Friday, July 24, 2020

Sun Life: Rise together and achieve financial goals

As part of its efforts to promote financial literacy during Financial Independence month, Sun Life Philippines held the Sun Talks Virtual Conference last June 27 with the theme, “Rise Together to a Bright New World.”

The conference, comprised of various talks from industry experts and business leaders, aimed at encouraging Filipinos to pursue their financial goals despite the challenges brought on by the global health crisis.

There are four tracks with three different talks in each track during the virtual conference. First is the “Money for Life” track that talks about the right financial tools needed to build wealth. The next one is “GoWell for Health” track that discusses insights on how to discover the journey toward a healthier lifestyle. Another is the “Partner for Business” track that explores professional and personal pursuits. Lastly, the “Partner for Overseas Filipino” track tackles the many ways to grow and secure the finances of Filipinos working abroad.

In the Money for Life track, Sun Life Distribution Support and Strategy Head Jenny Del Mundo was among the speakers and she talked about the role of life insurance in one’s personal financial plan and how it can serve as a safety net for families especially during a pandemic.

Renowned wealth coach Chinkee Tan also shared the different ways you can budget and save during quarantine.

Tan identified five reasons why budgeting is not easy: spending habits, access to various temptations, peer pressure, and lack of know-how makes it difficult for a person to budget his finances properly. To resist these, Tan enumerated important steps in budgeting. First, identify and write down your short, medium, and long-term goals that are simple, practical, and achievable. It is also important to know your exact income to know how much money you can actually spend after saving. When you have these, you need to write down your spending and allocate your income according to your priorities. Lastly, there’s a need to review and assess your expenses on a monthly basis.

“At the end of the day, it’s not how much money you earn, but how much money you keep,” Tan notes.

With regard to saving, Tan shared two strategies on how to save successfully. Cut one’s expenses down and grow one’s savings while searching for ways to increase income. He shared that one should always save with a particular goal in mind.

“Saving always comes first. You cut down on your expenses as much as you can. You do not ask your income to adjust to your lifestyle, you ask your lifestyle to adjust to your income.”

To equip Filipinos with the right information on how one can jumpstart the journey toward financial wellness, Sun Life offers different online tools such as the Money for Life Planner, the Health and Wellness Planner, and the Sun Life Advisor Match. Sun Life also offers various calculators that help clients compute and identify their insurance and investment needs as well as how to counter the effects of inflation.

The second Sun Talks Virtual Conference will take place on August 15, 2020. To know more about it, visit the Sun Life Philippines Facebook page:

Jollibee Group designates hygiene ambassadors in stores to implement stricter safety protocols

To help protect the health of its customers and store teams whose safety is a top priority, the Jollibee Group has designated Hygiene Ambassadors in the stores nationwide of Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Greenwich, Burger King, Red Ribbon, Panda Express, and PHO24. 

These Hygiene Ambassadors are dedicated team members in each branch who help ensure the store’s stricter compliance with the intensified safety measures that the Jollibee Group has implemented following the guidelines issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“Employee and customer safety have always been a top priority as reflected by the stringent safety standards that our brands have set up all these years,” said Joseph Tanbuntiong, Country Business Group (CBG) Head for Philippines. “We have tightened our safety standards even further in alignment with government-mandated protocols.”

“We also continuously study and benchmark with global experts on how to improve safety in all our stores even further,” Tanbuntiong added. “As we welcome our customers back to our stores, we would like them to not only see, but also experience our intensified safety measures with the help of our Hygiene Ambassadors.”

The Hygiene Ambassadors will monitor and guide dine-in customers in following the government-mandated safety standards such as undergoing temperature check before entry, proper wearing of face masks, filling out of health declaration forms, using the disinfecting mat before entry, and observing physical distancing inside the store.

Customer Feedback

Renato dela Cruz, a Burger King customer from Iloilo, has noticed the strict protocols. “Very good implementation of social distancing. Alam namin na safe kami dito dahil mula pa lang sa entrance kinukunan na kami ng temperature tapos nakita rin namin na sinanitize ang table and chair. Masarap kumain ‘pag alam mong safe,” dela Cruz remarked.

Jhuriz Benito of Tagbilaran City, Bohol took note of the consistency of the measures by Greenwich: “I feel comfortable and safe. Greenwich store is really consistent in cleaning and sanitation, making us feel at ease while dining in.”

Mary Joy Garcia of Batangas is also appreciative of Chowking’s efforts: “They observe proper social distancing. The staff wears face masks and face shields. Their tables and chairs are well disinfected and sanitized before and after use. Overall, the store is clean, well disinfected, and sanitized.”

Intensified Safety Measures

On top of these measures, the Jollibee Group has also limited the number of people allowed in every store at a time based on the seating capacity prescribed by the dine-in safety protocols of DTI and the IATF.

The Jollibee Group has also provided store teams with their personal protective equipment (PPE) and free vitamin supplements to help keep them healthy while on duty. Store teams are required to have their temperature checks taken before, during, and after duty; wash their hands every hour; and sanitize their hands every 30 minutes and before and after handling food.

Apart from tightening its safety standards for food preparation and handling even further, the Jollibee Group has also intensified its sanitation protocols by cleaning and sanitizing its stores every 30 minutes, especially high-touch objects including doors, door handles, and fixtures. Handwashing areas and sanitizers have also been made available for customers. Hygiene Ambassadors also help ensure that these store protocols are properly executed.

Stores of the Jollibee Group brands have visual cues in place to maintain physical distancing when queuing and marked tables that are not available for use. Stores also practice no-touch transactions by setting up cash containers on counters where customers could put their money when paying for their orders, whether for in-store, delivery, or drive-thru. Customers may also pay using HappyPlus card, Paymaya, and debit and credit cards.

Using gossips in pandemic ‘trivializes’ health crisis

A women’s party list group on Thursday slammed the reported use by the Philippine National Police of rumormongers, or “chismosas,” for contact tracing activities, calling it a mockery of the worries that families have over the rising cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

Police Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro of the PNP Regional Office in Central Visayas on Thursday said authorities have decided to tap ordinary citizens to increase the number of contact tracing teams in the city, and clarified his earlier statement about tapping neighborhood gossips to track down possible carriers of COVID-19.

“You don’t necessarily have to be a chismosa. Anyone, including critics of the government, can volunteer and help in our contact tracing efforts. Everybody is welcome,” Ferro told the Inquirer.

But Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said at a press briefing that the PNP’s plan was reflective of the “trivialization” by the Duterte administration of the life-and-death situation many Filipinos face due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

Serious and important

“Contact tracing is a serious and important health program especially in a pandemic, and should never be reduced to dependence on gossips,” Brosas said.

She added that the PNP Central Visayas’ plan also reinforces the chismosa stereotype among the growing number of unemployed women in communities.

“On President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address, we must make him accountable for criminal cuts in health programs and for showing no serious intent to save us from this pandemic,” the party list representative said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a radio interview, laughed off the PNP’s idea, and said that contract tracers “should have a background on criminal investigation.”

At the same time, he admitted that contract tracers need no special qualifications except for the “ability to think and analyze.”

Pompeo calls for ‘free world’ to triumph over China’s ‘new tyranny’

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States –  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Thursday on “free nations” to triumph over the threat of what he said was a “new tyranny” from China.

YORBA LINDA, CA – JULY 23: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a speech on Communist China and the future of the free world at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library on July 23, 2020 in Yorba Linda, California. The U.S. has ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas to close by tomorrow. Pompeo told reporters that the decision comes amid China’s “stealing” of intellectual property. The Chinese foreign ministry condemned the closing and said that its embassy in Washington had received death threats. David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

“Today, China is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else,” Pompeo said.

“If the free world doesn’t change Communist China, Communist China will change us,” he said at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California.

Speaking a day after the State Department ordered China to shut its Houston, Texas consulate, Pompeo laid out a stark view of Washington’s rivalry with Beijing in strident language that recalled the US Cold War with the Soviet Union.

And in an uncommonly virulent attack, he accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of being a “true believer” in the “bankrupt” totalitarian Marxist-Leninist ideology.

“His ideology informs his decades-long desire for global hegemony built on Chinese Communism,” Pompeo said.

– Trump’s hard line –
The speech marked a new level in the hard-line approach toward China by President Donald Trump’s administration.

It was the fourth in a series of major policy speeches by top administration officials, including White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Chris Wray and Attorney General Bill Barr, each of whom focused on one facet of the alleged China threat in ideology, espionage and commerce.

It also comes after Pompeo himself declared China’s geopolitical claims in the South China Sea fundamentally illegal, and after the Pentagon sent two aircraft carriers to that region to underscore the point.

Pompeo said Beijing had taken selfish advantage of US and Western generosity as it implemented reforms and joined the global economy in the past four decades.

He strongly criticized previous US administrations for being too complacent with China and US companies for being too compliant with whatever Beijing demands of them.

He said Beijing had broken international commitments on Hong Kong’s autonomy, on the South China Sea and on stopping state-backed intellectual property threats.

And he said those “failed promises” included not being forthright about the beginnings of the coronavirus outbreak that has now swept the world in a pandemic.

“We can no longer ignore the fundamental political and ideological differences between our countries, just as the CCP has never ignored them,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

“The free world must triumph over this new tyranny.”

– New Cold War –
Pompeo made several references to the Cold War that saw Moscow and Washington face off, very tensely at times, around the globe for four decades after the end of World War II.

In dealing with China, countries will have to choose sides “between freedom and tyranny,” he said.

The bilateral relationship between the superpowers has grown more strained this week following Washington’s abrupt order to shut down China’s Houston consulate.

And on Thursday, the US Justice Department announced indictments and arrests of four scientists and medical researchers at US universities.

The four were accused of visa fraud for allegedly lying about their ties to the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party.

Pompeo said the consulate was closed because it “was a hub of spying and IP theft.”

“China ripped off our prized intellectual property and trade secrets, costing millions of jobs across America.”

On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the consulate action an “outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-US relations.”

And on Thursday, he said the charges against the four researchers amounted to “naked political persecution.”

“China will take necessary measures to safeguard Chinese citizens’ safety and legitimate rights,” Wang said.

SWS: ‘Large majorities’ of Filipinos practice prevention measures vs COVID-19

“Large majorities” of Filipinos continue to practice health measures to prevent contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), although the number of people who said they observe physical distancing has declined, according to the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The survey released on Friday showed that 76 percent of adult Filipinos said they always use face masks when going out of their houses in the past month, while 17 percent said they do it most of the time, 4 percent wear it sometimes, and 2 percent said they rarely or never wore a face mask.

SWS noted that the figures hardly changed from the 77 percent who said in May that they always use face masks since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, 65 percent said they always wash their hands several times a day, 30 percent most of the time, 4 percent sometimes, and 1 percent rarely or never. Earlier in May, 68 percent said they always wash their hands several times a day.

The survey also found that 59 percent said they always keep physical distance or a safe distance of 1 meter from other people when they go out of their homes. Twenty-two percent said they do it most of the time, 11 percent said sometimes, and 7 percent rarely or never. The SWS noted that the percentage of respondents who said they always observe physical distance has declined from 64 percent in May.

According to SWS, the proportion of respondents who said they always use face masks is highest in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, at 90 percent. This was followed by Visayas at 82 percent, and Balance Luzon and Mindanao at 72 percent each.

“Compared to May 2020, those who always use a face mask rose by 12 points from 78% in Metro Manila,” said the poll body.

The number of respondents who always wash their hands is also highest in Metro Manila at 73 percent, an increase from 68 percent in May. This was followed by the Visayas at 69 percent, Mindanao at 67 percent, and Balance Luzon at 59 percent.

Those who always keep physical distance are likewise highest in Metro Manila at 68 percent, followed by the Visayas at 64 percent, Mindanao at 57 percent, and Balance Luzon at 56 percent.

The SWS July 3-6, 2020 National Mobile Phone Survey was conducted shortly after the community quarantine was relaxed in most parts of the country on July 1.

The survey was probability-based and was conducted using mobile phones and computer-assisted telephone interviewing on 1,555 adult Filipinos nationwide or those aged 18 years old and above.

According to SWS, the respondents comprise 306 in Metro Manila, 451 in Balance Luzon, 388 in Visayas, and 410 in Mindanao.

The poll had sampling error margins of ±2 percent for national percentages, ±6 percent for Metro Manila, ±5 percent for Balance Luzon, ±5 percent for Visayas, and ±5 percent for Mindanao).

DOH: Home quarantine guidelines out in April, ‘emphasized’ to LGUs

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said that home quarantine guidelines were released as early as April, and have been “emphasized” to local government units (LGUs), in response to Malacañang’s claims that the department failed to clarify the guidelines.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online media forum that the DOH issued a memorandum as early as April 11, mandating barangay health emergency response teams or BHERTS to monitor suspect, probable, and confirmed cases of COVID-19 who are in isolation in their homes.

A Joint Administrative Order with the Interior Department on April 15 also declared that mild and symptomatic COVID-19 patients cannot quarantine at home if they do not have their own rooms, own bathrooms, and do not have any individual in their house that is considered vulnerable, she added.

“Since April 11 meron na po tayong nilabas na polisya galing po dito sa DOH. April 11 pa po yan. Na-supplement pa ‘yan dahil nagkaroon tayo ng Joint Administrative order with the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) noong April 15 ‘yan nilabas na talagang sinabi diyan ‘yung conditions natin na hindi ka pwedeng mag-home quarantine if these specific conditions were not met,” Vergeire told reporters.

(Since April 11, we already have a policy from the DOH. Since April 11. It was even supplemented because we had a Joint Administrative order with the DILG, it was released on April 15 that our conditions really said that you cannot go home quarantine if these specific conditions were not met.)

Malacañang earlier blamed the DOH’s alleged failure to clarify home quarantine guidelines for asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 patients as one of the reasons behind the spike of infections in the country.

In his regular press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Health Department “should have been clearer” about the guidelines for home quarantine from the start of the new coronavirus outbreak.

“I think hindi naging malinaw kasi ‘yung sinabi ng DOH that asymptomatic and the mild (cases) can stay home. Hindi nila nilinaw na you must have your own room and bathroom,” Roque said.

(I think it was not clear when the DOH said that asymptomatic and mild cases can stay home. They did not make it clear enough that you must have your own room and bathroom.)

“Kaya sa tingin ko, isa sa mga dahilan ito kaya tumaas ang numero natin. But we’re rectifying it now. We have fully intensified our testing,” he went on.

(That’s why I think this is among the reasons our numbers increased. But we’re rectifying it now. We have fully intensified our testing.)

But Vergeire stressed that the policy was discussed and “emphasized” to local government units during various meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whenever we have townhall meetings with the local governments, we always emphasized on this na hindi ka pwedeng maghome quarantine kung wala kang sariling kwarto o kaya sariling banyo at meron kayong vulnerable sa bahay,” Vergeire said.

(Whenever we have townhall meetings with the local governments, we always emphasized on this that you cannot quarantine at home if you do not have your own room or your own bathroom and you have a vulnerable person at home.)

“’Yan naman ay ini-emphasize namain sa kanila kailangan meron kayong sariling ligtas COVID centers so you can put or you can place itong ating mga suspects, probable at confirmed dito sa mga quarantine facilities sa local government,” she added.

(We emphasize to them that you need to have your own COVID quarantine centers so you can put or you can place these suspects, probable and confirmed cases there.)

The government earlier discouraged home quarantine and launched its Oplan Kalinga program where mild and symptomatic COVID-19 patients whose houses are not equipped for home quarantine are transferred to state quarantine facilities.

The Philippines’ COVID-19 caseload hit 74,390 on Thursday with the addition of 2,200 more infections. Meanwhile, 24,282 people have recovered from the respiratory disease although 1,871 died.

Vice: Mas uunahin ko munang bumili ng mask at pagkain kesa isipin ang kompetisyon

SA mga panahon ngayon, wala na sa kamalayan ni Vice Ganda ang salitang competition.

Kilala ang TV host-comedian bilang isang very competitive celebrity. Talagang lahat ng kanyang ginagawa ay pinagbubutihan at kinakarir niya.

Pero ibang-iba na raw ngayon ang sitwasyon. Pag-amin ng Phenomenal Box-office Star, “Hindi mo siya maiisip ngayon at saka paanong kompetisyon, wala nga kami sa ere, di ba? Kanino kami makikipag-compete?”

“Mas uunahin ko na munang bumili ng mask. Mas uunahin ko na munang siguraduhin na wala akong COVID. Mas uunahin ko na munang mapakain yung sarili ko at yung pamilya ko.

“Mas uunahin ko na munang tumulong sa mga kapamilya ko na nangangailangan ng tulong kaysa isipin ko pa yung kompetisyon. No, it’s not right,” pahayag ng TV host-comedian sa nakaraang digicon vua Zoom para sa launching ng kanyang Vice Ganda Network ngayong araw.

Miss na miss na rin daw niya ang mga kulitan at landian nila nina Jhong Hilario at Vhong Navarro sa Showtime.

“Honestly na-miss ko yung the old Showtime in general – doing the show with the live audience, yung madlang people. Yung energy ng madlang people nakaka-miss yon, sobrang nakaka-miss yon, ibang klase yon.

“Nagsu-Showtime kami nang walang audience tapos hindi mo alam kung havey ka ba o waley kasi wala namang nagre-react – yung ganun. Hindi mo malaman kung okey yung ginagawa mo o hindi.

“Pangalawa, yung hindi kami makapagbugbugan nina Vhong, nina Jong, hindi nila ako masaktan. Nami-miss ko yung hinaharang nila ako at naghahabulan kami. Lahat kami physical yung hosting namin na ginagawa, nami-miss ko yon.

“It’s never the same, the fun is never the same, ang layo, eh. Sobrang layo at lahat yon nakaka-miss at nakakalungkot pag naiisip ko. Pero we have to survive this challenge at okey na okey ako don,” chika pa ni Vice Ganda.

Samantala, tungkol naman sa magiging entry niya sa 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), mukhang mas matinding challenge ang haharapin nila para mabuo ito ngayong meron pang pandemya.

“May plan ang Viva at Star Cinema for this December, hindi pa lang napa-finalize kung kailan mag-i-start saka yung lahat ng issue na kailangang i-finalize.
“Pero parang lahat plano pa lang. Pero iniisip ko pa, hindi ko alam kung paano isu-shoot,” may pag-aalinlangang sabi ni Vice na ang tinutukoy ay ang “Praybeyt Benjamin 3”.

Pero may naisip na silang materyal para sa movie, “Ang concept nu’ng entry, again hindi pa siya final, pero bibigyan ko na lang kayo ng konting idea. Hindi siya magiging masyadong pambata this time.

“Kasi unlike before, yung past movie ko puro pambagets talaga, eh, di ba, fantasy ganyan. Eh, since hindi naman puwedeng lumabas ang mga bata, ang mga minor papuntang sine so, maia-adjust mo yung concept.

“Sinasabi ko nga sa kanila, so puwede tayo ng love story. Kasi hindi naman kinakailangang pambata na kailangang super wholesome yung movie. Pero definitely it’s going to be a family movie still,” kuwento pa ng komedyante.

Gabriela at alyado nito nag zumba vs anti terror law

Controversial PhilHealth meeting ended with deal to set aside personal matters - Go

The controversial meeting between Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials which supposedly led to threats of resignation due to rampant corruption within the agency ended well, a senator present in the said discussions said.

According to Senator Bong Go, who chairs the Senate committee on health, the meeting ended with officials vowing to set aside personal matters and instead focusing on how to properly implement the Universal Healthcare (UHC) Law.

“Natapos ang meeting with an agreement na sa panahon ngayon ay isasantabi muna ang mga personal na hidwaan upang mabigyang importansya ang kapakanan, interes at buhay ng mga Pilipino,” Go said in a statement on Friday.

“Uunahin muna ngayon kung paano masigurong maiimplementa ang UHC Law, mapopondohan ang mga programang pangkalusugan, at mapagseserbisyuhan ang mga nangangailangan sa panahon ng pandemya,” he added.

Go’s explanation came a day after sources told reporters that a PhilHealth meeting has gone awry when corruption allegations were revealed, prompting at least three officials including an anti-fraud officer to resign.

PhilHealth earlier confirmed that one of its officials resigned, noting that they are taking corruption accusations seriously.

Go said that he was invited to join the meeting, as he also co-chairs the joint oversight committee on the UHC Law.  He also confirmed that a shouting match ensued, confirming what sources said on Thursday.

“Kaya kami nakipagpulong kasama ang mga government finance managers upang matugunan ang mga hinaharap na suliranin ng PhilHealth para maimplementa ng maayos ang UHC law lalo na’t may krisis tayong hinaharap,” Go said.

“Isa rin sa napag-usapan sa meeting ay ang mga problema sa PhilHealth management at ang mga akusasyon ng korapsyon na nangyayari […] Naging mainit ang usapan, nagkahamunan pa ng resignation, pero civil at productive pa rin naman ang diskusyon,” he added.

PhilHealth has been rocked with various corruption issues in the past, including a scandal that broke apart last June 2019 where some PhilHealth officials supposedly created a scheme where patients continue to receive payoffs for dialysis treatment even if they are already dead.

Then later that month, Health Secretary Francisco Duque found himself under fire after it was revealed that a PhilHealth provincial office in Pangasinan was allowed to rent land belonging to his family.

PhilHealth also drew flak from the public after hospitals claimed that they are forced to layoff some employees amid the pandemic as the government-controlled corporation has yet to pay the claims it should shoulder.

The corporation countered, saying that they have been paying hospitals properly.

IN PHOTOS: Ship in flames, crew rescued

As of 7:30 a.m. Friday, July 24, 2020, the ill-fated M/V Filipinas Dinagat of Cokaliong Shipping Lines is still seen burning, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a report issued past 9 a.m. | Photo courtesy of PCG,

CEBU CITY, Philippines – A passenger ship that was momentarily used to transport goods between the islands of Cebu and Leyte caught fire while sailing off the waters around Catmon town in northern Cebu last Thursday evening, July 23, 2020.

The Philippine Coast Guard in Central Visayas (PCG – 7) said all 45 crew members, including the captain, of M/V Filipinas Dinagat, which is owned and operated by Cokaliong Shipping Lines, a Cebu-based shipping company, were rescued when they received a distress call from the vessel around 10:45 p.m. Thursday.

As of 7:30 a.m. on Friday, July 24, PCG said, in a report, that the ill-fated ship remained on fire. They said their own vessel, BRP Suluan (MRRV-4406), continued to spray water on the burning ship at the vicinity waters 3.2 nautical miles east off Manlibot Point, Carmen, Cebu.

“BRP Suluan (MRRV-4406) continues monitoring and maritime safety patrol to inform transiting vessels about the presence of the ill-fated vessel,” PCG stated.

After the rescue operation last Thursday evening, the crew of M/V Filipinas Dinaga arrived at the port in Danao City, northern Cebu past 2 a.m. wherein other personnel from PCG – Cebu assisted them.

Duterte orders probe into alleged PhilHealth irregularities

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s procurement of an information technology system that reportedly caused a rift between some of the state insurance firm’s officials and its president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales.

A meeting last Wednesday between Morales and his officials as well as some Cabinet secretaries saw some heated exchanges over the IT system and led to at least one PhilHealth official turning in his resignation letter on Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the resignation of lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith, PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer.

Roque said he only saw so far the resignation letter of Keith following reports that two others have resigned.

Roque told the Inquirer on Thursday that the President has “authorized” Undersecretary Jose Melchor Quitain, head of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President which in turn is under the Office of the President, to conduct the investigation.

“We enjoined all parties, including Keith, to fully cooperate with Undersecretary Quitain so we can get to the truth,” Roque said.

“In this time of the (Covid-19) pandemic, the President will not tolerate corruption in an agency trusted by all to provide medical assistance to Filipinos,” Roque also said.

In his July 23 letter to Morales, which was provided by an Inquirer source and which Roque confirmed to have seen as well, Keith said his resignation takes effect on Aug.31. Among the reasons he cited were his belief of “widespread corruption in PhilHealth” and his opposition to the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contribution by overseas Filipino workers that he said was “unconstitutional” and against the Universal Health Law.

“It is against my personal values to let the OFWs pay for the spillages of Philhealth,” Keith said.

He also said there was a need for an independent agency to look into “the rampant and patent unfairness” in the agency’s promotion process.

DILG bans mass gatherings ahead of Duterte’s SONA

Ahead of the President’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has released a memorandum reiterating that mass gatherings are prohibited.

With this, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Major Gen. Debold Sinas said his office will hold a dialogue with militant and progressive groups on changes for protests during the fifth SONA.

“On our initial dialogue, we have agreed to that pero kakausapin pa kasi namin sila (protest groups) kasi a new directive is being issued kahapon lang ito. Issued from chief executive galing sa DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government),” Sinas said in a press conference at Quezon City on Friday when asked if protesters will be allowed to hold physical rallies in the streets.

(On our initial dialogue, we have agreed to that but we will still talk to them because of a new directive issued yesterday. This is from chief executive from DILG.)

“It is a directive subject for strict compliance of IATF (Inter Agency Task Force) Resolution No. 57, reiterating prohibition on mass gathering dated July 23, 2020,” he added.

Specifically, the DILG memorandum states that “IATF strongly reiterates that mass gatherings, such as but not limited to movie screenings, sporting events, and other entertainment activities, community assemblies and non-essential work gatherings are prohibited.” has sought clarifications from DILG on the recently issued memorandum for protests during the fifth SONA but has yet to reply as of posting.

Earlier, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the police force will field 5,000 law enforcers to secure SONA and assist the protesters in following minimum health protocols during rallies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Karol G Recovering From ‘Difficult, Painful’ Battle With Coronavirus

Karol G has confirmed she tested positive for the coronavirus. The 29-year-old star shared the diagnosis during an Instagram Live on Monday.

The Colombian songstress revealed that she found out several weeks ago but didn’t want to worry her parents -- one of the reasons she kept it a secret.

"I didn't want to make it public for various reasons,” she said, addressing fans in Spanish. “I didn't want to make it public because my parents are far away. I didn't want to worry anyone. My family and I are very close and do a lot of things together, and under different circumstances, they would most likely be here with me."

"My single ["Ay DiOs Mío"] was also set to come out, and I didn't want any of the headlines to be about me having the virus,” she added.

The "X" singer said that after testing positive for the virus, she immediately decided to self-isolate from her fiancé, Anuel AA, who does not have the illness. Prior to the news, the couple filmed a video for their song, "Follow," in quarantine.

She added that she is now feeling well and is hopeful that her latest test, taken Monday, comes back negative.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out,” she said. “I did have COVID-19 and it was very difficult, [and] painful, but I'm recuperating.”

"Thank you for the sweet messages and for everyone that has worried about me,” she continued. “All I can [say] is, please take care of yourself. COVID-19 is real. I didn't want to make this news public ... but I'm doing well."

While isolating from Anuel AA will no doubt be difficult, the singer opened up to ET in August last year about the positive aspects of time apart.

"I feel like being apart from each other also helps our relationship and breaks the monotony of things," she said. "Every time we see each other it's like a surprise and I get really excited. So we don't have a [wedding] date right now, but I'm acting as if we're already married."

The couple's wedding was reportedly postponed due to the pandemic.

Karol G is one of several Latin musicians who have tested positive for the virus, including Prince Royce and members of Morat.

Others in the music industry who have contracted the illness include Pink and Babyface.

Miranda Lambert’s ‘Dark Bars’ Lyric Video Captures Nashville’s Struggling Nightlife

Miranda Lambert sets her new single “Dark Bars” to stark images of Nashville’s shuttered nightlife, an industry that has been struggling since both a deadly tornado tore through portions of the city in March and the onset of the coronavirus.

Filmed on location at bars that had closed for the night — or were still shut down because of storm damage or the ongoing pandemic — the lyric video underscores how much the nightlife culture relies on human connection. Without people jostling for space at the bar or holding court on a stool, the rooms lack a beating heart. They’re temples without worshipers. “I’m here for the habit,” Lambert sings, “where nobody knows me/where I can be lonely.”

To capture the desolation, director Steve Jawn (Old Dominion, Travis Meadows) gained access to downtown Nashville staples like Legends and the Stage, and shot the facades — some of them boarded up — of East Nashville haunts 3 Crow, Beyond the Edge, and Drifters. There is a bright spot, however: the clip opens and ends on images of the newly rebuilt Basement East, the popular live venue that was destroyed during the March 3rd tornado.

“Dark Bars,” written by Lambert and Liz Rose is the follow-up to the country singer’s previous single, “Bluebird.” Both appear on Lambert’s 2019 album Wildcard.

Haikyu!! Author Haruichi Furudate Teases Haikyuu Sequel Manga

The sports genre of manga has always been popular among fans. This genre focuses on stories involving various sports and the competitive pursuits of their athletes. But whenever we talk about this genre, the one manga that always pops into our minds – “Haikyu!!”

Haikyu!! has been a fan favorite ever since it started publishing back in February 2012. The story of Shōyō Hinata, who aims to be a great volleyball player, has been engrossing readers for almost eight years now.

The manga will conclude on July 20, 2020, after its eight-year-long run with its 401st chapter featuring a time skip to the Olympics.

Haikyu!! is the weekly Shonen Jump 33.34 merger issue, which will be released on July 20th next week, and will mark the final round with a period of eight and a half years.

Until the end, face forward and run as hard as you can. I hope you all can run together.

Haikyu’s author Haruichi Furudate had commented about a sequel manga revolving around the Olympics seven years ago. It is uncanny that the 401st chapter teasing the Olympics time skip has been published seven years after the comment was made.

The 401st chapter along with the previous comment has teased fans with a sequel Manga for Haikyu!! revolving around the same.

It isn’t uncommon for sports genre mangas to receive sequels focusing on significant sports events after their long runs.

  • Kengan Ashura received a sequel titled Kengan Omega that followed the series two years after the end of the Kengan Annihilation Tournament on Ganryu Island.
  • Baki The Grappler had also received two sequels titled New Grappler Baki in 1995 and Baki: Son of Ogre in 2005.
  • A sequel was also seen for Diamond no Ace when it received a sequel Diamond no Ace Act II in 2015 after its nine-year-long run from 2006.

Fans can hope that this isn’t just pure coincidence but a well-thought plan by the author, which will allow its readers to keep reading more about Shōyō Hinata and his athletic pursuits.

About Haikyu!!

Hinata Shoyo is a highly passionate boy who wishes to follow the steps of his idol, ‘The Little Giant’ in the field of volleyball.

Hinata’s resolve is unbreakable as he faces gruesome defeat at the hands of the ‘King of the Court,’ a genius prodigy setter Kageyama Tobio in middle school. Hinata’s dreams take fruit as he enters high school.

Hinata joins the declining volleyball team of Karasuno High and is appalled to find the very same Kageyama as his teammate.

As Kageyama and Hinata realize the potential of their abilities as a duo, Karasuno High starts taking flight with the opportunities at hand.

The story follows the revival of Karasuno High and the unity they maintain to pave their way for nationals.

P-Valley – Is It Based On A True Story?

Starz’s P-Valley is a story of Black Women who and their life as sex workers. P-Valley also deals with issues like misogyny, homophobia, colorism, classism, racism. It seems like a story about women who are trying to make end meets. Like last year with Hustlers – starring Jennifer Lopez – P-Valley is a story exploring a business that is generally not looked upon as respectful.

The Details that are realized until now are: P-Valley is created by Playwright and showrunner Katori Hall. It is a show with all-women directors. The show is about ambitious and at times misguided women. The scrutiny they undergo due to their different profession. The problems they face with their family. It is probably releasing at a very appropriate time.

P-Valley is a female-empowering show, no doubt about it. With the Black Lives Matter movement going on, it cannot come at a better time. It is not exactly based on a real like story but is a story that portrays real-life happenings. It seems like a show about women by women but for everyone to enjoy.

P-Valley premiered at 9 pm ET/PT on Starz. Given the Sunday night prime spot, the network must expect some good to come out of the show.

P-Valley might give some insight into the life of sex-workers to the viewers. The concept is also based on the American dream and the women who dream it. The show will surely black women who work as sex-workers. It is expected to show that they more than they seem and they do don’t just try to make ends meet but live. P-Valley is the kind of show we need to put things in perspective for the viewers. It is a story that is based on the life that is real.

Demi Lovato Reminisces on Playing Naya Rivera’s Girlfriend on ‘Glee’: 'I’ll Forever Cherish the Opportunity'

Demi Lovato is paying tribute to Naya Rivera. The "I Love Me" singer took to Instagram on Monday to share her memories of the late actress.

"RIP Naya Rivera. I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee," Lovato wrote, alongside a slideshow of photos from their time together on the Fox dramedy. "The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world."

Lovato was a recurring guest star during the fifth season of Glee, in which she played Dani, who has a short-lived romantic relationship with Rivera's Santana Lopez.

"My heart goes out to your loved ones at this time.." Lovato concluded.

Rivera was pronounced dead on Monday, at the age of 33, as her body was discovered after a five-day search.

She was reported missing last Wednesday after she took a boat ride with her 4-year-old son, Josey, in Lake Piru in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California.

Following her disappearance and death, friends, family and former co-stars have been paying tribute with heartfelt memorials, remembering Rivera's life and legacy. See the video below for more on the outpouring of condolences.

Benjamin Keough, Son Of Elvis’s Daughter Lisa Marie Presley, Dies At 27 In Apparent Suicide

Benjamin Keough, son of Lisa Marie Presley, has died at 27 in Calabasas, California, according to a family representative.

A representative for Presley, Roger Widynowski, told various news outlets, “She is completely heartbroken, inconsolable and beyond devastated but trying to stay strong for her 11-year-old twins and her oldest daughter Riley. She adored that boy. He was the love of her life.”

Although the representative did not specify a cause of death, TMZ reported that Keough died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday.

Last year, Presley posted a picture of her and her children with the caption “Mama Lion with cubs.” In the comments, fans pointed out the resemblance Benjamin had to his famous grandfather.

The picture shows Presley with Benjamin, as well as her oldest daughter, actress Riley Keough, and younger twin daughters Harper and Finely. Presley shares her children with ex-husband, musician and singer Danny Keough.

Monday, July 13, 2020

John Legend Gets Real About His Cheating History and How Chrissy Teigen Changed His Ways

John Legend isn't holding back.

The Grammy-winning singer laid it all on the table and opened up about his "history" of cheating in a candid interview on Armchair Expert with podcast co-hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman.

"I have a horrendous history of cheating. F--king deplorable... And there's all these great cheating songs on your albums, and I was like, 'I see another fisherman at sea,'" Dax shared, and asked if John had a past similar to his.

"Yes, I did have a history of [cheating]. Definitely in my 20's," the 41-year-old singer responded. "I think what happened for me, you go through a lot of your life in your teens and I was younger than everybody in high school and college, and so I just didn't get a lot of girls. When I started to get that attention, I loved it."

"I escaped 'technically cheating' by keeping my relationship ill-defined. But it was really cheating," he continued. "I definitely was dishonest and selfish... It was happening before I was famous."

The Oscar winner explained that as he entered the spotlight more, he got more "attention" and "took advantage of that, at that time."

However, things changed for John after he met Chrissy Teigen, whom he married in 2013, and shares two kids with: Luna Stephens (4) and Miles Stephens (2).

"At a certain point, you just realize you're happier being honest. You're happier being faithful and being in love with one person," the 41-year-old star expressed. "At a certain point, I just decided that person was Chrissy. I decided I wasn't gonna mess with somebody else anymore."

He said his "whole life" become "lighter" and it felt freeing for him to be honest.

For the "All of Me" singer, there were instant sparks when he first met Chrissy. In fact, they had so much chemistry that they hooked up the first night.

"We've talked about it before, but we had sex the first night and hit it off," John shared. "We were both seeing other people at the time. There was kind of a looseness at the very beginning, but we fell in love not long after that."

When asked by Dax if he ever feels pressured about his relationship, considering he and the Cravings author are one of the most celebrated couples, the 41-year-old put things simply.

"I feel like it almost makes it less likely that I would do anything to f--k it up. Chrissy has 12 million Twitter followers. If I were to do anything, it would be career suicide," he explained. "It would be terrible. It just gives you another reason to not f--k it up."

‘Glee’ Star Naya Rivera Dead at 33

The body of actress Naya Rivera, best known for her role as Santana Lopez on the TV show Glee, was found Monday after going missing in a lake near Los Angeles. She was 33. On Monday afternoon, Sheriff Bill Ayub confirmed Rivera’s death at a press conference. Prior to a press conference Monday afternoon, TMZ confirmed the body was Rivera.

Rivera was pronounced missing Wednesday, July 8th after going boating with her four-year-old son on Lake Piru, in Ventura County’s Los Padres National Forest. Rivera had reportedly rented a boat with her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, at around 1 p.m. that afternoon. About three hours later, another boater discovered Josey sleeping alone on the boat’s pontoon. Officials said Josey was unharmed and wearing a life vest, while an adult life vest was found on the boat.

At the time, a spokesman for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said, “There’s no evidence of foul play at this point,” and, “This may well be a case of drowning.” A search and rescue operation was launched and continued throughout the week.

Rivera was born on January 12th, 1987 in Santa Clarita, California, just outside of Los Angeles, and began acting as a child. She scored her first job at age four on Eddie Murphy’s short-lived sitcom, The Royal Family. She spent the next several years picking up guest roles on shows like Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Baywatch and Smart Guy.

As she got older, Rivera earned recurring roles on The Bernie Mac Show and made her film debut in Dana Carvey’s 2002 comedy, The Master of Disguise. Into her early twenties, Rivera was picking up occasional guest spots on shows like 8 Simple Rules and CSI: Miami while also working odd jobs, but then, in 2009, her big break came when she was cast as Santana Lopez on Glee.

For the first season, Santana was essentially a supporting character, one of a handful of cheerleaders recruited by Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester to infiltrate and bring down the glee club. But the character quickly became a fan-favorite and Rivera was added to the main cast in Season Two.

Santana became a particular focal point for Glee’s devoted online fan base, some of whom began “shipping” her with fellow cheerleader Brittany Pierce (played by Heather Morris) and even coming up with a portmanteau for the couple, “Brittana.” The calls for “Brittana” got so loud on social media that show creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck decided to bring the characters together in a 2011 episode.

“Honestly, I never thought I’d actually be playing a teen lesbian,” Rivera told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. “I didn’t think it was going to go this far. But I’m glad that it did because there have been a lot of fans who have expressed that they’ve been going through similar situations in their lives. I’ve heard from girls that are in high school, they’re 16, 17, and they’re like, ‘I came out to my mom,’ or ‘I came out to my friends, and thank you for helping me do that.’”

Rivera remained a main character on Glee until it wrapped after its sixth season in 2015. Though as the show neared its end, she began taking on other projects. In 2013, she released her debut single, “Sorry,” featuring then-boyfriend Big Sean, but neither a follow-up nor an album materialized. In 2014, she starred in the horror film At the Devil’s Door, while in 2015 she picked up a recurring role on the Lifetime series, Devious Maids. More recently, Rivera appeared in the 2017 film Mad Families, and she was also a cast member on the YouTube Premium show Step Up.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Breaking Down the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Trump’s Taxes

If you’re confused by the news about the Supreme Court’s decisions in the two Trump tax return cases this morning, you’re not alone. The cases are a perfect Rorschach test, not only for your politics, but also your general life disposition. Tweets, headlines, Facebook posts, and cable news chryons are probably giving you whiplash about what happened. Did Trump lose and finally have to turn over his taxes? Or did he win and keep his taxes from ever seeing the light of day?

What the Court did today was complex, and no headline or tweet can really capture it. So here’s a clear breakdown of the Court’s decisions for you.

In many ways yes. The court’s main opinions, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, rejected the president’s arguments that he was above the law and did not have to comply with lawful investigations.

Seven Justices agreed with this position in two different cases. One case involved the Manhattan prosecutor who tried to obtain financial records from Trump’s accounting firm as part of an investigation into possible financial crimes committed by Trump and his businesses. The other case involved Congress trying to obtain similar records from Trump’s accounting firms as part of their investigation into whether to pass laws regarding financial regulatory matters and election interference.

In both cases, the president asked the court to grant him immunity from the investigations because of his special role as the President of the United States. This contention was resoundingly rejected, with seven Justices rejecting the president’s argument in both cases, and even the two dissenting Justices agreeing regarding the New York criminal investigation. (More on that later.)

In lay terms, the president was arguing he was above the law and did not have to turn over documents that any other person being investigated would be required to. The court refused this position, which is a big blow to Trump.

Because law is complex, and the Supreme Court split the baby in some ways here. The president lost on this main point, but the court did not rule that he has to turn over his tax returns right now. This is where things get tricky.

In the New York case, the court said that even though the president doesn’t have any special immunity, he still gets the opportunity to raise any objections that a normal person would have to the subpoena for his records. In other words, just like you or I could object to a subpoena because it’s too broad, is too vague, is too burdensome, or is really a form of harassment, the president can do so as well. Moreover, the court said he can raise special objections based on his constitutional role as the head of the federal executive branch, such as that the state subpoena is an attempt by the state government to obstruct the federal government or would impede him from performing his constitutional responsibilities.

In the case about Congress, the court did something very similar. The court said the president doesn’t have complete immunity, as he wanted, but he can raise other arguments about why the congressional subpoena is invalid. In particular, the court said that there has to be a balancing of factors to determine whether the basic principle of separation of powers is thwarted by the Congressional investigation of the president. In weighing these interests, courts have to look at whether the purpose of the investigation warrants this imposition on the president, how broad the subpoena is, whether the subpoena is supported by sufficient evidence, and how much the subpoena burdens the president’s job.

In both cases, the Supreme Court did not assess these other arguments or interests. Rather, the court sent the cases back to the lower courts to hear these arguments and make new determinations under these guidelines.

Indeed. There is no doubt the president’s lawyers are going to use every play in the book to delay the release of anything, and the Court gave them several here. The arguments that the court recognized as important in both cases will take time to develop, which means evidence production and briefing. Then, the lower court judges will have to decide these matters in the first instance. From there, there will be appeals, to both the intermediate appellate courts and then to the Supreme Court. And if the Supreme Court again decides to hear one or both cases — a likely possibility given how weighty these issues are — we’ll be back on the Supreme Court’s slow calendar.

Absolutely not now. And not for the foreseeable future either. Lawyering takes time, a lot of time. And even if somewhere down the line the New York grand jury eventually gets the president’s tax returns, grand jury evidence is supposed to be secret. Same with Congressional evidence such as this. So, it could be years before these cases are resolved, and even if they are resolved against Trump, the information might very well stay sealed (barring a leak).

These two Justices have the broadest view of presidential power on the Court. They also take the most reliably conservative views in cases, views that almost always align with the Republican party.

Here, although they didn’t agree that the president is always immune from investigation, they did think that he should be immune in these cases. In the New York case, they thought the president has broad authority to ignore the enforcement of a subpoena that interferes with his job, especially when the subpoena comes from a state. In the Congress case, they thought that if Congress wants to investigate the president, it needs to do so by the impeachment power and be much more specific.

Notably, the two Justices appointed by President Trump — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — ruled against him in both cases.

Everyone and no one. President Trump’s broad arguments of presidential immunity were rejected, but he gets to delay this case in the lower courts to the best of his lawyers’ ability. The public is reassured that we are not ruled by a dictator or king, but the prospects of the public ever seeing Donald Trump’s taxes were improved only marginally today.

So there’s no clear winner today at all.

Other than maybe Chief Justice Roberts. As the author of both opinions, he looks like he stood up to a Republican president and told the world that, in the United States, no person is above the law. Doing so makes the court looks like a principled, non-partisan institution. But, at the same time, he assured his fellow Republicans that the president’s tax returns will not be an issue in the upcoming election because there is no possible way they are released — privately or publicly — in the next four months. This keeps the Court out of the election, and possibly even helps the president in his campaign (or, at the very least, doesn’t hurt him).

The president may be upset, Congress may not yet be getting what it wants, the New York prosecutor may have a long road ahead of him, but the Supreme Court comes out looking good. Just what Chief Justice Roberts wants.

Why Chief Justice Roberts Upheld Abortion Rights

When Donald Trump ran for president, he promised to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. His running mate, Mike Pence, vowed the same. Today, it seems that the president may have followed through with his promise … but was stopped in his tracks by Chief Justice John Roberts, who apparently does not want to let that happen.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that would have shut down all but one clinic in the state. That law — requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital — was almost identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2016. In the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court found that the Texas law provided no benefits to patients but instead burdened access to abortion so significantly because most clinics in the state would shut down.

Thus, today’s decision should have been an open and shut case. Texas’ law was unconstitutional four years ago; Louisiana’s law was virtually identical to that law — it should be unconstitutional as well. But, the addition of the two new justices to the court, and in particular conservative Justice Kavanaugh replacing abortion-rights supporter Justice Anthony Kennedy, made this case a very big deal. To everyone following this issue, this case was going to be the barometer for how the newly conservative Supreme Court would treat abortion.

This morning gave us the complicated answer. A majority of the justices voted to strike down the law based on the 2016 case, however, those five justices did not agree on the rationale. Justice Breyer, who wrote the 2016 decision, authored an opinion for himself and the three other liberals on the court. His opinion was a straightforward application of the 2016 case. He said that this law is no different, and because it also provides no benefits while seriously burdening abortion access, it is unconstitutional, like the Texas law. The Louisiana abortion clinics can remain open, and people seeking abortions in the state will not have to face an even more drastic access landscape.

This is where Chief Justice Roberts comes in. The chief dissented in the 2016 case and would have allowed the Texas laws. But this time around, he voted with Justice Breyer to strike down the Louisiana law. He couldn’t bring himself to join Justice Breyer’s opinion, writing his own opinion instead. And until the court changes, because the chief justice is the swing vote on this issue, this opinion will be the key to future abortion cases.

So what does the chief’s opinion say? He made it clear that he still disagrees with the 2016 case, but he said that courts should, barring exceptional circumstances, follow the rules from previous cases. So, even though he disagrees with the 2016 decision, he will follow it. And because all the evidence from the case indicated that the Louisiana law was no different than the Texas law, the chief followed the 2016 precedent and struck the new law down.

In doing so, Chief Justice Roberts made two things relatively clear for future cases, and this is what is going to be important going forward. First, he does not appear to have any appetite for overruling Roe v. Wade and the basic principle that states cannot make abortion illegal. To be clear, he doesn’t say this explicitly, but he applies the constitutional principle from Roe and its follow-up case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey without any hesitation. In fact, the gist of his separate opinion is that he believes his reading of Casey is the better way to remain faithful to that case.

Sure, he could eventually vote to overturn Roe and Casey (he’s a justice of the Supreme Court after all, and can do whatever he wants), but his opinion today gave no indication that was the case. His unwillingness to overturn recent abortion precedent with which he clearly disagrees suggests he just doesn’t want to upset the apple cart too much here. Based on what he did and said today, overturning Roe and Casey doesn’t seem in the cards from the chief, and without him, that means there aren’t five votes to do so. Roe and Casey are safe for now.

But second, Chief Justice Roberts does seem more than willing to allow all sorts of abortion restrictions short of illegality. His opinion today says that in order to be unconstitutional, an abortion restriction must be a substantial obstacle. The test he wants courts to apply to determine whether there is such an obstacle is more forgiving than the balancing test Justice Breyer applied in 2016. Getting technical, Justice Breyer says all laws should be balanced — benefits against the burdens. Chief Justice Roberts disagrees, saying that the benefit is irrelevant and all that matters is whether there is a substantial obstacle. That is a high hurdle. And with the other four conservative justices, including Trump’s new justices, voting to allow Louisiana’s restrictions (and more), the chief would probably provide the fifth vote in the future to uphold other restrictions.

In other words, the bottom line here is that the status quo in the world of abortion should remain as long as this court doesn’t change. Even with the two new Trump justices on the court, it appears that abortion will remain legal, and Roe is safe. However, states that want to make the obstacle course that abortion patients have to navigate in order to get their procedure more difficult are going to continue to have leeway to do so … except when they try to do the exact same thing as what Texas did in 2016.

COVID-19 Is Surging. Donald Trump’s Response Is Shrinking

Dr. Peter Hotez tuned into last Friday’s White House Coronavirus Briefing hoping he might learn something new. Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor’s College of Medicine and one of the leading vaccine researchers in the world. He and a team of scientists are currently working to develop a coronavirus vaccine candidate, but that breakthrough could be months or years away. For now, Hotez wanted to know what federal leaders had planned to deal with the new spike in COVID-19 infections.

Sixty days had gone by since the American public had last heard from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. During that two-month lacuna, almost 70,000 of us died from COVID-19 and more than 1.5 million of us tested positive for the virus. Now, while the countries that were first hit by the virus — China, Italy, Spain — began to reopen their economies and send children back to school, the U.S. plateaued and then entered what appears to be a deadly new phase of the worst pandemic in a century.

But as Hotez listened to the briefing’s rotating cast of administration officials last Friday, he struggled to discern any cogent, consistent message about fighting the virus. What he heard instead, he says, was a mix of self-congratulation, stale science, and spin.

Dr. Peter Hotez tuned into last Friday’s White House Coronavirus Briefing hoping he might learn something new. Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor’s College of Medicine and one of the leading vaccine researchers in the world. He and a team of scientists are currently working to develop a coronavirus vaccine candidate, but that breakthrough could be months or years away. For now, Hotez wanted to know what federal leaders had planned to deal with the new spike in COVID-19 infections.

Sixty days had gone by since the American public had last heard from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. During that two-month lacuna, almost 70,000 of us died from COVID-19 and more than 1.5 million of us tested positive for the virus. Now, while the countries that were first hit by the virus — China, Italy, Spain — began to reopen their economies and send children back to school, the U.S. plateaued and then entered what appears to be a deadly new phase of the worst pandemic in a century.

But as Hotez listened to the briefing’s rotating cast of administration officials last Friday, he struggled to discern any cogent, consistent message about fighting the virus. What he heard instead, he says, was a mix of self-congratulation, stale science, and spin.

Vice President Mike Pence said the country had “flattened the curve,” even though the trend line of new cases was aimed unmistakably upward. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar described the recent surge in cases as localized “hotspots,” even though the places experiencing the largest new outbreaks — Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Phoenix — ranked among the top-ten largest metropolitan areas in the country. Pence cited the declining fatality rate as evidence of progress, even though the data is unequivocal that virus-related deaths can lag behind infections by several weeks.

What Hotez didn’t hear, he told me, was anything like a coherent national strategy for fighting COVID-19. There were ongoing efforts by FEMA and other federal agencies focused on procuring critical medical supplies and expanding testing capacity, as well as the administration’s breakneck push to develop a coronavirus vaccine. But top administration officials offered no discussion of which response measures might make the most impact and should therefore be prioritized, leaving Hotez with the impression that they were chipping around at the edges of the problem. “This is not easy for me to criticize them,” he says of senior officials in the administration. “But even after almost six months, they cannot articulate a cogent plan. I have never gotten a sense of what their plan is.”

Last week’s Task Force briefing was emblematic of a larger problem with the administration’s response to the pandemic. At a time when national leadership, consistent communication, and a well-defined strategy are needed more than ever, doctors, scientists, and public-health experts say the Trump administration is missing in action, content to play a supporting role and to let states and cities take the lead. All the while, President Trump spreads misinformation about testing (“If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases”) and insists the pandemic will just “fade away.”

While it’s impossible from the outside to see everything underway inside the federal government, there are clear indications that the administration has scaled back its response even as the COVID-19 crisis worsens. After meeting daily for much of March and April, the Coronavirus Task Force now meets one to three times a week, according to a Task Force official. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top scientist on the Task Force, has seen his access to the president shrink. And a spokeswoman for FEMA tells Rolling Stone that there are 1,000 fewer employees currently assigned to support COVID-19 work than there were at the peak of the agency’s response.