POSTSCRIPT / February 7, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Quake grabs attention from impeach-CJ trial

OIL DRYINGUP?: We were merrily tweeting yesterday, and mostly damning the banks that were leaking out information on their clients when this 6.9-strong earthquake jolted the Visayas at 11:49 a.m. and grabbed our attention from the loose-lips banks.

As the quake hit populated areas, loss of lives and considerable damage to property is expected. As I write this, seven persons have been reported killed.

On the personal side, the tremblor gave me an excuse to mention my long-held theory that quakes are becoming more frequent because of the accelerated rate and volume of the extraction of the oil that lubricates the earth’s constantly moving subterranean plates. (Joke time)

I simply said the quake was 6.9-strong, because I was not sure if that should be Magnitude 6.9 or Intensity 6.9. There’s a difference.

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MAGNITUDE VS INTENSITY: If I remember right what my daughter Dr. Leyo P. Bautista of Phivolcs has been telling me (and which I keep forgetting), magnitude is an objective machine measurement while intensity is a subjective impression of an observer.

Magnitude is a constant or fixed value, arrived at by using a formula from inputs registered on a seismograph. On the other hand, intensity merely reflects a sense or impression that varies from person to person, from location to location.

For instance, a quake that is felt as of intensity 3 in Makati, which sits on solid adobe in wide sections, is usually felt as of a stronger intensity 4 in the Manila port area where the alluvial soil is less compact.

The observer’s distance from the epicenter is also a factor, with the intensity waning as the distance grows. But a quake’s magnitude is a constant rating measured by the device used, whether by Phivolcs in Quezon City or the US Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado.

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PINOY’S OWN SCALE: Years ago I heard that Phivolcs had started to shift from the widely used intensity scale founded on standards developed in the West.

The Western description of the intensity of quakes is based on the effects of the shaking as manifested in such phenomena as bricks falling off, chimneys collapsing, chandeliers swaying, glass windows breaking, et cetera.

But we do not have these household and architectural items in the Philippines. The western scale is obviously not applicable or practical here, hence the need for a localized standard.

If a farm boy is napping on a carabao’s back in the meadow when an earthquake strikes, no brick would fall on him. An urban squatter would probably be lucky that he has no glass windows. When his shack shakes, he might attribute that to a passing train or cargo truck.

Yesterday tremor’s epicenter was 10 kilometers deep in the eastern shore of Negros. While it was felt at intensity 7 in the immediate area, it was just intensity 2 in Bukidnon and 1 in Sorsogon. In Manila, we did not feel it. But it registered magnitude 6 wherever it was detected.

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BANK SECRETS: Another type of tremor was expected yesterday in the Senate as the parties geared for debates on a move to summon the bank records of impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

But two journalists (not of the STAR) seem to have beaten the Senate impeachment court to the confidential documents. This has stirred a debate on what to do with the apparently unauthorized disclosure of information on bank clients.

When some tweeters said there was violation of bank secrecy rules and that the journalists should be made to disclose their source(s), as a grizzled newsman I ventured to predict that they would not identify their sources.

Proper or not, in this oldest profession we call newspapering there is an unwritten rule that newsmen would rather go to jail than squeal on their sources.

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FREE KDF MISSION: The Kapampangan Development Foundation, meanwhile, is asking its volunteers and Metro Clark Advisory Council coordinators to register their indigent patients for the cataract screening on Feb. 7 at the Jesus A. Datu Memorial Medical Center in San Vicente, Bacolor, Pampanga.

Benigno N. Ricafort, KDF president, said cardio pulmonary clearances will be issued on Feb. 8 for acataract surgery mission on Feb. 21-24 at JADMMC. He asked KDF partners to help the patients secure certificates of indigency from the Punong Barangay and case studies from their Municipal Social Welfare offices.

The partners of KDF for the continuing free cataract surgery program are Rotary Clubs of Pampanga, Social Action Center of Pampanga, SUKOB, HIJ, Capanalig Lions Club of Pampanga, Soroptimist Club of Guagua, Quota International, Life for Life Foundation International.

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EYE DISEASE: Cataract is an eye disease where the crystalline lens or its capsule becomes cloudy, causing blindness. Fluid accumulates between the fibers of the lens and gives place to deposits of albumin. These coalesce into rounded bodies, the lens fibers break down, and areas of the lens or the lens capsule are filled with opaque products of degeneration.

The condition is estimated to have blinded more than 25 million people worldwide. Minimum cost of cataract surgery is P42,000 per eye and may reach P141,000 depending on conditions of the eye and/or the patient. Treatment is provided free to indigents under the KDF program.

This program interests me as I was found two years ago to have cataract and I have not done anything about it. Readers similarly afflicted are urged to take advantage of the KDF program that has benefited thousands over the years.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 7, 2012)

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