POSTSCRIPT / October 16, 2001 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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When Miss America walks the ramp with Miss Kabul

WE’VE just received two pictures, one of Katie Harmon, Miss America, wearing the swimsuit she chose for the competition, and another of a typical Afghan lady wearing the heavy smothering burqua as required by the Taliban regime.

Sorry we can’t reproduce the pictures here, but the comparative caption below — shared by — should be graphic and interesting enough:

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MISS America is a junior at Portland State University, hoping to eventually get a Master’s degree in Bioethics. Miss Afghanistan is forbidden from receiving any education at all, and cannot read or write.

Miss America has worked as a lab assistant at both the Oregon Health Sciences University and the University of Puget Sound. Miss Afghanistan is forbidden from working.

Miss America’s father is an engineer. Her mother is a teacher. Miss Afghanistan’s father was shot by a gang of Taliban militants. Her mother begs for bread scraps since she cannot work or remarry.

Miss America wowed the judges by singing a Puccini aria, “O Mio Bambino Caro.” Miss Afghanistan is forbidden from singing or even listening to music of any kind.

Miss America will be traveling the nation nonstop during her reign. Miss Afghanistan cannot leave her house without a male family member, cannot drive, and cannot be out after dark.

Miss America is an advocate for breast cancer research. Miss Afghanistan cannot be treated by a male doctor, and for all practical purposes has no access to medical treatment of any kind.

Miss America can date, marry, or divorce anyone she chooses. Miss Afghanistan will be stoned to death if caught in the company of a male outside of her family. She is likely to be sold into an arranged marriage to a man who already has two wives.

Miss America wears sunscreen on the beach to keep from burning. Miss Afghanistan cannot live in a house with windows unless they are painted black. Since she must wear a burqua outside, her pale translucent skin has not seen a ray of sunlight in years.

Miss America could have been disqualified if her swimsuit did not meet pageant standards. Miss Afghanistan can be flogged if the holes in the mesh covering her face are too large.

Miss America will decide how many children, if any, she wants to have. Miss Afghanistan will be pregnant 3-4 times more often than Miss America. Unfortunately, her babies are 25 times more likely to die in the first year. One out of four will not see his fifth birthday.

Miss America is majoring in speech communications at PSU. Miss Afghanistan is forbidden from speaking in public.

Miss America is 21. Since the US life expectancy for women is 80, she’s still a very young woman. Miss Afghanistan is also 21. But since the life expectancy for an Afghan woman is 43, next year she will be “over-the-hill.” (Besides having a shockingly short life expectancy overall, Afghanistan is one of the only countries in the world in which women have a shorter life expectancy than men.)

Miss America is a beautiful, intelligent woman and everyone knows it. Miss Afghanistan could be a beautiful, intelligent woman… but nobody will ever know it.

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WATCH THAT MAIL!: Like airline luggage going through x-ray and detectors at airports, mail may soon have to be passed through some device that would scan or sense that contents do not contain anthrax spores, deadly viruses or other hazardous substances.

If there is no such device yet, one must be invented pronto. The current anthrax scare in the US may force the mail service to a crawl, which is disastrous for commerce and communication.

It is not enough that American postal workers handling mail be made to wear gloves, masks or protective robes. There must be some way to determine that mail is free from harmful substances without having to open or physically handle it.

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ANTHRAX SCARE: The anthrax scare in the US is apparently fueled by the cases in Florida, New York, Reno (Nevada), and Sta. Rosa (California). Although just a statistical microdot against the total population, the cases loom large in the media and the impressionable public mind.

It does not help that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Vice President Dick Cheney have opined that it is more than likely that the incidents were the handiwork of terrorists in Osama bin Laden’s network.

More sober officials, meanwhile, are assuring the public that there is still no indication that the few cases of US workers contracting anthrax (a disease normally associated with cattle and sheep) presumably from contaminated mail were related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

We think this is the correct approach. Precisely, one objective of terrorists is to scare Americans and disrupt their normal life, aside from inflicting massive physical damage and possibly crippling the nation.

An online survey of Netscape asking its users if they were worried over the recent anthrax cases in the US had logged 45 percent Yes when we voted No yesterday. We assumed that most of the respondents were US-based.

Suddenly there is a huge demand for anthrax vaccine and medication. Unfortunately, there is only one supplier in the US and its full-year manufacturing output has already been purchased by the government.

Enter Bayer of Germany, a leading world supplier of anthrax vaccine and medication. They are now swamped by huge orders from the US. They may have to triple their production capacity to cope with the demand.

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OTHER MEASURES: As part of safety and security measures, Boeing is now outfitting their jets with steel reinforced cockpit doors to protect the pilots against hijackers and such intruders. Washington has also announced that they will soon assign sky marshals on all flights. Israel has gone ahead and fielded its own air marshals.

London’s Heathrow airport has gone high tech, using cutting-edge technology. Anyone coming in or going out of the airport has to pass a mandatory retina scan. No two retinas are the same. Considered the most reliable in establishing the identity of a person, the airport retina scan gives on-the-spot results.

After Heathrow, the next airport to implement this identification technology in the United Kingdom is Gatwick.

But we’ve been wondering how this procedure can work if the local immigration people do not have retina files of all travelers they are processing. Will this mean that passport applicants worldwide now must submit to some retina procedure if they intend to enter the United Kingdom?

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R.P. TOURISM CONCERNS: Back home, the tourism sector is rallying around Tourism Secretary Dick Gordon to drum up more business while tourism worldwide suffers a slowdown amidst the terrorism scare and the US ban on Americans going to Mindanao.

The Federation of Tourism Industries of the Philippines (FTRIP) led by chairman Alejandra “Dading” Clemente presented in a recent meeting with Gordon the industry’s own plans for perking up local tourism amidst a worldwide gloom.

Also in the meeting were Bong Cruz of Philippine Airlines, Manila Peninsula chairperson and Philippine Hotel Owners Association president P.L. Lim, and Hotel Sales and Marketing Association president Rose Libongco.

The FTRIP initiatives include “value-for-money promotions and half-priced discounts” for immediate offering to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China in a bid to fill the vacuum left by American and European tourists.

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INDUSTRY IS HURTING: “It is obvious we are hurting,” Gordon said. “Our hotel occupancies are down by 30 to 50 percent. We continue to receive cancellations. But these will only be temporary if we promote, promote and promote, and actively move on with our programs.”

The secretary cited projections of experts that travel to and within Asia will continue to grow as travelers consider the region as a safer destination than the US and other Western countries in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He said tourist arrivals from Asian markets were encouraging. The Korean market is up by 19.77 percent from last year’s figures; Taiwan, 14.8 percent; and China, 18.35 percent.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 16, 2001)

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