Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

"Asocena": more than 70 dogs for food

December 4, 2008

In cultures where dogs are celebrated as pets, security aids, rescue workers, guards, loyal companions, and friends, one can be horrified to know how they are slaughtered for food by humans. In spite of the risk of diseases like rabies, in many places in Asia like in China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, dogs are raised and killed for food. Stray mongrels are snared and cooked as “delicacy” even if it’s against the law.

Every so often we hear of hapless dogs bound for slaughter. The horrendous plight of these animals before dying is appalling. This is exactly what is reported by Julie Aurelio of PDI (12/04/08) of more than 70 canines intercepted in a van in SM North Edsa Manila. It’s in the nick of time that the dogs have been rescued before they become “aso” which means dog and “cena,” supper.

The police arrested Ernesto Zapata and companion Jason Ortega who said the canines came from Laguna and are headed Baguio City for sale. The Philippine Society of Cruelty of Animals took custody of the confiscated dogs, 20 of which are pregnant. Let’s be kind to animals. (Photo Credits: Tibble) =0=

With market still bleeding, corporate greed blamed for financial woes in Wall Street

September 17, 2008

With last week’s unprecedented government bail out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the United States and the financial world are finding ways to avoid further meltdown in Wall Street. Spooked by financial uncertainties, money institutions are finding ways to avert market collapse.

American International Group Inc. (AIG,) the largest insurance company of the world, suffered losses as its shares fell down 92% after fool-heartedly insuring risky bonds. The Federal Reserve had to loan $85 billion to save the company from financial ruin which could disrupt markets and put the economy in jeopardy if its losses aren’t contained. This is in addition to the Treasury Department’s commitment to infuse up to about $100 billion in funds to the Fannies, America’s top mortgage lenders to keep them from going insolvent. Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual suffer money problems too, feeding uncertainty, confusion, fear and distrust in the banking system. At this point it is unclear whether these measures will reverse the on-going bleeding in the market.

To where this economic woes will end is anybody’s guess. For ordinary citizens, the uncertainties that shake the market bring new realities and offer opportunities to reassess where their investments will go. In spite of their efforts to improve their finances, people have been gripped with scary concerns about jobs, higher taxes, social security, healthcare, retirement and the future in


The financial crisis had been predicted since the Clinton administration. When the stock market slumped in 2000, the housing market boom that followed built unrealistic expectations and over-taxed the lending system. After a long run of profitable home buying and selling, prices slumped in 2006 and continued to the fall thereafter. In the midst of mounting mortgage debts, many borrowers were unable to pay their loans, forcing them to default. The accrued losses quickly mounted, triggering the current financial crisis.

The crisis caused by multifactorial reasons didn’t happen overnight and the blame is shared in many fronts. Corporate greed of Wall Street is partly responsible. CEO’s and money managers, pandering on their interests, rake astronomical profits in overseeing stocks and investment funds to the disadvantage of regular shareholders. Government regulators were remiss in protecting the public when they did little to restrict flagrant money lending schemes and shady business deals of corrupt opportunists.

The Congress on the other hand had been slow in updating the laws that regulate the business of Wall Street. Loans in banks were approved by mortgage lenders in spite of the borrower’s questionable ability to pay. The bullish optimism among house-buyers had caught them ill-prepared for the ups and downs of the market. Investigation and prosecution of corporate malfeasance and abuses had been inadequate.

To promote stability, the government has little choice but to bail-out the floundering companies at the expense of tax payers. To clean up the mess, it has to recognize the weaknesses and failures of the system that lacks oversight. With a huge trade deficit, America needs a correction and tougher regulations in the financial markets to avoid further damage to the economy.

The adverse effects of this economic downturn have serious repercussions on the economies abroad. There is volatility of stocks traded abroad. There is worry across Europe, Asia and Russia. If the confidence to USA’s financial institutions weakens or altogether lost, economies worldwide will suffer affecting the most, the poorest nations.


T
axpayers, shareholders of investments and portfolio owners have to foot the bills to keep the economy going. They scramble for solutions to counter depreciation of homes and restore confidence in doing business. They need to bring back the profits in the stock market, lower the cost of borrowing, and stimulate the growth of businesses.

Yet new policies instituted by the emergence of global economy stand on the way. Saddled with debts and the on-going war on terrorism, the US finds itself in weaker economic footing now than in the past. If the American economy suffers further and reversal of the financial turmoil comes late, a possible worldwide recession can result to social and political instability.

The lessons learned from past hardships—the great depression and the world wars however make Americans resilient and hopeful. As they watch the events unfold, they try to find a wiggle room to solve their problems to escape the worst. The Bush administration is doing unprecedented measures to do just that, though its choices for solution are pretty limited. Photo Credits: Gingerbugjones; BeebsandChi; Steely.scott)=0=

2009 national budget, 100,000 jobs, & the Asian poverty line

August 28, 2008

P1.415 Trillion
The 2009 national budget, 15% higher than of 2008, has been approved by Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo and will be submitted to Congress. Manila Bulletin (08/26/08, Rosario,B)

24.5 Million
The number of Filipinos who fall below the “Asian poverty line” of $1.35/day spending, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB.) An estimate of purchasing power and level of financial hardship, the Philippines’ percentage of people below the poverty line (29.5%) is better than India, Bangladesh,, and Cambodia, but worse than Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka . ABS CBN News.com/Newsbreak (08/27/08, Rimando,L)

1
The remaining flying C-130 Hercules plane the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has after the recent crash in Davao City; all pilots and crew remain missing and are presumed dead. Malaya (08/27/08, Chua, J.)

P1 Billion
To bring home medals in future Olympics and to augment competitiveness, a proposed increase in the budget of the Philippine Sports Commission, double the previous amount of P500-600 million, was aired by Monico Puentebella, RP chief of Olympic Mission. Though not strictly implemented, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Board Corp (PAGC0R,) is mandated by law to give 5% of its gross income to the sports development. GMA TV News (08/26/08)

29 Cases
This reported new HIV cases/ month of 2007-2008 is higher than the 20/month of the previous years. Since 1984, a total of 3,305 HIV cases have been reported in the Philippines and 310 people have died from AIDS. These figures are low-prevalence statistics which can change into high prevalence or to an epidemic if HIV cases continue to rise. AFP (08/26/08)

24
Number of maids, including Filipinos, who died in Lebanon as reported by Human Rights Watch, the New York based the group who said that Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW’s) from countries like the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia were forced to suicide by jumping out of buildings because of isolation, difficult working conditions and maltreatment from their employers. AFP (08/26/08)

P406.8 Billion
The amount paid by the Philippines for its loan between January to July this year, 0.6% less than the amount paid for the period of 2007. Lower by 6.9% from P249.88 billion, the principal debt payments totaled P232.6 billion. Interest payments totaled P174.22 billion, up 9.2 percent from P159.49 billion. PDI (08/28/08, Remo, M.)

74,581 Families
The number of families with 362,475 persons displaced as of August 27, 2008 in the war between MILF rebels and Philippine Government forces in Mindanao, said the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC.) To escape the fighting, 33, 438 families (156,059 people) fled to 152 evacuation sites. At least 55 have died in the ongoing hostilities. GMA TV News (08/27/08)

100,000 Jobs
Bureau of Immigration (BI) Marcelino Libanan claimed this number of jobs which can be generated with the granting of indefinite visas for foreigners who can provide at least 10 gainful employment opportunities for Filipinos in their businesses. Manila Bulletin (08/28/09, Ramirez, J.)Photo Credit: Simmons,A.=0=

Health & Politics: casting away some of Balimbing’s bad rap

August 13, 2008

This fruit can end your life!” says the email I got last week about balimbing (scientific name: Averrhoa carambola, family: Oxalidaceae, starfruit, bilimbi, carambola.) I thought it’s such an alarmist post that I need to comment. Besides, the exotic edible fruit traditionally carries a bad name in Philippine politics.

Vilified in our native Filipino language because of its curious shape and tarty taste, balimbing is a unique tropical fruit and a butt of jokes. Eaten raw, or used in fruit juices and salads, it’s equated with turn-coatism, flip-flopping, and lack of loyalty that’s common among traitors and politicians. The attractive star-shaped balimbing with its edgy sides and shiny yellow-green skin (fancied by fruit-faddists worldwide,) is therefore maligned and rejected. But the fruit isn’t that bad.

There are of reports though that balimbing harbors a neurotoxin that causes hiccups, seizures, numbness, psycho-motor agitation, confusion, nausea, vomiting, weakness and other neurologic signs and symptoms. With no correlation between the severity and amount ingested, the manifestations typically occur about 30 minutes to 6 hours after eating the fruit. Treatable by dialysis, the manifestations show in patients with impaired renal function, especially among those with renal failure. Because of the yet-to-be-identified toxin, people with failing kidneys, must not eat the fruit. (Nephro Dial Transplant (2003) 18: 120-125.)

Balimbing’s toxicity is ascribed to a suspected neurotoxin that crosses the blood brain barrier and accumulates in the body when not properly excreted in the urine. Without much scientific basis, some say it’s perhaps the oxalic acid content of the fruit that’s causing the trouble. Others theorize that the toxin is a potent inhibitor of the cytochrome p450 pathway in cellular metabolism which bring recall another fruit—this time the grapefruit’s inhibitory effects of certain medications.

However, since its first cultivation and consumption in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Pacific, the Philippines, and other parts of Asia, to my knowledge, balimbing is safe to eat by people who aren’t ill. There are limited documented scientific studies from Brazil and Hongkong that the fruit isn’t good for those with renal disease, but normal people can eat it without trouble. =0=