Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Thank you, 2020

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.”

—MOTHER TERESA

 





By Alex P. Vidal

 

INSTEAD of cursing the year 2020 as what many people do because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, let’s do the opposite: bid farewell to 2020 by saying thank you and counting our blessings.

It’s more than steering clear of cursing the darkness by lightning a candle. 

It’s about faith in the future and understanding life backward and living it forward. 

It’s a lot better to embrace optimism and positivism as we enter a new year than to languish in elegy and bitterness, and retain the bad memory of the passing year.

The source of our resiliency and vitality for the coming year may be the answer to what has brought us untold sorrow and tremendous sadness in the expiring year.  

In the first place, it’s a big blessing that before 2020 expired, medical scientists were able to produce the vaccines that will finally expunge the nightmarish COVID-19 from our life hopefully in 2021.

It’s a blessing that most of us are still alive even if some of our loved ones and friends didn’t make it.

Hundreds of thousands of people may have perished in the pandemic, but millions will certainly be saved in 2021 and the years thereafter when the vaccines have fully marshaled their might and dominance against the coronavirus in the four corners of the globe.

In many areas in life, we definitely have many reasons to remain hopeful and efficacious if we put to the sleeping room the 2020 and look forward for the brighter 2021.

All we need is a positive outlook, faith, solid character.

     

-o0o-

 

Thank you, 2020; thank you, America. 

We are thankful that during the pandemic, which started its horrific and most disquieting mayhem in March, we were living in the United States, arguably the “safest” place on earth despite topping the list in the number of cases and death worldwide (as of December 29, 2020 there are 19.4 million cases and 336,000 deaths in the United States).

“Safe” means the living or those who have not been infected, are still being well taken care of economically, especially if they lose their jobs or need immediate medical attention.

We sympathize with our brothers and sisters, on the other hand, especially in the Third World, whose governments can’t offer sufficient help for their embattled citizens. 

To compound their woes, most of these governments are led by corrupt, incompetent and despotic rulers, a situation that has added insult to their misery.    

While the pandemic is raging in America, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on December 29 that some Americans will begin receiving $600 stimulus checks from the federal government as soon as this week, or two days after President Donald Trump signed into law a $900 billion stimulus package, which included the direct payments.

The United States remains to be magnitudes better than most countries in the world and has always had a secure spot in the world's top ten standards of living. 

Aside from the protection it gives to the people during the calamity, war and pandemic, the freedoms allowed and the opportunities given in the United States are unmatched by many other places, generally speaking.

 

-o0o-

 

While thrashing the planet, writer Sarah Van Gelder once cautioned we've been taught that economic growth and buying more stuff will make us happy for decades.

“The good news is, there’s a better kind of happy: It starts with meaningful work, loving relationships, and a thriving natural world,” Gelder stressed.

Sustainable happiness, she said, is built on a healthy natural world and a vibrant and fair society. 

It is a form of happiness that endures, through good and bad times, because it starts with the fundamental requirements and aspirations of being human, she explained. 

“You can’t obtain it with a quick fix; sustainable happiness cannot be achieved at the expense of others,” Gelder explained.

She said the good news is that sustainable happiness is achievable, it could be available to everyone, and it doesn’t have to cost the planet. It begins by assuring that everyone can obtain a basic level of material security. But beyond that, more stuff isn’t the key to happiness.

“It turns out that we don’t need to use up and wear out the planet in a mad rush to produce the stuff that is supposed to make us happy. We don’t need people working in sweatshop conditions to produce cheap stuff to feed an endless appetite for possessions,” she added.

We don’t even need economic growth, although some types of growth do help.

The research reportedly shows that sustainable happiness comes from other sources. 

“We need loving relationships, thriving natural and human communities, opportunities for meaningful work, and a few simple practices, like gratitude. With that definition of sustainable happiness, we really can have it all,” Gelder concluded. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 

 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Unemployed Fil-Ams and their $600 stimulus check

“But, at the same time, I think that there is room for economic stimulus in terms of accelerated depreciation to encourage businesses to invest and to grow and ultimately to hire more people again.”

John Breaux

 

By Alex P. Vidal 

 

WE should worry no more for our relatives permanently living in the United States who lost their employment since March 2020 due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

When the pandemic-induced lockdown was first imposed in March, millions of Americans lost their jobs when business establishments closed down.

Some of those affected were hundreds of thousands of Filipino-Americans (Fil-Ams) who regularly sent dollar remittances to their families in the Philippines. 

Since the pandemic has been felt almost worldwide, there was a  domino effect when those jobless Fil-Ams stopped sending money to their loved ones in the Philippines, who were also hit badly by the COVID-19 juggernaut. 

Beginning January 2021, they will receive a one-time direct-payment of $600 on top of the $300 a week from the massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill signed into law by President Donald Trump December 27 night.

It also averted a government shutdown that was set to begin on December 29, and extending billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to millions.

 

-o0o-

 

And if the ongoing efforts by the U.S. Congress will materialize, the $600 check could balloon to $2,000, the original amount sought by the Democrats and the primary reason why Mr. Trump, who also demanded for $2,000, delayed the signing of the bill into law. 

This can be possible because, as of this writing, it was reported that Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders would filibuster an override of President Trump’s defense bill veto unless the Senate holds a vote on providing $2,000 direct payments to Americans.

Sanders told the press December 28 night: “McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that. But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment.”

The Vermont independent can’t ultimately stop the veto override vote, but he can delay it until New Year’s Day and make things more difficult for the GOP.

“The American people are desperate, and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town,” Sanders said. “It would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this.”

 

-o0o-

 

U.S. Congress passed legislation on December 21 that will extend federal unemployment benefits that were set to expire after Dec. 26.

The Employment Development Department (EDD), now signed into law by Mr. Trump, will implement the new programs when it receives guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor describing how the states will be required to follow the law. 

The EDD, however, is making program adjustments with what information is available so when federal guidelines and details become available, EDD can complete the necessary programming to make these new benefits available as soon as possible.

Legislation passed by Congress extends and expands the federal unemployment benefits as of December 24:

—Restores the federal supplement to recipients of all state and federal unemployment benefits, which will provide $300 per week of additional benefits for weeks beginning after the date of enactment through March 13, 2021.

—Extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program by 11 weeks, providing up to 57 weeks of benefits.

—Extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program by 11 weeks, providing up to 24 weeks of benefits.

—Allows up to an additional 7 weeks of federally-funded Federal-State Extended Duration Benefits program (FED-ED) through March 14, 2021, providing up to 20 weeks of benefits for those who qualify.

—Provides a supplement of $100 per week to certain “mixed earners” who received at least $5,000 a year in self-employment income but were eligible for regular state unemployment, not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

‘Save by the bell’

 

“When more and more people are thrown out of work, unemployment results.”

Calvin Coolidge

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

VIRGILIO will turn 65 in April 2021, and he has stopped working since March 2020 when the restaurant, where he worked in Manhattan in New York City for the last four years, stopped its operation because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The former refrigerator repairman from Calatrava, Negros Occidental has been a recipient of the Department of Labor’s Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUI): $600 a week for four months (April-July 2020) from the federal government and around $400 from the New York state government (April 2020 until March 2021).

“Sarap ng buhay (life is enjoyable),” averred Virgilio, divorced from his first wife, Natty, 62, and is now married to a former school teacher from Pasig, Metro Manila in the Philippines, Yolly, 55.

He has no children from both women.

Virgilio said he doesn’t need to go back to work even if the pandemic will be gone because he can wait until his retirement in April 2021.

By that time, he isn’t anymore qualified to receive a PUI; the additional PUI ($300 a week until March 14) contained in the $2.3 trillion package that combines COVID-19 relief with government funding signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 27, will stop.

“Marami nga ang nagsasabi na ako na raw ang pinaka buenas sa lahat nang mga unemployed sa U.S. ngayon (Many people are saying of all the unemployed in the U.S. today, I’m the luckiest),” Virgilio beamed with a guffaw.

 

-o0o-

 

He wasn’t bothered, he said, when it was reported two days earlier that Mr. Trump didn’t immediately sign the bill passed in congress recently before the President went to Mar-a-Lago in Florida for a Christmas break “dahil may pondo panaman ako (because I still have extra money).” 

But Virgilio considered Mr. Trump’s backpedaling on the issue that kept unemployed Americans hanging as “saved by the bell.”

The President’s last-minute decision, coming after he caused days of legislative chaos by lacerating a bill his own aides had negotiated, will restore enhanced unemployment assistance that expired December 27 and avert a shutdown that would have begun December 29. 

The bill, the result of protracted negotiations between the parties and the Trump administration — which Trump largely sat out—includes a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package to extend the unemployment benefits: $114 to $357 weekly payments to unemployed gig workers and self-employed people whose businesses have stalled. 

The funds have been reportedly a lifeline for 7.3 million Americans out of work because of the coronavirus.

The package also extends the federal moratorium on evictions, which was set to expire December 31. 

Without the extension, millions of people reportedly faced immediate housing crises.

 

-o0o-

 

According to NBC News, the legislation also funds the federal government through September. 

Congress passed the bill with strong bipartisan support late December 21, but Trump upended the consensus by suddenly raising an objection to the size of a new round of direct payments, which came as news to his aides who had negotiated them with Congress.

He demanded that lawmakers raise the amount to $2,000 and criticized other elements, which he called "pork," in the mammoth spending package, including routine annual foreign aid payments. Trump reiterated his criticism Saturday, tweeting, "I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill."

The COVID-19 aid package includes additional assistance for small businesses and $600 in direct payments to Americans who earned less than $75,000 in the previous tax year.

The amount represented a compromise between Democrats, who wanted larger checks, and Republicans, many of whom opposed additional direct payments.

 

-o0o-

 

Last week, Mr. Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed both chambers of Congress with veto-proof majorities, in part because of his frustration over Section 230, a law that shields internet companies from liability for what is posted on their websites by them or third parties. 

The House was expected to act December 28 to override Trump's veto. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested many Republicans won't vote to override Mr. Trump's veto, despite having voted for the bill itself, so it's unclear as of this writing if the override attempt will be successful or if the veto will stand.

Trump also said in his December 27 statement that he would submit a request for Congress to cut specific spending items in the Covid relief and government funding package, a nod to his litany of complaints about foreign aid. 

Beyond freezing new spending on the specified items for a period of 45 days, that request will have no meaningful effect. 

Mr. Trump will be out of office before Congress could act on any of his requests.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 

Alex P. Vidal Quotes


 

Alex P. Vidal Quotes


 

A little chocolate won’t hurt us during Christmas

 

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Charles M. Schulz

 


By Alex P. Vidal

 

HEALTH authorities have confirmed that eating a square of dark chocolate here and there isn't necessarily bad for our health. 

When one square turns into an entire candy bar, however, then we might be eating too much chocolate.

Which means that too much chocolate-eating can still be dangerous to our health that it can cause diabetes and obesity.

Over-eating of chocolate can be tantamount to slow motion suicide, although it contains health benefits if we eat moderately.

Chocolate has been around for thousands of years. 

The ancient Mayans and Aztecs used chocolate as medicine and made chocolate offerings to their gods, according to Science News for Students, an online publication from the nonprofit Society for Science & the Public.

Perhaps ancient civilizations were on to something by using chocolate to heal. 

If we consume chocolate in moderation, we may be able to avoid any negative side effects of eating chocolate every day while enjoying some of its benefits, we were told.

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)

 

  

     

 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Only a mother will die for us

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”

William Makepeace Thackeray

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

WITH due respect to all fathers, I grew up believing that only mothers are willing to die—or will sacrifice their life—for their children.

There may have been cases where fathers died (or will die) for their children, but nothing can beat the heart and spirit of a mother when it comes to the love for her child. 

This hypothesis has been proven time after time—not only in the movies and literature; not only in history books, in the classical times, in mythology, in ancient folklore and antiquity, during war and peace, great depression, tragedy and calamity, and even during the pandemic. 

Mothers arguably love their children more than themselves.

Since time immemorial, mothers have always been the protagonists and witnesses of their children’s physical evolution and personality development.

In the sculpture commissioned by a French Cardinal living in Rome, there’s a popular subject among northern European artists. 

It’s the Pieta, which means Pity or Compassion, and represents Virgin Mary sorrowfully contemplating the dead body of Jesus, her son, which she holds on her lap. 

 

-o0o-

 

The mother’s extra-ordinary love for her children can even be manifested in the animals, including the domesticated dogs, ducks, pigs, chickens, birds, sheep, among other livestock and ruminant mammals.

They fight to death vis-a-vis the humans who will try to harm or take away one of their children. 

Their instinct is to protect their children even if they will all be slaughtered together. 


From life to death, mothers have this unique feeling not present in the fathers that giving life to a newborn is an act of faith in the future. 

A commitment that like another great truth, reflects the sublime sensation of being a mother.

We have heard of countless stories about mothers who took the bullets and samurai for their children literally and figuratively.

Hungry mothers who foraged and begged for food not for themselves, but for their starving children.

 

-o0o-

 

Of mothers who lost their minds trying to locate their lost children (Example: Sisa’s Crispin and Basilio in Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere”).

Mothers who got killed after grappling with mad dogs, snakes, and other wild animals to save their children from imminent death.

What happened in Paniqui, Tarlac in the Philippines on December 21 when an off-duty Paranaque cop Jonel Nuezca murdered a 52-year-old mother Sonya Gregorio and her drunken 25-year-old son, Frank Anthony, was another real life example of how a mother would react and go to the extent just to shield an embattled son.

Although mother and son reportedly died on the spot outside their house after being shot twice each at short range, Sonya, who was hit on the head, must have died ahead of her son.

Before the shooting, millions of people who have seen the controversial video taken by Sonya’s young grandchild and uploaded on Facebook, must have noticed how a mother wanted to protect Frank Anthony from the trigger-happy maniac.

Embracing him tightly, she never let go of her son, who was being accosted by the angry police officer in a quarrel over an improvised noise maker known locally as Boga, “till death do them part.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 

  

     

Monday, December 21, 2020

Facebook allows actual murder video

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

DID Facebook or FB, a very popular social networking service and website, sleep on its job?

The following are supposed to be “few of the things that aren't allowed on Facebook” according to its Community Standards:

1. Nudity or other sexually suggestive content.

2. Hate speech, credible threats or direct attacks on an individual or group.

3. Content that contains self-harm or excessive violence.

4. Fake or impostor profiles.

5. Spam.

The shooting to death of a 52-year-old mother and her 25-year-old son by a Paranaque cop in Tarlac on December 21 was captured by a video and was uploaded on Facebook hours after the incident.

The showing of a grisly scene, where an actual shooting occurred, was definitely excessive violence; yet, Facebook didn’t flag it down even if it went viral and was seen repeatedly all over the world. 

The social media platform sadly is tailor-made for such horrific and very disturbing scenes, thus there has been a strong demand for social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube to strictly regulate these videos because they always pop out from time to time when we least expect them.

 

-o0o-

 

Meanwhile, footages in the  TV news networks used the video taken by a female relative of the victims but didn’t play the actual killings in their report.

It’s because the TV networks that aired the macabre segment in the prime time news were aware of the Code of Ethics in broadcast journalism.

They would never show the graphic detail of the actual violence especially that there were minors involved in the crime (both the cop’s daughter and the woman victim’s grandchildren were minors and could suffer permanent emotional and psychological impairment).

The debate over media violence is still nowhere near coming to an end. According to the Medic Ethics in the Morning, some individuals strongly support the media’s right to the freedom of speech, and therefor their right to controversial material. 

Other’s think there should be some sort of limitation on the content for the sake of younger generations and it’s over all effect on society. 

It is impossible to avoid violence in the media no matter what medium you are using, and it will be interesting to see if the future leads to an increase in coverage of violent material or an increase in censorship.

 

-o0o-

 

The New York Times reported in 2013  that in 200 studies there was a moderate, positive relationship between watching television violence and physical aggression against another person. 

The article goes on to say, “The weight of the studies supports the position that exposure to media violence leads to aggression, desensitization toward violence and lack of sympathy for victims of violence, particularly in children.”

As of this writing, the controversial video wasn’t yet removed in the timelines of many Facebook users who “shared” it. 

“Our Community Standards apply to everyone, all around the world, and to all types of content,” Facebook’s Community Standard stated.

“They’re designed to be comprehensive – for example, content that might not be considered hateful may still be removed for violating a different policy.”

It added: “We recognize that words mean different things or affect people differently depending on their local community, language, or background.”

“We work hard to account for these nuances while also applying our policies consistently and fairly to people and their expression,” FB’s Community Standards explained further.” 

“Our enforcement of these standards relies on information available to us. In some cases, this means that we may not detect content and behavior that violates these standards, and in others, enforcement may be limited to circumstances where we have been provided with additional information and context.”

Facebook, please be guided accordingly.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Iloilo, et al should reject ‘direct vaccine purchase’

 

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Abraham Lincoln

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

ALTHOUGH the City and Province of Iloilo are not among the poorest in the Philippines, they should nevertheless reject the absurd suggestion made by the country’s newly appointed “vaccine czar”, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. for the local government units (LGUs) to purchase their own supply of coronavirus disease 2019 (COIVD-19) vaccines.

“I have raised it (with) the President but we are considering what he has been saying that it should not be that some barangays or towns might be left behind because they (cannot)afford to buy the vaccine. That’s what we’ll look into because we don’t want to (commit) injustice to those people who cannot buy it,” Galvez reportedly said in online briefing on December 19.

“What we will do is to balance it. We can allow it provided that the (instructions) of our President to prioritize the poor, the health workers, our service (employees) and front-liners could be complied with,” he added. 

It’s unbelievable that the country’s “vaccine czar” has thought of giving this colossal responsibility of scrambling for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines to the LGUs even as an international effort to acquire vaccines for low-and middle-income countries has been struggling to gain traction.

 

-o0o-

 

It’s good to empower the local leaders and take them to task for this historic transaction, but Galvez’s proposal is not only discriminatory, it is also impractical and downright scrappy.

Only rich cities like Puerto Princesa (which reportedly was prepared to spend some P100 million to but vaccines for its residents), Makati, Quezon, Manila can afford it—only if they will accept Galvez’s challenge.

It will discriminate against the country’s poorest provinces like Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Saranggani, Northern Samar, Maguindanao, Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Norte, Siquijor, Agusan del Sur, Eastern Samar, Lanao del Norte, Mt. Province, Western Samar, North Cotabato, Catanduanes, Leyte, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Sorsogon.

The procurement of vaccines for coronavirus and others diseases is the primary obligation of the Department of Health (DOH), not of LGUs.

But Galvez said, “Malacañang was considering whether to allow local government units (LGUs) to procure their own supply of COVID-19 vaccine.”

 

-o0o-

 

Secretary Galvez should leave the LGUs alone.

The local chief executives are already encumbered and fighting tooth and nail against hard-headed violators of social distancing and mask-wearing protocols in their areas. 

It may be too stressful and cumbersome for the governors, mayors, and village chiefs to be given this additional task reserved for our health department.

To avoid confusion, corruption and red tape, the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines should be centralized. 

The Palace must designate the DOH to handle the job. 

The health department can effectively distribute and manage the vaccinations by tapping all its regional offices and utilizing their manpower nationwide. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should be the one to deal with the vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

It was reported that wealthy countries have struck deals ahead of tiny Philippines to buy more than two billion doses of coronavirus vaccine in a scramble that could leave limited supplies in the coming year. 

 

-o0o-

 

Predications by most experts that the 2020 or early 2021 was the soonest vaccines could be approved and rolled out came true with the start of vaccinations in the United States right now after Pfizer and Moderna have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Both vaccines have undergone large-scale phase III clinical trials to assess their effectiveness and safety. 

Pre-orders were rolling in. 

The United States had secured 800 million doses of at least 6 vaccines in development, with an option to purchase around one billion more as early as August. 

The United Kingdom was the world’s highest per-capita buyer, with 340 million purchased: around 5 doses for each citizen. 

The European Union nations—which are buying vaccines as a group — and Japan have locked down hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for themselves.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 

 

 

 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Treñas didn’t do a Tom Cruise

“Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” Aristotle


By Alex P. Vidal

 

UNLIKE Hollywood actor Tom Cruise who erupted at crew members on the set of Mission: Impossible 7 over a breach of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) protocols, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas didn’t berate city officials who neglected the physical distancing rule during the distribution of financial aid at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on December 15.

Treñas actually couldn’t crack the whip on the erring city officials because he was also present when the supposed protocol violations happened.

Cruise’s outburst occurred in an apparent effort to prevent further disruptions to a film whose production has already been delayed by the pandemic.

“We are creating thousands of jobs,” Cruise, 58, the star of the film, can be heard saying in a leaked audio clip littered with expletives. “I don’t ever want to see it again! Ever! And if you don’t do it, you’re fired!”

Cruise, Thomas Cruise Mapother IV in real life, had been speaking to members of the Mission: Impossible 7 crew about a breach in COVID-19 protocols on the set in London.

 

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The actor, one of the highest-paid in the world, apparently became enraged after spotting two crew members standing together at a computer screen in violation of an on-set rule requiring people to stand about two meters apart, it was reported. 

Sources did not indicate when the recording of Cruise had been made. Reuters has reported that the film-makers for Mission: Impossible 7 the latest installment in the 24-year-old series – arrived in London this month.

Treñas reportedly admitted he was part of the city officials who may have violated the social distancing guidelines in the ceremony but insisted “it was unintentional.”

The violations were spotted after the photo was posted on Facebook showing Treñas and the aldermen disregarding the one-meter physical distancing measure.

The mayor reportedly claimed “they sometimes forgot” about the protocol but explained he has been consistently reminding the public about it. 

He agreed that physical distancing and other health protocols should always be properly observed “at all times” while there is a pandemic.

 

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Treñas and other city officials graced the distribution of financial assistance by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to 600 city residents.

He refused to call the event as mass gathering but vowed the incident won’t happen again.

If all of them were in the set of Cruise’ film, they would probably earn a mouthful of unprintable from the celebrated actor from Syracuse, New York.

The leaked audio was reportedly of Cruise addressing about 50 staff members at a Warner Bros film-production complex in Leavesden, north west of London. 

The actor wore a mask on the set and had been personally enforcing COVID-19 rules, an effort to prevent further delays in shooting, it was learned.

Cruise told the crew in the leaked clip that the production was the “gold standard” for Hollywood and that he had been speaking with studios, producers and insurance companies who were all “looking at us and using us to make their movies.” 

He said he would not accept any apologies for what had happened on the set, an apparent reference to the breach in COVID-19 protocol. “You can tell it to the people that are losing their homes because our industry is shut down,” Cruise said, adding an expletive. “It’s not going to put food on their table or pay for their college education.”

New York Times reported that the sixth film in the series, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, was released in 2018 and took in $791 million in global ticket sales. 

It was also filmed in Europe, among other places, and its production was delayed after Cruise reportedly broke his ankle while performing a stunt in which he slams into the side of a building.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)