Scams of the earth!

I used to work for an international organisation ages ago. In this big organisation, email is one of the most important means of communication in the organisation and the most reliable. The size of organisation that I used to work for meant that its information technology security is one of the best in the world. However, one day a human resource staff forwarded an email. It contained, as usual, recruitment requests from other sister organisations.
Magpatuloy sa pagbasa

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Swine Flu is a Misnomer

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has issued a statement lamenting the misnomer on an emerging disease that originated from “a virus circulating in Mexico and the USA and involving person to person transmission.” In a statement, OIE clarified that the there is no evidence to link the cases of influenza in the USA, Mexico and other countries to possible animal cases such as swine. It said that they have not yet isolated the virus in animals.

The OIE said that it was unjustified to call the circulating disease as Swine Influenza or Swine Flu with the absence of its link to pigs. It suggested that the new disease be named as “North-American influenza.”

Some scientists also backed OIEs claim with one article calling to a stop on blaming pigs and “blame simple biology” for the disease mutation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has since corrected its reference to the disease and now calls it Influenza A (H1N1). While the media has yet to pick-up on the correction, it is slowly referring to the disease as just H1N1 in most of its headlines. The US Center for Disease Control now refers to the disease as H1N1 but does not drop swine flu as another name for the disease. The confirmed cases of Influenza A/H1N1 were recently raised to 615 in 15 countries according to a WHO update.

The OIE and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are monitoring the influenza A/H1N1 situation with FAO sending technical experts to affected areas to investigate if the influenza has some links with the swine population. Scientists admitted that they are struggling to understand this latest mutation of influenza.

This situation has shown that international crises such as SARS, bird flu (H5N1) and influenza A/H1N1 have yet to be coordinated smoothly among international organizations. It has shown some flaws in the international cooperation framework that the UN agencies agreed to abide to. Although these agreements become formal during specific crisis they have previously agreed to exchange information and coordinate actions. This influenza showed that there was no information exchange and panic immediately prevailed.

As a former communications officer for an organization involved in the bird flu (H5N1) outbreaks, I have witnessed how scientist struggled to understand the disease. This has given so much pressure for most communications officers in the Region as they were asked to produce an immediate message regarding prevailing risk behaviors that might promote the spread of bird flu.

Most of the communication messages that were produced dealt on risk behavior relevant to human influenza and not on the source of the disease during that time–avian species. While the behavior change campaigns remain relevant for pandemic preparation, it did not address the continued spread among animals thus putting farmers at risk.

I guess for the zealous scientists (and PR and communications specialists) during the bird flu outbreaks, the pandemic that they’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. The WHO has warned that measures previously implemented for other diseases such as SARS has no effect to the current influenza outbreak (but only to the economy).

However, there’s always the silver lining as WHO Director-General Margaret Chan always claim “the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.”

Blogbastic

Doubtfuls

There seems to be a contagious feeling of doubt both here in Australia in the Philippines. While the cases here in Australia might be ‘bigger’ compared to the issues in the Philippines, cases in both countries elicited doubts from many parties.

Australia

  • Another boat load of refugees tried to enter the country only to meet an accident as their boat was being towed towards a detention facility. The boat exploded killing three people on board. A total of five people are now dead as a result of that accident. The rest of about 49 people on board were either treated for minor injuries or still in intensive care. There were doubts on the government’s sincerity in giving information on what really happened during the accident. At the same time, there were doubts among refugee groups in Australia that the latest incident might have negative repercussions to asylum applications. Reports said that some refugee groups accused the latest asylum seekers as ‘jumping the queue’ to get into Australia. The government is still consulting with its legal team on where the asylum seekers will be confined after they recover from their injuries, i.e., whether they will be an off-shore or on-shore refugees.
  • After declaring that Australia is better off, doubters finally realised that it is just a matter of when for Australia. And that time has come. Australia is in recession.

Philippines

  • As the drama unfolds, doubts surfaced on the how one of the country’s top broadcast journalist’s wife died. Lawmakers finally realised (what was long public knowledge) that the police force needed to be professionalized, if not more training is needed.
  • There are doubts that the automation of election in the country will result in cheat-free elections. There are acknowledgments that it might not be fool proof but election officials seem to be taking it one step at a time or are they just leaving it just like that so there will still be a window of opportunity to change the course of history?

These are just a few of the issues in the past few weeks in both countries. A lot has been happening that I’ve lost track of most of the important ones. On a personal level, it’s been a trying time for me as I try to write formalize a chapter in my thesis. Wish me luck. 🙂

Blogbastic

Thinking of migrating Down Under? Think again.

Effective yesterday, Australia is enforcing a new policy in its immigration laws. The changes virtually shuts the door for most foreign workers whose professions are not listed in the critical skills list. The Australian government explained in a fact sheet on its immigration website that the changes “is more responsive to the changing needs of the economy.”

Early last year, Australia, specifically the state of Western Australia, was in dire need of workers from plumbers, farm workers, rangers among others. However, as the world recession took its toll on the economies of a number of countries, both developed and developing, Australia was not spared.

The changes in the immigration policy of Australia will not affect those who have already filed an application. This will only affect people who are applying under the skilled migration program without a sponsor to Australia. If your occupation is not one of the 42 critical skills identified then your application would probably encounter some delays (you must consult with your immigration agent to confirm this). As this new Australian immigration policy was introduced, a Philippine senator made a press statement that he had discussed with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd “the prospects of allowing Filipino workers in the medical and non-skilled sectors.” Talking about riding the wave, the policy does include medical professionals… so should that count for his pogi points for 2010? 😉

Blogbastic

A year Down Under and away from the Pearl of the East

A full year Down Under and two years away from my native soil. I do miss the Philippines and this blog helped me connect with anything that’s from the Philippines and thereby relieve homesickness (I do have my family here but you miss some things that is uniquely Philippines!–balot, kwek-kwek, mami, lomi, Jollibee, atbp.).

After 200 posts, 570 approved comments, 43 categories and 387 tags, 2008 has been a wonderful year for me as a blogger. I’m ambivalent whenever I write about issues. Here in Australia a great actor, Heath Ledger, died early last year and later last year a budding Filipino actor died in his sleep (reminds you of Rico Yan). Early in 2008, Australian politics was rocked by what the media branded as “Iguanagate” and just last month before the year ended, in the Philippines, “Golfgate” or Golf’s Black Friday took place highlighting the very bad side of politics (aside from what we already know).

Australia experienced a spate of ATM firebomb attacks while bank robberies in the Philippines became more frequent and bolder as the Philippine economy grew only in paper with the effect not readily felt at the grassroots. Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, delivered most of his election promises within his 100 days in office while it’s been more than hundreds of days since Gloria said that she’ll step down (and there are fresh moves to, apparently, extend her stay in office).

The biggest news last year probably is the global credit crisis. It saw the mighty dollar fall and institutional banks crumble. The CEOs of Wall Street has given a new meaning in begging, i.e., by coming to the US House of Representative in Jets, they later tried to change their tactics and came by hybrid cars but some of them still made a mistake by driving a hybrid car that was meant to be phased out.

Australia is looking forward to a better year in the year of the ox while the Philippines is claiming that this will be their year.

I said I was ambivalent because I was passionate to write about things that I stumble online or hear from my social network (online or in person) but sometimes it has been a burden to write about some things that you hate hearing like the case of the Golf course beatings in the Philippines. Despite these, blogging will still be a therapy and “practice” for me. It has been a great medium that united Filipinos worldwide and even connected people of different ideologies.

As everybody hope for the best for the new year, I also pray that my regular readers and “transit” readers have a better 2009 regardless where we are and whatever our status in society.

God bless us all!

Blogbastic

Ebola outbreak in RP Hogs

Now it can be blogged about.

A few months back as I was doing my fieldwork in Bangkok, Thailand, colleagues relayed to me a news about an animal disease outbreak in the Philippines. As much as I’m used to hearing zoonotic diseases, this one made me to worry a bit for my relatives back home as it involved the dreaded ebola virus, which causes the deadly ebola haemmorhagic fever.

‘Fortunately,’ the ebola outbreak among hogs in the Philippines was caused by the low pathogenic ebola reston strain, which does not affect humans. When it was first detected in the US in 1989, it fatally affected monkeys. The suspected monkeys that introduced the virus came from the Philippines. The ebola reston outbreaks were reported in the Philippines between 1989 and 1990.

A subsequent outbreak in 1996 was again traced to monkeys imported from the Philippines. These outbreaks prompted studies as to the zoonotic nature of the strain, which was later disproved.

In the current outbreak, details are sketchy but the possible scenario is this: Philippine laboratories detected the strain in pigs and submitted it to a US laboratory for confirmation.

It took a while for Philippine animal health authorities to release the news although it is certain that investigations were continuing after the outbreak was confirmed and strict biosecurity measures in the farms and province reportedly affected were properly imposed.

The Philippine government recently confirmed the ebola outbreak among hogs almost a little more than a month after it was detected. It immediately stopped pig meat exports “as a precautionary measure.” Philippine authorities assured the public that the ebola virus in pigs was not fatal to humans. The Philippine animal and public health authorities again urged the public to buy only government certified meat. Further tests in other farms showed negative results confirming that the ebola outbreak among hogs was an isolated incident.

Philippine Agriculture officials assured affected farmers of aid and claimed that it will seek international assistance to finally investigate the reservoir of the virus in the country. It has invited international animal health experts and veterinarians to investigate. A Bloomberg report said that international health experts are positive about the recent hog ebola outbreaks will finally lead scientists “to ‘elusive reservoir’ of virus.”

Blogbastic

Disclaimer: Jim used to work for the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry and the Food and Agriculture Organization (Philippines and Bangkok)

Behind the world’s greatest bailout

Just when you thought everybody meant well in this time of the world credit crisis, here comes the ‘sad’ truth behind the much touted US bailout of the failing big US companies–the ‘sweeteners’ were insertions that benefit each senator’s constituents.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial yesterday pointed out that the ‘insertions’ in the bailout bill showed that US lawmakers effectively used a global issue to “prove that all politics is local.” In contrast, while the US lawmakers may make an advantage out of any political issue in the house to benefit their stay in the August Hall, Filipino lawmakers are definitely out to make everything happen for a law to be passed–as long as it will benefit them, personally, in the long run. The PDI explained in its editorial:

Instead of insertions in the budget to pander to the businesses and industries of their constituents, our legislators have shown themselves inclined to make insertions along two broad lines. First, for specific infrastructure projects which may redound to their benefit not necessarily in the form of kickbacks, but certainly in the form of real estate improvements. Second, to provide for broad slush funds (lump sums for vaguely-defined purposes) the release of which still require the legislators’ pandering to whoever is chief executive.

In the recent WA election, I saw, in a gist, how most politicians would decide on their affiliation–they almost act like their US counterparts–they put their constituent’s benefit first (well, there’s an ulterior motive to stay in politics probably but it’s the voting public that wins big time). Now, with how lawmakers in the Philippines, is it a cultural thing unique in Southeast Asia or is it ‘only in the Philippines’???