Friday, April 30, 2021

WSD 2021 Videos: Update 7

We continue to see viewership increase for the WSD 2021 videos on our YouTube channel “WSD with CV Plus”. 

Our Top 9 videos are as follows:

Note that the youngsters are in the majority, having swept six of the nine places. And of these, seven are females. 

And the Top 25 videos: 

  • Sanjanaa Kanthan – 1954 view (1715) 
  • Velleny Jivel Jinau – 1212 views (1127)
  • Yosshveina Jega Theesan – 1178 views (1162) 
  • Simon Gibson – 1131 views (1061) 
  • Tashvein Jega Theesan – 1115 views (1081) 
  • Amirah – 1072 views (1046) 
  • Karyn Yadlyn – 638 views (489)
  • Christal Wong – 637 views (554) 
  • Vellvie Jivel Jinau – 620 views (587) 
  • Annie Tsen – 525 views (525) 
  • Sumithra Devi – 432 views (406) 
  • Janany Ganabatirau – 427 views (426) 
  • Ooi Mei Ling – 417 views (415) 
  • Santhy Dewi Pillai – 414 views (388) 
  • Robyn Grace Leo – 384 views (375) 
  • Ahmed Tarek Fawzy – 368 views (362) 
  • Ilham Firdaus – 362 views (358) 
  • Joyce Tan – 359 views (304)
  • Mathew Varughese – 353 views (347) 
  • Samuel Sham – 331 views (325) 
  • Chong Kai Zhen – 291 views (242) 
  • Karan Z’vyr – 281 views (254) 
  • Dayang Norfaliza – 238 views (231) 
  • Takako Aoi – 235 views (235) 
  • Stacey Lim – 230 views (225) 

[Note: The figures in parentheses indicate the number of views from the last report published April 23, 2021]. 

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday #worldspeechday2021kualalumpur #worldspeechday2021johorbahru

151 Million Cases and Malaysia's Slow Vaccination Rate

The coronavirus caseload is climbing. Worldwide, we’ve gone past 151 million cases. 

In spite of bold ambitions to vaccinate their citizens, it should be pointed out that in many countries, things are just not going that great. 

Take Malaysia for example. The harsh fact is that not even half of the country’s population have signed up for Covid-19 vaccination.  

It was reported that weekly vaccine registrations dropped nearly fourfold from 992,805 registrations in the week of March 23-29 to 254,069 registrations in the week of April 20-26. 

Only 9.3 million people have registered as of April 26, just 38.3 percent of the population. 

Still, the government target to vaccinate 25.6 million adults, or 80 percent of Malaysia’s 32-million population – but we don’t even have enough supplies. 

And yet, the government continue to trumpet about accelerating the Covid-19 vaccination program. Especially in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. 

As recent as two days ago, both the health minister and the vaccine minister are still talking about achieving herd immunity. Idiots.

EU Urged to Welcome Scotland

European leaders are being urged to make an “unilateral and open offer” to Scotland to rejoin the EU should it vote for independence in a future referendum – in a letter signed by more than 170 prominent personalities. 

Ahead of next week’s Holyrood elections, for which polling suggests a pro-independence majority of MSPs is a near certainty, the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, the English director Richard Eyre (right) and the Greek political scientist Kalypso Nicolaïdis are among those asking heads of EU nations and institutions to show solidarity with the Scots. 

Organized by the informal group Europe for Scotland, the letter is published in the Guardian and across Europe on Thursday, and available online translated into 19 European languages for others to co-sign. 

Noting that the UK government has stated that it would refuse to grant Holyrood the legal powers required to hold a second referendum, regardless of the outcome of next week’s election, the signatories describe this impasse as “unprecedented” and one that “demands fresh thinking from the EU”. 

While the usual process is for the EU to respond to a membership request only when it comes from an independent country, the signatories – also including the English fantasy writer Neil Gaiman (left), the Scottish Golden Globe winner Brian Cox and the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann – argue that Scotland “deserves a different process”. 

“The EU and its member states should make a unilateral and open offer of membership: an exceptional proposal to match Scotland’s exceptional circumstances”, suggests the letter, adding: “Generous terms should be offered to support Scotland’s budget in the challenging months of the transition before rejoining the EU”. 

One of the letter’s organizers, the writer and co-founder of openDemocracy, Anthony Barnett (left), said: “We want to shift the narrative from the negative spirit of Brexit to one of positive solidarity. Scotland – where every region voted remain – must not be left on its own by Europe while being subjected to bullying by the UK government. Instead, we want the Scots to know they are supported across Europe, including in England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

Jackie Kay (left), Scotland’s leading poet and a former makar, or national poet, added that it was “in the DNA of our country to be open-armed and internationalist in spirit and it goes against the grain for Scotland to be torn away from our European family”.

Another signatory, the novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan (right), argued that the Brexit vote had damaged the union and that it now fell to Scotland to take responsibility for its own future. “Should it decide on independence, it will thrive within the EU as other small nations do. Leading figures in Brussels have promised that ‘the door will remain open’. Now is the time for them to hang out the welcome sign”. 

Hear, hear!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

WSD In-person Events in the Pipeline

We’re in WSD planning mode again – and this time, we’re looking at in-person events. 

That’s because when you imagine a public speaker, you are likely to picture a person standing on a stage with a podium and speaking in front of a live audience. 

After all, this face-to-face exchange between a designated speaker and an audience has a 2500-year history. 

Nothing beats speaking synchronously, meaning your audience is actually experiencing it in real-time. And it allows you to connect with the audience – and get them involved and engaged. 

Know that as a speaker, it is vital to make a personal connection with the audience. Your ability to establish this connection can make the difference between being believed or doubted, being evaluated favorably or unfavorably, or delivering an effective or ineffective presentation. 

Public speaking is more than just spewing words – it has the power to influence, to impact and to inspire. 

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

150 Million Cases – Good Job, World!

It shouldn't come as a surprise that we’ve breached the 150-million mark for Covid-19! Good job, world! 

The World Health Organization reported in their weekly epidemiological update that there were nearly 5.7 million new cases reported globally last week – and India alone accounted for 38% of them. 

In fact, since April 21, India has seen at least 300,000 people test positive each day and its death toll from Covid-19 crossed the grim milestone of 200,000 on Tuesday as the country continues to face shortages of hospital beds, medical oxygen and other essential supplies.

Indeed, cases and deaths show no sign of abating amid a surging second wave. Overall, 18.3 million cases have already been registered in India. 

The situation in the country tells us pointedly that none of us will be safe until everyone is safe. 

Malaysia shouldn’t be too happy either because we reported 3,142 new cases yesterday – the highest since February 24, pushing the nation’s cumulative coronavirus infections to 401,593. 

What I had said again and again previously about our pitiful Covid-19 response has been validated when a CodeBlue report had highlighted Malaysian public health experts as saying that the disease is here to stay. 

And that a mitigation approach to prevent deaths and severe disease should be used, instead of ineffective lockdowns that cannot control multiple outbreaks and widespread community transmission of the virus. 

Besides ramping up testing and isolation, vaccinating the vulnerable population is part of the mitigation approach towards handling the epidemic, they said. 

That is what I have been saying all along – except the vaccination part which I’m not totally in support of. 

Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman (right), epidemiologist and public health expert from International Medical University wanted the Health Ministry to focus on infectious disease control. 

He said: “Covid-19 is here to stay. MOH must consider a dedicated team to do case investigation, contact tracing, managing quarantine, and community mobilization”. 

And Dr Sanjay Rampal (left), another epidemiologist and public health expert from University Malaya pointed out that there’s a huge likelihood of continuous large outbreaks of Covid-19 for the next few years. 

He told CodeBlue: “Another wave is inevitable in the coming future. This is because of the susceptibility of large proportions of Malaysians and global population to the virus”. 

He added that herd immunity of a country may also not be enough, as high global infection rates may still introduce new mutations that make current vaccines less efficacious. 

Hence, he said that vaccines will help in the short-term but are not a prime solution. 

Dr Sanjay highlighted that a more sustainable long-term solution is to improve preventive public health capacity and the economy.

It's still not too late for the Health Ministry to listen to their advice. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

149 Million Cases and the Worsening Covid Situation in Malaysia

Covid-19 is not done yet – so it’s not surprising to see the global caseload rising to 149 million. 

And the Philippines is country #26 to tally up one million cases. 

For those who have been keeping track of Malaysia’s caseload numbers will surely know that infections have been on a steady upswing. 

Last year, within about 11 months, the nation reported 113,010 positive Covid-19 cases until December 31 – but this year, in just nearly four months until April 26, Malaysia has already recorded 282,708 infections. This is 2.5 times higher than the whole of 2020 since the virus sneaked into the country. 

In fact, daily new Covid-19 cases per 1,000,000 population in Malaysia is the highest among ASEAN countries as at April 25, 2021:

Meanwhile, cumulative Covid-19 cases per 1,000,000 population was highest in Malaysia as of April 23 at 11,974, followed by Singapore (10,417), Philippines (8,941), Indonesia (5,967), Thailand (719), and Vietnam (29).

Certainly, thing are not looking good for us. 

Since the first Covid-19 case was reported in the country on January 25 last year, we have reported a cumulative of 398,451 Covid-19 cases:

According to Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (left), the worst is yet to come. He disclosed that Malaysia’s current Covid-19 infections have continued to exceed a Health Ministry projection that would put the country at over 5,000 cases a day before the end of May. If you believe him, that is!

Epicurious Takes an Anti-beef Position

Foodie website Epicurious has declared it will no longer publish new recipes containing beef. 

For anyone considering adopting a more sustainable way of cooking, cutting out beef was "a worthwhile first step", it said in an article on its website. And cutting out this one item could have a significant impact on making one's cooking more environmentally friendly, it added. 

I see it as an anti-beef move which is ill-advised and misdirected.  

In the article, Senior Editor Maggie Hoffman and former Digital Director David Tamarkin go on to say that "all ruminant animals (like sheep and goats) have significant environmental costs, and there are problems with chicken, seafood, soy, and almost every other ingredient". 

But they remind their readers that "almost 15% of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from livestock (and everything involved in raising it); 61% of those emissions can be traced back to beef. Cows are 20 times less efficient to raise than beans and roughly three times less efficient than poultry and pork". 

The duo added: "Our hope is that the more sustainable we make our coverage, the more sustainable American cooking will become". 

I happen to believe that this position taken by Epicurious is misguided and wrong! 

Detractors have been quick to implicate animal agriculture as being the culprit responsible for causing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. It’s an argument that’s gained a significant amount of traction, with more and more people adopting vegan diets in response to repeated reports – including from the United Nations – that livestock are a major contributor to the world’s environmental problems. 

But while animal agriculture is by no means blameless in the global warming debate, it seems the industry’s impact on the environment is not as significant as critics suggest. 

Air quality expert Frank Mitloehner (right), professor of animal science at UC Davis in California, says the real problem the livestock sector faces is convincing consumers and policy makers that animals aren’t the bad guys of the global warming challenge. 

Critically, he says there should be an urgent rethinking of methane to acknowledge the true impact of livestock production on the planet – before the sector’s reputation is destroyed for good. 

Livestock’s impact has been hugely overstated, while the major culprit – the use of fossil fuels, particularly for transportation – has largely been allowed to slip under the radar. 

The issue is partly down to the methods used to calculate livestock’s impact: The UN’s most significant report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, claimed livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, but the figure calculated emissions along the entire supply chain, from land use to processing and refrigeration in supermarkets. 

Meanwhile transportation figures, which are regularly reported as 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions, only factor in direct emissions from exhaust fumes, ignoring processes associated with manufacturing machinery, or moving people and produce. 

But perhaps more significant, however, is the lack of understanding about the methane famously emitted in cows’ burps, and how it acts in the environment. 

While methane is 28-times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide, methane’s lifespan is just a decade, while CO2 – known as a long-life pollutant – remains in the atmosphere for 1000 years. After ten years, methane is broken down in a process called hydroxyl oxidation into CO2, entering a carbon cycle which sees the gas absorbed by plants, converted into cellulose, and eaten by livestock. 

The global methane budget shows that almost all of the methane produced each year – including the 188m tons from livestock – is broken down. Source: Global Carbon Project

To put that into context, each year 558m tons of methane is produced globally, with 188m tons coming from agriculture. Almost that entire quantity – 548m tons – is broken down through oxidation and absorbed by plants and soils as part of the sink effect. 

That means that provided no new animals are added to the system, then the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by livestock is actually used by plants during photosynthesis. 

“That’s not to say livestock has no impact on climate, but we are not adding additional warming”, Prof Mitloehner says. 

It is noteworthy to mention that in the US, cattle numbers are decreasing thanks to increased production efficiencies and improved genetics – the beef herd has shrunk by about a third since 1975, while dairy cattle numbers have fallen from 25m to 9m in 70 years – methane production from livestock is actually decreasing. 

“This discussion is the cornerstone of debunking all of this hype around why we should eat less animal-based protein”, he says. 

“Never have we had smaller flocks and herds than we do today, but we are producing the same amount of meat as we did when we had larger numbers. 

The people who are selling plant-based alternatives are using hype, particularly around methane, and they need to stop”. I agree!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

148 Million Cases and India's Unfolding TragedyI

The world has registered 148 million cases – and India alone contributed 47.5% of daily new cases. 

There’s no denying it anymore, the country is in full crisis mode. 

India has already confirmed more than 197,000 deaths and 17.6 million cases – more than five million have been added just this month alone. FYI, as at March 31, 2021 there were nearly 163,000 deaths and 12.2 million cases. 

The devastating effect is evident in the images pouring in from crematoriums across the country – of anguished families waiting for hours to perform last rites, mass cremations as cities run out of space to honor the dead and incessant plumes of smoke from funeral pyres. 

Journalists in many Indian cities have challenged official figures, often spending days outside crematoriums to count the dead. Their estimates suggest that deaths in some cities are ten times higher than what is being reported.

The steep increase in Covid-19 cases in India, where the health care system is on the verge of collapse has been attributed to the new B.1.617 double mutant strain that is considered to be more contagious and spreads quicker compared to other variants around the world. 

In fact, Al Jazeera reported that this variant had been initially detected in the country at the end of last year! However, India only acknowledged the presence of the mutated virus at the end of March this year. 

So far, many countries, including Singapore, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Iran, Kuwait, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, and Italy have banned flights from India due to concern over the double mutant strain of the virus. 

Shockingly but not surprisingly, Malaysia will ban flights to and from India only from tomorrow! That’s the PN government for you! There's no sense of urgency.

Blood Clot Risk Higher for Covid-19 than Vaccines

An Oxford University has claimed that the risk of blood clotting is eight to 10 times higher following Covid-19 infection compared to coronavirus vaccines. 

And that Covid-19 patients are 100 times more likely to develop blood clots in the brain, known as cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT). 

The study, which looked at more than 500,000 Covid-19 patients, found that CVT occurred in 39 in one million patients. Thirty percent of these CVT cases occurred in Covid-19 patients below the age of 30. 

In comparison, CVT reportedly occurred in about five in one million people after they received their first doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine. 

CVT occurred in four in one million people after receiving a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot, based on a sample of over 480,000 people who took an mRNA vaccine. 

Hence, the risk of CVT from Covid-19 is about eight times higher than with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and about 10 times greater than with mRNA vaccines. 

AstraZeneca-Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine vector, whereas mRNA vaccines use messenger RNA technology. 

“We’ve reached two important conclusions. Firstly, Covid-19 markedly increases the risk of CVT, adding to the list of blood clotting problems this infection causes. Secondly, the Covid-19 risk is higher than we see with the current vaccines, even for those under 30; something that should be taken into account when considering the balances between risks and benefits for vaccination”, said Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry and head of the Translational Neurobiology Group at the University of Oxford, one of the study’s lead authors. 

Dr Maxime Taquet, another lead author who is also from the Translational Neurobiology Group, said “the signals that COVID-19 is linked to CVT, as well as portal vein thrombosis – a clotting disorder of the liver – is clear, and one we should take note of”. 

The study should go some way to reassuring people that the risks from vaccination are significantly lower than those associated with catching Covid-19, which can trigger many other complications, besides blood clots, and is estimated to have killed more than three million people globally since the start of the pandemic. 

Nonetheless, we should be cautious about making direct comparisons since data is still being gathered.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Cow Dung for the White House

Protestors dumped a massive pile of cow dung at the White House in Washington DC on Earth Day (i.e. April 22), calling "bullshit" to US President Joe Biden's climate plan. 

Extinction Rebellion D.C., rolled the manure over to the eastern entrance in pink wheel barrows. They held signs that read, "DECLARE A CLIMATE EMERGENCY NOW" and "BIDEN'S 2030 PLAN = MASS DEATH". 

The pro-climate group said their call to action was to bring attention to "Biden's Bulls**t Climate Plan". And they also demanded that Biden (left) declare a climate and ecological emergency under the National Emergencies Act and set a net-zero emissions target of 2025. 

The new urgency comes as scientists say that climate change caused by coal plants, car engines and other fossil fuel use is already worsening droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters and that humans are running out of time to stave off most catastrophic extremes of global warming. 

Sure, the Biden plan is to slash "US fossil fuel emissions up to 52% by 2030" as compared with 2005 levels – but Extinction Rebellion don't believe this goes far enough.

FYI, if measured against 1990 levels, this undertaking represents a mere 41 percent cut – and so, it is actually not a big deal.

Anyway, anticipate a lot of skepticism of US climate commitments because as they stand now, they are just expressions of intent. You can’t really blame us if we don’t believe the US is really serious about climate change – the country has not been known to follow up on its own pledges. 

Recall the US Senate’s refusal to approve the 1997 Kyoto Protocol signed by then-President Bill Clinton – the first major global climate agreement. President George W Bush then walked away from the agreement within weeks of assuming office, setting the US on a distinct path from Europe and other major economies in dealing with climate change. 

While the Obama administration was a critical architect of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, former President Barack Obama did not submit the Agreement to Congress for ratification as a treaty – expecting the Republican-controlled Congress would reject it. That made it easier for former President Donald Trump, like Bush, to simply walk away.

Who will and who can trust the US?

Women and Menswear

I note with interest that women have eyed three menswear staples and have adopted them with style. It would appear they are very much in vogue just now.

For sure, women are not shy about appropriating items traditionally associated with menswear to make them their own – it’s actually pretty commonplace – but the phenomenon has been really gaining ground with the boom in gender-neutral collections. 

Check out the three items that have become women's fashion must-haves. 

The suit – Blazers may have been initially intended for men, but they have since become been a day-to-day womenswear essential. 

Suits have also made the move. And not just pantsuits, but the classic, typically masculine three-piece suits that women are now wearing with the utmost elegance. 

This can partly be put down to the evolution of cuts, as suits have become more fitted over time, with a wider variety of color options and, above all, a multitude of variations that women have been quick to adopt. 

The tie – Like suits, neck ties – a men's accessory par excellence – have made a spectacular move into women's fashion. 

The phenomenon has been gaining momentum since the beginning of the year, with women taking to ties as men gave them up. Indeed, with the Covid-19 pandemic and WFH, many men have ditched their suits and ties in favor of more casual attire. 

Women, meanwhile, seem to have been moving in the opposite direction, wearing ties sometimes with a casual, gungy look – like baggy pants and shirt combo, an oversized tunic, or even shorts – or, on the other hand, with a three-piece suit for a sleek, androgynous look. 

Boyfriend jeans – This trend has been around for about a decade, it's hard to imagine anyone passing up the pleasure – or the comfort – of slipping into boyfriend (or boyfit) jeans. 

As the name suggests, these are very much like jeans you might borrow from your boyfriend, or any other male acquaintance. Worn low at the waist, they are optimally baggy with a slightly tapered leg. They can also be rolled up to get this effect. 

Boyfriend jeans have been so wholeheartedly appropriated, the menswear-inspired clothing item has progressively made its way into women's collections by many ready-to-wear brands.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

147 Million Cases and the Surname 王

A pandemic that is out of control – an apt description of the Covid-19 situation that is flourishing almost all over the world. One hundred and forty-seven million cases todate. 

And Sri Lanka and Cuba make the C100K list, bringing the tally to 90 countries. They together account for 98.4% and 98.6% of global infections and fatalities respectively.


I spied upon this FMT article today about “5 common Chinese surnames and their significance” – and whaddya know, my surname 王 came out first. 

When translated from Chinese, the surname Wang literally means “king” and is the most common Chinese surname throughout the world. I'm told I share this regal name with well over a hundred million people. 

In addition to its Mandarin version, it can be read as Wong in Cantonese and Hakka, Ong or Bong in Hokkien and Heng in Teochew. 

Of course, there are numerous tales as to how this surname came about. 

The most common one being how the conquered kings of the first Emperor Qin Shi Huang, endowed their descendants with the surname to remind them of their royal heritage. 

Sure, I already know this – after all, I'm an Ong, aren't I?

Yesterday, Liverpool drew 1-1 against Newcastle. The Reds were wasteful and their finishing awfully sad. 

Our Top Four hope is collapsing. If I’m not a Liverpool fan, I would say they’ve thrown in the towel. They’ve been appalling!

Let's be honest! This season is turning into a nerve-racking and never-ending nightmare that you can’t wake up from!