with voluntary participation by witnesses, so we have gone to all lengths to exhaust their willingness to do that." 

This is the first time the Intelligence Committee has used its subpoena power since the joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and it's the first time it has subpoenaed documents since the 1970s, a Senate historian told NBC News. 

Former President Barack Obama cautioned Trump against hiring Flynn as his national security adviser, but Trump ignored the warning. Obama fired Flynn in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Trump still hired Flynn, but he fired him three weeks after the start of his administration because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States about economic sanctions. 

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified on Monday that she told the Trump administration that Flynn had been compromised and could be potentially "blackmailed by the Russians."


  • Published in U.S.

‘Callos,’ ‘cochinillo,’ ‘canonigo’–a Spanish feast in Iloilo historic site


It’s a place that ‘needs to be visited and revisited until you understand how and why the locals cook in that manner and eat with total abandon’ 

“Canonigo”from Maridel’s. PHOTOS BY ANGELO COMSTI

The Old Capitol Building of Iloilo province was the perfect venue for the second staging of “Sabores de Visayas,” as the national historic site, like the culinary event, reminds us of our rich history.

Also known as Casa Real, the “kilometer zero” building was established by the civil government in 1901 and used by the Japanese forces in World War II. It was rebuilt after it was destroyed by a massive fire in 1988.

Last April 16, the place was the venue of a gastronomic event where acclaimed chef Margarita Forés, award-winning book designer Ige Ramos, restaurateur and Ilonggo cuisine advocate Rafael Jardeleza, Jr., and this food editor and cookbook author prepared and served savory tapas and delectable desserts that celebrated the flavors of Spain.


“‘Sabores de Visayas 2’ is our response and contribution to the Madrid Fusion Manila and Flavors of the Philippines festivities,” says Tourism Region 6-Western Visayas’ regional director, lawyer Helen Catalbas. “It reminds us of our cultural heritage as Filipinos, where cuisine has always been a part of our life as a people. It is also our way of bringing families and friends together in one intimate setting that strengthens the ties that bind them with such an appropriate venue, Casa Real de Iloilo.”

Kap Ising's “pancit molo,”

Kap Ising’s “pancit molo,”

Happy and satisfied

There was a lot of food and wine that night, more than enough to keep the 150 guests happy and satisfied. A spread of assorted bread, Spanish sardines, gambas al ajillo and different cheeses started the meal, plus a whole leg of jamon Serrano was carved on site. Soupy pancit molo by all-time favorite Kapitan Ising’s kept many tummies warm.

The heavier fare included lengua estofado, served with fried bananas and potatoes, callos, and succulent cochinillo, which the guests lined up for. Bacon-wrapped chicken roll-ups stuffed with cheese, tenderloin steaks with Espagnole sauce, and a big paellera of paella negra topped with crumbled salted egg and fried calamari completed the savory fare.

For desserts, popular local pastry shop Maridel’s served a number of cakes—chocolate, tres leches, canonigo and her famous pink guava—while chef Andrea Gorriceta handed out scoops of barako coffee ice cream with candied kamias.

“‘Sabores de Visayas 2’ confirms Iloilo’s role as one of the country’s culinary oases that needs to be visited and revisited until you understand how and why the locals cook in that manner and eat with total abandon,” says Ramos, who joins the other chefs for the first time in this regional event. —CONTRIBUTED

Simple and elegant table design, just as the organizers wanted. The flowers were arranged and provided by DennisOchoa.

Simple and elegant table design, just as the organizers wanted. The flowers were arranged and provided by Dennis Ochoa.

tres leches mini cake from Maridel's

Tres leches mini cake from Maridel’s

Spanish sardines,

Spanish sardines

Margarita Forés, Rafael Jardeleza, Angelo Comsti, Ige Ramos —MARISA NALLANA

Margarita Forés, Rafael Jardeleza, Angelo Comsti, Ige Ramos —MARISA NALLANA


Read more: 
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968 new HIV-AIDS cases in March, highest in a month since 1984 – DOH

MANILA — March was a record month for reported new cases of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with 968, the highest number recorded in a month since 1984, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.
Based on the HIV/AIDS Registry of the Philippines, the latest figure was 32 percent higher compared to 735 recorded cases in the same period in 2016.
This meant that an average of 30 cases were being reported everyday in March.

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense system. Over time it leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Of the 968 new cases, 108 had developed into full-blown AIDS.
There were 27 deaths from HIV/AIDS in March.
The regions with the highest number of cases reported in March were the National Capital Region with 309 cases (32 percent); Calabarzon, 135 cases (14 percent); Central Luzon, with 107 (11 percent); Central Visayas, 76 cases (8 percent); and Davao region, 52 cases (5 percent).
Sexual contact remains to be the main mode of transmission with 942, most of which are from the male-having-sex-with-male (MSM) population with 820.
Homosexual contact had the highest number with 560, followed by the bisexual contact with 260, while heterosexual contact led to 122 cases.
Injecting drug use accounted for 22 new cases, while the remaining four cases involved mother-to-child transmission.
A total of 59 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were also found to have acquired HIV/AIDS, all of whom were infected through sexual contact.

The latest figures brought to 2,661 the total number of HIV cases reported in the country from January to March this year, which included 292 AIDS cases, and 155 deaths.
Since 1984, a total of 42,283 HIV cases, including 3,957 AIDS cases, and 2,124 deaths, have been recorded in the Philippines. SFM

By: Tina G. Santos - Reporter / @santostinaINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

  • Published in Health

Black bugs attack Kidapawan City in Cotabato

Hundreds of thousands of black bugs on Wednesday swarmed a big part of Kidapawan City in Cotabato, clinging on structures and covering the streets and highways.
At thick swarm covered the national highway, particularly the Davao-Kidapawan-Cotabato section, slowing down the traffic flow and posing danger to travelers on motorbikes.
GMA News reported that by nightfall, the bugs occupied lampposts along the highway. Also, they did not spare the city hall, and occupied passageways, walls and doorsteps.
A stench of rotting insects crushed by passing vehicles filled the morning air on Thursday.
At the city hall, the early hours of the workday saw utility workers sweeping and shoving a huge cover the bugs all over the place.
Citing insect experts, the GMA News report said that black bugs usually swarm built-up areas when the moon is bright.
It said that the bugs can cause itchiness when they get in contact with the human skin, and the bugs' urine can cause skin rashes.
Experts advised residents to avoid scratching the affected skin, and instead remove the itchiness with clean water and soap.
In 2015, a similar bug attack troubled residents of M'lang town in Cotabato, occupying the whole plaza.
The town's folk believed the bugs came from rice fields in neighboring towns. —LBG, GMA News

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