Archive for May, 2007

Kidnap for Ransom ‘KFR’ gangs in Baghdad target foreign workers

 Reports from people know working Baghdad say the number of kidnappings is on the rise in Baghdad. In part they blame the overall insurgent problem and independent entrepreneurial gang that grab sell or ransom hostages to highest bidder.

A problem seen over decade ago here in the southern Philippines – in mid 1995 when groups like the ‘pentagon’ gang came into the crime scene and compartmentalized kidnapping into ransom groups, grab groups, holding groups, and selling groups.

The plight is often highlighted when foreign victims are grabbed. Like this incident reported below. These however are seen as the work of  more organized terrorist groups or insurgents.

Britons feared kidnapped in Baghdad

The Foreign Office was “urgently” looking into reports that four British security guards are among seven Westerners kidnapped in Iraq.
Four Germans Kidnapped in Baghdad Deutsche Welle
Gunmen Abduct 3 Germans in Baghdad New York Times

Often in places like Iraqi cities and also in places like Nigeria and still at time here in the deep south –  local business people or political persons are targets – experts in security consulting say the Baghdad situation is similar with crime gangs grabbing and selling off hostages either to insurgent groups or back to the families they come from or companies they work for or whoever will pay.

If there are no bidders – they kill off the victims or force them to work as slaves caring for other victims at time there is cycle of unreported and ‘revolving door’ kidnap gangs that grab  any target at times on speculation that the person has some value to someone – not even checking who the victims are.

In these cases, if they happen to be insurgents with a reward they sell the people to Police or military – if they are business people they sell them back to the companies that hire them  – if they have political value they pass them onto insurgent or militia groups. Sadly KFR is growing worldwide on this cycle in many places where insurgency exists and poverty is high.
Most are just ‘thugs’ with guns that are payed a small fee by the more organized gangs who in turn – bid out – victims to the highest bidder.

The cycle also local business people shop owners or market vendors who are also victims of protection rackets as well that  offer ‘kidnap’ insurance and offer to buy back people before they are sold further to a higher end kidnap gang or insurgent or terrorist groups. It is rapidly growing industry. Corruption is also a major worry in this area and where there are people like these the problem is compounded further with hybrid  groups that are part criminal and part law enforcement.

May 29, 2007 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment

Philippine Call center gets SMS bomb threat – false alarm but…

A call center based in the former Fort Bonifacio area of Taguig was the subject of the bomb threat that led to the evacuation of over 2,000 employee’s Monday night.

Identified in media reports as the Amber Creek company – Police and security officials were quick to downplay the threat – even after extensive EOD, Swat, and private security anti-terrorism units were deployed to area – per official reports no device was found.

Call center in Taguig gets bomb threat

Call center in Taguig gets bomb threat

The disruption to service comes as call centers are facing increasing problems of rising costs on a weaker US dollar – this days trading at 45 pesos to the Dollar has some BPO companies looking at a serious level of cost saving s of being  set up in the Philippines on contracts based at a time when the US dollar was almost  at 57 pesos to one greenback.

However -the weaker Dollar means that costs are even higher than the Philippines in other outsourced areas such as Ireland and Canada – today Canada’s dollar traded at 92 cents Canadian to one greenback – the costs savings of basing in Canada for some US outsourced firms has lessened to point that many are shifting back to back-up zones in places like Nevada and Connecticut – where wages are lower actually than Toronto and Quebec in general with the new exchange rate levels expected to see a ‘Canuk’ dollar reaching equality with its south of the border US cousins at nearly the same level in the month or so some predict.

Overall outsourcing has become such a investment draw to the region – the philippines in particular is now seen as the top investment destination in the region with vietnam coming in at close second. Or so Japan’s Nikkei reports.

However last night terror related incident seems to have been a false alarm – the idea of threat to such a vital industry here was clearly not lost on security firms who grabbed cameras and prevent as much as they could media’s reporting on anything related to the incident as much as they could. The whole area is private property even if it is a public place.

It is the sum of all fears for couturiers like the Philippines now seen a prime investment destination because of its ability to bounce back from bombing spree’s and other problems that has made it an attractive destination for many industries including IP based services – yet fears remain as clear as the worried faces of officials who laughed off the insident as a prank – that may have been a worker trying to get off work early.

Yet – privately knowing the fickle nature of clients these centers represent threats or actual incidents could result in contract displacement or termination.

You can be sure authorities are keeping an eye on the possibility that the threat is being closely looked at considering warnings over possible JI-Abu Sayyaf  teams in Manila  as also some group attempting to test and gauge response times and study evacuation plans.

Experts I have talked to are closely looking into that possible….  idea that there may be more here than meets the eye even the possibility of business rivals seeking to disrupt services or disgruntled employee’s seeking notoriety.

We’ll keep an eye on this one and see what happens – if it was a prank as it seems to be – then the person who sent the bogus threat should be found, punished, and charged for whatever possible crime is available in the law books. Afterall text messages are admissible as evidence in court.

Let’s see where this goes….

May 23, 2007 at 1:20 am 2 comments

US Immgration reform:An Apartheid America

The wording in many of the draft immigration reform laws on family ties and reunification draws a almost direct wording from the former South African Apartheid system of partition. What is clear here is not issues over immigration rights.

what both the US Congress and White house will not admit is – it is a system based on race and the declining majority of white America and the rising number of Hispanics and Asians.

The statement and language if looked in comparison with South Africa of the aftermath of World War Two when the Apartheid laws came into existence..

First see these statement: 

“”I have two problems with it.” Says Democrat Senator Charles Schummer of New York,  “They’re going to bring wage rates down, and after their time is up, they’re probably going to stay in the country.”  

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, “I think we have struck the right balance here. We’re securing our borders. We’re controlling who gets a job on our terms,”

Then see this:

“Apartheid was designed to form a legal framework for continued economic and political dominance by people of European descent. The rules of Apartheid meant that migrants from other areas were legally classified.’

“In practice, this prevented non-white people — even if actually resident in white South Africa — from having a vote or influence.” 

Is it only a matter of time when the USA creates ‘homelands’ or will this ‘reform’ be called what it is really seen as a ‘Legal barrier’ to prevent more coming in?

One story I read has shown opposition coming from groups such as Asian American groups.

“This is a probationary sentence for the 12 million (illegals). If they ever want to become a citizen” – Graham

Beyond illegal immgration plans are in place to prevent or stop the LIFE program to allow family members to eventually cross over and start life in a better place the dream of all new comers to America to have their chance to be part of the dream that is ‘America’.

” Brothers and sisters are not important? Once children reach a certain age, they need not bond with their parents? Eliminating such categories institutionalizes an anti-family message,” – Bill Ong Hing, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Davis.

However –  as with apartheid – It is only a matter of time considering birth rates and the lower numbers of white families and inter-marriage that soon America more likely  will see more of  a ‘Estods Unidos’ than a United States.

One group of Native Americans seeking perhaps more political influence and votes and income is offering a solution that might upset all the plans of congress.

At least four ‘Indian’ tribal groups are looking at sponsoring and allowing residence to those of branches of the same tribal groups from Mexico who have documentation problems.

Ergo – if they are of a same tribe from across the border they are sons and daughters of the same tribe in the USA. Hence legal plans to ‘adopt’ or grant formal membership to those seeking a better life on the other side of the Rio Grnade may actually reside for Millions in the ‘Indian’ Native American ‘Nations’ whose treaties with the USA legal binding documents allow in many cases for reunification and those who fled the Indian wars to rejoin thier tribes in America – so those of Cree, Navajo, and, Apache nations descendants may rejoin those on Indian lands and once certificate of domain is issued they can be issued citizenship documents.

It is ironic considering the most horrific crime of genocide committed by descendants of European  Immigrants has left a loop-hole that cannot be plugged by Washington.

Ariba La Raza it seems migrant Mexicans may if Tribal groups agree find their roots as members of the very Indian tribes driven south of the border over a century ago into Mexico hence agreements not though about dcades ago might give refuge to millions..

May 21, 2007 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

Palawan: Oil search may yield up to 450 Million Barrels

A new seismic study of the Australian owned firms lease of Nido Petroleum off the coast of Palawan Province indicates the area may have yield of up to 450 Million barrels of Oil available for the Nido service contract area 54.

PERTH, Australia, May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Nido Petroleum is pleased to
announce further updates on the exploration programme of Service Contract
54 (SC 54).
    SC 54 is being evaluated by Nido and Joint Venture partner, Yilgarn
Petroleum Philippines PTY Ltd (Yilgarn) with the focus being placed on two
areas within the permit.
    The first area consists of the technically robust Coron North prospect,
which shows potential for up to 450 million barrels of oil. The recent 3D
seismic interpretation has confirmed Coron North as a strong drilling
opportunity.
    Further technical and commercial analysis will need to be completed
before Coron North is mature for drilling; however Nido and Yilgarn are
very excited by the potential size of the structure.
    Nido's Head of Exploration, Mr. Jon Pattillo says, "Nido is pleased
that the 3D seismic is starting to deliver tangible exploration results, in
particular the Coron North prospect which is developing into an attractive
drilling opportunity."
    Also included in this first focus area is the Princesa lead; the 3D
seismic data has confirmed the presence of the Pagasa turbidite play,
including the large Princesa lead, in the western part of SC 54.
    Nido is confident it will have a positive update on the Princesa lead
once the additional 180km2 3D seismic programme is completed in the third
quarter of 2007.
    In addition the high quality 3D seismic has also uncovered a number of
new leads similar to the Coron North project and Princesa lead. This
provides even greater upside potential within SC 54.
    The second focus area is in the shallow waters of the eastern part of
SC 54. Nido is especially interested in finding new opportunities here
which can quickly be brought onto production to generate early cash flow.
    Initial interpretation of this portion of the permit has identified 24
pinnacle reef structures in less than 120 meters of water. The reef trend
is of particular importance because of its similarity to the producing Nido
oil fields.
    These pinnacle reef structures are possible candidates for rapid
exploitation given the lower drilling and development costs afforded by
shallow waters. Detailed technical and engineering work will be conducted
over the next few months to determine the commerciality of these features.
    Nido's Managing Director, Mr. David Whitby says the results validate
Nido's long-held belief in the prospectivity of the Palawan Basin as a
whole.
    "The opportunities currently being evaluated in SC 54 provide Nido with
a significant prospect and lead portfolio from which to select a number of
high quality candidates for drilling in the next sub-phase of the Service
Contract."

This is good news as on top of this there are already productive fields of natural gas and Oil in the area. Over the last few decades the palawan Oil fields often have not been much more than a trickle onto the world market.

It’s Gas Field however is another story – shame though that island province does not have its own pipeline that might lower costs for electricity in the area. Most if not all of the Gas fields wealth is going to be used to support electrical requirements of metro Manila – using a 2 billion dollar pipeline network that is almost at its completion.

A spur line should have been lobbied for to get more of the Natural Gas onto the mainland of Palawan – but – the powers that be only seem to interested in Metro Manila and the surrodning areas rather than allowing another xone to develop and compete and decongest the already over populated capitol. a shame really considering – chaep power could really be a boon to the ‘Last Frontier of the Philippines”.

May 17, 2007 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

He who laughs last, thinks slowest!

Well, its no strange thought that the number one group fighting versus on-line gaming is based in Las Vegas – if there’s anything casino’s hated the prospect of as well as the US government was the idea that gambling could be done at home and nearly untaxed on the Internet.

A RICO case has been filed by the US Attorneys office in Utah – versus a group based in ironically in Nevada and Utah- engaged in web based gaming- with ties to the Philippines has been allegedly busted in the US state of Utah – the crime was engaging in internet based gambling.

[]”..Las Vegas Residents, Utah Companies Tied To Internet Gambling
MyFox Utah, Ut – Defendants also channeled Western Union wire transfers through the Philippines. The 34-count indictment includes charges of racketeering conspiracy, ” []

The USA banned Internet gambling for very good reasons – aside from it does not like the competition – legal casinos pour hefty tax revenue for the Federal Government – primarily the concern was that kids and teenagers were heavy into the on-line games.

Credit card companies also were very happy to see the sites go banned and be able to stem unpaid charges often denied to those of card holders who often claimed they had been ID grabbed. Unless they won… Also in the mix is the very problematic situation of underage gaming.

Gambling, albeit legal in many places in person and on-line in some countries – is still a vice. It can be an addiction and can and should have support groups for those who want to stop or control the urge to ‘go for broke’: most end up that way.

Gambling in the Philippines is a huge business – both the legal and illicit. Aside from lottery, casino, slot machine and poker machine parlours and ‘membership club’ casinos there is linked bingo halls and bingo machine parlours that are in nealry every major shopping mall in the Philippine capital.

the ild days of illegal video carera machines and illegal gaming parlours are long gone really – they can’t compete- but they do still exist – but- mostly with 18 gaming casino’s in metro manila scores of venues from off track betting, to unline ‘sabong ‘ cockfighting gaming. Manila and other major cities like Cebu and Angeeles andd Olongapo and Subic – A recent study I saw shows that the Philippines boasts of more gaming than Macao. Which is supposed to be Asia’s gambling captial.

But, resources for problem gaming are rare – there is no local chapters for example of Gamblers Anonymous – Anyhow for those interested here’s a link:

Gamblers Anonymous Official Home Page

A fellowship support group for compulsive gamblers.
www.gamblersanonymous.org/ – 4k – CachedSimilar pages
20 Questionshttp://www.gamblersanonymous.org/20questions.html
Recovery Programhttp://www.gamblersanonymous.org/recovery.html
Gamblers Anonymous …http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/mtgdirTOP.html
Q and Ahttp://www.gamblersanonymous.org/qna.html
More results from www.gamblersanonymous.org »

 

 

May 12, 2007 at 8:04 am 1 comment

International Poll Watchers in Mindanao: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia

A group of 21 poll watchers from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have set up shop in Mindanao to look over the Philippine election process,

The observer mission is being coordinated by the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) and supported with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Asia Foundation.

In all some 219 observers from the US, EU, Canada, the UK and the UN are looking at the conduct of the election process. Some have also come to learn how to watch and what to look for in election related issues and concerns for when elections take place in their own countries.

 

For this group of mostly Muslim observers during their deployment in the ARMM, the observer team members will be hosted by six local Muslim civil society groups that have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on April 3, 2007.

The goal is make sure that this group gets a chance to see what is going on and report any irregularities if any are found in the conduct of the polls. The observers for this group from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia – come from countries that do also have elections – however have very different government systems –

Hence each of the observers do bring some issues from their home countries that does show more localized understanding than many western observers – Pakistan for example – is run by former general who took power after a coup. Bangladesh – just had a major upheaval with local political reform being meted out by a sweeping move at anti-corruption and very public arrests of old styled political figures and oligarch’s there. Thailand – well – we all so that coup however peaceful – it still does not have democratically elected leadership at this time – although elections are promised and expected soon there and a major Islamic insurgency is ongoing. Indonesia – like the Philippines is dealing with post dictatorship adjustments to democratic space – and so far it has done well – its government is elected. Malaysia is a democracy – but – still has some post Mahathir issues – reform there seems close at hand with the changes made so far and freedom given to people like Anwar Ibrihim.

Sri Lanka is also facing insurgency – seperatists Tamils hold a mjaor section of the country – but for the most part is a democracy: .

 

 

May 9, 2007 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Nigeria: 11 Hostages freed eight Filipino’s, three south korean executives

Reports from Nigeria indicate that South Korean and Filipino hostages working for Daewoo construction in troubled southern Nigeria were released.

The group was released at after five days in captivity. Reports claim The group is now in Port Harcourt. There’s been no word on another nine foreigners are still being held.

Reports:

Hostages released’ in Nigeria
ABC Online, Australia – The Yonhap news agency has quoted South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister, Kim Ho-young, as saying the hostages were released after talks with their kidnappers.
Hostages released in Nigeria after negotiations
Focus News, Bulgaria – The Philippines on Monday had rejected appeals to negotiate directly with the gunmen, who have not been identified. Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos

South Korea’s state-run news agency Yonhap quoted government officials confirming the release and saying that the men were exhausted but safe.

Three of the hostages were executives from Daewoo Engineering and Construction and eight Filipino workers from the same company, were kidnapped last Thursday after a gunfight at their construction site in the southern Rivers State.

The kidnapped Koreans include Chung Tae-Young, a 52-year-old Daewoo managing director who was on a business trip to the area, and two top Daewoo officials in Nigeria, according to Daewoo spokesman Huh Hyon. It was the third time Daewoo workers have been taken hostage in Nigeria.

May 9, 2007 at 7:46 am Leave a comment

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