Saturday, October 24, 2020

WSD 2021 Event #4













We’re confirming a fourth World Speech Day 2021 event – this time in Subang Jaya, Selangor. 

Our gratitude to Dr Sheila Cheng and Asia e University!






42 Million Cases








At this moment, the coronavirus tally is already past 42 million cases! For now, it looks like nothing is going to stop SARS-CoV-2!













France is the seventh country in the world to record one million Covid-19 cases. 

And Switzerland and Costa Rica are countries #47 and #48 to have reached 100,000 cases or more. FYI, these forty-eight countries combined to account for 93.4% and 95.5% of cases and deaths respectively worldwide.

I’m digressing – but I wish to point out that Jacinda Ardern (right) won a second term, marked by a landslide victory in New Zealand’s general election on October 17, 2020 because she focused on her “success” with Covid-19. 

If you had been following the news, the tone has changed somewhat – it used to be that she defeated the cursed coronavirus; nowadays, it’s about her accomplishments in battling the pandemic. 

I’m not trying to take away her victory – my point is just that Covid-19 is here to stay. The sooner we accept this, the better it is for all of us!

In case you're interested to know, New Zealand's current situation is still good. There are only a smattering of cases here and there. Nothing to worry about.


  





Really, we shouldn’t allow a virus to bring life as we know it to a screeching halt. 

Get real. We have faced viral threats before, including pandemics – yet the world does not shut down for every new infection or flu season. Life does not work that way.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Goldman Sachs Submit DPA to Settle 1MDB Case

Goldman Sachs submitted a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) on Thursday with the US Department of Justice over the 1MDB corruption scandal. 

Under terms of the deal, they agreed to pay a $2.3 billion fine for breaking anti-bribery laws and to disgorge $600 million of ill-gotten gains. 

The move followed a $3.9 billion settlement the bank reached with Malaysia in July 2020 to settle all charges against the bank there related to the matter.

The said scandal dates to the government of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (right), which set up the 1MDB fund in 2009. 

Between 2009 and 2014, Goldman Sachs bankers paid more than $1.6 billion in bribes to foreign officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to win 1MDB business, including underwriting $6.5 billion in three bond sales (2012-2013) for the Malaysian government's sovereign wealth fund – and which earned them $600 million in fees. 

The US Justice Department have said more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by high-level officials at the fund and their associates between 2009 and 2015 to pay for real estate, art and other luxury items, with the help of those bankers. 

While the massive impropriety has proved a humbling and costly saga for the Wall Street giant, the long-awaited settlement should allow Chief Executive David Solomon to accelerate his plans to turn the bank around after a decade of under-performance, analysts said. 

The bank also indicated that they will recoup or withhold $174 million in compensation awarded to executives, including retired boss Lloyd Blankfein, under whose watch the wrongdoing happened.

The Super Smart Virus

SARS-CoV-2 in Malaysia is unlike the pathogen the rest of the world is familiar with. 

That’s because the virus doesn't go after everybody here! It has been determined that the 10 percent of management and supervisory staff in any organization who are allowed to be in the office for a maximum of 3 days a week for 4 hours (i.e. 10:00 AM to 02:00 PM) are deemed safe; they will not spread Covid-19 to the rest of the people working there. This elite group is seemingly untouchable. 

It also means the Malaysian variant of the virus does not have a free pass. It can count, identify who’s who and know when it’s allowed to infect the community. I tell you, SARS-CoV-2 in this country has mutated to become astute, clever and discerning. 

In case you’re wondering if I’m disseminating fake news – I’m not! The information came from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and published on their Facebook page yesterday. It’s from an authoritative source, even if stupidity has taken root. 

Already, on Wednesday, I had blogged about CMCO rulings that flip-flopped. I didn’t even touch on the rulings that are doltishly dopey – but I can’t pretend anymore, hence, this post. 

I mean, this 10% ruling is just daft. It's saying that the virus is super smart!

Serie A leaders AC Milan overcame Celtic 3-1 in their Europa League group stage opener in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday. 

Celtic’s solitary goal came from substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi's header in the seventy-sixth minute. 

They’ll need to try to get back to winning ways in the Scottish Premiership when they face Aberdeen on Sunday and the next Europa League test against Lille on Thursday. They cannot afford to lose again!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The WFH Collection

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Henri V├ęzina, a clothing brand has released the WFH collection. 

The photos of the campaign features male models dressed in formal outfits without the bottom half:



 










As you can see, the Canadian brand suggests its customers cut the cost of their business wardrobe in half and only worry about the top half of their formal outfit. I mean, let’s be real, no one is going to see the bottom half. 

Very appropriate for those Zoom meetings! 

Liverpool were helped by a fortunate own goal in the thirty-fifth minute to get off to a winning start in the Champions League Group D opening tie against Ajax yesterday. 

Luck decided to come over to our side!

Fake News on Mall Infections

We live in a time of fake news. And it runs riot on social media. 

If it is shared on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, it must be true. Or so many people believe.

Closer to home, we have the false news that alleged that 90 percent of Covid-19 positive cases comprised those who had visited shopping malls around the Klang Valley (I call it the Greater KL Area). It's a claim that made its rounds yesterday and it is good that it was refuted by the authorities on the very same day itself. 

Still, I wish they didn’t just dismiss the misinformation but rather rebut it with facts. 

It is noteworthy to mention that mall infections received just as much media attention too – the spate of cases that had visited a long list of malls included One Utama, Sunway Pyramid, Mid Valley Megamall and The Gardens Mall, Setia City Mall, 3 Damansara (previously known as Tropicana City Mall), Nu Sentral, Suria KLCC, KL Gateway Mall, Paradigm Mall and Bangsar Shopping Center – and these isolated incidents played their part by helping to empty shopping malls everywhere.


 








Not only that but the Director-General of the Ministry of Health himself had pointed out on Tuesday that the Utama cluster that involved the One Utama Shopping Mall tallied 132 active cases – with one reported in Melaka and the rest in Selangor (Malay Mail Online, October 20, 2020). 

One hundred and thirty two is not a small number. What's more, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (left) declared that the Utama cluster in Petaling Jaya, Selangor had led to six generations of coronavirus infections. 

To put it simply, it means a person who infects another, who then infects another, who infects yet another, who then infects another person, who then infects someone else. 

I venture to suggest that the D-G’s statement that Tuesday might explain how the fake news came about in the first place. He was reported to have said: “…the good thing about Selangor is 90 percent of infections, we know the cluster*. Through MySejahtera, we can trace them, whether in Selangor or out of Selangor”.  

Get it?

[*This refers to the Utama cluster]. 

It’s not difficult for any simple-minded person – and believe me, there are many of them in this country – to jump to the conclusion that malls are responsible for 90 percent of the infections in Selangor-KL. No further questions. No checking of the facts. No nothing. 

The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible. 

Anyway, we should know that truth is whatever people will believe.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Figuring Out CMCO Rulings










After Covid-19 cases topped 800 for four days in a row, i.e. October 17-20 – today, it eased to some degree to 732 cases. In any case, the numbers are still high in Selangor-KL, not to mention Sabah.

What's becoming obvious though is that the CMCO is creating confusion a-plenty. That’s because the authorities are simply making decisions without thinking through and on an ad-hoc basis – and if that’s not bad enough, changing them on a whim. 

Yesterday’s announcement on new CMCO rulings refers. 

It was announced that workers in the public and private sectors in states under the conditional movement control order (i.e. Selangor, Sabah and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan) involved in management and supervision are instructed to work from home from Thursday onwards – supposedly to reduce the number of people at work premises. 

Today, we’ve been told that the work from home directive only applies to those involved in the industrial and public sectors. Other sectors can continue to operate as usual. 

And then the directive that employees living in red zones under the Conditional Movement Control Order have to undergo swab tests, with SOCSO covering the costs for contributors. 

Today, we’ve been informed that only foreign workers in the construction and security sectors need to go for Covid-19 screening.

I must admit I really don't understand the thinking behind those decisions. Nothing makes sense to me.

Moreover, the powers that be don’t seem to have any coherent plan at all.

I guess that’s what you get when the people in charge are dunces through and through.

Malaysians, I'm sure, already know this.

41 Million Cases


The Covid-19 pandemic is seething and raging – and the world has stacked up 41 million cases. And 1.1 million deaths. And still counting.

Spain and Argentina already crossed the 1 million mark, joining the US, India, Brazil and Russia to make it into the Top 6 of the world's worst-affected countries.

Also, Portugal became the forty-sixth country to have accumulated more than 100,000 cases. And collectively, all these countries account for 93.1% and 95.2% of worldwide cases and deaths respectively. 























Here’s a quick and easy guide to know if you have Covid-19 – the three symptoms to look out for:


 








  • New and continuous cough – Coughing a lot for more than an hour, or having three or    more coughing episodes in 24 hours 
  • Fever – A temperature above 37.8C 
  • Change in smell or taste – Either you cannot taste or smell anything, or these senses are different to normal 
If you get just one of them, you should get a test. 

Public Health England say about 85% of people with coronavirus will have at least one symptom. 

Still, no need to get alarmed! Most people who get it recover from it!

US Slaps Google with Antitrust Suit

It’s a fair comment to make that Big Tech enjoy "monopoly power" and have wielded their dominance in distortive and restrictive ways. 

Amazon have mistreated third-party sellers. Apple's app store fees and policies are anti-competitive. Facebook have sought to eliminate future rivals through targeted acquisitions. 

And Google, instead of competing on the quality of their search results, bought their success – they pay billions of dollars a year to device manufacturers like Apple, LG, Motorola, and Samsung and browser developers like Mozilla and Opera to be their default search engine and in many cases to prohibit them from dealing with Google's competitors. 

As a result, Google effectively own or control search distribution channels accounting for nearly 90 percent of all general search engine queries in the United States and almost 95 percent of searches on mobile. 

In other words, Google harm competition and prevent rivals from gaining a meaningful audience. 

And so, the US government finally decided to do something about the elephant in the room. On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sued Google, in the most aggressive legal challenge to the power and influence of Big Tech in more than two decades. 

The much-anticipated lawsuit could lead to the break-up of an iconic company that has become all but synonymous with the Internet and assumed a primary role in the day-to-day lives of billions of people around the globe.

Such an outcome is far from assured, however, and the case is likely to take years to resolve. The last time the US took up the cudgels was when it sued Microsoft for anti-competitive practices in 1998. A settlement left the company intact, though the government's prior foray into Big Tech anti-trust – the 1974 case against AT&T – led to the breakup of the Bell System. 

Google called the lawsuit "deeply flawed", adding that people "use Google because they choose to – not because they're forced to or because they can't find alternatives" – and insisting that it "would do nothing to help consumers".

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

WSD 2021 Theme












WSD 2021 theme is “Humanity at the Crossroads:” 

Explanatory notes from Simon Gibson: “Please note the colon at the end of the phrase. It's there because we want to leave it open for each event, indeed each speaker, either to adopt this theme or adapt it for themselves by adding a phrase of their own. 

For example, ‘Humanity at a Crossroads: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ or ‘Humanity at a Crossroads: Protecting our Environment’, or simply ‘Humanity at a Crossroads’." 

Folks, it’s time to start thinking about your WSD speech! I'm assuming you'll want to speak!

Coca-Cola and Plastic Waste

Many products have to contend with the growing problem of plastic waste. And Coca-Cola is no exception.

Last year, the charity Break Free from Plastic even identified Coca-Cola as the “most polluting brand” in an audit of plastic waste. 

In September, the organization conducted 484 beach clean-ups in more than 50 countries. And they found that 11,732 pieces of plastic collected during the clean-ups were from Coca-Cola products, an amount that was more than the next top three global polluters combined. [Of course lah, that proves the immense popularity of Coca-Cola].

The beverage company currently produce roughly three million tonnes of plastic packaging each year. 

Still, The Coca-Cola Company have said they will not stop selling drinks in single-use plastic bottles because to do so would alienate customers and reduce sales. 

Bea Perez (right), who is head of sustainability at the company, explained that people like buying Coca-Cola in plastic bottles because they are lightweight and resealable. 

“Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers”, she said. 

“So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us”. 

Indeed, the issue is being addressed. After all, they have pledged to use at least 50 percent recycled materials in their packaging by 2030. 

“Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans – or anywhere that it doesn’t belong – is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution”, they added. 

They are already actively participating in environmental initiatives – one of which is their World Without Waste program, set out in 2017. 

“This [program] included a goal to recover 100 percent of the cans and bottles we use, by 2030, so that none of our packaging ends up as waste and all of our bottles and cans are recycled and used again”. 

As a die-hard Coca-Cola drinker, it’s good to know we’re doing something positive.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Busybody Greta Thunberg

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg (left) decides to become a busybody. 

She is supporting the cause of the 12 Hong Kong fugitives – they’re wanted for riot-related offences – currently detained in mainland China after being arrested at sea while attempting to flee to Taiwan. 

Obviously, rabble-rouser Joshua Wong had cleverly manipulated her to the point she allows herself to be used by him. 

The Swedish environmentalist shared on Twitter a picture of her holding a white board bearing the message “#SAVE12HKYOUTHS”. 

Thunberg’s collusion with Wong (right) is unmitigatedly unacceptable and wholly wrong! 

Regrettably, this is not the first time that she was found to have fallen for Wong's political stunts. In December last year, the latter posted a long Twitter thread connecting the topic of climate change with the Hong Kong issue, claiming that both share some similarities and that the world cheered and applauded for youths who stand up and fight. 

The former witlessly responded in a tweet that it was very ‘important’ and ‘inspirational’. 

Thunberg should stick to climate issues and not get entangled in Hong Kong politics. That imprudent move will only compromise her own cause – if it hasn't already!

40 Million Cases






Another milestone. 40 million coronavirus cases and 1.1 million deaths. Nope, no respite yet for the world. 

And most definitely, not the US! 

In fact, Michael Osterholm (right), a renowned infectious disease expert is giving Americans (except Donald Trump and his supporters) the fright of their lives when he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that “the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic”! 

“Vaccines will not become available in any meaningful way until early to [the] third quarter of next year. And even then, about half of the US population at this point is skeptical of even taking the vaccine”, said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. 

He also said something which is self-evident. He took issue with the fact that the country lacks a leading voice to guide the public – and that aggravates the problem. 

“We need somebody to start to articulate, ‘What is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family, you won’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and end up infecting mom or dad or grandpa and grandma.’ We don’t have that storytelling going on right now, and that’s every bit as important as the science itself”, he fretted. 

He should know better! 

And don’t expect anything to change if Trump wins a second term in November. It’ll be the same old, same old. In the unlikely event that Joe Biden triumphs, Covid-19 will be his first order of business as President – if he takes his job seriously, that is. 

If you don’t already know, the US has more than 8 million cases and nearly 225,000 deaths todate. Still, the No.1 country for coronavirus. Unchallenged.

On the global front, Guatemala makes it to the list – and with this addition, we now have 45 countries that have registered more than 100,000 cases. Combined, they account for 92.9% and 95.1% of the global caseload and fatalities respectively.





Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sabah in Crisis








Malaysia breached the 20,000 mark today. 

We recorded seven new deaths from Covid-19, a peak previously reached on March 29. We also reached another record daily high of new cases at 871, beating the previous highest record of 869 cases reported yesterday. 

If there’s any consolation, 701 individuals have recovered – the highest recorded daily recoveries to date.










Optimism is permitted if we look at the daily numbers for peninsular Malaysia, even for the Selangor-KL territories. 

But Sabah is in crisis! And if the authorities have any sense of urgency, they would introduce China-type containment strategies. 

Anyway, it is pertinent to highlight that Health Ministry Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (left) had said 70 to 80 percent of coronavirus infections in Malaysia were detected at Level-1 or Level-2. 

Level-1 to Level-4 are gauges used by health officials to judge the severity of Covid-19 cases based on the symptoms exhibited at the time treatment was sought. 

Level-1 and Level-2 refer to patients with mild or no symptoms at all, Level-3 for patients with obvious Covid-19 associated symptoms, with Level-4 for those already in critical condition needing immediate medical attention.

In the meantime, let's stay safe.

Donald Trump Contemplates Fleeing the US

On Friday, at a campaign rally in Macon in Georgia, USA, Donald Trump (left) floated the idea that he'd leave the country if he loses next month's presidential election. 

It's a joke, of course. 

But really the joke is supposed to be the idea of Trump losing to Joe Biden in the first place. That's how I see it.

I dare declare that Trump will be re-elected President of the United States of America. And if that happens, it won't be a joke anymore! 

I’m not treating it as a joke – if he loses in November, chances are he’s likely to flee because he’ll have to forfeit not only a sitting president’s presumptive immunity from prosecution but also the levers of power he has aggressively co-opted for his own protection. 

Indeed, if Biden (right) is sworn in as president, his attorney general will inherit a mountain of criminal evidence against Trump accumulated by Robert Mueller and a host of inspectors general and congressional oversight committees. From obstruction of justice and lying to investigators to tax evasion and conspiracy with Russian intelligence to commit an offense against the United States. 

But I may be wrong. I read that it’s not that simple a matter to indict him. 

Trump will persist to claim immunity from the judicial process even after he leaves office – a surefire delaying tactic. And by the time any federal charges come to trial, Trump is likely to be either senile or already dead. 

And here’s the clincher. Even if he broke the law as president, law experts generally agree, he may well get away with it! Like wow!

A Taste of Finnair

Would you pay for airplane food if you weren't on a plane? 

Finnair seem to think so! The Finnish airlines are betting that would-be-fliers might be missing fine dining at 35,000 feet – and so, they’re bringing a taste of air travel to the ground. 

The move comes as airlines around the world try to employ their idled resources during the pandemic and tap into people's desire to fly when most planes are grounded. Some are offering simulated flights, fake trips where the aircraft takes off and lands in the same location, or even just time to sit in the plane. 

In Finnair’s case, they aim to satiate the appetite of Finns who are missing air travel. They’re selling ready-made meals inspired by their Business Class offerings in K-Citymarket in the Tammisto neighbourhood of Vantaa, Finland. In fact, it is located super close to the Finnair Kitchen headquarters.


 










After launching the meals on October 15, Finnair plan to expand to other K-Citymarket stores across Finland, and maybe even beyond. 

I experienced a double blow yesterday. 

Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw in a Merseyside derby – in fact, Everton came from behind twice to maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League. 

The Reds’ two goals came from Sadio Mane in the third minute and Mohamed Salah hitting his century in the seventy-second minute. 

They very nearly secured the three points but Liverpool were unfortunately denied a stoppage-time winner by the video assistant referee. Grrrrr, a real disappointment. 

And up north, in the Old Firm derby in the Scottish Premiership, Rangers beat Celtic 2-0 and moved four points clear at the top. 

The victory laid down a marker in a significant season, as the Ibrox side attempt to prevent their city rivals from winning an unprecedented tenth consecutive title. Sigh, another disappointment.