Monday, November 30, 2020

63 Million Cases


The world has now seen 63 million Covid-19 cases – and still spreading fast and furious.



On Friday, new daily cases surpassed 200,000 for the first time during the outbreak in the US. To date, more than 13.7 million infections have been confirmed, with at least 273,000 deaths. 

In the meantime, Dr Anthony Fauci (right) took his scaremongering role seriously when he warned that Americans should brace for a “surge upon surge” of infections following the Thanksgiving holiday. 

These days, the member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force who was once as quiet as a mouse has taken to issue shrill warnings of "impending doom" with regard to Covid-19 on a regular basis. 

Friday too was the day when the Wall Street Journal reported that the first shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine have arrived in the US from a Pfizer lab in Belgium. 

United Airlines began operating charter flights to pre-position doses of the vaccine for quick distribution once they receive US approval, which is expected as early as December 10. 

Americans who refuse to wear masks nor do social distancing are not likely to put their faith in the said vaccine, methinks. 

Another blow to Celtic! Their stranglehold on Scottish silverware is over after they were bundled out of the second round of the League Cup at home by Ross County yesterday. 

The latter’s two goals ended the Scottish champions’ 35-match winning run in domestic cups and earned the Staggies a quarter-final slot. 

Already, Celtic are unable to progress in Europe and they also trail Rangers by 11 points in the Scottish Premiership. 

It was a sub-par game – so much so that hundreds of fans had assembled outside the stadium to protest, forcing a heavy police presence.



Masks for Those Who Want to Show their Face

This is relly cool! Check out the Brazilian artist who paints masks for those who want to show their full face:


I’m beginning to grasp that Malaysia's CMCO is making no difference at all to the spread of Covid-19. And worse, I have this feeling that we don’t have an action plan to contain the pandemic. 

Every day, we receive the usual reports with some sketchy information on the clusters. They give me the impression that we are reacting to the situation rather than taking any pre-emptive action.


 









I must point out that the Health Ministry Director-General’s job encompasses more than just giving out Covid-19 updates every day! Perhaps, he can share with the rakyat his game plan! 

Unless, I am right after all – there is no such plan. Besides the litany of exhortations about abiding the SOPs. 

If that is the case, we can expect to see the sort of numbers we’re seeing now for a prolonged period. Cases are going to pop up, here, there and everywhere. 

On another note, we should stay cautious regarding all that media hype about the vaccines. 

We shouldn’t consider them until and unless they are properly tested and duly approved. Of course, they’re good – but they’re never meant to be magic bullets. Certainly, lifelong immunity is not always provided by vaccination.

Also, this past decade has seen a significant increase in vaccine hesitancy, particularly among the Malay population. So, vaccine communication is urgently needed to address any misinformation regarding Covid-19 and vaccines in general. 

Anyway, I have read somewhere that vaccination reaches 50% effectiveness only – although I hasten to add that I can’t verify this statement. Nevertheless, medical experts do stress that even if the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it will still be a safe and important tool in the fight against the virus. 

I have already said this many times – we must learn to live with the virus. And to keep Covid-19 at bay, the most practical course of action is to strengthen our body immunity.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Malaysia Won't Screen "Babi"

Namewee is controversial. Likewise, his latest film “Babi” – which won't be screened in Malaysia. 

Nonetheless, the film has earned nominations from the Open World Toronto Film Festival, namely The Best Director and The Best Actor awards. 

It also received nominations from the Around International Film Festival Berlin – Best Feature Film, International Thai Film Festival 2020, and the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2020 – Best Original Film Song. 











Here’s a refreshingly honest take on the movie trailer (as well as the OTS) from a 2nd-year film student of Sunway University:

 

The film's title, Babi, which directly translates to "pig" in Malay. It is seen as a derogatory term, commonly used towards the Malaysian-Chinese community.

According to Namewee (left), the film is an adaptation of a real-life event. It is about an alleged racial clash that started innocently in a Malaysian high school in 2000. The incidents supposedly escalated and turned so violent to the point that government authorities got involved to cover them up. 

I agree with reviewer, Ahmad Hazim ("Hazimemashite") – it's a shame "Babi" won't be shown here. 

We shouldn’t just "buat bodoh" (act stupid) with regard to these real-life issues but instead have the courage to confront them. Surely, it is for the betterment of Malaysian society.

The movie's theme song "Happy Family" features the talents of NameWee, 5forty2 and The Real Masta Clan. It's a genuine gem  and that's why I'm sharing it here:
 

YouTube Channel: WSD with CV Plus












WSD Kuala Lumpur and CV+ started a dedicated YouTube channel – labelled as WSD with CV Plus – on March 29, 2020 – and which serves as a repository of all our World Speech Day videos. 

Altogether, we have a collection of 58 videos and we have attracted 52 subscribers. 

[Psst, kindly subscribe if you haven’t. TQVM]. 

Nicola Sturgeon (left) opened the Scottish National Party annual conference on Saturday by telling members she has “never been so certain” the country will achieve independence. 

The first minister said Scotland was “a nation on the cusp of making history” as she insisted the SNP’s goal of independence was “in clear sight”. 

Her comments followed last December’s “landslide victory” in Scotland during the UK general elections, in which the SNP won 48 of the 59 available seats. Since then, a number of opinion polls have suggested a majority of Scots are in favor of leaving the UK. 

While Boris Johnson (right) has repeatedly said he will not allow another referendum on Scottish independence to take place, Sturgeon said a majority for her SNP in next year’s Holyrood election should enable such a vote to happen. 

#independence4scotland

62 Million Cases


Covid-19’s resurgence continues – with the world notching more than 62 million cases and 1.4 million deaths.

Greece becomes the sixty-sixth nation to make it to the list of countries which have 100,000 cases or more. In fact, 65% are from Europe and the Americas, which plainly tell us where the world’s coronavirus hotspots are. 

Collectively, these countries – all 66 of them – account for 96.0% and 96.7% of confirmed cases and deaths worldwide.






In Saturday’s Premier League match against Brighton & Hove Albion, Liverpool lost their footing and they were forced to settle for a disappointing 1-1 score. Again, the Reds were far from impressive and the Seagulls were the better side.


 






It was the defending champions who scored first when Mohamed Salah laid off to Diogo Jota, who veered across the top of the penalty area, creating space for a low shot into the bottom corner of the net in the sixtieth minute. 

But a last-gasp penalty rescued a deserved draw for Brighton. 

Liverpool still moved a point clear at the top of the table with 21 points from 10 games – if only temporarily.

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, J├╝rgen 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.