Sunday, July 23, 2006


There are times I would come across a bizarre news item and not know exactly how to react — with sympathy or inappropriate laughter; the latter due more to my nervous trepidation than mean apathy (but have recently discovered a method to combat it).

Take for example this news report by New York Post which occurred in the Hell’s Kitchen section of West Side midtown Manhattan. Frank Frias, 44, was crossing 10th Avenue at 51st Street at 10:35 p.m. Wednesday when he was hit by the driver-side mirror of a black SUV and fell to the ground.

According to witnesses, the driver stopped and got out of his SUV, took a quick look at Frias, got back in and fled the scene of the accident. Immediately afterwards, a shuttle bus slammed into the injured Frank Frias. The driver was quick to blame Frias for running in front of his bus.

What’s even more disturbing about this tragic incident was the inaction of the witnesses. No one came to his aid as he groggily wandered across Tenth Avenue after getting hit by the SUV. Jeeez! I know most New Yorkers often walk briskly and oblivious to their immediate surroundings, but this incident was too freakish not to command serious attention. I lived in New York for many years and based on personal experience, New Yorkers are, in fact, a curious lot and oftentimes eager beavers when it comes to giving a helping hand. Alas! Not in this case, I suppose.

Meanwhile, on a much broader spectrum, is another alarming news item about the altering of NASA’s mission statement. In 2002, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents are the words, “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

However, as the New York Times article points out, in early February, the statement was edited without consulting NASA, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. The current budget and planning documents, “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research” has become NASA's primary focus.

This surreptitious editing job surprised many NASA scientists, who argue the “understand and protect” phrase was not merely window dressing but actively influenced the shaping and execution of research priorities. Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The article goes on to cite that "since 1972, when NASA launched the first Landsat satellite to track changes on the earth’s surface, the agency has been increasingly involved in monitoring the environment and as a result has been immersed in political disputes over environmental policy and spending. And that the understand and protect phrase was cited repeatedly by James E. Hansen, a climate scientist at NASA who said publicly last winter that he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking out about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions."

Dr. Hansen perceived the change as an attempt by the White House to deflect the attention away from global warming. “They’re making it clear that they have the authority to make this change, that the president sets the objectives for NASA, and that they prefer that NASA work on something that’s not causing them a problem,” he said.

Unfortunately, this position by the current administration pertaining to NASA's research priorities mirrors its attitude towards the Kyoto Protocol.

For additional insightful reads on climate changes and environmental issues, I recommend Major Tom’s Too Hot To Handle and Going Green In A Brave World.

Incidentally, the picture above (click to enlarge) is from NASA and the point of light above the World Trade Center building tower is the comet Hale-Bopp.

posted by Señor Enrique at 8:04 AM


Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

I thought it was just my monitor being dirty. Hale-bopp pala..

July 24, 2006 5:10 AM  

Anonymous trench said...

Thats insane. Getting hit twice and no one lifts a finger... Karma is a bitch though. it will come back to them.

July 24, 2006 6:37 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I also thought there was a speck of dust or something on my screen :)

July 24, 2006 9:51 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I, too, was very much dumbfounded by these witnesses' zero attempt to help the guy, Trench.

July 24, 2006 9:52 AM  

Anonymous Luis said...

I thought it was an Al Qaeda plane.. :-)

July 24, 2006 12:04 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

I do hope that the Frank Frias incident is just (without downplaying its grievousness)one of those items on shows that goes 'world's unbelivable indidents' otherwise, it would be truly shocking to realize that in this continually evolving modern world, sentivity becomes a flighty thing and humanity becomes obsolete. But you know, in our country, there were numerous reported incidence where drivers who had hit a person would even try to hit the fallen victim to ensure death, coz it would be cheaper for the trucking company to harbor funeral expenses than pay prolonged stay in the hospital.

About the NASA mission statement, I believe that the change or uncounseled editing of such was clearly made as a method of strategy where the US government is so hellbent at protecting its industrial sector by not ever signing the Kyoto Protocol. It seems quite clear that more and more scientific research have pointed to industrial waste as the main culprit for deteoriating quality of our climate/environment and if NASA would continually do such activity, it's like indicting the hand that feeds...

To be sure, the new mission statement would gain lesser interest among private funders but I guess NASA couldn't care less since the huge American Treasury is always behind it...

BTW, thanks for the plugs; I surely appreciate it...

July 24, 2006 2:20 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Funny but naughty, Luis :)

July 24, 2006 2:54 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Major Tom ... notwithstanding, you're one of the few writers we have who is well-versed in these issues, and I trust you will continue to enlighten us in this regard.

Without a doubt, the US has got to sign the Kyoto Protocol. For what good are all those industries if they would only contribute to the eventual obliteration of our planet? But I'm sure there are scientists in NASA who are in powerful positions and will continue pursuing research on climate changes.

Unfortunately, the Frank Frias incident in Manhattan's Hell Kitchen is true. But that incidence reports you mentioned about drivers making sure their victims are dead is just too much.

However, my nephew who is in the transportation insurance sector told me recently that more and more negligent cases filed by our common folks against giant bus companies have been winning in courts and receiving proper compensation. One family was awarded P4 million pesos. Goes to show that our justice system still works!

July 24, 2006 3:12 PM  

Blogger j said...

hello Senor, in my latest post I would be tagging you so please watch out for it. thanks, i hope you have the time to do the meme, it would be fun and we'll get to know each other better :)

July 25, 2006 3:02 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Will look forward to it, Jairam. Thanks!

July 25, 2006 6:26 AM  

Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

You lived in NYC Mr. E, so I give you the benefit of the doubt when you claim New Yorkers are normally willing to "get involved," but that's not what I've heard. In this case though, if no one saw Frias get beaned by the SUV they might have thought he was drunk or on drugs. Seeing people in trouble in the city is as normal as seeing pigeons, so why would anyone react any differently to poor Mr. Frias?

Kyoto. I tend toward the conservative side, BUT I love the idea of Kyoto. I understand why Pres. Bush didn't sign though... why would he voluntarily hamstring the US economy while China, Russia and India "take up the emissions producing slack?" Of course, we could just do what Canada did, sign it, and then ignore it. Most Americans aren't going to put any pressure on ANY administratioin to sign the protocal. Let's face it, most of us don't truly care about the environment. The proof? Look at America's hiways... still full of gas guzzlers, and even with gas prices reaching record highs, we are STILL consuming gas at record levels. We'll sign Kyoto ONLY after the average American acknowledges the harm THEY are doing to the environment, but at the moment they prefer to be blissfully oblivious.

July 28, 2006 8:01 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Very interesting point, Phil. Perhaps, just like what Filipinos must do, the American public at large must demonstrate (sincerely, that is) concern for the environment and act on it.

As for NYC -- I beg to differ, Phil -- once I got home at 3am at the corner where I lived. When I got off the cab, right there on the sidewalk was a man lying unconscious with what appeared to be blood coming out of his head. I stood by him and waited for a squad car (didn't have my cp along), but then a man got off his parked car with a cellphone on his ear and advised me that he was already on the phone with 911. We both stayed until the ambulance and cops arrived.

But of course there are many drunken incidents in and around the city, but for the most part, New Yorkers are good samaritans. But 10th Avenue is mostly a commercial area, so those must be tourists who saw Frias got killed by a bus.

July 29, 2006 6:58 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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