Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Students On the Rickety Bridge

Eight students in Ranau, Sabah were badly injured after the suspension bridge that they were on gave way while they were trying to connect to the Internet for online classes. 

According to New Straits Times, the students from SMK Ulu Sugut had been on the bridge in Kampung Gusi at around 9 PM on Monday, when the bridge, made out of wire mesh and wooden planks, collapsed. It had been reported that the bridge, said to be about 18m high, is rickety and there has been periodic repairs done on it over time. 

One student, a 16-year-old girl, fractured her leg while another male student suffered spinal injuries. They were both sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu for immediate treatment. The other students, all aged between 15 and 18 years old, were admitted to Ranau district hospital for lighter injuries. 

Villagers said that it had become a routine for these students to go to the bridge at night to follow their online classes. 

"Internet connection in Kampung Gusi is poor, but it is better at night on the suspension bridge", said the school's Parent Teacher Association chairperson Ratimin Kukunut. 

Very many students in Malaysia face challenges particularly with regard to online learning.

Remember Sabahan student Veveonah Mosibin who gained national attention after camping in a tree to take her university exams? To know more, read about her at my blogpost titled “The Treetop Student” published September 06, 2020. 

To be sure, this was not an isolated incident.


Rose ED (left), a student at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris faced the same issue. 

She was aware that Internet connection was limited in her village – a place supposedly not too far from Pakan, a small town about 45km from Sarikei in Sarawak – and on June 24, 2020, she was compelled to set up camp in a nearby jungle just to be able to get good Internet access in order to complete her final year project. 

And the story about Mujalifah Kassim (right), who teaches Bahasa Malaysia at SMK Sibu Jaya and in the present scenario, her classes are all conducted online – but who took the initiative to make house calls because there were students who either didn't have electronic devices or Internet access at home, especially those who live in the longhouses outside of Sibu, Sarawak. 

Muja's story first came to light when a former student caught her in action teaching a student across a metal gate and uploaded the photo to social media this month. 

All I can say is Malaysia’s Internet infrastructure is in a sorry state.

Covid-19 Vaccine Update 3

On Monday, the world heard the claim from AstraZeneca-Oxford University that their Covid-19 vaccine showed an average efficacy of 70 percent, according to early results from their Phase 3 clinical trials. 

Questions are now being asked about the vaccine trials since it was revealed that a smaller set of participants (i.e. 2,741 volunteers) accidentally received a half dose followed by a full dose. 

It has also been revealed that only younger adults were involved, casting doubt on how effective it may be across the population. 

Nevertheless, this cluster appeared to show a 90 percent efficacy rate – as opposed to a 62 percent rate when two full doses were administered to 8,895 other participants. 

Prof David Salisbury (right), immunization expert and associate fellow of the global health program at the Chatham House think tank, said: "You've taken two studies for which different doses were used and come up with a composite that doesn't represent either of the doses. I think many people are having trouble with that″. 

Anyway, AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot (left) has admitted that they need to carry out “additional study” to validate the efficacy data. That is obviously, obvious! 

Still, the impatient UK government has resolutely moved to ask the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to assess the vaccine, bringing the country a step closer to a possible rollout. 

In the meantime, drugmaker Pfizer has provided an update around their Covid-19 vaccine Phase 3 clinical trial data, saying that the final result of their analysis of the 44,000-participant trial, had indicated a 95% efficacy rate. 

This is a better outcome than what Pfizer reported previously, when they announced a 90% effectiveness metric based on preliminary scrutiny of the Phase 3 trial data. 

This result also follows a preliminary data report from Moderna about their own Phase 3 trial of their vaccine candidate, which reportedly showed 94.5% effectiveness. 

Pfizer and partner BioNTech’s vaccine is an mRNA-based preventative treatment, similar to the Moderna vaccine. It does look like they should be roughly similar in efficacy – at least in the early offing, based on a limited sample of total cases and prior to peer review by the scientific community, which is yet to come. 

So far, the above tells us that this is all science by press release. 

There is a US FDA comment that I read which said that any coronavirus vaccine needs to be at least 50% effective to be useful in fighting the pandemic. Meaning, if you take the lowest figure of effectiveness for the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab, it still passes that benchmark. 

That may be so but it’s pertinent to note that real-world effectiveness is usually lower than the efficacy seen during trials.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Cartoon Characters in Real Life

Dito Von Tease is the pseudonym of a digital artist living in Bologna, Italy, who keeps his real identity hidden. 

He is well-known for his Ditology project, a gallery of finger-portraits of famous and common people, suggesting a reflection on the topic of digital identities. 

Here, he has reimagined animal cartoons as living beings, using digital painting:

Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, commonly referred to as Atalanta scored twice in four minutes to deliver a surprise victory over Liverpool in the Champions League match on Wednesday.

The Reds lacked fluidity and regrettably failed to have a shot on target at Anfield – in fact, it’s not incorrect to say that the Italian side made the Premier League champions look toothless. Atalanta deserved to win. 

Anyway, Jürgen Klopp’s side still hold a two-point cushion at the top of their Group D.

Sparta Prague again thumped Celtic 4-1 yesterday – and even with two games to spare, the latter are surely out of the Europa League. 

Celtic have only one point to boast from their four group games – mathematically, they can reach a tally of seven points at best; a mark which is guaranteed to be beaten by at least two of Lille, AC Milan or Sparta Prague. 

One disappointment after another, sigh! 

61 Million Cases

Here and now, Covid-19 is racing past 61 million confirmed cases and 1.4 million deaths. 

It doesn’t look like the world can take a breather as the virus is still running amok. More so for US and Europe – already Germany becomes the twelfth country to reach one million cases.

And three nations, i.e. Azerbaijan, Moldova and Slovakia are now added to the expanding list of countries with more than 100,000 cases, bringing the grand total to 65. When tallied together, they constitute 95.8% and 96.6% of global cases and deaths respectively. 

Buying brand new things comes with an additional price – worrying about them getting scratched, scraped and dented. 

An Italian company called Crash Baggage now offer polycarbonate luggage with cosmetic damage molded into the shell! 

From their website: “[O]ur suitcases are already dented, worn-looking, crashed. With Crash Baggage we want to overturn the very concept of luggage through our travel philosophy 'Handle Without Care', which exalts the freedom of movement and action wherever and whenever possible, without any worries".

For sure, a bizarre idea! 

And don’t expect them to be at bargain prices, okay? Besides, they're not for every traveler! 

What will they think of next?!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Malaysians' Sleeping Habits

We all know that sleep allows the brain and body to slow down and engage in the processes of recovery, promoting better physical and mental performance the next day and over the long-term. And yet, oftentimes, we don’t sleep well. 

Anyway, I chanced upon these interesting facts on Malaysians' sleeping habits – and I thought I’ll share them here:

Zahra Moharrer is a member of Metro Toastmasters Club and she has been a keen participant of World Speech Day since 2019. 

Anyway, she did this micro video for us to help promote WSD 2021:


An eager, enthusiastic and enlivening speaker – who believes that if you can speak, you can influence. And if you can influence, you can change lives. 

That’s what World Speech Day aims to do actually. 

In Malaysia, as in everywhere around the globe, we provide you with a public platform to let your voice be heard. In March, we challenge you to take up the gauntlet – and speak at a World Speech Day event! 

It doesn’t matter if you are new at speaking or you’re a seasoned speaker. It doesn’t matter if you speak behind a lectern or you prance around the stage to freely speak. It doesn’t matter if you speak in all seriousness or you banter as you speak and make us smile. Whatever your mood, inclination and predisposition – just get up, go in front and speak! 

World Speech Day offers you a once-a-year opportunity!

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Top Glove’s Trumpian Excuse

In a live-streamed press conference yesterday, Top Glove executive director Lim Cheong Guan (left) clarified that only about 3,000 cases out of the 4,036 reported from the Teratai cluster were from their factories and workers’ dormitories – with the remainder being from other factories. 

The claim is just that  a claim devoid of details. Even if it is valid, it still won’t disguise the fact that coronavirus infections at Top Glove are rampant and in four figures. 

What was indeed discomforting was that he dissed Top Glove’s culpability – and offered the Trumpian excuse. He said the high number of cases was mainly due to increased testing being done at their facilities. Implying that if there was no mass testing, nobody would be any wiser there were so many infections there. 

That’s a load of bull! He should realize that the virus is so nimble and swift that he can’t hide Covid-19 for very long, even if he tried. 

In Tuesday’s blogpost “Selangor’s Covid-19 Hotspot is Top Glove”, I had already called out Top Glove. 

I’m not the only one. Muar MP Syed Saddiq (right) had similarly called out Top Glove: “This cluster existed since November 02 but they never closed the factory” (World of Buzz, November 24, 2020). 

In addition to pointing the finger at the company, he urged the government to get Top Glove to pay a one-off windfall tax: “They rake in big profits, abandon employee welfare, practice forced labor. And when the pandemic hit Malaysia, they rake in supernormal profits until it hit the market ceiling price (market cap) as high as RM 77.59 billion (till 15 October)”. 

I’m really pissed off with Top Glove. I'm sure many Malaysians are too!

SMK Subang Utama have always been supportive of World Speech Day since we started back in 2019. This year, they had 33 of their students taking part. 

One of them, Robyn Grace Leo has kindly come forward with this WSD 2021 promo video:


We are certainly looking forward to these students returning in 2021 and do the same!

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

60 Million Cases

Covid-19 has reached 60 million cases and 1.4 million deaths. 

After a period, these are just numbers, aren’t they? 

Art historian Geoffrey Shamos and Lauren Hartog, manager of the University of Denver’s Vicki Myhren Gallery, asked 45 artists making masks to participate in a topical show.


Shamos says choosing favorites is tough, but Trey Duvall’s Incalculable Loss, made from hospital wristbands inscribed with names of those who have died from Covid-19 complications “hits me every time”, and Liz Sexton’s Porcupine Fish “makes visitors smile”. I agree.

A Covid-19 Nightmare in Meru, Klang

We must thank Top Glove for exacerbating Malaysia’s coronavirus situation. We hit a record 2,188 cases yesterday 
– and 74% of that number is in Selangor. 

And 93% of it is from the Teratai cluster, which if you don't know, is linked to Top Glove’s factories in Meru, Klang, having recorded the highest number of cases with 1,511 new infections. This pushes their total to 4,036 positive cases, involving a total of 190 Malaysians and 3,846 foreign workers. It is currently the cluster with the most active cases in the country. Shame, shame, Top Glove!

If the CMCO is extended, I know who's to blame. 

The other two clusters which I had identified in my blogpost “Selangor’s Covid-19 Hotspot is Top Glove” yesterday are no less disturbing. They are the Damanlela construction site cluster with 1,539 positive cases in total, and the Bintang cluster with 69 cases. 

I have already said what I needed to say about this  particularly the stark absence of urgency shown by the concerned parties  and I have no wish to repeat. 

Samuel Sham is with the YMCA Toastmasters Club and is presently serving as their President. He participated in this year’s World Speech Day event in Kuala Lumpur – and this WSD 2021 promo video he did for us indicates he will again join us next year and of course, speak again.


World Speech Day is a different kind of experience because we are truly inclusive. Everybody can come on board to speak. Absolutely no barriers. 

Indeed, World Speech Day is about connecting communities, cities and countries all around the globe. 

We invite you to be a part of this worldwide speaking phenomenon this coming March!

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

The Great British Airways Stock Clearance

Airlines are haemorrhaging because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on air travel. 

Almost every one of them would need sizeable cash injections to stay afloat; otherwise many will surely go under. And some of them already have. 

One airline must be so cash-strapped that they have begun selling off thousands of items of surplus stock, from champagne flutes to bedding. 

That’s British Airways.

You can buy an insulated box from a Boeing 747 kitchen for £75, or a set of English bone china pasta bowls for £40 or serving trays – £10 for five. 

I read that people are actually keyed up about buying these articles. The two reasons to explain this: partly nostalgia, and partly because it is actually excellent value for money given the suppliers that BA use. In fact, some items such as the day blankets are said to have already been sold out along with the brandy and champagne glasses. 

The move came months after BA decided to auction some of their precious artwork hanging in offices and airport lounges, including a £1m-plus work by Bridget Riley. 

BA's profits have evaporated and already, they had instituted thousands of painful job cuts. Last month, BA's parent company IAG reported a £5.1 billion loss for the first nine months of 2020, a dramatic reverse from the £1.6 billion profit made during the same period in 2019. Such is BA’s sad predicament. 

FYI, aircraft items and memorabilia are said to be hugely popular among enthusiasts. E.g. Concorde products are among the most sought-after. At the top-end of collectibles, the famous dropped nose cone (right) can fetch hundreds of thousands of pounds on the rare occasions they come up for auction. 

Ruziana Mohamed is an unassuming woman, very amiable and affable. A devoted Toastmaster and in my opinion, good at impromptu speaking. Better still, her speeches are full of perspicacious insights – and you will always learn something from her. It helps when she's an avid reader.


#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

59 Million Cases

The raging tempest that is Covid-19 is fiercely sweeping across the world and has now infected more than 59 million people. 

Venezuela is the latest to join the grouping of countries that has more than 100,000 coronavirus cases – the tally stands at 62 countries. These countries collectively contribute 95.4% and 96.4% of cases and deaths globally.


Alan Chew speaks plainly, much like the down-to-earth person that he is. As a World Speakers’ Coalition member, he is doing his bit to help promote World Speech Day 2021.


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that members of the speaking club want to do this – after all, both World Speech Day and World Speakers’ Coalition are linked together by a common love for public speaking that is made possible through a common vehicle represented by CV+.

Here's Poovaa Again

Poovaa is one of those rare singers where if you’ve listened to one of her songs, you just want to keep listening to her again and again. Whether it's the same song or another one of her numbers. Epic addiction!

Here’s her Glenn Fredly cover titled “Akhir Cerita Cinta” – and at the risk of repeating myself, it’s a beautiful rendition. As always.


It has a nice R&B wallop to it! Simply gorgeous! 

Sumithra Devi is a passionate artist ("Sumithra Art") and a Toastmaster. 

Here she has kindly lent her voice to do a micro video to promote World Speech Day 2021 – her cheerful voice enthused with a chirpy verve that wonderfully captivates:

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Selangor’s Covid-19 Hotspot is Top Glove

Malaysia’s health ministry reported a record high of 1,884 Covid-19 cases yesterday. It is now a return to four digits for three days in a row.

The situation in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur is indeed scary if we look at the numbers in their totality. In fact, Selangor is easily singled out for its exponential increase in infections. Kuala Lumpur also has a high caseload.

And that’s because they have clusters with the highest number of cases. Including the Teratai (read, Top Glove) cluster with 1,067 cases, the Damanlela construction site cluster with 105 cases, and the new Bintang cluster – another construction site in Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur – with 75 cases.

Already, Top Glove's worker dormitories in Klang, Selangor and its surrounding areas have been put under the enforcement of Enhanced Movement Control Order for two weeks since November 17. 

And yesterday, it was announced that a total of 28 Top Glove factories will cease operations in stages. My first reactions were: Why not immediately? Why in stages? And why did it take so long to make that clear-cut decision?

What is mind-boggling is that Covid-19 was detected much, much earlier. I have read that at least 16 Top Glove workers were tested positive for the virus at the start of the month. Actually, Malaysiakini in a November 08, 2020 report had highlighted that the rubber glove manufacturer had registered 76 cases, citing Selangor state government sources. 

I reckon the Top Glove management has been in denial for some time and is being irresponsible. And the company as well as both state and federal authorities were slow to act. Regrettably, this is a case of too little, too late.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Tale of Two Presidents

I won’t comment on the above because as far as I’m concerned, both men are woefully pathetic!

Yesterday, Liverpool moved level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur with an outstanding performance and victory at Anfield – they had triumphed 3-0 over Leicester City.

The Reds took the lead in the twenty-first minute when the other side’s defender under pressure from Sadio Mane, headed a James Milner corner into his own net. Liverpool's second came twenty minutes later from a masterfully worked goal – Andy Robertson whipped in a delicious cross from the left which Diogo Jota met at the near post with an expertly angled glancing header. And Roberto Firmino was finally on target in the eighty-sixth minute when he rose to send a fine header out of the goalie’s reach – from another Milner corner – to give Liverpool the victory margin their superiority deserved. 

The win not only shows Liverpool’s intent – more than that, it serves an ominous warning to those foolishly hoping to wrest the title away from the champions. 

Already, they established a new club record of 64 straight unbeaten home league games, and this includes 53 wins. They upended their previous best run, which was set between February 1978 and January 1981 and itself ended by Leicester City.