Tuesday, December 31, 2019

We will miss Newseum

“I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral.”
—John Burroughs

By Alex P. Vidal

EVERY TIME fellow journalists from the Philippines visited the United States—in New York City, in particular, we exhorted them not to miss visiting the Newseum.
Where in the United States can we find the names of our fellow Ilonggo print and broadcast journalists and other Filipino journalism martyrs slain in the line of duty in the Philippines and being given importance and prominence?
The names of Eddie Suede, Noel Teneso, Severino Arcones, Josef Nava, among other Ilonggo community journalism martyrs had a special place in the Newseum on the soaring Pennsylvania Avenue building in Washington D.C., a six-hour bus ride from New York City. 
The bad news is Newseum, dedicated to the history of journalism, had shut down after 12 years of difficulties before 2020.
We’ve visited the Newseum twice in 2017 and we were so impressed by its journalism and historic event exhibits, including those involving free speech and civil rights issues.
The building became recognizable for its four-story high marble presentation of the First Amendment since it opened in 2008. It previously operated nearby in Rosslyn, Virginia.
That amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the freedoms of speech and the press among others.
The Newseum finally closed its doors actually on December 31, the last day of 2019. The building was sold for $372.5 million to Johns Hopkins University and the the school reportedly plans to use it for some of its graduate program.

-o0o-

Some of the artifacts in the Newseum that we will miss are:
-A copy of a 301 year old newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, which was "the first successful newspaper in the Colonies."
-A 1789 front page that printed the first 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution. "Article the Third," about freedom of press and speech and religion, eventually became the FIRST...
-The NYT's 1927 front page about the test of a new medium called "television." It's "like a photo come to life," but commercial use is "in doubt," the headline said!
"We're on deadline," the museum's website screamed “We’re on deadline” as it urged people to come visit before the 2020.
As a consolation, The Newseum’s popular Today’s Front Pages, which shows nearly 1,000 newspaper’s front pages each day from around the world, will reportedly continue online after the December 31 closing.
As for the marble entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue, Paulson wrote in USA Today, “It was a dramatic and valuable reminder of the role our freedoms of press, speech, religion, petition and assembly play in ensuring that the United States remains the most vibrant, powerful—and free—nation in the world.”
The Freedom Forum, by the way, the nonprofit that runs the museum, promised that its work will continue in new locations and in new ways.
Analyst Brian Stelter claimed “the shuttering of the Newseum space is a big disappointment to the journalists and press freedom advocates who have supported the Newseum over the years.”
He described the farewell event as “bittersweet. More bitter than sweet, really. We need more places like the Newseum, not fewer.”

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 Johns Hopkins University purchased the Newseum property for $372.5 million so that it can reportedly consolidate its various Washington-based graduate programs in a single building.
The sale helped Freedom Forum with its crushing debt load, it was learned.
All along, with the Newseum, "the problem was expenses and debt," former USA Today editor Ken Paulson wrote recently. "The Washington building was too ambitious ($450 million in construction), the upkeep was too costly and donations were too few." In its twelve years in DC, the museum was never able to break even.
The chair of the Newseum, Peter Pritchard, talked about these challenges at Wednesday night's farewell event. Among other things, "we underestimated how hard it would be to break even when the competition is free," meaning all the government-subsidized museums up and down the National Mall.
Still, more than 10 million visitors experienced the Newseum during its 12 years smack-dab between Capitol Hill and the White House. The location always seemed so perfect to me -- because, as one of the exhibits stated, the Americans who wrote the First Amendment knew that "a free press could be used to challenge the government should it grow too powerful or abusive."
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Happy New Year

https://www.facebook.com/alex.p.vidal/videos/10210714110671777/

Monday, December 30, 2019

Goodbye, year of toxic politics

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

By Alex P. Vidal

BECAUSE of the general elections in May, 2019 can be considered to be the year of toxic politics.
Many friendships and family relationships have been ruined; the damage was almost irreparable.
Some neighbors have completely shut their doors to their hitherto “sparring partners” in supposed to be friendly and intellectual discussions only because of toxic politics.
Toxic politics has severely divided the nation to the point that some Filipinos have lost their identity and dignity and have become fanatical if not downright irrational in their social, spiritual, and political views.
We bid goodbye to 2019 with a heavy heart for those who have allowed their relationships to be damaged permanently by bitter and unpalatable political partisanships.
We are hopeful that 2020 will bring us not only economic prosperity, but spiritual growth and political maturity; that we will finally learn to rise above the ashes of disunity, destructive politics, envy, jealousy, cultural anachronism, paranoia, and antagonism.
Finally, we should be able to gain inroads in our pursuit for a quality leadership, quality life under a sound and safe environment, and quality co-existence with nature and the wildlife.

-o0o-

World Vision has revealed several reasons to have hope in 2020 and let me share some of those which I fully and truthfully agree.
Hope is infectious, even healing. But in a world that’s often dark, what is there to be hopeful for? Here are some of the World Vision’s reasons to have hope in 2020 and may we pray they will come into reality:
—Extreme poverty is giving up ground. In the last 20 years, the number of children dying around the world from things they shouldn’t — from hunger and poverty and disease — has dropped from more than 30,000 a day to less than 15,000. And the number of people living in extreme poverty, those living on less than $1.90 a day, dropped by more than 1 billion.
Now the world’s nations have set an ambitious goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, and we are joining them in this important work. With World Vision, every 60 seconds, a family gets water, a hungry child is fed, and a family gets the tools to overcome poverty.
—More mothers and children are surviving and thriving. Between 2000 and 2017, the rate of women dying in childbirth or from birth complications has dropped by 38%. Why? Better nutrition and access to quality healthcare are giving moms and their babies a healthier start. Improved water and sanitation prevent many diseases and boost children’s immune systems.
—Immunizations prevent 2–3 million deaths each year. More than 25 dangerous and debilitating diseases — including diarrhea, tetanus, measles, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and polio — can be stopped in their tracks by timely vaccinations. Taking immunizations to children in every corner of the world has likely saved more lives than any other health activity of the past 50 years.
—We can solve the global water crisis within our lifetimes. World Vision is the largest nongovernmental provider of clean water in the developing world, reaching one new person with clean water every 10 seconds and three more schools every day with clean water. They are increasing their impact and scope to reach everyone, everywhere they work by 2030. The sixth of 17 Sustainable Development Goals created by the U.N. also includes achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.
—Partnership with the U.N. and UNICEF to launch the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Together, they are supporting the efforts of those seeking to prevent violence, protect childhood, and help make societies safe for children. By 2030, they hope to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence and torture against children.
—Innovative technology is transforming remote communities around the world. Mobile technology and other innovations allow humanitarian organizations to work better and smarter, improving efficiencies so more resources can help people in poverty and communities in crisis. World Vision is expanding its efforts to apply new methods and technologies for development work.
—Children like Constance are experiencing God’s love. World Vision is empowering local churches, schools, and parents to create engaging, faith-filled environments that help children and youth, like 11-year-old Constance from Kenya, explore their faith and experience Jesus’ love. “It felt so nice when the preacher said that we had been forgiven our sins,” says Constance. The sermon she heard that day made her realize she wanted to commit her life to serve Christ. She’s an active member of her Bible club, and now after participating in leadership training from World Vision, she talks to her peers about God and their faith journeys. She has grown in her own faith, as well as in her self-esteem.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)




Saturday, December 28, 2019

Plant trees or we all die

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
—Abraham Lincoln

By Alex P. Vidal

WE should have started planting trees massively at least 70 years ago.
And while doing it, deforestation should have been done sparingly if it couldn’t be avoided.
Life could not exist on Earth without trees because they produce most of the oxygen that humans and wildlife breathe. 
Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen using the process of photosynthesis.
If we did, several towns that submerged in the fifth district of Iloilo when typhoon “Ursula” terrorized Panay Island on Christmas Day would have been protected.
Several lives would have been saved especially the six family members who perished in a flood in Batad, Iloilo.
Storms normally bring heavy rains and strong winds, but if our mountain slopes are surrounded by trees, water can’t easily inundate the villages below like what happened in Balasan town, where all of its 23 villages were reportedly flooded.
Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. was so disturbed and alarmed that he reportedly called for expansion of tree planting activities in the mountains to reclaim secondary forest lost in irresponsible and reckless deforestation.
This is a wise move. The governor may need the total support of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to pursue this herculean task.

-o0o-

We may be late, but it’s better to do something than crying over a spilled milk; it’s better to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
Sometimes only during calamities can our resolve be revitalized.
We are motivated to do something or spring into action with absolute urgency only after we have been caught off-guarded and unable to save lives and properties.
On the other hand, we can’t prevent people from cutting down trees. We need to build stores, houses, and other buildings. 
We also cut down trees to clear land for agricultural use. In some cases, trees are cut down for wood for fires to heat up our homes and cook food.
If we cut trees, it’s but logical that we also plant more trees. 
If we continue to be neglectful and irresponsible, we will wake up one day on the verge of being swept away by heavy floods to the kingdom come when heavy storms bombard us like a thief in the night.
Planting of trees is a responsibility that must be carried out by all people regardless of sex, economic status, age, religion and political affiliation.
We shouldn’t rely on our government alone.
We must think of what we can do for our environment, and not what our environment can do for us, to paraphrase JFK’s popular adage on government and our role.

-o0o-

Let me share this “Tree Riddles” from the Trees Group:
This is the place for the most interesting tree riddles, forest-themed brain teasers, and nature-inspired puzzles, as well as riddles about trees, environment enigmas, and woodland conundrums.
What weighs more, a pound of leaves or a pound of logs?
They both weigh the same.
Which side of a tree has the most leaves?
The outside.
What kind of trees do you get when you plant kisses?
Tulips.
How do you get down from a tree?
You don’t. Down comes from a duck.
What gets a year older whenever it rings?
A tree.
What can pass through a tree without rustling any leaves?
Sunlight.
The more of it there is in the forest, the less you can see. What is it?
Darkness.
What looks like half a spruce tree?
The other half.
How far can a monkey run through the rainforest?
Just halfway. After that, it’s running out of the rainforest.
What color is the rain in a painting of the rainforest?
Water color.
Which animals can jump higher than a tree?
All of them. Trees can’t jump!
How many oranges grow on a tree?
All of them.
What’s the same size and shape as a giant sequoia tree, yet weighs nothing?
A giant sequoia tree’s shadow.
What do you get when you cross a fallen tree with a very organized feline?
A catalog.
There are 52 birds perched on a single tree branch. A poacher comes along and shoots one of those birds twice. How many birds are on the tree branch now?
There are no birds on the tree branch now. The bird that was shot fell off, and the rest of the birds flew away after the first shot.
What tree has two eyes but can’t see?
White Pine.
Which is more likely to break one of the laws of nature, a large rock or a large tree?
A large rock, because it’s boulder.
What does a tree sapling become after it is 30 days old?
Thirty-one days old.
I’m the part of a tree that is not in the sky or under the ground. I can move throughout the day and change shape. What am I?
Its shadow.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)



Thursday, December 26, 2019

‘Ursula’ unites Ilonggos

“Human misery must somewhere have a stop; there is no wind that always blows a storm.”
—Euripides

By Alex P. Vidal

IT has been proven once again that typhoons respect no season; they can lash at any city and province in any occasion, including the most precious Christmas Day.
Death and destruction became the order of the day when “Ursula” struck hard just when everyone was celebrating the birth of Jesus, the son of God in the Christian community.
It united the Ilonggos, among those badly affected in the Visayas area, even if their noche buena and actual celebration of Christmas Day had been interrupted and ruined.
Assistance poured in from fellow Ilonggos in other provinces and overseas as soon as it became known that “Ursula” nearly equalled the ferocity of “Yolanda”, one of the most destructive super storms to hit the region many years back.
 “Ursula”, named after the popular Swiss actress Ursula Andress, now 83, was out in the West Philippine Sea, 300 kilometers northwest of Coron, Palawan, or 295 km west-southwest of Subic, Zambales, as of 4 p.m. December 26. 
It reportedly moved toward Vietnam at 15 km per hour with winds of up 120 kph and gusts of up to 150 kph, weaker than winds of up to 140 kph and gusts of up to 195 on Christmas Day.
Confirmed killed in villages and towns in central Visayas, as of this writing, were at least 20 people mostly in Panay island. Most of those killed were due to drowning, falling trees and accidental electrocution, according to disaster officials.

-o0o-

We’ve been told not to do the following during the strong typhoons:
Don’t tape windows. Tape does almost no good — and it’s a mess to remove;
Don’t open a window away from the wind direction. Any opening can allow wind inside the home, and the wind can shift;
Don’t go near windows or glass patio doors during a storm;
Don’t empty an in-ground pool. The water table can rise from the rain and force the pool up, perhaps out of the ground;
Don’t use candles for light if the power goes off. The danger of fire is too great;
Don’t use a charcoal or gas grill to cook indoors;
Don’t approach animals wandering after the storm. Even docile pets can be unnerved by a storm and could bite;
Don’t connect a generator directly to your home’s electric system. It can electrify lines outside and endanger neighbors and utility workers;
Don’t drive through moving water over a road. Even six inches of flowing water can cause a car to float;
If returning after an evacuation, don’t stay in the house if you smell gas. Open windows and leave;
Don’t let your pets out after the storm without a leash. With landmarks gone, they can get lost and perhaps encounter displaced wild animals.
Don’t sightsee in damaged neighborhoods;
Don’t stay after an evacuation is ordered. Rescue workers will not try to reach you at the height of the storm;
Don’t bring guns, alcohol or pets to a public shelter;
Don’t touch metal fences after a storm. They could be touching downed power lines.

-o0o-

A day after “Ursula” annihilated Panay, Mindoro, and other nearby islands, a powerful tremor hit Iloilo.
In fact, more Ilonggos posted their reactions to the quake in unison in the social media than they did during the “Ursula” carnage.
A strong typhoon followed by an earthquake shifted our attention to the Climate Change.
According to the Science For A Changing World, these are some of the signs of the Climate Change:
— Temperatures are rising world-wide due to greenhouse gases trapping more heat in the atmosphere.
—Droughts are becoming longer and more extreme around the world.
—Tropical storms becoming more severe due to warmer ocean water temperatures.
—As temperatures rise there is less snowpack in mountain ranges and polar areas and the snow melts faster.
—Overall, glaciers are melting at a faster rate.
—Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole is melting faster with the warmer temperatures.
—Permafrost is melting, releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
—Sea levels are rising, threatening coastal communities and estuarine ecosystems.
Scientists have predicted that long-term effects of climate change will include a decrease in sea ice and an increase in permafrost thawing, an increase in heat waves and heavy precipitation, and decreased water resources in semi-arid regions.
Scary indeed.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)



Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Sharing, Giving)

Sharing is sometimes more demanding than giving.
-- MARY CATHERINE BATESON :

Giving is the language of heart. Sharing is the language of soul. When we give, there is a feeling of bliss and supreme level of exhilaration. When we share, everybody is happy; everyone is a winner!
--ALEX P. VIDAL

No respect for Christmas

“Let's be naughty and save Santa the trip.”
—Gary Allan

By Alex P. Vidal


BOTH the feuding Panay Electric Company (PECO) and the MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) appear to be disrespectful of the Yuletide Season, where the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and promotes Christian ethic, love, peace, humility, and forgiveness.
They kept on firing bullets in their respected cylinders as the Ilonggo consumers, their clients, observed the spirit of Christmas.
Following the filing of administrative charges in the Supreme Court by MORE Power against the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 35, Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular, PECO head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs Marcelo Cacho accused MORE Power of bullying Amular, who took over from Judge Yvette Go and issued an Order, later on, suspending the expropriation case MORE Power had filed to take over PECO’s electric distribution facilities.
Amular’s Order halted the issuance of the actual write of possession earlier granted by Go before the Supreme Court required Go and MORE Power to show cause why they should not be cited for contempt for proceeding with the case despite the pendency of MORE Power’s own appeal before the Higher Court.

-o0o-

We understand that the legal battle between the Cacho-owned PECO and the Enrique Razon-backed MORE Power is far from over and is expected to exacerbate in 2020, thus they should have a tacit agreement to spare the season from their fireworks and resume their shootout in January or any month after Christmas 2019.
With a week more to go before 2019 expires, we expect the two warring camps to finally have a ceasefire until the New Year.
If one camp can’t control its enmity toward its rival, the other camp should reserve the bullets and ignore the rival’s saber-rattling.
The court won’t side with the loudest and the more loquacious adversary.
There’s neither gain nor merit if one party will use the season of love and forgiveness to question the motive of one party and prolong the legal argument.
Public opinion will be harsh to those who will transform “the most wonderful time of the year” into an occasion of vitriol and acrimony.

-o0o-

Also, we can never expect any credible ceasefire between the government forces and the Communist Part of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Since time immemorial, both camps have poor records in ceasefire during the Christmas Season.
While the cooler heads are heading to the negotiating table, the war freaks, those with guns and other deadly weapons, plot an ambush or engage in a treacherous undertaking without any sanction from the ones willing to smoke the proverbial peace pipe for the time being.
Since the time of Marcos, Aquino the mother, FVR, Erap, Gloria, Aquino the son, and now President Duterte, we haven’t heard of any credible ceasefire between the military and the leftist rebels.

-o0o-

FEUDING Bacolod City Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia and Youtube broadcast commentator Ben Tulfo also did not have a ceasefire while the Christian community was waiting for the baby Jesus Christ to be born.
Leonardia’s supporters in the City Hall, as well as in the City Council and the media, blasted the hard-hitting Manila commentator in their own locality, while Tulfo used the power of his national program to paint Leonardia, some “corrupt local media”, and Councilor Al Victo Espino in bad light.
Their quarrel, which wasn’t settled as of this writing, is also expected to languish in 2020 and, perhaps, beyond with no possible peace in sight, judging from the heavy emotional outbursts both camps have been shelling out these past weeks.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Best Christmas gift: chocolate with health benefits

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”
-- Charles M. Schulz

By Alex P. Vidal


EXPERTS are saying that over-eating of chocolate can be tantamount to slow motion suicide, although it contains health benefits if we eat moderately.
Too much chocolate-eating, they say, will not only cause diabetes but also obesity.
Some of the health benefits of chocolate are:
--Cacao, the source of chocolate, contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. However, chocolate with high sugar content will negate this benefit, according to Cocosymposium. Dark chocolate contains significantly higher amounts of cacao and lower amounts of sugar than white chocolate, making it more healthful.
--The smell of chocolate may increase theta brain waves, resulting in relaxation.
--Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, a mild mood elevator.
--The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat which can raise good cholesterol.
--Men who eat chocolate regularly live on average one year longer than those who don’t.
--The flavanoids in chocolate help keep blood vessels elastic.
--Chocolate increases antioxidant levels in the blood.
--The carbohydrates in chocolate raise serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a sense of well-being.
The health risks of chocolate are:
--Chocolate may contribute to lower bone density.
--Chocolate can trigger headaches in migraine sufferers.
--Milk chocolate is high in calories, saturated fat and sugar.
--Chocolate is a danger to pets (chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which animals are unable to digest).

-o0o-



Christmas is a time for eating chocolate.
Consumption has come a long way since the first “eating” chocolate was introduced in England by the Bristol firm of Fry and Sons in 1847.
Much debate and mythology surround people’s craving for this confection, which has been blamed on depression, the menstrual cycle, sensory gratification, or some of the 300 plus chemicals that it contains.
The sensuous properties of chocolate depend on the fat it contains.
Roger Highfield explains in The Physics of Christmas that
Cocoa butter can solidify in half a dozen different forms, each of which has a different effect on “mouthfeel” and palatability.
Form V predominates in the best chocolate, making it glossy and melt in the mouth.
Unlike other plant edible fats, which are usually oils, Highfiled explains that cocoa butter is enriched in saturated fatty acids so that it is solid under normal conditions and has a sharp melting point of around 34C, just below the temperature.
Heat is absorbed when this occurs, giving a sensation of coolness on the tongue.
“Another reason we like chocolate is the stimulatory effects of caffeine and related chemicals. Every 100 grams of chocolates contain 5 milligrams of methylxanthine and 160 milligrams of theobromine (named after the cocoa tree, whose botanical name, Theobroma cocoa, means “food of the gods”). Both are caffeinelike substances,” Highfield points out.
Originally, chocolate was a stimulating drink. The name is derived from the Aztec word xocalatl, meaning “bitter water.”

-o0o-

In the 17th century a physician from Peru wrote how it is “good for soldiers who are on guard.”
Highfield stresses that indeed, some people have suggested that it was Casanova’s favorite bedtime drink—to give him a boost when he needed it.
Medical textbooks do note, however, that when taken in large quantities, these stimulants can induce nausea and vomiting.
This effect can also be observed in children (and others) who of overindulge on Christmas Day.
He cites that every 100 grams of chocolate also contains 660 milligrams of phenylethylamine, a chemical relative of amphetamines, which has been shown to produce a feeling of well-being and alertness.
“This may be why some people binge on the stuff after an upsetting experience—or perhaps to cope with the stress of Christmas shopping,” Highfield theorizes.
He also observes the following:
-Phenylethylamine may trigger the release of dopamine, a messenger chemical in the brain that plays a role in the “reward pathway” that governs our urge to eat or have sex.
-Phenylethylamine raises blood pressure and heart rate, and heightens sensation and blood glucose levels, leading to the suggestion that chocoholics “self-medicate” because they have a faulty mechanism for controlling the body’s level of the substance.
However, if a person consumes too much phenylethylamine or has an inability to remove it due to the lack of a key enzyme (monoamine oxidase), blood vessels in the brain constrict, causing a migraine, according to Highfield.

-o0o-

More recently, it has been found that chocolate also contains substances that can act like cannabis on the brain, intensifying its other pleasurable effects.
Highfield says three substances from the N-acylethanolamine group of chemicals can mimic the euphoric effects of cannabis, according to a study by Daniele Piomelli, Emmanuelle di Tomaso, and Massimiliano Beltramo of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.
Their works date back in 1990, when scientists found a site in the brain that responds to cannabinoids, the class of compounds that include the active ingredient in cannabis.
Recently they have discovered the specific substances in the brain that bind to this site. One is a fatty molecule dubbed anandamide after the Sanskrit word for “bliss.”
Piomelli investigated chocolate, which is rich in fat, because he correctly suspected that it might contain lipids related to anandamide.
Piomelli was first inspired to look into the mood-altering effects of chocolate when he became addicted to the stuff one gray winter in Paris.Now that he has moved to California, which is as sunny as his homeland of Italy, he is no longer a chocoholic.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Prayer and poverty in Christmas

“Silent night! Holy night! Guiding star, lend thy light!”
— J. MOIER
By Alex P. Vidal

IN many parts of the country today, poverty is being blamed chiefly to be the reason why many of us continue to find it increasingly impossible to enjoy “the most exciting season of the year”, the season that carries a strong emotional resonance for many Filipinos.
We continue to pray nonetheless.
We believe that “prayers can move mountains,” as the saying goes.
As obedient Christians, we continue to follow the church-mandated traditions on how to celebrate Christmas.
Christmas is probably ideal only for those who don’t have a daily bout with financial difficulties.
Can prayers save us from poverty?
Will there be a miracle if we pray hard for gifts and for Santa Claus and his reindeer to knock on our doors this Christmas season?
Francis Galton, the progenitor of human genetics, said in his 1872 Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer, he could find no evidence that prayer is effective.
Galton found no scientific grounds for believing that prayers are answered.
But he conceded that “prayer can strengthen resolve and relieve distress.”

-o0o-

Many people now begin to believe and realize that society celebrates the so-called season of the birth of Christ heavily from the commercial point of view.
We equate Christmas with material possessions.
When think of gifts, decorations, parties, wines, caroling, merrymaking, vacation, etcetera, we think of extra funds and extra expenses.
Christmas has become synonymous to expenses and money.
Without extra funds, many Christians tend to develop a morbid feeling of insecurity and inadequacy.
How can one actively take part in Christmas parties and gift-giving binge if he does not even have enough to buy a decent meal for his family?
However, we can always celebrate the Yuletide season on a different perspective: embracing the spirits of love, humility, simplicity, forgiveness, hope and understanding.
Expecting nothing and continue living a simple life is a key to overcome anxiety, stress, emotional and mental anguishes if we don’t have economic capacity and abundance in life.
A very interesting piece about science and Christmas has rekindled the debate whether the scientific worldview somehow undermine the religious beliefs that are the basis of Christmas for so many people.
Science has been viewed suspiciously as a force that turned people away from God ever since 1916, according to Roger Highfield, author of The Physics of Christmas.
In that year, an oft-cited survey by James Leuba of Bryn Mawr University found that 60 percent of American scientist did not believe in God.

-o0o-

Highfiled revealed that the finding caused a scandal at that time, prompting warnings from politicians about the evils of modernism and accusations that scientists were leading college students away from religion.
Leuba himself predicted that disbelief among scientists would only increase in the future.
“But research conducted recently, repeating the 1916 survey word for word, has proven Leuba wrong,” Highfield contends. “The proportion of scientists who believe in God has remained almost unchanged in the past eight years, despite the enormous leaps of discovery made during this century.”
Highfield cited Edward Larson, from the University of Georgia, and Larson’s colleague Larry Witham, from Burtonsville, Maryland, who questioned 600 scientists listed in the 1995 edition of American Men and Women of Science.
It reportedly achieved the same results as Leuba: about 40 percent of scientists believe in God.
“The future of Christmas and Hanukkah in our increasingly technological age seems assured,” concludes Highfield.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Better late than never

“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”
Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal

THE guilty verdict came 10 years after the grisly massacre happened; when some people have forgotten how the 58 non-combatant civilians, including 32 media workers, were killed and why they were murdered like animals in Maguindanao.
It would have been sweeter, to say the least, if the historic reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment verdict came at least eight years earlier, when the alleged massacre “godfather” Ampatuan, Sr., Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s former mahjong partner, was still alive.
But nonetheless the long wait is over and, while others are saying that “justice delayed is justice denied,” some are also declaring that “it’s better late then never.”

-o0o-

Remembering our Capitol press corps days in the early 90’s, the gory massacre of our colleagues on November 23, 2009 had terrible effects on me personally as a media worker.
The scenario was very familiar: they were on a van escorting the wife of a gubernatorial candidate and her entourage when waylaid by more than 100 armed men led by the powerful political clan Ampatuan in a secluded area.
When members of the entourage were wiped out by a hail of bullets, our colleagues in Mindanao were also shot execution style one after another.
We also used to go out-of-town in a van or as a group in Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, among other provinces in Western Visayas and Negros to cover important events and conflicts involving feuding political clans, groups and the encounters between the military and the insurgency.
We faced the same danger our murdered colleagues had gone through before they were killed violently, but were just lucky we didn’t end up as collateral victims or intended targets of violence on several occasions.
We were just fortunate our politicians and military officials did not have the kind of mentality of the dreaded Ampatuans. 

 -o0o-

Before checking the updates on the Ampatuan massacre verdict, I was monitoring since morning the intense and fiery debates between the Democrats and Republicans in the US House of Representatives during the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The House finally voted to impeach President Trump on both articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The votes came after weeks of testimony related to the President’s dealings with Ukraine and hours of fiery debate over the process.
Some of the highlights were: dozens of congresspeople uttered tens of thousands of words during the marathon debate; President Trump a rambling six-page letter December 17 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling Congress’ impeachment inquiry a partisan “crusade,” an “unprecedented and constitutional abuse of power” and a “spiteful” “election-nullification scheme”; the House Judiciary Committee released its full 658-page report just after midnight Sunday, in which the majority calls President Trump the “Framers’ worst nightmare.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)









  

Thursday, December 12, 2019

They give us shame and scandal

“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.”
--Che Guevara

By Alex P. Vidal


AYN Rand would have been amazed by the force and effectiveness of today’s netizens to influence and shape public opinion.
In this generation, they constitute the social media’s New Intellectuals, the most vigilant vanguards of the nation’s social, cultural, and political spectrum via the Internet.
No act of brutality, arrogance, malfeasance and demagoguery in the civilized society can escape the radar of amazing digital world.
A hailstorm of public censure and condemnation awaits those who possess the delusions of putting the law in their hands; those who think they are above the law and reason, owing to their power and influence, pelf and privileges for belonging in society’s higher social and political strata.
Gone are the days when publicly performed criminal acts and other forms of civil disobedience can be kept under wraps and the culprits getting away with impunity.
Today there’s always a big brother and sister watching: CCTVs and mobile phone cameras.

-o0o-


Meanwhile, objectivist Ayn Rand held that abstract ideas are man’s basic means of dealing with practical life.
She stressed that abstract ideas enable man to understand concrete issues, to evaluate them, and to act successfully to deal with them.
Rand further held that the problem with Western civilization was not that it was too intellectual, but that too many of its intellectuals accepted and propagated fundamentally wrong ideas.
Rand believed that what the world needs urgently are New Intellectuals.
As civilization marks this year the official end of the French Revolution on December 15, 1799, we begin the era of fighting graft and corruption, abuse of authority in military and government through a new wave: the social media.
We cannot afford today to give life to a modern Napoleon Bonaparte, the dictator who wanted to overrun Europe had it not been for his Waterloo defeat.
Politicians who want to overrun our treasury via pork barrel and other thinly-veiled acts of plunder and graft and corruption, are the smaller versions of Napoleon.
The specter of graft and corruption in government today is the rallying point of public anger and disgust that transformed into a bloody revolt; the tipping point that brought down the monarchy and cut off King Louis XVI’s and Marie Antoinette’s heads in the revolutionary scaffolds.

-o0o-

Under the mantra of “Liberte, egalite, fraternity” (liberty, equality, fraternity), French society itself underwent a transformation as feudal, aristocratic, and religious privileges disappeared and old ideas about tradition and hierarchy were abruptly overthrown.
Under the mantra of "papatayin ko kayo" (I will really kill you), the President has failed to curb the age-old graft and corruption and illegal drugs.
The rich becomes richer; the poor becomes poorer.
Marie Antoinette wanted to give the French people with empty stomachs cake; our government has been giving us empty promises and empty treasury.
The wealth of the nation has been wasted.
Our leaders have abandoned the spirit that ignited the “Cry of Balintawak” or “Pugad Lawin” of the katipuneros, and the “Cry of Sta. Barbara (Iloilo)”.
We give them our votes and confidence; they gave us shame and scandal via plunder and graft and corruption.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Is giving of gift mandatory during Christmas?

“God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.”
--Pope Francis

By Alex P. Vidal


MANY of us give gifts to promote the reputation that we are nice, generous people; and we usually do it to put pressure on the recipient to reciprocate.
For example, when we take a basket of fruit to a friend in the hospital, it is because we would like him to do the same for us, observed Roger Highfield in The Physics of Christmas.
“Gifts have the power to make or break a relationship, for they are indices of how we interpret the status, power, taste, and emotion of our peers,” he explained.
Gifts are also excellent way of atoning for sins, but they may be rejected if judged as not sufficiently compensatory, Highfield said
Adrian Furnham, a psychologist at University College, London, said gifts reveal how socially aware we are in perceiving others.
It’s not just the issue of whom we choose to give presents to or how much or how little we spend on those presents, but what sort of gifts we select, Furnham said.
And when our motives for giving a particular gift are incorrectly interpreted, our faux pas is on display for all to see.
For example, the gift of a fluorescent fluffy toy might be thought an insult by someone who perceives himself or herself so sophisticated.
“As a channel of communication (a gift) has limited capacity because the range of messages is few and the language not well known,” explained Furnham.

-o0o-

“Perhaps the gift-phobics who discover the exchange of gifts between family and friends do so because they don’t speak the language and agree with Wittgenstein, who so wisely noted: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’”
Whitfield said psychologists have now started to decode the language of gifts in an effort to unwrap this seasonal ritual.
They have studied different gift occasions and assessed the various stages in the gift-giving process, the function of gifts, and the norms that govern who may give what to whom and why certain gifts--for instance, money--are often considered inappropriate.
Men and women behave very differently when it comes to Christmas gift giving, added Highfield.
At the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, David Cheal had great difficulty interviewing as many men and women for one study of Christmas gift giving.
The reason soon become clear: women remain the principal actors in gift transactions.
The annual hunt for that ideal present is overwhelmingly seen as women’s work. Indeed, among couples it is usually the women who maintain the gift economy.
Men tend to give more valuable gifts, less often. Part of the reason is that men generally earn more than women.
But women have been said to dominate Christmas giving perhaps because it is seen as a family festival and women are the “kin keepers,” taking more responsibility for maintaining family and social ties.

-o0o-

One of Cheal’s respondents explained that her reason for giving is “to be a message. You have interest in that person, whatever the message is at the moment.”
Highfield stressed that other studies have shown that we are little different from the Hazda in that gift giving often puts the recipient under an obligation, exploiting a reciprocal instinct that places the act closer to pure barter.
Much of Christmas giving actually reveals a more calculated character, following certain rules and obeying certain taboos.
Carole Burgoyne and Stephen Lea of the University of Exter, England said: “To violate these rules, to give too little, or indeed to give too much, can be insulting.”
One traditional taboo is the gift of money, according to Highfield.
If we hand out checks and cash, he explained, “the materialist underbelly of Christmas is laid bare for all to see. As a result, money is not a universally acceptable medium of exchange.”
Gifts of money also imply a lack of effort and insight on the part of the giver, according to a study of 92 students conducted by Burgoyne and David Routh of Bristol University in England.
Another study by Lea showed that this was particularly so when money was given by a child to a parent, but not when it was a gift from a grandparent or parent to a child.
Highfield stressed that today’s psychologists see gifts as a way of initiating and maintaining relationships--just as we observed in the case of Henry III.
According to Bourgoyne, Christmas tends to differ from other giving rituals, such as birthdays, because it is more likely to involve a simultaneous exchange.
In relationships where reciprocity is expected, there can be serious consequences of the failure to give a gift.
These are more likely to occur in closer relationships, such as between siblings, parents and children, or girlfriend and boyfriend.
“The nonappearance of a gift is likely to lead to broken relationships and family row unless there is a very good explanation for it,” Burgoyne wrote.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Santa Claus' timely visit to City Hall

"No sane local official who has hung up an empty stocking over the municipal fireplace, is going to shoot Santa Claus just before a hard Christmas."
--Al Smith

By Alex P. Vidal


SANTA Claus came to Iloilo City Hall just in time.
The check worth P134,927,522.63 personally delivered by Panay Electric Company (PECO) Public Engagement and Government Affairs office boss Marcelo Cacho to Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and City Treasurer Jinny Hermano for its real property tax arrears on December 9 can be best described as "Merry Christmas payment."
The gargantuan amount was timely as it could help cover up so many expenses to be incurred by the city government in the Yuletide season, including the Christmas bonuses of employees, among other year-end financial obligations.
If Santa Claus did not come to the City Hall on time, Santa Claus and his family would have lost some multi-million pesos worth of properties the city government had been preparing to auction off.
It was but a right move in the right circumstance at the right time.

-o0o-

As a quid pro quo, the auction had been called off and everyone was happy, to say the least.
The decision to settle PECO's "long-overdue" (it reportedly accumulated since the past two administrations) real property tax arrears certainly wasn't made overnight.
The Cacho family and Mayor Treñas, a long-time family friend and once-upon-a-time PECO's legal counsel, probably had a "heart-to-heart" talk prior to Santa Claus' dramatic show up in the City Hall on Monday.
Thus I don't see any point why City Hall will continue to sustain its animosity with the controversial power firm now that the tax arrears have been settled.
Mayor Treñas, however, has to be fair to both the MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) and the PECO, and will never interfere in the ongoing legal battle between the two firms.
If Ilonggos know how to read between the lines and the city mayor's body language, they can't make any absolute conclusion yet that the city mayor is hell-bent to abscond from its past relationship with the PECO.

-o0o-

ASIDE from the cash windfall Ilonggo athletes who won gold, silver, and bronze medals in the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) hosted by the Philippines will get from the national government, the city and provincial government of Iloilo should also chip in and set aside special funds for these sports heroes in time for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
We suggest that a gold medalist be given P200,000; P100,000 for a silver medalist; and P50,000 for a bronze medalist.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will reportedly give P600,000 for a gold medalist; P400,000 for a silver medalist; and P200,000 for a bronze medalist.
The athletes have sacrificed so much to give our country honor, thus it is but proper that the national and local governments acknowledge their efforts and heroic performances by showering them with financial incentives.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)