- Sweet gesture hits sour note online
- Yahoo asked for 189 user details
- Insurgents storm villages in Zamboanga, killing six people and taking 20 hostages
WHEN German couple Dana and Stefan invited strangers to their Singapore home for dinner last month, the response was overwhelming.
Their online "open invitation" for six guests at an authentic German meal went viral, with 400 sign-ups. Netizens lauded the gesture as being "sweet" and "heartwarming".
But all was not as it seemed.
The dinner was the first of four hosted by expatriates as part of the sixth FairPrice Finest Festival, the supermarket's annual food celebration.
And the marketing ploy has left a sour taste for some, with sign-up rates plunging after the link with FairPrice was revealed about a week after the first invite.
The second dinner, hosted by a French chef, drew just 19 people. Only seven signed up for yesterday's meal, hosted by a trio of Italian friends.
Netizens speculated that the hosts were merely "paid actors" in a "staged marketing gimmick", prompting organisers to clarify that they had "volunteered after hearing about the idea through word of mouth".
The first video invite was a "teaser" and deliberately left unbranded to "generate interest", said Victor Ng, chief creative officer for Havas Worldwide Singapore, the marketing agency in charge of the festival. The brand association was made clear for subsequent dinners.
Marketing campaign or not, several guests to the dinners were won over by their hosts' sincerity.
Celes Fernandez, 34, who attended the first dinner, had no idea FairPrice Finest was behind it until it was "briefly mentioned" by her hosts over beef roulade and whipped cream pudding.
"But the couple were really very genuine – throughout dinner we were just sharing our cultures and where we like to hang out," the personal assistant said.
For scientists Dana, 27, and Stefan, 30, who have been living here for the past two years, the dinner was a chance to give back to their host country.
In 2010, another publicity campaign backfired when a "bear" spotted at an Ulu Pandan bus stop led to an actual search by Singapore Zoo officials and animal welfare activists. But it was later revealed to be a mascot that was part of a stunt by electronics firm Philips to launch a new shaver. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
Following the footsteps of tech giants Google and Facebook, Yahoo has published its first report detailing the requests it gets from governments to reveal user information.
The Singapore government made requests on 189 individual accounts in the first six months of this year, said Yahoo in a report published over the weekend.
Yahoo added that government data requests were generally made in connection with criminal investigations.
The company complied with 59% of these requests.
It also revealed that of all the government requests received, it disclosed "non-content data" in 73% or 53% of the requests.
Such data consists of items such as information captured at the time of registration and includes name, location, and IP address, login details and billing information.
Other transactional information such as who e-mails are being sent to and received from are also included.
In two instances, Yahoo released detailed data to the Singapore government.
This includes text within e-mails and Messenger services, images on its photo sharing site, Flickr, and even Yahoo Calendar event details. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
ZAMBOANGA: Philippine troops are locked in a standoff with hundreds of Muslim gunmen who killed six people and took at least 20 hostages in the south in a bid to derail peace talks.
A night-time curfew was imposed in this southern port city as armoured security forces surrounded between 200 and 300 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gunmen holed up in six coastal villages on its outskirts.
"We want an independent Mindanao," one of the gunmen, Asamin Hussin, told local ABS-CBN television, referring to the southern third of the mainly Catholic nation.
The gunmen launched their attack before dawn as the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which split from MNLF in 1978, prepared to resume peace talks aimed at ending a 42-year-old rebellion that has claimed 150,000 lives.
The city of one million people woke to loud explosions as troops exchanged fire with the gunmen.
Heavily armed soldiers and police streamed into the streets firing machine guns at the rebels, sending terrified residents running from their homes clutching small children and scant belongings, ABS-CBN footage showed.
"They were trying to march on the city hall and we cannot allow that," military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala said of the gunmen, adding that two of them had been arrested.
The men have been identified as belonging to a faction led by MNLF founder Nur Misuari, Zagala added.
The fighting quietened down in the afternoon, but there were sporadic sniper fire and mortar shell explosions as the gunmen dug in, military officials said.
City authorities later declared a curfew between 8pm and 5am.
"There will be no movement (by the security forces). As much as possible we will solve the case in the most peaceful manner," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told reporters, adding that third parties – whose names he would not disclose – were trying to initiate negotiations.
City officials said two security forces and four civilians were killed, and 24 people wounded, while 1,500 others had fled their homes.
At least 20 people have been taken hostage and are being used as "human shields," Zagala said.
Scores of others remained trapped inside their homes in the besieged villages.
The long-running Muslim insurgency in the Philippines has led to a proliferation of armed groups that have left parts of Mindanao in a constant state of lawlessness.
Misuari has criticised a preliminary peace deal signed last year by the government and the MILF, saying it marginalised his group and a peace treaty it signed in 1996.
Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Manila-based security think-tank Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research, said the action was likely designed to sabotage the peace talks.
"Misuari's motive is to convey a message (that) the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF will no longer guarantee the end of war," said Banlaoi.
Jose Lorena, a senior Aquino adviser on the peace talks, dismissed Misuari's concerns Monday.
"It is an inclusive process, not just MNLF or MILF. Whether we like it or not, there is only one people and one area," said Lorena.
Yesterday's attack came a month after Misuari declared "independence" in Mindanao and called on his forces to "surround and secure all military, police and all other installations." — AFP
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