New Cleveland resident Steven Catudal was eager to register to vote in his adopted state of Ohio. He found an unlikely ally to thank for smoothing that process during a turbulent election year: basketball superstar LeBron James.

‘Leading by example’: LeBron James and NBA boost voter rights

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by Michael Mathes

New Cleveland resident Steven Catudal was eager to register to vote in his adopted state of Ohio. He found an unlikely ally to thank for smoothing that process during a turbulent election year: basketball superstar LeBron James.

The NBA legend has emerged as the most high-profile promoter of US civic engagement in all of sports.

And his encouragement of Americans — particularly in minority communities — to express their power through voting has the potential to impact November’s election.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Catudal, a 23-year-old business consultant, told AFP after filling out voter registration and change-of-address forms at one of several booths set up in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ arena.

“These pro athletes are role models to people all around the US and the world,” he said, and “they’re leading by example” in important get-out-the-vote efforts.

“To have those franchises, those athletes, going out and pushing younger voters and everyone to come vote, and kind of help shape the future of… the United States is really big.”

The event in Cleveland, supported by government and civic groups, registered more than 700 people in person or online and proved a highlight of National Voter Registration Day last Tuesday.

LeBron’s home state Ohio is a critical bellwether; President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will be squaring off there in their first presidential debate Tuesday, in Cleveland.

– ‘Shut up and dribble’ –

In 2019 James was told by one conservative Fox host to “shut up and dribble.”

Instead, the Los Angeles Lakers power forward and four-time season MVP is trumpeting his get-out-the-vote message from the rooftops.

James has teamed up with New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg and others to raise $20 million to pay the outstanding debts of thousands of Florida felons so they can vote.

A group James co-founded, More Than a Vote, is helping convert sports venues — like Cleveland’s arena, where James once played for the Cavaliers — into voting sites, addressing the shortage in poll workers and fighting voter suppression.

“Nothing is going to change if you guys sit on the sidelines,” James says in a television spot aired by the group during recent NBA playoff games.

– Trump’s concerns ‘aren’t valid’ –

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican who grew up in James’s hometown Akron, is on More Than a Vote’s steering committee and expressed pride in the group’s non-partisan engagement.

LaRose is one of the few Republicans willing to challenge Trump’s repeated accusations, without evidence, that Democrats are “rigging the election” through mail-in voting.

“The president’s concerns that he’s raised aren’t valid here in Ohio,” LaRose told AFP.

Voting by mail and broadening access to the ballot box “is not a partisan issue in my eyes,” said LaRose, who led efforts in Ohio to implement online voter registration.

For James and fellow NBA stars like Larry Nance Jr. of the Cavaliers, bringing the voter empowerment message to minority communities is especially important.

“Support Black voters, be a poll worker, and get in this election for real,” James tweeted last week.

– ‘We need that’ –

He also uses his star power to address racial injustice and the challenges for black women, weighing in after a grand jury on Wednesday declined to charge officers in the deadly police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

“You can’t turn a blind eye to that,” he told reporters Thursday.

African-American Attwyne Robinson, 60, said it was “great” that athletes were prioritizing voter registration during a bitterly contested election supercharged by Trump’s rhetoric.

“Cleveland needs this, because a lot of people don’t know what’s going on,” said Robinson, a cook, after filling out voter forms.

For years sports leagues have promoted get-out-the-vote efforts.

“For our players as a league, as a whole, it’s become a central tenet,” Cavaliers chief executive officer Len Komoroski said.

But with the pandemic cramping voter registration drives normally carried out during ticketed events, the current efforts are “more in the spotlight,” he added.

James now plays ball in LA, but his civic engagement shines in Akron.

His family foundation built the I Promise public elementary school and a building at the University of Akron’s college of education, which bears his name.

“The fact that he is doing things to get people out to vote, that he’s encouraging people, and he’s such an icon in Akron, I think it’s great,” said Master’s student and marching band baton twirler Amy Mellinger.

“People listen to him here,” the 25-year-old added. “We need that.” | Agence France-Presse

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POLITIKO / Across the Nation

POLITIKO / Latest News

Alert for arrival! Sinas: PNP ready to transport COVID-19 vaccines

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said all systems are in place to secure the speedy transport of the first batch of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech that will arrive in the country on Feb. 28.

“PNP units are fully prepared to perform their assigned duties under the task organization of PNP Vaccination Plan ‘Caduceus’ which is the strategic plan that will operationalize all security and public safety operations for the vaccine roll-out in the coming weeks and months, following the arrival of the vaccine shipments from abroad,” said chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, in a statement on Saturday night.

He said the PNP Vaccination Plan ‘Caduceus’ sets forth the security and public safety guidelines and procedures to be undertaken by the police in support to the Philippine National Covid-19 Deployment and Vaccination Plan, as a member of the Task Group Vaccine Cold Chain and Logistics Management, Task Group Immunization Program, and Task Group Demand Generation and Communication.

“We have gone through a series of planning workshops and simulation exercises to ensure organized and orderly transport of the vaccine shipment to the storage facilities and distribution hubs on D-day when the vaccine rollout shall commence,” he said.

The PNP, he said, will be guided by the instructions of health authorities to administer the vaccine to police personnel who have been identified among the priority recipients such as those assigned to frontline medical and health care duties, as well as those who will be fielded to assist Department of Health personnel in administering the vaccine and other police front-liners.

“We are confident that our nation will pull through, bounce back and heal as one. God bless the Philippines,” he added.

On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte will lead the turnover ceremony for the arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

Earlier on Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that 525,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility will arrive in the country on March 1. (PNA)

Kung ayaw ni Sara: Panelo floats Bong Go as Duterte’s successor

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go is also qualified to become President Rodrigo Duterte’s successor in 2022, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Friday.

He made the statement three days after Duterte made a firm stance that his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte, would not run for president in next year’s elections.

Panelo, who is one of those who initiated the clamor for Sara’s presidency, said Go also has the potential to lead the country.

“Meron na tayong dalawang pinagpipilian kung talagang ayaw ni Mayor Sara, kung hindi na magbago ang isipan niya (At least, we now have two options if Mayor Sara decides not to run and will no longer change her mind),” he said. “Kung hindi tatakbo si Mayor Sara, oh eh di pwede na rin si Senator Bong Go (If Mayor Sara does not run, we can have Senator Bong Go).”

During a situational briefing on the impact of Tropical Storm Auring in Tandag City on Tuesday, Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel urged Duterte to convince either Sara or Go to join the 2022 presidential race.

The President, however, was opposed to Pimentel’s call to let his daughter succeed him when he steps down next year.

Panelo said Duterte, during the situational briefing in Tandag City, instead encouraged Go to pursue the presidential bid.

He said Duterte saw potential in Go who served as his long-time aide before getting elected as a senator.

“Mukhang sa pananaw niya, ito naman si Bong Go. Nakita ni Presidente, aba okay ‘to ah (For him, Bong Go should be given the chance. The President believes Go can do the job),” Panelo said.

He also floated the possibility of a Go-Duterte tandem in 2022.

“Kita niyo, Go-Duterte, hindi ba maganda (Go-Duterte is good, isn’t it?),” he said.

Continuing Duterte’s legacy

Panelo said there would be continuity of Duterte’s legacy, in case Go decides to join the 2022 presidential derby.

Like Duterte, he said, Go also shows compassion to Filipinos and exhibits courage.

Panelo, however, acknowledged that Go is not yet ready to take on the presidency.

“Sinasabi niya (Go), gusto ko lang serbisyo. Exactly, kung gusto mo serbisyo, eh ‘di tumakbo kang president, maging president ka. Eh ‘di continue ng service mo at the same time, continuity rin ng legacy ni Presidente (He said he just wants to serve the public. You should run for president and be the president if you want to continue serving the people. At the same time, there would be continuity of the President’s legacy),” he said.

Fight vs. corruption

As the country’s chief executive, Duterte vowed to curb illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption under his watch.

In a public address delivered on Wednesday, the President renewed his vow to fight corruption until the end of his term but admitted that it is impossible to have an “entirely clean” government.

Panelo said Duterte’s successor should have the same resolve to stop corruption in government.

“Corruption remains at talagang kahit pa ‘yung susunod kay Presidente, mahihirapan din (Corruption remains and the President’s successor would also have a difficult time dealing with it). But like the president, he can always, as he did, reduce and minimize corruption,” he said. (PNA)

Kanya-kanyang diskarte LGU! Palace: COVID-19 testing no longer required for travelers

Malacañang on Saturday announced that it is no longer mandatory for travelers to undergo coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing and quarantine.

“Travelers shall no longer be required to undergo Covid-19 testing, except if the local government unit (LGU) of destination will make testing as a requirement prior to travel. Testing will be limited to RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

However, travelers who exhibit symptoms upon arrival at their destination have to undergo quarantine, Roque said.

This developed after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved on Friday the uniform travel protocols for land, air, and sea that need to be observed by all LGUs, he said.

The approved protocols, Roque said, were crafted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in close coordination with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and the League of Cities of the Philippines.

Despite the easing of restrictions for travelers, he said travelers should still follow minimum public health standards.

“Authorities shall continue to strictly implement the minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and the wearing of face masks and face shields across all settings,” Roque said.

He said the strict implementation of clinical and exposure assessment in all ports of entry and exit still needs to be observed.

The health assessment of passengers, supervised by medical doctors, will be mandatory upon entry into the port or terminal and exit at the point of destination, Roque said.

“On documentary requirements, the travel authority issued by the Joint Task Force Covid Shield and health certificates shall no longer be required,” he said.

However, authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) from national government agencies and their attached agencies must provide their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary, Roque said.

“They must likewise pass symptom-screening at the ports of entry and exit,” he added.

One-stop shop application

Roque said the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System will now be institutionalized as the “one-stop shop application or communication” for travelers.

“The System shall be utilized as the primary contact tracing system. Other existing contact tracing applications, such as Traze App, must be integrated with the System,” he said.

Roque said all ports and terminals must have sufficient isolation facilities.

All ports and terminals, he added, should also have a referral system so symptomatic travelers could be transferred to quarantine facilities, enabling the Bureau of Quarantine for airports or local health officials for LGUs to take over.

Roque said all buses in Metro Manila bound for the provinces are also required to use the Integrated Terminal Exchange as the central hub for transportation.

“At the option of the LGUs, they may provide transportation for all travelers who are transiting from one LGU to another in cases of arrivals at air and seaports to their end-point destinations,” he said.

Roque said the LGUs, DILG, DOST, the departments of health, tourism, and transportation, and the Philippine National Police should ensure the “smooth” implementation of the approved protocols. (PNA)



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