Happy!!

Aspen

Who is the happiest in the world? We need to know these things, you know.  According to OECD : Austria, Denmark, Canada, Norway, and Switzerland are the top 5 happiest countries in the world. The US is ranked 17th, citing income inequality, as the main reason for the low ranking. Categories that were evaluated include GDP, income equality/inequality, health care, ect. Number friendly factors.

I came across this article, and I thought it was interesting. Apparently, GDP is used as the main index to measure a nation’s happiness. Even though it overlooks other significant factors, like…..happiness. This article addresses the problem with the categorical data used to determine happiness. It suggests using actual, “happiness”, and other subjective factors to determine how happy a country really is. As in actually asking whomever, “How happy are you?”. Because not all country/people have the same happiness regardless of GDP and income and such.

The problem with this, according to the article, is there is no consensus on the distribution and how to quantify happiness, because no one has really thought of using this type of data to asses happiness. These types of surveys are conducted for a reason, and the article discourages using inaccurate assessments to guide policy. RIGHT.

In 350 Words or Less: Executive Loan

obama

Yesterday, President Obama signed an executive order that will cap student loan payments for another few million individuals. You can read about it here. The law will cap loan payments at 10% of income. If you recently started paying on your student loans, you probably already have this option. This order is more for those who borrowed between 2007 and 2011, because those who borrowed after 2011, is covered under student loan laws that were signed in 2010 This plan is set to take effect after December 2015.

I am sure you have already heard of the abysmal numbers regarding student loan debts and what not, so I’m not gonna waste anymore internet space on that. What I will blurb about is the not so many number of individuals who are taking advantage of student loan re-payment programs. These laws are pretty much useless is people don’t take advantage of them. Numbers say that out of a bunch of million of people who qualify for re-payment programs such as the one the Presidents signed today, only like 200,000 are actually enrolled in them. So , it kind of losses its essence. And, paying 10% doesn’t have to be permanent, just for that time that you need a little help, while waiting for that dream job that will end your student loan misery, like becoming a superstar politician.

Anyways, in addition to signing the new order, the President is also endorsing another piece of student loan legislation that will allow individuals to refinance their student loans later on. This particular law is going to go through some rough waters as the partisan claws are already out against it in Congress. I’ve read that all hell will break lose before it passes anywhere in Congress, since a similar bill has been rejected like 8 times already.

 

**Image from google.com**

In 350 Words or Less: Education Blues

schoolkids

If you are one of my kids, you know how, “tiger mom”, I am about education. I am very big on it and it saddens me to see the hit that education has or is taking in life right now or ever; from the ridiculous rising debt/cost of higher education to the rising gun violence on college campuses and public schools. I am pessimistic that, by the time Aspen makes it to college, it will be obsolete, and/or impossible for normal people to attain, and I am not just talking about higher education.

But worse, have you heard about the public school system in New Orleans, LA? I’m sure you have, if not, you can read about it here and here. I find it hard to believe that a major city in America can no longer afford to provide traditional public education to its children. Beginning next school year, New Orleans will have the first all-charter school system in the country. Charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently

I am not sure if it is still the case today, I’m sure it has changed,  but when I was in grade school, charter schools were seen as negative, alternative school options. It was pretty much like where all of the bad kids go when they get kicked out of public and private school. According to several articles, the root of the change in New Orleans is corruption and poor performances. Maybe, it’s my ignorance of the system, and I will definitely find out more about it, but I don’t see how switching to an all charter school system will get rid of corruption and poor performance. If anything, I see more potential for a wider range of corruption in a charter organization and for the manifestation of a plethora of discriminatory issues. As the article states, it is still somewhat of an experiment, and I hope that it gets better for education in New Orleans. At the end of the day, we just want our kids to be able to go to school and receive a decent, if not, a good education.

In 350 words or less: Stolen Daughters

nigeria

Have you heard about the current abductions situation in northeast Nigeria? Here is a related article. The region is a trample zone for militant activities, and two weeks ago, about 200+ teenage girls, ages 16-18, were abducted by militants, and are still missing. TWO HUNDRED PLUS. Sources indicate that the militants set the dorm on fire in the middle of the night, forced the panicked girls into trucks, and disappeared into heavily forested areas near the school. Parents have appealed to the government for help, but it seems that the government is just as helpless as the parents. The worst part is that according several sources, the girls have been married off in a mass ceremony and sold to militant leaders for a paltry $12.

As a mother of three girls, this is heart wrenching. I know that in areas of conflict, the kids are the ones who suffer the most, and that things like this happen everyday. But, no matter where you are in the world, can you imagine hearing that 200 beautiful daughters have been stolen, sold for pennies, and that one or two of them are yours? We need to do better.

stolengirls

 

**Images from google.com**

 

 

Sterling Move

nba

I am a big basketball and Houston Rockets fan, and the NBA playoffs are currently underway. It has been one of the best first rounds that I can remember, like ever. It almost feels like March Madness with all of the extra quarters that has been played.

Unfortunately, it has been riddled with the issues surrounding Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling. Sterling was handed down one of the harshest penalties by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for a wide range of racist tangents: a lifetime ban(never mind that the guy is 80 years old) from the NBA, a $2.5M fine, and pressure to sell the Clippers. Silver has asked for the vote of 3/4ths of the required NBA owners to “make” Sterling sell his team.

Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

After the punishment was announced, there has been several mixed responses and comments regarding the whole thing. Does the punishment fit the crime? What happened to being entitled to your own opinion? The likes.

So, here are my three cents about the whole thing:

1. The Punishment:

The punishment fits the issue, there was no crime committed, depending on how you look at it. Racism should never be tolerated, and if one has the opportunity to squash any qualms about it, they should take it. The NBA made a statement as to what a bigot’s place in the league is, but I am not sure if the same punishment would have been carried out had the comments been about sexual orientation or say, religion.

2. Donald Sterling:

Donald Sterling was racist long before this event took place. According to wiki, he was previously sued by the US Department of Justice and by former Clipper’s executive/Hall of Famer, Elgin Baylor, for race and age discrimination. He did not become a bigot over night. The league and the players knew before hand what they were dealing with when it came to Donald Sterling.

Side Note: The Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP has previously awarded Sterling with a lifetime achievement award and cancelled plans to award him a second one next month.

3. Donald Sterling and the NBA/Basketball:

After reading some of Sterling’s comments and contract negotiation remarks with regards to race, I can’t help but wonder why no one had previously challenged this man like he should have been. I mean he pretty much believes that Black people are vermin. It took a woman to take him out of NBA arenas. Wiki says that, Sporting News has called him the “worst owner in basketball”, and The New York Times and Forbes have labeled him, “worst owner”, IN SPORTS, and there has been some really bad ones. So, Donald Sterling never was good for the sport or the league and all of this was bound to happen. It just took a long ass time. Money stretches time, I guess.

Let’s hope that all of this helps to preserve some of the league’s and the sport’s integrity and serves as some sort of heed to others out there in the dark. Well, in the NBA, anyways.

EXTRA: Social Media is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Sources: Wikipedia.org

Images from google.com

SXSW Spy!!

SXSW-2014

South by Southwest kicks off this weekend and of course I won’t be there. SAD FACE.  If you live under a rock and do not know what it is, go here. It’s basically a huge creatives(music, film, craft goods, ect.) festival thing in Austin, Texas. (Hook ‘Em!) Besides getting to listen to awesome music and see lots of creativity, it is also a huge learning and networking event for literally everyone, for both the participants and the attendees. I am loving some of the lineups this year, and of course Renegade Craft Fair will be there. If you go, get me something 🙂

SXSW has an interactive segment, in which, the issue of surveillance, online privacy, and technology are leading topics. They keep it weird in Austin, so you get music, film, creative trade crafts, food, meet and greets, book signings, and moderated panel discussions. What peaked my interest, cause I am a current affairs nerd, is Edward Snowden will be speaking via video conference, specifically on March 10, regarding NSA surveillance, technology, and the technology community. If you don’t know who Edward Snowden is, go here. Technology and the digital/online community is of great significance to the SXSW culture. This is a great opportunity to reach a large number of people, whose trade and craft rely heavily on the digital world, and to everyone who has ever used technology, so that means you 🙂 The discussion will be moderated by an American Civil Liberties Union director, and regardless of your opinion of Snowden and of his involvement with the NSA, Russia, or anything in particular, this should be an informative session and interesting. I will probably watch the stream. I’m just saying.

*Image from sxsw.com*

Trying to Healthcare Shop!

Part II: Enrolling/Registering Blues

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The Healthcare Market Website

A while back, I gave a little blurb on the healthcare mandate. Well, here is a follow up. I thought I would,”try” to sign up and see if I can find a comparable, cheaper healthcare coverage for my family and I. I mean, the worst that can happen is I don’t find anything I like, right? Wrong. You know all of those horror stories you hear about how horrible the system and how hard it is to actually register/enroll for anything on the darn website? True story. Personal experience, PLUS, another friend’s experience.

Here is how it went/going:

I started the registration process on December 30th. The application itself is easy breezy, took about 10 minutes. Just because there are five of us. So, for a single applicant, it will probably be 2 like minutes.

I created an account, username, ect. Then, I filled our life info, the mandatory stuff, address, social, ect. At the end of the application, there is a summary. I looked over the info, sign electronically, and then I submit. This is where the issues start. After you click submit, you get a message saying, you application is sent on whatever the date is. Then as it is submitting, a dreaded error message appears:

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This message appears every time I hit submit, EVERY TIME. Then I log off like it says, and do the whole thing over, at least 3 times in one sitting, hoping that I would get lucky. I have done this at least 3-4 days a week since I started the whole process.

I consider myself lucky because it has only been about 2 and a half weeks for me. That friend of mine who was enrolling her mom? She started in October, when the whole thing went live. She didn’t get enrolled until December. Therefore, I am not complaining just yet, I am just sharing my agitation for now. Maybe I will make the February 15th deadline. But, I will have a fit, if I don’t find, a “better” healthcare coverage after this whole fiasco.

Just kidding, I am not expecting much from all of this.

I hope this gives you an idea of what you will be dealing with, if you decide to try out the Healthcare Market. Good Luck!

As of today, this is the status of my application, so, I think we will stick with what we have:

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A Disaster

butterphilippines

I try to keep the mood of the this blog on the positive side. But sometimes it can’t be avoided.

The Philippines, my motherland, was recently ravaged by a mega-typhoon practically the size of North America. The aftermath is devastating and heart wrenching. It is gut checking to see the devastation brought upon an already struggling, yet progressive, tiny nation. But, despite of the magnitude of the storm, the people took on Haiyan, despite the severity of the aftermath, after they asked for help, they are picking up, cleaning up, and are moving on, with or without help. When you are a nation who are pounded by the greatest number of storms year after year, you learn to pick up, clean up, and smile. It is a testament of will, resilience, and determination.

Sure, there are lootings and finger pointings, after wards, but that’s natural. Let you be in the same situation, let me not see you try to ravage a standing grocery store to find water and food for you and your surviving family. And let me see any government with minimal resources, prepare for a super typhoon whose magnitude is unrivaled, you can’t. So you do your best.

I thought I would give you a few stats to help put things in perspective and some suggestions of organizations to contact on how you can help. I am sure, you have probably heard some these in the news, if not, now you know.

Typhoon Haiyan:

1. Considered on of the most powerful to have reached landfall, Haiyan was 370 miles wide.

2. Winds reached 195 mph, gusts reached 235 mph. That’s strong.

3. Storm surge reached 17 feet, and 27 inches of rain.

After the Storm(numbers may vary depending on source):

1. 9 million people have been affected: 4.5 million of which are children and 1.5 million of which are children under the age of 5.

2. About 600,000 have been displaced.

3. About 12,000 have been injured.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Local:

Kansas City

The Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City

Philippine Medical Society

World Outreach Foundation of Kansas City

Houston/Texas

First Philippine Baptist Church

Philippine American Chamber of Commerce

National/International:

The American Red Cross

Save the Children

Doctor without Borders

*As always, if you are making monetary donations, make sure that the organization is legitimate and trust worthy. Sadly, scammers are always out there looking to profit on disasters*

*Image from catholicexchange.com*

Source: United Nations and World News NBC

Averting Fiscal Fiasco

Update: 10/16/2013 11: 45pm CST: President Obama signs Senate deal, ends government shutdown of 2013, and raises debt limit. The End. Now, everyone can go back to work and proceed as normal, until Feb 2014.

Update: 10/16/2013 9:30pm CST: Houses passes Senate deal with 285-144 vote. Again, I’m sure we all knew this was expected, just keeping up with the action.

Update: 10/16/2013 2:45pm CST: House GOP will not block bipartisan Senate bill, per Speaker Boehner. But, I am sure everyone already knew this, just thought I’d add it for a dramatic affect.

For those who are interested and are keeping up with the bickering in Congress regarding the country’s fiscal issues, here is an update.

Apparently, Senate has agreed on a bipartisan bill that can possibly get the government functioning again, or at least avoid the Oct. 17 fiasco. The deal still has to go through the House and on to the President by Oct. 17, but everyone is hopeful. It is not a solution by no means, it just extends a few dates that is suppose to be devastating to the government’s already bad financial situation. In other words, the deal will raise the debt ceiling, the government will be financed until Jan. 15, and will be able to borrow until Feb. 7th. Essentially, Oct. 17th will become Feb. 7th.

I think that getting all of it voted on and signed by the 17th is a stretch given no one in Congress can agree on anything. But, that the deal is bipartisan is a decent sign. As always, one vote against will hold the bill (all eyes on Cruz(R)-Texas, just kidding), so we shall see. Announcements are forth coming, let’s hope it’s real so that people can go back to work and the fiscal apocalypse can be avoided. Amen? Amen.

Here is some random guy’s opinion on the effects of the shutdown:

Non-Trending: Rent-a-Womb!

I came across this article last week and was fairly intrigued. I know about surrogacy and such, I just wasn’t aware that it is considered an “industry”, and has been for a while now. And this industry is booming, especially in India. So much so, that the government is thinking about or is in the process of regulating it, because it only makes sense to do so, right?

Anyways, I haven’t quite decided how I feel about this yet. But my initial reaction when I first read the term was, something like, rent a who? rent a what!? Is that legal? Ethical? How much to rent one out? I’m kidding, but seriously, how have things come this? Sure, there are the issues of exploitation among other things, but what does this mean for the traditional family, what ever that means nowadays? I can think of a million reasons as to why this is all sorts of wrong, but then at the same time, you have that dear friend or 3, who are struggling with being a woman who can’t have a child, and you are like, let’s eat, pray, love, and rent-a womb!

It is probably no different from IVF, but IVF does not involve impoverished women who has no other means to make a living and are made to believe that they are giving the gift of life. Somebody somewhere is rolling over in their grave at this, I am sure of it. It’s an insanely awesome solution to a natural predicament that does not need solving. This is just a thought, but I think that, there are reasons why certain people are naturally unable to bear children and renting a womb is not a natural solution. And yes, people who can fly out to India to rent a womb can probably afford to raise a kid, but what about all of the other things that can come out of this? You don’t have to think too long to figure out that somewhere down the line something terribly bad will come out of this. Maybe I am just to attached to the idea of birthing my own child(ren) and everything else that comes along with it, as well as the idea of a traditional, nuclear family that is dying a slow death in today’s unconventional world. Maybe.

As always though, I am not here to justify or denounce the issue, but rather to share and maybe inform. And again, if you already know about this booming industry, that’s awesome, keep up the good work of being informed and aware.

5 Things about the Rent-a-Womb Industry (in India):

1. It is a $1 Billion+ industry.

2. India has 150 known clinics, 60% of which offers commercial services.

3. Surrogates are compensated as much as, $8000 ($10,000 for twins).

4. Surrogates stay in a special clinic/hospital for the duration of the pregnancy and must agree to remain celibate.

5. Surrogates are often asked to breastfeed and look after the baby for up to 8 weeks. (No attachment issues, right?)

Extra:

The surrogates carry a foreign embryo not containing their eggs.

Source: BBC