The head of the CIA on Sunday denied his agency had any role in fomenting the recent anti-government protests in Iran but predicted the violent unrest "is not behind us."

Napanood ko na ‘yan! CIA chief denies agency role in Iran unrest, predicts new violence

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By Agence France-Presse

The head of the CIA on Sunday denied his agency had any role in fomenting the recent anti-government protests in Iran but predicted the violent unrest “is not behind us.”

Mike Pompeo, named a year ago by President Donald Trump to head the intelligence agency, told Fox News Sunday that economic conditions in Iran “are not good.”

“That’s what caused the people to take to the streets,” he said. He blamed what he called Tehran’s “backward-looking” regime for turning a deaf ear to the voices of the people.

Asked about a claim by Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Javad Montazeri, that a CIA official had coordinated with Israel and Saudi Arabia — Iran’s regional rivals — to work with exiled Iranian groups to stir dissent in Iran, Pompeo replied simply: “It’s false.”

“This was the Iranian people — started by them, created by them, continued by them, demanding a better set of living conditions and a break from the theocratic regime.”

– Looming deadlines –

Trump has repeatedly tweeted his support for Iranian protesters while castigating the Tehran regime, seizing on the recent unrest to again slam the multiparty nuclear deal with Iran as deeply flawed.

Trump faces deadlines around mid-month on whether to renew temporary waivers or restore US sanctions on Iran. In October, Trump refused to certify that Iran was respecting its commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord, but did not reimpose sanctions or abandon the deal itself.

The administration has not revealed its intentions, but the Iran unrest is seen as a possible pretext for blowing up the nuclear accord.

The US Congress has been working on legislation aimed at tightening terms of the agreement in ways that might satisfy Trump’s demands, and Pompeo expressed careful optimism that it might succeed.

“They could do something,” he said. “They could take some of the weaknesses from the agreement… extend deadlines (and) snap back sanctions into place where they could really happen.”

But Bob Corker, head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week that while talks on Iran were continuing with the White House and its European partners, no new bill was imminent.

Any agreement, Corker said, would take several more weeks to work out. (AFP)

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China’s congress spins out bold and bizarre ideas

Widely viewed as a rubber-stamp for the nation’s Communist Party rulers, China’s annual parliament still spins out a barrage of bold and bizarre proposals which may hint at the thinking inside Beijing’s cloistered corridors of power.

The week-long political spectacle sees about 3,000 appointed lawmakers meet, while another 2,000-odd advisers discuss ideas on how to iron out wrinkles in China’s business and social fabric.

The latter group — known as the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), includes business tycoons such as Netease founder Ding Lei, Yao Ming of NBA fame, and technocrats such as Gao Fu, the head China’s centre for disease control.

Most of their proposals fall by the wayside, but some later emerge into law.

Here are a few recommendations that have made waves on Chinese social media:

– Lessons in love –

Can love be taught in the classroom? With fewer people tying the knot and not enough babies to power China’s economy, a government adviser thinks it is time college students got mandatory lessons in “romance and marriage”.

“Young people have very little understanding of how to face an emotional crisis or sexual problems,” Yu Xinwei, vice-president of Guangzhou University, said.

China’s divorce rate has soared in recent years, prompting lawmakers to introduce a 30-day cooling-off period before couples break up.

– Man camps –

Boys should be encouraged to play competitive sports such as football and basketball “to increase their masculinity”, reads a proposal by parliamentarian Xiong Sidong. “While girls should pursue rhythmic gymnastics, yoga and other exercises to increase their flexibility.”

According to him, Chinese boys are too “timid, quiet and dependent”, contrary to the “traditional qualities of manliness”, which has created “social and family problems”.

Such gender-differentiated classes would allow “natural and healthy development”, Xiong said.

The proposal met with derision online, with many saying children should be allowed to choose classes based on their interests and not their gender.

– Hacker stars –

The government should recognise hackers as “special talents” and take steps to “strengthen their loyalty to the nation”, said Zhou Hongyi, founder of internet security firm Qihoo 360 and a member of the advisory body.

State-sponsored hacking groups operating out of China have been accused of attempting to steal secrets from foreign businesses including Microsoft and Airbus and even causing a recent blackout in India’s financial hub Mumbai.

– Farewell to English? –

English is a compulsory subject offered from grades one through 12 in China’s national curriculum as the country seeks to upskill its population.

But a lawmaker thinks the hours spent learning a foreign language is “useless” given improvements in translation devices, and wants to cut it from the core curriculum.

“Students spend 10 percent of their time in school learning English, but it’s only useful for a minority,” said Xu Jin, a member of political group the Jiusan Society, who wants more time dedicated to subjects including Chinese and mathematics.

Online, many criticised the idea as narrow-minded populism.

– Cheaper chops –

The government should pay half the cost of pig breeding, according to Liu Yonghao, founder of agribusiness giant New Hope Group and a member of the advisory body.

African swine fever has battered the country’s hog population in recent years.

Half of the world’s pork is eaten in China and prices soared last year after nearly 100 million animals were culled.

– Vaccine passport –

Travelling to China requires a battery of coronavirus tests and weeks in quarantine.

A prominent lawyer and member of the advisory body Zhu Zhengfu has proposed a globally recognised vaccine passport to address these pain points.

Zhu told the Global Times that international arrivals could be exempt from quarantine requirements if they have a negative nucleic acid test and a vaccine passport.

People within China who get the jab could also travel freely without getting a painful nasal swab every time they leave their city, Zhu said. © Agence France-Presse

Pinoy pride! House adopts resolutions honoring 2 Fil-Ams in Biden admin

By Billy Begas

The House of Representatives on Monday adopted two resolutions congratulating two Filipino-Americans who were appointed by US President Joe Biden.

House Resolution 1513 congratulates Camille Calimlim Touton who was appointed as Deputy Commissioner of US Bureau of Reclamation in January 21, 2021.

“Touton’s appointment is historic as she became the first Filipino-American to serve in the agency’s leadership role,” the resolution authored by Pangasinan Rep. Christopher de Venecia read.

Touton is the daughter of Carl and Marlene Calimlim from Barangay Tebeng, Dagupan City.

Meanwhile, House Resolution 1613 congratulates Gloria Diño Steele who was appointed as acting administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID is the leading agency of the US government implementing international development programs and disaster assistance.

Steele has received three US Presidential awards: one Presidential Meritorious Executive ward in 2007 and two Presidential Distinguished Executive Awards in 2008 and 2018. She also received the Order of Sikatuna Award form the Philippine President in 2015.

“For her achievements as an exemplary Filipino-American in the USAID, who envisioned a genuine commitment to help others live a better life, it is but fitting to commend and give honor to Ms. Gloria Diño Steele for representing the whole Filipino nation in the pursuit of a better Philippines and a peaceful world,” the resolution read.

The resolutions were approved during the celebration of Women’s Day at the House.

‘Huwag ka nang magturo’: Eric Yap solely to blame for P20-B budget cut in military pension fund, Ungab says

MANILA – Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said House committee on appropriations chair Eric Yap is solely to be blamed for the reported P20-billion budget cut in the gratuity and pension funds of the country’s retired military personnel under the 2021 national budget.

In his privilege speech on Monday, Ungab said Yap admitted the budget cut during his interpellation with Anakalusgan Rep. Mike Defensor last week, and therefore should not drag others into the mess he created.

“You confirmed this, here, in the plenary. So ikaw ang may gawa nito, wag ka na magmali-mali ng pagtuturo. Sarili mo lang ang pwede mo ituro!” said Ungab.

During his interpellation last week with Defensor, Yap reportedly admitted that he did not consult the present House leadership when he realigned the military pension fund, citing lack of time.

“Sa totoo lang po, eto po yung malaking… kaya po ako naku-kwestyon lagi dahil hindi ko po tinanong kay Speaker Velasco kung pwede po bang tanggalin ito. Ako po ay nag desisyon base sa tingin ko kung ano ang makakabuti para sambayanan,” Yap told Defensor during last week’s plenary debates.

“Ngayon po, siguro kung na-bypass ko man si Speaker Velasco, pero I’m sure kaya ko ginawa ‘to para po sa ikabubuti. Dahil kulang na rin po ang oras,” the neophyte ACT-CIS Party-list added.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) earlier has proposed P172.9 billion for the pension and gratuity fund of retired military and other uniform personnel under the submitted 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) but Congress only approved P152.9 billion.

Ungab stressed that since Yap already accepted responsibility over the slashed fund, the ACT-CIS solon should better not pass the blame on others.

“Last Monday, you have already accepted responsibility for the 2021 PGF budget cut, unequivocally admitting that this was your own making, that you did not consult the Speaker about your decision to cut the pension and gratuity funds by P20 billion,” said Ungab.

Prior to his admission that he bypassed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco over the budget cut, Yap was pointing a finger at Ungab over the supposed deficiency in the gratuity funds. The Davao City solon previously chaired the appropriations panel during the early part of the previous House leadership under Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano.

According to Yap, the fund deficiency in the gratuity fund was brought on by the P74-billion budget under the 2020 budget during the time of Ungab.

Ungab, a stalwart of Mayor Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party, said Yap’s accusation is “actually baseless,” as the same is disputed by the cited report of DBM.

Based on the DBM’s press release, it was explained that the real cause of the present deficiency in the military pension fund is due to the unsettled 2018 pension adjustments which were supposedly computed to be paid in its submitted P172.9 Billion 2021 budget—wherein Yap is the already the chair of the appropriations panel.

Furthermore, Ungab said he had actually no hands when the 2020 General Appropriations Act was approved since he was kept in the dark by members of the previous House leadership, particularly Cayetano and former Deputy Speaker for finance Luis Raymond Villafuerte. (CRD)

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