Items filtered by date: Sunday, 24 December 2017

Geraint Thomas returns to Paris-Roubaix in 2018

Team Sky rider back at the Classics ahead of Tour de France

After skipping the Classics in 2017, Geraint Thomas will return to take on Paris-Roubaixand Liège-Bastogne-Liège next season.

The Welshman, who confirmed his participation and leadership hopes for next year’s Tour de France in an interview with Cyclingnews last week, has also outlined the rest of his early season ambitions.

Unlike in previous years, he will not begin his season in Australia at the Tour Down Under, and will instead make a later debut at the Volta ao Algarve in the spring. Tirreno-Adriatico will also feature on his programme, before he returns to altitude training.

He will miss the bulk of the early spring cobbled races, including the Tour of Flanders, but will return for Paris-Roubaix in a Team Sky line-up that will also include Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon.

"There are a lot of big races in the build up to the Tour, so I’ll start with Algarve, then do Tirenno and then do some training camps. Then I’ll come back and ride Paris-Roubaix, which is exciting. With the cobbled stage in the Tour it’s a good excuse to go back and ride that Monument," he told Cyclingnews.

"It’s a race that I love, along with Flanders, but I’ll be in Tenerife then. It won’t be ideal preparation but everyone knows that anything can happen in Roubaix. I just want to be there in the final and help Stannard and Moscon. That’ll be exciting. Then I’ll do Liège, [the Tour de] Romandie, the [Critérium du] Dauphiné and then Tour. It’s a lot of big races. I’m raring to go."

Thomas sat down with Team Sky’s management last week to finalise his programme. He will have a free role at the Tour de France but a lot will depend on Chris Froome’s future, with the four-time winner currently building a defence after returning an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at the Vuelta a España. Froome could be cleared but he could also face up to two years out of the sport with a ban.

For now, Thomas is just focusing on the element he can control.

"I left the meeting excited. They said that if I’m looking better and feeling stronger then they will support me," he said.

"Time will tell with that, I guess, but I’m excited about the Tour and the races leading up to that."

  • Published in Sports

Ravena impresses anew for NLEX in win over GlobalPort

NLEX rookie Kiefer Ravena drives past GlobalPort's Michael Juico during the Road Warriors and the Batang Pier's Christmas game at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. | PBA Images
BOCAUE, Bulacan — Kiefer Ravena is the gift that kept on giving for NLEX.

Besting his debut of 18 points, Ravena finished with 20 markers to power the Road Warriors past GlobalPort Batang Pier, 115-104, in the Christmas Day tussle at the Philippine Arena, Monday.

"We just gave ourselves and our supporters a really nice gift on Christmas day. Being able to carry our winning momentum, it’s going to be a two wk break but we’ll keep on practicing through the holidays,” Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao said of the win.

Ravena, in 29 minutes of action, dished out five assists and registered four steals to go with his team-best scoring. But the highlight of his performance — as if giving everyone in attendance a holiday present — was a booming triple at the final 1:57 mark of the contest and a breakaway dunk as the game wound down.

"Kiefer will take care of himself. He knows how to take care of himself in the league. It’s giving guys like Michael Miranda and Fonzo Gotladera some time,” the fiery mentor said of his prized rookie.

JR Quiniahan added 19 more points in the scoring effort as veteran marksman Larry Fonacier made his presence anew with 12.

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Stanley Pringle led the way for GlobalPort with 33 points. Sean Anthony chipped in 19 more to keep their opponents within reach in their first outing in the Philippine Cup.

But the Batang Pier were clearly missing hotshot guard Terrence Romeo, who is still recovering from a knee contusion.

"Nabanggit ko nga, swerte rin kami because Terrence is not playing. Just with Stanley Pringle we have a handful. It’s really difficult containing Pringle, what more kung andyan pa si Terrence. We’re just taking advantage of the rbeaks we’re getting at the same time, it’s giving us time to jell."

"Winning and being able to use a deep rotation is big. Merry Christmas,” Guiao closed.

The Road Warriors are now 2-0 in the all-Filipino conference. They take on the Phoenix Fuelmasters next on Jan. 7, 2018, at the Big Dome.

The Scores:

NLEX 115 — Ravena 20, Quiñahan 19, Fonacier 12, Tiongson 10, Alas 9, Baguio 8, Gotladera 8, Miranda 8, Mallari 6, Monfort 5, Rios 5, Taulava 3, Al-Hussaini 2.

GLOBALPORT 104 — Pringle 33, Anthony 19, Grey 13, Nabong 9, Araña 8, Elorde 5, Guinto 4, Juico 4, Taha 4, Flores 2, Sargent 2, Gabayni 1.

Quarters: 25-25, 50-45, 84-76, 115-104.

  • Published in Sports

Slaughter powers Ginebra to 'Manila Clasico' win over Magnolia

Barangay Ginebra big man Greg Slaughter towers over his defender during the Gin Kings' Christmas Day "Manila Clasico" clash at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The crowd favorite Ginebra won, 89-78. | PBA Images
BOCAUE, Bulacan — Barangay Ginebra reasserted their mastery over its Manila Clasico rivals, beating the Magnolia Hotshots, 89-78, in their Christmas Day clash at the Philippine Arena here.

Greg Slaughter, as if to make up for the many Philippine Cup games he missed, scattered 24 points and hauled 12 rebounds to help the season-debuting Gin Kings in their wire-to-wire conquest of the Hotshots.

LA tenorio and Japeth Aguilar added to the effort with a one-two punch of their own, combining for 27 points.

“I’m really surprised with how well we played,” Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone said. “We weren’t perfect out there but we really played with good energy."

“This is really his conference,” Cone said of Slaughter.

Magnolia, which was coming off from a win last week, leaned on Ian Sangalang to keep their foes within striking range. Skipper Paul Lee and veteran PJ Simon churned out 16 and 15 points, respectively.

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But all that was for naught as the Gin Kings proved to be too deep.

Jervy Cruz tallied 12 points while Mark Caguioa added seven.

Ginebra, which scored its third straight 'Clasico' win, is now 10-1 over their opponents during Christmas Games. They take on Blackwater next on Jan. 12, 2018, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:

GINEBRA 89 — Slaughter 24, Tenorio 15, J. Aguilar 12, Cruz 12, Caguioa 7, Ferrer 7, Thompson 6, Mariano 4, Taha 2, R. Aguilar 0, Manuel 0.

MAGNOLIA 78 — Sangalang 25, Lee 16, Simon 15, Pingris 6, Barroca 4, Dela Rosa 4, Gamalinda 4, Herndon 2, Melton 2, Ramos 0, Brondial 0, Pascual 0.

Quarters: 22-17, 48-37, 66-60, 89-78.

  • Published in Sports

Kale and other leafy vegetables may make your brain seem 11 years younger

This basket of kale may not look like a fountain of youth, but eating leafy green vegetables every day was associated with significantly slower decline in memory and thinking skills, according to a new study. (Jason Clark / Knight-Ridder Tribune)
Look into your salad bowl and think: If a fountain of cognitive youth were flowing in there, would you return every day?

In research that gives new meaning to the expression “salad days,” a study published Wednesday finds that older people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than did people who rarely or never ate these vegetables.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

After almost five years, regular consumers of such veggies as kale, spinach, collard greens and lettuce enjoyed a mental edge that was the equivalent of 11 years in age.

To be sure, the top tier of leafy-vegetable consumers started with cognitive scores that were slightly higher than those in the bottom tier. That’s probably a testament to the power of lifelong eating patterns.

But over five years, the pattern of mental aging differed markedly in these two groups. Study participants who ate an average of roughly 1.3 servings of leafy greens a day experienced a decline in test performance that was about half as steep as that of participants whose daily consumption was near-zero.

Those stark differences were evident even after the researchers took account of a host of factors that are known to affect mental aging, including age, gender, education, exercise, participation in cognitive activities, smoking and consumption of seafood and alcohol.

Let’s say you and your neighbor are both 75 and similar in most every way: You both completed the same amount of school, take regular walks together, don’t smoke, and gather with friends over an occasional beer.

But while you enjoy a little more than a bowl of greens every day, your pal barely touches the stuff.

This long-running study would predict that at 75, your memory and thinking skills are a notch stronger than your neighbor’s. Over the next five years, hers will decline twice as fast as yours.

By the time you’re both 80, a battery of exercises that test several types of memory, as well as the speed and flexibility of your thinking, may show that your mental age is typical of a 75-year-old’s. Meanwhile, your neighbor’s performance on the same cognitive tests may look more like that of an 86-year-old.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Martha Morris, the senior author of the study who studies nutrition and brain health at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Eating these leafy greens was independently associated with slower cognitive decline. That tells you this single food group contains so many nutrients it could be brain-protective.”

Morris and her colleagues identified a small cluster of specific nutrients that appear to offer anti-aging benefits. The leafy greens that participants were asked about are generally rich in vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein and beta-carotene. While inconsistent, research has suggested that some or all of these nutrients may play some role in protecting the brain against inflammation, the accumulation of toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid, and neuronal damage and death.

For lifelong avoiders of leafy greens, the study doesn’t show that a late-life conversion to kale salads and spinach shakes will keep dementia at bay. But Morris said she thinks about nutrition the same way she thinks about exercise.

“You do get immediate benefits from eating healthy foods and exercising,” she said. ”And you get long-term benefits.”

Dr. Lon Schneider, a specialist in dementia at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, says the new study offers important insights into which nutrients in the Mediterranean diet help support health in aging. But it also underscores the complexity of dementia and cognitive aging — and the absence of a “silver bullet” to counter them.

“Dementia is a complex illness, as so many chronic illnesses are,” Schneider said. “It’s clearly not caused by one thing, and surely its onset and severity are not caused by one thing. This shows the environment is really important. Diet matters.”


  • Published in Health

Kids Don’t Have Parents Anymore—They Have ‘Sharents’

Kids Don’t Have Parents Anymore—They Have ‘Sharents’
Your kid could be your ticket to likes, fame, and money. Or your kid could be your kid.

Who and what is a “sharent” exactly? If you have both a child and a smartphone, it’s probably you.

Sharenting, a term to describe parents who actively share their kids’ digital identities online, is rampant in the United States, with 92 percent of toddlers under the age of 2 already having their own unique digital identity. As 2017 comes to a close, it appears to be a phenomenon that shows no sign of slowing down.

“When I first started looking into the topic, I was wrestling with the issue as a mother myself,” says Stacey Steinberg, one of the most noted researchers on the issue and the author of “Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media.” “The more I looked into it, the more I realized, this isn’t just a moral issue, this is actually a public health issue.”

It’s no surprise then that international child advocacy organization UNICEF released a report this month lamenting the dangers of the “bedroom culture” which is leading to reckless sharenting—one that can have profound implications on safety and psychological welfare, not to mention a child’s right to privacy now, or later in life, their right to be digitally erased.

The statistics are stressful to consider:

One in four children said their parents’ sharenting made them feel embarrassed, anxious, worried, or sad.
Fifty percent of images shared on pedophile sites are stolen from social media sites.
Eighty-eight percent of teens think people are sharing too much online.
Fourteen percent of American moms maintain their own blogs of which there are an estimated 3.9 million in North America—with the top 10 percent making six figures.
The pull to sharent—for profit, fame, and approval—is increasingly lucrative. “InstaMom” influencers make thousands of dollars with every campaign while YouTube’s top family vloggers make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Examining sharenting is more about truly understanding the implications of what we are doing and how it’s affecting kids,” Steinberg says. “This is a huge children’s rights issue, but we can’t alienate parents who are doing this. Most parents truly crave more information to make informed decisions.”

Not just amongst parents but internationally, opinions are often mixed. In the United Kingdom, opinion on the topic is split right down the middle, with half of parents keeping their kids’ identities private. In France, it might get you sent to jail. In Austria, a woman sued her parents for the embarrassing photos they posted of her on Facebook. And in America, it’s a topic sometimes treated with very jaded eyes, even in the press, such as The New York Times’ piece asking the question, “Why Isn’t Your Toddler Paying the Mortgage?”

Upon closer examination, however, sharenting is less fun trend-piece or made-up media portmanteau (it was an official word of the year in 2016) and much more wake-up call as to how few protections exist for children in this emerging space. Unlike, say, in Hollywood, which employs the Child Actor’s Bill (sometimes known as Coogan Law) as protection, for all those babies who are now being literally born on YouTube or kids who daily are being asked by their parents to shill for brands for money, there is no equivalent protection.

A number of Daily Dot pieces get straight to the heart of examining the sharenting-over-parenting monster: “The Problem With Viral ‘Sassy’ Toddler Videos,” or “Is Creating ‘Mommy-blog’ Content the New Child Labor?” Indeed, when a viral exposé like James Bridle’s “Something is Wrong on the Internet,” which published in November, unveiled just how disturbing the children’s landscape on YouTube has become, advertiser reaction was brutal and swift, essentially forcing the video giant to take action.

In the weeks since, YouTube has kicked off a number of channels including Toy Freaks, which had more than 8 million subscribers and featured disturbing content of the father appearing to traumatize his children with “pranks” that left them terrorized. In 2018, YouTube plans to hire 10,000 manual reviewers to monitor the issue.

A shift may be starting to take place. In the wake of the contentious viral saga of bullied child Keaton Jones, an editorial in The Washington Post this month pleaded, “Parents, Please Stop Turning Your Kids Into Viral Sensations,” in which Sonny Bunch wrote, “For God’s sake: Stop putting your kids’ tears online for the rest of us to either laugh at or empathize with. Everything on the Internet will be there forever. Your children shouldn’t be forced to live with your need for attention.”

Another article in Slate wryly summed up the naked appeal for so many sharents trying to break into “The Multimillion-Dollar Industry of Being a Happy Family on YouTube.” As Leigh Alexander wrote, “Can kids even truly consent to this use of their image? For that matter, what does it mean when a parent is, essentially, a child’s employer? In the case of ‘DaddyofFive,’ two parents played tricks on their children and lied to them in order to film and monetize their distress as comedy—and ultimately lost custody of those children, facing charges of child neglect.”

Most soberly of all, earlier this year in JAMA Pediatrics, the warning could not be clearer to both pediatricians and parents who might be oblivious. The report, co-authored by Steinberg warns: “The disclosures parents share online will follow their children into adulthood, and although there are benefits to this, there are also potential harms that are unrecognized by many parents. Harms may include identity theft, resharing pirated information on predator sites, sharing psychosocial information that should remain private, and sharing revealing or embarrassing information that may be misused by others.”

Child safety advocates are trying to determine best practices, but it’s an uphill battle when the spectrum for what one parent feels comfortable with versus another is so wildly different. Indeed, earlier this year gossip sites reported that Stella McCartney was upset when her friends the Beckhams posted a picture of her 6-year-old.

Actress Romola Garai spoke out even more angrily, saying, “The privacy of children is invaded on a catastrophic scale… I think we’ll look back at this period as utterly perverse. It should be illegal to post pictures of children without their permission. If you have a private channel to share things among friends, that’s one thing. But I can’t imagine that this generation of children won’t turn round in 20 years and say, ‘I didn’t want to be naked in a picture seen by millions of people I don’t know.’ Privacy is very valuable.”

No matter a parent’s stance on the topic, there are certain privacy and safety fundamentals to follow. Like hiding birthdates, addresses, school information, medical data—anything that could be misused in the wrong hands.

“It amazes me when parents are so flippant about posting so much information online about their children—including standing in front of their homes, with their address featured in the pictures and their schools, too,” says Sue Scheff, the author of Shame Nation. “It’s not only about child predators. Many kids simply don’t want their parents oversharing on social about their lives.”

Alicia Blum-Ross, a researcher at the London School of Economics, suggests parents seize upon some of the recent sharenting controversy as an “opportunity to engage” with children, thereby figuring out the “extent that they understand what social media is” and “what is appropriate or not and what might you share to one person and not the other?” Weighing the pros and cons can be tricky, Blum-Ross says, because “telling parents to ‘share nothing’ may in effect cut them off from much needed and valued sources of support.” That’s why, “ultimately, parents need to be mindful about what they share, why, and with whom and to involve their children in that decision wherever possible.”

That is exactly the golden rule that Jessica Delfino lives by in protecting the privacy of her son, and only sharing photos with close family and friends. She writes about the challenges of parenting on her blog “One and Done Mom”—but never shows her child’s face.

“I just can’t do it,” says Delfino, who ironically in her own life has extensively chronicled herself digitally—from songs she’s recorded about her vagina to a stunt where she wore a garbage bag around New York to see how people reacted. “Trust me, resisting the urge to sharent goes against every natural instinct I have as a performer. That part of me is like, ‘This kid is a goldmine. His face is worth millions!’ As a mother, I’m like, ‘Don’t screw this baby up. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be that person.’”

Interestingly, Delfino say it’s not an issue of consent, but that “even if he could and did beg me to post his face, I’d say no. It’s about me protecting him from the scary world out there.”

Even for avid sharenters like writer Marina Gomberg, who recently published, “Do I Post Too Much About My Son? Yup, But I Can’t Stop (and Won’t Stop)” in The Salt Lake Tribune, her sentiments echo Delfino’s, and she holds herself to a personal standard that ensures parenting takes the priority—always. She’s also knowledgeable about sharenting’s dark side.

“The extremes of sharenting are definitely exploitive and concerning,” she says. “Which is why my wife and I are strict about what we share. We never post pictures of our son when he is crying or upset. I honestly don’t understand why people do that. Why aren’t they attending to their child?”

That is the big question it’s shocking more people do not ask. In a must-read piece about the aftermath and estrangement of family YouTubers, a 13-year-old toy reviewer reveals the awful reality of what it’s like to have your mother so focused on sharenting, the parenting seems to go almost entirely by the wayside.

Interestingly, while sharenting is a new phenomenon in the realm of digital dissemination, in terms of the controversy it stirs in protecting vulnerable children, the issue is not new at all. The godmother of sharenting just might be controversial photographer Sally Mann and her stirring, disturbing portraits of her children in 1992, which ignited a firestorm that in some ways has never stopped. Indeed, art historian Anne Higonnet’s words on Mann’s photographs then ring just as true (and as unresolved) as they do today: “No subject is as publicly dangerous now as the subject of the child’s body.”

Just like the YouTube family vloggers of 2017 who bring up how it is actually the children begging to do all those sponsored videos, Mann once famously explained, “The children love to model and are continuously thinking of new pictures.” But like those vloggers of today, whose privacy selectivity is striking, Mann is notorious for the same. In 1994, when a documentarian made a short film on her work, she blocked its release because it “felt too much like real life; that was an invasion.” In her 2015 memoir (one year before the suicide of her eldest son, who had long grappled with schizophrenia), Mann discussed when she stops filming. “As my father weakened with brain cancer,” she wrote, “I tried to photograph him… But I put away my camera when I began to see that photographing his loss of dignity would cause him pain.”

That’s the fundamental question inherent in all of this, really: loss of dignity.

Incredibly, it is often the children—not the adults—who are more sensitive to the issue. Already, researchers are finding that it is the young people in our digital sharenting culture trying to talk sense into the parents, and not the other way around. (In a 2014 academic journal article called “‘I Would Never Post That’: Children, Moral Sensitivity and Online Disclosure,” the article revealed it was the young people who had an acute understanding of the “moral consequences of disclosing personal information about oneself and about others.”)

For London writer Charlotte Philby, who announced in a touching piece why she was quitting sharenting, she described the heartbreaking moment her daughter came across an image of herself on her mom’s phone, and quietly reacted to it how it made her feel. “I hate this one,” she said, pleading to her mother’s better nature. “I look really sad. Please delete it.”

Philby fell into the parenting market by accident when she became editor of a successful parenting website, and over time found herself desensitized by the glut of pictures bombarding her news feed.

“I found myself increasingly sharing pictures, albeit largely ones I thought were funny or shone a meaningful light on what it is to be a multi-tasking parent, until there came a point where I no longer felt comfortable with my own behavior,” she explains. In June last year, Philby announced a 12-month hiatus from social media, amidst wider concerns about the amount of information she shared with her 10,000 followers, and the amount of time and energy that social media had started to occupy in her life.

“It was time stolen bit by bit—a bus ride here, a lunchtime there,” she says.

Moreover, it was about setting an example to her children who were nearing ages where they, too, would soon be starting to use social media themselves.

“How could I expect them to behave responsibly online,” she asks, “when I was demonstrating such a lack of restraint myself?”

Sharenting and social addiction can indeed result in kids becoming overly conscious of how they appear because they’re highly aware of how concerned their parents are. Indeed, a BBC study showed that 25 percent of 10- to 12-year-olds who post selfies say it is “very important” to look good.

Josie Denise, once a rising mommy-blogger influencer, is currently wrestling with where she falls on the sharenting spectrum. Having gained a great bit of attention when she dramatically quit (and revealed the artifice behind) the world of mommy blogging a year ago, now she says, “In the beginning, I was happy to whore myself out for anyone willing to send me free lipstick, you know?... When I quit posting to The American Mama, I was earning between $725-$1500 per partnership, sometimes more or less depending on the length of the campaign and number of posts. New ‘influencers’ gasp and awe over the six-figure dream, but in reality for the majority of online content creators, the workload is unsustainable unless you are ready to hire a team of people.”

Fortunately, there are a radical array of options for parents wrestling with how to determine their own sharenting approach. All of which contain a single commonality: Please do not forget to ask how the child feels about what is occurring.

As the New Statesman underscores in a piece about sharenting’s most extreme forms on YouTube, the “responsibility lies with parents themselves to decide whether or how they should film their children. The consequences of this lack of regulation will most likely become apparent in a decade, when YouTube’s child celebrities have grown up.”

Sharenting law scholar Steinberg predicts: “At some point in the future, courts may weigh in, framing the question not as a moral one but as a legal one, asking, ‘Where does a parent’s right to share end and a child’s right to privacy begin?’”

Another question to ask: How important is a child’s right to attention?

An incredible piece in the Harvard Business Journal titled “What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life” offers an illustrative anecdote that slices right through any justification a parent might make for how children prefer sharenting over parenting. The author Kare Anderson explains how she was once hired by Disney executives to figure out exactly what—of all the magical wonders and costumed characters and rides and sugary delights—captivated toddlers and infants visiting the theme park the most.

“[A]fter a couple of hours of close observation,” Anderson wrote, “we realized that what most captured the young children’s attention wasn’t Disney-conjured magic. Instead it was their parents’ cell phones, especially when the parents were using them. Those kids clearly understood what held their parents’ attention—and they wanted it too.”

In one of the most viral blog pieces ever written on the topic, Rachel Macy Stafford dives clear-eyed into the mindset of a child and what translates to them as love and attention. It’s not a photo. It’s definitely not a half-hour spent taking a photo, editing it, and then uploading it. And my God, it is not monetization.

Called “How to Miss a Childhood,” her manifesto speaks to parents and their relationship to their son or daughter.

“Look in to her eyes when she speaks to you… Your uninterrupted gaze is love to your child… The gift of your total presence is love to your child… Hold her hand, rub his back, listen to her heart beat, and smooth his hair.”

No one sees any of this. No one “likes” it. The experience certainly can’t be shared, monetized, preserved, documented, or tweaked with a filter. No one might even know the moment ever existed. No one, that is, except for parent and child.

  • Published in Tech

Survivor recounts escape from searing heat

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte consoles the relatives of one of the victims who were trapped inside the NCCC Mall Davao upon hearing the news that their loved ones may have zero chance of survival as the fire inside the mall continues to rage as of dawn of December 24, 2017. Joining the President is Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go. KIWI BULACLAC/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

DAVAO CITY—Aprielle Bolosito thought it was going to be the end for her as she struggled desperately against the suffocating smoke and the searing heat in the dark to escape the fire raging through the call center where she worked.

“I told myself I am going to die. I tried to locate my cell phone so I could use the flashlight [app] but I couldn’t find it,” she said in an emotional account on her Facebook page punctuated by crying emoticons.

The fire started early on Saturday at the third floor of NCCC Mall and quickly reached the fourth floor call center offices of the US-based Survey Sampling International (SSI) Davao, a global data provider.

Missing coworkers

Officials on Sunday said that there was “zero chance” of survival for 37 of Bolosito’s colleagues who were missing in the blaze because of the smoke and heat.

“I cannot breathe. I covered my nose and mouth with my jacket. I ran back to the office because fire was everywhere already and we were trapped at the locker room. But the office was full of suffocating smoke as well,” Bolosito said.

With the ceiling crackling above them, she and her coworkers were crying and screaming inside the locker room because the “blistering heat” blocked their way to a fire exit, she said on her Facebook page hours after her escape.

“I was thinking of [my] son all the time and tried hard to escape even if I could not see anything,” she said.

While trying to find a way out, Bolosito said she heard one of her supervisors, Lloyd Angeles, yelling that the lobby might be safe.

No one followed

Angeles headed out but no one else followed her and only heard their panicked voices.

“They were saying it was very hot there already and that they might no longer be able to withstand the heat. I also heard a couple of them shouting CR! CR!” she said.

Bolosito and other colleagues with whom she was reunited ran to a billiard hall on the east side of the mall, which led to another fire exit, but they couldn’t break its glass door.

She said she and her colleagues eventually managed to find an area that was still free of smoke and led to another exit to safety.

Bolosito said it was “very traumatic” for her to have seen those who were still missing “at the height of the chaos” and learning later that they did not make it.

“I’m out of words to describe how I a feel! They really struggled and fought to survive,” she added. “How blessed and thankful I am that I am alive.”

‘Weird posts’

Other SSI workers also were overcome by grief.

Leilani Ortaliz said her “caring and jolly” friend and supervisor, Ivan Nebelle Roble, who is among those missing, had left “weird posts” on Facebook days before the fire.

On Dec. 17, Roble said in a cryptic post: “You’ll miss me when I’m gone.”

A day before the fire, he posted: “2017 was a weird year because I was somehow living my best life and worst life at the same time” along with a hashtag #GoingOfflineForAWhile.

Jessica Solis, who also is missing, reacted saying, ““Hahaha, won’t forget this!”

“I’m weeping. I am very emotional now,” Ortaliz told the Inquirer in a Facebook chat.

Pring Tabada, also an SSI employee, said Solis was a very caring team manager, who had accompanied her to an administration hearing to show support two days before the fire.

Tabada struggled with the loss of Solis and three other close SSI colleagues.

“Lord, how can I possibly accept [what happened], all my best friends are gone, I’m now alone. Rest in Peace Girls,” she said. —ALLAN NAWAL



More bodies found; ‘Vinta’ death toll tops 200


EVACUATION Residents of Kabacan town in North Cotabato province leave their homes as floodwaters continue to rise. —AFP

The school principal could barely contain his emotion as the bodies of eight schoolchildren were plucked one by one out of the thick mud that descended on several villages in Salvador town, Lanao del Norte, on Friday.

“It’s very painful to see the bodies of the children, whom we also considered to be our own,” Ricardo Abalo, principal of Salvador Central School, told the Inquirer.

Forty-four deaths were confirmed in the town.

The death toll from floods and landslides triggered by Tropical Storm “Vinta” (international name: Tembin) in Mindanao rose to 166 on Sunday as more bodies were recovered in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte.

Reuters reported 200 dead, while the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council placed the death toll at 123, as it had yet to get validation from local governments.
Disaster officials said 159 people were missing while about 70,000 were forced to flee their homes.

Torrential rain

Vinta lashed Mindanao on Friday with gusts of 125 kilometers per hour and torrential rain, wiping out at least one mountain village and prompting a massive rescue operation over the weekend. It roared out into the South China Sea early on Sunday.

Abalo, the principal, joined rescuers who combed the thick mud to find survivors in the villages of Pansor, Buntong and Madaya on Saturday. Among the missing was the 17-year-old child of teacher Paz Tabera Concepcion and several high school students.

So far, the bodies retrieved included those of pupils in kindergarten and Grades 3, 4 and 5.

Zamboanga del Norte topped the list of areas with the highest number of deaths at 72, according to provincial information officer Praxides Rubia.

Most of the deaths were in Gutalac town, Rubia said. Its mayor, Onesimo Coma Jr., said 15 of the 24 people who died from the floods were children aged from 3 months to 14 years.

Lanao del Norte reported 65 deaths, including the 44 in Salvador town. Munai town had 11 fatalities, Tubod town had eight and Iligan City, two.

Munai Mayor Casan Maquiling said 11 bodies had been recovered, including that of an 8-month-old. Thirty-five others, mostly children and women, remained missing, including Councilor Jamal Batalo, he said.


Abalo said what happened to Salvador town could be considered nature’s wrath. “Maybe nature wanted to send the message that it was important to take care of it.”

He noted that while logging and other destructive activities had already stopped in the town, those in nearby areas in Lanao del Sur continued.

Zia Adiong, spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur crisis management committee, said 26 people died in the province.

Piagapo town recorded 10 deaths, followed by Madalum with eight, Tugaya with four, Balindong with two, and Tamparan and Bacolod-Kalawi, one each.

Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Davao City reported one death each.

Flood from Mt. Gurayan

Citing accounts, Maquiling said floodwaters rampaged down Mt. Gurayan for about two hours.

Nine villages, including Lininding, Bacayawan, Pindolonan, Matampay and Old Poblacion, were severely affected.

At least 1,456 families were isolated after Dalama Bridge was damaged, he added. Pindolonan itself, he said, was cut into two areas.

Nine school buildings were destroyed.




Dela Rosa plays ‘Santa Chief’

SPREADING CHEER, NOT FEAR Wearing a Santa Claus cap, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa leads the giving of Christmas gifts to children and other relatives of drug suspects, including those killed in the government’s brutal campaign against narcotics, at Batasan High School in Quezon City. —JOAN BONDOC

He donned a red Santa Claus stocking cap adorned with blinking lights and was greeted with cheers, but the Christmas message that Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, gave families of those arrested or killed in the crackdown on illegal drugs did not exactly repeat the season’s “sounding joy.”

It’s time to move on and begin the healing process, Dela Rosa told at least 625 children from the villages of Payatas, Old Balara, Batasan Hills, Commonwealth and Holy Spirit in Quezon City, many of whom were orphaned by the government’s bloody war on drugs.

‘No forever’

“Many of you are hurting because your fathers were killed or arrested, but the police are hurting, too,” Dela Rosa said. “We don’t want anyone wounded or killed. What we are doing is also for your future.”

There is no forever, he added during the Quezon City Police District’s gift-giving program on Saturday when some 800 residents of the city’s poor communities were handed candies, toys and grocery items.

But while some families echoed Dela Rosa’s message, others found it difficult to simply move forward without getting justice.

For many families, the pain and fear from their harrowing experiences still linger, said Avelino Buizon, a coordinator for the Diocese of Novaliches who was among those in charge of gathering families of victims for the event.

Lessen the pain

“Some parents whom we invited did not want to go and see the police, but sent their children anyway,” Buizon said in an interview. “The parents [remain] fearful, but the children … only know joy.”

Added Buizon: “At least for Christmas, this program and the gifts the children received can somehow lessen the pain in their hearts.”

Others have learned to live with the death of their family member. Among them was Kathrina Polo, one of the coordinators of the program, whose husband, Cherwen, was shot dead by police officers from Station 6.

Some officers from Station 6 had been tagged the “Davao Boys” in a recent Reuters report because the policemen allegedly involved in the summary execution of drug suspects came from President Duterte’s hometown of Davao City.

‘We should move on’

Polo, who was seated with police and city officials onstage, refused to talk about her husband’s killing in what officers claimed was a drug raid.

“We should move on because the fault of one policeman is not the fault of all of them,” she told the Inquirer.

Polo said she had filed a case in the PNP Internal Affairs Service and the Office of the Ombudsman against the Station 6 officers involved in her husband’s killing.

It was difficult to work with the police at first, Polo said, but she realized that she had to move forward for the sake of her three young children.


Mall fire: Duterte weeps for 37 dead

DAVAO BLAZE Firefighters battle the blaze that engulfed the four-story NCCC Mall in the commercial center of Matina District in Davao City,which began at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. —BARRY OHAYLAN


37 feared dead in Davao City mall blaze3.9K viewsNews

DAVAO CITY—A fire that swept through a shopping mall in Davao City was believed to have killed at least 37 employees of an American call center housed in the building, according to local officials.

Firefighters found one burned body as the blaze was brought under control on Sunday, but 36 others remained missing and were feared dead, Mayor Sara Duterte, President Duterte’s daughter, told reporters.

Mayor Duterte said firefighters had “assessed that no one would survive in that heat and with that thick, black smoke.”

Six people were rescued and taken to the hospital.

The President, who served more than two decades as Davao mayor, visited distraught relatives on Saturday night at a restaurant near the burning mall.

Pictures released by Malacañang showed him visibly moved by the tragedy. In one, he was wiping tears and in a couple of others he was consoling weeping women.

“It’s hard to imagine they could still be alive but let us pray,” Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles quoted Mr. Duterte as telling the relatives.

The President said the missing had “zero chance of survival,” added Valles, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Wails of grief and disbelief followed the President’s statement.

One woman wept in the arms of her husband, demanding those responsible for the fire be held accountable. “I will have nobody to cook breakfast for every morning anymore,” she cried.

The couple’s 29-year-old daughter, Analiza Penarejo, was among those missing.

Call center

A call center for Survey Sampling International (SSI) Davao, which occupied the fourth floor of New City Commercial Center Mall, is part of global data provider SSI of Shelton, Connecticut.

The blaze started at a third floor furniture store around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday as mall employees and SSI staff began their weekend shift, said Senior Insp. Ma. Teresita Gaspan, spokesperson for the city police.

Many who traveled far to meet the President expected to hear good news about their missing husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who were mostly their families’ breadwinners.

Elenita Liwayan, 46, and her live-in partner, Rommel, endured 12 hours on a “habal-habal” (motorcycle-for-hire) and a bus from the upland village of New Malitbog in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, to get word on her eldest daughter, Charlyn, 23.

Terrible news

But like the others, all they got was the terrible news.

“She (Charlyn) was allergic to smoke. She would cough easily and have difficulty breathing if she’s exposed to smoke,” Elenita told the Inquirer.

“[On] Dec. 20, she sent me some money and promised to spend New Year’s Day with us in Malitbog. Now, that may not happen anymore. I’m still hoping for a miracle to happen,” she added.

James Basalan, 27, said it was supposed to be the last workday this year for his younger brother, Jonas.

Text messages

Basalan said he got a text message from 25-year-old Jonas on Friday night, asking if he and other relatives were affected by the severe flooding that hit the city due to Tropical Storm “Vinta” (international name: Tembin). “I texted him back ‘We’re OK,’” he said.

That was their last exchange of messages, said Basalan, who wanted to help put out the blaze to find his brother.

From Lucena City in Quezon province, Judilyn Solis and her family were holding out hope her eldest sibling, Jessica, 30, had somehow survived.

“We’re still looking forward to her return home for the New Year celebration,” a tearful Judilyn said as she and her parents headed to Manila to catch a plane to Davao where her sister worked as a manager for SSI.

Firefighters have not completely put out the blaze early on Sunday, with pockets of flames erupting inside the building, which was built in 2003 and owned by the trading company Lim Tian Siu Inc.

In respect for the grief of those who had lost loved ones, Mayor Duterte ordered the postponement of other activities scheduled for the city’s Pasko Fiesta festivities. —WITH REPORTS FROM DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., THE WIRES



PH joins China, Russia in opposing UN's criticism of Myanmar over Rohingya

PERSECUTION. A child crying at the refugee camp for Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants in Kuala Langsa, Aceh, on May 15, 2015. Photo by EPA

UNITED NATIONS, United States – The UN General Assembly on Sunday, December 24, urged Myanmar to end a military campaign against Muslim Rohingya and called for the appointment of a UN special envoy, despite opposition from China, Russia and some regional countries including the Philippines.

A resolution put forward by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was adopted by a vote of 122 to 10 with 24 abstentions.

The Philippines, China, Russia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam joined Myanmar in voting against the measure as did Belarus, Syria and Zimbabwe.

The resolution calls on the government to allow access for aid workers, ensure the return of all refugees and grant full citizenship rights to the Rohingya.

It requests that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appoint a special envoy to Myanmar.

The measure was adopted by the assembly after its budget committee gave the green light to funds for the new position of UN special envoy to Myanmar.

More than 650,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled the mainly Buddhist country since the military operation was launched in Rakhine state in late August.

Myanmar authorities insist the campaign is aimed at rooting out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25 but the United Nations has said the violence amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Last week, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said she had been banned from the country and that the government had cut off all cooperation with her. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/

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