Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Omicron Jitters

New cases of Omicron infection have since been identified in Australia, Canada and a host of other European countries like Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. 

Many Asia-Pacific countries have tightened borders and delayed reopening plans, dealing a fresh blow to the region’s already sluggish resumption of international travel. 

And some countries are even shutting their borders as health experts continue to study the latest Covid variant. Over the weekend, Israel and Morocco announced that the countries are closed to all non-residents. On Monday, Japan banned all foreigners from entering the country. And today, it’s China Hong Kong’s turn. 

Fears over the Omicron Covid variant mean all UK adults will now be offered a third dose of Covid vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna. And the gap between second and third doses will be halved from six to three months.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee (left), a doctor and chair of South African Medical Association and one of the first to flag Omicron said on Sunday that the coronavirus strain's symptoms were so far mild and could be treated at home. 

No need to panic. Yet.

After 396 years, the sun has set on the British monarchy’s reign over the Caribbean island of Barbados – and Monday marked the birth of the world’s newest republic. 

It’s about time they dumped the Queen!

An Unplanned Staycation

You'd think that getting trapped by a blizzard anywhere for three nights would cause at least some distress and perhaps even deep dejection. 

But not so for the 61 people who were stuck on a lonely hill high in the Yorkshire Dales. They had converged on Tan Hill Inn, an isolated public house in Richmond, England that dates back to the 17th century. 

In fact, it sounded like they had the time of their lives! 

Customers had showed up at the pub, located 270 miles north of London, on Friday to knock back a few, while enjoying the band Noasis, an Oasis cover band. 

But while they were there, Storm Arwen came along and snowed them in (including the band). It turned out to be a weekend getaway that was loads of fun with live music, games, and karaoke. No worries, there were ample food supplies and of course, enough drinks to go around for the entire three-night stay. The stranded patrons were given rooms, but without enough beds, some slept on mattresses on the floor.

The unplanned staycation came to an end on Monday when roads were cleared and deemed safe for guests to drive home. 

Note: The Tan Hill Inn is UK's highest (altitude) pub at 1,732ft above sea level.

On Coexistence with Covid-19

China's CDC website published a report titled "On Coexistence with COVID-19: Estimations and Perspectives". It says that if the flawed US-style coronavirus prevention & control method was adopted by China, there would be 630,000 daily infections in the country. 

And of that total, 10,000 would suffer from severe illnesses, which would, it is said, overwhelm China's medical care system and cause a national catastrophe, according to the report published Wednesday on the website of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China's CDC. 

Researchers highlighted that they used the real-world pandemic scenario in the following countries: US, UK, Spain, Israel and France, as reference points to evaluate the corresponding potential consequences if pandemic response strategies in the aforementioned countries were to be adopted in China. 

The findings have raised a clear warning that, for the time being, China is not ready to embrace "open-up" strategies resting solely on the hypothesis of herd immunity induced by vaccination which is being advocated by certain Western countries. 

More efficient vaccinations or more specific treatment, preferably the combination of both, are needed before entry-exit quarantine measures and other Covid-19 response strategies in China can be safely lifted, reads the article. 

And I absolutely agree!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Professional Pillow Fights

The Pillow Fighting Championships is shaking the landscape of fighting by introducing the world's most entertaining new combat sport. 

That’s right, you read it correctly. The pillow fight, a game indulged by children during sleepovers, is now moving out of the bedroom and into the boxing ring. 

The PFC will be held in Florida, USA on January 29, 2022, Reuters reported. Note that the three-round bouts are to be available to view on sports streaming platform FITE. 

Steve Williams, the man with the dream of turning childhood horseplay into a professional combat sport, said PFC delivers all the drama of hand-to-hand combat without the gore of mixed martial arts or the ferocity of boxing. 

“It’s not something where you sit there and laugh and feathers are flying”, Williams said. “It’s serious. It’s hardcore swinging with specialised pillows”. 

Although the male and female competitors in January’s event mostly hail from the cutthroat worlds of MMA and boxing, children will still sleep soundly after seeing the bouts. 

“The only difference between our fights and MMA fights is that nobody gets hurt”, he said. 

He believes the fact that so many people grew up bashing their siblings and friends with pillows makes the sport relatable, which he hopes will help tap into a new audience. 

“You can call it an alternative sport, but we think it’s going to have mainstream appeal”, he said confidently.

LOL-ing at Covid Numbers

Malaysia loves to boast about its high Covid vaccination rates. And the Health Minister and/or MOH give me the impression that all they care about are the numbers. 

If you follow my blog, you should know that I have regularly contested Malaysia’s stats in relation to Covid. In fact, I had published a November 12 post “MOH: A Load of Bull” which questioned the veracity of the ministry’s declared figures relating to Malaysian adults who have been fully vaccinated. 

Today, I cannot help but succumb to a sudden spell of ear-splitting laughter when I saw a Malay Mail report that says that as of yesterday, a total of 22,659,382 individuals or 96.8 percent of the adult population in Malaysia have completed their vaccination, while another 23,006,300 or 98.3 percent received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

SORRY LAH, I DON'T BELIEVE! That's why I'm laughing!

As for the adolescents aged between twelve and seventeen, it is claimed a total of 2,702,748 or 85.9 percent have completed their Covid-19 vaccination, while 2,818,165 individuals or 89.6 percent of the group have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

And when we examine the total population, 25,362,130 persons or 77.7% are fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated, on the other hand, number 7,317,045. FYI, for Kuala Lumpur-Putrajaya-Selangor, 93.3% have fully received their jabs. 

All these stats are according to data from the Ministry of Health through the CovidNow website. I cannot say if the figures are true or not – but based on my earlier encounters, I am not going to put my trust in these numbers. 

Anyway, from what I understand, nobody really knows if herd immunity is in fact possible. I reckon, we should expect to see some level of ongoing coronavirus transmission in our population for many years (if not forever).

In yesterday’s Scottish Premiership game between Celtic and Aberdeen, the former earned a 2-1 victory. 

The game kicked off in a fast-paced manner and it became evident that Jota would play some part if Celtic were to score and that was confirmed on the 20-minute mark when a neat David Turnbull pass was cut back by Callum McGregor and Jota made no mistake with the finish. 

But thirteen minutes afterward, the Dons equalized through a spot kick. 

The second half again saw Celtic on the front foot, deploying the same full-throttle intensity tempo as they had in the opening period of the match. Wave after wave of attack would follow but they just couldn’t convert. 

They were back in front on the hour mark. James McCarthy threaded the ball through for Liel Abada. The other side’s goalie made an excellent stop but in bizarre circumstances, another Aberdeen player tried to clear the ball but it ricocheted into the net off Callum McGregor. 

It proved to be a fortuitous winner for Ange Postecoglou's side as they put Thursday's Europa League exit behind them. They remain four points behind leaders Rangers.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Warmongering USA

Sabre-rattling by the US is putting the world on edge. Targeting China and Russia is a dangerous proposition.

But we shouldn't be too surprised. After all, the United States is a warmongering nation. 

It is the country that has been embroiled in the most wars in the past one hundred years – if wars are defined as all wars, military conflicts, military occupations, large scale rescue missions, and policing and peacekeeping actions performed by military units. 

Its hands are stained with blood. It may speak of peace – but in truth, it promotes strife and it participates in conflicts all around the world. 

A sample of its nefarious involvements: Korean War (1950-1953), Iranian coup d'état (1953), Bay of Pigs invasion (1961), Vietnam War (1965-1975), invasion of Grenada (1983), bombing of Libya (1986), invasion of Panama (1989-1990), Gulf War (1990-1991), war in Afghanistan (2001-2021), Iraq War (2003-2011), US-led intervention in Syria (2014-Present), and US intervention in Libya (2015-2019). 

And not only has the US been exporting wars but it is guilty of launching "color revolutions", formenting extremist ideologies, and promoting economic instability. E.g. China Hong Kong (2019-2020) and Thailand (2020-2021). 

"War is the American way of life", said US historian Paul Atwood, noting that the US was born, grew, and became a superpower out of war, slavery, and human slaughter. Therefore, we are not wrong to describe the US as belligerent, combative and hawkish.

But the American people should know:

Omicron Visits More Countries

The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy have become the latest countries to detect cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, while more nations imposed restrictions on travel from countries in southern Africa despite their protestations and against the advice of the World Health Organization.

“Unjustified”, “draconian” and “counterproductive” – these are just some of words used by South Africa’s health minister as he criticized countries around the world that decided to restrict travel from the country and its neighbours in an attempt to contain the spread of the latest coronavirus variant.

Tulio de Oliveira (right), a leading virologist who announced Omicron's discovery, slammed the “radical decision” to suspend flights out of the region. 

“Sometimes one gets punished for being transparent, and doing things very quick”, he said. 

He argued that travel bans weren't effective, citing the US, the first country to have imposed a travel ban on China at the onset of the pandemic, but ended up with the highest numbers of infections.

For the third game in succession Anfield played host, goals continued to rain down on this prolific Liverpool squad. Yes! – they put four goals past Southampton yesterday. 

In just the second minute, the scoreboard had read 1-0 in the Reds’ favour when Diogo Jota rewarded the endeavor from Andy Robertson. 

Thirty minutes later, Mohamed Salah played a one-two with Jordan Henderson before sliding a ball across the box for a tap-in and Jota's second. 

Five minutes on and goal #3 arrived when Thiago Alcântara’s left foot shot took a deflection and into the net it went. 

And in the fifty-second minute, a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner dropped to Virgil van Dijk and he didn’t waste the chance to make it goal #4. 

This was as easy a 4-0 win as you will find! Liverpool have scored 39 goals in their 13 Premier League games this season, their highest goal total at this stage of a top-flight campaign!

Their next fixture is a Merseyside derby with Everton on Wednesday.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

To Dunk Or Not To Dunk?

An influencer shocked followers by posting a video demonstrating “how to eat a croissant like a Parisian”. 

In the clip, Carolin Lauffenberger, who is based in Berlin, Germany dips the tip of the pastry into the foam of a cappuccino before eating it. 

She hashtagged the post #howtobeparisian and #parisguru. 

The response was divided. 

“Please don’t do that”, commented user @_julialiliana_, racking up 126 likes in agreement. 

“That’s a crime, madam”, came one curt reply. 

“I once saw an American do this... my grandmother almost shed a tear”, responded another Instagram user. 

One follower called it “Blasphemy”, while another France-based viewer wrote: “Just tear a piece and then dip it... please”. 

Some followers defended Lauffenberger’s approach to the iconic flaky crescent, with one person saying: “For all the ones that think that it isn’t normal, every French person do it [sic], we take pain au chocolat or croissant and we put it in coffee/hot chocolate before eating it”.

And another wrote: "Yes! Another pastry dipper". 

Others agreed that the main offence was not tearing off pieces of the pastry before dipping them into the coffee. 

So which way is the right way? 

A blog post on “The art of the croissant” from the bakery chain Paul claims the influencer’s technique is accurate, saying: “[One] very French habit is to dunk your croissant briefly in your favourite hot drink – we recommend a nice milky coffee – before each bite”. 

Reading the above reminds me of youtiao (油条), also known as Chinese fried dough/ breadstick/ crullers. 

It is normally eaten at breakfast. You tear it lengthwise in two and just eat it as it is. Or as most people would do, they dunk it in soy milk. 

For me, I love drenching it in black coffee. 

Actually, you can soak it in any beverage you wish. 

Hmm, I'm just thinking. Maybe, the next time, I'll have youtiao with my #1 drink, Coca-Cola!

Youtiao is also favored as an accompaniment for congee – where it is served by cutting into little sections and dip into the rice porridge to soften it before eating. 

And you should know there’s a story behind this snack. The name youtiao is derived from You Char Kuai 油炸桧, which means deep-fried Kuai. 

Legend has it that during the Southern Song dynasty of China, the corrupted Prime Minister Qin Kuai 秦桧 and his wife were so envious of the loyal general, YueFei 岳飞, that they hatched a vile plot to frame him and then had him killed. 

When people learned of Yue Fei’s murder, they were filled with anger. Two street food vendors devised a way to express their views. One of them sculpted miniatures of Qin Kuai and his wife out of dough. The other conveyed his rage by twisting two doughs representing Qin Kuai and his wife and threw it into the wok. He yelled out loud that Kuai is deep-fried. 

Hence, people called this deep-fried dough as you char kuai, which means ‘deep-fried ‘Kuai’. 

The word ‘char kuai’ is often supplanted by the word tiao 条, which means a strip of dough. Youtiao has become the more popular name for this Chinese street food.

Omicron Shows Itself

In my post published November 01, I had highlighted a subvariant of Delta labelled AY.4.2 that has been detected in the UK and a few other countries. The good news is that despite its spread, it is not labelled a “variant of concern”. 

But now, another coronavirus variant has emerged.

It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24, and has already been identified in Botswana, Belgium, China Hong Kong and Israel. 

On Friday, the WHO declared the variant to be "of concern" and named it Omicron. They said the number of cases of this variant, initially named B.1.1.529, appeared to be increasing in almost all of South Africa's provinces. 

The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection had been from a specimen collected on November 09 – and the WHO revealed it would take a couple of weeks to understand the impact of Omicron, as scientists worked to determine how transmissible it was. 

Not a few countries are already getting jittery. The European Union and other major destinations, including the United States and Canada, have moved to block flights from southern African countries – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – following the discovery of the said variant. 

Believe me, Covid is just a never-ending story.

I also read news that Merck’s experimental Covid pill has shown lower efficacy in an updated study. 

Following the release of a full analysis of trial results, the pharmaceutical company said on Friday the oral drug, molnupiravir, showed a 30 percent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths when compared with a placebo, based on data from more than 1,400 patients. 

Last month, the company said data from 775 patients had showed that reduction was “approximately” 50 percent. I had reported this in my post that was dated October 03, 2021. 

I don't believe Big Pharma. They are not exactly trustworthy. 

Remember how Pfizer brought out its Covid vaccine “at the speed of science”? Now a whistleblower has told the world that speed may have come at the cost of data integrity and patient safety. 

As was reported, Brook Jackson, a regional director employed at the research organization Ventavia Research Group had told The BMJ that the company falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators, and was slow to follow up on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal Phase III trial. Not to mention that staff who conducted quality control checks were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of problems they were finding. 

Pfizer's data fraud aside, Merck have speedily filed for a US authorization of the oral antiviral Covid treatment on October 11, following the interim data.

[Interestingly, Pfizer are already developing an oral antiviral drug Paxlovid for Covid-19, which requires patients to take three pills twice a day for five days]. 

Ever the follower, Malaysia has put in an order for molnupiravir that is said to force the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to mutate itself to death. 

I venture a guess that even with our “high” vaccination rates, it is not giving us the results we are anticipating. Our infections are stubbornly clinging on to four digits – yesterday, that number was 5,501 cases and 45 deaths.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Which Country is a Threat to World Peace?

My answer: The United States is a threat to world peace, not China!

Baby Yoda @ Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Guess who made an appearance at Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Parade in New York on Thursday? 

Baby Yoda, who delighted fans in the Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian, was a new balloon for 2021. But he was not the only first-timer: Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee also made their debut as a pair. 

And of course, there were many familiar ones too. 

Do you know that inflating balloons that can stretch up to five or six stories high is seriously expensive? Each balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade uses 300,000 to 700,000 cubic feet of helium. Filling every balloon costs a minimum of $510,000.

The 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 800 clowns, 10 marching bands with nine performance groups, a host of musical stars, and Santa Claus.

The parade route covered 2.5 miles (4km) through Manhattan, with altogether 8,000 marchers taking part in the 3-hour event. It was quite the change from last year, when the public were banned from attending the event in person due to Covid fears.

Celtic's hopes of Europa League progression were extinguished after a late collapse condemned them to defeat as Bayer Leverkusen triumphed 3-2. 

The Scottish side is assured of third place and a Europa Conference play-off spot – but the nature of Thursday’s loss will sting. 

Celtic host Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday and complete their Europa League group campaign at home to Real Betis on December 09.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Movie Record Breakers of 2021

Epic war film “The Battle at Lake Changjin” has beaten "Wolf Warrior 2" to be the highest-grossing film in Chinese history on Wednesday. 

The Chinese blockbuster is set during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53) and depicts the Chinese People's Volunteers' brave fight in a key campaign at Lake Changjin (also referred to as Chosin Reservoir), during freezing temperatures. Despite the lack of food and warm clothing, the soldiers risked it all to defend their motherland against the world's best-equipped army – and it moved many moviegoers to tears. 

UK’s The Times commented on October 04 that "the world's highest-grossing film does not involve James Bond or a Marvel superhero but is a tub-thumping Chinese war epic that revels in a rare victory over America". 

The movie has broken through 5.694 billion yuan ($891 million) in ticket sales, including pre-sales, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan. 

A day earlier, Huxia Film Distributor announced they will prolong the release of “The Battle at Lake Changjin” in theaters for another month, until December 30. 

In the meantime, “No Time to Die” has broken records too. 

If you don't already know, the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed 25th Bond pic scored the biggest pandemic opening weekend in 36 markets.

And this Daniel Craig's swansong as 007 has crept up to $734 million over the weekend to become the highest-grossing Hollywood film of 2021 – and of the pandemic era. 

Despite its huge box office takings, it won’t be able to overtake the highest-grossing films of the year so far, however, with Chinese cinema barnstormers “Hi, Mom” and “The Battle of Changjin” having earned $882 million and $891 million respectively at the time of writing.

Never mind, it still did very well!