Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hostage taking

Watching the almost 12-hour hostage-taking drama is even better than your run-of-the-mill soap opera. Full of tense moments, funny antics, and bungled procedures, the stand-off started as a non-event, almost unnoticed by the people. As time went by, the tension gradually rose, culminating in the shooting/hurting of the hostages and the comedic storming of the bus.   
If the hostage-taker just happened to drop his grenade on the bus front, there will be lots of dead policemen  (Photo from Reuters)

Obviously, all's not well when something bad like eight dead tourists happens. Here's what we can do to make the best out of a very bad situation:

1. Make THAT bus a tourist attraction. Surely there are thousands out there who'll want to see the bus in all its gory mess. Who wouldn't want to have his photo taken in such a historic and renowned relic. 

2. Fire from PNP the policemen and officers who were on the scene AND rehire them as crew and guides in the tourist bus, to re-enact the scene over and over till they get it right.

3. Make a comprehensive manual on what NOT to do during hostage situations.
Don't use a small sledgehammer to smash fiber-coated windows (Photo from Reuters)

4. The Hongkong government's travel advisory is well-intentioned but may not be effective considering that most travelers to the Philippines from the territory are OFW's coming home. A better deal would be to ask HK authorities to vent their anger on SOME high-profile Filipinos awaiting trial in the colony.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blackberry Turning Blackworry

CNN reported that Saudi Arabia will block starting August 5 Blackberry service in the Kingdom. The official line is that the action was resorted to "because the manufacturer of the devices couldn't meet the regulatory requirements" of the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission. But reading through the lines, there's more to it than what meets the eye, specially since the action comes on the heel of the UAE decision to also restrict the Blackberry e-mail, instant messaging and Web browsing service. Here's the link to the CNN article.

This news item caught my eye as I suddenly remembered a few months back when I was locked out twice from my Facebook account due to the Blackberry service. What happened was that I tried to login on Facebook while on the go, using the native Facebook application in the Blackberry. There was a glitch somewhere, and I was not able to connect to my account. Moments later, I tried to login again, and I was told that my account was blocked and that I have to use a computer to unlock it. But it turned out that unlocking it is not an easy thing to do - particularly if you have hundreds of friends you barely knew.

The Facebook unlocking process requires correctly matching the name of the friend tagged in the photo shown. There are choices given to help you out, but you must guess correctly at least five out of the seven chances given. Tough, really, as I have hundreds of friends I don't know at all but were just added for the sake of the Mafia Wars game in Facebook

To cut the story short, I was able to get my account restored after literally sweating it out in dozens of attempts. It was really just a lucky run that what was shown in that final attempt were mostly people I do know, so I matched five correctly. And guess what Facebook told me as the reason for blocking the account while at the same time advising me to change the password? Someone in Canada is trying to access my account. I figured it was the Research In Motion Blackberry service trying to login to Facebook for me, since I already encountered the same problem earlier (which was resolved in a much easier way as my succeeding attempt was already on a computer.

The Pull/Push Email Service of Blackberry

RIM's Blackberry service is unique in that it pulls your emails from sites like Yahoo and Gmail and pushes these to your Blackberry device once you subscribe to the service. RIM retrieves the email in real time, say from Gmail, then sends this promptly to your Blackberry smartphone. Yeah, it's cool having your emails sent to you and having these easily handy anytime, anywhere. If you're a busy person that is always on-the-go, the BB service is truly heaven-sent. 

The downside, obviously, is that you'll be entrusting your personal information to RIM. Such guarded information like usernames and passwords have to be revealed; otherwise, you can't make much of  your Blackberry service subscription. And not just emails but also login info for Facebook, Twitter, IM clients or even Paypal. In essence, you'll be entrusting your sensitive information to this extra layer that promises  to make life a little easier and convenient for a busy guy like you.

While there has been no reported breach in RIM's handling of confidential information (at least not yet), it is just a matter of time before snoops and government agents try and succeed to get around the encryption and see what you are up to. Quite a terrifying thought, just thinking about it. 

But who is to say that government regulators in the US and Canada are not privy to the data being handled now by RIM? Reading between the lines of both the Saudi and UAE explanations for their drastic decisions, it seems both are trying to get into regulatory oversight game. With a broad, undefined power mixed with such lofty goals like national security and law enforcement in the hands of government agents, who knows what may happen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


When I watched the legendary Zenaida Amador read some of Eve Ensler's lines in a Vagina Monologues staging less than a decade ago, I thought that being confined to a 'burqa' was the worst thing women in Afghanistan were subjected to under the ultra-conservative Taliban rule. I was wrong. Being covered with an enveloping outer garment that leaves one with a hampered vision and totally without peripheral view, it turns out, is a much desirable circumstance compared to what Bibi Aisha went through.

There are apparently more inhumane ways the narrow-minded rulers did to women. This is one of the worse. Read on and weep, thanking the gods that we are far away removed from such monstrosities.

The Plight of Afghan Women: A Disturbing Picture

I was quite taken aback when I saw the picture in the cover of Time. I haven't taken a sip of my coffee but I was jolted awake by the photo - in a way perhaps much more intense than caffeine normally do to my system. After reading through the various Time articles on her, I googled her and this is her story.

The Grossman Burn Centers Provides Care and Hope for Bibi Aisha from Afghanistan

At 16, her father promised her hand in marriage and she was handed over to a large family, who she claims were all members of the Taliban in Oruzgan province. "I spent two years with them and became a prisoner," she says. Tortured and abused, she couldn't take it any longer and decided to run away. Two female neighbors promising to help took her to Kandahar province. But this was just another act of deception. When they arrived to Kandahar her female companions tried to sell Aisha to another man. All three women were stopped by the police and imprisoned. Aisha was locked up because she was a runaway. And although running away is not a crime, in places throughout Afghanistan it is treated as one if you are a woman. A three-year sentence was reduced to five months when President Hamid Karzai pardoned Aisha. But eventually her father-in-law found her and took her back home. That was the first time she met her husband. He came home from Pakistan to take her to Taliban court for dishonoring his family and bringing them shame. The court ruled that her nose and ears must be cut off. An act carried out by her husband in the mountains of Oruzgan where they left her to die. But she survived. And with the help of an American Provincial Reconstruction Team in Oruzgan and the organization Women for Afghan Women (WAW), she is finally getting help. The United Nations estimates that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan's women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse. "Bibi Aisha is only one example of thousands of girls and women in Afghanistan and throughout the world who are treated this way. Aisha is reminded of that enslavement every time she looks in the mirror. But there still times she can laugh. And at that moment you see her teenage spirit escaping a body that has seen a lifetime of injustice.

“To know that so many can breath easier and live a better life because of your support is to know that we have all succeeded. The gift truly does belong to the giver.”

- Rebecca Gray Grossman, Chair – The Grossman Burn Foundation

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Filipina Mail Order Brides and Alec Baldwin

Just watched Alec Baldwin's Youtube video and personally, I'm not offended. It was said in jest (he even mentioned Russians too) -but I don't see it as insulting. Tasteless and crude yes, but not that bad to merit the brouhaha it has generated. Baldwin even made fun of more Americans, including his brothers and President Obama in the latter part.

It's quite strange that we pat each other in the back whenever Filipinos are mentioned positively in international media. It's as if we are all part of the achievement. But mention something negative, and all blame is cast on the unfortunate soul who dared said it. We don't blame the government - which at the very least should be doing something about the problem - or ourselves, as we perhaps are contributing to it. I guess it's a culture thing, wherein we prefer to sweep dirt under the rug rather than address it properly. Methinks this is one reason why we're not progressing culturally, as the more we avoid taking concrete actions, the more we become stained.

In Baldwin's case, he certainly didn't invent the idea of Pinay mail order brides - they are a reality that even Philippine laws can't curb. So why shoot the messenger? Isn't it more appropriate to look inwards and see what makes Filipino women grab at any chance to get out of what they believe is a wretched situation in this country. Why not address widespread poverty and offer more opportunities here, so that try as Baldwin might, he wouldn't find a Pinay who would willingly become his mail order bride.

The other interesting point that need to be said is that by making noise over those 'slights' - imagined or otherwise, we're dealing ourselves a double jeopardy. In the case of Baldwin - he is virtually unknown to Filipinos a few days back but has become well-known even to ordinary people just because he joked about an overly-sensitive race. I'll bet that with this incident, Google and Youtube searches for his name here and abroad will increase, along with a slew of Filipinos who bash him publicly. Interest in his work, movies and shows would certainly spike up, and that is good for him. It was good for Chip Tsao a few months back too - he was an unknown catapulted to instant celebrity just because Filipinos reacted adversely to his moronic article.

Yet hapless Filipinas still leave the country as mail order brides or domestic slaves in droves. Nothing came out of the brouhahas, except that the 'offenders' and some opportunists gained media mileage. Enough said.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Set my Gmail page to display a sunshine theme. Know what? The theme changes depending on the time of the day....like it was bright and sunny a few hours ago and now is dark as the sky outside... awesome. Available only to recent versions of IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome browsers, this is a really cool way to view emails/ You can get more tips at this link: http://ping.fm/e1ama