Archive for the ‘911’ Category

The Coming Crisis of 2009: Some Thoughts (Part 1)

January 2, 2009


I do not know if my title is passe, that is, should it be termed as the crisis of 2008? Anyway, what the Philippines is experiencing so far is an economic downturn. There is no full crisis yet. But like the rest of the world Filipinos are worried about the spill-over effect of the US crisis.

Will there be a full-blown crisis? I don’t know either. Nobody has a perfect crystal ball on this crisis. One thing, there is no denial complex like in the other crises so looking for solutions came earlier. And the host country of the crisis can possibly marshall up to a trillion dollars of intervention fund to soften the blow. And the world, tickled properly, will probably respond to multilateral efforts in order to stave off a greater conflagration.

How do the Philippines stand in this crisis? Firstly, electronics parts imports have dived indicating that this sector of the economy won’t be a good performer this year. But that sector is no longer the country’s biggest sector. The biggest is now the OFW market and this sector is not dependent directly or indirectly in the US since it caters mainly to the Middle East and this region doesn’t produce a lot of goods and services for the US and other highly-industrialized countries (HICs).

A major sector, the natural-resources extraction sector including metals is primarily China-driven now. Will this suffer? Actually it will depend on how China handles this crisis since their number one market is the US. But being the cost and price leader worldwide they still have plenty of option regions. But of course these regions economic size and purchasing power cannot match the US’.

Our agri-business sector can probably ride out the storm since more and more it is not dependent on the US market. Instead it relies more on Japan and increasingly the Korea, China, Hongkong and other markets are being developed.

Meanwhile, our traditional agriculture market, though still big had become more of a non-factor in the last few years. Our coconut, abaca, tobacco markets is no longer that important while we are importers in our other agriculture needs like cereals.

An emerging BPO sector, which include call centers probably ranks second in importance now. This sector is putting up a brave face but its primary market is the US. Will enough US firms cut cost and outsource abroad so that previous demand cuts here will be negated? I cannot speculate on this since this is a US response area.

I point all of this out since I do not want to say that this impending crisis will just be a replay of the 2001 crisis spawned by the 9/11 NYTC attack. The world changes fast and underlying dynamics do change.

[photo credit:bigapple212]

The Coming Crisis of 2009: Some Thoughts (Part 1)

January 2, 2009


I do not know if my title is passe, that is, should it be termed as the crisis of 2008? Anyway, what the Philippines is experiencing so far is an economic downturn. There is no full crisis yet. But like the rest of the world Filipinos are worried about the spill-over effect of the US crisis.

Will there be a full-blown crisis? I don’t know either. Nobody has a perfect crystal ball on this crisis. One thing, there is no denial complex like in the other crises so looking for solutions came earlier. And the host country of the crisis can possibly marshall up to a trillion dollars of intervention fund to soften the blow. And the world, tickled properly, will probably respond to multilateral efforts in order to stave off a greater conflagration.

How do the Philippines stand in this crisis? Firstly, electronics parts imports have dived indicating that this sector of the economy won’t be a good performer this year. But that sector is no longer the country’s biggest sector. The biggest is now the OFW market and this sector is not dependent directly or indirectly in the US since it caters mainly to the Middle East and this region doesn’t produce a lot of goods and services for the US and other highly-industrialized countries (HICs).

A major sector, the natural-resources extraction sector including metals is primarily China-driven now. Will this suffer? Actually it will depend on how China handles this crisis since their number one market is the US. But being the cost and price leader worldwide they still have plenty of option regions. But of course these regions economic size and purchasing power cannot match the US’.

Our agri-business sector can probably ride out the storm since more and more it is not dependent on the US market. Instead it relies more on Japan and increasingly the Korea, China, Hongkong and other markets are being developed.

Meanwhile, our traditional agriculture market, though still big had become more of a non-factor in the last few years. Our coconut, abaca, tobacco markets is no longer that important while we are importers in our other agriculture needs like cereals.

An emerging BPO sector, which include call centers probably ranks second in importance now. This sector is putting up a brave face but its primary market is the US. Will enough US firms cut cost and outsource abroad so that previous demand cuts here will be negated? I cannot speculate on this since this is a US response area.

I point all of this out since I do not want to say that this impending crisis will just be a replay of the 2001 crisis spawned by the 9/11 NYTC attack. The world changes fast and underlying dynamics do change.

[photo credit:bigapple212]

India’s 911 & the reminder of the ugly nature of terrorism

November 30, 2008


Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair.”—Pope Benedict XVI

The gruesome killing spree by militant Islamic radicals in the financial district of India on November 27, 2008 brought a toll of at least 195 dead and more than 300 injured. Many lives were lost senselessly; many homes were broken. After a 60-hour bloody rampage, one could ask if these terrorists could be expected to follow the standards of Western justice and fair play.

Suspected to be Muslim extremists from neighboring Pakistan, the brutal killers left 22 foreigners and 15 Indian security officers among the dead. Their barbarity is their hallmark; their cruelty is incomprehensible.

“Terrorism is carried out purposefully, in a cold-blooded, calculated fashion. The declared goals of the terrorist may change from place to place. He supposedly fights to remedy wrongs — social, religious, national, racial. But for all these problems his only solution is the demolition of the whole structure of society. No partial solution, not even the total redressing of the grievance he complains of, will satisfy him — until our social system is destroyed or delivered into his hands.

“When I say that terrorism is war against civilization, I may be met by the objection that terrorists are often idealists pursuing worthy ultimate aims — national or regional independence, and so forth. I do not accept this argument. I cannot agree that a terrorist can ever be an idealist, or that the objects sought can ever justify terrorism. The impact of terrorism, not merely on individual nations, but on humanity as a whole, is intrinsically evil, necessarily evil and w holly evil.”—Benjamin Netanyahu

The question about justice and fair play of terrorists is more significant as Pres. George W. Bush, the leader of the war on terror leaves office. In spite of his gains with America’s allies, many people forget his credit of foiling of reckless radicals who want to bomb US cities as they did with India. Demonized in a greater scale than his shortcomings, Bush still reminds the world of complacency, the evil of terrorism, and the costly war required in stopping it.

“Never give in. Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” —Sir Winston Churchill

Terrorists are determined to strike in a date, time and place of their choosing. They will do it in their own terms. Security and safety can only be achieved if they are vanquished and eradicated.

It appears this is a battle that can last longer than the lifetimes of people of the present generation. Changing a warped and immoral ideology takes time especially if linked with radical religious beliefs among people with failing governments and cultures.

“We can’t accommodate terrorism. When someone uses the slaughter of innocent people to advance a so-called political cause, at that point the political cause becomes immoral and unjust and they should be eliminated from any serious discussion, any serious debate.” Mayor Rudolf Guiliani

There are those who think that the terrorists are reasonable and fair. They believe they can be made to embrace peace and be taught good moral conduct. Yet by choosing violence and seeking the destruction of their enemies (i.e. Israel and USA) how can they be trusted? The people of the world are caught between their freedoms and living in a bubble of a society on edge, raising security to avoid an attack.

This might sound arrogant, but I told the terrorist, ‘You can harm my body, you can harm my mind, but you can’t harm my soul. That is mine.’Terry Waite

It’s at this juncture that President-elect Barack Obama thinks deeply on how he’ll deal with cold-bloodied killers whose basic belief is to spread hatred and cause destruction of Western world. It is increasingly clear that those who want to destroy civilization will not stop at causing damage and physical harm. They are bent to inflict suffering, confront the world, until they gain control.

The Republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it … This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.—Elmer Davis

The war on terror isn’t an electoral campaign issue anymore. Rather, it’s a problem that all Americans and their allies have to tackle with undiminished resolve. Obama needs to balance diplomacy, the use of force, pragmatism, and rational judgment. It remains to be seen whether his diplomacy will open a future world order that is peaceful and prosperous.

While we must remain determined to defeat terrorism, it isn’t only terrorism we are fighting. It’s the beliefs that motivate terrorists. A new ideology of hatred and intolerance has arisen to challenge America and liberal democracy.”— Sen. John Kerry

To expect enemies to abandon their violent agenda in a diplomatic negotiation table is naïve and foolhardy. Not to use force against them when it is necessary may be courting defeat. The terrorists know how to exploit any sign of weakness. With the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attack, those who are soft on the radicals have something serious to think about. (Photo Credits: Madalena Pestena; Reuters/Stringer; AP/Gurinder Osan; AFP/Pedro Ugarte; Harpagonis; AFP/Indrabil Muherjee; AFP/Prakash Singh) =0=

Terrorism, economic meltdown and other problems facing Americans and the world

September 24, 2008

There is a lulling effect of media’s downplay of other important problems affecting Americans. As an example, in a Gallup poll taken in March 2008, only 2% worry about terrorism—as though it’s a problem of the past.

This is partly an effect of liberal media’s dismissal that those who are bothered by terrorism are essentially “war mongerers” and “alarmists.” Many media people are averse to paying the high cost of security to a point of misleading the public. They ignore that enemies determined to harm us take their time and they wait. There are those who believe diplomacy is often effective and terrorists and Al Qaeda can be appeased in the name of friendship.

The hard reality is terrorism only needs one occasion to succeed. And terrorists are determined and clever. They pulled through in 911 at the World Trade Center (WTC) and in the cowardly killings in Spain, Bali, Kenya, Pakistan, UK, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Philippines, and in other parts of the world. Being friendly with terrorists is therefore a risky business.

The problem issues that citizens (with changing and short attention spans) have grown. But would you believe, only 2% of Americans as of March 2008 Gallup Poll thinks terrorism is a problem?

The new economic woes in Wall Street divert the nation’s attention away from other equally significant problems. The world reacts the same way—finger-pointing on who is to blame after foolishly ignoring the danger signs of the economic meltdown before they blew in the people’s faces.

Reckless buying of houses that they couldn’t afford wasn’t a problem until the mortgage crisis took its toll. Many who were stuck to what they erroneously believed were gripped with panic. Denial, complacency and short memory proved to be dangerous to the security of these individuals, the nation, and the world.

The Most Important Problem(s) Facing America, March 2008

Economic Problems…………………….35%
Iraq War……………………………………21%
Health Care & Costs……………………8%
Fuel, Gas Costs………………………….8%
Immigration & Illegal Aliens……………6%
Jobs & Unemployment…………………..5%
Gov’t Corruption & Incompetence…..5%
Moral Decline………………………………4%
Education……………………………………4%
Inflation & Cost of Living………………..4%
Poverty & Hunger………………………….3%
National Security…………………………..2%
Terrorism…………………………………….2%

Source: Gallup Poll, March 2008/Fleeced (Morris, D; McGann E; Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2008, pp. 46-47.) Photo Credit: Mario Zuccal. =0=

The Incomprehensibility Of The U.S. Presidential Elections

September 18, 2008

When George Bush jr. took over the reins of the White House nearly eight years ago, he inherited the Bill Clinton legacy–a balanced budget, decades of deficits erased, interest rates and inflation subdued after years of uncontrolled gallop, technology lead reclaimed, rising productivity in industry, a booming economy,  renewed confidence in itself and better cooperation and understanding abroad compared to previous administrations.

Yes, Bush was a victim of the 9/11 tragedy, too, which happened very early in his first term. But that solitary tragedy seemed to trigger an irrational streak of administration on his part that constrasted to his successful terms as Texas governor. It seemed his whole administrative regime was dominated by his urge to “get back” against his 9/11 tormentors and its perceived allies. Non-Americans will always associate him as the charging (Lone?) Ranger against Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

While engaged in this “irrational” quest, the rest of the world got on with its business (I wonder if they even remembered the Coalition of the Willing). China and India emerged, Russia bottomed out on its path to ruin, the European Union was coming to age and Japan, uh well, continued in its steady if unspectacular path.

And how is the great USA faring at the tailend of the Bush administration? A tottering economy fuelled by its stock market and credit woes, a bulging deficit, entrenchment in the Iran and Afghanistan quagmires, a discredited leadership in international affairs and an unpopular president shunned even by the national convention of his party and kept at arms length by its standard bearer.

And yet, that standard bearer of Bush’s party is running neck-to-neck with the standard bearer of the opposing party! Incredible! In the Philippines if such were the case McCain will certainly end up pummelled in the elections and a sorry loser after that (like McGovern). Does it mean that the Philippine electorate is more discerning than the US electorate? And I thought many said that the Filipino people has a very short memory. Does it mean that the US electorate has amnesia?

And again, I wonder why such a contest merits a lot of attention in the international media. Oh, I forgot, circuses really do attract a lot of attention.

The strange illnesses which followed 911

September 11, 2008

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken. It lives forever in our hearts and our history, a tragedy that unites us in a common memory and a common story.”
—Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York City, September 11, 2008)

As I listened to the names of those who perished in New York when Al Qaeda rammed planes into the Twin Towers, I felt as though I was back again to relive the horror. The tolling of the bells was a grim reminder. Almost 4,000 died including more than 300 brave firefighters who prematurely left their families, their last moments spent to saving lives and answering the call of duty

On September 11, 2001, I was at home in a high-rise building in Manhattan just a little north of Chinatown when the planes struck at the World Trade Center (WTC.) The mayhem that ensued could only be hinted by the incessant blare of sirens which went on for days in the neighborhood. On my window sill was an eerie veil of ash that rained from the sky and a pungent smell of flesh and incomplete combustion wafted in the air. The street outside was powdery as though a different kind of snow fell, off winter season.


The immeasurable damage of 911 still persists and is unraveling. As the world remembers, countless more live with the adverse effects of the tragedy. Thousands of those exposed to the toxic fumes, pulverized concrete, heavy metals and carcinogenic agents have reported health problems—from psychological stress, traumatic injuries, asthma to irreversible fibrosing damage on the lungs.

Potentially WTC-Associated Conditions
Triad Described by Clinicians:
-Chronic Rhinitis and Rhinosinusitis
-Asthma; Reactive Airways Dysfunction (RADS)
-Gartroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD);
Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LRPD)
Source: New York City Dep’t of Health & Hygiene Vol 21 (6):41-54

In the gray zones farther from ground zero there were people with preexisting medical conditions whose disease overlapped with new health problems which might be linked with the disaster’s aftermath. For majority of them however, no one could be 100% sure. As a physician, I could only imagine how hard it would be to ascribe these illnesses specifically to 911.


Though exposure to the fumes and dust of 911 wasn’t strikingly obvious to many, there’s no way to exactly quantify. My lung problem joins the umbrella of diseases seen in those exposed to the dangerous dust and fumes. I could only guess what I got, bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (BOOP,) had something to do with the pollution from the collapsed buildings. In a background of an immune blood disorder I suffered before 911 however, it would be hard to make an air-tight connection. But I knew this kind of pulmonary problem had been attributed to the respiratory illnesses that caused the debility and deaths of many rescue workers.

This uncertainty is shared by countless innocent victims of terror. Thousands of us harbor sicknesses that are confounding and debilitating, causing breathing difficulties, unspeakable pain, and mental anguish. The medical service delivery system has been taxed as health workers try to help with the rising costs of treatment. It has caused many insurance benefits to be denied. Lawsuits have to be fought in courts to settle liability claims.

Time, treasure, and money have been wasted because a few misguided rogues with warped ideologies and fanatical religious beliefs unleashed their anger on human beings who could well be their own sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and friends.(Photo Credits: bear_inter) =0=
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Amidst complacency and denial, terror persists, USA & the world still on the edge

September 10, 2008

Two days before the 7th year after 911, a bipartisan report suggests that the United States is still dangerously at risk of being attacked by weapons of mass destruction (WMB’s.) Democrats critical of Pres. George W. Bush are quick to highlight the dangers. And they don’t leave the psyche of Americans traumatized by the randomness of the attack.

The report and supporting studies describe the failure of international cooperation to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, which they call a major problem. Many countries continue to ignore a United Nations mandate to prevent the spread of weapons; the ability of many countries to monitor potential bioterrorism is “essentially nonexistent,” and dangerous chemical weapons stockpiles remain in some countries, including Russia and Libya, the report said.” AP (09/09/08, BlackledgeB; SullivanE.)

In spite of moves to make the homeland secure, the nature of terrorism makes it hard to wipe out the threats. This worry is part of the legacy of 911 when the rules of engagement of war have been defined by a small group of extremists who are bent to make America and the rest of the civilized world accede to Al Qaeda’s and other Islamic toxic ideology of hate.

Bringing America down has serious implications in emerging and poor countries like the Philippines whose economies will further suffer in the midst of a threat of war, worldwide recession, dwindling resources, and exploding population. Though Pres. Bush must be credited for foiling a number of plots and in improving security during his administration, many don’t look at it this way. It is hard to see success in prevention that has an astronomical price tag.

The cost of underwriting a protective shield for Americans and the world is causing a toll on the US economy. Only when another attack as spectacular and hideous as 911 will Americans, (especially the cynical and complacent) will realize that the world they know has been turned upside down by a few rogues who wait for the singular chance to do harm and damage. Terror resonates in 911 and the attacks in Madrid, London, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Nairobi, Bali, Manila and other cities worldwide. As security experts experts have said, it’s not a question of if that another attack will be waged, but when. (Photo Credits: AP/TayloC;bp.blogspot)=0=

Pres. George Bush & his fading presidency

August 13, 2008

It’s a hell of a job to be the president of the United States. Pres. George W. Bush, for all his efforts to make his second term appealing to the Americans and the world, has been met with doubts, opposition, and ridicule.

He is accused of lying about Iraq though he decided to wage war on the basis of bipartisan approval by the US legislature, on the series UN resolutions versus Saddam Hussein left unimplemented, and on data supplied to him by CIA and the intelligence circles. Since 911, there is no major terrorist attack in the American heartland. Al Qaeda has withered and the troop surge in Iraq is showing positive results. That’s consoling enough for some grateful Americans, but not for the majority.

There are worrisome issues on the economy, homeland security, healthcare, illegal immigration, social security, climate change, abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research and education which stand on the way— on which the verdict of his presidency will be based. Though history hasn’t spoken, the president’s enemies have dunked him, even campaigned for his failure. His call to drill for oil which is supported by fellow Republicans and 70% of Americans to ease up future fuel shortages, have been rebuffed by Democratic party leader Nancy Pelosi.

As Pres. Bush fades towards November, when the election of a new president comes, he visibly enjoys a respite at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the sands of Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground, in August 9, 2008, he exchanged fun and laughter with Kerrie Walsh, a veteran US Olympian. (Photo Credit: Reuters/Downing, L)

Fast and Fair Justice Needed

July 1, 2008

Although the slow pace of justice in the Philippines has been repeatedly criticized, the verdict on the Julia Campbell case must be the blue print of how fast cases must be resolved. After more than year of investigation, confessed Benguet killer Juan Donald Duntugan, a 25 year-old woodcarver, was sentenced to 40 years in prison without parole. He was asked to pay P39 million in damages to the Campbell family.

“An attack made by a man with a deadly weapon upon an unarmed and defenseless woman constitutes the circumstance of abuse that superiority which his sex, and the weapon used in the act afforded him, and by means of which the woman was overcome and rendered unable to defend herself,” said the decision of Judge Ester Piscoso-Flor of the Ifugao Regional Trial Court branch 34 on June 30, 2008. Philstar (07/01/08, Lagasca, C.)

The monetary compensation seemed huge and the prison sentence apt, but we know the wasted life a US Peace Corps volunteer is more valuable. To compare, those who perished in 911 when terrorists blew up the Twin Towers got an average of $3.1 million from the government, insurances and charitable institutions. Julia Campbell who went missing on April 8, 2008 deserved more compensation. She had a rich and productive life ahead her—more than what the US Peace Corps might have envisioned when it was started in 1961 by Pres. John F. Kennedy:

“Coming from all walks of life and representing the rich diversity of the American people, Peace Corps Volunteers range in age from college students to retirees. Every Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience is different. From teaching English to elementary school children in Zambia to launching a computer learning center in Moldova to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in South Africa to working on soil conservation in Panama, Volunteers bring their skills and life experiences to where they are needed most.“ http://www.peacecorps.gov

Be as it may, the verdict on the Campbell case brings a sigh of relief to the nation. Filipinos are pushing that other legal cases be handled expeditiously, particularly those involving crimes of citizens, irrespective of who the parties are.

There are still a lot to be desired with our justice system. It must not be too slow or too fast as Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo’s wishy-washy order (Inquirer,07/01/08, Dalangin-Fernandez, L.) that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) wrap up its findings on the Sulpicio Lines ferry tragedy in 10 short days. Critics suspect this haphazard unrealistic presidential edict as a form of political posturing which risks the proper carriage of justice.=0=

Recurrent Shipwrecks And The Horrific Maritime Record in the Philippines

June 24, 2008

The reason why there is the repeat of negligence among these shipping lines is because the law takes such a long time. We need to execute a swift prosecution and conviction of the guilty on this case,” -Sen. Francis Pangilinan. Malaya (06.25/07, Montemayor, J.)

Sulpicio Lines—that’s the company! The recurrent shipwrecks befalling this shipping outfit are disgusting entries in the bloody maritime record of the Philippines. The inter-island company has the hideous distinction of being involved in several of the world’s unforgettable ship mishaps, one of them, the history’s worst sea disaster which claimed the lives of innocents, larger in number than those who perished in 911.

Princess of the Stars keeled at the height of Typhoon Frank (see pictures by Reuters.) With shifting inaccurate numbers of passengers which cast doubt on the veracity of the manifest, the ill-fated ship was whacked and swallowed by the churning waves—bigger and more fearsome than the rugged tall mountains nearby. Disaster-prone Philippines had been in a state of temporary shock, begging for international aid.

Pray for those who died. They need justice. Think of the victims’ families who shed tears, their eyes red in seething anger. In grief, they know their poor loved ones are gone, never to set foot on dry land again. Perhaps they’ll not get the justice they deserved. Think of the good works the hapless 800+ victims could have contributed in their lifetime if they weren’t cut silent by negligence, bad luck, or act of God.

MV Princess of the Stars, sank during Typhoon Frank, 800 plus missing or lost, June 22, 2008
MV Dona Marilyn, sank during Typhoon Unsang, Oct 24, 1988, 250 lives lost
MV Princess of the Orient, sank during Typhoon Guding, Sept 18, 1988, 150 lives lost
MV Dona Paz, sank after a collision with tanker Vector, Dec 20, 1987, 4000+ died (worst maritime disaster in history)

How can we rest our thoughts with this? We have ample blame to spread around. The “royal” liner sank with several capsized smaller boats at the height of the storm. Littered bloated bodies in the sea soon commingled after Typhoon Frank left, making it hard to know from which sunken ferry they came from. Does God bear grudge on our people?

Not learning its lessons, Sulpicio Lines pulled through (with least accountability) in the past. The rulings on earlier shipwrecks placed little blame on this company whose victims, too poor to wage protracted legal battles, hungered for justice.

Since the storm’s path could be ascertained in real time, its progress could be accurately charted. There should have been ample wiggle room to successfully escape the typhoon if caution was observed.

Negligence and incompetence were more likely when too frequent mishaps recurred in the hands of the same people—the ship’s crew and the Coast Guard. Whether Sulpicio Lines and the Coast Guard took safety and human life for granted was something the whole nation deserved to know.

The United States donated $100,000 to the ferry disaster fund. The French government also offered help. In appeals so familiar, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP,) Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo and the swanky troop of 59 senators who joined her to the White House, begged for more generous donations.

Who will ascertain that these dole-outs will go to the right beneficiaries? How much will the ferry company spend as aid and compensation? With taxpayer’s money, how much will the government spend to put this avoidable tragedy far in the backstage— so that the next national disaster in the offing can catch our attention? =0=