opinion

Impeachment moves on Trump and media in the public’s eye

October 4, 2019

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—From where I sit as a Filipino-American, a political crisis of epic proportions is unfolding right before the eyes of the American public close to a full year ahead of the US elections. And this comes courtesy of an impatient Democratic Party which is pursuing an impeachment ‘inquiry’ against US President Donald Trump.  The impeachment moves against Trump had been played up in mainstream media here which raised not a few questions and suspicions from the public preoccupied with their daily grind. As it is obvious to both the average American and outsider alike, the Democratic Party had yet to fully recover from the ‘bangungot (nightmare or in scientific terms sudden arrhythmic death syndrome) caused by then business mogul Donald Trump’s defeat of their chosen standard bearer Hillary Clinton. For the unfamiliar,  the Lower House impeachment inquiry stemmed from a call made by President Trump to newly elected Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he called for an investigation into the employment of Hunter Biden, son of leading Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden. A BBC report said there is no evidence so far of any wrongdoing committed by the Bidens in this case.  Yet the call was grounds enough for the Democrats in Congress to press for an impeachment inquiry which drew some choice words from Trump who called it a waste of time and energy. What pained me, as a former media practice r in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao in the Philippines (pardon the long background info), is Trump’s description of the US mainstream media as not only being a ‘purveyor of fake news’ (in his eyes) but also being corrupt. A highlight of his meeting with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto, Trump cut off a Reuters correspondent who asked him how he defined treason which he used to describe those who reported his call by telling the correspondent that he was being ‘rude.’ I don’t know how those who covered that Wednesday’s press conference reacted but if I were present there, I wouldn’t know how to react.  Speaking of Trump’s call, some legal experts maintain that the whistleblower/s don’t have firsthand information on Trump’s call, the contents of which were dissected in a BBC report that you can Google search. The US Congress is dominated by the Democrats with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the helm and Adam Schiff as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Based on surveys, Biden has a slim chance of beating Trump but apparently the Democrats aren’t waiting for 2020 to unseat Trump.  Maybe the impeachment inquiry was meant to defend Biden or allow the Democrats to flex their muscles ahead of the elections. What bothered me was that the Democrats announced the inquiry ahead of the full disclosure of the transcript of Trump’s call to Zelensky. In any case, the chances of Trump being ousted from office—the end goal of impeachment—are slim owing to a Republican Party controlled Senate, the party where Trump belonged. If anything, this impeachment inquiry may have drawn support from Hollywood liberals and far left elements in the Democratic Party who have played up this development for their audiences. But their collective sentiment isn’t shared by the average American voters who—from where I sit—want their Congress to legislate measures to fund infrastructure and Medicare and even expect and demand legislation on dealing with illegal Immigration and the drug menace, and yes, even building the wall that would block the illegal immigrants in their tracks. And they do share Trump’s sentiments of Democrats as being ‘do nothings’ or ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ whose most far left or extreme members advocate for a borderless US and acceptance of any Immigrant into US shores regardless of their track record. If it sounds like I’m siding with Trump, then call it as it is.  Believe me,  I am  not the only Filipino-American who believes in Trump’s tough measures against illegal Immigration as a lot of Filipino-Americans here believe wholeheartedly that immigration should be done legally and not manipulated for political fodder by the Democrats who are historically siding with the socialist/communist left. To be fair, the US media is giving extensive coverage of the impeachment inquiry but a growing number of Americans—and not just Asian communities like the Filipino Americans—are becoming quite suspicious of the biases of some media outlets like the Washington Post whose new owner Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos is a major donor of the Democrat Party. This distrust of what they perceive as left-leaning mainstream media outlets translated in turn to the growing popularity of other media outlets like Fox News which is being ridiculed by Hollywood liberals and those in the left for their far right stance and for supposedly sucking up to the administration. Fueling the distrust is the extensive coverage by these seemingly left-leaning media outlets of every development against Trump in the impeachment inquiry as well as developments in favor of the Democrats which can run up to more than 17 hours a day. That said, the existence of both far right and far left leaning media outlets in the US as well as the moderate media—how one defines moderate is subjective at this point depending on the person’s political or apolitical viewpoint—speaks to the vibrancy and multi-nuanced diversity of the American mainstream media industry. Such condition enables it to become a bastion of democracy but it remains exposed and subject to the constantly shifting tides of public opinion and sentiment as it should be since the media, for all its power, influence and reach should, like all institutions, be held accountable to the public that it serves and earns a living from. This sense (and burden) of accountability and responsibility on the part of media which is also inherent in government—and thus further reinforces the status of media as the Fourth Estate—should also apply to the Philippines whose media is grappling with a president that had been tough on them since Day One of his presidency. If anything, both American and Philippine media share the onus of having to deal with antagonistic leaders that have more or less managed to steer public opinion and sentiment in their favor to their detriment.

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Borrowed life

September 27, 2019

SWEET words are easy to say; nice things are easy to buy; but good people are different to find. Life ends, when you stop dreaming; hope ends, when you stop believing; friendship stops, when you stop sharing. A good friend of mine sent me this quotation. I commented back: So very true and very well said! When this paper hits the roads, I am still in Manila attending several important diplomatic meetings and celebrating Germany's National Day of Unity on October 3. Especially this celebration let me always think back. 20 years ago, 30 years, even 40 years ago... . Fact is: our life is borrowed - from God. No rental charges are collected from us. Many of us have forgotten this and live life at his fullest. Our life is equal to a book from a library that lends one. But how insatiable and unbearable are we in disdainful acting towards life and therefore to ourselves? Remember: life is just a loan! Life seems to be nothing, just being ready to riddle one with bullets. Life seems to be nothing, just being broken through the indifference and unreliable and immoral behavior. Life seems to be nothing for those people who don't understand cries from the heart of other people around them - cries for their hearts and families, for justice, cries for peace and for many other things. Life with all its ups and downs, is just a loan, but for many of our fellow creatures it just seems to be nonsense to be littered like dump. And, if people try to survive, especially during these days, and if they just experienced (once more!) indifference, arrogance, ignorance or cheating by whomever - they will give up! I can assure you that every one of us can at first help in prayers and, in reading the bible. "Proverbs" is the probably most down-to-earth book in the bible. Its teachings prepare you for the daily life, the street and the market place, but not for the schoolroom. The book offers warm pieces of advice you get; practical guidance for making your way on earth. Proverbs covers any kinds of questions you might have right now. Anybody can relate to the generalities of Proverbs, because this book simply tells how life works most of the time. While writing this piece, I observed that more and more people struggle through life: tired, hopeless, experiencing their rock-bottoms, believing in fallacious "people" around them. I also observed a lot of people living a thief life, as if it it has been giving them without limitation. "Let's enjoy every single loophole in law!" What a sad and fatal attraction! +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicialmusic.blogspot.com.

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Onerous market deals in Carmen, Cogon

September 27, 2019

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—Personal memories came alive, so to speak, when I read a Facebook post of Stephen Capillas about a  special report delivered by the comeback City Councilor Edgar Cabanlas concerning what he called the ‘onerous provisions’ of a contract the city entered into with two foreign companies--one at Cogon and one at Carmen--=during last Monday afternoon’s session (Sept. 23). That it took Cabanlas to uncover these anomalous provisions that existed eight years ago, or April 2011 would be scandalous to say the least but as they say, better late than never. In essence, the Cabanlas report showed that the market vendors in both Barangays Cogon and Carmen paid P15 a day while the two foreign owned companies--New Wishing Star Trading Inc. in Carmen and 858 Market Complex Corp. in Cogon—paid P15 A MONTH for renting the second and third floors of the Carmen and Cogon public markets. The lease contract was signed in 2011 by the 16th City Council and renewed by the 17th City Council that was then dominated by the Padayon Pilipino party. Two elections later and the 19th City Council now dominated by allies of Mayor Oscar Moreno are determined to revisit the contracts as a committee on the whole. So let’s go back to the Cabanlas report.  How did these two companies secure such profitable contracts over the toiling vendors who sell dried fish (bulad), bananas and other food just to pay higher rental space? I am curious as to whether there was any hint of an objection outside Councilor Cabanlas, who said he objected to it when the contracts were presented to the 16th and 17th City Councils at the time.  Come to think of it, who was the vice mayor or the acting presiding vice mayor when the contracts were supposedly passed without so much as a public hearing? I hope to God the 19th City Council invites all these ex-councilors including the former vice mayor to a public hearing that will be televised and also covered live in social media so the public may know why they approved these contracts in the first place.  I will make time to watch it myself regardless of the time difference between here and the Philippines—or I’ll have it recorded by someone. This is a clear case of conflict of interest, personal interest, to the detriment of public interest. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate a cursory review of the facts on the lease contracts presented in the Cabanlas report.  To be fair though, representatives of the companies should explain their side on this case. What is galling is Councilor Teodulfo ‘Bong’ Lao’s disclosure during that same Sept. 23 City Council session that the city government ended up paying the two market buildings in Carmen and Cogon despite a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract signed with another contractor who’s supposed to build the two structures AT NO COST to the city. Despite their low rental space rates did the two companies somehow paid the city adequately for renting the two floors of the city’s public markets in Cogon and Carmen? Did they make adequate improvements in terms of facilities to the two markets? They should have evidence to justify the favorable conditions in their lease contracts. The public market is not run for profit to the city because it is public service and it is supposed to favor the small vendors, the late City Councilor Manolo Tagarda Sr. once told me in interviews I conducted in my past media career in Cagayan de Oro. I understand also that the city government needs to generate enough revenue to support its market operations through the City Economic Enterprises Department (CEED) but its end beneficiaries should always be the public. And how do the vendors feel about them paying P15 a day while these companies pay only 50 centavos a day, or P15 a month in rental space? “Pagkasuwerte ba nila (How lucky can they get).”  And it doesn’t take much imagination to realize there may have been quid pro quo that ensued in exchange for the approval of these lease contracts. I hope there is a timetable to start and finish this council investigation.  Contracts under the Civil Code are subject for review and can be invalidated by the government once it is proven there are onerous provisions attached to it. Someone in the previous 16th and 17th City Councils should be held liable for this. Kudos to Councilors Cabanlas, Lao—who was then a barangay chairman of Lapasan at the time these contracts first came to pass—Eric Salcedo and Roger Abaday for standing up for Cagayan de Oro City’s residents in opposing these lease contracts.

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Research and academic writing

September 25, 2019

EXACTLY, on Friday, September 20, 2019 I was one of the speakers in a workshop. This workshop was held in the Government Polytechnic College, Malang (Polinema), Indonesia.  The topic chosen was related to academic writing. This skill is now prevailing everywhere. It is not only in Indonesia but also in other countries around the world. Why do the university faculties (lecturers) need that skill? In Indonesia, university faculties have three compulsory jobs.  This is called Tri Darma Perguruan Tinggi. It means three pillars: teaching, doing a research, and conducting any community services. These pillars are a must. In other words, university faculties should have a record of the three activities: Tri Darma Perguruan Tinggi. The workshop held in Polinema last week was related to the second pillar: research. This comprises of doing a research, writing an article for publication in the academic journals. For the middle rank of university faculties e.g., Assistant Professors, they can either publish their research articles in the national scale of research journals. For the Associate Professors and Professors, they should publish their articles in reputable international research journals. For many university faculties, they are not all literate in English academic writing. This is of course for those who live in the countries with English as their foreign language. Like Indonesia, not all university faculties are well-fleshed in English. Yet, the international journals are mostly written in English. It is fortunate for me because I have learned English since my undergraduate. My field of my study was in English language education. But, to learn academic writing in English needs time. When referring to the English research articles, it is really hard for the non-English native speakers to write it in scientific English. Academic English is not the ordinary English. It is not like the daily spoken English. Let alone in English, even in Indonesian (native language), not all Indonesian citizens are good at academic writing. University faculties are now demanded to be able to publish their research articles in the research journals. Universities— as the center of human capital development—are also demanded for getting their rank or level of accreditation. So, it is not only the faculties but also the universities’ obligation. Research and research article publication are the two interrelated activities. When there is no research activity, there is— automatically—no research article publication in the academic journals. This means that the pillar related to research is now expanding into more products. It used to be only the research products. But, now it must also be written in academic writing for international journal publication. The pillar of research has expanded into both the research products and research articles. There are more duties: doing the research and writing in the form of research articles. These two are different skills. The first deals with the ability to be the researcher. University faculties must be literate with research methodology. The second— research article writing— deals with the ability of academic writing. So, universities and the faculties are both obliged to do the pillar of research. It is not only doing the research and being literate with research methodology. They should also be good at writing their research products in academic writing. For international journal with English skill—it is really a hard job for the non-native speakers of English.

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A small step forward, big leap onward

September 21, 2019

Because they change things.  They push the human race forward. While some may see them as crazy ones, we see genius – Steve Jobs   WITH the launching today of  the 5th Journalism Excellence Awards, a special note of thanks is most deserving to the few brave men who managed to traverse the  less road travelled in this exciting days of tech-driven media. While obvious as it were to mention the frontrunners of this CSR-inspired corporate event,  this piece is passionately dedicated  to the men  and women  behind this corporate event as it  marks another milestone in the media life of Mindanao’s leading newspaper, the Mindanao Daily.   With a dynamic focus on embracing today’s digital technology,  Mindanao Daily has  to nail down a corporate branding   that is equal to none for excellence, if it has to become media-savvy, and more so of addressing its corporate social commitment  to the countless readers and followers. Loaded with pregnant optimism,   Mindanao Daily  led by its passionate Publisher/CEO Dante Sudaria and VP for Corporate Affairs and Editor In Chief  Allan Mediante takes the lead in  the new media revolution by creating a new breed of  social and mainstream media influencers – the millennials. Consistent with its mission, Mindanao Daily  has embraced excellence in the way it conducts its business, products and services – all  for the satisfaction of  the diverse communities it serves with a heart island-wide. With new,  crisp and crystal clear clean pages,  Mindanao Daily today is focused on delivering reader-friendly, top of the line tech through  its website for easy internet access. The new face of Mindanao Daily and the rest of its sister publications  is in  respond to the needs of how a printed newspaper with great journalistic tradition would appear as it were.   For its role in nation-building,  Mindanao Daily Group of Publications has to  adapt to the digital revolution now moving so fast in this age of high tech gadgets. The new twist in printing quality newspapers is  aimed at  engaging readers with  contents designed not  just for  consumption, but for the fulfilling experience like no other. A redesign project of this magnitude is unprecedented in this era of change. It is not just mere changing fonts or layout, but for achieving reader-friendly publications. It required adjusting processes, IT infrastructure, rebridging story philosophy, skills upgrade of personnel and training  to look at news differently as a multiplatform experience.                          Readers are now served by Mindanao Daily  of  what constitutes a new regional newspaper.  It is not just the design that has changed, but also the approach to storytelling,  basically aligned to the needs of the changing digital landscape.                       Indeed, time has changed. Today’s newspapers, be it tabloid or broadsheet,  are compelled to use  the latest in digital technology and it seems there is no end in the innovation of things.   To go digital  means embracing change and the answer to that  is the  breaking away from the status quo, which is basically a hard thing to do. Digital transformation is harder than we think, but it can be done.  Where ever we go today, we see people, using digital innovations. And MDN has taken a sustainable step toward achieving excellence in the world of tech-driven media. Newspaper like the Mindanao Daily   and its sister publications has to evolve to attune itself to the changing of the times. Because, as Steve Jobs has said, the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. Indeed, Mindanao has taken  a small step forward with a big lead onward. To the winners of the 5th Journalism Excellence Awards, congratulations!  (ruffy44_ph2000@yahoo.com)

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Is airline food really so bad?

September 21, 2019

I AM frequent flyer around the globe since my 21st birthday. 1974, my first international flight took me from Germany to Norway. 3 hours. Not a big deal. But, I remember, I  just peeled back the plastic off a freshly-delivered tray right off my airplane’s trolley cart and the mess looking back at you is a grim one. The fault may not lie with the chef, though, but in the plane’s design. Everything is reheated. Sure. The very nature of air travel, as well as how the plane is built and how it adjusts to high altitudes, make food preparation fundamentally more difficult. There are some technical limitations to being high in the air that make it far simpler to just reheat pre-made food, rather than attempt to actually cook from scratch — particularly in the pressurised air of the plane’s cabin. Although planes routinely cruise at altitudes of around 40,000 feet, the pressure of the cabin is brought back down to more comfortable altitudes of between six and nine thousand feet above sea level. Even those lowered altitudes, though, are still enough to slow down cook times considerably. It’s not just the difficulties of cooking, though. Even the food service encourages heat-and-serve style meals. The preference in hot airline meals is for pre-cut, reheated meats, usually swimming in sauce, like boeuf bourguignon - actually one of my favorite dishes. In part, the sauce works to counteract the dryness of the pressurised air cabin. But both the sauce and the slow reheat time also suit today’s blunt-edged airline cutlery sets, which have either no knife or an un-sharpened one. Because it's been so overcooked, you can cut it with a fork. “Airlines have discovered that, if you also pre-cut the meat, you practically don’t need a knife,” says Guillaume de Syon, a professor at Albright College in the US state of Pennsylvania who studies the history of technology, particularly aviation. "Because it's been so overcooked, you can cut it with a fork." Perhaps the biggest consideration, though, is simply available space. Within the years, I traveled to Asia and the U.S. Yes sure: more passengers, bigger planes, less attention to individual meals. Please keep in mind, I haven't be a First Class Passenger. That's another story, isn't it? Anyway, today’s passenger planes are designed to carry well over 300  passengers, all of whom expect to be fed on roughly the same schedule. Before the popularization of the jet in the 1960's, though, let's note that passenger manifests were small, usually fewer than 50 people, giving flight attendants time to devote attention to each passenger’s meal service. Some of those early hot options would seem unrecognizably lavish to today’s traveller, with menus that featured cooked-to-order omelettes, or mobile carving stations wheeled from seat-to-seat by an attendant. With hundreds to serve instead of dozens, though, today’s flight attendants simply no longer have the time to prep individual trays. Instead, the trays need to arrive ready to go. The large array of food options on offer to airplane passengers in the 1960's and 1970's simply doesn’t exist in most air travel anymore. But, that doesn’t mean the menu has completely disappeared. It’s just been replaced by menus of another sort. Free unlimited wine, champagne and liquors? Once upon a time ... ! I remember a flight from Berlin to Moscow in 1979: bottomless Vodka. Heaven forbid! In the last decade, the number of entertainment options aboard the average airplane have exploded — and the design of the seats and cabin have changed to reflect this. Nowadays it's designed for your entertainment — not for your food. Passengers are offered music, often WIFI, and, most importantly, a large menu of films and TV options served up on demand on personalized screens installed in their seat, instead of a single large screen up front. The installation of personalized screens has taken a lot of focus away from the food service, allowing airlines to cut back on food . Today, though, ticket cost is the primary measure of competition and cutting out a meal or two can either add to the airline’s bottom line, or give it a little extra room to undercut a competitor’s price. Profits [could be] gained from chopping the kitchen out of the plane almost entirely. "Nowadays airlines are breaking out the expenses and leaving it up to consumers to choose what they want,” said Bob van der Linden, who is the air transportation curator at the US National Air & Space Museum. “It’s the market. This is pure economics. After deregulation in 1978, airlines are free to compete anyway that they want — and they found the best way to compete is low prices." The shrinking space for food doesn’t, however, mean that airline meals are completely disappearing. But, as airlines look for ways to trim budgets and save space, they’re turning back to those same ground-prepped cold snacks and sandwiches that airlines began their food service with decades ago.“We’re moving back to the box lunches that we started with in the US during the late 1930's, early 1940's. Something that can be easily transported. Nothing terribly perishable, basically a box lunch, a picnic lunch,” said van der Linden. Happy trip guys! See you abroad! +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com.

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