Friday, July 19, 2019

Blasting the Homeless

West Palm Beach has been playing non-stop music at the Waterfront Lake Pavilion

Officials in West Palm Beach in Florida, USA have come up with a creative but cruel tactic to drive homeless people away from the Waterfront Lake Pavilion: children's music. 

This city-owned rental venue, which hosted 164 events last year, is expected to bring in about $240,000 this year from events, according to the Palm Beach Post. 

“People are paying a lot of money to use the facility”, Parks and Recreation Director Leah Rockwell told the local newspaper. “Thousands of dollars. We want to make sure people paying this money had a facility that was clean and open and continue to use it in the future”. 

And so, the wildly popular and extremely repetitive children's songs, Baby Shark and Raining Tacos, play on an endless loop through the night.

I’m sure we can agree that this is devilishly callous and insensitively uncaring. It would seem that compassion has gone on a vacation. 

"These are people who are already in desperate straits and this is an effort to make life even more miserable for them", said Maria Foscarinis (right), founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. "Driving them out by blaring music is just inhumane and really shocking". 

Florida is home to approximately 31,030 individuals without a home – less than 6% of the nation's total. 

Foscarinis said the state should not be faulted for the size of its homeless population, but added: "But I would single Florida out for the cruelty".

A homeless man sleeps by the Great Lawn and Lake Pavilion in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida, USA 

West Palm Beach has created hostile soundscapes – and this is just one of the many odious practices cities deploy against their homeless populations. This obnoxious idea is to render public spaces inhospitable to those needing shelter. 

Sloped or segmented bus benches, uncomfortably coarse pavement, sloped window sills and tent prohibition enactments have all been used to keep homeless people from sleeping in public. 

Methinks, the authorities should work to find real solutions to solve the homelessness problem – rather than punish vulnerable people who has nowhere else to go. They didn’t choose to be in that unpalatable predicament – and surely, they deserve help. And a little bit of kindness. 

Leading 3-1 from last week's first leg in Bosnia, Celtic secured a 2-1 win on Wednesday.

The Scottish champions went ahead through Ryan Christie's smart finish in the twenty-sixth minute and, although Benjamin Tatar equalised thirty-seven minutes later, Callum McGregor's fine finish from distance in the seventy-sixth minute restored the three-goal cushion to give them a 5-2 aggregate victory. 

Celtic will face Estonian side Nomme Kalju in the Champions League second qualifying round.

A Geographical Approach to Ebola Vaccination

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) yesterday called for the far-ranging use of vaccination in the war against Ebola in DR Congo that is still a deadly threat to lives there. 

My last post on June 26, 2019 had mentioned 1,506 deaths – new figures released by the health ministry on Thursday said that 1,698 people have died since the outbreak was declared last August 01. 

Joanne Liu (right), the international president of the medical charity known by its French acronym MSF, told AFP that health officials needed a “reality check” in their response to the unrelenting outbreak. 

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization had declared Ebola a “public health emergency of international concern” – a designation reserved for the gravest of epidemics – and Liu has come out to urge for broader immunization. 

That is a “great, cost-effective way of doing things when you have real contact tracing of people but we are not in that scenario”, she pointed out. 

“We are not able to follow up everybody”, she grimly noted. 

Liu referred to the difficulties of tracing contacts in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of eastern DRC, which are plagued by the twin demons of chronic insecurity and poor transport. 

Instead of a targeted vaccination approach, “we should have a geographical approach, meaning that if someone is infected coming from (a) village, we would not only vaccinate the contacts and the contacts of contacts, we would vaccinate the whole village”, she suggested. 

So far, doctors have used a so-called ring vaccination strategy, which focuses on protecting a circle of people who have been in contact with Ebola patients. 

Already, WHO had acknowledged a “shortage of supply of rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine” despite “commendable efforts” by manufacturer Merck to double supplies by 2020. [Note: The Merck vaccine may have been widely deployed, but in regulatory terms, it is still unlicensed]. 

Still, that did not prevent Liu from expressing her concern that there “has been a lot of opacity” regarding available stocks of the vaccine, which is being used for the first time and has proven effective. 

She said aloud: “We are told it is between 250,000 to 500,000 doses. So great, if we have that, but then where are they? When will they be available? We need much more transparency and clarity about the status of vaccine supply today”. 

I agree. The drug should be made available where the need is most critical. And that need is in DR Congo.

Until Liu’s suggestion is taken up, we can expect more Ebola deaths. 

Yesterday, I was at the Standard Chartered GBS Toastmasters meeting in Wisma LYL in Seksyen 51A in Petaling Jaya, Selangor – all because of a flurry of WhatsApp messages between Kingston Lee and I. 

Lee had requested me to be an Evaluator for an Advanced speech – and of course, I obliged. And it turned out that I was given a speaking slot too! 

I delivered my project speech #6 from the Competent Communication manual titled Unstoppable – the topic was provided by JP Celestino when he told me the good news and that he was more than happy to evaluate me. 

It’s kinda neat because I evaluated his A Dramatic Talk speech and he, in turn, evaluated my Vocal Variety speech. A nice, pat arrangement. 

BTW, that was for my CC manual, Round #59:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Still on the Kelantan Royal Break-up

The Kelantan royal break-up continues to invite speculation. 

If you were aware, the Kelantan palace on July 16, 2019 had issued a statement to rebuke the practice of referring to certain individuals as “Permaisuri of Kelantan”, “Raja Perempuan Kelantan”, “Sultanah Kelantan” or “Queen of Kelantan” without an official conferment from the Palace. 

The statement was widely speculated to be targeted at reports and social media posts that referred to Rihana Oksana Gorbatenko as a “queen” or other royal titles. 

“Yang Teramat Mulia Dr Tengku Muhammad Faiz Petra Ibni Sultan Ismail Petra is the Tengku Mahkota of Kelantan, and His Highness Sultan Muhammad V’s mother, Yang Maha Mulia Tengku Anis Almarhum Tengku Abdul Hamid is titled Raja Perempuan Tengku Anis”, Kelantan Royal Household Comptroller Nik Mohd Shafriman Nik Hassan said in the statement. 

Sources said the Kelantan royal family was also distressed by a July 10 Instagram posting by the same Rihana in which she expressed hope that her son would one day become the state’s crown prince and the “future king of Malaysia”. 

“Such unrefined understanding of royal customs is very unbecoming. You need to be a royal in order to be Raja Perempuan Kelantan”, said another source close to the royal circles. 

These customs and practices appear quaint and they blanket us with an aura of a time long, long ago. Lest I forget, the royals of this world are different from us. 

I suppose in a way, they are akin to horseshoe crabs (Family Limulidae; Suborder Xiphosurida; Order Xiphosura). 

They are blue-blooded – unlike the rest of us whose blood flows red!

Enough said!

The Royal Break-up

The Kelantan government claims to be in the dark about the divorce of Sultan Muhammad V from his Russian wife Rihana Oksana Gorbatenko, 27, as reported in the media yesterday. 

Everything oso they don’t know – and they are governing the state. No wonder lah, Kelantan is lagging far behind as compared to the rest of the country. The powers that be are dumb, incompetent, clueless and klutzy. They don't know dick about anything, it would seem.

It’s hard to miss the news – but the PAS people prefer to shrug their shoulders and feign ignorance. 

New Straits Times reported that sources have confirmed that the divorce was finalized on July 01, following the filing of documents at the Singapore Syariah Court on June 22. 

The newspaper even mentioned that a copy of the divorce certificate that was circulating online revealed that it was a “talak tiga” divorce – the most severe form of divorce in Islam. 

In fact, allegations of a troubled marriage and rumors of an impending divorce had surfaced as early as January this year. But they were irreverently dismissed.

Anyway, no official statement has been issued by the Kelantan royal household regarding the divorce.

The nuptial bliss has evaporated. The fairy tale wedding is a distant memory. And the marriage has irrevocably ended.

It's simply about sex and an heir and then, it's game over! 

Who knows, it may even be about male exploitation and/or female manipulation.

On Wednesday, I was at the Klang Bilingual Toastmasters meeting – where I served as the General Evaluator.

Overall, a good meeting!

And the day before, I had received confirmation of my Competent Communicator award for the fifty-sixth time – and this means I have now amassed a total of 110 Toastmasters awards todate:

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Avengers: Endgame Closes In On Avatar

Marvel’s ambition to have Avengers: Endgame crush Avatar at the box office might not be futile after all – with the two highest-grossing movies of all times now separated by a mere $6,420 million as at July 15, 2019. 

More markets are getting the re-release version, and the superhero epic is steadily closing in on James Cameron’s chart-topping blockbuster. 

I reckon Avengers: Endgame can pip Avatar on or before July 31.

Time is on its side – after all, it is only 81 days and already it has collected $2,781,545,151 in ticket sales (Box Office Mojo). And Marvel can still keep it playing in theaters. 

Still, one can only marvel at Avatar. The megahit earned $2,787,965,087 globally – and that says a lot about the movie. 

The fact that Twentieth Century Fox are already planning for Avatar 2 in 2021, Avatar 3 in 2023, Avatar 4 in 2025 and Avatar 5 in 2027 shows the towering success that is Avatar – and it is inspiring not one but 4 sequels. 

Anyway, no matter which film holds the No.1 spot, Disney is the winner in all of this – as they paid $71.3 billion for 21st Century Fox’s Avatar. And also take control over more of the Marvel Universe, i.e. “X-Men”, “Fantastic 4” and “Deadpool” and even swallowing Star Wars and the National Geographic channels too. 

Today, I was at the Fonterra Global Business Services Asia office in PFCC in Puchong, Selangor for another session of Impromptu Speaking for interested staff members organizer Buddika Ranasinghe had repackaged it as:

Perhaps, that explains why 75 percent of the attendees were first-timers to public speaking. The other 3 persons were ex-Toastmasters.

All of the newcomers wanted to try out public speaking. All of them presented 3-minute speeches and I can tell you that nearly every one of them spoke off the cuff for almost 3 minutes. 

Now that's an achievement! 

Who says impromptu speaking is challenging?