Maradona Dies at Age 60 Due to A Heart Attack

Long-time footballing icon and Argentinian great, Diego Maradona has died aged age 60, his lawyer and agent, Matias Morla confirmed.

The former Argentine World Cup winner was hospitalized for a blood clot in his brain and had been discharged on November 11th. He did not speak to the crowd of journalists and chanting fans gathered outside in masks as he left the Olivios clinic in Buenos Aires by ambulance shortly. 

Maradona who had just turned 60 at the end of last month, was thought to be recovering well and was expected to continue his rehabilitation in Tigre near his daughter’s home before passing.

“Diego has gone through perhaps the hardest time of his life,” his lawyer Matias Morla said earlier Wednesday, adding it was a “miracle” that the clot “which could have taken his life, was detected.” his lawyer Matias Morla said earlier.

Tribute have since poured in for the former Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boy player such as from the official Argentina football team Twitter account.

Other tributes have also started coming from the rest of the footballing world.

Joe Biden Has Won the 2020 U.S. Elections, Here’s How He Did It

After a long run of campaigning, arguments and the occasional spat at one another, the U.S. elections has reached a long-awaited end where Joe Biden has come out victorious over Donald Trump to be the 46th U.S. president.

Undeniably one of the most out of the ordinary elections in the nation’s history, the upset saw the former vice-president beating the 45th president of the United States, winning by 284 electoral votes to Trump’s 214 votes.

After the news broke out to the public the soon-to-be president had this to say on his Twitter account.

So how did Biden win the presidency? Simple, they just kept on counting; which was controversially something that Trump supporters had mixed feelings about.

The key battles:

Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin

As widely democratic states stood out to be Biden’s strongholds, this election proved to be a surprise in a few notable states that brought the fight right down to the wire.

Even though leads were decreased substantially as the night went on, Biden eventually walked it out in Arizona where his lead was cut from the 1 million votes to 100,000 votes and also while protests went on outside the building where votes were counted.

Trump had sued in an attempt to stop the counting of votes in several states and threatened to fight the outcome of it, but Biden stayed on course with notable wins also in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada

The holy trinity, these notable flips at battleground states proved to be vital as it was crucial to bring Biden’s electoral votes up to 284, passing the magic number of 270.

Georgia who was relying largely on the votes coming out of Fulton and DeKalb County proved to be worthy as it was the tricky majority that brought the state of Georgia to Biden.

Biden also saw through his lead in Georgia and Nevada with Pennsylvania too who has the 20 electoral votes eventually going to Biden as well late into the race and bringing it to 2 electoral votes for Biden.

Social media frenzies

During the counting of votes, Biden tweeted “After a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes need to win the presidency,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware. “I’m not here to declare that we’ve won but I am here to report that, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”

As Trump spent most of his time firing up supporters for a dreaded legal battle against multiple states, Biden called for both sides “to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation”.

Trump, on the other hand, had his own misconceptions and out of the ordinary claims to blame as he declared victory way too early into the counting of votes, which sparked wide criticism from news agencies across the U.S.

Late on Wednesday there were signs of desperation as the president felt his grip on the White House slipping away. 

He tweeted a thread stating that he was establishing a “claim” on Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina, all of which remained too close to call at that time. 

That isn’t how an election works, as Twitter immediately flagged those posts with a warning that “official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted”.

Inauguration and beyond

Nonetheless, the outcome of this election proved to be a turning point for the U.S. as a change in leadership is now happening; however, it may prove to be tricky as the first thing on Biden’s mind right now would be containing the pandemic, something which Trump had downplayed frequently during his time in office.

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. president will take place on January 21st next year at Washington D.C.

Apple Introduces the Homepod Mini in The Smart Speaker Race

In its “Hi, Speed” virtual keynote event, Apple’s main attraction of the day was the new line of 5G iPhone 12s, but one thing that stood out was also the reintroduction of its Homepod smart speakers – the Homepod Mini.

For those who are familiar with the market, smart speakers are designed to compliment the futuristic idea of smart home solutions. Similar to a Google home Mini, smart speakers boast amazing sound and brings all smart gadgets in a home as one whole working unit; but how much can a speaker of a mini size really bring?

According to Apple, the Homepod Mini uses a “computational audio” system that is powered by the Apple S5 chip while the full range driver and force-cancelling passive radiators produce “amazing sound”.

Although significantly smaller in size, it has the original Homepod’s acoustic waveguide where is directs the sound flow onward and outward towards the bottom of the speaker giving it a 360-degree sound. When you have two of these, in combines to create a proper stereo setup as well.

Access to the Siri also allows users to do all sorts of smart speaker tricks such as telling the weather, getting personalized updates and playing music based off your preferences. It also differentiates between the different voices in a household to allow personalized content and requests.

As a smart speaker, it controls the gadgets in your home as well; simply tell Siri to “turn off the kitchen lights” or “make the living room colder” and it’’’ turn switch off the lights and simply turn down the air-conditioning levels.

Adding on to the family of products such as the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, Macbooks and may more, transitioning from your device to you r smart speaker is seamless and you can be listening to music on your Airpods now and simply switch to listening on your speaker just like that.

Unfortunately, all that the Homepod Mini has to offer will not be officially coming to Malaysia; although cheaper than the original Homepod at U$99 (RM411), locals would have to stick with other of the Hompod Mini’s competitors such as the Google Home Mini or Nest Mini for less than RM150.

Malaysia Airlines or Firefly? Khazanah Has The Final Say

Towards the end of 2018, MAB’s liabilities were just below RM5.5 billion and on October 6th this year, the airline also announced a restructuring of a whopping RM16 billion worth of debt.

Aviation experts are starting to believe it’s time for Khazanah to reduce its ownership and move it towards full privatization as the government no longer has the big guns to power the airline, especially in these trying times.

It was reported that MAB’s parent company, Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd (MAG), had warned leasing companies that Khazanah would stop pumping funds into the group and was ready to shut it down if the ongoing debt restructuring exercise failed.

Malaysia Airlines currently still has over 12,000 employees across the group but salary cuts have already been in place since March this year.

With trouble knocking on Malaysia Airline’s door, the airline group would consider putting their funds into Firefly instead, a low coast airline fully owned by MAG, if the plan to restructure the RM16 billion worth of debt fails; this move would see Firefly become the national airline if Khazanah does in fact go ahead with it.

Venturing into the low-coast segment with Firefly would allow Khazanah more flexibility in the market as the premium segment see much more tougher circumstances.

Some say that Khazanah is able to turn Firefly into Malaysia’s new national airline.

“As long as Khazanah is ready and willing to inject rakyat’s money, any Malaysian company with a valid air operator’s certificate (AOC) can be the new national airline. Who can stop Khazanah?” Endau Analytics aviation analyst Shukor Yusof told in an interview with Bernama.

However there are also arguments that Firefly’s main focus has always been on domestic travel.

“However, by having less financial burden compared to MAB, it would be a good opportunity for Firefly to rescale, especially with a lot of narrow-body planes in the second-hand market and leasing market with low rates.

“While the tourism industry as a whole has not picked up, it may be an opportune time to rescale Firefly before travel demand gains traction in the future,” an aviation expert who wished to be anonymous said.

While the liquidation of Malaysia Airlines is deemed as a last result , the future of it is to hang in doubt for the time being. Khazanah will have big calls to make in the upcoming few weeks.

Audrey Hepburn Resurrected in Galaxy Chocolate Ad

It’s not every day that you get to see dead celebrities come back from the grave, that’s certainly not the case for the people at Framestore though, who famously brought famous actor, Audrey Hepburn back to life for a Galaxy commercial.

Hepburn represents everything elegant and classy, hence, it was ideal that Galaxy pick up on those qualities showcased by Hepburn and to implement their product as “silk, not cotton. Upon watching the advertisement for the first time, it was incomprehensible on how a globally recognized face was recreated even with original footage that are incompatible with today’s high standards.

Two body doubles were casted, one to represent her 20-inch waist and another to convey her distinctive bone structure. The shot and footage was then augmented with VFX.

Facial action coding system (FACS) was also used to scan the face of the double. This captured an abundance of hi-res skin textures and more than 60 different facial expressions for the animators to replicate for recreating the computer generated (CG) Hepburn.

The creators had to then perfectly lock the actor’s body to the CG head. Without this step and a perfect head joint, a “nodding-dog” effect would’ve ruined all the hard work. This step was fortunately recreated with a past CG work on a Sandra Bullock film.

The next big obstacle was to make the computer-generated skin look real. Using a renderer, Arnold, the perfect soft, translucent look of real skin was created, combined with a soft “peach fuzz” to break-up a robotic perfection.

Without geometrical data of Hepburn’s face, recreating her as a CG person was close to inaccurate science. Trial and error was the way to go, being persistent until they reached the perfect end-result.

Although aired in 2013, the ad is still enjoying international airtime today. Hollywood has since been quietly debating the consequences of photoreal CG actors and posthumous usage. There are also rumors of young celebrities are having their bodies scanned at various ages as a form of digital cryogenics.

Nasi Lemak: A Brief of What We Know

A staple Malaysian dish, Nasi Lemak is a dish that we will see frequently on the breakfast, lunch or dinner table. 

It is widely considered the national dish and is also a native dish for neighboring countries such as Singapore, Brunei and Southern Thailand. We love it with fried chicken, we love it with sambal squid, we love it with various curries that is served with it, we even love it on its glorious own.

Notably mentioned in the book “The Circumstances of Malay Life”, written by English Orientalist and expert in British Malaya, Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt, nasi lemak loosely translates into rice cooked in fat or oil. The context in this case of “fat” is used to bear the meaning of “rich” or “creamy”.

The rice is usually pre-soaked in coconut cream before being cooked with a couple of pandan leaves in it to give it the noticeable flavor we now know and love. The main ingredients of it such as coconut milk, rice and anchovies are naturally found in the region but it took some time for sambal itself to be created later on.

As a prime hub in the trade routes at that time, chillies are not native to Southeast Asia and was introduced to the area in the 15th century by Portuguese traders, following the discovery of the Americas’ chilli peppers by European colonisers in the late 1400s.

The first ever mention of nasi lemak on paper can be found in The Straits Times newspaper dated 21st July 1935, describing a malay market in Kampung Baru. 

Nasi lemak has been part of Malaysian culture through all the good times and bad times as well, noticeably during World War 2.

Farmers were fuelled by nasi lemak to work in the fields, other workers also followed and found a hearty breakfast in nasi lemak.

An article in The Straits Times titled “The Worker’s Breakfast” from November 1946 describes nasi lemak being sold in packets and eaten with fried prawns and sambal.

A study on the dish also revealed that the preference of nasi lemak is widely popular across the country’s ethnocultural groups. Each culture has their own version of the dish, adding their own special touch to it such as fried chicken, seafood to vegetarian styles or non-halal versions.

While one could go on about nasi lemak for what seems like forever, it’s true meaning and power lies without a doubt in its ability to bring us Malaysians together as what not to love about food?

Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day Explained

Coming in at second place of countries with the most public holidays, Malaysia comes boasts up to 19 holidays in a calendar year; that’s how many paid public holidays that us Malaysians get!

Malaysians love their holidays and there are an abundant of things to do with all those time off. The month of August is often associated with national pride as it’s the month of the nations independence. 

Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day are the two main holidays that we celebrate in August, and both of them are different and have different stories behind them. So, what exactly are these two holiday that seems to celebrate the same thing?

Merdeka Day

August 31st is pretty much a date that all Malaysians know off. It is celebrated throughout schools and the country ever since the country’s independence from British colonial rule in 1957.

Under the constitution, Merdeka day is the official National Day for the Country.

Hari Malaysia

Hari Malaysia falls on September 16th, which commemorates the formation of the Malaysian Federation in 1963. It was the day where the Federation of Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore merged to form Malaysia.

Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 and eventually an independent country on August 9th 1965.

Hari Malaysia officially became a Malaysian public holiday in 2010.

Hari Merdeka in East Malaysia

Sabah and Sarawak only achieved independence in 1963, six years after Peninsular Malaysia was formed.

In 2016, the Sarawak government declared July 22nd as a Sarawak public holiday, declaring it Sarawak Independence Day”.

The Malaysian government has recently worked towards a more unified form of national independence. On top of declaring Malaysia Day a national holiday, less emphasis have been put on the years to which certain states have gained independence.

Although different areas have their own year of independence, we Malaysians love our holidays; what’s not to love about an extra day off to celebrate the country’s independence day anyway?

Social Distancing at The Kaaba

More than two million Muslims visit the Kaaba annually at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims around the world.

As many as 300,000 worshippers can fit in the mosque; however, the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed those numbers as just only those within Saudi Arabia are allowed to visit the holy site to perform the annual pilgrimage now.

In a Twitter image by a user @aleeharissi that garnered four thousand retweets and nine thousand likes, pilgrims circled around the Kaaba in small groups of 50. Each of them were wearing a mask and performing the ritual at a safe distance away from each other.

As part of Covid-19 measures, 3,500 workers at the Kaaba have been spread around the Grand Mosque to carry out sanitisation duties.

On top of that, sanitisation is done using 54,000 litres of disinfectant and 1,050 litres of air fresheners. Further, instead of cleaning the floor thrice in a day it is now being cleaned 10 times in a day.

What now for UAE and Israel?

The United Arab Emirates has reached a deal on August 13th to normalising relations with Israel.

The news was released after a phone call between United States President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. 

Until said deal, no Gulf Arab countries has had diplomatic relations with Israel, but the same worry over Iran have led to this unofficial contact between them.

Although only the third Israel-Arab peace deal since Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, President Trump called the deal “a truly historic moment”. 

“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he told reporters in the Oval Office, saying there would be a signing ceremony at the White House in the coming weeks.

Delegations from Israel and UAE will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral deals regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, environment, establishments of reciprocal embassies and other areas of mutual benefit.

“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economies will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation, and forging closer people-to-people relations,” a joint statement by Israel and the UAE says.

The statement also said that both parties will “focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world”, and that the US and UAE will work to achieve that goal. 

Israel will also “suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined” in Trumps Vision for Peace between Israel and the Palestinians. 

The UAE and Israel will also join the U.S. to launch “Strategic Agenda for the Middle East”, noting that they now “share a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region, as well as a shared commitment to promoting stability through diplomatic engagement, increased economic integration, and closer security co-ordination”.

Podcast Wars: Spotify vs Apple

Spotify thinks its algorithm can find your next favorite podcast ...

Earlier this month, Spotify signed a deal with Kim Kardashian to co-produce and co-host a criminal justice podcast that will air exclusively on the platform. The deal with the reality TV megastar is only the most recent installment of Spotify’s investments in podcasts. In 2019, it acquired podcast companies Gimlet Media and Anchor for just under $340 million combined. In February 2020, it purchased The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ sports and pop culture publication and podcast network, for nearly $200 million. Last month, Spotify signed an exclusive agreement with podcast star Joe Rogan worth reportedly more than $100 million. Rogan’s show, The Joe Rogan Experience, consistently tops the podcast audience charts globally, with nearly 200 million downloads a month.

So, why is Spotify investing so heavily in podcasts? The largest reason is probably that its core business — music streaming — is an inherently low-margin business. This is due mainly to three factors.

1. Spotify doesn’t own the songs we listen to

Whenever we hit “play” on a song on Spotify, the company has to pay the rights of each song back to music labels, like Universal or Warner Music Group. That means, on average, Spotify spends spends 70% of its music revenues on royalties. Unless Spotify branches out from streaming music, this is a dangerously tight margin to manage long term.

2. There is intense competition from tech giants

As music streaming services have become the most popular way to listen to music, it would make sense for Spotify to slowly and marginally increase its price, similar to what Netflix did with its video streaming service.

The main issue with raising prices is that Spotify’s main competitors — namely Apple Music and Amazon Music — are funded by behemoth companies that can afford to lose money on streaming music. It’s not a core service for Apple or Amazon, but rather a sweetener they offer their users to increase customer loyalty. Apple and Amazon have the money to go cheaper for longer than Spotify if Spotify doesn’t diversify from music.

3. It’s easier than ever to find your favorite music anywhere

This threat of competition is especially relevant to a company like Spotify, because the majority of its songs are available for streaming or purchase on other platforms. Aside from a few exceptions — like Tidal’s HiFi subscription streaming plan — music will sound the same on Spotify as it will on other music platforms. That decreases the switching costs (or, rather, the pain) for customers hopping from one platform to another and makes it harder to build a devoted longtime user base.

The power of exclusivity

What makes podcasts a particularly inviting medium for Spotify to invest in is that it can sign exclusivity deals with top creators. Unlike music, where you largely can listen to everything anywhere, Spotify is ensuring with its Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian deals and its Gimlet and Anchor acquisitions that the content will be available only on Spotify. Meaning that if you are among the many who regularly listen to The Joe Rogan Experience or The Ringer, you are virtually forced to download the app and potentially make Spotify your go-to audio service. Rather than juggling multiple audio apps, Spotify is hoping new adopters who come for the podcasts will stay for its music streaming features as well.

This is something that, at least to date, cannot be replicated on the music side of the business and mimics Netflix’s shift in recent years toward producing original content. To decrease the company’s dependence on third-party content, Netflix began building a library of original shows and films that you can’t find anywhere else, making it more enticing to buy subscriptions or renew subscriptions than if the platform offered only curated content from existing movie and TV studios.

A podcast advertising machine

Spotify’s pitch to woo established and rising podcast stars is simple: It already has a very successful advertising studio and tech-supported ad operations, and the company can leverage its infrastructure and advertising staff along with its large user base to monetize content better than if creators were to go out on their own.

The first evidence of Spotify’s added value as a podcast advertiser is already visible. Many podcasts offer promo codes on air, but it isn’t convenient for listeners to pause a podcast just to write these offers down with the intent to use them later. Spotify is trying to fix that by creating a link to the sponsor’s website within the app, making the promo redeemable at any time in a much more user-friendly way.

As was the case with internet advertising, the emergence of an aggregator (Google) enabled the growth of ad revenues like never before. Spotify aims to replicate the same effect in podcasts.

Is Spotify’s investment in podcasts paying off so far?

Although it’s too early to make a judgment on Spotify’s return on investment, one important group of people agree that this is the right move for the company: its shareholders. The company’s share price popped more than 10% when the deals with Kim Kardashian and Joe Rogan were announced, and the stock price is up more than 250% since April.

Operationally, Spotify also seems to be moving in a positive direction — podcast consumption of Spotify grew 200% in Q4 2019 and more than 19% of its users listened to non-music content on the platform in the first quarter of the year. The latter happened despite an unprecedented lockdown that changed commuting habits globally.

Skeptics could argue that Spotify is overpaying for its bet in podcasts, as podcasting remains a relatively small industry compared to music; podcast ad sales in the United States will likely hit the $1 billion mark for the first time in 2021. The first signs are certainly encouraging, but Spotify still has a mountain to climb to displace Apple as the world’s #1 podcast platform and establish itself as a supplier of podcasts that helps grow the size of the overall market.

Original article: Manuel Medeiros