Items filtered by date: Friday, 05 May 2017

Cassini probe find vast void between Saturn’s rings

The unmanned Cassini spacecraft, after completing two passes in the vast, unexplored area between Saturn's rings has discovered not much else there, researchers at NASA said.
Scientists have been surprised to find that not all that much -- not even space dust -- lies between Saturn's iconic rings.
"The region between the rings and Saturn is 'the big empty,' apparently," said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, after the probe's first pass.
The rings themselves are made of fast-moving particles of ice and space debris.
The 22-foot-tall (6.7 meter) Cassini spacecraft launched in 1997 and began orbiting Saturn in 2004.
Cassini made a first pass to explore what lies between the rings in late April and a second one on May 2, at a speed of about 77,000 miles per hour relative to the planet.
The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn's atmosphere is about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers).
Cassini is expected to make a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet before making a death plunge into the gas giant in September.
Cassini is a 20-year-old joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. —Agence France-Presse


Human Rights Watch urges UN members to denounce Duterte's 'war on drugs'

MANILA- Member-states of the United Nations should denounce President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs and urge the Philippines to support an international probe on the killings, international non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“UN member countries should urge the Philippines to support an international investigation into the killings, given the Philippine government’s own failure to impartially investigate or prosecute those responsible,” HRW said in a statement released Thursday.
The statement comes ahead of the Philippines’ appearance for the third cycle of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on May 8 in Geneva.
This year’s review will cover the last 4 years of the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III until the present administration.
“The UN review of the Philippines is critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity since President Duterte took office last year,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
More than 7,000 people have been reported killed since Duterte assumed presidency last year. Of this figure, the government only takes responsibility for about one-third of the deaths which they say resulted from legitimate police operations. The other two-thirds however were reported killed vigilante-style or are deaths that are still under investigation.
HRW alleged that Duterte has instigated police and incited vigilantes to kill suspected drug peddlers and users in his anti-drug campaign.
“He (Duterte) has ignored calls for an official probe into these killings. Instead, he has praised the killings as proof of the ‘success’ of the ‘drug war’ and urged police to ‘seize the momentum’,” HRW said.
The organization added that it has documented the existence of police-linked death squads in several cities, including Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, where he served as mayor for more than 2 decades.
HRW also claims law enforcers in the country continue to commit torture against persons in custody despite the passage of the Anti-Torture Act in 2009.
“There is evidence that the military engages in torture of civil society activists and alleged insurgents in its custody,” the organization said.
Tribal and environmental groups, according to the HRW, have also accused the military of using local guerrillas to help clear ancestral areas for mining companies and business interests.
Other human rights violations alleged by the organization are documented policies designed to “derail” the full enforcement of the country’s Reproductive Health Law, and child labor.
The Supreme Court in 2015 issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the RH law. HRW claims the halt order threatens to render obsolete contraceptives already procured by the government since these would expire in 2018.
HRW also criticized the Catholic Church for being “hostile” to sexual health education and condom use which the group claimed are “obstacles” to condom access, HIV testing, and inadequate educational HIV prevention efforts.

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News


UK issues travel advisory after Quiapo blasts

The government of the United Kingdom issued a travel advisory on Saturday, following two explosions some 2 1/2 hours apart rocked Quiapo.

"You should avoid this area, keep up to date with local media and follow the advice of the local authorities," the statement said.

The first blast at 5:55 p.m. killed 2 people and injured 4, while the second at 8:25 p.m. injured 2.


In a statement by Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, the director of the National Capital Region Police Office said that the Philippine National Police has the situation under control.

Albayalde also urged the public to stop spreading misinformation, especially on social media, because it can cause people to panic.

He said people must be more attentive to their surroundings and report to proper authorities any suspicious activity.




War on drugs may 'legitimize' police abuses in PH- expert

MANILA - Police abuses may become normal in the Philippines as violence tends to be "legitimized" in countries that implement intensified crackdowns against illegal drugs, an analyst warned Saturday.
"The war on drugs legitimized and normalized police violence, evidence planting and bribery... when it was implemented in Thailand in 2003," Pascal Tanguay of the Law Enforcement and HIV Network said in a drug policy forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
He said the same trend may happen in the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte "copy-pasted" his policy from Thailand.
"The Philippine war on drugs was taken from Thailand's playbook... Duterte just copy-pasted from Thakshin (Shinawatra)," he said in reference to the former Thai Prime Minister.
Filipino police officials have been criticized by the international community for at least 1,800 drug-related deaths and about 5,700 unsolved homicide cases since Duterte declared his crusade against drug users and peddlers in mid-2016.
Among these cases are the killing of former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa in his jail cell in November 2016, and the kidnapping and slay of a Korean businessman in January inside police headquarters Camp Crame. Duterte defended uniformed officials tagged in these controversies.
Tanguay said the same "promotion of violence and encouraged vigilantism" was observed in Thailand's drug war.
Of the 146,170 drug dependents who were arrested in Thailand between 2003 and 2008, 48 percent said police asked them for bribes, Tanguay said.
"(But) no one was held accountable in Thailand for the abuse of power during the war on drugs," he added.
Instead of mimicking a "failed" policy, Duterte should employ an "evidence-based" drug policy that would demonstrate to the international community how the drug problem can be effectively handled, Tanguay said.
"Duterte should take advantage of the 1 million drug users who surrendered to the government... There's an opportunity for the Philippines to show leadership on how the drug war should be handled," he said.

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News


PBA: Ginebra eyes 5th straight win in first game in 2 weeks

MANILA – Barangay Ginebra will try to make the most out of a rare game in between lengthy breaks in its schedule when it tackles Alaska in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
The Ginebra-Alaska tussle is at 6:45 p.m., after Blackwater and Mahindra open the double header at 4:30 p.m.
Ginebra, which last played on April 23 (an 18-point win over TNT), will go on for another 2 weeks of inactivity after facing Alaska, as the league gives way to the Southeast Asian Basketball Championship, which begins on Friday and ends on May 18.
Tim Cone and co. have won 4 in a row, but the prolonged days off could kill their momentum.
“It’s been a tough grind trying to stay sharp during this long All-Star break, and it is especially important to be sharp against Alaska’s pressure defense,” said Cone in
Just like other PBA teams, Ginebra also lent one of its key players to Gilas Pilipinas — Japeth Aguilar.
“Losing Japeth’s presence as a backside defender and rim protector puts a lot of pressure on our defense to be perfect,” Cone said. “Japeth makes up for a lot of our mistakes. But we’re fortunate we’re only losing him for one game.”
The Aces, who are out to snap a 2-game slide, will also have to play minus a key piece, Calvin Abueva, who was also tapped for the national team.

  • Published in Sports

Panaad sa Negros: Bamboo bikes and other crafts

When the month of April arrives, cities all over Negros Occidental start to prep up their crafts and also the best that they can showcase to the nation. April is the month of Panaad celebration.

To give you a little background, The Panaad sa Negros Festival, also called simply as the Panaad Festival (sometimes spelled as Pana-ad), happens every month of April, in Bacolod City.The word Panaad ( Hiligaynon word) means "vow" or “promise". The festival itself is a form of a religious thanksgiving to the divine for the good life. It also goes back to the tradition of making promises to the Christian God of doing a good deed in exchange for maintaining safety in the family and the whole community. The venue of the celebration is at the Panaad park, with the prominent Panaad Stadium where games are held annually. There are 13 cities and 19 towns participating in this event. And because of this, the Panaad is dubbed as "mother" of all Negros festivals.

I was just cycling along early in the morning when I passed this interesting exhibit (see pictures above). The caretaker related the curing and crafting of the bamboo stalks. They also made sure that everything stands the test of time. Now what really caught my attention was the exhibit in the middle of the shed. They’re all bicycles made of bamboo frames. There’s even a helmet that is a good match if you happen to be riding the bike. I weighted the frames to get the feel of their textures. They’re light and strong. They are also reinforced by an inner frames to withstand the beating if you happen to take your bike to a much more competitive kind of riding. I love the fixed gear frames because I am currently riding a fixed gear bike. I am sure these bikes would look good both in rural and urban areas. It’s very zen and very hipster-ish- if you are into such things...

Thanks to the Bayawan Bambu Initiative.

Design by Jo Ann D. Arguelles

Manufacturer Stephen Sueta

Contact: 639294141173

Text and pictures by Baxter Labatos


Poll shows fewer Pinoy smokers due to higher cigarette prices

High tobacco excise taxes helped cut smoking prevalence among Filipino adults by 5.9 percent in 2015, according to the results of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) released Friday.
Dr. Encarnita Blanco-Limpin, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) executive director, said at press briefing that high taxes have been a "great discouragement" to consumers surveyed for the second GATS.
"The price, actually, even in other countries, it has been shown that really tax measure is the most effective measure that we can implement to reduce tobacco use," Limpin said.
"Sa mga mahihirap, if they don't have enough money to spend, then they would rather na they placed the money to the more important needs of the family: food, education, children, yung clothing, instead of buying cigarettes."
Tobacco use dropped from 29.7 percent in 2009, the first time GATS was conducted, to 23.8 percent in 2015.
About 55.5 percent of current (daily and less than daily) smokers attempted to quit smoking in the past 12 months because of the cost of cigarettes, which can run them P678.4 a month, the survey also said.
Of those who smoked in the past 12 months, four percent managed to successfully quit; 76.7 percent planned to or were thinking about quitting; and 56.5 percent who visited a healthcare provider were advised to quit.
Higher taxes, no public smoking
Among the policies that helped reduce tobacco use is the Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012, which restructured the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco products and marked up their retail prices.
"Because of the sin taxes, since it has really provided much impact on how much money will be consumed just to buy for the cigarettes," Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Maria Francia Laxamana said.
The strict implementation of the policy prohibiting smoking in government buildings except for designated smoking areas and public places were also given significant heft.
"Let us not also remove the impact of the efforts on the drive against smoking in public places because we have actually shown in this particular study, in this survey, that there was significant reduction also in exposure to second-hand smoke which means to say that the drive against smoking in public place is also working very well," Limpin stressed.
More investment into counter advertising such as warning labels on cigarette packages, anti-cigarette smoking commercials, and posters also encouraged smokers to quit tobacco.
The number of adults who noticed anti-smoking information on any media is up 83.2 percent; those who noticed posters are up 57.9 percent; and those who heard radio counter commercials go up to 39.1 percent.
While the full effects of cigarette warning labels could not yet be ascertained, as it was only put into full effect in November 2016, 44.6 percent current smokers thought about quitting because of warning labels on cigarette packages.
"The fear factor was there when we showed the messages to the communities, to our areas here in the different regions of the country, even in our airports, seaports, we have a lot of messages there that conveys the fear factor of continuing smoking," Laxamana said.
"It has provided the greatest impact of change in the behavior."
Secondhand smoke, advertising still high
While smoking rates have dropped, a large number of adults remain exposed to secondhand smoke and advertising by the tobacco industry.
Secondhand smoke exposure is greatest at home at 34 percent (39 percent men and 30.3 percent women) and at work at 21.5 percent (26.4 percent men and 16.4 women), the report said.
Bars and nightclubs remain the biggest culprit of secondhand smoke exposure in public at 86.3 percent, followed by public transportation at 37.6 percent, and restaurants at 21.9 percent.
Meanwhile, 58.6 percent of adults noticed sponsorship or promotion of cigarettes, with 44 percent spotting them in stores and 9.6 percent seeing them on clothing or other items with cigarette brand names or logos.
Comprehensive ban should be next
While the reduction has been significant, Limpin said a comprehensive ban in tobacco advertising should be the next step in reducing the public's exposure to tobacco.
"We have to push for maybe a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship because right now, we can still see a lot of advertisement, particularly in the stores and this is clearly shown in the data," Limpin said.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said they will also push for plain packaging and banning of "tingi" or selling of individual cigarette sticks to secure 100 percent smoke-free public spaces.
"Right now, it's not total, there is still some advertisement at the point of sale. Also, we're moving for plain packaging of the cigarette or tobacco products. I hope that would also further reduce the consumption of tobacco," Ubial said.
Ubial and World Health Organization Technical Officer Dr. Benjamin Lane are also pushing for a unitary tax instead of the tiered tax system envisioned for tobacco and alcohol to protect Filipinos.
"The WHO does not support a two-tier, we do not think it is a good idea. A single tier tax, as planned by the government of the Philippines, as was supposed to take effect in January of this year, that is the way to go," Lane said.
"It's actually very fair on poor people because it protects them more. It needs to be a single tier in order that people do not substitute away to local, cheaper brands and smoke the same amount or even more; and in order that the people who are poor are given the same level of protection as everybody else," he continued.
Lastly, Limpin campaigned for a national smoking cessation program to give current smokers the means to completely cease their consumption of tobacco.
"From the data we have seen that there is a very high number of smokers who are interested in quitting; many of them started to quit but a majority of them were not able to successfully quit," Limpin said.
"We need to have a more comprehensive smoking cessation program, not just a brief tobacco intervention but we need to really have the intensive smoking cessation program which, I believe, the Department of Health is already going to start with within the year," she continued.
GATS 2015 had a sample size of 13,963 households and had a 95.6 percent household response rate while 11,644 individuals surveyed had a 96.3 percent response rate, amounting to an overall response rate of 92.1 percent.
Persons aged 15 and above were surveyed by the Philippine Statistics Authority in coordination with the DOH. —KBK, GMA News

  • Published in Health

Amer hits 20 as Meralco mangles Phoenix

Baser Amer had 20 points as the Meralco Bolts buried the Phoenix Fuelmasters, 81-66, on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum in the elimination round of the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
The Bolts outscored the Fuelmasters 21-13 in the second period to carry a 34-29 edge at the half.
Phoenix struggled to chip away at the lead, giving the Bolts the chance to deal the lethal blows in the fourth in the lopsided affair.
Chris Newsome scored 19 points off a high 85 percent shooting clip, while import Alex Stephenson tallied 15 with 20 boards.
Phoenix struggled with its shooting the whole game, hitting just 23 of their 72 attempts for 31 percent. They even did worse from deep, connecting on just four of 19 tries from beyond the arc.
Jameel McKay scored 16 points with 16 rebounds, but got little help from the locals as only Cyrus Baguio scored in double figures with 10. RJ Jazul, in particular, shot 1 of 13 from the field in 36 minutes on the floor. — BAP, GMA News

  • Published in Sports

Palace blasts Callamard over 'unannounced' visit

Malacañang on Friday expressed disappointment over UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Agnes Callamard's "unannounced" visit to the Philippines to speak at a policy forum on the illegal drug problem.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said by not informing the government of her visit, Callamard "sent a clear signal that she is not interested in getting an objective perspective on the issues that are the focus of her responsibility."

Abella said the Philippine delegation that is now in Geneva, Switzerland, will raise Callamard's actions to the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

"Our position is very clear, if Dr. Callamard is committed to ensuring due process to our government and a truly objective assessment of our record on an issue of tremendous importance to our nation, she should be in Geneva meeting with our representatives," he added, echoing the earlier position of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Callamard is a critic of the President Rodrigo Duterte's war on illegal drugs, which she has linked to human rights abuses, including killings of drug suspects. She was in the Philippines to speak at a two-day policy forum on the illegal drug problem organized by the Free Legal Assistance Group's (FLAG) Anti-Death Penalty Task Force.

In his statement, Abella indicated that Callamard's actions were unprofessional, considering that the Philippine government had issued an earlier invitation for her to visit the country.

"The fact that we issued an invitation to Dr. Callamard to visit the Philippines makes it clear that we respected her as a professional and we very much wanted her to see the situation on the ground first-hand and engage in an exchange of views with officials in our government to understand our position on the issue of human rights and the progress being made in the Philippines," he said.

"Her actions since then, and the circumstances surrounding her current visit, have made it clear that Dr. Callamard is not approaching her assignment professionally or objectively," Abella added.

"This is a matter we have asked our representatives at the United Nations to take up with their United Nations counterparts and it is something our delegation in Geneva will certainly be raising during their current visit."

Abella noted that the Philippine government sent a letter of invitation to Callamard in September 2016 for her to meet with members of the government and others to get their perspective on the drug war. However, Duterte wanted to question Callamard in a public forum, which the UN rapporteur rejected, saying it violates their Code of Conduct.

"The fact that Dr. Callamard did not respond to our invitation showed that she would not be approaching her review of allegations concerning our country objectively or comprehensively," Abella said.

"That assessment has been reinforced by the fact that Dr. Callamard has arrived in the Philippines in a manner that circumvents all recognized United Nations protocols for such visits and, more importantly, at the very time our government has a senior-level delegation traveling to Geneva to meet with officials of the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as part of the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Period Review of the Philippines and the issue of human rights," he added.



Callamard: ‘War on drugs’ doesn’t work, only worsens problem

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard on Friday stressed that waging a "war on drugs" like the one employed by the Duterte administration only makes the problem on illegal substance worse, instead of solving it.

"In April 2016, the general assembly of the world’s government recognized explicitly that the 'war on drugs' – be it community-based, national or global – does not work," Callamard said in a policy forum on drugs issue held at University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City.

"And further, that many harms associated with drugs are not caused by drugs, but by the negative impacts of badly though-out drug policies," she added.

Callamard emphasized that this way of combating drug abuse and trafficking makes the situation worse.

"The joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem is a call for action, but not to any action: according to the world’s leaders there are other ways, better ways; evidence-based, scientific ways, of combating drug abuse and trafficking – ways that do not make matters worse," she said.

"Badly thought-out, ill-conceived drug policies not only fail to address substantively drug dependency, drug-related criminality, and the drug trade, they add more problems, as has been well documented, around the world, including by United Nations bodies and Special Rapporteurs," she added.

Callamard then cited the following problems that arise when a "war on drugs" approach is used:

killings, extra-judicial or by criminal gangs; the breakdown of the rule of law;
vigilante crimes,
torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence;
prolonged pre-trial detention, mandatory sentencing and disproportionately long sentences for drug possession, etc.
detention in drug rehabilitation centres without trial or a proper evaluation of drug dependency;
non-consensual experimental treatment.
She added that such "badly thought out, ill-conceived policies" only "foster a regime of impunity."

"[These can] infect the whole justice sector and reaching into whole societies, invigorating the rule of violence rather than of law; eroding public trust in public institutions, breeding fear and leading people to despair," she said.

Callamard cited the 2016 joint commitment of the United Nations General Assembly on how to effectively address the world drug problem, noting that their comprehensive approach is focused on social development, public health, justice and human rights.

"It calls for more effective approaches than the punishment/punitive model that some governments have adopted," she added.

Callamard said that UN's comprehensive approach "urges governments to uphold the inherent dignity of all individuals, to respect, protect and promote all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law and in the development and implementation of drug policies."

"The Joint Commitment also recognizes that drug dependence is a complex health disorder of a chronic and relapsing nature, whose social causes and consequences can be prevented and treated through, inter alia, effective scientific evidence-based drug treatment, care and rehabilitaiton programmes, including community-based programmes," she added.

Callamard said that this also recognized the role of civil society organizations through its drug-related treatment services that they provide.

"Throughout the joint commitment document, governments affirm the importance of systematic data collection, evidence gathering, scientific research and the sharing of information including the exchange of best practices related to preventing and countering drug-related crime," she noted.

Callamard is in the Philippines for an "academic visit" upon the invitation by the Free Legal Asssitance Group's (FLAG) "Anti-Death Penalty Task Force" for a two-day policy forum on the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Duterte administration.

She said that she would be in the country until Monday, May 8.

The policy forum was organized in collaboration with the University of the Philippines-Diliman Office of the Chancellor and the College of Law's Institute of Human Rights. The two-day forum is held at GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City. — MDM/NB, GMA News

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