POSTSCRIPT / December 20, 2001 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Another surprise package unwrapped for ‘Star’ family

STAR President/CEO Miguel G. Belmonte surprised the assembled PhilStar family during our Christmas party the other night by announcing that starting next year, management will give a 16th month pay to all its workers.

The crowd broke into excited applause. The extra wage will be actually a 16th month pay, because aside from the mandated 13th month pay, the STAR has been giving its employees a 14th month pay at enrolment time, and a 15th month pay for the second semester in October.

The 16th month pay is in addition, by the way, to the usual Easter bonus, the STAR anniversary bonus in July, and the Christmas bonus. The bonuses are spread out throughout the year to meet recurring needs of employees.

Despite the seemingly bad times, Miguel reported in his brief remarks that the STAR has had unprecedented support from its advertisers and readers so much so that it expects to gross this year its biggest revenue ever in its 15-year history.

Is the 16th month pay good only for next year, subject to how business would turn out the following years? Miguel told us that what STAR management gives its workers stays. Workers’ benefits are not something management gives then takes away.

He said that with everybody putting in his best performance and with advertisers, readers and its many friends in the community continuing to support it, STAR is sure to do even better this coming year despite worrisome economic indicators elsewhere.

We’re sure other highlights of the exciting evening party at the Midtown Ramada, including the stellar performance of invited showbiz and entertainment guests, will be reported in other sections of the paper.

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MORE JOBS CREATED: It’s uncanny how the Philippines manages to score unusual statistical surprises. While we hear of layoffs and the decline of real wages, the National Statistics Office reports that the country’s unemployment rate has gone down to 9.8 percent in October, from 10.1 percent in July. The unemployment rate was also 10.1 percent in the same third quarter last year.

The NSO attributed this positive news to the increase in the number of persons finding work in agriculture, industry and services in the third quarter of the year.

The statistics office also reported that the decline in exports, which many other countries are also experiencing, is somewhat offset by increasing local demand. The United States, which is in recession, is also trying to stimulate the economy by prodding consumers to buy more.

The statistics office said that jobless Filipinos totaled 3.271 million in October, a drop of 15,000 from the figure in July. The labor force totaled 33.4 million in October, up from 32.6 million in July, and up 7.9 percent from 30.9 million in the same period last year.

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WANTED – A FIRM HAND: Many Filipinos just do not realize it, but if the global situation comes to a point where each country would have to depend on itself, the Philippines would be luckier than most in that it is richer in natural and human resources.

The tragedy is that we seem to think nature has been boundless in its generosity that we take our environment for granted. The manner we abuse our natural resources cries for corrective measures bordering on dictatorship.

Many people we’ve talked to have expressed so much exasperation that they admit being willing to try a “benign dictatorship” if that were the only way we could discipline this unruly nation. They are not referring only to the rape of our environment, but to everything that seems to be going wrong in this country.

Sometimes we find ourselves nodding in agreement. With this avoidable mess all around and the seeming hopelessness of our predicament, we have started to revive repressed thoughts that what this nation needs, and needs urgently, is a firm hand.

One translation of that is a dictatorship of sorts. Really, despite the obvious risks, we probably need a dictator to whip us into line.

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WHO ARE OUR READERS?: A computerized analysis of transaction data of our ManilaMail personal website carrying Postscript has disclosed interesting information about our online readers.

Excluding the bulk whose locations on the globe could not be immediately ascertained, most readers of online Postscript come, in descending order of number, from: .com (commercial, mainly USA), 15.36 percent; .net (network), 11.23 percent; .ph (Philippines), 1.01 percent; and .edu (educational USA), .92 percent.

While we note the strong presence of US online readers, we assume, though, that a majority of those whose locations could not be immediately ascertained is mostly from the Philippines.

The rest who were traced by our server, also in descending order of number, come from: Saudi Arabia, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Japan, US military, New Zealand, United States (non-official), US government, Finland, non-profit organizations, Norway, Germany, Tuvalu, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, Brunei, France, Denmark, Mexico, United Kingdom, Colombia, Belgium, Indonesia, Pakistan, Chile, United Arab Emirates, and Argentina.

Our Archive, which gives access to past Postscripts, gets as many visitors as the home (cover) page containing our column. More than 2.5 percent of readers also use our Search facility, which is useful to those who want to research on specific topics that had been discussed in our column.

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BUSIEST ACCESSING HOURS: As most readers know, Postscript can be read online even before it comes out in the PhilStar print edition in the Philippines. In fact it can be read one day ahead in the United States and other countries that are on the other side of the international date line (while we in Manila are still asleep).

Using New York as reckoning base (since our server is there), we experience the busiest traffic of readers at 9-10 p.m. US East Standard Time (which is 9-10 a.m. next day in Manila). The other hours (EST) of intense Postscript accessing in descending order are: 10-11 p.m., 2-3 p.m., 8-9 a.m., 8-9 p.m., 11-12 a.m., and 12 m.n. to 1 a.m.

The biggest readership of our PhilStar print edition is on Sunday. But online, Postscript has the least readers on Sunday (real time worldwide) in our ManilaMail site. Its peak global online readership is on Monday, followed by Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday and Friday.

More than half of readers use MS Internet Explorer for browsing, followed in descending order by Netscape, FAST-WebCrawler, Scooter-W3.1.2, Openfind data gatherer, Openbot, libwww-perl, psbot, DoCoMo, and Lycos_Spider_(T-Rex).

We’re amazed at how such data and conclusions are culled for us by our server in New York in less than one second.

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KEY TO GOOD HEALTH: If we were to be down to just one supplementary vitamin, which should it be? If we’re to believe an item we just downloaded from Netscape, it is vitamin C, which researchers being quoted called the “key to good health.”

Cathryn Conroy, Netscape news editor, asked: “You want to be healthy? Eat fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C.” She cited a study by Dr. Gladys Block and her colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, saying that vitamin C “appears to be the key ingredient of a plant-based diet that leads to better health.”

While it’s long been known that fruits and veggies are good for you, she noted, how they affected blood levels of specific nutrients was a mystery.

“But these new findings suggest that raising (vitamin C) levels may be an important mechanism by which fruit and vegetable consumption confers protective benefits,” wrote Block in the latest edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Reuters also reported that Brock measured the blood levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and beta-cryptoxanthin — a nutrient found in oranges and orange juice — in 116 nonsmoking men aged 35 to 72, who did not take vitamin supplements. (Smoking lowers blood levels of certain nutrients; taking supplements increases them.)

The study volunteers kept food diaries for a year. Fruits and vegetables were eaten on average three times a day. Blood levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the body, were significantly associated with the frequency of eating foods containing these nutrients.

The association was particularly strong for vitamin C, noted Reuters. “Thus, it is possible that ascorbic acid is as important as or more important than carotenoids in conferring the protective benefit of fruits and vegetables,” concluded Brock.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 20, 2001)

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