Overseas voter registration continues to set new record

The Department of Foreign Affairs – Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) announced that a new milestone has been established by garnering 105,333 new OV registrants, surpassing the previous high of 103,048 set over the same period during 2014-2015 registration drive.

The registration started last December 1, 2016 and will end on September 30, 2018.

The overseas voter registration in preparation for the 2016 elections netted a cumulative total of 1,376,067 active registered overseas voters. The 826,881 new registrants for the 2016 elections, was more than a 100 percent increase over the 398,554 new registrants for the 2013 elections.

Of the almost 1.4 million registered overseas voters, 590,440 were in the Middle East and Africa, 334,215 in the Asia Pacific, 263,316 in the Americas, 138,757 in Europe, and 49,339 were sea-based.

The attainable target for this registration period is 1.1 million OV registrants, which would net a cumulative total of 2,130,000 active registered voters for the coming national elections.

All Filipino citizens who expect to be abroad from April 13 – May 13, 2019 during the overseas voting period for the 2019 Elections, at least 18 years old on May 13, 2019, and not otherwise disqualified by law, may register as an overseas voter. Ffor an updated list please go to www.dfa-oavs.gov.ph or www.comelec.gov.ph.

Close to 9,000 EJK deaths is ‘false news’, Malacañang says

Malacañang on Friday dismissed persistent reports claiming that close to 9,000 have been killed in the government’s war against illegal drugs as “false news,” urging the US State Department not to rush to judgement over the number of alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs).

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Philippine government share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying that there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law.

On Thursday, Murphy reportedly said that the US government is deeply concerned by the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

He also urged the Philippines to follow up on its commitment to investigate EJKs, whether they are committed by law enforcement, or of a vigilante nature.

Abella pointed out that since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in July 1, 2016, the police has accounted for 6,011 homicide cases under investigation — formerly called deaths under investigation.

“Of this number, only 1,398 cases are found to be drug-related contrary to news reports that there are now close to 9,000 killed connected with the campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false news,” Abella said.

The Palace official also pointed out that law enforcers and local authorities always follow the rule of law and due process in the anti-drug war and has remained committed in investigating any and all alleged cases of EJK.

“Local authorities follow operational protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances. Those who breach procedures are made to answer before the law,” he said.

(With reports from PNA)

China to probe alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen in South China Sea

China said it will look into reports that Filipino fishermen have been driven away allegedly by the Chinese Coast Guard from Union Bank in the South China Sea, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.

”I honestly do not know anything about what you said. You yourself mentioned that the vessels are unidentified, and all sides are in the process of verifying the situation. China also needs to check on that,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a press conference.

The Philippines’ foreign affairs and national defense departments are still confirming media reports on the harassment of the Filipino fishermen.

Lu said China will continue to work with the Philippine side to “properly” resolve the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea maritime and territorial dispute under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.

”Our position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. We would go on working with the Philippine side to properly deal with relevant maritime issues and create favorable conditions for the sound and steady development of bilateral relations,” he said.

He reiterated that the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China have turned around and started to improve quickly “with all-around cooperation moving forward steadily”.

(With reports from PNA)

Review: From more screen to price tag

aP: Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 phone is stunning. But its $100 (Dh367) price hike is hard to swallow.

The S8 is for those who want elegance – and are willing to pay for it, with several refinements that, totalled up, are indeed worth more than $100.

SCREENS TO THE EDGES

After spontaneous fires that forced the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 , Samsung is playing it safe on the battery and subjecting the S8 to tighter inspections.

Instead, it’s pushing the boundaries on the phone’s display. Samsung minimized the phone frame and got rid of a physical home button to free up space for an “infinity display,” a screen that seems to flow right into the phone’s curved left and right sides.

The 5.8-inch S8 and the 6.2-inch S8 Plus both have nearly 15 per cent more display space than last year’s comparable models. But the phones themselves aren’t wider. In fact, the phones feel more comfortable thanks to sides that curve around to the back; last year’s curved S7 Edge model feels boxy by comparison.

ALL ABOUT THE BATTERY

The S8 and S8 Plus have more physical space inside, but Samsung used it to give the battery more breathing room while keeping its capacity roughly the same as last year.

Though a larger display drains the battery faster, my tests of streaming video found that the new phones consumed power more slowly than last year’s models. And even with constant use — taking photos, watching video and playing music and podcasts — the new phones still made it to bedtime with power to spare. Samsung credits software and chip improvements.

UNLOCKING THE PHONES

Like the doomed Note 7, the S8 has an iris scanner to let you unlock the phone by looking at it — at least in theory. But you have to swipe the screen first and position it from your face at just the right distance.

The fingerprint scanner was faster and more convenient for unlocking the phone. But you have to be careful not to smudge the adjacent camera lens by mistake now that the scanner has been moved to the back.

FIRE THE ASSISTANT

Samsung is introducing a digital assistant called Bixby, but voice features intended to rival Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri aren’t ready yet. A reminder feature works, but seems paralyzed without voice dictations. Bixby will highlight appointments, trending stories and app suggestions, much as existing features on iPhones and other Android phones already offer.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 hits stores

Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 went on sale over the counter in South Korea Friday as the world’s biggest smartphone maker seeks to move on from a disastrous handset recall that has hammered its once-stellar reputation.

The device, unveiled in New York last month and a challenge to Apple’s iPhone, is the firm’s first major launch since last year’s humiliating withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 over exploding batteries.

It also comes with vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong and other executives on trial for bribery over their alleged role in the graft scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-Hye.

But the company’s profits are rising and the new phones have received good reviews, with more than one million pre-orders for the S8 and the larger S8+ in South Korea alone.

Shares in Samsung Electronics jumped more than 2.5 percent Friday, adding around $7 billion to its market capitalisation.

“Market reactions to the release of the S8 series are somewhat positive,” said Lee Seung-Woo of IBK Investment Securities.

Samsung could break the record 48.5 million unit sales it achieved with its S7 series, he added.

“Barring the weakening of the US dollar, Samsung’s second-quarter operating profit would reach 12 trillion won,” Lee said.

Pre-order deliveries began earlier this week, and in-store sales begin in the US and Canada later Friday, with the device due to be rolled out to around 50 more countries next week.

(With reports from AFP)

Strong winds to blow over the weekend

Motorists are urged to exercise caution, reduce the speed and leave enough distance between vehicles because of the dust storm caused by active winds.

The National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) said in a statement today that the continued strong winds stir dust in open areas, and at times cause low visibility.

The lowest temperature recorded was 13.6 degree Celsius in Rakna and the highest was 41.3 degree Celsius in Fujairah Airport at 01:57 PM, the report read.

Hot weather to continue in UAE

Hot weather will continue to strike the country in the next few days, the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) reported.

“The weather on Friday was fair in general, hazy and relatively hot during the day and mild by the evening. Hot and hazy weather will continue in the UAE. The temperatures will be more of the same like it has been on Friday, with the maximum of 38.8°C and the minimum of 13.6°C,” said an official from the NCMS

Fresh to strong winds over scattered areas across the UAE will cause duststorm resulting into poor visibility.

“Light to moderate winds will help freshen up conditions over some areas on Sunday and Monday, but temperatures are expected to hit a high of 43°C, dipping to 16°C inland,” the report further explained.

On Sunday and Monday fog will cover parts of the UAE and will reduce visibility.

Abu Dhabi housing at 1/3 of low-salary workers’ income eyed

The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) is eyeing to bring down housing rates to go down to only 35% or less of a low salary earner’s income, Arabian Business reported.

“People who earn Dh2,000 to Dh6,000 a month and work in private businesses might be getting housing allowance, but now we want to cater some type of housing that suits their income,” Abu Dhabi UPC Planning and Policy Department Senior Planning Manager Hamad Al Mutawa told Arabian Business.

“We are trying to ensure that the rentals for these units do not exceed 35 percent of the monthly income of the workers,” he added.

The plan is also seen to do away with middlemen who sign a lease with building owners and sub-lease the subject units, which increase housing costs for renting workers.

The initiative will pilot in highly populous areas such as the North Island, the report said.

“If building owners register their buildings as a low-income housing scheme, they may be waived from parking requirements and given incentives to cater that section,” Al Mutawa explained.

“There are some owners of old buildings who are currently violating certain occupancy regulations, but by enrolling in the initiative they can formalise their situation or fix their units to meet specific government requirements and avoid high penalties,” he added.

Wanna look like a hunk? Here’s how according to science

Life does not have to be hard for the plain-looking man looking for a possible mate.

There is scientific proof that creativity boosts a man’s attractiveness.

A study conducted by Christopher Watkins, a psychologist at Abertay University in Scotland, attests that creative guys who are not as good-looking may be seen by women as potential mates the way good-looking but less creative guys are perceived, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

“Creative guys with less attractive faces were almost identical in attractiveness to really good looking guys who were not as creative,” Watkins told AFP in a phone interview.

“Creativity is thought to be a signal that an individual can invest time and effort into a particular task or can see things in novel ways that may be useful for survival,” he added.

As far as the study is concerned, the same results cannot be said of the female gender.

Females who aren’t as good-looking but are creative don’t seem to get plus points as potential mates and are even perceived more negatively.

“Creative women with less attractive faces seem to be perhaps penalized in some way,” Watkins said.

Still, in the age of online dating where people swipe left or right depending on physical attractiveness, creative men who aren’t exactly hunks may be at a disadvantage.

“Certain platforms that we have now for dating might not be favorable for assessing people on more complex attributes,” Watkins explained.

From UAE, Philippines is 7th cheapest country to send money to

The Philippines is the 7th cheapest country to send money to from the Emirates, Gulf News reported based in a recently released World Bank report.

The report collected data from January to March 2017. It said it takes Dh26.88 to send some Dh735 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the Philippines.

The Philippines is followed by Egypt and Yemen, and Jordan. Sudan tops the list, followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

“The report, which is part of an on-going campaign to make money transfers cheaper for expatriates – especially those from the developing countries, looks at the total cost of moving cash around the world, including transaction fees and other charges that remitters may not be aware of,” the Gulf News said.

“The World Bank report is used as a reference for measuring progress on efforts to reduce the global cost of remittances to 5 per cent,” it added.

This month, major remittance firms in the UAE hiked their fees by Dh2.

Reports said some branches as well as small remittance outlets have yet to hike their rates.

UAE expatriates send money totalling $20 billion yearly to their home countries, Khaleej Times reported.

The UAE is the fourth top remittance-sending country in the workd, the report also said based on a 2016 World Bank fact book.