Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Even cellphones could capture the Star of Bethlehem

So this is how the closest visible conjunction in 2000 years of planets Venus and Jupiter looked like. 
Above the conjunction was Regulus

Bright enough for my cellphone camera to capture the purported Star of Bethlehem

From Tatoott

Jupiter and Venus are millions of miles away from each other but have just made their tightest conjunction visible from the earth in two millennia.

Also read:

NFA 'having difficulty' tracing fake rice origin

The National Food Authority is currently investigating reports that synthetic rice from China that does not spoil has turned up in Davao City. The NFA however, has also astonishingly reported that it is having difficulties tracing the origin of the fake rice

This is not the first time that media and the Internet have reported on the existence of fake rice from China. In 2001 the following story came out from Natural News.

Chinese companies mass producing fake rice out of plastic

"Fake stimulus, fake money printing, fake GDP growth, fake goods and services being produced, is ... forcing us to consume fake food because we can't afford real food, because we have no real growth, we have no real economy, we have no real industry, we only have fake stuff..."

Fake rice commonly sold in Chinese markets in China?

The Chinese food contamination freak show is back in full swing with new reports out of Singapore indicating that certain Chinese companies are now mass producing and selling fake rice to unwitting villagers. According to a report in the Korean-language Weekly Hong Kong, the manufacturers are blending potatoes, sweet potatoes, and plastic industrial resin to produce the imitation rice.

A report in Very Vietnam states that an official from the Chinese Restaurant Association has announced that eating three bowls of this fake rice is the equivalent of eating an entire plastic bag. Consuming such plastic material is obviously a serious health hazard, and officials are allegedly gearing up to conduct an investigation into the factories accused of producing the phony rice.

The scandal is not a surprise when considering China's long legacy food problems, including the 2008 melamine-tainted milk incident where roughly 300,000 people were injured and at least six infants died as a result of being poisoned by the toxic chemical. Other tainted food from China has included melamine-tainted pet foods, lead-tainted children's cups, and even another fake rice case where a Chinese company added synthetic flavorings to ordinary rice to trick people into thinking it was the more expensive "Wuchang" variety.

Some media commentators have already begun to run wild with the fake rice story, comparing the imitation rice to what they say is the imitation reality in which the world lives.

"Fake stimulus, fake money printing, fake GDP growth, fake goods and services being produced, is ... forcing us to consume fake food because we can't afford real food, because we have no real growth, we have no real economy, we have no real industry, we only have fake stuff," bemoaned talk show co-host Stacy Herbert from Russia Today. "So it makes sense that we're only eating fake food."

Talk about suspension orders and selective justice (again)

Ombudsman prosecutors have moved for the suspension of Marinduque governor Carmencita Reyes in connection with her graft and technical malversation cases pending before the Second Division of the anti-graft court, Sandiganbayan.
In a motion submitted to the Second Division on June 10, the prosecution team pointed out that it has been more than a year since Reyes was arraigned for the charges, and yet the court has yet to impose against her the mandatory preventive suspension as provided under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Under the cases filed against her by the Office of the Ombudsman in June 2011, Reyes approved the purchase of P5 million-worth of equipment and fertilizers under the Arroyo administration's “Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program” from a private supplier without holding a public bidding.  (GMA Network)

On the other hand, today's headlines are about the serving of a similar suspension order to Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr. over the allegedly overpriced Makati Science High School Building. 

The move for suspension of the Marinduque governor has not been resolved up to now. "Selective justice"?

'Impeach me,' Ombudsman dares critics

'Nabubuwisit na talaga ako, ha. Everytime I file a case, sasabihin ‘nyo, politically motivated. I am apolitical. Wala akong pinapanigan,' Ombudsman Carpio Conchita Morales says over allegations of 'selective justice.'
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales says she cannot be pressured by anyone.
File photo by Raffy Taboy

MANILA, Philippines – Exasperated by repeated allegations of “selective justice,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Wednesday, July 1, challenged her critics to initiate impeachment proceedings against her.
Morales hurled the challenge as she responded to questions on her suspension order against Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, who stepped down that day, as another alleged case of the Ombudsman's “selective justice.”
E wala nang tamang ginawa ang Ombudsman e. Palagi ‘nyo akong kinukuwestiyon. (It seems the Ombudsman is not doing anything right. I’m always being questioned.) If you feel I am impeachable because I have done wrong, do so. I welcome it. I don’t have to be impeached. I will give my position on a silver platter,” a visibly irked Morales said.
She added: “Nabubuwisit na talaga ako, ha. Everytime I file a case, sasabihin ‘nyo,politically motivated. I am apolitical. Wala akong pinapanigan (I am really getting vexed. Everytime I file a case, you’ll say, it’s politically motivated. I am apolotical. I am neutral.)
Responding to questions, she denied suspicions that the Aquino administration has influenced the Ombudsman’s decisions regarding cases involving Mayor Binay, the subject of two suspension orders from her office in connection with two alleged overpriced buildings in Makati.
“I have always decided cases in accordance with the law and in accordance with the evidence. I had emphasized that before. We go by the evidence. Hindi puwedeng mape-pressure ka (You can’t be pressured). Otherwise, I have no reason for being here if I allow myself to be pressured by other people. That’s not true,” she said.
She said her office is guided by rules in making decisions, and not by external forces.
“If we believe that the complainant is wrong and the respondents gave the right answer, that’s the time we resolve it in favor of the respondent. Pero ngayonsa tingin namin very strong, napakalakas ng evidence against the respondents, so ano ang gagawin namin, matutulala, matatakot? No way!” Morales said. - Read full story on Rappler

Fertilizer scam trials, arrests, disparities; People of the Philippines vs Carmencita O. Reyes et al, and vs Abdullah Dimaporo et al

Volcano that hasn't erupted in 800 years now spews ash

A Japan volcano that has not erupted since 1170 AD or more than 800 years now (but last major eruption was 2,900 years ago, according to the Global Volcanism Project at the Smithsonian Institution), is spewing more ash prompting the Japanese government to issue new warnings - Mount Hakone near Tokyo. 

Volcano alert raised for Mount Hakone after small eruption


Authorities on Tuesday raised the volcano alert for Mount Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, restricting access to the area after a small eruption at the popular tourist site.
The Meteorological Agency said it confirmed volcanic ash was emitted from the area, which has been venting unusual amounts of steam in recent months.
The agency said the ash deposits indicate that a small eruption occurred between Monday evening and Tuesday.
Mount Hakone, about 80 km south of Tokyo, last erupted between the late 12th century and 13th century, according to experts.
Volcanic activity in the area began intensifying in late April but recently showed signs of subsiding.
The alert level was raised from 2 to 3 on the 5-point scale as the agency warned that large volcanic cinders could fall in areas as far as 700 meters from where experts believe a new crater has been formed.
The higher alert restricts people from entering the area. Level 2 restricts people from getting close to the crater.
The alert came after an earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 occurred at 6:56 a.m. Tuesday in the Yumoto district of the town of Hakone.
It was the strongest quake recorded at the mountain since volcanic activity began increasing April 26, the Meteorological Agency said.
On Monday, a volcanic oscillation, which is a sign of underground movement of magma and hot water, continued for five minutes from 7:32 a.m. for the first time since late April, when Mount Hakone’s hot-spring district started to actively vent steam.
The number of volcanic earthquakes at the mountain rose sharply, with 140 counted by 8 p.m. Monday. There was also an earthquake with an intensity of 1 in the Hakone-Yumoto district.
No atmospheric disturbance caused by a volcanic eruption had occurred, according to gauges.
Japan, one of the most seismically active regions in the world, has experienced a recent increase in earthquakes and small volcanic eruptions, including one that required the evacuation of Kuchinoerabu Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, in late May.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pay attention to the evening sky: Venus and Jupiter together at last

The two brightest planets are gliding closer together in the early evening sky, and their celestial dance culminates with an ultra-close pairing on June 30th.

Anyone who pays even cursory attention to the evening sky has surely noticed that the two brightest planets,Venus and Jupiter, have been drawing closer together in the west in the evening twilight. 

The slow motion convergence of the planets is setting the stage for a dramatic sky sight. The warm-up act came on June 19th and 20th when the planetary duo was joined by a thin and lovely crescent moon. Farther to their upper left,and fainter,was Regulus,the alpha star of Leo.

But now the spectacle is taking an even more dramatic turn -one you can't miss. For eight nights beginning June 27th these two bright planets will be within 2 degrees of each other- close enough to cover both with the thumb of an outstretched hand. In the midst of that weeklong run on June 30th,Venus and Jupiter will appear so close together - just 1/3° apart that they'll look like a tight brilliant double star in the evening sky. - Sky and Telescope

Aquino just gave away our Panatag Shoal to China?

Panatag or Scarborough Shoal is the main meat why the Philippines submitted a 300-year old map to the international tribunal that was intended to bolster the Philippine case against China's claim to that part of the South China Sea. In fact, on Independence Day businessman Mel Velarde presented a copy of that map, known as the Murillo-Velarde map, to the president with similar copies distributed to schools and LGUs.

But then who among us, maybe including Velarde, knew that we already lost the Panatag Shoal in 2012, forever to China because of the "stupid bungling"of President Aquino?

"Congress should probe Aquino, his accomplice Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario – to determine how they lost Philippine territory, so we won’t make the same mistakes and continue to lose our islands in the Spratlys one by one", says The Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao. 

Panatag or Scarborough Shoal


Congress should probe Aquino, Trillanes and del Rosario

June 28, 2015 by Rigoberto D.Tiglao
Cleverly, the Chinese wouldn’t boast about it, of course, but because of the stupid bungling of President Aquino, we lost Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) – forever – to China.
This is the second time we lost territory in the South China/West Philippine Sea. Marcos’ forces on Pugad Island in 1975 lost that territory when they attended their commander’s birthday party on the nearby Parola island, reportedly lured by the prospect of Vietnamese prostitutes stationed there as promised by their Vietnamese friends. They returned the next day to find a Vietnamese full-armed garrison, their cannons aimed at whoever approached the island.
I’m not sure which is worse: Losing territory because sex-starved troops abandoned their posts in 1975, or losing territory in 2012 when China fooled the President and a Senator of the Republic.
Congress should probe Aquino, his accomplice Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario – to determine how they lost Philippine territory, so we won’t make the same mistakes and continue to lose our islands in the Spratlys one by one.
Losing our territory alone – even if that were solely because of Aquino’s ineptness – is sufficient ground to impeach him, if only we had an independent Congress that had balls.
Justice Antonio Carpio’s ancient maps proving Bajo de Masinloc, the shoal’s other name, belonged to us centuries ago may not be worth their photocopies, even if put in impressive frames and impressively hung on a museum. So far, and ever will be, “occupation is ownership” has been the real law that has governed the territorial disputes all over the globe, and at all times.
In his patriotic crusade, Carpio should, instead, use his prestige to call for an investigation by the Senate or the House of Representatives to determine how this Administration lost Panatag Shoal to the Chinese.
Which is worse: Lonely troops fooled, or a President and a Senator hoodwinked?
Which is worse: Lonely troops fooled, or a President and a Senator hoodwinked?
We don’t have just one objective analyst claiming that we have already lost Panatag but two, and more I think would come out as the surprise of the loss settles down. Already, even a Wikipedia entry on “Scarborough Shoal” matter-of-factly points out: “Since the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff, access to the territory has been restricted by the People’s Republic of China.”
The first to reveal in public what most governments already knew about the situation was a November 2014 study by the CNA (Center for Naval Analyses), a research and development center for the Navy and Marine Corps funded by the federal government. I reported on this study entitled “The South China Sea: Assessing US Policy and Options for the Future” in my June 1 column.
In that study, the CNA matter-of-factly pointed out:
“From its perspective, China resolved the sovereignty dispute with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in 2012 when it established control over the shoal. Again, it is unlikely to relinquish it. The government of the Philippines is in no position to even begin to contemplate the use of force to recover Scarborough, and the United States is not going to become involved in any attempt to expel the Chinese.”
Wrested control
More recently, it is a June 19, 2015 article in the respected entitled “South China Sea: Satellite Images Show Pace of China’s Subi Reef Reclamation” by one Victor Robert Lee that makes up the second confirmation that under President Aquino’s watch, we lost Scarborough Shoal. The article claimed:
“Chinese Coast Guard ships of the same “3401-class” have recently been used by Beijing to wrest control of the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, and to blockade the Second Thomas Shoal (also called Ayungin), where a unit of Filipino marines has been stationed.”
Victor Robert Lee – a pseudonym – has recently gained much credibility with regard to the South China tension because it was under his byline that high-definition, detailed satellite images of China’s frenetic infrastructure activities on islands and atolls it occupies were publicly released. The images could have only been acquired by top-secret US spy satellites.
Both the CNA study and Lee didn’t explain how we lost Panatag Shoal.
Here’s how:
Although China had long been claiming Scarborough Shoal, alleging that it is within its “nine-dash line,” there had never been, before 2012, an attempt from either Chinese or Filipino forces to permanently station troops there. The competing claims were seemingly ignored by vessels from both countries whose fishermen use a lagoon in the area as a refuge from storms. This “peaceful coexistence” of sorts changed suddenly in April 2012.
April 10, 2012: Sailors from a Philippine Navy surveillance ship board eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in the shoal’s lagoon. They try to arrest the Chinese fishermen for illegal fishing and “harvesting endangered marine species.” However, two Chinese maritime surveillance ships come to their rescue and prevent the arrests in circumstances that are unclear.
April 11: Probably itching to try his warship out, President Aquino orders the frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar – just “brand new” as the US coast guard had refurbished it and turned it over to our navy in May 2011 – to confront the Chinese at Panatag. “What is important is we take care of our sovereignty. We cannot give [Scarborough Shoal] away and we cannot depend on others but ourselves,” Aquino blustered.
April 12: Three Chinese Maritime Surveillance Ships (CMS), eventually increasing in number to 10, enter the shoal, bringing with them a flotilla of 31 Chinese fishing boats and 50 dinghies.
BRP Gregorio del Pilar – unexpectedly – leaves the area, according to Navy Flag Officer in Command Alexander Pama, “to replenish fuel and food provisions” in its base in La Union. However, a vessel of our Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and two Coast Guard vessels remained near the entrance to the shoal’s lagoon.
The subsequent events in June, when China tightened its hold on Panatag after the BRP Gregorio del Pilar left (fled?), aren’t clear on who to blame other than Aquino – Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario or Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, who around that time had been appointed by Aquino as his personal envoy to China to resolve the crisis.
Aide memoire
In his aide memoire on his “Backchannel Talks” made available to me, Trillanes put the blame squarely on del Rosario:
“PNoy directed me to work on the sequential withdrawal of government ships inside the shoal. However, on the morning of June 4, PNoy called me to inform me that our BFAR vessel has already left the shoal but China reneged on the agreement of simultaneous withdrawal of their ships, so two of them [were] still inside the shoal.
“I asked him who agreed with what, since I was just hammering out the details of the sequential withdrawal because the mouth of the shoal was too narrow for a simultaneous withdrawal. The President told me that Sec. del Rosario told him about the agreement reached in Washington.
“This time I asked PNoy: ‘If the agreement was simultaneous withdrawal, why did we leave first?’ PNoy responded to this effect: “Kaya nga sinabihan ko si Albert kung bakit niya pinalabas yung BFAR na hindi ko nalalaman.” (“That’s why I asked Albert [del Rosario] why he ordered the BFAR vessels to leave without my permission.”)
“Around 10 June, PNoy informed me that the (remaining BFAR) vessel was ordered to proceed to Subic to undergo repairs and directed me to ask Beijing to reciprocate. On 15 June, PNoy informed me again that he has ordered the pullout of the 2 remaining PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) ships from the shoal, citing an incoming typhoon as the reason, and directed me to ask Beijing to reciprocate.
It is astonishing, though, how Trillanes would boast that because of his talks with this Chinese contacts, he got them to get their 2 CMS vessels and 14 fishing boats out of the shoal, and to say: “Only 8 CMS (Chinese Maritime Surveillance) vessels remain at this time.”
How dimwit can one be?
It is that “REMAINING” flotilla of CMS ships on Panatag that wrested sovereignty from us, and our vessels and even fishermen are now shooed away by other Chinese ships patrolling the lagoon’s perimeter. There is no time now that there are no Chinese vessels in and out of the shoal.
In short, we lost Panatag Shoal because Aquino was fooled by the Chinese, made possible by the fact that he bypassed the foreign affairs and defense departments and believed what his personal envoy, Trillanes, told him.
Trillanes, who probably fancied himself as the Filipino Kissinger but who had never had an experience in diplomacy nor in negotiations with a foreign power, believed the Chinese when they told him they would withdraw their ships from Panatag Shoal. And this gullible president believed him.
Laughing at Aquino
Chinese strategists must have rolled on the ground laughing at Aquino. They brilliantly manipulated Trillanes and their US contacts to fool Aquino that they would withdraw their ships from Scarborough if we did. They didn’t.
Trillanes even concocted scenarios for a “simultaneous” withdrawal. But when Aquino ordered our ships out, the Chinese stayed, and their officers and sailors in the ships on Panatag probably waived at them, smiling ear to ear, Goodbye, stupid Filipinos. - Read more on The Manila Times

Also read: