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AN OPEN MIND: Stress Reliever

AN OPEN MIND: Stress Reliever: I want to share with you all the ways that I do to get the my stress away... Hope it can also help you..... * EAT - I confess, I'm a ...


CORRUPTION: Cost of Corruption

Filed Under: Human Rights, Poverty, Graft & Corruption, NBN deal

The failed attempt of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration to prevent Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., former president of Philippine Forest Corp., from testifying on the $329-million National Broadband Network project has once again focused public attention on the perennial problem of corruption.
Graft and corruption has been a fact of national life since post-Liberation days. Almost every administration has had its big and sensational graft cases. At every presidential election, one major issue that is always raised is graft and corruption. Opposition leaders denounce the graft being committed by the administration, but once they take over the reins of government, they also commit graft. It’s just a case of different sets of people pigging out at the trough that is the national treasury at different times.
Economist Alejandro Lichauco has said the Philippines is perennially in crisis because of “the mortal mix of corruption and poverty and a consequent loss of popular confidence in government and the electoral process as instruments of change.” The fatal mix, he said, is poverty so massive and so intense as to have degenerated into a problem of mass hunger, and corruption that is as massive as the massive poverty. A deadly mix, indeed, that is killing tens of thousands of people.
Starting with the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, the Philippine crisis has been characterized not only by corruption and poverty but also by human rights abuses and a culture of impunity. Bruce Van Voorhis, a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission, said that these aspects of the life of the nation are linked: “People are poor to a large extent because of widespread corruption; those who wield political power violate people’s rights to attain and maintain that power; a lack of judicial punishment in the courts ensures impunity that permits corruption and human rights violations to continue. The cycle has sadly repeated itself for years.”
Corruption retards economic and social development, lowers the quality of public services and infrastructure and raises the prices of goods and services. In all these aspects, it is the poor who suffer the most because they cannot avail themselves, for instance, of the services of private doctors and hospitals or buy expensive goods. In some cases, corruption literally kills: for instance, a ship sinks and hundreds of people die because a coast guard officer was bribed to allow the overloaded, non-seaworthy vessel to leave port.
In 2000, the World Bank estimated that the Philippines had lost $48 billion (P1.968 trillion) to corruption from 1977 to 1997. Think how many kilometers of roads and bridges and how many schoolhouses and hospitals that money could have built. Think of the other public infrastructure and public services that could have been improved with that kind of money. But all that public money went into the private pockets of corrupt, greedy government officials.
Graft and corruption flourishes because of the culture of impunity. Have you heard of any big fish being convicted of corruption and plunder, except deposed president Joseph Estrada? Yes, Estrada was convicted of plunder, but he did not spend even a day in a real prison. Only six weeks after his conviction, he was pardoned by President Arroyo. Was that any way to set an example for the other grafters in government and to would-be grafters and plunderers?
And so the graft and corruption continues. But from time to time a ray of light pierces the darkness and gives the nation hope that we might yet be able to start punishing the grafters. Such a ray was Lozada, whose courageous and forthright testimony at the Senate may yet save the nation from the grip of scandalous, graft-ridden deals.
But whistle blowers like Lozada cannot, just by themselves, ensure a successful campaign against corruption. Graft and corruption has become so ingrained in the national life that it is considered “normal.” Even people like Lozada are ready to consider a 20-percent “commission” on government deals acceptable. But that should not be acceptable. A 20-percent “commission” is an illegal and immoral “tax” on a poor and overburdened people. They have to realize this, watch every government transaction that may be tainted with graft, and denounce officials who are stealing taxpayers’ money -- their money.

POLITICS: C-5 ETHICS CASE Villar takes Senate Floor : It's Nothing but Politics

MANILA,Philippines—Fighting among senators erupted anew Tuesday night when emotions ran high after Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. left the session hall and ignored requests from some of his colleagues to answer questions on the C-5 road controversy.
Villar left the session hall soon after he delivered a very long privilege speech to deny allegations against him in Committee Report No. 780.
The report seeks to censure him for unethical conduct in connection with the road extension project in the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas that traversed properties owned by his real estate firms.
A fight broke out between Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano after the former “challenged” Villar to show that he was “not a coward” by answering their queries.
Irritated as well of Villar’s sudden exit from the Senate, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who prepared the report as chair of the Senate committee of the whole, lamented that the senator had not faced his accusers.
“I’m sorry for him that he came here like a boxer and fighter but he left with alacrity and with no explanation,” Enrile said.
Enrile, nevertheless, was thankful that Villar showed up to “explain his side to the people” and said it was up to them to decide whether he or the committee report was telling the truth.
But Enrile said he was standing by his report which he said was backed by 990 documents “that could not lie” compared with Villar’s “hallow” statements “to justify one’s misconduct.”
The report found that Villar had failed to declare a conflict of interest in the C-5 project. He was paid for right of way by the government and the value of his real estate increased because of the project.
Villar’s defense
“I did nothing wrong. There is no anomaly in the C-5 project, and I did not benefit from the C-5 project. All these allegations are just politicking,” Villar said in his privilege speech.
Villar repeated this pronouncement several times to rebut allegations that his real state empire had benefited from the C-5 controversy.
Maintaining his innocence, Villar, standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party, made it clear at the beginning of his speech that he was no “coward” as he answered point-by-point the charges hurled against him.
“I stand before the Senate and the people of the Philippines in defense of my name, my honor and dignity against my accusers in the so-called C-5 controversy,” he said.
He pointed out that people from Tondo, Manila, where he came from, were never known to be cowards.
“In the beginning, the charge (against me) was double insertion. When they (Senate majority) found out that it’s not true since the funds were intended for two projects, the charge became realignment. When we show that there are two roads involved (in the C-5 project)—a toll road and one surface road—the charge became overpricing,” Villar said.
“When we also proved that there was no overpricing, the next allegation was conflict of interest. I’ve already belied this and, in truth, the Department of Justice has a ruling that there is no conflict of interest,” he added.
Villar said that although the explanations were “simple and yet it’s as if no one was listening. They themselves are convinced of their lies.”
The Senate committee of the whole had come up with a “lutong macau” (rigged) report, he said.
Villar, a self-styled billionaire, admitted that it was “painful” for him and his family to be at the receiving end of the most vicious attacks from his political foes for the last two years in what he deemed as a demolition drive to “weaken” his presidential candidacy.
“I’ve already received all the scathing remarks that a man can receive in his lifetime. They called me names … a robber, coward, opportunists, weak and other names,” Villar said, but he was quick to declare that this strategy would never convince him to back out from the presidential race.
Right after his privilege speech, he left the session hall.
Session suspended
The Senate had to suspend session twice when Madrigal and Cayetano ended up squabbling.
Cayetano did not like Madrigal’s calling Villar a coward and said statements like that were tiring.
Cayetano reminded fellow senators: “Please, when you stand up, remember people voted for us. That’s why we’re honorable lawmakers.”
Madrigal countered by insisting that the best forum for Villar to answer the allegations against him was on the floor.
“The floor is a place where honest, truthful courageous people should speak,” she said.
Boy who cried wolf
Madrigal said Villar’s speech was long but twisted the evidence. “The boy who cried wolf is not easily believed,” she said.
Enrile stood up again to say that he was “sorry” that Villar made assertions in the chamber but “shied away from being tested by questions regarding his assertions.”
“It’s easy to make assertions but hard to stand rigorous questioning of peers who will ask questions whether indeed you’re telling the truth.”
“I have presented my report and I’m ready and willing to be crucified, interpellated,” the Senate president said, adding that he had prepared a “faithful report based on evidence.”
“I’m sorry I cannot believe the protestations of my distinguished colleague, Senator Villar,” Enrile said.
He added that he would stand by his report, challenging colleagues to question him on it.
Villar did not leave until after he vowed to fulfill his “dream” of lifting millions of Filipinos from the clutches of poverty.
“I’ve already achieved many of my dreams in life. My last wish is to lift many of our countrymen from poverty. They have been waiting for someone who can help them,” Villar said.
“I seek the presidency now because I have a dream for our people—a dream of rescuing them from poverty and giving them a better future such as the future I have realized for myself and my family.”
Having risen from poverty himself by first selling shrimp, Villar claimed that he knew how to do it in six years as the country’s leader.
He said he became rich even before he entered politics, and that he had accumulated enough wealth to ensure a bright future for his family.
“We have more than enough. If I still want to become richer, I should have stayed in business,” he said.
“I do not want the majority of the Filipino people to always keep hoping and waiting for the next presidential candidate to save them. I seek the presidency as the culmination—not the beginning—of my life in public service.”
He said this was his “mission” in life.
Crab mentality
Villar said his detractors had “crab mentality.” While he was with his mother selling fish in Tondo’s markets, he saw the behavior of crabs—“pulling down their own kind.”
In his desire to further serve the people, he said he was being subjected to the same ordeal by his “political foes” he likened to “crabs.”
Without necessarily submitting himself to the ethics proceeding conducted by the Senate committee of the whole, Villar left no issues in the committee report unaddressed.
Source of wealth
Villar said he could explain the source of his wealth unlike those who were born to wealth and privilege, an allusion to Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III and his running mate Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, both scions of landed political clans.
“I am the principal shareholder in a public company that I founded from a small gravel-and-sand enterprise 30 years ago with an old beaten-up truck as its main asset. I have been able to grow it into a trustworthy, viable, and solid real estate company. It is a matter of public record,” Villar said.
“In business circles, I have been known as the brown taipan,” he said.

EDUCATION:Test scores and teacher competency

This situation forces teachers to guess regarding which curricular goals will be tested each year. And, of course, a good deal of inaccurate guessing unavoidably takes place. As a result, many teachers end up emphasizing what isn't tested, and failing to emphasize what actually is tested. In most states, teachers really have no clear idea about what's going to be measured on their state's upcoming accountability tests.

If teachers truly understand the nature of the skills and bodies of knowledge being assessed, then they can teach toward such skills and knowledge rather than toward a test's items. Teaching to a test's items is deplorable; teaching to the skills and knowledge measured by a test's items is admirable.

Next, let's look at the instructional sensitivity of the tests that most advocates of test-based teacher evaluation would have us use. An instructionally sensitive test will identify which students have been well taught and which students haven't. But, at the moment, there is no evidence whatsoever that the tests being touted for test-based teacher evaluation are up to that task.

State accountability tests, the annually administered standardized tests used as part of a state's accountability tests, are accompanied by no evidence -- none at all -- that they can tell the difference between students who have been taught well and those who haven't. That's right, there's no documentation that these annual accountability tests are instructionally sensitive. On the contrary, available evidence suggests that today's state accountability tests are instructionally insensitive.

These tests have been constructed using traditional procedures designed to produce comparative score-interpretations, for example, to allow us to say, "Kelly scored at the 78th percentile, that is, outperformed essentially 78 percent of other test-takers." For such tests to provide these sorts of comparative interpretations, however, it is necessary for the tests to produce a considerable amount of spread in students' total test scores.

But to attain such score-spread, many of the items on state accountability tests end up being linked to students' inherited academic aptitudes, such as a child's innate quantitative potential, or to the socioeconomic status of a student's family. Because inherited aptitudes and family status are nicely distributed variables, test items influenced by these factors tend to create the needed spread in students' test scores. Yet, inherited academic aptitudes and family status reflect what students bring to school, not what they are taught once they get there. Many of today's accountability tests are laden with items tending to make them instructionally insensitive.

Can these two problems be addressed so we can carry out defensible test-based teacher evaluation? Absolutely! Serious efforts can be made to communicate upcoming testing targets to teachers. Solid evidence can be collected to indicate whether a test is, in fact, instructionally sensitive.

Test-based teacher evaluation can be made sensible -- but only if we first let teachers know what's going to be tested, and then make sure the tests we use are suitable for this purpose. Otherwise, with or without federal dollars, test-based teacher evaluation will surely be specious.

HEALTH: Why Skipping Exercise Can Be Deadly

Recent studies show how neglecting your weight and fitness has serious consequences for your health.

One day in the summer of 2001, George Smith decided to run to the end of his block. For many, that short distance might be conquered in a minute or two. But Smith, a 21-year-old who weighed nearly 275 pounds at the time, barely made it--and hobbled back to his doorstep. Yet, he refused to quit and increased his distance daily; it was three months before he ran a mile, but the challenge changed his life.
Now, George, a marketing copywriter in London, exercises for an hour most days of the week. He is a lean, muscular 170 pounds. At an annual check up, his physician remarked that his low blood pressure and cholesterol were likely an improvement from even before he gained excess weight in the late 1990s.

In Depth: Why Skipping Exercise Can Be Deadly

"Losing a lot of weight and changing your body has a profound impact,” Smith says.
More than he may expect, it turns out. According to a study of more than 4,300 people published this summer in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, the least-fit individuals had a three-fold increased all-cause mortality risk and a nearly four-fold increased cardiovascular mortality risk when compared to the most fit. In other words, improving your fitness level can better your chances for a longer life.

That study is just one in a recent spate of research in children and adults that draws connections between physical inactivity or obesity and poor health outcomes. It’s no secret that exercise is critical to excellent health, but many of us let the week slip by with nothing more than a brisk walk to the parking lot. Yet, neglecting one's weight and fitness is a certain path to increased risk for life-shortening ailments and conditions.