Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ashes of 1 of 3 Pinoys executed in China brought home

The ashes of one of three Filipino drug mules executed in China were brought home before midnight Wednesday, even as relatives of the three returned home from their last meetings with their loved ones shortly before the executions.

Relatives of Sally Ordinario-Villanueva and Ramon Credo arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport before midnight Wednesday, dzBB radio reported.

The report said Credo's brother Paulo brought home Ramon's ashes from China, even as the remains of Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain are expected to be brought back to the Philippines in one week's time.

A report on radio dzBB early Thursday said members of the Ordinario and Credo families who went to China arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on a China Southern Airlines flight at 10:51 p.m. Wednesday.

Teams from the Department of Foreign Affairs fetched the family members at the tarmac and transported them directly to their homes, the report said.

Villanueva's father Geronimo and sister Mylene arrived at their house in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, past midnight. When Geronimo and Mylene returned to the house, Sally's sister Mirasol became emotional, the report added.

Geronimo was quoted in the report as saying they expect the remains of Sally to be brought to the Philippines within one week.

On the other hand, it was a quiet homecoming for the Credos at their house in Bacoor, Cavite, at 11:50 p.m. Members of the Credo family quickly entered the house and requested media there to respect their privacy, at least until their mourning is over. 

The report also said Credo's mother Dolores is entertaining plans to migrate to Canada soon. 

Meanwhile, a separate dzBB report said kin of Batain are expected to arrive Thursday from China. — LBG, GMA News

More Pinoy nurses heading to Japan for licensure exam

Despite a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan this month and the ensuing nuclear accident, a third batch of over 80 Filipino nurses are scheduled to go there on May 30 for a language training in preparation for that country’s tough licensure examinations.

In a press briefing, Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura said a total of 82 Filipinos will leave for Japan to undergo intensive Japanese language training there, after a two-month preparatory language course in Manila to be conducted by Japanese instructors.

“Although I have no doubts that you will be able to fulfill your duties and responsibilities as healthcare professionals in Japan, I am also aware that one of the most difficult obstacles for passing the Japanese nursing licensure examinations is the language barrier," Katsura said at the formal launch of the training course.

This is the first time that Japan is implementing a preparatory language course prior to the applicants’ departure for Japan. Only two of the 139 Filipino nurses in previous batches passed that country’s licensure exam.

Apart from the preparatory course, Japan has also revised its licensure exam for foreign nurses and caregivers to boost the passing rate of health workers. (See: Japan cuts Filipino nurses some slack)

The revisions include the use of English words for medical terms originally in Japanese, like diabetes, cataract and pulmonary tuberculosis.

Since 2009, the Philippines has sent a total of 139 nurses and 299 caregivers to train in Japan through the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) signed in 2006. 

Various groups had earlier questioned JPEPA’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court, saying the treaty violates constitutional provision on trade, natural resources, labor, education, mass media legislation, public utilities and foreign policy. (See: Groups question Jpepa constitutionality at SC)

The Japanese Embassy said it has been taking steps to help Filipino nurses maximizeemployment opportunities for Filipino nurses under the treaty.

“This demonstrates the perseverance and dedication of both countries to take initiatives in improving the standing of Filipino candidate nurses in particular, especially in successfully integrating them, through language," Katsura explained.

Nurses who fail Japan’s licensure tests in Japan can only re-take the exam within the period they are allowed to stay in Japan.

If they still fail the examination, the nurses would have to return to the Philippines to apply again for training.

Apart from the six months of paid language training, Filipino nurses and caregivers are employed in Japanese hospitals and care-giving facilities for three years and four years, respectively, to familiarize themselves with the country’s healthcare system.

During that time, nurses undergoing work-training receive an average monthly salary of 130,000 yen to 220,000 yen (about P68,000 to P115,000) For caregivers, the monthly salary ranges from 125,000 yen to 185,000 yen (about P65,000 to P96,000).—With Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMA News

Ancient Discovery stirs Bible intrigues

British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus' life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.

The codices turned up five years ago in a remote cave in eastern Jordan—a region where early Christian believers may have fled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The codices are made up of wirebound individual pages, each roughly the size of a credit card. They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, "I shall walk uprightly"--a phrase that also appears in Revelation. "While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism," BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, "it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection."
But the field of biblical archaeology is also prey to plenty of hoaxes and enterprising fraudsters, so investigators are proceeding with due empirical caution. Initial metallurgical research indicates that the codices are about 2,000 years old--based on the manner of corrosion they have undergone, which, as Macrae writes, "experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially."
Beyond the initial dating tests, however, little is confirmed about the codices or what they contain. And the saga of their discovery has already touched off a battle over ownership rights between Israel and Jordan. Asthe BBC's Pigott recounts, the cache surfaced when a Jordanian Bedouin saw a menorah—the Jewish religious candleabra—exposed in the wake of a flash flood. But the codices somehow passed into the ownership of an Israeli Bedouin named Hassam Saeda, who claims that they have been in his family's possession for the past 100 years. The Jordanian government has pledged to "exert all efforts at every level" to get the potentially priceless relics returned, Pigott reports.
Meanwhile, biblical scholars who have examined the codices point to significant textual evidence suggesting their early Christian origin. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was "dumbstruck" at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. "There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city," Davies explained. "There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."
David Elkington, an ancient religion scholar who heads the British research team investigating the find, has likewise pronounced this nothing less than "the major discovery of Christian history." Elkington told the Daily Mail that "it is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."
Still, other students of early Christian history are urging caution, citing precedents such as the debunked discovery of an ossuary said to contain the bones of Jesus' brother James. New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado observes that since these codices are miniature, they were likely intended for private, rather than liturgical, use. This would likely place their date of origin closer to the 3rd century CE. But only further research and full translation of the codices can fully confirm the nature of the find. The larger lesson here is likely that of Eccliastes 3:1—be patient, since "to everything there is a season."
(David Elkington/Rex Features/Rex USA)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rose helps Bulls beat Nets for eighth straight win

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) When the game got tight in the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls turned up their defensive pressure. And the streaking New Jersey Nets just couldn't keep up.
Rose scored 21 points and the Bulls extended their longest winning streak in six years to eight games by holding the Nets to a season-low point total in an 84-73 victory Thursday night.
"That's what we've been doing the whole year, playing defense," said Rose, who came up with a big steal and a layup in the closing minutes. "If our offense isn't going, and that rarely happens, we rely on our defense. That's what we did tonight, make it tough on them. At first, they were getting everything they wanted. Then we just closed down the paint and rebounded the ball."
Chicago, which came into the game with the NBA's second-best defense allowing an average of 91 points, held the Nets to 35 percent shooting (29 of 83), including a 3-for-19 night from 3-point range.
Rose also hounded Deron Williams on defense. Williams had been the catalyst of New Jersey's five-game winning streak, but he only managed five points on 1-of-12 shooting to go along with 11 assists.
Williams has battled a wrist injury since being traded from Utah to New Jersey before the trading deadline, and he admitted it bothered him. But he said new coach Tom Thibodeau has turned the Bulls into a great defensive team.
"We could have played a lot better and shot a lot better, 35 percent from the field is tough to win," Williams said. "But they're a good defensive team. That's what they pride themselves on."
The Bulls (49-18) also are resilient. They blew a 14-point third-quarter lead before turning away the Nets after they tied it three times in the final 5:50.
Chicago's eight-game winning streak is its longest since it won nine in a row between mid-March and early April 2005. This win gave the Bulls a half-game lead over idle Boston in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"We know we still have a long way to go," said Luol Deng, who scored 19 points, including a go-ahead jumper with 3:58 to play. "We've got a great team. We've got guys who come off the bench and do a good job of carrying us. We're a deep team and we just have to keep on playing."
Kyle Korver had seven of his 12 points in the final quarter and rookie reserve Omer Asik had 11 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
"We just want to take it step by step," Thibodeau said. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We just want to concentrate on our improvement. If we do the right things every day, the results will take care of themselves."
Brook Lopez scored 22 points for New Jersey, and Kris Humphries added 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Lopez made two free throws with 4:06 to go to tie the game. Deng then came off a screen and hit a jumper to put the Bulls ahead for good. After the teams exchanged empty possessions, Rose stole a cross-court pass by Williams and scored on a drive to push the lead to 73-69 with 3:18 remaining.
Anthony Morrow and Sasha Vujacic missed jumpers for New Jersey and Chicago took advantage. Korver hit a free throw after the Nets were called for an illegal defense and Joakim Noah, who was returning to the lineup after missing a game with flulike symptoms, went over Humphries for a rebound and scored for a 76-69 lead.
After Vujacic scored on a goaltending call against Rose, Korver, who turned 30 on Thursday, hit a 3-pointer and Kurt Thomas converted a layup to put the game away.
"We just couldn't score points tonight," Humphries said. "You look at the stat sheet and we shots in the 30s. We held them to a good amount of points and we just needed to turn it up offensively, but we weren't able to do that."
Limited to 50 points in the first three quarters and only down by 10, the Nets made a run in the opening four minutes of the fourth, closing to 62-59 on a 3-pointer by Vujacic.
The Bulls called timeout and quickly got Rose back in the lineup. The Nets kept it up but couldn't overcome Chicago, which won the rebounding battle 50-46.
NOTES: Williams had dinner with his former Jazz teammate Korver on Wednesday. ... Bulls F Carlos Boozer has missed four straight games with a sprained ankle. ... The Bulls lead the season series 2-1. ... Williams hit a runner at the end of the first quarter. It was originally ruled good but overturned after a videotape review. ... The Bulls wore their St. Patrick's Day green uniforms.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Phoenix Petroleum’s PBA entry a big concern for San Miguel

Phoenix Petroluem, the company keen on taking over the struggling Barako Bull franchise, will have to wait until Friday before knowing the decision of the members of the Philippine Basketball Association board.

But even before its possible entry will be tackled, there’s already a major concern from San Miguel Corporation, a company which also owns one of the biggest players in the petroleum business — Petron.

This was relayed by PBA board chairman Rene Pardo of B-Meg Derby Ace to GMA News on Monday.

“Yes, it’s a big concern as SMC also owns a petroleum company," Pardo said in a telephone interview. “I expect board representatives of SMC to raise the issue when the board meets on Friday."

Before the 36th season started, SMC has notified then PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios of a name change in one of its teams. Petron was supposed to be used by the old Purefoods franchise until a last-minute change was done. The food company instead carried the name B-Meg Derby Ace, a power feeds product.

A high-ranking official from the league said the entry of Phoenix Petroleum will certainly have an impact on SMC.

“Malaking epekto, particularly kapag nag-request sila ng name change," said the source, who requested anonymity.

Direct competition among participants

But the same source added there’s already a precedent as far as direct competition is concerned.

“Right from the start, we already saw that and fans were aware of it, too. Crispa and U-Tex are both in the textiles business, so they are competing brands, so as 7-Up and Royal Tru-Orange, which also have PBA teams back in the 70s. Perhaps, the recent direct competitors in the league were Purefoods and Swift," said the source.

Another high-ranking official said the lockout policy in advertisements is being connected to the “direct competition rule" being implemented by the league right now.

Because of the lockout in advertising, ang thinking ng board, bawal rin ang competing brands from participating in the PBA," said the source. “There’s no written provision as far as competing brands’ participation is concerned. So it’s really up to the board on how they will interpret the rules on direct competition."

But Phoenix Petroleum’s possible participation shouldn’t be the only concern to be tackled by the board, according to Pardo.

“Maybe we should be informed about Barako Bull’s status now," added Pardo. “Part of the condition when the team filed a leave of absence is to give way to Smart Gilas, granting they will return in the third conference."

Barako Bull has filed a leave of absence in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup, paving the way for the entry of Pilipinas-Smart Gilas.

The Nationals are likely to play in the PBA for the remainder of the season, but whether they will continue to use the spot of Barako Bull or become the league’s 11th member in the third conference pending the decision of Phoenix Pelroleum’s intention to take over the Photokina franchise remains to be seen.

League commissioner Atty. Chito Salud said the regular board meeting was reset from Tuesday to Friday with Phoenix Petroleum’s plan to take over Barako and the approval of the terms of reference of the coveror next conference being put on top of the agenda.

“It was moved to Friday, but of course, Phoenix will be the main topic in the agenda as well as the TOR for the TV coverage next conference," Salud said in a telephone interview. - GMA News

Azkals win on 3-2 aggregate score, PHL advance to the AFC Challenge Cup group stage

The stingy Azkals defense came into play in the 2nd half as they denied Mongolia any more goals to seal their advance in this pre-qualifying round where they go up against Myanmar next on March 21.

Despite the 1-2 loss to Mongolia Tuesday in the 2nd leg of their AFC Challenge Cup pre-qualifying match in freezing Ulan Bator, the Azkals enjoyed an aggregate 3-2 lead courtesy of their 2-0 win during the 1st leg in Bacolod last month.

The aggregate lead was enough to get the job done for the Azkals to advance. They will be playing Myanmar next.

At the end of the first half, the Azkals trailed Mongolia's Blue Wolves 1-2 in the 2nd leg of their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup pre-qualifying match in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

Despite the freezing temperature, the Azkals - came out smoking as James Younghusband scored at the three-minute mark but the Blue Wolves equalized right back with a goal from Donorov Lumbengarav at the 22nd minute.

The Blue Wolves drew their 2nd goal at the 33rd minute when keeper Ed SacapaƱo blocked a free kick but Mongolia's Bayasgalan scored on the follow-up.

The match was played in freezing temperature on artificial turf in the Mongolian capital. -- GMA News