The Overflow for July 25th

International News

Freedom Of Information

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered all agencies directly under his control to open their records to the public as part of his promise to crack down on corruption and promote transparency in government. Legislation is still needed to ensure other branches of government will do the same. The last Congress adjourned without passing a new law, the Freedom of Information act, even though Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino had backed the idea.

Duterte signed an executive order on Saturday to allow public access to official documents and records, two days before he delivers a much-anticipated state of the nation address. He is expected to reiterate a pledge to weed out corrupt officials and tackle crime. Success in tackling corruption and criminality, he has said, should bring benefits on many fronts, including lowering poverty, improving government finances and making the country more attractive for investment. 

Martin Andanar, the president's communication chief, said Duterte's order would be welcomed by "every Filipino soul who has fought tooth and nail" for the right to information.


"Enemies of Islam"

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has appeared in an audio interview calling on fighters to take Western hostages and exchange them for jailed jihadists, the monitoring service SITE said on Sunday. In the recording posted online, Al-Zawahiri called on the global militant network to kidnap Westerners "until they liberate the last Muslim male prisoner and last Muslim female prisoner in the prisons of the Crusaders, apostates, and enemies of Islam."

Zawahiri is believed to be seeking refuge in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that is the Taliban's base.


Another tragedy in Germany

An explosion killed at least one person and injured 10 others near the German city of Nuremberg on Sunday in what authorities said was believed to be an intentional blast. This is the fourth violent incident in Germany in the last four days and came as the country was still on edge after the killing of nine people in Munich on Friday.

The blast in the town of Ansbach prompted the evacuation of more than 2,000 people from a nearby music festival. "We assume it was a deliberate explosion," a Bavarian Interior Ministry spokesman said. He said no arrests had been made in connection with the explosion but Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann was en route to the site.

And the mayor of Ansbach told reporters the blast was caused by an explosive device.

Police offered no immediate details on the individual killed or those injured but said the explosion, inside a restaurant according to local media, was reported at 10:12pm local time.

Earlier on Sunday, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a pregnant woman in a machete attack that killed one woman in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart. That attack came after a refugee from Pakistan wielding an axe injured five people near Wuerzbuerg, also in southern Germany, before he was shot dead by police on July 18.

UK News

Bargain Basement Britain

Overseas buyers lured by a plunge in the pound are looking to snare British companies on the cheap, ensuring a steady flow of deals since Britain voted to leave the European Union and defying expectations of a drought. Almost 60 transactions totalling $34.5 billion have been struck by foreign companies for British firms since June 23rd, compared with 79 deals amounting to $4.3 billion in the month leading up to the vote.

This activity - dominated by Japanese group SoftBank's $32 billion swoop for chip designer ARM - has defied warnings that deal making could dry up for a period if Britain backed Brexit, given uncertainty surrounding risks to the economy and access to the EU single market.

The list of British takeovers could grow after the summer, according to bankers who say they are working on possible bids on behalf of foreign companies interested in UK targets.

The SoftBank deal was hailed by the government as a sign of UK economic resilience, prompting new Prime Minister Theresa May to declare the country "open for business".

"Clearly this is a buying opportunity," said Ben Ward, head of UK corporate at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. "People with strong currencies – dollar, renminbi, yen – will no doubt be interested in acquiring sound sterling-denominated assets."

There have been dozens of other deals since the referendum. South African retailer Steinhoff agreed to pay nearly £600 million pounds for British-based discount chain Poundland on July 13th, for example.

It came a day after AMC Entertainment Holdings - an American company majority-owned by a Chinese conglomerate - said it would buy London-based Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group to create the world's largest cinema operator, in a deal valued at about £921 million.


We'll Eventually Leave

Britain's vote to leave the European Union must be binding, the chairman of Britain's ruling Conservative Party said on Sunday, and the exit process will be started before the next general election. Patrick McLoughlin, who was made party chairman by new Prime Minister Theresa May last week, said the vote for Brexit meant Britain must now get control of its own borders and that immigration must be reduced.

Asked about a report in the Observer newspaper that an "emergency brake" on the free movement of people was being discussed, which would allow Britain to keep access to the European single market, McLoughlin said: "Let us see."

"I'm quite clear that the referendum result is binding on parliament," he said.

Although May has vowed to press ahead with Brexit, supporters of remaining in the EU contend the referendum result is only advisory. And at least seven lawsuits have been filed arguing that parliament must have the final decision on whether to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the two-year countdown to leave the bloc. May has indicated negotiations on an exit could not start this year.

London's High Court ruled last week that the case would be heard in mid-October and lawyers said it was highly likely it would then be heard by the Supreme Court in mid-December.

McLoughlin said Article 50 would definitely be triggered before the next national election, with the next parliamentary vote due in 2020.

Long Read

As fitness has transfigured to become a lifestyle statement unto itself, many organisations and companies have embraced the trend - Zumba & CrossFit to name a couple. An interesting side to this trend caught my eye in a Wired articl, which documents one organisation's "culture" and compares the modern fitness groups to churches, the centre of their own communities.

The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.
— James Joyce