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A jittery world with Trump

SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2017 - 12:00am

Many countries are getting jittery over the protectionist policies of US President Donald Trump. Shortly after the inauguration, the White House announced the withdrawal of the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pushed by the Obama administration to boost its “pivot to Asia policy” and contain the increasing economic dominance of China in Asia-Pacific.

Saying that any new trade deals would uphold the interest of American workers, the statement also vowed to “crack down” on nations that “violate trade agreements and harm American workers in the process.” The Trump administration also wants to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico, warning that refusal by partner countries to give US workers a fair deal would result in a withdrawal.

Critics say Trump’s withdrawal from NAFTA will not bring jobs back because it will result in higher production costs, lower investment returns and ultimately, the destruction of the automobile industry and job losses. TPP proponents also warn that withdrawal from the trade pact is like a “gift” to China, which could negatively impact the growth of the global economy.

It’s beginning to look like President Duterte may have had a vision (similar to God talking to him) because his decision to adopt a new independent foreign policy seems to be paying off. Observers say that now more than ever, the “America First” policy of Trump shows the folly of being overly dependent on the US in pursuing economic progress and development.

The isolationist tone of Trump regarding trade seems to prove the wisdom of President Rody’s move to open economic ties with other countries like China and Russia.  Although some sectors, like business process outsourcing, may experience an initial slowdown, industry players are confident there will be no major cutbacks.

As for the military, we’re told that in a briefing with members of the US military and the intelligence community, Trump is giving them a free hand and will not make any drastic changes. A core focus of the new administration’s foreign policy would be “peace through strength,” committing to boost the US military and pursue “the highest level of military readiness.”

The White House also announced its readiness to work with international agencies to cut off funding for terrorist groups, expand intelligence sharing activities and engage in cyber warfare to weaken recruitment and propaganda activities of terrorists, particularly the ISIS.

Climate change rapidly accelerating

Data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show 2016 being the hottest year on record, with global temperatures hitting new highs for the third straight year now. The earth’s surface temperature has seen an average increase of two degrees Fahrenheit, but in many places, especially, in the Arctic circle, temperatures increased by as much as six degrees Fahrenheit, with ice melting in Alaska, the Yukon and parts of eastern Siberia.

Scientists are worried that the Arctic melt would expose the earth to more heat and affect weather patterns all over the globe.  Changing temperatures are also driving disease-carrying parasitic insects to migrate to other locations, bringing with them the threat of illness.

Reports from the US Centers for Disease Control says blacklegged ticks (or deer ticks) are spreading to areas previously too cold for them, threatening communities in Canada, Wisconsin and Minnesota with the spread of Lyme disease – an infectious disease that could result in joint pains, inability to move one or both sides of the face, severe headaches or memory lapses.

Warming temperatures could also accelerate the reproduction of bacteria and viruses and increase the virulence of vectors (carriers) that transmit them, like mosquitoes that cause the spread of potentially fatal illnesses like dengue and malaria.

California hit by severe flu outbreak

The flu season seems to be much worse this year, and authorities say the influenza virus is also spreading to 21 other states, with California recording the highest number of people affected. Reports say 14 people, including an infant already died – underscoring the seriousness of the disease. The flu season started in October and is likely to continue until May, and cases are proving to be more severe than ever with pneumonia-like symptoms due to the H3N2 strain which is a more serious form of the virus.

Filipino-Americans residing in California who came home during the holidays may have spread the virus here – leaving pregnant women, infants and the elderly among the most vulnerable. As always, prevention is always better than cure, and health authorities advise people to get the flu vaccine now before it’s too late.

Cabinet reshuffle?

Persistent rumors are going around the corridors of Malacañang about an impending Cabinet reshuffle especially with the expiration of the one-year ban on appointments to losing candidates. The President had announced earlier that Foreign Secretary Jun Yasay would be replaced by Sen. Alan Cayetano.

Inside sources say certain individuals are targeting Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, but the same source said it is unlikely she would be replaced at this time. Whispers are strong, however, t hat Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial is “standing on shaky ground” because of strong opposition from several sectors.

Ubial is also facing a rough time before the Commission on Appointments, with party-list Rep. Harry Roque vowing to block her confirmation. Senate majority leader Tito Sotto had threatened to oppose Ubial over the issue of condom distribution.

The insider says several groups are strongly pushing for Dr. Minguita Padilla – founding president of the Eye Bank Foundation – to replace Ubial. Padilla has spoken against the DOH plan to distribute condoms, saying the quick-fix solution could backfire – pushing instead to educate young Filipino males to change their attitudes and behaviors when it comes to premarital sex.

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Email: spybits08@gmail.com

 

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