Items filtered by date: Thursday, 23 November 2017

Explicit Barton image raises possibility of 'revenge porn'

(CNN)After a sexually explicit photo of Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton surfaced this week on an anonymous Twitter account, the congressman -- one of the most senior members of the House of Representatives -- is raising the possibility that he's the victim of "revenge porn," a criminal act in Texas.

The anonymous tweet, circulated this week on social media, included a nude image of the congressman -- which he does not deny is legitimate.
Sarah Dodd of Dodd Communications, who is helping Barton respond to the image, confirmed that the image is of him and on Wednesday the Congressman apologized for not using "better judgment" while separated from his wife and in consensual relationships with women.
"While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women," Barton said in a statement first reported by The Texas Tribune. "Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down."
But Dodd told CNN that Barton did not release the image himself and does not know who did.
"It's really a violation of his privacy," she said.
Wednesday evening, an unnamed woman came forward to The Washington Post, telling the newspaper that Barton sent her lewd photos, videos and messages when they had two sexual encounters over the course of five years. 
In a 2015 phone call, Barton allegedly confronted the woman over her communications with other women, including her decision to share explicit materials he had sent, the Post reported.
The woman shared that secretly recorded phone call with the paper and, according to the Post, in that call, he warned her against using the explicit images he had sent her, in a way that would negatively affect his career -- vowing that he would go to the Capitol Hill police over her actions.
The woman told the Post she took that phone call as a threat, and she never had any intention to use the materials to retaliate against Barton.
Barton, in a statement released through a spokesman, says it was to stop her from publicly releasing the images as "revenge porn." Revenge porn -- when sexually explicit images are posted online without consent -- was outlawed in Texas in 2015.
"The Dallas Morning News has identified a potential crime against me and the transcript referenced in the Washington Post may be evidence," he said. "This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship. When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment."
CNN has not independently confirmed the woman's account, nor independently viewed the videos or message.
"I was in it for the politics connection," the woman said of their relationship, in The Washington Post.
"I was kind of unwittingly drawn into it with him because of just the amazement of having a connection to a congressman," she said, according to the Post.
Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas House delegation, had announced plans to seek re-election to Congress earlier this month. Dodd said that Barton "is not resigning."
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that the Wisconsin Republican had spoken to Barton, adding, "We will keep those conversations between the two of them."
She declined to elaborate on the specifics of their exchange.
Dodd said that Barton is using her firm to handle this matter rather than his congressional office because "it's the holiday weekend" and there have been "a lot of calls" about the image and he needed the "extra help."
Dodd would not comment as to whether Barton expects other images to surface.



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Texas Woman Charged With Mailing Explosives To State's Governor And Obama

Only Gov. Abbott, pictured here with Obama, opened the package. But because it was not opened as designed, the homemade device did not explode.

Brendan Smialowski /AFP/Getty Images

Julia Poff, a 46-year-old woman in Sealy, Texas, has been accused of mailing homemade explosives to then-President Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in October 2016. A third package went to the Social Security Administration.

Only Abbott opened the package, but according to documents filed in court in Texas this week, "it failed to explode because he did not open it as designed." Had the device exploded, the documents state that it could have caused "severe burns and death" to the state's Republican governor.

The federal agent assigned to the case testified that the package had an "obliterated shipping label" for an EBay order that was sent to Julia Poff, which led authorities to her address. They found a garage full of fireworks, and a number of pieces of evidence, including a salad dressing bottle cap in the explosive device that matched salad dressing witnesses say Poff had used for her anniversary dinner, and packaging for Pall Mall red cigarettes containing pyrotechnic powder, later found at her home.

The package sent to Obama also included a cat hair "microscopically consistent" with the hair of one of Poff's cats.

Court documents say that Poff was known to be critical of both Obama and Abbott. She had also applied for Social Security benefits and been denied.

Throughout the investigation and grand jury hearing, Poff tried to learn the identity of witnesses talking to the FBI, and told her friends not to talk to investigators.

Because of those efforts, and because she was deemed a flight risk, Poff was not released on bail. She faces a total of six federal charges, including false declaration of bankruptcy and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.

Poff has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to a report from a Houston television station. Her attorney declined to comment, according to the same local media report.

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A Mar-a-Lago Thanksgiving: It’s All Gravy

President Trump passed out sandwiches to members of the Coast Guard in Riviera Beach, Fla., on Thursday. CreditAl Drago for The New York Times 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — For his first Thanksgiving in office, President Trump returned to the comforts of his civilian lifestyle: the luxury of his Palm Beach properties, complete with early-morning Twitter commentary and a list of all the ways he — and, as a result, the country — is winning.

Mr. Trump started by wishing his 43 million followers a happy Thanksgiving, then recited a heaping helping of reasons the nation should be thankful.

“HAPPY THANKSGIVING, your Country is starting to do really well,” he wrote on Twitter. “Jobs coming back, highest Stock Market EVER, Military getting really strong, we will build the WALL, V.A. taking care of our Vets, great Supreme Court Justice, RECORD CUT IN REGS, lowest unemployment in 17 years….!”

In a video teleconference later on Thursday morning, the president assured troops from the five branches of the military, stationed across the world, that they were “fighting for something real” and that “really good things” had happened with the country while they were overseas. More improvements, including “big, fat, beautiful tax cuts,” are to come, he said.

Speaking from a lavish room at Mar-a-Lago, the club that he and his staff have deemed “the Winter White House,” he applauded the progress he said was being made in Afghanistan and Iraq, adding that the gains made against the Islamic State in the past year exceeded those during “years of the previous administration.”

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“We’re being talked about again as an armed forces,” he said as a few club members lingered outside. “We’re really winning. We know how to win. But we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before.”

He continued extolling the victories during a second event at a Coast Guard station in Riviera Beach. The first lady, Melania Trump, joined him to hand out sandwiches in the station’s mess hall. The first couple had also provided assortments of fruit, muffins and cookies to the service members, some of whom were about to go out on patrol.

Mr. Trump, the master marketer, spoke of the Coast Guard in terms few presidents have used. “I think that there is no brand — of any kind, I’m not just talking about a military branch — that has gone up more than the Coast Guard,” Mr. Trump told the service members, citing what he described as the organization’s successful response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria this year. “Incredible people, you’ve done an incredible job, and I love coming here and doing this for you today.”

He noted orders for new military equipment, including Coast Guard cutters, Navy ships and Air Force planes, including one that is “almost like an invisible fighter.”

The president then returned to old holiday habits, leaving to spend a few hours at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach before returning to Mar-a-Lago, the club he owns, in an unusual fall rain.

The menu was to include traditional fare — turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows — as well as local produce, red snapper, Florida stone crab and a variety of baked goods, cakes and pies, according to a summary provided by Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady.

Mr. Trump’s time at Mar-a-Lago and his surrounding golf courses was not, the White House told reporters, merely leisure, but was filled with meetings and phone calls, a schedule that Mr. Trump emphasized on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Will be having meetings and working the phones from the Winter White House in Florida (Mar-a-Lago),” he wrote on Twitter before spending a few hours at his West Palm Beach golf course. Officials declined to say with whom the president spoke.

In the years since Mr. Trump renovated Mar-a-Lago, the former estate of the cereal company heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, into an upscale club and resort, he has relished spending parts of the holiday season there, said Anthony P. Senecal, Mr. Trump’s former butler, who worked at the resort for more than 20 years. This visit was the president’s first to the club since April.

“He’s coming home,” Mr. Senecal said in an interview. “He’s going to be overjoyed that he’s at Mar-a-Lago, that he’s near the golf course, that he’s going to see a lot of friends that he hasn’t seen in a great while.”

While the living room Christmas tree and menorah are usually not up yet, the week of Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Mar-a-Lago holiday season, after the club’s annual summer closing for repairs and historic restoration, Mr. Senecal said.

Families congregate to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving fare, and Mr. Trump generally circles the room, which is decorated with seasonal flowers, to greet the club members, who pay thousands of dollars for membership. The president, Mr. Senecal recalled, prefers white turkey meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, and usually his signature two scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

“Thanksgiving is a joyous time,” said Mr. Senecal, who said he had declined a Thanksgiving invitation this year because of medical issues. (Last year, Mr. Trump called Mr. Senecal “obviously a very troubled man” after the discovery of Facebook posts in which Mr. Senecal had called for the execution of Barack Obama.) “There’s never been any other place. Wouldn’t know what to compare it to.”

It is unclear how different the social season at the club will be this year, especially after several charities canceled events over the president’s response to the racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, Va., according to The Washington Post. But Peter Brock, a local real estate developer and a member of the club who has spent parts of the holiday season there in the past, said Mr. Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency had only elevated his star presence on the grounds.

“The bottom line is, he is always enthusiastic about coming home and seeing what he calls his people,” Mr. Brock said. “And for the most part, we are his people.”

But holiday or not, Mr. Trump is not one to pass up an opportunity to deliver a jab. In 2013, he offered these greetings on Twitter: “Happy Thanksgiving to all — even the haters and losers!” And on Thursday, he took aim at some of his favorite targets: the reporters trailing him for the duration of his Florida stay.

“I’ll ask the press to get out, and I’ll say, ‘You’re fired,’” Mr. Trump said as reporters were ushered out of the Mar-a-Lago teleconference. “And, by the way, media, happy Thanksgiving, I must say.”

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A Split From Trump Indicates That Flynn Is Moving to Cooperate With Mueller

Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, are said to have terminated an information-sharing agreement with the president’s legal team. CreditCarlos Barria/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case — an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.

Mr. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether anyone around Mr. Trump was involved in Russian efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

That agreement has been terminated, the four people said. Defense lawyers frequently share information during investigations, but they must stop when doing so would pose a conflict of interest. It is unethical for lawyers to work together when one client is cooperating with prosecutors and another is still under investigation.

The notification alone does not prove that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Some lawyers withdraw from information-sharing arrangements as soon as they begin negotiating with prosecutors. And such negotiations sometimes fall apart.

Still, the notification led Mr. Trump’s lawyers to believe that Mr. Flynn — who, along with his son, is seen as having significant criminal exposure — has, at the least, begun discussions with Mr. Mueller about cooperating.

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Lawyers for Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump declined to comment. The four people briefed on the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

A deal with Mr. Flynn would give Mr. Mueller a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump campaign and the early tumultuous weeks of the administration. Mr. Flynn was an early and important adviser to Mr. Trump, an architect of Mr. Trump’s populist “America first” platform and an advocate of closer ties with Russia.

His ties to Russia predated the campaign — he sat with President Vladimir V. Putin at a 2015 event in Moscow — and he was a point person on the transition team for dealing with Russia.

The White House had been bracing for charges against Mr. Flynn in recent weeks, particularly after charges were filed against three other former Trump associates: Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman; Rick Gates, a campaign aide; and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser.

But none of those men match Mr. Flynn in stature, or in his significance to Mr. Trump. A retired three-star general, Mr. Flynn was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s and a valued surrogate for a candidate who had no foreign policy experience. Mr. Trump named him national security adviser, he said, to help “restore America’s leadership position in the world.”

Among the interactions that Mr. Mueller is investigating is a private meeting that Mr. Flynn had with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, during the presidential transition. In the past year, it has been revealed that people with ties to Russia repeatedly sought to meet with Trump campaign officials, sometimes dangling the promise of compromising information on Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Flynn is regarded as loyal to Mr. Trump, but he has in recent weeks expressed serious concerns to friends that prosecutors will bring charges against his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who served as his father’s chief of staff and was a part of several financial deals involving the elder Mr. Flynn that Mr. Mueller is scrutinizing.

The White House has said that neither Mr. Flynn nor other former aides have incriminating information to provide about Mr. Trump. “He likes General Flynn personally, but understands that they have their own path with the special counsel,” a White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said in an interview last month with The New York Times. “I think he would be sad for them, as a friend and a former colleague, if the process results in punishment or indictments. But to the extent that that happens, that’s beyond his control.”

Mr. Flynn was supposed to have been the cornerstone of Mr. Trump’s national security team. Instead, he was forced out after a month in office over his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. Mr. Flynn’s handling of those conversations fueled suspicion that people around Mr. Trump had concealed their dealings with Russians, worsening a controversy that has hung over the president’s first year in office.

Four days after Mr. Trump was sworn in, the F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Flynn at the White House about his calls with the ambassador. American intelligence and law enforcement agencies became so concerned about Mr. Flynn’s conversations and false statements about them to Vice President Mike Pence that the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, warned the White House that Mr. Flynn might be compromised.

The conversations with the Russian ambassador that led to Mr. Flynn’s undoing took place during the presidential transition. When questions about them surfaced, Mr. Flynn told Mr. Pence that they had exchanged only holiday greetings — the conversations happened in late December, around the time that the Obama administration was announcing sanctions against Russia.

While Mr. Pence and White House press officers repeated the holiday-greetings claim publicly, Mr. Flynn and the ambassador had in fact discussed the sanctions. That invited the idea that the incoming administration was trying to undermine the departing president and curry favor with Moscow.

Mr. Trump sought Mr. Flynn’s resignation only after news broke that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents and that Ms. Yates had warned the White House that his false statements could make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

Since then, Mr. Flynn’s legal problems have grown. It was revealed that he failed to list payments from Russia-linked entities on financial disclosure forms. He did not mention a paid speech he gave in Moscow, as well as other payments from companies linked to Russia.

The former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, has testified before Congress that Mr. Trump asked him to end the government’s investigation into Mr. Flynn in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office the day after Mr. Flynn was fired. Mr. Trump’s request caused great concern for Mr. Comey, who immediately wrote a memo about his meeting with the president.

And investigators working for Mr. Mueller have questioned witnesses about whether Mr. Flynn was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the presidential campaign. Mr. Flynn belatedly disclosed, after leaving the White House, that the Turkish government had paid him more than $500,000.

Mr. Flynn’s firing was, in some ways, the first domino that set off a cascade of problems for Mr. Trump. After the president ousted Mr. Comey, news surfaced that the president had requested an end to the Flynn inquiry, a revelation that led to Mr. Mueller’s appointment. That, in turn, raised the profile of an investigation that the president had tried mightily to contain.

Mark Mazzetti, Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

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Cebu City barangay chief killed in ambush

CEBU CITY – Motorcyle-riding gunmen shot dead a Cebu City barangay chief Thursday night, November 23.

The gunmen opened fire at the vehicle of Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo "Imok" Rupinta in Sitio Simborio, Barangay Tayud, Liloan town, north of Cebu, according to Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera.

Rupinta, who was driving the car, was declared dead on arrival at the Mendero Medical Center at around 9:30 pm. His wife, who was with him, was not injured.


Senior Police Officer 1 Karen Arcelo of the Liloan police station said Rupinta suffered fatal gunshot wounds on his head and parts of his body.

Arcelo said the initial investigation showed that the assailants blocked the Isuzu D-max driven by Rupinta and then started shooting.

The victim’s wife told police that they noticed the motorcycle tailing them from Sitio Simborio. Minutes later, she heard gunshots, prompting her to pull the hand brake of the vehicle, pushing her down to the front side.

Garganera said he has already talked to Liloan town Mayor Christina Frasco about the incident and got a commitment to preserve the crime scene and help with the investigation.

Philip Zafra, president of the Association of Barangay Captains-Cebu City Chapter, condemned the killing.

“I am really enraged with what had happened and I am calling on all agencies concerned to work together to immediately give justice to Barangay Captain Rupinta,” Zafra told reporters outside the Mendero Medical Center in Consolacion.

Rupinta was one of the controversial barangay captains in Cebu City. Early this year, he and his 7 councilors were suspended for 6 months for alleged failure to cooperate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency during a drug raid in November 6, 2016. –


Bicol grade school students trained in disaster response, resilience

TRAINING. A representative from the Office of Civil Defense Bicol demonstrates to pupils at the Bacacay East Central School in Albay how to administer first aid. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

ALBAY, Philippines – The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol is teaching the next generation of Bicolanos to be prepared should disaster strike in the region.
Edriel Burac, a student at the Bacacay East Central Elementary School (BECS), along with his classmates, checked on disaster equipment during the static display of government responders here.

Burac said that they’re happy to learn new things regarding disaster risk reduction methods, basic response, and emergency preparedness through the resilience caravan.

At least 1,000 elementary pupils from various public schools in Bicol, specifically in Albay province, joined the resilience caravan spearheaded by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol.

The resilience caravan 2017 is a series of 3 events aiming to educate young people on protective mechanisms and actions available to save lives and protect people’s livelihood during emergencies and disasters.

Retired general Claudio Yucot, the new OCD Bicol regional director, said that the target participants for the caravan from different schools in Bicol was 800 from grade 4 to 6, but the total number of participants swelled to 1,000.

Yucot said that educating grade school students on disaster risk reduction capability would also help them learn to become resilient in times of natural calamities.

“We want our children to be educated, equipped, ready and resilient for them to know what needs to be done in times of natural disasters even without disaster responders. So in this way, they can pass on their knowledge to the members of the family and save lives,” Yucot said.

He said that disaster readiness should start at home and should be ingrained in every Filipino, particularly the youth.

Bicol is a pilot area for the OCD's "resilience caravan." Yucot said that similar events will also be held in Regions 6 (Western Visayas) and 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) in partnership with OCD regional offices.

He said that resilience starts with awareness on hazards and risks which threaten communities, but people should also learn how to protect themselves from such threats.

This includes information on what to do before, during, and after disaster strikes a community, such basic safety and life-saving response. This information will be shared through creative presentations, exhibits, and demonstrations to promote better understanding, Yucot said.

“At the end of the sessions, we expect that the participants understand the basic concepts of safety and emergency preparedness, know the concepts of giving first aid and other basic response actions thus demonstrate the basic protective measures during earthquakes and fire,” the OCD official said.

The caravan focused on “4K: Kaalaman sa Kahandaaan, Takumbas ay Kaligtasan” to reinforce the message of the National Disaster Resilience Month observance.

Aside from resilience caravan held at Ibalong Centrum for Recreation in Albay, the OCD is also set to conduct a regionwide earthquake drill on December 15 in consonance with the simultaneous disaster drill in the country. –


‘Duterte is No. 1 terrorist in the Philippines’ – Joma Sison

MANILA, Philippines – Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) called President Rodrigo Duterte “the Number 1 terrorist in the Philippines” after the Commander in Chief ordered the arrest of members of communist “legal fronts.”

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"Terorista kayo pati 'yung mga legal front 'nyo, alam ko. Huwag na lang tayo magbolahan," President Duterte said on Wednesday, November 22. (You're terrorists, including your legal fronts. I know. Let's not fool each other.)

On Thursday, November 23, Duterte also said he would consult with security and intelligence agencies on which communist "legal fronts" are conspiring to commit terrorism, saying the existence of a conspiracy is enough to charge them. 

"Duterte is the No. 1 terrorist in the Philippines. He is culpable for the abduction, torture, and mass murder of an increasing large number of poor people suspected drug users and pushers, peasants and indigenous people in suspected guerrilla fronts and Moro people suspected of aiding the Dawlah Islamiyah from the time of the indiscriminate bombing of Marawi City to the present in several Bangsamoro areas,” Sison said in a statement on Thursday.

"And yet Duterte is utterly malicious and shameless in threatening and scheming to label and outlaw as terrorists the suspected members and entireties of such revolutionary organizations as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People´s Army and even such legal patriotic and progressive organizations as BAYAN and its affiliates,” he added.

This is but the latest in the word war between the President and his former professor, Sison. 

In July, Sison called Duterte the "number one drug addict" in the country who should be the target of the police.

"As an addict user of the opioid fentanyl, Duterte is the number one drug addict in the Philippines and is the most fitting target of the police units that he has turned into death squads and corrupted with money and promotions," the CPP founder said.

This was after the President claimed Sison was dying of cancer, which the professor denied.

At the time, Sison also described the President as a "coward through and through" for failing to fulfill his threats to kill alleged drug lord Peter Limas well as Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr and retired police officer Marcelo Garbo whom he has all accused of being drug protectors.

On Thursday, Sison also said: "Duterte´s bloodlust and mania for mass murder are boundless. He expects to wipe out through arbitrary arrests, torture, indefinite detention and massacre of suspected revolutionaries and legal social activists.” – 


UCBL: CEU vs CdSL in finals

Image: Olivarez vs Cdsl (UCBL Facebook)

Colegio de San Lorenzo routed Olivarez College in their knockout duel yesterday, 78-61, to clinch the other finals berth in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 2 at the Sea Lions gym in Sucat, Parañaque City.

Pro league hopeful Jon Gabriel made a triumphant return as he helped ease the load off the shoulders of Benin big man Soulemane Chabi Yo, veterans Charles Callano and Gelo Sablan as the No. 2 Griffins jumped the gun on the No.3 Sea Lions early on and never let up.

The solid victory, far from its showing in a 74-69 loss in the series opener last Monday, also primed up CdSL in what promises to be an explosive best-of-three titular showdown with reigning titlist Centro Escolar University starting tomorrow at the same venue.

The 6-foot-6 Chabi Yo was back at his dominant form with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Callano continued his stellar play with 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. It was, however, the surprising return of Gabriel that caught Olivarez College by big surprise and served as the key in CdSL’s all-important victory.

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UAAP: Archers on my mind – Tab

Right after taking the Far Eastern Tamaraws by the horn, Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin wasted no time shifting his sights on a familiar rival – Green Archers waiting in ambush.

“La Salle. What else would I be thinking about? We have to move on,” said the American-Kiwi coach, hardly giving his team any time to celebrate after their hard-earned 88-84 victory over FEU in Wednesday’s UAAP do-or-die semis for the right to face the defending champions in the finals.

Tab Baldwin
Tab Baldwin

“I think the coaching staff has to set the tone and we gotta come down from the cloud pretty quick. Get our focus on the next game because we didn’t play this season just to win in the semis. We played this season to go as far as this team is capable of going,” he stressed.

The finals is a best-of-3 affair with Game 1 at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.

This will be the sixth time in nearly three decades that the “Blue versus Green” rivalry will hog the finals’ limelight, with Ateneo winning it in 1988, 2002 and 2008 and La Salle prevailing in 2001 and 2016.

After surviving a balanced Tamaraws crew, the Blue Eagles hope for a quick recovery before they face the rejuvenated Green Archers.

“They’re a good team. There’s a reason why they’re in the finals, why they’re waiting in the finals, they’re the defending champs,” said longtime Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga of La Salle, which made quick work of Adamson, 82-75, in their own semis pairing over the weekend.

“We have no illusion that it’s gonna be an easy game for us. We have to dig deep and really play in spite of this game that we’re tired and it went into overtime. Fatigue’s not a factor right now. We’re gonna find a way to overcome that. We can’t enjoy this game too much because we have to focus on the next game.”

The Blue Eagles suffered a drop-off in confidence and sharpness after they lost two of their last three matches in the last two weeks, including a 79-76 heartbreaker to the Archers.

Forward Mike Nieto, however, is confident they can regain their bearings in time as they try to avenge a two-game sweep dealt by La Salle in last year’s finals.

“When it comes to facing La Salle in the finals, lumalabas na rin yung character ng team namin,” he said, adding the Blue Eagles’s tough grind against the Tamaraws helped them prepare for the ultimate battle.

“Losing two straight games and then having a do-or-die, siguro nag-mature na rin kami. You know the most important game like what coach Tab states all the time and coach Sandy is the next game. Importante ‘yung Game 1 because it’s the next game.”

Ateneo’s top wingman Thirdy Ravena, who’s expected to bear the brunt of La Salle’s unrelenting “Mayhem” pressure, waxed just as optimistic.

“Hopefully natutunan na namin yung mga mali namin from last year. We have to be more composed this year because La Salle is not gonna play us any softer than FEU,” said the younger brother of former two-time UAAP league MVP Kiefer.

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PRRD wants investment restrictions eased

President Duterte has ordered the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to immediately work on measures to lift or ease the country’s foreign investment negative list.

In Memorandum Order No. 16 dated November 21, 2017, President Duterte identified eight investment areas that should be removed from the 11th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL).

These areas include labor recruitment, public services, rice and corn production, milling, processing, trading, teaching at higher education levels, retail and domestic market enterprises.

According to Duterte, their removal from the FINL aims “to raise the Philippines’ level of competitiveness and to foster higher economic growth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.”

“Beyond through joint endeavors in the spirit of equality and partnership, the NEDA Board and its member agencies are hereby directed to take immediate steps to lift or ease existing restrictions on foreign participation in the following investment areas or activities,” the President’s order read.

The NEDA board members were also directed “to earnestly support, in a coordinated manner, such legislative efforts as may be necessary to eliminate or relax the aforesaid restrictions, including sensing legislations seeking to clarify the definition of public utilities.”

The President also sought the NEDA Board’s advice regarding the restrictions on foreign participation which may already be lifted or eased without need of legislation.

Foreign ownership

Sought for comment, Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said yesterday the NEDA Board can soon begin working on the FINL and have it finished before the end of the year.

Pernia added that half of the investment areas identified by the President could be removed from the list without the approval of Congress.

Asked when they expect Congress to pass measures that would relax the restrictions, Pernia said “hopefully within the first quarter next year with the President’s push.”

Based on a technical working group (TWG) report obtained by reporters, areas where foreigners could eventually fully operate include financing and investment companies, as well as education. They may also practice some licensed professions in the Philippines.

Other areas identified in the TWG report are mass media, supplies to state-owned corporations and agencies as well as bath houses and massage clinics.

According to the report, the government can cite Republic Act No. 10881 as its basis in allowing foreign nationals to acquire full ownership of financing and investment companies in the Philippines.

Reciprocity system

The government is also looking at allowing foreign pharmacists and forestry to practice their profession in the country, as long as it is under a reciprocity system.

Along with this, the government may ease the restrictions on education by limiting the 40 percent foreign equity rule only to basic education. The TWG also recommended that high-level skills development be opened to foreign players.

On mass media, the government is considering the easing of foreign equity limitations imposed on marketing and advertising through the Internet.

Contracts for the supply of materials, goods and commodities to government-owned or controlled corporation, company, agency or municipal corporations are also being considered to be removed from the list, also on a reciprocity basis.

Lastly, the TWG has recommended to the Department of Health to classify sauna and steam bathhouses, massage clinics and other like activities under “wellness centers” to allow full foreign ownership.

The Philippines’ so-called “foreign investment negative list” lays out investment areas closed to foreign investment and areas where foreign ownership is limited. The list is periodically evaluated by the NEDA.

In 2015, business groups were dismayed after former President Benigno S. Aquino III kept the list of industries reserved for Filipinos under the 10th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List.

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