Senate President Tito Sotto just earned brownie points for being a sweet father.

‘Sweetest dad on earth:’ Tito Sotto gives flowers to daughters

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Senate President Tito Sotto just earned brownie points for being a sweet father.

Sotto surprised his three daughters with flower bouquets on the eve of Valentine’s Day. The endearing gift-giving was caught on video by the senator’s youngest daughter Ciara Sotto. The video has been shared online by the actress.

“We have the sweetest Dad on earth!!! He always always ALWAYS makes sure to give us flowers the night before Valentine’s Day, since we were young girls,” Ciara wrote on Facebook.

“You’ll see him at the start of the video bantering with Marciano and Crixus because he gave us flowers ahead of them! Hahaha!” she said.

Ciara cherished her father’s gesture and reassured him of their love. She said they won’t find a man like him.

“We love you Daddy… we’ll never ever find a man like you! You’ll always be my Valentine. 😍❤️😘 I love you so much! We praise God that He made you our father here on earth. Thank you for the beautiful flowers!💐🌷🌹❤️❤️❤️,” she said.

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Dr. Seuss pulls six books over racist imagery

by Peter HUTCHISON

They are beloved by generations of early readers for their wacky rhyming tales and mischievous plotlines, but six Dr. Seuss books are being pulled because of imagery now considered racist.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises — the publisher of the bestselling children’s books — announced Tuesday that it is taking the six titles, which include “If I Ran the Zoo” and “The Cat’s Quizzer,” out of print.

The move comes as criticism grows in the United States over the way minority communities have been portrayed in many of the author’s books.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises said it had made the decision after carrying out a review of its collection last year with the help of experts, including teachers.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the company said in a statement.

The other titles being consigned to history are “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!” and “Scrambled Eggs Super!”

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” the statement added.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises made the announcement on what would have been the birthday of the famous children’s book author.

Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Massachusetts in 1904, published more than 60 books during his lifetime, including some of the most popular children’s books of all time.

His most famous works include “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” He died in 1991.

– ‘Orientalism’ –
Seuss’s books have sold more than 650 million copies and have been translated into dozens of languages.

They are being reevaluated, however, over their portrayal of Black and Asian people.

A 2019 study published in the “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature” journal studied 50 of his books.

The report concluded that 43 of the 45 characters of color had “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism.”

The two Black characters in the books were identified as “African” and both “align with the theme of anti-Blackness,” the study said.

Stereotypical characters portrayed as “Arabian” appear in “If I Ran the Zoo,” “On Beyond Zebra!” and “Scrambled Eggs Super!”

“The Cat’s Quizzer” also features “Arabian” figures as well as a character portrayed as “a Japanese.”

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” features a “Chinese man” with a rice bowl and chopsticks.

The study also said Seuss published anti-Black and anti-Semitic cartoons in a magazine in the 1920s as well as racist anti-Japanese propaganda during World War II.

However, his wartime cartoons for the liberal-leaning daily New York newspaper PM were also praised for railing against racism, anti-semitism and American isolationism.

– ‘Wise decision’ –
Seuss’s stepdaughter Lark Grey Dimond-Cates told the New York Post “there wasn’t a racist bone” in Seuss’s body but described the withdrawal of the six books as “a wise decision.”

The announcement sparked a bidding frenzy for the scrapped books on eBay. The leading bid for a first edition of “On Beyond Zebra!” soared from $14.99 on Monday to $810 at 2:15 pm (1915 GMT) Tuesday.

On Saturday, a school district in Virginia suggested it was moving away from Dr. Seuss books while not banning them completely, saying recent research had “revealed strong racial undertones” in many of them.

In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge Massachusetts said she would not accept a gift of ten Dr. Seuss books from then-first lady Melania Trump because many of his books were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”

Agence France-Presse

Biden sees faster US vaccine timeline as pharma giants join forces

by John BIERS

President Joe Biden said Tuesday the United States would have enough vaccine for its entire adult population by the end of May, as he announced a deal for pharma giant Merck to produce the shot developed by rival Johnson & Johnson.

“This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II,” said Biden in announcing the pharmaceutical accord.

“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said the US leader — who previously targeted late July to amass sufficient doses to inoculate all Americans.

“That’s progress. Important progress. But it is not enough to have the vaccine supply,” Biden said, stressing that a “wartime effort” still lay ahead to administer the vaccines once acquired.

Merck will use two of its facilities to “produce drug substance, formulate and fill vials of J&J’s vaccine,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) statement.

Biden’s administration will leverage the Defense Production Act to provide an initial $105 million for Merck to convert and equip its facilities to safely manufacture the vaccine, the statement said.

The J&J vaccine is the third to receive US regulatory approval for emergency use, but the first that requires a single shot as opposed to two jabs.

Biden also said Johnson & Johnson’s own vaccine manufacturing facilities “will now begin to operate 24/7” — at the administration’s urging.

HHS said this would enable J&J to deliver close to 100 million doses to the United States by end May — instead of June as previously pledged.

J&J said in a statement it was “pleased” to work with Merck, which will “enhance our production capacity so that we can supply beyond our current commitments.”

– Boosting capacity –
Biden’s remarks came moments after Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted a state mask mandate and authorized business to open the state “100 percent.”

But “now is not the time to let up,” warned the president, calling on Americans to keep following social distancing protocols and wearing a mask even as new coronavirus cases fall and more are vaccinated.

“Great news, but stay vigilant,” Biden said. “It’s not over yet.”

The J&J shot appears slightly less protective than Pfizer and Moderna’s regimes, which have an efficacy of around 95 percent against all forms of Covid-19. But all three have been shown to fully protect against hospitalizations and death.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday the federal government aims to distribute 3.9 million doses of the new vaccine this week — “the entire J&J inventory.”

A major vaccine producer in its own right, Merck had begun work on coronavirus vaccines, but abandoned those efforts in January, saying the immune responses that were “inferior” to successful Covid-19 vaccines.

The agreement between Merck and J&J follows on the heels of an accord between Pfizer/BioNTech and French pharma giant Sanofi, which plans to produce 125 million doses at a factory in Frankfurt, Germany after Sanofi’s own vaccine candidate fell short.

Agence France-Presse

UN meeting sought as Myanmar forces fire on anti-coup protests, Teddy Locsin seeks release of Suu Kyi

Britain has called for the UN Security Council to meet Friday on Myanmar, diplomatic sources told AFP, as security forces have steadily stepped up their use of violence against anti-coup demonstrators in the Southeast Asian nation.

Authorities fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters again on Tuesday, leaving at least three people critically injured as international pressure has grown since the military’s February 1 ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN meeting would be behind closed doors at 1500 GMT under London’s proposal, the sources said, as were the Council’s discussions a day after the coup.

Soldiers and police have steadily stepped up their use of force, deploying tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and, increasingly, live rounds after weeks of mass protests.

Sunday was the bloodiest day since the military takeover, with the United Nations saying at least 18 protesters were killed across the country. AFP independently confirmed 11 deaths.

Another rally turned violent Tuesday in the northwestern town of Kale, where security forces opened fire on protesters, according to medics who witnessed events and treated those wounded.

– ‘Tear gas and shooting’ –
“About 20 people were injured in a morning crackdown by police and soldiers in Kale,” said a rescue worker, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

“Three… were hit by live rounds and are in a critical condition,” he said.

Police had initially deployed tear gas and rubber bullets before doubling back with live rounds, he added.

As the violence escalates, Myanmar’s military junta and the envoy sent by its toppled civilian government have launched contradictory claims over who represents the country at the United Nations.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun spectacularly broke with the military before the General Assembly on Friday in an emotional plea for help to restore ousted civilian leadership, which prompted the junta to announce his removal.

Both he and the junta now claim to represent the country at the body, with the UN saying it is evaluating what action to take on the competing claims..

“We will continue to oppose the military coup and we will continue to support the restoration of Burma’s democratically elected civilian government,” the State Department spokesman said.

The bloodshed on the ground in Myanmar came on the same day as a funeral in the commercial capital of Yangon for a student who died Sunday.

Mourners sang a revolutionary song as the coffin carrying Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing moved through a sea of thousands to an altar.

“No mercy, just bullies — dead bodies are here and there,” the mourners sang in unison as they flashed a three-finger salute that has become a symbol of opposition to the junta.

Protests also continued in several neighbourhoods of Yangon on Tuesday, with demonstrators wearing hard hats and wielding improvised home-made shields.

In San Chaung township hundreds of police came out in force.

“They used tear gas and were shooting as well,” said one resident.

More than 1,200 people have been arrested, charged and sentenced since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, of which about 900 are still behind bars.

But the real number is likely far higher — state-run media reported that on Sunday alone more than 1,300 people were arrested.

State-broadcaster MRTV said late Tuesday that 511 people in detention had been released in Yangon.

Reporters Without Borders says at least 10 journalists are in jail and 26 have been arrested since the coup.

– ‘Not acceptable’ –
The unrest came as foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc held a virtual meeting which included a Myanmar representative.

Some regional powers broke with diplomatic convention and issued unusually harsh rebukes of Myanmar’s junta.

“To use lethal force against civilians and unarmed demonstrators, I think it is just not acceptable,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the BBC.

After the meeting, Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi expressed concern over rising violence and deaths as well as frustration over a lack of cooperation from the Myanmar regime.

“It takes two to tango,” she said, calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of political detainees.

Philippines foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin said the first step should be the immediate release of Suu Kyi.

“The hurt of the small finger is felt by the whole body. Myanmar is not a small finger but a big part of the two hands that together make up the family of ASEAN 10,” he said.

Observers are sceptical about what difference the bloc can make, pointing to its policies of non-interference and making decisions based on consensus.

Agence France-Presse

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