Friday, April 23, 2021

145 Million Cases and the Desperate Situation in India

Even as the world reaches 145 million Covid-19 cases, one country stands out. 

Yup, India is back in the limelight when the country recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 332,503 new infections as the unrelenting pandemic raised new fears about the crumbling health services’ ability to cope. Health officials across northern and western India including the capital, New Delhi, said they are in crisis, with most hospitals full and running out of oxygen on Thursday. 

Things are getting from bad to worse. A crematorium in Muzaffarpur, Bihar reported being overwhelmed with bodies and grieving families had to wait for their turn. In Rajkot, Gujarat, city authorities have set up a dedicated 24/7 control room to manage the flow in its four crematoriums because waiting times are now up to eight hours. 

At two crematoriums in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, relatives were issued with numbered tokens and made to wait for up to 12 hours. One started burning bodies in an adjacent park, an official told AFP news agency. 

In Ghaziabad outside New Delhi, television pictures showed bodies wrapped in shrouds lined up on biers on the pavement with weeping relatives waiting for their slot. 

That’s not even half of it! The chimney of one electric furnace in Ahmedabad, Gujarat cracked and collapsed after being in constant use for up to 20 hours every day for the past two weeks. The iron frames inside another in Surat – also in Gujarat – melted because there was no time to let the furnaces cool. And a crematorium east of Delhi built funeral pyres in its parking lot. 

Indian social media and newspaper reports have been flooded with horrifying images of row upon row of burning pyres and crematoriums unable to cope. 

Last week, Sandesh, a Gujarati newspaper, counted 63 bodies leaving a single Covid-19-only hospital for burial in Ahmedabad, on a day where government data showed 20 coronavirus deaths. 

In Lucknow, data from the largest coronavirus-only crematorium, Baikunth Dham, shows double the number of bodies arriving on six different days in April than government data on Covid-19 deaths for the entire city. 

India Today reported two crematoriums in Bhopal, the capital of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, that 187 bodies were cremated following Covid-19 protocols in four days this month, while the official coronavirus death toll stood at five. 

Officially, we're informed 186,000 Indians have died from coronavirus, at least 20,000 of them this month – although many believe the real number may be a lot higher. 

The implacable pandemic is not stopping and India is up the creek without a paddle.

Australia Provokes China (Again)

As if bilateral relations are not strained enough, Australia persists in provoking China. 

The latest act came on Wednesday when the country’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne (left) used new federal powers enacted in December 2020 to rip up deals made between the state of Victoria and China. 

The Australian government is now able to block or curtail foreign participation in a broad range of sectors such as infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, cultural collaboration, science, health and education, including university research partnerships. 

FYI, Victoria had decided to go it alone to sign up to China's Belt and Road initiative, with two agreements in 2018 and 2019 – a memorandum of understanding and framework agreement respectively – and which drew criticisms from the federal government, as well as then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Canberra is using the same old, tired excuse. It is boldly saying that it backed away from the said agreements to protect Australia's national interest.

That’s a load of bull! If you don’t already know, Australia, a US lapdog has been aggressively hounding China – and its punitive actions include putting a ban on telecoms giant Huawei from building Australia's 5G network and tightening foreign investment laws that disqualify Chinese companies.

Time for China to stop being bullied; time to hit back!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

144 Million Cases and US Police Militarization

Coronavirus infections are rising with unabated vigor. Already the global caseload is 144 million. 

And Iraq joins twenty-four other countries to have accumulated one million cases. 

Sure, I have read about US police forces being armed to the teeth when they are deployed to quell public unrest – but I couldn’t really imagine the scale and scope of police militarization. Until I spied upon this piece by Rob Beschizza (editor of the culture website Boing Boing) on Tuesday:

“$118bn was spent funding police forces in the U.S. in 2018, according to the Security Policy Reform Institute. It collectively makes American police forces the world's third-most expensive military organization, after the U.S.'s official armed forces and China's. 

[Note: The chart is somewhat misleading, though, in that the same is basically true of other wealthy countries: per-capita spending on police in Europe is also very high, but the countries are less populous. Police forces in the UK enjoy some $25bn in funding, for example, a spend proportionate to the US total that nonetheless places it outside the top ten on the military spending chart]. 

But there's one thing that's plainly different: US police are militarized by policy, trained to treat the public as a threat, and kill people in far greater numbers than their foreign counterparts. The declared enemy of American police forces is the American people, and their war on us claims about 1000 lives a year”. 

I dug a little bit more into this issue of US police militarization. 

And I learned that a 2014 ACLU report, "War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing", concluded that "American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized..." 

The report cites an increase in unnecessarily aggressive raids, "tactics designed for the battlefield", and equipment such as armored personnel carriers and flashbang grenades – as well as a lack of transparency and oversight. 

A 2017 study "Does military equipment lead police officers to be more violent? We did the research" by Ryan Welch and Jack Mewhirter (The Washington Post, June 30, 2017) showed that police forces which received military equipment were more likely to have violent encounters with the public, regardless of local crime rates. 

I'm not surprised that police militarization is turning US streets into war zones.

Malaysia's 3 Cluster-Types

Malaysians not only have to live with Covid clusters – but two other cluster-types too! 

The ‘court cluster’ is the label Bersatu’s Muhammad Faiz Na’aman had thrown at UMNO, referring to their leaders who are facing trial on criminal charges. 

UMNO’s Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub retaliated to the name-calling by attributing the ‘frog cluster’ to Bersatu. He was alluding to the PKR traitors who jumped ship to join Bersatu and set up the Perikatan Nasional coalition, which in turn, took control of the government last year. 

Allegorical expressions are the order of the day, I suppose. 

And these days, this happens outside of parliament because Malaysia has been put under a state of emergency. 

[Note: The backdoor government had parliament suspended – it's nothing more than a political move to hold on to political power – when Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah on January 12, 2021 gave his consent].

The banner reads "End Emergency"

#saynotoemergency #BantahDaruratMuhyiddin

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

143 Million Cases and India's Worsening Pandemic

I’m pretty sure India has contributed a lion’s share of the coronavirus caseload this week. Yesterday, its daily share of cases was 35.7% – hence, the global tally has shot up again to 143 million cases. 

Yet, Indian authorities are stubbornly insisting the situation is under control. Even though the multiple news reports that I've read say otherwise. 

And Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India has been singled out. With a total of 851,620 infections and 9,830 deaths since the pandemic began last year, India’s most populous state (i.e. 240 million inhabitants) had not done too badly during the first wave that ravaged many other states. But the second wave has brought it to the brink. 

It is said to be among the worst affected in the country. Disturbing narratives of overcrowded testing centers, hospitals turning away patients and funeral pyres burning round the clock at cremation grounds in the state capital, Lucknow, and other major cities such as Varanasi, Kanpur and Allahabad have made national headlines. 

Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi (right) faces mounting anger as new cases exceed 250,000 a day and oxygen, drugs, tests and hospital beds remain in critically short supply in the worst-hit areas. 

Modi, however, said that despite the huge scale of the health crisis, lockdowns should only be seen as a last resort. 

He may wish to play down the pandemic but methinks, India is in a full-blown crisis!

With a 1.38 billion population, if India does not control the epidemic quickly, it may become the last country to get out of the epidemic worldwide.

The English Retreat

In a dramatic turnaround, all six Premier League teams involved in the European Super League have formally withdrawn from the competition. 

Manchester City were the first club to pull out after Chelsea had signaled their intent to do so by preparing documentation to withdraw. The other four sides – Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham – have all now followed suit. 

What a relief!

The lesson from this ugly episode is that football clubs are community assets, they belong to the fans and to the communities. 


Definitely A "No" to European Super League

A tweet from Casual Ultra @thecasualultra on April 19, 2021 puts it across bluntly: F*CK THE SUPER LEAGUE! 

And Everton FC Board of Directors’ statement correctly conveys every football fan’s sentiments on the issue: 

“Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests. Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game. 

Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table. Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond. 

The self-proclaimed Super Six appear intent on disenfranchising supporters across the game – including their own – by putting the very structure that underpins the game we love under threat. 

The backlash is understandable and deserved – and has to be listened to. 

This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan. 

On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn and that the private meetings and subversive practises that have brought our beautiful game to possibly its lowest ever position in terms of trust end now. 

Finally we would ask the owners, chairmen, and Board members of the six clubs to remember the privileged position they hold – not only as custodians of their clubs but also custodians of the game. The responsibility they carry should be taken seriously”. 

Hear, hear!

I am a LFC supporter but just this time, let's drop the rivalry and tribalism. Well done, Everton!

The European Super League will destroy football as we know it!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

McDonald's Singapore Video: My Happy Table

A McDonald’s Singapore advertisement highlighting their Malaysian employees unable to reunite with loved ones during Ramadan is tugging hearts online. 

The ad, released in conjunction with the holy fasting month for Muslims, focuses on the chain’s Singapore-based Malaysian staffers separated from their family due to Covid-19 that necessitated border closures.


“During Ramadan, it is customary for Muslim families to sit around the same table and break fast together”, McDonald’s Singapore wrote on their official YouTube channel. 

“Due to Covid, the large number of Malaysian Muslims who work in Singapore cannot celebrate Ramadan with their loved ones back at home”. 

The video titled My Happy Table celebrates the Ramadan spirit despite separation through the eyes of three staff members. 

The touching clip ends with a tearful virtual reunion of the three families that was filmed in McDonald’s Malaysia where they are seen breaking fast together. 

Liverpool were denied a place in the top four of the Premier League when they could only manage a 1-1 draw against Leeds United on Monday.

Actually, the outcome didn't matter anymore! If the Super League were to come to fruition, the result of this match or any other match is no longer important. Liverpool could lose every game from here on out and still go toe-to-toe with Europe’s ‘big guns’! 

BTW, football fans had gathered outside the Elland Road ground in Leeds and staged a protest – during which a Liverpool shirt was burned – and a plane flew over the stadium displaying an anti-Super League message. 

Inside the stadium, Leeds players wore T-shirts saying 'Earn it' next to the Champions League logo and 'Football is for the fans'. A banner behind one goal had the same message.

142 Million Cases and India's Virus Mayhem

Indeed, coronavirus cases are rising and the global tally has surpassed 142 million. 

India especially is in a bad place – it currently records more new cases of coronavirus than any other country. As of Sunday, the seven-day average for new daily infections was 219,000, according to Our World in Data. 

India has recorded more than 15 million cases while deaths have surged to 180,000. It is claimed, however, that antibody surveys and modelling are suggesting the actual figure could be more than 450 million, so says Gautam Menon at Ashoka University in Sonepat, Haryana. 

The economy has struggled to recover following a months-long lockdown last year and the country’s second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is proving deadlier than the first. 

The blame is put squarely at the feet of the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left), if we believe social media postings. 

He’s received backlash over his responses to surging coronavirus cases, with netizens criticizing his decision to address tens of thousands of people at state election rallies and letting devotees congregate for the weeks-long Hindu festival, Kumbh Mela that began in March and peaks in April in the holy town of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, next to the Ganges. 

Tags including #ResignModi and #SuperSpreaderModi have trended on Twitter in the past two days, as urgent cries for hospital beds, medical oxygen and coronavirus tests flooded social media.

Oh, and its capital New Delhi has already imposed a 6-day strict lockdown starting last night.

Also, the surge in India appears to be driven mainly by the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant from the UK, which is causing around 40 percent of cases in Asia, according to pathogen-tracking project Nextstrain. Another 16 percent of cases are due to the B.1.351 variant that evolved in South Africa.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The War Against the Everyman Sport

Football has been thrown into turmoil after Sunday’s announcement on the formation of the European Super League. 

Six traitorous English clubs alongside three each from Italy and Spain make up the 12 founding members who are launching capitalism’s contumelious conspiracy to dismember and gut European football. 

Besides the twelve rebels, three unnamed clubs are expected to join soon, as well as five sides who qualify annually according to their domestic achievements. Already, they're planning to begin the new competition as early as this August.

Simply put, the European Super League is a power grab. It is nothing more than an avarice-prompted project, a money-driven venture and a 20-team midweek competition that would effectively supplant the Champions League and the domestic leagues. It’s not difficult to understand the organizers’ motivation because it is said that the breakaway league is worth €6 billion (£5.2 billion). 

It is not just football fans who are repulsed by the rapacious ruse – but there’s been robust resistance from football officials including the Premier League, the FA and UEFA.

UK newspapers declared their obstreperous opposition against England’s “shameless six” – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – whom they deemed to have committed a “criminal act against fans”. 

The Italian clubs involved in this nefarious scheme are AC Milan, FC Internazionale Milano and Juventus FC. And the plotters from Spain are Atl├ętico de Madrid, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF. 

Multiple sources told the Guardian that the Juventus chairperson, Andrea Agnelli, was a key player, supported in particular by the Premier League clubs with American owners – Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United – and Spain’s big three.

Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly denounced the decision of "relentless and greedy" US-based owner Fenway Sports Group, stating “Our football club is ours”! 

UEFA had described the plot as a “cynical project founded on the self-interest of a few clubs”. Their statement, which was also signed by the Premier League, the Football Association and their counterparts in Spain and Italy, reiterated the threat to ban any players involved from “any competition at domestic, European or world level”. 

FIFA, the world game’s governing body, said they “can only express (their) disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures”. 

The Premier League condemned the treacherous move, saying it “attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid. Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European super league would destroy this dream”. 

As UEFA rightfully said: “Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way”.

Guns Rule!

Americans love their guns. 

But every time, there’s a mass shooting, there will be anguish and maybe, anger. And there’ll also be a lot of talk about stricter gun control. 

That’s the only thing they'll ask for because they will never ban firearms. In the end, nothing will come of it. Gun reform is mere rhetoric. 

These types of shootings – regardless of how they are classified – often play out in a similar way: a shooter, frequently male, frequently working alone or as part of a pair, brings untold grief to the places where people gather: shopping centers and nightclubs and high schools and churches. There is no place that is safe. 

On April 03, in Quincy, Florida, seven people were injured by gunfire near a nightclub after a fight broke out into gunshots, according to CNN affiliate WCTV

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, two men were arrested and charged with attempted murder after five people were injured during a shooting outside a bar, police said. 

In Wilmington, North Carolina, three people were killed and four others injured in a mass shooting at a house party, according to CNN affiliate WECT

On April 04, in Beaumont, Texas, a man arrived at a home, threatening residents with a firearm before shooting four victims. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, an argument between two groups of men devolved into more than 30 shots fired at a park and killing a woman and wounding five other people, including four children. 

In Monroe, Louisiana, police responded to Bobo's Bar, where they found six victims with gunshot wounds, according to CNN affiliate KNOE

On April 05, in Baltimore, Maryland, five victims were taken to a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. 

On April 06, in Detroit, Michigan, one person was killed and three others injured after gunfire erupted from a car, according to CNN affiliate WDIV. 

On April 07, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a 26-year-old man was charged with the shooting that killed two people and injured two others at a gas station, according to CNN affiliate WDJT

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, former NFL player Phillip Adams shot six people. Robert Lesslie, a prominent doctor, was killed along with his wife, two of their grandchildren and two air conditioning technicians who were working at their home. Adams also killed himself. His brain is now being examined for possible degenerative disease that has been shown to cause violent mood swings and other cognitive disorders in some athletes and members of the military. 

On April 08, in Bryan, Texas, a gunman killed one person and wounded at least five others – four of them critically – at a cabinet manufacturer. 

On April 09, one person was killed and at least five others injured when people in two vehicles shot at each other on a Fort Worth, Texas freeway. 

On April 10, in Allendale, Michigan, an incident outside a house party resulted in four people being shot and one critically injured, according to CNN affiliate WWMT. 

In Waterbury, Connecticut, police responded to calls of a weapons complaint and found blood trails and four injured victims, reported CNN affiliate WFSB. 

In Koshkonong, Missouri, one person was killed and three others injured in a shooting at a convenience store, according to CNN affiliate KY3. 

In Memphis, Tennessee, one person was killed and three others were injured, including a mother and child, after gunfire was exchanged in one neighborhood, according to CNN affiliate WHBQ

On April 11, in Seattle, Washington, a toddler and three other people were injured when suspects fired into a business parking lot, according to CNN affiliate KIRO 7

In Wichita, Kansas, one person was killed and three others injured in a shooting at a house party at an East Wichita Airbnb, as reported by CNN affiliate KWCH. 

On April 12, in Chicago, Illinois, four people were shot, one fatally, and a fifth person was hit by a car in a shooting on the Eisenhower Expressway, affiliate WMAQ reported. 

On April 13, in Baltimore, Maryland, police said a dice game turned violent when two shooters opened fire on a group, injuring four, according to CNN affiliate WJZ-TV

On April 15: Washington, DC, four people were shot, including a teenage girl, affiliate WRC reported. 

In Pensacola, Florida, at least six people were injured at an Escambia County apartment complex, as reported by CNN affiliate WEAR-TV. No suspects are in custody. 

And in Indianapolis, Indiana, eight people were killed when a gunman, 19-year-old former employee Brandon Scott Hole opened fire at a FedEx facility, later killing himself. 

Early yesterday, three people were killed and three wounded in a shooting at the Somers House Tavern in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

As of midday Sunday, the US has recorded 150 mass shootings so far in 2021, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a US non-profit that defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker. 

Six hundred and ten mass shootings were reported in 2020, according to the Gun Violence Archive, up from 417 the previous year and 336 in 2018. There will be no pause.

Welcome to the United States of America where guns rule.

Boeing's 737 Max Planes Grounded Again

Four US airlines announced two Fridays ago they are grounding more than 60 of their 737 Max jets after Boeing disclosed a potential electrical glitch affecting the planes. 

The production-related electrical grounding problem in a backup power control unit situated in the cockpit stems from a manufacturing problem, according to the company and the Federal Aviation Administration. Boeing have since then clarified the new problem isn’t connected to issues implicated in two deadly crashes involving the Max in recent years. 

Southwest Airlines said they were pulling 30 of their 58 Max planes from service, while American Airlines said they would ground 17 of their 41 planes. United Airlines are pulling 16 of their 30 Max planes, and Alaska Airlines will ground all four in their fleet. 

It wasn’t clear how many jets worldwide were affected but 16 Boeing customers had been reportedly identified. 

So far, suspected grounding problems have been found in two other places on the flight deck, industry sources said last Friday. These include the storage rack where the affected control unit is kept and the instrument panel facing the pilots.

Boeing are expected to draw up bulletins advising airlines how to fix the problems with grounding, or the electrical paths designed to maintain safety in the event of a surge of voltage. US regulators need to first approve the bulletins though. 

While most analysts say the fix is expected to be relatively straightforward, no details were immediately available on the timing of the repair bulletins needed to start the work on the planes affected by the suspension.

This new issue surfaced as most airlines have returned the Max to the skies after a pair of deadly crashes killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019, leading to the jets being grounded worldwide for almost two years. 

In any case, the newly discovered defect threatens to undermine airlines’ and Boeing’s efforts to restore passenger confidence in the aircraft. That challenge comes as the plane maker is also working to resolve quality issues that have dogged some of their other commercial and military jets. 

I suppose we should avoid Boeing planes, just to be on the safe side! 

Rangers made it through to the fifth round of the Scottish Cup after beating rivals Celtic 2-0 in the Old Firm Derby yesterday. 

Indeed, the latter had plenty of chances to come back and even missed a penalty with Odsonne Edouard. 

It was just not meant to be and Celtic’s four-year Scottish Cup reign abruptly ended.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

We Don't Have Much Money Left

I won't be surprised if most Malaysians missed out on this public admission made by our backdoor prime minister.

On April 12, Muhyiddin Yassin opened his mouth to claim that Putrajaya does not have much money left for the country. 

Don't say you've not been warned!

Anyway, he should know he is not alone. Throughout Malaysia, thousands of families (and businesses) are scrambling and fighting hard to survive. Some people have lost their homes because they have no jobs and no money to pay for mortgage or rent. They are already struggling to put food on the table. Even young people are known to have moved in with their parents as they cannot afford to live on their own. And also the claims that the number of homeless people has increased. 

With the economy in such a perilous state, businesses have to lay off people, downsize and, in some cases, shut down. 

Muhyiddin said his government had spent over RM600 billion in 2020 and 2021, dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and stimulating the economy in the national budget. As well as the many miscellaneous expenditures. 

So, not much money is left in the kitty. 

The solution is simple. Trim the bloated civil service. Pare down the oversized cabinet. Stop the corruption. Slash the unnecessary spending. 

But I don’t believe he’ll do it because his political survival depends on him not just maintaining the status quo but continue to be open-handed. This is Malaysia, after all. 

In the meantime, we find ourselves in dire straits. Except for the privileged and the wealthy.

141 Million Cases and Covid Returns Even After Vaccination

The global coronavirus caseload is now 141 million and still surging ahead. Even as the vaccine rollout is underway. 

In Malaysia, forty health workers have contracted Covid-19 after completing their vaccination doses, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (left) informed yesterday. 

In a Facebook post, he said 31 of them were infected less than 14 days after receiving the second dose, while nine contracted the virus more than two weeks later. 

Meanwhile, some 142 health workers were infected after the first dose of the vaccine, before their second shot. 

As Noor Hisham rightly remarked: “Although the vaccine gives a glimmer of hope in the fight against Covid-19, make no mistake, we can’t relax all public health measures after vaccination”.

Didn't I tell you that vaccines do not protect you 100%?!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Six WSD 2021 Videos Amass a Thousand Views Each

Smashing! Six of our WSD 2021 speakers whose videos were uploaded onto our dedicated YouTube channel “WSD with CV Plus” in April have all amassed more than a thousand views each! That is just so awesome! 

It’s always good to know that our viewership is expanding because it is a measure of our own success with our outreach – the more viewers we attract, the more people get to know about World Speech Day. 

More importantly, World Speech Day introduces people to public speaking and that it is for everybody. It is here that your voice is heard in the public space. 

Indeed, we cradle the conviction that public speaking brings people together. Therefore, World Speech Day represents the occasion for us to reach out to unexpected voices everywhere – and the platform to share ideas, impressions and insights.

After all, no three words have greater power than I Shall Speak!

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday

140 Million Cases and Covid-19 is Not Going Anywhere

There’s no stopping Covid-19! The caseload is bumping up with a vengeance. It’s now 140 million infections worldwide. 

Sure, a majority of the cases are not that serious but we cannot discount the fact that 2% of those infected had died. 

FYI, the world did not record one million deaths until September 28, but had recorded two million by February 21, less than five months later. And the latest million was recorded in under two months. 

Already, many countries are struggling to combat infections which keep re-emerging, thanks to mutations. Indeed, cases are rising. 

Last week, for the first time since the pandemic began, Canada registered more cases per million than the US. 

Malaysia too, is not spared. Our daily new Covid-19 cases hit 2,331 today, rising above the 2,000-case mark for the third day in a row. 

One thousand and seven positive cases were reported in the Greater KL Area (i.e. Klang Valley) alone in the last 24 hours, according to Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. 

On top of that, the Ministry of Health have identified 17 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in the country with the B.1.351 variant (also referred to as the South African variant), thirteen of which are from three clusters in Selangor. 

And we are running low on vaccines. As of April 13, Malaysia has administered 1,050,138 out of 1.2 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine received. 

Indeed, demand is outstripping supply. The vaccine minister reckons we will only have ample supply from June onwards. 

So there you have it – Covid-19 is not going anywhere!

Jab Incentives

Members of the public are getting incentives to encourage Covid vaccine take-up. And no, it is not a government initiative – but from the community at large. 

I wonder if people generally don’t like having a needle stuck into their arms. Or maybe they don’t quite believe the vaccine protects them. And so, a little bribe always helps. 

In the Indian city of Rajkot, Gujurat, goldsmiths have banded together to give women free gold nose pins for getting the jab, while men are offered a hand blender, the Hindustan Times reported. 

Indian retailers in other parts of the country handed out snacks, discounts on car repairs, stationery, biryani, sweets and chicken dishes. North Delhi’s municipality, meanwhile, offered an additional 5% tax rebate. 

Russians stood to scoop free ice cream, while some Israelis were offered a can of Coca-Cola, alcoholic or non-alcoholic beer, a loaf of challah, pizza, pastries or cholent (a meat stew traditionally eaten on the Sabbath). 

Three Dubai restaurants in the United Arab Emirates offered 10% off the bill for your first shot, and 20% if you’d had both, Fortune reported. 

In the US, people have been offered glazed doughnuts, Brazilian doughnuts, marijuana, beer, arcade tokens, vaccine card lamination, popcorn and cash, as well as free video game, paddle board, surfboard and snorkel rentals, Forbes reported. Food chain Red Rooster even offered employees a $250 bonus and two paid days off work.

What about Malaysia? Are there anybody offering a Coke or a beer in exchange for a vaccination? 

I’m game.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Vaccine Protection Concerns

China’s director of the Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu (left) on Saturday was allegedly quoted to have said that Chinese vaccines don’t have very high protection rates. 

Of course, the Western media went to town on his supposed admission. But I’m not quite sure if this is all true or not because I also read a news report which had clarified that he was actually referring to vaccines in general. 

Either way, China came under the full glare of the media because China news, particularly ones that don't paint a favorable picture of the country command a disproportionate amount of attention. So, not surprisingly, this raised concerns about shots that are key to inoculation rollouts from Brazil to Indonesia. 

Notwithstanding the above, Bloomberg came out with a news report on April 14, 2021 that should allay any potential unease about Chinese vaccines. 

The media company had interviewed two experts, i.e. Australia’s Fiona Russell from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne and Paul Griffin, a professor from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, zeroing in on the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shot, and which has been the focus of a crisis in confidence after they posted efficacy levels of just above 50% in a final stage trial in Brazil – the minimum level required by leading global drug regulators. 

Other Chinese immunizations have delivered rates from 66% to 79%, still far behind the shots developed by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and even Russia’s Sputnik vaccine that have logged protection rates of more than 90%. 

FYI, more than 30 countries have rolled out the Sinovac shot, most of them in the developing world. The vaccine is key to China’s own mammoth push to inoculate 560 million people – 40% of its population – by the end of June. 

The good news is the vaccines work extremely well in combating severe Covid infections – and this was spotlighted by both Russell and Griffin. 

According to Russell (left), the Sinovac study was to look at how the vaccine works against the entire range of clinical symptoms, from mild infections to severe ones, including death. The efficacy data of about 50% is for very mild disease, requiring no treatment. For infections requiring some medical intervention, it’s about 84% and for moderate-to-severe Covid cases, it’s 100%. 

I should think that the above clears the air because that is what you would expect from Covid vaccines – a higher efficacy against more severe infections and lower against milder ones. 

As Griffin (right) emphasized, the vaccine’s efficacy is still above the minimum threshold set by the World Health Organization. 

Besides, he said, different strains circulating in a country are a big variable that can alter the efficacy readout. Therefore, virus strains are vitally important in determining vaccine efficacy. 

In any case, globally, public health experts have said that any vaccine that is 50% effective would be useful, and many governments have been eager to use Chinese vaccines as wealthy countries around the world have snapped up shots from Pfizer and Moderna. 

Vaccine inequality is already self-evident. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said Friday that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had gotten a dose.

WSD 2021 Videos: Update 5

April 16 and we still have the same number of videos on our dedicated YouTube channel. 

And from the 145 WSD 2021 speech videos that we have uploaded so far, our Top 9 clips are:

We’ve also listed the Top 25 speakers as at today, 06:38 PM Malaysian time: 

  • Sanjanaa Kanthan – 1483 view (1362) 
  • Yosshveina Jega Theesan – 1122 views (1118) 
  • Tashvein Jega Theesan – 1008 views (963) 
  • Velleny Jivel Jinau – 1006 views (907) 
  • Amirah – 1005 views (888) 
  • Simon Gibson – 974 views (815) 
  • Vellvie Jivel Jinau – 568 views (550) 
  • Annie Tsen – 523 views (519) 
  • Christal Wong – 447 views (364) 
  • Janany Ganabatirau – 422 views (415) 
  • Ooi Mei Ling – 408 views (392) 
  • Robyn Grace Leo – 357 views (341) 
  • Ahmed Tarek Fawzy – 355 views (345) 
  • Ilham Firdaus – 351 views (348) 
  • Karyn Yadlyn – 350 views (266) 
  • Santhy Dewi Pillai – 346 views ( – ) 
  • Mathew Varughese – 335 views (324) 
  • Sumithra Devi – 323 views (220) 
  • Samuel Sham – 319 views (286) 
  • Joyce Tan – 235 views (208) 
  • Takako Aoi – 232 views (229) 
  • Dayang Norfaliza – 221 views (213) 
  • Stacey Lim – 217 views (210) 
  • Karan Z’vyr – 216 views ( – ) 
  • DJenss Ling – 212 views (205) 

[Note: The figures in parentheses indicate the number of views from the last report published April 09, 2021]. 

#unexpectedvoices #worldspeechday #worldspeechday2021kualalumpur #worldspeechday2021johorbahru

139 Million Cases and Denmark Says Nej to AstraZeneca Vaccine

Covid-19 cases have gone up by another million, bringing the global tally to 139 million. 

And in a world-first move, Denmark stops using AstraZeneca’s vaccine altogether, citing ‘real risk’ of serious side effects. The move will push back the scheduled conclusion of the Scandinavian country’s vaccination scheme to August, instead of July. 

The decision was made despite recommendations from WHO and the European Medicines Agency to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Both bodies have repeatedly said the benefits of the shot outweigh any potential risks associated with its use after its use was linked to cases of severe blood clots, some of which proved fatal. 

The Danish Health Authority, on Wednesday, said their own investigations showed a “real risk of severe side effects associated with using the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca”. 

The agency’s head, Soren Brostrom (left), said the probe indicated one in 40,000 recipients of the shot would develop serious side effects. 

Liverpool's Champions League campaign ended in disappointment as Real Madrid progress into the semi-finals by keeping Jurgen Klopp's side at bay in a goalless draw at Anfield. 

The Spanish side arrived at Anfield on Wednesday for the second leg to protect a 3-1 lead from the first leg and they did the job. Enough said! 

In spite of Liverpool’s exit, we still maintain we played well. Please lah, it is results that count! 

And the Reds are winless in their past five games against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Return to Normality Won't Be a Light Switch Moment

Dr Anthony Fauci (left), who is now the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, has said that herd immunity is an "elusive concept" and there is no definitive percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve it. 

He explained that a return to normality would be gradual, and is "not going to be like a light switch going on and off". 

Still, that did not prevent one Israeli doctor to declare that his country may be close to reaching "herd immunity". 

Prof Eyal Leshem (right), a director at Israel's largest hospital, the Sheba Medical Center, said herd immunity was the "only explanation" for the fact that cases continued to fall – even as more restrictions were lifted. 

This happens when enough of a population has protection against an infection that it stops being able to spread – and even people who don't themselves have immunity are indirectly protected. For Covid the estimated threshold for herd immunity is at least 65%-70%. Supposedly.

In Israel, it is said that more than half (5.3 million) its residents have been vaccinated and an additional 830,000 people have tested positive for the virus in the past, which should give them some natural immunity. That works out as roughly 68% of the population who are likely to have antibodies in their blood which can fight off the virus. 

However, scientists in the UK are more cautious. 

Dr Sarah Pitt (right), a virologist at the University of Brighton, urged "extreme caution" in concluding that herd immunity had been reached  something she believes will be difficult even at high vaccination rates. She said it was still too early to tell: "We need to see whether the cases in Israel continue to fall and stay at low levels". 

Experts think that with no restrictions in place, someone infected with the original strain of the virus that causes Covid-19, will infect, on average three to four other people. 

If it's three, then, in theory, once two-thirds of the population becomes immune to the virus, an infected person will, on average, only pass it to one other person. That's enough for the virus to spread, but not enough for it to grow. You've eliminated two of those three people from the chain of transmission. 

It sounds simple on paper. In reality, though, it's a little more complicated. 

The vaccines are not 100% effective, and even when they stop people from getting sick they don't completely block infections in everyone. That means some vaccinated people might still be able to pass on the virus. Not everyone with a past Covid infection has strong or long-lasting natural immunity, and newer variants of the virus are more transmissible. 

This means we may have to inoculate many more people before we reach that magic threshold. But it's not all bad news. 

"I would say that we should not be looking for 'herd immunity' alone as a sign that we can lift all public health measures and get back to 'normal'", Dr Pitt explained. "Rather we should be looking for consistently low levels of Covid-19 infection".

Herd Immunity Through Vaccination

Covid-19 is still very much active all around the world.

WHO support achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths. 

Needless to say, the Malaysian government support the WHO position.

Let me say it again. Covid-19 vaccines are NOT 100% effective. 

Even so, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report on April 06 about Moderna's vaccine, saying it should offer protection from Covid-19 for at least six months. The study was based on follow-ups with dozens of people who were vaccinated during Moderna's trial phase. 

(I'm putting words like 'should' and 'dozens' in italics because they don't significantly mean anything actually).

Still, in a statement a week earlier, Pfizer mirrored the same time frame, saying their vaccine would also be effective for at least six months. 

Emerging variants, however, are where things get tricky, raising concerns over whether the vaccine has a fighting chance against variations of the virus that could show up in the future. 

Dr. Davey Smith (left), the chief of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego, countered: “We just don't have enough time to figure out how long these immune responses last for these vaccines”.

Anyway, these are the facts as we know them today. 

Now you know why there are those of us who are hesitant and/or reluctant to take the vaccine. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

5G in China: The Progress Todate

China began issuing 5G licenses for commercial use from June 2019 onwards and since then, this has ushered in a new era in the country's telecommunications industry. 

Do check out this CGTN video clip on China’s 5G development so far:


And the rest of the world lags far behind.

138 Million Cases and Things are Looking Up in the US

Wow, the global coronavirus caseload has gone up again – this is in spite of vaccination efforts already in progress. One hundred and thirty eight million today! 

I’ve mentioned yesterday that the US has by far the most confirmed cases of Covid-19 – 32.07 million – with 577,000 deaths, another world high. 

But here, Covid vaccination is in full swing. About 36.8% of people there have received at least one Covid-19 shot. And about 22.7% of people are fully vaccinated. That leaves 21.6% of the shots distributed that haven't been used yet. 

And if you read local news reports, things seem to be looking up. 

One poll claims most Americans have weathered the coronavirus pandemic financially. That, however, does not take away the fact that 38 million say they are worse off now than before the outbreak began. 

Overall, 55 percent of people in the US say their financial circumstances are about the same now as a year ago, and 30 percent say their finances have improved, according to the poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 

Only 15 percent of respondents say they are worse off. The problem is more pronounced at lower income levels: 29 percent of Americans living below the federal poverty line say their personal finances worsened in the past year. Roughly that many also find themselves in a deepening financial hole, saying they struggled to pay bills in the past three months. 

Indeed, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy: the United States still has 8.4 million fewer jobs than it had in February 2020, just before Covid-19 struck. 

Of course, there has been government succour in the form of three major relief bills, which included direct economic relief payments to individuals – and this has undoubtedly helped ease the suffering of some. 

Needless to say, more can be done and should be done.