Items filtered by date: Monday, 08 January 2018

77% drop in firecracker-related injuries vs 5-year average

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 191 firecracker-related injuries nationwide as the country welcomed 2018, 77% lower than the 5-year average.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a news briefing on Monday, January 1, that the cases were recorded between December 21, 2017, to January 1.
"The DOH today declared a 68% decrease in fireworks-related injuries from December 21, 2017, to January 1, 2018, compared to the same period of previous year," Duque said in a press conference held at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.
Duque apparently compared the number of cases as of January 1 to the 630 cases recorded from December 21, 2016, to January 5, 2017.
His predecessor, Paulyn Ubial, reported 350 firecracker-related injuries on January 1, 2017. Compared to the numbers on January 1, 2018, the reduction is at 45%.
"I would say we are relatively pleased – relative because there are still injuries but pleased because of the substantial reduction or decrease in fireworks-related injuries from December 21, 2017, to January 1, 2018, compared to the same period of the previous year. And this is also 77% lower than the 5-year 2012 to 2016 average," Duque said.
Majority of the injuries were recorded in the National Capital Region (NCR) with 115 cases, followed by Western Visayas with 15 cases. Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Bicol each reported 13 firecracker-related injuries.
In NCR, 63 of the cases were recorded in Manila, 14 in Quezon City, 11 in Pasig, and 6 in Valenzuela City.
In the Cordillera region, there were 4 reported cases of firecracker-related injuries. One had eye injuries and other parts of his face while the other 3 damaged their fingers. None were amputated.
The piccolo remains the top cause of the injuries or 94 cases. This is followed by kwitis with 14 cases, unknown firecrackers with 12 cases, fountain with 10 cases, and boga with 9 cases.
He said there were no reported deaths due to firecrackers, fireworks ingestion, or stray bullets, based on reports from the police.
Duque said the DOH had been expecting a “downward trend” of injuries this year because of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) No. 28, which restricts the use of firecrackers and the staging fireworks displays.
Duque had inspected the emergency rooms of East Avenue Medical Center and Jose R Reyes Memorial Medical Center and the Philippine Orthopedic Center in Manila to check their readiness to accept patients injured due to the New Year’s Eve festivities.
During the news briefing, health chief thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for issuing Executive Order 28 restricting the use of fireworks and firecrackers, and the cooperation of the Department of the nterior and Local Government, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police, EcoWaste Coalition, among other partners.
In June, President Rodrigo Duterte signed EO No. 28, banning private citizens from using firecrackers or staging their own firecracker displays at their homes.
The EO also mandates "community fireworks displays" instead as designated places for the use of firecrackers under supervision of the PNP.
Three people, including a village councilor, were arrested in Iloilo City for violating EO 28.
The fireworks and firecrackers surveillance of the DOH began on December 21 and will end on January 5. –


Frenzy over Bitcoin and the Filipino ‘biglang yaman’ mentality

A long-time friend who lives in California asked what I thought about Bitcoin. I replied with a laugh, “You too?”
I have read how many people, especially in Asia, are both intrigued and enamored by this digital currency. Across the Philippines and Hong Kong, Bitcoin has become an enchanting game of chance, no different from the lottery, the slot machines or the stock market. Some have actually parted with their savings just to test what Bitcoin is all about; more people are about to do the same. With very little information, that would be like plunging into the unknown.
Let me tell The FilAm readers what I told my friend. I am not an expert but, as a financial journalist, I know a little bit to serve caution to would-be investors.
Bitcoin is a digital currency supposedly created by one Satoshi Nakamoto. The name is not necessarily Japanese and may not necessarily be of one person. The real identity of the creator/creators remains a mystery.
In Bitcoin, there is no physical currency like a $1 bill. The currency exists only in the digital universe. It is created through a long series of numbers that are linked on a mathematical encryption algorithm that can be found in the cloud. There is a public key similar to your bank account number which is published to the world and can receive Bitcoins for whatever transaction. Then there is a private key that is like your pin number to an ATM. If something happens to your Bitcoin, you can’t run to any central bank for protection. Literally, you’re on your own.
The online site lists several online as well as brick-and-mortar companies – from airline booking companies to political fundraisers to a pizza parlor in Jersey City – that accept Bitcoins. More than 100,000 merchants and vendors worldwide accept it as payment.
With Bitcoin, transactions are recorded in a public ledger called the blockchain. Several countries, from the U.S. to Europe and Japan, are warning about the dangers of investing in Bitcoin. South Korea has said it may crack down on Bitcoin, while China has banned it.
Bitcoin has been around since 2009 but not a lot of people took it seriously then. It acquired some notoriety for being the currency of drug gangs and money launderers because of the anonymity of the transactions.
It was only recently that people began to do a double take after it was reported that the Winklevoss Twins made $1.3 billion from buying $65 million worth of Bitcoins. Some investors are now emerging from behind their computers and outing themselves as “Bitcoin millionaires.”
Investopedia came up with a reason why Bitcoin is so popular. “There are many Bitcoin supporters who believe that digital currency is the future. Those who endorse it are of the view that it facilitates a much faster, no-fee payment system for transactions across the globe.”
Some financial trends seem to foster acceptability of Bitcoin. Two exchanges – the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange – decided to begin trading in Bitcoin futures in December 2017.
There is a catch though. They are demanding large margins for transactions. For example, an investor putting up $1,000 to play the Bitcoin market will need to come up with an additional amount of at least $440 as a guarantee or insurance fund to the exchange. The amount of the margin is quite large compared to other financial markets.
Goldman Sachs, which is supposed to start a trading desk for cryptocurrencies in June 2018, is requiring a 100 percent margin for Bitcoin transactions. So a $1,000 investment will need an additional $1,000 as a guarantee for the transaction.
These and other developments are a signal Bitcoin is slowly entering the mainstream financial markets.
There remains widespread skepticism though. An official of the U.S. Federal Reserve has warned that speculation was driving the frenzy and creating what many financial regulators call a “dangerous bubble.”
The Bank of Japan governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, described the behavior of Bitcoin as “abnormal” and pointedly said it is not a currency. He added that “speculation” was driving the movement of Bitcoin.
The price of Bitcoin, which entered 2017 around $1,000, hit nearly $20,000 on December 18. By December 22, the price nearly halved and was trading close to $10,000. The rebound took Bitcoin back to nearly $15,000 a few days before Christmas. It is this kind of wild swings in prices that has become the norm in this virtual currency.
The question going into 2018 is whether Bitcoin will start another rally that would lift it past the $20,000 level.
For Filipinos, the attraction of Bitcoin could well be psychological. The “biglang yaman” (meaning: sudden wealth) mentality and a gambler’s instinct are the drivers. My friend asked if I was willing to put some money down.
I said: “Too rich for my blood.”


Heart to Heart

Food contamination

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is a variety of illnesses caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, toxins or chemicals. This is more common during holidays and summertime. The symptoms usually include diarrhea, abdominal pains and vomiting. The diarrhea and vomiting could be so severe as to cause extreme dehydration, which, if untreated and unabated, could be fatal.

How does bacterial contamination occur?

Raw food may have bacteria in it or may be contaminated by unsanitary handling. These bacteria then grow and multiply, and when the “infected” food is eaten, the growth and multiplication of the bacteria continue in the stomach or bowel, producing symptoms of food poisoning. This leads to abdominal pains, diarrhea and vomiting, which are part of the body’s defensive ways of getting rid of the offending bacteria. The most common bacteria causing food poisoning is Listeria Salmonella, usually from poultry or infected eggs, specifically duck eggs), Clostridia (contamination by dirt or flies), and Shigella and Escherichia coli (fecal contamination of food and/or water).

What about toxins?

Food that is kept in a warm place, or improperly preserved, can produce chemicals called toxins. One of the commonest is the Staphylococci toxin from Staphylococci bacteria that can be transmitted by a food careless handler with a boil or infected wound full of the Staph bacteria. Botulism (due to Clostridium Botulinum), from badly tinned or bottled food, is not very common but can be fatal. When the contaminated food is ingested, severe gastrointestinal symptoms may occur.

What chemical poisons are found in food?

There are some common food items that contain natural chemical poisons. Some fungi are very poisonous even when eaten in tiny quantities, causing irregular heart beat, coma or even death. The green areas on potatoes which have been exposed to the light, uncooked kidney beans, some nuts, etc. contain poisonous chemicals, which can cause symptoms of food poisoning if inadequately cooked. Not properly washing fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with pesticides can also cause food poisoning. Some mushrooms are poisonous and not edible.

What bacteria grows on cooked rice?

Bacillus cereus thrives and multiples in cooked rice and can cause food poisoning. The bacteria produces chemical toxin which is very resistant and not destroyed even by high temperatures. The best way to prevent this is by refrigerating left over rice, which should be consumed within 48 hours. The symptoms of food poisoning usually start fairly suddenly with abdominal pains, frequently cramping in nature and soon followed by diarrhea. The pains can be persistent for a few days and become worst before an episode of diarrhea or vomiting. Throwing up may cease after a few hours but the diarrhea may continue for days. If the illness is due to bacterial contamination, the symptoms appear about 12-24 hours after ingestion, but if it is due to toxins, the onset of symptoms comes rapidly, usually within minutes after eating the contaminated food. Severe Botulism begins after about 12 hours with vomiting, abdominal cramps, and may culminate in paralysis and coma.

Is Food Poisoning dangerous?

Obviously, yes, as discussed above. In young children and among the elderly, dehydration is the main danger. Vomiting and diarrhea can result in a rapid loss of body fluids and electrolytes. This can disrupt the very delicate chemical balance in the body and, if not treated early, can lead to coma and even death. Botulinum and Staph toxins are in themselves dangerous, and the poisoning can be fatal, if not managed in a timely and proper fashion.

How do we prevent food poisoning?

Good environmental and personal hygiene, proper food preparation, handling and storage, avoidance of questionable food (fruit or potato salad and dishes sautéed with tomato that have been exposed for more than an hour at a party or picnic under hot weather, mussels and other shelled foods that remain closed after cooking, poultry or meats (hamburgers, etc) that are not thoroughly cooked, and can goods that are of questionable freshness, that are “expired,” or with bulging top, are some basic preventive measures that can be taken to prevent food poisoning. The prudent practice and common sense dictum is “if in doubt, discard.”

What is the mainstay of therapy?

This depends on the cause of the food poisoning: bacteria, toxin or chemical. But basically, oral and/or intravenous fluid replacement is the key to prevent further dehydration from fluid and electrolyte loss from diarrhea and vomiting, which could be life-threatening. Young children and the elderly can become very ill fast, since they succumb rapidly to dehydration, so medical consultation, or even hospitalization, may be needed early. Antibiotics may be given where indicated to clear up the infection, but as a rule they are usually not used because they may sometimes worsen the condition. Fortunately, most of the food poisoning cases respond well to fluid replacement. Possible botulism patients should be hospitalized without delay. The stomach may be pumped out and botulism anti-toxin given to counteract paralysis. Those who are very ill may need ventilator support in the ICU. An antidote may be needed for fungal food poisoning. All the evaluation and decision on the management are best handled by the attending physician. After surviving the acute stage, the patient is expected to recover fully with excellent prognosis. However, just like most other illnesses, food poisoning is best prevented. In majority of situations, this is within our power.

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As 2018 descends on mankind, what the special election on the Alabama scene proved

Alabama's voters did their job at the polls on December 12, last year when a special election was held meant to choose the successor of the current attorney-general Jeff Sessions who held that very same senatorial seat prior to his appointment.
The accomplishment of the aforesaid voting population had the two principal political parties in suspense when the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, won the election over the Republican candidate, Roy Moore.
Even before the victory of the Democrat was announced in that Alabama election, the nation's citizenry read the signs that the Republican party could be confronted with trouble in future elections in the years ahead, i.e., the congressional mid-terms scheduled in 2018.
News analysts have considered the aforementioned Alabama senatorial election to view reasons to anticipate a Democratic surge.
The same election, analyzed as the culmination of an atypical race became the most recent evidence illustrating the firm duties of voters who would, without too much electioneering by candidates, be capable of expressing their choice to represent them not only in the legislative branch, but in the two others: executive and judicial sectors.
Shortly after Democrat Jones' win over Republican Moore, the latter candidate vigorously contested the outcome of the polls' choice. Moore sued. He lost.
Alabama officials certified the special election's results officially naming Democrat Jones, the winner. Word was sent around earlier that Moore's lawsuit claiming voter fraud had "tainted the election results," as their request for a postponement of the delay of certification was turned down. Moore, per the official results, lost the vote by l.63 percent after all the vote-counting was accomplished.
Despite the certification of Alabama's officials, Moore called for a special election on the December vote's outcome. The Moore request was called a "weak complaint" while John Merrill, the Secretary of State announced that the latest Moore action "would not stop the election results from being certified."
Judging from academe's voices on the same election's outcome which has not been conceded by Candidate Moore who still wishes to pursue his rationale about the election results, Rick Hassen, an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine said: "It is a very weak complaint. It does not rely on any election experts I've ever heard of and it makes claims that on their face do not appear to be plausible or appear to be irrelevant."
Reportedly, some so-called "prominent conservatives who allege voter fraud is more prevalent than evidence currently suggests," declined to discuss the Moore complaint.
However, J. Christian Adams, a member of the president's voter integrity commission and an election lawyer called the same Moore challenge "crazy," as noted in a tweet, and added that it was a "humiliating day" for "people who care about voter fraud and election integrity."
Another commentary surfaced when Loyola Law School professor, Justin Levitt, a former Department of Justice official who zeroed in on voting rights, noted how "voter fraud is not widespread, occurring only in isolated and rare instances."
"Mr. Moore does not appear to have anything other than wishful thinking," Professor Levitt added, as media reporting was sought on that same Moore complaint.
Questions on the Jones' victory should no longer appear on the scene based on the same Moore call.
Alabama officials' certification naming the winner of that special senatorial election came after a judge rejected a last-minute challenge from Moore, who went down in defeat despite his clamor about a "fraudulent election."
Democrat Jones, the winner, issued a statement on how he was "looking forward to going to work for the people of Alabama in the new year."
As the loser's last try by Moore and his campaign went its expected array, in defeat, his refusal to concede still prevails.
In view of the victory of Democrat Jones, it was highly noted that the Republicans may be in trouble in future elections ahead.
Nationwide, reports have arisen: Democrats over performed in dozens of other special elections held earlier.
Some polling results have given the Democratic party "a distinct advantage in enthusiasm ahead."


First Pinay councilor in NZ wants more recognition for migrants

The first Filipina to be elected councilor in New Zealand has promised to push for policies geared toward cultural integration of migrants, including Filipinos.
"I would like more recognition for migrants and more migrants to actively be involved in the community," said Thelma Bell of Ashburton Ward on GMA News TV's "Investigative Documentaries" that aired on Thursday.
"It doesn't have to be Filipinos. It would be lovely to have another Filipino to come and join, but any migrants: Come and participate."
Bell had been a resident of Ashburton Ward for 23 years before she was elected councilor in 2016 on a platform of representing the migrant community and cultural diversity. Her advocacy is rooted in her own experiences of being a migrant.
Then a fresh graduate of BS Nutrition and Dietetics at the Western State University in Zamboanga City, Bell moved to New Zealand in 1987 and got married to her husband, Brian, in 1989.
As she adjusted to her new life, she decided to move on from being a stay-at-home mother to her two children to teach early childhood education or kindergarten at various schools.
She then decided to run for councilor as she believes Filipinos and migrants in general should be more visible in the community and inject new life into the local government.
Her children, Natasha and Liam, remain supportive of her career as is her husband, who Bell credited for his encouragement and support despite her position putting her on-call at all times.
"Brian has got the personality that gives you freedom to let you decide, to choose, which is really appreciated. I've done so many things because he would just [say], 'You can do it, it doesn't matter to me'," Bell said.
Bell is one of 12 Ashburton councilors under Mayor Donna Favel, who was impressed with the Filipina's standing in the local Filipino community.
"I was talking to a Filipino person yesterday who said that everyone was so proud of Ate Thelma and the way that she is representing the Filipino community at council," Favel said. — GMA News

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