Wednesday, March 31, 2021

WSD 2021 Johor Bahru: 91 Registrations

Hooray! We can confirm that we too managed to register 91 speakers for our WSD 2021 Johor Bahru – meaning, we equaled WSD 2021 Kuala Lumpur registrations. It is as per my post published March 28.

A pat on the back for everybody who made this possible! Especially all the speakers who sent us their pre-recorded speeches for upload onto our dedicated YouTube channel "WSD with CV Plus".

And of course, a special Thank You to Melissa Lissete who initiated the “We Care” project and have us embed it into this particular World Speech Day event. 

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

LEGO Thieves

French police say they are building a case against an international gang of toy thieves specializing in stealing LEGO – and they have warned specialist shops and even parents to be aware of a global trade in the colored bricks.

The alert comes after officers arrested three people – a woman and two men – in the process of stealing boxes of LEGO from a toy shop in Yvelines, 50km from Paris, last June. Under questioning, the suspects, all from Poland, reportedly admitted they were part of a team specializing in stealing LEGO sought by collectors.

“The LEGO community isn’t just made up of children”, one investigator told Le Parisien newspaper. “There are numerous adults who play with it; there are swaps and sales on the internet. We’ve also had people complaining their homes have been broken into and LEGO stolen”.

The arrested gang were first reported in France in November 2019, and again in February 2020. “They come to France, set up in a hotel in the Paris region, then set about raiding toy stores before returning to Poland to sell off their haul”, the officer said.

Gerben van Ijken, a LEGO specialist who advises the online auction platform for buying and selling collectibles, says sales on the French site doubled last year.

“Investing in these pieces isn’t new but this niche market has reached new heights with the pandemic. People have more time at home because of the health restrictions and the game market has exploded. We often have more than 1,000 LEGO sales a week,” he said.

“There’s always been dealing in LEGO because it’s a premium toy range and attracts many adults, but also because the company withdraw its collections around two years after they come out, so a second-hand market is inevitable”.

He added: “The phenomenon has exploded over the last eight years because people have realized they can make money reselling LEGO on the Internet”.

Van Ijken cited a Cafe Corner LEGO set that cost €150 when it was released to shops in 2007 selling in its original box for €2,500 last year.

LEGOs are a hot item due to their popularity and relative cost from retail markets. Besides, they are virtually untraceable – no serial numbers – and easily sold.

I checked out Google records on LEGO thieves and they are a lot more common than I would have thought.

Here are just three random cases from my search. In the US, San Diego police in 2005 arrested a band of women found to have more than $230,000 worth of LEGO. Phoenix cops in 2014 busted another gang and seized $200,000 of illicit LEGOs. Raji Afife Azar was arrested in 2018 for allegedly organizing a LEGO theft ring and selling thousands of dollars in stolen toys online. During a search of his Portland home, detectives found at least $50,000 in LEGO sets stolen from Portland-area Fred Meyer stores alone. They also found more stolen items from other stores, according to the Portland police Bureau.

LEGO looting appears to be a global business, according to reports in the US, Canada and Australia, where numerous thefts have been reported over the last five years.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

128 Million Cases and CMCO Continues

The coronavirus global tally has climbed to 128 million cases. 

In Malaysia, despite cases being on the decline, it was announced today that the Conditional Movement Control Order is to remain for another two weeks until April 14 in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor and Kelantan. 

And yet, private sector employees can all return to the office because the authorities now permit 100 percent capacity for them effective April 01 in the said CMCO areas. 

I think I'll abstain from commenting. 

AstraZeneca Are Not Out of the Woods Yet

AstraZeneca are not out of the woods yet. 

Canada is pausing the use of their Covid-19 vaccine for adults below age 55, the country’s deputy chief public health officer, Howard Njoo said on Monday, after an advisory panel cited “substantial uncertainty” around the potential risk of developing rare blood clots. 

He explained: “We are taking this precautionary measure while Health Canada, as the regulator, completes (their) updated risk-benefit analysis based on emerging data”. 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization had earlier recommended a pause in the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Canadians in that age group. This is despite assurances from the British-Swedish multinational and the World Health Organization that the vaccine is “safe”. 

I don’t know about you but I think there’s an awful lot of opacity in the information about Covid-19 vaccines in general, other than the fact that they are “effective” and yes, “safe”. 

These are nothing more than mere words that will not help to allay our own concerns. 

Sure, the world is betting on the vaccines as the solution to the pandemic – but the vaccine trials are not focused on answering the questions many might assume they are. What does it exactly mean when a vaccine is declared “effective”? 

To the public this seems fairly obvious – that the primary goal of a Covid-19 vaccine is to keep people from getting very sick and dying. 

Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston in Texas, USA, said: “Ideally, you want an antiviral vaccine to do two things… first, reduce the likelihood you will get severely ill and go to the hospital, and two, prevent infection and therefore interrupt disease transmission”. 

To me, the current Phase III trials are not actually set up to prove either. None of the trials currently under way are designed to detect a reduction in any serious outcome such as hospital admissions, use of intensive care, or deaths. Nor are the vaccines being studied to determine whether they can interrupt transmission of the virus. 

Anyway, at the end of the day, we need to scrutinize the hard data really – and not rely on sunny optimism. And we need proper answers.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Undi18 is Shelved

Malaysia’s backdoor government have shelved Undi18 (i.e. the lowering of the voting age to 18). 

This despite the Federal Constitution being revised and receiving bipartisan support from 211 of the 222 MPs, who represent all thirty-two million Malaysians, to bring down the voting age from 21 to 18. 

The historical occasion happened in 2019 when politicians of all stripes flung their political animosity out of the Dewan Rakyat windows to vote for the said amendment. There was much rejoicing as everyone thought the youth would now have a say in the political direction of the nation which many thought lacked their input. 

However, this joy proved to be a short-lived one when last week, the Election Commission (read: the PN government) out of the blue threw an additional 18-month roadblock by announcing that Undi18 would only be implemented after September 2022. 

Based on this shock announcement which has raised the hackles of most of the political parties, one can only speculate that the next general election is likely to be called any time before that as there are those in government being hell bent on denying our young people from voting in GE15. I cannot but speculate that they want to remain in power longer. 

The backdoor government is absolutely and surely shameless!

Attack on China: The Issue of Xinjiang Cotton

The spiteful West is at it again. It is targeting China and fabricates fiction about the country. 

This time, the issue is supposedly forced labor in the cotton fields in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. [FYI, Xinjiang is a major global hub for the cotton industry. It produces 85 percent of China's and 20 percent of the world's cotton]. 

Based on the manufactured lie, some international brands (e.g. H&M, Adidas and Nike) had taken upon themselves to believe in the falsehood and announced the ban on Xinjiang cotton in their production. 

In response, more than forty Chinese celebrities have rescinded endorsement contracts with these brands. 

Chinese consumers, too, are unhappy over the stand the brands took and expressed their dissatisfaction by boycotting their products. 

All of this is, of course, going to hurt these big brands. 

"And the ultimate brand value of these Western companies, measured in terms of their growth potential, could be cut in half over the next five years if they refuse to rectify their discriminations against China", Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen-based iiMedia Research told China’s Global Times on Saturday. 

On Thursday, the day after Swedish clothing company H&M triggered a tsunami of condemnation by Chinese netizens over their ill-intended ban on Xinjiang cotton, the company, as well as others too which have adopted similar stances to H&M, saw share prices drop significantly. 

Germany-based Adidas, one of the most popular foreign clothing brands among Chinese consumers, saw their share price drop by more than 6 percent on Thursday. According to media reports, Adidas, together with US-based Nike, saw their market value drop by more than 70 billion yuan ($10.7 billion) on that day. And the market value of H&M also slumped by about 4.8 billion yuan. 

It serves these brands right for taking up an issue that has been politicized by hostile foreign governments and their media.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

127 Million Cases and WSD JB Equals WSD KL

There's no stopping the onward march of Covid-19 – and the tally has now reached 127 million cases. 

Another country in Europe, Latvia too joined the C100K club.

And these eighty-six countries in total represent 98.1% and 98.5% of global infections and fatalities respectively.

Today, our WSD 2021 Johor Bahru has equaled WSD 2021 Kuala Lumpur in terms of total registrations. And we still have 3 days remaining.

Indeed, we are mighty pleased!

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Covid-19 Clusters in Educational Institutions

Malaysia’s Health Ministry revealed that they had detected forty-one Covid-19 clusters linked to educational institutions nationwide between January and March this year. 

This has amounted to 2,228 cases with the highest being from higher education institutions at 1,058, followed by secondary schools at 631 cases, pre-school and primary schools at 419 and others (120). 

Of course, the situation is worrying – and we cannot ignore these numbers. The Education Ministry and Health Ministry must act fast to mitigate the outbreak – but I’m not at all optimistic. 

Today, I was part of a 6-person team involved in the 3-hour mini workshop "Communicate with Confidence" organized for Shell Cyberjaya Toastmasters Club. I took charge of Group 5:

Note: I only managed to take two pics.

Friday, March 26, 2021

126 Million Cases and the American Dream

Surging ahead, the coronavirus caseload has now reached 126 million. 

And Estonia and South Korea are countries #84 and #85 to join the C100K grouping. The eighty-five countries now account for 97.9% and 98.5% of global infections and fatalities respectively.

We all know that the United States of America is in crisis! 

This makes you wonder about the American dream. It is supposed to represent the idea that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success. It is believed to be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance. 

But the reality is that the American dream is just a pipe dream. Full-stop.

These two tweets tell it as it is:


WSD 2021 Videos: Update 2

World Speech Day videos are being uploaded as they come in. And these are from the WSD 2021 Kuala Lumpur and the WSD 2021 Johor Bahru events. 

And todate March, our WSD with CV Plus channel on YouTube can boast of having one hundred and ninety-four videos in total – of which one hundred and twenty-four are WSD 2021 speeches. 

Interestingly, 5 of the 9 are youngsters.

Anyway, here's the updated list of the Top 25 speakers as at today, 06:10 PM Malaysian time: 

  • Sanjanaa Kanthan – 1109 view ( – ) 
  • Velleny Jivel Jinau – 837 views ( – ) 
  • Amirah – 626 views (545) 
  • Yosshveina Jega Theesan – 623 views ( – ) 
  • Tashvein Jega Theesan – 591 views ( – ) 
  • Annie Tsen (JB speech) – 582 views 
  • Simon Gibson – 570 views (445) 
  • Vellvie Jivel Jinau – 456 views ( – ) 
  • Ooi Mei Ling – 368 views (318) 
  • Ilham Firdaus – 342 views (328) 
  • Ahmed Tarek Fawzy – 338 views (317) 
  • Robyn Grace Leo – 333 views (309) 
  • Annie Tsen (KL speech) – 326 views ( – ) 
  • Mathew Varughese – 296 views (253) 
  • Takako Aoi – 224 views (205) 
  • DJenss Ling – 197 views (171) 
  • Gina Bayarong Sabungan – 185 views (174) 
  • Sumithra Devi – 179 views (128) 
  • Joyce Tan – 175 views (125) 
  • Stacey Lim – 172 views (129) 
  • Syahmi Aiman Zainal Azman – 164 views (158) 
  • Svetlana Rakhimova – 158 views (146) 
  • Dr. Ernest Chen – 134 views (122) 
  • Jai Narayan – 134 views (115) 

[Note: The figures in parentheses indicate the number of views from the last report published March 20, 2021]. 

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday #worldspeechday2021kualalumpur #worldspeechday2021johorbahru

Thursday, March 25, 2021

125 Million Cases and the Common Cold Locks Horns with Covid-19

Covid-19 is surging again – and the tally has reached 125 million cases worldwide. 

But there is a claim that the common cold may be already locking horns with Covid-19.

The virus that causes the common cold can effectively boot the Covid virus out of the body's cells, say researchers. Some viruses are known to compete in order to be the one that causes an infection. 

And University of Glasgow scientists say it appears cold-causing rhinovirus trumps coronavirus. The benefits might be short-lived but rhinovirus is so widespread, they add, it could still help to suppress Covid. 

Think of the cells in your nose, throat and lungs as being like a row of houses. Once a virus gets inside, it can either hold the door open to let in other viruses, or it can nail the door shut and keep its new home to itself. 

The team at the Centre for Virus Research in Glasgow used a replica of the lining of our airways, made out of the same types of cells, and infected it with Sars-CoV-2 and rhinovirus, which is one of the most widespread infections in people, and a cause of the common cold. 

If rhinovirus and Sars-CoV-2 were released at the same time, only rhinovirus is successful. If rhinovirus had a 24-hour head start then Sars-CoV-2 does not get a look in. And even when Sars-CoV-2 had 24-hours to get started, rhinovirus boots it out. 

Dr Pablo Murcia told BBC News: "This is absolutely exciting because if you have a high prevalence of rhinovirus, it could stop new Sars-CoV-2 infections". 

Similar effects have been seen before. A large rhinovirus outbreak may have delayed the 2009 swine flu pandemic in parts of Europe.

A New World by Sanjanaa Kanthan

We have uploaded 121 WSD 2021 videos so far. 

And they have been a real revelation – speeches that come from the heart. Most of them, that is. 

But one video stands out among the rest. 

It was published only four days ago and it is from seven-year-old Sanjanaa Kanthan (left) who hails from Beaufort, Sabah in Malaysia. And it has garnered 1,068 views to date! 

I’m sharing it here because her speech “A New World” is really worth sharing:


Indeed, World Speech Day is a unique platform where we discover “unexpected voices”.

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

WSD 2021 Johor Bahru: Going for a Perfect Finish

WSD 2021 Johor Bahru is hoping to get the perfect finish – by collecting another 6 more registrations to end with a tally of 91 to equal WSD 2021 Kuala Lumpur.

As at today, we have already secured 85 registrations. And just under eight days remain! 

We will surely give our all!

Here are photos of the five people who made WSD 2021 Kuala Lumpur happen:

Photo credit: Ahmad Fakhri @ Amber Chinese Muslim Restaurant at Nexus, Bangsar South in Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

124 Million Cases and LEGO Bath Time

The world is still not seeing the coming to an end of the coronavirus pandemic. And it is now 124 million cases worldwide. 

I’ve always admired LEGO because this is a brand that is all about imagination and creativity by bringing art, science and education together. 

LEGO innovator Teun de Wijs has created a wonderfully clever automaton of a man taking a bath. 

The kinetic sculpture, which comes to life with the turn of a wheel, features pipes that feed colorful running water into a bathtub where a figure sits and uses a brush to rhythmically scrub his back.

AstraZeneca in the Spotlight Again

AstraZeneca are in the spotlight again. 

They had boasted that their vaccine was 79% effective in preventing symptomatic illness in a large-scale trial that took place in the United States. And that it was even 100% effective against severe or critical forms of the disease and hospitalization and posed no increased risk of blood clots. 

They must think the Americans are not just gullible but stupid. 

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) came out with a statement one day after the interim results were released that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, an independent committee overseeing the trial, had “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data”. 

The concerns throw into question whether AstraZeneca can seek US emergency use authorization for the vaccine in the coming weeks as planned. 

Once hailed as a milestone in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic when it emerged as a vaccine contender last year, the AstraZeneca shot has since been dogged by doubts over its efficacy, dosing regimen and possible side-effects. 

And the treatment has also been at the center of a growing conflict between Brussels and London over so-called vaccine nationalism after a string of supply setbacks in Europe. 

I did say I trust the Chinese vaccines, didn’t I?

AstraZeneca Vaccine: Benefits Still Outweigh Risks

On Sunday, I had put out a blog post that AstraZeneca vaccinations are to resume. 

But today, I came across an Al Jazeera news report published yesterday that gave the news a different slant: 

"At least 13 European countries in the past two weeks stopped administering the AstraZeneca shot, co-developed with scientists at Oxford University, after reports of a small number of blood disorders. 

Many resumed its use on Friday after the European Medicines Agency regulator said in a preliminary safety review on Thursday that the vaccine was safe and effective and not linked with a rise in the overall risk of blood clots. 

EMA did not rule out a possible link, however, with rare cases of blood clots in the brain known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). 

The last sentence is very telling! 

I went to the EMA website and this was what I read: “Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca: benefits still outweigh the risks despite possible link to rare blood clots with low blood platelets” 

And I read further.

“EMA’s safety committee, PRAC, concluded its preliminary review of a signal of blood clots in people vaccinated with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca at its extraordinary meeting of March 18, 2021. The Committee confirmed that: 

  • the benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects; 
  • the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots (thromboembolic events) in those who receive it; 
  • there is no evidence of a problem related to specific batches of the vaccine or to particular manufacturing sites; 
  • however, the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia, i.e. low levels of blood platelets (elements in the blood that help it to clot) with or without bleeding, including rare cases of clots in the vessels draining blood from the brain (CVST). 

These are rare cases – around 20 million people in the UK and EEA had received the vaccine as of March 16 and EMA had reviewed only 7 cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels (disseminated intravascular coagulation, DIC) and 18 cases of CVST. 

A causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible and deserves further analysis”. 

It just shows BBC News cannot be wholly trusted to say the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

After all, the said vaccine, codenamed AZD1222 was developed by UK’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a UK-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. The British bias is obvious.

Monday, March 22, 2021

123 Million Cases and Face Mask Wearing

Yesterday, another one million cases are added – and bringing the total global tally for Covid-19 infections to 123 million. 

And we may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for a couple more years before we can return to normality. That's what a leading epidemiologist had predicted. 

Mary Ramsay, the head of immunization at Public Health England, UK said basic measures could be in place until all countries successfully roll out jabs. 

So, what's new?

On Sunday, Celtic and Rangers drew 1-1, thereby ensuring the latter remain on course for an unbeaten Scottish Premiership season. 

Mohamed Elyounoussi put Celtic in front with his terrific header in the twenty-third minute. And Steven Gerrard’s side equalized fifteen minutes later.

Both sides switch their focus to the Scottish Cup, as Celtic host either Arbroath or Falkirk in the third round on the weekend of 3/4 April, and Rangers are up against Cove Rangers.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

AstraZeneca Vaccinations to Resume

Now, leading EU countries said Thursday they would resume AstraZeneca vaccinations after the European medical regulator said the jab is “safe and effective” and not associated with a higher blood clot risk after days of alarming commotion around the shot. According to BBC News, that is.

The closely-watched announcement from the European Medicines Agency came after the World Health Organization and UK’s health watchdog both announced the vaccine is safe, adding that it is far riskier to not get the shot – even as a couple of countries face a worrying rise in coronavirus cases. 

After the EMA’s announcement, a raft of European countries said they would soon resume vaccinations, including Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. 

So, it was just a storm in a teacup. 

On Friday, I attended an in-person KEPENTAS meeting which is now permitted because we’re under the Conditional Movement Control Order. It has been awhile since members meet – and the feeling is liberating!

BTW, we had nasi Arab that evening:

Saturday, March 20, 2021

WSD 2021 Videos: Update 1

Todate March, our WSD with CV Plus channel on YouTube has one hundred and one videos in total – of which twenty-nine are World Speech Day 2021 speeches. 

And we now have 113 subscribers. 

We highlight our Top 9 speakers based on the number of total views registered for their clips:

And here’s the list of the Top 25 videos as at today, 06:30 PM Malaysian time: 

  • Amirah – 545 views (433)
  • Simon Gibson – 445 views (344)
  • Ilham Firdaus – 328 views (313)
  • Ooi Mei Ling – 318 views (161)
  • Ahmed Tarek Fawzy – 317 views (81)
  • Robyn Grace Leo – 309 views (234)
  • Annie Tsen – 265 views (173)
  • Mathew Varughese – 253 views (157)
  • Takako Aoi – 205 views (167)
  • Gina Bayarong Sabungan – 174 views (155)
  • DJenss Ling – 171 views (96)
  • Syahmi Aiman Zainal Azman – 158 views (146)
  • Svetlana Rakhimova – 146 views (128)
  • Stacey Lim – 129 views ( – )
  • Sumithra Devi – 128 views ( – )
  • Joyce Tan – 125 views ( – )
  • Dr. Ernest Chen – 122 views (81)
  • Jai Narayan – 115 views (74)
  • Sharmini Siva – 110 views (58)
  • Shah Awe – 107 views (91)
  • Shatrughan Rau – 92 views (10)
  • Kingston Lee – 60 views ( – )
  • Jonjee (Heng Jee Heng) – 55 views (42)
  • Suriya Selvam – 52 views ( – )
  • Dr. Hjh Fatimah – 51 views ( – )

[Note: The figures in parentheses indicate the number of views from the last report published March 13, 2021].

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday #worldspeechday2021kualalumpur #worldspeechday2021johorbahru

Friday, March 19, 2021

122 Million Cases and 3 Other WSD Events this March

We've reached 122 million coronavirus cases worldwide. 

But let's just forget about Covid-19 – it’ll stay with us for a long while yet. 

For sure, there are more important things in life! 

It's time we reclaim our lives and do what we gotta do! Life must go on!

For CV+, we have another 3 WSD events this month and that’s something to look forward to! One is an ongoing event and the other two are for next week. 

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Changing the Name to "Salmon"

Taiwanese are changing their names to “salmon” – just so to take advantage of a restaurant promotion! 

In a phenomenon that has been labelled “salmon chaos” by local media, about one hundred plus mostly young people visited government offices to officially change their name. 

The cause of this sudden enthusiasm was a chain of sushi restaurants. 

Under the two-day promotion, which ended on Thursday, any customer whose ID card contained “guī yú” (鲑鱼) – the Chinese characters for salmon – would be entitled to an all-you-can-eat sushi meal along with five friends. 

It seems that Taiwan allows people to officially change their name up to three times. 

But Taiwanese officials were not amused. “This kind of name change not only wastes time but causes unnecessary paperwork”, the deputy interior minister, Chen Tsung-yen, said on Thursday as he urged the public to “cherish administrative resources”. 

And he added: “I hope everyone can be more rational about it”. 

Local media ran interviews with people who had taken advantage of the promotion. “I just changed my name this morning to add the characters ‘Bao Cheng Gui Yu’ and we already ate more than TW$7,000 (£176)”, one college student surnamed Ma told the TVBS news channel in southern Kaohsiung city. 

Roughly translated, Ma’s new moniker means: “Explosive Good Looking Salmon”. “I’ve changed my first name to salmon and two of my friends also did”, a woman surnamed Tung told SET TV. “We’ll just change our names back afterwards”. 

Other salmon-themed names reported in local media included “Salmon Prince”, “Meteor Salmon King” and “Salmon Fried Rice”. 

I didn’t know Taiwanese are cheapskates!