MANILA, Philippines – The US Federal Communications Commission on Friday, October 6 (October 7, Manila time), granted Alphabet's Project Loon an experimental license for operations in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The license will allow them to deliver emergency LTE cellular reception via helium balloon.
Wired reported the FCC will allow them to fly 30 balloons in the two locales for a 6-month period, potentially replacing thousands of cellular phone towers taken offline by the hurricane.
Engadget added that it needed to integrate with a telecommunications partner's network in the Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to let the balloons provide voice and data service to a user's phone.
The balloons will float 20 kilometers above the earth, then relay communications between the ground stations of Alphabet, which would be connected to a local telecoms partner's network in the two areas, and the users' handsets. – Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippines – Halfway into our screening of Blade Runner 2049, an impatient mumble rose from audience members in the theater. We were watching Officer K (played by Ryan Gosling) stalk through the bombed-out remains of Las Vegas. It’s easily one of the most memorable set pieces in the film, those giant collapsed statues resembling the victims of a nuclear Vesuvius.
Most of the audience had probably seen the posters, watched the trailers, and expected an action-adventure flick. And if this were that kind of movie, we’d already be building up to the third act, where the hero kicks the villain’s ass and saves the world. We’d have explosions. We’d get a heroic shot of the hero looking pretty heroic.
But this isn’t an action-adventure flick. This is Blade Runner 2049. It’s somewhat reassuring to know that the sequel continues the original’s tradition of confounding audiences.
Blade Runner 2049 is an art film masquerading as a neo-noir cyberpunk drama. Its almost-3 hour run time and glacial pacing gives you just enough time to take in the derelict grandeur of its cinematography and set design. Director Denis Villeneuve’s film is remarkable not just for being made, but for being so well-made.
While the tech is more advanced here, the movie never sacrifices style and atmosphere for efficiency. Replicants, bioengineered humans, are squished out of a birthing chute (compare it with Westworld’s antiseptic 3D-printed hosts). Computer displays flicker and stutter. San Diego is a giant landfill with an orphanage. Traffic congestion still hasn’t been fixed. (Will it ever?)
The story itself is set 30 years after the first Blade Runner ended. The Tyrell Corporation, the original manufacturer of replicants, was bought out by the Wallace Corporation. The iconic pyramid is still here, and this time we get to see more of the interior, which is equal parts Edward Hopper and Giza.
While Eldon Tyrell had the pragmatic demeanor of a businessman, Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) indulges his god-like aspirations. Wallace’s Nexus-8 “angels” are fully subservient, and possess none of the aggressive self-preservation instincts that Tyrell’s replicants had.
Officer K is a blade runner, a special agent working under the Los Angeles Police Department and tasked with tracking and executing rogue early-model replicants. K is a replicant himself, but the job gives him none (at least not initially) of the misgivings and trepidation that haunted Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard in the first movie.
In one of the more poignant scenes in the movie, K and his holographic, store-bought love interest Joi engage in some pantomime-domesticity. It’s easy to dismiss this strange couple, the skinjob and the program skin, for playing house. But how different are they from supposedly “real” people, really?
While working a case, K discovers a box buried in the farm of fugitive replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). And as one would expect from a box found buried in a farm, the contents are mysterious. K sets out to find the only person who could make sense of it all: Rick Deckard.
Harrison Ford is pop culture’s beloved grumpy uncle. At this point in his career, he has little, if any, fucks to give. It’s an attitude that works well while playing Deckard. Deckard has neither the charm of Han Solo nor the thirst for adventure of Indiana Jones. Deck just wants to be left alone in his slightly radioactive Las Vegas man-cave (or man-casino, as it turns out).
The sequel enters a pop culture landscape where artificial life has been gradually edging out zombies as TV and cinema’s unlife of choice. The original Blade Runnerhad few peers when it was released in 1982. But today we have Westworld, Ex Machina, the live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation, and many others.
While many of those shows were preoccupied with asking Who am I? Blade Runner 2049 flips the trope on its head by instead asking Who am I not? And also, What the hell am I supposed to do now? I can’t get into more detail without spilling some major spoilers, but there are enough existential quandaries here to satisfy Kafka (and probably Pinocchio) fans.
Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t provide a whole lot of answers. But anyone brave and patient enough to wander through its byzantine passages will find no shortage of questions worth pondering. – Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippines – Two top officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) named as 'narco-generals' by President Rodrigo Duterte have been sacked, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced Monday, October 9.
They are former Quezon City police director Chief Superintenent Edgardo Tinio, and former Metro Manila police chief Director Joel Pagdilao.
"The decision, signed by the Executive Secretary last Thursday, has found [them] administratively liable for serious neglect of duty and serious irregularity in the performance [of their] duty and have been dismissed," Abella told reporters in a briefing.
Tinio and Pagdilao are perhaps the highest ranking policemen sacked for their supposed links to the drug trade. (READ: Generals to Duterte: We're not involved in illegal drugs)
Abella said they had a hand in the proliferation of drugs in their areas of responsibility because of "neglect" in performing their duties well. – Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippines – Politicians wishing to join the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) would only have until next month as the ruling party is set to stop accepting new members by the end of November.
Senate President and party president Aquilino Pimentel III said they need enough time to screen and choose their official candidates for the midterm elections in May 2019.
PDP-Laban is already preparing for the national and local elections. Just last week, Pimentel revealed the initial names on their Senate slate for 2019.
These include Pimentel himself, Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Albee Benitez, Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles, former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
"After the massive influx of new members into the Party for the past year, we now have significant presence in most of the provinces of the country. We should now focus on teaching all the members the Party Ideology and Program of Government and deepening their understanding of these. After this, we can present a solid and united front come 2019," Pimentel said.
He added that they are wary of possible members only showing up in the period leading up to the elections to enjoy the privileges of being in the ruling party.
"We are not a party of political convenience," said Pimentel.
"By stopping recruitment, we will have time to indoctrinate and train our members, screen possible candidates, and absorb our new members into our grassroots infrastructure," he added.
Pimentel's father, PDP-Laban founder and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr, earlier called on the party to question the motives of new members.
"It is now being swamped by new members, and I think it is important that the motivation of these people going to the party should be put into question," said Pimentel in a Rappler Talk interview last July 29.
"Only if the party is satisfied that they are really sincere, eager to learn about party platforms, direction that they should be accepted as members. Otherwise, they should be accepted as allies but not necessarily members."
After President Rodrigo Duterte's victory in the May 2016 elections, some lawmakers from former president Benigno Aquino III's Liberal Party (LP) jumped ship to PDP-Laban. The House of Representatives is dominated by a Duterte-allied "supermajority."
Local officials from different political affiliations also shifted to PDP-Laban. Just last week, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, Siquijor Governor Zaldy Villa, and Occidental Mindoro Vice Governor Peter Alfaro took their oath before Pimentel. – Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippines – Opposition group Tindig Pilipinas said the steep drop in President Rodrigo Duterte's satisfaction and trust ratings is an expected development that means his "honeymoon" with Filipinos is over.
Duterte's net satisfaction rating declined by 18 points in the September 2017 survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released on Sunday, October 8. He registered a +48 net satisfaction rating, still classified as "good" by the SWS.
The President's net trust rating also dipped by 15 points in the same survey, to a "very good" +60.
"While his government was focused on killing the poor and balkanizing our democratic institutions, his administration has miserably failed to deliver on his promises – peace in Mindanao, housing, solutions to traffic, end to endo, employment, among others," Tindig Pilipinas said in a statement on Sunday.
"Finally, the huge drop in the President's rating must serve notice to him: the people expect nothing but the truth on the allegations of corruption, ill-gotten wealth, and drug smuggling facilitation leveled against him and members of his family," the coalition added.
The Office of the Ombudsman is looking into the wealth of the Duterte family. Duterte, meanwhile, said he will set up an independent body to investigate the corruption inside the Office of the Ombudsman.
Coalition member Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said the latest SWS survey results prove the waning support for the bloody war against drugs.
"The survey results may be indicative of the decline of support [for] the war on drugs and the strong opposition [to] the prevalent human rights violations under the Duterte administration. The results would also bear the continuous decline of Duterte's net satisfaction among Class D or the masa (poor) which are the main victims of the selective war on drugs," said Alejano, who filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte which was junked by the President's allies at the House of Representatives.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, a member of the House opposition, urged Duterte to use his political capital "to do what is right."
"More people are starting to see through the propaganda. That no matter what it claims, the killings, the lack of action on the economic front are taking their toll on his numbers," Baguilat said.
Duterte not 'untouchable'
ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, a member of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc, also said the "myth" of Duterte's popularity is already over.
"Hindi siya untouchable. Nalantad na ang kahungkagan ng kanyang pangakong pagbabago; ang brutalidad ng kanyang mga giyera kontra droga at kontra sa mga rebelde, na bumibiktima sa maralita sa kalunsuran at kanayunan; at ang hagupit ng kanyang mga economic policies, na pumapabor sa ilang mayaman at dayuhan habang hindi nagbibigay ng trabaho at serbisyo sa maralita," said Tinio.
(He's not untouchable. The emptiness of his promise of change has already been exposed; the brutality of his war against drugs and war against rebels that victimize the urban and rural poor; the effects of his economic policies that favor the rich and the foreigners without giving jobs and services to the poor.)
Another Makabayan lawmaker, Gabriela Representative Emmi de Jesus, said Filipinos are now "seeing through" the President's "hype and fake news."
"[They] are realizing that change is not coming under President Duterte's watch, given the soaring prices of practically all commodities, nonstop extrajudicial killings, failure to end contractualization, failure to solve the Marawi crisis despite the imposition of Mindanao-wide martial law, and the unresolved Customs shabu smuggling issue," she said.
"In fact, [Duterte's] reign in the Palace for more than a year made the lives of the majority of Filipinos worse than before."
The Makabayan bloc, composed of 7 party-list representatives, broke away from the House majority last September, citing Duterte's "fascist, pro-imperialist, and anti-people policies.
For Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy, a Duterte ally, the ratings "can turn around in weeks."
"Public opinion is quite malleable... easily shaped by twists and turns in current events," she said.
"Recent weeks' developments have not been generally favorable to President Duterte, but his base of support remains solid, in my view. The 16 million who voted for him in May 2016, I believe are still there," she added. – Rappler.com
Photo from Henedina Razon-Abad's Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines – Batanes Representative Henedina "Dina" Abad, the wife of former budget secretary Florencio Abad, died on Sunday, October 8.
Vice President Leni Robredo, chairperson of the Liberal Party (LP), confirmed Abad's death in a Facebook post.
"You will be terribly missed, Congresswoman Dina Abad. The nation lost another treasure," Robredo said.
The Abad family has yet to issue a statement on the lawmaker's passing.
An LP member, Abad headed the House committee on government reorganization in the 17th Congress until she was stripped of the post for not voting in favor of the controversial death penalty bill.
She was also among the lawmakers who pushed for the passage of the reproductive health law.
On Twitter, several lawmakers paid tribute to Abad.
Aside from her stint in the House, Abad was also a longtime professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. She served as the founding dean of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG).
Current ASoG dean Ronald Mendoza said in a Facebook post, "We will continue the fight for good governance, Congresswoman/Dean Henedina 'Dina' Abad."
Abad graduated with an Economics degree from Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll College). She then obtained her Masters in Public Administration at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. – Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippines – The government's refusal to acknowledge the existence of extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs is "absurd," said Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday, October 7.
In an interview with Rappler, HRW Geneva director John Fisher emphasized that the Duterte administration cannot just say that extrajudicial killings do not exist by limiting the definition.
"The fact is that there have been thousands of reported deaths in the Philippines under the war on drugs. The government cannot just define these bodies out of existence through the application of some legal term," HRW Geneva director John Fisher told Rappler.
The latest official data show at least 3,850 people have been killed in police operations while at least 2,290 others were killed mostly by vigilantes. (READ: CHR: Death toll in drug war higher than what gov't suggests)
Despite these huge numbers, the Philippine National Police (PNP), on Friday, October 6, said there has been "officially no case" of extrajudicial killing since July 2016.
Definition 'not complicated'
In identifying extrajudicial killings, the PNP said it used the definition stated under Administrative Order 35 issued by the Aquino administration.
Extrajudicial killings are defined in the order as committed by "state and non-state forces" to silence, "through violence and intimidation, legitimate dissent and opposition raised by members of the civil society, cause-oriented groups, political movements, people's and non-governmental organizations, and by ordinary citizens."
Fisher, however, said the Philippines should follow the international definition as it is a signatory to various human rights treaties. (READ: Human rights in the Philippines)
An extrajudicial killing, he added, refers to the "killing of a person by government authorities without sanction of judicial proceeding or legal process."
"It is very, very clear that when somebody is killed and in the context of police operations, there is no judicial process, no legal process, there aren't arrests or charges. It is just a killing that's taking place outside of the legal process," Fisher explained, adding that the concept is not complicated.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) previously stated that it has always adhered to international guidelines and that the definition used during the Aquino administration was based on what was happening at that time.
In a recent statement, meanwhile, the CHR said limiting the definition would "discount killings that are also perpetrated by state agents and non-state actors that remain uninvestigated." (READ: CHR hits PNP's limited definition of extrajudicial killings)
This is not the first time that the government has said there are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
During the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on September 22, the Philippine delegation insisted that the deaths from police operations "are not extrajudicial killings," and rejected calls by United Nations (UN) member-states to conduct a thorough and impartial probe into the drug war deaths.
For HRW, the recent statements of the Philippine government show it is "seeking to evade its international responsibilities to uphold human rights."
"[Their] responses to the UPR process made it very clear that they simply won't accept the extent or scope of the problem or the problem even exists, let alone putting processes to try and identify those responsible or bring these human rights violations to an end," Fisher said.
"So it's inevitable, I think, that they will use national definition or legal tricks or semantic techniques to avoid responsibility for the deaths that are taking place."
No fooling international community
The Philippines' move to reject the calls during the UPR led to criticism. Iceland and nearly 40 states at the UN slammed the "climate of impunity" in the country.
According to Fisher, who was present during the review held in Geneva, Switzerland, the growing outrage against Duterte's drug war shows that the international community cannot be forced into believing the claim that there are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
"The international community is not fooled by the government's assertion that the killings perpetrated in the name of the so-called war on drugs don't constitute extrajudicial killings," Fisher said.
"They need to be accountable [for] these deaths." – Rappler.com