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Valar Qringaomis

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Links - 27th June 2016

Brexit vote is about the supremacy of Parliament and nothing else: Why I am voting to leave the EU - "My Europhile Greek friend Yanis Varoufakis and I both agree on one central point, that today's EU is a deformed halfway house that nobody ever wanted. His solution is a great leap forward towards a United States of Europe with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account. Though even he doubts his dream. "There is a virtue in heroic failure" he said... Six years into the eurozone crisis and there is no a flicker of fiscal union: no eurobonds, no Hamiltonian redemption fund, no pooling of debt, and no budget transfers. The banking union belies its name. Germany and the creditor states have dug in their heels.

Antarctica boss did not freeze during a crisis - ""As workplaces become more and more diverse, it's absolutely critical that respect trumps harmony," she said. This means that instead of expecting everyone to like each other, the team aimed for professional courtesy and respect. "With such a mix of people, it was impractical to think we would all get along with each other all the time. "It would be unreasonable to expect total harmony so I didn't." She has grave concerns for any team that expects team harmony, describing it as a "dangerous" mindset. Ms Robertson said dysfunctional behaviour will still continue - but underground; so the illusion of harmony remains. She also believes it stifles innovation as people are too afraid to put up their hand and offer a different view because they do not want to "rock the harmony boat"."

iTunes is 13 years old—and it’s still awful - "For 13 years—15 if you count the two years the program was just a file-storing service—users have grumbled loudly about iTunes’ unwieldy interface, its bloated features, its inability to simply get better. Companies, however great, sometimes fail to improve their products; and iTunes has been Apple’s great big software mess-up. (Well, that and Maps)... instead of trying to streamline the service over the years, Apple has opted to stuff an overwhelming number of new features—movies, television shows, podcasts, mobile apps, and most recently, Apple Music—into it. The company gave its designers “an impossible task: cramming way too much functionality into a single app,” says Marco Arment, the software developer behind Tumblr and Instapaper. As a result, Arment says, the platform has turned into a “toxic hellstew of unreliability”... Apple, in its post-Jobs era, seems to have also given up on revamping its old products, choosing to follow current trends instead of pressing on its prior innovations. So perhaps the fate of iTunes is to be ignored until it dies, unloved, in the corner, long after people forget just how revolutionary it was."

It’s a Hard Fact. Abbas Turned Down Olmert’s Peace Deal - "What is not speculation is that Israel’s prime minister made a peace offer, and the Palestinian leader–head of the Fatah Party, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority–rejected it. Those who wish to blame Israel for the continuing lack of progress in achieving a comprehensive peace agreement will presumably pay no attention to this interview, but the facts are in."

The Navy just approved the military's best tattoo rules - "The Navy is easing its tattoo policy in a bid to recruit and retain more sailors from the millennial generation, of whom more than 1 in 3 sport body art. Sailors will be allowed to have neck tattoos, sleeves and even markings behind their ears under the new policy, the most lenient of any military service. Only their heads are off limits under the new policy, which the Navy's top sailor has called a reality check on the permanent art favored by sailors... "This isn’t official, but in my research, I saw estimates that the percentage of people with tattoos in the 18 to 25 age group as being between 37 and 40 percent," he said. That's not an insignificant number."... MCPON, who is wrapping up a 33-year career that is longer than most millennials' lives, would “neither confirm nor deny” when asked whether he has any tattoos."

The forger who fooled the world - Telegraph - "He loathed modern art - he thought it childish and decadent, a passing fad for ugliness which would soon fade. For years he had eked out a living painting gloomy portraits of rich patrons in a faux-Rembrandt style and had winced as he heard his work ridiculed by his peers. A prominent critic reviewing van Meegeren's second solo exhibition wrote, "A gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality." The time had come, van Meegeren felt, to revenge himself on his critics. He devised a plan to paint a perfect Vermeer - neither a copy, nor a pastiche, but an original work - and, when it had been authenticated by leading art experts, acquired by a major museum, exhibited and acclaimed, he would announce his hoax to the world... During the exhibition, van Meegeren would loudly proclaim the painting a forgery, a crude pastiche, and listen as the finest minds of his generation persuaded him that his painting was a genuine Vermeer... Often he would forget where he had hidden the money, and 30 years after his death, the Dutch were still turning up cashboxes stuffed with pre-war notes. As van Meegeren's addictions to alcohol and morphine took hold, and the standard of his forgeries plummeted, still experts accepted them as genuine. He discovered that, regardless of how incompetent his painting, how crude his anatomy, how uncertain the provenance, the most erudite Vermeer critics were prepared to sanctify his work... Having been denounced by the press as a traitor, a "Dutch Nazi artist", van Meegeren was now a folk hero - the man who had swindled Göring. The Reichsmarschall was told that his beloved Vermeer was a forgery while awaiting execution in Nuremberg. According to a contemporary account: "[Göring] looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world."

How Caravaggio saw in the dark - Telegraph - "Four hundred years later, he is, by many indications, the world’s favourite old master. Canadian researcher Philip Sohm has established that in the past 50 years, Caravaggio has overtaken that other Michelangelo – Buonarroti – as the favourite subject of art historical research. More, it seems, has been written about him in the past half century than any other artist... There is a dark mixture of violence and sexuality that appeals to the sensibility of an age that relishes the art of Francis Bacon and Quentin Tarantino. As the art historian Robert Hughes pointed out, you can see from the way the executioner holds his knife in Beheading of St John the Baptist that Caravaggio knew precisely the most brutally effective way to wield a weapon."

The Big Question: How many of the paintings in our public museums are fakes? - "It is, for example, much easier to replicate a work by Picasso than a major work by a painter of the Renaissance. Picasso is much less fiddly. What is more, he often worked very quickly, painting a single painting – or even several paintings – in a day. His paintings are relatively easy to characterise and to caricature. Technically, many of the 10,000 or so that he produced during his inordinately long life would be relatively easy to replicate. They seldom get bogged down in onerous detail. What is more, the kinds of paints he used – or their equivalents – are still widely available today... The public, having paid its money, expects perfection. So dingy old paintings, little by little, are re-painted, with painstaking lovingness. It happens all the time. By the time in 1994 when the Sistine Chapel was restored to the condition in which it would have been when Michelangelo painted it, was it still by Michelangelo? Or is it by now a modern fake – or as near as damn it? This is a moot point... A reasonable estimate might be that at least 20 per cent of the paintings held by our major museums, some up on the walls, many others in the vaults, will no longer be attributed to the same painter 100 years from now. Another matter worth bearing in mind is this: the less money the institution has to spend on restoring its paintings, the more likely it is that the paintings will be in a condition which resembles how they would once have looked"

ART FORGERY – More Than Half of Art is Fake? - "Experts allegedly claim that 50% of artwork in circulation is not authentic, which is hard to verify. However, FAEI expert said that between 70% and 90% of pieces that go through their laboratory come out as fakes."

Ten Years directors on why the Hong Kong film spoke to people - ""If Hong Kong is still under 'one country, two systems' and I'm making my film legally, then I'm surprised and really confused by the strong reaction."... "We've been cheated time and again and I feel that 'one country, two systems' is a lie." But while his work highlights a radical act, Chow is not proposing a revolution. "I don't want a self- immolator to appear in real life. Ten Years is about a future we don't want to see. "Rather, the movie wants to ask whether we can do something more for our home Hong Kong. Just because you make a movie about Batman doesn't mean you're asking people to be Batman.""

Burger Me! A London Burger Blog: The Bleecker Black from Bleecker St. Burger in Old Spitalfields - "Four different cuts of aged beef are sourced, blended and minced by The Butchery into 4oz patties, which double up to form the core of the Bleecker Black. They're perfectly seasoned and deliver a fantastic depth of aged beef flavour, as well as giving long after taste of tallowy, creamy beef - all this alongside the crumbly, toasty black pudding. Just a side note, it's served on the rare side of medium-rare - as this quality of beef absolutely should be."

Facebook study rebuts the 'echo chamber' effect - "Nearly 30 percent of all the news content that people see in the News Feed cuts across ideological lines"

Sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual men and women: the importance of desired frequency of sex. - "Only 46% of men and 58% of women were satisfied with their current frequency of sex. Dissatisfied men were overwhelmingly likely to desire sex more frequently; among dissatisfied women, only two thirds wanted sex more frequently"
More proof that men are hornier than women

Hundreds protest ‘kidnapping’ in Norway’s Child Welfare System - "According to Natalya and Sergey Shianok, their son Oskar, who was five at the time, had told fellow kids at his school that his mother had accidently yanked out one of his baby teeth. Natalya explained that she was helping him to pull a T-shirt over his head and knocked out a tooth that was already loose."

'Placebo Effect' May Be Common in Headache Treatment - "Placebo treatments or no treatment appeared to work just as well as drugs in a large percentage of headache patients participating in more than 100 studies... Since drugs used to treat migraines and other recurring headaches can have side effects, study co-author Bart W. Koes, PhD, says the findings suggest that many patients might benefit from non-pharmaceutical interventions."

How can the UK be the 'first safe country' in which to claim asylum? - "There is no obligation under the refugee convention or any other instrument of international law that requires refugees to seek asylum in any particular country. There has, however, been a longstanding "first country of asylum" principle in international law by which countries are expected to take refugees fleeing from persecution in a neighbouring state. This principle has developed so that, in practice, an asylum seeker who had the opportunity to claim asylum in another country is liable to be returned there in order for his or her claim to be determined."

INDIAN FTS KANA HAMMERED BY S'PORE CONDO OWNERS - "Indians have bought abt 40% of Mandarin Gardens apts and have become arrogant in the condo. At last year's AGM, all Singaporeans didnt want to stand for Management Council positions, leaving it to foreigners to take control. Eight indians were voted in with one American and one Briton in the MC. The Indians are power crazy, lawless and turned havoc. They thought they own Mandarin Gardens and can do what they want"

University accused of discrimination for requiring dyslexic student to take course in French - "Lewicki's application for the master of political science program wasn't accepted, because he's not able to take one course in French, which is a program requirement. Lewicki has been diagnosed as gifted, but with a type of dyslexia that's so severe he can't learn another language."

Hamas Admits to Using Civilians as Human Shields

Sexual Motivation and the Duration of Partnership - "(1) sexual activity and sexual satisfaction decline in women and men as the duration of partnership increases; (2) sexual desire only declines in women; and (3) desire for tenderness declines in men and rises in women. Because these results are based on cross-sectional data, a longitudinal explanation is precarious"

Fact check: No proof the death penalty prevents crime - Fact Check - "A comprehensive review of the research in this area over 34 years was conducted in 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council. The committee concluded that "research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates"... "Even when executions are frequent and well-publicised, there are no observable changes in crime. Executions serve only to satisfy the urge for vengeance. Any retributive value is short-lived, lasting only until the next crime." His position is shared by the majority of criminologists in relation to homicide, according to a 2009 survey of members of the American Criminology Society, who were asked to limit their answers to their understanding of the empirical research and to exclude their personal opinions. That study found that over 88 per cent of the criminologists did not believe the death penalty deterred murderers... Professor Zimring, with Professor Fagan and David T. Johnson of The University of Hawaii, conducted a study that compared Singapore - a country that does have the death penalty - with Hong Kong... "the Singapore experience magnifies the impact of American assertions [that the death penalty deters] to a patently silly status". They found that "homicide levels and trends are remarkably similar in these two cities over the 35 years after 1973, with neither the surge in Singapore's executions nor the more recent steep drop producing any differential impact"... Professor Fagan "described extensive studies showing that criminals are deterred more by an increase in their likelihood of apprehension than by an increase in the magnitude of their punishment, meaning that likely capture is a more effective deterrent than potential death""

Elton John, David Furnish hoping to keep sex tale off Web - "Elton John and his Canadian husband David Furnish are evidently hoping to scrub the World Wide Web of reports about their open marriage. Reps for the couple this week are busily filing complaints and threatening legal action against websites that have published articles based on a National Enquirer story headlined: “Elton John Betrayed by Cheating Husband!” Last month, John, 69, and Furnish, 53, obtained an injunction banning media outlets in England and Wales from identifying those involved in the tale of alleged unprotected sex and a threesome involving olive oil."

Bhutan tackles violence against women for "refusing ... - "Two thirds of Bhutanese women say beating justified if wife argues with husband, refuses sex or burns dinner"
No wonder the people there are so happy

It’s Not Just About Bad Choices - NYTimes.com - "Too often, I believe, liberals deny that poverty is linked to bad choices. As Phillips and many other poor people acknowledge, of course, it is. Self-destructive behaviors — dropping out of school, joining a gang, taking drugs, bearing children when one isn’t ready — compound poverty. Researchers have often found that very poor families worldwide spend more of their income on alcohol than on educating their children. And, in central Kenya, a government study published a few years ago found that men there, on average, spent more of their salaries on alcohol than on food. Yet scholars are also learning to understand the roots of these behaviors, and they’re far more complicated than the conservative narrative of human weakness"

The Box Office Power of Stars - "HSX prices respond significantly to casting announcements, which suggests that the involvement of stars affects revenues. The list of announcements with the biggest impact contains a number of established, often highly paid stars, including Tom Hanks, Mike Myers, Tom Cruise, and Mel Gibson. It also contains a few actors that are typically not included at the very top of most industry executives' rankings, such as Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott. It seems audiences value those stars more than Hollywood executives do. I show that, as could be expected, an actor's past box-office performance is positively related to the magnitude of his or her impact on revenues. However, the number and, particularly, the average box-office record of other cast members also play a role. In fact, interestingly, the impact of a newly recruited star and the other cast members are linked—the more A-list a cast already is, the greater is the impact of a star with a track record of box office successes. In other words, recruiting Angelina Jolie leads to a bigger boost of expected revenues if a powerful actor such as Brad Pitt has already agreed to star."
This is an important reason for 'whitewashing', since most stars are white

NTU orientation to be more inclusive - "orientation activities would also be made inclusive through rules stipulating that cheers must now be in English only. There were complaints that the use of cheers in Chinese dialects like Hokkien might make students of minority races feel left out. In addition, horror- or fear-inducing games like fright nights will not be allowed, ST understands. Orientation camps at varsities here have drawn complaints over the years for things such as safety lapses and sexually suggestive games... The 23-year-old had applied for a hall camp when she was a new student in 2013, but was rejected without being told why. "I heard they selected us based on how active you are on social media, or superficial things like how pretty or handsome you are on your profile picture," she said."

The Empire Christmas Pudding - "17 very specific ingredients of the Empire Christmas pudding. Supplied by the King’s Chef, Mr Cedard, with Their Majesties’ Gracious Consent, the recipe was published in poster form by the Empire Marketing Board, a body set up in 1926 by the colonial secretary, Leo Amery, to promote the buying of British Empire goods in the home market."

Sperm donation: Inside a deeply emotive world of powerful incentives, polarised views and heated debates

Woman marries anonymous sperm donor after tracking him down and falling in love

Americans think fighting racism is more important than free speech – poll - "Forty-three percent of respondents said that making sure that students have an environment “free from discrimination, even if that means placing some limits on what students can say,” is a priority, while 38 percent of those polled thought that students should have an “absolute right” to free speech. Similar sentiment was expressed participants were asked with whether colleges have “a responsibility to teach students about issues related to racism,” with 45 percent agreeing that they do and 41 percent challenging such a notion... 53 percent percent of respondents believe that students who exercise free speech in an offensive manner should be punished, whereas 28 percent were against such measures... Republicans tended to favor free speech measures, while Democrats favor measures to fight perceived racism."

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone Darkens Controversy - "Criticism of the casting for the unauthorized film is directed less at Saldana than at a Hollywood that has historically cast light-skinned black actresses in leading roles. Simone not only celebrated her Afrocentric features, but she wrote songs about race and racism and was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Blogger Tiffany Jones, who created the blog Coffee Rhetoric, called it a "frustrating system of white-washing""
It's "whitewashing" even when you get someone of the same race; is Obama black enough?

Trudeau's Spending Priorities Send Too Many Tax Dollars Overseas - "It was interesting to read David Akin's numbers on Trudeau's dollar handouts in his first 100 days in office. By his calculations it amounts to $5.3 billion, of which slightly less than a billion dollars was spent inside Canada.

Would you pay $14,000 a month to look good? - "Jamie Chua looks gorgeous for a mother of two teenagers, aged 17 and 20. Well, her beauty regimen, which includes weekly massages, facials, and hair and slimming treatments, does cost $14,000 a month, after all... 'I don’t have the time to go to the salon every day anymore.'"
How much tme does this take?

MOTT-STREET CHINAMEN ANGRY. - THEY DENY THAT THEY EAT RATS--CHUNG KEE, THREATENS A SLANDER SUIT. - View Article - NYTimes.com (article from 1883)

On Gods in Buddhism

Some people insist Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy, and that there aren't any gods in it.


"While Buddhism is not a religion focused on an all-powerful creator ‘God’, it does accept a range of beings and levels of reality which go beyond our everyday world, and these will be the subject of this chapter. In the Buddhist worid—view, ultimate reality is generally not personalized, as a God, much less as a single God. It is seen in more impersonal terms as a state to be attained or realized: nirvana. The personal dimension comes in when one looks at those who experience this reality: for Theravada Buddhism, arahats (saints) and earthly buddhas; for Mahayana Buddhism, Heavenly buddbas and advanced bodhisattvas, who are on the brink of buddhahood.

All schools of Buddhism also accept a range of gods: divine beings who have attained heavenly rehirths through their good deeds, hut who will sooner or later die and be reborn. Buddhas, arahats and bodhisattvas are said to be ‘teachers of humans and gods’, and even gods are said to revere the ‘three treasures‘: the Buddha, the Dhamma and Sangha. Here, the Dhamma is the buddhas’ teaching, the timeless truths they point to, the path of practice, and the states realized on the path, culminating in nirvana itself. The Sarigha, as a ‘treasure’ or ‘refuge’, are those who have fully or partially realized nirvana, who are conventionally symbolized by the monastic community, also known as the sangha. Buddhism thus lacks a simple contrast between the ‘human’ and the ‘divine’. There are humans, limited gods, and, further, holy beings who have fully or partially experienced that which is truly transcendent, nirvana."

--- Portrayals of ultimate reality and of holy and divine beings / Peter Harvey in Buddhism / ed. Peter Harvey


Biography from An Introduction to Buddhism:

Peter Harvey is Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Sunderland. He is author of An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values and Issues (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvāna in Early Buddhism (1995). He is editor of the Buddhist Studies Review.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Links - 24th June 2016

The road to Brexit: 16 things you need to know about what will happen if we vote to leave the EU - "Following a vote for Brexit, a period of negotiations about the UK’s future relationship with the EU would begin, as set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Prime Minister triggers this by notifying the European Council (the collective body of the 28 member states’ prime ministers or presidents) that the UK intends to withdraw. That opens a two-year window for negotiating withdrawal terms – a period that can be extended, but only with the unanimous support of all the member states. We leave once a deal – which requires the support of the UK and a ‘qualified majority’ of the remaining 27 member states (specifically, 20 of them, comprising at least 65 per cent of their population) – is struck. If the two-year period comes to an end with neither a deal nor an extension, we leave automatically on terms we may not like"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, A Complex Man - "[On Duterte] He's presided over a remarkable recovery, with Davao now a prosperous and law abiding city. The local business community puts this entirely to the mayor's personal leadership style. He won't tolerate corruption, they told me. There's a strict smoking ban and a slow speed limit for traffic. Unlike almost anywhere else in the Philippines, these are actually enforced. Mr Duterte famously turned himself in for punishment when he was caught riding his motorbike without a helmet. Late at night, he likes to drive around town anonymously in a taxi checking on crime. He won't tolerate drug dealing either - a big issue in a country which is plagued by crystal meth addiction... She was warned by a police officer who'd been trying to arrest her oldest son Richard, then 18 years old, that if she didn't hand him over, all her boys would be killed one by one. And that's what happened. Over a period of 6 years, 4 of them were murdered, almost certainly by officially backed death squads. The youngest was 14 when he died. It's impossible not to feel queasy about a presidential candidate who sanctions that way of fighting crime. Yet there are many other sides of Rodrigo Duterte. He is applauded in Davao for example for measures he's taken to protect vulnerable women. He advocates negotiations, not confrontation with armed insurgents.And he supports LGBT rights. And in contrast to his macho image, he weeps freely and says he can't sleep without an
old blanket that his mother gave him as a baby"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, India: How to Feed a Nation - "There is a downside to the Green Revolution basically made rice and wheat replace a lot of other cereals. A lot of them were far more nutritious than rice and wheat. All kinds of millets... pearl millets, I mean it's all sorts of millets... there's a helluva lot of them. All localised, different types. People have lost that taste. Most people will not go back to it. And there are minuses to all of these. There is also something which is an overhang of the fact that we have traditionally been a vegetarian society. Which means that much of our protein is coming really from pulses as well as from milk. These are the two main sources of protein in the country. Pulse production hasn't increased. Whatever increase has taken place has taken place in the last 10 years or so. Most countries in the world don't treat pulses as an important food. And therefore it's not easy to import. Milk has been one great saviour, that has grown, considerably. But there is an intrinsic problem when you try to use just 2 or 3 things as the source of protein. Most Indians are non vegetarians but we have a culture which dictates vegetarianism to a lot of people. They would actually go out and eat the other stuff, but they'll probably say that they don't"

The Office of Inclusive Excellence Sounds Like a Cult - "Yiannopoulos’s speaking series, which has generatedsimilar controversies at a host of other campuses, is called “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.” (Yiannopoulos is openly gay.) Yiannopoulos’s shtick involves deliberate provocation. One could even say that he is trying to reclaim faggot, a word that understandably offends a lot of people, although context should matter... Haynes’ eager repetition of meaningless buzzwords—Inclusive excellence! Collective sense of community! Ideological re-programming!—is both humorous and a little creepy, when one considers that his goal is to eliminate controversial expression from campus. Second, I might have expected the Office of Inclusive Excellence to support, well, inclusion: inclusion for pro-LGBT activists, inclusion for people like Yiannopolous who have a different opinion on the issues, inclusion for everybody. In UC-Irvine’s usage, inclusion appears to mean conformity (the better for “fortifying our collective sense of community,” I guess.) I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: look, college administrators, 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual."

X-Men: Apocalypse has a bad case of Batman v Superman disease - "the massive success of Fox’s Deadpool(which incorporated two X-Men not seen here) suggested a possible new direction for hero action in general. Its rambunctious humor was a big hit with audiences, and it reminded filmmakers that fans don’t need all their heroes to be like the glowering, repressed trauma victims seen here... The entire film feels like a Prozac ad, where everything has gone emotionally gray, and the world is waiting for a serotonin hit"

Why Does the Democratic Party Have Superdelegates? - "The driving idea behind the creation of this new group of delegates was to prevent highly contested nomination processes from producing a non-competitive candidate at the expense of the Party as happened in 1968 and 1972"

What's an animal? Road Traffic Act to be reviewed to dispel doubts - "Under current rules, motorists are only required to stop and help when they hit animals listed in the Act — such as a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to S$3,000 or a jail term of up to a year. The Act is silent on other animals, including cats, monkeys, birds, rabbits, and wild boars."

Indonesia’s sex trade ‘impossible’ to shut down - "In school, Putri dreamed of becoming a doctor, but soon realised she would not be able to afford it. Her mother could barely pay her school fees, and she says the family constantly faced a chronic shortage of money. Being in the sex trade has helped. Putri claims an income of about Rp 8 million (US$600) every month, compared to the Rp 2.15 million (US$160) minimum wage in her hometown. Putri tells me there are other girls who work alongside their mothers. Now a mother herself, Putri hopes against all hope that her daughter won’t eventually follow suit. “I really want to see my child become successful and make her mum proud. I don’t want her to follow in her mum’s or grandma’s footsteps,” she said."

Blind woman Mary Ann Franco gets her sight back after falling over - "A woman who has been blind for the past 20 years has regained her sight after she fell over at her home."

Sex Talk for Muslim Women - NYTimes.com - "I am an Egyptian, Muslim woman who waited until she was 29 to have sex and has been making up for lost time. My upbringing and faith taught me that I should abstain until I married. I obeyed this until I could not find anyone I wanted to marry and grew impatient. I have come to regret that it took my younger self so long to rebel and experience something that gives me so much pleasure.

Arthur and Paul - gay-men-only-hotel-in-phnom-penh - "Not only are we gay-friendly, but we are a men-only hotel... Our rooms bear the names of the most famous and glamorous gay personalities and gay couples: Jules and Jim, Yves and Pierre, Pierre and Gilles, Kola Botom, Mika, Stefano and Domenico, Ricky, Jean and Jean, Tom and Richard, Elton and David. That should give you a head start to unleash your most wild fantasies. You will be welcomed, pampered and massaged by a staff exclusively composed of boys, providing highest quality service to the greatest degrees of elegance and discretion."
Apparently Cambodia is a gay paradise

Muslim women 'banned' from Facebook - "Muslim women should delete their Facebook accounts, not wear trousers or leave the house without their husband's permission under controversial rules published by British Islamic associations... It comes after the Blackburn Muslim Association, which is an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain, stated women should not be able to travel further than 48 miles without a male chaperone."

Shahr-e Gholghola - "Bamiyan's ruler Jalaludin held strong under Genghis Khan's siege, but he didn't reckon on the treachery of his daughter. She had quit her widowed father's castle in a fit of pique over his remarrying a princess from Ghazni. She betrayed the castle's secret entrance, expecting to be rewarded through her own betrothal to the Mongol ruler. But he put her to the sword anyway and slaughtered the rest of the defenders. The noise of the furious violence gave the citadel's modern name - 'City of Screams'."

TURKMENISTAN by Kim Lau - "While it bears many similarities to other markets of Central-Asia, Tolkuchka is unique in its way: screaming camel being hauled into trucks, trading of doors, cauldrons and satellites captures much attention."

Single Bronze Age 'king' responsible for half of western European men - "100 percent of the men tested descend from just one man who lived 190,000 years ago, more than a centamillennium before humanoids left Africa to explore the planet... 18th century Russian peasant Feodor Vassilyev fathered 87 children, including 22 sets of twins. To her credit, his first wife gave birth to 69 of them - and they're both in the Guinness Book of Records."

Cecil Jacobson The Baby Maker - "Cecil Jacobson was a US fertility doctor who was indicted in 1992 for using his own sperm to impregnate his female patients... It’s suspected that Jacobson may have fathered as many as 75 of these children by inseminating women with his sperm."

Can't Hack a Hacker: Reverse Engineering a Discovered ATM Skimmer

Do Singaporeans Really Vote Along Racial Lines? - "Would you simply believe someone’s questionable claims without concrete proof? For more than three decades, the People’s Action Party (PAP) government in Singapore has been peddling the notion that many Singaporeans vote along racial lines and that this has the potential to trigger a lack of minority representation in Parliament... Using all election statistical data since 1959, this article provides empirical evidence confirming the veracity of these two statements.
1) The assertion that Singaporeans vote along racial lines is fiction.
2) The assertion that Singaporeans vote along political lines is fact."

Modest makeover for Barbie - "Haneefah designs 'Hijarbies' to reflect modern Muslim culture and religion."

Ustad Metal: Muslim cleric by day, band singer by night - "Now hailed as the "new mainstream", metal music has captivated hundreds of thousands of fans, from the pluralistic city of Bandung, where metal is said to have taken root in the 1990s, to deeply religious Aceh province, where a concert last month saw teenage girls in headscarves head-banging along with boys... "My voice is not used for phone porn sex so, why haram?" Ms Asri retorted. "Metal sounds rough, but it is tolerant and celebrates diversity and creativity. It is not deviant"... "Allah's laws must not be violated, like getting drunk and womanising. We don't want to send wrong messages, so we always check our lyrics against religious scripts," he said."

How Ahsoka Tano Completed the Arc of Anakin Skywalker - "The problem with the large gap between Episodes 2 and 3 is that Anakin’s arc is essentially missing. We see the beginning; we see the end, but we don’t get any of his transformation from A to B. Thus, audiences had a hard time connecting with the character. Enter Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan learner"

Hexi Corridor - "Hexi Corridor (河西走廊), Gansu China, is the historical passage into and out of China from the Xiyu (西域) – the western territories. This passage corridor contains many artifacts"

Effects of Infidelity on Men vs. Women Surprise Researchers - "Across the board, men felt guiltier about sexual cheating, while women felt guiltier about emotional infidelity... people might have an inherent inability to see one's values as different from that of a partner's... while both men and women think it would be harder for their significant other to forgive sexual, as opposed to emotional, infidelity, women —not men — say that they'd be more likely to leave if they found out their partner was sleeping with someone else."

The British and European Identity

Since today is Brexit-vote day, this is my story about the British sense of identity:

Once, when I flew into Gatwick from Boston, the passengers all got off and queued properly at the open immigration counters, which were all marked for "All Passports". The authorities opened two new counters and the announcement came over the speakers: "All Europeans, please move to special counters 9 and 10 on your right". Only a handful of people moved.

A couple of minutes later, the announcer came back on and said, "The British are European too". Huge laughs from everyone, followed by loads of people moving over to the new counters.

(via Daryl Sng)

The Malay Ideals: Wealth Accumulation and Pessimism

Wealth Accumulation

The postulations that the Malays were disinclined to work are not completely true. Actually, there are reasons for them to lack the motivation in accumulating wealth. This unwillingness to accumulate wealth had always been emphasised to show that the Malays were indolent. Because they were lazy to accumulate wealth, it was purported that they were indolent as a people.

For the Malays who existed centuries earlier, even if they were industrious, the profits would more often than not be confiscated by the Sultans and other leaders for fear that commoners would gather influence and following, and eventually lead to a power strife. Therefore, to a Malay man, even to toil for greater gains would be hazardous to his own existence. The Sultans or the Rajas were preoccupied with entertainment, and involved in vice without any concern for their subjects. Subjects were treated little more than slaves and as such, whatever little wealth the subjects accumulated would be exacted from them, if there was a need. Conspicuous wealth merely attracted the attention of rulers and chiefs who would forcefully appropriate these belongings from the commonfolk. The subjects were not allowed to have fine looking houses, nor the adornment of the self with expensive materials. Beautiful young girls would ultimately be taken away and kept as wives or concubines. The vying for power and of prestige among the members of the aristocracy, and the submissiveness of the commoners resulted in many excesses being committed by the aristocracy. Lawlessness prevailed. The men then became preoccupied with their krisses and the art of self-defence at the expense of work because this was the only way they can protect themselves and their families. There was no security for life nor was there any for property. A folklore telling the story of a pregnant young lady who was killed and then had her stomach sliced open because she was accused of stealing a jackfruit from the tree within the Sultan's premise illustrates cruelty that was rampant and malignant then. Within such an atmosphere, no community in this world could have had any motivation to make a better living for themselves and to accumulate wealth, with the exception of the notables. Man needed a purpose for work, and if you take that purpose away, the most industrious will be the most indolent...

The illogical and irrational connection between an action and its resulting outcome may in a way promote illogical and irrational thinking in the Malays themselves.

It is a characteristic feature of Malay oral and written literary traditions that themes such as family conflict, human aspiration, achievement in education, great success in economic activities are left untreated, unformulated and unmentioned. The nature of the social system and economy, the exclusiveness of the aristocracy, and the intellectually and motivationally stifling environment of the commoners are chiefly responsible for the lack of an awareness of such issues and concerns. A cursory glance at many sayings, similes and proverbs present in the Malay language that are widely used by the common folk will reveal that roughly two-thirds of them have pessimistic or negative meanings discouraging wealth accumulation, suspicion, lack of confidence, class society, sweet talking, irresponsible conduct, and others. These include, ”kalau tak bermeriam baiklah diam" (be silent if one does not possess a cannon), ”seperti anjing menyalak di pantat gajah” (like the dog barking at the elephant’s rear), "kalau tak berlela baiklah meredha” (without the swivel gun, it is best to resign), ”ada udang sebalik batu” (hidden agenda), "air yang tenang jangan disangka tiada buaya” (do not mistake for a calm river not to have its dangers), ”sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga" (as if it weren't enough to fall, the ladder lands on top), "human di seberang laut nampak, gajah di depan mata tidak kelihatan" (germs beyond the sea is visible but an elephant in front of the eyes is invisible), "jauh berbau bunga, dekat berbau tahi" (a relative faraway is always thought of but a relative enarby always ends up in quarrel)... "biar kalah asal menang sorak" (let us lose as long as we win cheers), "biar papa asalkan bergaya" (let us be poor so long as we are fashionable)... "kalau kail panjang sejengkal jangan laut hendak diduga" (if your fishing rod is a span long do not try to test the sea), "anak kucing tak adan jadi anak harimau" (a kitten will not become a cub), "ludah ke langit, timpa batang hidung sendiri" (spitting at the sky your own nose will get wet), ”tepuk air di dulang terpercik muka sendiri” (smacking the water in the tray it will cause it sprinkle onto yourself)... are all negative similes and proverbs.

By comparison, sayings, similes and proverbs that carry optimistic and positive meanings, those that encourage unity, care, sacrifice, industry, self-reliance and thrift for example are fewer in number and not dominant themes in the traditional Malay values. Literary elements that stress upon the importance of knowledge and acquisition of wealth is even a rarity...

There are also sayings which reflect potentially optimistic attributes, denoting strength, courage and persistence for example. But most of these are usually employed exclusively in criticising others i.e. used in a negative fashion. These include ”kancil hendak berak gajah” (the mouse deer wants to imitate the elephant), ”ular lidi hendak menelan naga” (a tiny snake wishes to gobble the dragon)... ”kaki untut dipakaikan gelang” (putting a bangle on an elephantitic leg), and others.

The presence of many negative elements within Malay literature may have been a reflection of the degree of extensive pessimism that plagued the Malay community. They might have been borne out of a community that dreaded reprimanding others directly for fear of repercussions and for the reason of not wanting to cause hurt. Reticence is often required within such a community make up. To circumvent this, elaborate similes, maxims, sayings, proverbs, metaphors, figures of speech, hyperbole, folklore, myths and other oral or written literary inputs, were thus produced, for the the purpose of criticism. This allowed the common Malay man to criticise fellow members within the society indirectly using stories, parables, similes, proverbs and others and thus causing minimal hurt.

The question whether initially Malay philosophical inclinations spawned a mirror image of ideals in its literature, or elements within literature had moulded Malay philosophical standing is not important here. What is of essence here is the effect of the dominance of these negative elements within literature which perpetuates a philosophy of life of the Malays which might be deemed unprogressive by current standards. Customs and habits determine a person's personality. The abundance of negative popular literary elements that are pessimistic and negative in outlook and orientation perpetuates a custom and habit of negativity in the Malay person himself. Negativity reinforces the feeling of inadequacy or inferiority. A state of inferiority complex, malady, despondency, and doubt will have crept in. Children and adults pick up these elements from their community's frequent usage of the oral literature. Children learn from their parents and grandparents. Adults absorb them from other adults. Literary elements are internalised by the Malays. These become informal "teachings" or "advice" which will affect the character of the Malay person over time.

--- The Malay Ideals / Asrul Zamani

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Links - 21st June 2016

EU Vote 'Fuelling UK Rush For Irish Passports' - "Figures obtained by Sky News reveal a 25% increase in the number of applications from England, Scotland and Wales."

Games of Thrones season 6, episode 8: 4 winners and 3 losers from “No One" - "if there were fans of the Dorne plot, they would be wondering how on earth the show managed to entirely forget about it. In case you, too, have forgotten, when last we saw Dorne, Ellaria Sand and her daughters pulled off a rather stunning coup d’état in which they killed Prince Doran Martell, his only son, Trystane, and Princess Marcella. That unquestionably means open warfare with House Lannister. Except instead of sending their army south to avenge their daughter and fight the inevitable war, Cersei and Jaime sent their army north to Riverrun and just forgot all about Dorne. And nobody else seems interested in these momentous events either — it doesn’t come up for conversation in Meereen among the Tullys or anywhere else. Perhaps the ravens all found this plot line too boring and incoherent to keep up with."

Chitchat Update on Civil Service Internet Block of its Network - "For those interested on the reasons behind the separation of the Govt Network and the internet.
1. Ministry for Foreign Affairs was successfully penetrated in 2014.
2. In 2009, delegates to APEC conference held in Singapore became targets of spear phishing and I understand that it was came in multiple waves which is usually the case for spear phishing
3. Both attacks believed to be have originated from the same entity.
4. Focus and target of this entity is South East Asia and India and its associated and linked political bodies such as Asean and Apec.
5. In view of the regional target focus, capability used and forensics assessments behind these attacks, it is clearly a nation state attack and China is the likely candidate.
6. Issues in the South China Sea has raised the level of concern coupled with Singapore's link to known adversaries of China. These includes the positions taken by countries at such meetings and also includes countries dealing with he Singapore government with assets here such subs and littoral military assets.
7. Following review of the MFA breach, CSA (Cyber Security Agency) formed and the decision to move towards Air-Gap separation of government networks and the outside online world in April 2015. Limited pilot on Air-Gap separation commences that same month"

Imtiaz Mahmood - Omar Mateen may have pulled the trigger. But make... - "Omar Mateen may have pulled the trigger. But make no mistake, it was religion that loaded the gun. Every time the priest, bishop or cleric said that homosexuality was a sin and you nodded without questioning, you loaded one bullet. Then when you repeated to your kids that a relationship between two men was wrong, you loaded one more. And when your kids went on to make fun of the gay boy in college, you loaded yet another"
If a priest, bishop or cleric says adultery is a sin, you tell your kids adultery is wrong, and they crack a joke about a friend's affair, and someone then shoots adulterers, does everyone have blood on their hands?

BBC Radio 4 - Today, 05/11/2014, The unintentional humour of newspaper comment sections - "'There're certain kind of characters that crop up again and again... there are sort of 5 broad categories which I think we probably both familiar with. The pointless, which is basically morons, illiterates, ranters and bland staters of the obvious. Pompous Pontificators. The kind of blogging type who think the world is hanging on their every word. Paranoids - people worried about child safety and whatever the sort of scare of the day is. And then sort of Hobbyists-obsessives whose whole purpose in life is to explain their world to people and correct perceived wrongs and misconceptions. And finally... what used to be called the green ink brigade which are the real sort of conspiracy theorists and nutcases who used to write in green ink to newspapers'...
'Nutcase internet commenters are as old as the Internet itself. They'll always be around'"

Ray Mancini - Years of meditation and enlightenment... And then... - "Years of meditation and enlightenment... And then you see the boobies, and everything is falling apart."

Images reveal Vietnam′s expansion in the South China Sea - "the scale and pace of construction on these two sites is dwarfed by that of China... China contends that it is simply doing what other countries are doing, and in that regard, experts argue Vietnam's land reclamation projects undermine its protests against ongoing Chinese reclamation efforts. However, as analyst Abuza pointed out there are a number of key differences. While Vietnam's latest reclamation efforts are of a much slower pace - Vietnam has added roughly 8.5 hectares (21 acres) to two features, less than 2 percent of China - Hanoi is also not using the islands or features it controls to change the status quo in the region, argues Abuza. "Vietnam is not using them to claim 12 nautical miles of territorial seas, or 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zones and it is not using its position to force other claimants out, despite claiming all of the Spratly Islands." Hanoi is also not seeking to reinterpret international law, the expert stressed. China, on the other hand, is building two large airstrips, including one with enough prospective flights to require a taxiway. The analyst points to the possibility that China may use its artificial islands in an attempt to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the entire South China Sea."

More Muslims practising stricter Islam - "Islamic Renaissance Front Director Farouk Musa has urged the government to open doors for dialogue between Muslim conservatives, moderates and a third group he called “revisionists”. “If there is no dialogue between these groups, we might eventually fall into practising the stricter version of Islam in politics and economics,” Farouk said in an interview with FMT. He defines conservative Muslims as those who believe their life is predetermined and are therefore not keen to participate in economic competition. The revisionists, he said, were those wanting to follow an unreasonably strict Islamic code... the ideological gap between Muslims in Malaysia was becoming more and more noticeable since the turn of the millennium, with more people taking the revisionist path."

Southeast Asian Muslims should appreciate own culture: Islamic studies scholar - "Muslims in Southeast Asia should embrace their unique cultural traditions instead of adopting Arabic customs, according to Libya’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Dr Aref Ali Nayed... Dr Nayed, who has been ranked as one of the top 50 most influential Muslims in the world by Jordanian think-tank The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, made his remarks as the “Arabisation” of Islam and cultural practices in Southeast Asia stir controversy. In similar comments made recently in an interview with Malaysia’s The Star, the Sultan of Johor last week warned Malays to stick to their own culture instead of imitating Arab trends. The ruler was responding to the tendency for some Malaysian Malays to lean towards Arab culture amid growing conservatism. Dr Nayed - an Islamic studies scholar who has lectured on Islamic theology, logic, and spirituality at universities around the world - also warned against mindlessly accepting religious teachings from Arabic theologians."
So Lee Kuan Yew was right that Muslims should be less strict?

Copenhagen bar owners call for government to tackle Muslim 'Sharia patrols' - "A group of bar owners from a Copenhagen suburb claim they are being harassed by local Muslim youth activists from immigrant backgrounds attempting to impose a 'Sharia zone', and have appealed to the government for help... The bar owners claim that despite repeated requests police have failed to take action... Two young women were detained by police after shouting "fascist" and "Nazi" at the minister. Under Danish laws banning insults against public officials, they could be fined or imprisoned for up to six months if charged."
When in Denmark, do as the immigrants do - or you're fascist, a Nazi and Islamophobic

BBC Radio 4 - Today, 20/01/2015, Jewish school pupils trained to respond to armed attack - "One 11 year old told me he'd been shouted at on his way to school. The headmaster said on several school trips, pupils have been verbally abused by people who were angry about Israeli government policy and unfairly blamed British Jewish children. One child was threatened
Why is it okay to blame Jews for Israeli government policy? Often by people who would fume at blaming Muslims for Islamic terrorism (even though the link between a random Jew and the Israeli government is weaker than that between a random Muslim and his community if it produced terrorists)

McDonald's 'transformed our palates' - "'[The] 70s and people might've eaten out once or twice a year and it was a massive treat. Along came this new kind of restaurant which broke down the sort of times of day you could eat because you could eat at any time. It made it less of a treat. You know. You could take your family there. You could eat for a very little amount of money... it revolutionised the way that, the mealtimes that we have, it democratised the idea of eating out. Because it made it much easier for you to go out and it meant that kids could go to McDonald's on the way home so that stressed out moms and dads didn't have to cook for them... it enabled people to eat things that they wanted when they wanted'...
'It's been part of a transformation in our palates. Traditionally in Britain we had plenty of fast food, but it had a salty-sour note. If you think of fish and chips, if you think of jellied eels with vinegar, if you think of salt and vinegar crisps, and McDonald's changed this to salty-sweet. And if I think back to those first visits, that salt-sweetness was quite weird, it seemed very exotic, almost Scandinavian if you couple it with the dill pickles and then hose mouth-burningly hot apple pies which were so cinammony, totally unlike a British apple pie. But now it doesn't seem exotic at all because we've changed along with McDonald's. This change to our palates has huge consequences which we don't analyse enough and some dieticians now speak of the SFS palate - Salt, Fat, Sugar... everything now from the dessert to the main course, whether it's salted caramel ice cream, whether it's very sweet barbecue pulled pork, aspires to that sweet saltiness of a Big Mac'"

BBC Radio 4 - Today, 03/07/2014, Bacteria or bacterium? The use of Latin grammar - "'I think everyone's right actually, to be honest... you've got three issues. One is: what's correct Latin? The next is what is correct English? And the third would be: what is the relationship between those two?'...
'We don't use bacterium any longer because even scientists themselves say it sounds rather pedantic and dated so why bother?... when we get into referendums and all that sort of thing, and stadiums, again, where do we go? Because it depends whether it's a Latin word or not?'
'I think for me it depends whether you're using it as a Latin word you've borrowed, in which case you might want to put the Latin ending on it, or whether you're choosing to use it as a Latin word that's become an English word... the more Latin you do at school, university whatever, the more you realise how quickly linguistic change happens and how dynamic languages are... there's no strict rulebook that says in English this is how you have to do things
Take an example like say syllabus. The Latin plural would also end in us... because everyone in English has said, oh we know this rule that Latin plurals end in i, so we'll apply it to a word where it doesn't apply, it's become an extra category of English plural ending. We've made it up'
'But then if we use it for the next 500 years or something that would be alright would it?'...
'The word bacteria is itself a Greek word, and a singular.'
'Ah. You've silenced me'...
'I took an Italian friend to lunch on Saturday and she totally unselfconsciously ordered a panino because she's Italian and that's the singular. But of course every menu in the UK will have panini, plural paninis'"

BBC Radio 4 - Today, 14/01/2015, Charlie Hebdo reaction: "Why are they doing a picture again of our prophet?" - "'What would you say to those people who say we live in a society where you are allowed to offend in certain respects'
'That's fine, thats fair enough but then at the same time they can't get upset when things happen as consequences of that... something needs to be done to stop people from disrespecting our prophet'...
Some moderate believers say they're frightened to defend the argument for free speech because they fear it could aggravate Islamic extremists as this woman who was too afraid to give her name explains
Freedom of speech doesn't mean there're no consequences of speech. So North Korea has freedom of speech too; if defending free speech aggravates Islamic extremists doesn't it show that they "hate our freedoms"?

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Bottled Water: Do We Really Need It? - "[From Nestle person] There is research to show that when consumers go to purchase bottled water and they find that they can't, 63% of them will turn to sugar-sweetened beverages rather than tap water... If we talk about the water that you need every day... bottled water is a fraction of the water that people need. It's for drinking and hydration, health. You need to have absolutely clean portable water. In many of those region, unfortunately, for structural issues, there is not enough good quality for the kids and for themselves. So that's why in those places we can help to do that. But we never, never replace the work that the local authorities must do in order to provide good quantity and quality of water of people... in reality if you just think about making lots of money probably we should do a sugary drinks or other beverages I can tell you I can sell a sugary drink or a beer or a wine at 5 times, 10 times, 100 times more than a bottle of water. If we make choices in terms of purely business and profit, I can tell you water will not be the primary choice... public numbers, you see that the water division is not the most profitable division for Nestle"
If governments won't do the job, why blame the private sector for stepping up?

Adulation for the Kims / Fences vs Curtains

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, What is Truth? What is Fantasy?

"It's a world of pythonesque absurdity. I've just come up in the lift at the Kim Chaek university of technology. There is a lift attendant, but the lift is automatic. I could've just pressed a button for a floor. So, I wondered aloud, why have an attendant in an automatic lift? To prevent accidents, I was told. Our students are very precious.

I'm here in the land of the Supreme Leader, Marshall Kim Jong Un, with an European aristocrat, his Serene Highness, Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein. Prince Alfred is driven round in a black Mercedes. He propounds his message of peace in the lecture halls of Pyongyang under pictures of... Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il.

These icons are everywhere. There is a heriditary system here and the rulers have a religious aura. Prince Alfred believes very strongly in dialogue, that's why he's here. He thinks much about morality. He told me he tended not to eat meat unless he'd shot it himself. He points out that housing and education are free for the citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - a surreal title in itself - this place is not democratic.

How I wonder can he know the truth of the place? How can any of us from the outside?

We're given tours of hospitals and universities but it's hard to know how much is being staged. When I walked into the computer room at Kim Il Sung university, the Google homepage seemed to be up on many of the screens, but a bit of probing of the students' knowledge and skills revealed that at least some of them were not that familiar with the internet.

Are the children singing in the grandiose school children's palace there for the education for which the place is officially designated, or are they there for the Western visitors? Are the worshippers in the Anglican church genuine believers or are they part of a performance done for outsiders? Was the power cut in our part of town the other night an innocent malfunction, or was it a created darkness to mask tanks rumbling into the city for the great celebrations around the Workers' Party Congress?

I still don't know, but the perpetual puzzle and incongruity is disconcerting. It throws me off balance. You start whispering to friends in rooms. You wonder who's looking over your shoulder, or listening just outside that door. Pyongyang surprises.

Oh look - there's David Attenborough on television in Kew Gardens, voiced over in Korean. People speak more English than I expected - they laugh at jokes by English-speaking lecturers before a translator delivers the Korean version.

North Korea is stereotyped. The regime is repressive - no doubt about that. But it's not the whole story.

I watched a group of girls feeding ducks at a park. I was too far away for them to have noticed me. I watched them quietly as they crossed to a pair of statues of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. The father and grandfather of the current leader. These girls stood stock still reverently in front of the images. After some time, they turned and walked away. Their eyes were moist. Some will say brainwashing but I believe those tears were genuine. Do not doubt the loyalty North Koreans feel towards their country...

Hungary is again erecting fences. And Arpad Bella, the man who broke the Iron Curtain, supports that policy. In 1989, we buried an empire here, he says. But now it seems we're entering a new era in which as a consequence of globalisation and liberalisation, we appear to be digging ourselves a new grave"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Links - 15th June 2016

Behind Singapore's success in the IB: More tuition? - "According to Ideas Ink founder Pek Kim Beng, up to three-quarters of each batch of ACS (I) IBDP students seeks out tuition, and he claimed that his centre alone caters for 20 per cent of the school's IB's chemistry cohort, and 30 per cent of its physics cohort"

Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement - "8th grade students in the U.S. score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers allocate greater amounts of class time to lecture-style presentations than to group problem-solving activities"

Bad science: Thanks to HIV/Aids denialists like Christine Maggiore more will die - "What if everything you thought you knew about Aids was wrong? That was the title of a book by Christine Maggiore, an HIV/Aids-denialist lauded in the American media. She is now dead. Maggiore decided that HIV does not cause Aids, and that antiretroviral drugs do not treat it. She was HIV positive, which the media loved. She declined to take ARV drugs and specifically decided not to take HIV drugs during her pregnancy, despite the strong evidence that they massively lower the risk of maternal transmission. She insisted on breastfeeding her children, even though it has been shown that this increases the risk of maternal transmission. She also refused to have her children tested for HIV. Her daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, died three years ago. The coroner attributed the death to Aids and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. She was three years old... One demographic modelling study estimates that if the South African government had used antiretroviral drugs for prevention and treatment at the same rate as the Western Cape, around 171,000 new HIV infections and 343,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2007."

How a Son Survived Being Injected with HIV by His Father - "Jennifer now has six children by five men; in Badger's mind some of the guys after his father weren't a whole lot better. He says he watched them hit her and saw them leave all but one of those children behind for her to take care of"

Please don’t learn to code - "I would no more urge everyone to learn to program than I would urge everyone to learn to plumb. Focusing on coding inflates the importance of finding the “right” method to solve a problem rather than the importance of understanding the problem."

Transgender girl says she is rejected by straight guys for 'having male parts' - "
If straight men complaining women don't want to date them is evidence of male entitlement...
Are gay men who refuse to sleep with women misogynistic?
Comments: "some people don't want to date someone with a bunch of tattoos, piercings, or body modifications, it's all a matter of preference and no one should feel guilty about having them. The way this article is worded makes Claire sound very entitled. No one owes anyone a relationship, but you'll always owe them honesty"
"What kind of hypocrites want the transexuals to be able to WEAR the parts they want, but don't want non-transexuals to be able to have the body parts they prefer in a lover?"
"This is what we get as a society when we start referring to mental illness as normal."
"It's like buying a burger and fries and expecting to get ground beef only to find out that it's a veggie burger."
"If I just call myself a woman, should I expect lesbians to want me?"
"Imagine if i was tricking women into having sex with me, I'd be called a rapist and misogynist. These trans get labeled victims and get awards for being heroes!!!"


Is there sinister subtext in McCain ads? - "the liberal blogosphere has become a virtual Bletchley Park of racial cryptographers teasing out the sinister motives and subtexts of McCain’s campaign advertising... When the video briefly flashed Berlin’s Victory Column on the screen — where Obama addressed 200,000 adoring fans — New York Times columnist Bob Herbert saw a “phallic symbol.”"

The Paranoid Center - "the panic over right-wing violence is being used to marginalize peaceful dissent... When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers' anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world."

Canadian Teen Finds Lost Mayan City With Satellite Maps - "while the narrative of a plucky untrained teenager succeeding where the experts failed is always compelling, the "lost Mayan city" report was one of several science claims reported by the media only to be fact-checked by experts after the fact."

13 girls held for Akihabara 'JK osanpo' escort services - "They range in age from 15 to 17 and were allegedly offering their services in the Akihabara district. JK is short for “joshi-kosei” (female high school student) and JK osanpo translates as “female high school students walk.” JK osanpo, in which older men pay to spend time with young girls, is reportedly widespread in Akihabara, and the police said they took the recent action because they consider the practice “harmful for juvenile physical and mental health.” According to the police, as many as 96 locations in the district offer JK osanpo services. The police believe they are a breeding ground for child prostitution and the black market for stolen underwear. Some of the girls taken into custody claimed they did not think they were doing anything wrong. Five said, however, they had experienced problems such as “the customer taking underskirt photo shots” or “having been asked for a sexual relationship.”"

This picture book of Taiwanese high school girls – what’s that about then? - "the girls in this book aren’t depicted as sexy – in fact, Wang drew them to a strict six-point checklist:
1) The uniform must be worn correctly, according to school rules.
2) No dyed hair.
3) No permed hair.
4) No make up.
5) No accessories.
6) No cleavage...
The Tokyo Joshikou Seifuku Zukan (Tokyo High School Girls’ Uniform Illustrated Guide) was published every year from 1985 to 1994."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'Society is anything but normal here' - "[On Northern Ireland] Unionism, in my view, does not want to share power with Nationalism. If there wasn't an IRA, they would invent an IRA. There is no terrorism here of any significance. This actally is the safest part of Europe you could live in in terms of murder, rape, burglary etc etc, but the irony of it is that there are two different communities here who live in parallel lines and never interact in any meaningful level in anything outside the workplace, or politics of course is completely barred and is totally off limits to talk about. So, as I repeat sadly, I'm nearly ashamed to say this to you but I'm told not to tell any more lies in my life. I don't have one meaningful relationship with a Protestant or a Unionist in my life and I think that is something that I have gone out of my way my whole life to embrace Unionism, to understand Unionism and frankly I have been rejected on a personal level and I think the Nationalist parties here, if you look at the front page of the local paper today, the stand-in First Minister refers to the other ministers... as rogues and renegades. And I mean the idea that language sends out that you people are not fit to govern"

The Sordid Origin of Hate-Speech Laws - "the introduction of hate-speech prohibitions into international law was championed in its heyday by the Soviet Union and allies. Their motive was readily apparent. The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit free speech... it is not difficult to see why Article 4 so appealed to nondemocratic states. icerd makes the state responsible for eliminating discrimination through coercive measures. The idea that deliberate state action — even at the expense of individual liberty — is the principal vehicle for social change and human progress is a hallmark of socialism, fascism, communism, and in some cases, forms of progressivism... Article 134 of the criminal code in force at the time of the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia punished with imprisonment of up to ten years anyone who “incites or fans national, racial, or religious hatred or discord between peoples and nationalities.” The article was mostly used by the communist regime to silence critics, but the prohibition against hate speech obviously did nothing to inculcate a culture of tolerance that could prevent ethnic cleansings and genocide, which occurred throughout Yugoslavia’s breakup."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'There is a deafening, horrific silence in America about this' - Piers Morgan - "'In an era of nuclear weapons and all the rest of it just feels-'
'Well I had a debate with a guy who was a Virginia pizza store owner and he was offering a 15% discount on pizzas to anybody who turned up with a loaded assault weapon... Who do you think is going to come for you? Why are you so worried about this infringement on your right to bear arms. And he said my government, and this reflects 35% in all polling. That 35% of all Americans which is 140 million people genuinely believe that Barack Obama may one day turn up on their doorstep and confiscate all their guns. I pointed out to him, look if that happens he has the United States Marine Corps and he has 5,000 nuclear warheads. He's probably gonna win against you and your mates with your AR-15s. 'Well yeah, but he's not the only one'. I said who else are you worried about in Virginia? And he paused for a few seconds and said, the United Nations? I said let me get this absolutely straight. You think the United Nations is about to launch some sort of ground offensive against you here in Virginia. But although it's comical on one level... I cannot buy a Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg in America because they're banned on health hazard grounds. Because the little toys inside may choke you. But you can buy an assault weapon'...
'Many Americans, most Americans live peaceable lives. Actually rather more peaceable in some respects than in this country. Perhaps this is just the price as Jeb Bush seemed to be suggesting that America has to pay for being the kind of place it is'
'Well that's fine unless it's your child and I just think it's unconscionable the way that so many intelligent Americans, Jeb Bush and others, who know what this problem is, who with Ebola, raises its head as it did last year and kills 2 Americans, they throw billions of dollars at it. If there's a problem in Syria, they'll fly over drones at billions of dollars of expense. But when you have something like this, Michael Bloomberg who was mayor of New York, said to me... if this was a disease killing 32,000 Americans a year, we would throw the kitchen sink and billions of dollars in combating it. There is a deafening, horrific silence in America about this. This latest incident in Britain would be a massive story for weeks. And we remember after Dunblane in the mid 90s, we banned guns and we haven't had a single school shooting since. This incident was the 142nd school shooting in America since Sandy Hook, under 3 years ago"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Tuesday's business with Simon Jack - "'Larry Page I think once said there are 20 year olds today who'll have to change their name because of the stuff they put on Facebook'...
'But our parents told us that we would neer get a job with a tattoo and you could never do anything if you had piercings or any of this other stuff, and yet I'm hiring engineers who have neck tattoos and they're making, you know 6 figures. And so I think that the world changes... it's like rock and roll'
'That was Harper Lee, who's got a few piercings of his own actually. He was the chief technology officer for Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and was charged with getting the vote out and obviously he did it'"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'If the economy collapses, the regime collapses' - Chen Guangcheng - "I do feel that a place like Britain is coming under threat. We know that a lot of places have Confucius institutes. This is clearly the soft arm of the Chinese government and they wield a lot of influence, especially when it comes to issues of academic freedom. If democracies around the world don't use their systems to influence China then the authoritarian regime in China will influence democracies around the world."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'A revolution of consciousness' - "I think the world divides into people who love the idea of revolutions and those who fear that idea"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'Going to ISIS is the new trend' - "Most of the students we spoke to were irritated by the idea of being taught British values and felt it would be a personal attack on their culture and religion.
'I don't know about *something* I don't agree with gay people because it's against my religion... everyone's entitled to their own opinion and I'm sure you'll agree with me'
'Personally if I dislike them, I'm not gonna say I hate em because it's a bad word. I just wouldn't wanna approach them I wouldn't wanna or talk to them. Just let em do what they want, if you know what I say'
But what if students have no contact with people from different backgrounds, race or religion?...
'Would you ever consider going?'
'Yeah, I would'
'What would you be fighting for?'
'For peace'
'You've just said you would go out there to fight. That's not peace, is it?
'You could, that's allowed to, init? For freedom'
'You would be killing other Muslims out there, wouldn't you?'
'They're not Muslims'"

Beyond Binary

BBC World Service - The Documentary, Beyond Binary

"'Men who transition to women, women who transition to men. That wasn't acceptable.' Slowly, over decades a legitimacy of sorts has come for those who transition from one gender to another... the finessing of surgical techniques and the wider availability of hormones has meant gender affirmation surgery - what used to be called sex reassignment - become more common. Today, American transwomen like Caitlyn Jenner and Leverne Cox and to a degree transmen, are far more visible.

'Transgender has moved more to the centre of mainstream, leaving a big hole. And non-binary has moved into that. And now we even have television stars saying they are not men and not women. We have Miley Cyrus. We have Ruby Rose. This is wonderful. And with the advent of the internet these days people are sharing their strength and hopes and pride in being not-men, not-women'...

The vast majority of people find out [they are non-binary] while surfing online...

Perhaps the most important social media vehicle is tumblr, a site hosting millions of micro bloggers. Gen Jack Easking [sp?] who goes by Jack is a non-binary New York based academic and uses the pronouns he and she interchangeably. Jack's been researching how trans youth, including those defining as non bnary, interact with tumblr. For over a year she's been saving every post with a trans hashtag and has collected more than a million. 'There really hasn't been a trans person that I've met under the age of 30 who hasn't been on Tumblr and hasn't been significantly affected by the kind of images they've seen there and the visuality...

[On Thai Kathoeys] At the beginning she wanted to cut her genitals because she wants to be a perfect woman but she have seen friends friends who has gone a little bit insane and she doesn't want to be like that and she mentioned that most people who come here and visit, they like ladyboys or kathoey who still have their genital...

'There's nothing easier and more fun and liberating for me than using a urinal in a dress. It's actually really easy and wonderful and I wish that we were just able to do that more. But there's nothing more scary than walking up to a row of urinals next to cisgender men and just lifting up your dress. They are so scandalised and there's something kinda fun about that I have to say'...

'I am gender-fluid. Or gender-variant, so effectively I typically spend half my week, working week as Phil, Phillip in male mode and the other half as Pips or Pippa in female mode'...

Fault lines often emerge between those who might have been allies. The movement for transgender acceptance and equality has been fractured by the non-binaries. Trans people transitioning from male to female or female to male worry their own, often very painful journeys, may somehow be invalidated by these genderqueer upstarts. Then there are feminists... feminists also critique non-binary...

[Someone who sounds like a girl] 'I want to look like a boy in a dress. That's the kind of non-binaryness that I want to see myself having'...

I've heard some feminists, you know, critical of non-binary identities and saying that in order to be non-binary you have to really believe in the binary and what they want to do as feminists is to end all gender."


Thoughts:

First we had gay people, then we had trans people and now we have non-binary people. This suggests that once non-binary people hit the mainstream, there'll be another group out there; no matter how tolerant society is, there will always be people pushing the boundaries.

If non-binary is wonderful, what about otherkin? Who have also "benefited" from the internet.

If a woman gets a boob job isn't that "gender affirmation" too?

Isn't it trolling to use a urinal in a dress? If a non-black man uses the word "nigga" is that liberating?

If you address Phil/Pips by the wrong name during the half of the week he is the other, can he sue you for discrimination?

If you want to look like a boy in a dress, you're not non-binary - you're just mixing the genders.
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