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11-06-2008, 09:31 AM
^What Mccain did was admirable, I most particularly like how he appealed to the booing crowd in the middle of his concession

11-06-2008, 09:59 AM
Does anybody think that Filipinos will ever see something like that in our lifetime?... hindi yung black president. Si* Binay na nga 'yon e... Yung magkakaroon tayo ng losing candidate na aamin na hindi siya dinaya?* :)

That was a great and really classy concession speech by John McCain, btw.

Usually ganito naman sa Amerika. Even in 2004, when john Kerry lost a very tight race to Bush and there were still questions as to certain area results he gave a concession speech.

Why not pursue or protest it as much and give publicity like here in Pinas? They all love their country so much and they know it will just damage their nation. Which is what is happening to our land right now.

Kid Cubao
11-06-2008, 12:14 PM
here in the philippines, we have far too many politicians, but no statesmen. wala na sina tanada, diokno, manglapus, magsaysay, at iba pa. statesmen always bear in mind that the national interest takes primary importance over their own self-preservation interests, and that's what john kerry and john mccain have manifested in their losing campaigns in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

even al gore in 2000 showed his class and statesmanship when he, in his capacity as the then vice president, presided over the formal canvassing in the electoral college--a very painful exercise in which he tallied the winning electoral votes for george w. bush and declared him winner despite amassing more popular votes as the democratic presidential candidate. to backtrack, the US supreme court of chief justice william rehnquist, after a rather acrimonious deliberation, issued a landmark ruling on bush vs gore that basically says the electoral college vote count shall take precedence over the direct vote count in cases of disparities, which in effect made dubya the first US president to be appointed by the highest court ;D

ewan ko kung aabot tayo sa ganung antas ng political maturity, pero mukhang matatagalan pa. dun nga lang sa amin sa cubao, nagkarun pa ng protestahan sa resulta ng pageant ng mga katulong.

salsa caballero
11-06-2008, 12:24 PM
Sabi ko na nga ba kailangan ng tulong ni Rehnquist sa beauty pageant ng mga katulong eh!!! :D

Raging Blue
11-08-2008, 12:22 AM
here in the philippines, we have far too many politicians, but no statesmen. wala na sina tanada, diokno, manglapus, magsaysay, at iba pa. statesmen always bear in mind that the national interest takes primary importance over their own self-preservation interests, and that's what john kerry and john mccain have manifested in their losing campaigns in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

even al gore in 2000 showed his class and statesmanship when he, in his capacity as the then vice president, presided over the formal canvassing in the electoral college--a very painful exercise in which he tallied the winning electoral votes for george w. bush and declared him winner despite amassing more popular votes as the democratic presidential candidate. to backtrack, the US supreme court of chief justice william rehnquist, after a rather acrimonious deliberation, issued a landmark ruling on bush vs gore that basically says the electoral college vote count shall take precedence over the direct vote count in cases of disparities, which in effect made dubya the first US president to be appointed by the highest court ;D

ewan ko kung aabot tayo sa ganung antas ng political maturity, pero mukhang matatagalan pa. dun nga lang sa amin sa cubao, nagkarun pa ng protestahan sa resulta ng pageant ng mga katulong.

Not in our lifetime my friend.

I miss the golden age of* Philippine politics where the more genteel personalities you mentioned held court.

11-08-2008, 03:48 AM
Now back to reality.

After the US election, the disappointment. :D

No OBAMA presidency will save the global de-leveraging and possible global depression. The collapsing US Real Economy will need more than a Japanese style antidote of zero interest rate.

The Elliot Wave, Kondratief Wave Cycle and the inverted yield curve which occurred last year were bang on. The inverted yield curve has been proven correct with the current US slowdown. WE have entered the Winter in the K cycle. We have yet to enter the crash projected by the Elliot Wave.

Will the US default on its debt just like the time when she defaulted on the convertibility of US notes to Gold? Summer of 2009. It's a date. ;)

Asset preservation is the name of the game during this 5 to 10 year period. The crisis has just begun...

Kid Cubao
11-08-2008, 06:41 AM
hmmm, i never really bought into those economic models now that you've mentioned it, for the simple reason that there are valid grounds as to why economics is rightly called the dismal science. despite the elegance of the kondratieff wave cycle, elliott wave, and all those models, they are at best analytical tools. they should not be used to predict future events--economics is still, after all, a soft science.

para sa akin, let the deleveraging take its course. all eyes are on barack obama as he makes his choice for treasury secretary. the next treasury secretary must have the guts to introduce fundamental changes in the banking and investment sector. sa maikling salita, higpitan ang pagpapautang.

ang nangyari kasi sa amerika, kahit mga laborer na kumikita lamang ng hourly wage ay pwedeng umutang sa bangko at mag-open ng mortgage account. ta-dah, may bahay na sila! eh pano kung natanggal sila sa trabaho at di na makabayad sa hinuhulugan nila? syempre maririmata yung mga bahay nila. now multiply that by so many low-income households, and there's the simple explanation for the whole US subprime mess ;D

ulitin ko, maaayos din ang suliranin sa pandaigdigang ekonomiya kung ang pauutangin lamang ay yung may kakayahang magbayad. also, the obama adminsitration might want to review the overall valuation system in assessing property values. i have this very strong suspicion that real estate property values in the US have gone up the roof, to the effect that even two-income households are finding it hard to meet mortgage payments. some in fact have been thrown out of their homes and moved to apartments.

11-11-2008, 06:22 AM
These are actually non-economic tools that has been dismissed by mainstream Keynesian and Chicago School Economics. It's probably the Austrian School who is willing to accept their predictive value. These are tools used more often by market technicians and some fund managers willing to bet money than sit on their academic ivory towers disengaged with the actual action.

The market technicians like Robert Prechter and Ian Gordon were able to correctly predict the current mess (plugging... hehe). The economists especially the Bloomberg and CNN celebrity type... dismal as always. Except probably Prof. Roubini fron NYU. These non-economic tools of analysis have good predictive capability. Unlike all those other linear econometric models.

Anyway, if the tool can point to the general trend, then there's money to be made. Econ tools are usually behind the curve. These things, however, have shown their predictive powers not just today but even during those other years of huge market corrections.

Next prediction. Collapse of the the bond market in 2009. Classic K-wave.

Regarding real estate, I believe there is no problem in RE asset valuation. It's the runaway credit expansion that has to be blamed for the RE bubble which we both agree on. The rapid credit expansion was actually sanctioned by the state c/o Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac helped by expansionary credit policy of the FED c/o former demi-god Greenspan and now by Helicopter turned Comrade Ben.

Yup. Let the global de-leveraging take place. Ergo, market intervention by big government that steals wealth from the masses via inflationary "printing" of more fiat currency in favor big business must be resisted. Whose going to pay for the bailout? The taxpayers who are already burdened with their over-extended credit because of the lax credit process of lenders which was encouraged by the state on the first place. Not to mention the threat of layoffs and inflation.

It is hard for those almost 2 Million Americans who are already underwater with their house prices much lower than the mortgage they took. Not to mention those who took a zero interest mortgage not knowing that there is no such thing as a permanent zero interest rate. It was just a teaser sold by greedy mortgage companies to gullible consumers who eventually found out that they are in no way capable of servicing their debt. How about the NINJA loans? Now this is mayhem. "No Income, No Job, Approval". tsk tsk tsk. :-\

Anyway, the worst is yet to come. Lucky for Pinoys in the Philippines, we know how it is to live in trouble times. We are probably more prepared than the Western civilization. :)

Kid Cubao
11-11-2008, 01:17 PM
what is actually saving us from further financial harm is, ironically, one of the reasons cited for the low rate of capital formation in the philippines vis-a-vis its asian neighbors. yes, the high lending rates have so far mitigated the devastating effects of the global financial crunch for us here in our country ;D

bakit? here are possible reasons:

1. mahirap mangutang kung mataas ang interest rates at maikli ang amortization period. that means ang mga may lakas ng loob na mangutang sa atin sy yung may kakayahang magbayad. nabawasan tuloy ang mga bad debts. syempre may mangilan-ngilan pa rin na di na makabayad, pero di naman gaya ng nangyari sa norway na nabangkarote ang buong bansa.

2. dahil mahirap mangutang, nako-kontrol ang labis na pananalaping nasa sirkulasyon, so it becomes an effective anti-inflationary tool together with government securities.

naging mabuting aral na rin yung nangyari sa bansa nung kasagsagan ng 1997-98 asian financial crisis. dun ako humanga sa financial management ng mga pinoy.

11-12-2008, 10:49 AM
Maiba nga lang.


I wonder if our chemists can do the same with Kuwadro Kantos...

11-13-2008, 03:18 AM
what is actually saving us from further financial harm is, ironically, one of the reasons cited for the low rate of capital formation in the philippines vis-a-vis its asian neighbors. yes, the high lending rates have so far mitigated the devastating effects of the global financial crunch for us here in our country ;D

bakit? here are possible reasons:

1. mahirap mangutang kung mataas ang interest rates at maikli ang amortization period. that means ang mga may lakas ng loob na mangutang sa atin sy yung may kakayahang magbayad. nabawasan tuloy ang mga bad debts. syempre may mangilan-ngilan pa rin na di na makabayad, pero di naman gaya ng nangyari sa norway na nabangkarote ang buong bansa.

2. dahil mahirap mangutang, nako-kontrol ang labis na pananalaping nasa sirkulasyon, so it becomes an effective anti-inflationary tool together with government securities.

naging mabuting aral na rin yung nangyari sa bansa nung kasagsagan ng 1997-98 asian financial crisis. dun ako humanga sa financial management ng mga pinoy.

Well, our "infantile" Financial Sector will not do any further harm to us Pinoys. Besides we have an underground economy that can somehow absorb the inflationary pressure of local monetary expansion. ;D

Unfortunately, we cannot do anything if the inflation is being exported by the unbridled credit expansion in the WEST. To date the 10% inflation rate is driven by external factors rather than local monetary expansion. That we cannot control internally.

Anyways, we Pinoys have seen them all. WE will survive as always.

Pero pare, it was never fun managing a Loan Portfolio during the Financial Crisis. It was a horrible ordeal for many local bankers and loan officers. :(

11-13-2008, 05:48 AM
Lest we forget. Then Gov. Singson's quixotic defense of the the value of Philippine Peso by the twin strategy of raising interest rates and the selling of our dollar reserves triggered the horrendous loan defaults which then led to to the rise of past due loans. This single event forced the consolidation of the local banking sector.

The crisis was not even our fault since there was no Real Estate nor any kind of internal bubble in the country. WE were just victims of this contagion from the other Asian countries. Just because we were from South East Asia, the not so smart money ;D lumped us together with them high risk nations.

Anyway, it's really not Singson's fault that the the value of our local currency, ergo the wealth of the nation in dollar terms, evaporated in a blink of an eye. From the US$ 1 : P 20s to the US$ 1 : P 40s/P50s. True, the country may still be functioning, but we are poorer in dollar terms (not to mention the inflation-adjusted value).

For many of us, let not the nominal value of the peso fool us. It's the real value in terms of Purchasing Power Parity that should matter.

Haaayyyyy...buuuuhaaaaayyyyyy... ;D

11-13-2008, 08:02 AM
One benefit also for our country resulting from this global financial and economic crisis is the price of oil has gone down to $55 per barrel. Except the deregulated kuno oil industry isn't fast enough to reduce local oil prices. Although exports will suffer, imports will generally become cheaper.

In the USA, they should also regulate home equity loans. One example is my sister hehe. She kept on borrowing on equity and lenders kept on lending because home prices continued to rise. Now she'll probably continue to pay mortgage until she's 80.

Kid Cubao
11-13-2008, 11:13 AM
exactly, that's what i was saying. the obama administration must take a look on the present real property valuation system because home prices have been rising with no end in sight. when even two-income families are under grave threat of foreclosure, then the fault lies not solely on the credit bubble.

about the price of oil, the problem is that the big three are always quick to react to price per barrel hikes in the spot market, but are not as reactive when it comes to rollbacks. that's the trouble with inelastic commodities--kahit tumaas nang tumaas ang presyo sa merkado'y bibilhin at bibilhin dahil kailangan mo. ganito mag-isip ang sindikato ng big three: kung ang gasolina ay bibilhin pa rin ng motorista sa halagang P62 kada litro, ba't ko pa ibaba ang presyo nito, eh di ako naman ang nawalan ng delihensya? ;D

at 55 dollars per barrel, realistically diesel fuel can be lowered down to P30 per liter, unleaded at P33-P34, and premium unleaded at P35-37.

11-15-2008, 03:25 AM
Kid, US home prices are dropping like flies thus at least 2 Million families are paying for home prices that are much lower than the amount they borrowed. Epicenter of the fallout is Florida.

Too bad if anyone entered the market during the mania that has now collapsed. Wrong personal decision on the part of the investors who was duped by greedy Real Estate Agents and Mortgage Companies. What was their sales pitch before? Perpetual growth of Real Estate prices...What's the sales pitch now? Time to enter the market. Bargains are available. Ever wondered why in the States and Canada, these agents have the guts to show show their pictures and pose ala-model in RE Magazines? I bet they know they can get away with murder in style. :D

Anyway, too late for any mortgage regulation. The banks are not lending anymore like before despite the low Fed Rate. Banks and mortgage companies took it upon themselves to tighten the credit approval process. Actually, there is an open threat from the US Treasury to stop the bailout of Banks if they will not start re-lending to the population.

If any regulation comes up, it's already behind the curve...as always. Government financial regulation always pop up after any crisis created by financial innovations. That's how it works.

Asset Valuation should never be subject to any regulation. It's the massive creation of fiat currency that must be regulated to start with.

Kid Cubao
11-15-2008, 05:21 AM
yes, you're right that home prices are plunging especially now, since there seems to be little takers in the face of uncertainty regarding the US economic crisis. the fallout isn't over yet. however, what caused this implosion to begin with was the soaring US home prices in the last decade, which left giant firms like lehman brothers, merrill lynch, AIG, and of course fannie mae and freddie mac with staggering losses from their investments tied to mortgages. the fact that these institutions, which weathered all sorts of calamities in the past, are being knocked out like bowling pins is proof of the significance of the problem we have here. it's unprecedented.

while you do have a point about asset valuation and why it shouldn't be subject to any regulation, iba na ang panahon ngayon. kelangan na ng karinyo brutal gaya nung ginawa ni president franklin delano roosevelt in the aftermath of the wall street crash and great depression. the regulation of asset valuation is an angle that begs consideration--kahit temporary lang muna, hindi pang-matagalan.

11-15-2008, 08:07 AM
It was the huge amount of money available, even for subprime borrowers, for home purchase in the past years which created a huge demand thus the artificial increase in home prices. Now people walk away from their homes because their loans are much higher than the current values of their homes. It was ok before. The law of supply and demand was working properly.

Obviously some kind of regulation is needed to prevent this in the future.

11-16-2008, 12:48 AM
Kid, if it's temporary regulation in a crisis situation, then I could reconsider...but just for a very short time. e.g. Mahatir's US Dollar peg during the 1997 crisis.

gfy, banks are now self-regulating the credit process, but the state has threatened them if they do not start lendign again. The term underwater is exactly what higher mortgage amt. vis-a-vis purchase price means.

Sorry for extending the discussion guys. I was simply amazed by the accuracy of the tools I used. 3-4 years ago, during the height of the mania, I was among those who were preparing for this eventuality. Needless to say, part of Austrian, Elliot Wave, K-Wave fringe that nobody would take seriously. Now cycle tools are back big time. The great economist Joseph Schumpeter would really be happy. ;D

Anyways, bargains will be available for those who were prudent and cognizant of the disconnect between Finance Economy and Real Economy. Cognizant of the Long-Term Business Cycle which was supposedly abolished by the New Economy.

Thanks for your time guys.

11-16-2008, 07:25 AM
^The G20 are looking at some regulation or oversight and stricter market controls to rein in free-wheeling capitalism as the papers reported today. Self-regulation sometimes isn't always good enough. One just needs common sense to know something is wrong when a $200k house was suddenly worth $600 k in just over several years with inflation just around 4%. Remember dotcom? It's fiesta for as long as everybody is making money. Investors, brokers, lenders... Once the bubble bursts, well you know what happens. Same here with these pyramid scams and 3% return per month investment scams. Greed has no limits.

Danny, I am neither an economist nor a finance expert. My brother is the finance expert. Maybe you can spar with him re derivatives and all such financial instruments out there. He used to teach that at DLSU GSB and was once the FINEX head.

11-18-2008, 06:19 AM

Ask him if he saw the coming of this current crisis. It was already apparent 3 to for 4 years ago. If not, I rest my case.

I'm still heavy on commodities especially Gold and Silver. How about your brother?* Is he an investor or an academic. There's a big difference between those who play the market and those who just talk about the market.*

Anyway, he should have advised your US based sister not to buy a house during the housing mania when the prices were rising. And the home-equity loan, that was an* ill-advised decision.

My current training is Financial Planning and Wealth Management. Thus my passion for this topic. I'm no expert here. Just* a market participant with legitimate gains and losses.*In my opinion, no one can claim expertise in the financial market. All of us* students of the Financial Market.* ;)


Not to sound arrogant, but I know all about the Tech Bubble and how it started when Greenspan unleashed the the meteoric rise in money supply that found their way into the Tech mania. How the collapse of the Tech mania gave rise to Real Estate as an alternative asset class etc. etc. Things you mentioned and probably those you are going to mention, I might know them all. The only difference might be my leaning towards the Austrian School perspective/explanation and not the mainstream Chicago and Keynesian explanation.* I'm a student of Financial History and Geopolitics. I* love these things.

There are many* Financial Bubbles in the history of mankind.* This one the world is* experiencing may be the greatest of them all.

There is so much to talk about. But unfortunately, we have no time nor the proper channel to discuss these things and more...

11-18-2008, 07:30 PM

Pinoys to enjoy long Yuletide vacation

11/18/2008 | 10:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos will enjoy a long holiday in December as Malacañang declared two days - which are wedged between a weekend and a regular holiday - as special non-working holidays, a radio report said.

With this, the following days in Decembers are officially declared holidays:

• December 1 (in lieu of the Bonifacio Day on November 30),
• December 25, Christmas Day (regular holiday),
• December 26 (special non-working holiday),
• December 29 (special non-working holiday), and
• December 30, Rizal Day (regular holiday).

December 27 and 28 fall on a Saturday and on a Sunday, respectively.

Malacañang has also earlier declared December 31 as a "last day of the year" special holiday, which will be followed by another the New Year holiday on January 1.

- Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

Kid Cubao
11-19-2008, 04:27 AM
salamat sa balita :) ang maganda dyan, di nako kelangan pang mag-file ng vacation leave lalo na sa mga araw pagkatapos ng pasko.

11-19-2008, 08:50 AM
Hindi maganda yan!

Sunod sa client ang non-working days namin (save for the start od the year pre-set holidays) kaya wa epek yang mga bagong declare na bakasyon na yan sa amin :(

11-19-2008, 09:03 AM
Wa epek din sa opisina namin. Buti na lang at nakapag-file na ako ng VL for those dates. Dec 24-Jan 4 off, beybeh!

11-19-2008, 09:55 AM
Danny - My brother has a financial software business. My sister bought her house way back in 1992 for only $180k. For a long time the price was in the $200k-$250k range. I was surprised when she told me early this year that the price has gone up to $600k (this is in the Concord area north of SF). With the value increase, she was able to get home equity loans easily. My other sister is luckier. She bought her house in Hillsborough at the same time for only $900k and it went up to $4 million (I don't know what the price is now) with no home equity loans.

During the Tech Bubble, I told a friend to get out of the stock market at one point. He invested about $150k and it grew to more than $600k. Or at least sell half of it. I told him that the market was crazy. Dotcom start-ups were valued in the billions of dollars when they had very little assets, almost or no income and so on. He didn't believe me. His investment went down to $60k.

11-19-2008, 11:24 AM
^ Sir GFY, dupang naman kasi mga tao pagdating sa kita sa stock market. Naman kasi hindi pa nakinig sa payo niyo, ayun tuloy, lugi pa...

11-21-2008, 03:02 AM
Yikes! gfy, tama si Wang-Bu. Dupang naman yung kaibigan mo. Like what you said earlier, it was a pretty obvious bubble. I bet hinding hindi ka na niyan makakalimutan. At sa susunod, makikinig na yan sa iyo, pare. For retirement purposes, 150K is really a small sum. He should have indeed withdrew from the market when that investment hit 600K. That's good enough retirement fund for yourself, especially if you will be staying more often in the Philippines.

Kaya nga dinidibdib ko ang mga nagaganap ngayon at baka maglaho pa ang "Trust Fund" ng anak ko sa mga di tamang desisyon ng in-laws na may mabubuting kalooban. Baka ang mangyari eh, from Ivy to a community college (not that I have something against Community Colleges, pero "sila" may gusto e di sige. Hindi naman ako ang magbabayad. hahaha!).;)

Nice to know that one of your sister got in early rather than at the peak. Very good decision indeed. Very good decision! Freaking brilliant! Hmmm...Concord Area of SF? Do you mean the Pacific Heights area of the city?

Teka muna, bakit ang haba naman ng bakasyon niyo diyan sa pasko. Kakainggit naman kayo! ung iba lang pala dahil yung ilan may mga pasok pa din. ;D

11-21-2008, 08:51 AM
^ Not Pacific Heights which is the old rich and is in SF. It is a city where DLSU HS, California's perennial HS football champions, is located about 30 miles north of SF. The 150k wasn't really his retirement money and he lives in RP now.

All 401ks have been battered badly. The DOW is now in the 7500s.

11-22-2008, 05:05 AM

Pacific Heights is unbelievable! Picture perfect especially that Lyon St. (?) that goes down towards the ocean.

Yeah. Yesterday was another sad day for the market. tsk tsk tsk.

11-27-2008, 11:03 AM
^SF is a beautiful city like Paris. You may also want to visit in the USA the Sta. Cruz-Monterey area and Mystic, CT (the movie Mystic Pizza) and Newport, Rhode Island.

My HK Chinese brother-in-law always told me you could never go wrong with real estate (even here in RP). He never invested big money in the stock market and mutual or hedge funds. Even with home prices now dropping 15-30%, his investments (he owns 3 other properties in CA) in real estate showed much better returns.

11-27-2008, 09:07 PM
happy thanksgiving!

11-29-2008, 07:16 AM
Gloria and her congressmen should not push their luck. If they railroad this ChaCha thing and their term extensions, this will result in another EDSA much bigger than what is now going on in Bangkok.

11-29-2008, 01:04 PM
She can't stand the thought of leaving her office. Imagine, once she leaves the office she'll be bombarded (I hope ;D) with plunder charges.

Ang liit na tao ang laki humakot :D

11-30-2008, 08:35 PM
nagsisisi ako at nagcheer ako nung proclamation niya 7 years ago sa edsa..

12-03-2008, 11:58 PM

LTFRB: Nationwide fare rollbacks start December 15

abs-cbnNEWS.com | 12/03/2008 6:04 PM

Commuters would be getting an early Christmas gift from the public transport sector as jeepney, bus and taxi fares are set be reduced effective December 15.

The minimum jeepney fare is set to be cut back by 50 centavos to P7.50 from P8.00 for three months because of declining fuel prices at local pumps.

The minimum fare covers the first four kilometers of travel and the rate for every succeeding kilometer is being pushed back as well to P1.40 from P1.50.

"There will be no need for a new fare matrix because this is only a provisional rollback. Jeepney groups will simply post a copy of the LTFRB's (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) order with a temporary fare guide. We will review the rates in three months' time," LTFRB chairperson Thompson Lantion said on Wednesday following marathon public hearings for jeepney, bus and taxi fares.

He said that jeepney operators nationwide agreed to a second rollback in as many months because diesel went down to under P35 per liter. Minimum fares were initially cut to P8.00 from P8.50 in October, also because of declining fuel prices.

Bus fares are also being rolled back.

In Metro Manila, minimum fares for ordinary buses would be reduced to P9.00 for the first five kilometers and P1.85 for every succeeding kilometer. The existing rate is P9.50 plus P1.95 per extra kilometer. The minimum fare used to be P10.00 for ordinary buses in Metro Manila.

Airconditioned buses meanwhile would maintain their minimum fare of P11.00 but will cut the rate for succeeding kilometers to P2.20 from P2.35.

"With the reduction of diesel prices, the rollback of fares is inevitable," said Alex Yague, spokesman of the Metro Manila Bus Operators Association or MMBOA.

In provincial routes, the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines or PBOAP's members agreed to trim 5 centavos off the per-kilometer charge of ordinary and aircon buses.

For airconditioned buses, this will be down to P1.65 from P1.70. For regular buses, it will be P1.35 from P1.40.

In November, there was a P0.50 rollback in the rates charged by ordinary provincial buses and P1 for airconditioned buses.

No more P10 taxi tip

The LTFRB has also suspended the mandatory P10.00 tip for taxi drivers for the next three months.

On Feb. 18, 2009, the LTFRB will gather transport groups and other stakeholders to discuss if jeepney fares and the add-on charge should be restored.

The add-on was implemented in July when the LTFRB approved a P0.50 increase in the minimum fare for jeepneys and P1.00 for buses.

Lantion earlier said the P10.00 add-on fare for taxis is only temporary and it could be fully scrapped by the agency when gasoline and LPG prices go down significantly.

as of 12/03/2008 6:04 PM

12-05-2008, 12:28 PM
eh sa mga fx kaya kelan? ang mahal ng pamasahe lawton to sucat.. sana mabawasan na ren

12-08-2008, 07:32 AM
16 people killed in Paranaque shootout, including some civilians. It's good the police are taking out these holduppers, band robbers and kidnappers. But basic rules of engagement include that if you are not sure, don't be trigger-happy. The Crosswind where the father and the young daughter were riding in wasn't firing at the police. The police should have just fired at the tires to disable the vehicle. The Crosswind might just have been fleeing the scene to avoid being caught in the crossfire. This has happened before. Sad.

I am no fan of Jocjoc Bolante though I find him smarter than many of our Senators. But to detain him until he tells the truth which the Senators want to hear is not funny anymore. In the USA, you are charged with perjury in the Courts if you are found lying to Congress. No wonder nobody wants to testify before the Senate.

12-08-2008, 12:34 PM
^Senate: Legislative body now also part of the judiciary? ;D

01-12-2009, 12:31 PM

PGMA lays out holiday schedule for 2009 thru Proclamation 1699

Tacloban City -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed on December 24, 2008, Proclamation 1699 that lays out the holiday schedule for this year.

Consistent with the President's advocacy of holiday economics to boost domestic tourism and to allow Filipinos to have more time with their families, there will be ten long holidays in 2009.

Holiday economics entails the transfer of some holidays to a Monday or a Friday so that Filipinos may enjoy longer weekends.

Malacañang maintained that consultations were made with all sectors concerned, including the business community, before issuing this year's holiday list.

The first is a three-day weekend before the Easter break, the observance of the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on April 9 which is a Thursday, was moved to the nearest Monday which is April 6.

Then this is followed by the four-day Easter holidays from April 9 which is Maundy Thursday, until April 12 which is Easter Sunday.

Four regular holidays fall on either Friday or Monday which results in a three-day week-end. These are Labor Day on May 1 which falls on a Friday; Independence Day on June 12 which falls on a Friday; National Heroes Day on August 31 which falls on a Monday; and Bonifacio Day on November 30 which falls on a Monday.

The other regular holidays are Christmas Day on December 25 which falls on a Friday, and Rizal Day on December 30 which falls on a Wednesday.

President Arroyo also declared the following as Special Non-Working Days: Ninoy Aquino Day on August 21 which falls on a Friday; All Saints Day on November 1 which falls on a Sunday and All Souls Day on November 2 which falls on a Monday.

Christmas Eve on December 24 which falls on a Thursday, has also been declared as a Special Non-Working Day this year.

Another Special Non-Working Day is New Year's Eve on December 31 which falls on a Thursday.

So, there will be a longer Christmas holiday in 2009 and this will start on December 24, Christmas Eve.

Kid Cubao
01-29-2009, 09:59 AM
was surfing what's on TV last night until i caught the latest parade of luckless rejects on this year's american idol. what caught my attention was this one contestant who looked like the long-lost brother of the unabomber. he mumbled through a monotone version of walking on sunshine. as expected, his performance bombed out ;D

01-29-2009, 02:39 PM
^And he's only 18! His facial hair made him look at least 30.

Diyan nag-uumpisa ang pagiging psycho/serial killer/unabomber eh. He looks like an outcast if I ever saw one, and now he made a fool of himself on international TV. Deep down soemthing might have been set off already. Bantayan dapat itong batang ito. Hehe.

Kid Cubao
01-29-2009, 03:22 PM
pare, you know what's eerie? his last words to ryan seacrest were, "...you'll see me around, maybe not on stage."

Kid Cubao
02-03-2009, 09:50 AM
manny pacquiao issued an appeal to end the fighting in mindanao. "mga kaibigan kong muslim, ihinto na natin ang digmaan. umoo na kayo sa ceasefire!"

sabi ng MILF, "oo payag kami, sa isang kundisyon: spell 'ceasefire.'"

manny: "ah, eh, o sige, tuloy ang bakbakan!"

02-10-2009, 09:09 AM
There ought to be a special forces unit set up by the NCR Command specifically made to blow up all public utility vehicles who turn public thoroughfares or any parts thereof into terminals. Any carcasses left should be displayed at said terminal to warn other would-be violators.

02-11-2009, 07:22 AM
^ Agree. Have called UP several times that ikot jeepneys make the two waiting sheds on CP Garcia near the playground their terminals blocking traffic. Have called MMDA several times to put yellow lines on elliptical road so buses and jeepneys won't get onto the inner fast lanes only to cut several lanes when a passenger shouts "para" or when they exit saving only a few seconds. And to put signs at the intersection of CP Garcia and Katipunan so that the inner two lanes will be for u-turn only (where else can one see vehicles on the 4th or 5th lane making a u-turn? - only in the Philippines). And UP-bound jeepneys at Philcoa blocking the entrance to the arcade when students can walk a few meters to their terminal inside? Papausukan ka pa kasi they keep their engines running all the time. And so on...

02-11-2009, 07:53 AM
E kasi naman ginagawang negosyo ang kalye. Ganun talaga ang mga jeepney, tricycle, bust at pedicabs. Para sa kanila ang kalye ay negosyo. Kaya ang kalye natin parang mga palengke dahil sa mga hinayupak at tinamaan ng lintik na mga driver ng mga sasakyan na yan.

Ang PISTON, FEJODAP, etc. ay mga inutil na organisasyon. Buhay lang pag mananawagan ng rollback o price increase. Hindi naman nila madisiplina mga miyembro nila. Sumabog sana mga sasakyan ninyo. Pero mas ok sana kung mga ulo na lang nila.

02-12-2009, 08:39 AM

Facebook: #1 social-networking website

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 07:12:00 02/12/2009

SAN FRANCISCO—Compete.com has crowned Facebook the most popular social networking website, saying it racked-up nearly 1.2 billion visits in January.

The Internet-tracking firm released social-networking website rankings that show MySpace slipped to second place during the course of the past year while micro-blogging service Twitter catapulted to third place from 22nd.

News Corp-owned MySpace saw approximately 810 million visits in January, while Twitter was visited 54.2 million times, according to Compete.

"No surprise here," a Compete reader using the online name Bauer said in a comment viewable Wednesday at a chat forum at the US firm's website.

"Facebook has evolved much better and always has something new to offer. I don’t get Twitter though, I don’t think people care to read live updates on what percentage of my burger I’ve eaten."

The number of visitors to social-networking websites and the amount of time they dwell there are considered key indicators of how well Internet services are doing.

Facebook and Twitter have registered increases in both categories while visits and time spent at MySpace have stagnated or slid during the course of the past year, according to Compete.

"MySpace is still the clear number two player in the big categories, but its trends in some key areas aren't quite so dominating," Andy Kazeniac of Compete wrote in an online posting discussing the rankings.

"At least in those areas, they could be looking up at more than Facebook soon."

Flixster, Linkedin, and Tagged were ranked fourth through sixth places respectively, each gaining in popularity from January of 2008.

02-13-2009, 10:22 PM
manny pacquiao issued an appeal to end the fighting in mindanao. "mga kaibigan kong muslim, ihinto na natin ang digmaan. umoo na kayo sa ceasefire!"

sabi ng MILF, "oo payag kami, sa isang kundisyon: spell 'ceasefire.'"

manny: "ah, eh, o sige, tuloy ang bakbakan!"

Dati Erap jokes. Ngayon mga Pacman jokes naman. ;D


02-15-2009, 08:58 AM
^ Oo nga ano. Tapos naging Pangulo si Erap.

Si Manny?...... ::)

02-17-2009, 09:54 AM

February 25 not a holiday

Updated February 17, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The anniversary of the 1986 people power revolution, Feb. 25, is no longer a non-working holiday, contrary to public expectations, Malacañang announced yesterday.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said Feb. 25 was not included in the list of holidays under Proclamation 1699 issued by President Arroyo setting the holidays for 2009.

“This was not included in the calendar of holidays,” Fajardo said at a news briefing. “I think there are many long weekends and long holidays, that’s why Feb. 25 was not considered. But we have many activities commemorating Edsa I.”

Filipinos commemorate Edsa I, the peaceful and bloodless revolt that ousted the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Former President Corazon Aquino was installed as president by the popular uprising.

The Palace announcement came as local and foreign business chambers in the country sought measures to reduce paid non-working holidays in the country to allow firms to lessen their expenses to enable them to cope with the economic crisis.

Shortly after she came into power in 2001 through the second bloodless uprising or “Edsa II” that ousted Joseph Estrada in January 2001, she introduced “holiday economics” where non-working holidays were moved to the nearest weekend to allow Filipinos to have a longer weekend and spur local tourism.

She signed into law Republic Act No. 9492 or “An Act Rationalizing the Celebration of National Holidays” in 2007.

The law provides, among others, that for movable holidays, the President shall issue a proclamation, at least six months prior to the holiday concerned, on the specific date that shall be declared as a non-working day.

In her proclamation, the observance of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on April 9, which falls on a Thursday, was moved to the nearest Monday or April 6.

This will be followed by the non-working days during the Holy Week or from April 9 (Maundy Thursday) until April 12 (Easter Sunday).

The other regular holidays are: Labor Day on May 1(Friday); Independence Day on June 12 (Friday); National Heroes Day on Aug. 31 (Monday); Bonifacio Day on Nov. 30 (Monday); Christmas Day on Dec. 25 (Friday); and, Rizal Day on Dec. 30 (Wednesday).

Mrs. Arroyo declared the following as Special Non-Working Days: Ninoy Aquino Day on Aug. 21 (Friday); All Saints Day on Nov. 1 (Sunday) and All Soul’s Day on Nov. 2 (Monday); Christmas Eve on Dec. 24 (Thursday); and, New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31 (Thursday). – Paolo Romero

02-18-2009, 08:52 AM

Jeepney fares in Metro cut next week

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:56:00 02/17/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Beginning next week, the minimum jeepney fare in the metropolis will be cut to P7 from P7.50.

Leaders of transport groups made the announcement Tuesday after meeting with President Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang.

However, they stressed that the rollback was only “provisional.”

This was an offshoot of the dialogue with jeepney operators and drivers in the metropolis last week, who agreed to lower the fare following the dip in the price of diesel from P37 to P29 per liter, the groups said.

“While Valentine’s Day has passed, this is our gift to the public, especially the media who also ride public transport,” Zeny Maranan of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Fejodap) told reporters in a briefing.

Chair Alberto Suansing of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board described the rollback as a "post-Valentine gift to the public.”

Suansing, Maranan, Efren de Luna of the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations, Boy Vargas of the Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Orlando Marquez of the Makati Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association, and Vigor Mendoza met with Ms Arroyo on Tuesday morning in Malacañang to discuss problems in the transport sector.

The announcement came ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on transport fare adjustments at the LTFRB. “As to when this will be effective, it has to follow procedure. We have to see if this can be fast-tracked,” Suansing said.

The groups didn’t wait for the price of diesel to dip to P27 per liter, which they used as the basis for the last fare increase, and decided to go ahead with the fare cut, said Mendoza, chair of the United Transport Koalisyon (1-Utak).

“This (P29) is still above the cost of fuel in the last fare increase. But after our dialogue, the transport groups decided to lower it,” he said.

Also present at the meeting with Ms Arroyo were leaders of other transport groups Piston (Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) and Pasang Mazda, who also agreed to the fare cut.

“Their position is not a question of bringing it down. The question is timing,” Mendoza said. There are 40,000 jeepney drivers in Metro.

Suansing said bus operators have yet to disclose if they intend to do the same.

During the meeting with Arroyo, the transport leaders agreed with the LTFRB to draw up a “parametric formula” on the factors that could prompt a fare increase or decrease.

“So whenever a component of that formula decreases or increases, fare can be easily adjusted (to reflect) the situation,” Suansing said.

The transport groups said they were looking into the consolidated purchase of spare parts, tires and batteries, among others, to cut costs, Mendoza said.

“Our assumption is that the price of diesel will eventually increase. Our first line of defense should not be to increase transport fare. We should have enough leeway by way of reducing the overhead (expenses) so that the driver-operator won’t be hard up,” he said.

02-21-2009, 07:08 AM
i read somewhere that feb 23 was declared as a holiday instead.

as for the fare, i also read that this might not push through. will await finality on this issue since i am a professional commuter.

Kid Cubao
02-21-2009, 07:18 PM
feb 23rd is a holiday only for students, not for the working stiffs.

Sam Miguel
02-24-2009, 05:10 PM

Check this out, hilarious take on America and Americans, and the guy asking is from Scandinavia! ;D

03-08-2009, 05:34 PM
after being at the venue. tim yap added another reason why i do not like him.

03-08-2009, 11:43 PM
after being at the venue. tim yap added another reason why i do not like him.

Kuwento naman.

03-09-2009, 02:33 PM
after being at the venue. tim yap added another reason why i do not like him.

Kuwento naman.

he botched toyang when he was handed the mike by ely. of all the people....

03-09-2009, 04:06 PM
after being at the venue. tim yap added another reason why i do not like him.

Kuwento naman.

he botched toyang when he was handed the mike by ely. of all the people....

This i gotta see.

04-03-2009, 09:41 AM
Interesting Earth Hour Pictures (http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/03/earth_hour_2009.html)

04-18-2009, 10:03 AM
Twitter madness is everywhere....

Kid Cubao
04-27-2009, 04:02 PM
sign that the apocalypse is upon us: mar and korina announcing their engagement to the public at, of all places, the wowowee set.

Sam Miguel
04-28-2009, 08:44 AM
^^^ Wait a couple of months. They will then announce that they are having problems and that the engagement has been called off. Another couple months later they will happily announce that they are back in each other's arms and the wedding is on again.

Hay naku, hirap talaga nitong nalalapit na ang halalan...

05-28-2009, 11:01 PM

MRT starts 24-hour operations on June 1

By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:08:00 05/28/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- The Metro Rail Transit or MRT-3 on EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) is going on 24-hour operations starting June 1, a transportation official said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) decided to expand its business hours as studies revealed that many commuters, especially workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, needed a safe and reliable mode of transportation late at night or early in the morning, said transportation undersecretary and MRT-3 general manager Reynaldo Berroya.

Citing the study, Berroya said most call center agents were found to leave their offices at around midnight and at 4 a.m.

“At this period, most buses and jeepneys are in their garages already,” Berroya said.

The expanded operation is also seen to benefit commuters who may be stranded in the event of flooding during the rainy season, he said.

Security guards will be posted in stations and in trains to keep passengers safe during the late-night operation, he said.

05-28-2009, 11:06 PM

MRT starts 24-hour operations on June 1

By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:08:00 05/28/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- The Metro Rail Transit or MRT-3 on EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) is going on 24-hour operations starting June 1, a transportation official said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) decided to expand its business hours as studies revealed that many commuters, especially workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, needed a safe and reliable mode of transportation late at night or early in the morning, said transportation undersecretary and MRT-3 general manager Reynaldo Berroya.

Citing the study, Berroya said most call center agents were found to leave their offices at around midnight and at 4 a.m.

“At this period, most buses and jeepneys are in their garages already,” Berroya said.

The expanded operation is also seen to benefit commuters who may be stranded in the event of flooding during the rainy season, he said.

Security guards will be posted in stations and in trains to keep passengers safe during the late-night operation, he said.

One of the best decisions our mass transport managers have taken in recent years.

05-29-2009, 01:57 AM

isunod na LRT

05-29-2009, 11:15 AM

MRT starts 24-hour operations on June 1

By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:08:00 05/28/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- The Metro Rail Transit or MRT-3 on EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) is going on 24-hour operations starting June 1, a transportation official said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) decided to expand its business hours as studies revealed that many commuters, especially workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, needed a safe and reliable mode of transportation late at night or early in the morning, said transportation undersecretary and MRT-3 general manager Reynaldo Berroya.

Citing the study, Berroya said most call center agents were found to leave their offices at around midnight and at 4 a.m.

“At this period, most buses and jeepneys are in their garages already,” Berroya said.

The expanded operation is also seen to benefit commuters who may be stranded in the event of flooding during the rainy season, he said.

Security guards will be posted in stations and in trains to keep passengers safe during the late-night operation, he said.

Uy, kaibigan ko itong reporter na ito. ;D

06-03-2009, 06:03 PM
Here's praying all our respective schools get spared from any pandemic...hopefully DLSU's quick action has prevented any further spread :(


(UPDATE) DLSU suspends classes due to A(H1N1) case

MANILA - The De La Salle University-Manila (DLSU-M) on Wednesday announced a 10-day suspension of classes due to a confirmed case of influenza A (H1N1) in their school community.

A radio dzMM report said the suspension of classes will start Thursday (June 4) until Saturday (June 13).

The report said the A(H1N1) case is an exchange student who arrived last May 12.

DLSU is the first school to apply the Department of Health's (DOH) mandated alert system for A(H1N1).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Education Secretary Jesli Lapus have announced the government's new alert system for the cancellation of classes due to the rising number of confirmed H1N1 cases in the country.

Lapus said the critical alert signal starts at Level 3, which means there is a confirmed case in a school and a sudden increase in absenteeism due to flu. Classes in a school with a Level 3 alert have to be suspended.

The highest alert signal is Level 4, where there is more than one school with confirmed H1N1 infection within a community.

"This is when we suspend classes in schools within the community," Lapus said.

Duque said school principals, the education secretary, and the higher education chief can order the suspension of classes, depending on the level of flu alert.

The health secretary said the alert system will help the Department of Education and the DOH "target the particular area where there is a confirmed case of H1N1." He said the alert system would avoid one-time nationwide suspension of classes due to the dreaded influenza virus.

Lapus said the alert system was put up to avoid "panic" calls for suspension of the opening of classes on June 1.

as of 06/03/2009 5:41 PM

06-03-2009, 10:29 PM

MRT-3 stops 24-hour run

But will run until midnight

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 15:21:00 06/03/2009

Filed Under: Road Transport, Consumer Issues

MANILA, Philippines – The Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) on EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) will stop its 24-hour operation on Wednesday, after just two days of implementing the scheme to service commuters working on the graveyard shift, a spokesperson for the rail system said.

But the MRT-3 will be on extended operations. The last south-bound train will leave the North Avenue station at 12:10 a.m., while the last north-bound train will leave the Taft Avenue station at 12:30 a.m., said Lysa Blancaflor, MRT-3 public information officer.

Train operations will start earlier, at 4 a.m., Blancalor said.

There will be a 30-minute interval between trains between 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. as only two trains per lane will run on those times, Blancaflor said.

Before the 24-hour scheme started last Monday, the MRT-3 operated from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“We also do not want to compromise the safety of our passengers because in our 24-hour operations, there was no maintenance period for our train tracks,” Blancaflor said.

The MRT-3 management reported around 6,000 passengers per night in its two-day 24-hour run. The majority of the passengers came between 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., most of whom were employees of call centers.

06-04-2009, 11:17 AM
Tama yan, kailangan din ng MRT ng maintenance period for the safety of the passengers everyday,

I would agree on their operations starting from 4am in the morning til 12 midnight or at most 1am.

06-04-2009, 01:30 PM
Tama yan, kailangan din ng MRT ng maintenance period for the safety of the passengers everyday,

I would agree on their operations starting from 4am in the morning til 12 midnight or at most 1am.

Same, the extra hours means a lot especially to those working late or leaving for home early. (Good news in my case since a bus ride from North Edsa to Makati is 20PhP++ and will run for about 45-1hr. While an MRT is 12PhP for 22 mins. Especially convenient during OT days.)

Bennie Bangag
06-04-2009, 01:58 PM
baka nga 15 minutes lang, lalo na pag di na rush hour :)

06-06-2009, 09:07 PM

Opening of college classes moved due to A(H1N1) threat

06/06/2009 | 10:59 AM

MANILA, Philippines — Alarmed by the rising number of A(H1N1) cases in the country, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) announced on Saturday that it has moved the start of college classes to June 15.

CHED Chairman Emmanuel Angeles said the one-week period will give enough time for students who came from abroad to quarantine themselves.

“Ang dahilan dito ay marami tayong foreign students na nag-aaral sa ating bansa na nanggagaling sa iba't ibang bansa na merong mga swine flu victims (The reason for this is that there are many foreign students and students who came from countries that are exposed to swine flu)," Angeles said on government-run dzRB radio.

Earlier, De La Salle University suspended classes for one week after some students tested positive for A(H1N1). The threat also prompted other universities to postpone classes.

In the case of private elementary and high schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) said it was giving school administrators the leeway to decide when to begin classes, so long as they complete the required number of school days.

Public elementary and high schools, on the other hand, started classes on June 1 as the Department of Health (DOH) rejected calls for a postponement of school opening, warning that it would only cause unnecessary panic.

On Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported that the number of A(H1N1) cases in the country has risen to 33, giving the Philippines the dubious distinction of having the most number of swine flu cases in Southeast Asia.

According to the World Health Organization, the disease has spread to 69 countries, infecting nearly 22,000 people and causing 125 deaths, mostly in Mexico.

All of the 33 infected individuals in the Philippines have shown mild symptoms, though, said the DOH.

Other reasons

Officials, however, said it’s not just the A(H1N1) threat that prompted their decision to postpone the opening of classes.

Angeles said a second reason was the inclement weather in past days, with non-stop monsoon rains swamping a large part of Luzon Island, including Metro Manila.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) even warned the public on Saturday that the weather will continue to be unpredictable.

Angeles said a third good reason to postpone classes is to make life easier for many parents of college students who were unable raise enough money to pay tuition. June 15 falls on a pay day and may give them time to pay tuition.

“It will not adversely affect the schedule of classes," Angeles added.

Like an ‘ordinary’ disease

As the number of people being quarantined continue to increase, the DOH indicated Saturday that it will soon treat A(H1N1) as an “ordinary" flu.

Health Secretary Duque said the government may run out of resources if it continues with its containment policy in dealing with the problem.

“Ituturing itong parang karaniwang trangkaso na lamang. Mahirap naman tayo babantayan mo lahat yan (We may regard it as just an ordinary case of the flu. It’s so hard to keep close tabs on all suspected cases of AH1N1)," Duque said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Duque indicated the shift in policy may start as early as this coming week.

On Friday, Duque confirmed the number of A(H1N1) cases had shot up to 33, but maintained there is no outbreak of the disease in the country.

He said the present policy of containment involves thermal scans, health alert notices, self-quarantine, isolation, and laboratory diagnostics.

“Baka kailangan punta tayo sa mitigation (We may have to shift to a policy of mitigation)," he said, referring to a policy where patients with symptoms just go see a doctor.

He said the mitigation policy has already been adopted in developed countries such as the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Meanwhile, Duque has ordered an investigation into a bank’s quarantining some floors in its Makati City office without confirming cases of A(H1N1) first.

“Pinaimbestigahan ko ang report na yan ... Tingin namin walang batayan yan, ‘wala silang kumpirmadong kaso. Kailangan ikumpirma muna (I had it investigated. I think it had no basis to act like that, because there were no confirmed AH1N1 cases)," he said.

On the other hand, Duque said he respects the decision of some schools to postpone the opening of their classes due to A(H1N1).

But he said the response level system formulated by government is already in place. He said De La Salle University in Manila followed the system when it suspended classes for one week. - GMANews.TV

06-20-2009, 09:59 AM

November 27, 28 declared holidays
Updated June 20, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo has declared Nov. 27 and 28 as national holidays for the celebration of the Islamic religious festival of Eid’l Adha.

While Eid’l Adha is already celebrated as a regional holiday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the President decided to make this a national holiday just like the Christian feasts of Christmas, Easter Sunday and All Saints Day.

“To guide our search for peace, one principle is that our society is a multi-ethnic one which should be founded on social justice for all and the institutionalized accommodation of ethnic traditions,” the President said in Proclamation No. 1808, which she signed last April 12.

“Christian and Muslim are but a few names to which the Filipino responds in a wondrous testimony to our rich and varied heritage as a nation,” she added.

Eid’l Adha or the festival of sacrifice commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God as a sign of his loyalty.

Muslims celebrate this a day after the annual pilgrimage to Mecca or the Hajj.
– Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy

06-24-2009, 08:05 PM
http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/804/426kakaron1242109917192.jpg (http://img36.imageshack.us/i/426kakaron1242109917192.jpg/)
kaka & ronaldo is now officially with madrid. hooooooooooooray! :D

06-26-2009, 06:57 AM
Patay na daw si Michael jackson.

06-26-2009, 07:03 AM
gee sad sad story for the music industry, it seems pop music is dead.

Michael Jackson dies at 50

http://img209.imageshack.us/img209/1659/michaeljackson1.jpg (http://img209.imageshack.us/i/michaeljackson1.jpg/)
CNN) -- Entertainer Michael Jackson has died after being taken to a hospital on Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest, according to multiple reports including the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. CNN has not confirmed his death.

Jackson, 50, had been in a coma at the hospital, sources told CNN.

Brian Oxman, a Jackson family attorney, said he was told by brother Randy Jackson that Michael Jackson collapsed at his home in west Los Angeles Thursday morning.

Family members were told of the situation and were either at the hospital or en route, Oxman said.

Fire Capt. Steve Ruda told CNN a 911 call came in from a west Los Angeles residence at 12:21 p.m.

Ruda said Jackson was treated and transferred to the UCLA Medical Center.

Asked specifics of the patient's condition, he said he could not discuss them because of federal privacy laws.

Jackson, 50, had been in a coma at the hospital, sources told CNN.

Brian Oxman, a Jackson family attorney, said he was told by brother Randy Jackson that Michael Jackson collapsed at his home in west Los Angeles Thursday morning.

Family members were told of the situation and were either at the hospital or en route, Oxman said.

Fire Capt. Steve Ruda told CNN a 911 call came in from a west Los Angeles residence at 12:21 p.m.

Ruda said Jackson was treated and transferred to the UCLA Medical Center.

Asked specifics of the patient's condition, he said he could not discuss them because of federal privacy laws.



07-03-2009, 06:58 PM
Cellphone 'load' to have longer expiration dates

MANILA, Philippines - Prepaid credits of mobile phones – popularly known as “load" – will now have longer expiration dates after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued new rules on Friday.

Under Memorandum Circular No. 03-07-2009, loads with higher values will have longer expiration or validity periods, the NTC said.

Credits worth P10 or lower will be valid for three days from the previous one-day expiration. Loads more than P10 up to P50 can be used for 15 days while credits worth more than P50 up to P100 will remain valid for 30 days.

Loads more than P100 to P150 will expire at the end of 45 days while credits of more than P150 to P250 will last for 60 days. More than P250 to P300 will remain valid for 75 days while credits worth more than P300 will last for 120 days.

These new rules will take effect 15 days after publication in newspapers.

Currently, a P10 load is only valid for a day while a P30 load can be used within three days. A P200 load will last for 30 days and P300 worth of credits can last for 60 days.

The credits’ validity will start upon confirmation receipt of prepaid load purchased, the NTC said.

Newly-purchased credits will be added to unused loads, thereby extending the validity of the total loads, the NTC added.

If a subscriber with an unused load of P20 buys P10 worth of new credits, the new validity period is 15 days, the NTC explained.

Accessing balance inquiry services through text messaging should be free of charge, the NTC said.

Read complete article here-- http://www.gmanews.tv/story/166511/Cellphone-load-to-have-longer-expiration-dates

08-01-2009, 06:41 AM
R.I.P. Tita Cory.

08-01-2009, 08:39 AM
RIP to Cory Aquino. She is now reunited with Ninoy 26 years later, I'm sure they are happy to be together again.

08-01-2009, 08:28 PM
Rest in Peace, Madam President.

08-02-2009, 09:11 AM
Sumalangit nawa, Tita Cory. Maraming salamat po.

08-02-2009, 02:10 PM
RIP, Tita Cory.

Rest assured, the fight you helped start will continue on in the next generations to come.

08-17-2009, 06:49 PM
usain bolt of jamaica cemented his hold as the world's fastest man on land by setting a new world record in the century sprint of 9.69 seconds en route to a gold medal.

So much basketball, hindi ko ito nasundan... 9.58 is UNREAL! :D

Naalala ko nung bata ako, si Ben Johnson naka 9.79 pero drug-aided vs Carl Lewis' 9.92, and I thought, siguro without cheating it's humanly impossible to do 9.70s, baka upto 9.80s lang in my lifetime. But this guy is bigger, stronger, and definitely faster - and good for track and field to have a personality like him :D

Bolt mesmerises with record-shattering run

BERLIN, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Jamaica’s Usain Bolt obliterated his own 100 metres world record to win the world championship final in a breathtaking 9.58 seconds on Sunday.

The world’s fastest man took a staggering 0.11 seconds off the 9.69 mark he set winning gold at the Beijing Olympics a year ago to the day, taking the event into a time zone undreamed of before his arrival on the scene.

American Tyson Gay, the 2007 world champion, ran the race of his life to finish second in 9.71, the third fastest time ever. Jamaican Asafa Powell claimed bronze in 9.84.

08-18-2009, 12:39 AM
9.58 is insane. and to think he thinks he can run faster, too.

Kid Cubao
08-18-2009, 05:17 AM
what makes usain bolt's world record all the more eye-popping is that he's not the typical 100 meter sprinter. he's 6'5 and has very long strides, built more along the lines of cuba's alberto juantorena, who was the world's best 400 and 800 meter runner in the mid-70s. as he himself said, bolt is more suited for the 200 and 400 meter sprints.

08-18-2009, 11:53 PM
Bolt just won his heat in the 200m qualifiers in a slow (for his standards) time.

08-20-2009, 05:12 PM
Medyo old news na pala ito...another breakthrough, this time in golf...http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090817/ap_on_sp_go_su/glf_pga_championship

Sa pic niya sa yahoo, may hawig si Y.E. Yang kay T.Y. Tang :D

Y.E. Yang, a South Korean who didn't take up the game until he was 19, became the first Asian player to win a major championship Sunday. And he took down [Tiger] Woods in the PGA Championship to do it.

"I usually go for broke," Yang said through an interpreter. "The odds are against me. Nobody's going to be really disappointed that I lose. So I really had nothing much at stake, and that's how I played it."

Beating Woods in a regular tournament would be a big enough shocker for a 37-year-old player who was in PGA Tour qualifying school just nine months ago. That he did it in a major is an upset so big it sent shock waves around the world.

Woods was 14-0 when he was atop the leaderboard going into the final round of a major. He had never lost any tournament on American soil when leading by more than one shot.

08-21-2009, 05:40 AM
"on grounds of compassion... releasing... and returning him to Libya to die."

Scottish Justice Minister on announcing the release of Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi. I can't put the words to describe what I felt as I was listening to the news, parang di tugma ang paggamit ng mga katagang "to die" sa basehan ng pag-release -- "compassion".

Wala naman sa akin kung i-release yan o hindi, mamatay siya kahapon o mamaya. Pero iba talaga dating nung paggamit ng "to die" at "compassion" in the same sentence.

08-25-2009, 02:34 AM
"on grounds of compassion... releasing... and returning him to Libya to die."

Scottish Justice Minister on announcing the release of Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi. I can't put the words to describe what I felt as I was listening to the news, parang di tugma ang paggamit ng mga katagang "to die" sa basehan ng pag-release -- "compassion".

Wala naman sa akin kung i-release yan o hindi, mamatay siya kahapon o mamaya. Pero iba talaga dating nung paggamit ng "to die" at "compassion" in the same sentence.

Here's one more. "Mercy Killing". How about liberating Iraq from insane Saddam via killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians?

Double-speak pare ko. The current language is a reflection of existing social conditions. All is farce...na daw.

08-25-2009, 08:40 AM
"on grounds of compassion... releasing... and returning him to Libya to die."

Scottish Justice Minister on announcing the release of Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi. I can't put the words to describe what I felt as I was listening to the news, parang di tugma ang paggamit ng mga katagang "to die" sa basehan ng pag-release -- "compassion".

Wala naman sa akin kung i-release yan o hindi, mamatay siya kahapon o mamaya. Pero iba talaga dating nung paggamit ng "to die" at "compassion" in the same sentence.

Here's one more. "Mercy Killing". How about liberating Iraq from insane Saddam via killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians?

Double-speak pare ko. The current language is a reflection of existing social conditions. All is farce...na daw.

Actually, kung Americano ang nagsasalita, talagang sali-saliwa ang gamit nila ng mga salita. Pero sa isang British, to have the words to "die to" end the message after a careful and long worded explanation, parang .... ewan!

Jaco D
08-25-2009, 10:31 PM
Actually, kung Americano ang nagsasalita, talagang sali-saliwa ang gamit nila ng mga salita. Pero sa isang British, to have the words to "die to" end the message after a careful and long worded explanation, parang .... ewan!

Yeah, this reminds me of that old joke between two guys from rival camps (I'm using Harvard and Yale here, but you could replace them with any rivalry you could think of - Ateneo/La Salle, Duke/Chapel Hill, Army/Navy, etc.):

Yale boy (YB) is sitting on a New Haven park bench . Visiting Harvard Boy (HB) comes up to him and asks:

HB: "Excuse me Sir, but do you happen to know where the library is at?"

YB: "Excuse me Sir, but at Yale we were taught not to end our sentences with prepositions."

HB: "OK sir, let me rephrase that then. Excuse me Sir, but do you happen to know where the library is at....ASSHOLE!!!!!"

09-04-2009, 06:56 PM
Sept. 7, 21 non-working holidays—Palace

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:30:00 09/04/2009

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared September 7 and 21 as non-working holidays, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Friday night.

Arroyo declared Monday next week a national day of mourning for Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo, who will be buried that day, Remonde said.

“All flags will be flown at half-mast,” he said in a text message to reporters.

On September 21, the Muslim Filipinos will be marking Eid'l Fitr, or the end of holy month of fasting, Ramadan, according to Remonde.

09-07-2009, 04:15 PM
BPOs, electronics firms excluded from holiday
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 09/05/2009 5:08 PM

MANILA - Acting on a request from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) chief, Malacañang announced on Saturday that Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) offices and companies in the electronics industry are exempted from the non-working holiday on Monday, September 7.
In a text message, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, said the "BPO and electronic industries are exempted from the non-working holiday proclamation on Monday as requested by DTI Secretary Peter Favila."
President Arroyo on Friday declared September 7 and 21 as non-working holidays throughout the country.
Malacañang declared September 7 as a national day of mourning for the late Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) leader Bro. Eraño 'Ka Erdie' Manalo. All flags will be flown at half mast on Monday.
The President had earlier declared September 21 as a non-working holiday to commemorate Eid Al Fitr or the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
INC spokesman Bienvenido Santiago on Friday announced that "the interment of the late Brother Eraño G. Manalo, Executive Minister of the Church of Christ, will be held on September 7, 2009, Monday, 12:00 noon at the Tabernacle located near the Central Temple."

as of 09/06/2009 3:46 AM


These declarations stink of incredible ineptitude on the part of government. First, they make the declaration only moments before the close of business hours last friday. Then the genius Remonde makes another declaration hours later that certain industries are "exempt", without quantifying what exempt means. Does this mean that the industries specified who require their employees work on Sept. 7 shall be exempted from paying the 30% premium? If so, wouldnt this be discriminatory, as BPOs are in no way the only ones with 24/7 operations.

Obviously, these modifications were done under pressure from the owners and operators of BPOs, and is understandable, as pay-outs for Holiday Premiums are unplanned and put a dent on their payroll budgets.

These haphazard declarations illustrate this administration's penchant for kissing up to power brokers without proper planning and consideration of the complexities of such proclamations.

09-15-2009, 07:55 PM
Congratulations to Juan Martin Del Potro for winning the 2009 US Open.

2nd Argentine to win the Open. beat both Nadal and Federer to do it.

and i just want to highlight this:


Dick Enberg = Kanye West doucheness.

10-02-2009, 04:58 PM
Naku, heto na, nagsimula nang umulan.

Pepeng, kung pwede sana huwag ka nang tumuloy dito.

09-03-2010, 09:21 AM
CALLING all PEx-ers who were active around 2006:

Does anyone have a link or screenshots of the original COUNTDOWN post of MY_MAKA_MANDAG? ;D Patingin naman, thanks!

I tried to search for it in PEx itself but all I've found were hundreds of reactions to it.

Kid Cubao
09-03-2010, 09:28 AM
hahaha, just remembering that alternick induces an uncontrollable fit of the giggles ;D

anyway, maybe you can search for "MY_MAKA_MANDAG" at the search function--that is, if they still allow it in PEx.

09-03-2010, 10:17 AM
1...2...3... :D

09-13-2010, 12:37 PM
Compromise signed to free Gen. Garcia?
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) Updated September 13, 2010

Tell us it’s not true, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. But murmurs are getting loud in your office that you surreptitiously have signed a settlement to free Major General Carlos Garcia. The deal is disadvantageous to the public interest. For, it would revert to the ownership of Garcia two condos in New York, a house in Ohio, and multimillion-dollar deposits in America. All this, in exchange for his return of some P50 million that he withdrew from various Philippine accounts when his plundering was exposed in October 2004.

Sources say that the Ombudsman had endorsed the compromise for the Sandiganbayan’s approval as far back as a year ago. The anti-graft court is trying Garcia for plunder and perjury. The government is also trying to forfeit from him P302 million in unexplained wealth, above his normal pay as Armed Forces comptroller.

The settlement is basically a plea bargain, sources add. Garcia would plead guilty to the lesser offense of indirect bribery. The crime carries a penalty of six years’ imprisonment, compared to plunder which merits life sentence. Since Garcia has been in jail since December 2004, while on trial for non-bailable plunder, he can have time spent in detention counted as served sentence. By yearend he can walk free.

The plea bargain would require Garcia to return the P50 million that he and two sons withdrew from various banks and Army savings in 2004. But it would erase all three Garcia sons and his wife from the plunder case. The family is enjoying their many pieces of real property in America, having fled in 2005 before being impleaded in the plunder rap.

Here’s the catch. Once relieved of the plunder case, US authorities will return to Garcia the sequestered condos and house. The US department of justice had taken hold of the units in 2007 on request of the Philippines. Per agreement, the US will turn these over to the government if the Garcias are convicted of plunder.

The house is on 625 Vancouver Drive, Westerville, Ohio; the two New York condos are on 222 East 34th Avenue and Trump Place, 502 Park Avenue.

Military sources say that Garcia bought and holds the posh Trump Place condo not for himself but “a principal.” They suspect that its return to the secret owner could be linked to the plea bargain. Garcia’s P302 million in excess wealth allegedly is not all his; he had merely fronted for some superiors.

01-01-2011, 01:41 AM

02-08-2011, 09:21 AM
Angelo Reyes is dead.

02-08-2011, 09:28 AM
Angelo Reyes is dead.

Tragic, indeed.

Who among the accused and the accusers can honestly say that they are clean?

02-08-2011, 10:00 AM
I saw the breaking news at ANC about 20 minutes ago. It was the DOH chief who made the presscon. It was said that Reyes was with his 2 kids and the driver.

02-08-2011, 01:47 PM
A shot to the heart seems an odd way to commit suicide, never heard/seen that method even in Hollywood.

Kid Cubao
02-08-2011, 03:32 PM
A shot to the heart seems an odd way to commit suicide, never heard/seen that method even in Hollywood.

rather unusual, but not impossible.

rest in peace to angelo reyes +

02-08-2011, 03:53 PM
A shot to the heart is symbolic. It's not odd at all.

Rest in peace, Gen. Angelo Reyes!

02-08-2011, 04:07 PM
a bullet in the heart, in front of your parents grave, Angie did value his honor. May he rest in peace

02-08-2011, 05:28 PM
Is the Senate really investigating in aid of legislation? I've watched countless Senate investigations on tv and I find the scenes troubling. They are supposed to investigate in aid of legislation. Instead, what I generally see is pure grandstanding.

And the way the good senators insult, ridicule and maltreat the "resource persons", or those who are invited to attend, is appalling. Investigations in aid of legislation are not supposed to dwell on the guilt or innocence of the resource persons. That is the function of our criminal justice system. The Senators, in a sense, are usurping judicial power. The questions should focus on the circumstances under which wrongdoings happen and flourish, and the measures needed to prevent and penalize such wrongdoings. That's why it is in aid of legislation.

The media is also another cause for concern. The way they sensationalize news makes the resource persons guilty already in the eyes of the public, without the benefit of a fair judicial trial. The Senate and the media have become indispensable partners in trial by publicity. They have destroyed lives and reputations to advance their political careers and to sell newspapers.

For me, this is the bigger tragedy.

02-08-2011, 08:49 PM
Is the Senate really investigating in aid of legislation?

For me, this is the bigger tragedy.

Matching bookends for a sad truth. I have nothing but utter contempt for them.

02-09-2011, 08:34 AM
Is the Senate really investigating in aid of legislation?

For me, this is the bigger tragedy.

Matching bookends for a sad truth. I have nothing but utter contempt for them.

Nothing has really changed since we came to know our history. Only the application of up-to-date technology to further their greed and self preservation :(

02-09-2011, 10:32 AM
A shot to the heart seems an odd way to commit suicide, never heard/seen that method even in Hollywood.

There was. Gary Sinise shot himself in the chest in a movie with Nicholas Cage. In the said movie, Sinise was a military officer and was caught red-handed in a conspiracy. I believe it was "Snake Eyes".

02-09-2011, 10:48 AM
Re topic of Senate investigations in aid of legislation, following is a news article from abs-sbnnews:

"Santiago rejected suggestions that the Senate hold an executive session first before naming individuals during a public hearing.

"I’m afraid that the media will complain because media will accuse us of withholding information from the public and immediately invoke the right to information which is enshrined in our Constitution. That is our problem," she said.

She also pointed out that any public hearing by a political branch of government runs the risk of becoming a mere trial by publicity. At worst, she said lawmakers can merely file a recommendation with an enclosed report on the matter being investigated.

Santiago said "persons of interest" named in congressional inquiries in aid of legislation have a hard time avoiding publicity.

"The main purpose of these hearings is to publicize them, maybe to engage in name and shame, and hope that the public will uphold whatever has been brought out by the evidence during the trial," she said.

"It is traditional to be sensationalistic in these cases, particularly for members of the committee who are not lawyers. They don’t know what the limits are, and they tend to overstep the bounds of propriety in their desire to show to the media and to the viewing public that they have made a certain point. Iyon ang problema kasi hindi sila abugado, kung anu-anong pinagtatanong at kung anu-anong komentaryo," she added." -----------------------------

These are dangerous remarks from the known legislator. She justified trial by publicity in the Senate and admitted that it is accepted practice to shame and humiliate the resource persons on the basis of the evidence in their possession. A lot of these evidences, however, are hearsay, irrelevant, immaterial and not admissible if they were to be presented in court.

02-09-2011, 01:12 PM
A shot to the heart seems an odd way to commit suicide, never heard/seen that method even in Hollywood.

There was. Gary Sinise shot himself in the chest in a movie with Nicholas Cage. In the said movie, Sinise was a military officer and was caught red-handed in a conspiracy. I believe it was "Snake Eyes".

thanks for the info sir, well i guess there is a reason for such. But based on my res training that a bullet in the heart does not instantly kill you, a few moment remain,a moment of pain and gasping, why did ANGIE chose this way, maybe he he was trying to say something.

02-09-2011, 05:36 PM
Is the Senate really investigating in aid of legislation? I've watched countless Senate investigations on tv and I find the scenes troubling. They are supposed to investigate in aid of legislation. Instead, what I generally see is pure grandstanding.

And the way the good senators insult, ridicule and maltreat the "resource persons", or those who are invited to attend, is appalling. Investigations in aid of legislation are not supposed to dwell on the guilt or innocence of the resource persons. That is the function of our criminal justice system. The Senators, in a sense, are usurping judicial power. The questions should focus on the circumstances under which wrongdoings happen and flourish, and the measures needed to prevent and penalize such wrongdoings. That's why it is in aid of legislation.

The media is also another cause for concern. The way they sensationalize news makes the resource persons guilty already in the eyes of the public, without the benefit of a fair judicial trial. The Senate and the media have become indispensable partners in trial by publicity. They have destroyed lives and reputations to advance their political careers and to sell newspapers.

For me, this is the bigger tragedy.

Well-said. :)

The problem now is how to stop these 'honorable' legislators. The obvious resort is to seek remedy from the Supreme Court but we all know that the SC or the judiciary for that matter cannot initiate something until and unless a party files a case. And assuming the court does intervene, the legislature would cry foul and invoke the principle of separation of powers.

What about Antonio Trillanes having the audacity to say "You don't have any reputation to protect." to the late general? That statement reeks of arrogance and hypocrisy.

02-11-2011, 04:15 PM
sorry to disagree with everyone else here. but there's an old saying in ancient rome:

"fiat justitia ruat coelum."

which jim garrison (played ably by kevin costner) quoted in english in the early 1990s oliver stone opus "JFK" -- "let justice be done, though the heavens fall."

i for one want to know how far up and how wide this stink goes. it doesn't matter that those who intend to throw stones are themsleves unclean. because if that were the reason, we will never, ever get to the bottom of this -- as it has been left to rot for most of this country's history. i am glad the senate president and the others see that this is a unique opportunity to uncover the gangrenous state of affairs that befouls our military -- and that's just for starters. this corruption has infected every nook and cranny of our public life -- even in the private sector. sure, many will aver, manong johnny, maid miriam, or little jinggoy are themselves crooked. maybe they are. but if a statement such as what the senate president issued from the senate floor just a couple days ago comes up -- that we have a golden chance to expose this corruption for all and sundry to see -- i say we grab that chance.

there's a story back in in the 1930s at the height of all the book-cooking (not cookbooks, ha?), boiler room operating, and other hoodwinking that attended the new york stock exchange -- so much so that investor-confidence was at an all-time low and the US economy needed a boost desperately after coming out of what was then the worst depression it ever underwent -- president franklin roosevelt appointed a person not known exactly for exemplary moral standards -- even as the rest of the US reeled in poverty during the depression, this guy doubled his fortune with speculation and insider trading -- as head of the newly created securities and exchange commission. why? "it takes a crook to catch a crook," is what the president was alleged to have said. the man was joseph kennedy, father of john, who later became president himself.

in sum, if we have a chance -- as we do now -- to ferret out the corruption, the gangrene, and stench that has eaten up this nation's morals, we ought to take it.

and let justice be done, whoever heaven may fall on.

Kid Cubao
02-12-2011, 09:45 AM
yes i agree that there is an urgent need to get to the bottom of this mess. my main reservation, though, is the soundness of a senate investigation for this purpose.

there are proper forums for these types of investigations that do not violate one of the most funadamental tenets in our justice system--the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. if the senate indeed conducts such public inquiries in the interest of the filipino people, then their marching orders should be to determine the soundness of the evidences and testimony to prove and refute the charges in question (very much like the US senate when they investigated enron, AIG and BP), after which they make the necessary recommendations to other government branches and propose the crafting of new legislation at the soonest. and nothing more.

instead, the senate's open political partisanship becomes a full-blown media circus where witnesses are shamed, ridiculed, and practically thrown into the tar pit and feathered by our "honorable" national legislators. if, as senator miriam defensor-santiago readily admits, the purpose of such inquiries these days is to name and shame such persons of interest, aren't we in any way concerned that our democratic institutions are being perverted in order to feed the frenzy created by the fourth estate?

the fact that senators themselves admit to having been chastened in the wake of gen. reyes's tragic suicide is proof positive that they are party to this whole mess. maybe in the near future they will wake up to their senses and perform the duties expected of them without grandstanding, without bellyaching, and without all those hateful comments designed to land in the evening news. there's so much brainwork to do insofar as determining the validity, verifiability, and accuracy of the testimony and documents presented before them with dispatch.

02-12-2011, 05:57 PM
you can't really fault the senators and almost everyone and his uncle for all the vitriol that has been spewed here and there. with the revelations that emerged from george rabusa's and heidi mendoza's testimonies, only persons with an extremely powerful control of their emotions can keep their tongues in check. not to justify antonio trillanes's last exchange with angelo reyes, but i'll let that slide, especially with the way manong johnny explained it -- trillanes spent the last 7 years of his life behind bars after his protest (backed with the government's arms, though) against corruption in the military. now that the issue has come to the fore, he sees this unique opportunity to stir up the $h!tstorm and let the chips fall where they may.

carpe diem.

anyway, other government institutions, especially those like the ombudsman (who has done a remarkably lousy job by going after the big fish and concentrating on the small fry) to start doing their job and doing it well. this plea bargain deal, for instance. did it have to take a public humiliation of merceditas gutierrez -- threatening her with arrest -- to get her to see how it was so grossly disadvantageous to the government? if it will take a senate hearing to get the nail to move, i'm all for it.

02-14-2011, 02:44 PM
Excerpts from PDI interview with Sen. Gringo Honasan:

"The Senate blue ribbon committee resumes its hearing on Friday, more than a week after Reyes' suicide prompted calls for the senators to change their confrontational tack of questioning and become more civil.


By all means the inquiry should continue but ground rules on the conduct of hearing, whether written or unwritten, should be established, said Honasan, who has inhibited himself from the hearing because Garcia was his classmate at the Philippine Military Academy.

"Let's be civil. Let's not prejudice people whom we invite as resource persons. Let's not put them in a difficult place. All of a sudden, after inviting them as witnesses, they become the accused,” he said.

"Let's differentiate between in aid of legislation and what should be matters of the court to decide. When we name names, we mention the information that warrants mentioning these things, and later if this develops, the information may or may not be used by the courts for possible trial,” he said.

Exactly my point. We should observe the rule of law. Let justice be done, no question about it, but it must be done within the bounds of the law which is the source of our concept of justice.

The senate investigation (supposed to be in aid of legislation) is a free-for-all carnage where the witnesses and resource persons are thrown to the blood-thirsty crowd constantly fed by our grandstanding senators and hysterical news writers.

It's a proceeding where admissible and inadmissible evidence, the truth, half-truth and hearsay, ridicule and shame, horse-trading and policital partisanships, conspiracies and plots are mixed together to produce a chaotic ending where there is no conclusive ending because of the tumult and disorder with which the investigation was conducted. How can we ferret out the truth under such situation?

The quest for justice does not also justify shortcuts and violations of the law. Right now, the Senate is being hostaged by men like Trillanes who obviously doesn't know what he's doing. Right now, Senator Trillanes is also a prosecutor and a judge. By golly, he has all the powers of the 3 branches of our government.


02-16-2011, 12:13 PM
^ Speaking of Trillanes, I don't know how he spent his budget while being incarcerated. A report stated that his office is one of the most active spenders in the Senate.

02-16-2011, 01:30 PM
parang binabae itong si trillanes, backpedalling on his allegations and saying he never insulted sec. reyes. panindigan na niya.

OK pa si miriam. she's got more balls than trillanes -- ironic because she said sometime 2 weeks ago that she found him attractive. :P

03-11-2011, 01:41 PM
ang lalapok talaga ng kahit sinong nagmamaneho ng sasakyan na dilaw ang plaka.

piso lang tinaas ng pamasahe, piso rin lang ang itinaas across the board, period, ayon mismo sa LTFRB. pero may mga lapok na jeep na kung maningil ang dinadagdag sa mahabang byahe 2-3 piso.

buti na lang lagi kong dala cutter ko, b\imbis na makipag-away pa ko dahil lang sa barya binubutasan ko na lang ang upholstery ng upuan ng jeep at hinahatak ko palabas ang foam. ha'mo gumastos sa pagpa-reupholstery ang mga lapok.

06-24-2011, 08:54 AM
lubog na naman ang cm recto...

06-24-2011, 12:56 PM
If the Supreme Being, whoever She may be, saw fit to give a person certain equipment, like testicles and a penis for men, and ovaries and a vagina for women, why are there people, the Gays and Lesbians, who seem to think they know better than She who so equipped them? If this can be explained to me in a rational and simple manner, I will be the first to take up the cudgels for the Gay Community.

Mind you, may matalik na kaibigan ako na bakla, siguro may 15 years na kaming magbarkada, at napunta pa nga ako sa kanila. Siya mismo hindi makapagbigay ng sagot sa'kin beyond "Walang basagan ng trip..." Is the whole Gay thing really that vapid, trip lang pala ang pagiging bakla...? If that is so then perhaps all of this talk of human rights and freedom of expression and free choice, etc, is really nothing more than an excuse for license.

06-24-2011, 03:48 PM
Lagot ka sa ladlad pare. ;D

06-27-2011, 09:36 AM
^ I should be so lucky boss... :-X

07-14-2011, 06:38 AM
Ang mga Juico talaga.... ang hilig mag-release ng pautot na report.

07-14-2011, 08:52 AM
Kahit pautot yung report, yun din naman ang gusto ng media. Wala nga namang isyu kung Chery o Crosswind ang binigay sa mga bishops. Kailangan sabihin na Pajero para maka benta ng istorya.

Ang media nga ba ay para sa katotohanan lamang?

07-14-2011, 11:06 AM
^ That's the neverending issue with "corporate" media in this modern age, Boss Lion. Are they really "reporting it as they see it" or are they "reporting to get ratings / sell copy". They say the media has not been giving the news the last half-century. They've actually been dictating the news, hence the news cycle of even an earth-shaking story is maybe six days, tops, after which its a whole new issues to cover. All of those "we're doing it for the public, so that the people may know" pronuncements are 99% horseshit.

07-14-2011, 02:33 PM
That's probably the reason why I don't necessarily agree that the Philippines is one of the most dangerous places for journalists.

Journalism or news reporting nowadays is hogwash and bordering on the hysterical. You can only count a few media personalities whose integrity and reputation are unimpeachable. To many, it is a business. A lot of them, even the famous ones, are under retainership and paid to make their clients look good and/or make their clients' opponents and rivals look bad through character assassination and systematic and sustained demolition jobs.

A lot of reputations have been destroyed by these "hoodlums in media". Maybe that's the reason why some of those who felt that they were treated unfairly by these media people have taken extra legal measures to get even, right or wrong.

Kid Cubao
07-14-2011, 02:56 PM
^^ you hit the nail right on the head. many of the so-called "journalists" who ended up with holes in their heads probably had it coming.

Jaco D
07-15-2011, 12:26 AM
Correct - they're nothing more than talking heads or wordsmith mercenaries! It used to be in the good old days, when you read something written by a journalist you knew there was no hidden agenda behind the piece. Today, you have to take the extra step of thinking "what's the story behind this story". Nakakapagod! Okay lang sana if everyone takes that extra step of discerning the story behind the news and acts accordingly. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

07-15-2011, 07:53 AM
^^ mga idol, basahin niyo na lang ang mga sinusulat nung rigoberto tiglao sa inquirer, puro banat sa administrasyon ni noynoy, na para bang hindi siya naging tao ni mrs aquino dati. tapos sa inquirer pa din mismo, mababasa mo ang cielito habito na nagpapaliwanag na may gamit pang mga datos at bilang at pagsasaliksik na kulang na pinabubulaanan ang mga pahayag ni tiglao, kulang na lang sabihin ni habito na mali si tiglao, pero banat pa din ng banat ang tiglao. siempre lahat naman ng pananaw nilalathala ng mga opinionista at kolumnista, 'yun nga naman ang trabaho nila, pero siguro naman alam na nating lahat kung may "envelopmental journalism" na nagaganap. marami din akong alam na "brodkaster" na wala ng ginawa kundi bumanat ng bumanat, basta kung sino nagbibigay ng ganansiya, siya ang amo, kaya kung may nakikita akong natetepok na mamamahayag na promdi tuwang-tuwa ako, dahil nasaksihan ko mismo ang mga ganyang gawain ng mga bayad-banat na brodkaster. dito nakaka-miss ang mga gaya nina ka louie beltran, at kahit ng ka doroy valencia.

07-17-2011, 02:33 AM
Do not despair. We are not alone.

The Murdoch News Corp Scandal (http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25623)

Media is business. End of Story.

For a bigger picture, I encourage everyone to suspend judgement and watch "Manufacturing Consent." This is a Canadian documentary based on the book of Noam Chomsky.

Manufacturing Consent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQhEBCWMe44)

07-17-2011, 11:59 AM
And now, Canada:


We're indeed not alone.

07-18-2011, 12:41 AM
True that.

The Fourth Estate is dead. No more citizens, only consumers subjected to daily propaganda.

Yet we cannot deny that many of us here are little propagandists ourselves. Propagandists for our schools, our teams, our ideas. It's all about the management of perception. PR, marketing, positioning, branding.

More counter-propaganda.

The War You Don't See (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ah20IAyYxg&feature=player_embedded)

Hollywood and the Pentagon:A Dangerous Liason (http://documentaryheaven.com/hollywood-and-the-pentagon-a-dangerous-liaison/)


07-18-2011, 01:03 AM
In the end, we are left to decide for ourselves. That...nobody can take away from us. :)

08-05-2011, 08:28 AM
nakita niyo ba 'yung estupidong sinulong 'yung bahang-baha na mother ignacia at sinisi pa ibang tao at ang pamahalaan dahil wala man lang daw karatola na malalim pala ang baha dun kapag nabaha? hindi ba kalapukan na 'yon? wala naman nagtutok ng punyal sa leeg niya o baril sa sentido niya na sugurin niya lintibi na baha na 'yon. wala naman ibang may dala ng manobela kundi siya. siguro naman hindi siya bagitong motorista. at graduate pa pala ng isang sikat na pamantasan na nagtapos ng law! diyosme, nanisi pa ng iba. kahit saan naman natin tignan sarili lang niya dapat niyang sisihin. katangahan 'yung ginawa niya. kailangan bang lagyan ng karatola ang bawat bangin para malaman na mapanganib tumalon duon? kailangan ba lagyan ng karatola ang bawat lansangan upang mag-ingat ang mga tumatawid dito? sentido-komon na lang ang kailangan diyan. siguro naman nakita niya pinsalang ginawa nung ondoy diyan mismo sa mother ignacia. ang dapat niyang sisihin sarili lang niya.

08-05-2011, 10:48 AM
^malamang lahat ng may facebook account eh nakita na yon. Granted, kalokohan talaga na ganun yung reaction niya. Nanisi pa ng iba. Pero I'm sure hindi lang naman siya ang na-ganun na. Sa dinami-dami nang binabaha kapag tag-ulan, imposible na siya lang. At sigurado din ako na hindi lang siya ang ganun ang iisipin kung maranasan niya yon. Malas lang siya na may news team nung nangyari, kaya dagdag stress at nahirapan na i-control ang emosyon at mga salita na lumabas sa bibig.

Not everyone can act gracefully under stress, much less under the public's eye.

08-08-2011, 09:54 AM
Is the Senate really investigating in aid of legislation? I've watched countless Senate investigations on tv and I find the scenes troubling. They are supposed to investigate in aid of legislation. Instead, what I generally see is pure grandstanding.

And the way the good senators insult, ridicule and maltreat the "resource persons", or those who are invited to attend, is appalling. Investigations in aid of legislation are not supposed to dwell on the guilt or innocence of the resource persons. That is the function of our criminal justice system. The Senators, in a sense, are usurping judicial power. The questions should focus on the circumstances under which wrongdoings happen and flourish, and the measures needed to prevent and penalize such wrongdoings. That's why it is in aid of legislation.

The media is also another cause for concern. The way they sensationalize news makes the resource persons guilty already in the eyes of the public, without the benefit of a fair judicial trial. The Senate and the media have become indispensable partners in trial by publicity. They have destroyed lives and reputations to advance their political careers and to sell newspapers.

For me, this is the bigger tragedy.

Well-said. :)

The problem now is how to stop these 'honorable' legislators. The obvious resort is to seek remedy from the Supreme Court but we all know that the SC or the judiciary for that matter cannot initiate something until and unless a party files a case. And assuming the court does intervene, the legislature would cry foul and invoke the principle of separation of powers.

What about Antonio Trillanes having the audacity to say "You don't have any reputation to protect." to the late general? That statement reeks of arrogance and hypocrisy.

Buti naman at may Joker Arroyo pa din sa Senado.

Senator Joker Arroyo urges gov’t to review policy of grilling witnesses
By Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:13 am | Monday, August 8th, 2011 1share14 13
It’s high time the government “rethink its policy” of purportedly pillorying witnesses during investigations following the suicide of Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) lawyer Benjamin Pinpin less than six months after the death of former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, Sen. Joker Arroyo said on Sunday.

Arroyo said in a telephone interview that there was a connection between Pinpin’s decision to take his own life and Reyes’ suicide earlier this year.

Witnesses in controversial cases now find it better to end their lives than subject themselves and their loved ones to public humiliation after appearing at a public hearing, the senator said.

Reyes, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shot himself in the heart in front of his mother’s grave in February at the height of the Senate inquiry into the misuse of military funds to line the pockets of officials. He was accused of receiving more than P150 million from a military slush fund.

Pinpin, a mid-level executive of DBP, claimed in a suicide letter on July 27 that he chose to end his life than see his family suffer humiliation for some issues he was forced to admit in an affidavit.

The new DBP management has filed a criminal complaint of graft and violation of banking laws against 25 past and current officers and three private individuals in connection with the grant of P660 million to a firm owned by former Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin in 2009.

“The government must rethink its policy in respect to its obsession with high-profile investigations, that respective respondents, who are not even formally charged (in court), are driven to take their own lives rather than go through an investigation where they are pilloried as guilty even before the start of a formal (court process),” Arroyo said.

“McCarthyism is a thing of the past,” the senator added, referring to the communist witch-hunt in the US congressional hearings of the 1950s.

“It is the duty of the government to ensure the observance of the elementary rudiments of fair play (in investigations), which in plain language is the essence of due process,” Arroyo said.

“A man who takes his own life to expose the coercive methods employed by his superiors to make him make fake accusations is an indictment of government’s cavalier attitude toward human rights,” he added.

Arroyo said the two suicides should be an eye-opener for authorities who enjoy subjecting witnesses to ridicule instead of “giving … respondents the sporting chance to be heard well and fully, and not to be convicted by publicity, by innuendoes and suggestions, by hearsay evidence.”

09-18-2011, 11:42 AM
may isang lalake na kapag kabilugan ng buwan ay umaatungal parang aso. minsan kahit hindi kabilugan ng buwan nanghahabol siya ng pusa. humihilata siya sa sahig at ngumangatngat nga buto. manaka-naka tumatahol siya kapag may nakitang hindi kilala.

kung kaibigan mo ang lalake na ito, ano gagawin mo? hindi ba dadalhin mo sa doctor para matignan o kaya papa-ospital mo para magamot siya? kasi tao siya, hindi siya aso, kaya dapat umastang tao siya.

may isa pang lalake, nagsusuot ng bestida, nagme-makeup, at ang gustong katalik ay lalaki din. ang tingin niya sa sarili niya babae siya.

kung kaibigan mo ang lalake na ito, ano gagawin mo? hindi ba dadalhin mo sa doctor para matignan o kaya papa-ospital mo para magamot siya? kasi lalake siya, hindi siya babae, kaya dapat umastang lalake siya.

ganun nga ba gagawin mo? ano pagkakaiba ng dalawang kaso na ito?

09-22-2011, 10:31 AM
^Mahiwaga ang iyong mensahe kaibigang wang-bu. Medyo ayaw gumana ng utak ko ngayong araw. Paki explain na lang bwahahaha.

09-23-2011, 10:14 PM
Help me understand...

Ang babae lang ba dapat ang may karapatan magalit at ang lagung nasa tama? Dapat ba lagi pagbigyan kapag may mood swings lalo na kung nakakainit na din ng dugo? Hahaayyyyyy

09-23-2011, 10:37 PM
There are times when I become too tired to think what mistake I made when I feel there is none and would just like to clarify things!

There are times when I feel I am lost even though I know I am walking in the right direction and threading the right path.

Today was one of the more fulfilling days in the field and yet ruined by a mere miscommunication and stupid misunderstanding.

Crazy stuff! Thank you Lord pa din!

09-27-2011, 01:51 PM
Something huge is going to happen within 72 hours in North America. Just posting this to test the predictive power of the web bot and the time-wave zero.

Something massive and earth-changing. Be safe.

09-28-2011, 08:48 AM
^Mahiwaga ang iyong mensahe kaibigang wang-bu. Medyo ayaw gumana ng utak ko ngayong araw. Paki explain na lang bwahahaha.

boss, patungkulan dito ang mga tinatawag ni pepe sanchez na mga "marecon"... hwe-hehe!

09-28-2011, 10:27 AM
Help me understand...

Ang babae lang ba dapat ang may karapatan magalit at ang lagung nasa tama? Dapat ba lagi pagbigyan kapag may mood swings lalo na kung nakakainit na din ng dugo? Hahaayyyyyy

Welga tayo pare. Huwag tayong maglaba at magplantsa ng isang linggo.

09-28-2011, 02:18 PM
Coks, sa tingin ko kapag minsan kailangan talaga na may isang hindi reasonable sa magkasintahan. Para lang balanse. Marami kasi akong kilala na yung lalaki ang matindi mag-mood swing, kung mag-tantrum eh daig pa nga 2-year old na nasobrahan sa asukal. Tuloy nababansagan silang "parang babae". Ganun talaga. Basta ako, naniniwala na ang tunay na lalaki ay hindi takot tumahimik hanggang lumipas yung sumpong nung babae.

Patawad sa mga naggagandahang kababaihan na makakabasa nito kung sa tingin niyo eh na-generalize ko kayo.

09-29-2011, 07:36 AM
There are times when I become too tired to think what mistake I made when I feel there is none and would just like to clarify things!

There are times when I feel I am lost even though I know I am walking in the right direction and threading the right path.

Today was one of the more fulfilling days in the field and yet ruined by a mere miscommunication and stupid misunderstanding.

Crazy stuff! Thank you Lord pa din!

Choks hamunin mo ng hiwalayan... ang puti sa de color...

10-07-2011, 03:49 AM
The 'War on Terror' rages in the Philippines
In 2002, the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines; nine years later, the campaign there continues.

As violence between insurgent groups, local governments and American troops still rages in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States continues to sponsor local military missions to combat "terrorism" in dozens of countries encompassing every major region of the world. The so-called Global War on Terror, now entering its tenth year, has become a military behemoth that accounts for the majority of US defense spending.

In the Philippines, a staunch US ally that receives most of its military funding and training from the US, the Pentagon launched Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines - part of a military effort linked with the main Operation Enduring Freedom mission in Afghanistan - to fight "terrorist insurgent groups" in 2002.

Although the military describes its mission in the Philippines as a success, nearly ten years later, the results are devastating. All-out wars against the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the communist guerilla group New People's Army (NPA) and the Islamist insurgent group Abu Sayyaf have left a trail of destruction across rural areas of the country.

While the American military argues that its presence has been a stabilising factor in the southern Philippines, wars between the government and insurgents continue with killings on a near-daily basis. And although the Philippine constitution prohibits foreign troops from participating in combat operations in the country, joint operations in war zones are often labeled military "exercises" to avoid controversy.

Nearly ten years after the initial troop deployment some 600 American special operations forces remain in the country, and will likely stay there for the foreseeable future.


10-07-2011, 01:48 PM

I think Pnoys and the AFP should consider engaging with its ASEAN neighbors (Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand etc). With a population of more than 500 million (add Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) that is almost large to counteract any external threat (like China). But if there is one nation we should look up to its brother Indonesia and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyuno. First, unlike Malaysia and Vietnam, we don't have that much problems with them in the past. Second, they are the strongest regional powerhouse in ASEAN without US or communist support. Third, when Communists tried to take over that country, General Suharto murdered millions of Chinese. ;D And fourth, according to FREEDOM HOUSE, THEY ARE THE ONLY DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY IN ASEAN. As for our poor country? Let's just say its an oligarchy masquerading/pretending/disillusioned as a democracy (as Pulse Asia founder Pepe Miranda told us).

P.S. Sa Jakarta vs Washington saan ka naman hihingi ng tulong? At kung takot tayo sa JI, sila din naman.

10-21-2011, 09:09 AM
Sa dinami-rami ng lugar na ikaw ay pwedeng masukol, dun pa sa imburnal. Binaboy mo bayan mo, masahol ka pa sa amoy ng baboy nang nilagutan ng hininga.

Tadhana nga naman.

12-07-2011, 03:23 PM
Bakit kaya hindi maremedyohan nung LRT (the one from Recto to Santolan vie Aurora blvd) 'yung mga coin-operated ticket machines nila para naman hindi maabala mga tao.

"Does not accept 2009 and 2010-series one-peso coins" daw. Don't those things just go on weight? So why not just adjust the sensors on the machines? Bad trip na maghanap ka pa ng mga mamiso na pwede, abala sa pasahero.

12-14-2011, 02:20 PM
i've missed this place haha :)

02-10-2012, 07:40 AM
Eto at may isa na namang pre-need company ang nag belly up at di na maibibigay ang ipinangakong benepisyo sa mga plan holders.

Parang nagluluksa ang pinsan ko. Ilang araw na mula nang mabalitaan niya ang nangyayari sa Prudential Life. He finds it hard to express what he is going through now.

College na ang panganay sa susunod na pasukan at susunod ang ikalawang anak sa 2014. Yung inaasahan nila konting kagaanan sa pagpapaaral ng mga bata ay naunsyami na.

Di eto ang unang pagkakataon na may ganitong nangyari sa pre-need company dito sa atin. Alam niyang namemeligro ang educational plan na kinuha nya ng magkaproblema ang CAP ilang taon na ang nagdaan. Pero nung tumawag siya sa Prudential nung panahon na iyon para magtanong kung mangyayari din ba yun sa kanila, pinanatag ang kalooban. Yun pala ay boladas lang yun.

Di niya alam kung mababawi niya pa ng buo ang pera inihulog niya. Kahit walang tubo okay lang daw. Di niya tuluyang sinubaybayan ang mga nangyari sa mga pre-need companies na nagka-problema dati kaya walang siyang ideya kung anong mangyayari sa hawak niyang policy. Ang tanong niya lang ay, "May binitay ba na mga may-ari ng mga kompanyang ito?".

Kid Cubao
02-10-2012, 11:23 AM
preneed companies are steadily losing money basically because the cost of college education keeps steadily going up at an alarming rate. preneed companies are finding it hard (some say it's already futile) to keep up with the increases. halimbawa, if in a certain fiscal year the average rate of college education shoots up an average of eight percent but the ROR of a preneed company's total investment portfolio for its trust funds is only growing at an average of six percent, eh di lugi ang preneed company sa FY na yan. now if that pattern of loss is repeated over an extended period of time, yari ang pre-need, yari ang plan holders.

another reason is sheer mismanagement of pre-need funds. according to reports, capital assurance plans or CAP (owned by the sobrepenas) went bankrupt because the group diverted the trust funds to absorb its losses in real estate (fil-estate realty corporation, camp john hay devt corp) and transportation (metro railway transport corp). kundi ako nagkakamali, inimbestigahan pa to ng senado noon.

02-10-2012, 11:17 PM
The traffic situation in Manila will only get worse up to the point that people will stop investing in the Philippines because you simply cannot go anywhere anymore!

02-11-2012, 04:25 PM
^^ In addition to what Kid Cubao said, some facts re small to medium-sized preneed companies (or banks for that matter). Most are undercapitalized. The officers are usually the majority shareholders who give themselves huge salaries, allowances, etc. They lend to their cronies with very little collateral. Many don't have the financial savvy how to invest their fund. One should be wary if a preneed company gives very generous benefits (versus current economic conditions and financial environment). Or when a bank offers higher than usual interest rates. Usually they are already in trouble. So go to the big banks or big preneed companies. Or invest your money yourself like the Special Deposit Accounts of the BSP.

02-11-2012, 06:31 PM
Simpleng kabobohan lang yan o di kaya lantarang lokohan.. Sa Pinas kasi mahilig sa mismatching ng investment. Long term needs using short term investments. "A promise" that can never be delivered, as against a more reasonable future value, because of limited investment options. No third party trustee or fund manager that will oversee the funds since these should be considered as segregated funds that cannot be touched by the company. Penchant of owners to resort to Ponzi schemes due to the decline of new clients. This in effect will result into unfunded future liabilities.

Well talk about PONZI schemes...di nga ba't this fiat based global economy is but a PONZI scheme.

Our local firms are simply learning from the criminal acts of their Western counterparts...the latest of which is MF Global. Oca, walang makukulong sa mga kriminal na yan.

02-25-2012, 08:17 AM
I assume many of us here have read the news about the supposed bribe on PAGCOR Chair Naguiat.

Halos maiyak ako sa katatawa ng malaman ko ang puno't dulo ang issue, batay sa kausap ko kagabi na isang PAGCOR employee at sa mga nabasa ko online.

Before this lawsuit of Wynn Resorts vs Kazuo Okada became known to the public, if you ask any regular employee at PAGCOR or any regular player at the casinos, this USD2,000,000,000.00 venture of Okada-- The Manila Bay Resorts-- was thought to be a "Wynn Casinos" venture.

It was a wrong impression brought about by the fact in the gaming industry Mr.Okada is known as a partner of Steve Wynn; and Okada does not independently operate any casino---- not until the time Manila Bay Resorts will become operational.

Okada's "own company"-- Universal Entertainment Corporation is noted for the invention and production of "pachinko machines" and his involvement in casino operations is due to his business relation with Steve Wynn.

There lies the root of this issue between Steve Wynn and Kazuo Okada.

Manila Bay Resorts is a venture undertaken by Mr.Okada under his company Universal Entertainment/ Tiger Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts had no part in it.

Clearly, Steve Wynn felt like a woman scorned having been left out of this Philippine venture. Hence, he had to retaliate by kicking out Okada from Wynn Resorts. He did so by filing charges that was used as a ground for Wynn Resorts to buy back the shares held by Okada. By buying back these shares held by Okada, the latter lost his seat in the Board of Wynn Resorts.

The quoted figure of USD110,000.00 bribe, the mention of Geniuno and Naguiat as recipients, were cited as "information" so as to have a basis in filing the lawsuit.

Come to think of it, in a USD2,000,000,000.00 venture, would either Genuino or Naguiat settle for USD55,000.00?

Pipti payv tawsand, tsong !

Hindi pa actual cash, kundi hotel room and board ang malaking bahagi nito.

Eto namang si Steve Wynn, kahit nagmukhang tanga na siya at nalusutan siya ni Okada, at kahit magmukhang tanga uli sa pag-cite ng information sa kanyang habla,idinamay pa ng mga Pinoy sa away nila.

Eh siya rin pala nagbigay ng "USD135,000,000.00 donation" sa isang government univeristy sa Macau gayong may pending application siya para sa additional gaming license dun.

Yan ang totoong suhol! ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

11-09-2012, 10:39 AM
Kindness and LRT/MRT

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:20 pm | Thursday, November 8th, 2012

WHAT A relief to read that the Department of Transportation and Communications will not hike LRT/MRT fares until their service improves. Commuters are up in arms over the proposed fare hikes not just because they are almost double the current rates, but because the fares just aren’t worth the terrible service.

The question now is: When will those services improve, and how? The Inquirer has published a growing number of complaints from readers about the long waits for trains and the crowding. Left unsaid are the small disasters that occur each day: fainting spells, pickpocketing, sexual harassment. I’m concerned, too, that we are waiting for major disasters to happen. I’m almost afraid to mention what could happen, but here they are: stampedes, fires, passengers running amuck. I might as well mention that with the number of people commuting, in the chaotic conditions of our LRT and MRT, you cannot expect the guards to conduct thorough security checks—and that invites the most unthinkable of disasters.

I’ve been taking the LRT and MRT occasionally for years and have seen how all three lines have deteriorated. But it wasn’t until a trip last month, on a Friday night at around 8 p.m., that I realized how totally degrading and debasing a ride could be. I challenge our government officials to see for themselves, during the rush hour.

I wanted to go from the Philippine General Hospital to San Juan. I could have gone from the Pedro Gil station to the north end of the MRT line but, thanks to the government’s poor planning, the LRT line ends on Roosevelt, which means one more jeep ride to connect to the MRT. So I decided to go in the other direction, from Pedro Gil to Edsa on the LRT line, then switch to the MRT to take me to the Annapolis station. An hour max, I thought.

Two hours later, I stumbled out of the train back at Pedro Gil and returned to PGH.

I should have known from the very beginning that it wasn’t going to work out. First, maybe because I’m so tired from my classes, plus the fact that there are no signs at the station’s entrances, I ended up boarding the station on the wrong side of the street and finding out only after a slow climb to the top with the long line. Back down then, crossing chaotic Taft and another long queue up to the right side of the station.

It wasn’t too long a wait for the train, but it was packed, smelling less of sweat than of a stale weariness. I got off at the Edsa station, walked down to the street and looked for nonexistent signs to take me to the MRT. A vendor told me to just cross the street but I noticed traffic aides at the other side looking like big bad wolves waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.

I walked back up to the Edsa station, crossed a bridge to more passageways with vendors selling cheap made-in-China toys, and was finally swallowed into a mass of people that was moving ever so slowly, as in a funeral procession. I looked at people trudging along in the other direction, also looking very tired, and sad.

No signs or directions again. I would ask people if we were moving toward the MRT. Some said yes, others shrugged, and I realized they didn’t know either. We were packed like sardines, and I wondered if the guy behind me was picking my pocket, doing a security frisk, or… Half an hour later, we had moved maybe 50 meters and I suddenly felt like we were being herded into gas chambers…or that we were already in the chambers.

Trip to hell

As we got to the end of the line, the crowd forked out in different directions. One moved to the right into another bridge leading back to the streets. I took a U-turn with another crowd then spotted, hallelujah ringing through my head, an ever so tiny sign in one corner: “MRT.” I joined the line moving into that corner but as we got closer to the gateway to heaven, we heard a guard calling out that it was only for those holding tickets.

Of course, I didn’t have a ticket and I realized now that the melancholy horde that I had seen moving in the other direction was the line to buy a ticket, and they were going back in the same direction I had come from. A sign should be put up here, I thought, and it should read: “Welcome to Hell.”

I will spare you the details of how I got back to PGH, except to say that at one point, thanks to meditation classes, I switched myself off and floated into the “Twilight Zone.” Older readers will remember that TV show’s theme music: ting ting ting ting, ting ting ting ting. On the way back, I almost bought something from the sidewalk, realizing now that the vendors were catering to parents feeling guilty about getting home so very late.

Death March

The problems with LRT and MRT aren’t just a matter of trains. All over the world, mass transit systems involve crowds, huge ones. But at least people move, with the help of signs, maps, and grumpy but helpful staff.

The problem we have here boils down to this: We are really a terribly unkind people, especially to people of lower status. Our transport systems favor those with cars and no one really cares about what happens to people on foot or on bikes, or the LRT and MRT commuters.

Being kind has to be part of the solution, starting with signs and maps that tell people where to go. People need relief, too, from the tedium, the pain. I’ve seen how Inquirer Libre lightens the start of the day for early commuters, and wish there were more copies. So people won’t feel like they’re on a Death March, it might help to put up television sets. I don’t think anyone will want to watch educational films, or government propaganda, so perhaps music videos, maybe even Willie Revillame, can serve as anesthesia. (Am I asking for trouble? I can imagine giant loudspeakers now blaring out sticky tunes.)

Maybe a more genteel alternative is to offer reading stuff. No religious propaganda, please. I know people do read, and appreciate those poems put up by Instituto Cervantes inside the coaches, so why can’t we have them as well as large billboards on the way to the stations?

Some of the LRT and MRT trains have coaches reserved for women, senior citizens, the disabled and people traveling with children, but the problem is getting into the station. So, foremost, we need courtesy lanes and special assistance for these groups just to get in and out of the stations. And for all the other commuters, it will help to put queuing barrier posts—you know, the ones with retractable straps that they use in banks and airports. People shove and push when there’s no sense of a queue.

The LRT and MRT are, for thousands of Filipinos, the face of the government, and right now it is an uncaring, unkind face. If the government can’t do a facelift, then the private sector should, what with all the talk of public service and corporate responsibility. Throw in your ads with the public services, if you will, but do something, soon.

* * *

11-09-2012, 10:49 AM
^ Si Professor Tan naman...

8:00 PM on a Friday night, and you decide you just have to take the damn trains. From PGH to San Juan. And back.

All you had to do was look at the lines extending down to street level.

Kung ako nag-FX na lang ako to Quiapo then FX ulit to Cubao via San Juan, or FX to Recto then FX to Cubao via San Juan.

Kung Greenhills ang puntirya, FX to Recto, then slow trudge up to Megatren (LRT 2) station, get off at either V Mapa or Gilmore. Jeep to Greenhills.

Or heck, trapik at abala rin lang all around, FX to Quiapo then RRCG or Greenstar bus to Greenhills na ako.

Sure ako hindi ako nabugbog sa siksikan, hindi ako nakatayo buong biyahe, hindi na ko pipila kung saan-saan, nakaupo na ako ng matiwasay na aircon all the way, baka meron pa kong TV sa bus.

PhD holder in Sociology is it, Professor Tan?

Surely at that level of intelligence, this would have been an easy call to make.

Or perhaps it merely shows how out of touch you are with the actual and real commuting situation in our benighted Metro Manila.

While you may have written this for the benefit of all train commuters, the truth is you probably wouldn't be this vociferous about the whole thing were it not for the fact that you were yourself put through this commuting hell.

That was a situation you could have avoided in its entirety had you been a little more, uh, practically sociologized.

Sam Miguel
12-13-2012, 01:01 PM
I've always wondered how and why the Name of the Good Lord ever gets invoked in the sporting world. Aling Dionisia's rant about how here son the truant Congressman fell in with the "wrong" church which led to his worst ever career loss is just the latest. How often have UAAP fans prayed for a "safe, fair, well-played game" for their team when what they really pray for is a win (even at the cost of a miracle) for their side. I mean, really, I doubt the Almighty loves even the Ateneo THAT much that She'd take sides and give a 5-Peat to the school because Atenistas are such good upstanding Catholics.

Sam Miguel
01-21-2013, 09:00 AM
Experts on deception say everyone lies

By Helen O-Neill

8:04 am | Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Lance Armstrong may have been branded liar and cheat of the month, but experts say he’s not as different from the rest of us as we’d like to believe.

Lying, they say, is part of the human condition, something most people do every day. And that’s reflected in the cavalcade of celebrities cowed into confession after their deceptions were exposed — from Richard Nixon’s denial of the Watergate break-in to Bill Clinton’s denial of an affair with an intern, from drug-abusing baseball players to fraudulent Wall Street executives.

“The world is rife with great liars,” says Robert Feldman, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts who studies lying and deception. “Nothing about the Lance Armstrong case is shocking. We all lie every day. We live in a culture where lying is quite acceptable.”

The husband who says he is working late when he is having an affair. The worker who takes long-term disability for a serious injury, only to be found puttering around the golf course. The guy who says his car broke down because he is late for work. The dog who ate your homework.

People lie to protect their self-image,” Feldman says. “Once they’ve told a lie, they are in it, they live in it, and they justify hurting others to protect the lie because they don’t see any way out.”

People who live a deception at the level of Lance Armstrong have what Feldman calls the “liar’s advantage” because they are telling us what we want to believe.

“We want to believe Lance Armstrong was a great superhero who overcame cancer and went on to win Tour de France after Tour de France,” Feldman says. “We always want to believe in the great comeback story.”

Armstrong, he says, was unusually energetic in trying to silence the opposition and damage his critics — a trait that, in the end, might be viewed as less forgivable than his lying.

“Lying is extraordinarily common and we couldn’t get along without it,” says David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of New England in Maine, and author of the book “Why We Lie.” ”It greases the wheels of society.”

Lying, Smith says, “is as automatic and unconscious as sweating.” He points out that parents teach children at an early age that “it’s OK to lie, just not to me.” Kids are told to pretend to be grateful for a Christmas gift they don’t want. And they witness their parents lying — about the tooth fairy, and the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

Wise people throughout history have understood that lying and deception is part of life, Smith says: “There is no commandment that says ‘thou shalt not lie,’” though there is a commandment against bearing false witness.

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, has spent years studying why people cheat. He is the author of a book, “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves.”

People basically try to do two things at the same time, Ariely says. “On one hand, we want to be able to look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves. So we don’t want to cheat. On the other hand, we can cheat a little bit, and still feel good about ourselves.”

He doesn’t judge Lance Armstrong as being any different — or worse — than the rest of us. He cheated in a bigger way because the stakes were higher, and the system allowed him to do so. All cheaters, whether big or small, have a huge ability to rationalize their actions as they manipulate the system, Ariely says. “They say, ‘Everyone one else was doing it’ or ‘It was for a good cause.’”

In Armstrong’s case, Ariely says, the fact that he had survived cancer and won the Tour de France multiple times and become an international role model gave him a huge incentive to justify his cheating and perhaps even believe that it actually helped him in his good works.

Most people start off lying or cheating in a small way, Ariely says, and feel nervous about their deception at first, a feeling that dissipates the more they continue.

Ariely tells of another world-class cyclist he interviewed who started using performance enhancing drugs not because he wanted to win, but because he simply wanted to catch up. He felt it was justified because everyone else was doing it. He wound up enmeshed in a spiral of lies and drug use, and eventually a drug selling scandal that led to his downfall.

“He was a classic case of, ‘I will just do it once,” Ariely says. “But then it became the slippery slope where the lies got bigger and the cheating more common and in the end he got caught.”

“Ordinary people can become extraordinary liars,” says Bella DePaulo, visiting professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, who studies deception.

In the 1990s, DePaulo and her colleagues monitored more than 100 people between the ages of 18 and 71 who kept a diary of all the lies they told over the course of a week. Most people, she found, lie once or twice a day, “everything from the little compliment to spare another person’s feelings to a self-serving statement that exaggerates their own importance, to trying to get a raise or a better deal on a car.”

But serious and long-term deception, DePaulo says, requires more planning — and help. She cites the case of journalist Stephen Glass, who fabricated articles for The New Republic in the 1990s, making up characters and quotes and even events. Like other great liars who managed to continue their deception for years, DePaulo says, Glass had enablers — people who wanted to believe he was as talented as he pretended to be.

Liars can only sustain those kinds of deceptions, DePaulo says, if they get others to invest — wittingly or unwittingly — in their lie.

“Your lies are going to have longer legs when people invest in you and look up to you and don’t want to hear that you may have been a lying, cheating, scum all along.”

Armstrong, she says, had something else — the power to make life miserable for those who threatened to reveal him.

Although Armstrong’s ruthlessness makes his cheating seem more extreme, he can’t simply be dismissed as one bad apple, Ariely says. And whether the cyclist will eventually find some kind of redemption is irrelevant.

Ariely believes the only good that can come out of the case is if society uses it to examine standards in everything from sports to business, to create new systems where cheating becomes completely unacceptable and a mea culpa to Oprah is not considered the road to forgiveness.

But he doesn’t hold out much hope. “Look at the bankers,” he says. “They all said sorry and nothing changed.”

Sam Miguel
01-21-2013, 09:14 AM
^^^ Can any of us imagine however a world where no one lies at all?

It is 1944 in the Ukraine ghetto and you are a Jew. The Nazis suspect someone is smuggling food and weapons into the ghetto to organize a resistance. You know who those people are. They ask you point blank to name them. Will you lie or will you tell the trurh?

You are having a conversation with a man whom you have known for a few years at work in the CIA. He confesses that he is a mole for Al Quaeda. He asks you to tell him who the next drone targets are in Afghanistan. Will you lie or will you tell the truth?

Tomorrow is the dealine for you to get out a report to your boss on the company's second quarter finances. There is no way you will beat the deadline. The next morning, just before your presentation, you yank the fire alarm and everything is rescheduled for next week. A colleague casually asks no one in particular who could have tripped the alarm. Will you lie or will you tell the truth?

Your six-year old daughter asks you if Santa Claus is real. Will you lie or will you tell the truth?

Sam Miguel
01-21-2013, 11:38 AM
World's happiest countries

By Chris Helmen | Forbes – Tue, Jan 15, 2013 6:32 PM EST

What does happiness mean to you? At its core it consists of being healthy, having enough food to feed yourself and your family and enough to money to do what you want and buy what you want. For most people that entails a nice home, decent clothes, a car or two, cable TV, good times with family and friends.

Furthermore, happiness means being able to speak what's on your mind without fear, to worship the God of your choosing, and to feel safe and secure in your own home.

The World's Happiest Countries:

1. Norway
2. Denmark
3. Sweden
4. Australia
5. New Zealand
6. Canada
7. Finland
8. The Netherlands
9. Switzerland
10. Ireland

Happiness means having opportunity – to get an education, to be an entrepreneur. What's more satisfying than having a big idea and turning it into a thriving business, knowing all the way that the harder you work, the more reward you can expect?

With this in mind, six years ago researchers at the Legatum Institute, a London-based nonpartisan think tank, set out to rank the happiest countries in the world. But because "happy" carries too much of a touchy-feely connotation, they call it "prosperity."

The objective of the institute's work (which is part of billionaire Christopher Chandler's Dubai-based Legatum Group) was to figure out what it is that makes happy countries happy – so that the less fortunate corners of the globe might have a benchmark to work toward.

The resulting Legatum Prosperity Index is based on a study of 142 countries comprising 96% of global population. Nations are analyzed and ranked on 89 indicators in eight categories, such as education, government and economics. The inputs for the index are both objective and subjective. It's not enough to just look at per capita GDP or unemployment rates. It also matters how hard people think it is to find jobs, or how convinced they are that hard work can bring success.

The core conceit: Prosperity is complex; achieving it relies on a confluence of factors that build on each other in a virtual circle.

So who are the happiest people in the world, as measured by Legatum? Norway takes the crown, followed by Denmark and Sweden (which leapfrogged Australia and New Zealand this year). Rounding out the Scandinavians is Finland, just a few steps behind in the seventh spot.

Luxembourg is the healthiest nation on Earth. Iceland is the safest. Switzerland has the world’s best economy and governance, according to Legatum.

What’s Norway got that the rest of the world doesn’t? For one thing, a stunning per capita GDP of $57,000 a year. Norwegians have the second-highest level of satisfaction with their standards of living: Ninety-five percent say they are satisfied with the freedom to choose the direction of their lives; an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted. It sure doesn’t hurt that the massive Norwegian welfare state is bankrolled by high taxes and big reserves of offshore oil and gas.

Indeed, most of the top 20 "happiest" countries according to the index are in western Europe. So what gives? What do these nations have in common that can somehow explain their prosperity?

Being an electoral democracy is virtually a given – of the top 20 most prosperous countries, only Singapore and Hong Kong aren't democracies. Being small also seems to help. Big countries with heterogeneous populations are more unwieldy; disparate groups make it harder for a society to build social cohesion and trust.

What else? They are all borderline socialist states, with generous welfare benefits and lots of redistribution of wealth. Yet they don't let that socialism cross the line into autocracy. Civil liberties are abundant (consider decriminalized drugs and prostitution in the Netherlands). There are few restrictions on the flow of capital or of labor.

So where does the United States rank? It's at 12th place this year, slipping from 10th. According to Legatum, the U.S. has slipped in the areas of governance, personal freedom, and most troubling, in entrepreneurship & opportunity. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but Legatum notes "a decline in citizens' perception that working hard gets you ahead."

01-22-2013, 01:49 PM
The Way of the Agnostic


Two of Simon Critchley’s recent Stone columns, “Why I Love Mormonism” and “The Freedom of Faith,” offer much-needed reflections, sympathetic but critical, on particular religions. Such reflections are important because religions occupy an ambivalent position in our world.

Even if it falls short of knowledge, religion can be an important source of understanding.

On the one hand, religions express perennial human impulses and aspirations that cannot plausibly be rejected out of hand as foolish or delusional. The idea that there is simply nothing worthwhile in religion is as unlikely as the idea that there is nothing worthwhile in poetry, art, philosophy or science. On the other hand, taken at their literal word, many religious claims are at best unjustified and at worst absurd or repugnant. There may be deep truths in religions, but these may well not be the truths that the religions themselves officially proclaim. To borrow a term Jürgen Habermas employs in a different context, religions may suffer from a “self-misunderstanding” of their own significance.

I read Critchley’s discussions of Mormonism and Catholic Christianity as good examples of how to think through the ambivalent nature of a given religion. Here I want to suggest a general framework for this sort of thinking.

To evaluate a religion, we need to distinguish the three great human needs religions typically claim to satisfy: love, understanding, and knowledge. Doing so lets us appreciate religious love and understanding, even if we remain agnostic regarding religious knowledge. (For those with concerns about talking of knowledge here: I’m using “knowledge” to mean believing, with appropriate justification, what is true. Knowledge in this sense may be highly probable but not certain; and faith—e.g., belief on reliable testimony—may provide appropriate justification.)

A religion offers a community in which we are loved by others and in turn learn to love them. Often this love is understood, at least partly, in terms of a moral code that guides all aspects of a believer’s life. Religious understanding offers a way of making sense of the world as a whole and our lives in particular. Among other things, it typically helps believers make sense of the group’s moral code. Religious knowledge offers a metaphysical and/or historical account of supernatural realities that, if true, shows the operation of a benevolent power in the universe. The account is thought to provide a causal explanation of how the religion came to exist and, at the same time, a foundation for its morality and system of understanding.

There are serious moral objections to aspects of some religions. But many believers rightly judge that their religion has great moral value for them, that it gives them access to a rich and fulfilling life of love. What is not justified is an exclusivist or infallibilist reading of this belief, implying that the life of a given religion is the only or the best way toward moral fulfillment for everyone, or that there is no room for criticism of the religion’s moral stances.

Critics of a religion — and of religion in general — usually focus on knowledge claims. This is understandable since the claims are often quite extraordinary, of a sort for which we naturally require a great deal of evidence — which is seldom forthcoming. They are not entirely without evidential support. But the evidence for religious claims — metaphysical arguments from plausible but disputable premises, intermittent and often vague experiences of the divine, historical arguments from limited data, even the moral and intellectual fruitfulness of a religious life — typically does not meet ordinary (common-sense or scientific) standards for postulating an explanatory cause. Believers often say that their religious life gives them a special access (the insight of “faith”) to religious knowledge. But believers in very different religions can claim such access, and it’s hard to see what believers in one religion can, in general, say against the contradictory claims of believers in others.

Contemporary atheists often assert that there is no need for them to provide arguments showing that religious claims are false. Rather, they say, the very lack of good arguments for religious claims provides a solid basis for rejecting them. The case against God is, as they frequently put it, the same as the case against Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. This is what we might call the “no-arguments” argument for atheism.

But the no-arguments view ignores the role of evidence and argument behind the religious beliefs of many informed and intelligent people. (For some powerful contemporary examples, see the essays in “Philosophers Who Believe” and “God and the Philosophers.”) Believers have not made an intellectually compelling case for their claims: they do not show that any rational person should accept them. But believers such as Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and Peter van Inwagen, to cite just a few examples, have well-thought-out reasons for their belief that call for serious discussion. Their belief cannot be dismissed as on a par with children’s beliefs in Santa and the Easter Bunny. We may well not find their reasons decisive, but it would be very difficult to show that no rational person could believe for the reasons that they do.

The cases intellectually sophisticated religious believers make are in fact similar to those that intellectually sophisticated thinkers (believers or not) make for their views about controversial political policies, ethical decisions or even speculative scientific theories. Here, as in religion, opposing sides have arguments that they find plausible but the other side rejects. Atheism may be intellectually viable, but it requires its own arguments and can’t merely cite the lack of decisive evidence for religion. Further, unless atheists themselves have a clearly superior case for their denial of theistic religion, then agnosticism (doubting both religion and atheism) remains a viable alternative. The no-arguments argument for atheism fails.

01-22-2013, 01:50 PM
^ Continued

There remains much more to be said about the status of religious knowledge, looking in detail at the cases for and against various religious claims. My own view is that agnosticism will often be the best stance regarding religious knowledge claims (both religious and atheistic). But my present concern is to emphasize that, even if it falls short of knowledge, religion can be an important source of understanding.

Non-believers — and many believers themselves — assume that, without a grounding in religious knowledge, there is no foothold for fruitful religious understanding. But is this really so? Is it perhaps possible to have understanding without knowledge? Here some reflections on the limits of science, our paradigm of knowledge, will be helpful.

It may well be that physical science will ultimately give us a complete account of reality. It may, that is, give us causal laws that allow us to predict (up to the limits of any quantum or similar uncertainty) everything that happens in the universe. This would allow us to entirely explain the universe as a causal system. But there are aspects of our experience (consciousness, personality, moral obligation, beauty) that may not be merely parts of the causal system. They may, for example, have meanings that are not reducible to causal interactions.

This is obvious for moral and aesthetic meanings: even a complete account of the causal production of an action will not tell us that it is good or beautiful. The same is true of semantic meaning. We might be able to predict the exact physical configuration of the writing in a text that will be composed a million years from now in a language entirely unknown to us. Looking at this configuration, we would still not be able to understand the text.

Similarly, although we do not presently have anything like a complete causal account of consciousness, we have a fairly good idea of what such an account would look like from a third-person objective perspective, looking at the brain as just another physical system. But we have almost no idea of how to incorporate into such an account the first-person subjective perspective of our concrete experience: what it is like (from the inside) to see a color, hear a symphony, love a friend or hate an enemy.

It doesn’t, however, follow that we have no ways of understanding these experiences. Not only our everyday life but also our art, literature, history and philosophy contribute to such understanding. To say that, apart from the best current results of, say, neuroscience, we have no understanding of our first-person experiences is simply absurd.

Every mode of understanding has its own ontology, a world of entities in terms of which it expresses its understanding. We can understand sexuality through Don Giovanni, Emma Bovary and Molly Bloom; the horror of war through the images of “Guernica”; our neurotic behavior through Freudian drives and complexes; or self-deception through Sartre’s being-for-itself, even if we are convinced that none of these entities will find a place in science’s final causal account of reality. Similarly, it is possible to understand our experiences of evil in the language of the Book of Job, of love in the language of the Gospel of John, and of sin and redemption in the language of Paul’s epistles.

The fault of many who reject religious ontologies out of hand is to think that they have no value if they don’t express knowledge of the world’s causal mechanisms. The fault of many believers is to think that the understanding these ontologies bring must be due to the fact that they express such knowledge.

As in the case of morality, there is no exclusive or infallible mode of understanding, religious or otherwise. Religions should, and increasingly do, accept other modes of understanding and try to integrate them with their own. Expressions of religion in art and poetry (Fra Angelico, John Donne), have always implicitly done just this.

I suggest that “non-believers” like Simon Critchley, who express serious interest in and appreciation of religions, are thinking of them as modes of living and of understanding. Both they, and the believers who welcome their attention, should keep in mind that this says nothing at all about claims to religious knowledge.

Knowledge, if it exists, adds a major dimension to religious commitment. But love and understanding, even without knowledge, are tremendous gifts; and religious knowledge claims are hard to support. We should, then, make room for those who embrace a religion as a source of love and understanding but remain agnostic about the religion’s knowledge claims. We should, for example, countenance those who are Christians while doubting the literal truth of, say, the Trinity and the Resurrection. I wager, in fact, that many professed Christians are not at all sure about the truth of these doctrines —and other believers have similar doubts. They are, quite properly, religious agnostics.

Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author of, most recently, “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960,” and writes regularly for The Stone. He was recently interviewed in 3am magazine.

01-22-2013, 01:55 PM
The Freedom of Faith: A Christmas Sermon


In an essay in The Times’ Sunday Book Review this week the writer Paul Elie asks the intriguing question: Has fiction lost its faith? As we are gathered here today, let us consider one of the most oddly faithful of all fiction writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. More specifically, I’d like focus pretty intensely on what some consider to be the key moment in his greatest novel — arguably one of the greatest of all time — “The Brothers Karamazov.” (Elie himself notes the 1880 masterpiece as an example of the truly faith-engaged fiction of yore.) I speak in particular of the “Grand Inquisitor” scene, a sort of fiction within a fiction that draws on something powerful from the New Testament — Jesus’s refusal of Satan’s three temptations — and in doing so digs at the meaning of faith, freedom, happiness and the diabolic satisfaction of our desires.

First a little biblical background.

Scene 1 – In which Christ is sorely tempted by Satan

After fasting for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, Jesus is understandably a little hungry. Satan appears and tempts him. The temptation takes the form of three questions. The first involves food. The Devil says, and I paraphrase, “If you are, as you say, the son of God, then turn these stones in the parched and barren wilderness into loaves of bread. Do this, not so much to feed yourself, starved as you are, but in order to feed those that might follow you, oh Son of God. Turn these stones into loaves and people will follow you like sheep ever after. Perform this miracle and people will happily become your slaves.”

Jesus replies, “Not on bread alone shall man live, but on every word proceeding through the mouth of God.” In other words: “Eat the bread of heaven.” Jesus refuses to perform the miracle that he could easily carry out — he is, after all, God — in the name of what? We will get to that.

Next Jesus is brought up to the roof of the temple in Jerusalem. Satan invites him to throw himself down. For if he is the Son of God, then the armies of angels at his command will save him from smashing his feet against the rocks below. Such a party trick, performed in the crowded hubbub of the holy city, would appear to all to be an awesome mystery that would incite the loyal to devotion. Mystery, by definition, cannot be understood. But Jesus flatly refuses the temptation, saying, “Thou shalt not overtempt the God of thee.”

The third temptation raises the stakes even higher. Satan takes Jesus to an exceedingly high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth. He says to him, “To thee I will give authority and the glory of them, for such is my power and in my power to give. But if you will worship me, then I will give all the power and the glory to you.” Jesus’s reply is just two words in New Testament Greek: “Go, Satan!”

With these words, the Devil evaporates like dew under a desert sun.

Scene 2 – In which Christ denies authority and affirms the freedom of faith

In refusing these three temptations and refuting these three questions, Jesus is denying three potent forces: miracle, mystery and authority. Of course, the three forces are interlinked: the simplest way to get people to follow a leader is by the miraculous guarantee of bread, namely endless economic abundance and wealth. It is the mystery of authority that confirms our trust in it, the idea of an invisible hand or mysterious market forces all of which tend benevolently towards human well being.

What Satan promises Jesus in the last temptation is complete political authority, the dream of a universal state. Namely, that one no longer has to render to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Temporal and eternal power can be unified under one catholic theological and political authority with the avowed aim of assuring universal happiness, harmony and unity.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? So, why does Jesus refuse Satan’s temptations? In John 8, when Jesus is trying to persuade the scribes and Pharisees of his divinity — which proves somewhat difficult — he says that if they have faith in him, then this will be faith in the truth and this truth shall make them free or, better translated, the truth will free (eleutherosei). The first thing that leaps out of this passage is the proximity of faith and truth. Namely, that truth does not consist of the empirical truths of natural science or the propositional truths of logic. It is truth as a kind of troth, a loyalty or fidelity to that which one is betrothed, as in the act of love. The second is the idea that truth, understood as the truth of faith, will free.

The question arises: what is meant by freedom here and is it in the name of such freedom that Jesus refuses Satan’s temptations? Such, of course is the supremely tempting argument of the Grand Inquisitor at the heart of “The Brothers Karamazov.” Truth to tell, it appears to be a rather strange argument, placed as it is in the mouth of the avowed sensualist for whom everything is permitted: Ivan Karamazov. As his younger brother, Alyosha (the purported hero of the book), points out, the argument is apparently in praise of Jesus and not in blame of him.

Scene 3 – Be happy! Why Jesus must burn

Ivan has written a prose poem, set in the 16th century, in Seville, Spain, during the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when heretics were being burnt alive willy-nilly like firebugs. In the poem, after a particularly magnificent auto-da-fé — when almost a hundred heretics were burnt by the Grand Inquisitor, the eminent cardinal, in the presence of the king, the court and its charming ladies — Christ suddenly appears and is recognized at once. People weep for joy, children throw flowers at his feet and a large crowd gathers outside the cathedral. At that moment, the Grand Inquisitor passes by the cathedral and grasps what is happening. His face darkens. Such is his power and the fear he inspires that the crowd suddenly falls silent and parts for him. He orders Jesus arrested and thrown into prison.

Later, the Grand Inquisitor enters the cell and silently watches Jesus from the doorway for a long time. Face-to-face, they retain eye contact throughout. Neither of them flinches. Eventually, the cardinal says, “Tomorrow, I shall condemn thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the people who today kissed Thy feet tomorrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest it.” He adds, “Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?” Jesus says nothing.

The Grand Inquisitor’s final question appears paradoxical: how might the reappearance of Jesus interfere with the functioning of the most holy Catholic Church? Does the Church not bear Christ’s name? The answer is fascinating. For the Grand Inquisitor, what Jesus brought into the world was freedom, specifically the freedom of faith: the truth that will free. And this is where we perhaps begin to sympathize with the Grand Inquisitor. He says that for 1500 years, Christians have been wrestling with this freedom. The Grand Inquisitor too, when younger, also went into the desert, lived on roots and locusts, and tried to attain the perfect freedom espoused by Jesus. “But now it is ended and over for good”, he adds, “After fifteen centuries of struggle, the Church has at last vanquished freedom, and has done so to make men happy.”

Scene 4 – Obedience or happiness?

What is it that makes human beings happy? In a word, bread. And here we return to Jesus’ answers to Satan’s desert temptations. In refusing to transform miraculously the stones into loaves, Jesus rejected bread for the sake of freedom, for the bread of heaven. Jesus refuses miracle, mystery and authority in the name of a radical freedom of conscience. The problem is that this freedom places an excessive burden on human beings. It is too demanding; infinitely demanding, one might say. As Father Mapple, the preacher in the whaleboat pulpit early in Melville’s “Moby Dick” says, “God’s command is a hard command. In order to obey it, we must disobey ourselves.” If the truth shall set you free, then it is a difficult freedom.

The hardness of God’s command, its infinitely demanding character, is the reason why, for the Grand Inquisitor, “Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the miserable creature of born.” Give people the miracle of bread, and they will worship you. Remove their freedom with submission to a mystery that passeth all understanding, and they will obey your authority. They will be happy. Lord knows, they may even believe themselves to be free in such happiness.

Freedom as expressed here is not the rigorous freedom of faith, but the multiplication of desires whose rapid satisfaction equals happiness. Freedom is debased and governed by a completely instrumental, means-end rationality. Yet, to what does it lead? In the rich, it leads to the isolation of hard hedonism and spiritual suicide. In the poor, it leads to a grotesque and murderous envy to be like the rich. And — as the hypocritical pièce de resistance — both rich and poor are in the grip of an ideology that claims that human beings are becoming more and more globalized and interconnected, and thereby united into a virtual world community that overcomes distance. But we are not.

01-22-2013, 01:56 PM
^ Continued

Scene 5 – Oh Lord: The Church is in league with the Devil

Back in the prison cell with the ever-silent Jesus, the Grand Inquisitor acknowledges that because of the excessive burden of freedom of conscience, “We have corrected Thy work and founded it on miracle, mystery and authority.” This is why the Grand Inquisitor says, “Why has Thou come to hinder us?”

Then comes the truly revelatory moment in the Grand Inquisitor’s monologue, which Jesus knows already (obviously, because he is God). Knowing that he knows, the cardinal says, “Perhaps it is Thy will to hear it from my lips. Listen, then. We are not working with Thee, but with him – that is our mystery.” The Church is league with the Devil. It sits astride the Beast and raises aloft the cup marked “Mystery.” The Grand Inquisitor is diabolical. This explains why he is so fascinated with the temptations that Jesus faced in the desert. The Church has been seduced by those temptations in Jesus’ name.

The paradox is that the Church accepted those temptations in the hope of finding — as the Grand Inquisitor elegantly puts it — “Some means of uniting all in one unanimous and harmonious ant-heap.” The dream of a universal church, or a universal state, or the unity of all nations, or a cosmopolitan world order founded on perpetual peace, or whatever, is Satan’s most persuasive and dangerous temptation. The freedom proclaimed by Jesus is too demanding and makes people unhappy. We prefer a demonic happiness to an unendurable freedom. All that human beings want is to be saved from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves.

Scene 6 – The kiss and the curse

And so, all will be happy, except those, like the Grand Inquisitor, who guard the mystery and know the secret. They will be unhappy. But it is a price worth paying. The true Christians, by contrast, see themselves as the elect, the 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes who will be the company of saints in the millennium that follows Christ’s second coming. This is why the Grand Inquisitor says, “I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work. I left the proud and went back to the humble, for the happiness of the humble.” This is why Christ hinders the work of the Church and why he must burn like a heretic.

At this point, the Grand Inquisitor stops speaking. Silence descends. The prisoner Jesus continues to look gently into the old Cardinal’s face, who longs for him to say something, no matter how terrible. Jesus rises, approaches the old man and softly kisses his bloodless lips. The Grand Inquisitor shudders, but the kiss still glows in his heart. He stands and heads for the door, saying to Jesus, “Go, and come no more…Come not at all…never, never!”

Scene 7 – Demonic happiness or unbearable freedom?

Back with the two brothers: Ivan immediately disavows the poem as senseless and naïve. But Alyosha upbraids Ivan, claiming he is an atheist and saying, “How will you live and how will you love with such a hell in your heart.” As Father Zossima — whose recollections and exhortations are intended as a refutation of Ivan in the following chapters of the book — says, “What is hell? I maintain that it is the incapacity to love.” The scene ends with Alyosha softly kissing Ivan on the lips, an act that the latter objects to as plagiarism.

Dostoevsky in no way wants to defend the position that Ivan Karamazov outlines in his poem. But Dostoevsky’s great virtue as a writer is to be so utterly convincing in outlining what he doesn’t believe and so deeply unconvincing in defending what he wants to believe. As Blake said of “Paradise Lost,” Satan gets all the best lines. The story of the Grand Inquisitor places a stark choice in front of us: demonic happiness or unbearable freedom?

And this choice conceals another, deeper one: truth or falsehood? The truth that sets free is not, as we saw, the freedom of inclination and passing desire. It is the freedom of faith. It is the acceptance — submission, even — to a demand that both places a perhaps intolerable burden on the self, but which also energizes a movement of subjective conversion, to begin again. In disobeying ourselves and obeying this hard command, we may put on new selves. Faith hopes for grace.

Scene 8 – In which doubt and faith unite

To be clear, such an experience of faith is not certainty, but is only gained by going into the proverbial desert and undergoing diabolical temptation and radical doubt. On this view, doubt is not the enemy of faith. On the contrary, it is certainty. If faith becomes certainty, then we have become seduced by the temptations of miracle, mystery and authority. We have become diabolical. There are no guarantees in faith. It is defined by an essential insecurity, tempered by doubt and defined by a radical experience of freedom.

This is a noble and, indeed, God-like position. It is also what Jesus demands of us elsewhere in his teaching, in the Sermon on the Mount, when he says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you or persecute you.” If that wasn’t tough enough, Jesus adds, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” This is a sublime demand. It is a glorious demand. But it is, finally a ridiculous demand. Inhuman, even. It is the demand to become perfect, God-like. Easy for Jesus to say, as he was God. But somewhat more difficult for us.

Scene 9 – In which the Grand Inquisitor is, finally, defended

So what about us human beings, feeble, imperfect, self-deceived — the weakest reeds in nature? Does not Jesus’ insistence on the rigor and purity of faith seem, if not like pride, then at least haughtiness? The Grand Inquisitor, and the institution of the Church that he represents, accepted Satan’s temptations not out of malice, but out of a genuine love for humanity. This was based on the recognition of our flawed imperfection and need to be happy, which we perhaps deserve.

If the cost of the pure rigor of true faith is the salvation of the happy few, then this condemns the rest of us, in our millions and billions, to a life that is a kind of mockery. The seemingly perverse outcome of Dostoevsky’s parable is that perhaps the Grand Inquisitor is morally justified in choosing a lie over the truth.

The Grand Inquisitor’s dilemma is, finally, tragic: he knows that the truth which sets us free is too demanding for us, and that the lie that grants happiness permits the greatest good of the greatest number. But he also knows that happiness is a deception that leads ineluctably to our damnation. Is the Grand Inquisitor’s lie not a noble one?

Scene 10 – In which the author expresses doubt

To be perfectly (or imperfectly) honest, I don’t know the answer to this question. Which should we choose: diabolical happiness or unendurable freedom? Perhaps we should spend some days and nights fasting in the desert and see what we might do. Admittedly, this is quite a difficult thing to sustain during the holiday period.

Happy Holidays!

Simon Critchley teaches philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is the author of, most recently, “The Faith of the Faithless,” and the forthcoming “”Stay, Illusion!” on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” co-written with Jamieson Webster. He is the moderator of this series.

Sam Miguel
01-23-2013, 09:24 AM
10 brain twisters for motorists, pedestrians

By Tessa R. Salazar

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:24 pm | Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Manila was named in 2012 the world’s third-worst city for driving, as published in various online news portals, the source of which was CNNGo (CNN’s travel website). MSN Autos also named Manila the 10th-worst city to drive in in the world, just faring better than Mumbai, Beijing, Orlando, Toronto, Seoul and the like.

Although the author made it clear that only the City of Manila and not the whole country was cited for inclusion into the “worst” list, it goes without saying that the driving conditions in Manila are naturally a reflection of the driving condition in any city in the country.

Here is the site’s “short but sweet” description of the driving conditions in the city:

“Triple-lane changes, ignoring other drivers, never signaling, breezing through red lights … these are all things drivers can expect when in Manila, the Philippine capital. Others to keep in mind include using the opposite lanes of traffic to get out of traffic jams, honking your horn frantically and making left turns from the far right lane. Mix in terrible roads and less-than-perfect signage, and this equals a terrible, terrible brew.”

Here are some of the confusing (and sometimes even downright dangerous) traffic signs (or lack of them), installations and road conditions we’ve encountered as Inquirer Motoring navigated Metro Manila’s web of roads:

1.) Concrete barriers/lane separators along Commonwealth, Quezon City, near Philcoa, and along Alabang-Zapote Road in Las Piñas. Brace for these “unannounced” dividers, and good luck to drivers new to the place and unaware of these concrete barriers/dividers (which have turned dark because of pollution). These dividers, especially along the Commonwealth stretch, are merely as high as the pavement and are easily submerged in shin-deep floods, significantly raising the danger factor even for drivers used to passing the area. Solution: Why not do it like they do along Ayala Avenue? Put steel railings on top of the concrete dividers, and put illumination at the beginning, along the middle, and at the end of the stretch of the divider.

Daisy Jacobo, traffic safety division chief of the Land Transportation Office, advises traffic officials in the area to install “advance road signs at least 100 feet from confirmatory signs.”

2.) Potholes without warning. Picture this scenario: It’s midnight, and you’re driving on an unlighted street. Suddenly, a deep pothole with only a piece of propped-up plywood announces its presence directly ahead. You’re driving straight into it at 60 kph, and you only have a few meters left. It’s a sure trip to disaster. And don’t think this trap is limited to motorists. Sidewalks, especially on a stretch along Daang Hari in Alabang near the Madrigal Business Park, also carry an exposed sewer line.

“I would like to see a radical reduction of these dreaded potholes since it always messes up the wheel alignment of my cars, and I have my cars’ alignment religiously checked,” says Francis Samonte, Toyota Auto Club Philippines chairman.

3.) Cluttered and confused. Eisele Buntua, a motorist and car enthusiast, complains: “Along Edsa, in the vicinity of Magallanes to Edsa Crossing, road signs, lanes and barriers are all confusing or have cluttered positioning. There’s not enough time to figure out what info they’re trying to relay, especially those going into underpasses or underneath the flyovers.”

Auto and road traffic expert Alex Loinaz adds that the “Stop” and “Give Way” signs near or next to each other can be “pretty confusing,” pointing to an area near the bus stop in Trinoma corner Edsa and North Avenue that puts both signs together. The same dual signs, he said, can also be found in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. “The two signs mean different instructions to the motorist. Stop is the complete cessation of movement under any circumstance, while Give Way can either suggest you to stop or proceed cautiously without stopping.”

4.) Deceiving for a living. Motorist Bel Sayson’s Facebook post on Jan. 17 asked his friends to be careful when making a U-turn under Boni Serrano Avenue (near Camp Crame). Sayson warned that a confusing warning painted below the U-Turn sign would make motorists prone to a traffic violation.

Sayson explained to Inquirer Motoring that his concern was “swiftly acted upon” and that “the MMDA solved the predicament within 24 hours after my posting.”

True enough, the MMDA’s Jan. 17 post on its Facebook page read: “Regarding the post going around about (the) confusing signage at Edsa Santolan U-Turn slot and MMDA enforcers allegedly preying on motorists in that area, the matter has been forwarded to both Edsa enforcement heads and to Traffic Engineering Center. The signages will be modified to relay a clearer message.”

And what was that misleading sign painted below the word “U-Turn”? In green paint similar to the background color of the sign was the phrase “Only from 5:00 PM to 6:00 AM.” Naturally, Sayson explained, by the time the motorist reads the “fine print,” the hapless driver would have been committed to the act, and it would have been too late to back up, and the MMDA enforcers at the exiting end of the U-Turn would have spotted the violator.

5.) No right on red. There are some intersections that explicitly warn right-turning motorists to wait until their light turns green before they can proceed. But does that mean that in other intersections where there are no such signs, right-turners can go at it anytime? This can be cause for heated arguments between enforcers and apprehended motorists. So, why not be uniform, eliminate the guesswork, and place signs of either “No right turn on red” or “Turn right anytime with care” on all major intersections?

6.) The road to nowhere. Wheel expert Sam Liuson stressed, “Authorities should seriously look into some lanes on Edsa that just end in the middle of a sidewalk (like the innermost lane southbound coming out of the Shaw underpass).

7.) The left-turn dilemma. On the progressive Bonifacio Global City, there are intersections that instruct left turners to turn left when the round green light is on. However, there are also some intersections that have separate stoplights for left-turning vehicles, as indicated in a green left turn arrow, and they are not synchronized to go green at the same time as the main stoplight. This might cause confusion among motorists, especially when left-turning lights are malfunctioning or are busted. A motorist who sees that he or she can turn left when the green light for motorists going straight ahead is on will naturally think that the next intersection’s signaling rules are the same. When that motorist arrives at an intersection with a left-turn stoplight in place, and if that light is malfunctioning, he or she would assume that the round green light would also apply to left turners, dangerously unaware that the opposite lane had also been given the green and go.

8.) Too many lanes on the road. You’ll notice it all the time: Highways and avenues in Metro Manila that have lane markings that leave lanes too narrow. What do our traffic officials think, that we all drive subcompacts? You can tell a lane has been marked too narrowly when even a six-wheeler truck can barely fit into the lane. Perhaps the DPWH can remeasure the roads and redo the lane markings accordingly.

And then there are the wide roads that literally end up getting narrow. Motorist and car show organizer Sophie de los Santos oberved, “We definitely need to improve on road infrastucture planning. There are a lot of streets here in Manila where wide roads end up narrowing towards an intersection! Bad!”

Liuson noted that the Edsa-Magallanes-Pasong Tamo tunnel intersection needs to be redesigned a la Edsa-Quezon Avenue intersection.

9.) Into the dark. Brightly lit streets aren’t only deterrents to street criminality, but also aid immensely in helping motorists safely navigate through the city at night. A vehicle’s headlights can only illuminate so much space. Many areas of the visual periphery are left in the dark.

Motorist Rufi Parpan stresses the local governments should invest more on streetlights. “I’m not sure who exactly has control or responsibility over these but as our local politicians are moving on once again toward greater visibility, then let’s have them put up more streetlights.”

10.) Pedestrian-unfriendly sidewalks. Auto enthusiast Niky Tamayo laments, “It’s obvious our sidewalks and elevated/sunken crosswalks were not designed by people who actually walk. Walking a mere four blocks in Makati every day, for example, is enough to give you buns of steel. Great if you’re young, but for the old and the disabled, Manila is a terrible place.”

Landscape architect/urban planner Paulo Alcazaren posted on Jan. 15 in his Facebook page a picture of a much-too-narrow walkway in an MRT station.

Alcazaren’s post says: “What is lacking in most of Metro Manila is good urban design. We have mass transit but almost no thought is given to how commuters access terminals. A case in point is the MRT terminal near Robinsons Ortigas. Tens of thousands have to get from the malls and offices only to have to pass through space barely wide enough for one person. What were they thinking? Isn’t it just common sense to allow sidewalks (to be) wide enough for the volume of people riding city transit?”

Alcazaren told Inquirer last Monday that “the ADB (Asian Development Bank) has plans to help address this problem.”

Readers, show us your own brain-twisting encounters as a motorist and/or a pedestrian in your city. E-mail the author at tsalazar@inquirer.com.ph.

Sam Miguel
02-15-2013, 10:20 AM
The humanities are just as important as STEM classes

By Danielle Allen, Feb 15, 2013 12:57 AM EST

The Washington Post Friday, February 15, 8:57 AM

Danielle Allen is a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Her forthcoming book, co-edited with Rob Reich, is “Education, Justice, and Democracy.”

In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced that the Education Department would launch another competition to spur educational reform in the states.

Four years ago, the Race to the Top program drove changes in state policy on charter schools, teacher tenure, and standards and accountability. Now the administration proposes a competition to “redesign America’s high schools.” Rewards will go to schools that develop more classes “that focus on science, technology, engineering and math — the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future,” the president said.

Let’s not forget that you can’t do well in math and engineering if you can’t read proficiently, and that reading is the province of courses in literature, language and writing. Nor can you do well in science and technology if you can’t interpret images and develop effective visualizations — skills that are strengthened by courses in art and art history.

You also can’t excel at citizenship if you can’t read, write or speak well, or understand the complexity of the world and think historically. History helps us understand the features of our worlds that are changeable and that require either reform, because they are damaging, or protection, because they are valuable but vulnerable.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead likes to point out that Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Harold Varmus, the director of the National Cancer Institute; and Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, all studied the humanities. Dempsey and Varmus have degrees in English. Although Jobs dropped out, he initially attended Reed College, famous for its strong emphasis on the humanities.

U.S. high schools absolutely need to innovate. But our students also need to achieve at far higher levels in the fields of the humanities, not merely in the STEM fields.

Better than a challenge to states to enhance their STEM education would be a challenge to states to build curricular and pedagogic innovations that will allow them to succeed at meeting the new Common Core State Standards.

An initiative of the National Governors Association, the standards seek to clarify the knowledge and skills students need for success in the workforce and in college. There are two sets of standards: one for mathematics and one for English language arts and literacy in history/*social studies, science and technical subjects.

No Child Left Behind left it to states to set their own standards. But because the Common Core standards are being implemented by 45 states and the District, we will soon have an opportunity at last to compare the quality of education throughout the country.

The Common Core standards recognize that literacy, the humanities and history are as important as math, science and technical subjects in preparing students for jobs and college. They will also improve our ability to prepare students for citizenship. They should, in other words, help us achieve not only college and work readiness but also participatory readiness.

States are going to have a hard time rising to the level of the new standards. So we could use another competition to excite innovation — but let’s have a competition to spur states’ efforts to find ways of teaching successfully to the Common Core standards. This would entail fostering innovation and improvement for instruction in language arts and historical and civic literacy, as well as in STEM fields. We can do both. Surely we citizens should be that ambitious.

Sam Miguel
02-15-2013, 10:22 AM
A natural gas strategy Democrats should heed

By Editorial Board, Feb 15, 2013 01:08 AM EST

The Washington Post Friday, February 15, 9:08 AM

“THE NATURAL-GAS boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence,” President Obama declared in his State of the Union addressTuesday night. “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), Maryland Democrats and other friends of Mr. Obama should listen up.

The president is right. The United States sits atop seas of natural gas, a fuel that drives electric turbines, warms homes, heats water and even powers some big trucks. Much of this gas is in unconventional deposits that drillers have only begun to tap. Now that they have, the price of the fuel has plummeted and the United States has gone from a gas importer to a potential exporter, with decades of supply left.

Natural gas also burns cleaner than coal, which had been the dominant fuel used in electricity generation until the vast new gas fields opened up. Burning gas produces substantially less carbon dioxide, the main driver of global warming, than does coal, and it doesn’t pollute the air with coal’s toxic cocktail of particulates and gases. Turning off coal-fired power plants while ramping up gas-burning facilities is one of the trends behind the recent drop in U.S. carbon emissions — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that power-plant emissions dropped 4.6 percent in 2011 alone.

The country can’t use natural gas forever, because it still produces some carbon dioxide. But gas can, for a time, serve as a low-cost alternative to dirtier fossil fuels in a program to steadily green the economy. Particularly when combined with a smart climate policy, such as a carbon tax, the availability of lots of natural gas is a national blessing.

But extracting unconventional gas is controversial, in part because it involves “fracking” — pumping a mixture of water and other substances deep underground to fracture rock formations, freeing trapped gas. Environmentalists have mobilized against the practice, despite its potential to help reduce carbon emissions.

So, whereas Mr. Obama is promising to fast-track development, many of his fellow Democrats are dragging their feet. Mr. Cuomo’s administration, for example, said Tuesday that, after years of consideration, it would miss another deadline to write new fracking rules, which could trigger another lengthy delay in the development of New York’s large gas reserves. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in 2011 halted permitting in his state pending a study, but the legislature failed to fund the research. Now Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) wants to establish a formal moratorium, and the O’Malley administration is saying that, even if the study is done by an August 2014 deadline, the state might have to complete more studies.

The president’s approach is better. While praising the energy boom for all its benefits, he has also concluded that reasonable new regulations could make extracting gas much cleaner, and his administration has gone about writing them. One of them, from the EPA, would require that drillers prevent pollutants from escaping into the air during extraction, addressing one of the activists’ primary criticisms. More Democrats should take after their leader.

03-06-2013, 08:23 AM
The Lopez Family’s environment war

Wednesday, 06 March 2013 00:00


‘Gina, the pseudo eco-warrior, and her bunch of noisy allies are now meek as lambs.’

SAGITTARIUS Mines Inc. (SMI) waited three years for an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) before it could start its $5.9 billion copper-gold mine project in Tampakan. This, despite the fact that SMI was the country’s single largest foreign direct investment ever. SMI is already two years behind schedule, and still no one knows when it can expect to start operations in Tampakan, a small, impoverished town in South Cotabato.

When a portion of a mining pit in Semirara Island collapsed and left five workers dead and five others missing last February, the President told the Department of Energy (DOE) to suspend the operations of Semirara Coal and Mining Co.

When a typhoon-induced accident led to a non-toxic leak in one of the tailings ponds of the Padcal mine in Benguet last August, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje ordered its closure and directed the operator, Philex Mining, to pay over P1 billion in fines. The Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) also dunned Philex another P92.8 million in fines for violations of the Clean Water Act for a non-toxic leak!

Clearly, this government is not large-scale mining’s best friend!


So, why is government being soft on the Energy Development Corp (EDC)? A landslide last week in its geothermal power facility in Leyte left at least five of 45 workers dead and nine others missing.

A statement issued by EDC, a corporation of the Lopez family, says that a landslide occurred in its Upper Mahiao geothermal project in Barangay Lim-ao, Kananga, Leyte where its contractor, First Balfour Inc., was doing civil works.

First Balfour is also a Lopez-controlled firm. The dead and injured were employees of First Balfour’s subcontractor.

The Upper Mahiao plant is one of four production wells belonging to EDC’s Leyte Geothermal Production Fields, considered to be the biggest wet steam field in the world with a geothermal reservation spanning 107,625 hectares. EDC’s three other wells are Tongonan 1, Malitbog and Mahanagdong.

Acting Leyte Gov. Mimiette Bagulaya, albeit indirectly, implies that force majeure could not have been the cause of the EDC landslide.

She says that the province will investigate to find the real cause of the landslide. She says that the area is not landslide-prone and points out that “this is the first time” for the area.


If Government, as it should, cracks down hard on EDC, civil society groups should also join in with their fiery rhetoric usually reserved for companies they demonize as scourges of the environment.

The incidents in Padcal and Semirara brought out “pro-environment” groups denouncing these accidents as the latest evidence of Big Mining’s being a bane to the environment. Even when the DENR finally issued an ECC to SMI, they still accuse SMI not only of destroying the environment but also of dislocating indigenous communities and sponsoring military atrocities in the area.


Using outdated or skewed data and misleading information, left-leaning activists, with lots of support from civil society groups led by self-styled “eco-warriors,” go against the mining sector as its favored bete noir.

Human rights violations and military bashing being no longer in vogue, militants need whipping boys to bash during their street protests to justify the continued flow of foreign funds to their so-called “foundations” and “civic organizations.”

But intriguingly, these armies of activists and eco-warriors are now silent on the Kananga landslide when they should be marching on the streets denouncing the EDC.

Five people died and nine other workers are still missing. Why don’t we hear one peep from this army of “eco-warriors?” Could it be because among these “eco-warriors” is Gina Lopez of the powerful Lopez clan, which owns the EDC?


If Gina, the pseudo eco-warrior, and her bunch of noisy allies are now meek as lambs, can we, at least, expect something from the Senate, considering that Sen. Sergio Osmeña III had earlier called for an exhaustive probe of the mine tailings spill in Padcal? Right?

Wrong? The Senator is married to a Lopez–Isabel “Bettina” Mejia Lopez. So, maybe not!

Even in the Lopez-controlled ABS-CBN network, the EDC landslide has not merited the reportage the network gave other similar disasters with human casualties. On its website, ABS-CBN posted just one story per day on the EDC landslide compared to as many as two to three stories daily on the Semirara incident immediately after the landslide in Antique.


The government should not hesitate to impose a heavy fine on EDC, as it did with Philex.

EDC can well afford a hefty fine. After all, its revenues continue to grow at a steady pace, despite the Kananga incident and the temporary closure of its 150-megawatt Bacon-Manito plant in Bicol. “We know there will be steady growth until 2017,” EDC finance officer Nestor Vasay proudly proclaimed last weekend as he projected EDC’s gross revenues to soar to an aggregate of P30 billion this year from P26 billion in 2012.


Government regulators ought to watch EDC like a hawk on this matter in view of the Lopezes’ dismal record in ecological protection despite Gina Lopez’s image as a poster girl for the environment..

Consider the following examples:

1. The Northern Negros Geothermal Power Plant (NNGPP) in Mt. Kanlaon, another firm managed by EDC cut down thousands of trees and dislocated wild flora and fauna in the area.

The Save Mt Kanlaon Movement has asked the President to order the closure of NNGPP!

2. Then, there is the continuing nightmare of occupants of the West Tower Condominium in Bangkal, Makati City due to a blunder of yet another Lopez-owned company–the First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC).

FPIC says that the fuel leak in its pipeline buried under the condominium is now down to “contaminant plumes”, even as the building’s residents claim otherwise.

FPIC’s claims are prominently reported by ABS-CBN and FPIC has made it appear that there is now nothing to worry about.

An expert, Dr. Carlo Arcilla of the UP Diliman National Institute of Geological Sciences (UPNIGS) says otherwise. While the FPIC commissioned a third party to clean up the contaminated water underground, 25-30 percent of the leaked fuel remains as a gas cloud of contaminants that cannot be easily removed. (Makati City sought the help of UP-NIGS as consultants in handling this environmental disaster). Dr. Arcilla describes the residents’ situation as a case of “what-you-cannot-see-could-really-hurt-you.”

Even as the leak occurred three years ago, the leak continues to pose a threat to the health and safety of the unit owners in West Tower Condominium and other residents of Bangkal. This even becomes a bigger threat in the future because the “principal causing force” in this disaster is still present even if remediation and cleanup are ongoing.

3. Brooke’s Point in Palawan is yet another example of the Lopez double standard.

Gina Lopez has been ranting about protecting our environment from mining firms, yet her own ABS-CBN Foundation Bantay Kalikasan has been accused of illegally occupying an area considered as sacred tribal ground in Brooke’s Point. Gina’s resort in Sabsaban Falls has cut down trees to build cottages without the consent of the indigenous peoples in the area.

At least four lodging structures have been put up in Gina Lopez’s resort, which she calls a Glamping (glamour camping) project. The ABS-CBN Foundation, of which Lopez is managing director, has reportedly been charging P25,000 for a day’s stay in the resort, on top of collecting fees for crossing a bridge that tribal groups built long before Gina and the Lopez foundation invaded Brooke’s Point.

Gina claims to have secured the appropriate local government permits to desecrate Brooke’s Point and turn it into a socialite’s idea of a camping site.

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) disagrees and wants Gina’s resort padlocked because of the absence of a permit from the Council. Republic Act 7611 which created the PCSD, mandates that a Strategic Environment Plan (SEP) clearance from the PCSD is required for any private or government project in Palawan’s forest areas.

The DENR has ordered a probe into the reported tree cutting and takeover of ancestral lands in Brooke’s Point without the approval of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), but that’s the extent of the national government’s action in protecting the environment against the likes of Gina and the family Lopez’s environmental misdeeds.

Sam Miguel
03-07-2013, 10:55 AM
‘The dark-skinned child who loved to draw’

By Asuncion David Maramba

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:14 pm | Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Sampaloc around UST (University of Santo Tomas) was the place to be right after Liberation. It was the first area to be liberated because of the concentration camp at UST where Americans caught in the war were held; the environs teemed with GIs, schools converted into hospitals, night spots for war-weary GIs and WACs, and army vehicles.

Even at 11, I could feel the wartime-peacetime melange as I walked to an army dental clinic for a decayed molar caught in a war. I tasted my first postwar pork and beans and the melt-proof Hershey’s constituted to resist tropical heat, as was the rubbery butter.

Our family had evacuated to Kuya Manoling (Manuel Conde) and Ate Lita’s house on Maria Cristina Street just off España. There I first laid eyes on the early paintings of Botong Francisco—well, not exactly “laid eyes,” because I just walked past them day in and day out not realizing that they were masterpieces.

There were four or five paintings (I now forget how many), at least two big ones. I recall farmers having a noon meal beside stacks of rice, and a fluvial parade for the Virgin on a balsa (raft), paintings standing out in the sala and in the dining room.

I also saw Botong every now and then, especially in the store on the first floor. But I gave him as much attention as I did his paintings. Botong and Kuya Manoling were soul mates, bosom pals, brothers in art. Most probably it never occurred to either of them that they would both become National Artists.

How I now wish I listened to what the two were chatting about, for I was at the age when “little” boys and girls can eavesdrop all they want and nobody minds. Even then, fleetingly, Botong’s face was to me like an open book—so simple, so sincere.

By the time my wedding drew near in 1960, Botong had become a big name. All I asked from Ate Lita as a wedding gift was one page of Botong’s colored sketches or studies on a number of inch-thick Oslo-paper albums for Kuya Manoling’s “Genghis Khan” and “Saranggani” (which didn’t push through). Ruefully, the family had lost track of all the sketches, and all their Botongs had somehow been given away.

I renewed “bonds” with Botong on a Laguna Loop trip from the Rizal end. After all, Angono is a Laguna “lake town” and, myself being from Laguna, it was my lake as well. We went through the Blanco Museum, Nemiranda’s atelier, and others. We sought out Botong’s house and finally found it, but it was quite forlorn as there was nobody there.

Last month I brought my balikbayan sister-in-law to Ayala Museum. What luck, for National Artist Botong Francisco was on exhibit. While she toured the rest of the floors, I went through “Botong” on the third floor and dwelt on the first floor, where the majority of his paintings were. What a revelation, for my neglected Botong struck me as for the first time!

I held my breath before “Camote Eaters” (1946) because it was so frankly Pinoy. I broke into a chuckle before “Harana,” with a young man who couldn’t even look at his lady love, while his two friends leaning on his back slept soundly (perhaps snoring) or bored to death with the languor of love. Before “Pilgrimage to Antipolo,” I felt like scooping the babies in the baskets suspended from the pingga! The “Fiesta” series gave a lilt to my heart.

The paintings are owned by the Locsins, Cojuangcos, Ques, Pascual, FEU, City Hall, CB, UST, Malacañang, etc. Till the last, I hoped to find one owned by Manuel Conde.

Botong wrote to daughter Carmen on March 5, 1968: “Art to live must go back to a bigger audience. For this it must have power to communicate and not to repel. That is why I have to paint big murals, for like a composer I can create a symphony from the history of our country or our way of life.”

I planted myself in front of the 25-minute documentary on the murals, “A Nation Imagined.” It began: “I was the dark-skinned child who loved to draw… My hand moves and leaves a track like an animal named imagination.”

In an instant, the paintings became bigger than life. It was history awakened, seen, lived, remembered, bringing forth a vision, a people, a nation. Unfolding before me was an object lesson of the nationalist function of art. Botong was also communicating “my country,” “Filipinismo,” like a clap of thunder.

Animating the murals in selected parts then freezing the image was a masterful stroke. Kudos to Peque Gallaga, director; Palanca Award winner Vicente Groyon for a simple, poignant script; and Emerzon Texon for subdued Filipino strains.

A wave of sadness flitted through me as I sat there alone except for groups of students and one or two viewers. Are we philistines?

Only now was I deeply moved by paintings I first passed decades ago without even blinking. Now I was on the edge of blinking with tears in my eyes. (Go see before March 31.)

Sam Miguel
05-08-2013, 08:46 AM
Mayon explosion kills Filipino guide, 4 Germans

By Joanna Los Baños

Inquirer Southern Luzon 1:58 am | Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

LEGAZPI CITY—What was meant to be a fun climb turned into a tragedy for 27 foreign mountaineers and their local guides when Mayon Volcano erupted on Tuesday and spewed hot rocks, killing five of them.

Jukes Nunez of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office said all 27 people, composed of foreign tourists and local trekking guides, had been accounted for.

As of Tuesday evening, six people had already been brought down, while the rest were on their way to town.

“I heard a very loud sound like thunder. I immediately knew that Mayon had exploded,” said Nicanor Mabao, 18, one of the survivors, who said his group was about 1,600 meters from the foot of the 2,460-meter peak.

“After hearing the loud sound, I saw very big hot boulders coming down at us. The hot rocks then started hitting us,” said the guide from the Bicol Adventure Tours.

He said he felt intense heat.

“My whole body felt numb. All I was thinking of was that I had to go down and get out of there,” he said.

Rescuers took Mabao down in a stretcher at 4:30 p.m. He talked to the Inquirer while being transported from an Army truck to a waiting ambulance.

Mabao suffered severe burns in his left leg. He said he was struck by a hot rock in the head while trying to rescue an Austrian woman, Sabine Stroberger, 32, who likewise survived.

Five of Mabao’s companions—a fellow Filipino guide and four German nationals—were killed. They were caught in the middle of hot rock slide following phreatic, or steam-driven, explosion around 8 a.m.

The fatalities were Jerome Berin, a Filipino guide; and German nationals Joanne Edosa, Roland Pietieze, Farah Frances and Furean Stilfer, according to the Albay Public Safety, Emergency and Management Office.

6-km danger zone

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has maintained that Mayon was in no danger of erupting even as it reminded the public not to venture into a six-kilometer permanent danger zone.

Steam or phreatic eruption is normal for active volcanos like Mayon. It was just unfortunate that there were mountain climbers near the crater when the volcano spewed ash and steam at the time, said Phivolcs head Renato Solidum.

All the fatalities belonged to a group of 12—three men and two women from Germany and Austria—and seven local guides, including Berin and Mabao. They set off from Barangay (village) Bonga, Bacacay, in the trek organized by Bicol Adventure Tours on Monday.

A Thai tourist, who reportedly got separated from his group, was rescued around 4 p.m. They went up the volcano on Monday from Lidong, Sto. Domingo. Another man and a woman, both Thais, were also injured.

They were supposed to descend also on Monday evening but failed to do so when some of them got lost along the trail.

“That was even before the eruption. So they ended up spending the night there until the eruption this morning when they totally lost contact with each other,” said Fire Officer 1 Mark Cirunay of the Albay Bureau of Fire.

Their Filipino tour guides, Bernard Hernandez and Alex Balunzo, stayed together and were able to descend before noon Tuesday, Cirunay said in a phone interview from the incident command post in Sto. Domingo.

Thai survivors

At past 1 p.m., rescuers were able to bring down Thailanders Tanut Ruchipiyarak, 26, and Mithi Ruangpisit, 26. Both had bruises and scratches and were taken to the hospital in Daraga town.

Three more Thai nationals from the group were trapped on the Mayon slopes. They were identified only as Udom, Boochai and Bendjanas. As of

4 p.m., Cirunay said rescuers were able to locate the three at Camp 2, some 1,200 meters from the foot of the volcano.

“It takes three hours to walk from the base camp to Camp 1 and another two hours to reach Camp 2,” Cirunay said.

Rescuers were on their way to fetch the Thailanders, but there was hardly any radio or phone signal, making communication with the base camp difficult, Cirunay added.

“It is also raining hard up there,” he said.

Maria Ravanilla, regional director of the Department of Tourism, said the four German climbers were not cleared to climb the country’s most active volcano.

She said climbs to Mayon had been allowed because the volcano had been placed on alert level 0 by Phivolcs, meaning there is no imminent volcanic activity.

Isolated incident

“This is an isolated incident that should not be blamed on Phivolcs as steam explosions are unpredictable,” said Ravanilla in a phone interview.

All tourism activities within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone around the volcano were suspended following the incident. Ravanilla said activities would resume upon the advice of Phivolcs.

Cedric Daep of the provincial disaster risk reduction and management office said the fatalities would be retrieved on Wednesday. He said heavy rains hampered the retrieval operation.

Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum, in a statement said the explosion was phreatic, or steam-driven.

Ashfall was reported in the town of Oas and Ligao City, both in Albay, but residents said the effects were negligible.

George Cordovilla, the lead guide for the Bicol Adventure group, said his nine-member group started their climb from Lidong at 4 p.m. on Monday.

“We reached the crater at 1 a.m., spent the night there and were about 1,400 feet away from the crater when it exploded,” he said.

Operations suspended

Authorities suspended rescue and retrieval operations later in the evening.

The retrieval of the fatalities would be done Wednesday, Nunez said. “It would be hard for the search team to move at night, as it is also raining hard in the area.”

Mayon has erupted 40 times. In 2010, thousands of residents were moved to temporary shelters when the volcano ejected ash up to eight kilometers from the crater.

Solidum said no alert was raised after the latest eruption and no evacuation was planned.

Following the incident, President Aquino sought a clarification from local officials on the parameters in Mayon’s danger zone, Malacañang said. “They’re in charge of enforcing it to make sure that nobody gets hurt,” said Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson.—With reports from Maricar Cinco, Mar Arguelles and Jonas Soltes, Inquirer Southern Luzon, and DJ Yap, TJ Burgonio and Marlon Ramos in Manila

Sam Miguel
05-08-2013, 08:47 AM
In the Know: Mayon Volcano eruptions

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:54 am | Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Mayon Volcano erupted at least 50 times between February 1616 and July 2006, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

Admired worldwide for its near-perfect cone, Mayon had its most destructive eruption on Feb. 1, 1814, when a mix of pyroclastic flows, volcanic lightning and lahar damaged the towns of Camalig, Cagsawa, Budiao and Guinobatan in Albay, and half of the province, killing 1,200 people.

Between June 4 and July 23, 1897, it blew up, killing at least 350 people, most probably from pyroclastic flows. Its violent phase lasted 17 hours and damaged the seashore of Sto. Domingo and the villages of Sto. Niño, San Isidro, San Roque, San Antonio and Misericordia in Sto. Domingo town, Ligao, parts of Bigaa in San Fernando, and Legazpi City, Phivolcs said.

Another eruption between Feb. 2 and April 4, 1993, was characterized by pyroclastic flows, lava flow and lahar. It claimed 77 lives and injured five others in such areas as Mabinit, Bonga, Camalig, Sto. Domingo and Legazpi.

Other eruptions occurred in July 1766 (39 dead), July 1853 (34 dead) and December 1871 (three dead).

Phivolcs recorded minor ash and steam eruptions with no reported casualties in 1861, 1862, June 1873, November 1876, December 1888, September 1941 and 1943. It noted that a series of ash explosions in 2003 and 2004 served as precursor to the 2006 activity.

Mayon’s last blast on July 14, 2006, was characterized by lava flow and ash explosions that reached as high as 800 meters.—Inquirer Research

Source: Phivolcs

Sam Miguel
05-10-2013, 09:34 AM
Aussie survived Mayon explosion, Bali bombing

By Joanna Los Baños

Inquirer Southern Luzon

12:07 am | Friday, May 10th, 2013

LEGAZPI CITY—“I will be able to help you,” Jerome Berin, 23, of Malilipot, Albay, told his father Romeo, 54, in their last phone conversation on April 28.

“I asked him ‘what?’ and he replied ‘secret,’ and just told me he had a job,” recalled Romeo, who later realized Jerome might have been talking about his job as a tour guide to save for his wedding on June 15.

“That’s how he is, always teasing,” Romeo recalled of his son, the fourth of his five children who was killed in Tuesday’s eruption of Mayon Volcano, along with four foreign climbers.

An Australian, Ewan Marshall, and his girlfriend, Michelle Abad, were among 16 climbers and local guides who were rescued. The two were reported Thursday in the Australian media to be heading to Boracay to continue their holiday.

Marshall, who was a survivor of the Bali bombing in 2002, said he and his companion were halfway to the base camp when they heard a massive explosion. “We’re lucky,” he said. “I just feel sorry for those that weren’t. Two to three hours later, we would have been in the same situation.”

Romeo Berin, a driver in Manila, last saw his son in April. He was supposed to go home on June 10 but arrived earlier “to have time to prepare” for Jerome’s wedding to his partner Ria, 24, with whom he has a 3-year-old daughter.

Jerome was one of the tour guides working for Bicol Adventure and Travel Tours, which organized the Mayon climb.

He was killed, together with three Germans and a Spaniard. (Earlier reports said all four foreigners killed were Germans.)

“It has not yet fully sunk in. This is really unexpected but we cannot do anything about it,” said Romeo, who added he did not know Jerome was working as a Mayon guide. “I only knew he worked as a merchandiser in one of the local grocery stores here.”

Ria said Jerome had been working as part-time guide for almost a year. She said she last saw Jerome on Monday. “He said he was only going to Camp 2. He never said he would go farther,” she said.

Amparo, 48, Jerome’s mother, said Jerome’s daughter had been looking for her father.

“She is always asking, ‘Where is Dada?’ Why is it taking him a long time to come home?” Amparo said. “We tell her that Dada is dead but because she is very young, she does not understand.”

Jerome’s body was airlifted from Camp 1 of the Malilipot trail to the Tactical Operations Group of the Philippine Air Force at 7:20 a.m. Thursday, nearly 24 hours after his body was found, along with the four European fatalities—Joanne Edosa, Roland Pietieze, Farah Frances and Furian Stelter.

Ban on climbing

Rescuers have accounted for all 21 Mayon climbers except for one Thai national, Boonchai Jattupornong, who was with rescuers near Camp 2 in Mayon but had yet to reach Legazpi.

Earlier on Wednesday, Thai survivors Thawiburut Udomkiat and Benjamaporn Sansuk were taken to a Legazpi hospital.

Hours after Mayon’s explosion on Tuesday, Austrian Sabine Strohberger was rescued, along with local guides Bernard Hernandez and Calixto Balunso, Kenneth Jesalva and Nicanor Mabao Jr., and Thais Nithi Ruangpisit and Tanut Ruchipiyrak.

Thai Ambassador Rooge Thammongkol arrived Thursday to look after the Thais.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the provincial government would pass an ordinance that would ban crater climbing and mountaineering on Mayon.

“To put teeth to that, no fines shall be imposed but rather jail time of at least one year,” he said in a statement on his Facebook account.

Sam Miguel
05-10-2013, 10:12 AM
The bridge and the villagers


By Cito Beltran

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 10, 2013 - 12:00am

There was an isolated village encircled by a river where people lived in luxury. They had almost everything they could ever ask for and they did their best to make sure that their standards of living stayed the way they were. They were strict about who entered their village, who moved into their village, and generally how people lived in their village.

But like any other community the people in the village regularly had to be in touch with friends, relatives and especially traders that they did business with. Depending on the conditions on the river, the villagers would either wade across the narrow section or use canoes. This of course would be difficult at times or even impossible when the weather was not cooperative.

Then one day, the villagers heard of people called “River Walkers” who could help solve their problem. No longer would they have to get wet or risk drowning, and best of all they could cross the river anytime they wanted night or day, rain or shine.

So the villagers sent emissaries to the River Walkers and asked them to help the villagers how to walk on the river without getting wet. Upon hearing this, one of the River Walkers giggled to the amusement of his team. The villagers were puzzled. “What’s so funny?” they asked. The River Walker then said: “Sorry but we don’t really walk on the water. Only one and a half person has done that. One did it; the other almost drowned trying to do it. That is not what we do.”

The villagers were so disappointed and angry. The river that had allowed them to live in luxurious isolation had now imprisoned them and dictated how and when they interacted with the rest of the world.

“Don’t be sullen,” said the youngest of the River Walkers. “We are indeed River Walkers, but we don’t walk on the river, we walk over the river! In order to do this, we build what is called a bridge over rivers.”

“Yes! said the villagers. “Let us build a bridge so we can finally be in touch with our neighbors when we want or need to.” From there the River Walkers began explaining that they would have to choose the perfect place for a bridge because it has to be strong and safe. Then they would have to dig holes, cut trees to make the bridge from, then call in the Bridge Makers, several strong and loud men who will surely be making loud noises as they work.

After listening to all of that, a village elder stood up, very disturbed at the thought of all the disruption. He pointed out how their village was such a quiet peaceful place and the idea of building a bridge might let them cross the river anytime but it would forever change how the place looks and would affect their privacy and the value of their lands. “People might think that we are no longer special or different.” Then he said that if some of the trees were cut for poles it might let in too much sun and burn their skin or harm their children.

The River Walkers were bewildered. A few minutes ago the villagers were so bothered about being trapped, wet, and constantly in danger of drowning while crossing the river. Now they were more concerned about what other villages might think and “sunburn?” So they suggested smaller and simpler means to get people across. But the Villagers continued to protest about the sun, the noise, the loud Bridge Makers as well as not being able to cross the river when they want to.

Finally the leader of the River Walkers stood and spoke: “I have listened to each and every concern that you have expressed. I have sat in the back nodding in agreement that what each of you fear or want is valid. It is never fun to cross in neck deep water, why should one have to worry about drowning just to speak with someone on the other side, or be imprisoned inside the village when all you really want to do is to cross the river. You are right in wanting to keep things the way they have been in village. That is your ‘right’.

“The problem is you also have an equally important ‘want’. You want to go beyond the river when you want to. You “want” to see people or to speak to people across the river when you want to. So you must now choose if what you ‘want’ is more important than all the ‘right’ things you have. Is it right to be imprisoned by the river? Is it right to constantly be threatened and placed at risk by the river?

“You have gone this far in your want and your search to make that happen. What you want is important for your life, your family, your needs and for making a living. The bridge will make you a River Walker and no longer a prisoner of the river.

“How can we help you cross the river, if you won’t let us build the bridge? You must decide on whether to arrive at the solution you want, or to raise the right arguments you have. Do you want to be the solution or do you want to remain in the problem?

“Just remember, it was you who chose to live surrounded by the river. Your exclusive choice is also your exclusive problem. A village imprisoned and cut off by choice.”

The River Walkers then stood up. Walked away giggling about the thought of how the villagers would look trying to walk on the water.

* * *

The modern day parable is about exclusive villages where residents bemoan the lack of signal strength from their favorite telecoms company or who complain about traffic but reject appeals for right of way. When a company or the government comes in offering to improve the situation by bringing in the technology, the villagers react with concerns about radiation, effects on security, health and property values etc.

Ironically, no one talks about the good results such as even better quality of life, improved services, additional income and wider community relationships. Even more important, the improvement in emergency response that comes from better telecoms and road networks.

The River represents our fears of things we don’t know and generally what isn’t. Sometimes the River and us, we are one. “How can we help you cross the River if you won’t let us build the bridge?”

* * *

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:07 AM
Student enrolls–using 41 names

By Vincent Cabreza

Inquirer Northern Luzon

1:21 am | Monday, May 20th, 2013

BAGUIO CITY—Incoming high school senior Ratziel is enrolling this week at Urdaneta City National High School in Pangasinan, and he will have to write down his full name. It consists of 40 first names—plus a surname.

Incredible as it may seem, Ratziel, 15, was born Ratziel Timshel Ismail Zerubbabel Zabud Zimry Pike Blavatsky Philo Judaeus Polidorus Isurenus Morya Nylghara Rakoczy Kuthumi Krishnamurti Ashram Jerram Akasha Aum Ultimus Rufinorum Jancsi Janko Diamond Hu Ziv Zane Zeke Wakeman Wye Muo Teletai Chohkmah Nesethrah Mercavah Nigel Seven Morningstar A. San Juan CCCII.

His older brother, 21-year-old Ramuel, is also enrolling at the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio as a sophomore. He has drawn attention, too, because he has 20 first names.

Ramuel, a biology student, was named Ramuel Spirituel Mattathiah Obadiah Darius Desiderius Abner Macaire Nowell Asa Izzy Zoon Politikon Trigg Gruffydd Keen Kemp Knowles Bonifacio Makabayan A. San Juan.

Their oldest sister, Ramille Lewisse, 25, who operates a Web design consultancy firm in Metro Manila, is not to be outdone. She has shaped a career with a few people knowing she has 20 first names: Ramille Lewisse Marion To Kalon Zoe Vera Natalia Nadezna Zora Hosea Pro Patria Berenice Clotilda Currente Calamo Naomi Nahum Mehetabel A. San Juan.

The middle initial “A”—for Agustin—represents their mother’s surname.

The mental training needed to help each of the siblings get their names in the right order and correctly spelled was provided by their mother, Raquel Agustin, who is teaching high school mathematics in the United States.

Father is to ‘blame’

The kilometric names, however, were all their father’s “fault.”

Their father, Rufino Ramil San Juan V, a former Urdaneta councilor and student activist and campus journalist at UP Baguio in the 1980s, decided that the bureaucracy needed to learn a thing or two about flexibility.

“My first child was born, but I was not happy when people in charge of her documents showed little imagination,” San Juan told the Inquirer by telephone from Urdaneta. “The form had a very short empty line where I was expected to fill out with my daughter’s name. I asked, ‘What if I decide to give my child a longer name?’ and got the reply, ‘You can’t do that.’”

“So I decided that I could do just that,” he said.

“My wife did have reservations as any level-headed, geometrically centered mathematics teacher would,” he said.

Bewilderment, then anger

Twenty-one years and two more children later, San Juan still annoys government employees each time his children need to secure official documents.

He said their requests for birth certificates at the National Statistics Office (NSO) initially brought bewilderment to government clerks—and eventually anger.

The family had to spend some time abroad with Raquel in 2005, but it took the NSO three years to release the birth certificates, which were prerequisites to securing passports and travel documents, San Juan said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs found a way to list down the children’s complete names on their passports (the old green passport, where entries were handwritten), he said. It printed two of their given names on the passport’s inside front cover—and the rest of their names on the passport’s third page.

US visa

Acquiring a US visa was far easier, San Juan said. “The American Embassy employees simply asked the kids, who were very young at the time, to recite their names, and they did. Our papers were quickly processed.”

“My kids are used to that sideshow. When Ramuel was 6, he once confided in us that he was invited to the teachers’ lounge where he was asked to recite his name. He said they always laughed each time he succeeded,” he said.

The San Juan family stayed in Texas, where their children’s lengthy names did not matter, he said. The family returned to the Philippines in 2011.

Another obstacle

But the names of Ramille Lewisse, Ramuel and Ratziel again became an obstacle when their passports needed renewal.

San Juan posted the account at the CNN iReport, (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-55822), in August 2008: “We’re a Filipino family based in Texas. Last week, we went to the Philippine Consular Office in Chicago to avail of the new machine-readable passports. I was told by the staff that the application papers of my three kids will be referred to the national office in Manila before being processed. I was informed that the new passport can only accommodate 30 characters for a given name.”

“In their original birth certificates, my first two kids’ given names (20 each) appear as ‘see attached’ (which refers to the three extra pages where the names were printed). The space provided in the official form wouldn’t suffice. In the case of my third kid, his given names (40 in all, plus a suffix) were typed in full on the top margin, overwriting the read-before-accomplishing portion,” San Juan wrote.

Family legacy

He said the NSO almost stopped him from registering Ratziel’s 40 names—until they were informed about two precedents.

“It turned out the precedents were my first two kids,” San Juan told the Inquirer.

He has taken pains to explain his odd name choices for his children.

In an essay titled, “Origins of the Species,” which he sent to the Inquirer, San Juan said everything began with his father, Rufino Jr., who named all his sons Rufino, following a legacy that began with his grandfathers, Rufino San Juan Sr. and Rufino Zarate.

“Quite naturally, a man with a flair for style and a way with words like our father Rufino Jr., with the blessing of our mother, Remedios, would name their four sons Rufino Ray III, Rufino Ranulfo IV, Rufino Ramil V and Rufino Ronaldo VI,” he said.

Names for love

San Juan said he had since rationalized that his decision to provide his children their unique names “put a finishing touch to my father’s antics.”

That is one version to explain why Ratziel’s name included the Roman numerals CCCII, which stands for “302.”

“I decided to name my youngest the ‘Last of the Rufinos,’” San Juan wrote in his essay.

San Juan said 302 was also the number of his Masonic Lodge, and Ratziel was born on the eve of the lodge’s anniversary.

But the better justification for the lengthy names comes from poet Margaret Atwood, he said in his CNN iReport account: “The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: There ought to be as many for love.”

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:39 AM
Hugging a burning tree

By Bjorn Lomborg

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:14 pm | Sunday, May 19th, 2013

PRAGUE—We are all brought up to recycle paper to save trees. We get countless e-mail admonitions: “Please consider the environment before printing.” Indeed, environmentalism was born with a call to preserve the forests.

But now, in the name of saving the planet from climate change, environmentalists are proposing an immense global campaign to cut down and burn trees and scrubs in order to reduce fossil-fuel use. The initiative could be dismissed as a weird irony, if it weren’t for its phenomenal costs, which include likely destruction of biodiversity, increased water use, and reduced global food production. And it may end up increasing global CO2 emissions to boot.

When most people think of renewable energy sources, they imagine solar panels and wind turbines. Globally, however, solar and wind are only a small part of total renewables—less than 7 percent in 2010. Hydropower is a much bigger player, at 17 percent. But the most important by far is biomass—humanity’s oldest fuel makes up 76 percent of today’s renewable energy and 10 percent of all energy. About 60 percent of this is wood, twigs and dung, used by almost 3 billion people who lack access to modern fuels—and resulting in terrible air pollution and millions of deaths.

But the West uses the other 40 percent of biomass to produce heat, and it will increasingly use it to generate electricity. This makes sense, because solar and wind power are inherently unreliable—we still need electricity on cloudy days or when the wind dies down. Biomass (along with hydropower) can be used to smooth the fluctuations inherent to wind and solar.

Biomass is experiencing a revival, because it is considered CO2-neutral. The conventional wisdom is that burning wood only releases the carbon sucked up while the tree was growing, and hence the net climate effect is zero. But a growing number of voices challenge this view. The European Environment Agency’s Scientific Committee has called it a “mistaken assumption” based on “a serious accounting error,” because if a forest is cut down to burn wood, it will take a long time for new growth to absorb the CO2 emissions. The climate effect could be a net increase in emissions if forests are cleared to create energy-crop plantations.

According to the committee’s members, “the potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense.” Environmentalists’ plan to obtain 20-50 percent of all energy from biomass could mean a tripling of current biomass consumption, placing its production in direct competition with that of food for a growing global population, while depleting water supplies, cutting down forests and reducing biodiversity.

An academic paper published last year makes the point clear in its title: “Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral.” Its authors point out that while the Industrial Revolution caused climate change, reliance on coal was actually good for forests, because our forebears stopped raiding forests for wood. This is one of the major reasons that forests in Europe and the United States have recovered—and it is why many forests in developing countries are threatened. The developed world’s re-enchantment with biomass could take it down a similar road.

But the biggest problem is that biomass production simply pushes other agricultural production elsewhere. Studies are just beginning to estimate the impact. In Denmark, a group of researchers estimated by how much various crops would reduce CO2 emissions. For example, burning a hectare of harvested willow on a field previously used for barley (the typical marginal crop in Denmark) prevents 30 tons of CO2 annually when replacing coal. This is the amount that proud green-energy producers will showcase when switching to biomass.

But burning the willow releases 22 tons of CO2. Of course, all of that CO2 was soaked up from the atmosphere the year before; but, had we just left the barley where it was, it, too, would have soaked up quite a bit, lowering the reduction relative to coal to 20 tons. And, in a market system, almost all of the barley production simply moves to a previously unfarmed area. Clearing the existing biomass there emits an extra 16 tons of CO2 per year on average (and this is likely an underestimate).

So, instead of saving 30 tons, we save four tons at most. And this is the best-case scenario. Of the 12 production modes analyzed, two would reduce annual CO2 emissions by only two tons, while the other 10 actually increase total emissions—up to 14 tons per year.

At the same time, we are paying a king’s ransom for biomass. Germany alone spends more than $3 billion annually, or $167 per ton of avoided CO2 emissions, which is more than 37 times the cost of carbon reductions in the European Union Emissions Trading System. And the estimate of avoided emissions ignores indirect land-use changes, making the likely real cost at least eight times higher.

Ten years ago, the European Union and the United States embraced biofuels as a way to combat global warming. Today, the United States turns 40 percent of its maize output into ethanol to be burned in cars. This has driven up food prices and caused tens of millions of people to starve, while costing more than $17 billion each year in subsidies and causing agricultural deforestation elsewhere in the world, with more total CO2 emissions than the entire savings from the ethanol. Biofuels have become an almost unstoppable and unmitigated disaster.

We need to confront the next—and potentially much bigger—biomass boondoggle. Yes, we should turn waste into energy and be smart about agricultural leftovers. But we are about to diminish biodiversity, over-extract water, make food more expensive and waste hundreds of billions of dollars—all while cutting down trees to burn them and potentially increasing CO2 emissions. We have been brought up to know and do better. Project Syndicate

Bjorn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, founded and directs the Copenhagen Consensus Center. He is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It.”

05-21-2013, 01:06 PM
Medical Mysteries: A clue to a girl’s painful ailment goes long overlooked

Sandra G. Boodman

May 20, 2013 09:20 PM EDT

The Washington Post

Tuesday, May 21, 5:20 AM

‘Oh my God,” Leigh Partridge remembers thinking, her mind reeling as she tried to contemplate the unimaginable. “This cannot be happening again.”

Doctors in the emergency room of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) had just told Partridge that a mass in the abdomen of her 16-year-old daughter might be cancer. Further testing would be required.

To Partridge, who had lost her husband two years earlier when brain cancer killed him in a matter of months, the possibility that their middle daughter might have a malignancy was terrifying.

“I didn’t even know who to call to come sit with me,” Partridge recalled. “The person who was supposed to be with me wasn’t there” anymore.

Allison Partridge, then a high school junior, had found the fist-size tumor in her abdomen the previous evening while lying in bed at home. For months, Allie had suffered from severe and worsening pain in her lower abdomen and tailbone, which she usually tried to minimize or deny to protect herself and her mother. But now the pain and the giant lump were too obvious to downplay.

“My mom was definitely freaking out a lot more than I was,” Allie recalled.

Her hospitalization in April 2011 was both traumatic and a turning point, revealing the unusual cause of her problem as well as the essential clue — unknown to her mother — that was overlooked by doctors.

Cleared to play

This was not the first medical scare involving Allie.

When Leigh Partridge was pregnant, a prenatal blood test indicated Allie might have Down syndrome; further testing ruled that out but an ultrasound found that she appeared to have only one kidney.

Her birth in August 1994 revealed that her lone kidney, while larger than normal, was functioning well. About one in every 750 people is born with only one kidney, and most do not have long-term problems as a result.

An audiologist who worked with deaf children, Partridge was sensitive to developmental delays and asked doctors if the sole kidney meant that her daughter would need any follow-up as she grew. Partridge said she was told no.

To make sure it was safe for Allie to play soccer, her mother took her to a pediatric urologist near their suburban Philadelphia home when she was 11. “He said, ‘No tackle football, but go about your business,’ ” Partridge recalled. No special precautions were needed, and Allie began playing soccer and lacrosse competitively.

Her father’s sudden death when she was 14 and a freshman in high school, was a devastating blow. Always a hard worker and a fierce competitor, Allie seemed to redouble her efforts in sports and school. “She got straight A’s after her father died,” her mother said.

But there was a new cause for concern as Allie neared 16: She had never gotten her period. Her pediatrician was unfazed; she was tall, skinny and athletic, a combination that can sometimes cause a delay. But her mother had grown increasingly concerned and had scheduled an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist for July 2010. A month before the appointment, mother and daughter were relieved when Allie got her period.

Although she was stoic, her periods, which were light, were extremely painful — so bad Allie would spend a day or two in bed.

“I didn’t tell my mom at first, but my tailbone really began to hurt,” she recalled. It felt as if something was pushing on her coccyx, and she took over-the-counter painkillers to cope with her cramps and back pain.

In November 2010, Partridge, concerned about Allie’s worsening pain, took her to the pediatrician. Mother and daughter both recall that he seemed unconcerned and told them that cramps were normal during a period.

By January 2011, her mother noticed that Allie wasn’t eating much and seemed to push the food around on her plate, although she seemed hungry. Worried that she had developed an eating disorder and alarmed by her obvious weight loss, Partridge asked her daughter if she was anorexic.

Allie was adamant and said she sometimes felt nauseated. “It’s not a problem; I’m not anorexic,” she protested. “I have friends with eating disorders, but I don’t have one.”

Partridge was unconvinced; she persuaded Allie to see a therapist to help her deal with the trauma of her father’s death, her problematic eating and whatever else might be bothering her.

05-21-2013, 01:08 PM
^ Continued


By March, the pain in her tailbone was constant and her hip had begun to hurt. Increasingly, Allie sat and watched as her varsity lacrosse team worked out without her.

At night, she found that lying in a fetal position helped; playing table tennis with her boyfriend had become so painful that she had to stop.

Her mother took her back to the pediatrician, whom they had seen several times since the fall for various problems, including her eating and frequent colds. He decided she had a hip injury and told her not to play lacrosse. When Allie mentioned that she was constipated, the doctor prescribed dietary changes and a laxative.

A week later, she saw a chiropractor for her hip pain. He told her she needed to improve her posture. But neither the advice from the pediatrician nor the adjustments performed by the chiropractor helped.

On the night of April 4, she was in so much pain that her mother took her to the ER at Philadelphia Children’s. The diagnosis: severe constipation and a hip injury. No lacrosse, said the doctor, who prescribed enemas and sent her home.

Partridge remembers the next 48 hours as a nightmare. Allie remained constipated despite several enemas and spent much of the time crying in pain and fear. In the middle of the night on April 6, she called her mother into her room and showed her the large lump protruding from the left side of her abdomen.

“She was always really thin, but now she looked like a POW,” her mother recalled. At 5-foot-9, her weight had dwindled to 105 pounds, making the lump terrifyingly obvious.

Early the next morning, her mother took her back to the ER, where a parade of doctors felt her stomach and told Partridge her daughter might have cancer.

“No one really had any idea what the thing was,” Allie recalled, adding that she tried to “play down how much pain I was in” to avoid further panicking her mother — and herself.

Luckily, it only took hours to determine that the mass was not malignant. An abdominal ultrasound revealed an answer that was both surprising and predictable.

Allie had been born with a rare condition called a double uterus, or uterus didelphys: Some of her reproductive organs, including her uterus, had been duplicated during the early stages of fetal development. Double uterus, in which the organs are typically adjacent to each other, is more common in women born with a single kidney; in 15 to 30 percent of cases, menstrual blood becomes obstructed and cannot drain properly. The “tumor “ turned out to be accumulated blood.

Uterus didelphys is rare, according to emedicine, an online medical encyclopedia; estimates vary widely from 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 1 million; some women do not know they have the condition because it never causes problems. But for those who experience unusual pain, which usually begins after menstruation, surgery may be required.

Uterus dydelphys can also cause recurrent miscarriages and, in extremely rare cases, fraternal twins who are delivered hours or even days apart.

Surgery was scheduled for the following morning, a Saturday. “Basically she had two half [-size] uteruses and two cervixes” and vaginal tissue that had trapped the blood, said Samantha Pfeifer, director of the reproductive surgery program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. An expert in adolescent gynecology, Pfeifer was called in to perform the procedure, along with a surgeon at CHOP.

The months-long blockage had damaged one of Allie’s fallopian tubes, which had to be removed; the accumulated blood had put pressure on other internal organs, which were pressing on her tailbone, causing the worsening pain, diminished appetite and severe constipation.

Pfeifer, an associate professor of medicine at Penn, is one of a handful of surgeons who specialize in treating such cases.

“One of my pet peeves is that doctors don’t tell women with a baby born with one kidney that this could happen and that when she gets her period,” treatment may be required, Pfeifer said. And because many doctors don’t learn about such anomalies in medical school, many don’t know about such a complication.

Instead, “traditionally no one puts two and two together, and these kids are seen repeatedly in the ER for constipation and pain for months — or years.” Many radiologists, she added, are not familiar with the problem. “I’ve seen it diagnosed as ‘fluid in the fallopian tube.’ ”

Recently, Pfeifer said, she operated on a teenage patient from Florida who had been in two hospitals “where no one had ever heard of this.”

In Allie’s case, doctors drained 17 ounces of obstructed fluid and removed the tissue blocking blood flow. Doctors left the uteri intact; surgery to unite them is rarely performed because it is unnecessary and risky.

“It may be a little tricker to get pregnant, and she may need a C-section,” Pfeifer said of Allie, whom she continues to follow, but “she should do fine.”


And she has, both Allie and her mother say. Her pain has vanished, and Allie, who will turn 19 in August, recently finished her freshman year at Bucknell University, where she is majoring in civil engineering.

Recovering from the psychological aftereffects has been a longer process.

Partridge said she told the ER doctor after the cancer scare, “I’m her mother; I should have thought of this.” The doctor, she said, replied, “You shouldn’t; the doctors should have.” Partridge said she remains “aggravated that we went to two specialists about her single kidney and no one said anything about this.”

Allie is eager to put the trauma behind her. “I think I’m definitely stronger because of everything I’ve been through,” she said. “At college, I appreciate being healthy more than other kids do.”

Have a medical mystery that’s been solved? E-mail medicalmysteries@washpost.com.

05-21-2013, 01:11 PM
^ Doctors are shitheads...

Sam Miguel
05-30-2013, 09:21 AM
Is MMDA playing deaf and dumb on traffic woes?


By Rey Gamboa

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 30, 2013 - 12:00am

Are Metro Manila Development Authority officials playing deaf and dumb on the traffic situation at EDSA and other major routes in the metropolis? This question keeps popping up as thousands of motorists and commuters suffer daily loss of productive time crawling their way to work and back home.

With schools opening in a week or two, I’m already dreading the additional volume of vehicles that will ferry our children to school and back home, not that the traffic during the summer break had become light along EDSA or the suburbs’ major thoroughfares.

We still have quite a number of letters from readers on how we can improve the traffic flow in Metro Manila. We continue to give way to the citizens’ view with the hope that our bureaucrats can pick up a few good suggestions and put them to work.

Here’s one from Bien Lazaro: “I read your article re: the choke points as the cause of the stop-and-go flow of vehicles along EDSA. I agree on this solid observation, having used EDSA for the last 20 years even before the flyovers were constructed, the choke points were the ones causing the traffic.

Segregate by barriers

“If I may suggest we copy the system that is implemented along Ayala Ave. where buses are segregated by barriers to keep them from swerving, and to keep the private cars in place too. Same thing they did when they placed the fences along the Cubao area and for a while northbound of Guadalupe area.

“If we do this to all identified choke points, and strictly apply the yellow lane rule, then we can expect great improvement in traffic flow. We have seen the effect when they prohibited the buses from using the flyovers except north bound along Ortigas Galleria. Traffic improved significantly because the vehicles were in their right places.

“I know in Latin America they apply this because they have the BRT (bus rapid transit) system that we can easily implement at a fraction, as you said, of the cost. I do hope that this simple plan is taken seriously as there are good signs that it can improve traffic.”

One-bus route

Another letter comes from Eric Tse. He says: “I commute daily from Vito Cruz to work in Binondo, and it’s so difficult to find a ride. It has become quite irritating to see how many near-empty Quiapo and Monumento route jeepneys passing by.

“Just for the length of Taft Avenue, there are already three jeepney routes, a variety of bus routes, and the UV Express that do not operate terminal-to-terminal as they’re meant to. Multiple PUVs of different routes commonly traverse the length of Taft Avenue.

“The practical thing to do is just have one bus route from Baclaran-Taft Avenue to Lawton where the route of most of these PUVs split. From Lawton, commuters can then just transfer to other PUVs going to their respective destinations.

“Similarly, there is no need to have jeepneys along Rizal Avenue that go to Malanday, Malinta, Valenzuela, BBB, etc. One bus route from Lawton to Monumento/EDSA will do.”

RBT suggestion

From Nicolas Mapa, we have another RBT (rapid bus transit) endorser. He says: “The Philippines should take a page out of the Latin American book by instituting a rapid bus transit system along EDSA, a local bus running the center lanes of EDSA which can only stop at designated stations.

“The problem with the yellow lane for buses is that it’s not respected, and anyone with the balls can drive on it (taxis, jeepneys, or even private cars). RBTs have a walled-off lane dedicated to buses. Even if a bus eats up one lane, at least it is restricted and won’t be causing traffic by taking up more than its dedicated lane.

“Provincial buses should ply EDSA on a second lane but won’t be allowed to stop anywhere except at their terminals like Trinoma and MOA (Mall of Asia).”

More suggestions

A long list of suggestions was sent in by Gil Zarcilla on Metro Manila’s traffic problems. Here is what he sent: “I read your article regarding our traffic conditions with great interest and I have a few suggestions to make:

1. Setting an example among police, security services, bank armored vehicles, barangay officials, teachers and politicians – these people are some of the worst violators of traffic rules.

2. Stiffer penalties and points system in the driver’s license that affects their insurance premiums.

3. Emission testing centers – to include not only emissions but overall vehicle conditions like lights, headlights and brakes. In other countries, driving your car without up-to-date MOT (vehicle road worthiness certificate) on a public road invalidates your insurance cover.

4. Implement a loading and unloading area, proper bus stops. Most of corner junctions become a chokepoint for unloading and loading passengers. Perhaps we can locate these 20 to 30 meters away from the junction of many side streets.

5. SLEX, NLEX and all expressways should be permanent areas of vehicle safety worthiness by not allowing vehicles to enter without proper stop light, headlight focus, etc., and by deploying permanent LTO enforcers at all entry points with CCTV cameras.

6. Increase our visible traffic enforcers (police, LTO, etc.) by 50 percent.

7. Install security cameras at all choke points for monitoring and enforcing traffic rules. Citation can be sent by post.

8. More education for young children and drivers of public and private vehicles on road safety.

9. Privatize some aspects of administering penalties.

10. More taxes to implement these rules.

11. The moment a traffic enforcer stops anybody for an alleged offence, he must report before and after by radio to the control room operated by a monitoring private firm to prevent corruption. The control room will call and speak to the violators to confirm the offense. The cost of this operation will be covered by the penalties. I realized this system is good when I was towed away by a private company. They called me to ask and confirm if I was happy with the service. This is a good system.

12. Incentives to the enforcers similar to what the BIR has adopted.

13. Professionalize LTO, especially in the issuance of driving licenses. In some countries, driving tests are divided into two (theory and actual) making it more difficult for non-professional drivers to be on the road.”

Keep those observations and suggestions coming. Let’s prod those bureaucrats at MMDA to wake up from their slumber, get out of the comfort of their air-conditioned offices and have a taste of what commuters suffer on these streets that have become “gateways to hell” (with apologies to Dan Brown).

Sam Miguel
05-30-2013, 09:30 AM
^^^ To keep traffic flowing, at whatever speed, means keeping all vehicles moving as well. It is when one or more vehicles stop, at whatever point in the road, that traffic goes all to shit. The smaller / narrower the street / road the thicker and messier the shit becomes when traffic flow is stopped or otherwise impeded. Case in point: when it is any time other than the normal rush hours and public utility vehicles are barely at quarter capacity. PUJ and PUB will stop at certain points of their route in the off-chance that they can pick up a fare or two, to the consternation of any other vehicles behind them. Arrest these a--holes and make examples of them and I think the traffic flow will be a whole lot better. Make all work crews doing maintenance work do so after 10:00 PM and up to 4:00 AM only. No work crews unless it is an emergency (burst water main, dangled power line, etc).

Sam Miguel
06-13-2013, 02:37 PM
Communications breakdown

By Esther J. Cepeda, Thursday, June 13, 7:19 AM E-mail the writer

CHICAGO — “Inclusive” and “diversity” are the buzzwords in corporate America these days.

Inclusive generally means that people should not be made to feel purposely left out, and diversity refers to the many differences — whether they be religious, political, racial or ethnic — that people bring to their communities, schools and businesses.

Specifically, these two words are prominently used in the culture and mission statement of Whole Foods, the upscale “foodie” store that last week was accused of suspending two employees who complained about the company’s English-only policy.

The employees claimed that Whole Foods had unduly disciplined them for expressing dissatisfaction about the company’s prohibition on speaking Spanish to each other while on the job. The grocer says the employees in question were suspended, with pay, only as a result of their rude and disrespectful behavior in response to a misunderstanding about the store’s language policy — and not for speaking Spanish.

This kind of infuriating story illustrates the cluelessness and differing expectations of conduct that factor into dealing with the serious issue of how we communicate with each other in an increasingly multilingual country.

First the cluelessness. This story blew up on social media networks last week as people with little information, aside from an accusatory headline, started condemning Whole Foods as everything from discriminatory to anti-diversity, and racist.

Hey, we should all react to wrongdoing if it truly exists. But on social media, everyone is guilty until proved innocent. Even if the charge is wrong, jumping to conclusions doesn’t help already tense race relations.

For those who missed the follow-up reporting on the story, a Whole Foods representative told the media that the store’s investigation turned up 17 employees who attended the meeting at which the language policy was discussed and confirmed that at no time were they told they couldn’t speak Spanish.

But say they were. What’s the problem? Not too long ago people understood that when you enter into an employment agreement with a company, you’re generally expected to follow their policies.

Whole Foods’ rules state: “English-speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock. Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work. Additionally, this policy does not apply to conversations among Team Members and customers if all parties present agree that a different language is their preferred form of communication.”

Hardly draconian. Either way, employees can choose to follow them and work there or find a different job.

From an employer’s point of view, I want my diverse workforce to, as Whole Foods has stated, have “a uniform form of communication.” This is common sense.

It is human nature to feel left out when some of the people in a group setting are speaking to each other with words the rest can’t understand. This isn’t bigotry; it’s hard-wired, evolutionary fact. Group cohesion only occurs when individual group members behave cooperatively, not individualistically.

This explains why every time the subject of not speaking English in this country comes up, people get very upset — because language seems like a proxy for the ultimate group cohesion: allegiance to our flag.

If Whole Foods wants its teams to use a common language while on the clock — and minimize any heat they might get from customers who might also feel excluded if they heard employees speaking to each other in a language they don’t understand — here’s a news flash: Whole Foods is well within its legal rights to do so.

Besides, deferring to others is inclusive. My Mexican mother and Ecuadorean father taught me that it’s rude to speak Spanish in front of those who can’t understand it. In their own home they rarely, if ever, speak Spanish in front of my husband and children who speak only English. They just consider it good manners.

Those who are concerned about how Latinos are perceived in America — as unable or unwilling to speak English and more connected to their native countries than to this one — might consider that a little courtesy can go a long way.

If you’re bilingual, it won’t kill you to speak English around English-only speakers. And who knows, the small kindness of not excluding others might even make life for all Latinos in this country a little better.

06-16-2013, 10:26 AM
Shock lingers after Nazi unit leader found in US

Associated Press

10:12 am | Sunday, June 16th, 2013

A man who owns the house where Michael Karkoc lived in Minneapolis said that he wasn’t home, Friday, June 14 2013. Karkoc 94, a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning villages filled with women and children, lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II, according to evidence uncovered by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Richard Sennott)

MINNEAPOLIS — The revelation that a former commander of a Nazi SS-led military unit has lived quietly in Minneapolis for the past six decades came as a shock to those who know 94-year-old Michael Karkoc. World War II survivors in both the U.S. and Europe harshly condemned the news and prosecutors in Poland have said they’ll investigate.

An Associated Press investigation found that Karkoc served as a top commander in the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion during World War II. The unit is accused of wartime atrocities, including the burning of villages filled with women and children.

“I know him personally. We talk, laugh. He takes care of his yard and walks with his wife,” his next-door neighbor, Gordon Gnasdoskey, said Friday.

“For me, this is a shock. To come to this country and take advantage of its freedoms all of these years, it blows my mind,” said Gnasdoskey, the grandson of a Ukrainian immigrant himself.

Karkoc told American authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during World War II, concealing his work as an officer and founding member of the legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader. Nazi SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.

No one answered the door Friday morning at Karkoc’s house on a residential street in northeast Minneapolis. Karkoc had earlier declined to comment on his wartime service when approached by the AP, and repeated efforts to arrange an interview through his son were unsuccessful.

Late Friday, Karkoc’s son, Andriy Karkos, read a statement accusing AP of defaming his father. Karkoc became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1959.

“My father was never a Nazi,” said Karkos, who uses a different spelling for his last name. He also said the family wouldn’t comment further until it has obtained its own documents and reviewed witnesses and sources.

Family attorney Philip Villaume said Saturday that the family may comment further within a few days. “Their intention is to investigate the matter and research it, and then they’ll make a further public statement,” he said.

Polish prosecutors announced Friday they will investigate Karkoc and provide “every possible assistance” to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has used lies in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals.

The AP evidence of Karkoc’s wartime activities has also prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough to prosecute. In Germany, Nazis with “command responsibility” can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.

Efraim Zuroff, the lead Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said that based on his decades of experience pursuing Nazi war criminals, he expects that the evidence of Karkoc’s lies as well as the unit’s role in atrocities is strong enough for deportation and war crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.

Former German army officer Josef Scheungraber — a lieutenant like Karkoc — was convicted in Germany in 2009 on charges of murder based on circumstantial evidence that put him at the scene of a Nazi wartime massacre in Italy as the ranking officer.

Members of Karkoc’s unit and other witnesses have told stories of brutal attacks on civilians.

One of Karkoc’s men, Vasyl Malazhenski, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 the unit was directed to “liquidate all the residents” of the village of Chlaniow in a reprisal attack for the killing of a German SS officer, though he did not say who gave the order.

“It was all like a trance: setting the fires, the shooting, the destroying,” Malazhenski recalled, according to the 1967 statement found by the AP in the archives of Warsaw’s state-run Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates and prosecutes German and Soviet crimes on Poles during and after World War II.

In a background check by U.S. officials on April 14, 1949, Karkoc said he had never performed any military service, telling investigators that he “worked for father until 1944. Worked in labor camp from 1944 until 1945.”

However, in a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 in collaboration with the Nazis’ feared SS intelligence agency, the SD, to fight on the side of Germany — and served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.

It was not clear why Karkoc felt safe publishing his memoir, which is available at the U.S. Library of Congress and the British Library and which the AP located online in an electronic Ukrainian library.

Karkoc currently lives in a modest house in an area of Minneapolis that has a significant Ukrainian population. He recently came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service: “I don’t think I can explain,” he said.

Karkoc and his family are longtime members of the St. Michael’s and St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“All the time I am here, I know him as a good man, a good citizen,” said the Rev. Evhen Kumka, the church’s pastor. “He’s well known in the congregation.”

Kumka moved from Ukraine to Minnesota 19 years ago to lead the congregation, and said Karkoc was already active in the church. Kumka wouldn’t say whether he’d spoken to Karkoc about his past, but said he was skeptical.

“I don’t think everything is correct,” Kumka said. “As I know him, he is a good example for many people.”

06-16-2013, 10:27 AM
^ (Continued)

Karkoc worked as a carpenter in Minneapolis, and appeared in a 1980 issue of Carpenter magazine among a group celebrating 25 years of union membership. He was a member and a secretary in the local branch of the Ukrainian National Association, a fraternal organization, and voting records obtained by the AP show he regularly voted in city, state and general elections.

Karkoc’s name surfaced when a retired clinical pharmacologist who researched Nazi war crimes in his free time came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division who immigrated to Britain. He tipped off the AP when an Internet search showed an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.

The AP located Karkoc’s U.S. Army intelligence file, which was declassified by the National Archives in Maryland through a FOIA request. The Army was responsible for processing visa applications after the war under the Displaced Persons Act.

The intelligence file said standard background checks found no red flags that would disqualify Karkoc from entering the United States. But it also noted that it lacked key information from the Soviet side regarding the verification of his identity.

Wartime documents located by the AP also confirm Karkoc’s membership in the Self Defense Legion. They include a Nazi payroll sheet found in Polish archives, signed by an SS officer on Jan. 8, 1945 — only four months before the war’s end — confirming that Karkoc was present in Krakow, Poland, to collect his salary as a member of the Self Defense Legion.

He joined the regular German army after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and fought on the Eastern Front in Ukraine and Russia, according to his memoirs, which say he was awarded an Iron Cross for bravery.

He was also a member of the Ukrainian nationalist organization OUN; in 1943, he helped negotiate with the Nazis to have men drawn from its membership form the Self Defense Legion, according to his account. In 1945, the legion was dissolved and folded into the SS Galician Division.

Policy at the time of Karkoc’s immigration application — according to a declassified secret U.S. government document obtained by the AP from the National Archives — was to deny a visa to anyone who had served in either the SS Galician Division or the OUN.

Justice Department spokesman Michael Passman in Washington said the agency was aware of the AP story and could not confirm or deny an investigation.

News of Karkoc’s past prompted anger from World War II survivors in countries where the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion was active. In Poland, Honorata Banach told the AP she wants Karkoc to apologize. She was 20 when she fled the Polish village of Chlaniow before it was burned down by the legion.

“There was so much suffering, so many orphans, so much pain,” Banach said. She and her mother returned the day after the attack, she said, to see that “everything was burned down, even the fences, the trees. I could not even find my house.”

Survivors told her the Ukrainian legion did it, she said.

Sam Rafowitz, an 88-year-old Jewish resident of the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka, grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and spent four years working in concentration camps. He took a hard line after hearing the news about Karkoc.

“I think they should put him on trial,” said Rafowitz, who lost his mother and other relatives at the Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin, Poland. He said soldiers in the camp were German but that it was run by Ukrainians.

“You don’t forget,” Rafowitz said. “For me, it’s been almost close to 70 years those things happened, but I still know about it. I still remember everything.”

Menachem Rosensaft, who was born in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, now teaches the law of genocide and war crimes at several New York universities. He said Karkoc is a reminder that the Holocaust and other genocides “cannot be viewed as abstract history.”

“I have every confidence that if Mr. Karkoc was not already on the Justice Department’s radar screen, he now is,” Rosensaft said.

Sam Miguel
06-18-2013, 09:26 AM
Lawmaker asks: Why destroy seized elephant tusks at all?

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:19 am | Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Why destroy something that can be very useful?

This is the contention of Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe who wants the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reconsider its decision to destroy confiscated elephant tusks worth P420 million, saying the ivory tusks should be preserved and used for educational purposes.

Batocabe said that saving the tusks would give students and the public an opportunity to study the rare items up close.

“Our children might not be able to see and touch an ivory tusk their whole lives, much less a live elephant. We have ivory tusks lying around the DENR premises. Why destroy them when they could teach so much to future generations?” Batocabe said in a statement.

The DENR is scheduled to crush and pulverize the five tons of elephant tusks with a road roller on June 21.

Earlier, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that destroying the ivory tusks that had been brought into the country illegally was intended to send the message that the Philippines does not tolerate the illegal wildlife trade.

Adherence to convention

This is in line with the country’s adherence to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of flora and fauna, which prohibits the ivory trade to stem the decimation of the elephant population in Africa.

Batocabe, vice chairman of the House committee on environment and natural resources, said the ivory tusks could be donated to schools, museums and nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

They could be used to teach the public about caring for endangered animals and about the dangers of the ivory trade to the welfare of these animals, he said.

“Schools and NGOs would have good use for them to teach the public, especially the young generations, why the ivory trade is banned,” he said.

Stronger campaign

“Our museums and NGOs would be able to use these tusks to strengthen the world campaign against the international ivory trade,” he added.

According to the lawmaker, ivory tusks should not be likened to other contraband such as illegal drugs or pirated CDs, since the latter two bring no benefit to the public and could not be used for educational purposes.

“These are priceless treasures that will be put to waste if we destroy them,” he said.

The DENR earlier planned to set some tusks on fire in a “ceremonial burning” but this plan was dropped after clean air advocates protested that it could send the wrong message to the public—that open burning was acceptable.

Sam Miguel
06-19-2013, 08:43 AM
Who’s to blame for the floods? Aquino calls meetings

By Michael Lim Ubac

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:42 am | Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

It’s that time of year again of massive flooding and traffic jams, and in the midst of it all President Aquino called an emergency meeting on Tuesday to assess yet again Metro Manila’s preparedness to deal with the monumental mess during a heavy rain.

Who is to blame for the flooding, the traffic standstill for hours and commuters marooned well into the night on Monday?

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras sought to absolve Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino for the previous night’s street miseries ignited by a tropical depression, which became Tropical Storm “Emong” on Tuesday.

“Who is in control of everything? Metro Manila is just like any other place in the country wherein by the sheer design of our democracy, it’s not just one person who’s involved,” Almendras said. “We can’t just blame one person.”

He cited as example those who carelessly throw their garbage just about anywhere, which eventually clog drainage, waterways and canals.

President Aquino had an 11 a.m. meeting on Tuesday on “Metro Manila flooding,” which was preceded by a meeting with the Department of Transportation and Communications.

In attendance, aside from Tolentino and Singson, were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, and the heads of the Presidential Management Staff, Department of Science and Technology, and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Asked who was on top of the flood mitigation program, Almendras said several government officials were involved.

Instead of pinning the blame on someone, he said: “What is important is that those tasked to trace (the root cause) of the problem are working together. The problem is so enormous.”

“Your population has increased, your coverage has increased … and the rains have been very challenging,” said Almendras. “God can’t be blamed either for sending the rain.”

At the Palace meeting, the President checked on the status of the projects under the flood control master plan, which was approved last year following the onslaught of “habagat” (southwest monsoon) in August that dumped intense rains and triggered massive flooding that paralyzed the capital.

Aquino earlier announced that there were at least three infrastructure projects that could be finished in two to three years to deal with the perennial flooding in the metropolis and outlying areas.

He referred to a ring-road dike on the rim of Laguna de Bay, embankments and catch basins in the Marikina River watershed, and an 8-kilometer dike and pumping station in Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) area.

At press time, the Palace has yet to update the media on the progress of these projects, along with the repeatedly announced relocation of squatter huts along esteros and riverbanks.

P352B master plan

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) announced last August a P352-billion flood control master plan that would reduce the vulnerability of Metro Manila and outlying provinces to flooding during heavy rain. It was envisioned to be completed in 2035 and covered 11 major infrastructure projects.

The construction of the Marikina large dam plus improvements on the Pasig and Marikina river embankments, and the West Laguna lakeshore land-raising are considered “very high priority projects.”

The “high priority” projects are the Manila core area drainage improvements—East Manggahan Floodway, Cainta and Taytay Rivers, Malabon-Tullahan River, Meycauayan River, Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan River improvements, land-raising for small cities around Laguna lake, and improvement of inflow of rivers to Laguna lake.

Also in the plan are “marginal priority” projects: South Parañaque-Las Piñas river improvements, and West Manggahan area drainage improvements.

The DPWH plans to set aside only P84 billion for its flood control projects from 2011 to 2016.

The master plan was approved by the National Economic and Development Board last September with an initial allocation of P5 billion.

Asked about Metro Manila’s flood resiliency, Almendras said: “I know the MMDA has been preparing for it. I’m not sure if all of the esteros (have been cleared) but there’s also a component of the private sector role in making sure that their own canals are clean.” He noted improvements in the embankments of rivers in the National Capital Region.

“It’s about how to get the water into those catchment areas as fast as we can. And some of the projects, I will not deny, cannot really be finished in three years. The interceptor canal in the Manila area, that’s really going to take three to four years to do and when did we start doing that? (This is) not to justify any delay. There are just infrastructure projects that really take a long time,” he said.

Contingency plans

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte insisted that the government had “contingency plans” or short-term measures to address flooding and traffic congestion during heavy rains, including the deployment by the MMDA of buses and trucks.

But she noted that recent attempts by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the MMDA to relocate squatters had been “met with resistance” midway into the Aquino administration’s six-year term.

“I understand that most of the informal settlers prefer on-site or in-city relocation,” Valte said.

Unless authorities enjoy seeing the entire archipelago turn into a “waterworld,” Sen. Loren Legarda said simple compliance with the decade-old Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and relevant local ordinances should prevent debilitating floods from paralyzing populated areas every time it rains.

In a news conference, Legarda said she planned to call for an “environmental audit” that would require at least three Senate oversight committees to examine how the government had responded to factors that contributed to flooding and its accompanying tragedies during heavy rains.

Tolentino has a new short-term solution. He said students and workers should be dismissed an hour earlier than usual to avoid the traffic jams and floods during downpours, noting that rains usually pour at 5 p.m.

“According to the Pagasa, the heavy rains during the afternoon will last until Friday, so we are appealing to the schools, private and government offices to allow students and workers to be off by 4 p.m.,” Tolentino said in a radio interview.—With reports from Cathy Yamsuan and Niña P. Calleja

Sam Miguel
06-19-2013, 08:56 AM
^^^ Another delightful stuck-in-traffic story from Prof Tan...

Metro Manila’s stroke
By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:38 am | Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

When foreign visitors ask me about travel time within the Philippines, I sometimes crack a joke like, “Oh, the flight from Cebu to Manila is an hour, but to get from the airport to Quezon City it can take two.”

Monday night, I broke my own record of airport commuting ordeals, clocking 13 hours to get from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to my home in San Juan.

I’m sure many of my readers had similar experiences but I’m still going to recount what happened, and add an analysis of what the government needs to do, as well as some tips and reminders for surviving commutes during the typhoon season.

Let’s start with a quick recap of what happened:

I left Naia at about 5:30 p.m. in a taxi, calling the kids and telling them I was back, but because it was rush hour, I warned them it would probably take me about an hour to get home.

At 6:30 p.m., I called home again and said the traffic was really bad because of the rains, and I was still on Ayala and Edsa.

Half an hour later, the taxi had crawled to Buendia and Edsa. After some 15 minutes of not moving, I knew something was terribly wrong, but the radio stations weren’t very helpful except for sporadic reports of flooding in different parts of Metro Manila.

MMDA app

I turned to my phone. The Metro Manila Development Authority app (available for iPhones and android phones) has a “Line View” section giving updates on traffic on main thoroughfares. It said that traffic was L (light) on Edsa’s intersections: Ayala, Buendia, Guadalupe. I told the taxi driver, who was not amused. I later clicked on its “Map View,” which was working. The map view uses GPS, so I could see a blue dot representing our vehicle, hardly moving on Edsa, along a rather long segment in red, which means very bad traffic. (Other areas are either in green for light traffic or yellow for medium traffic.)

I went into the Internet, googled MMDA’s traffic updates, and was referred to a Facebook site. There were all kinds of postings from stranded motorists in varying moods: irate, hungry and pleading (“gutom na gutom ako”), and informative but panicky (the area in front of Megamall, one posting said, was “tire-deep” in floods and impassable by light vehicles).

Worried that I’d have to swim home and that the taxi driver would also have difficulties getting back, I had to think of alternatives. My son, disappointed about the delay, begged me to take a tricycle home. I thought of the MRT but the coaches were all packed, and besides I had heavy luggage.

I thought of a hotel. Makati’s hotels were already behind me, and besides they were all too expensive. Sogo Hotel on Guadalupe? No… I could imagine gossip spreading around me in a motel. Then I remembered that Gokongwei had some hotel along Edsa but couldn’t remember the name. Stupid me: Sogo, Gokongwei, what else but Go Hotel?

At 8 p.m., two and a half hours after leaving Naia, I got to Go, and to go (you know, as in senior citizens’ got to go, quickly now).

I went to a Tokyo Café next to the hotel for dinner and ran into a friend and her three children. Her son had walked all the way from Mapua (I presume from the campus in Makati), unable to get public transport.

I was still entertaining thoughts of returning home maybe around 11 p.m. but the MRT was still packed and the vehicles on Edsa were moving only a bit faster. I was exhausted, and knew the kids would be asleep anyway, so I went back to my spartan, windowless Go room.

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn and dragged my luggage into the lobby. There were some Fil-Ams preparing to leave for the airport, for a provincial medical mission. They asked where I was headed for and I sheepishly answered, “San Juan,” about five kilometers away.

I finally got home at 6:30 a.m., 13 hours after leaving Naia.

Strokes, big and small

What dismayed me most about Monday night’s experience was that the traffic gridlock was triggered by “Emong,” a fairly small storm. To use a medical metaphor, what happened was a small or transient stroke, the flash floods stalling vehicles, which, like plaques and clots in our blood vessels, prevent blood from reaching the brain.

Like a stroke’s effects on the body, parts of Metro Manila ended up paralyzed. And if strokes impair speech in humans, the Metro Manila stroke aggravated our communications problems. Like a stroke patient, the radio stations were “saying” a lot of things but weren’t making much sense.

The taxi driver kept muttering about the MMDA having to do something, and I agreed. Why can’t we have a government radio station devoted to weather and traffic updates, rather than having people depend on private radio stations that tend to create panic with exaggerated reports but not much practical advice on what to do? The MMDA also needs to fix its phone app’s Line View. The Map View needs improvement as well, maybe a flashing red for areas where vehicles are no longer moving, and a blue one for flooded areas.

At one point near Guadalupe bridge, where we stalled for some 10 minutes, I had to endure a large billboard with a video of a woman model seductively showing off Jag jeans. Now, I thought, why can’t MMDA have a billboard advising people on traffic flow along Edsa and alternative routes?

Until the government acts, we just have to be prepared for long commutes, or worse, gridlock induced by rains. Remember it doesn’t have to be a typhoon, as we saw in the habagat (western monsoon) rains in August 2012.

By public or private transport, the stuff we bring may as well be for camping: some food and water, a smartphone that allows you to keep in touch with family and to check the Internet. The Internet got me Go Hotel’s phone, which allowed me to call in to check if there were rooms available.

I did have an iPad, which allowed me to continue reading a book I had started on the plane, but I’m not sure you want to drag around a tablet or iPad in the rain.

On the smartphone, you can download I-typhoon and MMDA apps that give you general updates, but, as I mentioned earlier, the Line View doesn’t seem to be working. Use the Map View. Power banks for the phone are worthwhile; you charge them at home, and then plug in your low-bat phone while on the road. A small flashlight will be useful (some phones have the flashlight built in), as well as a foldable umbrella and rainwear.

At the rate Metro Manila is deteriorating, we just might get to the point where swimwear, together with floating gear, will become essential for travel. What happened on Monday night was just a mini-stroke, a warning that a larger, more serious and debilitating stroke might be around the corner.

Sam Miguel
06-26-2013, 01:46 PM
'P60 fare needed for MRT to earn'

By Louis Bacani

(philstar.com) | Updated June 26, 2013 - 10:14am

MANILA, Philippines - The management of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) believes that for the country's rapid line transit system to earn, train fares should be raised to P60.

Lawyer Al Vitancgol III, general manager of the Metro Rail Transit Corporation, said other operating expenses and obligations make them "operate at a loss," contrary to the public's perception that the MRT is earning a lot.

He claimed that while the MRT earned around P2.1 billion last year, its operating expenses were pegged at P7.9 billion. With this loss, Vitangcol said the fare for the whole stretch of the MRT should be raised to P60 for the train system to earn.

"Technically speaking, if we want to break even in the operations, (P15 maximum fare) has to be multiplied by four... that should be P60 to break even," Vitangcol said in a television interview on Wednesday.

The minimum fare of P10 will also be then raised to P40, said the MRT chief, adding that they are not seeing this kind of fare hike any time soon.

Vitangcol also defended the proposed MRT fare hike which he described as "long overdue."

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya had said the additional P10 fare for Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 and 2 and the MRT Line 3 would be done in two equal stages through 2014.

This means fares will increase by P5 in August of 2013 while the second P5 increase will be imposed next year.

Both Abaya and Vitangcol claimed that there have been no fare increases since 2000.

"This (new proposed fare hike) is actually long overdue... this is supposedly to be implemented way back in 2011 as it was approved. and in fact in 2012, the budget of MRT-3 was already reduced by 900 million," Vitangcol said.

He said the budget was slashed since Congress was already sensing that the fare hike will be then implemented for 2012.

Vitangcol said they are receiving from the government an estimated yearly P6 billion subsidy for the operations of the mass transit system.

For every one peso that a passenger is paying, the government puts in additional three pesos, according to the MRT chief.

He added that if train fares will be increased, the subsidy will be reduced, with the slashed amount going back to the national coffers.

"If we adjust the fare, [then] the subsidy will be reduced. Now the reduction will go back to national treasury and then the national government now can use it for some other projects aside from subsidizing mass transport," Vitangcol said.

Militant group Bayan had opposed the fare hikes, calling them "unjust and anti-commuter." Related story: P10 MRT, LRT fare hike 'anti-commuter' - Bayan

"The increase is an unjust burden on commuters. The fare hike will not necessarily go to improved services since it will only be used to pay the debts incurred by the train lines," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Reyes claimed that the Light Rail Transit Authority and the Department of Transportation and Communications have admitted in past public consultations that the yearly subsidy goes to paying off the huge debts of the train lines.

Malacañang has assured that public consultations will be conducted before any increase in commuter train fares takes effect.

Sam Miguel
07-10-2013, 08:28 AM
‘Artistic murder’

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:22 am | Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

What in heaven’s name could have happened between February 2012 and June this year that made Melvin Balagot change his mind?

Balagot is the former Manila city building official who approved the permit last year for the demolition of the old Meralco building in Ermita, Manila, an Art Deco structure designed by architect Juan Arellano in 1936, and whose facade features relief sculptures by Italian expatriate sculptor Francesco Ricardo Monti.

The Meralco building has been bought by a company called Greenville Realty Development Corp., which was planning to put up a McDonald’s fast-food outlet in its place. But conservationists took notice of the demolition and raised a ruckus about the thoughtless destruction of another precious heritage building, appealing to the owner to preserve at least the structure’s facade and allow for the building’s adaptive reuse. By this time, much damage has been done; the old building was hollowed out, and only the four-story sculptural relief by Monti, called “The Furies” after the Greek deities of vengeance, was left more or less intact—give or take a head and an arm that were cut off when a cast was made in an attempt to replicate the sculpture.

To his credit, Greenville Realty president Wilson Cham, realizing the value of his property, met and talked with the conservationists. Manila City Hall also issued an order suspending the building’s dismantling. But recently it was found out that Balagot signed another demolition permit on June 7 this year, a few weeks before a new set of elected officials was to enter City Hall.

Now it’s full steam ahead for the obliteration of the Meralco Head Office, a building that architect Paulo Alcazaren (quoted by Ivan Anthony Henares of the Heritage Conservation Society) has described as “one of the key urban edifices in burgeoning Manila, the headquarters of the power and transportation company Meralco (Manila Electric Rail and Light Company). It was one of the most modern commercial buildings in Manila before the war and was designed in the Art Deco-streamline style. It had the country’s first air-conditioned office spaces (Carrier)…”

Why is its demolition being allowed to continue? Because, said architect Wilkie de Lumen of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines: “This is privately owned by the Cham family. It is now the prerogative of the owner since it was not declared a national heritage. Plus, the building was already condemned by the city building official.”

One can forgive the likes of Balagot for issuing the demolition order. Perhaps, like nearly everyone else, he didn’t know much about the building’s cultural and historical importance. The new owners, too, are not the chief culprits for this desecration of heritage; they had bought the dilapidated property in an aboveboard transaction, for straightforward business purposes, and apparently came to know of its unique and significant provenance only later, when the issue had exploded in the media.

The party that should bear the blame for this shocking case of neglect is clearly the government. Despite Republic Act 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, which mandates the preservation of historic buildings 50 years old and above, why was the old Meralco Head Office not declared a heritage structure or a cultural property, and thereby conceivably spared the wrecking ball despite a change in its ownership?

Its historic and cultural worth is unassailable. Arellano was one of the Philippines’ foremost architects, while Monti, who came to the country in 1930 and stayed for 28 years, saw many of his works become part of Philippine public spaces—among them the sculptures atop the University of Santos Tomas’ main building, the relief murals adorning the lobby of Far Eastern University’s administrative building, the cast of St. Dominic de Guzman at Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, the bas relief at the doorway of Iloilo City Hall, and the statues in the main building of the University of the Philippines-Visayas.

Henares quotes architect Manolo Noche as saying that “more than any other works by Monti, ‘The Furies’ is his one big commissioned bas relief that is not religious in nature. This should be declared a national work of art. If lost, this is tantamount to artistic murder.”

If the government does not step in, one more crucial link to our past is bound not just to bite the dust, but to become dust, literally—gone for all time. This is criminal carelessness of the highest order.

Sam Miguel
08-30-2013, 09:54 AM
To our generation, class is dead; the Internet killed it

By Mara Santillan Miano

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:59 am | Friday, August 30th, 2013

An article has been circulating in the Internet: Rachel Jablow’s “Has Our Culture Killed Class?”

It’s a thought-provoking piece about how the young’s social media behavior and permissive fashion choices are breeding a culture of ill manners, self-absorption and a terrible lack of “class.”

We are probably the most analyzed and criticized generation for having been spawned at a time of consumerism, which supposedly makes us materialistic; advanced technology, which supposedly makes us smarter and quicker; and the Internet, which, well, makes us.

Is class obsolete?

“Class,” in the true sense of the word, refers to a person’s position in society. Because they’re supposedly richer and smarter, the privileged are taught how to act in a more refined manner to differentiate themselves from commoners.

Men and women have separate behavioral norms. Men offer to dance, women curtsy to accept, and so on. They’re a more educated lot, and live comfortably enough to act more particularly.

The royal courts had to develop a system of social conduct so parties, which they had very often, would be pleasant and harmonious.

Etiquette actually came from the Old French word “estiquette,” which means ticket, a reference to small cards with written instructions on the proper way to behave in an event. Manners were developed for practical reasons at a time when personal interaction was more imperative.

But today, we see families not talking at the dinner table, because everyone’s on his/her smartphone. A teenager would chat his sibling up on Facebook instead of going to the next bedroom to talk face to face. Two people converse without looking at each other, because they’re simultaneously checking Instagram.

Indeed, the previous generations are quick to condemn this behavior. But then, they didn’t have the distractions we do.

Young people are rude the same way people in New York tend to be rude: they don’t mean it, they just live in such a fast-paced world.

Bridging the gap

Technology dissolves the notion of “class.” Though the rich and the poor today are still a world apart, the gap between them is seemingly narrowing down, thanks to technology.

Technology is becoming cheaper and more available. Cigarette vendors have smartphones. A truck driver and a CEO use the same Google. Anyone can tweet Obama.

Even the traditional lines between sexes are blurred. Because of technology, today’s young are very much exposed, hence liberal and gender-fluid. Heck, men wear skinny jeans and short shorts now! They don’t pay for women’s drinks at the bar anymore. They seldom open the door or pull out the chair for them. It’s not necessarily because they’re jerks, they just treat women like equals.

Women, who are now as exposed and educated as men, are beginning to enjoy the same privileges in the workplace. They’re in high-impact positions in government, legislation and corporate management. They may feel like dressing and acting as liberally as they want because they can finally afford to. They have their own place in the world, unlike the French women in the 18th-century parties. Judge a girl bragging about her Chanel online and she won’t care. She probably paid for it. Of course, she’ll flaunt it.

The Internet also blurs the line between the smart and the stupid, and today the two forcibly coexist in social media networks. One misinformed post, and people will think you’re ignorant. Argue with a kid about something and he’ll pull a “You’re wrong, I Googled it!” on you, he may never listen to you again.

Some idiot may beat you in an online debate because he researched more quickly than you, and even if you looked more intimidating and spoke better, people wouldn’t know that in an online forum. Credibility has become vague.

From etiquette to ethics

Class and manners are an outdated argument. In an era of intangible interaction, it’s not a matter of etiquette anymore, but of ethics.

Etiquette and “acting with class” have evolved from being an obligatory formality to a personal choice. It’s not about being well-mannered, but simply being kind. You say “thank you” or hold the door out for someone not because you have to, but because it is the right thing to do.

A woman must keep her goods private not out of modesty (which I think is sexist), but because of temperance.

Jablow criticizes the flamboyant, immodest behavior of the young on social media when posting photos. But what I love most about my generation is that we are tolerant, hence our support for gender and racial equality and our disapproval of human rights violations, such as bullying.

If a girl wants to look like a slut in that bikini-clad, duck-faced selfie, I say let her. What’s with the hate? There are “Block” and “Hide” buttons for that now.

We care less about what our peers wear and more about what our peers are contributing to the community. A typical millennial, for example, would condemn a polite, modest-wearing but corrupt politician more than a provocatively clothed environmental advocate.

If a woman goes to church in a sheer top and a leopard-print bra, of course she’ll be deemed the town tramp. The key is to wear these clothes in the right place at the right time. And in an era of healthier diets, various workouts and very erratic weather due to global warming (which, by the way, isn’t our fault), less clothing—less, not skanky—does not seem too inappropriate. Again, it’s all about ethics and what’s appropriate.

The situation can be seen from a proactive perspective. Our consumerist appreciation of luxury brands isn’t always materialistic, it can also denote ambition and aspiration. It’s not always “if they can have it, I can have it too,” but maybe “someday, I will have it too,” to motivate people to work harder.

We should stop judging people by their selfies, mannerisms and first impressions, but by their ideas, intellect and involvement in the community. Our generation may be narcissistic, but it is also broad-minded and visionary, and in my opinion, that’s more noteworthy.

Sam Miguel
08-30-2013, 09:55 AM
^^^ What typically arrant nonsense from that generation.

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 09:19 AM
Muslim holidays

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:12 am | Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

When my secretary told me last week that Oct. 15 had been declared a holiday, I asked why and she answered she didn’t quite know except that it was an “aid something.” I thought I’d do an instant survey of non-Muslims and indeed, of the more than 10 people I asked, no one knew.

I will admit that I wasn’t sure myself. I had an inkling that it had something to do with the Haj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, but I didn’t know what the name of the feast day was. I was obliged to do some research before I found out it was Eid al Adha (sometimes spelled Eid ul Adha and Eidul Adha and, in Malaysia and Indonesia, Idul Adha).

I think it’s well and good that our government has, in recent years, been recognizing two major Muslim Eid (solemn festivals), but wish there were more efforts to explain these holidays as a way of encouraging an understanding of different cultures and to do this without oversimplification. Some years back, on Eid al Fitr, I asked some high school students if they knew what the holiday was about, and they answered, “Muslim Christmas.”

To help bridge the gap (maybe “chasm” is a better term) between Muslims and Christians, I’m going to describe what yesterday’s holiday was, and then move on to the bigger picture of the Islamic calendar and Islam itself.

Abrahamic faiths

Eid al Adha means Feast of the Sacrifice and extends for four days. It commemorates Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his first-born son Ismael (or Ishmail), with God intervening at the last minute and allowing a lamb instead to be slaughtered.

Christians are always surprised when they hear of familiar Old Testament names being mentioned by Muslims. Eid al Adha should be an occasion to talk about how three global religions—Islam, Judaism and Christianity—are “people of the book,” meaning sharing scriptures which Christians call the Old Testament and Jews call the Torah. Muslims see the Quran as a completion of God’s (or Allah’s) revealed word. Muslims in fact recognize Jesus Christ, not as the son of God but as one of several great prophets. Mary, incidentally, is also recognized, and loved, by Muslims.

The sad reality is that religions can be divisive, and more orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims dislike the term “people of the book,” preferring to deny not just shared aspects of faith and common origins. In fact, another term, “Abrahamic faiths,” refers to the monotheistic religions that emerged in the Middle East, supposedly all tracing back to Abraham. These include the three global religions, and Bahai.

Note how central Abraham is. Eid al Adha is also called the “greater Eid,” more important than Eid al Fitr, which is marked by gift-giving (and which gave rise to the comparison to Christmas). Eid al Adha is the greater festival because it marks complete obedience or submission to one God. Today, Eid al Adha is celebrated through communal prayers and rituals, as well as by feasting and a repetition of Abraham’s animal sacrifice. On these occasions, one third of the meat is kept for the family, another third for relatives and friends, and the last portion for the poor, in accordance with the Muslim precept of “zakat” or alms-giving.

Eid al Adha is also used to mark the end of the Haj or pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This is why in Malaysia and Indonesia, where I first learned about this holiday, the term used was Hari Raya Haj (literally the “feast of the Haj”). Muslims are obligated to make this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

Islamic science

All these feasts vary each year on the Gregorian calendar because they are based on an Islamic calendar which is lunar-based, but not the same either as the Chinese lunar calendar. Like other global religions, Islam marks each year with many observances to remind people about the central points of their faith. Islam, in particular, emphasized the crafting of a calendar that was integral to religion.

It is fascinating how this religious orientation spurred Islamic science, which had its golden period from the 9th to the 12th centuries, with Muslims seeing the quest for knowledge as part of a glorification of Allah. Their work around astronomy was particularly impressive, and was related to the creation of their calendar for religious observances, as well as to the determination of the times for each day’s obligatory five prayers.

There is an interesting twist to the calendar: Although calculations can be made in advance, many Muslims prefer an actual observance of the skies and the moon to establish when a new month begins, and when a solemn feast starts. Muslim countries usually have an official “sighting committee” that takes care of declaring when a new month starts. This is why even in the Philippines, the official declaration of Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha is usually done only two or three weeks before the feast day, only after official Muslim sighting committees have declared when they fall on our Gregorian calendar.

Eid al Adha’s relationship to the Haj should remind us, too, of how Islam situates followers not just in time, but also in space. The commemoration of the Haj unites all Muslims, whether they are doing the pilgrimage or not. And this unity is achieved geographically, oriented toward Mecca, or, more specifically, the Kaaba, a shrine which you see in photographs looking like a black box and is considered by Muslims to be the most sacred place on earth. Muslims must pray in the direction of Mecca. The dead are also buried in that direction.

Again, Islamic science figures in all this; calculations are made so that a Muslim, wherever he or she might be in the world, will be able to “find” Mecca. To guide Muslims, you will find in many places—in mosques and prayer rooms, as well as in hotel rooms, even airplane seats—an arrow called the “qibla,” which points to Mecca. For Muslims, it is a reminder that prayers should be offered facing Mecca—so important that there are now even apps, Android and iPhone, with a “qibla” compass as well as prayer times.

Muslim or not, there is much that can be learned from Islam, including our human needs for community solidarity, brought together at particular times each year and, even when geographically separated, a common point of reference to a sacred place.

* * *

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 09:22 AM
^^^ I recall a dialogue from the Orlando Bloom movie "Kingdom Of Heaven" that goes something like:

Muslim Guy: You would destroy Jerusalem?

Bloom: I shall burn it to the ground, every stone. Your holy places, ours, everything that drives men mad.

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 09:38 AM
One’s religious fervor a bother to another


By Jarius Bondoc

(The Philippine Star) | Updated October 16, 2013 - 12:00am

A colossal nuisance, Catholics cursed the Iglesia ni Cristo’s traffic-jamming medical missions in 15 Metro Manila districts last Monday. A dose of your own medicine, sectarians harrumphed back, pointing up the numerous Catholic events that snarl traffic just as bad. So surfaced anew a religious intolerance that ails many Filipinos.

There were even snorts in the predominantly Catholic Aquino admin that the INC affair was a veiled “show of force.” Supposedly the partisan sect was practicing its capability to mobilize hundred thousands of followers in a snap. As well, make known its displeasure with Malacañang’s recent removal of three of its political nominees.

That’s all conspiracy theory. No agenda can be kept hidden from or by such multitude. Doubtless, the 5,000 busloads of INC members from surrounding provinces only wanted to help — possibly convert — calamity stricken fellowmen in the big city.

If anyone needs scolding for the traffic, it’s the metropolitan authorities, for not alerting the public earlier than just half a day. For that matter, all government officials must wake up, lest things get out of hand in religionist clash. The country can ill-afford violence as in India among Hindus, Christians and Muslims, or in Sudan and Syria between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Not now, when the centuries-old division between Christians and Moros in Mindanao is about to be resolved.

Sensitivity and law can curb sectarianism. The night before the INC extravaganza in Metro Manila, Catholics marched around the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of La Naval. The procession clogged up major roads, but the mainstream media aired no complaints of inconvenience. Still, traffic enforcers could have done better.

Again the day after the INC event, the archipelago was made to stay home from work and school, in observance of the Muslim Eidul Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice. In the news this time were employers grumbling about having to pay overtime workers double wages, and educators about holding Saturday makeup classes. Commentaries brimmed that such holidays should be limited to the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. After all, it rightly was noted, only eight percent of Filipinos are Muslim.

Wrong, on the other hand, is tyranny by the majority. The 80-percent Catholic Filipinos cannot impose holy feasts and customs on the 20-percent others. For one, INC brethren do not deck the halls with boughs of holly at Christmastime, so should not be compelled to join exchange-gifts in offices and schools. More so, the Muslims who do not celebrate Christmas, as they consider Jesus not God but Prophet.

Christians in general must learn to be politely ecumenical on public occasions. If asked to lead prayers in secular gatherings, Catholics need not open with the exclusively Trinitarian Sign of the Cross. In multi-faith events, they can in closing dispense with, “In Jesus’ name,” in favor of the all-encompassing “In the name of God Almighty.” Marian devotion may be spreading among non-Catholics, but that does not license agency chiefs to impose Rosary prayers on lunch breaks. Nothing lost, everything gained in being considerate.

Back to traffic-causing sectarian activities, Filipinos have a social obligation. They must stop using national highways for processions on feast days of their municipios’ patron saints. With some 2,200 cities, towns, and oversized districts all celebrating such feast days, traffic will be tied up in six areas a day on average throughout the land. Others have a right to those public roads as well. Most tiresome for them perhaps is summertime, when Catholics hold Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan processions everywhere.

This is not to say that all Filipinos are closed-minded. Christian and Muslim Filipinos alike were appalled when Malaysia recently decreed that Allah, the Arabic term for God, refers exclusively to the Muslim One and so may not be used in Christian Masses. Parish leaders in Quiapo, Manila, dutifully coordinate with civil authorities for order, safety, and cleanliness during the Procession of the Black Nazarene, attended by two million devotees every January. There was a time when, by Marcos martial-law diktat, all Filipinos were compelled to vote under pain of prison. Heeding better advice, the dictator modified the edict to exempt members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and similar Judaic denominations that preach political neutrality. Of late Filipino hosts have learned to prepare halal and kosher meals to suit Muslim and Jewish guests — and, for restaurateurs, to increase revenues. Filipinos can be proud that their countrymen led worldwide movements for Interfaith Dialogue starting in the ‘90s.

There’s virtue in secularism. Too many religious feasts celebrated as no-work national holidays are economically unproductive. It might be time for the government to scrap purely Christian holidays, like Holy Thursday and Good Friday. If it can be shown that only Catholics but not other Christians and major religions observe All Saints and All Souls Days, then those too must be left for purely religious and not official observance. The Congress calendar must revolve solely around the approval of the national budget, uninterrupted by long session breaks on such feasts. The Constitution mandates separation of Church and State.

Meanwhile, New Year’s on the 1st of January is acknowledged as the only true international holiday. It’s pointless for the Senate to enact a Chinese New Year holiday. For if that happens, then what would stop the passage as well of observing March 21 as Zoroastrian, April 1 as Siamese, or August 29 as Alexandrine New Year’s Days.

* * *

Sam Miguel
11-06-2013, 10:31 AM
Never too old

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:36 am | Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

A recent report in the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, caught my eye. It was about “disciplined services staff” asking that their retirement age be raised from the current 55 to 60.

I was more intrigued by the term “disciplined services staff,” which turned out to mean the police, but as I read the report I remembered our own situation in the Philippines, where police and military personnel are also required to retire at 55. I had actually met one of these forced retirees, who told me this was such a problem because many of them, at 55, still have children in school.

I thought I’d dig up more information on mandatory retirement ages in the Philippines and other countries, and examine the rationale behind the numbers.

When I looked at retirement ages across different countries, I found two patterns: Most developed countries have higher retirement ages, the lowest being 60 and many going up to 65 and beyond. The US Social Security System, for example, has a “full retirement age” of 65, meaning the age where you can retire and get full benefits from Social Security and Medicare. A number of European countries have retirement ages of 65 to 67.

With developing countries, the retirement ages tend to be lower. China and Vietnam, for example, have 60 as the retirement age for males and 55 for females. Actually, I could find data only for those two countries, which are both socialist, with a government pension system. I guess for most other developing countries, there is no mandatory retirement age because social security systems are not in place.

Healthier senior citizens

The Philippines does have such a system—the Social Security System for the private sector and the Government Service Insurance System for the public sector—and however low the benefits may be, they are still useful. The retirement age for the private sector is 60, and for government, 65. There are variations, like 55 for the “disciplined staff” and for Supreme Court justices, 70.

The contrast between “disciplined staff” and Supreme Court justices shows how societies look at old age. For the soldiers, a premium is placed on physical fitness, and it’s presumed that after the age of 55, that physical fitness deteriorates. On the other hand, the late retirement age of Supreme Court justices reflects the idea that as someone grows older, he or she becomes wiser and therefore we have a Supreme Court of very wise men and women. (I’m clearing my throat now.)

Many countries are in fact ruled by gerontocracies, usually very old men. The Catholic Church has been noted for very old, and presumably very wise, popes who stay in power till they die. Pope Benedict shocked the world when he decided to resign, citing “age and declining health” at a relatively young age of 85.

What do the medical sciences have to say about fitness and old age?

Last year at a medical symposium, Dr. Joven Cuanang of St. Luke’s Medical Center mentioned that retirement ages are “artificially pegged” and that you can have elderly people still in their prime, physically and mentally. Cuanang should know, being a neurologist and, at age 72 (last year), still managing very well as the chief medical officer of St. Luke’s. It’s interesting that over at The Medical City, the chief executive officer is also a neurologist, also a septuagenarian, Dr. Alfredo Bengzon.

There’s a growing body of research studies showing that senior citizens today are healthier than their counterparts in the past, in large part because of advances in medicine and increased awareness about healthier diets and lifestyles. Even until about 20 or 30 years ago, people in their 60s were perceived as “very old,” with all kinds of stereotypes of being frail, weak and slow to think. Today, when you hear about someone dying in their 60s, we go, “Ay, ang bata (Oh, how young).”

Never too old

Over at the University of the Philippines, we’re in our registration week and I sense there are more elderly people enrolling. One of them, Victor Africa, came to me for advising. I found out that he had an AB, then an LlB (Bachelor of Laws) and an LlM (Master of Laws). He went into private law practice, then retired. After retirement, he went back to school and got another master’s degree, this time in human movement science, and is now doing his PhD in Philippine studies. He is 68 years old and said, sure, I could feature him as an example of “never too old for school.” Last summer Esperanza Gatbonton, who is in her 70s, got her PhD, also in Philippine studies.

We hear more now about the elderly competing in sports (against other elderly athletes), or taking on a second (or third or fourth) career. So, why do societies still insist on mandatory retirement ages around the 60s?

The main reason is that societies have limited numbers of jobs and so if people continue working into old old age (versus young old age), the young are deprived of work. In Spain, Greece and Italy, which are facing economic recession and high unemployment rates, there have been calls for people to retire earlier so their job items can be passed on.

Paradoxically, in European countries like Germany and France, the trend has been to raise the retirement age—a move opposed by many of the elderly who had looked forward to retiring and enjoying their pensions. The problem, though, was that with so many elderly people, the governments in these countries were worried that they would run out of pension funds, so the solution was to keep people longer in the labor force.

In Japan, the move has also been to raise the retirement age—from 55 to 60 in 1998, and then, starting this year, up to 61, with further additions every three years until, by the year 2025, the retirement age will be 65. The reason for this rising retirement rate in Japan is that with low birth rates, its labor force has dwindled. A similar trend is being seen in Singapore.

However, there has been criticism of Japan and Singapore, where the elderly are kept in the labor force but end up doing menial tasks like cleaning, or serving food. There have been proposals to put up more retraining programs for the elderly, to which they can contribute with their wisdom and experience with work and life.

Japan also has to face up to a cultural problem with keeping the elderly in the labor force. With the heavy emphasis on age hierarchies, the elderly sometimes have problems when they become subordinates to much younger people.

In the Philippines, we find people generally wanting to retire later because they are still supporting children (or sometimes, even grandchildren). On the other hand, the tight job market means that they stay on in jobs that could be going to younger people. Overseas Filipinos seem to be the exception: They are only too willing to retire early from their jobs in North America or Europe, and to come home to enjoy their dollar or euro pensions.

* * *

Sam Miguel
11-21-2013, 11:15 AM
From Cracked - - -

6 Little-Known Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life

By Ajay Kumar November 20, 2012 1,250,884 views

Driving a car, or getting run over by one, is still one of the most popular ways to get killed in the modern world. Despite the fact that cars are safer than ever, they are still driven by human beings who, let's face it, often have trouble retaining even the minimal techniques and rules required to operate a vehicle.

But if you're reading this, hopefully it means that you are intent on doing what it takes to survive in a world full of such drivers by being just a little more careful. So for you, here are some advanced tips that everyone should know, even if most people don't ...

#6. Don't Have Your Car Visible Anywhere in Your Mirrors

This is one of those things that takes next to zero effort to do right, but that almost everyone does wrong.

You hopefully already know that the "blind spot" is the name for the area on either side of a car that is invisible to wing mirrors. It's such a frequent cause of accidents that higher-end car models have adopted fancy radar or camera systems capable of detecting other vehicles in your blind spots and delivering the information to you in furiously urgent beep-screams as you swerve in terror and/or crash anyway.

However, the technology isn't the problem -- the necessary equipment to eliminate blind spots was around back when Henry Ford was still producing cars and anti-Semitic newsletters. All you need are your car's wing mirrors -- which most people have adjusted incorrectly.

You see, blind spots can be put into full view of your side mirrors, provided that these mirrors are adjusted to contain no part of your own car. Just angle them away from you until the point where your car is no longer visible in either one, and leave them there. That way, there's no overlap between them and the rearview mirror, and any car that's passing you on either side will remain in at least one of your mirrors until it enters your field of vision.

Admittedly, this seems less like a "tip" and more like "the most obvious piece of instruction of all time," but nobody freaking does it. Manufacturers have to let you adjust the mirrors (due to things like differences in driver height), and most people simply don't know how to do it. That's why those same engineers are spending millions on technology meant to eliminate blind spots -- they have simply failed to teach people not to point their goddamned mirrors at the sides of the vehicle they're attached to.

#5. Pay More Attention to Traffic Than Road Signs

If you saw someone blow past a yield sign into traffic and vanish in an explosion of steel and glass not unlike one of the Iron Giant's volcanic diarrheas, you'd be tempted to blame the crash on the driver who ignored the road sign.

But what if the yield sign wasn't there, like those intersections where there's nothing but an esoteric flashing yellow light and everyone stops and stares at each other? There would probably still be the odd person who flies through, but average drivers would become extremely cautious as a result of having no clear instruction of what to do. They would instead just intuit their next move based on the traffic around them, which is kind of the point of stoplights and road signs to begin with -- to force you to stop and look.

In other words, you may be better off without the signs.

There are experts who believe that the overabundance of signs and signals just make you complacent, because you're fixated on blindly following instructions printed on reflective metal rather than not killing your fellow drivers. And we've all seen it happen -- drivers with a green light will plow through an intersection and T-bone another car that was clearly in their path, simply because the pretty colored light told them they had the right of way. And think about how people will lose their freaking minds if traffic and/or weather conditions have them driving slower than the posted speed limit, routinely causing accidents by trying to weave their way back up to maximum warp, even though the speed limit is literally just a number on a sign that takes absolutely nothing into consideration beyond what a few civil engineers came up with on a calculator 30 years ago.

The Dutch city of Drachten decided to test out the theory by replacing 20 four-way intersections with 20 roundabouts free of any road signage, and the results were surprisingly nothing like The Cannonball Run. One intersection that typically killed two to four people every year saw no injuries for the next six years, and another intersection went from 36 accidents in the previous four years to just two in two years. All this just from putting more responsibility into the hands of drivers and forcing them to interact with each other in the absence of indifferent commands from stoplights and signs (although it could also be related to the fact that nobody in the Netherlands has a The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift poster on their bedroom wall).

Since the success in Drachten, a number of other cities have tried out similar concepts, most notably London, whose recently debuted Exhibition Road looks like the guy in charge of painting lines on the streets was tripping balls that day.

We're not saying that you should ignore stoplights and road signs, but that you shouldn't rely on them to make every decision for you. Just because you had the right of way at an intersection won't make you any less dead if you pull in front of an 18 wheeler, and refusing to slow down for pedestrians because they aren't crossing in a designated crosswalk won't put you any less in jail if you chop them in half with your Daewoo.

Or maybe we should just put it this way: Obey the signs, but assume that nobody else is doing so.

#4. Listening to Techno Makes Your Driving Worse

Every car comes with a stereo and speakers, but you don't find much in driving manuals about what you should or shouldn't do with them. So it's easy to assume that it's safe to bump some jams while driving, as long as you're focused on the road and not constantly messing with the knobs or looking at yourself in the rearview mirror while you're singing. But research shows that your tunes are probably making you a worse driver, even if you just like a little ambient music in your Prelude.

An Israeli study connected test subjects to heart monitors and put them through a driving simulator while they listened to music of varying tempos. A no-music control group experienced significant heart rate fluctuation while driving -- that is, their heart sped up when things got exciting, like if a moose turned up in the street or something. But those who were listening to any type of music saw their heart rate stay level (except during the Les Miserables soundtrack, when their heart rates soared with bittersweet triumph).

At first glance, this suggests that the drivers who were listening to music were more calm, and thus more careful drivers than the control group. But it was the opposite -- the music group Dukes of Hazzarded their way through the virtual driving course like they were running moonshine for a one-legged banjo player. They were calm (maybe), but only because they were less focused on driving than the control group -- they were placated by the music.

The study also showed that drivers who were listening to higher-tempo music (between 120 and 140 beats per minute, the speed of most dance and techno music) were twice as likely to blast through red lights and had twice as many accidents as those who were listening to slower music or the deafening echo of their own thoughts. Drivers who were listening to dubstep were 84 percent more likely to believe that there was a Transformer behind them trying to mate with their car.

Sam Miguel
11-21-2013, 11:18 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

#3. Always Have Your Headlights On

According to a recent study, you can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by up to 32 percent simply by driving with your headlights on at all times. This seems like common sense -- obviously something that is lit up is going to be more visible, regardless of the time of day. And as long as other cars are driven by tired, distracted human beings, greater visibility equals less chance of having a hood ornament embedded in your skull. Yet almost nobody drives with their lights on during the day (and cars with automatic lights won't flick on until the sun goes down).

Other drivers are simply less likely to pull out in front of you if they can instantly see the glare of your headlights in a quick glance (unless they were planning to cut you off, in which case they are shitheads and the accident was unavoidable). This also counts for pedestrians and cyclists, who statistically will sometimes miss their own oncoming death unless there are bright lights attached to it.

In countries like Canada, Sweden and Finland, all new cars are required to have automatic running lights that stay on at all times, and you can get them on some new car models in the U.S. But the majority of drivers still have dusty old manual headlights, so if you're one of those people, you'll just have to dig deep and flick your lights on and off every time you drive (we know, we know -- it hardly seems worth all the effort, but trust us, you'll be much safer).

#2. Your Parking Break Stops Working if You Don't Use It Regularly

Of all the aspects of driving, parking should be the most straightforward. Basically, you take the keys out of the ignition and get out of the car (hopefully after putting the car in park, hopefully not in the middle of an elementary school).

Oh, and if you're on an incline, maybe pull the parking brake. If you don't, you might end up like this guy, which is simultaneously a worst- and best-case scenario.

But here's something most people don't know: You should probably put on the parking brake, regardless of whether you've stopped on the taxiway of a Delta terminal or at the summit of the Grinch's mountain, just to keep it in good working order.

You see, the parking brake is also commonly called the emergency brake, and as the name suggests, it can be used in a situation when your brakes fail or have been otherwise disabled by enemy agents. It overrides the hydraulic mechanism normally used to control the brakes and stops you with cables, which are demonstrably better than hydraulics because hydraulics never cut anyone in half in a Die Hard movie.

But the problem with steel cables is that they often rust and corrode, particularly after long periods of disuse. The way parking brake cables are designed, if you don't engage the brake every so often, the corrosion builds up and will cause it to fall apart like the bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

So if you bought your car back when the cast members of Harry Potter were still children and have never used the parking brake, and then suddenly throw it on to bail yourself out of an honest-to-God emergency, such as barreling down the switchback of Lombard Street toward a rampaging atomic monster bursting out of San Francisco Bay, the cables will probably just snap under the strain and result in a headstone that will seriously confuse future archaeologists. Unless the monster wasn't just a one-time thing.

#1. Don't Brake During a Blowout

The knee-jerk reaction to pretty much all panicky driving moments is to stand on the brakes like goblins are trying to crawl out of them, and in most cases this is absolutely correct.

That being said, imagine you're cruising down the highway at about 65 mph when all of a sudden you hear your rear tire explode like you just ran over a tiny landmine. As you fire shit out of your pant leg like a muddy trumpet, you can feel that the car is about to go out of control. If you follow your instincts, you'll probably hit the brakes, but in this case your instincts have tragically failed you.

See, if you brake during a blowout, you're almost certain to fishtail (and maybe flip), possibly into another fast-moving car or the median (or both). This is especially true if your rear tire has blown out, which is more likely than a front tire blowout (front tires wear out more quickly, but people see that and replace them, while leaving the rear tires in place for years and years as part of their plan to just drive the car until it slowly disintegrates).

So in the event of a blowout, you must do the very thing that makes the least sense: hit the gas. But don't drop an elbow on it like Macho Man Randy Savage; just squeeze it firmly for a couple of seconds to regain control, keeping the car as straight as possible. A completely blown or otherwise flat tire drags on the ground like an anchor -- if you slam on the brakes, the anchor catches at 65 mph or however fast you're going, and you're screwed. Ditto if you smash the gas pedal -- picture a cigarette boat tossing its anchor down at top speed. Give the car just enough speed to stay in control and then gently let your foot off the gas, turning into the blown tire (if you steer the opposite direction, the anchor catches). The tire that betrayed you will eventually bring the car to a stop on its own, and then you can get out and throw your pants into the woods.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2013, 03:22 PM
From Cracked - - -

5 Common Medical Procedures (That Secretly Aren't Worth It)

By Colin Elzie November 09, 2010 2,661,034 views

A thousand years ago, consulting a doctor about abdominal pains would have earned you a week in bed, covered with leeches, while a shaman sprayed chicken blood all over your torso. These days it seems to most of us that medical science has advanced a little since then.

Well, we hate to break it to you, but many of the common procedures in use today are about as useful, if not more dangerous, than that bucket of leeches from ages past.

CT Scans

CT scans are what doctors describe to stupid people as "super X-rays." Prior to the CT scan, if you thought something funky was going on inside you and nothing showed up on an X-ray, your only option was to pretty much let a doctor slice you open and poke around in there. With the magic of CT scans, all sorts of things became much easier to see, including brain hemorrhages, heart disease and dinosaur fossils.

So what's the problem?

In addition to providing a window into your body, CT scans deal a superhero-inducing dose of radiation. But rather than letting you shoot webs or adamantium claws out of your hands, the ability it gives you is the power of cancer.

See, each CT scan shoots you with hundreds of times the level of radiation that you get from an X-ray, and some experts now think that one in 50 cases of future cancer will have been caused by all these CT scans.

Of course, these days, we also have the MRI scan, which is not only superior in every diagnostic sense but has the added benefit of being completely harmless and radiation-free. So hospitals are rapidly switching over, right? Oh no, wait -- CT scans per year in America have shot up to around 62 million and it's estimated that 30 percent of them are completely unnecessary for making a diagnosis.

Why does this go on? We'll give you one guess.

That's right, money. CT scans are extremely profitable, and it's next to impossible for an insurance company to refuse to pay if the doctor insists he needs the scan to be sure of the diagnosis. Remember, these days the doctor may work for the same hospital profiting from the scan, or the doctor may even buy a CT scanner for the office and use it as a money-printing machine. You've got a mild case of the sniffles? Better order a CT scan, just to be safe.

In fact, there are quite a startling number of expensive/profitable procedures that are not only more dangerous, but also less effective than cheaper alternatives. The hysterectomy is one -- though it's estimated that 40 percent of women over 45 have gotten one, many are unaware that there's a procedure called embolization that cures many of the same problems and doesn't involve ripping out your lady-parts. Unfortunately, it rakes in much less money for the hospital.

To be fair, it's not all about greed. For instance, often patients demand CT scans, not because they know anything about them, but simply because that's what House would do. The doctor then takes a "better safe than sorry" attitude because he faces the risk of a lawsuit in the odd case in which something was in fact wrong and a scan would have caught it. So why not just do the scan?

Oh, right. Cancer.

Physical Examinations

They're by far the most common reason people go to the doctor. You turn, you cough, the doctor fondles your balls for a few seconds. Maybe he takes some blood. Then you get out of there with another year of health in front of you. They're probably the most known and accepted staple of Western medicine, with 64 million of them performed per year.

So what's the problem?

Routine physical examinations first caught on in the 1920s, when it was discovered that people who got yearly exams tended to live longer.

Unfortunately, this is a classic case of confusing correlation with causation. The kinds of people who like to keep up-to-date with their physical exams are the same kinds of people who focus on keeping a healthier lifestyle in general.

As it turns out, physical exams provide no real benefit if you don't have any actual symptoms of anything, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Most of the time, you'll know that there's something wrong with you long before a doctor can detect it by cupping your balls.

Still, the physical exam is the bread and butter of the medical industry. Depending on your personal level of hypochondria, you can sign up for anything from a $5,000 Executive Special to your regular $120 McCheckup. All secure a steady income for doctors, and all are almost entirely pointless.

But just because it doesn't do any good, that doesn't mean it does any harm, right?

Well, first of all, the pricier examinations will usually involve plenty of those cancer-inducing CT scans. But then let's say that they do come back showing something suspicious. This leads to more expensive and invasive tests that often show that there was nothing wrong to begin with. The human body is actually full of things that look like tumors on a scan result, but if none of them are growing tentacles and slithering around your arteries, investigating every one of them just subjects you to unnecessary scalpel-stabbing.

Then again, what if the tests come back negative? Isn't the peace of mind worth it? Again, not so much. Apparently, this lulls people into a false sense of security, and they walk away feeling totally healthy. As we've pointed out, tons of terrible diseases can't be detected until they become symptomatic. But when symptoms of an actual disease do show up, people who get physicals are less likely to get these symptoms checked out, thinking that a "clean bill of health" is synonymous with "Wolverine-like powers of bodily fortitude."

Yet doctors keep doing them, often just to get us to shut the fuck up. They say that it's usually quicker to just run some tests than to take the time to explain why they're not necessary. Insurers, in turn, cover them only because we whine and bitch about wanting them. And all these quick bucks add up to over $7 billion per year. That's enough money to buy 23 McDoubles for every man, woman and child in the USA.


Circumcision is actually one of the oldest medical procedures in human history, coming into vogue around 25,000 years ago somewhere in Egypt. Ironically, despite its endurance, a lot of people still don't have a clear idea about why we're doing it, except maybe that it has something to do with Jews. Half of us men here in the West have had our dicks nipped and tucked and, aside from a very vocal few, haven't given it a second thought.

So what's the problem?

It's completely inconclusive, though a lot of proud and uncut stallions will try vehemently to convince you otherwise.

The practice was popularized in recent times by, no kidding, cereal magnate John Harvey Kellogg. In addition to making breakfast fun, he embarked upon a crusade to eliminate the evil of masturbation through the two-pronged approach of feeding young boys Kellogg's Corn Flakes and chopping parts of their dicks off without anesthetic. Absolutely none of this is made up.

Today, the pro-circumcision camp says the procedure can lower the risk of things like penile cancer and decrease the chances of getting HIV, but on the other hand, you have rare-but-documented botched procedures that can result in death, or even worse, loss of the penis.

But overall, despite the popularity of the procedure, there isn't a single medical authority anywhere that will recommend it. Not because of any overwhelming negative side effects, but simply because it's a completely pointless medical procedure that just kind of caught on, like skintight jeans. It's medically comparable to removing a male baby's nipples at birth -- sure, they're useless, but all things considered, why add expense and/or risk if you don't have to?

Sam Miguel
11-27-2013, 03:24 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )


Nowadays, cesarean sections are a standard medical procedure and keep us from living in the age where having a baby was like playing Russian roulette with your vaginal canal. It used to be that any sort of birthing complication commonly resulted in the death of the mother, but today if anything goes wrong during the delivery of a baby, doctors are ready to quickly cut the bastard out. If it weren't for C-sections, there'd be a whole lot more single dads.

So what's the problem?

Lately there has been a staggering increase in the number of women getting C-sections. Sure, a lot of these are totally necessary and life-saving, but a lot of them are not. The World Health Organization recommends a C-section rate of around 15 percent, but here in America it's twice that. And we're not even the worst offenders. Brazil can't get enough of them -- in some hospitals, 80 percent of babies are born by way of the blade.

It turns out that a growing number of C-sections are being ordered by patients just for the sake of convenience. Louise Silverton of the Royal College of Midwives (which has got to have the worst college parties ever) says that women are frankly terrified by the prospect of having to squeeze a watermelon through a garden hose, especially if the alternative involves a truckload of sedatives, some scented candles and Huey Lewis and the News.

What's more, in the era of working moms, many women are getting C-sections just so they can schedule the birth in advance, taking the decision away from the baby, who doesn't know jack shit about running a tight ship.

Then again, who are we to say what women should or shouldn't do with their bodies? Even if they're aware that C-sections carry an increased risk of death or injury to both mother and baby? Sure, but also consider that women are often being pressured into having C-sections by their doctors. And surprise! The motivation for the pressure seems to be money.

Recommending a natural birth is just a lawsuit waiting to happen if something goes awry. But more troubling is that profit-making hospitals are far more likely to perform C-sections than non profit hospitals, even when serving similar populations. C-sections free up beds a lot quicker, and converting a vaginal birth to a surgical one adds a sweet $1,000 of profit.


The discovery of penicillin has gone down as one of the greatest achievements in the history of medical science, and since then, we've been able to cure countless diseases that we used to treat just by sending sufferers to a "sanatorium," which was sort of a hotel where you waited to die. Antibiotics, which have only really come into heavy use within the last 100 years or so, have made us a healthier, happier human race. Surely there's nothing bad we can say about this medical godsend ... right?

So what's the problem?

The problem is that antibiotics are incredibly overused -- one study found that as many as 80 percent of prescriptions for fluoroquinolones (a common antibiotic used for things like bronchitis) are unnecessary. Part of the reason for the overuse is that so many of these antibiotics are given to people with viral infections. Those of us who listened in high school biology know that trying to fight a virus with something that only kills bacteria is like trying to fight a puma with a fog machine. It doesn't work, and it doesn't make any goddamn sense.

Sometimes doctors aren't sure if the infection is bacterial or viral, and are just playing it safe, but often they're well aware that they're basically prescribing an expensive placebo. They often give antibiotic prescriptions for stuff like the common cold virus because we're whiny morons who don't understand the difference, and it's just the quickest way to shut us up so they can attend to someone having a Code Blue. The problem is then exacerbated by the fact that colds and flus typically get better on their own, but we attribute the recovery to the truckload of antibiotics that were really no more effective than the voodoo exorcism we attempted.

But the risks of throwing around antibiotics like confetti may far outweigh your peace of mind. About 70,000 people get rushed to the ER per year for side effects caused by unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics, including diarrhea, yeasty vagina and good old-fashioned permanent hearing loss. Even if you're not that unlucky, it's still a bad idea to take antibiotics flippantly -- your body builds up a resistance to them, so when you get a real bacterial infection down the track, you're going to find that antibiotics are now useless to you. Good work, body.

This story gets much, much worse, thanks to, of all people, that bastard Charles Darwin. See, due to natural selection, when you bombard your body with antibiotics, the only bacteria that survive are those that have learned how to beat the system -- and those are the bugs that get to escape back into the world. The more antibiotics you take, the faster the process happens. The result is that an increasing number of people are dying from infections like tuberculosis because we've gone and turned it into super-tuberculosis.

Because of this, our current antibiotics will eventually be completely useless for anything. When this happens, transplant surgery will be nearly impossible, appendectomies will be incredibly risky and gonorrhea will get a whole lot nastier. Experts predict we might suffer the fate of the aliens at the end of War of the Worlds as soon as a couple of generations from now. So maybe, the next time you come down with a case of the sniffles, you should drink lots of fluids and harden the fuck up.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2013, 03:48 PM
From Cracked - - -

5 Mind-Blowing Academic Theories as Taught by Classic Movies

By M. Asher Cantrell, Jason Cross December 03, 2012 1,278,510 views

There are a few core philosophical thought experiments at the center of our most popular movies, like ancient cheat codes that filmmakers know we'll pay to see depicted on the big screen over and over again. So while you may think that you're just watching an entertaining movie, you might be pondering big, heavy ideas that have been vexing humanity's deepest thinkers for millennia. For instance ...

#5. The State of Nature and the Social Contract

Why aren't we running around trying to kill each other right now? That's the question all the greatest thinkers were trying to answer during the Age of Enlightenment. The world was just waking up from the Dark Ages, and the best and brightest looked around and wondered who turned off the witch burnings and how to make sure nobody turned them back on.

It was around this time that the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes came up with a thought experiment. First, he described a version of the world before laws and society, which he called the state of nature. Hobbes' state of nature looks like one big rugby scrum, with everyone fighting and killing and trying to have sex with each other before their reproductive organs are rendered useless from blunt trauma (we're not overly familiar with the rules of rugby). While that version of existence might have been objectively awful, it was the only time in human existence when everyone was totally and completely free. Without laws, everyone had the right to everything.

To get from that version of existence to the one we're all familiar with, Hobbes speculated that those people must have agreed to what he called the social contract -- you give up your right to drop an anvil on your neighbor and take his stuff in exchange for things like personal safety and the expectation that people will follow a reasonable moral code.

This process seems like a foregone conclusion to us today. Of course life got better when we decided to live together as one big happy society! Only Branch Davidians and the Unabomber would doubt such a thing. But when you look at the movies that we go to see each year, it starts to seem like we secretly regret the hell out of signing the social contract and long to return to the rugby scrum. For instance, every post-apocalyptic movie from zombie flicks to Mad Max takes place in Hobbes' state of nature. The apocalypse is just an excuse to destroy the social contract before the movie even starts.

One common thread in three of the most popular movies of 2012 is an obsession with the question of whether the social contract is necessary, or worth it. The heroes in The Avengers battle a villain who represents the social contract on steroids. After rounding up a bunch of classical music fans on the street and forcing them to kneel before him, Loki unleashes the following academic lecture:

"It's the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel."

In addition to being the speech that Barack Obama gives in the nightmares of the most paranoid, anti-government militia member, that's basically a really poorly worded argument for why we need the social contract. Left to their own devices, people don't know how to act. If you asked Hobbes to make the creepiest case for the social contract he possibly could, he would have written that speech.

The villain in The Dark Knight Rises, like the Joker before him, thinks that the social contract is a sham. Bane removes the people and institutions that enforce the social contract from the equation, and Gotham immediately descends into a citywide prison riot. This is a city that's mostly populated by people who went to school and held jobs and had access to reason for their entire lives, but without anything to enforce the contract, it's back to life in the scrum.

As one of the old prisoners in the underground prison put it, "Without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in a condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man." OK, that's actually a direct quote from Hobbes, but you wouldn't have thought twice if it had shown up in the movie (which also says a lot about the quality of dialogue in that movie, unfortunately).

Then there's The Hunger Games, which explicitly raises the question "Is the social contract worth it?" and then sort of stacks the deck by adding that "By signing the social contract, you consent to having you or your loved ones randomly killed for the entertainment of rich people." That seems less like a movie plot than a piece of propaganda created by people who opposed the first social contract.

And Hollywood doesn't need to create a fictional universe to question whether society is worth it. They can shoehorn the debate between the social contract and the state of nature into pretty much any type of movie, because that shit is apparently like catnip to our brains. Look at three of the six greatest movie lines of all time, according to the American Film Institute: http://www.afi.com/100years/quotes.aspx

So to recap, that's:

1. A society gentleman saying that he doesn't give a damn if a woman lives or dies in a society that's been returned to a state of nature by the Civil War.

2. A mobster mocking the social contract by using the language of business agreements to describe a negotiation tactic straight out of the rugby scrum.

6. A cop toying with a criminal by bragging that he's willing to shoot him right in the middle of his face to uphold the social contract.

Three of the greatest lines ever delivered in a movie, and every single one is basically saying, "Fuck a social contract, I will literally go medieval on your ass," which is also a great movie line that also specifically brings up the very thing Hobbes was writing about back during the Enlightenment. We may play nice and help each other out in our daily lives, but turn down the lights in the movie theater and all we want is to get rid of society and its stupid, asshole rules against killing our neighbors and taking their stuff.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2013, 03:49 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

#4. The Prisoner's Dilemma

So you're on the ferry home from work, minding your own business, when a crazy clown comes over the ferry intercom and explains that you and a boat full of prisoners (or if you're a prisoner, a boat full of squares) have access to a detonator that controls the explosives on the other boat. The first boat to blow up the other one's detonator gets to live. If neither boat uses it, everyone dies in an hour. What do you do?

Well, the first thing you do is probably curse your luck for having been born in Gotham. After all, people in the real world don't have to deal with convoluted screw-or-get-screwed mind games, right? Actually, the Joker's scheme in The Dark Knight is a textbook example of "the prisoner's dilemma," a thought experiment that academics use to explain most of modern history, or at least the parts that matter.

The prize behind door numbers 1 through 3 may not always be a crazy clown with a detonator, but the risk and reward for cooperation or assuming the worst about the other people is the same. Think about the problem of pollution. Let's say you're the king of America, and you and the kings of all the other countries agree that you need to stop polluting the planet. So you all go to a conference and agree to stop using fossil fuels, even though it's going to hurt your economies in the short term. You all sign an agreement, you go home and suffer through gasoline withdrawals together, and everyone gets to keep living on this planet for another thousand years. Best possible outcome, right?

Nope! The best possible outcome is that all the other countries stick to their promise to stop using fossil fuels except for you. If you keep using gasoline to power your coffee maker and all those other countries do the hard work of developing cars with stupid little windmills all over them, everyone gets to keep living here, and your country has a huge economic advantage over the rest of them.

So, assuming that everyone else holds up their end of the bargain, the best possible outcome for your country is to screw them all over.

The worst possible outcome overall is that you do the right thing and nobody else does. You stick to the agreement and take the economic hit of weaning your country off of fossil fuels, but all the other countries are secretly making a bunch of jerk-off hand motions to each other during your conference calls. You get poorer and the Earth keeps dying. That's an F- for you.

You can't risk that, and neither can they, which is why nobody is going to stick to the agreement, nobody is going to take the economic hit, and your grandkids are going to have to deal with this shit.

That's the prisoner's dilemma: a situation where you have to decide whether or not to screw over a partner you can't trust. The dilemma is that everyone is always better off screwing the other guy. If they act for the collective good, your best option is to act in your own self-interest (economic win + environmental win = A+), since if you both act for the collective good, everyone wins but nobody has the advantage (economic wash + environmental win = A). But if you assume that they won't cooperate, you're better off not cooperating (economic wash + environmental loss - 1 = F), since if you cooperate and nobody else does, you lose on both fronts (economic loss + environmental loss = F-).

The Joker's plot might seem convoluted, but economists think that this model is responsible for the Cold War arms race, the psychology of addiction (in which you're in a prisoner's dilemma with yourself in the future) and basically every war that's ever been fought (war is hell, but losing a war means that the future is hell, too). And The Dark Knight isn't the only movie that's obsessed with this idea. There's a much more common and simpler dramatization of the prisoner's dilemma that comes up constantly in movies.

There's a reason that 90 percent of the conversations in action movies take place between people who have guns trained on one another. While that's a fairly counterproductive way to have a conversation in the real world, it's the perfect way to dramatize the prisoner's dilemma. From an outsider's perspective, the best possible outcome is that nobody pulls the trigger and everyone goes on living. But put yourself in the shoes of the guy who has a gun trained on him, and you realize that the best possible option is whatever gets that guy to stop pointing a gun at your head the fastest. Which is why the most likely outcome is the third option: both guys pull the trigger as soon as they have a second to think through the behavior modeling.

Of course, at the end of The Dark Knight and Mexican standoffs not directed by Quentin Tarantino, cooler heads prevail, and nobody pulls the trigger or presses the button. The Mexican standoff is a chance for us to set up and defuse the trap that we all find ourselves living inside of every day. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino learned his lesson. His first movie ends with a room full of mobsters doing exactly what the prisoner's dilemma tells us we all would, and his second, much more successful movie ends with Jules Winnfield philosophizing his way out of a Mexican standoff. The truth is too painful.

#3. The Ship of Theseus

Have you ever wondered why movies are so obsessed with clones? Sometimes it's the only technology that will let you tell the story you have in mind -- an evil corporation needs to farm spare body parts, or the Alien franchise needs to clone Ripley back to life. But other times, like with the clone armies of the Star Wars prequels or the Jurassic Park scientists going out of their way to say that they're cloning the dinosaurs, it's almost like blockbuster movies are just looking for an excuse to get the concept of cloning into the mix. In real life, clones are pretty boring. Cloned sheep are the same as regular sheep, and on its surface, even human cloning is only as interesting as identical twins.

But clones are actually great at illustrating an ancient thought experiment called the ship of Theseus that movies have been using and reusing to blow minds for years now. It was first posed by Plutarch, an ancient Greek philosopher who asked his audience to imagine that the ship sailed by the Greek hero Theseus was repaired so much over the generations that eventually none of the original wood remained. Is that still the ship of Theseus?

If you're failing to see the implications of that question outside of the world of boat naming, consider this: Science has determined that our cells are shed and replaced approximately every decade. So when that happens, are you still the same you, or is that person dead, and you're the replacement? Keep in mind that 10 years ago you were masturbating with a totally different set of junk.

Every movie about cloning is raising that same question in one way or another. Probably the most successful version of the question is in Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, in which Nikola Tesla builds a machine that spits out an exact double of whatever is inside of it and also teleports one of them across the room, like a Xerox/fax machine combo. A magician (Hugh Jackman) uses the machine to make it appear as though he's teleported across the room, but since there are now two of them, he's forced to drown the version of himself that started out in the machine. In the final scene of the movie, Jackman explains that each time he copies himself, he has no way of knowing if he's going to be the guy in the tank or the guy who pulled off the trick.

The movie leaves us with the haunting question of which one is the original, or if there is an original. Is Jackman getting teleported every night with the double being some waste product, or is he essentially committing suicide and being reborn every night? The same question could be asked by every single member of George Lucas' clone army, and also by every Star Trek character who steps into the transporter.

After all, the transporter can't just move people from place to place. It would have to break apart their atoms and rebuild them elsewhere. So when Kirk uses the transporter, does that mean that the real Kirk is now dead and the new Kirk is just an imposter?

Sam Miguel
11-27-2013, 03:58 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

#2. Quantum Immortality

Movie protagonists tend to be improbably lucky. No one wants to shell out money for a Die Hard movie just to see Bruce Willis get killed five minutes in. That'd be super boring. Action movies are about one thing: watching a guy beat the odds and kill a bunch of dudes without getting killed himself. James Bond has made it through 23 movies despite facing odds that seemed improbable at best.

And it's not just the superhuman action heroes. In the sequence in Back to the Future in which Marty McFly first travels back in time, he is staring down certain death from a machine-gun-wielding Libyan terrorist, and then he finds himself in the sights of a farmer with a shotgun (the farmer manages to miss him three times at close range). It's almost like movies are about a bunch of people whose superpowers are just extraordinarily good luck.

As it happens, there's a thought experiment in quantum physics called quantum suicide that might explain why every one of those movies is illustrating how reality actually works. The theory arose when scientists were poking around inside the atom and noticed that certain particles appeared to move in two different directions at the same moment.

To understand why that should be impossible, imagine that you balanced a perfectly sharpened pencil on a tip occupied by one of these particles that spins left and right at the same moment. If the particle actually did move in both directions, the pencil wouldn't know whether to tip left or right. Or more specifically, it should tip in both directions at the same time. Now obviously, if you actually balanced the pencil in this way, you'd see the pencil tip in one of the two directions, because that's how reality works. What science hasn't been able to figure out is how reality chooses which of the two directions to make the pencil tip. The most interesting theory they've come up with states that reality doesn't choose, and instead branches off into separate parallel universes.

Now imagine if, instead of a pencil balanced on one of these particles, there are 10 of these particles connected to a contraption that fires a gun at your head if they move right and lets you live if they move left. After the first test, reality branches into two parallel universes, one in which you're alive and another where you're dead. After the second test, you're dead in three universes, still alive in one. After 10 tests, there are 999 parallel universes where a bunch of scientists are cleaning your brain matter off the wall behind you, and one universe where you're still alive. According to the "many worlds" theory, the scientists have a 99.9 percent chance of existing in one of the realities where they're about to have a lot of explaining to do. But since you no longer exist in any of those realities, from your point of view, you have a 100 percent chance of existing in the one universe where the gun never fired. You are guaranteed to continue living in one of the 1,000 universes that you just created, which is, of course, the one that you're going to be aware of.

If you take the many worlds theory of quantum physics to its logical conclusion and apply it to the thousands of tiny particles bouncing around in the human brain, and in every object you encounter on a daily basis (or any gun that gets fired at you), you get what's known as quantum immortality. Basically, in any given situation in which it's theoretically conceivable that you survive, there is a timeline in which you actually survive. You're living in one of the infinite different versions of the world in which you survived. There are countless thousands of other universes in which you didn't survive, but you no longer exist in any of those. So the universe that you're aware of is one of an infinite number of universes in which you're just naturally, inexplicably luckier when it comes to not dying.

When we're watching an action movie, we might think that we're watching a protagonist slaloming through a bunch of explosions to an improbable happy ending, but it's just as accurate to say that we're watching the theory of quantum immortality illustrated over and over again. If there's even the remotest probability that the gun will jam, that's what will happen in the universe that the protagonist perceives. According to the many worlds theory, an action hero is the perfect metaphor for how we experience the world around us: He gets in a car wreck and just happens to be thrown clear. Bullets fly all around him, but none hit. Aliens attack, and crazy old Randy Quaid flies his crop duster into the mother ship. There's a nuclear explosion, and he jumps into a handy refrigerator. Regardless of the dangerous situation, the action hero will always survive. And we love watching action movies because the action hero's version of reality is the closest the movies come to our own version of reality, in which we keep getting insanely, improbably lucky.

#1. The Allegory of the Cave

Lots of epic movie sagas have a scene where the main character discovers a whole other layer to his world that he never knew existed. Harry Potter discovers the wizarding world. Special Agent J in Men in Black discovers that aliens are totally real. Neo takes the red pill and is shown the Matrix. It's a common and wildly successful movie trope that can be traced back to one man.

Three thousand years ago, Plato created what he called the allegory of the cave, in which he described a group of men who had been chained up their entire lives facing the wall at the bottom of a cave (because it's not a classic thought experiment without a bunch of people being creepily mistreated). The only thing they ever see are shadows cast on the wall by people passing in front of fires farther up in the cave. Since this is all they know, Plato suggested that they would regard the shadows on the wall as reality, and would gauge intelligence based on who could guess which shape would pass in front of the wall next.

In movies like Men in Black, Harry Potter and The Matrix, the shadows on the cave wall are replaced by what we think of as daily life. Wealth, high test scores and sports victories seem like pointless diversions once you know what Neo, Harry and Agent J find out. Of course, that was totally Plato's point as well. Plato believed that most of us go through life with only an incidental acquaintance with certain byproducts and half-truths of existence, and what reality truly means.

In act two of the cave allegory (and act two of the aforementioned franchises, every movie about superheroes, the Star Wars trilogy or the Star Trek reboot), one of these mere mortals is freed from his chains to see the truth about existence. He has a tough time adjusting at first (think Will Smith quitting before returning to take the Men in Black oath), but soon he realizes that he can't go back to the version of the world he was stuck in.

Act three of the allegory, and of most of the hugely successful movies based on it, sees our newly enlightened former cave dweller return to the men at the bottom of the cave and try to explain the truth to them. Plato came to the conclusion that the men down there not only wouldn't understand what the hell he was talking about, but they would think that he was an idiot because he was no better at guessing what shadow would be cast on the wall next.

The movies based on his allegory are usually all over the place on the question of how the masses react. Men in Black and Harry Potter are with Plato. People either won't believe you or they won't be able to deal with the truth, and they should be allowed to stay praying to shadow puppets. The Matrix is the one movie that insists on dragging everyone to the surface of the cave to show them the sky.

For a cool real-life example, a 17th century philosopher named William Molyneux wondered if someone blind from birth would be able to recognize familiar shapes on sight if their vision was restored. We actually have the technology to answer him now, and it turns out that the answer is nope, they sure can't. They have to relearn the world by sight and tie that in with the senses they already know, just like the Force.

One thing each franchise's creator probably agrees on is that they're glad that more people don't read old philosophers, since otherwise there's no way they'd be able to get away with this shit over and over again.

Sam Miguel
11-28-2013, 01:29 PM
From Cracked - - -

5 Reasons the English Language Makes No Freaking Sense

By Kate Peregrina November 27, 2013 471,896 views Viral

As much as we might judge people for their bad spelling, the truth is that English spelling doesn't make any goddamn sense. Just look at that sentence: Why is there an "n" but no "n" sound in "goddamn"? It turns out there's one perfectly good reason for that and many other eccentricities of the language, and that one good reason is actually a bunch of stupid reasons that are all shitty and terrible. Like ...

#5. "O" and "U" (and "C" and "K") Sound the Same Because of Sloppy Handwriting

The Crazy Rule:

Writing has become second nature to us, so it's easy to forget how schizophrenic the letter "o" is. You get the word "con," where its sound is basically "aw," but then in "son" it's encroaching on "u" territory, and that's a good way to get your face cut ("u" don't take no shit). Then you have "comb" and "tomb," which are totally different "o" sounds despite having no right to be. Then there are phrases like "some honey tongue" and ... whoa, this article is already way dirtier than we expected it to be.

The Stupid Reason:

It all comes down to sloppy handwriting. In medieval times, highly stylized writing focused on the "minims," or vertical lines in a letter, and the smudgy nature of ink confused people trying to read it. For example, "in," "ni," "m," "iii," "ui," and "iu" might all look exactly the same because the horizontal lines written into each letter were so thin, they tended to smudge or just fade away. For example, this: http://www.cracked.com/article_20713_5-reasons-english-language-makes-no-freaking-sense.html

This says "animal," like you fancy yourself in the sack, or "annnal," which is a rather annoying way to ask for it, or "aiiuiiai," which is the sound you're going to make when you head for your partner's fire door without permission and get punched in the throat. The solution to all this buggery was to just stop using "u" for some words, like "some," "love," and "come," and wow, we just cannot get out of the gutter here. This is the reason why you see an "o" for a "u" sound when it's next to an "n" or an "m," like in "monkey" and "ton," and also why you see a "c" before a "k" when the letter appears next to more minims. The "c" was a good way to separate the "k" from letters it could be easily confused with, which led to spellings such as "lick" and "flick" and ... we're going to open a new tab here and take care of some things before this next entry.

#4. Some Words Are Spelled Wrong Because Academics Are Pretentious Jerkwads

The Crazy Rule:

Every once in a while English words will have silent letters in them -- like "receipt," "debt," "scissor," and "island." And there's actually a really interesting explanation for that: English teachers hate you and want you to fail. Why else is the language so littered with invisible minefields of perceived stupidity?

The Stupid Reason:

Over the last 500 years, there's been a continuing effort to standardize all spelling -- and a lot of the stuffy academic types making the rules made a real mess of it. In the 16th century, the people putting together dictionaries decided to insert a "b" into "debt" and "doubt" to remind everyone that they had evolved from the Latin word "debitum" -- even though the preferred spellings, "dette" and "doute," made way more sense. But hey, at least the common man would forever be reminded of precious Latin, thus ensuring that it would never become a dead langua- oh wait, no, it died more completely than an engineer on the away team, didn't it? The academics did the exact same thing with "receipt" (then spelled "receit," but drawn from the Latin word "recepta") and smugly smirked down at generations of dyslexics accidentally writing "recipe."

Changing the spelling to match the Latin origin is at least mildly understandable, if kind of a dick move -- but less understandable is changing spellings to match Latin words they have nothing to do with, which also happened.

The origin of the word "island" is the Old English word "yland" or "iland," but since the Latin word "insula" has a similar meaning, academics decided to just throw an "s" in there, because more Latin = more smarter. That one was so influential that it actually changed the word for the central walkway in a church -- up until then spelled "aile" -- to "aisle," because "s" is friggin' sexy, we guess. All those curves. Go ahead and toss it in there. Liven that sucker up.

#3. The Difference Between "-el" and "-le" Is Due to Stubbornly Clinging to Tradition

The Crazy Rule:

Actually, there are no rules here at all. This is the Thunderdome of English spelling. You know what? That's not even fair. The Thunderdome had at least one rule. This shit is way worse: Some words that end in an "L" sound are spelled "-el" ("novel," "level," "cancel"), and some are spelled "-le" ("little," "cable," "purple").

The Stupid Reason:

Most words that end in "-el" used to have the stress carried on that last syllable (so "angel" used to be pronounced "ang-EL"). As the language evolved, those pronunciations slowly blended together, but we still clung to the old spellings for no reason other than tradition, which apparently doesn't count for pronunciation as well.

No, really: One of the most frustrating and counterintuitive quirks to our language exists just because. There's no practical reason, no aesthetic reason, no etymological quirk. It's just some leftover fat dangling off the side of our language like a syntactic appendix. The only use it has now is to help prospective employers distinguish between people who were able to take SAT prep courses and those who weren't, primarily so they can tell the latter that they're just not Waffle House material.

#2. "Colonel" Is Spelled Weird Because of the French

The Crazy Rule:

"Colonel" probably has the weirdest spelling of any English word. The "c" and the last three letters are sort of OK. If they were dudes, you might not trust them alone with your wallet, but you wouldn't feel weird sitting next to them on the bus. But just what the hell is that "olo" doing there? That is a sketchy series of letters. That's like a half-naked clown standing outside a preschool at midnight. It has no business being there, and it's only more worrying if it does.

The Stupid Reason:

The word "colonel" comes from the Italian word "colonnella," which means "little column." It mostly referred to the military officer in charge of a "little column company" and only occasionally doubled as an adorable slang term for a tiny penis. The word spread to France and became "colonelle." And then, as is inevitable with all expats, it slowly became corrupted by its time abroad. It finally ended up as the barely recognizable "coronel."

When it was introduced to English, we got the corrupted spelling and pronunciation, and that's mostly fine. You can guess at the phonetics just looking at it. But when we switched over to the "proper" spelling, because the English are nothing if not proper, the old pronunciation still stuck. So now we've got a word that looks like "colonial," is pronounced like "kernel," was wrong across three generations in three different ways, and may or may not be dick slang (if it wasn't, it sure is now). You're a champ, colonel.

#1. "I Before E" and Other Stupid Spelling Rules Are Because of One War

The Crazy Rule:

You know the rule: "i" before "e," except after "c." A rule that is immediately followed by a metric butt-ton of exceptions: "either," "neither," "weigh," "neighbor," "caffeine," "weird," "protein," "feisty," "conscience" ... and then approximately 10,000 more words. So it's less a rule than a thing that ... just happens, sometimes. Like a tornado.

The Stupid Reason:

In the 11th century, English had developed its own standardized set of spelling conventions that had an almost perfectly phonemic orthography -- meaning that each letter had a specific sound it made, regardless of what word it appeared in or what other letters were around it. People went around saying things, and the things they said looked like the things you'd see on signs and whatnot. Truly, it was a boring utopia.

But a utopia nonetheless!

Then, in 1066, the Norman conquest happened. William the Conqueror invaded with an army of French, Norman, and Breton soldiers, who quickly established Latin and French as the standard languages throughout the British Isles. French and Latin words were absorbed into English like fried Twinkies in a county fair goer's stomach -- that is to say, poorly, and with much regret. "Seize" and "siege," for example: In French, those words (and those vowel combinations) have very different pronunciations. But that distinction didn't survive the migration to the new language, even though the spelling did. Now we write them totally differently but say them the same, because we're just giant wrecks here and nobody is coming to help us.

The problems continued: Norman scribes convinced English speakers to change "cwen" to "queen" and "cwic" to "quick," because, English being the language of the lower class, French speakers were the only ones who could afford any books. Naturally, those original spellings look stupid to you now, but that's only because you're not used to them -- if you're thinking in terms of logic and accessibility, why would you just start throwing "k"s and "q"s around like that? Someone's gonna get hurt. The "k" has those big sharp pointy arms, and that "q" may look soft and round, but it's clearly trying to hide some sort of little club behind its back. Don't you trust the bastard.

Sam Miguel
11-28-2013, 01:40 PM
From Cracked - - -

The 6 Most WTF Scientific Theories About Existence

By Chris Fox June 27, 2013 1,145,419 views

The universe is a really strange place, and as science progresses, it just keeps looking weirder. So when fringe theories like the below come about, your first impulse is to laugh them off, but then you think, "Is it really that much stranger than what we know now?"

So we're not saying that any of these mind-blowing theories about the nature of everything are accurate, we're just saying that they were proposed by people smarter than us, and it's fun to think about how ...

#6. We Might Be Living in the Matrix

In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves is horrified to learn that the universe he's been living in is actually a computer program designed by a giant, malicious robot intelligence, and that he's actually a hairless man-baby swimming in a vat of goop in the bowels of a dystopian machine-brain. That's about as fictional as science fiction can get, but there are working scientists in the real world who wonder seriously about the idea that we might be living in an actual Matrix.

First, there's British philosopher Nick Bostrom, who came up with a statistical argument that we're living in an extremely sophisticated version of The Sims. The idea is that we have the ability and the inclination to build our own simulated realities, as evidenced by the growing video game industry. Thus it's inevitable that we'll build our own Matrix one day, when our level of technology allows it. That simulation will continue to grow in realism and complexity until one day it will have its own civilization, who will want to build a simulation of their own, and onward to infinity.

If that's true, then there might be a virtually infinite number of simulations out there, so the chances that we're one of them are actually much higher than the chances that we're not.

Then there's physicist Silas Beane from the University of Bonn in Germany. His theory is that, if we are actually living in a computer simulation, then our universe should have a "resolution" -- in other words, there should be a limit to how small something can be, just like nothing can be smaller than the pixels on your computer screen.

And, incidentally, they have found such a limit. It's something called the Greisen-Zatsepin--Kuzmin or GZK limit. It's about as technical as you'd expect for something with that many hyphens and consonants, but Beane thinks it might be the first evidence that the world around us is made up of artificial bits created by some other intelligence. Of course, this evidence might not be that compelling by itself, but Beane and his colleagues are busy thinking up new ways to detect the computer we might be living in, presumably by mapping the universe in search of the Blue Screen of Death.

As with all of the fringe theories on this list, there are those who scoff at such a notion. And they will continue to, right up to the point that a team of superpowered Matrix Agents storm their office.

#5. There Is Probably Another You Out There

Almost every sci-fi franchise has done the "evil alternate-universe version of the main character" storyline at least once. They just can't resist a scene where the hero fights a dark, bearded version of himself. Well, if certain experts are right, your doppelganger is out there, somewhere.

The theory goes that there are only a certain number of combinations of particles possible. Give a room full of kids a set of five LEGO blocks and a few of them are going to wind up building the same thing -- there are only so many ways they can fit together. Well, everything in our world -- including the people in it -- is just LEGO structures made of tiny particles. There's only so many possible combinations, and in a large enough universe, all those bits are inevitably going to wind up in the same place again and create another you.

It's not likely that you'll ever cross paths, though. Science's prediction is that your doppelganger lives about 10 to the 1028 meters away (or farther than you could travel by bus).

Nevertheless, the bigger the universe is, the more likely it is that there's another you walking around out there. Scientists don't actually know how big the universe is, by the way, but if it happens to be infinite -- which some think it is -- then the fact that you have a cosmic twin is downright certain. On an infinite scale, every pattern has to repeat eventually. The only possible question is, if you ever did run into your cosmic twin, would you fight or fuck?

#4. We Might Collide With Another Universe Someday

String theory is like the eccentric uncle of theories about the universe. Not everybody is happy to see him, but you can't just not invite him to the family get-together. It's a theory that suggests, among other things, that the whole of the universe is stuck to a giant sheet of fabric that they call a "brane." Like all of reality is just a doodle on the back of a coffee-stained napkin.

What's more is that we're not the only brane out there. There should be other branes floating around in the cosmic nothing that lies outside of our own universe. These would all be parallel universes. It's kind of a Doctor Who fan's wet dream. The terrifying thing is that there aren't any cosmic traffic cops out there, so there's nothing stopping one universe from smacking into another one.

What would that look like? University of California physicist Anthony Aguirre thinks it would be like a giant mirror coming down at us from the heavens so that the last thing we see is our own horrified expressions as we immediately understand the fact of our impending obliteration. Although he didn't quite put it like that.

If this was even possible, then it should have happened before, right? Well, physicists are rarely in the business of putting us at ease. Tufts University physicist Alex Vilenkin and his colleagues think they may have found the scars of a collision between our universe and another one at some point in our history. The "cosmic microwave background" is a faint radioactive signal that permeates the entire universe, and all of science's calculations insist that it should be pretty uniform across the universe. But it isn't -- there are hot and cold spots in some places. Vilenkin and Co. think that this disruption might be evidence that other universes have been smacking into ours.

Again, other people think they're crazy, we're just passing it along.

Sam Miguel
11-28-2013, 01:40 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

#3. The Universe May Work Like a Giant Computer

It's one thing to suggest that our universe is just a video game on some alien Xbox, but there's another theory that the universe is itself a computer. According to this view of reality, all those stars and planets and galaxies and black holes are just the circuits and processors on a giant motherboard that's going about its days calculating God only knows what.

That's the theory put forward by Oxford professor of quantum information theory Vlatko Vedral. He argues that the most fundamental component of the universe is not a unit of matter, but a "bit," which is the same kind of bit that your computer uses (that is, the tiniest amount of information that can be conveyed). Fundamentally, one bit is just a yes-or-no answer to a question, and your computer uses tiny magnetic switches to make its calculations. But Vedral wants us to imagine subatomic particles as being the same mechanism -- trillions and trillions of yes-no answers swirling through the void.

After all, every time a particle comes into contact with another particle, the two of them exchange bits of information. It can be as simple as a particle transmitting its direction of travel to another particle by smashing into it.

MIT professor Seth Lloyd agrees, and he knows something about it because he's the inventor of the first working quantum computer. That's a computer that uses tiny particles like atoms and electrons to work, instead of comparatively hulking great chunks of electronics like microchips. And that's basically what we're talking about here on a grander scale, leading Lloyd to literally state that the universe is a quantum computer.

But if it's a computer, then what is it computing? Lloyd's answer is that it's computing "its own dynamical evolution," but we prefer to believe that reality up to this point is just the loading screen for the most kickass MMORPG of all time.

#2. We Might Be Living Inside a Black Hole

If you're anything like us, most of your knowledge of black holes comes from popular science fiction. You probably already know that black holes are objects so dense that not even light can escape them. But what you probably didn't know was that we may all be living inside one right now.

According to Dr. Nikodem Poplawski from Indiana University, all of the matter that gets sucked into a black hole might wind up turning into a new universe on the other end. After all, when you ask scientists what happens to the stuff a black hole swallows up, most will shrug their shoulders and admit that it's one of the great mysteries of the universe. Poplawski's calculations suggest that the matter flowing in one end as the black hole chews its way through the galaxy might be the equivalent of a new Big Bang in some other reality, which would effectively make a black hole a doorway to another universe.

Calculations show that the theoretical other end of a black hole, a "white hole," is a time-reversed version of the black hole. We did the math ourselves just to make sure. In other words, the black hole draws matter in and compresses it, while a white hole spews it forth. This compression and expansion of matter is mathematically equivalent to the creation of a universe.

The implication is that each black hole in our universe may contain its own universe inside it. Consequently, our own universe should itself be inside a black hole, which in turn would be inside its own universe as well. It's like a never-ending series of Russian nesting dolls. Or this: http://www.cracked.com/article_20484_the-6-most-wtf-scientific-theories-about-existence_p2.html

#1. We'll Eventually Live in Bullet Time

Ever since the Big Bang occurred some 14 billion years ago, the universe has been expanding. What's weird is that the rate the universe is expanding seems to be increasing, in defiance of common sense. Until recently, it was considered pretty intuitive that everything should be slowing down as the force of gravity sucks all those galaxies back in toward each other. Most scientists theorize something called "dark energy" is the culprit, some kind of invisible anti-gravity that actually pushes distant galaxies away. But a new theory from researchers at two Spanish universities contends that the universe isn't really accelerating -- it's actually time that's slowing down.

If this is true, then it would explain why distant galaxies appear to be accelerating -- quite simply, their light takes a long time to reach us, so we're seeing them at a point in history when time was literally moving faster than it is today. It's also kind of really terrifying, because it implies that time is going to keep slowing down, until it ultimately stops and freezes us in place for eternity.

If the theory is correct, then at some point in the future, we'll all appear to move in slow motion to an outside observer. This will admittedly make everything we do seem more badass, since walking down the street will look like the opening sequence to Reservoir Dogs, and we'll all be dodging bullets like Neo. But that's not going to help our dignity since, statistically, at the moment time freezes once and for all, at least some of us will be masturbating.

Sam Miguel
01-09-2014, 10:28 AM
Culture, faith, and the Black Nazarene

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:12 am | Thursday, January 9th, 2014

If there is a cultural phenomenon that perhaps perfectly encapsulates the complexity of the Filipino religious psyche, it must be the devotion to the Black Nazarene. Every year, on a day like this, Jan. 9, almost a million Filipinos from all walks of life participate in the frenzied procession of the statue of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo. The crowds have grown bigger every year, defying prognostications of the waning of faith in the modern world. The procession is such a stunning spectacle that people from the tourism industry are raising the possibility of using it as a magnet to draw pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.

In a mass display of intense faith, devotees of the Black Nazarene redeem a personal pact (“panata”) they make with God. They come barefoot and lose themselves in the throng, intentionally exposing themselves to injury and pain. The greater the mortification, it seems, the more meaningful the experience becomes. Many come to tell God their troubles and unfulfilled wishes. But some are there just to express gratitude for blessings received. Still others participate as if to buy advance absolution for a year of sinning. Whatever it is that impels individuals to go there, one cannot but be awed by the collective energy contained in that crowd.

As a student of society, I have been at pains to understand the core beliefs behind this religious devotion. On one hand, the Nazarene devotion seems to signify the continuing vitality of faith in the life of the Filipino. But, on the other, I cannot help wondering if this tremendous collective power can ever be harnessed as a positive force in the building of a prosperous nation and a decent society.

We need to ask ourselves how we are able to blend so much religious fervor with a culture of corruption, or mix a manifest devotion to the exemplary figure of a selfless Christ with a life of greed, or gospel values with hate, oppression, and selfishness. The answer cannot lie in the ability to compartmentalize, or to differentiate functional spheres—qualities that are more associated with the modern man. I am more inclined to think that these contradictions arise from a failure to understand faith as a philosophy of life, or as a practical and meaningful guide to daily living.

I believe there is some basis for the thought that all this may be due to the fact that our people first encountered Christianity as a tool of colonial subjugation. According to this view, the Christian God entered our culture as an all-powerful Being that was more fearsome than loving, more punitive than kind, and more controlling than trusting. The outcome of this was an infantile religiosity that we never quite outgrew.

We remain fixated with icons, with the physical representations than the meanings behind them. We struggle to get the rituals right in order to avoid bad luck, while showing little discipline, if any, in the daily practice of a virtuous life. We have mastered liturgy but not catechesis.

The bright side to this is that our faith, being naive, is immune to disappointment. It may be shallow, but it is firm, and is ever hopeful. That is why our churches are never empty. Rather than cause resentment and despair, every misfortune is read as a summons to stronger faith. Nothing fazes us—not calamities, not foreign cultures, not poverty, not even death. Maybe this is the same quality that foreign observers celebrate as Filipino resilience. We bounce back all the time.

Yet we seem chronically unable to improve on past performances. I suppose that is the dark side of our culture—where faith fuses with fatalism. What insulates us from despair all too often also prevents us from stepping out of the skin of our culture and transforming the way we live. We are quick to accept the conditions of our lives as though they were unchangeable givens, waiting for a providential God to supply what we lack. That is why our overseas Filipino workers are exceptional. Their faith gives them the strength to venture out into the world, pick up their lives, and reshape these according to their hopes.

Such has also been the vision for the last 20 years of Ramon Macaraig, a polio victim. Despite his condition, he joins the annual procession of the Black Nazarene without fail, hoping for the rare chance to climb up the platform bearing the statue and, in that fleeting moment, to wrap his arms around it. He believes that it’s all he needs to surpass himself. And so he keeps trying to get close to the carriage, refusing to heed advice that that is a most dangerous place to be in for cripples like him.

I was watching him the other night being interviewed on the early evening news by my daughter Kara David. He speaks of a clear sign—familiar to devotees—that one has been chosen to approach and touch the Black Nazarene. Suddenly one is lifted from one’s feet by the heaving crowd, and thrown into the air like a piece of cloth. Every year, Ramon waits for that moment, searching his bones for the surge of lightness that will make him float. In the meantime, life has dealt him another blow: leprosy. Yet his faith is unshakeable. As in the gospels, he believes Christ will one day make him walk and cure his affliction. Filled with anticipation, he remains cheerful.

For once, I think I began to understand what Blaise Pascal meant when he wrote: “Man surpasses man, infinitely.” Faith makes that possible. If only we could find a way of harnessing the immense power of faith to surpass ourselves as a nation.

Sam Miguel
01-17-2014, 04:04 PM
5 Simple Ideas That Could Make Travel (And Life) Way Easier

By Adam Wears, John Champion

January 16, 2012 1,045,495 views

We always hear about how fast technology is moving. Your parents needed 18-wheel trucks and seven to 10 business days to move around the amount of media you can have on your phone in 15 minutes. But when it comes to moving people around, we're pretty much stuck exactly where we were back when we first figured out commercial air travel -- waiting in the same lines at the airport, honking at the same jerkoff in front of us in rush hour traffic. It's just one of those facts of life, right?

Actually, it doesn't have to be. We're sitting on some pretty revolutionary ways to greatly increase the speed at which we physically move from A to B. What's infuriating is that those breakthroughs are ridiculously simple stuff like ...

#5. A Better Way to Board a Plane

It's easy to dislike air travel. Crappy food, nonexistent leg space, hurtling thousands of feet above earth without a firm understanding of how physics is keeping you from plummeting to a nightmarish death -- all unpleasant. But whether you're scared of flying or sitting comfortably in first class, the boarding process has an uncanny way of merging the collective internal monologue of everyone onboard into one harmonious "Fuck thiiiiiiiiiis." The stampede, the pileup. The motionless frustration as everyone tries to scramble for their seats with all the speed and grace of a tectonic plate. It's a miserable experience for anyone who doesn't love having their nose in a random sampling of khaki-clad butts and crotches.

If a better way to board a plane existed, the airlines would surely have jumped at the opportunity. Surely, they don't enjoy starting every takeoff with a cabin full of flustered, stressed-out passengers. Or maybe they do.

Computer simulations and real-world tests have shown that the current system of boarding -- back rows first -- is one of the worst possible ways to board a plane. It makes sense. Everyone is trying to use the same tiny bit of space to put their bags in the overhead compartment or get to their window seats. And since two people generally can't pass through each other, this causes areas of intense congestion where total strangers are forced to use eye contact and polite small talk to try to untangle complex knots of human movement.

Even the "just get in and sit wherever" school of boarding practiced by some budget airlines is quicker and easier. It seems like that would be less efficient if you view humans as a bunch of automated windup toys. In practice, humans use their twin faculties of intelligence and aversion to dry humping strangers to make efficient seating decisions.

The best solution has been developed by one Dr. Jason Steffen, an Illinois astrophysicist. His method proposes that airlines should board the window seats first, then the middle seats, then the aisle seats, starting first with the even rows and then the odds. With people at the front and back of the plane boarding at the same time, everyone's able to spread out and focus on getting to their goddamn seat already. This YouTube video shows the method in action. The most noticeable thing is how easy it is for people to move around each other in the center aisle when everyone's not stuffing their luggage into the same overhead luggage compartment at the same moment. Instead, people who are far enough from each other to do jumping jacks are putting their luggage up at the same time.

So how bad does science beat the airlines at human Tetris? Tests show the scientific method actually halves the boarding time. Imagine how much time that could have saved, how many crotches and butts that could have saved your face from, and then try not to punch something.

So why won't the airlines adopt Steffen's method, if it's so much better? This could be due to any number of things, such as people not being so keen on buying first class tickets if flying coach was so fluent. But the most reasonable explanation is they think the system is too complicated for people to understand.

Remember that the next time you're doing the sardine with a few hundred fellow passengers -- the people running the airline are choosing to sit on the system that would avoid all the hassle, because they think you're too dumb to deserve it.

#4. Make Yellow Lights One Second Longer

What can be done in a second?

Generally, not much. It takes the fastest man in the world almost 10 of them just to run the 100-meter dash. Nothing meaningful can be achieved in one second. You'll survive longer with your head severed.

Against this background, a plan to make yellow lights one second longer doesn't sound exactly revolutionary. But what if we told you it might go a long way toward keeping your head from getting severed -- by an incoming semi, no less?

You see, the problem is that intersections are very confusing. With all that turning, it can get really difficult to know where you are going, let alone to avoid collisions with other equally confused people. This is where the yellow lights come in. They're often so short that you don't even get a fraction of a second between red light and being aggressively honked at by everyone behind you. So you rush into the traffic without having assessed the situation properly -- and BAM! Semi.

According to a 2004 Texas Transportation Institute study, a mere extra second in a situation like this would reduce collisions by a very respectable average of 40 percent. It works both ways, too. Going from red to green, the extra yellow second gives us more time to figure out the intersection and observe roadside hazards. Going from green to red, it gives us more reaction time and thus reduces the running of red lights.

Hey, wait a second. If a measly second can really make that much difference, why do most traffic lights still feature yellow lights quicker than a roadrunner on speed? If a fix is this easy, wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to implement it ASAP?

Well, no. Turns out, keeping yellow lights short and sweet equals big time dough. For cities using red light cameras, drivers running the lights represent a fairly substantial chunk of revenue. In Dallas, for instance, the cameras have been known to raise $700,000 in fines ... within a few months. For this reason, yellow traffic lights in such cities actually tend to be quietly calibrated even quicker than usual.

#3. Get Rid of Left Turns

It turns out Derek Zoolander isn't the only one who can only turn right. Left turns account for most of the 2.4 million accidents that happen each year at intersections. That's not entirely surprising for anyone who's ever sat through an entire cycle of green lights waiting for the best time to lunge left. But unless you're a traffic engineer, you probably don't realize just how much left turns screw with our daily commute and general safety.

They're such a statistical problem that UPS programmed their trucks' routes and navigation software to never make them. Not only did it make the routes safer, it actually saved the company enough time to deliver an additional 325,000 packages the first year they put the policy in place. Yes, going out of their way to avoid left turns actually saved them time.

OK, but what about those of us who aren't couriered about by a fleet of delivery trucks? Sometimes the place we're going is on the other side of the stream of cars speeding past our left shoulder, and there's no way around it.

That's why traffic engineers have been taking the unorthodox step of trying to eliminate the left turn by redesigning the way roads intersect with one another. They've tried loop-based designs like the Michigan Left and New Jersey Jughandle, which failed to catch on as anything other than names for regional sexual maneuvers. They even tried something that looks like it would require a team of air traffic controllers. But when it comes to all-right-turn intersections, nobody's been able to beat the European free-for-all known as the roundabout.

Sam Miguel
01-17-2014, 04:05 PM
^^^ (Cont'd)

Of course, such laissez-faire intersections might work in Europe, where conflict avoidance is the only thing they take more seriously than soccer. Here in America, we have things called rules, and something called technology, and the Ghostbusters, who taught us that if something is deadly, you throw electricity at it until it begs for mercy.

Actually, American intersections that got rid of left turns by converting traffic lights and four-way stops into roundabouts became almost twice as safe and efficient. A 2005 study found that roundabouts reduced rush hour delays over left-turn-reliant intersections by up to 93 percent, and congestion by up to 83 percent. A 2000 study that focused on safety saw a 38 percent reduction in total crash rates and a massive 90 percent reduction in crashes that resulted in either life-threatening or fatal injuries. The reason for this drop is quite simple: By using a roundabout, there are fewer directions from which you can get hit by a fellow driver, because all the cars are going the same way. It may feel more stressful, but your stress is focused on the one thing that matters (hint, it's not the text you're writing to a friend while waiting for the light to turn). There's also the fact that roundabouts require you to slow down, as opposed to yellow lights, which require you to speed up to get through them before your license plate gets photographed.

Unfortunately, roundabouts are more stressful than being told what to do by blinking lights. This makes them extremely unpopular with Americans who aren't politicians looking for something to scream about. Drivers usually come around once they're in place, and saving everyone time and money (by reducing your reliance on the brakes, they can also reduce annual fuel consumption at the intersection by more than 20,000 gallons).

American drivers can expect to see more of them just as soon as traffic engineers are able to wrestle budget control from the cold dead hands of the people who need to get reelected.

Sam Miguel
01-17-2014, 04:06 PM
#2. Obliterate Road Signs

It was a typical Dutch small town in the North Friesland region, so dull it barely had a name. That is, until one day someone removed all the road signs.

We're not just talking about a few spare stop signs, either. They utterly destroyed every single aspect of traffic control on every single road. No lane markings, no lines and no signs. Only directional signs, 15 traffic lights (as opposed to the previous 5,000) and complete anarchy.

Except that, surprisingly, things didn't go Mad Max in a heartbeat. Instead of holding impromptu street racing competitions in spiky dune buggies, people actually slowed down and paid extra attention to their surroundings. As a result, serious accidents took a dramatic nosedive. Pedestrian fatalities at some particularly risky junctions dropped to zero.

Yes, things got better.

The mysterious someone who had removed the signs had, of course, been the government. The whole thing was an experiment by town planners of the Friesland area who felt like seeing how pedestrians, drivers and cyclists would fare if left to their own devices. While the plan had all the makings of the biggest, most dickish practical joke in recorded history, the results were extremely positive. All stripped roads quickly became so safe that pedestrians could cross with their eyes closed.

The idea behind the experiment was the theory that relying on signs means you aren't paying as much attention to other people on the road. Remove the signs, and road users actually have to rely on their eyes and acknowledge each other. Also contributing to the safety is the fact that without signs to tell how fast to drive, town area traffic has instinctively slowed to an average 18 mph. The near-absence of traffic lights has helped traffic flow more smoothly, so the overall journey time doesn't slow down too much, either.

The idea of sign-free traffic is spreading through Europe like wildfire. Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Belgium have all taken their first baby steps in removing theirs. Others still are considering giving it a go.

Mind you, the whole no-signs schtick only works on urban areas. We're no experts, but we're guessing the removal of, say, speed limits on a motorway would quickly result in Blues Brothers levels of wrecked vehicles.

Oh, wait, the autobahn replaced the speed limit with a request that drivers use common sense, and it has a better safety record than U.S. highways. And lest you think that wouldn't work in America, Montana has tried highways both with and without speed limits. The very presence of speed limits doubled the number of fatal car accidents. Again, traffic engineers have been fighting for higher or nonexistent speed limits on highways for years based on evidence that driving without speed limits makes us more cautious when it comes to lane changes and buckling up.

#1. A Really Obvious Change in New York City Airspace

Ah, New York City! The biggest metropolis on the coast that gets America's day started. A giant knot of humanity, defined by its constant flux of people coming and going. Oh, and the source of 75 percent of all nationwide delays in air travel. It doesn't matter if you live in St. Louis or Seattle, 3 out of every 4 flight delays you've experienced in your life started from New York.

As counterintuitive as that might seem, it makes sense. Apart from being one of the globe's angriest hornet's nests for business, the Big Apple is also one of the most popular holiday destinations, playing host to an insane 48.7 million tourists in 2010 alone.

Yet the insane amount of travelers is only a small part of the problem. The real issue is the routes that airliners use to enter and leave the city airspace. They weren't originally designed to handle the two million flights that pass over the city every year. They were designed for the mail planes that connected New York and San Francisco.

In the 1920s.

When the only two directions were "up" and "face down in a ditch."

Back then, New York was lucky if a thousand flights passed through a year. The fact that these routes haven't been updated in 90 years means that a handful of poor, stressed-out air traffic controllers have to maneuver the aeronautical equivalent of an elephant stampede through a drinking straw. Obviously, they're not always perfect, which is what it would take. Flights that leave one of New York's airports a minute late can cause hourlong delays in Los Angeles, giving the phrase "New York minute" a completely new meaning.

The solution, not surprisingly, is to use more sky than they'd originally been using for the handful of mail planes in the '20s. It's not like the sky is getting smaller or anything. The reason we'd been running out all these years is because we just weren't using it. In 2007, after decades of dicking around, the FAA finally started dealing with the issue. Their catchily named "New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Project" has the noble goal of knocking three all-important minutes off each plane's takeoff time by 2012.

The plan involves three key elements. First, they expanded the designated New York airspace area from its former limits to a much wider area that extends over four states. Next, they added six new westbound flight paths to the current two. Finally -- and this is the kicker -- they reorganized the flights so that multiple planes can use the same flight path. For years, the fact that they were tracking planes on a 2-D map meant they treated planes like they were driving around on a flat surface. It took them until 2007 to figure out planes are able to fly at different heights. The people responsible for the whole nation's air travel have wasted decades of people's lives by failing to take into account the third dimension of air travel.

Every time you've sat in an airplane terminal cursing whatever unavoidable circumstance intervened in your life, it's much more likely that it was caused by a handful of guys in New York operating under the assumption that planes magically become as tall as skyscrapers as soon as they take off.

The fact that they're finally correcting this assumption could be taken as a sign that we're headed in the right direction. Just try not to think about the fact that it took one city almost a century to figure that out.

01-27-2014, 12:59 PM
Does Immigration Mean ‘France Is Over’?


The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.


PARIS — It is difficult to go more than a day in France without hearing someone express the conviction that the greatest problem in the country is its ethnic minorities, that the presence of immigrants compromises the identity of France itself. This conviction is typically expressed without any acknowledgment of the country’s historical responsibility as a colonial power for the presence of former colonial subjects in metropolitan France, nor with any willingness to recognize that France will be ethnically diverse from here on out, and that it’s the responsibility of the French as much as of the immigrants to make this work.

In the past year I have witnessed incessant stop-and-frisk of young black men in the Gare du Nord; in contrast with New York, here in Paris this practice is scarcely debated. I was told by a taxi driver as we passed through a black neighborhood: “I hope you got your shots. You don’t need to go to Africa anymore to get a tropical disease.” On numerous occasions, French strangers have offered up the observation to me, in reference to ethnic minorities going about their lives in the capital: “This is no longer France. France is over.” There is a constant, droning presupposition in virtually all social interactions that a clear and meaningful division can be made between the people who make up the real France and the impostors.

I arrived here in 2012 — an American recently teaching in a Canadian university — to take a position at a French university in Paris. I had long been a moderately interested observer of French history, culture, and politics, but had never lived here for any length of time, and had on previous stays never grown attuned to the deep rifts that mark so much of daily life here.

When I am addressed by strangers anxious about the fate of their country, I try to reply patiently. They hear my American accent, but this in itself does not dissuade them, for I belong to a different category of foreigner. I am not read as an “immigrant,” but rather as an “expatriate,” here for voluntary and probably frivolous reasons, rather than out of economic necessity or fear for my own survival or freedom. This division is not just a street-level prejudice: it is also written into the procedure at French immigration offices, where all foreigners must go to obtain their residence permits, but where the Malians and Congolese are taken into one room, and Americans and Swedes into another. For the former, the procedure has an air of quarantine, and the attitude of the officials is something resembling that of prison guards; for the latter, the visit to the immigration office feels rather more like a welcome ceremony, and everything about our interaction with the officials bespeaks a presumption of equality.

Equality is of course one of the virtues on which the French Republic was founded, yet critics of the Enlightenment philosophy behind the Revolution have long noticed a double standard: when equality is invoked, these critics note, it is understood that this is equality among equals. Political and social inequality is allowed to go on as before, as long as it is presumed that this is rooted in a natural inequality. In the late 18th century, such a presumption informed the reactions of many in the French to the revolution led by François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture in Haiti, who was himself inspired by the events of 1789 and who took the idea of equality to be one with universal scope.

For most of the history of the French Republic, the boundary between the equal and the unequal was determined by the dynamics of empire: equality within continental France was in principle absolute, while in the colonies it was something that had to be cultivated: only if a colonial subject could demonstrate full embodiment in his manners and tastes of the French identity was he to be considered truly equal.

With the contraction of the empire and the reorientation of French nationalism from an imperial to a cultural focus, the distinction between equal and unequal contracted from a global to a local scale. Francophones from around the world began to move to metropolitan France in large numbers, but now their status was transformed from that of colonial subjects to that, simply, of foreigners. But of course the fact that these unequal subjects have settled in France has very much to do with the historical legacy of French imperialism; Francophone Africans do not choose to come to France on a whim, but because of a long history of imposed Frenchness at home.


I became a philosopher, like many others, in large part because I imagined that doing so would enable me to rise above the murky swamp of local attachment, of ethnic and provincial loyalty, and to embrace the world as a whole, to be a true cosmopolitan. Yet history shows that many philosophers only grow more attached to their national or ethnic identity as a result of their philosophical education.

This second tendency seems particularly widespread in Europe today, and most of all in France. Many Americans imagine that French philosophy is dominated by mysterians like the late Jacques Derrida, who famously beguiled innocent followers with koan-like proclamations. But a far more dangerous sub-species of French philosopher is the “public intellectual,” whose proclamations, via the French mass media, are perfectly comprehensible, indeed not just simple but downright simplistic, and often completely irresponsible.
Take, for example, the self-styled philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who in his recent popular book “L’identité malheureuse” (“The Unhappy Identity”), proclaims, in effect, that immigration is destroying French cultural identity. He bemoans the “métissage” of France, a term one often sees in the slogans of the far right, which translates roughly as “mongrelization.” The author, whose father was a Polish immigrant and a survivor of Auschwitz, and who has made much throughout his career of what he calls “the duty of memory,” claims to be defending the values of the “français de souche” — the real French. In this way, he is stoking the rising xenophobia in France, a trend that has been exacerbated here, as elsewhere in Europe, by recent economic uncertainty.

Is there any justification for the two-tiered distinction between expatriates and immigrants, or for the extra impediments members of the latter group face when they try to settle in a new country? Nativist Europeans such as Finkielkraut will often express a concern about being “overrun” by members of ethnic groups from economically disadvantaged states or regions. Most of us can agree that even if there is not an absolute right to preserve one’s culture’s purity, it is at least a genuine good to be able to spend one’s life surrounded by others who share many of the same values and traditions. Something would be lost if, say, massive immigration led to a sudden shift in the demographics of Iceland, so that native Icelanders were now a minority in that once homogeneous island nation — and this would be a loss both for the country itself, as well as for those of us on the outside who value something akin to the cultural equivalent of biodiversity.

But there is nowhere in Europe where anything remotely like a shift on such a scale is taking place, even in the countries that have seen the most immigration, like France and Britain. Alongside the genuine good of a life spent among others who share one’s values and traditions, there is also what the philosopher Michael Dummett describes in his influential work “On Immigration and Refugees” as the right to live one’s life as a first-class citizen. This right, he notes, depends in part on the conduct of a state, and in part on the behavior of its people. Whether or not the right of immigrants to first-class citizenship is set up in conflict with the right of earlier inhabitants to cultural preservation, has very much to do with both state policy and with popular opinion.

01-27-2014, 12:59 PM
^ (Continued)


Even if the numbers of immigrants in Europe were much higher, it would be an illusion to suppose that the immigrants are mounting a concerted effort to change the character of the place to which they have come. Talk of “overrunning” and “invasion” is analogical, and in fact describes much more accurately the earlier motion of European states into their former colonies, a motion which, again, is a crucial part of the account of patterns of migration toward Europe today. Immigration in Europe, as in, say, the Southwestern United States or within the former Soviet Union, is determined by deep historical links and patterns of circulation between the immigrants’ countries of origin — in France’s case, particularly North Africa and sub-Saharan Françafrique — and the places of destination.
Europe has enjoyed constant traffic — human, financial, material, and cultural — with the extra-European world since the end of the Renaissance, yet within a few centuries of the great global expansion at the end of the 15th century a myth would set in throughout Europe, that European nations are entirely constituted from within, that their cultures grow up from the soil and belong to a fixed parcel of land as if from time immemorial. It is this conception of the constitution of a nation that has led to the fundamental split that still distinguishes European immigration policies from those of the United States.

The American approach to immigration is plainly rooted in historical exigencies connected to the appropriation of a continent, and it is this same history of appropriation that continues to induce shame in most Euro-Americans who might otherwise be tempted to describe themselves as natives. America has to recognize its hybrid and constructed identity, since the only people who can plausibly lay claim to native status are the very ones this new identity was conjured to displace. But in Europe no similar displacement plays a role in historical memory: Europeans can more easily imagine themselves to be their own natives, and so can imagine any demographic impact on the continent from the extra-European world as the harbinger of an eventual total displacement.

There are values that are not easy to mock or dismiss informing European nativist anxiety. These values are not completely unconnected to the various movements to defend local traditions: the celebration of terroir and of “slow food,” the suspicion of multinational corporations. But like the celebrated tomato and so many other staples of various European cuisines, European cultural identity too is a product of longstanding networks of global exchange. These networks have tended to function for the enrichment of Europe and to the detriment of the rest of the world for the past several centuries, and it is this imbalance that in large part explains current patterns of immigration. Europe has never been self-contained, and its role in the world has both made it rich and left it with a unique legacy of responsibility to the great bulk of the world from which this wealth came.

I witness the present situation from a position of privilege, as a special kind of foreigner: not the kind who is thought to be here to take up resources and to threaten tradition, but rather, it is supposed, to celebrate these traditions and to passively assent to native sentiments. The privilege, for me, is not just that I am not the target of discrimination, but also that I am able to learn quite a bit that would be kept from me if I had a different kind of accent, or darker skin. And while it is disheartening, what I hear in the streets is really only an echo of the rhetoric of politicians and purported intellectuals, who have found it convenient to blame the most powerless members of French society for the instability of the present and the uncertainty of the future.

01-28-2014, 10:58 AM
Making traffic flow

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:58 pm | Monday, January 27th, 2014

As if the traffic situation in the metropolis were not bad enough, the Metro Manila Development Authority has warned residents to brace for worse conditions in the next few years, when a number of construction projects will be undertaken by the government. Coming on the heels of the public outcry against the shocking power rate increase, the announcement has worried many residents who have to waste many hours sitting in traffic while heading to and coming from work.

The MMDA last week advised motorists and commuters to brace for heavy traffic until 2016: Thirteen road and mass transport projects of the Departments of Transportation and Communications and of Public Works and Highways are to start, and “there will be a point when they will happen simultaneously.” Among the projects are the common station that will connect LRT 1 and MRT 3 in Quezon City in July 2014-September 2015; the LRT 2 extension on Marcos Highway from Santolan station to Sumulong Highway, November 2014-June 2016; the road project connecting Bonifacio Global City to Ortigas Center, starting in July; a 4-lane underpass project on Gil Puyat Avenue that will pass through the intersections of Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas starting in April; and the proposed Edsa North-Mindanao Avenue interchange and the Circumferential Road 3 (C3) project.

In the long run, Metro Manila residents can look forward to a better transport infrastructure—and possibly better traffic flow—after all these projects shall have been finished. However, even before these projects begin, it behooves the MMDA and other government agencies to put in place measures to mitigate the impact on traffic. Among the most urgent is to discipline bus drivers who weave in and out of Edsa and Commonwealth Avenue in shameless disregard of other motorists, then stop nearly perpendicular to the road on bus stops, in the process blocking the flow of traffic. We disagree with the observation that Filipino drivers are simply bad, reckless and rude drivers. The Subic free port, where almost everyone who has been there is all praise for the road discipline, proves this.

The MMDA must also ban parking on the streets. A drive around the metropolis will show that many vehicle owners have made roadsides their permanent parking slots, believing—wrongly—that the street in front of their house is part of their property. Fixing stoplights and ensuring that traffic enforcers are at work at key intersections especially during rush hours in the morning and early evening will also help ease the traffic congestion. Educating drivers about the yellow boxes at intersections is another measure that the MMDA can undertake. The government can also move to phase out old cars and trucks that ply major thoroughfares ever so slowly. As it is, one vehicle that breaks down on Edsa can cause traffic to pile up for kilometers.

The government must also remove jeepney and tricycle terminals on the roadsides. Add to these the sidewalk vendors who encroach on as much as two lanes of the road. The MMDA will need the full support of local government units because the mayors and their barangay captains have the influence over those jeepney and tricycle terminals and illegal vendors. The private sector can also do its part by allowing some of its personnel to work at home. It has been estimated that nearly a million people are added to the population of the Makati central business district on regular working days. If only 5-10 percent of these are allowed to work at home, that would mean 50,000 to 100,000 less people driving or commuting to their work places every day. Another possible alleviating measure is to provide incentives to private firms that will revive the Pasig River ferry service.

The remaining years of the Aquino administration will truly be bad news for Metro Manila residents insofar as the traffic situation is concerned. We can only hope that the various road and mass transport projects to be undertaken in the next three years will indeed ease traffic flow. The public transport system must improve to a level that will make many car owners leave their vehicles at home and start riding the MRT or public buses to work. When the number of vehicles plying Metro Manila’s road network is reduced, traffic will hopefully flow more easily.

Sam Miguel
02-12-2014, 10:11 AM
Night shift economy


By Cito Beltran

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am

Many people have dismissed the City of Manila as an old decaying city dying a slow agonizing death — buried in debt, choking from traffic and air pollution, humiliatingly poor and its sidewalks serving as home to the homeless. Even its once famous tourist spots are deteriorated and unattractive, where the famous sunset of Manila Bay is not worth the risk of being mugged or harassed by vagrants and mendicants.

Some might even say that the Old City is no more than a calloused bleeding toe at the extremity of the mega metropolis we call Metro Manila. Unlike San Juan or Quezon City, or even Pasig City, Manila is nowhere near the center or the epicenter of urban living. But just like any part of the body (human or otherwise), when one part hurts, the pain will travel and will be experienced by the entire body. That is exactly what we have been experiencing as the City of Manila tries yet again to heal itself from a situation that benefits the nation but curses the city.

Most newspaper readers are probably well aware of how city officials of Manila headed by Mayor Joseph Estrada are trying different ways to decongest their city from traffic. The idea is if there is movement there will be commerce, there will be activity, and this will be good for business as well as for communities. In order to do this, the gatekeepers of Manila need to regulate both people and vehicles coming in and out of the city based on the original and actual capacities of its existing roadways. That of course runs directly in conflict with “progress” — “logistics” and plain old business interest.

It would be easy to accuse people at City Hall of being desperate or despotic, but no one seems to have considered how business has grown for bus companies, transporters and the different ports of “Manila” as well as the shipping companies and boat owners, while the City of Manila has to live with the consequences. Yes, the city collects taxes in some form or another, but they can never charge enough for what the real costs is to the city in terms of congestion, damages and manpower not to mention the loss of income that could be earned if Manila were more accessible and easier to navigate.

So the City of Manila now chooses to bite the bullet and regulate trucks and transport companies to “night shift” status. Of course everyone is complaining because nobody likes change. They don’t even want to think about it. But it is about time that we all consider changing how we live and how we do business, most especially the National Government and all our legislators. Everybody wants a booming economy but no one ever prepared for it! Has anybody done the math and engineering comparison between how business, volumes and the economy have grown relative to how roads or infrastructure has expanded?

Let’s take a starting date and see how much the volume of container vans have multiplied in terms of deliveries both in and out of the piers of Manila over a 20-year period. If we put those container vans side by side and compare that to how much the roads have been widened or expanded over the same 20-year period, we would easily know if we have been keeping up with the development of roads versus logistics volume. I don’t think we have and in fact I suspect that road area has been reduced just from the impact of the LRT-MRT as well as the construction of shopping malls etc.

Sadly, even after decades of being told that government offices have to move out, that colleges and universities have to move out, large government hospitals have to move out and that the piers and port of Manila have to be decongested, NO ONE wants to move out. Business is cheap and therefore good in Manila except for the City of Manila and its residents.

So now the “calloused toe,” meaning the City of Manila, has started little by little to share their pain with the rest of us. First by pointing out that they are not Metro Manila’s common bus terminal. They banned buses that had no terminals from coming into the city, thereby creating headaches for Quezon City and Pasay. That’s when the National government was “forced” to fast track the long needed unified bus terminal. Now Manila plans to limit transport trucks between 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. That ladies and gentlemen will formally usher the “night shift economy” that people have been suggesting for the longest time, but something officials in the national government could never get off the ground. We need to build up a “night shift economy” protected by law enforcement, supported by legislators and logistics companies and imposed on private corporations who don’t want the added work of building their own “night shift force.” If call centers can operate 24/7, if McDonald’s and coffee shops have 24-hour chains, why can’t factories and malls take deliveries between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.? Yes, why not?

Why should ships and containers be concentrated in the Port of Manila if we have so much more area available in Cavite and Batangas? Well because there was never really any reason or motivation serious enough to cause it. But now there is; the survival of the City of Manila depends on it. Perhaps Mayor Estrada might also want to consider making the City of Manila as one of the “finest” cities just like Singapore that has a reputation for fining people for every violation from jaywalking to littering etc. Then they could adopt the automated Singapore system of charging different road users tax and last but not the least, increase the business and real estate tax just like what Quezon City and Makati do. Yes it will be unpopular but it will be profitable for the City of Manila and not outsiders who take away all the profits everyday!

* * *

03-05-2014, 02:07 PM
5 Well-Known Tips for Healthy Eating (That Don't Work)

By Ryan J. Leeds, Chan Teik Onn May 14, 2013 1,190,291 views

Considering that eating is the basic building block of survival, you'd think we'd pretty much have it down by now, yet it's hard to find a subject more prone to bullshit and misinformation than the question of what constitutes a healthy diet. That might be because we really don't like the answer ("Eat mostly plants!"), but also because there are plenty of so-called experts insisting that ...

#5. Diet Soda Helps You Lose Weight

The Myth:

Nobody truly likes artificial sweeteners, but they're an accepted evil, because how else can you replace all the sinks in your home with soda fountains without feeling guilty? Of course, we all know that such freedom comes at a price -- in this case, that price being that they taste horrid, at least for the first few months before your tongue just gives up. What else can we expect when aspartame is concocted by Satan himself from beetle asses and baby tears? And hey, limitless soda, guys!

The Reality:

Scientists noticed a strange trend: People who drink diet soda do not in fact lose any weight. They reason appears to have something to do with how your body processes sugar.

You see, with the exception of one organ in particular, your body is kind of a dumbass. That's why, when you wash down your meal with a half-gallon of fake sweetness, your gut is all "Dur, sugar!" and tells your pancreas to get all revved up to process said shitload of sugar. Because your pancreas is not the sharpest tool in the shed, it starts cranking out insulin. This is a problem, since there is, in fact, no shitload of sugar to process.

This kicks off a vicious cycle in which your body A) absorbs more of the sugar that you ingest from other foods and B) craves more food, since you got it all aroused with promises of sugar overload and then cockblocked it with a bunch of counterfeit sugar instead. Researchers point out that this "might explain in part why obesity has risen in parallel with the use of artificial sweeteners."

So while you may think you're helping out your diet by allowing yourself some low-calorie (but still sweet) alternatives, chances are you're actually screwing over your waistline in the long run.

#4. Sugar Causes Diabetes

The Myth:

Sugar has long been the diet bogeyman for kids and adults alike. And besides transforming you into a hyper, sugar-fueled, acne-scarred human blob, a diet with too much sugar carries the lovely side effect of surefire diabetes when you're older.

After all, everyone knows that heavy sugar intake leads to diabetes -- hell, even we at Cracked are guilty of making the occasional joke of the "Have another Snickers, fatty! Enjoy the diabetes!" variety. They call it "high blood sugar" for a reason.

The Reality:

If you get the diabetes diagnosis from your doctor, your first big shock will be that he or she doesn't just tell you to stop eating candy bars -- the recommended diet seems to have you cutting back on everything. That's because, just as a runny nose is a symptom of having a cold, high blood sugar is a symptom of diabetes, not a cause. So saying that eating sugar will give you diabetes is like saying that shoving snot up your nose will give you a cold: It's still a bad idea, but it's really a sign of a larger problem.

Diabetes comes from your pancreas becoming too lazy to get up off its ass and produce enough insulin, the hormone responsible for delivering sugar to your cells. Lazy, good-for-nothing pancreas -- always flopped all up on the couch (the couch, in this case, being your small intestine). So why the widespread idea that eating sugar causes diabetes? Well, people who eat an abnormally large amount of sugar probably tend to eat an abnormally large amount of ... just ... everything, and being overweight is a definite factor in developing Type 2 diabetes.

When you eat too much of anything -- even if you're a glutton exclusively for whole grain, "healthy" foods -- you can exhaust your pancreas, preventing it from producing enough insulin to deliver all that extra glucose you consume to your body's cells. So your pancreas runs out of fucks to give, your blood glucose levels rise, and the next thing you know, your legs have become an endangered species.

Of course, that's just Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or young adulthood and also has nothing to do with eating too much sugar -- it's just a matter of your number coming up in the genetic lottery. Or whatever you call a contest where the winner has to constantly stab herself in the finger with a tiny needle.

#3. Eating At Night Makes You Fat

The Myth:

It's completely obvious, when you think about it: Your level of fatassness is entirely determined by calories taken in versus calories burned. Drooling on your pillow typically isn't a very physically intensive activity, so when you pork out right before bed, you won't be using up any of those calories you just shoved down your gullet, unless your night terrors are really strenuous that week.

So clearly, eating at night is a true dieting no-no. And if what you choose to eat at night happens to be high in carbohydrates? Whew, don't even get us started on that.

The Reality:

Actually, according to a study conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, you're actually better off loading up in the evening than other times of the day. It has to do with how your body regulates when you get hungry.

The study took a bunch of police officers (because doughnuts, duh) and split them into two groups: The first group loaded up on a carb-heavy meal at night, while the second spread their carb intake out throughout the day. The researchers explained that "The idea came about from studies on Muslims during Ramadan, when they fast during the day and eat high-carbohydrate meals in the evening, that showed the secretion curve of leptin was changed." In case you're asking your screen what the hell leptin is right now, it's the hormone that tells your body it's not hungry anymore.

According to everything our mothers ever told us, the outcome should have been easy to foresee: The "doughnuts for dinner" group should have had to grease themselves up in order to squeeze into their squad cars at the end of the six-month study. But much to the contrary, the researchers found that not only had those officers not gotten fatter, they had actually lost more weight than the control group. That's because the heavy intake of carbs in the evening modified the participants' secretion of hunger hormones in such a way that they felt less hungry throughout the day, with just a single hunger peak in the evening (aka "DOUGHNUT TIME!"). The research suggests that "concentrating carbohydrate intake in the evening, especially for people at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease due to obesity" could be an effective alternative for people who have difficulty sticking with diets.

Oh, and get this. If you do eat breakfast, go big. Another study found that dieters who ate a high-carb breakfast (with dessert!) were less likely to gain back weight lost while dieting than those who ate a healthier, low-carb (and, sadly, dessertless) breakfast. It's for the same reason: A healthier breakfast is better for you, but also leads to you getting hungrier sooner. And in the long run, any diet that leaves you hungry is doomed to fail.

And while we're on the subject ...

03-05-2014, 02:09 PM
#2. Eating a Bunch of Mini-Meals Boosts Your Metabolism

The Myth:

Metabolism is the Magic Word in the diet world. You can't flip past two pages of Men's Health without seeing the M-word mentioned at least three dozen times, and according to approximately 98 percent of guys in gyms with perpetual sweaty pits, eating mini-meals is the only way to go. By eating five or six small meals instead of three big ones, your body's metabolism will be revved up, therefore burning off calories more efficiently. Picture your body as a fireplace: Add small batches of wood more frequently and the fireplace burns brighter; stuff in too much wood at once and suddenly its eyes are stinging from its own bacon-sweat while Jillian Michaels yells at it.

The Reality:

Brace yourself, because what we're about to tell you might come as a shock. You know that meathead at the gym, the one who's constantly espousing the virtues of mini-meals? Yeah, it turns out he's no mathematician.

We can't place all the blame on Meathead for perpetuating this idea, though. After all, besides the fact that our entire concept of metabolism is flawed from the get-go, studies from as early as the 1950s have praised mini-meals as the ultimate weight-loss tool. But just as our concept of metabolism is flawed, so too were those studies. How so? Because they didn't control for total calorie intake. And when it comes to fat loss, the total number of calories you take in is what truly matters, not when or how often you intake them.

So the people who did lose weight with a bunch of smaller meals did it because, for whatever reason, eating more often made them eat less. And if eating more but smaller meals happens to make you less hungry for food, then go for it -- managing hunger is what successful diets are all about. But studies show that for the average person, it makes no difference.

#1. The Food Pyramid Is the Bible of Healthy Eating Habits

The Myth:

Some diet myths are easy to spot. No, eating oysters won't boost your sexual performance; no, putting a banana in the refrigerator won't make it poisonous. But then there are the facts drilled into us by The Man, like the USDA's Food Pyramid, which no one questioned because it came in an official-looking government diagram. You've seen this, right? Grains at the bottom, milk, cheese, and meat higher up:

You probably remember it best as a poster plastered all over schools and your doctor's office, but it was much more than that -- for many years, the Food Pyramid dictated how school lunches were put together, and heavily influenced other government-sponsored nutrition programs. So what's wrong with that?

The Reality:

Some of you younger kids know that the Food Pyramid has already been replaced by Michelle Obama's "healthy plate." But unless you're younger than the Obama administration or a time traveler (far more likely), the old Food Pyramid probably had more impact on your dietary habits than you realize. And with good reason -- without a handy guide to tell you exactly how much to eat of each type of food, how else would you know not to sustain yourself on Almond Joys dipped in tubs of lard?

The problem was that the pyramid wasn't based on scientific evidence or research -- it was more about which lobbyists whined loud enough to get their particular product shuffled to a more prominent spot on the chart.

According to the pyramid, fat is bad, so you should eat something else. Like carbs. The extra stupid part of this is that in 1992 (when the pyramid was released), we'd known for 30 to 40 years that it's not fat itself that's bad -- it's that some fats are bad. Yet the Food Pyramid asks you to eat 11 servings a day of carbohydrates so that you can avoid fat at all costs. The kicker is that they counted potatoes as vegetables, so add in up to five servings of those bad boys and you're up to 16 servings a day of starchy, carby deliciousness.

But it wasn't just the wheat and potato farmers who wanted in on this. The dairy industry wanted their cut, even though dairy isn't a dietary requirement. Beef? Sure, there's a nice T-bone in there, right alongside other protein sources such as legumes, assuring you that three servings of steak a day is perfectly (awesomely?) healthy. So avoid all fats, but a cheeseburger is the perfect meal.

But now that the USDA has woken up to research from the 1950s with Michelle Obama's healthy initiative, they've instead started emphasizing eating more vegetables, less carbs, and healthy fats. Of course, the healthy vegetable lobby probably had a huge hand in this, so take it with a grain of salt. Not literally, though! Salt is bad. Or at least until someone tells us otherwise.

11-10-2014, 11:17 AM
The Soul of Cowardice


November 9, 2014 7:00 pm 2 Comments

It seems odd, even unpatriotic, to speak of cowardice on a day meant to honor the men and women who have served in the American military. But then, as history has shown, it is never a good time to speak of cowardice.

Plato’s “Laches” shows how it is typically shunted aside. The dialogue mentions cowardice a couple of times in relation to the main subject, courage, and then about halfway through Socrates asks, “Then what are cowardice and courage? This is what I wanted to find out.” Much more about courage follows; cowardice is not mentioned again. Kierkegaard probably paid more attention to cowardice than any other philosopher — and one of his main themes is how it evades our attention, and how we evade it. “There must be something wrong with cowardice,” he wrote, “since it is so detested, so averse to being mentioned….” If it ever appeared in “its true form” we would banish it from our lives — “for who would choose to dwell with this wretchedness?” But cowardice is much too cowardly — too clever and slippery for that, says Kierkegaard. It sinks deep in the soul and cloaks itself in more appealing clothes — those of humility, to name an obvious example, but also, according to Kierkegaard, common sense, intelligence, and even pride.

A much more recent example of cowardice’s evasiveness comes from the law professor and author William Ian Miller, a specialist in writing about the negative. After publishing two books in the 1990s — “Humiliation” and “The Anatomy of Disgust” — he set out to write one about cowardice, to complete this trilogy of human baseness. He could not do it.

His intended subject “gave way,” he wrote — “that’s what cowardice always does.” The book Miller wound up publishing was “The Mystery of Courage” — the lone positive title in his oeuvre.

It is not just cowardice that evades our attention. Cowards do, too. Literature gives us striking exemplars on occasion, anti-heroes like Falstaff, but try to think of a famous historical coward and you may find that there is no such thing. The label of coward is nowadays often reserved for our most feared and hated enemies, who carry out deadly violent attacks on civilians. Many called the 9/11 attackers cowards. The Boston Marathon bombers were branded as cowardly, too. More recently, the killing of a soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa was seen, as one politician put it, as a “cowardly act designed to strike at the very heart of our democracy.” Were these acts cowardly? After 9/11 some commentators who rejected that label, most notably Bill Maher, William Safire and Susan Sontag, were met with outrage. Cowardice is being very clever indeed in such cases. Seeming to appear in plain sight via these spectacular villains, it distracts us from its true self.

Which is what, exactly? As Kierkegaard suggests, cowardice is very shifty, but we can nonetheless settle on a working definition. In some times and places — among some soldiers early in the American Civil War, for example, or in the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, or in certain warrior tribes and street gangs — cowardice has been equated with simply feeling fear. Usually the picture is more nuanced than that, but we typically judge someone cowardly when his fear is out of proportion to the danger he faces, and when this disproportionate fear leads him to do something he should not, or to fail to do something he should. In military terms — war being the archetypal setting for cowardice, since the stakes are so high and the code of conduct so clear — the coward is a soldier who fails to do his duty because of excessive fear.

This formulation leaves some charged matters unresolved, of course. The notion of excessive fear is inherently subjective, and duties can conflict. But emphasizing duty can help us distance cowardice from the powerful gravitational pull of courage. Some philosophers argue that a courageous act occupies a different “ethical matrix” than a cowardly act because courage is defined apart from duty, or above it. Courage is “supererogatory.” In keeping with this spirit, the United States reserves the Medal of Honor only for someone who “distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” Simply doing one’s duty doesn’t quite cut it.

This may seem a miserly distinction, but it helps justify labeling the “mere” fulfillment of certain duties as courageous. We call people courageous for doing their duty when we refrain from calling those who do not perform the same duty cowardly. Consider for example the case of Kevin Vickers, who fatally shot the attacker in Ottawa. One could argue that because Vickers is the sergeant-at-arms of the Canadian House of Commons, he was doing his duty and so should not be called courageous. But Vickers’s post was, as news accounts frequently noted, largely “ceremonial,” and if he had let someone else stop the killer — a SWAT team, say — no one would have called him a coward. And that means he was courageous. If not technically supererogatory, what he did was still extraordinary.

The connection of cowardice to duty may also help explain why worries about cowardice figure much more strongly in the minds of soldiers than do aspirations to courage. As many students of war have observed, most soldiers don’t actually aspire to be heroes, and they are generally quick to dismiss their own courageous acts. An act of cowardice, meanwhile, can haunt them forever, and they are earnest, desperate even, in their desire not to be seen as cowardly.

Having duty as a measuring stick makes cowardice a more definite, substantial thing than courage. The great damage cowardice can do reinforces this sense. Confirming a court-martial for cowardice in July 1775 just after he took over the Continental Army, George Washington declared it “a Crime of all others the most infamous in a Soldier, the most injurious to an Army, and the last to be forgiven; inasmuch as it may, and often does happen, that the Cowardice of a single Officer may prove the Distruction of the whole Army….”

11-10-2014, 11:19 AM
^ Continued

But the potential cost of cowardice does not fully explain why it haunts us so, why Adam Smith wrote that “No character is more contemptible than that of a coward,” or why Kierkegaard described the “cowardly soul” as “the most miserable thing one can imagine.” A traitor probably has greater potential and certainly more intent to do harm than a coward, but his act can also have an element of daring about it, an element that despite ourselves we respect — and one that a cowardly act lacks. The proverbial traitor stabs you in the back, but at least he does something; at least he is present. The proverbial coward strives, more than anything, for absence, and if he (he is proverbially male) can’t be absent, if he can’t run or hide, then his body betrays his cowardice through incontinence. The coward combines the destructive and the pathetic in a singularly reviling way.

This revilement has great power, most obviously in the military context. The belief that the other side is cowardly, coupled with the punishment and prevention of cowardice on one’s own side, feeds confidence; the belief that it would be cowardly not to fight feeds belligerence. The pattern is evident in, perhaps essential to, every war.

But the contempt for cowardice applies far from the field of battle, too. In the new film “Force Majeure,” a Swedish man named Tomas is having lunch with his family on the deck of a ski lodge when he sees an avalanche coming. Rather than leaping to shield his wife and children, he runs away (after grabbing his sunglasses and cellphone). The avalanche, it turns out, was man-made, controlled, harmless. The rest of the movie explores the ruinous aftermath of this episode. Tomas fearfully failed in his duty as father and husband. Now his family may be collapsing under a different sort of avalanche — the shame of cowardice.

That avalanche is not quite as monolithic as it might appear to be. There are wrinkles, paradoxes. It has often been acknowledged that excessive fear of being cowardly can itself be cowardly (the 9/11 attackers may have been cowardly in this way) — and did I say cowardly acts had no element of daring? An 18th-century proverb had it that “every man would be a coward if he durst,” and the Soviet practice of executing deserters during World War II led General Georgy Zhukov to declare that “it takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army.”

Contempt for the archetypal cowardice of war seems to be fading in an age when some weapons are so fearsome that the very idea of being excessively fearful seems absurd, when we know that reactions to fear depend on physiological factors such as cortisol levels, and when we know that past traumas can diminish our capacity to deal with present ones.

Yet the contempt for cowardice seems too deeply rooted in us to disappear. William James wrote that “our ancestors have bred pugnacity into our bone and marrow, and thousands of years of peace won’t breed it out of us,” an assertion supported by the emerging consensus that our closest relatives in the animal world, chimpanzees, have a natural tendency toward violence against their fellow chimps.

This is not necessarily a reason to despair. Our pugnacity and the contempt of cowardice that goes with it does not condemn us to war. James thought we could apply them to constructive rather than destructive ends, and fight “the moral equivalent of war.”

Perhaps the most common and profound cowardice has to do with the long tradition of not thinking about it. A rigorous and nuanced consideration of the idea — one applicable not so much to terrorists as to ourselves — can help us cultivate what James called “toughness without callousness.” It can help us think critically about our own fears and obligations — to family, community, and country, and to causes beyond any of those. It can help us honor these obligations more than aspiring to heroism can. And it can help us appreciate, even as we emulate, those many veterans who thought about cowardice and resisted it, who, without ever crediting themselves with courage, managed their fears and did their duty.

11-10-2014, 11:24 AM
What ‘White Privilege’ Really Means


November 5, 2014 7:00 pm 419 Comments

This is the first in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Naomi Zack, a professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon and the author of “The Ethics and Mores of Race: Equality After the History of Philosophy.” The interview was conducted by email and edited. — George Yancy

George Yancy: What motivates you to work as a philosopher in the area of race?

Naomi Zack: I am mainly motivated by a great need to work and not to be bored, and I have a critical bent. I think there is a lot of work to be done concerning race in the United States, and a lot of ignorance and unfairness that still needs to be uncovered and corrected. I received my doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University in 1970 and then became absent from academia until 1990. When I returned it had become possible to write about real issues and apply analytic skills to social ills and other practical forms of injustice. My first book, “Race and Mixed Race” (1991) was an analysis of the incoherence of U.S. black/white racial categories in their failure to allow for mixed race. In “Philosophy of Science and Race,” I examined the lack of a scientific foundation for biological notions of human races, and in “The Ethics and Mores of Race,” I turned to the absence of ideas of universal human equality in the Western philosophical tradition.

I’m also interested in the role of the university in homelessness and have begun to organize an ongoing project for the University of Oregon’s Community Philosophy Institute, with a unique website.

G.Y.: How can critical philosophy of race shed unique light on what has happened, and is still happening, in Ferguson, Mo.?

N.Z.: Critical philosophy of race, like critical race theory in legal studies, seeks to understand the disadvantages of nonwhite racial groups in society (blacks especially) by understanding social customs, laws, and legal practices. What’s happening in Ferguson is the result of several recent historical factors and deeply entrenched racial attitudes, as well as a breakdown in participatory democracy.

G.Y.: Would you put this in more concrete terms?

N.Z.: Let’s work backwards on this. Middle-class and poor blacks in the United States do less well than whites with the same income on many measures of human well-being: educational attainment, family wealth, employment, health, longevity, infant mortality. You would think that in a democracy, people in such circumstances would vote for political representatives on all levels of government who would be their advocates. But the United States, along with other rich Western consumer societies, has lost its active electorate (for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here). So when something goes wrong, when a blatant race-related injustice occurs, people get involved in whatever political action is accessible to them. They take to the streets, and if they do that persistently and in large enough numbers, first the talking heads and then the big media start to pay attention. And that gets the attention of politicians who want to stay in office.

It’s too soon to tell, but “Don’t Shoot” could become a real political movement — or it could peter out as the morally outraged self-expression of the moment, like Occupy Wall Street.

‘In the fullness of time, these differences will even out. But the sudden killings of innocent, unarmed youth bring it all to a head.’
But the value of money pales in contrast to the tragedy this country is now forced to deal with. A tragedy is the result of a mistake, of an error in judgment that is based on habit and character, which brings ruin. In recent years, it seems as though more unarmed young black men are shot by local police who believe they are doing their duty and whose actions are for the most part within established law.

In Ferguson, the American public has awakened to images of local police, fully decked out in surplus military gear from our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are deploying all that in accordance with a now widespread “broken windows” policy, which was established on the hypothesis that if small crimes and misdemeanors are checked in certain neighborhoods, more serious crimes will be deterred. But this policy quickly intersected with police racial profiling already in existence to result in what has recently become evident as a propensity to shoot first. All of that surplus military gear now stands behind such actions, and should offend members of the public who protest.

G.Y.: How does this “broken windows” policy relate to the tragic deaths of young black men/boys?

N.Z.:People are now stopped by the police for suspicion of misdemeanor offenses and those encounters quickly escalate. The death of Michael Brown, like the death of Trayvon Martin before him and the death of Oscar Grant before him, may be but the tip of an iceberg.

Young black men are the convenient target of choice in the tragic intersection of the broken windows policy, the domestic effects of the war on terror and police racial profiling.

G.Y.: Why do you think that young black men are disproportionately targeted?

N.Z.: Exactly why unarmed young black men are the target of choice, as opposed to unarmed young white women, or unarmed old black women, or even unarmed middle-aged college professors, is an expression of a long American tradition of suspicion and terrorization of members of those groups who have the lowest status in our society and have suffered the most extreme forms of oppression, for centuries. What’s happening now in Ferguson is the crystallization of our grief. Don’t Shoot!

We also need to understand the basic motives of whole human beings, especially those with power. The local police have a lot of power — they are “the law” for all practical purposes.

Police in the United States are mostly white and mostly male. Some confuse their work roles with their own characters. As young males, they naturally pick out other young male opponents. They have to win, because they are the law, and they have the moral charge of protecting. So young black males, who have less status than they do, and are already more likely to be imprisoned than young white males, are natural suspects.

11-10-2014, 11:25 AM
^ Continued

G.Y.: But aren’t young black males also stereotyped according to white racist assumptions?

N.Z.: Yes. Besides the police, a large segment of the white American public believes they are in danger from blacks, especially young black men, who they think want to rape young white women. This is an old piece of American mythology that has been invoked to justify crimes against black men, going back to lynching. The perceived danger of blacks becomes very intense when blacks are harmed. And so today, whenever an unarmed black man is shot by a police officer and the black community protests, whites in the area buy more guns.

This whole scenario is insane. The recent unarmed young black male victims of police and auxiliary police shootings have not been criminals. Their initial reactions to being confronted by police are surprise and outrage, because they cannot believe they are suspects or that merely looking black makes them suspicious. Maybe their grandfathers told them terrible stories, but after the Civil Rights movements and advancement for middle-class blacks, we are supposed to be beyond legally sanctioned racial persecution. Their parents may not have taught them the protocol for surviving police intervention. And right now the airwaves and Internet are buzzing with the anxiety of parents of young black men. They now have to caution their sons: “Yes, I know you don’t get into trouble, and I know you are going to college, but you have to listen to me about what to do and what not to do if you are ever stopped by the police. Your life depends on it. . . Don’t roll your eyes at me, have you heard what happened to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown?”

G.Y.: We can safely assume white parents don’t need to have this talk with their children. Do you think white privilege is at work in this context?

N.Z.: The term “white privilege” is misleading. A privilege is special treatment that goes beyond a right. It’s not so much that being white confers privilege but that not being white means being without rights in many cases. Not fearing that the police will kill your child for no reason isn’t a privilege. It’s a right. But I think that is what “white privilege” is meant to convey, that whites don’t have many of the worries nonwhites, especially blacks, do. I was talking to a white friend of mine earlier today. He has always lived in the New York City area. He couldn’t see how the Michael Brown case had anything to do with him. I guess that would be an example of white privilege.

Other examples of white privilege include all of the ways that whites are unlikely to end up in prison for some of the same things blacks do, not having to worry about skin-color bias, not having to worry about being pulled over by the police while driving or stopped and frisked while walking in predominantly white neighborhoods, having more family wealth because your parents and other forebears were not subject to Jim Crow and slavery. Probably all of the ways in which whites are better off than blacks in our society are forms of white privilege. In the normal course of events, in the fullness of time, these differences will even out. But the sudden killings of innocent, unarmed youth bring it all to a head.

G.Y.: The fear of black bodies — the racist mythopoetic constructions of black bodies — has been perpetuated throughout the history of America. The myth of the black male rapist, for example, in “Birth of a Nation.” But even after the civil rights movements and other instances of raised awareness and progress, black bodies continue to be considered “phobogenic objects,” as Frantz Fanon would say.

N.Z.: Fanon, in his “Black Skin, White Masks,” first published in France, in 1952, quoted the reaction of a white child to him: “Look, a Negro! . . . Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened!” Over half a century later, it hasn’t changed much in the United States. Black people are still imagined to have a hyper-physicality in sports, entertainment, crime, sex, politics, and on the street. Black people are not seen as people with hearts and minds and hopes and skills but as cyphers that can stand in for anything whites themselves don’t want to be or think they can’t be. And so, from a black perspective, the black self that whites serve up to them is not who they are as human beings. This exaggeration of black physicality is dehumanizing.

G.Y.: Given this, why have so many adopted the idea that we live in a post-racial moment in America?

N.Z.: I don’t know where the idea of “post-racial” America came from. It may have begun when minorities were encouraged to buy homes they could not afford so that bankers could bet against their ability to make their mortgage payments, before the real estate crash of 2007-08. It sounds like media hype to make black people feel more secure so that they will be more predictable consumers — if they can forget about the fact blacks are about four times as likely as whites to be in the criminal justice system. If America is going to become post-racial, it will be important to get the police on board with that. But it’s not that difficult to do. A number of minority communities have peaceful and respectful relations with their local police. Usually it requires negotiation, bargaining, dialogue — all of which can be set up at very little cost. In addition, police departments could use intelligent camera-equipped robots or drones to question suspects before human police officers approach them. It’s the human contact that is deadly here, because it lacks humanity. Indeed, the whole American system of race has always lacked humanity because it’s based on fantastic biological speculations that scientists have now discarded, for all empirical purposes.

G.Y.: So is it your position that race is a social construct? If so, why don’t we just abandon the concept?

N.Z.:Yes, race is through and through a social construct, previously constructed by science, now by society, including its most extreme victims. But, we cannot abandon race, because people would still discriminate and there would be no nonwhite identities from which to resist. Also, many people just don’t want to abandon race and they have a fundamental right to their beliefs. So race remains with us as something that needs to be put right.

George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Duquesne University. He has written, edited and co-edited numerous books, including “Black Bodies, White Gazes,” “Look, a White!” and “Pursuing Trayvon Martin,” co-edited with Janine Jones.

Sam Miguel
01-13-2016, 02:29 PM
How will the people take the Met to the 21st century?

By: Eric S. Caruncho


Inquirer Lifestyle

06:48 AM January 10th, 2016

It’s not just a structure, it’s a repository of memory. It’s part of the national patrimony,” says Gerard Lico, the architect in charge of the restoration of the Manila Metropolitan Theater, better known as the “Met.”

Lico came to this realization after the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the government agency which owns the Met, launched a Facebook campaign asking for volunteers to help clean it up.

Once a proud Manila landmark, the historic Art Deco building fell into a derelict state after it was abandoned in 1996. Now a magnet for the city’s homeless, it’s been covered in garbage and graffiti ever since.

“Initially, we asked for only 50 architecture student volunteers for the cleanup drive,” he recalls. To his amazement, the NCCA was flooded with thousands of responses, and not only from students, so many that the office e-mail server crashed.

“I was surprised at the involvement of the people,” he says after the first cleanup last Dec. 12. “The community has an attachment to the building. I gave the students a tour of the building, and they were saddened by its state. It was an emotional moment.”

Lico hopes this emotional connection can help sustain public support for the restoration effort, a Herculean task that he estimates will take five to 10 years, and eventually cost more than P500 million, well beyond the P270 million given by Malacañang for the acquisition of the Met.

There are encouraging signs.

Lico says that Sen. Pia Cayetano has offered to kick in supplementary funds amounting to P43 million, to help cover startup costs. The Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) and the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), as well as the French and Spanish governments, have also signified their willingness to help.

No purist

There’s no question as to the historical importance of the Met, designed by architect Juan M. Arellano in the Art Deco style and opened in 1931 as Manila’s premier performance venue. Lavishly decorated with stained glass, wrought-iron grillwork, murals by Fernando Amorsolo and numerous sculptures, the Met hosted performances by world-class artists in its heyday.

“The Met was envisioned in 1931 as the ‘people’s theater,’” says Lico.

He believes it can be so once more.

“There are many schools of thought on restoration,” he says. “I’m not a purist. We have to reinvent the building to fit the needs of modern life.”

A professor of architecture at the University of the Philippines, Lico also has a master’s degree in Art History and a Ph.D in Philippine Studies. He is the author of “Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines.”

He was also UP’s campus architect until 2014, when he returned to private practice designing institutional buildings. But he dropped most of his projects to focus on the Met when NCCA chair Felipe de Leon Jr. asked him to head the Met restoration team, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“This is what I really want to do,” he says. “This is how I want to leave my mark. I’m gung-ho on the project.”

One-stop shop

Adaptive reuse, he says, is the key to not just restoring, but also reviving, the Met. “In restoration, you can’t just impose what you want on the people. We realized that it would be impossible to revive the Met as a theater only,” he notes. “It wouldn’t be sustainable. The audience just isn’t there anymore.”

In keeping with the idea of the new Met as the people’s theater, the NCCA has been conducting focus group discussions with veteran and emerging artists, cultural workers, students and other stakeholders to determine the best use for the restored building.

“Definitely we will retain the theater,” says Lico. “But the surrounding facility, which is huge—what should we do with it? Some have suggested that it could be a one-stop shop for Philippine arts and culture—a cultural mall, if you will, showcasing the best of Philippine arts and culture.”

The Met could form part of a “culture circuit”—a network that would include the National Museum and other destinations in the vicinity.

We also have to think beyond the building itself, he says, but also take into account its environment, which includes Mehan garden, Lawton plaza and the Post Office building—an area which has sadly gone to seed in the last few decades. A comprehensive master plan for the whole area is sorely needed, he adds.

Since the NCCA doesn’t have the capacity to manage properties, Lico says it may eventually enter into a private sector partnership to ensure the restored Met’s sustainability.

For now, however, the first priority is to restore the Met.

“It looks small from the outside, but if you go inside, it’s really large,” he points out. “In fact, the theater seats 1,700. Apart from that, there are offices all around. The intention in the 1930s was to rent out those arcade spaces.”

Lico estimates that 80 percent of the building, built from reinforced concrete, remains structurally sound.

But there are serious problems to be solved. Water penetration in parts of the building has corroded the rebar, causing the concrete to burst.

A tunnel underneath the Met that once formed part of its cooling system has allowed water to accumulate, turning what used to be the orchestra pit into a stagnant pond. Vegetation has also grown into concrete surfaces, causing cracks.

“As much as possible, we want to maintain authenticity and integrity,” he says. “When you restore, you don’t invent what is not there. But we are not frozen in time. The 1978 restoration by Mrs. Marcos made some additions, and we will keep those additions because it is part of the history of the building. It adds a layer. We want to add a layer of the 21st century, but we will maintain the iconic status of the Met.”

Since the NCCA is the government agency charged with preserving heritage sites, the restoration of the Met should also be a textbook example of the right way to do it.

The right way begins with a consultative approach that involves the community. Hence, the continuing dialogue with stakeholders, other government agencies and the private sector.

By mid-January, he says, the entire structure will be fenced off to discourage the informal settlers who transform the Met into their dormitory after dark. The fence itself will be used as a billboard detailing the history of the Met, to educate passersby on the significance of the structure.


The public will also be allowed to see the work on the building as it progresses. Hard hats will be provided for this purpose.

In addition to student volunteers, a professional cleanup crew will be hired to dispose of the hazardous debris, including asbestos, that has accumulated inside the building.

For the preparatory work, high-tech solutions will be used, he adds. This includes 3-D scanning to determine the structural soundness of existing members, and ground-penetrating radar to study the hidden parts of the foundation.

“Restoration is a very meticulous undertaking,” says Lico. “Restoring a building is always more expensive than building a new structure. But in the end, it’s an investment in culture and the creative industries.”

Sam Miguel
01-13-2016, 03:06 PM
Accepting the Past, Facing the Future

By TODD MAY JANUARY 4, 2016 3:21 AM

January 4, 2016 3:21 am

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

How do we relate to our past, and what might this tell us about how to relate to our future? One of the most provocative approaches to this question comes from Friedrich Nietzsche, whose doctrine of the eternal return asks this: “What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’”? To ask myself the question of the eternal return is to wonder about the worth of what I have done, to inquire whether it would stand the test of being done innumerable times again.

There is, however, a more disturbing worry underneath this one. For me to be able to ask the question of the eternal return already supposes that I have come into existence; and the question may arise of whether I should affirm the conditions that brought me into existence, not innumerable times but even once. To see the bite of this worry, let me share a bit of my own past. Had Hitler not come to power in Germany, the Holocaust and World War II would not have happened. Had World War II not have happened, my father would not have signed up for officer’s training school. Had he not signed up, he would not have gone to college, majored in economics, and then moved to New York for a job. And so he would not have met my mother. In short, without the Holocaust I would not be here.

We need not look very deeply to see how many people’s existence requires the occurrence of the Holocaust. And as Peter Atterton has argued recently here, all of us can trace our existence back to some mass atrocity or another (if not the Holocaust, then perhaps to slavery or to the Crusades).

How, then, might we relate to the past, and specifically to the fact that we owe our existence to one or another historical atrocity (or, for that matter, to a host of other events: weather patterns, feelings of lust, etc.)? One suggestion, a pessimistic one, is offered by another philosopher, R. Jay Wallace, in his book “The View From Here.” Wallace argues that to affirm my existence, to say yes to it, requires that I affirm (among other unpalatable things) the past that led to it. To be sure, he does not claim that we must feel good about it. We might wish that our existence had come about another way. However, he argues that we cannot have what he calls “all-in regret” about it. It’s unfortunate that our existence had to arise this way, but since that’s the way it happened, affirming our existence requires affirming the past that led to it. It is no wonder that he calls his position one of “modest nihilism.”

But must we affirm the past that led to our existence? Must we be modest nihilists? For one thing, it is open to us to say that it would have been better for us not to have been born and for the Holocaust not to have happened. From a more cosmic perspective (assuming that recent history would not have offered us a comparable horror), we might say that it would have been better had the Holocaust not occurred and that the planet be filled with people different from us. When Atterton concludes his column by saying that we have no right to exist, I take it this is precisely what he is claiming. And, as far as it goes, I agree with him.

But that is not where the question should make us most uncomfortable, and not where Wallace stakes his ground. To affirm our existence is not a matter of what we think would be cosmically or impersonally better. It is to say what we prefer, what we would choose. Would I prefer that the Holocaust or slavery or the Crusades not have happened and that I not exist? If I were somehow allowed to rewind the tape of history and then let it go forward again in a way that prevented one of these atrocities, and thus my existence, would I do it? That is a more troubling question for those of us who are attached to our lives.

I would like to think that, at least in my better moments, I would, however reluctantly, acquiesce to that deal. At those times where I have a more vivid encounter with the Holocaust, for instance, when at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington I saw the shoes of many who had perished in the camps, I think I would, with difficulty, be willing to trade my existence for those of its victims. (It is another and even more vexing question of whether I would trade my childrens’ lives to spare theirs, recognizing that my childrens’ existence requires my own. But for reasons outside the scope of this essay, I believe that that is a question for my offspring to answer rather than me.) I don’t know for sure what I would do, but I hope I would be able to rise to the occasion.

If this is right, then perhaps the proper attitude to take toward the monstrosities that gave rise to us might be called one of acceptance rather than affirmation. We are the products of histories we cannot change, histories that contain atrocities we cannot undo. We know that it would have been better if those horrors had not happened and, consequently, we had not been born, and in nobler moments we might even prefer that it had been that way. Our lives are rooted in tragedies that have no reparation, and in that they are inescapably tainted. We must accept this, but we need not affirm it. The difference lies in what we would have been willing to do, given the opportunity.

At this point, however, someone might ask why it matters what I, or any one of us, would do in an imaginary scenario that cannot possibly happen. The Holocaust happened; it cannot be prevented retroactively. So why should we take up any attitude toward our existence in relation to it? There are two reasons for doing so, one more philosophically reflective and the other more practical. The philosophically reflective reason is this: We condemn the Holocaust. I believe most of us would say that it should not have occurred. But had it not occurred, many of us would not be here. So what is our attitude toward the Holocaust, really? Do we really condemn it, or do we not? Asking the questions I am posing here will reveal to us aspects of who we are in ways that we may or may not find comfortable.

The second reason is practical. If we would be willing to sacrifice our existence for the sake of preventing past horrors, what would we be willing to sacrifice of ourselves to prevent horrors now and in the future? And why are so many of us (and I include myself here) not doing so? I should note here that the situation of the past is not exactly symmetrical to that of the future. There is a complication. If I had not existed, I would not technically have lost anything, because there would have been no “I” to lose it in the first place. (Of course, it’s even more complicated than that. I have to exist to consider the possibility of my never having existed.) However, now that I do exist, in sacrificing myself I do stand to lose something — my future existence.

Nevertheless, with that caveat in mind, a willingness to sacrifice our existence in the past should be matched by a willingness to sacrifice at least something of value now or in the future to prevent or mitigate new atrocities. What would we be willing to sacrifice for the refugees from Syria or the potential victims of police violence, or the impoverished undocumented workers in our country — those whose troubles will help determine who our children and grandchildren are? What would we be willing to sacrifice to prevent the enormous consequences of climate change, which seem already to be multiplying their victims? And if we’re not prepared to make some sacrifice, what does this in turn say about our relation to the horrors that gave rise to us? Our relation to the past and our relation to the future are not entirely distinct from each other. In asking about one, we offer answers — and perhaps not answers we would prefer to acknowledge — to the other.

As a new year is upon us, then, we might do better to renew rather than to forget our old acquaintance with the past, and allow that to be a guide to our future.

Todd May is a professor of philosophy at Clemson University, and the author of, most recently, “A Significant Life.”

Sam Miguel
01-13-2016, 04:20 PM
When Philosophy Lost Its Way


The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

The history of Western philosophy can be presented in a number of ways. It can be told in terms of periods — ancient, medieval and modern. We can divide it into rival traditions (empiricism versus rationalism, analytic versus Continental), or into various core areas (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics). It can also, of course, be viewed through the critical lens of gender or racial exclusion, as a discipline almost entirely fashioned for and by white European men.

Yet despite the richness and variety of these accounts, all of them pass over a momentous turning point: the locating of philosophy within a modern institution (the research university) in the late 19th century. This institutionalization of philosophy made it into a discipline that could be seriously pursued only in an academic setting. This fact represents one of the enduring failures of contemporary philosophy.

Take this simple detail: Before its migration to the university, philosophy had never had a central home. Philosophers could be found anywhere — serving as diplomats, living off pensions, grinding lenses, as well as within a university. Afterward, if they were “serious” thinkers, the expectation was that philosophers would inhabit the research university. Against the inclinations of Socrates, philosophers became experts like other disciplinary specialists. This occurred even as they taught their students the virtues of Socratic wisdom, which highlights the role of the philosopher as the non-expert, the questioner, the gadfly.

Philosophy, then, as the French thinker Bruno Latour would have it, was “purified” — separated from society in the process of modernization. This purification occurred in response to at least two events. The first was the development of the natural sciences, as a field of study clearly distinct from philosophy, circa 1870, and the appearance of the social sciences in the decade thereafter. Before then, scientists were comfortable thinking of themselves as “natural philosophers” — philosophers who studied nature; and the predecessors of social scientists had thought of themselves as “moral philosophers.”

The second event was the placing of philosophy as one more discipline alongside these sciences within the modern research university. A result was that philosophy, previously the queen of the disciplines, was displaced, as the natural and social sciences divided the world between them.

This is not to claim that philosophy had reigned unchallenged before the 19th century. The role of philosophy had shifted across the centuries and in different countries. But philosophy in the sense of a concern about who we are and how we should live had formed the core of the university since the church schools of the 11th century. Before the development of a scientific research culture, conflicts among philosophy, medicine, theology and law consisted of internecine battles rather than clashes across yawning cultural divides. Indeed, these older fields were widely believed to hang together in a grand unity of knowledge — a unity directed toward the goal of the good life. But this unity shattered under the weight of increasing specialization by the turn of the 20th century.

Early 20th-century philosophers thus faced an existential quandary: With the natural and social sciences mapping out the entirety of both theoretical as well as institutional space, what role was there for philosophy? A number of possibilities were available: Philosophers could serve as 1) synthesizers of academic knowledge production; 2) formalists who provided the logical undergirding for research across the academy; 3) translators who brought the insights of the academy to the world at large; 4) disciplinary specialists who focused on distinctively philosophical problems in ethics, epistemology, aesthetics and the like; or 5) as some combination of some or all of these.

There might have been room for all of these roles. But in terms of institutional realities, there seems to have been no real choice. Philosophers needed to embrace the structure of the modern research university, which consists of various specialties demarcated from one another. That was the only way to secure the survival of their newly demarcated, newly purified discipline. “Real” or “serious” philosophers had to be identified, trained and credentialed. Disciplinary philosophy became the reigning standard for what would count as proper philosophy.

This was the act of purification that gave birth to the concept of philosophy most of us know today. As a result, and to a degree rarely acknowledged, the institutional imperative of the university has come to drive the theoretical agenda. If philosophy was going to have a secure place in the academy, it needed its own discrete domain, its own arcane language, its own standards of success and its own specialized concerns.

Having adopted the same structural form as the sciences, it’s no wonder philosophy fell prey to physics envy and feelings of inadequacy. Philosophy adopted the scientific modus operandi of knowledge production, but failed to match the sciences in terms of making progress in describing the world. Much has been made of this inability of philosophy to match the cognitive success of the sciences. But what has passed unnoticed is philosophy’s all-too-successful aping of the institutional form of the sciences. We, too, produce research articles. We, too, are judged by the same coin of the realm: peer-reviewed products. We, too, develop sub-specializations far from the comprehension of the person on the street. In all of these ways we are so very “scientific.”

Our claim, then, can be put simply: Philosophy should never have been purified. Rather than being seen as a problem, “dirty hands” should have been understood as the native condition of philosophic thought — present everywhere, often interstitial, essentially interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in nature. Philosophy is a mangle. The philosopher’s hands were never clean and were never meant to be.

There is another layer to this story. The act of purification accompanying the creation of the modern research university was not just about differentiating realms of knowledge. It was also about divorcing knowledge from virtue. Though it seems foreign to us now, before purification the philosopher (and natural philosopher) was assumed to be morally superior to other sorts of people. The 18th-century thinker Joseph Priestley wrote “a Philosopher ought to be something greater and better than another man.” Philosophy, understood as the love of wisdom, was seen as a vocation, like the priesthood. It required significant moral virtues (foremost among these were integrity and selflessness), and the pursuit of wisdom in turn further inculcated those virtues. The study of philosophy elevated those who pursued it. Knowing and being good were intimately linked. It was widely understood that the point of philosophy was to become good rather than simply to collect or produce knowledge.

As the historian Steven Shapin has noted, the rise of disciplines in the 19th century changed all this. The implicit democracy of the disciplines ushered in an age of “the moral equivalence of the scientist” to everyone else. The scientist’s privileged role was to provide the morally neutral knowledge needed to achieve our goals, whether good or evil. This put an end to any notion that there was something uplifting about knowledge. The purification made it no longer sensible to speak of nature, including human nature, in terms of purposes and functions. By the late 19th century, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche had proved the failure of philosophy to establish any shared standard for choosing one way of life over another. This is how Alasdair MacIntyre explained philosophy’s contemporary position of insignificance in society and marginality in the academy. There was a brief window when philosophy could have replaced religion as the glue of society; but the moment passed. People stopped listening as philosophers focused on debates among themselves.

Once knowledge and goodness were divorced, scientists could be regarded as experts, but there are no morals or lessons to be drawn from their work. Science derives its authority from impersonal structures and methods, not the superior character of the scientist. The individual scientist is no different from the average Joe; he or she has, as Shapin has written, “no special authority to pronounce on what ought to be done.” For many, science became a paycheck, and the scientist became a “de-moralized” tool enlisted in the service of power, bureaucracy and commerce.

Here, too, philosophy has aped the sciences by fostering a culture that might be called “the genius contest.” Philosophic activity devolved into a contest to prove just how clever one can be in creating or destroying arguments. Today, a hyperactive productivist churn of scholarship keeps philosophers chained to their computers. Like the sciences, philosophy has largely become a technical enterprise, the only difference being that we manipulate words rather than genes or chemicals. Lost is the once common-sense notion that philosophers are seeking the good life — that we ought to be (in spite of our failings) model citizens and human beings. Having become specialists, we have lost sight of the whole. The point of philosophy now is to be smart, not good. It has been the heart of our undoing.

Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle teach in the department of philosophy and religion and the University of North Texas. They are co-authors of the forthcoming “Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy.”

10-10-2017, 09:46 AM

11-28-2017, 07:09 AM
Big tobacco wins in smoke-friendly SE Asia: watchdog

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 28 2017 06:36 AM

MANILA - A global treaty to fight the health impact of tobacco has suffered substantial setbacks in Southeast Asia, home to some of the world's highest concentrations of smokers, a watchdog group said Monday.

The powerful tobacco lobby last year stopped proposed cigarette tax increases in Malaysia and Indonesia, while Vietnam waived all duties on dried tobacco imports from Cambodia, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance said in a report.

"We have found that the tobacco industry does not take a holiday from undermining or thwarting or delaying government efforts to control tobacco use," Mary Assunta Kolandai, senior policy adviser for the alliance, told a news conference.

The annual report, released at a tobacco conference at the Western Pacific office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Manila, monitors the region's compliance with the 2003 WHO framework convention on tobacco control.

WHO says tobacco use causes lung cancer and heart disease, among other ailments, and kills more than seven million people each year.

Indonesia, where 76.2 percent of males aged 15 or older smoke, Vietnam (47.7 percent), and the Philippines (43 percent) have some of the world's highest concentrations of tobacco users, it said.

Tobacco use among adult males is also heavy in Cambodia (44.1 percent), Laos (56.6 percent), Malaysia (43 percent) and Thailand (41.4 percent), it said.

While tobacco taxes were the "most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use", WHO coordinator for tobacco and economics Jeremias Paul said only a few mostly European countries have imposed the ideal rate -- equivalent to 75 percent of the retail price.

"One of the reasons why it's underutilized or not being implemented globally is what I term as the scare tactic of the tobacco industry," he told reporters.

This includes the argument that higher cigarette taxes would encourage smuggling and lawsuits while reducing state revenues and employment, Paul said.

The alliance report also said new rules for "plain packaging" in Malaysia and pictorial health warnings for cigarette packs in Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, were either stopped or delayed last year.

? Agence France-Presse

12-27-2017, 09:24 AM
?Mano po? and other treasures

By: Cielito F. Habito - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:08 AM December 26, 2017

This is the season for "mano po" - a traditional Filipino gesture to honor our elders by bowing to them or pressing one's forehead on their offered hand. The person giving respect may say ?mano po? (literally, ?your hand, please?) to the elder to initiate the gesture, while the elder normally responds with ?God bless you? or a silent blessing on the person giving respect. It especially finds wide use during Christmas, when children go on the annual ritual of visiting their ?ninong/ninang? (godfather/mother) to ask for their blessing, but also to ask for an ?aguinaldo? or Christmas gift, usually given in the form of cash. Hence the joke that ?money po? would be the more apt greeting for the occasion. Beyond Christmas, we also do it with our elders upon leaving or coming home, or upon seeing them after some absence. Catholics do it at the end of a Mass or family prayer, and is especially done to a priest or bishop as a gesture of respect and subservience. It?s not only children or young people who do it, as any elder or anyone to whom respect is due, whether older or younger than us, is considered worthy of the gesture.

When I lived in culture-rich Japan as a visiting research fellow at Kyoto University many years ago, I found renewed value and appreciation for the practice being one of the few distinctive features of our culture, many of which are fading. In the midst of the polite Japanese who routinely bow in respect for one another, I saw our mano po to be our closest equivalent everyday gesture, though not as universally applied. I began to silently lament how the ?beso-beso? (cheek to cheek kiss) has replaced it in many families including my own (I now regret not having raised my own children on the practice, especially when I see friends whose children dutifully do a mano po with them.) While it was something I took for granted as my own parents raised us on the practice, I now find its much deeper meaning and value that I wish there could be a conscious effort to revive and preserve it in our society, and not because I'm advancing in age myself.

There are a number of other distinctive practices and traits we Filipinos have that we ought to take pride in and preserve for posterity. One is the "bayanihan" or mutual assistance among community members, exemplified in the image of neighbors literally carrying a nipa house on their shoulders to help the owner relocate it. Many see it as a dying value and practice, as Filipinos have increasingly imbibed a to-each-his-own (kanya-kanya) mentality with wider urbanization. Gone are the days when we would occasionally borrow a cup of sugar, rice or whatever from the neighbors when we ran out. Now, few people know their neighbors at all, or bother to do so, even in an apartment building where they are literally next door.

Hospitality is another positive trait we Filipinos have traditionally been known for. I recall how in my teenage years, friends of my parents overseas gave up their master bedroom in their small home for my wife and me as we stopped over in their city while traveling. They chose to sleep on couches in their living room for our sake, to our great discomfort (and possibly more theirs). We would indeed bend over backwards to make our guests feel comfortable often to the point of self sacrifice, and happily, this Filipino trait may not necessarily be fading as fast as mano po appears to be.

We Filipinos are also said to be both creative and resourceful. I need not elaborate on the former, as we are usually seen and envied by others as being particularly talented in the arts (whether in the performing arts or in design). I recall how a visiting professor colleague was once impressed with Filipino resourcefulness when his imported American car, with no spare parts available locally, got a dose of what his mechanics described to him as "remedyo Filipino," when he had a problem with the vehicle.

It's often said that we Filipinos have a tendency for self-flagellation. But in this season for counting our blessings, we should be mindful of the positive traits we Filipinos could treasure and take pride in.

03-15-2018, 07:04 AM
Stephen Hawking: ’His laboratory was the universe’

Associated Press / 09:59 PM March 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — Everyone knew of Stephen Hawking’s cosmic brilliance, but few could comprehend it. Not even top-notch astronomers.

Hawking, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, on Wednesday at age 76, became the public face of science genius. He appeared on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Big Bang Theory,” voiced himself in “The Simpsons” cartoon series and wrote the best-seller “A Brief History of Time.”

He sold 9 million copies of that book, though many readers didn’t finish it. It’s been called “the least-read best-seller ever.” Hollywood celebrated his life in the 2014 Oscar-winning biopic “The Theory of Everything.”

In some ways, Hawking was the inheritor of Albert Einstein’s mantle of the genius-as-celebrity.

“His contribution is to engage the public in a way that maybe hasn’t happened since Einstein,” said prominent astronomer Wendy Freedman, former director of the Carnegie Observatories. “He’s become an icon for a mind that is beyond ordinary mortals. People don’t exactly understand what he’s saying, but they know he’s brilliant. There’s perhaps a human element of his struggle that makes people stop and pay attention.”

With Einstein, most people are familiar with e=mc2, but they don’t know what it means. With Hawking, his work was too complicated for most people, but they understood that what he was trying to figure out was basic, even primal.

“He was asking and trying to address the very biggest questions we were trying to ask: the birth of the universe, black holes, the direction of time,” said University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner. “I think that caught people’s attention.”

And he did so in an impish way, showing humanity despite being in a wheelchair with ALS, the degenerative nerve disorder known in the U.S. as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He flew in a zero-gravity plane. He made public bets with other scientists about the existence of black holes and radiation that emanates from them — losing both bets and buying a subscription to Penthouse for one scientist and a baseball encyclopedia for the other.

“The first thing that catches you is the debilitating disease and his wheelchair,” Turner said. But then his mind and the “joy that he took in science” dominated. And while the public may not have understood what he said, they got his quest for big ideas, Turner said.

Andy Fabian, an astronomer at Hawking’s University of Cambridge and president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said Hawking would start his layman’s lectures on black holes with the joke: “I assume you all have read ’A Brief History of Time’ and understood it.” It always got a big laugh.

“You’d find the average astronomer such as myself doesn’t even try to follow the more esoteric theories that (Hawking) pursued the last 20 years,” Fabian said. “I’ve been to talks Hawking has given and cannot follow them myself.”

Hawking, who was born 300 years to the day after Galileo died, was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. It was the same post that Isaac Newton held. Both physicists and astrophysicists claimed him as their own. And much of Hawking’s work was in the field of cosmology, a deep-thinking branch of astronomy that tries to explain the totality of the universe.

Hawking’s title “is not relevant here; what matters is what his brain did,” said Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium. “We claim him as an astrophysicist because his laboratory was the universe.”

And Hawking’s black hole work in the mid-1970s made a crucial connection in physics. Until Hawking discovered radiation coming from black holes — named “Hawking radiation” after him — the two giant theories in physics, Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics, often conflicted. Hawking was the first to show they connected, which Turner and others described as breakthrough at the time.

The concept that stuff, radiation, comes out of black holes may have upset science fiction authors, but it inspired young scientists such as Tyson, who described it as “spooky profound.”

The idea behind this was also novel because it said “black holes aren’t forever,” Turner said.

Hawking also pioneered a “no hair” theory of black holes that they were simple, with just spin, mass and charge and nothing else.

Both of those concepts are cornerstones of current black hole theory.

Hawking’s other work went beyond black holes into the more cosmic, the origins of the universe. Initially he theorized about the “singularity” of the baby universe in thick but elegant mathematical equations comparing early time to wave functions. Later, his own work contradicted some of that and he was instrumental to theories about inflationary cosmology, where the universe’s beginning is more of a half ball. That theory got its kick-start at a conference Hawking hosted in 1982 with a dinner party and croquet match, Turner said.

The high-concept theory-making didn’t quite match the personality behind it. Colleagues often mention his off-the-wall humor, his big grin, his stubbornness.

And even the public picked up on his cheeky attitude instantly, Turner and Freedman said.

“He added a human face to science,” Turner said. “It goes well beyond the wheelchair.”

The bigger story was how the public became fascinated with this small man, stuck in a wheelchair with a worsening disease, and an intellect that few could fathom. They related to the man, Stephen Hawking, and his story, Freedman said.

The insight he gave on the mysteries of the cosmos was just a bonus.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 02:11 PM
From The Atlantic online - - -

Call Them What They Wants

As more English speakers adopt the singular they and reject the gender binary, resisters will have to accept that language changes over time.

Sep 4, 2018

John McWhorter

Contributing editor at The Atlantic and professor at Columbia University

It is certainly the most challenging change in language I have dealt with in my lifetime. Ever more people, rejecting the gender binary, are requesting to be referred to as they rather than as he or she. That is, we now say: Ariella isn't wearing the green one. They think it's time to wear their other one. I expect to get some new practice using they this way as school starts back up, with more students at universities such as the one where I teach requesting they.

Yes, practice—I am trying my best to master this new way of using they despite the fact that, make no mistake, it's hard. In contrast to the deliberateness of writing, speaking casually is a largely subconscious, not to mention very rapid, act. In addition, pronouns, like conjunctions and suffixes, are a very deeply seated feature of language, generated from way down deep in our minds, linked to something as fundamental to human conception as selfhood in relation to the other and others. I've been using they in one way since the late 1960s, and was hardly expecting to have to learn a new way of using it decades later. I thought I had English pretty much under my belt.

Some might find this an odd orientation from a linguist. After all, aren't we libertine, permissive sorts, wedded to the unheedful idea that people should be able to just let it all hang out linguistically? If so, I might be expected to harrumph that people should not be asked to use language in ways that they find unnatural.

But all of us use certain corners of the language in distinctly unnatural ways all the time, and for reasons less coherent, in the grand view, than those justifying the new use of they. Social justice has a way of feeling, at least to some, unnatural—at least at first. That doesn't mean it isn't social justice.

Quite a few of us, in fact, harbor a distinctly unnatural resistance to a related usage of they, which was until recently the one for which it usually made news. Tell each student they can hand in their paper at the front office. We are told that this sentence is incorrect because they can only refer to the plural. The proper user of English is to either use he to refer to both genders, to toggle self-consciously between he and she, or, in writing, to use little (and unpronounceable) monstrosities like he/she.

Adjusting ourselves to the supposed naturalness of these backdoor fixes, we tend to miss that English speakers have been using they in the singular since English was anything we'd recognize as English. Back in Middle English, the Sir Amadace tale includes, “Each man in their degree.” The Bard has Antipholus of Syracuse in Comedy of Errors chirp, “There's not a man I meet but doth salute me / As I were their well-acquainted friend.” Thackeray has Rosalind toss off in Vanity Fair, “A person can't help their birth.” Whence the idea that all of these people were butchering the language?

It was the schoolteacher and writer Anne Fisher whose English primer of 1745 began the notion that it's somehow bad to use they in the plural and that he stands for both men and women. Grammarians of Fisher's day tended to believe that real languages should pattern themselves after Latin and Ancient Greek, in which the words for they happened not to have experienced such developments.

But grammarians then knew less about how much language varies worldwide, and also operated under a quaint sense that the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome were inherently superior to the European ones that emerged later. The simple fact is that they in English has always operated differently from they in Latin, and trying the narrow the gap between the two makes no more sense than deciding that English's definite articles need to operate like the ones in Arabic or Hebrew.

As such, the objection “‘They’ is plural,” as if cast in stone on a Roman edifice, doesn't go through unless Anne Fisher is granted some godly status, which few would be inclined to do despite her tart brilliance. Nevertheless, if the past is any guide, many will insist on making the effort not to use the relatively novel form of the singular they—at least in print, and maybe even in speech—despite how naturally other uses of the singular they tends to fall out of our mouths, just as it fell out of the mouths of medievals, Elizabethans, and Victorians. We are no strangers to using they in ways that require a bit of forethought and practice—so why not one more?

But suppose you aren't one of those who insists on blocking out singular they? You might object: “But I do speak as naturally as possible, and so why should I master this new they just because people ask me to?” My answer here is: How do you feel about saying Billy and me went to the store? Or: Tom and him like making mudpies?

Of course, the idea that I must be used as a subject and me as an object is beaten into us so soundly from an early age that most of us barely feel like we’re working to observe this rule. But it is yet another vestige of the notion that English is supposed to operate like Latin and Greek, this time in terms of how subject and object are expressed.

One problem is that languages differ massively in how they sort out subjects and objects, and we don’t have to go far afield to see ones that operate like English. In French, Billy and me (whoops, I) went to the store is certainly not Guillaume et je sommes allées au magasin. Rather, one uses moi, for me: Guillaume et moi sommes allées au magasin. Yet the French operate under no inferiority complex about their language. Why, then, is it wrong in English to say Billy and me went to the store?

After all, there are plenty of ways we use me (or him, her, us, or them) as subjects all the time, with no one batting an eye. “Who broke the lamp?” someone asks. “Me,” you say guiltily—and not “I,” unless you want to sound flabbergastingly pretentious. Yet you wouldn't say “Me broke the lamp”—which suggests that English’s rules about subjects and objects are simply different from Latin's. Is it that the “me” is short for “It was me”? But why exactly do you shave off two words just in that sentence?

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 02:12 PM
^^^ (Continued)

And if you dig down deep into your mind thinking about when you say me in a context like this—pondering late, late at night when you’re all alone, rain spattering on the windowpanes—you’ll likely admit: you mean the me as a subject. You mean that, “Me did it.” And it leaves you no less valid a human being! It’s just that English isn't Latin. It’s more like French.

And never mind that a sentence like I and Billy went to the store sounds like someone from another planet. If I has to be the subject, why does it sound so godawful in a sentence like that? English’s actual rule for I and me is actually pretty simple: When the subject comes right before a verb you use I; otherwise the form is me even if it’s a subject. (One wrinkle is that you can jam, say, an adverb between the I and the verb—“I, actually, prefer peach Jello, not boring old lime.”) This is what one picks up from hearing English in use as a toddler (including people saying “Me” rather than “I” in response to being asked who did something).

For all one might say about whether English’s actual rule is logical, the fact is that this rule must be consciously learned by all but a very few. Somehow, by about the age of 6, we all master the subtleties of how to use the versus a; what the difference is between I turn 31 tomorrow, I’m going to turn 31 tomorrow, and I’ll turn 31 tomorrow; and much, much more—but have to be bopped on the head about Billy and me went to the store.

Yet even so, we all master it, and teach ourselves not to use I and me in the wrong ways in public contexts. And certainly, a society will have its formalities that must be attended to whether we like it or not. I observe the rule as much as possible when speaking publicly. I am not claiming that we should not teach children this rule (although I will be teaching mine how arbitrary it is). However, it’s no accident that so many people merely internalize not the rule itself, but that somehow “I” is more proper across the board, which yields the famous “between you and I,” in which the subject form is used where an object one is stipulated by our English-is-Latin rule.

I have no hope of divesting modern Anglophone societies of the “Billy and I” rule, given how irritating many find observations such as those I’ve made above. However, most of us will agree on this: Mastering that rule requires a certain effort, self-training, a nudging of ourselves beyond what would have come out on its own (at least at an earlier stage of our lives). If we have no problem exerting the effort to observe this rule, why not exert a little more to master a new way of using they? We observe the “Billy and I” rule out of a sense of manners, poise, or even class marking. Is not being solicitous an equally compelling reason—or, some might say, a more compelling one—to learn a new manner of expression?

Quite a few younger people, after all, are already using the new they with effortless fluency, mastering it along with the “Billy and I” rule. It might not occur to a new speaker of English, but they internalize this form in order to operate in the world as we know it—or as it is changing. I, for one, am not ready to say that the young harbor an energy and flexibility that I have become too set in my ways to match.

“But this new usage of they is just incorrect!” some will understandably object. “Billy and I” feels correct because it's rooted in classical ideas of subject and object. Singular they, in contrast, can seem just wrong.

However, just as words’ meanings are always changing—what Shakespeare meant by generous was “noble,” not magnanimous—pronouns never sit still. What kind of sense does it make that in Italian, lei means both she and the polite you? Isn’t it even more senseless that in German, sie (or Sie) means she, polite you, and they? Or what kind of sense does it make that in English, we use you in both the singular and the plural? Nothing feels more natural today, but in earlier English, thou was the second-person-singular form, and you was only used for two or more people.

The change from then to now hardly happened overnight, and as you might imagine, there were people at the transition who were just as itchy about the new you as some are today about the new they. George Fox had it this way:

Is he not a Novice and unmannerly, and an Ideot and a Fool, that speaks You to one, which is not to be spoken to a Singular, but to many? O Vulgar Professors and teachers, that speak Plural, when they should Singular …. Come you Priests and Professors, have you not learnt your Accidence?

And yet, here we are. Fox’s objections look as quaint as the quill and feather he wrote with, and we seem to be doing just fine with just one you, even dismissing those seeking to tidy things up by creating new plural yous—y'all, youse, yins—as yokels. Objections to the new they will look precisely as creaky and quizzical in the future—and, I suspect, far sooner than the 350 years that separate us from Fox.

Of late I have been in situations where I tried to use they in this new way and stumbled all over my linguistic shoelaces. But I picked myself up and brushed myself off, and I’ll be starting all over again. Over the past 10 years, as conceptions of gender have evolved in Anglophone societies, resistance has faded gradually to the old-new they, as in “Tell each student that they can.” I hope the new-new they will not require decades, or even centuries, of the same kind of bilious battle.

If English had not changed in exactly these kinds of ways forever, we'd all be speaking the language of Beowulf. Some might wish it so, but count me out. Pronouns change, just as we do. We celebrate language change that has already happened as pageant, procession, progress. Why not celebrate it while it's happening?

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:30 PM
From The Atlantic online - - -

What Does 'Cultural Appropriation' Actually Mean?

An Atlantic writer and a Cato Institute scholar debate the value and limits of the term.

Conor Friedersdorf

Apr 3, 2017

Last month, the long-running debate about cultural appropriation was rekindled when several protests over a painting at the Whitney Museum made national headlines. “Open Casket” depicted the body of Emmett Till, whose 1955 lynching helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. The artist, Dana Schutz, says the inspiration for the painting of the murdered 14-year-old came from listening to interviews with his mother, who displayed her late son's body during his funeral to "let the people see." Detractors argued that a white woman ought not render such a subject. And a petition called for the painting to be removed from the exhibit and destroyed.

As debate raged, I asked Jonathan Blanks, a researcher at the Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice, if he would correspond with me about what constitutes cultural appropriation, whether engaging in it is wrong, and his frustration with the way some on the right exploit the backlash against cultural-appropriation claims.

This is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Conor Friedersdorf: As soon as I read about the protests at the Whitney Museum my heart sank, not because I'd deny Parker Bright the ability to stand near a painting of Emmett Till while wearing a “Black Death Spectacle” t-shirt, or cast him as a villain, but because of the objection, articulated by fellow protester Hannah Black, a black artist from Britain, that a white artist has no right to paint a lynching victim.

You and I share a professional interest in policing abuses, as well as civil liberties abrogations that affect Muslim Americans and Hispanics. A typical article of mine might highlight that innocent black people were routinely stopped and frisked on the streets of New York City; that innocent Muslim American students had their private gatherings spied upon by undercover agents; or that people born in this country were coerced to "show their papers" like second-class citizens as they went about their daily lives.

In my experience, one obstacle to stopping those injustices is the unfortunate human tendency to conceive of even sympathetic victims from a different racial or ethnic group as "bad stuff happening to them," not "bad stuff happening to us." Even folks who don't want bad stuff to happen to anyone react with less focus and urgency when an "other" is the victim. No one wants any child to be kidnapped, but the little blond girl leads the local news; her black analog might not make the newscast.

The artist who painted Open Casket was trying to bridge the gulf between “us” and “them.” She began with the general attitude that bygone travesties against a racial group to which she doesn't belong were properly of concern to her. And in this particular, she achieved a measure of empathy. “I don’t know what it is like to be black in America, but I do know what it is like to be a mother," she said, explaining her desire to engage with the loss of Emmett Till's mother. "In her sorrow and rage," she wrote, "she wanted her son’s death not just to be her pain but America’s pain.”

I have no opinion about the quality of her painting. But I want more Americans to undertake the sorts of efforts that she did.

When I lived in New York, I got to know Richard Rabinowitz, who curated Slavery in New York, the New-York Historical Society exhibit that exposed ties between enslaved African labor and New York City's wealth. Its narrative surprised many patrons, who conceived of slavery as a Southern sin and never imagined their city, more than many others, was built with wealth from that "peculiar institution." Prior to its opening, Rabinowitz thought the show might be controversial, whether for that reason or because of something he experienced while doing a project on a related topic in Charleston, South Carolina. An African American man, upset by the idea of a white man rendering painful moments in black history, told Rabinowitz, "It's a violation of my human rights to have someone like you telling this story."

The New York exhibit wasn’t ultimately controversial. African American attendees raved. One delighted Rabinowitz by saying that when she next stood on Wall Street she'd know her ancestors built a lot more of the city than she'd imagined. But the curator said he would have stood by his material even if someone had reacted differently. "These aren't genetic issues, they're cultural issues, so I don't feel ashamed for any of it," he said. "I wasn't there. You weren't either. And we're all obligated to use our talents for the good of others, whether our great-grandfather was a Russian immigrant, a slave, or a Southern plantation owner with 5,000 slaves.”

I think he had it right.

Slavery and white supremacy are parts of American history, and white people are no less obligated than black people to engage with them as best they can. To call such engagement cultural appropriation implies a racial essentialism that is the enemy of empathy. And do we really want to risk discouraging a white musician from writing the next “Hurricane,” a white radio producer from reporting the next “Serial,” or a white screenwriter from creating the next The Wire? The wrong incentive structure risks nixing work that could draw attention to an injustice or dramatize systemic racism or get an incarcerated man a new trial for fear of “cultural appropriation.”

All that is to say that I had a negative reaction to the critique. On Twitter, you reacted differently. You expressed disagreement with the activists who are targeting “Open Casket.” But you seemed as frustrated by the way right-leaning folks in digital journalism and social media tend to cover cultural appropriation charges.

I'm eager to hear your thoughts and concerns.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:31 PM
^^^ (Continued)

Jonathan Blanks: Too often, I think what a cultural-appropriation argument boils down to is a misapplication of voice and representation. What I mean is that some person or group of people—here, a handful of black artists and activists—is made to represent a much broader spectrum of people; black people, or black liberals perhaps. I am not in any way keyed-into the art world or familiar with any of the artists involved on either side of this debate, but I'm not aware of many black people in my social networks feeling strongly about the painting one way or the other.

The first I heard of this particular issue was when our mutual friend Michael Moynihan shared Ms. Black's facebook post:

This is complete lunacy. A petition by an artist, signed by artists demanding the Whitney *destroy* a painting https://t.co/aWOB1chUX4
— Michael C Moynihan (@mcmoynihan) March 20, 2017

I agreed that for an artist to call for a museum to destroy a piece of art was over-the-top, even preposterous. Whatever the merits of her criticisms of the piece, the artist, or the Whitney for displaying it, calling for the destruction of art would be akin to you, me, or Michael calling for books we find offensive to be burned. As writers, book burning is anathema to the values we hold dear, namely free thought and expression.

I didn't share the tweet because I was not aware Ms. Black was a voice that needed to (or, in this case, should) be amplified. Until the New York Times piece about the protest, I just assumed this was a small group of people on the Internet making much ado about nothing. Now that a few more prominent liberals have taken up the cause, it has gained more traction; but that people are arguing about art is not something I can get worked up about. Indeed, isn't that half the point of subjective works?

But my white, right-of-center social media feeds are regularly choked with blithe dismissals of cultural appropriation, as if there is never cause for a reasonable person to be upset when aspects of a culture––or perceived aspects of a culture––are adopted, co-opted, bastardized, or lampooned by white Americans, collectively or individually.

Perhaps the quintessential example of the appropriative phenomenon is non-black people donning blackface. Slate's Jamelle Bouie and others call October "Blackface Advent," the annual ritual of non-black people making fools of themselves for a laugh at a costume party at black people's expense. Whether it's cooning minstrelsy and making fun of Black Lives Matter or white kids dressing up like Kanye and Beyonce, it's offensive to a large swath of people, and to many black people particularly.

This isn't about a white artist trying to contribute to the understanding and pain of a long national history of crime and violence. This is a cultural diss that is a common and vivid reminder that our humanity is not respected on a very deep level by a large number of people in this country. It's not always so blatant, of course. White people switching to an exaggerated black vernacular to say "Whazzup my brotha?" or some other imitative nonsense is something I've encountered countless times in my life. There's nothing wrong with adopting terms like "whazzup?" as they come into (white) pop culture through various media, but there's a difference between the natural assimilation of language and black imitation as some sort of caricature.

As far as artists are concerned, whether it's Ms. Schutz's Open Casket or Mr. Rabinowitz's slavery exhibit, risk is inherent to what they do. There will always be critics and there will always be unfair criticism. I cannot make that go away, and there isn't a way to make it go away. Slavery is America's Original Sin, and the racism that evolved to perpetuate it is an inextricable part of our social fabric. Whenever any artist tries to confront that, they inherently invite expressions of the often chaotic, almost inarticulable pain that exists as a part of black experience in America. I think the artist must deal with the resulting legitimate criticism and dismiss the illegitimate criticism as they come. The key is knowing enough about your subject in the first place to distinguish between the two. Too many people on the right seem to dismiss all cultural appropriation claims as a matter of course, and then seize on stories like this one to reaffirm their belief that appropriation is a non-issue. Consequently, this diminishes the pain members of a culture feel while signaling to one another that they have disproved yet another minority/liberal shibboleth. It's a bad look.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:37 PM
^^^ (Continued)

Conor Friedersdorf: You're right that every year, there are new stories of young white people (some ignorant, others malign) donning blackface or otherwise caricaturing black people (or Mexicans or Asian Americans). That sort of behavior is a dehumanizing cultural diss, and there is a strain of commentary on the ideological right that blithely dismisses even the most staid complaints about such incidents. Precisely because black face and its analogs are so often a sign that someone's humanity is being disrespected, I agree with the liberal consensus against it.

But it seems to me that blackface isn't the quintessential example of the appropriative phenomenon. It is wrongheaded and worthy of stigma––but it isn't cultural appropriation.

A Korean food truck owner who puts beef bulgogi in a burrito is appropriating Mexican culinary culture. A Malaysian housewife who rents a kimono while on holiday in Kyoto is appropriating traditional Japanese dress. A Canadian who writes a novel inspired by Cervantes is appropriating Spanish literary culture. An Irish American who sings opera for a living benefits from the world's appropriation of an Italian art.

But a white college student who dons blackface is … not engaging at all with African American culture. He or she is just caricaturing the physical features of another race. The act is offensive partly because it is reducing people to the color of their skin.

Imagine a black woman who invites her white boyfriend to travel to her hometown to meet her family. "I want to show you the culture where I came from," she says. That might mean any number of things. She might introduce her white boyfriend to old family recipes, or a service at a historically black church, or the jazz instruments her grandpa played, or stories about an aunt's role in the Civil Rights movement. There's no scenario where she says, "We're going to put this dark makeup on you now."

You rightly complained about social media feeds where right-of-center white folks act like "there is never cause for a reasonable person to be upset when aspects of a culture––or perceived aspects of a culture––are adopted, co-opted, bastardized, or lampooned." I think it is often reasonable to be upset at one's culture being lampooned.

What I am averse to are claims that merely having one's culture adopted is inherently objectionable, especially when there is no underlying animus, or diss, or dehumanization. It isn't that I dismiss any umbrage taken by those who say they are angry about cultural appropriation. It's just that nearly every time I concur that something wrongheaded happened, I perceive that the culprit is a distinct transgression.

If I'm right––I trust you'll push back if you think I've got anything wrong––using "cultural appropriation" as shorthand for all these controversies produces two pernicious trends.

1. Some people correctly perceive something like a frat party full of blackface as wrongheaded, file it under "cultural appropriation," and adopt the erroneous heuristic that any appropriation of a culture is wrongheaded. When the chef who staffs the dining hall at their college serves sushi, they see injustice where there is none.

2. Conversely, other folks see a protest over sushi, perceive that it is absurd, see it filed under cultural appropriation, and adopt the bad heuristic that any grievance lodged under that heading is bullshit. Later, when their Facebook stream unearths a story about blackface headlined, "These Frat Boys Are Guilty of Cultural Appropriation," they erroneously conclude that nothing wrongheaded occurred. Perhaps they even ignorantly add a dismissive comment, exacerbating the canard that racial animus or dehumanization is a nonissue.

I think both errors impose costs worth avoiding.

And while I am not ready to say that nothing objectionable is ever accurately described as "cultural appropriation," I suspect that, on the whole, abandoning that shorthand would enhance clarity, lead to better critiques, and minimize category errors.

Now, there are writers and digital journalism outlets that seek out the least persuasive complaints about cultural appropriation, mock them with animus, proceed as if they've proved that no complaint so characterized is ever legitimate, and thereby portray minority communities with legitimate grievances as malign cry-bullies or race-baiters. It's a cynical, ugly, and profitable model. Despite the distinctions I've drawn––and again, I trust you'll parse them and push back or add nuance or take exception wherever you think I've gone wrong––I too grow frustrated by the iterations of that model that I see on various right-leaning social media feeds.

For folks loath to fuel that ecosystem, but convinced that wrongheaded ideas about cultural appropriation are doing harm (and growing in influence, even if they are not yet mainstream), what pitfalls would you urge taking care to avoid when contesting them?

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:39 PM
^^^ (Continued)

Jonathan Blanks: In your last email, you said that my blackface example wasn’t appropriation, but I think there are larger issues involved and, from that broader vantage point, I think both your sushi counter protests and my offensive costumes intersect.

I understand a frustration with the language in these debates and conversations. I’m not a linguist, but it seems to me that terms like “cultural appropriation,” “white privilege,” “microaggressions,” and many others have been attempts to improve upon the language that we use to discuss the manifestations of cultural conflict on both collective and individual levels. For years, the mainstream recognized “racism,” a concept seemingly basic and straightforward. But racism is, in fact, an over-broad term that can describe a clutched purse on an elevator, a lynching, segregation, obstacles to employment, and countless other examples in between.

The more nuanced terms, associated with “Social Justice Warriors”—“SJW” having become a pejorative among many on the right—are tools to specify wrongs or perceived wrongs, but those terms also frequently turn-off “anti-SJW” types that you and I find often in our social media and professional circles. The result is both SJWs and anti-SJWs talking past one another before they retreat to their respective echo chambers to kvetch about their opposites until the next controversy gets picked up in the media. The words they use may change, but the underlying conflicts endure.

The terms are less important to me than what they attempt to describe. At bottom, stripped of particular circumstances, what these arguments tend to come down to is a given grievance on a semi-collective level (cultural, ethnic, racial, or other minority) and whether that grievance is justified, right? The key to the argument, then, is determining how legitimate the complaints are and how might they be reflective of broader problems in the dominant society––and what, if anything, to do with or about that reflection. A lot of that has to do with the competence and the authenticity of the person who is alleged to be intruding upon another’s traditional cultural space.

A sushi bar by itself isn’t worth protesting, but serving fried chicken and watermelon to celebrate MLK Day is probably worth raising a voice of dissent. Many people look at the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo mascot and see a racist caricature, which I assume you would not consider appropriative, but is that so different from the obnoxious “Tomahawk Chop” at Atlanta Braves games that is an imitation of a Native American war chant? And it seems like once every few months a white person is put “in yellow face” in a photo shoot or a major motion picture, effectively erasing Asians from popular expressions of their art and cultures. Most of the people who perpetrate or participate in these spectacles presumably hold no animus toward the cultures and traditions they use in their business, art, or sport, yet I think the people who feel affronted by these decisions have good reason to speak out against them. Whether or not these are considered appropriations, they are demeaning expressions of other cultures or ethnicities that are fair targets of criticism.

But putting the complainants of appropriation aside for a moment, we should also consider the flip-side to the interactions. The fear you mentioned about the white man creating the slavery exhibit in New York touches on an underappreciated aspect of the debate: white fear and defensiveness about what they can or cannot say and do for fear of race-related stress. Professor Robin DiAngelo has dubbed this “white fragility”—the difficulty many whites have with minority critiques or criticism of themselves or the dominant white American culture.

Not too long ago, a public policy writer came to me worried about potential black backlash to her writing. She was earnest in her efforts to explain race-related epiphenomena in some data she had, but lamented potential negative reactions by black people that would make the piece “not worth it” because she feared for her career. What she wanted to write was not at all racist (or anything that a person would think would reflect poorly on black people), but she was so terrified of even touching race as a subject matter that she considered scrapping the piece of writing entirely.

I don’t think her professional worries were well-founded, but I think she was right to be careful when she talks about racial issues from her particular perspective. Too often, commentators get caught up in their ideological priors or personal life experiences and apply them as if everyone approaches a given problem from a similar perspective.

A rather tame example: when Governor Mitt Romney was on the 2012 campaign trail he encouraged students to “take risks” and “borrow money if you have to from your parents” to start a business. More than a few Americans grew up as or knowing kids working in high school who ‘had to’ give money to help out their parents. The idea that one can just hit up parents for $10,000 to start a new business is a blindness to circumstance that is amplified when race and culture come into play. What strikes the speaker as rational or taken for granted can come off as ignorant, out of touch, or even bigoted.

In the broadest sense, these conflicts represent the “marketplace of ideas” that free speech advocates, especially those friendly to free markets, use to support their cause. The Internet is the most democratizing force introduced in my lifetime, giving a voice to hundreds of millions of Americans, and billions of others around the globe, making that marketplace almost unfathomably vast. No one said that marketplace was going to be pretty, organized, or done in accordance to Robert’s Rules of Order. Yet, when these conflicts come up, members of the dominant culture tend to blame the language and divisiveness on the critics, rather than engage with the criticisms as they come. (e.g., “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter.”)

College campuses, overflowing with self-righteous 20-somethings of clashing backgrounds, and the internet, overflowing with people confident in their own avatars to say what’s really on their minds, are home to the worst purveyors of the conflicts we’ve been discussing. Thankfully, most real world sushi counters are not overrun with protestors and entire cities like San Francisco are home to some of the best fusion food available. We still buy products from all over the world and many aspects of other cultures are at our fingertips and in our pockets for us to explore. That’s a good thing.

Cultural conflicts are going to continue as demographics shift and old ways of doing and speaking change. Thus has our country always been and, one hopes, it will continue to be.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:40 PM
^^^ (Continued)

Conor Friedersdorf: The counsel to value rather than lament these conflicts is wise. What’s more, you're absolutely right that "demeaning expressions of other cultures or ethnicities" are fair targets of criticism; and that terms like “white privilege,” “microaggressions,” and “cultural appropriation” began as attempts to better describe real inequities. Indeed, the earliest incarnations and smartest invocations of them often strike me as straightforwardly valuable. For example, if designing a college curriculum, I would enthusiastically include Peggy McIntosh's insightful 1989 essay, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," as well as Jamelle Bouie's widely and justly praised blog post "What Does It Mean to Be Privileged."

Alas, the smartest, most precise invocations of a term don't determine its overall effect. And I worry that, on balance, importing obscure academic concepts into mass conversations about identity make them much less accessible and more alienating to the vast majority of America. Even at selective colleges, where social justice jargon is taught in the curriculum and used in residential life, I can't tell you how many times I've talked to students who use the same term... but assume very different meanings. If the choice were really between, e.g., "that costume is racist" and "that costume is cultural appropriation," I would agree with you that the latter conveys some additional information. But isn't "that costume draws on pernicious stereotypes" better still?

I agree that getting to the bottom of things is what's most important. And you're right to see a risk of pedantry that puts unreasonable burdens on those protesting the status quo.

Even your example is apt.

Anyone who doesn't see that the Black Lives Matter movement is saying, "black lives matter, too," is either playing dumb or so uncharitable it verges on animus. At the same time, to treat anti-racism and other efforts to oppose bigotry or injustice as truly important is to strive for precision in thought and language. To tweak your words, the terms are important to me insofar as they obscure or clarify the matter at hand.

Orwell warned, "the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."

To quote a bit more:

If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words... you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself... They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

I think at bottom we're mostly in agreement. We both perceive a responsibility to listen to grievances that are expressed and to understand their core as fully as possible.

And we agree that there is no shortcut around the hard work of "determining how legitimate the complaints are and how might they be reflective of broader problems in the dominant society and what, if anything, to do about that reflection." When critiques of "social justice" frameworks or jargon are marshaled to evade that hard work, or used as a pretext to reflexively discredit or dismiss a grievance or group, I join you in calling foul. I only wish it were easier to agree on when that is happening. But perhaps I've erred, or you want to add something? The last word is all yours.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:41 PM
^^^ (Continued)

Jonathan Blanks: While I think that we do agree at the end of the day on the responsibility to address grievances as they come, there is probably a significant amount of distance between where each of us would draw the line between reasonable and unreasonable complaints. Going further, though, I think we have a fundamental disagreement about the responsibility of commentators and activists to cater to the feelings of the people who offend them. You wrote, “I worry that, on balance, importing obscure academic concepts into mass media conversations about identity make them much less accessible and more alienating to the vast majority of America.” This statement assumes a lot that I don’t think is necessarily true. In addition, and somewhat related, the statement has distinct echoes of anti-backlash messages that have little resonance with activists and more militant commentators.

First, your statement assumes at least two questionable premises:

1) That the purpose of a complaint is persuasion and

2) That the target of that persuasion is the (presumably somewhat hostile or otherwise unconvinced) white majority. Particularly when dealing with issues of personal, ethnic, or cultural offense that do not rise to the level of legal or other governmental intervention, the complaint may just be a sincere acknowledgment of a cultural trespass.

Like, if you step on my foot on the subway, I don’t need to bring the police into the situation or convince everyone in the subway car that you wronged me. A simple “my bad” will probably suffice. If you accidentally swing your backpack and hit my elderly grandmother in the face, an apology somewhat more than a perfunctory mea culpa is probably in order. If you get robbed by a black guy and yell “fucking nigger!” as he jumps off the car with your wallet, then you probably need to make a more public apology, even in spite of your own legitimate grievance. Acknowledgment is the key, and the appropriate response depends on the underlying offense.

To the backlash point, it is a perspective that is hard to take seriously from a minority point of view, particularly for black Americans, because it’s been around as long as black people have complained about maltreatment on this continent. Tempering complaints, pacifying language, or modifying attitudes in order to better sate the worries, fears, or general feelings of the white majority is a cousin of “be patient and it will get better.”

If activists just waited it out, nothing would change. As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand." Thus, the anti-backlash argument is unlikely to go very far with anyone not already in the business of soft persuasion.

Like any group working toward a goal, different people play different roles. While I can’t say “never,” I’m not usually out in the streets, chanting and holding signs in protest. My work and commentary tend to be more along what you’re asking for: less aggressive, bordering on the dispassionate, policy-focused arguments. That’s my role.

But there’s also a role for the activists, who galvanize people to build support and coalitions within their communities, and many of them don’t care what the “vast majority of America” thinks. It’s neither their job nor their desire. They understand that politics is not about unanimity and that disruption without consensus can still bring social change. Cultural change is messy, and there is not much we can do about that. But the next time someone complains about appropriation or some other perceived slight, perhaps the best response is just, “Oh, I didn’t mean to offend. I’m sorry.”

Thank you so much for hosting this exchange. It was a pleasure.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:54 PM
From The Atlantic online - - -

The Case Against the Grammar Scolds

The lexicographer Kory Stamper’s new book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is an eloquent defense of a “live and let live” approach to English.

Megan Garber

Mar 16, 2017

These are boom times for linguistic pedantry. Never before have there been more outlets for opinionated humans to commiserate about the absurdities of “irregardless” or the impropriety of “impact”-as-a-verb or the aggressive affront to civil society that is the existence of the word “moist.” This is an age that found Bryan Henderson, Wikipedia editor and empowered peeve-haver, taking all the instances he could find of the phrase “is comprised of,” within the vast online encyclopedia, and replacing them with “is composed of” or “consists of”—more than 40,000 word-swaps, in all. It’s an age, too, that found Lynne Truss, author of the usage polemic Eats, Shoots & Leaves, garnering plaudits and book sales by offering readers rallying cries like this one: “If you still persist in writing, ‘Good food at it’s best,’ you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.”

The vitriol is ironic—and, yes, I do mean ironic, Alanis-wise and otherwise—and not merely because it puts the pendants in a precarious place, karmically. (The subtitle of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, one might point out, itself contains a usage error: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation might more properly be written as “The Zero-Tolerance Approach.”) The irony is broader: To engage in such peevery, playful or otherwise, is also to ignore the long, chaotic, and deeply creative history of the English language. It is to assume that someone’s adherence to the moment’s current rules of usage is a signifier of that person’s education and worth. It is to assume, on the flip side, that to violate those rules is also to commit a very particular kind of violence against English and, by extension, its many speakers.

Well, you know what they say about assumptions. Jane Austen, it turns out, employed the possessive “it’s” in her writing, and still managed to die a relatively dignified death. Thomas Jefferson used such an “it’s,” too. So did Abraham Lincoln, those four score and many more years ago. Even David Foster Wallace, master of contemporary English and self-proclaimed linguistic “snoot,” committed the ultimate usage sin of the committed usage snob: He used “literally,” yep, figuratively.

Was Wallace wrong, or merely prescient? Was he disrupting the English language, or, you know, disrupting it? As Kory Stamper, a longtime lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, suggests: both. And, more to the point, the senses of disruption here can’t be meaningfully distinguished from each other, when it comes to the underlying Darwinism that guides English diction. Stamper’s excellent new book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is, like a dictionary itself, a composite affair: It’s a memoir that is also an explanation of the work that writing a dictionary entails—and, in both of those things, an erudite and loving and occasionally profane history of the English language.

Between the lines, though, Word by Word is something broader still: It’s a cheerful and thoughtful rebuke of the cult of the grammar scolds. It’s a spirited defense of the messiness and experimentation that allows a language to thrive as a tool for human communication. Contemporary English is what it is, Stamper suggests, not just because the islands of Britain happened, across the distance of history, to have been conquered by speakers of Latin and German and French; English is also English because Shakespeare appreciated a good fart joke, and because Lewis Carroll found the words invented by the time his century came along to be lacking, and because, in 2015, a 16-year-old named Peaches Monroee looked at her image in a car mirror and decided that the best way to describe her perfectly styled eyebrows was “on fleek.” English, like any other language, is a geopolitical phenomenon that evolves by way of individual genius. The scolds are offering top-down rebukes about a language that changes from the bottom up.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:56 PM
^^^ (Continued)

And, so, dictionaries. There’s a common assumption, Stamper notes, that such reference volumes—whether they exist in print or online, whether they’re branded Merriam-Webster or American Heritage or Oxford English—operate with grand, hushed Authority, their bulky contents the final words on our current words. Under this view of things, Stamper writes, the dictionary operates as “some great guardian of the English language,” a book that ensures, in its very bookishness, that “the language is thus protected, kept right, pure, good.”

It’s a view that is both rosy and wrong. Dictionaries are human-written documents, with all the subjectivity and fallibility that such production-side origins will entail. (Merriam-Webster’s version happens to be produced not, as one might assume, within a Gothic library, dank with stuffy history, but rather in a beige-toned office, its cubicles outfitted in typical corporate chic, that is located in the post-industrial city of Springfield, Massachusetts.)

Dictionaries, Stamper argues, are the result of art and craft and, above all, dull and dutiful labor. Lexicographers are researchers who pay intense and obsessive attention not just to the rise of new words, but also to the new shadings of old ones. This requires that they be at once passionate about, and objective toward, the vagaries of English usage. They must put aside their individual feelings about “less”-versus-“fewer” and “whether”-versus-“if” and “literally”-as-“figuratively” and simply record the living language as it is being used by their fellow language-users. This requires a type of realism when it comes to both usage and diction. The lexicographer might certainly prefer a world in which “genocide” and “cunt” and “hate crime” need not be enshrined in the dictionary; when the task is to provide a description of a language, though—and, by extension, a description of a world that becomes communal in large part through language—there those words are. And, of course, there they must be.

And that is because—here Stamper, a wry and charming correspondent, is at her most insistent—dictionaries exist, she argues, “merely to record the language as people use it.” They are, in lexicographical terms, descriptive rather than prescriptive: They describe the language as it is deployed, rather than prescribe how it should be. Dictionaries, in this vision, allow for a kind of linguistic libertarianism: One can follow their conventions, or not. One can disrupt, or not. English is a notoriously irrational language, bound occasionally by sensible rules of grammar but more often by arbitrary norms that have sprung up, proven useful, and then become—a word that has been a popular lookup in Merriam-Webster of late—normalized.

Which is to say that, as Stamper puts it, “your high-school English teachers lied to you.” The rules of English—the words it has created, the grammar it has codified—are “rules” only insofar as speakers and writers find it useful to abide by them. The rise of “y’all” and the decline of “whom” and the reclamation of “queer” and the many, many terms that arose from digital discourse to find relevance in IRL communication—they are innovations that emerged in spite of the norms of American English, and, then, that stuck around precisely because of them. And they are terms that, once they proved their momentary staying power, were dutifully added to the record by the logo-loggers at Merriam-Webster and its fellow dictionaries.

“Good grammar,” however, remains a powerful, and persistent, and troublingly political, idea. It is to some extent a necessary one, sure, lest we have linguistic anarchy. But it can also be weaponized. It can be used not just to connect people, but also to sort them and categorize them and otherwise divide them. Stamper notes that African-American Vernacular English, AAVE, is sometimes interpreted as less than, rather than merely slightly distinct from, other dialects of English. And she suggests the many ways that pointing out other people’s usage errors can function not merely as a nerdy sport, but also as an exercise in elitism.

She also suggests how intimately snobbery itself—grammar, seen as a sign of education and social worth—has been bound up in the overall history of the English dictionary. While “grammar” as we tend to think of it today—eight parts of speech, tidily (and sometimes frustratingly) modular in nature—was first codified in the 2nd century B.C. (and based on, as so many other linguistic edicts would be, ancient Latin and Greek), English, that messy mishmash of a language, wasn’t standardized until the 15th century. It didn’t become the bureaucratic language of England itself until 1417, when Henry V ordered the first bureaucratic record to be made in Britain’s newish vernacular.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2018, 03:59 PM
^^^ (Continued)

The earliest English usage guides—the precursors to dictionaries as we know them today—sprang up as English wealth was expanding from the aristocracy to the merchant class, and doubled as guides to etiquette. They were part of the same prescriptivist impulse that motivates many of the grammar scolds of the 21st century: Daniel Defoe wanted to establish an English “academy” that would inject “purity and propriety of style” into the newly literarily-legitimized English language; Jonathan Swift and John Dryden entertained similar aspirations to create early forms of the governmental language protections that France and Spain enacted in attempts to keep their languages “pure.”

The men’s desires for English, which arose from their love for English, were a response to their historical moment: In an age of newfound social and economic mobility, good grammar—good, patriotic English grammar—became seen as a sign not just of one’s education, but of one’s social standing and worth. In 1762, Robert Lowth, the bishop of London, published A Short Introduction to British Grammar: With Critical Notes. Lowth’s preface declared that “it is with reason expected of every person of a liberal education, and it is indispensably required of everyone who undertakes to inform or entertain the public, that he should be able to express himself with propriety and accuracy.” His manual was one of many guides that were sold, Stamper notes, under the general assumption that “good manners, good morality, and good grammar all go hand in hand.”

It’s an idea that remains with us, embedded in Lynne Truss’s attack on the use of “it’s” as a possessive pronoun, and in the tagline of the popular Facebook group The Official Grammar Police (“I am judging you’re your grammar”). It’s an idea that lingers, as well, in the businessman-turned-self-appointed-grammarian N.M. Gwynne’s argument, made in his 2013 book The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English, that good grammar is a means not just to social respectability, but to happiness itself. (“In summary of the proof: Grammar is the science of using words rightly, leading to thinking rightly, leading to deciding rightly, without which—as both common sense and experience show—happiness is impossible. Therefore, happiness depends at least partly on good grammar.”)

These notions of the normality—and, indeed, the morality—of “good English” complicate Stamper’s own professional humility. Language may be a tool of human communication, and dictionaries may simply record the shape of those tools as they exist within a particular moment in time; but the reality, as Stamper well knows, is much more complex than her simple observe-record-define formula might suggest. The history of the dictionary is not merely a history of English being defended, but also a history of dictionaries being debated: What should dictionaries do, actually? Should they prescribe English usage? Should they proscribe it?

This is the paradox of the English dictionary, and it is one that quietly infuses Stamper’s delightful history of that product: A dictionary is a determinedly apolitical document that will always be, to some extent, determinedly politicized. Its pages, whether tangible or digital, will always offer an awkward interplay between the normal and the normative. Samuel Johnson, the ur-lexicographer (and a laborer who argued that dictionary-writing required “neither the light of learning, nor the activity of genius,” but merely “the proper toil of artless industry”), nonetheless resisted including Americanisms in A Dictionary of the English Language; Noah Webster, for reasons both opposite and identical, resisted including British conventions in his American dictionary.

In 2003, Merriam-Webster, using the typical lexicographical method—observe words in the wild; exhaustively document evidence of new usages; update words’ entries accordingly—updated its definition for “marriage” to acknowledge that same-sex couples were entering that institution. The new definition provoked a write-in campaign to Merriam-Webster, accusing the dictionary of politics-via-lexicon. The anger was extremely predictable. Because—and this is the other thing a history of dictionaries will make abundantly clear—words are not merely words, and not merely tools. They are intimate. They are extensions of ourselves. They are one of the few immediate ways we have to take that small piece of reality that is ours—the mind, the self, the soul, choose whichever word in the dictionary seems most apt to you—and offer it to other people.

Word by Word, as it happens, enters the scene during a time of anxiety about those words—in American English, in particular. “Fake news” and “alternative facts” and the moment’s general epistemic panics come with some other panicky questions: Do words, in the end, matter? Can they be used, still, to share information and change minds? Language has long been a weapon, and a front, in the American culture wars (see: marriage, n., the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law). Now, in a very real sense, it is also the thing being fought for. Facts, meaning, a culture enabled by shared truths—these are all, currently, at stake. Dictionaries (and Merriam-Webster, in particular) are doing their own part in all this. They are, in bids for continued relevance, operating more and more as quasi-journalistic outlets. They are functioning not merely as reference works or as histories, but also as soft suggestions that the ground beneath us can still be “common.”

It’s hard to read Stamper’s eloquent love letter to letters themselves and not come away convinced that dictionaries, stodgy and nimble and proud and humble and old and new, are something else, too: metaphors. For linguistic utilitarianism, for the productive interplay between the amateur and the professional, for the creative communal energies that will tend to drive the most thriving cultures. And for the notion that progress has a way of ignoring whatever rules might be enacted to prevent it. “It’s” becomes “its,” and “you’re” becomes “your” becomes “ur,” and lightning fires have not, as yet, burned it all down. And taco, sari, woke, multicultural, love—there they all are, in the dictionary, not just because they are useful vessels of human connection, but also because, in the dictionary, inclusion is the default setting. Diction is more useful when it is varied. Grammar is more fun when it allows for liberties to be taken with it. Language is more effective when it is quirky, and experimental, and above all welcoming—whatever, and irregardless of what, the scolds might have to say about it.

09-30-2019, 03:30 PM
From the New York Times online...

The Stone

Democracy Is for the Gods

It should be no surprise that humans cannot sustain it.

By Costica Bradatan

Mr. Bradatan is a professor and author.

July 5, 2019

“Why do democracies fail?”

We’ve heard that question a lot in the past few years, in books, on opinion pages and cable news shows, and in an increasingly anxious public debate. But I almost always find myself answering the question with another question: Why shouldn’t they?

History — the only true guide we have on this matter — has shown us that democracy is rare and fleeting. It flares up almost mysteriously in some fortunate place or another, and then fades out, it seems, just as mysteriously. Genuine democracy is difficult to achieve and once achieved, fragile. In the grand scheme of human events, it is the exception, not the rule.

Despite democracy’s elusive nature, its core idea is disarmingly simple: As members of a community, we should have an equal say in how we conduct our life together. “In democracy as it ought to be,” writes Paul Woodruff in his 2006 book “First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea,” “all adults are free to chime in, to join the conversation on how they should arrange their life together. And no one is left free to enjoy the unchecked power that leads to arrogance and abuse.” Have you ever heard of anything more reasonable? But who says we are reasonable?

Fundamentally, humans are not predisposed to living democratically. One can even make the point that democracy is “unnatural” because it goes against our vital instincts and impulses. What’s most natural to us, just as to any living creature, is to seek to survive and reproduce. And for that purpose, we assert ourselves — relentlessly, unwittingly, savagely — against others: We push them aside, overstep them, overthrow them, even crush them if necessary. Behind the smiling facade of human civilization, there is at work the same blind drive toward self-assertion that we find in the animal realm.
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Just scratch the surface of the human community and soon you will find the horde. It is the “unreasoning and unreasonable human nature,” writes the zoologist Konrad Lorenz in his book “On Aggression,” that pushes “two political parties or religions with amazingly similar programs of salvation to fight each other bitterly,” just as it compels “an Alexander or a Napoleon to sacrifice millions of lives in his attempt to unite the world under his scepter.” World history, for the most part, is the story of excessively self-assertive individuals in search of various scepters.

It doesn’t help matters that, once such an individual has been enthroned, others are only too eager to submit to him. It is as though, in his illustrious presence, they realize they have too much freedom on their hands, which they find suddenly oppressive. In Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” the Grand Inquisitor says: “There is no more ceaseless or tormenting care for man, as long as he remains free, than to find someone to bow down to as soon as possible.” And what a sweet surrender! Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini were all smooth talkers, charmers of crowds and great political seducers.

Their relationship with the crowd was particularly intimate. For in regimes of this kind, whenever power is used and displayed, the effect is profoundly erotic. What we see, for instance, in “The Triumph of the Will” (thanks, in good measure, to Leni Riefenstahl’s perverse genius), is people experiencing a sort of collective ecstasy. The seducer’s pronouncements may be empty, even nonsensical, but that matters little; each one brings the aroused crowd to new heights of pleasure. He can do whatever he likes with the enraptured followers now. They will submit to any of their master’s fancies.

This is, roughly, the human context against which the democratic idea emerges. No wonder that it is a losing battle. Genuine democracy doesn’t make grand promises, does not seduce or charm, but only aspires to a certain measure of human dignity. It is not erotic. Compared to what happens in populist regimes, it is a frigid affair. Who in his right mind would choose the dull responsibilities of democracy over the instant gratification a demagogue will provide? Frigidity over boundless ecstasy? And yet, despite all this, the democratic idea has come close to embodiment a few times in history — moments of grace when humanity almost managed to surprise itself.

One element that is needed for democracy to emerge is a sense of humility. A humility at once collective and internalized, penetrating, even visionary, yet true. The kind of humility that is comfortable in its own skin, one that, because it knows its worth and its limits, can even laugh at itself. A humility that, having seen many a crazy thing and learned to tolerate them, has become wise and patient. To be a true democrat, in other words, is to understand that when it comes to the business of living together, you are no better than the others, and to act accordingly. To live democratically is, mainly, to deal in failure and imperfection, and to entertain few illusions about human society. The institutions of democracy, its norms and mechanisms, should embody a vision of human beings as deficient, flawed and imperfect.

Ancient Athenian democracy devised two institutions that fleshed out this vision. First, sortition: the appointment of public officials by lot. Given the fundamental equality of rights that all Athenian citizens — that is, free male adults — enjoyed, the most logical means of access to positions of leadership was random selection. Indeed, for the Athenian democrats, elections would have struck at the heart of democracy: They would have allowed some people to assert themselves, arrogantly and unjustly, against the others.

The other fittingly imperfect Athenian institution was ostracization. When one of the citizens was becoming a bit too popular — too much of a charmer — Athenians would vote him out of the city for ten years by inscribing his name on bits of pottery. It was not punishment for something the charmer may have done, but a pre-emptive measure against what he might do if left unchecked. Athenians knew that they were too vulnerable and too flawed to resist political seduction (their complicated affair with Alcibiades gave them ample proof of that), and promptly denied themselves the pleasure. Man-made as it is, democracy is fragile and of a weak constitution — better not to put it to the test.

After Athens’ radical experiment in equality, democracy has resurfaced elsewhere, but often in forms that the ancient Athenians would probably have trouble calling democratic. For instance, much of today’s American democracy (one of the best versions on the market right now) would by Athenian standards be judged “oligarchic.” It’s the fortunate wealthy few (hoi oligoi) who typically decide here not only the rules of the political game, but also who wins and who loses. Ironically, the system favors what we desperately wanted to avoid when we opted for democracy in the first place: the power-hungry, arrogant, oppressively self-assertive political animal.

Yet we should not be surprised. “If there were a people of gods, it would govern itself democratically,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote. “So perfect a form of government is not for men.” Democracy is so hard to find in the human world that most of the time when we speak of it, we refer to a remote ideal rather than a fact. That’s what democracy is ultimately about: an ideal that people attempt to put into practice from time to time. Never adequately and never for long — always clumsily, timidly, as though for a trial period.

Yet democracy is one of those elusive things — happiness is another — whose promise, even if perpetually deferred, is more important than its actual existence. We may never get it, but we cannot afford to stop dreaming of it.

Costica Bradatan is the author, most recently, of “Dying for Ideas. The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers,” and the religion editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

09-30-2019, 03:32 PM
From the New York Times online ...


Do We Really Understand ‘Fake News’?

We think we are sharing facts, but we are really expressing emotions in the outrage factory.

By Michael P. Lynch

Mr. Lynch is a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and the author of several books.

Sept. 23, 2019

Given how much it’s talked, tweeted about and worried over, you’d think we’d know a lot about fake news. And in some sense, we do. We know that false stories posing as legitimate journalism have been used to try to sway elections; we know they help spread conspiracy theories; they may even cause false memories. And yet we also know that the term “fake news” has become a trope, so widely used and abused that it no longer serves its original function.

Why is that? And why, given all our supposed knowledge of it, is fake news — the actual phenomenon — still effective? Reflection on our emotions, together with a little help from contemporary philosophy of language and neuroscience, suggests an answer to both questions.

We are often confused about the role that emotion plays in our lives. For one thing, we like to think, with Plato, that reason drives the chariot of our mind and keeps the unruly wild horses of emotion in line. But most people would probably admit that much of the time, Hume was closer to the truth when he said that reason is the slave of the passions. Moreover, we often confuse our feelings with reality itself: Something makes us feel bad, and so we say it is bad.

As a result, our everyday acts of communication can function as vehicles for emotion without our noticing it. This was a point highlighted by mid-20th century philosophers of language often called “expressivists.” Their point was that people sometimes think they are talking about facts when they are really expressing themselves emotionally. The expressivists applied this thought quite widely to all ethical communication about right or wrong, good or bad. But even if we don’t go that far, their insight says something about what is going on when we share or retweet news posts — fake or otherwise — online.

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When sharing or retweeting, we like to think of ourselves as engaging in what philosophers would call an act of testimony — trying to convey or endorse knowledge. Not always, of course; happily, irony still exists. Yet insincere sharing or retweeting is not the norm — as evidenced by the fact that most people feel obligated to signal that retweets aren’t endorsements. That wouldn’t make sense if the default wasn’t that shares and retweets are endorsements.

But what if we are just confused about the way communication actually functions online? Clues can be found in both what we do and don’t do when sharing content online.

Let’s start with what we don’t do. Current research estimates that at least 60 percent of news stories shared online have not even been read by the person sharing them. As an author of one study summed up the matter, “People are more willing to share an article than read it.” On the other hand, what we do is share content that gets people riled up. Research has found that the best predictor of sharing is strong emotions — both emotions like affection (think posts about cute kittens) and emotions like moral outrage. Studies suggest that morally laden emotions are particularly effective: every moral sentiment in a tweet increases by 20 percent its chances of being shared. And social media may just pump up our feelings. Acts that don’t elicit as much outrage offline, for example, elicit more online, perhaps because the social benefits of outrage still exist without the normal risks.

This should tell us that conveying knowledge isn’t the primary reason news stories are shared. As the influential contemporary philosopher Ruth Millikan puts it, the stabilizing function of a communicative act is whatever explains why that act continues to persist. The stabilizing function of yelling “Air ball!” at a basketball player trying to make a free throw is to distract him. It may do other things too — amuse people, or even describe what, in fact, turns out to be an air ball. But the reason people continue to yell “Air ball!” it is that it is distracting. Someone new to the game could conceivably get this backward. They might think that people are warning the player or predicting how the shot is going to fall. Such interpretations would be a misunderstanding the act’s stabilizing function.

Something like this is happening on a massive scale on social media. We are like the person just described, new to the game of basketball. We think we are sharing news stories in order to do one thing, like transfer knowledge, but much of the time aren’t really trying to do that at all — whatever we may consciously think. If we were, we would presumably have read the piece that we’re sharing. But most of us don’t. So, what are we doing?

I think it is plausible that the stabilizing function of the practice of sharing content online is to express our emotions. In particular, when it comes to sharing political news stories, we often are signaling our outrage and thereby hoping that others will share it. That’s one way that tribes are built and social norms enforced. Social media is an outrage factory. And paradoxically, it works because most folks aren’t aware, or don’t want to be aware, of this point.

Yet it is just this lack of awareness that trolls and other workers in the misinformation industrial complex find so useful. Purveyors of deliberate but disguised falsehoods are keenly aware that when we share, we’re doing something different from what we think we’re doing. Our confusion is what makes us such easy marks.

The expressivists’ insight also nicely explains why the term “fake news” itself has changed its use. It has become a vehicle for expressing our hostility, similar to yelling “boo” at a sports game. That’s an irony all too representative of our age of absurdity. Even our attempts to distinguish truth from falsity turn into screams of outrage.

Michael Patrick Lynch is a professor of philosophy and director of the Humanities Institute at University of Connecticut and the author, most recently, of”Know-it-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture.”

10-01-2019, 08:55 AM
SMC Tollways appeals for understanding amid SLEX gridlock, ongoing construction

Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - September 25, 2019 - 1:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Corporation Tollways on Wednesday sought for public’s understanding amid the heavy traffic being experienced along South Luzon Expressway.

Hashtag "#SLEX" trended Wednesday as several commuters and motorists took to Twitter to complain about the current traffic jam in the area.

SLEX reported heavy traffic in Alabang Viaduct northbound due to the ongoing Skyway extension project.

“Hinihingi po naming ang inyong pang unawa. Ang proyekto na ito ay para sa kapakanan nating lahat. Konting tiis lang po. Sa pagtatapos ng proyekto ito, higit pong giginhawa ang daloy ng trapiko,” SMC Tollways said in a statement.

(We ask for your understanding. This project is for the benefit of everyone. Just bear with us for a little bit. After completion of project, we will have a smooth traffic flow.)

“Ginagawa po naming ang lahat upang matapos ang construction sa lalong madaling panahon,” it added.

(We are doing everything to finish the construction as soon as possible.)

In a traffic advisory, SLEX said it closed the Lane 3 northbound or the outermost lane afer Alabang viaduct to traffic starting Tuesday evening.

SLEX said it is also implementing stop and go traffic scheme at the East Service Road near Kawasaki Area.

Meanwhile, to help ease traffic, SLEX said Buendia to Plaza Dilao Section of Skyway Stage 3 is temporarily open to Class 1 only.

“This section may be closed anytime to give way to construction related activities,” the advisory read.

“Please bear with us for the temporary inconvenience ,” it also said.

As of posting, SLEX is still among the top trending topics in the Philippines with more than 1,300 tweets of online users reporting traffic in the area.

10-15-2019, 07:00 AM
Urban planner blames politics for inaction on 'catastrophic' traffic predicted 43 years ago

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 14, 2019 - 12:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Urban planning expert Felino "Jun" Palafox Jr. blamed "too much politics" and lack of continuity and institutional memory as reasons behind Metro Manila's "catastrophic" traffic, which he said was already predicted to happen 43 years ago.

"I think too much politics, lack of continuity and institutional memory because sometimes some administrations when they come in new, they ignore previous planning initiatives and so on. Maybe because of our three-year election, six-year election so it's short term and opportunistic not long term and visionary," Palafox said in an interview Monday over ANC's "Early Edition."

"So the past 43 years, it was do nothing or do little that's why we have catastrophic traffic right now," he said, adding that what transport and worker groups alike are calling a mass transportation crisis today was predicted as early as 43 years ago.

Palafox, who has been involved in urban planning for more than four decades cited four examples of projects that should have long been accomplished, namely the proposal of eight light rail transit lines which should have been completed by 1992, the subway system which was proposed in 1971 and the Circumferential Road 6 which was proposed in 1945.

He pointed to the World Bank-funded Manila Development Planning Project in 1976 where he served as senior planner and team leader for development planning. According to him, many recommendations had already been put forward at the time.

"We said that time that the 'do-nothing' scenario, we will have catastrophic traffic, flooding, [unpreparedness] for disasters, lack of decent housing, garbage problem[s], water supply crisis, power, and so on," he said.

A World Bank document on the aforementioned project mentions that, "[Metro Manila's] most pressing problems relate to shelter, health and nutrition, urban transport and institutional capabilities."

The report and recommendation also went on to identify that, "The Metropolitan Manila Area also suffers from major transportation problems [as] chronic congestion has become a common condition because of population growth and a rapid growth in the number of private passenger vehicles."

According to its abstract, the 1976 Manila Development Project included recommendations on "road construction and rehabilitation, the provision of traffic signals, equipment for a central traffic control center, mobile radios for police traffic control, geometric improvements of junctions, road marking paint; improvement of footpaths, and construction of bus shelter[s]."

Sen. Francis Pangilinan's proposed "Magna Carta of Dignified Commuting" filed on July 24 similarly pushes for adequate transportation services and functional mobility infrastructure, among other provisions geared towards uplifting the quality of life for everyday commuters.

Palafox said that the aforementioned infrastructure projects only officially began work now despite all having been proposed decades ago.

"It's only now under the Duterte administration that Circumferential Road 6 [is] being done," he said. "The subway is [also] being started now which [was] proposed more than four decades ago."

Palafox's interview comes after Metro Manila's traffic congestion problem were again thrust into the spotlight after presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo accepted a "challenge" to commute to the Malacañan Palace after asserting that there was no transportation crisis.

A 2017 study by the Boston Consulting Group showed Metro Manila's traffic congestion was the third-worst in Southeast Asia, costing motorists and commuters alike an average of more than an hour lost in traffic.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority data from 2018 revealed that EDSA carried an average of around 402,000 vehicles per day, far exceeding its supposed capacity of just 288,000 vehicles.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Japan International Cooperation Agency released that same year said that traffic congestion now costs the Philippines P3.5 billion in "lost opportunities" each day.