Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Kazakhstan’s Caspian Seascape

March 8, 2009

by Pitoy Moreno

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime? It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset?”

I may rarely see the flight of fireflies at dusk, the feel of warm air coming from a buffalo’s nostrils in the cold of winter, or the shadows that moves when nightfall sets in, but I can show you some breath-taking views of a place known for its taigas, flatlands, snow-capped mountains and picturesque seas.

For a time I thought I was the only Filipino living here in Kazakhstan, but diaspora made sure it wasn’t true. The saying that “in every nook of the earth, there is a Filipino” came real. As one among the few expatriates working in an enchanting place somewhere in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, I could say so.

About the size of Texas in the USA, Kazakhstan is nestled south of Russia. On its eastern border is China while Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are located in the south. The Caspian Sea and part of Turkmenistan are in the west.

The territory is rich in mineral resources. From out of the 1,177 mi (1,894 km) of coastline of Caspian Sea, is a huge deposit of oil discovered in 2000, the largest ever found in the last 30 years. A fuel pipeline connects the Tengiz oil field of western Kazakhstan to the Novorossiysk, a Russian Black Sea port. Another pipeline brings oil to China.

From the beginnings of human history, it is in this country where the first horses have been first domesticated. From the tribes of the once nomadic Kazakhs and their neighbors has evolved the distillation of a cultures so diverse and interesting.

Sparsely populated through the ages, Kazakhstan has been part of the Soviet Union until its independence in December 16, 1991. In this beautiful locale are memorable awesome red sunsets, pristine blue skies, and numberless grains of sand on the seashore—among the most wonderful scenes I have seen. In addition, there is this buzz of industrial and cultural activity that spurs the country’s growth and hope for the 21st century. They make me remember our country, the Philippines. (Photo Credits: Pitoy Moreno,Xhancock; Anguskirk)=0=

Republic of Kazakhstan

National name: Qazaqstan Respublikasy
President: Nursultan A. Nazarbayev (1990)
Prime Minister: Karim Masimov (2007)
Land area: 1,049,150 sq mi (2,717,300 sq km); total area: 1,049,150 sq mi (2,717,300 sq km)
Population (2008 est.): 15,340,533 (growth rate: 0.3%); birth rate: 16.4/1000; infant mortality rate: 26.5/1000; life expectancy: 67.5; density per sq km: 5
Capital (2003 est.): Astana, 288,200 (formerly Aqmola; capital since 1997)
Largest cities: Almaty (former capital), 1,045,900; Karaganda, 404,600; Shymkent, 333,500; Taraz, 305,700; Pavlodar, 299,500; Ust-Kamenogorsk, 288,000; Aqtöbe, 234,400
Monetary unit: Tenge

Languages: Kazak (Qazaq, state language) 64%; Russian (official, used in everyday business) 95% (2001 est.)
Ethnicity/race: Kazak (Qazaq) 53.4%, Russian 30%, Ukrainian 3.7%, Uzbek 2.5%, German 2.4%, Tatar 1.4%, Uygur 1.4%, other 4.9% (1999)
Religions: Islam 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%
National Holiday: Independence Day, December 16
Source: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107674.html

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“Not as a lecturer or as a judge,” EU thinks RP must do more to curb corruption

January 28, 2009

Many huge corruption charges in the Philippines involve officials in the highest corridors of power, but almost all of them remain as accusations displayed like dirty laundry for the public to bear. At the cost of the country’s credibility, almost no one gets punished. The entire nation keeps a blind eye of the growing list of scandals whose outcomes are often tip in favor of the crime doers.

For a long time, corruption comes like a foul odor ignored by the government and its citizens. The stench is allowed to stay, follow its course, until it dissipates in the wind. That’s the usual course that has incrementally robbed the country of its shame and dignity. The public is tired, perhaps, about to give up on corruption—for even with laws in place, there is little accountability. There is almost no public outcry of protest.

Illegal deals and criminal transactions occur right on the face of a Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo. Circumventing the law is common, perpetrated by criminals in broad daylight without embarrassment. The hideousness of the corrupt practices has prompted foreign entities like the World Bank (WB) and European Union (EU) to sound their alarm; they point to government deals that smell too stinky to brush aside. The latest is the WB disclosure of fraud in its bank-financed projects.

The president’s husband Jose M. Arroyo, just like in the past, has been linked to greedy collusion schemes. The latest is with the E.C. De Luna Construction Corp, one of the contractors named by the World Bank for rigging the bidding process of road projects funded by foreign money. Officials of the foreign bank are dismayed by the scale of corruption that is traced way back in 2007.

Careful not to rub the sense of shame of Filipinos, WB’s corruption charges which point the complicity of Chinese partners, suggest that the international community can’t just watch the dirty way the government is run. Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo continues to play the charade for the nation.

The EU also sounded its concern by offering the Philippines help to fight corruption. Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the European Commission said in a Commission of Human Rights meeting in Manila that the EU “sees corruption as a symptom of poor governance and lack of transparent, accountable management, and control system. —Philstar (10/28/09, Clapano, JR)

There it is. MacDonald is right in saying that officials, the civil society and media must work together to fight corruption in government by observing “transparent electoral processes and supporting parliamentary and judicial oversight.” The country can’t live with perversion of integrity that is out in the open and politicalized for everyone to see, but can’t do something against it.

Even if the outside world wants to help the Philippines solve corruption, it is still the people who must first reject and work against it. There is no shortage of anti-corruption laws. They are just waiting to be enforced, not by officials who are themselves corrupt, but by those who are committed to move the country ahead.

The fight against corruption needs ethical leaders to help government officials and business leaders reform their ranks. They need moral rejuvenation and accountability which must be taught and applied in the community. With the nation’s fate at stake, there is deep shame when foreigners remind Filipinos of their freedom, duty for country, and moral responsibilities. (Photo Credits: Almostevil665; wdbphoto) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Corruption scandals hurting Filipinos under Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo” Posted by mesiamd at 1/29/2009; “On Philippine Corruption And Our Being Inure To It” Posted by myty555 at 12/16/2008

Weight-lifting parrot

October 8, 2008

In Shenyang, China red-feathered parrot make full use of the beak to lift a barbell to the delight of onlookers. Photo Credit: Time.com/EPA =0=

China’s Shenzhou-7 spacecraft, its melamine-contaminated milk & RP’s incapacity to do lab tests

September 27, 2008

The Beijing Space Command and Control Center announced the successful space walk of astronaut Zhai Zhigang who carried a Chinese flag outside the orbit module. The proud news of being the third country to ever do such a feat in space is bogged by the worsening embarrassment from the sale of melamine-tainted milk which sickened more than 53,000 children (mostly in China,) and blamed for the death of at least 4 people. Melamine-related illnesses had been reported in Taiwan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

The Chinese adulterated milk has crept into other dairy and food products including the popular “white rabbit” candies, chocolates, ice-cream, yoghurt, pastries and confectioner’s biscuits. This food safety scandal has been on-going since last year when China has been under criticism for improperly selling pet food, toys, toothpaste laced with industrial toxins. The European Union, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are among countries which banned the Chinese imported milk.

Amid outrage versus greed and corruption, Prime Minster Wen Jiabao promised food safety and ethical standards in Chinese products. This year, the Philippines bought 2 million kilograms of milk from China. Monitoring by the Department of Health (DOH) for illnesses that may be ascribed to melamine-contamination in milk and dairy products is on-going.

The Philippines has meager laboratory capacity to undertake testing for melamine and other poisons. Authorities mull on sending specimens out to neighboring countries the way they did with the endosulfan scare and fatality identification during the sinking of Princess of the Stars three months ago. To avoid future embarrassments, a self-respecting country must put up a decent laboratory of its own. The government must not rely on its neighbors to do its laboratory work. (Photo Credits: AP; Annasea; brutaldolltx) =0=

Update: On September 29, 2008, the popular Cadbury cholocate has been recalled from sale in Great Britain in the wake of melamine-contamination scare. The recall doesn’t cover the Cadbury chocolates being sold in United States.

Philippines’s Melamine Scare: 2 Million Kilos of Milk Imported From China This Year

September 25, 2008


It took nearly two weeks before Philippine authorities finally revealed that there had been 2 million kilos of milk imported from China from January to August this year. As the scare of melamine-contaminated milk exploded in the news, about 53,000 children, mostly from China, have been sickened by the adulterated milk which causes urinary malfunction and kidney stones. There are some reports of death.

Melamine, an industrial chemical used for the manufacture of plastics, has been added to milk to make it appear thick and proteinaceous. (see blog entitled “Import ban of 30+ generic drugs from India & melamine-contaminated milk from China” dated September 17, 2008.

The first reaction from the Philippines was to monitor the milk being sold in the market which is flooded with smuggled goods. The Department of Health (DOH) announced later that hospitals are being watched for sickened children that could be linked with melamine. Not until today, September 25, 2008, there was no mention by the Bureau of Customs that milk from China has in fact entered the country.

In a memorandum circular issued to all Customs district and port collectors, Morales said that all existing licenses of Chinese milk and dairy product importers have been revoked and canceled following the Department of Health’s ban on the importation, distribution and sale of milk and dairy products from China.

“I issued the circular adopting the order of the DOH to ensure that there would be no more importations of milk and dairy products from China,”—Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales PDI (09/25/08, Ortiz, M)

Here are some questions worth thinking about. Why is testing for melamine being done only now when the scare has been there for sometime? Until now why is there no laboratory result? How many of the milk comes from Sanlu, the main manufacturer of the melamine-tainted products from China? Have the authorities also tested smuggled milk that’s not part of the imports the government has identified? Has there been any report of children getting sick from ingestion of milk from China? Why did it take the government too long to inform the public of these milk imports? How can the government make dissemination of information faster? =0=

Import ban of 30+ generic drugs from India & melamine-contaminated milk from China

September 17, 2008

More than thirty (30) drugs which include acyclovir, cirprofloxacin and simvastatin, manufactured in two Ranbaxy Laboratories (Dewas and Poenta Sahib plants) in India will not be permitted into the US. Without asking for recall of drugs already on the shelf, the Food Drug Administration (FDA,) the decision is based on the lack of compliance to safety and manufacturing standards by the Indian drug company.

The Food Drug Administration says no report of harm has been so far reported.

List of Drugs with Stop Order

acyclovir, cefprozil, cefuroxime axetil, cephalexin, ciprofloxacin HCl, clarithromycin, fenofibrate, fluconazole, fosinopril sodium, fosinopril sodium and hydrochlorothiazide, gabapentin, glimepiride, isotrentinoin, lamivudine, loratadine OTC, metformin HCl, nefazodone HCl, nitrofurantoin, nitrofurantoin and macrocystalline, ofloxacin, pravastatin sodium, ranitidine, simvastatin, terazozin HCl, valacyclovir HCl, and zidovudine (PEPFAR).” Medical News Today (09/16/08, Agus, Z, MD)

In a similar vein, in a growing scare after imported milk laced with melamine, a chemical substance used to “increase protein content” of milk has been reported to have killed undetermined number of babies and sickened at least 1,253 babies in China. It’s the same chemical that killed pet dogs in USA and Europe afte being fed imported Chinese milk reported earlier.

Melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics such as plates and saucers, is known to cause urinary malfunction, stones and failure of the kidneys when ingested.

Toxic History of China’s Products

— Half of all dangerous goods seized in Europe in 2007 came from China
— Last year China found two companies guilty of intentionally exporting contaminated pet food
— US authorities last year gave warning that monkfish imported from China may be puffer fish, containing a potentially deadly toxin
— In 2005 Sudan 1, a carcinogenic food colouring, was found in Chinese branches of KFC
— In January a survey found almost two thirds of Chinese people were worried about food safety
Sources: European Commission, Times archives /TimesOnline(09/15/08)/ChinaDaily/Reuters

Produced by Sanlu, China’s biggest milk power-maker halted its milk production. Ninetten (19) people were arrested in connection with the scandal of greed and lack of concern for people’s lives. The investigation of the scandal was delayed by a ban of news of this nature during the Beijing Olympics.

These two reports have practical implications in the Philippines who partly rely on India for its imports of medicines. They have more resonance with the passage of the Cheap Drug Legislation of 2008 signed into law of Pres. Gloria M. Macapagal. China also sells products to the Philippines which need tighter watch for adulteration and toxic contamination. =0=

UPDATE: On September 25, 2008, the PDI reported that 2 million kilos of milk was imported by the Philippines from China from Jan. to Aug. 2008. As the scandal of the melamine-contaminated milk widens worldwide, about 53,000 children, mostly in China, have been reported to have been sickened and several babies died. The DOH is monitoring hospitals for reports of children getting sick as result of ingesting milk and milk products.
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Beacons of hope & exemplars of the soul’s triumph

August 25, 2008

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The pessimists in us are not happy about 15 Filipino athletes coming to the Beijing Olympic Games. They think it’s a waste of time, money and effort sending the delegation with a dismal chance of winning. Yet considering the support we have for sports, it’s a wonder that we have a contingent of brave competitors willing to sweat it out for the glory and edification of the country.

Like Laos, Kiribati, Uruguay, Myanmar, Liechtenstein, Yemen, Zambia, and many others, Philippines went home wanting of an Olympic medal. But for sure all these countries are richer in experience and hope. To be part of a world where cultural differences is transformed into a gesture of friendly competitiveness is an accomplishment by itself.

To be the best in the field isn’t everything. By our participation in the games, we affirm the universal aspiration for excellence and our desire to connect with people. By cooperating with China’s hosting of a tantalizing “coming out” party which wowed the world, we bouy up cooperation and friendship among nations. We demonstrate that winning and losing are life-realities that all of us must contend with.

We salute the cash-strapped people of Zimbabwe whose hyperinflation and economic hardships didn’t deter their athletes to bring home 4 medals. We admire Malaysia and the small West African country of Togo which brought a silver and bronze respectively.

Turbulent Georgia, which nurses wounds from separatist South Ossetia and suffers border conflict with neighbor Russia, won 6 medals. Moslem Iran, threatening Israel and the world with its nuclear program basked in victory with two well-earned medals. Our southern Asian partner Indonesia celebrates success from 5 impressive wins, one of them gold in badminton.


Amidst the dominance and superiority of the United States with 110 medals (eclipsing China in total number but not in the count for gold,) the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain with barely a million people produced for the first time a gold medal winner in track in field. Jamaica, a Carribean country of 2.5 million brought home a spectacular win of 11 medals, 6 of them gold. War-torn Afghanistan with a population less than half of the Philippines, won a taekwondo bronze in the 17-day grueling competition.

With 85 million of us, how come we’re lagging behind these countries? How come winning an Olympic medal seems to be so unreal— a pipe dream for us? The answer probably lies in our attitude, endurance, and value judgment. We need to trust ourselves more. We must support and appreciate the sportsmanship of our athletes. We must believe in our capacity to win, stirring us to fight as a team and as an individual for our own self-fulfillment and survival.

The aspiration of humanity to excel and be part of a cause greater than its own is part of the Olympic tradition. In a time when we doubt ourselves if we can go beyond what others expect of us, our athletes stand as beacons of hope and exemplars of our soul’s triumph. Even if our athletes didn’t win, in the field of dreams, their hearts shine as bright as the torch and the gold of the Olympics.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FILIPINO OLYMPIC ATHLETES!

Eric Ang—Shooting; Ryan Paolo Arabejo—Swimming;
Daniel Coakley—Swimming; Henry Dagmil—Track & Field; Hidilyn Diaz—-Weightlifting; Rexel Ryan Fabriga—Diving; Tshomlee Go—Taekwondo; Mark Javier—Archery; Miguel Molina—Swimming; Sheila Mae Perez—Diving; Mary Antoinette Rivero—Taekwondo;
Christel Simms—Swimming; Harry Tanamor—Boxing;
Marestella Torres—Track & Field; JB Walsh—Swimming. (PhotoCredits: AFP/NicolasAsfouri; Reuters/OlegPopov; Reuters/MikeBlake)=0=

Debasing truth in the Olympics: China’s desire for excellence & the pressure to please the world

August 15, 2008

On the opening of the Beijing Olympics on August 8, 2008, we were treated by a sparkling display of fireworks in TV watched by more than 2.5 billion people. It turned out some of the segments of the spectacle were faked, somewhat dampening our spirits. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Then we saw the Chinese girl Lin Miaoke who enthralled an adoring audience of more 90,000 in the stadium with her angelic singing, only to be told later it was not her voice that we heard. The voice was a recording of Yang Peiyi, a chubby girl with unsightly teeth who didn’t look as pretty as Lin, a reason that booted her out of the stage. (Photo Credit: AFP/ImagineChina)

Lately, we shared the riveting triumph of the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics athletes who grabbed the Olympic gold from their American competitors, their closest rivals. The nimble pixie gymnasts undoubtedly commanded superior performance, but their winning was tarnished by allegations that some of the team members were below 16 years old during the competition, in violation of the rules of the Olympics. Though denied by the Chinese authorities, at least one of the girls, He Kexin, was reported to be 13 years, 9 months before the onset of the games.

Such “cheating”, a cheap attempt to impress and gain honor, doesn’t escape the scrutiny of the world. Dishonesty doesn’t synch well with the Olympics spirit which recognizes undefiled excellence, sportsmanship, and friendship. If humanity is to advance the universal values of understanding, competitiveness, and mutual respect, we must steer away from any form of fakery. To be truthful is honorable than to be deceitful. A fake, no matter how perfect it looks, is still a fake. Honesty remains the soil on which civility and trust grow. Photo Credit: Reuters/BlakeM.) =0=

Viewing a picture in the prism of race

August 12, 2008

Offensive or Innocuous? A picture of the olympic basketball team of Spain showing players slanting their eyes in reference to the Beijing Games can be dismissed as an innocent joke or a racial insult depending on one’s mood or point of view. Yet in this age of delicacy and political correctness, the picture which appeared in the Spanish newspaper La Marca has drawn some ire and criticisms. To quash further debates, extinguish anger and avoid racially-motivated violence, an apology has been recommended. YahooSports (08/12/08, Chase,C.)=0=

Beijing Olympics & China’s Human Rights Record

August 8, 2008

A nation of 1.3 billion people welcomes the world as it hosts the Beijing Olympics which started on 08/08/08. (Photo Credit: AP) Beaming with national pride, China pulls out a rousing 3 ½ -hour program of pageantry and fireworks to usher in the onset of competitions. It’s an occasion to show its best, after its modern transformation since the communists came to power in 1949.

In regions ravaged by the earthquake in May which killed 70,000 people and rendered close to 5 million people homeless, the people in the countryside and city took time to revel on the glitter of the moment, congregating in villages to watch the spectacular event in TV. About 70 world leaders which include Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Nicholas Sakorzy and Philippines’ Gloria M. Arroyo came to greet Chinese President Hu Jintao. More than 100,000 security personnel were deployed to assure the orderly conduct of the spectacle which was viewed by the largest audience ever: 2.3 billion people worldwide.

Costing about $70 billion, the sporting event has been hounded by political and environmental concerns in spite of government officials’ diplomatic maneuvers and efforts to curb air pollution. Beijing still has the smoggy haze that concerns athletes.

The city is moderately polluted (air pollution index of 94 vs. WHO’s recommended level of <52.) Participants raise environmental concerns and fret over the heat and humidity which may affect their performance in the games.

The world seems not ready to forget China’s poor human rights records. From various places worldwide protests have erupted against China’s domestic repressive policies. Critics and political activists condemn China’s supply of arms to the genocidal regime of Darfur. The Chinese government hasn’t opened a meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama to resolve Tibet’s autonomy and desire for self-rule. In a speech which irks Chinese officials, US Pres. George W. Bush said the people of China deserve to enjoy basic liberty, the natural right of very human being.

In spite of government measures to curb pollution, Beijing still has the smoggy haze that concerns athletes. The city is moderately polluted prompting participants to complain over the heat and humidity which may affect their performance in the games. The Olympic organizers are closely monitoring the air safety and weather to determine if competitions need to be rescheduled.

As Beijing Olympics play on, we can’t ignore the positive forces of peace, friendship, understanding and goodwill that propel the holding of the games. Yet, behind the sublime intentions of nations, there are political, social, economic, and environmental concerns which stick out as urgent challenges for the people of the world to tackle.=0=