Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ka Jory a champion of the hoi polloi

“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Alex P. Vidal 

NO matter what some enemies of Bayan Muna partylist will say bout Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia, history will always remember him as a patriot and a champion of the hoi polloi.
And whoever killed him Thursday (April 30) early morning near the beach in Barangay Santo Nino Norte, Arevalo district in Iloilo City, knew they didn’t silence Porquia’s advocacy for the people with his cold-blooded murder.
The 59-year-old Bayan Muna partylist coordinator and former chairman of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) in Iloilo, was reportedly fatally shot eight times at the time when he was active in the distribution of aid to the city’s urban poor communities.
JORY PORQUIA
We are not yet pointing an accusing finger to the uniformed authorities, but based on the chronology of events leading to Porquia’s assassination, the Philippine National Police (PNP), especially the Molo Police Station, should shed light on why a known personality in the progressive movement was slain in broad daylight when everyone was observing the enhanced social distancing guidelines in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Who would have the courage and boldness to carry guns and walk in a residential area with intent to murder an unarmed civilian amid the lockdown?
Porquia and other progressive organizations helping the urban poor amid the COVID-19 pandemic have been reportedly experiencing harassment from the PNP.
This was confirmed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) which condemned the “acts of surveillance and harassment perpetrated by the PNP” against the progressive organizations in Iloilo City in a statement dated April 16, 2020.
“Yesterday, April 15, police officers went to Brgy. San Juan, Molo and questioned the residents there about the source of food donations their community had received. Upon confirming that these came from Bayan Muna, the PNP discouraged the residents from consuming food brought by the said party-list and gave instructions not to allow outsiders into the barangay, even if only to give such donations,” read the NUPL statement.
“There are reports of similar instructions given by the PNP to at least two other barangays also in Molo district. Later that same day, members of Tulong Kabataan – a volunteer network of various youth groups, including Kabataan Party-list – were subjected to surveillance by PNP personnel as they were handing out food to the residents of Brgy. San Juan.”

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Added the NUPL statement: “These incidents are alarming to say the least, although not entirely unprecedented. Bayan Muna, Kabataan Party-list, and other progressive organizations are no longer strangers to surveillance, harassment, and red-baiting from security forces. But in the context of a pandemic and the resulting hardships faced by the marginalized ‘sectors of society, the PNP’s actions were downright deplorable.
Even as numerous NGOs and private individuals respond to the call of Mayor Jerry Treñas to help address the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, the PNP here – rather than supporting the private sector’s efforts to deliver aid to those in need – seems more interested and preoccupied with monitoring activists and dissuading people from accepting their help.
“The PNP’s actions in Iloilo City, taken together with numerous reports of abuse committed by its personnel as they enforce community lockdowns in various parts of the country – from beating and threatening to shoot people leaving their homes in Quiapo, Manila, to arresting vegetable vendors and residents of Quezon City who were merely protesting the lack of government aid – and yesterday’s ludicrous display of its crowd-dispersal capabilities in Cebu City, all show a distorted understanding of its role during a public health emergency.”

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It added: “Instead of assisting and acting with sympathy towards a population beset by privation and uncertainty, the PNP apparently sees itself as little more than a blunt tool used for hammering down obedience, inflicting punishment for perceived infractions and imagined threats, and muzzling criticism no matter how legitimate and warranted.
“In case the PNP has forgotten, there is nothing illegal about giving food to the hungry. It is both a civic and a moral duty made imperative not least by the government’s own inadequacies in handling this emergency. In fact, the production and delivery of food and other basic necessities are activities that should not be hampered even during quarantine. Yet, in this city, as far as the police are concerned, the prompt and easy distribution of aid appears to have taken a backseat to political persecution.
“The PNP should immediately cease the surveillance and harassment of civil society groups and private individuals providing assistance to poor communities. The PNP should not make it any harder for these communities to get help. Most importantly, the PNP should realize that the authority it wields during this or any other emergency is always limited, first and foremost, by the law and, ultimately, by the people’s interests.”
The government should leave no stone unturned to identify Porquia’s killers and give him justice. The culture of impunity has smeared the country’s image, and unless the culprits are brought behind bars, the Philippines’ human rights records will continue to suffer a major decline in the international community. 
Porquia’s murder will only embolden those who are involved in the feeding program for the urban poor and those actively involved in the pursuit for genuine social welfare and justice for the Filipino people and to continue the veteran activist’s legacy.
Justice for Ka Jory!     
 (The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I was offered a coronavirus antibody test

“If the world after coronavirus is not going to be a much more greener, much more environmentally friendly and much more vegetarian world, human beings will deserve a much worse virus than coronavirus!” 
Mehmet Murat Ildan

By Alex P. Vidal

A FILIPINO-American friend who works in a health clinic in Manhattan informed me on April 27 the coronavirus antibody test is now available in New York City and she wanted me to avail of it soon.
The friend, who did not want to be identified, asked if I had an insurance so she could help facilitate the test for me. She also asked if I had a primary doctor.
I told her yes I have an insurance, but didn’t answer whether I had a primary doctor.  
“I’ll ask a doctor,” she volunteered. “I will ask a favor for you and I will let you know soon.”


We learned this week that antibody tests that show whether someone has recovered from the COVID-19 were being rolled out to primary care offices and urgent cares across the city. 
Governor Andrew Cuomo bragged that as “a major key to restarting the economy,” the tests can tell the patients whether their immune system has fought off the bug, even if they never had symptoms. 
Dozens of primary care offices across New York City’s five boroughs and Long Island that are offering the test for patients who think they may have been exposed, or had a mild case of the bug, but were never able to get tested, had been discovered.
The Vox reported that the tests don’t give as much information as one might think. For one thing, it reportedly does not measure the quality of the antibodies. 
For another, it indicates exposure to a coronavirus, but it might be another one in the same family. Coronaviruses also cause the common cold.

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Four other coronaviruses circulate in people throughout the world, according to Stat News, causing about 25 percent of all common colds. Given that almost everyone carries antibodies to some combination of these, Stat News said “serological tests for SARS-CoV-2 would need to be able to differentiate among them.” 
Even if a person tests positive and is determined to have been infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, there is no firm evidence that exposure guarantees immunity, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week.
“No study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans,” the WHO said in a statement on Friday.
According to a report by the Post, CityMD, an urgent care chain with over 100 locations in New York and New Jersey, sent an email out to patients late April 27 announcing they have the antibody test available starting April 28.
New Yorkers seeking to get tested for the coronavirus had to either be a first responder, health care worker or languishing in a hospital bed to receive the coveted test while the antibody exam hadn’t even been developed yet, just several weeks ago. 
LabCorp announced last week their own antibody test will now be available at nearly 2,000 testing locations, accessible with a doctor’s note, and tens of thousands of doctor’s offices nationwide, including in New York. 
The Post reported that the testing giant currently has the capacity to perform more than 50,000 of the tests each day and hopes to increase that capacity to 200,000 per day by mid-May.
Experts previously told the Post that when people fight off viruses, they develop antibodies that make them immune to the bug, at least for a short period of time.

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COVID-19 survivors can expect “some level of protection” after recovering from the virus but more research needs to be done before they can know how long that immunity lasts, how strong it is and if everyone develops it the same way, the World Health Organization announced last week.
It was learned that hospitals across the Big Apple have been offering antibody testing for about a month through their plasma donation programs, but had strict requirements. 
Many had to prove they were positive by showing a doctor or lab note and many had to be re-tested and show they were negative before they could get the test.
Those requirements are now reportedly being relaxed at urgent cares and primary care offices.  
Read the CityMD email: “Please be aware there is substantial evidence that people may have been infected without ever being symptomatic.Depending on the timing of the infection, the blood test will also detect the IgG antibodies in this population. Patients who believe they were exposed and want to be tested should discuss their situation with a CityMD provider.” 
The email advised symptomatic patients, but not sick enough to be tested for the coronavirus, to wait 2-4 weeks after the symptoms end to get tested because it takes some time for the antibodies to show up in the blood. 
They said the test is “nearly 100% accurate” when done more than 14 days after symptoms end. The e-mail said Patients can expect results within 3-5 days. 
It cautioned that the test does not prove immunity and urged patients to “continue to practice an abundance of caution with distancing and self protection” until further testing is done to prove the antibodies bring long-lasting immunity with them.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Monday, April 27, 2020

One million and still counting?

“I'm tired of being behind this virus. We've been behind this virus from day one. We underestimated this virus. It's more powerful, it's more dangerous than we expected.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo

By Alex P. Vidal

UNBELIEVABLE but in the country where I currently live, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has shockingly breached the one million mark.
I’m referring to the mighty United States of America, the land of milk and honey and the most powerful country in the world militarily and economically.
There were now 1,000,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 56,521 deaths in the United States. Worldwide we have 3,000,004 confirmed cases and 211,000 deaths as of April 28.
According to the John Hopkins University, 29,590 of the deaths in the U.S. were from the state of New York (12,287 in New York City and 17,303 in the New York upstate).
Like the Philippines, our lockdown here has also been extended until May 15 although some state governors, especially in areas with not-so-alarming number of cases and death, have been planning to “reopen” before schedule. 
I was stunned when I saw the statistics of the growing number of cases and deaths because, like most Americans today, we are also itching to go back to the “real world” after nearly two months of being out of work and strictly observing the stay-at-home guidelines.
  
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But there seems to be some consolation despite the sudden rise of the statistics on confirmed cases and death nearly two months since the United States started to panic and imposed a lockdown nationwide. 
The number of new cases in the state of New York reportedly seemed to have reached a plateau.
“I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
With many of its thoroughfares quiet and subdued, the Big Apple now continue to look nothing like its former loud bustling self.
Ridership in poorer neighborhoods, where many must continue commuting to work (especially the “essential” workers), has not changed as dramatically while subway use has plunged.
According to the New York Times, the city’s low-income neighborhoods have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and many of the areas with the highest percentage of confirmed virus cases have the lowest median income, based on data from the first month of the outbreak.
Preliminary data on New York City’s fatalities, meanwhile, shows that the outbreak has killed black and Latino people at twice the rate that it killed white people.

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Meanwhile, experts’ understanding of how the virus spreads is still limited, but there are reportedly four factors that most likely play a role: how close we get; how long we are near the person; whether that person projects viral droplets on us; and how much we touch your faces.
If our community is affected, we can help reduce our risk and do our part to protect others by following some basic steps:
—Wash our hands. Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and then dry them with a clean towel or let them air dry.
—Keep distance from sick people. Try to stay six feet away from anybody showing flu- or cold-like symptoms, and don’t go to work if we’re sick.
—Prepare our family, and communicate our plan about evacuations, resources and supplies. Experts suggest stocking at least a 30-day supply of any needed prescriptions. Consider doing the same for food staples, laundry detergent and diapers, if we have small children.
 (The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)



Sunday, April 26, 2020

We don’t bite COVID-19 conspiracy theories

“There is so much misinformation out there. If you give people even a little bit, it gets blown out of proportion then you have to go put out fires. So it's much easier to say, 'No comment.'”
Oren Peli

By Alex P. Vidal

WE’RE glad that most Ilonggos have ignored the saber-rattling of those who cling to a flood of conspiracy theories, innuendos and disinformation about the causes and origins of COVID-19.
If they didn’t and thus allowed themselves to be duped by these absurd theories, Ilonggos would be marching in the streets and protesting the extended enhanced social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines like what some angry Americans are doing today. 
There would have been a torrent of public defiance and acts of recalcitrance. 
But since the Ilonggos are among the most educated people on earth, they know what’s going on; they understand why they needed to be prevented from going so work and from opening their shops while the situation remains unpredictable in as far as infection of coronavirus is concerned.
They believe COVID-19 is a pandemic that needs to be addressed thoroughly and seriously, and a total cooperation from the public is essential and necessary so we can all go back to our normal lives in a soonest possible time after May 15.  
This growing ecosystem of misinformation and public distrust marshaled by believers of conspiracy theory mostly in the social media has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn of an “infodemic.”

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Meanwhile, it appears that people in the city and province of Iloilo are satisfied with the way their public officials, led by Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr., handle the crisis in the local level save for some miscues and missteps that normally occur when a society is under siege by a gigantic problem.
Except for those who violated the lockdown and abused the stimulus money distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through their punong barangay, Ilonggos have, so far, manifested a strict compliance of the rule of law and respect to their authorities while the world is trying its darn best to contain the deadliest virus to ever hit the human race in 100 years.    
Even the Filipinos in general have refused to be taken for a ride by these confusing conspiracy theories that have eroded public trust and undermined health officials in manner that could broaden and even outlast the pandemic.

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While some Filipinos are whining and cajoling their government to lift the curfew or the extended lockdown so they can go back to work soon, they don’t deny that the coronavirus is a pandemic no one had wanted to happen.
They dismiss the lies and unfounded imputations of conspiracy theories that the virus is a Chinese bioweapon, a partisan invention or part of a plot to re-engineer the population.
However dark, each claim seems to give a senseless tragedy some degree of meaning. Unlike what is happening in some parts of the United States today.
Karen M. Douglas, a social psychologist who studies belief in conspiracies at the University of Kent in Britain, in a report by Max Fisher, said the current issue on COVID-19 “has all the ingredients for leading people to conspiracy theories.”
Rumors and patently unbelievable claims are spread by everyday people whose critical faculties have simply been overwhelmed, psychologists say, by feelings of confusion and helplessness.

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“But many false claims are also being promoted by governments looking to hide their failures, partisan actors seeking political benefit, run-of-the-mill scammers and, in the United States, a president who has pushed unproven cures and blame-deflecting falsehoods,” wrote Fisher.
“The conspiracy theories all carry a common message: The only protection comes from possessing the secret truths that ‘they’ don’t want you to hear. The feelings of security and control offered by such rumors may be illusory, but the damage to the public trust is all too real.”
“We’ve faced pandemics before,” said Graham Brookie, who directs the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “We haven’t faced a pandemic at a time when humans are as connected and have as much access to information as they do now.”    
Fisher pointed out that “the feelings of security and control offered by such rumors may be illusory, but the damage to the public trust is all too real.”
It has led people to consume fatal home remedies and flout social distancing guidance. 
And it is disrupting the sweeping collective actions, like staying at home or wearing masks, needed to contain a virus that has already killed thousands of people.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Saturday, April 25, 2020

How did some Pinoy ‘TNTs’ in NYC survive coronavirus

“Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has been maintaining a sense of humor.”
Stephen Hawking

By Alex P. Vidal

ONE of the sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants is New York City, currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic as the “epicenter” in the United States.
Sanctuary cities are the favorite destinations of undocumented and overstaying aliens because they don’t strictly enforce the immigration laws, thus these cities are always overpopulated. 
Of the 53,928 dead in the U.S., 28,745 were from the New York State, as of April 25, according to the John Hopkins University.
Of the total 900,056 confirmed cases in the U.S., 437,000 were from New York State; 18,018 have recovered.
Most of those killed were Hispanics, followed by the blacks, followed by the whites, and the Asians.
For lack of available statistics (no available records from the Philippine Consulate as of this writing), the number of Filipino casualties wasn’t immediately determined.
The Hispanics dominate the densely populated Queens communities of Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst, and Elmhurst, touted as the “epicenter of epicenter” in New York City.
Based on 2014 census, the New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area was home to 262,375 Filipino Americans, 221,612 (84.5%) of them uniracial Filipinos.
A large percentage of the population is the so-called TNT or tago ng tago, the byword for Filipinos who have overstayed their temporary visa.  

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How were they doing during the coronavirus savagery?
Cesar, of Catanduanes, said he immediately “stayed at home” when President Trump ordered an enhanced social distancing second week of March.
“Until now, I’m still here stranded in my apartment,” sighed Cesarion who lives adjacent the Elmhurst Park, or 200 meters away from the Elmhurst Hospital Clinic, where a big number of casualties for COVID-19 was recorded in March.
With no insurance and earning on “under the table” scheme, Cesarion said he made sure all family members were safe from COVID-19 by religiously observing the lockdown guidelines. 
Cesarion used to earn some $1,200 a week as a bodega stocker in Manhattan and feared he “might start all over again” if the bodega will no longer operate even after the lockdown.
Cesarion, 56, his wife and their three children toured the U.S. eight years ago and didn’t anymore return to the Philippines. 
Gilberto, 42, who overstayed his visitor visa in 2014, connected with his fellow TNTs in the community immediately when the lockdown order came.
“We realized if the lockdown would extend, we risk losing our jobs (in the restaurants and laundry shops) because these jobs are non-essentials,” confessed Gilberto, a former pastor in Sipalay, Negros Occidental and works as chef in a Punjabi restaurant on Queens Boulevard. “We needed to unite and constantly get in touch with each other.”

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Gilberto and 38 other fellow Pinoys, all TNTs, shared food supplies, including beer and lutong bahay pulutan (home-made viands) since March. “We didn’t violate the lockdown and stay-at-home guidelines. We cooked and brought the foods one by one to our kababayans in their respective apartments.”
Marlene, 38, of Pampanga, who overstayed her tourist visa two years ago, said she and her lady roommate, also a TNT, stocked essential food items like rice, biscuits, canned goods, noodles, water, juice, fruits before the lockdown in March.
“We had a difficult situation because my roommate had been exposed to a person positive of coronavirus; we had to observe the lockdown under a quarantine together,” bemoaned Marlene, an auditor in Lubao. “We relied on the prayers of our friends and relatives in the Philippines.”
Jeric, 46, a dish washer in an Indonesia restaurant, said he maintained a total of four vitamins: ascorbic acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and fish oil “because I don’t want my family (in Marbel, South Cotabato) to lose a bread winner to coronavirus.”
“If I get infected and my body will be burned, even my ashes can’t go home to Cotabato,” Jeric said in jest.
Jeric, who has been a TNT for five years, said he “killed” his time by singing and watching movies in the Youtube inside his room.
Hernan, 40, cashier in a laundry shop in southern Brooklyn, said: “I always have in mind that we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and we can’t afford to get sick because we have no (valid immigration) papers and our families in the Philippines will surely worry if they learn that we have been infected with coronavirus.”
Hernan, single and a TNT for nine years, stayed in his apartment in Woodside together with a fellow LGBT since March after the laundry shop where he works decided to close temporarily.
Hernan’s mom in Malate, Manila sent him money for his rent and food allowance “good for three months,” he said.    
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Psychic secretion

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 
— VIKTOR E. FRANKL

By Alex P. Vidal

THE name Pavlov may make us want to cry “dogs!” 
We would call this a Pavlovian response, but that would be oversimplifying the point made by the phrase’s namesake, the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), stressed Dr. Michael Macrone in Eureka!
Chiefly to blame is the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which in coining “Pavlovian response” in 1974 (phrases such as “Pavlovian conditioning” and “Pavlovian system” are older), used it merely as the equivalent of “predictable reaction.”

Macrone said Pavlov himself was actually more interested in unexpected or counter-instinctive behavior than in the predictable. 
He first made his mark–and won a Nobel Prize in 1994–with some glamourless but crucial work on the secretion of gastric juices.
Pavlov discovered that while, predictably, the pancreas goes to work whenever we start chowing down a hamburger, it can also be set off just by thinking about a hamburger, or even by seeing a plastic model. He identified these curious latter instances as cases of “psychic secretion,” laying the groundwork for his more famous later theories.

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In a series of experiments that would appall contemporary animal-rights activists, Pavlov rigged up a few dogs to measure their secretion of saliva in response to various stimuli. 
Predictably enough (as per Pavlov’s earlier research), the sight of raw burger set their mouths a-water, confirmed Macrone.
Pavlov then discovered that the dogs could also be made to salivate in response to any arbitrary stimulus–say a sound or a kick–that they came to associate with the imminent introduction of dog chow. 
He called such arbitrary stimuli “conditioned” and the dogs’ reaction a “conditioned reflex”–that is, artificially induced by training or habit. (The term first appeared in English in 1906 in the journal Nature, according to Macrone)
Not knowing when to leave well enough alone, Pavlov went on to extrapolate from these and other, more complicated observations a sort of grand psychological theory, attempting to explain almost all behavior, normal and deviant, in terms of acquired reflexes and their various interactions.

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After a brief vogue in the West, Macrone explained further, many of Pavlov’s more grandiose claims were tossed overboard, but they were warmly embraced by the Soviets. 
Though not a Marxist himself, Pavlov’s theories were virtually tailor-made to suit the Marxist view that human behavior arises out of the material conditions and patterns of life.
“If people are habituated to servitude by oppression, they can be molded anew once liberate,” wrote Macrone.
“In other words, the Soviets system could condition a Soviet citizen. The results of this theory can be found in your newspaper.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)



Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Mayor who knows how to accept error

“Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed.”
Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

By Alex P. Vidal

A good leader knows how to acknowledge a mistake and is not ashamed to admit it.
His finest moment is also defined by how he corrects his error and how he is able to reverse the fiasco without showing any morsel of arrogance to camouflage the slip-up. 
“Sometimes we make correct decisions, sometimes we make wrong decisions,” Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas admitted, referring to his recent unpopular decision April 21 to lift the ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Iloilo City through an executive order despite the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Apparently acknowledging that “the buck stops here” (popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman), the city mayor, realizing his “mistake”, issued a new EO "reimposing the express prohibition on the sale and consumption of liquor within the city” the next day.
The EO No. 066-A stated: "Effective immediately, the sale and consumption of any form of liquor, alcoholic beverages, or any alcoholic drink containing specific percentage of alcohol by volume or weight, which may be in the form of whisky, brandy, gin, rum, cordial, liquor, cocktail, wine, champagne, vermouth, basi, tuba, saki, ale, stout, and the like shall be absolutely prohibited, unless expressly lifted. Establishments, convenience stores, groceries, sari-sari stores, and other similar businesses who shall violate the prohibition on the sale of liquor, whether directly or indirectly, shall entitle the city government to mete out the appropriate penalties provided under the Iloilo City Tax Code."
Treñas later told reporters: "Abi ko didto malang sila sa ila sulod balay mainom-inom para mapabilin nga malinong kag matawhay ang syudad, pero I got a report nga kadamo sang insidente natabo. I found it very necessary nga ibalik naton ang ban. I am tasking our punong baragays and the BPLO (Business Permits and Licensing Office) to strictly implement this.”
If he was oozing with pride or intoxicated with arrogance, Treñas would just ignore the backlash of his ill-fated decision to lift the liquor ban.
It showed that the city mayor gamely welcomed the criticism from the media and other sectors that cried foul and lambasted the lifting order.

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Mao Zedong also realized his mistake in his disastrous attempt of the
“The Great Leap Forward” in 1958 bto rapidly industrialize China.
The communist leader banned all private holdings and created communes where peasants who no longer owned their own land would live together in a field and would be forced to work steel instead of farming. 
As Mao tried to improve farming through a number of misguided techniques set forth by Trofim Lysenko, each farm would be given a steel furnace and often every peasant in the commune was forced to work long hours. 
The techniques decreased grain production but local leaders were under so much pressure that they actually falsely reported large increases in grain production in order to please their superiors. Unfortunately, these numbers were used to determine how much grain was sent to the capital to be used for export, the false numbers meant little if any grain was left to feed the peasants.

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These and other polices of the Great Leap Forward are believed to be responsible for the Chinese Famine which resulted in the deaths of millions of Chinese. And 30 to 40 percent of all houses were also destroyed as part of the Great Leap Forward as the materials were needed for their efforts to industrialize. 
Even as Mao knew his people were starving, he continued to export grain in order to save face and some even claim he knew millions would die through his program but he thought it was a worthwhile sacrifice. The economy also failed as the period of the Great Leap (1958 – 1961) was the only time between 1953 and 1973 that the economy regressed. Officials who had lied about harvests were publicly executed and Mao took a backseat to government affairs for several years.  Liu Shaoqi said in 1962 that 30 percent of the economic crisis and famine was the result of nature and 70 percent human error.
President John F. Kennedy also realized he was wrong when he pushed with the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba on April 15, 1961, where a squadron of eight B-26 bombers piloted by Cuban exiles roared down a Nicaraguan airstrip on a secret mission. 
Kennedy and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hoped the Bay of Pigs Invasion would result in the overthrow of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. 
But the operation that unfolded over the next five days became one of the greatest military fiascoes in American history.
Like Mao and Kennedy, Treñas accepted he erred like a sportsman who lost a game and won his succeeding matches.
At the end of the day, it’s the winning of the matches that the people will remember, not the lone defeat which was immediately “avenged” or redeemed.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Monday, April 20, 2020

Is it safe to eat these veggies now?

“I rely on a lot of green drinks to get my vegetables.”
Tim Tebow

By Alex P. Vidal

THIS week, I plan to spend some of the little dollars I saved while observing the lockdown guidelines to buy more vegetables.
There are vegetables in a grocery store, one of the only two located a few meters away from where I live, that is open since the lockdown began in March, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hesitated to buy some when I had the rare opportunity to shop for my food supply two weeks ago.
Some of these vegetables were: garden asparagus, cabbage, carrot, celery, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, onion, radish, sprouting broccoli, tomato, potato, okra (my favorite), watercress (I mix this in the noodles), taro, mung bean sprout, celtuce, and eggplant.  
The veggies displayed in that grocery store looked fresh but customers had access to touch them even if they wouldn’t buy these veggies.
There were fears that coronavirus could also contaminate the products being sold in the grocery stores like canned goods, fruits, bread, sugar, cooking oil, noodles, and all packed items.
This explains why only five to seven people are allowed to enter the grocery stores here in New York today in order to properly observe the enhanced social distancing guidelines.

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If canned and packed products could be exposed to coronavirus inside the grocery stores, what are the chances that the veggies and fruits won’t be contaminated? Nil.
Along with ascorbic acid and zinc, vegetables should have been the aforementioned vitamins’ perfect partners to strengthen our immune system and ward off the deadly virus that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world as of April 21.  
But a lot of nutrition experts have agreed that fending off a virus is a lot more complicated than simply eating extra fruits and vegetables for the antioxidants or special types of yogurt for its helpful bacteria, or probiotics. 
There’s no single food—or even group of foods—that can be counted on to keep us well, according to an article in fruitsandveggies.org.
Our immune system is believed to be a very complex relationship of various functions within the body. 
If the system is deficient, we know that we’re susceptible to infection. 
It’s important to eat a variety of foods for our body to function at its best, as outlined in MyPlate.gov, to give our body all the various vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that it needs.
That said, of all foods unlike the Filipinos, Americans fall short most regularly in their fruit and vegetable consumption, which could have a compromising effect on the immune system.
“In any case, good hygiene is far more important to fend off viruses than eating certain foods. You can’t drink a glass of orange juice in the morning and then decide that you don’t have to wash your hands today,” explained the fruitsandveggies.org. 

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It added: “Physicians and registered dietitians agree that the familiar prescription of a well-rounded, healthful diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can provide the central nutrients your body, including your immune system, needs to stay healthy. You need to have a healthy diet in general to have a generally healthy immune system. “Some nutrients are known to play a role in immune system health, including the antioxidants Vitamin E and Vitamin C, the minerals selenium and zinc, Vitamin D, and fish oils containing omega-3 fatty acids. But that doesn’t mean that eating more than the recommended amount will necessarily boost your immune system.
“And even eating your recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day won’t guarantee that you won’t be sneezing this winter, but it will give your body’s defenses the nutrition they need to do their job of preventing you from getting sick.”
Food remains just part of the equation. Even without the coronavirus, getting the seasonal flu and flu vaccines, eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, washing our hands frequently, and getting enough sleep each night are all key to keeping our body’s immune defenses at their best.

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Fruits and vegetables can be dangerous according to a story published in Mail Online which warned that: “Getting your five a day is responsible for half of all food poisoning cases.”
The story came from a decade-long study of the sources of foodborne illnesses in the US. 
It estimates that nearly half of all foodborne illnesses were caused by fruit, nuts and vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables. Meat and poultry accounted for around one in five cases.  
The study highlighted the important fact that any foodstuff, if it is improperly prepared or stored, can cause food poisoning.
The germs responsible for these illnesses attributed to leafy vegetables commonly include E. coli and the winter vomiting bug, norovirus (not to be mistaken for coronavirus), said the report. 
These highly contagious germs reportedly are often spread “hand-to-mouth” (usually through not washing hands properly after going to the toilet).
These results, however, did not mean that fruits and vegetables were bad for us, only that it is crucial to have high standards of personal and food hygiene.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Don’t assume brgy officials are crooks

“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal

MANY Filipinos have complained they weren’t given their fair share in the distribution of relief goods and cash incentives from the national government for the extended COVID-19 lockdown.
Some of them harangued their public officials and went to the social media to “seek redress for their grievances” and, in some cases, directly unloaded their heartaches in the mass media. 
Either they were “identified” as supporters of the opposition, or were “intentionally” disqualified for being hostile to the barangay officials, said most of their complaints.
There may have been cases where vindictive barangay officials took advantage of the situation and really ignored those they didn’t like, or their perceived nemesis—political and otherwise—in the barangay. 
The complainants have valid reasons to really protest the discrimination of selective barangay officials; the erring parties must be dealt with accordingly by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
No resident in any barangay should be denied a social assistance from the government in these uncertain and financially chaotic times for being a roughneck. 

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Politics and personal wrangling have no place in this agonizing period where everyone’s life is threatened by a deadly virus that has caused tremendous inconvenience to all sectors in society. 
Political, business and personal feuds should be set aside while stomachs are empty and all residents, prevented from going to work and opening their stores in compliance with the enhanced social distancing since March, face grim economic doldrums.
Humanity must prevail over grudges, hard feelings, and past and present intramural.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:21: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Romans 13:1: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God."
Barangay officials who can’t control their emotions and with ax to grind against some residents shouldn’t be allowed to manage or participate in the distribution of cash and relief assistance. 
In times of crisis, it is imperative that the leaders possess some semblance of humility and must act with grace and valor when administering solace to the downtrodden.  

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On the other hand, residents should be reasonable and logical when dealing with their barangay officials regarding the largesse and food subsidies from the DILG and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).  
It’s natural to become emotional nowadays especially if they can’t immediately receive what is due them, but they should treat their barangay officials with respect and consolation and avoid engaging the barangay officials in any verbal joust, if possible, when expectations and demands aren’t swiftly delivered and satisfied.
It also helps if the residents befriend their barangay officials and engage them in casual conversations instead of verbally abusing them and calling them names.
The residents should be the last people to accuse their barangay officials of being crooks especially if their accusation and suspicion aren’t supported by solid facts and evidence.
If there are issues and misunderstanding to settle with their barangay officials related to the social and financial assistance, the residents should address the matters in a manner that isn’t offensive to the concerned parties.
Because some of them are impatient and furious, residents who don’t like the way their barangay officials handle the distribution system immediately humiliate and harass their barangay officials in the social media.
We don’t bully Santa Claus or his representatives.
An intra-barangay matter can’t be solved with dispatch and alacrity if somebody with a big responsibility in the furor has been ridiculed and embarrassed in the Facebook and Twitter.
It is still best if we face the crisis in unity and harmony, not enmity.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)