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Justice Antonio Carpio: Defending Philippine Sovereign Rights in the West Philippine Sea

A must-watch for every Filipino, this lecture of retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio eloquently demolishes the 9-Dash line claim of China over the West Philippine Sea.

Using historical and legal evidence, he presents a very strong case in which China’s claims over the Spratly islands is built on a false narrative designed to suit the Chinese government’s expansionist desires.

Through this lecture, Justice Carpio makes it easy to understand the Philippines’ historic victory against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016. The full lecture can now be watched on Access Online’s YouTube account here.

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Mozart, spaghetti, eclipses & zoonosis

You may be able to spot a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse this weekend link

On June 21st, at 3:45 UTC, there would be an annular solar eclipse in which the moon only partially covers the sun creating a flaming silhouette. This rare event happens once every one or two years when the moon comes in between the Earth and the sun in its farthest point in its orbit. It will be visible in northern India, southeastern Europe to northern Australia in varying degrees. Don’t forget to use the proper equipment in viewing the eclipse as looking directly at the sun could cause permanent eye damage. And no, sunglasses, x-ray films, polaroid filters, or color films won’t give you protection.

The tangled history of spaghetti bolognese link

The spaghetti that we know – pasta noodles with red sauce often referred to as spaghetti bolognese has nothing to do with the Italian town of Bologna. Its origins can be traced to when Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796 and the Italians’ embracing French cooking. American soldiers and Italian immigrants brought it to the United States at the end of World War II. The growth and global expansion of American fast-food chains then exported it to the rest of the world.

Mozart may reduce seizure frequency in people with epilepsy link

A study suggests that listening to Mozart reduces the frequency of seizures in people with epilepsy. It doesn’t say exactly what in Mozart’s music gives this benefit. Maybe music from other classical masters like Beethoven, Bach or Vivaldi would give the same positive effect. From time to time, I put on Spring from Four Seasons just to lighten up the mood and get the creative juices flowing.

“Cat” by strogoscope is licensed under CC BY 2.0
People probably caught coronavirus from minks. That’s a wake-up call to study infections in animals, researchers say. link

The consensus among experts is that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 came from bats and then jumped to humans in what is called zoonosis. Now there’s a growing body of research that suggests the sources of other pathogens may be closer to home as our domesticated animals in farms and including our pets are potential reservoirs.

Even during the SARS outbreak in 2003, it has been proven that cats and raccoons played a role in the spread of the virus in Hong Kong. Back in April, minks in Dutch fur farms got sick from SARS-CoV-2 and later passed it on to humans. Aside from pet cats and dogs, lions and tigers in zoos have also caught COVID-19. So what can be done with the certainty that there would be another outbreak? Better and widened surveillance that includes animals both domestic and wild.

What we can learn from New Zealand’s successful fight against COVID-19 link

The exact opposite of what the Duterte administration did and is doing. New Zealand may have had the advantage of a smaller population and geographic isolation, however the following steps proved more decisive:

  • The early shutdown of its borders
  • Early ramping up of diagnostic testing
  • A meticulous contact tracing system

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did well on risk communication, explaining clearly and frequently what was happening and why. This made people feel that they were part of a communal effort to care for each other. She promoted solidarity. – Gavin Yamey, director of the Duke Center for Policy Impact in Global Health

In contrast, the Duterte government did the opposite:

Relented on imposing travel restrictions even saying that it didn’t want to offend China

Communication was all over the place: from having different officials saying one thing in the morning only to have another official contradict it later in the day.

They even had the bright idea to classify cases as “fresh” and “old” in their official reporting which only made things confusing. It didn’t hide the fact that more people are getting COVID-19 despite imposing the longest lockdown in the world, billions spent, and the available capabilities of local health experts and scientists.

Worse, Duterte’s late-night appearances on TV were laced with his signature profanities and incoherent statements were clear only one thing: threatening to jail or kill critics and naysayers.

We’re in the third month of the outbreak in the Philippines and it seems that this terrible situation will drag on for longer.

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How the novel coronavirus outbreak gave birth to #OustDuterte

A lot has happened in the past month since the world learned of the 2019 novel coronavirus that started an outbreak in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. As of this writing, figures from the WHO are as follows:

Globally
11953 confirmed (2128 new)
China
11821 confirmed (2102 new)
1795 severe (268 new)
259 deaths (46 new)
Outside of China
132 confirmed (26 new)
23 countries (4 new)

Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report – 12 as of Feb 1, 2020

In the Philippines, the numbers from the Department of Health as summarized below:

DOH tracker of novel coronavirus cases in the Philippines

The first fatality in the Philippines also earned the distinction as the first one outside of China: 44-year old male who was the companion of the first patient, 38-year old female to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Both were tourists from Wuhan arriving at Cebu via Cebu Pacific flight 5J 241 (Hong Kong-Cebu) and DG 6519 (Cebu-Dumaguete) last Jan. 21, 2020. From Cebu, they then took a flight to Manila on January 25, 2020 via Philippine Airlines. Both airlines have pulled out the actual planes boarded by the tourists for disinfection and have had their cabin crews and pilots screened for the the coronavirus. They are also working with health authorities in tracking down and contacting the other passengers who sat nearby the two tourists.

For some measure of relief, 24 persons under investigation have tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

On January 31, the WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. In response, neighboring countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Mongolia and Russia have declared travel restrictions on passengers from China. Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, all the government did was declare a travel restriction only to passengers coming form Hubei province where the epicenter of the of outbreak is. This slow response and deference to ‘avoiding the ire of Beijing‘ sparked public outrage that made #OustDuterte a top trending topic on Twitter.

Which was no surprise considering that on that same day, still active Presidential-aide turned Senator Christopher Go stated that President Duterte would meet have a meeting with heath experts and government officials to deal with the outbreak NEXT WEEK! Adding insult to injury, Presidential Spokesperson followed up with a statement that for Duterte, “weekends are sacred” and that he “likes to sleep long.

The response of the administration’s supporters was not totally unexpected: the deployment of online trolls and bot farms with a different, albeit hypocritical narrative: an appeal for sympathy for our Chinese brethren and that a travel ban smacks of racism:

Be careful with sharing the sob stories you read surrounding current events. Some of them are fake/propaganda…

Posted by Martin Luke Lastrilla Patiño on Friday, January 31, 2020

This quickly backfired as netizens used the troll’s message as a template to further mock and throw shade against the administration:

I'm sad. We have Chinese neighbors sa condo, and just now may nakasabay kaming babae (Chinese) with 2 kids. Ang sabi nya…

Posted by Rafael Antonio Anton Dulce on Saturday, February 1, 2020

There are a lot more of these and quite sure you’ve seen either type or both on your newsfeed. The key takeaway is this, at the very least the Duterte administration is sensitive to public opinion.

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New coronavirus in China similar to those found in bats – just like in the movie Contagion

Have you seen the movie Contagion? Released in back in 2011, it showed how a deadly disease could easily spread throughout the world thanks to the convenience of air travel. How that deadly disease started was accurately shown in the film’s final scene:

Pathogens crossing from animals to humans has long been established by science. The recent outbreak of a pneumonia-like illness in China and the discovery that the virus closely resembles those found in bats just made the movie a lot more scarier. It just happened in real life, in our present times.

ScienceMag has details from a transcript of an interview with Xu Jianguo, head of an evaluation committee advising the Chinese government on what we know so far of this outbreak:

Q: The virus has been isolated from one patient, is that correct?

A: Correct. Two groups isolated the virus from samples from one patient. The viruses are nearly identical in morphology under electron microscopy. Researchers did laboratory investigations of 34 patients. A total of 15 were positive for the novel virus, [based on] sequencing samples of [fluid injected into the lung and collected for examination]. The teams got complete genome sequence data from about 10 patients. They are now attempting to isolate the virus from those samples as well. There are 19 cases with no evidence of the virus. There is no information available for the results of the remaining 25 cases.

Q: How close is this new virus to the SARS coronavirus?

A: The virus is similar to some of the published viruses collected from bats. But it is not close to SARS and not close to MERS.


Q: Is there any progress in tracing the original source of the virus?

A: I have no information. Personally, I’m interested, too. The virus looks like viruses isolated from bats, but how it was transmitted from bats to people is still a question. Several groups in China have been working on bat coronaviruses for years. I imagine they’re working on this but so far there is no information.

Q: Are other live animal markets being checked?

A: The Wuhan market has been closed. I have no information about other [markets]. Wild animals carry the risk of exposing people to new viruses. I think we should have more strict regulations and inspections of markets that sell wild animals, especially since the source of the new coronavirus has not been identified and eliminated.

One fatality has already been linked to the outbreak. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines has imposed screenings of travelers from mainland China. Hopefully the disease is contained and there won’t be a repeat of the SARS or MERS epidemic a few years ago.