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RP-US war games to start under China’s shadow

Sunday, 19 April 2015 00:00 Published in Headlines

Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded war games, showcasing a deepening defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China.
The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the long-time allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership.
The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid to assert sovereignty in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
In an interview with Agence France Presse last week, President Aquino said the two militaries operating side-by-side should offer a “deterrent aspect to any entity, be it a country or Islamic radicals.”
Aquino insisted the Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) war games starting tomorrow are not directed at China, pointing out they were annual exercises, but he discussed at length Manila’s reliance on Washington.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also said last week the Philippines planned to ask Washington for extra help in containing China. “We are, at this point, seeking additional support from the US in terms of being able to take a stronger position, in defending our position, which is to uphold the rule of law,” Del Rosario told local broadcaster ANC.
Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the strategically important South China Sea, including areas just off the coasts of other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
China has sought to expand its presence in disputed parts of the sea in recent years, including by taking control of a shoal that is a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
It has also embarked on giant reclamation works on reefs and islets, turning some into islands capable of hosting military aircraft landing strips.
Manila has been the most vocal of the rival claimants to express alarm over China’s moves.
In his interview with AFP, Aquino warned that the world should fear China’s actions in the South China Sea.
US President Barack Obama also expressed concern this month, criticizing China for “using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.”
“Just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China, doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” Obama said.
China has repeatedly insisted it has sovereign rights to the contested areas, so criticism of its reclamation and other activities in the area are baseless.
The US has been looking to re-build its military presence in the Philippines, a former colony where it had naval and air bases until the early 1990s, as part of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”
The two nations, bound by a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, last year signed another pact that would allow more US forces in the Philippines, although the Supreme Court in Manila still needs to ratify it.
Even without the implementation of the new pact, more than 12,000 soldiers from both sides will be involved in this year’s Balikatan exercises, double last year’s number.
On Tuesday, Marines will conduct beach landing exercises from a naval base facing the South China Sea just 220 kilometers from the Philippine-claimed shoal that China has controlled since 2012.
Aside from the naval base, live fire and disaster response drills will also be held in various military camps outside Manila.
Relatedly,  the US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman yesterday said, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar.
Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time.
“There is a 10 p.m. curfew. The restrictions include no bars and clubs,” he told AFP.
He added US soldiers will only be allowed to eat meals “in the vicinity of their place of dwelling,” for example at their hotel.
Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but conceded they came after a US serviceman was arrested for the murder of Jennifer Laude (born Jeffrey Laude) he met in a bar in October after taking part in military exercises in the Philippines.
US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton is now being tried for the crime in Olongapo City.
Activist groups have seized on the incident to attack the defense alliance between the United States and its former colony, staging frequent street protests against the presence of US forces.          

Apple Watch to boost ‘glance journalism’

Sunday, 19 April 2015 00:00 Published in Commentary

Washington — With the Apple Watch expected to sell in the millions, news organizations refocusing their efforts to become part of that tiny screen.
In the news business, this is now called “glance journalism.”
The Apple Watch, expected to catapult to the leading item in wearable technology, opens up new possibilities to a news industry seeking to connect with audiences in the digital era.
The New York Times says its app for the Apple Watch will be “a new form of storytelling” and that “editors on three continents” will update notifications. Readers will be able to “hand off” an article to view on an iPhone or iPad.
Yahoo will have four apps for the Apple device, including a news digest updated hourly with “microsummaries” of major stories, as well as apps for fantasy sports, weather and one specifically for Hong Kong news.
CNN and National Public Radio also have apps for the Apple Watch, and others are expected to follow.
The new technology means more bite-size news being directed at consumers, say media analysts.
“We are about to enter the era of ‘at a glance journalism’,” says Mario Garcia, a consultant with Garcia Media and faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, in a blog post.
Garcia, who is also participating in a research project on news for smartphones with Arhus University of Denmark, said he is “fascinated” with the possibilities.
“It is more difficult to pull an iPhone out of one’s pocket or a purse in a crowded New York City subway that it would be to glance at one’s watch,” he said.
“So, I predict that we will be doing a lot of glancing, as in reading seductive headlines and deciding if we read or not.”
New formula needed. The emergence of wearables offers a new platform for the news media — one that is fast, personal and always on, says Robert Hernandez, who teaches mobile journalism at the University of Southern California.
“The ability to access knowledge will be quicker with the watch,” Hernandez told AFP.
For newsrooms, it is “a new opportunity to be part of this person’s body,” Hernandez said.
And journalism will find a way to use the smartwatch, he said: “When Twitter came out people were saying ‘you can’t do journalism in 140 characters,’ but it has now become an essential tool.”
Gilles Raymond, founder and chief executive of the News Republic application, says he believes the smartwatch will be an important source for news and that the Apple Watch will be an important test.
“When there is breaking news you want access to it immediately, so the watch is the ideal tool to do that,” said Raymond, who is based in San Francisco for the French-based firm which offers smartphone and tablet news apps.
He said smartphone users now glance at their handsets more than 100 times a day, and with the smartwatch that could become 300 or 500 times: “It will be very addictive,” he said.
Raymond said there is only limited experience with news on smartwatches now but that news organizations and apps are prepared for the possible widespread adoption of Apple Watch.
“The question is will you read only the first line and then take your phone out or will you read the full article on the watch?” he said.
“Both scenarios are credible but I think people will want to read the article on their watch. They can adapt.”
News organizations will need to adapt as well, Raymond said, by developing content easily viewed on the small screen but could be rewarded with “a new way to build a relationship” with readers.
Understanding mobile. But media organizations need to find the right formula for delivering short news alerts and notifications without being obtrusive or annoying. Wears of the watch are likely to fine-tune these systems to their liking.
Alan Mutter, a former Chicago newspaper editor who is now a digital media consultant, says news organizations need to think creatively about how to use new devices like the smartwatch.
“The insanely small screen cannot be just an extension of what’s on the mobile phone,” Mutter said.
“You have to think about how consumer uses the device and how can you do something that’s valuable.”
Mutter said smartwatch users may not want to feel “pecked to death” by vibrating alerts and that news publishers must strike the right balance on these notifications.
“Maybe it will be news at the top of the hour, in a spurt of headlines, or maybe it will be a summary you can listen to,” he said.
“You have to create the content that works for the medium.”
Mutter said most traditional news organizations failed to successfully navigate to the Web, but now have an opportunity with mobile and smartwatches.
“They need to develop their mobile presence, they need to understand it’s not just a passive device,” Mutter said.
“If they do mobile right, they will be able to do Apple Watch.”                               

Nicosia — Recognized only by Ankara, the tiny Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) heads to the polls on Sunday with its economy suffering from international isolation and surviving mainly thanks to Turkey’s largesse.
The campaign for the presidential vote, which will see incumbent Dervis Eroglu face three main challengers, has focused on stalled efforts to resolve the 40-year-old conflict that has left the TRNC a breakaway enclave on the Mediterranean island’s northern third.
But for the TRNC’s some 300,000 inhabitants, it’s the economic consequences of the territory’s unrecognised status that hit home the most.
“The Turkish Cypriot economy has a very big structural problem, and we are very much aware of that. First is that the economy is an aid-dependent economy, and we do have lots of funds coming from Turkey,” said Mustafa Besim, a professor at Famagusta’s Eastern Mediterranean University.
“This is a reality and this is a problem. We have this problem because the economy of north Cyprus is not able to have access to international markets,” he said.
Since Turkey’s invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup seeking union with Greece, the territory has been almost completely cut off from the outside world.
A UN-monitored ceasefire line runs across the island, limiting movement and trade, and the capital Nicosia is split in two.
At the TRNC’s Ercan airport, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside Nicosia, the only planes taking off and landing are from Turkey. The north’s main port, at Famagusta, suffers the same restrictions.
‘There is no economy.’ Fikri Toros, the head of the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce, said the limits have very real economic consequences.
“Take a container coming from China,” he said. “Bringing it to Limassol (the port in southern Cyprus) is going to cost you around $2,200. If you want to bring it to Famagusta, it costs $3,600.”
Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 but goods from the TRNC do not have privileged access to the bloc so suffer from the restrictions and taxes imposed on outside countries.
It shows in the country’s enormous trade deficit — exports of only about $130 million per year, against imports of $1.4 billion, according to Toros.
Only Turkey’s substantial support, he said, keeps the economy going.
As well as directly providing about 30 percent of the TRNC’s budget, Ankara finances major infrastructure projects in the territory — from roads to hospitals — and encourages Turkish businesses to invest.
With tourism one of the few bright spots in the local economy, Turkish investment has nearly doubled hotel capacity in the past 10 years, Toros said.
Ankara’s subsidies also allow the Turkish Cypriot government to finance its bloated public sector, with some 80 percent of budget spending on public employees, Toros said.
For many Turkish Cypriots, even the idea of a “national” economy is an illusion.
“There is no economy in our country,” said Ahmed Shaheen, a 29-year-old sitting in the sunshine outside a Nicosia cafe.
Division hurts growth. Shaheen said he would be voting on Sunday, but didn’t expect any change.
“Politicians don’t care, they don’t want to change things,” he said. Whoever is elected “won’t be able to open the country because of Turkey”.
Economic experts and some local businessmen say what’s needed is a political solution that would integrate the TRNC into the global economy.
The Cypriot branch of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), a think-tank that promotes reconciliation, said in a report that reunification of the island would give a significant boost to the economy, on both sides of the Greek-Turkish divide.
If a solution were found by the start of 2016, the TRNC’s economy would grow from 2.6 billion euros in 2012 to 11.2 billion in 2035, the report said. Without a solution, it would grow to only 4.7 billion euros.
Previous hopes for a political solution in Cyprus have already shown the potential for an economic surge.
In the early 2000s, when a UN-backed plan to resolve the dispute appeared to be making headway, the TRNC’s economy roared ahead even without a final agreement.
“Because everyone believed that there was going to be a solution... we had an economy that grew 15 to 17 percent for 3 to 4 years. We had a boom here because everyone was very positive about a solution,” Besim said.                            

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