The year that was 2017: A review
The year 2017 was full of surprises — both good and bad — in government, politics, social issues, world events and calamities.
Both the Philippines and the United States had presidents who became controversial because of their respective leadership styles. Disasters (natural and manmade) also changed people’s lives forever, and continued to push for discussions about climate change, violence and gun control.
The Asian Journal looks back at the past year’s most pressing news it has covered through this yearend review.
How the Internet changed in 2017
The Internet was put to good use in 2017, providing a platform for movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo to continue spreading. But in the background, the battle to preserve a free and open Internet was also taking place.
The year 2017 began with a warning when former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler said in his January 13 farewell speech at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. that the U.S. was at a fork in the road — one split between keeping net neutrality regulations and repealing them.
“One path leads forward; the other leads back to re-litigating solutions that are demonstrably working,” said Wheeler. “It is time to keep moving forward. This is not the time to retreat and take things away.”
By the year’s end on December 14, a path was chosen as the fight to maintain net neutrality was thwarted by a 3-2 party line vote led by current FCC chairman and former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, whose main argument was that the regulations were hurting broadband infrastructure by stifling Internet Service Providers (ISP), thus preventing them from growing.
But advocates for net neutrality continued to fight until the end, maintaining that repealing the protections meant and end to a free and open Internet. These arguments were backed by leading figures and Internet pioneers like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
A few days before the FCC’s vote, Internet founding fathers Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee joined others in a letter to Congress calling the plan to repeal it an “imminent threat to the internet we worked so hard to create.”
As we enter 2018, the fight seems far from over with possible actions from Congress, states, and pro-net neutrality groups. As for ISPs, any movements are sure to be watched closely. (Rae Ann Varona)
A year of wind, water, and fire
Nature tested the American people’s resilience as the U.S. experienced an uptick in major natural disasters.
As 2017 ended, firefighters in California gained ground of the Thomas Fire, which had been burning continuously through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since December 4, making it the single largest wildfire in modern state history.
By New Year’s weekend, it was 88 percent contained, but had destroyed over 281,000 acres of land and at least 1,063 structures. One firefighter and one civilian died.
In October, major fires took ground of the Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba counties, killing 42 people, including 50-year-old Teresa Santos, a Fil-Am caregiver who refused to leave 90-year-old Sally Lewis of Napa.
Santa Rosa’s Ashley Padilla, 18, and her family packed their cars with documents, family albums, heirlooms, and their dog Pogi before fleeing Coffey Park which the Fil-Am family called home since 1989.
“We saw everyone on our street just hurrying up to get the hell out so we decided that we probably should too,” Padilla, told the Asian Journal.
But before the fire, came the rain as southwest Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma in September, and the Houston metropolitan area was deluged by Hurricane Harvey late August.
Attaining category 4 intensity, Harvey became the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. since Katrina in 2005. The death toll reached 63, and the damage equated to nearly $200 billion making it the costliest on record.
But as devastating as the calamities were, people continued to push through.
Google revealed that questions of “how” to do things were searched more than ever and included questions of how wildfires and hurricanes start, how to board up a window, how to calm a dog during a storm, and how to help victims. (Rae Ann Varona)
Health care in America
2017 was a particularly challenging year in the health care industry and experts feel that it will remain as such in 2018, filled with change and uncertainty. As the year closed a few days ago, Washington exerted repeated efforts to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act.
And while Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress were not successful in repealing ACA, industry watchers are convinced that Washington is not done in its efforts to weaken and replace ACA. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, allowed millions of Americans to gain access to insurance coverage but many in Washington believe that the cost of running it is too high. (Momar G. Visaya)
Trump’s transgender ban in the military
Despite major efforts by the Trump administration to ban transgender people in the military, the Pentagon announced that transgender people will be allowed for the first time to enlist in the U.S. military starting on Monday, January 1, 2018 as ordered by federal courts, this after after President Donald Trump’s administration decided not to appeal rulings that blocked his transgender ban.
With a tweet, Trump last July announced that “transgender individuals” should not be allowed to serve in “any capacity” in the U.S. military. “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…,” he wrote on Twitter.
A couple of federal appeals courts have rejected the administration’s request to put on hold orders by lower court judges requiring the military to begin accepting transgender recruits on Jan. 1, 2018. (Momar G. Visaya)
Las Vegas shooting
On the night of October 1, 2017, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Paddock fired more than 1,100 rounds from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. An hour after his last shot into the crowd, he was found dead in his room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Paddock’s motive is still unknown, and one of the persons of interest during the investigation was his Filipina girlfriend, Marilou Danley. Although Danley was out of the country at the time of the shooting, questions about her involvement were raised when it was found out that Paddock wired her money while she was in the Philippines.
The incident is now considered at the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States. It also has reignited the debate about gun laws in the country, with focus on bump fire stock regulations. (Malou L. Bledsoe)
WWII Filipino vets honored with Congressional Medal of Honor
After a long wait, Filipino veterans of World War II were honored in a bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Capitol Hill on October 25, 2017 in recognition of their dedicated service during the war. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow.
About 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers served and fought for the United States and the Philippines to topple Axis powers during World War II. In July of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called all organized military forces of the Philippines into the service of the United States. Their bravery, heroism, and dedication played an integral part in leading Allied powers to victory over Nazi and fascist forces. They were promised U.S. citizenship and health and pension benefits.
In February 1946, the U.S. Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, which stripped Filipino soldiers the benefits promised by President Roosevelt.
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) spearheaded the national campaign to secure the Congressional Gold Medal for these Veterans. FilVetRep is also the officially-designated liaison to the U.S. Mint, which handles the design and minting of the Congressional Gold Medal. The ceremony is a result of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Senator Mazie Hirono’s (D-HI) bill that was signed into law by former President Barack Obama. (Malou L. Bledsoe)
#MeToo: Personal stories of sexual harassment, assault come to light
TIME Magazine named “The Silent Breakers” as its 2017 Person of the Year, recognizing the women and men who broke their silence with stories of sexual assault and harassment.
“This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought,” the magazine said.
In early October, the New York Times published an exposé on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein that detailed how he exhibited a pattern of sexual harassment for nearly three decades that was swept under the rug and paid out at least eight settlements. Some of his accusers included actresses like Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Days later, Weinstein was fired by the board of his company, The Weinstein Company. (Other actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Salma Hayek have since shared their harassment encounters with Weinstein.)
The hashtag #MeToo, first started by activist Tarana Burke a decade ago, quickly spread across social media with individuals simply using the two words to come forward with their experiences. By early November (about two weeks after the online movement went viral), Twitter reported that over 1.7 million female and male users used the hashtag in 85 countries. Since October, many victims have come forward about their experiences with other high-profile men, including Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. (Broadcaster Leeann Tweeden, who is half Filipina-American from her mother’s side, wrote an essay in which she accused Franken of groping her in 2006.)
“To me, 2018 will be all about processing #MeToo. The next step in the movement will be helping women navigate what happens after they disclose an experience,” Burke wrote in Glamour Magazine.
On Monday, January 1, 2018, 300 prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives — such as America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, and Eva Longoria — announced “Time’s Up,” a movement that pledges to fight harassment in Hollywood as well as other workplaces across the U.S.
“The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly,” the group’s letter said.
The initiative’s program includes a $13 million legal defense fund, administered by the National Women’s Law center, for sexual harassment survivors, especially those in low-wage jobs, to get legal representation. It is also encouraging women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes on Sunday to raise awareness by dressing in black. (Christina M. Oriel)