Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rebuffs Obama’s peace message

March 22, 2009

In a video message on March 20, 2009, Pres. Barack Obama tried to reach out to Iran, reminding the hard-line Islamic country to show its greatness not by way of arms, but through peaceful means.

His offer to normalize relations with the mullah-dominated country is a campaign promise he had to fulfill—a radical digression from Pres. George W. Bush’s policy of non-negotiation towards a regime known to be part of the “axis of evil” that threatens to wipe out Israel.

Obama’s peaceful diplomacy is what most of the Western world wanted. Yet, this presidential gesture delivered in time for the Persian new year of Nowruz is looked upon as a form of “surrender” which the “hard” Muslims expect from the “soft” Americans. Iran thinks the United States, saddled by economic problems, is wearied by terrorism and preoccupied by the Iraqi and Afghan wars; it doesn’t have the enough strength to fight. That’s why Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to rebuff the US president.

“He (Obama) insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day. If you are right that change has come, where is that change? What is the sign of that change? Make it clear for us what has changed…Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged.” —-Yahoo News/ AP (03/21/09, Dareini, A)

Iran finds a new sense of self-importance learning of Obama’s conciliatory stance to patch up the strained relations between the two countries. Denying terrorism and the Iran’s race to produce nuclear arms, Khamenei lashed on Obama by mentioning a litany of Iran’s grievances against the United States.

Amid calls of “Death to America” from his audience, the cleric-leader dwelt on long standing hostilities since diplomatic ties were severed after the fall of the pro-US Shah government about 30 years ago.

Many have some inkling on know how the Iranians are taking Obama’s peace overtures. Iranians opposed to the cleric-controlled government may support him. But others may look at his peace suggestion as a sign of weakness. Like other warlike Muslims in other parts of the world, Iranians don’t respect a man who looks like a wimp even if he is the president of the United States. (Photo Credit: Polyphake; Photon Trap)=0=

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Iraq unveils a shoe monument

January 30, 2009

We can forget Imelda Marcos’ shoes for a while. Iraqis are still elated and angered by the shoe thrown at Pres. George W. Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last December 2008 by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi. A brown shoe sculpture seems a funny retaliation by a culturally sequestered people who appreciate al-Zaidi and boil mad on the former US president even if they have been liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule.

Surely, the Iraqis have strong reasons to be mad. The cost of war is high in places of ethnic strife and tribal clashes. Many human lives have senselessly been lost in the name of freedom. 5.1 million people were displaced and about an equal number of children were left without parents.

To vent their anger and send praises for the jailed shoe-thrower who dreams of getting an asylum status in Switzerland, Iraqis and children from the Tikrit Orphanage helped sculptor Laith al-Amiri make a symbolic shoe monument. A brown footware with a raggedly brown surface was mounted on a white cloth so the people could see and ponder.

Whatever thrill one gets in looking at the oversized shoe, the use of children to make a political point is disturbing. There is negatism and darkness young minds can’t miss when they see the controversial shoe. The footware is less likely a symbol of disrespect and misplaced rage, but more a reminder of the derision the Muslims have for USA and Pres. George W. Bush.

Lacking gratitude after being saved from Saddam’s terroristic regime, some Iraqis have taken the low road of the warring militants who succeed in teaching generation(s) of children on selective memory and tough love. The faith-based beliefs against the “infidels” are still the driving force of hatred against the Western civilization. There are those who have become one-track thinkers— intolerant, violent, self-righteous, and unforgiving in their political views. This is one reason why the culture of violence kills the innocents. And peace is so elusive in that part of the world. (Photo Credit: CNN) 0=

UPDATE: Feb. 1, 2009. Iraqi officials ordered the dismantling of the shoe monument in the Tikrit Orphanage. They say government facilities must not be used as a venue to air political views.

In war-battered Gaza, Filipinos mull on the price of working abroad

January 11, 2009

With no end in sight, the red-hot Israel-Palestinian conflict completes its second week on January 11, 2009 with nearly 900 reported dead and many more wounded, about half of them are innocent non-combatants of war. Regardless of which side we may be in the decades-long hostilities, the clear message is that racial intolerance, religious bigotry, and territorial disputes don’t bring any good.

The duplicity in the exercise of diplomacy, the use of terrorism, and the rejection of a two-state solution by hardliners remain as huge stumbling blocks in bringing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The interference of countries that benefit from an unstable Middle East is partly to blame.

Civilians living in the Gaza Strip are in a crossfire that disrupts their lives and threatens their survival. In the bloody exchanges of a protracted cycle of violence, the innocents bear undeserved suffering. Among them are workers and migrants from the Philippines who come to this troubled part of the world mainly for economic reasons.

We can only sympathize with our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who put their lives on line to seek ways to survive and help their families back home. We can only ask for the cessation of the killings—an immediate ceasefire which is unheaded at this time.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA,) 16 Filipinos have left the war-torn area and arrived in Manila. Of the 121 still left in Gaza, 69 expressed their desire to evacuate, but the fierce fighting prevents them to do so. It is uncertain if this number includes the illegal Filipinos workers who take risky jobs in the shadows.

This brings us to the problem of our government which sorely lags behind in helping the people to be self-sufficient back home. If jobs and economic opportunities exist in the country, then there are few reasons for our kababayans to insist working in dangerous places like the Middle East. The cost to pay for family separations, isolation, and loneliness is incalculable. It’s sad that our cash-strapped government is in a losing policy of sending Filipinos abroad for the money they’ll earn for the nation’s economy. With no sign of stopping, our workers continue to suffer on their own, at times trapped in harm’s way.

Just to land a job, no matter how menial, has been a source of hope and pride among poor Filipinos who ignore the risks of travel outside the country. Yet, this is the reality of our society faces. Adding to the 10 million Filipinos already deployed abroad, a restless stream still wants to leave for the money.

The government must do better than what our officials think is good enough. There will be a season that host countries won’t justly pay for the services of Filipinos. To keep the country economically alive there’ll be a time when going abroad will be one of our most dreaded options. (Photo Credits: Aryty; Rusty Stewart x 7 photos) =0=

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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]

Israeli air strikes leave 200+ dead in Gaza Strip

December 27, 2008

As Pope Benedict XVI calls for renunciation of violence during the holy season of Christmas, Israelis and Palestinians are on a bloody confrontation again in the Gaza Strip leaving at least 200 dead and injuring about 400 more. This is the result of heavy air strikes conducted by Israeli troops against militant Palestinian targets in Hamas-dominated territory a week after a 6-month ceasefire truce expired.

The resumption of bombings and killings on Saturday, December 27, 2008, is supposed to be Israel’s retaliation to months of Hamas’ mortar fires and indiscriminate rocket launches which terrorize about ¼ million Israelis who live in the area.

Hamas infrastructures and installations had been destroyed and many security officers were killed or hurt. Gaza residents had been on the state of panic as the death toll rose and the wounded victims flooded hospitals and clinics.

“The offensive sparked angry protests throughout the Arab world, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Vatican, the U.N. secretary-general and special Mideast envoy Tony Blair all called for an immediate restoration of calm. The Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the situation.”— YahooNews.com; AP (12/28/08 Barzak, Brahim)

Hamas, the radical group considered by Israel as a terrorist organization, called for revenge, but Isreali military authorities had been firm in their stance. In spite of the call for calm, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak vowed to widen the military offensive if needed. Israel did not set a time-line on when the air strikes would end.

The long-standing conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians has taxed peace-makers for decades, but a solution has been consistently elusive. Extremist Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East who support the Palestinians call for the annihilation of the State of Israel. (Photo Credits: AP/ Mohammed Zastari; AP/ Mohammed Zastari; AFP; AP/ Mohammed Zastari) =0=

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A shoe fly-by for Pres. George W. Bush

December 15, 2008

A shoe from an irate journalist in Baghdad was thrown on Pres. George W. Bush when he attended a news brief about the war with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The US president made light of the incident after he dodged being hit before the man, restrained by security service personnel, was whisked out of the conference room. Shouting invectives, the disruptive hysterical Iraqi hurled the second shoe on Bush, but landed off target just the same.

Pres Bush’s unannounced farewell visit in Baghdad was probably the last before he ends his presidency in January 2009. (Photo Credit: AP) =0=

NOTE: The general reaction of the Arabs and Muslims about the shoe-throwing tips support for the journalist. This speaks of how people in that part of the planet view what is right and wrong. There are those who applaud the show of rage. They celebrate suicide bombers and wail in full drama when someone gets killed violently. Others wonder if there is anything to be damned about the angry shoe. But certainly, in the civilized world, in a saner environment, it’s not the way to treat a head of state, no matter how unpopular he can be.

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Belying nurse surplus with unfilled 20,000 foreign jobs—a slanted view of RP’s unemployment problem

September 2, 2008

After Ruth Padilla, a commissioner of the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) announced there are 400,000 currently unemployed nurses in the Philippines, Jackson Gan, the vice-president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters and his organization belie the excess of nurses because there are unfilled “20,000 job orders for nurses in the Middle East, Singapore, and Europe.” Inquirer (09/01/08, Uy, V.)

By numbers alone, 20,000 jobs Gan speaks of don’t come close to 400,000 jobless licensed nurses that Padilla is referring to. Even if these foreign jobs are filled, there remain 380,000 licensed nurses who aren’t employed. Many more nurses are scheduled to finish their courses and take the boards, adding more numbers in the jobless pool. So how can Gan prove his point?

On Gan’s admission many nurses are shifting to other jobs in computers, call centers, medical transcriptions, or other employment unrelated to their education out of desperation. Is this not a sign of an oversupply? The existence of foreign job offers abroad doesn’t negate the reality of joblessness at home, the place where Filipinos must be in the first place.

Speaking for the manpower establishment (also maybe for the POEA as well,) whose main role is to fill in workers, Gan sounds condescending in saying that our nurses aren’t qualified for the job. This isn’t entirely true— knowing that they went through standard accredited study and were licensed as professionals by the Philippine Regulations Commission (PRC.)

Almost everyone knows there is slowing in hiring coincident to the way-ward increase in the number of nurses in the supply pool. Contrary to Gan’s assertion, Filipino nurses want to go abroad even in countries other than the United States, but there are reasons other than the prejorative label of “not being qualified” that are keeping them at home

The lack of two-year experience in a 250-bed hospital is the reason Gan cites for the unfilled foreign jobs. But this is simplistic and misleading for the turn-over of nurses in big hospitals is brisk. Because of the US back-log (not enough visas are available,) many nurses who already passed the NCLEX are forced to wait for at least 2 years, just the right time for them to comply with the experience requirement.

It is more likely therefore, the 20,000 foreign positions aren’t filled (if truly they exist) is because the jobs offered aren’t attractive enough— the workplace can be “unsafe,” the terms of the contract may be unacceptable, there can be family issues that remain unresolved on immigration, or the offer of going abroad poses difficult cultural and language barriers that is hard to meet. Above all, many applicants may not have the cash to finance their foreign applications forcing them to work and save first before pursuing their plans abroad.

Reported in the news before, Spain wants Filipino nurses, but job-seekers need to learn Spanish—a task that has nothing to do with the nurse’s ability to care for patients in the hospital. Why will they learn Spanish when they are even struggling with the English language which takes them too long to master? Similarly, Belgium also needs nurses, but they have to speak in Belgian. Saudi Arabia may have jobs, but horror stories abound from nurses and overseas foreign workers (OFW’s) who worked in countries where the treatment of women and foreigners are different. There are scary reports of maids in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East who commit suicide because of maltreatment, rape, isolation, and intolerable working conditions.

Gan and people with his mindset need to simply look around to say what they are saying is lopsided, a cheap letdown against the nurses, themselves helpless victims of inept education and labor planning. He speaks from the vantage point of an astute labor-peddler whose interest is mainly to deploy workers in jobs without much regard of the welfare of Filipinos braving the uncertainties and hardships in the world outside. =0=

Hungry Filipinos, Release of 16 Innocent Prisoners And Cholera Death Toll In Mindanao

August 8, 2008

14.5 million
—-Is the estimated number of Filipinos (representing 2.9 million households) who experienced involuntary hunger between April and June 2008 according to a SWS survey. The occurrence of severe hunger rose to 4.2% which corresponds to about 3.3 million people in 760,000 families.

34—-Of the 67 prisoners attended to by the Justice on Wheels in Caloocan City, Philippines, 34 were released. Nineteen of them finished serving jail time while 16 were found innocent of their crime. The incredibly crowded Caloocan City jail keeps 1,500 prisoners in a facility that’s intended for only 500.

21—Death toll of the cholera outbreak in Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao between July 27 to Aug 6, 2008. Residents became ill in what experts believe to be linked with drinking contaminated water. As of Aug 6, 2008, 147 individuals are suspected to harbor the disease.

10,000—From January to June 2008, the total number of Filipino nurses who took the licensure examination in the United States. The number is 107 shy of the total number of nurses who took the same test in the same period last year. Almost 500,000 students are currently enrolled in nursing in the Philippines today.

20
—-The number of Filipino girls rescued from illegal recruitment by human trafficking syndicates recently. Coming from poor towns in the provinces, the girls are locked up by their recruiters while they wait for assignments abroad as OFWs, mostly in the Middle East as domestic workers. Some of these girls end up being abused by employers and they seek help from the Philippine embassy.

12.2%—-Inflation rate of the Philippines in July 2008. Exceeding the previous inflation rate of 11.4% in June, this is the highest in 16 years. Inflation rate averaged 8.3 percent in the first six months of the year, surpassing the government’s original forecast of 3 to 5 percent for 2008

P2.50-P3.50—-Price of pan de sal this week after a 50 centavo rise. Correspondingly, the price of a loaf bread went up to by P3 and now runs at P50-55/ loaf.

66%—The percentage of Filipinos who are scrimping on food, said Pulse Asia in a survey conducted last June and July 2008 in response to high prices of commodities. The same survey disclosed households consume and spend less on electricity, cell phones, transportation, water, and medicine.

90%—-The percentage of disabled persons who are poor, according to Geraldine Ruiz, president of the Organization of Rehabilitation Agencies. As per World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 10 to 15% of the Filipino population has some kind of disability.

1,536
—The number of families (with a total of 6,547 individuals) that are displaced due to a new wave instability and chaos perpetrated by the secessionist group MILF in Midsayap and Aleosan towns alone. Burning of houses, destruction of plantations, looting of properties and cattle rustling, among others are the reasons why civilians are forced to leave the troubled spots in Cotabato, Mindanao, Philippines. =0=

The essence of being a nurse, a P10 million bribe, an OFW’s complaint against RP officials in Saudi Arabia, & Dolphy’s secret of being young

July 31, 2008

Palagay ko, it’s my job. Kapag nasa linya ng comedy, wala akong iniisip kung hindi katatawanan at puro comedy ginagawa ko. Making people laugh is fun talaga. It’s better sa buhay.”
Dolphy remarks on his secret of being young at age 80.

“Considering our depressed condition and lowered people’s morale, it is clear that uncoordinated, quickie and populist projects will not work and be just a waste of time, resources and goodwill,”
Former Pres. Fidel Ramos on the dismal policies of Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo

“Should we worry? There will be pain but maybe worrying too much is too much. We will survive this eventually.”
Dr. Cayetano Paderanga Jr., a professor at the UP School of Economics on the deteriorating economy and lack of morale of the people.

“More than three million children between the ages of 6 and 15 are now out of school. What is her administration going to do about it? Judging from her SONA — nothing, other than hand out a few scholarships,’’
ACT-UP Chairman Antonio Tinio asks the government on what to do with children who can’t afford to go to school.

“My advantage of being half-Filipino, half-German is having an exotic beauty which I think is not common with other people. But for me, it’s my multi-cultural values which set me apart because these make me a better and stronger person.”
Princess Uhrig, a mixed-race candidate in the Miss Limburg-Belgium beauty pageant to be held in September.

“Promoting an NFP-only policy goes against our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, which targets increased access to reproductive health services and contraceptive prevalence rate — covering both modern natural and artificial methods — to 60 percent by 2010 and 80 percent by 2015,”
Ramon San Pascual, director of the Phil. Legislator’s Population and Development Foundation Committee, airing objection to the Roman Catholic Church stand against artificial contraception.

“So, they were talking of a win-win situation, which meant offering P10 million for me to give way to Justice Reyes. I politely declined that offer and told the emissary that it was not only a matter of principle but that it will [also] affect the integrity of the court. Before he left, he told me that they were still hoping that I could see it their way,”
Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio bares a scandalous bribery offer he got from someone whom he believes to be an emissary of Meralco.

“Palitan n’yo na lahat ng nakaupo mula sa ibaba hanggang sa itaas. Imbes na sila ang makatulong sa amin, sila pa nagpapahirap sa amin”
OFW Armando Navarro who said while calling for the replacement of Philippine Consular officials in Saudi Arabia.

“I regret what I did. I’m ready to face any punishment because he is my son,”
—says a desperate man of Legazpi City who stabbed his three month old baby for he can’t care for him any longer.

“When you decide to become a nurse, you have to have passion to serve and to care. The essence of nursing is to care for the people,”
Nurse Board topnotcher Aira Therese S.Javier said. She believes going abroad must not be the primary motivation of her colleagues in the profession. =0=